Learning through Life

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Hampshire, United Kingdom
I love how our day-to-day life can teach us lessons to help us understand our past, challenge our today, and inspire our future. We can learn through experiences, situations, conversations, songs, books, nature ... the list is endless! Live with eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear and a heart ready to be touched.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Part Two - The one with the Facebook 'game'

As promised, this post will complete my experience and thoughts on the 'game' recently circulated around Facebook.  If you have no idea what I am talking about, you obviously missed my previous blog - so - go and check it out and then come back :)

On to part two - the receiving of compliments!

Now, right at the beginning of this post, I need to highlight that this part of the game can seem as though you are just fishing for compliments, and to a certain extent this is true.  However, even if this is the case, is it really such a problem?  If compliments received encourage and build up (not puff up) then there is a place for them in all our lives.

Let's be honest, most of us do like to be complimented.  Right?
And for those people who do not find it easy to receive compliments in person, the fact that the compliments are given with a computer in between somehow makes it easier.  'You are really good at .....' is not immediately met with the 'no, I'm not' type response that is often the case face to face.  These conversations can be awkward, embarrassing, and let's face it - annoying!  If compliments are given honestly and appropriately, there is nothing worse than the recipient continually denying any truth in it.  People - if someone says something nice to you - accept it!  Say 'thank you'.  This isn't big headed or arrogant, but polite.  Anyway ... I digress!

Back to my Facebook experience .....

Having spent quite some time encouraging other people, with a degree of trepidation I inserted my secret number in several inboxes ... and with both curiosity and fear I waited for a response.

In all honesty, the responses were met with a mix of emotions.  I received kind, thoughtful, sweet, loving and encouraging words, for which I am thankful.  However, as I considered the responses I noticed the absence of one particular word - often received in the past during similar 'games'  - and that word was 'cool'. 

Yes, that is right, I used to be 'cool' - at least to some people.  But, it seems that age has finally caught up with me and I no longer fit neatly into the cool compartment.

As I pondered this seemingly depressing revelation, I noticed that in the absence of 'cool' I saw a different word begin to emerge.  A word that even a few years ago I would have ignored for the sake of hearing 'cool'.  The word?


Upon reflection - I am happy.  If I live my life in such a way that inspires others, (even without being cool!!) then surely this is a good thing?  I guess it depends on the nature of the inspiration.

I hope that I inspire people to see the good in others.

I hope that I inspire people to see the good in themselves.

I hope that I inspire people to become all they were created to be.

I hope that I inspire people to see a good God, who loves unconditionally, and forgives intentionally.

I hope that I inspire people to consider how Jesus can be a part of their own lives.

I hope that I inspire people to continue on in their journey, loving others and serving God.

And I hope that I can now inspire other people to seek to be an inspiration - to be inspirational is a greater achievement and has a more significant impact on others than being 'cool!'

Live and love inspirationally!

You may also like to read the first part in this series :)

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The one with the Facebook 'game'

Throughout this week, many Facebook users (particularly young people) have been embracing the current trend to publicly reveal their honest thoughts of those requesting it.  A user, wishing to engage in this game of compliments (or otherwise!), will indicate as such in their status.

'Message me a number between 1 - 500 and I will tell you what I think of you'

There have been a lot of similar 'games' on Facebook in the past, but this one presented a small amount of mystery, as the name of the person being spoken about would not be revealed - only their number.  Now, if you are anything like me, then this automatically sparks off an interest - as I like to play detective and try to figure out who is being written about.  Such fun!

So, I found myself reading through a considerable number of complimentary words about others.  What struck me almost immediately was the ease in which young people seemed to be able to share such encouraging, honest and loving words to their friends.  It was a far cry from the insults, ridicule, and sarcasm that I often hear (albeit in jest) during the two hours I see them during the week.  It was awe-inspiring.  How different I was at their age, when putting 'love from' on a birthday card made me feel as though my heart was being unnecessarily exposed!   Several decades on, and I am only just beginning to feel able to express my thoughts and feelings to others without fear of appearing weak and needy.  In my young mind, keeping quiet about such things made me feel and appear stronger.  What nonsense!  In fact, there is a definite strength in being able (and willing) to share open and honest words with others.

Can you tell this little Facebook 'game' had a significant impact on me?  It certainly did, in fact, so much so that I did something very out of 'Jo' character - and wrote a new status:

'OK, I will join the game - inbox me a number between 1 - 500 ...'

What good would the above thoughts have done me if I was not prepared to act on it?  Sometimes we can find ourselves caught up in a reflective cycle, going round and round, and never actually achieving anything.  Know what I mean?  We can all get caught up at times.  Thinking things over and over but never actually letting our thoughts make a difference.

In the book of James this cycle can be seen in a slightly different context, but it still brings home the point well ...

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:23- 25)

I do not want to walk away and forget all God has done in and for me.
I am not content to stay the same 'Jo' on the outside, especially when I know that God has been working on the inside.  I want to allow God to change all of me.  I want to be a better person.  I want to continually develop.  I want to act, not merely listen.  Even if it may be a little uncomfortable and involves effort!

So, although a childish game on Facebook may seem insignificant to some, for me it provided an opportunity to take a little step outside of my comfort zone and develop.  Numbers flooded my inbox, and words filled my mind.  I hope that my open and honest responses provided a little warmth and encouragement.  I have many wonderful people in my life, whom I am truly thankful for, and if I haven't had chance to tell you recently - I think you're great!

Of course - as with a lot of these 'games' - there is an element of both give and take.  Although my initial participation centred around the giving of honest and encouraging words to others, I also indulged in a little 'taking'.  I found the words I received from others had just as much impact on me as the reflective process described above.

Intrigued?  I will reveal all in my next blog .... :)

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The one with the running achievement

Thanks to a great deal with Late Rooms I find myself writing this blog whilst sitting in the lounge of a rather nice hotel.  After a great night's sleep, and a delicious breakfast, I left the boys watching Marley and Me in our room and slipped quietly away with my laptop and book (Jodi Picoult's Keeping Faith).  Having engrossed myself in the book for over an hour, I now feel inspired (and awake enough!) to write this, my eighth blog :)

You may suspect by the title that this blog may have something to do with running?  Well, you would be correct in this assumption.  For, yesterday, I donned my gym gear and running shoes and ventured into the hotel's gym.

My rationale for this absurd behaviour (after all - this was supposed to be a relaxing weekend and I have not been to the gym in over six months!) was three-fold.

Firstly, as 'free use' of the gym came with the hotel package, I somehow felt I needed to take advantage of this, even if it wouldn't usually form part of an ideal weekend away for me.  (This need to make the most of everything offered during the stay also runs into breakfast, where I just have to try everything laid out at the buffet!)

The second reason for entering the gym (and actually using it) lay in the fact that over the last few months I have noticed my jeans getting a little tighter.  I have tried to blame the washing machine and the tumble drier for this, but I think it is about time I start facing up to the fact that it might just be possible that I have put on a few unwanted pounds.

And thirdly, and probably the most persuasive reason for me entering the gym was the reward of enjoying the sauna, steam room and jacuzzi afterwards :)  Oh, how I love them!

So - between 3pm and 4pm yesterday I enjoyed (endured?!) the gym experience.

I have never found running particularly easy.  Even during my fit seasons running has always been a challenging exercise for me.  At the gym, I would be more than content to stick to all other CV machines and totally ignore the treadmill.  However, the gym isn't supposed to be easy right?
So, upon entering, I made my way straight to the treadmill and began my warm up walk.  So far, so good.  Now to up the pace!  A slow jog for a few minutes.

After the initial embarrassment of watching my ipod jump off the shelf on the treadmill, onto the runner (pulling headphones out of my ears) and then zooming off the back and shooting across the gym floor, I actually began to enjoy the experience.  I also achieved a lot more than I thought I was capable of.  You see, I initially set myself a target of two minutes jogging (I really AM unfit!), but as I neared the two minute mark, I felt I had a little bit extra to give, and convinced myself I could make three minutes - then four - then five .... until I had surprisingly managed to jog for eight minutes.  Amazing.  And yet, ten sounded so much better.  So, forgetting my aching legs, and laboured breathing, I told myself I could do an extra two minutes.  I could do it, I could do it, I could do it!  I did it!  Yes!  I had ran for ten minutes, when I only thought I was capable of two.  Breathtaking! (in both senses of the word!)  Go me!

As I lay in bed last night, tired and content (albeit a little bit achy) I contemplated my running achievement.  Why did I set myself such a low target originally? Why did I convince myself I was unable to do any more?  Because, this was all I knew I was capable of.  I didn't think I was fit enough to push for anymore - and I didn't want to fail at trying.  I don't like failure.  And yet, I am beginning to realise that this fear of failure often results in not even giving things a go.  And this, in turn, hinders my development.  If I only ever challenge myself to a two minute run, this is all I will ever achieve.

But I want to continue to develop - physically, spiritually, emotionally, relationally .... do you?

How can we avoid developmentally stagnating?

Having considered this a little, I am beginning to conclude that it is down to belief.  Belief in oneself, the belief of others, and the belief of God.  Let me explain ...

During my run yesterday, I told myself that I could do it.  I encouraged myself to go that little bit further.  I set myself realistic (SMART) challenges that I thought I could do.  As I reached these targets I began to see I was capable of a little bit more.  I believed I could do it.  Belief in one's own abilities is vital if we are going to stretch our existing boundaries and try for more.

The belief of others is also a contributing factor to our personal development.  Although my running achievement yesterday was down to my believing in myself, there have been several times recently, I have been able to achieve far more than expected, due to the belief of others.  Two months ago I received an email from Moorlands College, asking if I would be prepared to give a short testimony of my time with them during my Graduation ceremony.  To some, this may not seem a big deal - but to me it was huge!  Thoughts instantly flooded my mind - 'I am no good at public speaking', 'I don't have anything interesting to say', 'I will speak so fast no-one will even understand me', 'Other people are far more suited to it'.  I pounded myself with negative thoughts, until I allowed a different perspective to enter my mind.  College had chosen me.  Out of all the students they could have asked - they asked me.  That surely had to mean they believed in my ability to perform the task being asked of me.  If they believed in me, then perhaps I could do it after all.  On the 15th October - I ascended the steep steps to the pulpit in Christchurch Priory and shared my testimony to over 500 people.  I pushed my existing boundaries and realised I was capable of more :) 

And finally, when we truly understand how much God believes in us, we will be encouraged and empowered to achieve all he asks of us.  We can step out and achieve in the assurance of his love, his acceptance, and his belief in our abilities.  Wow.  How amazing to have the God of the Universe believing in us.  This in itself should be enough to encourage us to see things differently - if God believes in us, shouldn't we also believe in ourselves?  If God asks us to do something - he knows we can achieve it :) 

This has turned out to be a long blog - but such a challenging one.

Maybe I can challenge you to reach new goals, simply by believing in your own abilities a bit more?  You can do it!

Maybe I can encourage you to express your belief to others more?  Never underestimate the importance of your belief in people.  Your belief may be just what they need to achieve something amazing in their lives.

And more than anything - maybe I can encourage you to consider how awesome it is that God believes in you.  Yes you.  :)  What a difference this should make in our lives!!
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