Mingling or mangling?

A couple of years ago, I was at the launch of my friends latest album. Her guest speaker, who was also a singer songwriter, was leaving Scotland and heading to the states within days of the launch. Exciting opportunities lay ahead for him and his family. He was such a fun and captivating speaker, so when he shared that his biggest challenge in setting up home and life in America would be relationships. Really? He seemed the most relationally sound guy you could ever meet!

As I look back to the beginning of human life on earth, relationships were at their most vulnerable right back in the garden. The serpent was more crafty than any other beast. His first plan of attack was to cause separation between God and man. And his mission was a success! “Did God actually say…..” His words were pretty convincing, and they remain as convincing to this day. The first seed of doubt was sown into the human heart.

Eve became mangled in Satan’s cunning scheme. He hooked her in with his deceiving words, and the door of separation opened wide. Adam and Eve seemed to step in very naturally into blaming the other for the choices they made. “The serpent deceived me…the woman you gave me” Neither took responsibility for their choices. When we find ourselves either blaming others for their words, actions or behaviours, or being blamed, we can easily become mangled and tangled up. Knowing what is your responsibility and what is theirs, you can then begin to separate the two. Taking responsibility for your words, behaviours and actions is yours, as much as them taking responsibility for their words, behaviours and actions. Satan is still trying to cause mangling and tangling in relationships, leading to separation.

Can you think back to a recent moment where you were mingling in conversation with a loved one, and suddenly you found yourself mangled and chewed up in the other persons stuff? Many do not know how to untangle themselves in that moment and either join in or run from it, separating themselves. Separation may feel the safest option but this leads to loneliness and isolation. I am reminded in those moments when I’m tempted to isolate myself, the words from God, my creator, who knows me better than I know myself, that it’s not good for me to be alone.

To mingle well in your relationships is hard work. It’s about being intentional to love with patience and kindness, without envy or boasting. Without arrogance or focus on self. Without irritation or resentment, or insisting on your own way. To always rejoice in the truth, bearing all things, believing all things, enduring all things.

How well are you mingling in your relationships?

Thank you for reading my blog and I look forward to mingling with you as we journey together 💗

Be still

This is a challenge for me to “be still“. I find my mind jumps around, even when my body is still, searching and browsing the net, to messaging and emailing, to writing my to do list, to filling my diary ….. and so it goes on and on and on. Is anyone with me on this?

This morning I was acutely aware of my distracted mind when I was reading a chapter on a bible app on my phone when suddenly I remembered that there might be an offer on my M+S card. My phone was already in my hand. The temptation to pause my meditation in Gods word and check out the offer was there. I had a choice in this moment, to still my mind and stay focused, or to give in to my distraction.

My distraction had a voice, a pretty loud voice, a convincing voice. “but what if you miss out on a bargain? What if you forget later?”. The voice was enticing me to justify my reasons from pausing my “quiet time” to entering into the world of consumerism. Oh but would it be just for a moment. We all know browsing the web isn’t just for a moment, it hooks us in and keeps us in with so much visual to catch our attention.

I chose to stay in my quiet time and resist the temptation. I wish I could say that was true all of the time, but on this occasion it was. I chose to believe that I would miss out on so much more if I checked in on my M+S offer. I would lose those precious moments at the start of my day, moments that I can’t get back.

Distractions come in all shapes and sizes, visual, audible and in our thoughts. Some of them are so subtle, we hardly recognise them as a distraction. They seem so harmless. However if we struggle to notice the small, how will we ever be able to develop a healthy resistance when the bigger ones come our way. We may yet again justify and reason with ourselves that this is a good choice.

In Psalm 46 we are reminded to “be still and know that I am God“. He encourages a stillness within us, to know that he is God. To pause the whirl of internal voices and activity. I wonder where you go to find that stillness? Is it a daily rhythm for you, or just whenever it fits?

The apostle Paul instructs us to take every thought captive, not just some. So when you find your still moments being sabotaged by a thought, take it captive rather than it taking you captive.

When you begin resisting your distractions, you will be amazed how much knowing God will become your greatest attraction.

Thank you for reading my blog 💗

On the edge

Recently I found myself watching a group of kids, standing at the edge of the harbour, throwing themselves into the deep blue sea. There was one little girl in particular that really caught my attention. She looked around 7-8 years old. She had arrived full of excitement and very much part of the crowd, but when the time came for her to jump, instead of following the others, she froze. I could see fear in her face, as she looked at the sea. It was no longer inviting to her. I could see that a part of her so desperately wanted to jump in, but she just couldn’t bring herself to take the plunge.

Her friends encouraged her to jump, they shouted out words of reassurance, but nothing worked. Her feet were at the very edge, but her head kept turning towards the others. What was she looking for? Reassurance ? I could imagine her biggest and deepest question would have been, “will I be ok!”

I could identify with this little girl in many ways, including jumping into the deep sea. However I can also stand on the edge of a decision or a choice, to step out of what seems comfortable and safe, into what is unknown and scary. What is my greatest concern in that moment. Will I be ok? Will I be safe?

So, what does it take to jump in? It takes Courage. The courage to step off what feels solid and safe, and jump into the deep and unknown. This may be a change of career, a change in relationship, a big decision or a behaviour pattern.

In therapy I will often ask my clients to trust the process. Our initial sessions may be dipping a toe in the water, then possibly a paddle, but there comes a time when I invite them to jump into the deeper parts. It’s scary and it’s unknown. But to come back up, we need to go down. As Richard Rohr describes it perfectly in the title of his book, Falling upward!

Eventually the little girl left without jumping in, however she did return later, and finally made the jump she had so desperately wanted to do. She was no longer standing on the edge.

I was reminded of the instruction Jesus gave to some of his disciples in Luke’s gospel. “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch. I wonder what you need to put out into the deep? What is stopping you? When the disciples did obey Jesus, “they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking”.

Why don’t you Join with me in asking God to give you the courage to come away from the edge and go into the deep, and let’s share our large catch together.

Thank you again for taking the time to read my blog 😀

Discovering more of me!

For many years I have wanted to drive off into the wilderness, with the desire to either loose myself, or perhaps find myself? Since we have the north coast of Scotland on our doorstep, my husband and I were delighted to snap up the offer of a camper van loan, from a very generous friend, and take off into the rugged and dramatic highlands.

With dog and husband up for the adventure, we planned our trip around the popular NC500! After stocking up on all the food we love, we headed off, making our first stop Applecross. Our plan was to have lunch at the Bealach cafe, before driving over the Bealach na ba. Annoyingly the Cafe was closed, good old Scotland! The weather was pretty grim and the breathtaking views from the drive over the Bealach na Ba were well hidden behind the grey mist. Our van and driver, my husband, manoverd well around the hairpin bends, and got us safely to Applecross, where we were warmly welcomed by a heavy down pour of rain, so the Applecross inn was the perfect place to grab a drink and some shelter. Finally when the rain stopped, we enjoyed stretching our legs and breathing in the fresh sea air.

We parked up for the night, on the roadside, along from the village, and enjoyed the spectacular views across to the Isle of Skye. The absolute highlight was to wake in the morning to the beauty of silence and time. Something that we seem to lack back home. Porridge was made and enjoyed, before heading off to find a river to wash in! We really were determined to stay with the wilderness experience. En route, we stopped at Nanny’s in Shieldaig, where we devoured her delicious pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, along with a raspberry and coconut slice. If I could have got away with licking the plate, I would have! A little latte to wash it down was a must, of course.

Loch Marie had the perfect spot to take a swim and freshen up, although a tad cold! We found a river further along creating the was perfect spot for hair washing! Ahhh my hair did feel clean.

We continued onto Gairloch, and arrived to the clouds beginning to clear and the sun shining. It was definitely time to stop the van and feel some heat. We headed off the beaten track towards Redpoint, stopping at a lovely little harbour to enjoy a cuppa made by ourselves and home baking. A walk with the dog along Gairloch beach was a must, followed by coffee at the rustic Mountain Coffee .

As the sun continued to shine, we decided to get a bit more excecise and do some hill walking just outside Gairloch, where the views were spectacular. This definitely couldn’t be rushed, so we lingered for a while. We finally returned to the van for a little vino, before continuing on through Poolewe. We reminisced the many holidays we had enjoyed with our kids in this quaint part of Scotland. I would loved to have stayed on, but time didn’t allow us and the campsite was full, so we parked up further along the road enjoying the stunning views across loch ewe, with a spectacular sunset!

Day 3 already! We headed towards Ullapool, stopping for a quick bite to eat in my one of my favourites, the Ceilidh place, along with more rain! However as we continued North, we took the coastal road around Achmelvich Bay, and guess what? Yes, the sun came out! We enjoyed a cuppa, made by ourselves, on the beach, catching a few rays. We then continued towards Scourie, parking in the beautiful bay, enjoying yet another spectacular sunset.

Day 4 was exciting as we were heading to unknown territory, visiting parts of Scotland I’ve longed to see. Sandwood bay was on our hit list today. Having found a beach for a quick swim, along with an attack of midges, we made it to the car park of Sandwood Bay… however we needed to hike 6.5 Km to get to the actual beach! The weather was bleak and wet, but since we had prepared for all weathers, we were well wrapped up. The dark grey clouds began to lighten to a paler shade of grey as we continued our hike. Wow, when we finally arrived, we stood amazed at the spectacular beauty of this beach! Thankful that we didn’t listen the the elements but listened to our hearts. This was well worth the 13km round trip. Having paused for a while before returning to our van, we were well ready to find a campsite and treat ourselves to dinner out.

We made our way to Durness and booked ourselves into Sango Sands Oasis. We were fortunate to get a front line view across the ocean, gracing the most spectacular beach. This really exceeded all my expectations. It was Scotland at its best. We were delighted to stay in this wonderful campsite for 2 nights, enjoying fresh fish from the campsite pub, along with a hot shower in their lovely new shower block.

Day 5 was the absolute highlight, waking up to the sun streaming into our van, and the breathtaking views from our bed. What more could you ever want or wish for? An early morning swim was a must. Like Crazy teenagers, we ran into the crashing waves, and embraced the freshness of the sea, temperature. It was bracing, but exhilarating!

The sun stayed faithful to us that day, and we blissfully enjoyed a coastal walk, coffee at Cocoa mountain, a few chocolate purchases, and then lazing around the van… another sunset lit up the sky that evening, followed by a great nights sleep!

On day 6, we were sad to say goodbye to Durness, promising to revisit very soon. We headed along the coast, stopping off at Smoo Cave, before arriving at Tongue. Much as we were tempted to enjoy a coffee at the Tongue hotel, as the views were spectacular, we had been recommended to visit Weavers cafe which definitely served the best sausage rolls and scones all round. We then continued along the stunning coastline to Strathy, enjoying a walk and coffee, made by ourselves, on the beach, before spending our final evening with friends in Wick. Oh this was luxury, enjoying a meal at their table and a real bed! Ahhhh bliss! Along with their delightful company… it was a perfect ending to a perfect week.

Breakfast was served with freshly laid eggs we had picked up from a cute little honesty box along the coast!

We finally got into our camper van for the last and final drive back to our hometown in Edinburgh. We had travelled 900 miles, door to door, experienced sun, rain, grey, mist, wind, cold, heat. Sam, our dog, loved his holiday, especially the sleeping arrangements, where he made a cosy bed between us each night. It was exhilarating to swim in the lochs, rivers and sea. We embraced what the wilderness had to offer us, and it offers much. It was our perfect holiday. We were totally abandoned to the creation, and it’s creator, loosing ourselves in it’s absolute beauty, and finding and discovering more of us.

I would love to hear from you and find out where you would like to go to discover more of you?

Debbie 💗

Second chances

On my last day of skiing there was a mixture of emotions going on inside of me. I felt a great sense of relief that I had actually made it through the week. That was an achievement in itself. But I also had a tinge of sadness that our holiday was coming to an end. I couldn’t have picked better weather conditions for our final day. The skies were blue, the sun shone in all its glory, and the snow was a soft powder, creating the perfect skiing conditions.

Having begun my holiday as a complete beginner, my ski pass only gave me access to certain parts of the three valleys. It was a limited pass, and so my instructor began the process of changing our passes for the day. He wanted to take our group beyond our limitations, to the very top of the mountains! Excitement rose up at the desire to have the real “mountain top experience” . This was what I had always longed for! However, along with the excitement came the dreaded thought of how on earth would I get back down?

The fear of coming down overshadowed my joy at the top. As my group stood in awe of what they saw, I stood in fear of the unknown ahead of me. Here I was at the very top of the mountains. This was my moment. I wanted to feel it. I wanted to inhale it. I wanted to breathe it in. But as my eyes saw the incredible beauty all around me, my thoughts became so intrusive. No matter how hard I tried to enter into this moment, I just couldn’t! Disappointment overwhelmed me, which gave way to discouragement and fear. This then affected me physically where I began loose my coordination and found myself doing the opposite of what I what I had learned all week.

However, I did make it down the mountains safe and in one piece! My moment of fear was over and relief kicked in. In our final hour of ski school, our instructor decided to extend our lesson and take us back to the very top. In this moment God whispered gently to me, “I’m giving you a second chance, this time you will feel what you see”. And so we boarded the gondola for a second time, heading up to the same spot we reached before. Stepping back out for a second time, I felt everything I saw. I gazed and gasped in delight, and as I I skied off, I was able to really and truly gaze up at the beauty and wonder all around me. It really was breathtaking.

I am reminded of the verse in the bible in the book of Joel, where God promises to restore the years the swarming locusts have eaten. My thoughts can be like the locusts destroying my ability to enjoy and appreciate the mountain top experiences. As I look back over my life, I’ve had so many moments destroyed by swarming locusts, but the good news is I don’t need to stay there. God continues again and again to give me second chances in all my failed mountain tops experiences.

I wonder if you’re longing for a second chance? Why don’t you ask God to restore the years in your life that have been eaten by the swarming locusts? What in particular would you want restored?

Thank you so much for reading my blog, and journeying with me 💗

When I fall down

I made a decision this year, as I was approaching a new decade of my life, to venture into something new. I wanted to experience something I had never done before, and skiing just seemed to me, the perfect choice. I put the idea to my husband, who seemed up for the challenge, and so we began our search for ski holidays suitable for real beginners. We didn’t even know how to put our ski boots on!

The company we chose, booked us into ski school each morning, where our instructor taught us the basics of putting our skis on, to the more technical moves of skiing down the slopes of the beautiful french Alps. What was there not to like? Well, falling down was one!

My biggest fear was falling down. The slopes looked steep, and some were pretty narrow. What if I went over the edge? What if I got injured? What if no one was there to help me up? When we ventured from the nursery slopes, to greater heights, I put all my energy and attention into the determination not to fall. By doing this I was unable to fully engage in the process, where falling is all part of the journey of learning to ski.

I got to a place where I needed to give myself permission to fall, and as I allowed this to happen, it became a natural part of the journey in learning to ski. My instructor was there at all times to help me up. He continually affirmed me, showing me what I was doing that caused me to fall, and how to rectify it. He gave me a solution to every problem. The enjoyment of being helped, overtook my fear. And of course, what was there not to like about being helped up by my lovely french instructor?

As the week progressed, I lost my fear of falling, and began to embrace the whole experience. I became confident that each time I fell, there was a way back up. I was never alone, and whether I needed a helping hand, or talking me through how to get back up, I felt safe and secure.

In those profound moments, I wondered about my fear of falling in life. Do I trust others to reach out and help me back up? And what about me, do I reach out and help others up when they fall?

I was reminded of a well known parable in the bible, where the most beautiful picture is painted of the Good Samaritan, who reaches out to the one who was beaten and stripped, helping him back up. Luke 10:29-36

I was challenged this morning when my husband very gently informed me that the first words I spoke to him when I woke up, were negative. In that moment I had a choice. My words had pushed him down. I could reach out and help him up, or defend myself and leave him there. Having been on the receiving end of being helped up many times on my skiing trip, and how good that felt for me, I chose to do the same for my husband. I reached out. I apologised. I acknowledged that my choice of words in that moment were unkind and unhelpful. This creates safety and connection in our relationship. It nurtures a depth of honesty that tells us, this is safe.

My ski instructor created a very safe learning environment for me. I had begun on the nursery slopes, and by day 6, I was enjoying (well, maybe not enjoying) a red! This was not because I was great at skiing, but I had a teacher who believed in me. This gave me a glimpse of an even greater teacher, my wonderful saviour Jesus, who continues to believe in me wherever I am, on and off the slopes of life. He never tires of stooping down to pick me up when I fall, “making my step secure”. Ps40:2

I wonder if you are afraid to fall as you navigate the slopes of your life? Who helps you up when you do fall? How do you help others up?

Thank you for reading my blog, and journeying with me….Debbie x

Leading…

This is one subject that I have become deeply passionate about over the past 10 years. Firstly, because I have been intensely frustrated many times in my own leading, as well as being intensely frustrated by experiencing and being on the receiving end of other people’s leading.

Last year I made a decision, a decision that completely changed me, I decided to become a good leader. Simple! I was so tired and frustrated of disconnections in relationships amongst my own teams, as well as teams I was part of, and seeing the consequences that it reaped. I would often question my own ability to lead, as well as the ability of others, wanting to run from leading, and leaders, rather than running towards it and them.

I began to seek out leaders that I found myself naturally connecting with, those whose leading inspired me. The internet is flooded with brilliant podcasts and articles where you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your home to learn! My heart and greatest desire is to lead as Jesus did, who had no issue with micro management, sending his disciples out in twos, trusting them to deliver what he had taught them.

As I listened to one of Michael Hyatt’s podcasts, I had one of those light bulb moments, where I realised that my main responsibility was to invest my time and energy into my team. To inspire them, to share my heart and vision with them, and to bring them into the flow of where I was.

It would then become my team’s responsibility to invest in those attending our events. Previously my focus had been more towards my attendees than my team. My team were a means to an end for me, rather than my main focus. When my priority was my attendees, my focus was all about them, and much as meeting their needs was of vital importance, I gave my team the underlying message that they were less important.

So last year, a shift took place. I devised a training package which focused on work, rest and play. We worked together, we rested together, we played together. Leadership actually became enjoyable and lots of fun! I treated every team member as treasure, encouraging them to dig deep for their best. Whatever gifts and talents they brought to my table, I gave them opportunities to increase them. I encouraged them to stretch themselves, stepping out of their comfort zones. And most importantly, I listened to them.

I took all feedback, good and bad, as growth edges for myself. I also gave feedback, sometimes difficult, but being consciously aware of delivering it in a sensitive and loving manner. I readily apologised if I had unintentionally hurt, dismissed or undermined one of my team. The willingness of a leader to apologise whether you believe you are in the wrong or not, softens the atmosphere between you, and the message you give is, I value you.

These are 4 questions that my husband and I often use, which I have introduced to our team after training and events.

What did we do well? What didn’t we do well? What would we keep? What would we let go of?

So, as I have put into practise what I have learned over the last year, what has it been like? … Amazing! My team have responded positively to my shift in focus, and it really has been a win win! We have become the team I’ve dreamed of, who love working together, resting together and playing together.

And finally, these are some of the wisest words I can pass onto you as a leader, whether it’s in your home, work place or church ….

holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…….And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in unity”. Colossians 3:12-14

Are there changes you need to make in your leading? What action do you need to take for this to happen?

Dx

Not good enough…

I recently came across some of my old school reports, and to my surprise and amazement just about every teacher commented at the end of my report, “gives of her best”.

This was not the message I received and believed about myself in my earlier years of life. I believed that my grades were never quite good enough, and they weren’t. I loved sport, but was never good enough to make the team, often sitting on the bench as a reserve. Not quite the view I wanted. My art work never seemed to look quite like the item I was drawing or painting. Even in Scottish country dancing I would often be standing among the last 5 girls, waiting to be picked .. Cringe!

However, as I reflect back now, even if I didn’t make the grades set by human standards, I gave of my best. Even if I didn’t make the netball team, I gave of my best. Even if my art work didn’t make the grade, I gave of my best.

So what was, giving of my best? My best may look very different to your best. As I reflect back, I believe that for me it was my willingness. My willingness to participate even if I wasn’t good enough. I had the willingness to give it a go, even if I failed.

I love to see the best in others. I am passionate about seeing others rise to their full potential. I don’t just see where they are just now, I see what they can become. I love to seek out those who believe they are not enough, and encourage their best.

As a counsellor and psychotherapist, I have the most privileged position of getting to know someone’s story. I hear where they’ve been, and for some their best is just managing to get out of bed, and dressed. For others, it’s a day filled with demands and pressures. Whatever their achievements small or big, we celebrate.

I am also a director of a charity, where part of my role is to lead teams. For some of those I lead, their best may be staying sober at one of our events. For another it may be attending all our training days, and giving much of their time behind the scenes in the run up to the event. From my perspective, they are both giving of their best, and therefore they are both of equal value to me. The criteria for me as a leader is to have a team player with a willing spirit.

However, I have also been caught in the trap of expecting everyone’s best to be to my best standard… My best of housework may not be your best, my best of parenting may not be your best, my best of counselling may not be your best. This influenced my husband and children, when I expected their best to be to my standard, giving them the very message I had received and believed as a child, ” you are not good enough”.

This is an area I’ve had to work on, valuing the much or the little that is brought to me. Focusing on what others give, rather than what they don’t give. Encouraging the best out of them.

When the little boy brought the loaves and fish to Jesus. He gave what he had, and it wasn’t very much. Jesus took them, gave thanks, and fed the five thousand. Jesus didn’t focus on the little he brought, but on the much it would become.

I desire to live consistently in giving of my best, and seeing the best in others. Giving thanks for what I have, and to have the faith to see what God will do. This is not the easy way to live. It’s often very challenging! However, I choose to use the model that Jesus lived, and so I bring the little I have, I give thanks for it, and trust him to increase what is needed for my day.. it’s a simple but powerful way to live.

How are you choosing to live? Do you value and appreciate your own best, as well as others best?

Let’s journey together, “considering how to stir up one another to love and good works… encouraging one another”. Hebrews 10:24-25

When the storms rage..

Recently and unexpectedly myself and some of my loved ones, found ourselves in the midst of raging storms. The unpredictabilities of life crept up on us, tossing us around, and leaving us battered and bruised. At times it was so strong and overpowering that we really did wonder if we would be crushed and drown. It didn’t feel good, and it in truth, it wasn’t good. There were moments when our minds took us on a journey to some dark and negative places, and our emotions overwhelmed us. In these moments, we had a choice. Yes, we did have a choice, even if it it seemed like we didn’t. We could choose to believe our crushing thoughts, and drown in our overwhelming emotions, or steady ourselves on what was stable.

I had recently shared at my church group that when I find myself swayed by those with differing opinions, differing interpretations and differing values to me, confusion can creep into my soul. When we give way to confusion, it can reap havoc in our lives. Confusion shows no mercy and loves to separate and divide. We only have to read in Genesis, in the very beginning, when all was perfect on this earth, Satan brought in confusion. The serpent was the most cunning of all in the garden of Eden. Satan remains that way, to this day.

Confusion does not come from God, “for God is not the author of confusion, but of peace”. (1 Corinthians 14:33). I made a conscious choice to go to Gods word and steady myself in what he had to say. I didn’t want to be swayed by confusion, but to have his peace in the midst of my storm. So how do I find peace? Is it possible to find peace whilst the storms rage around you?

Interestingly when I visit my home land I love to spend time at the Butt of Lewis on a stormy day. The cliffs are enormous and the waves reach incredible heights. I know that as long as I stand on stable ground by the light house, I am safe. So what I do in the natural, I chose to do in the spiritual, I held onto God and his word. I read verses and chapters that stabilised me and grounded me. I found his word brought light to the dark places, and a calm to my emotions. I refused to listen to the voice of confusion , and instead praised and worshiped God. I thanked Him for our trial, the testing of our faith, the perseverance that it was producing, so that we would become mature, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)

I wonder if you are in a storm tossed season just now and where is your stable ground ?

Thank you so much for reading my blog and please stay in touch so we can journey together 😀

Debbie x💓