thoughts like little trees

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I'm currently reading Dr Caroline Leaf's Switch on Your Brain. 
Slowly.
It's science, backing up scripture, backing science - and all about our thought life. 

If I'm honest (which I am, always) and vulnerable (which I try my best to be in this space, despite how difficult it can be!) I thought I had my thought-life under control as much as I could, but there was a part of me that resigned myself to the fact that I was always going to struggle with darkness in my mind.
Over the years I've struggled with crippling insecurity, shyness, and the tired (yet very effective) tirade of thoughts about myself that kinda sound a lot like 'you're not good enough' 'no one likes you' 'he only stays with you out of obligation' 'he wishes you were more like that other girl' 'you're not exceptional, only average - if you're lucky' 'don't even bother trying, it won't be good enough'  - not to mention all the ones that point out physical flaws. Blah.
Then, as well as those mean thoughts, I was using my imagination to hurt myself.
My husband would go to work and I would concoct stories in my mind that felt so real, about where he really was and who he was really with and I sowed all sorts of suspicion and resentment into our marriage. 
I knew I was being silly, but I couldn't stop. It was ugly.
It's crazy how much this toxic thinking affected my confidence in who I am, and who I'm called to be, not to mention how it affected my relationships!
I even questioned the authenticity of my relationship with God because surely I couldn't be living life as a Christian, yet still be in a place where toxic thoughts reigned supreme in my mind so often.

Then, I started fighting. I knew what the Bible said about renewing my mind, and thinking only on things that are pure and lovely, and taking every thought captive and lining them up with God's thoughts... but I'd never really been intentional in putting them into practice. 
But I knew I couldn't go on the way I was, my thoughts were making me sick with worry and anxiety and anger and cynicism. 
I started by using car rides on the way to uni and back to pray and speak out the opposite of what I'd actually be thinking.
I started to cut those thoughts off when they came and say (often out loud!) NO I'm not going to think that.
I started doing all the things anyway, even when the thoughts would come and tell me that someone else could do it better. 
I used every ounce of strength I had to pull up my big girl panties and refuse to believe the lies that felt like they'd wormed deep into my brain and would never go away.

Of course, I still have moments where doubt comes. But I've learned not to let it stay.
And this book? Reminds me that although I've come so far, there's hope for so much more.
"For now, rest in the assurance that what God has empowered you to do with your mind is more powerful and effective than any medication, any threat, any sickness, or any neurological challenge" - Dr Caroline Leaf
We can consciously, with our own free will, change and direct our own thinking and wire out toxic thoughts. 
With those thoughts, we allow them to permeate into our brains and actual little branches grow and make connections with other little branches. That you can see. IN YOUR BRAIN. What?!! 

I love the idea that there are tiny little trees in our brains, and I can grow them green and healthy, just by refusing to think toxic thoughts, and replacing those thoughts with good ones. 

So, here's to not believing lies, to thinking good thoughts - I think they will shine out of your face like sunbeams (Roald Dahl, you legend). Lets refuse to live small lives in doubt and disillusionment. Here's to switching on our brains.

x

how you can still come out of it

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If you're following me on Instagram, you'll know I was applying for an internship. 
I agonised over my cover letter for days, making sure it was perfect. Trying to sound professional, but also express my personality, my strengths and my hopes. 
I sent it off. 
And then I said, God, I often don't ask You for things like this, because something in me doubts it will make a difference, but this time I'm going to stand on the promise You gave us that says that You're able to do "superabundantly more than all that we dare to ask or think..." and I'm asking. I really want this. I think I've got what it takes. I'm trusting in You. 
And I've been checking my email multiple times a day since. 
They were only taking one Intern. 
Perth is a tiny tiny city, and there are not many publishing houses. 
The Intern program is highly competitive - I was only allowed to even apply because my grades were high enough. 
I really, really want to become a professional editor - but I need experience. This is incredible experience. Not to mention how great it would be to put on my resume.
I let myself be hopeful.

So I was believing. 
But then yesterday I got an email that started like this: "Thanks so much for your application for work placement in semester 1, 2018. Unfortunately, on this occasion your application was not successful. Your application was a strong one, but we decided another student was better suited for the position."

The email actually went on to say great things about supporting me if I'm able to source a placement somewhere else. It was laced with hope. But still, I was gutted.
And I let myself be gutted. 
For a split second I stuffed the rejection down deep and took a deep breath, ready to move on, take action, shake it off. But then something in me said stop! Let yourself be sad. It's okay.
So I sat. And I told myself it was okay to feel. And then I cried.
I cried while I vacuumed the house, and I cried a little bit more while I mopped, and a little bit more still when the husband came home early and took one look at my face and said, "Oh sweetie" and wrapped me up tight in the best cuddle in the world.

But then I shook it off. And I read this amazing quote by Maya Angelou:

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it. 

Then I had a little conversation with God, about how I still trust Him, and that I believe He's working on my behalf.
I took deep breaths and smiled as my kids put on carols and wrote out Christmas cards for their classes. I walked slowly to turn on the newly-strung lights outside and watched them dance their rainbows along the gable.

Then I sat and wrote emails and enquired about other intern placements. 

In defeat, I learned how to let myself feel sad.
In defeat, I found out that I'm not a quitter. 
In defeat, I discovered that I'm tougher than I realised.
In defeat, I realised how much I've grown - how I have learned to master my thoughts, so that they're not defeated either.

Defeat makes way for a better me, and today is a new day.

xo

New days

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At the end of last year, I remember panicking at the thought of the new one starting. 
I wasn't ready. Nothing was right. Everything felt too overwhelming, too difficult and I was drowning. 
So I didn't reflect. I didn't set goals. I tried hard not to think about the year ahead. 
All I could really do was spent each moment willing my racing heart to slow down.
Trying to catch my breath.
I put some words up on my Letterfolk board that made some simple declarations; that I would read more books, write every day, run further, log off and choose grace. 
I think those words will serve me well for 2018 as well.

My beautiful friend Amanda dropped her latest book to me this morning.
She's brave, and faces her year head on, even if it's been shitty. Her book is all about how she retreats, sits down, and asks herself the hard questions. Her book is all about being intentional.
About our time and our focus and about our goals. It's got guided questions and lots of space for journaling and brainstorming. 

And part of me didn't want to even open it. Because reflecting is difficult. Especially if you've been doing a tough season, or you aren't where you wanted to be by now, or if you've tried the resolution thing before and failed. But honestly, this book is different. 

I'm determining to be brave because as the book is titled, I am believing and hoping that 2018 will be new days. New days for my family. New seasons of warmth and ease. 
Like tumbling in the whitewash but coming up through crystal clear water and taking that big deep breath on the surface.
I'm praying that 2018 needs will be like a big deep lung-filling, chest-expanding breath of fresh clean air.
And to help it to be so, I know I need to face what needs to be faced.
I know I need to reflect on the year that was so that I can start the next one facing the right direction.
I'll reflect on twenty seventeen with a fierce determination that I will learn from my mistakes, I'll let my failures compel me to try again and that I'll see, actually, that the difficulties I faced this year helped me to be stronger, fight harder and pray more than I ever have before. 

So if you need to reflect on the year, or be intentional about your goals for the year to come, why don't you grab a copy of Amanda's book? You can download the PDF version right from her website and print it off right now if you want to!

Join me in finishing the year brave.

xx

 

you do you

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Last week I had dinner with longtime besties. 
We've been doing dinners together for over a decade.
When I tell Daniel, "I've got a girls dinner this Friday night" he knows straight away which girls and asks who's turn it is to host. 
I wish we had a better name for them than 'girls dinners' but they are what they are, and they are wonderful.

We sat in front of a fire with mugs of mulled wine, and ate way too much baked feta and sourdough, and soup and apple crumble and vanilla ice-cream. I was so full it hurt and I lazed back in a big armchair that hugged me with its arms, holding onto my tea. 
Our conversations are easy. We've known each other for so long, everything we say is understood in context. 
One conversation though, flowed through my mulled-wine-softened brain without too much thought until the next day. We'd talked about comparison, and I was surprised that it wasn't just me.
We're all in different seasons both of motherhood, career and ministry. 
When I look at the lives of my friends I see success, and contentment.
When I look at mine it's hard not to see so far from where I need to be. 

When I look at them, and what they're doing with their lives I think You are enough. You are amazing. 
But when I look at mine I so frequently think not quite there yet. Try harder. Do more. Be different than what you are. Not good enough.

And I realised after our full-bellied conversation that it's the human condition.
Our fallen nature causes us to feel like we are not enough - and always assume the lives that other people are living are better, more fulfilling, more adventurous and much easier than ours. 

This semester it was hard not to feel a little pang of envy when I saw friends work on creative fun exploits, or make amazing career moves, or take their families overseas. I was running women's events at our church like a crazy person, and writing essays like mad. 
When I dwelled on what someone else was doing for too long, I started to resent what I had to do.
Which was nuts, because I happen to love running women's events and I am closet-nerd and I really love studying English Literature. So why was I starting to become discontent?!
Because I thought I'd be happier doing someone else, instead of doing me.
A phrase I've been pondering on though lately is this:

YOU DO YOU.

How do you do you?

It doesn't matter what anyone else is doing, or what their life looks like, theirs is not your lane. 
You run in yours.

Cheer them on, and then shift your eyes to the front, put your head forward and work hard at what's in front of you.

When I made the effort to shift my thinking, my attitude changed. 
How deeply grateful I feel to lead our women's ministry!
How accomplished I feel that I'm diligent at uni, getting closer to my degree. 
How blessed we are to have almost paid off the credit card, even if it meant no holidays for a little while. 

And while I love social media, sometimes "doing me" means I need to stop scrolling for a little while so that I have enough headspace to realise that this life I live is actually a wonderful gift and one I don't want to waste by drowning in comparison. 

You do you sister. 

xx