Dear Bee, it’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!

Some days just suck, right? Whether it’s because you’re tired from a late night ‘finishing homework’, or because the pressure level suddenly gets cranked up, or you’re falling out with friends, missing friends or just darn lonely and have no friends, sometimes life feels hard work.

Its at times like these that I wish I could run away back  to when life was simpler and all I had to do to feel better was cuddle a cat.

But I have found, Bee, that the key to dealing with days like these is not to regress, but progress. The thing is, you can’t  go back to the ‘good old days’. What’s done is done, they’ve been and gone. Sorry.

However the future is yet to be lived and you have a measure of influence over what happens there.

On rubbish days the temptation is to throw caution to the wind and live like there’s no tomorrow, because who cares, right? We deserve a good night after a rubbish day so let’s live for the now and squeeze as much out of life as possible, drinking until we pass out and stop caring. Hmm…

Problem is, you will wake up at some point and remember, and just like that you’ve created a past that is easy to regret, making the present just as sucky.

Instead, as a wise preacher once said, it’s Friday but Sunday’s coming!*

Friday: the end of a long week, the tired day, when the woes of the world feel the heaviest. Sunday: the day when everything gets recalibrated and refocused. Why?

Because Sunday is Church day, the place where I’m surrounded by loving friends and wise words; where I find help and hope. It’s the day where I can realign again to what God says about me – it’s always good – and I am recharged. Friday might be the day of disappointment, but Sunday is the day of visions, dreams and hope being resurrected.

So, Bee, I encourage you to progress to what is ahead. Don’t focus on the problems of right now, have hope for what is to come. Whatever the day of the week, seek out those places and people that re-energise you, give you perspective, and help you remember that there will always be a better day than today.

*The awesome Tony Campolo. He even has a book called It’s Friday But Sunday’s Comin!

Dear Bee, get some colour in your life!

I once heard the ultimate put-down. It was from a young person, about an older lady (in her 50s), saying that her favourite colour must be beige. Why? Because that was the colour she wore all the time.

Now I am the wrong side of 25, I can understand why beige was her favourite colour – it’s a very forgiving shade, especially for the older person. It’s also very practical – gravy stains are not obvious on a sweater the colour of gravy!

However, it’s also a very boring colour. It’s not quite brown or cream. It’s a lukewarm colour. It’s the colour of constant compromise.

I also think that actually it is many people’s favourite colour – not because they like to wear it, but because they like to eat it. Bread, pasta, cereals, meat, pastry, biscuits, cake – they are all various shades of beige.

None of these things are wrong to eat – some of them are essential. But a totally beige diet, like a beige wardrobe, is uninspiring and unhealthy. ‘Same old, same old,’ your digestive system is telling you, as you gobble down another rich tea biscuit or chicken sandwich, which is why it protests by not working properly, making you feel heavy, lethargic and bored – it’s trying to communicate something to you!

I have it on good authority Bee, that just like the clothes you wear, the food you eat needs an injection of colour! I’m not an expert, but people who write books like The Clever Guts Diet are, and this is what they are saying. Colour is good – and it’s all around us! Red tomatoes, yellow sweetcorn, green spinach, purple aubergine, orange carrots, peach peaches, pink raspberries…the list goes on and so does the choice.

Don’t just take their word for it, Bee. If you want the ultimate authority, get it from the mouth of the one who made it all in the first place. At the beginning of time, so the book of Genesis in the bible says, God gave every tree to humans for food (except one – but that’s a whole other story) and He made many different trees and plants – He’s a creative guy – so that’s a lot of different colours to eat, and a lot of different tastes to taste. The good news is, there is so much more out there than beige!

Also, Bee, I don’t know if you are aware of this, but the food you eat affects your mood. This is what the scientists are telling us, and I for one can testify to it, sister! Less brain fog and more energy as a result of more colour in my life – that’s got to be good.

So, Bee, next time you’re hesitating between the KitKat or the shiny red apple, go for the apple. Your body will thank you for it. So will your mind. And the next time you pick up a beige top in a shop, remind yourself you’re not fifty yet, and go look for the purple ones.

 

Dear Bee, if you get an invitation to a pity party…

…CHUCK that thing in the bin!

It may be embossed, colourful, with beautiful curvy writing, but it’s not going to do you any good.

A pity party is a very appealing thing, I know. Who doesn’t want the opportunity to let their hair down and really indulge in a session of ‘poor me’? A session where all the hurts and frustrations of the past can get a good airing? Where the bitterness of yesterday becomes the main feature in a programme of lil ol’ me and how hard done by I’ve been at the hands of those others who always let me down and just darned don’t appreciate me and all I’ve done for them.

The problem is, Bee, a pity party is very easy to get into (you’ll never find  bouncer on the door refusing entrance) but difficult to leave. You’ll get sucked into trying the new drinks “Ooh, an angry appletini, never tried one of those before…” and before you know it, you’re on the floor, a mess of blubbery tears, unable to move or think coherently. Or a particularly maudlin tune will appear on the playlist, the words speaking to you in a way they never have before, and you’ll be down that rabbit hole before anyone can say white rabbit. A pity party can last for days, if you let it. And when you eventually leave, it’ll be with a sore head and swollen eyes. Not pretty.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to give yourself attention, of course it isn’t. We all need a little me time now and again. But it’s about perspective. A pity party makes you the sole focus of attention, the life and soul of the party, and all the other guests get short shrift: it’s all their fault, they’re the ones to blame, they make life difficult for me. All their positive attributes – their kind words and thoughtful actions – go unheard in the mix of me, me, me.

However, the other guests are the key to turning your back on the pity party invitation. Consider who the other guests are – the people who are likely to be the ones you are pointing fingers at during the party – and line them up in your mind. Try to remember a good time you’ve had with each one: a happy occasion; an encouragement or blessing you’ve experienced because of them. Go on, Bee, I know you can do it – these people are not pure evil all the time, are they?

They are? Well, maybe you need to rethink who you give permission to, to have an influence in your life.

If you can remember the good things about the other guests , you’ll find that soon you’ll start feeling thankful, instead of annoyed, and hey presto! That pity party invitation has been shredded and binned for good.

A pity party doesn’t achieve anything Bee. It’s not even fun. It’s the one invitation you should refuse and once you’ve done that, find someone to have a chat with. Make a thank you card for a friend. Or play with kitten. Works for me, every time.

Dear Bee, keep hoping.

“We live on a beautiful planet, but in an ugly world.” I read this recently and it’s true, Bee. All around me I see nature, from the majesty of ancient trees to the intricacy of flower petals, and my heart is thrilled by its beauty. I see a glimpse of a Creator and His kingdom in witnessing something huge and life-affirming coming out of the minutest acorn.
But this week has been a week of ugliness – and all that comes from us humans. I hate to say it but we are all that is wrong with the world ( I say we to mean the billions of people who make up the human race, of course. Not just you and me, Bee). This week, we’ve not just seen ugliness in its basest form: violence, selfishness and hatred. There has been other kinds of ugliness too: prejudice,  judgmentalism, intolerance, over-protectiveness.

But then, even in the midst of that, there is hope.

I had a conversation with a 12 year old boy this week, and he said something that made me think.

I was at school, where I work. I was manning a prayer space, set up to help students (like you, Bee) discover what prayer is all about and enjoy the peace and stillness created by a time of reflection. Because of the events of this week, I had set up a specific prayer station to pray for Manchester, with a paper chain of prayers and thoughts that students wrote in response to what happened on Monday night. When one year 7 boy saw the station, he asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks, “Miss, I know it’s important to pray for Manchester and pray for Paris, and other places where these terrorist attacks happen. But…what about, like when America bombs places like Syria, what about praying for those places, because people are being killed there too? It doesn’t seem right that we should pray for Manchester and not for those other places.”

And all I could do was agree with him. Yes, I said, we should pray for those places too, and I encouraged him to join his prayer for Syria onto the paper chain of other prayers.

This gave me hope, Bee. In amongst the outpouring of grief, hurt, anger and confusion that the UK has experienced this week, this gave me hope. Why? Because it showed me that young people, like you Bee, can see beyond the immediate here-and-now, can look beyond the rhetoric and spin, and get to the truth of the matter. And most importantly, can ask the questions and make the comments that set the rest of the (adult) world thinking and seeing a different, better perspective. As we do that Bee – as you do that – the ugliness of the world is challenged and beauty has a chance.

Because, actually, I don’t agree with the comment at the top of this page. Yes, the world is ugly at times because of what we humans do. But, it can also be beautiful because of what we do. When words are said and actions are taken which help, bless, give, affirm, create, encourage and heal, beauty is given a chance to shine.

So, Bee, keep hoping. Keep trusting. Keep loving. And most importantly, keep asking those questions that make people stop, think and reconsider. You may think it’s the quietest question or the smallest action, but it might just be the acorn out of which comes the biggest, most life-affirming oak tree.

 

 

Dear Bee,when life sucks, go on holiday.

Life sucks sometimes. It’s hard. It’s stressful. There’s pressure… deadlines… exams!

The fact is the problems don’t go away, which means you have a choice: fight or flight?

You could run away from the problems – if not literally then figuratively bury your head in the sand, pretend the problems are not there, stick your fingers on your ears and sing “la-la-la” until the they go away. This is flight.

Or you can accept that the problems exist and see them as a challenge instead of a threat: something to overcome, requiring training schedules, planning spreadsheets and lots of discipline. This is fight.

Both options have their pros and cons. However I’d like to suggest a third option.

Go on holiday.

When people think of holidays, they imagine sandy beaches, lots of sunshine, partying  all night long etc, etc.  This is definitely one version of a holiday. Other people may imagine a log cabin in a forest, long walks, mountains and lakes – also a great idea.

However, what I’m suggesting doesn’t have to involve all of that, Bee, because I know that you don’t necessarily have the resources or confidence or time to organise that sort of holiday for yourself.  My holiday ideas are actually a lot simpler, but just as effective.

Because what is a holiday for? A chance to disconnect from the daily grind and stress. An opportunity to get some perspective on the things that at the moment seem too in your face. Permission to slow down and take time to restore your soul.

These things are all really important; more important even than fun and partying, I would suggest. But you don’t have to go to a tropical island to get them.

No, what I am suggesting is much more accessible and cheap – even free – but just as effective when it comes to perspective and peace.

For instance, giving yourself time and space to read a good book. Getting out a jigsaw puzzle and spending an hour or so on it. Going for a long walk in an unfamiliar but beautiful place. Indulging in a box set.

The key to making these things a successful holiday experience – without even leaving your bedroom – is to disconnect. Turn off the phone. Switch off the social media. Stop reading emails. Tell people, if you have to, that you are on holiday and can’t be reached until a date of your choosing, and then give yourself that time to rest, relax and restore.

The problems won’t go away, it’s true. But going on holiday in these ways will give you the perspective you need so that when you return to the problems, you will have a better handle on what they are, why they are there and how to deal with them.

Just remember to come back!

Dear Bee, the chocolate was my biggest disappointment.

You and I, we’re food grazers. We like small-and-often, rather than huge-and-infrequent. The problem for you Bee, and was for me: life at home is strictly three meals a day. No snacks, no treats.

So (look away now, Bee, if you don’t want to be shamed), snaffling food when no-one was looking became a guilty pleasure. Continue reading

Dear Bee, do you still believe you are a princess?

I have come across a lovely book called Can A Princess Be A Firefighter? and the author says she wrote it because she was motivated by her granddaughters’ fascination with all things princessey. The book is a poem about dreaming and aspiring to be anything; the girls in the book may not know what the future holds, but they know they are princesses. Continue reading

Dear Bee, don’t give up! (Give away instead.)

Do you know Lent starts this Wednesday (1st March)? Usually everyone knows all about the day before Lent starts, because shops start putting eggs and lemons in prominent places, but Lent itself goes unnoticed.

However, I find it a very special time of year. Continue reading

Dear Bee, did you know, you’re fun-sized?

It struck me as I was shopping the other day. I saw ‘fun-sized’ chocolate bars. Then ‘fun-sized’ bananas and apples. For the first time, as I was putting a package of this ‘fun-sized’ fruit in my trolley, I realised that it was just another word for ‘small’. Continue reading

Dear Bee, this is what happens when you go shopping hungry…

The is the situation:

You’re starving. Not literally, but your stomach never felt so empty.

It’s affecting everything, especially what’s going on in your head. All you can think about is food. What you could eat. What is available to eat. When you can eat. Continue reading