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Redefining Self-Worth - How I Found Freedom by Letting Go of Achievements and Valuing Who I Am

Redefining Self-Worth

I wanted to take a few moments today to reflect on the changes that have been happening in my life over the past few years. I don’t mean the external changes, although there have been plenty of those! I mean the internal changes that have helped me to look at my life from a whole new perspective, leading me to redefine my own sense of self-worth.

It feels almost impossible to know where to begin with this, because the way I view my life has changed in so many ways over the past few years. But I think the most logical place to start is in my teen years, when I first began to develop a warped sense of self-worth

Self-Worth from a High-Achiever’s Perspective

I’ve spent the vast majority of my life believing that my value came from the things I did, rather than simply who I am. As a naturally high-achiever at school, it seemed almost inevitable that this would happen. I got consistently good grades (often the highest in the class), and then I went on to study at one of the UK’s top universities. By the time I graduated, aged 22, my entire life had been about academic achievement. And yet, despite this, I never felt “good enough”.

Graduation Day University of Nottingham

It doesn’t make much sense, does it? I achieved so much as a teenager and in my early twenties, academically at least. You’d think that this would provide a solid foundation for confidence in my skills and abilities, but in reality the exact opposite was my experience.

I actually really struggled with self-worth a lot whilst at university, and when my dad asked me if I was finally proud of myself on my graduation day I honestly said that I wasn’t. I felt like I had completely bluffed my way through, and was a fraud.

And the thought of moving into employment terrified me, because I couldn’t ever see myself feeling confident enough to cope in the workplace. You see, for me, my self-worth had become so intrinsically linked with my achievements, I felt huge amounts of anxiety and fear over maintaining that high level of accomplishment. Anything less than “the best” felt like failure to me.

the ongoing impact of low self-worth

As a result, I did everything to avoid going into roles that might really challenge me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time working in childcare, retail, and student support. I’m a sociable person, and working in roles that involved meeting lots of people was lovely. But I never stayed anywhere long enough to advance up the career ladder. It didn’t matter that my employers could see my potential, giving me greater responsibility than my role actually required, I couldn’t see my worth.

And for most of my 20s I felt like I was just biding my time until I got married and had kids. The one thing I had always been sure about in my life was that I adored children and couldn’t wait to be a mother. I convinced myself that I wasn’t career driven or ambitious, I was just holding down a job until my real role in life would begin. So I was overjoyed when I fell pregnant in 2011, just a few months after our wedding. But my joy was short-lived.

Photo of pregnant mum and dad, back to back, with dad's belly sticking out like mum's bump

 

when life throws you a curveball, it’s easy to doubt yourself

As you may know, I suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum during my pregnancy. It was, quite honestly, sheer hell. I knew, without a doubt, that I couldn’t possibly face another pregnancy, because my first one almost broke me. But so did the decision never to have another child. I have never been so angry with God than I was during that time.

I remember crying through angry tears, asking why I had been made so maternally driven if I were only ever to be allowed one child. The one thing I had always felt so sure about, that I would devote years of my life to raising a young family, was suddenly snatched from me. And it broke my heart. I absolutely adored being a mother, it was everything I had ever dreamed of. But in my grief and confusion, my lack of self-worth started to seep into this area of my life too.

Any parent will tell you that having a baby is exhausting beyond belief. It feels relentless and scary, to be solely responsible for the welfare of this tiny being. And that’s before you even begin to look at other things that can make it even harder. We all have things we struggle with when we become parents. For me it was the combination of trying to recover from the trauma of my pregnancy whilst: caring for a baby who never slept; trying to deal with terrible issues with oversupply (which felt like my body was letting me down yet again); and supporting a husband who was beginning to suffer from depression. So, it’s not all that surprising that my thought process turned to beating myself up.

Mum and Baby cuddling

the destructive power of doubting yourself

I knew and trusted myself enough to know that I needed help to avoid spiralling out of control into a pit of despair, so I asked my doctor at my 6 week post-natal check for a referral for mental health support. I ended up having 7 months of CBT, and honestly I credit that with keeping my head above the water. But even with that, I still lacked the self-worth to follow my instincts and allow myself time to heal and process what had happened.

My inner chatter began to say things like, “why would you even believe you deserve to have more children when you’re already struggling with one?” and “what gives you the right to stay home and enjoy being with your child, when your husband is struggling so much at work?” I began to question everything, and whilst I look back on that first year with happy memories of sitting for hours just cherishing being home with my boy, I can see how I ended up taking the next steps that I did. Because I didn’t believe I deserved to enjoy being a stay-at-home-mum, nor did I feel like I was doing enough in my life. I felt like I needed to do more.

In a series of what I can now see were misguided, if well-intentioned, choices, I found myself pushed beyond my limit and close to a complete breakdown by the end of 2014. I returned to work when my son was just 15 months old, far sooner than I ever thought I would, and whilst I enjoyed the work immensely I also missed being with him more than I can say. At one point I ended up working two separate part-time jobs, and when one offered full-time hours I took it as it seemed easier than balancing two roles. But it was a role in which I felt incredibly isolated and which, due to the nature of the work tapping into my own personal trauma, almost broke me.

Screenshot of Amanda on Good Morning Britain

To any outside observer, 2014 should have been a high point in my career. My book was published and hit the top 10 for books in its genre on Amazon. I was interviewed live on national television. And I was working in a role that enabled me to support women all around the country. But I was falling apart inside in ways I had never, ever experienced before. And it was all because I hadn’t trusted myself enough to follow my instincts when they had repeatedly said, “this isn’t what you’re meant to be doing”.

sometimes the best lessons in life are the hardest to learn (because we resist them so much)

Near the end of 2014 I wrote a post called Warrior, because I felt like fighting was what I needed to do. But a few weeks later, in a moment of sheer desperation, I prayed to God in a way I’d never done before. I said, “I’ve tried everything, and I don’t know what I need to do any more. Please, you have to show me the way. It’s your turn now!” And I truly meant it.

I had spent so much time trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life, to give my life meaning, if I wasn’t meant to spend this part of my life raising babies. And I had found a purpose, no doubt about that. I had thrown myself wholeheartedly into campaigning for better awareness and care of Hyperemesis Gravidarum, so that one day no woman would have to make the same heart-wrenching choice never to have another baby as I had. But that wasn’t my purpose. That wasn’t what I was here for, and I was finally beginning to accept that.

But I was still very much caught up in the movement in a way that was deeply damaging for me, as well as for those I worked with. And I couldn’t see a way out. But, do you know what? Within moments of passing control over to God, I received the most overwhelming feeling of peace. It just washed right over me, and I heard the word, “Surrender“. And I knew that was what I was being asked to do. I wasn’t being asked to fight for (or against) anything, I simply had to surrender into it. And boy, did I surrender!

answered prayers often take us to places we could never have imagined

Within weeks of my prayer, I had been made redundant; been turned down at three separate interviews for being “over qualified”; and battled with a letting agency after our house move fell through unexpectedly. And yet, I felt nothing but quiet assurance that all would be well. I even began to think about trying to go it alone, finally finding the courage to look at my blog as a business opportunity, a chance to do what I was best at (communicate), rather than simply a hobby.

But in the end, I still didn’t trust myself enough to do that. I still felt as if that was something other people got to do, and it was silly of me to even contemplate the idea. Which is crazy, because it was around this time that one of my blog posts was chosen as one of the Blogger Keynotes at a blogging conference, and I got to read it in front of a room full of bloggers in June 2015. But still, I felt as if I wasn’t “good enough”.

Amanda with the founders of Britmums at Britmums Live 2015

So I eventually ended up in a part-time role, which I loved, but which was physically exhausting. My body had never really recovered from my pregnancy, all the symptoms connected to my EDS had increased, and my fatigue was at an all time high. I began to spend 3 days a week working, and the other 4 feeling like I had the flu. I could barely move, and began to get sick regularly on top. At the time I was gutted. I had thought I had finally said goodbye to the stress that had taken such a toll on my body.

But it was like my body was doing everything it could to make it impossible for me to continue ignoring the fact that I still wasn’t listening to my intuition. Every time I tried to find a purpose, things seemed to get immeasurably harder. I spent most of 2016 seeing multiple specialists to try and figure out what was wrong with me, and in the end I was given a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.

life will keep sending you the same lesson until you get it

Even with this diagnosis, I still refused to stop and look at what I really needed to learn – self-worth. I left employment after 6 months on sick leave, but set myself up as a freelance VA and web support. I wouldn’t have dared dream of doing that until my sister-in-law asked me to do some work for her and suggested my skill-set was actually really valuable to other businesses. But with enough encouragement from her, along with two coaches I was lucky enough to work with (Pippa from Story of Mum, and Michelle Reeves), I took the plunge and set up Shortman Media.

My aim for the business was to build it up enough so that I could train Tim in the work I did, so that he could start working from home too. We knew his days in regular employment were numbered, and really wanted to avoid the UK Benefits System, which we knew was notoriously bad for supporting people like us. And for a while, it seemed as if this would work. During 2017 I managed to work with 6 different clients, and gained two amazing testimonials that boosted my confidence a bit.

But it wasn’t to last. By the end of 2017 I was working the absolute minimum hours (less than 10 per month), and even then I was struggling. And yet, despite knowing my health was in a rapid decline, I still had the most ridiculously ambitious plans for 2018.

when you “get it”, you really get it

I was still trying to “fix” my life, to find some purpose within the madness, so I didn’t have to face the fact that I needed help. So my body continued to send me messages I could not possibly ignore. I began suffering with migraines that lasted for 2 weeks every single month. I caught every virus going. I became practically housebound, barely leaving my house for the first quarter of 2018. I was literally reliant on others for pretty much everything.

And it was hard. Oh, boy, was it hard. I fought with feelings of guilt, and failure, as it just seemed to be one battle after another. The last 6 months of my life have felt like the darkest pit. And yet, once again, as I began to hit rock bottom I found my faith growing. I clung on to the hope that we would, one day, find our way out of this mess. And I began to realise that the only thing I could really do was focus on looking after myself.

Photo of Little Man smiling lovingly at me, as I rest in bed

I realised I couldn’t change what was happening to us externally, but I could change how I felt about it internally. I began trying to do things that eased my soul, and chose to trust that the Universe had my back. But it was hard. For instance, there were 3 weeks in which we were unable to bid on any council properties. This was then followed by several weeks when the only option were flats, which I knew without a doubt would be a terrible move for us.

There was one week when I really began to doubt myself and wonder if we should bid on a flat, just to get out of the house that had become almost prison-like to me. But I held faith, and lo and behold the very next week our dream bungalow became available. And even though it felt too risky to even dream we might get it, I just knew it was ours and felt like I was simply waiting for confirmation of what I already knew. And a week later, it really was ours!

letting go of the ego to find a true sense of self-worth

Of course, moving when you’re as ill as we are is far from easy. I had to swallow my pride over and over again, asking publicly for help with everything from decorating to doing tip runs. But do you know what I learned from this? I learned that people were more than happy to help, because they valued me for who I am, rather than what I could do. And it was a real revelation!

The more I asked, the more I received, and I began to see how truly blessed I am. In the moments when I felt like the biggest failure, I reached out for help instead of trying to hide my shame, and received so much support it was incredible. And it reminded me that, all along, I’ve been supported, I just didn’t want to believe it. Because I didn’t feel worthy. I felt like I hadn’t earned it.

But all that was changing. When I felt like I truly had nothing left to lose, I realised I had gained so much more than I could ever have imagined. And slowly, but surely, I began to redefine self-worth. I began to truly understand what it meant to honour yourself as worthy, just as you are. To “stop playing small” and fully embrace the beauty of who you are. I began to accept what I had written a few years ago, about us all being made to shine. And I began to trust myself again (or maybe, even, for the first time ever!)

when you trust yourself, you begin to find your way

This all brings me to the past few weeks, in which a huge amount of inner healing work has taken place. It all started with Rebecca Campbell’s new Work Your Light Oracle Deck, which I kept seeing on instagram.

I have several oracle decks already, and used to use them quite a lot. But in recent years I just haven’t felt connected to them at all. So it surprised me to be so attracted to this new deck, especially as the artwork was so different to what I would usually be drawn towards. After seeing it multiple times, and feeling a gut reaction to it every single time, I decided to trust my instinct and order it. And, wow, was that the best decision I have made in a very long time!

Work Your Light Oracle Cosmic Cross Spread

The deck itself is so incredibly beautiful, and the emphasis on the idea that You Are The Oracle really spoke to me. You can read about my first experience with the deck here, which in and of itself is incredible. I’d never shared anything quite so “New Age-y” so publicly before, and it felt really scary to open up that part of my life and express how much it means to me, especially as someone who also describes herself as a Progressive Christian.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve touched on this in the past, but I’ve never authentically shared how it fits into my own personal life, nor how important it is to me. And that felt like a terrifying thing to do. But it also felt so right. As I wrote in my instagram post, “I’m finding the courage to share all the aspects of my faith and spirituality. Because I do connect with both “New Age Spirituality” and Progressive Christianity. I truly believe they complement each other and do not have to be an “either, or” option when it comes to faith. This is my path, and I don’t want to hide it any more.”

finding the worth in your own, unique story

Thankfully, several people liked and commented on my post, giving me the added reassurance that it was safe to share my story in this way. And it opened up so many doors for me. Because, for the first time ever, I began to see the worth in my story and the power in sharing it openly.

I’ve been blogging since 2006, and right from the beginning I wanted to write about faith and spirituality and how beautiful it can be when it is truly inclusive. But as a 22 year old, I felt like I had no right to be writing about such things – what did I know about life?

So I began writing about things that seemed “blog-worthy”, based on the types of topics other bloggers were writing about. Things like homemaking, crafts, and parenting. But the truth is, that wasn’t what I needed to write about. I needed to write about faith. And I needed to write about it in the context of life itself.

By that, I mean, I didn’t need to have it all figured out, I simply needed to write authentically as life happened. Because there is power in being open and raw and vulnerable, especially in a world that is so hell-bent on aiming for perfection. My beauty lies in the unfiltered parts of my life. And my worth is based on who I am, not who the world wants me to be.

changing “only” to “Amazing”

And so, I began to simply write what was on my mind, rather than worrying about whether it was share-worthy. And I began to trust that it would find those who needed to read it. Because a few weeks ago, in what I can only describe as an inspired moment of clarity, I suddenly realised I had been looking at my blogging journey all wrong.

For many years, I’ve felt like a failure for blogging for so many years and still only having a fraction of the reach that other bloggers have. I felt bad that I get “only” 2,000 visits to my blog per month, that “only” 147 people follow me on Facebook, and that “only” 660 people follow me on instagram. But in that moment of clarity, I changed my “only” to “amazing”.

I realised that it is truly amazing that my blog is viewed 2,000 times per month, despite me doing pretty much no social media promotion whatsoever. And it is beyond amazing that people not only follow me on Facebook and instagram, but they also encourage and connect with me whenever I post, despite my posts being irregular and likely to be lost in such a fast-paced environment.

just share your story, that’s all that matters

I couldn’t possibly reach as many as I do people without my blog or social media. So it is a true blessing to be able to share my story in this way. And I’m beginning to see the true value in sharing it, no matter how many people read it.

Funnily enough, the Universe was determined to help me remember this, as I suddenly came across a video series by Gabby Bernstein, in which she encourages you to simply get out there and share your story. In her first video she even mentions someone who arranged a public talk and only one person turned up. And yet, after her talk that one person thanked her for such an incredible experience. If we simply share our story, the rest falls into place.

And so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to share my story. I’m not going to worry about how long this post is, or whether it’s “of value” to anyone else. It’s of huge value to me, and reminds me that I’ve been sharing my story all along. It’s just, now I’m doing so with intention. Now I’m sharing it because I understand that it has value simply because it is true and authentic. And because of that, it is also healing.

This Is My Story. What is yours?

Picture of a woman smiling at the sky, with her arms stretched out behind her. The words Redefining Self-Worth - How I Found Freedom by Letting Go of Achievements and Valuing Who I Am are above her.

Little Man's Baptism

Choosing to be Baptised as an Adult

This past weekend, Little Man and I were both baptised, and I was confirmed and welcomed as a member of the Methodist Church. Choosing to be baptised as an adult, and choosing to baptise my son at the age of 5, wasn’t a decision I made lightly. I thought about it for a very long time, because I wasn’t sure whether it was the right thing for us to do. But eventually it just felt right and that was when I decided to do it.

Little Man being Baptised

A large part of my hesitation came from the fact that I know I sometimes sit on the edge, looking in, wondering whether I truly belong. I’ve described my faith in the past as “fluid”, something which changes as I grow, and which takes inspiration from a wide variety of sources, not just Christianity. For instance, my husband, TJ, has been on Shamanic Courses; as a family we celebrate the Pagan Wheel of the Year; and our home is filled with books, music, and artwork from traditions as varied as Hinduism, Buddhism, and The New Age. So you’d be forgiven for thinking that I didn’t really relate to any single path.

Indeed, this is something that I myself thought about my faith for a very long time too. But the reality is that I do  relate to a single path, and that path is Christianity. Everything I believe comes back to the central core of the Christian message – that we are inherently flawed, but that God loves us anyway. So great is God’s love for us, that he sent Jesus to show us the way to live in that knowledge, and the Holy Spirit to guide us day by day as we try to do so. When I read or experience something from another tradition, it is always through that same lens of unconditional love, and whilst I do not think that Christianity has a monopoly on that truth, it is the path which draws me closest to it.

Being Baptised as an Adult

And it was this realisation that led me to making the decision to step deeper into my walk along the Christian path. I realised that I had been holding myself back from experiencing it fully, because I felt I was somehow intrinsically incompatible with Christianity. I erroneously believed that because I had doubts and questions and interpreted things differently at times from the traditional sense, and because I chose to include aspects from other faiths into my journey as well, that I couldn’t honestly call myself a Christian. And yet, when I look at that central belief I mentioned above, that “we are inherently flawed, but God loves us anyway”, I realised how crazy this thinking was. Why would God want me to miss out on the love and caring of my Church Family, just because I felt a little bit different? The answer, of course, is He wouldn’t!

I clearly remember the moment I was reading a book about Christianity and religion and realised that my thinking was all wrong. And I decided to explore the idea further. Then, that following Sunday, as we sang the opening hymns in church, I felt my heart opening and just knew God was gently encouraging me to just take that step, to stop overthinking it and just do it. So I spoke to the Minister at the end, and told him about my reservations but also how I felt it might be the right time to take the next step, and I’ll never forget what our Minister said to me. He said, “I believe God is big enough for everyone”. Basically, he was encouraging me to just follow my heart and step forward in faith.

Confirmation

There was a little more to it, as our Minister reminded me that I was already pretty active in the church, attending Bible Study and going to the Church Council Meeting, so why shouldn’t I be a part of the Church Family? And at that point I knew, without a doubt, that it was just right for me.

And for Little Man? Well, he goes to church with my every Sunday, and tells me about Angels and Heaven and how he just loves everybody, and quite simply has the faith of a child. So why shouldn’t he also be welcomed as a part of the Church Family… he will still have the opportunity when he is older to decide whether he wants to step further on that path and be Confirmed or not, but right now he understands enough to know he wants to be a part of it, and so he is.

Baptism Candle & Certificate

We were thoroughly supported in our decision, and had an absolutely wonderful day on Sunday. The sun was shining, the church was more full than usual, my parents came to watch their Grandson be baptised, my own Grandma was there,  and we had his two Godmothers (my sister and my friend from church) celebrating it all with us too. (Incidentally, he also has a “Fairy Godmother”, in the guise of a friend who comes from my New Age background, who shared a celebration for his birth with us way back in 2012 – isn’t he a lucky boy!) 

Little Man was rather overexcited, pulling faces at the congregation and trying to sneak his fingers into the font during the service, but our Minister is wonderful and just took it all in his stride! We then had Communion, which in our church is open to all, so Little Man has had it before, but it felt doubly special on Sunday. And I think Little Man picked up on this too, as he pulled me into a hug and kissed me as we waited for the wine!

Communion following being Baptised

We were also blessed with some wonderful gifts from family and friends, to help us in our Christian journey, and I shall share some more thoughts on these with you in a later post. For now, though, I just wanted to write down my thoughts about our Baptism and my Confirmation whilst it was still all very clear in my mind.

Tell me, have you been baptised? How did you make that decision? And what does it mean to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences…


Joining in with Share The Joy Linky this week, as this post has obviously brought me a lot of joy! Find out more details about the linky by clicking on the image below…

Share the Joy linky at LizzieSomerset.com

Finding Your Place in the Church as a Progressive Christian (1)

Finding Your Place in the Church as a Progressive Christian

I hadn’t planned a post for today, but having just returned from a truly thought-provoking church service, I felt the need to sit down and share what is in my heart right now. You see, the visiting Minister who took the service today talked a lot about how difficult we often find it to share our faith with others. And for me this remains one of the biggest challenges I face in my own journey of faith.

For many, many years I didn’t even think I could fit into a church community. Ever since I first discovered the basic tenets held by most Christian churches, I realised that I simply could not accept some of them. I certainly couldn’t affirm a belief in the general understanding of the Trinity or the explanation for Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking that rejecting these basic principles meant that I couldn’t define myself as a Christian in any way. I believed that for a long time too.

But no matter how much I rallied against these ideas, I still felt drawn towards Christianity in ways I can only describe as God drawing me back to it time and again. I explored other faith traditions, and doing so helped to form the idea in my mind that there really is more than connects us than divides us in life. Yet no matter how many other paths I explored, I always came back to this desire to be part of the church community.

Finding Your Place in the Church as a Progressive Christian

When I first discovered the writings of Progressive Christian scholars such as Marcus Borg, I was thrilled to realise that questioning the general principles affirmed within the church didn’t automatically exclude me from being a Christian. I began to realise that even though I might not interpret the Bible in the same way as others, I could still turn to it for inspiration and guidance. And whilst I may not always agree with certain ideas, Christianity is far bigger than any one single person, church, or denomination.

Which is how I found myself regularly attending our local Methodist Church, because I finally felt like I could fit in. That’s not to say it is always easy. Despite the fact that I go to church most Sundays, I still feel more like a visitor than an active part of the church family. This has nothing to do with the congregation, who are wonderfully welcoming, it’s just that when you’re still trying to figure out how you fit in to the church, it can be very difficult to know how to do so.

For instance, Little Man has watched several children be baptised in the church and has expressed an interest in being baptised himself. Now, part of me knows he just wants to have a special day, and hasn’t thought that much about what it signifies (he is only 5, after all). But the reason I hesitate is not because of his lack of understanding, but rather my uncertainty over whether it is right for us to do so.

I have never been baptised and so if I choose to baptise him, I’d like to be baptised myself at the same time. But should we really do this when I know that I still haven’t figured out quite how I feel about and understand that part of Christianity. I wrote about how and why I was teaching Little Man about the Easter Story from a Progressive Christian point of view last year, and for the most part I am comfortable in the way we are exploring the Christian faith together. But there seems, to me at least, a big difference between our personal exploration of Christianity and a more public affirmation of our faith, such as baptism.

You may be wondering why this is such a big deal to me. We go to church, and our church is very welcoming and allows us to take part in communion whenever it is held, even though neither of us has been baptised. So in essence, it doesn’t stop us from being part of the church family. And yet, there is a part of me that feels like we still sit on the edges, looking in rather than being an active part of the church. And that bothers me.

there is a part of me that feels like we still sit on the edges, looking in rather than being an active part of the church

I know that most of this is my own hesitancy rather than anything the church is or isn’t doing to help me feel more welcome. But it does make me wonder why this is so hard, and just how many more people feel the same way that I do. The Minister today asked a similar question – how many people come so close and yet do not take that first step to enter into our community, because it feels unapproachable to them? Are we doing enough to share our faith with others and show them how welcome they would be to join us?

One of the things I love most about the church I attend is that I can see signs of this happening. There is a notice on the inside of the church which says something along the lines of, “it’s not our role to bring people to church, it’s our role to bring people to Jesus”. This speaks to me so strongly, because it reflects the ideas within Progressive Christianity that focus on building communities where there are many ways to experience and understand the Divine, and that it’s important that we, “accept all who wish to share companionship without insisting on conformity”.

And yet even with these signs in my own church, I still feel so hesitant to speak up, share my heart with others, and become a truly active member of the church. I still fear what will happen if I do. But I promised myself that 2017 would be a year of courage, and so it’s time for me to dig deep and find the strength to do so. Our Minister this morning called us to do just that – she phrased it as “God has thrown down the gauntlet”, and I love the image that evokes.

She reminded us that God challenges us sometimes, and though we may try to resist, it’s what we have been called to do. For me the message is loud and strong – I’ve been gifted with the ability to communicate and connect with others in such a way that my entire life has focused on these key skills. And yet in this one area I resist it so strongly, for fear of what it might entail. “Who am I to do or say these things when I don’t even know quite where I fit in yet?” I ask myself. Well, actually, who am I not to?

The truth is, I probably have far more in common with those who are hesitant about attending church than many other church-goers. I know what it’s like to come in as an outsider, someone new to the faith, with questions and doubts that I think may exclude me from the community. I also know what it’s like to walk a path between multiple faiths, drawing inspiration from other religious traditions as well as Christianity. And if that wasn’t enough, I also have such a passion for exploring faith and making it more accessible for others.

Which is why I felt I had to write a post today, after the message at church was so strong this morning. I needed to express what it’s like to attend church when you feel like you don’t quite belong, because it’s often a confusing place to be. And I wanted to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone this year and truly try to find my place within the church as a Progressive Christian. Because finally I feel able to say that – I am a Christian, even though I reject some of the more common understandings of what this means.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – do you define the “type” of Christian you are, or just that you are Christian? How do you define what it means to be a Christian? Is it even possible to define it, or is it too complicated for words?

Don’t forget I am always happy to provide a space on this blog for you to share your own thoughts and experiences. I feel a major part of my blogging journey is to help express the diverse unity that exists within our faith communities, as well as society as a whole. So please, feel free to share your thoughts with me on this (even if you disagree with everything I say!!) 

Gifts from the Goddess FB (1)

Gifts from the Goddess

I wasn’t sure what to call this post, because it’s quite a tough one to sum up in just a few words. For the past couple of years I’ve been regularly receiving gifts through the post with absolutely no idea who is sending them, nor whether they are all coming from the same person. So my husband and I have decided to call these Gifts from the Goddess.

 Gifts from the Goddess

Why from the Goddess? Well, because the vast majority of the gifts I have received have centred around earth-based spirituality, connecting with the Goddess, and honouring the feminine power within. The latter, in particular, is something I have needed for such a long time. Being a woman has not been easy for me – I’ve struggled so much with my hormones and health, that I have struggled to accept the wisdom, wonder, and power that is unique to the Sacred Feminine. So being reminded to open my heart to this has been quite incredible.

But even more than that, receiving these gifts has taught me a major lesson in allowing myself to receive freely and graciously, without the need to reciprocate immediately. Like many people, I find it far easier to give than to receive, and when I do receive I feel that I must express my gratitude clearly through both words (thank you) and action (paying it forward). Not being able to thank my anonymous gifter has been quite a challenge for me, as I have worried I might appear to be ungrateful.

But gradually a shift in consciousness is happening, one that is teaching me that gratitude comes in all kinds of ways. Whoever is sending these gifts wants me to accept them freely, without the need to attribute them to an individual sender. There is true magic in not knowing where a gift has come from, and being able to thank the Goddess herself (or God, or the Universe, or the Angels, or whoever or whatever you choose to attribute such gifts to). The greatest gratitude I could show is by embracing these gifts, accepting the blessing, and letting go of the negative or ego-based mindset that whispers, “you’re not worthy of this”.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to embrace these gifts from the Goddess fully and completely, and use them on my journey of courage throughout 2017 and beyond. I am going to accept her gifts and reach deep within to find and celebrate the Sacred Feminine. And I’m going to share what I find along the way with you all, starting today with this very post. Let me share with you all the gifts I have received…

gift from the Goddess January 2015

In January 2015 I received the first of many packages that would fill my heart with so much joy. It included a fascinating novel called The Serpent’s Tale, a Goddess colouring book by Tiana, and the Earth Pathways Diary for that year. This first package completely threw me, and for a few moments I truly wondered whether I had mistakenly received a gift meant for someone else. But a quick read of the message in the card showed me that it was definitely sent for me…

You see, I had previously written a post about my goals for 2015, which included things like praying more, being more mindful, worrying less, and reading more! I had also written about how awful 2014 had been, how I felt broken, and how I had chosen to simply Surrender in 2015. Whoever had sent this parcel knew me and knew what was going on in both my life and my heart.

What they couldn’t have known, though, was that this package would arrive on the very same day I received news that I was facing redundancy. On a day that essentially decided the path I would take in 2015 I also received a beautiful gift of support for the days ahead. If I’d ever doubted the beauty and synchronicity in life, this package showed me it in very real ways. My heart was flying with love and joy and gratitude that day, and I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I mean, how often do you receive an anonymous gift like this?

She Who Knows Magazine

Then in 2016 I started receiving copies of this absolutely gorgeous magazine, and I couldn’t believe that I was being blessed once again in this way. For a moment I really did wonder whether I had subscribed and forgotten about it, because I had seen the magazine during our trip to Glastonbury in October 2015 and it had really caught my eye – had I signed up and not realised?

Of course, a quick check of our bank account confirmed I hadn’t, and so here was yet another gift from my anonymous friend. Who could it be? They knew me so well, and they knew that we had relocated and lived at a new address. And once again these gifts began arriving at a truly perfect time for me. I had been becoming increasingly unwell and had been trying to nurture myself through one-to-one sessions and a focus on self-care. What better way to remind me to look within to the Power of the Sacred Feminine and remember that all was well, even if it felt like things were beginning to fall apart?

 

Earth Pathways Diary 2017

And then came this gift – a second copy of the Earth Pathways Diary, this time for 2017. I received this one in September 2016, 3 months into my sick leave from work as I faced more and more referrals to different specialists in the hope of figuring out what was wrong with me. It was a beautiful and timely reminder that even when we feel unable to plan for the future because it is so unknown to us, we can still have dreams and look forward to what is to come. This package arrived a couple of weeks following this post, focusing on allowing yourself to not be okay for a while, and felt like yet another nod from the Goddess, saying, “yes, that’s it!”

Receiving so many gifts in quick succession was such an amazing comfort for me in a time when I was feeling so utterly useless in so many ways. I had become so ill I could no longer do even the simplest of things, and I had begun to question everything. These gifts helped me to dig deep within my faith, to find the lessons within, and they supported me in a deep spiritual transformation in which I found my way back to God/Goddess, and realised that this journey I am on is so incredibly sacred, even within the most mundane of moments.

Which brings me to today. and yet another timely gift from the Goddess…

Goddess Temple Gifts

This beautifully wrapped package from Goddess Temple Gifts in Glastonbury arrived yesterday, at the end of a deeply challenging week. I had entered 2017 with so much hope and passion for delving deep within, to nurture myself on every level (spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical). I had been making time every day for meditation, kundalini yoga, affirmations, reading… you name it, I’d been making space for it. I even shared how passionate I was in a rather impromptu and amusing Facebook Live on Thursday. And I really felt like I was getting somewhere at last…

But then Friday morning I woke up feeling incredibly sick, and wanted to just lay in bed all day and refuse to move. Unfortunately that wasn’t an option, as I had a hospital appointment with the Endocrinologist. Thanks to confusion over the clinic number I was supposed to attend, and then being sent for a multitude of blood tests which meant waiting in a busy clinic for 2 hours, I ended up the day feeling completely wiped out. What followed was a whole week of feeling absolutely beaten to my core, along with another trip to the hospital for more specific testing due to low cortisol levels.

I felt all my intentions falling away, all my hopes slipping out of my grasp, as I struggled simply to drag myself out of bed and look after myself and my son during a nasty virus that knocked me to my core. I have honestly never been so scared as I was on Tuesday, when I struggled to even sit in bed beside Little Man. I just could not get out of that place of fear and it broke my heart. So to receive this gift on Friday, as I awaited the results of these extra tests, reminded me that there is always hope, always a way forward, and always someone watching over you.

The Goddess is with us in every single moment. She is there in the dark as well as in the light. She is there when we fall to the lowest lows, and soars with us to the highest of highs. She embraces us when we feel lost and alone, she is the eternal mother nurturing our souls, and the wise woman who has been here so many times, in so many ways. And she is the maiden, excited at all that lays before us. She is someone I wish to know more, and so I am truly grateful for this latest set of gifts that focus so clearly on who she is and what she has to give. For she has been walking alongside me all these years, just waiting for me to hear her call.

Here’s to the Goddess and the gifts that she brings. And here’s to those special souls who walk this path with us, sending us gifts in so many ways, whether they are physical items, whispered prayers, or gentle hugs when we meet. We are so blessed.


Disclaimer: please note, there is an Amazon affiliate link included in this post. This means that if you click on that link and buy the item from Amazon, we will be credited a % of that sale. We include links like this from time to time, to help us cover the costs of running this blog. 

Pink Rose

Celebrating 5 Years and Looking Ahead

This time last week, TJ and I were in Glastonbury, celebrating 5 years of marriage. We hadn’t had a holiday since the last time we visited in 2012, and we never had a honeymoon, so this felt like a really special moment…

New Wedding Rings

We decided to create a little ceremony to mark the occasion and give each other new rings, as I had lost mine during my pregnancy (I had to take it off as I started reacting to the metal and it just disappeared). We originally planned on getting wooden rings, to celebrate our 5th year of marriage, but then we found these hematite rings a few months back and decided they were a good alternative.

It was such a wonderful opportunity, to get back to Glastonbury (one of my favourite places on earth), meet up with a dear old friend (who I managed to forget to take a photo of!) and hold a sweet little ceremony in the Chalice Well Gardens, the exact same place we held Little Man’s blessing ceremony 3 years ago. This time, however, he was very much an active participant in the ceremony…

Family Ceremony

I wrote the ceremony for us the morning of our anniversary, and purposefully included Little Man into it. We recognised how much has changed in the past five years, celebrated the growth of our love and how Little Man arrived into our lives, and shared our dreams for the coming 5 years. I used to feel so self-conscious and uncomfortable with ritual, but I am beginning to really love marking moments in our lives in this way.

Lighting Little Man’s candle with the flames from both of ours and then inviting him to join us in lighting a “unity” or “family” candle was so beautiful and really helped him feel involved with the entire thing, as he chose the colours for each of our candles that morning. It gave us a way to include him in what we were doing and express his own ideas into it, which we all loved.

Candle Lighting Ceremony

Which brings me to how we’re looking ahead to the next five years…

When I knew we were actually able to get to Glastonbury this year, I knew how important it would be for me symbolically to use the break as a chance to return to my roots, let go of the pain , sadness and anger of the past few years, and begin to really focus on moving forward in my life. This past year has been a crazy one, to say the least, and I have learnt a whole lot about myself and the changes I still need to make. One of these changes has been taking more time for myself and not filling it with needless activity but rather being present in the moment.

One such moment brought an idea into my head that has not let go since. More than an idea, in fact, it was a calling from my soul to fully embrace a part of myself that I have hidden from the world for many years, only letting glimpses of it show, in the hope of preserving something that can feel very fragile and intimate. I’m talking about my faith, or rather my interest in spirituality…

I have sometimes spoken about it here at The Patch, but it has always been in a guarded way. I had thought this was simply because it didn’t fit (and that is a part of it) but the reality is that I have closed my whole mind and heart off from the thing that brings me the most comfort and joy. Through fear of being seen as a multitude of negative words such as “deluded”, “dogmatic” or “naive”, I have actually prevented myself from enjoying all the positives such as “inspiration”, “peace”, and “exploration”. This is not only affecting me, but also affecting my ability to raise Little Man to know his own mind, follow his own heart, and carve his own path in life.

Pink Rose

More than anything, I want Little Man to grow up to know his own mind (and heart) and choose a path that reflects what he feels inside. I want him to be confident in this, secure enough to live in his own way whilst respecting the ways of others. And I am beginning to realise that I cannot do this without first living this way myself.

So it is beyond exciting to me that I am suddenly inspired to start something new, something that reflects the things I love most with the skills I have to create something that I hope will begin a lifelong journey of learning, friendship and community.

Spirit Kid Network

Spirit Kid Network is a brand new blog and community for people like us, looking to raise “spiritual kids” who are confident and excited about exploring life and finding their own paths. TJ and I are working, whenever we can, to get everything ready for going live, but you can get a sneak peek at the new site by visiting www.spiritkidnetwork.com

You can also pre-register your blog or business with the site, or join us on Facebook and Twitter. We’d love to see some of you there. And if you like what you see and fancy getting involved (by providing blog content, helping out on social media, or working with us in other ways) do get in touch. We want this to be far more than just us – we want it to be open to all.

And don’t worry if spirituality isn’t your thing… I’ll still be posting about our day-to-day lives here at The Patch, this isn’t a replacement for my online home here, rather an addition to it. And as Christmas is fast approaching, you can be sure there will be some posts coming up about how we’re preparing to celebrate on a budget!

 

Crochet Pumpkin for Autumn Equinox

New Beginnings at The Autumn Equinox

Today is Mabon, or the Autumn Equinox, a time in the year when the day and night are of equal length. The long summer days are behind us now and we’re heading into the dark of winter. It’s a time for celebrating your successes (it falls in the middle of the harvest) and bringing things to a close. If there’s one lesson that I think this day brings, it’s that all things must end, but life still brings beauty with it – after all, Autumn may mark the end of Summer but its rich colours are a new kind of beauty to enjoy!

Crochet Pumpkin for Autumn Equinox

It’s a slower time of year, a time when we begin to draw within ourselves a bit more and snuggle up close to the ones we love. But just because things slow down, it doesn’t mean that they stop altogether. For me, September has always been a time of new beginnings. I imagine this is partly because the new school year always starts this month. But it isn’t only that, I think Autumn brings a sense of inner reflection, a time for seeing where you have been, where you are now, and where you want to be and it is the perfect time to start laying down roots for the coming year.

Which is why it feels perfectly timed that this Autumn I am heading into a whole new project which has been gradually growing in my heart for many, many years and has finally reached the point of realisation. I am starting a new blog…

Now, before I go any further I want to say that this new blog is not a replacement for The Family Patch. I love this little space of mine and I will continue to use it for personal updates and sharing all my craft and home based posts. However there is an aspect of my life that has never really fitted well here, an area that is far too expansive to be just a part of this blog. And that’s what the new blog is for.

I don’t want to share too much with you right now, as I am still putting it all together. But today seems like the perfect time to share this new beginning with you. I’d also like to invite you to join me in this new venture, because this new blog is going to be different. It’s not going to be so personal, but rather a gathering of ideas and (I hope) a community of people interested in “raising spiritual kids in a modern world”. It is far bigger than anything I have done before, and I sometimes wonder whether I am getting in over my head, but I just know that I need to try this.

It all began when a name popped into my head during one of my morning Kundalini Yoga sessions. I don’t know where the name came from, but it just felt right. I’ve enjoyed letting the idea blossom and despite often questioning the name and how it will work, nothing else seems to fit. So, I’m trusting in it and going with it and will see where it leads.

It is an absolute joy to be working on and it fills me with so much excitement for the future. But I need your help. I’ve reached a point where no amount of self-reflection or research is going to complete the plans. This new blog is about community, and for that to work I need to know what others want and how they may like to be involved. So, if you have an interest in spirituality, particularly if you have children (of any age), and are happy to help me with this next stage of development please do fill in the form below so that I can get in touch with you.

 

Finding Peace in the Chaos with Mantras

Chanting For Peace

It’s no secret that life is pretty crazy here at The Patch. This year has seen us face redundancy and relocation, and whilst things are slowly beginning to settle down it is still far from peaceful. I’m currently balancing two new jobs, whilst building up my blog again (which is fun, but takes a lot of time). TJ is dealing with lots of changes at work, which is stressful enough without the added concerns of his own health. And Little Man is trying to adapt to life in a new city, which isn’t all that easy for a 3 year old to fully understand.

So with all this going on in our lives, I find that there is constant chatter in the back of my mind. I think at a mile a minute normally anyway, but with so much to think about on a daily basis right now it has become much more complicated. At the beginning of the year I set out some goals for the year. These included being more mindful, worrying less, and living more purposefully. Whilst on the surface it may seem like I am getting there, my internal dialogue is still constantly worrying about what the future holds and missing what is happening right now. I am, in essence, losing myself to the chaos around me, rather than finding a centre of peace within it.

Finding Peace in the Chaos with Mantras

And I want to change that. I want to embrace something which becomes a natural part of my day, setting me up for whatever happens by giving me some sense of internal peace. I have tried it before, making a promise to myself to pray, meditate or try yoga everyday, but it just hasn’t ever worked out. I get distracted, or I feel sick, or I just don’t feel I have the time, and it all falls by the wayside. Until now…

Whilst I was packing for our move, I tried listening to various radio stations, albums, podcasts etc but found I simply couldn’t focus on what I was listening to and focus on packing at the same time. It became more stressful than helpful. Until I discovered this version of Gayatri Mantra on youtube.

I don’t know how to describe how perfect it was… over 2 hours of music and chanting that was so easy to learn and sing along to. Focusing on the repetition of the words alone, even though I had no idea what they meant, was so therapeutic. I could think about what I was packing whilst chanting, because the pattern meant that it became easier to sing each time. I want to say that it meant I didn’t have to focus too much on the words, and that is true, but there was some thought involved because what essentially happened was that the mindless chatter and panicked thoughts that usually ran through the back of my mind began to disappear.

I’m not sure this is exactly how most people use mantras, but it is certainly working for me. Over the past few days I have listened to the Gayatri Mantra again whilst sorting out the bedroom, getting reader for work, pottering around the house… and the more I do it the more I find myself singing without the music too. I’ll be walking to work and it suddenly pops into my head, or I’ll be preparing lunch and the words just slip out. The combination of music and words seems to work so well for me, and I am beginning to really love the way that it quietens the fearful or chaotic thoughts that run through my head, helping me to find a calm centre from which to approach my day.

The weirdest thing is, I’d have never thought that chanting would be my thing! TJ first shared a few with me this time last year when he was learning some as part of his Shamanic Practitioner course. One of them was another of Deva Premal‘s tracks, and when he first played it to me I could feel the power within it, and I did enjoy joining in with him once in a while. But I never really made the time for it. Last year was, in very different ways, equally as chaotic as this year has been and I just don’t think I was in the best place to appreciate what it could offer me. I felt chanting was something I had no time for, especially as I read Eat. Pray. Love last summer and saw the dedication that was involved by the author during her time in India. Little did I know that even the smallest amount of time spent in this way would make a massive difference.

But now I know, and I want to embrace this wholeheartedly. I’ve decided that I want to make time for chanting every single day, even if it is only for 10 minutes in the morning as I jump in the shower. I’m hoping that, in time, I will find a way of making some dedicated space in my days for really focusing on the mantra, feeling the music flow through me and understanding what the words actually mean. But I know that if I set myself too great an expectation I will only give up. So for now I’m going to just try and make sure it is a daily activity, no matter how small.

I feel a particular affinity to the Gayatri Mantra, so I am going to try and stick with that for now, to really try and understand its meaning before moving on to another one. I’ll let you know how it goes. And if you chant, please do let me know what your favourite it, how you integrate it into your day, and what it means to you – I’d love to hear about it!

Unitarian. Druid. A Strange Combination?

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For the past ten years I have spent an awful lot of time thinking about where I fit in when it comes to faith, spirituality and indeed religion. It has been a rocky road because although I know what it is I believe, finding a name for that and thereby a way to express it has been challenging.

For many, many years I honestly believed that faith in God must equate to being a Christian. It sounds utterly naive now based on everything I have learned in the past ten years or so, but let me paint the picture. My family weren't religious. They had beliefs, but we didn't attend church or home groups or anything. My experience of religion was through school and the odd church service with Brownies, Guides or the few months I spent singing in my friend's church choir. 

So when I went to university, I automatically joined the Christian Union. And that was when it all got complicated…

I found myself in a place that didn't feel right. Things that I had held dear were not only questioned but sometimes downright ridiculed and I went through a major spiritual crisis. I felt lost and alone and I didn't want anything to do with that world.

Luckily I found support online through some spiritual (New Age) forums and began to open up again. I even decided to spend my three month stay in Germany not only volunteering with the Salvation Army but also staying with a family there too. And I had a wonderful time.

Those three months did a fine job of healing a lot of the hurt I had felt and broke down my defensive barriers because they taught me that what I had experienced previously was an extreme and not the norm. I felt happy and loved during those three months and still write to some of the officers every year as I remember my time there so fondly.

But however much that experience brought me back from a place of being hostile towards Christianity, it also left me more confused than ever. Conversations led to my realising that my beliefs weren't always that far from those of what I'll call "mainstream Christianity" for want of a better term, but I still had some major differences that I personally felt stopped me from connecting with the Christian community.

Things like "original sin", "predestination", and the concept of the "Trinity". 

Oh and the fact that I practise Reiki, believe Angels are sent from God to help us all, and that every living thing has a soul that survives beyond physical death.

It didn't help that when I tried once more to connect with a Christian community online to try and figure this all out I was kicked off the forum for "saying the wrong thing". Whoops!

You'd think I would have just given up and gone my merry way in the spiritual community that seemed to have no pre-requisites, right? But there remained a part of me that missed the connection that belonging to a "real life" community brings. And this only grew once I fell pregnant with Little Man and started to think about how I would raise him.

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So when TJ started suggesting we should look again for some "Pagan" groups to join I initially felt rather excited. 

Except, upon reading more I began to wonder if I really was fully Pagan either. It seemed as if I was somewhere in the middle, between liberal (perhaps very liberal) Christian and loosely Pagan, not really fitting in one world or the other.

Yet the week we spent in Glastonbury earlier this year brought home just how much I miss the community spirit of togetherness. We had a wonderful time celebrating Beltane, and we held a beautiful little blessing for Little Man in the Chalice Well Gardens…

Blessing 9

So when TJ decided he really felt like Druidry might be where he felt his heart taking him, I listened with interest as he explained how some Druids consider themselves to be Christian as well and that the two don't necessarily clash.

I don't pretend to know all that much about Druidry as that is TJ's area, not mine. But it did make me wonder just how that would work. So I looked for more information, reading bits here and there, and eventually coming across the term "Unitarian".

It wasn't a new term to me. TJand I had actually been to a Unitarian church a couple of times, but for some reason I had never fully looked into it. And the more I read the more I realised I had probably been "Unitarian" all of my life, without really knowing.

Suddenly I felt less alone. I realised that there are groups out there that will help me as I develop further in my faith and that can offer support as I do the best I can in raising Little Man to seek his own relationship with God. 

And with all the other changes I've been making lately I feel much more confident and secure in sharing this with him, and with others. Whereas before I would carefully write such things as "my faith has helped me through HG" or avoiding the subject altogether, I now want to share that as it is crucial to understanding some of the things I am going through. And whereas I often used to avoid joining in with people when they discussed a topic, I feel able to take part now.

I found this amazing resource this morning answering common questions about Unitarianism and I found myself nodding along with so many parts of it. But the thing that really made my heart sing was this:

"We favour a simple and inclusive definition of the word Christian. Thus a Christian is any person who seeks to live in accord with the life and teachings of Jesus, who identifies with what is best in the Christian tradition, and who, perhaps, sees in Jesus a revelation of the God who is immanent in all people. This is the wellspring of love that permeated his nature and his ministry."

Cliff Reed "Are Unitarians Christians?"

I never felt comfortable saying I was "Christian" but in actual fact I have a huge amount of love for the life that Jesus led. I want to be able to show Oscar the Bible as a part of his upbringing in a way that allows him to think about it and decide what he believes to be true in his own heart. Because I ultimately hope that Little Man will have the freedom and courage to explore various paths before choosing that which he experiences as bringing him into a closer relationship with God, however he understands God to be. 

And that makes me feel glad. 

As a family we can celebrate those things we all share in our beliefs and still celebrate those which are different. We can pray and read the Bible, but we can also meditate, celebrate the Wheel of the Year, plant a Sacred Grove, and be open to learning more about the faiths of others. 

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Oh baby boy… this is going to be such a wonderful journey for us all!

I totally understand that this post may not sit very well with some people. I am leaving comments open on this post as I am happy to discuss this with anyone who wants a mutually open conversation built on respect for differences as well as celebrating similarities.  But I am not open to comments that aim only to either end in a massive theological debate in a hope to "prove me wrong" or simply undermine my own relationship with God. I have had plenty of those in the past and this isn't the time or place for it. Any such comments will be deleted. Thank you. 

Spirituality and Kids

Okay, so this post is a biggie for me. I generally only write very vaguely about my spirituality on the blog (and other places online, and in person, to be completely honest). It's a combination of not knowing quite how to explain what it is I believe and being afraid of sharing it and gaining negative reactions and/or getting myself into theosophical debates with people who have very specific sources of information to refer to when I don't. 

TJ bought me a book called "Pagan Parenting" for Christmas and there is a section within it that sums this up very nicely:

"[…]This raises the question of whether to be totally honest or to pretend to be like everyone else. It is a question faced daily by anyone on the fringes of the majority […] Children growing up with metaphysical beliefs will often not share this side of themselves with mainstream friends for fear of rejection and ridicule.[…] A large part of one's public profile is deciding what should be encompassed within that role. For most followers of mainstream religions, this is not even a question that comes to mind. Unless the individual is extremely devout, religion is not often a part of their public persona. They neither hide it nor broadcast it. It is like skin color, hair color or anything else that is an integral part of who we are without needing to think about it."

In many ways I'm like the child mentioned in that. I have an instinctual urge to be honest and open about who I am and what I believe, but there is that fear of ridicule or rejection. And if I feel that myself, it is only to be expected that Little Man will pick up on this and learn by my example how to fear these things too.

So being honest, first to myself and then to others, is essential if I truly want Little Man to grow up knowing it is perfectly okay for him to explore his own spirituality and choose his own path. I can't tell him to do one thing when I am doing something opposite myself. 

TJ is much better at living his spirituality than I am. He likes ritual and "being a part of something" and it was his idea to dress up for Beltane when we were in Glastonbury this year (in fact he bought the dress for me because I was taking my own sweet time to decide on something!)

But I don't really like ritual. I feel embarrassed when doing it, and personally find it takes my mind and heart away from the matter at hand. I love the idea of it and know it works well for so many people, but I'm just not very good at it. 

So whereas TJ finds quite a lot of help and ideas in various Pagan sources, I continue to find myself falling somewhere just on the outside, not quite sure of where I belong. There is no uncertainty in what it is I believe, that's a mistake people sometimes make when I say this. I know quite strongly what is essential to me and those things that I haven't quite figured out yet, well that's what life is for, right? But expressing it and living it is another matter.

You may wonder why I feel this need to be open about it all. Surely the quotation I used at the beginning of the post points out that a lot of people do keep their spiritual and public lives separate. The problem for me is that although I can quite happily keep them separate for the most part, there are times when my spirituality is essential for explaining my outlook on life and how I get through certain things.

For instance, before we started trying to conceive I had come to a certain "peace" with the thought that if we were "meant" to have our own child we would but if not it meant that there was a different path for us to follow. This "peace" wasn't easy and of course my heart desperately wanted to experience carrying my own child. We were incredibly lucky to have that opportunity, but the hell of a HG pregnancy (further complicated by Obstetric Cholestasis) means that there were times when I truly wondered what I was meant to "learn" from this and what it meant for our future. I still don't know the answers to those questions, but my spirituality still helps me by reassuring me that even if I don't know the answer, someone (or something) does!

And so this reassurance is something that I want to share with Little Man. I want him to know that even when he feels at his most vulnerable and most alone, there is someone he can turn to. I want him to see beyond what is obvious and look to the deeper meaning behind things, to see the connection between all life and all living things so that respecting nature and our environment and other people is more than just something he is "expected" to do. 

I want him to understand that mummy and daddy do certain things for a reason. That we choose to use cloth nappies, try and eat healthy, locally grown foods when we can, and want to do all we can for those around us because that is our way of honouring the life we have been given and the life all around us. 

And the only way I can do this, truly do it, is to live it. Which means stepping out from the fear of rejection and ridicule and being true to myself and my spirituality. And this also means honouring and sharing TJ's own individual spirituality (which is different to my own) and in turn honouring Little Man's too. 

But how do you do this without risking that same rejection and ridicule for your child? What if something I do, some choice I make or some post I write on here has a negative reaction that comes back to Little Man? Judgement waits around every corner and although I believe in being as open and honest as you can be, I do know that sometimes holding back is a good thing. 

Where is the balance? How much of yourself do you share, to avoid confusion and to have trusting relationships with others based on honesty and truth? It's such a difficult thing to know and if I was scared about it before, I'm even more scared about it now that my actions could negatively affect Little Man. Without a "mainstream" understanding and image to guide and support us, where do we start?

I don't know if I'll ever know the answer, but I do know that it is an important question to ask!

Beltane in Glastonbury (and some revelations)

Last week we celebrated Beltane in Glastonbury (my favourite place on earth) and it was truly magical.

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Photo courtesy of Nicole Fischer

We weren’t just there for the festivities, but it was jolly good to join in with the celebrations that happened around the Chalice Well area.

There was drumming (which Little Man loved) and dancing (which Little Man loved) and people dressed in all sorts of finery (which Little Man found fascinating). In fact it all made me rather emotional in a way I cannot quite describe, but let’s just say that seeing the procession coming past the Gardens made me well up with tears slightly as we joined the end of it.

We also had a blessing for Little Man (very small, just us and our friend Nicole) which I shall write about another time. It was very special for us.

But more than all of that, we came home with a renewed sense of passion for seeking out our own spirituality and being who we really want to be. TJ has actually never struggled with that as much as I have, but even he felt a difference being in a place that was so open and accepting.

I have held my beliefs very close to my heart for many years because I never knew where I fit in nor how others would respond. But I always knew I wanted any children I had to grow up knowing that whatever they felt to be true was okay. And suddenly I realised that unless I start living as if my own beliefs are okay to be shared he will never learn this.

Like so many things that have happened this year, it is the very fact that I no longer need to make changes for me but also for Little Man that I am able to take a leap of faith and try a different way of being. Things I have battled with for years suddenly seem to be falling into place as the changes necessary become so much easier to make. And it feels like the right time to start sharing these things on the blog too. Because, after all, this blog is first and foremost a place to record our lives as a family!

So instead of thinking about what I *should* post about, I’m going to start writing about things which mean something to me. Even if they are totally meaningless. And instead of worrying that I haven’t managed to post for a whole month, I’m just going to go with the flow. And instead of splitting my time between a mountain of projects and never feeling I have the chance to stop, I’m making my priorities and I’m going to try my hardest to stick to them.

A week in Glastonbury, without any internet and with a beautiful atmosphere around me, has made me realise what is important in my life.

I actually felt free without worrying whether I’d answered this person or checked up on that person, and though I still want to keep up with the lives of friends and family, I’m no longer going to stress about missing something once in a while.

And knowing I had only my family and the necessary things (like laundry) to deal with, made me a much happier and calmer (and more organised) person. TJ even mentioned he preferred this Amanda, the one who wasn’t constantly stuck to her computer or running from one thing to another. And I have to admit, I quite like her too!

So, Beltane in Glastonbury was a truly wonderful experience. But our holiday meant so much more to me. And I hope to share some of those things with you soon… but only when I have the time.

Keeping Faith… Why I believe…

First of all, I must say a massive thanks to all those of you who left comments and sent messages to me following my previous post. I am overwhelmed by the response, for I don't think any post I've written has ever inspired so many people to leave a message. I guess being honest and sharing even those most scary thoughts really does make for good reading!

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So I thought I would expand on this openness and start a new series about the more spiritual nature and inspiration in my life. I have steered clear of going too deeply into this subject before through both a fear of alienating my readers and bringing judgemental, argumentative or theological responses that I cannot answer. 

You see, if someone asks me "what" I believe, I find it difficult to answer. This isn't just because of a fear of rejection, but also because it is hard to define something that is more a feeling and intuition than a solid and measurable thing.

I also feel rather weakly equipped, for although I know the basics of the Bible and Christianity (for example) when their scriptures, teachings or theologies are presented to me as a way of discussing or debating a certain issue I am often at a loss. This does not mean I dislike such conversations, as they can be very interesting and revealing, I just find them difficult when the other person has a range of quotations and religious examples to make their point and I have to somehow take what I feel in my heart and make sense of it with words.

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I may be good with words, but something as personal as faith is very hard to define (and defend, if arguments do arise). Even more difficult can be explaining to someone how you believe in pretty much the same thing that they do, are willing to accept their beliefs as spiritual truths, but are unwilling to accept and follow their religion. I still haven't figured that one out yet…

But ask me "why" I believe, and that I can answer far more easily. 

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I believe, because I do.

There has never been a time in my life that I cannot remember feeling that someone was there. My mind has always been enquiring: as a child I remember lying in bed trying to figure out how we know if we are dreaming or not, and where our thoughts occur because they are far too big to fit in our heads. I could imagine whole worlds in my mind's eye, so where was this world occurring? 

I never once stopped questioning things, but I never once questioned that God existed. (I use the word God as it is what I am most comfortable with, but there was a time in my early adulthood that I felt religion has taken the word away from me and I looked for alternative words such as Source and Energy but eventually I came back to the word God as it felt right for me). 

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I've spent years talking to someone, telling them everything from what I was feeling to what I was planning on doing. It was like a conversation took place in my mind, but there was someone else there to hear it. I even laughed and responded to some unheard reply sometimes, never quite knowing exactly why. I may sound mad, but it is how I live and I'll take madness over loneliness any day.

It didn't matter who this person was, I just knew that someone was there, guiding me, comforting me, and inspiring me. When I became too self-absorbed and run-down by life's events I lost the feeling of security that came with knowing someone was there, but still I talked, sharing my grief. And when things got exciting, I jumped for joy, knowing someone was watching.

So although my answer "I believe, because I do" may sound like a cop-out, it truly is the best way to answer the question of why I believe. To not believe is as alien a concept to me as to not hope or fear. 

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And I cannot blame this on some aspect of my upbringing because my parents never really spoke of anything beyond the visible until after my granddad died when I was 9, by which stage my belief was well and truly founded already.

Sure I came across aspects of religion in school, but never enough to form the strong bond I had with this unseen force. And besides, I only have to look at my conversations with "God" during the times I was angry with religion to know that no matter what questions I had about the specifics of it all, I could never doubt the existence of something beyond the world I see.

Incidentally, I believe in a lot more things than God, but the point is not to discuss that. I only mention it to point out that whilst our environment and upbringing can affect our ideas of the world to an extent, it really is our own ability to create our own beliefs that makes them as strong as they are.