In an increasingly complex world, Carmel Thomason offers practical ways to simplify life and see the extraordinary in the everyday.
Sometimes people say unpleasant things more out of habit than intended harm. I once worked with a woman who repeated nasty comments she overheard adding: ‘I always say forewarned is forearmed.’ In other words, she justified repeating cruel remarks by saying she was helping me. She wasn’t. Those words hurt and made me suspicious of people I otherwise might have had a good relationship with. After all, haven’t we all said something about someone at some time to let off steam?
It’s easy to feel like we’re bonding when we complain, but any support we feel from this is short lived. If you want to find fault with other people there will always be something. The same is true for your career, your home, or anything in the world. There is always plenty to grumble and complain about, but the opposite is also true. Don’t miss opportunities to speak kindly because you’re too busy focusing on what’s wrong. If you think something nice about someone, be free with your compliments and let them know.
Be the peacemaker
It’s upsetting when people assume the worst of you. Working as a journalist I meet lots of people in all kinds of situations. Unfortunately, some believe all journalists are sour people who only want to tell the worst of life. It’s fine if someone doesn’t want to talk to me, but often these same people are very vocal about it. Even in social situations they make it clear they don’t want to speak to me in case I write about them, yet take umbrage when I do what they ask and ignore them.
Faced with such hostility it would be easy to become cynical, to forget that these people are a noisy minority, and to begin to act in the underhand manner they expect. But, would that make me feel better about myself or help me to enjoy my job?
It is easy to get caught up in other people’s chaos and allow them to distract you from the good God is working in your life. Choose to see the best in people and view anyone who brings chaos to your day as an opportunity to practise letting go of minor irritations and forgiving quickly. Don’t wait for other people to change until you can feel at peace; peace starts with you.
Sometimes we learn to lean on God by practising letting go of small every day anxieties. Other times it takes a situation so clearly out of our control that we have nowhere else to turn but God before we truly experience what it means to put our trust in him.
Trusting God means that we don’t need to speculate or over analyse, going over and over the same problem. If there is something we can do to help the situation then God will guide us in that direction, no amount of worrying is going to change it.
In my garden I put smooth pebbles on the top of my plant pots. They look pretty and also help protect the plants from losing too much water in the summer months. When I begin to worry about something I’ll hold a pebble in my hand, pray about the situation and then lay the pebble down.
Whenever I notice I’m thinking about the same problem I look out onto the garden and feel reassured that I’ve given it to God. I might not understand or like where I am, but I know that God is in control. He will sustain me and work all things out for good.
Say thank you
Several times in the Bible we are encouraged to count our blessings. I particularly like Psalms 103:2 which reminds us to remember all God’s benefits.
When our blessings become familiar, they can be easy to overlook. Some years ago I took a trekking holiday in Costa Rica where we camped, drank water from streams, ate little more than rice and beans, and lived without a shower, flushing lavatory or comfortable bed. Coming home a soak in the bath felt like the most decadent experience in the world, and for a short-time I began to see small luxuries, like snuggling under a duvet, in a different way.
On my trip I bought some ground coffee from a local factory. Drinking it reminded me of all the people I’d seen working to produce my morning cuppa. It made me savour the taste. I began enjoying my food more too, thinking about the variety of produce available within a short distance of my home, and all the people who work to make that possible. I benefiting from the work and talents of so many people and yet I’d started to believe that by going to the supermarket, paying for the food and cooking it, I was somehow doing it all myself.
Ask God to help you appreciate all of his kindnesses, so that in recognising how much you already have, you can confidently reach out and ask: who can I bless in return?
Appreciate the people in your life
As a journalist I’ve written on many subjects, but the most memorable was one for which I had to do no research at all – how I feel about my mother. Coming up to Mother’s Day I was asked to write about what my mum means to me. On the face of it, this should have been the easiest assignment in the world. Yet it made me realise just how infrequently I stopped to think about and appreciate specific qualities about the people I love.
When asked a question like that I was all too aware how easy it is to slip into spouting platitudes. Yes, such words might be true, but do they reach to the heart of a person?
The headline on the story read, ‘Telling your mum how special she is means more than any gift’. I still sent a Mother’s Day card and bought a present for my mum that year. Presents and cards are tokens of appreciation, but it is the appreciation that is the real gift, and it is a greater gift than any money can buy.
Think about a person in your life who you love. If you had to write something about what they mean to you, what would you say? Offer a prayer of thanks to God for bringing this person into your life.
Be the miracle
We all have incidents when someone seems to have shown up just at the right time. Had they come into our lives minutes later or earlier things could have been very different.
A friend of mine was enjoying a country walk with his family when his mother-in-law suddenly took ill. It was a remote spot, and none of them could get a phone signal to call for help. Within a couple of minutes a young woman came down the hill. It turned out, she was a medic and recognised immediately what was wrong. ‘We had seen no-one all day, and then she shows up out of the blue when we needed someone,’ my friend said. ‘It was like she was an angel.’
In that woman’s kindness my friend and his family saw a reflection of the divine that is within all of us. In acting out our faith, we give life to God’s spirit within us and we never know where that might lead. What may seem a small act to us could be part of a miracle God is working in someone else’s life.