Life, Here We Come!
‘Life happens’ they say.
These two words convey many different meanings.
It can mean that things move on along, often beyond our anticipation and control. The Pandemic, perhaps is a case in point, as are smaller sources of panic or pleasure. Where this is the case, we say “life happens” with a sense of disconsolation and resignation.
What if we see life more as a gift, albeit presented at times in wrapping that isn’t quite so appealing? It can then mean that despite our daily trudging, often with a downward gaze at where our feet are going, of being bowed down by the demands, our way is interrupted by small kindnesses, a glimmer of hope, a serendipitous outcome. ‘Life happens’ can then mean life is perfused by Life, calling us to pay attention to what truly matters, to resist the forces that can distort our inherent dignity and worth, to nurture and so leave a legacy for what we deeply value.
It has been a year since TRL was launched (right before Covid became common parlance), so we ask the Team how life has happened for them.
Q: How has ‘life happened’ for you in 2021?
WENDY: It was tempting to join the herd mentality to conserve and hoard in a time of uncertainty. But for me, a lot of expending happened in 2021: at home, at work, and beyond work. I found myself pouring energy to build relational depth and authenticity with those who worked with me, while also paying attention to the anxious, impatient, troubled, and wounded around me.
Thankfully, the group size of 8, 5 and 2 had made it difficult for people to hide behind a crowd. Because of this, my conversations with others became more well-paced and life-giving. I also discovered that I became alive when I could:
Work with energized optimists to find solutions to obstacles and problems.
Cry with the sad and explore how to fight for joy when circumstances could not change.
Share conversations and meals with the lonely and friendless so they could face another hard day.
Brave through conflicts to bridge communication gaps with colleagues and friends.
Sit with dark emotions to discover their gifts for growth.
Show up regardless of who turned up and muster the self-discipline to keep at things.
2021 was tiring, but I was stretched and grown by people who matter to God and to me.
RUBY: I really identify and resonate with what Wendy shared. Personally, 2021 was a period of:
Stepping out and making decisions that were not the easiest to make
Letting go of things/people that I clung on to that were not the healthiest
Taking time to slow down and process my emotions and thoughts, especially the ones that are not the most comfortable to sit with
Stretching and putting my faith and hospitality to the test
Learning how to love others and meet them where they are
It was a defining year for me as I also decided to move out in Q4 after many years of contemplation. So, 2021 was a new season with fresh perspectives and a deeper understanding of who God has called me to be.
JOANNA: I felt that the whole of 2021 unfolded day by day, month by month, as it turned out to be a year of many transitions.
It began with a season of a sabbatical break where I felt a sense of excitement for what lay in store, tinged with the uncertainty of what exactly would happen. I looked forward to having the flexibility of time to do different small projects, spend time with people who matter, and in the process also perhaps have a baby pop out as my husband, Kevin, was also taking a break from work. As the months passed, we knew it was time to also move to a physical space we could both create a home in. Then around the 3rd quarter, I was also approached to consider a paid job at my church which I gladly took on as it gave another dimension of being rooted in doing things that I really believe in. Now as I look back, I realise that it has been a year of shifts and changes that transplanted me into new ground - with a new home, new work, and volunteer roles.
ESTELLE: How has life happened? It felt in some ways, like life didn’t happen. For many months, I felt stuck and in freeze mode, unsure of what lay ahead and how I could ever move forward from my frozen state. So many things that I hoped for and expected didn’t happen, many projects and relationships reached a type of death - as did my sense of self - but the good thing about death is that new life will come.
And it did - a resurrection of dreams, vision, values, new hope for my life and identity, as well as a deepening in many of my friendships.
Like a drowning person who finally found a buoy while desperately flailing and gasping for air, I experienced a renewal in my relationships with God, myself, and community, and a new way of living. So, I am thankful for the death and drowning of the things of old, and the new life that arrived at the shores of 2022.
KEVIN : Well, I started a new job, after taking several months of break to sense-make my work journey, which had involved setbacks and pains that nearly blindsided me. A year and a half of being in a company with a toxic work environment was making me a worse person - I was more bad-tempered with my loved ones, forever complaining, physically tired and generally operating under a dark cloud.
The time to slow down resulted in a breakthrough as I took time to reflect on my situation in life, enjoy exploring our small city (though I still wish we could have gone overseas!). I also went for a course with Joanna which really helped us to unpack and deal with issues from the past, and placed our relationship on a stronger foundation. This time helped me to become more sure who I am, what I value and how I will approach work. The journey of putting away the mindsets of hurry and ambition (for example, the need to get promoted by a certain time and earn a certain salary) continues, but at least I took steps towards living life in a less hurried and ambitious way.
So although from appearances it felt like I was going back to where I started 5 years ago, seemingly aimless in life and right back where I started in terms of my career situation, it’s actually different as I have learned to approach things differently this time, so there is a newness to it all.
Q: How has your life been shaped by the TRL ethos of slow, savor and serve?
WENDY: Slowing was a double-edged sword for me. Positively, slowing has helped me to listen better, discern more, develop a healthy dose of introspection, and has kept me from rushing from one thing to another. However, I can at times, slow so much till I procrastinate! Slowing must be accompanied by healthy self-discipline(s).
We all love positive vibes, but I am learning to savour the unpleasant and negative feelings instead of avoiding them, without which I cannot evaluate what is truly abundant. Acknowledging the negative has helped to alert me to what needs attention and what needs change.
JOANNA: Being on a sabbatical definitely helped tons with slowing down and savouring life. When I was working at my previous job, deadlines came so fast and furious that it was hard to say "no" to work pieces unless you made a deliberate resolve to steel yourself from feeling bad that your "no" could mean extra work being farmed out to others in the team or to accept that saying "no" could mean a possible step back in promotion prospects.
I began to say many "no"s in the few years before I finally took the plunge to leave my job. It was a meaningful job but I felt a call to a new season of focus. Since quitting, I’ve had various projects at hand (some with pay, others from passion) requiring deadlines to be met, but the pace has just been so much more balanced that I can be more present in the moment - to savour gifts of laughter and creating shared memories. Being at a less harried pace has also helped me to serve people (e.g. spending time with friends with mental health issues, helping my uncle do up an autobiography) out of a place of being rested and not feeling like I had to perform a specific duty. I could exercise the choice of what to spend time on more meaningfully. In essence, I’ve begun to discover that ‘really living’ means having the ability to make choices that align with my priorities.
ESTELLE : Over the last 5 years, I’ve been cultivating a sense of life and rhythm which includes slowing down but somehow, hurry and hustle still creep in and I feel like I’ve constantly been re-learning and re-entering slowness. I’ve had a long history of ADD and dissociation and I’m finally entering savour mode and being intentional and present with God, myself and others.
Perhaps the natural next progression is that life will flow out of me and I’ll be able to serve in better and fuller ways!
RUBY: Truth is, slowing down is probably the hardest thing for me to do. I feel the need for speed and it energises me! So, I will catch myself taking a short break and then I am right back at running at full steam again, wearing multiple hats all at once. Having the TRL ethos of slow, savor and serve at the back (sometimes front) of my head constantly challenges me to re-examine and be aware of my life choices and priorities.
KEVIN: Slowing down helps me see what I value and keep the end in mind. I understand more of what really matters besides all the shiny things the world dangles before you (e.g. money, ambition). You take time to tear yourself away from these things and appreciate what matters more like physical and spiritual health, relationships, contentment.
Along the way, it is also important to savour the intermediate points in life - celebrate small victories and enjoy individual moments of slowing down when it’s not so crazy. These can include just unwinding with loved ones and savouring a good dinner and comfy couch at the end of a busy day.
Finally, I want to remember to serve others first rather than myself. City life is frequently just a lot of rushing for self-centered objectives. We need to see the dangers in that and be intentional to detach from these ways.
Q: What excites you about really living in 2022?
KEVIN: Making the right choices and having God keep you afloat as you sacrifice your own plans to move at his pace.
WENDY: 2022 feels like an extension of 2021. So I will keep doing what I have learned to appreciate, live and do in 2021.
JOANNA: I have found having accountability helpful for making lifestyle changes, so I want to continue to wake up early and show up for Quiet Hour with Ps Jenni, as well as daily Zoom Morning Worship (something started by a small group of us at church) and enjoy these as gifts to anchor me without being legalistic about them. As I start the day with God and learn to be more present to Him throughout the day, I look to enjoy a sweeter quality of life.
As I continue to clarify my own values that I want to hold on to instead of being swayed by comparisons, I hope to feel more rooted and secure in the love of God, instead of allowing circumstances to discourage me or incite a disquiet spirit. And on the baby-making front, I’m looking forward to seeing how God leads as we also explore adoption! Since the past year of transitions, I’ve been ‘planted’ in a new garden, and I believe that 2022 will bear fruit in this space, in many different ways.
RUBY: Building and creating a space for people to come to Rest, Recuperate and Rejoice (3Rs) has always been something so dear to me. I am truly excited about stewarding my new place for His honor and glory. I hope that as people come by, they will be able to receive deep healing within and reimagine possibilities. I too hope that in 2022, I can be a more discerning and wiser me! :)
ESTELLE: I just completed my coaching certification journey and I’m curious as to what the rest of my year could look like, amidst what feels like lots of transition and uncertainty. One thing I know for sure - I’m finally moving in the direction that I need to and I’m excited to explore new skills and new ways to love and serve youth, creatives, entrepreneurs, and the other people groups in my heart.
I still hope to carve out lots of space for Slow and Savour in my life, but looks like a new season and new skills to Serve are right around the corner!
What about you?
How did Life happen for you in 2021?
In what ways can the TRL ethos of Slow, Savour and Serve transform your life?
What excites you about 2022?
Leave a comment or hop over to our Fb group to join the ongoing explorations.