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Resilience


By Judith on September 17, 2020
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During the earlier months of lockdown I was able to get back into running, after a year of not running due to injury.

It feels great to be running again! I run twice a week, 3 laps (5k) each time around the most beautiful park that is right on my doorstep.

 

 

But it’s hard!

It’s hard getting up and out before breakfast, sleep still in my eyes, stretching out muscles that don’t want stretched, getting out that front door to run in the rain, or worse, the wind!

Now of all the laps that I run, which do think is the hardest?  No, not the last lap.

The first lap is the hardest.  Everything in my body is yelling “What are you doing?  Are you crazy?  This hurts! It’s way too hard! There’s no way you’ll make 3 laps! You may as well give up now!”

This is the first of 2 voices that join me in my run – let’s call her Debbie Down-er (apologies to all Debbies out there!).  My Debbie Down-er voice loves to remind me just how hard running is for me, she’s a real whinge, a nay-sayer who doesn’t like being pushed to do anything hard or out of her comfort zone! She’s the voice of my body reminding me that I used to have M.E., that I’ve fractured my back twice, that I’ve busted my ankle 3 times, that I’m nearly 50 (oooh she’s close to the bone on that one!), not to mention how ridiculous I must look running like a deranged tortoise! What on earth do I think I’m doing!

 

 

Cue the 2nd voice in my head – let’s call her Determined Deirdre!

Determined Deirdre is the only reason I make it through that first lap, because she starts chirping “we can make 3 laps because we’ve done it before!”  I can’t tell you the profound impact that statement of truth can have on a body and mind that is screaming the complete opposite!

 

And so ensues the argument of my (unusual) internal dialogue, the voice of my body trying to shout louder than the voice of my mind, each one vying for attention over the other!  Over time I got better at choosing the right voice to listen to, and so long as Determined Deirdre’s voice is louder, I make it round lap 1 into lap 2. Victory no.1.

 

 

Lap 2 is where I settle into a rhythm and focus on my breathing. It’s still hard, and a niggly voice pops up again nearing the end of lap 2 “sure you’ve done 2 laps, that’s enough, quit now, the car’s right there”.

 

But I’ve come to learn about myself that if I even take 1 step over the threshold between laps 2 and 3, I’ve made it! There’s absolutely no way I’m quitting now that I’ve committed to lap 3, even if I have to drag myself across the finish line (glad to say that has only happened once!). Victory no.2.

 

 

And from the start of lap 3 it’s in the bag! I’ve still 1 mile to go, but I may as well be running on air! Why?

Hope!

You see, the finish line is in sight, the hardest work (the mental battle) is done and behind me, and the expectancy of victory no.3 (crossing the finishing line) energises my brain and fuels my tired body.

 

 

I’m also energised by the wildlife as I run round the lake in this beautiful park, imagining that they’ve come out specially to cheer me on!  Running in isolation is a completely different experience to running in a group, it’s much tougher mentally to be your own motivator, coach and cheerleader!

 

 

So as I run past them, I thank the amazingly tame squirrels, the shy little birds that jump back into the hedges, Bob and Bertha, the swans who sit at exactly the same spot at the edge of the path, for cheering me on.

 

I translate Bob’s protective hisses (!!) as ‘you’re doing great, keep going’, the regal stares and nods of the parliamentary island herons as ‘on course for a PB this week’, the many ducks toasting my efforts with their ‘bottoms up’ and the multi-talented seaguls performing their bread catching aerobatics and screaming for delight as I turn the corner into their view!

 

‘Bob’ happily distracted!

 

Well before you get really concerned about me (!!) let me explain why all this imagining is so important to me.

 

You see, in the 4 years I’ve been running I’ve learned something amazing!  The mind is stronger than the body! A strong and determined mind can make a body go much further than it wants to (just watch the triathalete Jonny Brownlee here for an extreme example of what this looks like)!

 

 

Running has given me mental resilience (fitness).

 

“When our minds are strong, we will be able to handle whatever life throws our way; we will go from just surviving to thriving!” Dr. Caroline Leaf

 

 

I believe our thought life & health is as important as our physical health, and yet it’s perhaps not something we choose to put much effort into.  Research shows that 75-98% of mental, physical & behavioural illness comes from one’s thought life (Dr. C Leaf ‘Switch on Your Brain’).

 

“Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate. Moment by moment, every day, you are changing the structure of your brain through your thinking. When we hope, it is an activity of the mind that changes the structure of our brain in a positive and normal direction.” Dr. Caroline Leaf “Switch on Your Brain”

 

Toxic thinking and negative stress wears down the brain, but I’m happy to report that the damage caused is reversible! Neuroscientists have proven this and many inspiring testimonies and evidences are recorded in Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book ‘Switch on Your Brain’. We actually can ‘be transformed by the renewing of our minds’ Romans 12:2.

 

So if you would like an active and growing brain, increased intelligence & wisdom, peacefulness, increased immune and cardiovascular health, why not take stock of your thought life. Not everything that is hard is bad for us!

 

 

For you it might not be running, but maybe you could start with meditating, or praying, or practising gratitude, stepping a little out of your comfort zone and trying something new. Start the processes of strengthening your Mind (brain/spirit) over Matter (body)!

You can do way more than you think you can.

 

And if there’s no-one there to cheer you on, be your own cheerleader, set your imagination to work, record the many little victories that happen in a day, and you’ll soon start to grow mental resilience.

 

 

I’ve still got lots of work to do on my thought life, it will be a life-time committment. But I’m not the same person I was 6 years ago when I made a decision to get healthy inside and out. Life is rarely easy, but we have a power-pack of resources available to us every single day to help us through it.  We just need to learn how to use it!

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Macro


By Judith on August 16, 2020
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I love visiting my Mum and Dad’s garden.  Dad has ‘green fingers’ and despite nearing 80 years, he still works hard to sustain the organic life and beauty of his acre plot.

 

 

I moved here when I was 12 years old, from town to country, and while I only spent 6 years here, from the moment I arrived I felt connected, at home, released by the wide open spaces of my surroundings. I became a ‘country girl’ and it felt like the consummation of my very existence.  I feel it every time I visit and walk around the garden and honeysuckled lanes, like time gets suspended and nothing else exists or matters except colour, creation and the unadulterated country air.  Here you can literally stop and smell the roses!

 

 

As I’ve gotten better at photography (I’m still very much a novice!), I’ve discovered a love of capturing the beauty of nature, in particular flowers and flora!

 

 

Photographing sea and landscapes aren’t really my thing, mainly because I’m always dissatisfied that my photographs fall a long way short of capturing the intense beauty and spectacle laid out before me.

But the more I got into photography, the more I kept leaning in, wanting a closer look, discovering details I don’t usually see without focussed, deliberate seeking.

 

 

Last summer I attended a 2-day Macro Photography workshop.  And despite not having the right equipment (everyone else already had a macro lens, wince!), I learned so much, in particular how to get up close and connected to nature; how to really look and discover an entire other universe of life co-existing peacefully in our environment. I felt like Horton the Elephant in Dr. Seuss’ ‘Horton Hears a Who’ when he discovers an entire other planet of ‘Whos’ existing on a speck of dust.

 

 

When I think of the term ‘macro’ I think of large scale, big picture, long sighted, the opposite of micro. Paradoxically, macro photography is all about the tiny, the minutiae, what is hidden from the human lens.  But what this extreme close-up photography does is enlarge the subject to greater than life size, to make seen what was unseen, to unveil many realities and truths of nature that go seemingly unnoticed and undiscovered.

 

 

One of my favourite stories is The Secret Garden, by F.H.Burnett. The recently orphaned Mary tells her newly discovered cousin, Colin, a story from India of a boy rajah, and how when he opened his mouth, you could see the whole universe in his throat. 10-year-old Colin found this absurd as his closeted and literal mind failed to comprehend the metaphor.  Only later, as he learns to walk again in the magical garden that Mary nurtured back to life, does he understand, that within a person can exist a universe worth of life and possibility, potential and wonder, goodness and kindness.

Like an entire world existing on a speck of dust.

Like macro revealed in micro.

 

 

During this pandemic my world has become much more micro, particularly in a sociable and relational way as my classes stopped, church went online, and visits with family and friends became restricted to ‘outside’ only; the usual freedoms we take for granted paused and limited.

And yet, within this new micro world I have discovered a macro one, an opportunity to rediscover and refocus the important aspects of life, like rest (the proper creative, soul kind of rest), time (to read, and think and waste), contemplation and learning and self-discovery, my children (undistracted, quality conversations and memory making). It was always there, this secret world on a speck of dust, hidden by the distractions and overgrowth of demands, responsibilities, busyness.  I’ve been neglecting my garden of peace and balance, often without realising it, and am grateful for this moment to get up close and personal again with values and truths that really matter to me.

 

 

It will be some time before our ‘normal’ way of life resumes, if at all. My prayer is that we adjust and adapt, bend and flex, twist and turn until we are reconciled and familiar with a new ‘normal’, a normal where new balance and good priorities are synced, where the macro is always being discovered afresh in the micro, where we reach and release the universe that exists in our throats so we can walk forward enriched, inspired and empowered to live a life well lived.

If you look for beauty, you will find it.

If you seek peace, you will find it.

If you search for purpose to your day, you will find it.

Choose to discover the macro in your micro world today.

 

 

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

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Honour


By Judith on July 18, 2020
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In many ways it’s an old-fashioned word …. ‘Honour’.

To me it invokes impressions of chivalry, courage, daring, respect duly paid.

I particularly like the 1755 definition in A Dictionary of the Enlish Language which defines honour as

“having several senses, the first of which was “nobility of soul, magnanimity, and a scorn of meanness”. This sort of honour derives from the perceived virtuous conduct and personal integrity of the person endowed with it.” (Encyclopaedia Brittanica)

The Latin origins of the word are very much rooted in concepts of esteem, reputation, societal norms and public office, standards for and applications of which have changed much in a post-modern world.

On the face of it, it seems such traditional applications of the word have certainly changed through the generations (how often do you hear of a woman’s honour being defended by a ‘pistols at dawn’ duel?) replaced instead by a moral code ‘law based’ defining society.

Charles Dickens perfectly describes his grief at the loss of honour around him in ‘Squire Norton’s Song’ as the old man describes to the young boy what ‘honour’ used to mean (full poem at the end of this post).

“Dear father, what can honor be,
Of which I hear men rave?
Field, cell and cloister, land and sea,
The tempest and the grave:
It lives in all, ’tis sought in each,
‘Tis never heard or seen:
Now tell me, father, I beseech,
What can this honor mean?”

But you don’t have to look too far to see that honour still exists in our world today, either positively or negatively, particularly among more tradition-based cultures where family, faith and community values, passed down from generation to generation, are staunchly and passionately defended and invoked.

However you choose to define it or recognise it, honour can’t exist outside of relationship.  You either receive it from another, or you bestow onto another.

In my church, our Pastor will occasionally publicly honour individuals who have humbly and selflessly served the congregation or community, to give respect and recognition for their sacrifice and faithfulness.  I love this gesture from a time gone by.

The other day I got to visit 2 dear friends (in different locations) who have both recently made one of my online projects.

 

Applique Hearts Boxy Bag Finishes
Applique Hearts Boxy Bag Finishes

 

The unintentional ‘theme’ that day reminded me of how blessed I am to have loyal, compassionate, wise and supportive friends in my life – friends who have cheered me on as I started and grew my business, who have walked with me through dark valleys and celebrated joyfully my victories and achievements, who have invested in my kids and my dreams for the future.

 

Our ‘Couch to 5k’ graduation at Park Run March’16

 

Most of all, I have friends who believe in me (often more than I believe in myself!), who have convinced me of my value and worth when I was betrayed and rejected, of my gifts and talents when I felt like I had little to offer and who have inspired me with their creativity and ideas when I was running on empty.

 

 

Today I want to honour my beautiful friends (not all pictured here) and give due respect and praise for their uniqueness and integrity.  The Wikipedia definition of ‘Magnanimity’ sums them all up perfectly …

‘bigness of soul/spirit is the virtue of being great of mind and heart. It encompasses, usually, a refusal to be petty, a willingness to face danger, and actions for noble purposes.’

I aspire to be as great a friend as mine are to me.

Who can you honour in your life today?

 

SQUIRE NORTON’S SONG
Charles Dickens

The child and the old man sat alone
In the quiet, peaceful shade
Of the old green boughs, that had richly grown
In the deep, thick forest glade.
It was a soft and pleasant sound,
That rustling of the oak;
And the gentle breeze played lightly round
As thus the fair boy spoke:-

“Dear father, what can honor be,
Of which I hear men rave?
Field, cell and cloister, land and sea,
The tempest and the grave:
It lives in all, ’tis sought in each,
‘Tis never heard or seen:
Now tell me, father, I beseech,
What can this honor mean?”

“It is a name, a name, my child
It lived in other days,
When men were rude, their passions wild,
Their sport, thick battle frays.
When, in armor bright, the warrior bold
Knelt to his lady’s eyes:
Beneath the abbey pavement old
That warrior’s dust now lies.”

“The iron hearts of that old day
Have mouldered in the grave;
And chivalry has passed away,
With knights so true and brave;
The honor, which to them was life,
Throbs in no bosom now;
It only gilds the gambler’s strife,
Or decks the worthless vow.”

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