4 Life Lessons From My Skydive

4 Life Lessons From My Skydive:

You know that thing where someone says, “You can’t do that!” Yeah…. I tend to ignore them. So when someone said after my skydive, “…but you should be sitting in a cozy chair, knitting or something like that” half-jokingly, I’m like….nah! Life is to enjoyed to the max!

I mean, look at that women a few weeks ago who did a skydive to celebrate her 90th birthday! That’s gonna be me! 90 experiences at 90!!! Hahahah!!

So yeah, yesterday I did a skydive. I had originally thought about doing one in my 20s but the guy who was organising the charity event didn’t manage to get it off the ground!

But now, having actually done it, it is literally one of the best things I’ve ever done! To have seen part of the UK from a very different perspective, putting my life in the hands of someone I’d never met, being attached to him while he threw me out of a plane, and flying through the air, then enjoying the freedom of flying while the parachute brought us into land, was outrageously, audaciously amazing!

Life Lesson 1: Seeing the ground from two miles up, makes you realise how small it really is. When on the ground, waiting, the idea of being anywhere up in the clouds was unimaginable. Being actually “out in the clouds” provides a very different perspective, and vantage point. No problem or challenge is as big as it may seem.

I would so do it again. As long as it was tandem. Not sure I’d quite trust myself in the same way!

The only bit which freaked me out, was the moment at which I was sitting on the tandem guy’s lap, as he sat in the open doorway, over the edge of the plane, legs dangling 2 miles above the ground…. yeah that! Technically, I’m already out of the plane! But only because he was in control of when we jumped and I had no say at all. Not that I’m a control freak…much! Ok I totally am! I hated that!

But had I been in control, would I have jumped at all? 🤔

Life lesson 2: If I stay in control all the time, there are many experiences I might miss out on, because how often do we let fear hold us back?!

The most amazing part of the whole experience – which the others who were jumping with me didn’t have – my tandem guy allowed me to “fly” our parachute! He was so casual about it, too! “Steph, see these red loops I’m holding? Reach up and put your hands through them. Now stretch your arms right up. This is how we steer the ‘chute! If we pull right, we turn right. And pull left to go left. Now over to you! You’re in control.”

Clearly I wasn’t, he still had his hands on the ropes! But it felt like it when I was pulling the ropes. The harder I pulled the faster we went! But I was still attached to my tandem guy, and I know he was fully in control, even when it seemed like I was able to “fly”.

Life lesson 3: Being attached to the one who knew what he was doing, and knowing he had confidence in me, to trust me to take control of steering, gave me the confidence to actually do it. I was connected to him, there was no way either of us was going to “fall” (although technically we were), but we were working together to keep us both safe. And he knew when it was time to take back the reins to lead us safely to ground.

The bit I had been dreading was the landing. I had visions of broken legs or something, so wasn’t sure about this bit. But it’s like with anything isn’t it. Wearing the right gear, and listening to the right instruction makes life easier. We had training before going up, and while we were flying down, my tandem guy did a practice run. Legs up, like your sitting with them stretched out in front of you. In fairness…he did the hard work! He landed first, and I smoothly glided bottom-first along the grass! No problem at all.

Life lesson 4: Sometimes we don’t know what to do… so we need to have someone teach us or show us. Don’t expect yourself to have all the answers to life, because you’re putting too much pressure on yourself. Find someone ahead of you, and ask! They know either from training or from experience, so avoid breaking your back trying to work it out alone!

IMG_8920So are you ready to make the jump into adventure? It might not be a skydive, but whatever it is, don’t let fear hold you back! Who knows what you might gain from the experience!

Just step out and do it!

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Red Flag Relationships: More Than Arm Candy

“I just think you should maybe reconsider how you might look to them?”

“But if they’re your friends, won’t they just accept me as I am? For making you happy?”

“Yeah, babe! Of course! But you want to make the best impression, don’t you?”

“But I don’t want to look too over-dressed next to you – you’re just in your baggy jeans and a t-shirt that’s two-sizes too big!”

 

Double-standards, when linked with control, isn’t a healthy combination for a relationship. While it is true, that sometimes we have to dress a certain way to be perceived a certain way, to have a guy try and dictate to you how you look, when he slums it in baggy jeans, or joggers, is not exactly a balanced relationship.

There are men who like to have a beautiful accessory on his arm, and I’m not talking about some kind of gold or silver bracelet! And, yeah…. I know….there are some women who are OK with just being an accessory. I don’t get why – because God did not make women to just be a bit of “arm candy” for men, but to reflect Him as man’s equal. Oh my days, I literally just want to shake those girls by the shoulders and say, “Hey! You’re so much more than an accessory! Have more faith in who you are and what you can achieve!”

And have you seen some of those blokes?!

Seriously, if some guy is coming all up into your life, and wanting you to be his “arm candy”, maybe he needs to make sure he is living up to being attached to your arm in the first place!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the kinds of men I am not interested in. Not that I want to dictate to a man what he can or can’t do – but basic psychology says that we make a judgement about someone within three seconds of meeting them. Not that I expect I will live to my dream guy’s expectations, because we’re all a work in progress, but I know if I’m going to make a good impression within those first three seconds, part of that does involve my wardrobe choices.

But what I find increasingly annoying are those guys who have a double-standard about how they step out of the house, and how they expect women to step out of the house.

If a man can’t accept you for who you are, wardrobe and all, even if that’s walking around in Ugg boots or crocs **shudder**, or some other such hideous pair of shoes; what’s to say he won’t start trying to change who you are on the inside too, so you start to fit his ideal of what a woman should be? Or to fit his perception of what he thinks you should be.

The way we dress is important….for us! We can’t dress in a certain way in the hope we will be more acceptable, more lovable, more attractive, or whatever. It’s the same as in the work place when a woman’s appearance is judged to be more important than her capabilities.

Outfits change. Our dress sense changes. Our style changes. What doesn’t ever change, is who we really are – but how we reflect that in any given moment should be our choice as women, and not because of how a guy wants to fit you into his agenda. You were made for more! If a man – especially if he hasn’t “put a ring on it” – consistently starts trying to tell you about changing how to dress, maybe it’s time to change your man instead.

Don’t conform to make him accept you more.

Find your own style, and live in the freedom to just be you.

What Am I Doing?!

😱 I’m doing a skydive in two days!!! 😱

What am I doing???

I know…I know! I’m going to enjoy it when those doors unnaturally open, and my legs are dangling over the edge! Allegedly! But it’s the now!! This bit leading up to it!

Trying to not think about it. Especially when I should be sleeping.

Oh, and if that’s not enough….. in two weeks, I am going to be on my way to Iraq. 😱

As one of my old school friends recently said, “Your crazy life!! I never thought I’d hear a sentence like, ‘I may be free after my skydive before I go to Iraq’ from you!!! Awesome!”

My crazy life, indeed! How on earth did this become part of my 40 experiences?!

And wait…what did she mean by, “from you”?! 🙄

After A Relationship Breakdown…breathe!

The other day, one of my friends asked me an interesting question. But as we were on duty as that day’s media team, and the meeting was due to start, I don’t think I actually answered it. Don’t you just hate it when someone doesn’t answer your question!

I have made the decision to give myself at least a year off from guys, and allow my heart to heal. At the time, when someone suggested it to me, it felt like a really tall order, but actually….it’s great! It’s given me a some breathing space and means I’m not one of those women who jumps from one relationship to another. It is giving me time to get to know myself. Me. The person I am without someone else around. The person I am without having another person trying to dictate to me or change who I am.

Giving yourself the space to reidentify yourself after the breakdown of a relationship is good practice. Jumping from one relationship to another doesn’t allow you to learn who you are and what you stand for, nor does it give you a sense of independence. Your identity apart from another person is important.

Giving you space for healing also is being kind to your heart. You’re protecting yourself from more heartache, you’re telling yourself you matter, your heart matters, your emotional well-being matters. You matter.

And the question? “What happens after the year?”

In all honesty, I’m not sure! I am not going to rush bruising my heart, after the time we are taking to heal. I value me more than that. I don’t want to slouch around hoping everything will work out without first knowing I am walking in the fullness of a heart which is healed and strengthened, after what I’ve walked through.

Walking Away From Destruction

There's nothing worse than dreading going home.

When you've had a long day, and an even longer drive, but you're driving slower than you need to, in order to stay away longer. Or when it is cold, raining and windy, and the idea of curling up in front of a fire, under a blanket is so appealing, but the desire to escape is more so. Or when you could have had a lie-in, but would much rather go and sit in a coffee shop, in order to get some peace and quiet, even if people do keep leaving the door open and you get cold.

Yep! I totally understand how these situations are often more beneficial than being in the house.

I remember driving up the motorway one day about three years ago, and realised I'd stopped calling where I lived, "home" referring to it as "the house" instead. A home is a place of safety. A refuge. A sanctuary away from the world, isn't it? So why should I call it home, when t felt more tense there than anywhere else.

So, why am I reflecting on this now, two years after I left that house? Because having been out from half 10 this morning for a hair appointment, and having to do a bit of shopping, and find some gloves for that skydive I'm doing in 6 days…. I realised that I didn't want to go into a coffee shop… I wanted to go home.

In fact, I really couldn't wait to go home.

Home. My place of sanctuary from the world, where I sometimes sit, listening to the rain on the conservatory roof and am in awe that this….this is mine.

And it is home.

This the healing journey I've been on, and when moments like these hit me, I know that walking away from destruction was hard, but the benefit of making the decision to trusting God, is worth it more than you can ever imagine.

Stories Beyond the Scars

Do you ever feel like God has asked you to do something, but the closer you are to doing it, the more you’re like, “Actually, God. Are You sure You meant me??”

In 18 days, I will be heading off to film a medical mission near Nineveh. As each day is crossed off my list toward going, I’m not only doubting my own capability to really do justice to what is being asking of me, but I’m doubting whether God really meant for me to do this! Maybe there’s another Steph He meant to ask, and I was somehow swapped in the process. You know like when the wrong person arrives at an interview, and somehow ends up with the dream job, but the real person who should have had the interview chases them throughout the film, trying to steal back what they believed belonged to them?

I didn’t turn up for an interview. Wrongly or rightly! I was asked outright. But that doesn’t alter the fact I am feeling like am I really the right person for this particular job.

But isn’t this how God often works. Gives us challenges bigger than ourselves so we don’t think we are doing it, but know we are able to do it with His help?! I want to capture the emotion of the trip, and not just film the stories or appointments. Not because I’m a particularly emotional woman, I don’t think. But I feel like this angle is going to be the reason I have been given this opportunity. Because this kind of experience is more than just about following a group of medics around.

It’s about the stories behind the scars.

And these, I know, are going to be some tough, and incredibly emotional stories. And this is why I feel the pressure to ensure what I do captures what I hope to achieve. I’m a writer. A storyteller through the written word. Hopefully I can achieve the same sense of storytelling through the lens of my camera, for a change. Not because I think I’ll be any good at it – but because I believe I have this once in a lifetime opportunity for such a purpose as this.

The stories.

Red Flag Relationship: Compromise for Eggshells.

She tried not to look at what was happening. She’d told herself it would be easier if she didn’t. But the pull of checking on Facebook was too strong.

“Snap out of it!” He shouted at her.

“We should be there.” She responded.

“You can’t guilt trip me. They’re your friends, I was only invited because of you, so why should I bother!”

“Because they’re my friends and we were invited together.”

“They’re not bothered. Anyway. I didn’t say you couldn’t go!”

“No. But based on last time, it’s not worth the hassle when I get back. And why should I keep lying to cover you?”

“I didn’t ask you to lie for me!”

“Not directly. But in your attitude after saying we would.”

“Oh shut up! Stop banging on about it. You should have just left me alone, it’s clear where you’d rather be.”

 

Maybe I have a romanticised view of relationships, but…. any man who expects you to lie for him, and who tries to separate you from your friends…really?! Is he really the kind of man who makes you feel safe?

Being in the kind of relationship where I was constantly having to make excuses to my family and friends, trying to find new ways of saying, “he’s not coming” without offending or insulting anyone, was exhausting. Not to mention disrespectful and yet another example of learning to walk on eggshells.

A woman’s (or man’s) integrity and character is what she is known by, so having to kowtow to another person’s character, in order to meet unspoken expectations and demands puts pressure on who you are. It’s all very well and good others saying you should stand by who you are, but having been there, I know it is not so easy.

Having to negotiate around a controlling person whose fluid rules are never fully known because they constantly change; tiptoing to avoid walking on eggshells without being hurt – emotionally or physically – this is a reality which most people will never understand.

But eventually, a time comes when even you realise you have a decision to make. You can’t walk on eggshells forever. And you can’t bury your character to appease someone else forever. I know. You think you’ll try. And you think that in time you won’t need to, because he will change. If only you just bide your time, and keep things as smooth as possible, if you just bite your tongue and do things his way, in time, he will change. In time, you’ll be able to sweep away those eggshells and walk normally.

Won’t you…?

For as long as you push down your character, for as long as you do everything you can to “keep the peace”, and even if you rise up now and again to do anything you can to make him see things from your perspective, nothing will change. Because it isn’t you who needs to make it change. It is him, the other person.

Maybe I have a romanticised view of relationships, but as far as I can see, real love is  about both partners giving, and both partners taking. Real love is about encouraging each person to grow in your integrity, not feel coerced into hiding who you are behind fear, intimidation and grief.

Who are you? And who are you in your relationship? Are you a different person? You should be better than who you were! Or do you find yourself compromising on who you are?

One day, just like I did, you will have to make a decision on what you will allow to continue to be acceptable to you.

Don’t Disrespect You, Either!

Don’t Disrespect You, Either!

Over the weekend, I wrote about how important it is to not reject who you are, in parts one, two and three. But then, I see splashed all over a couple of hashtags I “watch” on Twitter (to find opportunities for work clients), a number of women who are prepared to sell themselves, rather than using their brains!

Come on ladies!! In a world where girls’ shoes are named “Dolly Babe” while boys’ shoes are called “leader“, isn’t it time to break the ceiling of sexism?! Stop contributing to it by buying into the lie that women can’t achieve anything without the use of their “womanly wiles”!! And how ironic that a few weeks after I wrote about women being more than the shoes we wear, children’s shoes hit the news!

I am astounded we are still fighting against #everydaysexism so much – even from a young age. Why do children’s shoes need to have names anyway – never mind such ridiculously sexist names like those?! How are young girls supposed to break the glass ceiling which potentially holds women back, if the message they are receiving comes down to being called a “babe”?

In a world where women and girls are being disrespected so much about how they can achieve so much more, in a world of grey suits, I would love for every woman and girl to hear the message loud and clear – STOP DISRESPECTING YOURSELF! Stop buying into the culture that how you look is what will bring you success, and rise above this man’s world-view! Stop selling yourself on social media, and find a way to break the ceiling which threatens to hold you back from achieving your fullest potential!

YOU, my dear sister, are more than a “Dolly Babe!” You are a woman to be respected! You are more than a revealing photo on social media, you are the crowning glory of creation – worth so much more!

If you don’t believe this about yourself, or about other women – how on earth can we help the man-folk to understand this simple, but important truth!!

Stop disrespecting yourself!!

5 Similarities Between Influencers and Leaders

What Really Makes A Leader? 5 Similarities Between Leaders & Influencers

The other day, I was talking to someone in my new job. She had overheard something about me going to Iraq, and thought it was a bit random, but concluded, “this is Steph, so she’ll be going to do something inspirational.”

This led me to think a bit about the difference between being inspirational, and being a leader, and well…what actually makes someone a leader? It’s easy to follow someone you find inspirational. This is why so many Instagrammers have so many followers, who are inspired by the pictures they are posting. But are the most influential people always great leaders?

Someone who is seen as inspirational can have more of an impact than the leader. Which is fine, for those who are on your side. But what if you have someone who is given the title of leader, but without the qualities of leadership? And apart from being someone who can influence those they are leading, what makes a leader a leader? And… last question…can an influencer be a leader?

Now, depending on whether you look at secular or biblical principles, will determine how you personally would define a leader. But most people seem to agree:

1. A leader has a following
Look behind you! If no one is following who you are, what your vision is, or what you’re doing…. errrr…who exactly are you leading? A dictator will force and coerce people to follow them. A leader naturally gathers followers who see something they connect with, and feel inspired by.

2. A leader knows they aren’t always the best person for the job
Don’t get me wrong! I’m not talking about a lack of confidence, or a false humility. I’m talking about recognising your strengths and weaknesses. Seeing the strengths and weaknesses in others, and playing to people’s strengths more than their weaknesses. AKA – delegation. A good team leader not only knows how to confidently direct the rest of the team, but how to encourage and inspire the weakest person to their strength. Moving people from where they were, to greater places.

3. A leader knows how to communicate, even when they don’t have the answers
It surprises me how many people don’t realise how important communication is. When leaders don’t communicate, their followers will start to talk amongst themselves! And the message will more likely than not, be a very different message altogether. Communication isn’t about having all the answers, it’s about continuing to engage and influence – even in the storm! I find those who are honest about not knowing or understanding something, are easier to identify with – because (believe it or not) I don’t have all the answers.

4. A leader isn’t intimidated by the inspiration of others
There’s a certain quality in the leader who knows their own sphere of influence has its limitations, and rather than feeling insecure about it, they look to those more influential than themselves. None of us ever reaches the top – there’s always somewhere further to go. Especially when you entrust your life to God, He always has more for us to accomplish. Leaders know they need to be inspired as much as they desire to inspire. And there are some great leaders who are secure enough in who they are that they don’t feel intimidated by the influence of others in their following. Rather than putting them down, they learn how to build on this to continue to lead and inspire.

5. A leader has a way of connecting with people
The best kind of influencers are those who make time to find out about the person who follows them. Attracting the followers can be easy in comparison to inspiring them to continue following you. It involves crouching down to where they’re at, in order to inspire them to attain greater potential for greater outcomes. An excellent leader is able to connect with people outside their normal sphere of influence as well as those who are following – it’s easy to connect with those who are already with you!

So, whether you are (or think you are) a leader, an influencer – or both in one package – there are many other elements to what makes an influencer a leader, like accountability, God’s calling (Christian ministry) or, knowing where you’re going.

And while as a Christian I do think there is an element of God’s directive in some areas of leadership/management/influencers, both in the workplace and in Church, I also think a large chunk of it is humanity. I think people can force their way into becoming a leader, through a variety of techniques, manipulation and “training”, but influencers, especially the ones who God moves through, like Joseph, like Daniel, like, Abigail….these are the ones who have a real ability to lead people – not by saying the right words, but just by who they are.

 

Don’t Reject You, Part 3

Psychologically, one of the biggest fears a lot of people have, and carry, is a fear of rejection. But as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, when we allow the fear of rejection to cloud the message we receive, we inadvertently end up rejecting those around us. Even when we don’t mean to!

We miss the right message, because we are too focussed on the wrong one.

But if we fully recognised the right message about who we are, then the fear of rejection no longer has such a strong influence over how we see ourself, or how we think we ought to behave.

The ultimate way to beat the fear of rejection, is in knowing that we have never been rejected by One Man. Jesus. When we recognise we are accepted by Him, for every aspect of who we are, including those parts others have rejected in the past, it releases us from fear. Perfect love, after all, has no cause for fear.

I am a work in progress. Having dealt with the rejection of a failed marriage, it can very easily cloud how I perceive future relationships could go. But God is working in me, to change the message I thought about myself, and is bringing it back round to correlate with who He says I am.

And this is the final message for you.

I don’t know what kind of rejection you have experienced, in love, in life, in relationships. But I do know you are not defined by that. I do know that remaining authentic to who you are, as a Christian, means remaining authentic to who God says you are. This, my dear friend, is what will allow you to kick back that fear of rejection. And, it will allow you to learn to accept yourself, rather than reject yourself,

You are not defined by what people rej do about you. We are all fickle. We change our minds all the time. But God – He is constant. And He has chosen to accept you, in spite of your rejection of Him.

Don’t reject who you are, but don’t reject God’s declation of who you are either!