Memories and how we handle them

Christmas does seem to be the time to focus one’s memories as I was saying in a pre-Christmas post. But how we decide to handle them is the important as they race through vsour minds. We cannot stop them coming in. A smell, a look, a place we’ve been to and enjoyed, and even that card that does not arrive all can release painful memories. And it does seem as we get old there are more memories that evoke sadness due to either death or that person just no longer being in our lives. So what do we do with all that?

We have a choice on how we handle them. Yes we do. We do not need to let that first initial, what can be gut-wrenching lose take over our day. We can let it go that way and that is our choice. It will be important to acknowledge that pain and loss but we do not have to dwell there. We can choose to remember the good times we had with that person, can choose to enjoy the memory. But we can also choose to let it totally envelope us to the point where we do not see what is good around us.

After what I’ve gone through over the last few years I would not say with certainty that “the dead are gone” even though in the flesh they are. They still haunt us. But also the tumblr_lt6x1rkwun1qf70r5o1_500living are very much with us. If we get too far down the sadness of those who have gone – whether died or just no longer part of our lives as they use to be – they we can so miss those who are with us now. I know of someone over  Christmas who was in a place that evoked memories of those past and also those who were really ill. She was with a new partner but could have stayed with those sad memories but she didn’t stay there. She remember with sadness and with fondness, prayed a bit, but then also went back to enjoying her time with her new partner.

Many loses are really hard to get over, especially ones that are untimely and too early – although I do know of someone who said his mother died at 99 and that was a year too soon for him. It could just be that every death or loss always comes too soon. Although violent young deaths do cause so much pain – but that is not to say that we must stay in that place where our grief overwhelms the joy that we have.

There is a verse in the Bible that says “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” During 2012 I joyofthelordfound it hard to find how to deal with it. I felt it was saying that I should not acknowledge what had happened but now I think that is wrong. I think it means that if we can look at where we are, the good things we still have around us, can remember with poignant joy those who have gone, then we have the strength to keep going, keep loving, keep being there for those who we love who are still with us,

This year I think I made it through, and enjoyed Christmas, not just because both my children, who are in their twenties, were with me, but because I decided to not let the sadness of the memories overwhelm me but to see what was good around me, to remember those I’ve lost with that poignant joy and to wait on what is to come.

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Christmas is a good time to think about Words for Well-Being

Christmas is an odd time of the year. It seems to focus so many feelings, and seems to encourage the time to put on those tinted glasses. Not just the rose-coloured ones where montage-1024x812we may view our childhood Christmases or the darkened ones where we may remember things with despair.

For me I think of those people I haven’t received a card from – the sister of my step-father who was always the first card to arrive but she is now dead, the friend of my mum’s who was often the second card to arrive who has had a fall and has been on life support in hospital and at the moment cannot move or speak, the friends who have moved and we’ve lost touch, the family of ex-husbands who no longer keep in touch – and one often wonders if they have died, the always late and badly written card from my sister which of course will  not come now – and never one from her husband who is now remarried or her 25 year old son who is a typical 25 year old boy when it comes to keeping touch. It can bring me down and make me wish I had know when it was going to be those last Christmasses. Would I have done anything different in December 2011 when we’d gathered with my sister’s family? I’m not sure I would have. Would I have phoned my step-father’s sister more often if I’d know when she’d not be with us? Would Christmas 2012 have been any different knowing that by Christmas 2013 by father-in-law would not be with us? To be totally honest I don’t think it would have been.

I had an email from a older friend of mine who says she finds it hard visiting as she sees glass-be-gratefulthe deterioration in many of her friends and wonders if it will be their last Christmases together. So she does make a difference; she makes sure she turns out over the Christmas holidays to see them, puts it in her diary to visit more often, and most importantly is grateful that she is still fit and well and able to get about and prays that it will continue.

So how will writing help? Well instead of bottling up those feelings write. Write to those people who aren’t with you any more – whether dead or alive. Tell them what you think of them and how you are feeling with them not being around. Tell them how much you’ve done in the last year. Read it out to them as thought they are sitting with you. Who knows they might even be listening? Write down all the good things you remember and don’t worry if the rose-tinted glasses are on. Enjoy the good memories. Again read it out loud. Say thank you to whatever you believe maybe listen – God, the dog, the chair, Mother Earth, etc. Write down a list of things you are grateful for this year – even if it is that you can write things down. When you think of the impossible write it down too and again speak it out. There’s nothing journal-writing-2-300x225wrong in hoping for what might not happen but don’t let it make you overwhelmed by what will not be. Write what your perfect Christmas would be then even look at what things you can do to make that happen. Remember that you cannot make everyone cheerful but you can make sure you don’t let their grumps get you down. And if they do take yourself off and write about it.

Make this Christmas a time when you compose some cool poems that talk of the joy and sadness of your Christmas – past, present and future. Use that notebook that some well-meaning person got you years ago that you’ve never thrown away and just write and see how that will change things for you. 3ab6538e0c445f0b29935d3a718972c3

As we were reminded in our Advent reading this morning Jesus didn’t come down to change things but to walk with us in them.

Encourage Each Other To Be Rebellious

This is another thought that arose in my head from the Lapidus conference on Saturday 10th December. It came about when we were asked to give words about what Lapidus was all about but again I felt, like Ubuntu, that is related as much to Christianity as it did to therapeutic writing for well-being.

not_of_this_world__by_kevron2001-d77ytspJesus said we were meant to be “in the world but not of the world” which sort of, to me, means that we are to be rebellious to the things that the world can take for granted – like putting self first, wanting for us, fear, anxiety, etc. I am not going to put down Christians who worry or are anxious because I know way too many who really are amazing followers of Jesus but who do worry, suffer from anxiety and from depression, have to deal with fear on a regular basis. But I also see these many of these people fighting it all the way. They don’t lie down to the fact that they suffer with these things but they work toward it not happening. I also see this in people who are not followers of God too, who will not let these things overwhelm them even if they are bed-bound, taking tablets, struggling. They are rebelling all the way against these things.

We all need to be rebelling against injustices, fears, greed, the negative things that stop 5c021dcf4ca432874eab2b4b8db7efd5others and ourselves from reaching our potential. I suppose it is why I want to encourage others with using words for well-being. I want to show how this can be a tool to help rebel against the world.

I feel like there is a bit of a rebelling against the system going on with the way people are voting at the moment; with this lean to the far right. How should we respond to this rebellion? Not by ignoring it. Not by being fearful of it. Not by being rude to those who vote this way or think this way. To rebel against this we need to be moving in the opposite spirit. We need to be modelling love, acceptance, justice, peace.

So I go back to my first point – as Christians we should be encouraging each other to be rebellious. Too often we don’t. Too often we hide in our churches – whether big or small, loud or quiet – and keep going with the same old same old. I know I am guilty of this. I 6218447need to encourage my fellow Christians, with the tools I have – which is my writing – to think about how they look at others, to be welcoming, to not fear, to be supportive, to be counter-cultural. Sometimes I think there are more people who do not attend church and are not followers of God who are more counter-cultural than Christians. Many are out there feeding people not just over Christmas by all year, are working on ways to support others, to share news openly of the good as well as the bad that goes on, who have time to stop and chat to the old, the lonely, the smelly and the sick.

So I will do my bit over this season. I am hoping that the words we are using in the play I have instigated to be performed at our local church will make people think about how they really view Christmas. It is the bit I can do. And I do hope that I can encourage people to rebel a bit and change the world one little piece at a time with the talents they have. We can’t all invite homeless people to our houses, not just cos not everyone has the space, but some of us just aren’t able to do it because we aren’t made that way. But another way of rebelling, I think, is to not feel condemned that I’m not doing that but to make sure I use the talents I have, the time I have, the situation I am in, to rebel just a bit from the culture I am in.

Ubuntu- I am because we are

hsunbuntulogo2A Lapidus friend of mine is doing workshops based around the Ubuntu philosophy and I must say I heard it and then let it go until last Saturday when she said it again at the Lapidus conference. Her definition of Ubuntu is “I am because we are” but in a longer definition …

Michael Onyebuchi Eze, the core of ubuntu can best be summarised as follows:

‘A person is a person through other people’ strikes an affirmation of one’s humanity through recognition of an ‘other’ in his or her uniqueness and difference. It is a demand for a creative intersubjective formation in which the ‘other’ becomes a mirror (but only a mirror) for my subjectivity. This idealism suggests to us that humanity is not embedded in my person solely as an individual; my humanity is co-substantively bestowed upon the other and me. Humanity is a quality we owe to each other. We create each other and need to sustain this otherness creation. And if we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am. The ‘I am’ is not a rigid subject, but a dynamic self-constitution dependent on this otherness creation of relation and distance”

To me this sums up what Christianity should be all about and what Richard Rohr has been talking about over various weeks; of coming to a place of maturity where we know we are connected with everyone else. This is where we get to the place where we can weep withabout-us those who weep, laugh with those who laugh, etc. It is not about being super empathetic, or about being able to put are own moods and feelings behind us, but it about knowing – yes knowing not just thinking or hoping or wanting to be – that I am only because everyone else is, that I am a person through other people.

In reality even though I have somethings that are unique to me I am a combination of parental genes, of experiences that have happened to me which always include people. I am a mix of nature and nurture but all come from a collective of other people.

I feel that in some forms of Christianity we shun this. Too often it is us and them: those who are in/said the prayer/made a commitment and those who are out and who don’t believe in Jesus/God etc. Too often I have seen in Christianity that Christians are told to reach out to them and not to imagine that the unbeliever doesn’t have anything to offer. I have learned so much about life, me, God from people who don’t have a believe in God.

hqdefaultIn the Anglican service at communion we say “Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread” and in fact are accepting the concept of “I am because we are” without acknowledging it. In fact there are many different denominations who would not want to think they are part of the Anglican community. I have lived in towns that have a Churches Together group where certain denominations won’t be part of it because certain others are. Together but on their own terms.

I think that we need to embrace this concept of Ubuntu and realise that we are because of others. Not like the Borg from Star Trek where we are all assimilated into the same thing – and like I have heard is being though of to get rid of racial hatred. Yes it has been said that if we distil our cultures and all live in mixed areas that would get rid of racial hatred. I live in North Wales and as I have talked with people about their culture I have noticed that the more they are able to express who they are and their culture so they are more content to accept other people.

In fact I think this is the true concept of Ubuntu for me. I can be truly me if I let you belove_thy_neighbor-billboard truly you. And as I have reached this point in this post I have realised I have come back to a concept I was exploring a while a go – “Love your neighbour as yourself” – and the whole idea that I cannot love my neighbour unless I love myself, and I cannot let others be truly who they are unless I am truly who I am. But also I have to realise that I am connected to them whether I know them or not and that they have an influence on me as I have a influence on them. 63d44a275fedf76396168096d88b930a

Tis the Season of the Christmas Newsletter

 

… and seeing as Facebook has reminded me that I sent one this time last year I will sent this one. I feel like I am cheating a bit because I have lots of ideas in my head for a proper blog about stuff but actually Word decided to fight with me about doing this so it has probably taken longer than a regular blog 🙂 Anyway here is it 🙂

 

christmas-bellsTis the season of the Christmas newsletter and here is ours

Merry Christmas and Happy 2017 to everyone

This letter should be title “2016 – the year of change” because I don’t think there is one thing that is the same this year as last. Yes I know we could all say that every year is not the same as the last but this one does seem to have much more changes in it than normal!

Where we live – is now totally different. As you may remember this time last year we were in a state of angst and packing boxes, waiting for the solicitors to sort a moving date for us. We moved in stages; first to a short term Airbnb let on Anglesey on Friday 5th February so Ian could start work at Bangor University as IT manager of their medical trials unit on Monday 8th, our stuff moved from Bradford on Avon on Wednesday 10th, got the keys on Friday 12th, moved to Sea Road on Tues 16th Feb and our furniture caught up with us on Fri 19th Feb. Because of the wonderful state the house had been left in we were able to get settled very quickly. By 30th March we had our first Airbnb guests, and have had a steady stream all through the year, along with a regular stream of friends and family coming to visit too. We opened our second top floor bedroom officially as an Airbnb room on 8th October, although we have had paying guests staying there before that date. Many of our Airbnb guests come back to stay with us again which is lovely. We may have only been in this house for just over 10 months but very much it is home, which has been helped by those who’ve come to stay in it – both paying guests and friends and family.

Ian – last year was going to work on a busy commuter train to work on wind turbines, now drives on a not so busy A55 looking at the wind turbine farms in Colwyn Bay to manage the IT side of the medical trials unit at Bangor University. A change from catching a train to driving, from working on wind turbines to looking at them, and also from working 5 days per week to working 4, giving him scope to explore other ideas that he can use his talents in. He is now going to a pottery class once a week, slowly connecting with others in various church things, and trying to fit in swimming and cycling. Unfortunately a lot of walking has been put on hold because Ian broke his foot at the beginning of August and it has been taking a while to heal. He was not able to drive for 3 weeks but is now on the mend but he has to be careful, which is hard because the mountains are becoming to him every morning.

Diane – last year was working at Lackham college and helping in the office of Characters Stage school, and now is spending 2 hours a day keeping the house clean and tidy for guests, putting on various creative writing workshops, connecting with others in the creative scene. Doors keep opening on more and more opportunities to do writing workshops and story telling sessions in local community centres, at a local Christian conference centre, within the home and at the castle we can see from our bedroom window; Gwrych Castle. She has set it all up under the title “Barefoot At The Kitchen Table” (www.barefootatthekitchentable.weebly.com) She is also finding time to write and has finished one novel but needs to sit down and edit it, as well as having several short stories and poems in a similar position. She has connected with creative people at the Anglican church we’ve been attending on a Sunday which could lead to organising a creative therapeutic weekend at a local Christian conference centre that is reopening in April 2017, and is also starting a regular St. Michael’s church creative group to put on plays, parades and similar through out the year.

Ben – this time last year he was waiting to go to hospital to have his collar bone rebroken and fused properly and was out of work. Within this year he had a successful operation, moved to Bath to work, then moved back to Cornwall where he is now living with Sarah in St. Just, and is working at a lovely restaurant in Penzance. We have not managed to catch up with Ben as often as we like because of the distance he is away. It takes 10 hours on the train and 7 if we drive non-stop. We did finally get to see him, where he is living, where he is working and to meet Sarah in October. Both of them are making the mega train trip to us for Christmas.

Tabitha – has gone from being a student to being out in the work place. She graduated in June with a 2.1 in Theatre Arts, moved into a flat in Forest Hill, London with a friend, went from working in one restaurant to working in another with better hours. She is adjusting to life having to pay bills, etc in London. She loves where we live and comes up to visit us often as London is just over 3 hours on the train. She also is coming up for Christmas.

Animals – we still have Renly, Damson and Archie-rabbit living with us. We are no longer chicken owners. The last of our chickens went to a chicken retirement farm just outside Devizes a week before we left Bradford on Avon, which meant we were able to Freecycle the chicken housings. Renly is enjoying long walks through Gwyrch Castle grounds and woods, regular walks along the beach and in our local park. We are very spoilt to have woods, a ruined Victorian castle, a beach and a park all within 15 mins of our house. Renly is making new friends, both dogs and humans. Damson has become an indoor cat and loves that. She is much friendlier and more content since living inside all the time. She even comes to talk to our guests. Renly of course loves every guest who comes to stay, although some more than others. Archie-rabbit lives on the raised bed in our backyard where Ian worked hard to make a secure run for him which he jumped straight out of and also has dug himself a large burrow under his cage. He is happy with it all though which we’re sure is the main thing – probably!

Church – we now attend an Anglican church. Very different from Bath City Church! But the people are warm and friendly and very welcoming. Diane has instigated the performance of a Christmas play there on Christmas Eve and has managed to encourage others to join in. Ian attends a mid-week Bible study there. We are slowly making friends there. In fact due to a lovely friend of ours who lives in Llandudno emailing all the people she knew who live in Abergele we have made lots of friends in different churches which helps to make us feel settled and that it is not just the house that is home but the area.

We did mange to travel a bit – Between us, either separately or together, we have managed trips to Ireland, London, Cornwall, Manchester, Peak District, back south a couple of times for manic rushing rounds seeing family and a few friends, and most exciting of all to a friend’s wedding in Iceland. That must come under the highlight of the year.

We are quite tied over the summer with Airbnb bookings so this does make it hard to go visiting, but always make sure we have one room spare for our family and friends to come and see us. And of course family and friends do stay for free. All we ask is good wine and/or good conversation 🙂christmas-dragon

Merry Christmas and hope to see some of you in the new year

much love

Diane, Ian, Renly and Damson

Treasure In Heaven

So I was going to write something Christmassy or even expand on some great things that treasure-in-heaven-300x225were said at the Lapidus Conference last Saturday, but I’m doing this instead.

giving-receiving-sunsetToday I went to see my spiritual director. I’ve been seeing him since about April this year, since we moved up here. It has been a great journey and he is awesome and I’m not 100% sure why everyone doesn’t have one. I think I might be spiritually directing the young swoman I see regularly but just calling it by a different name and without the training 🙂

So we chat about all sorts and I have an unloads about life, the universe and everything. It isn’t just how my “spiritual” life is going. My spiritual life is the whole of who I am and what I do. So anyway there we are chatting away about the Anglican prayer for forgiveness that I must say I quite like because it is short and sharp with not much time to try to list what I’ve done and then there is a prayer to say that God has forgiven me.

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against thee
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved thee with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in thy will,
and walk in thy ways,
to the glory of thy Name. Amen.

For me it draws a line under the week and I can start the new week forgiven. We talked line-in-sandsome more about how everything we do is ministry and the good things are gathering treasure for us in heaven.

Now here is the cool part – the good things we do whether we do them “unto the Lord” or just by having a chat to the people dog walking, smiling at the supermarket checkout, being normal and going about life in a kind and supportive manner – this adds up treasure for us in heaven. AND God remembers that. But when we do bad things God doesn’t take things out of our pile. The pile of treasure stays. But with the bad things we do, think say, or even the good things we forget to do because we are busy just getting on with life, God not just forgives but forgets. So when I say “Sorry I’ve done/not done that again” God says He doesn’t remember.

grace_wordleI feel like I’ve suddenly got this revelation about what Paul says about Grace. Grace isn’t getting what you don’t deserve, which I had been taught and always found hard because I think the stuff we had to go through in 2012/3 was not stuff we deserved but it definitely wasn’t Grace. It was God’s grace and mercy that got us through but we definitely didn’t deserve it. But what I really do not deserve is for my good things to be remembered and stored up as treasure and my bad things to be forgiven and forgotten. God doesn’t take a good thing out of the pot every time I do a bad thing. That is so cool. But also that does not make me want to do more wrong things so I get forgiven more, but actually gives me the confidence to keep piling up the treasures.

So even though I know I’ll get forgiven I don’t want to do more things that I’d be forgivenrandy-alcorn-quote-treasures-in-heaven for but actually want to do more things that will build up treasure in heaven. That is my Christmas message for me 🙂

 

Discipleship is a Two-Way Thing

discipling-dever-headerJust recently I have been asked by a lovely young woman if I will be her “older Christian friend”. I was very touched and said “yes” and then didn’t think much more about it. God gave me a nudge and convicted me that I need to be seeing her regularly to do some proper discipleship stuff. So I prayed and I pondered and set a regular day and time that works for both of us. I felt God saying that instead of it just being random stuff we should do some Bible study and let the life stuff come from there. So last week we chatted about stuff. I suggested reading a certain book of the Bible but she suggested Romans. Oh my, thought I, I don’t like Romans, but I let it go and thought I’d go with it.

Well!!! I have now read the first 3 chapters, which was what we said we’d read this week, image21and it has been amazing. I have found something in those first 3 chapters I never saw before but it has totally deepened how I see God. it has been amazing. Now if I’d been bossy and decided I was the “older” one and so knew so much more where to start and how to do this I would have missed out on so much. Because I acquiesced I have grown in my relationship with God – just in less than a week! Blessed for acquiescing? Maybe 🙂

Too often in my own Christian walk when I have had people want to walk with me there has been a rub because they have wanted to “teach” me things and I have felt they haven’t heard from me. This has not always been the case but for me, the relationships I’ve learned the most from are the ones that I don’t realise the people were discipling or teaching me things. Perhaps I’m just a bit perverse, or some might say proud, but I do need to feel that I am on an equal place with people which is probably why I act the way I do with the younger people who get placed on my path.

discipling-620x272When I use to facilitate youth groups, if they were small enough, I would let them have as much autonomy as possible. At one group we ran it like the adult group where the teenagers would bring along food to share. To begin with parents would make the food or buy or be surprised that I didn’t make it all but the teenagers felt like it was their group because they shared the food they had made. It is where I have struggle with larger groups where the leaders have felt they should give to the teens and actually the teens have felt they should be given to.

For me this whole discipling/teaching thing goes both ways in all I do. In my writing workshops I learn as much as I teach. I have gathered some liked minded creative people around me to put on a Christmas play. Now I am more than capable to write it all but walking together.jpgactually I have got each actor writing their own piece from their character’s point of view. And again I am learning so much.

There is so much blessing in allowing others to teach you as you teach them 🙂