Sunday Delivery

nutribulletI waited until I got my most recent credit card bill through because it had got a bit maxed out due to needing new glasses, car being MOTed (which it passed magnificently again), and husband’s birthday, and then I bought myself a Nutribullet. I have wanted one for ages and had got a cheap one from Aldi which I had used to death but now for the main article. So Saturday morning I went to the dreaded Amazon site, the place we all love to hate but that fits the bill for all our needs, and ordered a little bullet. I couldn’t quite bring myself to go the whole hog but have gone for the magic bullet. Amazon promised it would be delivered between Weds and Fri of this week. Excited!!!

Then I got an email to say it was coming Sunday. No not Sunday! I didn’t want a Sunday delivery. I felt that Sunday should be a day of rest. Postman get the day off so why not white van man? Though the day off thing does not work for my local Tesco, which I often pop into on my way back from church, or cafes or pubs. Hum! Something to think on there!

So Sunday about 2pm, which I was pondering taking the dog for a walk, the doorbell goes and man trusts parcel and electronic signing thing into my hand. I say thank you and he is gone. I wanted to say something like “I’m sorry I didn’t want it delivered today” or words to that effect but he was gone. But as I was walking on the beach with the dog I DSCF0754.JPGpondered – how was I to know whether this man was maybe a Jew or a Muslim. Maybe he had Friday or Saturday as his day off? Maybe he didn’t want Sunday off at all. Maybe he had a horrid home life, or lived alone, or ….? How was I to know what his life was like and whether he was happy or not to work Sundays? I used to work in hotels and bars and restaurants and used to love working Sundays when I was single. I used to like working over Christmas because, at the time, I didn’t want to spend it with my parents and their new partners. I used to love the camaraderie and fun of working over Christmases. Sundays were often a bit of a slog. We didn’t get extra money because it was a weekend or holiday time. In fact we got nothing extra at all, not ever time off in lieu. Most of the time we were just casual staff in the days before minimum wage so had to work to pay the rent!

I know there is the thing about delivery people not getting well paid but they get badly paid from Monday through to Saturday, as do those in hospitality. I suppose the thing is DSCF0762.JPGthe delivery drivers have to work to fulfil what is seen as the “need” to get a parcel immediately. And for me I think that’s where the rub is, that we should have a bit of delayed gratification. Just occasionally.

Thought – but then I suppose I did buy from Amazon because I didn’t want to make a trip to Argos and pick it up from there. I did want it now! Hum!

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Dead meat

I am working through Becoming Your Story, a journaling course, when it mentioned Jonah and the Whale. All it actually says is this, but I got so much more from it.

Falling out of myth is like being regurgitated by Jonah’s whale as it beaches. We suddenly see a bigger world outside the belly of the whale, but it also feels like an
alien and disorienting world that we don’t know how to navigate. Meanwhile the whale that has been our environment and our containing story dies and decays.!

p115 Becoming Your Story

DSCF0782.JPGOk so picture this – you’ve been sent to go and do some huge task that you don’t want to do. I think we often hear this in our childhood or teens. But it is so huge we runaway. I know I ran away into  was drink, drugs, etc. Other people can runaway in a calmer, more acceptable fashion. In the running away you get to a place where others throw you overboard (we’re on the Jonah on the ship now) and you get swallowed up by something that you know has saved your life. Ok it isn’t great inside the whale but it is safe, you are going nowhere, you’ve got enough to eat, you aren’t doing yourself or anyone else any harm. You’re even wondering if you could live the rest of your life in that dull, dark place.

One day the whale beaches and vomits you out. I know we have seen the children’s picture books of how the whale is out at sea and does this huge spit, generally with a smile of its face, and out flies Jonah. Sorry but it wouldn’t have worked like that. To get Jonah on to the beach safely the whale had to be on the beach and vomiting.

Suddenly you are out of the dark, safe place. The sky is big and bright. You know you are up for this. You see all the signs pointing which way to go. In the Bible story it appears Jonah knew which way he had to walk to get to Nineveh. Maybe he knew how long it would take, maybe he didn’t. For us knowing how long it will take to even just live the rest of our lives a question that frightens us – saving for old age, giving up/taking up a career, having children, etc. How much of what we have got used to can we take with us? This whale is dead!

So we have a choice. We can [1] walk away alone from the dead, safe place, [2] we can DSCF0768stay by the dead, safe place and live off it as it rots, or[3]  we can take some of the dead meat with us. With the last two options we will be living off dead and decaying meat. Stinking flesh. Rotting flesh. We need to leave the dead behind and move on into the unknown.

We all need to leave the dead behind, whether real people who have died too soon, dreams and ambitions, safe places, expectations. That isn’t to say that we don’t grieve for those we’ve lost – whether people, places, dreams or expectations – but we don’t try to carry them with them. We let go of going over phrases like  “if only I had done x,y,z then ….”

There’s a lovely song by Hazel O’Connor from 1980 called If Only that has stayed with me all those years and has helped to keep me focused and not carrying the dead, rotting whale with me.

What’s done has been done, and I won’t be the one
Who despairs in the wheelchair, resigned to “If only”
No, I’ll stand up again and I’ll run
I’ll jump up till I touch the sun
Because I won’t be the one to be bound
By the sound of “If only, if only, if only”

Hazel O’Connor “If Only”

So like Jonah, we must walk away, leave the dead meat on the beach to rot, walk through the grieving process, as painful as that is, and wait to see what comes. And if we stay with the Jonah story there is hurt, disappointment, anger to come. But what I always hope is that after God has withered the vine and Jonah has had a major moan about it, he ponders and gets over it, moves on from Nineveh and walks into the rest of his life – with its hurts, disappointments, issues but also its running and leaping and wondering.

Let each and everyone us look and say “This whale is dead. Let’s leave the dead meat to rot on the beach and go to what’s next.” 

 

Why I’m still a Christian

I’ve written around this theme before but can’t find the posts to tag them. I am writing this now because I have been given an journaling exercise that is post-heroic. And I’m doing it without pictures for a change

I “became a Christian”, as the phrase was then, because I met something that amazed and astonished me. Yes I was lonely. I had just had my son and was living with someone who wasn’t his father in a house with other people. It was not a safe time. But something inside me was urging me to change. Some well-meaning Christians came along and knocked on my door. I went to their coffee morning and then I went to their church. I experienced an amazing spiritual encounter where I know that I met with the God who made the universe who told me He loved me and felt like I was being covered in a viscose glittery substance. I have since been told that was a Holy Spirit encounter. To me, at that time, it was like meeting the entity that made me, made my world, looked deep into who I was and how I was living and said “you may not being doing it all right but I like you. Come on let’s walk together.”
Since that time I read the Bible loads, studied Christian doctrine, theology, right ways to be a Christian, been on mission, led prayer journeys and set up prayer groups, done all that stuff and in doing it totally agreed with the U2 song “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” I’ve blogged on this and pondered this. I’ve tried to tame the mystery even though I know in my head “he is not a tame lion.”
I have reached a point in my Christian life where I am no longer wanting to be heroic, no longer wanting to tame the lion, understand the mystery. I have seen God let me down by letting people I know and love die with horrendous timing so that anniversaries of untimely deaths come at a time when we are trying to celebrate birthdays. I have seen God not come through on some dream that I believed He had promised me we would fulfil together. I have been angry and hurt and let down when it felt as if the mystery of God had turned out to be hollow.
Today I turn a corner. No that’s way too dramatic. Today I have decided to let the mystery out of the box and fly. I may never experience the viscous covering again, may never have a request answered as I like, but I know I have reached a point where I want to just hang out with the mystery, where I just want to be with whatever it is that I have tried to box as God.
So I’m still a Christian because I have decided that just as I don’t need all the answers neither does God need to tell them all to me; just as I don’t need to get it right all the time neither does God have to do what I think is right. I might even stop doing but learn to start practising and start just being. Not in that cheesy “oh I’m a human being not a human doing” but in that way that says it’s ok to just be me and for God to just be God, and for other people to just be who they are.
So I am still a Christian because there are no answers, no right ways, no clear paths but I do know that even through those dark paths the mystery that I call God is more than happy to walk with me and all my whinging and moaning and He still says “you may not being doing it all right but I like you. Come on let’s walk together.”

Better to be an icon than a person in need

Today is Maundy Thursday, a day in church tradition when the heads of the church and Royal_Maundy_1867.jpgheads of state would give money to the poor. It was done in the most humiliating way, though I’m not sure if those doing the deliberately thought of it that way. They would throw the money into the crowd and the people would then throw themselves on the coins and fight for it. Remember these people were starving and had no welfare system. But to those doing the giving it reinforced the idea of “the poor” being uncouth and unruly.

Now the Queen hands out “maundy money” in a calm and dignified way to a chosen few.queen giving maundy money Now we don’t even let those who could do with a bit of extra cash even go through the humiliation of having money thrown at them.  But I think that is because we hide the poor even more. It is harder to see who is on benefit and who isn’t, but the media makes sure it highlights those receiving state aid as undeserving, scroungers, uncouth and unruly!!

This week a might icon of history, religion, culture and tourism has fallen. There were NOTREDAME firesome very brave fire-fighters who worked hard to save it. People have been donating thousands for its rebuild. This same week, if you listen hard enough, the flooded areas of Africa are in dire need of food and medical supplies but no one is donating thousands for them. In fact many parts of Africa, Asia, Central and Southern America, and even parts of Europe are having an on-going struggle with severe poverty issues, yet money for these is raised in dribs and drabs. Is it better to be an icon than a person in need?

 

Going Deeper

I love this when I get bombarded by the same concept from different angles. I have been

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Beddgelert where two waters meet and the pool is deep

challenged on this whole thing of cutting back and doing less, of focusing on my writing and of perfecting that. I am struggling with that too, especially with the mentoring angle. My mentor is awesome and patient. The problem is there is so much more to writing than writing. There is working out what I want to say then editing so that the piece I have says what I want to say and doesn’t treat my reader like they are stupid. I do  have a tendency to either overstate or understate. So either my reader gets the same message twice or it is so vague they have no idea what I’m saying (NB here I have overstated 🙂 ) But actually this is what going deeper is about.

On Sunday 10th February the Bible reading was from Luke 5:1-11 where Jesus tells Simon to “Put out into deeper water and let down your nets” The fishermen then catch a huge pile of fish and Simon and others are so amazed they leave everything and follow Jesus. Well our minister that morning preached on that. What struck me was that for me deeper water is cutting back, being available for friends, getting my writing polished, being about for my Airbnb guests, etc. But it is about cutting back, doing less, being more focused on what I do. It also means that I get more downtime than I did last year when I was rushing about doing 101 things. It means I have time to chat to the people I see whilst dog walking, can arrange coffee with friends around their schedule, etc. And in the end will lead to catching more fish rather than lots of small catches.

So going deeper for me is about doing less.

Just as I am accepting this I get it from another angle. My mentor said she was reading

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Oyster catchers on Conwy Beach – imperfect Feb sunshine 

about “wabi sabi” – the acceptance of life being transient and imperfect. So being me I got a book out about it. Well I’ve only got as far as the first chapter which is talking about having to slow down to be able to notice the imperfect and enjoy it, to notice that things are transient. It cannot be done at going fast and looking for something to make me better.

So I must make my writing the best it can be not for my ego to be massaged but because I can.  But to do that I must slow down and give it time. I must “smell the roses” so to speak. I must enjoy life even the bits that are crap.

I know I have blogged on this before but if I am to say “The joy of the Lord is my strength” I cannot have it just in the bits where life is going well. I need to find that joy when life isn’t going well. And I believe one of those ways is to slow down, go deeper and have time to accept the imperfections and transient-ness of life.

Leaving With Grace

DSCN0826 (1)I was a volunteer at a local restoration project. I was working very hard. I had reached a point where I was tired of doing it all for nothing. The Christian expression that a friend uses a lot is “the grace had gone”, which means the love, the joy, the being able to put the work at the castle first, not needing rewards apart from the joy of being, wasn’t there any more. It meant I was getting grouchy about it all and wanting to see wrong in it and everyone there. My husband said that it is psychologically proven that when people want to leave something – a job, project, relationship, town, etc – they find fault with it. But you see I didn’t want to leave not liking it there. I can see the castle from my study window. I also walk my dog in the grounds. I did not want to stop looking at it, stop going there, stop encouraging other people to go there. I didn’t want people to hear my bad mouthing it. So what to do?

Well, being a Christian, I spent a long time in prayer over how I would resign my post. Yes it wasn’t just that I was a volunteer but that I had a key post. I tried to not do anything and to say I was busy in the hope that they would get mad at me and ask me to leave. It didn’t work. It was time for me to grow up and take control. In the end I did manage to step down gracefully and leave as a friend. It does mean at times that I am called back to help – with events, with late evening lock ups, can still run my writing groups up there. It means I can still walk there, see the people involved and have a chat.

Then the other night I was at Dan Snow’s History Man event at a local theatre. At the end dan-snow-a5-2019-dates-lo-722x1024of every evening he always shares something on the local history of the area. Well one of the two places he picked was the castle where I used to volunteer. And he especially picked out the young man who runs the Trust and is the driving force in the restoration. Because I had left with grace and kindness, when I saw it and the things Dan Snow said about it my heart swelled with pride. Not because I had been a part of it but because I knew the person being honoured. I was proud of him. He is my friend. I was proud to hear him honoured. Proud that the place I used to be very involved in was one of only two places singled out in this area for Dan Snow to talk about. All this came about because I grew up and left with grace not with anger.

I am hoping I can take this onward as a life lesson for whatever I do next.

Knowing Where You Come

DAN-SNOW-A5-2019-DATES-LO-722x1024.jpgLast night I saw Dan Snow, The History Man, speak at a local theatre. One of the many things that he said that struck me (so be warned there could be many more blog posts to come) was that he knows people say, generally behind his back, that he is only doing what he does because of his family. He paused before saying “Yes I am.” He went on to say that because his parents both had a love of history, that his father was in television broadcasting, because they had money and could afford to go not just to historic places close to home but across the world, that yes that is why he is stood on this stage now. He is doing what he does because of where he comes from.

Here is a piece that dovetails with that –

Jan Fortune in Becoming Your Story Course says “So many people describe themselves as ‘self-made’. It’s an outlandish concept. We all emerge from someone, have childhoods and environments that affect us and exist within various networks, physical and emotional. I’m certain we can make huge changes in our lives, re-invent ourselves, change our values and goals, but the idea that we don’t need others along the path is arrogant as well as unrealistic. No one is self-made”

My thoughts are that if you hear something more than once and it resonates for you then it is for you.

I could weep that I did not have Dan Snow’s upbringing and opportunities. I could weep that I am not Jan Fortune. I could bemoan that I am not a whole host of people. As well as grumbling that I did/didn’t do x, y and z. But I am here sitting in my lovely study watching the snow falling, my little dog snoring between my legs because of my parents,

snow jan 19
My study window as I wrote this post

my life choices, the people I have met along the way, the friends I have met, the people who have spoken into my life for good or bad. All have led to why I am here now.

A lovely friend that I share my writing with said he was amazed that I could write about medieval battles when I haven’t experienced any. Actually that is not true. I have experienced them through what I have read, listened to, watched, visited. All are part of who I am. Yes I have changed my life, reinvented myself, changed my values and goals over the 50+ years of my life. But each and every one of them has been influenced by who I met, what had gone before, or experiences at the time.

Here are just two examples:

  1. I didn’t go travelling abroad because it just popped into my head one day. I went because someone suggested it, even though she didn’t come with me in the end. I went to the place I did in Greece because someone recommended it before I left. And from there the people I met influenced where I went from there.
  2. I didn’t “become a Christian” out of the blue. Lovely well-meaning people invited me to their church coffee morning. From there my life has been again to do with who I met, who suggested what, good and bad things that happened along the way.

So as Dan Snow stood there and said “yes I am here because of my family and I am grateful” I also say I am here in this place now doing what I am doing because of my family, my friends, the influences that have happened.

I am starting off on a new direction with my life – taking my writing seriously and actually telling people I am a writer. I am doing to spend 12 months being mentored to

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Husband and dog Saturday celebrating our 12th wedding anniversary in the rain on Lleyn Peninsula

help this process along. But this has not come about in isolation. It has come about due to many influences and encouragements. Also because of a husband who is content for me to not to have a career but to be home bringing in a modest income via Airbnb and writing workshops, and using the rest of my time writing, writing and writing. I am grateful to him for that.

So I am here typing, looking out my window in North Wales at the snow with my little dog still snoring because of the life choice I made to marry just over 12 years ago. But actually that only came about because I choice to be living in the town I was, etc, etc, etc. So let us all choose to understand where we have come from and many people have made us who we are now.