Working Together

dscf0582Before Christmas I shared my thoughts on encouraging each other. This is an ongoing thing for all of us. I am a natural encourager but as another encourager friend said “who encourages the encouragers?” Well we encouragers do all have to learn that not everyone is an encourager. Some people have other skills and gifting which we all need. You notice here as an encourager I find it hard to list them 🙂

Anyway over that lovely time between Christmas and New year’s day, when my grown-up children had gone back to their respective homes and my husband had gone away for 3 days walking with friends, I sat down and did my review of the year, wrote up my lists of what to do, dreamed my dreams and came up with my plans. I also took down the decorations and got the place cleaned up and ready to face 2019. I started on the morepens qualifiable tasks to begin with – planning and advertising writing workshops, and cleaning. Yes those were the only ones on my list I got to. I have a great writing project in  my head that I need to plan out but I am struggling with it. I have reached a point where I know I am rubbish and it will not get off the ground!! See need of encouragement.

A girl I want to university with had posted on Instagram a devotional book she was reading. Her and I chatted about it a bit. I bought it. It is good. The bit that has encouraged me most of all is where it says to take 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, the famous “love verses” and substitute Jesus for Love or it. Well that has definitely encouraged me.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New International Version (NIV)
4 Jesus is patient, love is kind. Jesus does not envy, Jesus does not boast, Jesus is not proud. 5 Jesus does not dishonor others,  Jesus is not self-seeking, Jesus is not easily angered, Jesus keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I know not everyone who reads my blog is a Christian but I am and for me seeing that this whole Love passage is not some unobtainable goal but is how Jesus is to me has really encouraged me. In the version I have in study verse 7 says “always supports, always encourages, always hopes, always trusting.” For me to know that there is someone there who is always encouraging me, but not just always trusting me, always having hope in me is awesome.

But you know what, I’m not now rushing on with my plan for my writing project. I’m still stuck in the doldrums with it but, after reading and meditating on this, I am now being kinder to myself. I am leaning on other people to help me with finding my get up and go. I am reading things and looking up things that will help me to move to where I want to be. After reading this I am no longer beating myself up about not being able to.

I’m not sure if I put that in my last post but for me encouraging someone sometimes isn’t about getting them to move on but is about just staying with them and being there.

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Looking from Llanfairfechan nature reserve to Penrhyn Castle (taken by me 6th Jan 2019)
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Encouragement

 

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My son putting up our Christmas tree. I was sat taking photos and encouraging 🙂

I’ve been looking at encouragement a lot. I am a natural encourager so I do see places to encourage, places where people have encouraged others and also where it does not happen.

For the last two years, which means it has now become a tradition, the little drama group I coordinate  in at our church do a skit on something related to Christmas. The first year we did 4 disgruntled people at Christmas and how they had lost the meaning of the season – a frustrated housewife, a mad granny who was knitting Christmas, a selfish teenager and an overworked vicar. Last year we did a mother and daughter who had fallen out over something trivial and weren’t speaking and needed Jesus’s reconciliation. This year we are looking at Mary and how the angel and, her cousin. Elizabeth supported and encouraged her.

It has been an interesting development with the little group. I feel we have all gone, as people, from being slightly disgruntled with church and life in general,  to being reconciled with life, church, ourselves, etc. The way, I think,  it has happened is by encouraging each other. This group would not happen if our vicar didn’t expect something from us – which actually is encouraging in and of itself – but that we also all buoyed each other up and encouraged each other. Each of us has a different role and we all give the others the freedom to be who they are.

As I reflect on encouragement myself I think of how my life is changing for next year with my writing life become more central. There are a few people who have encouraged that but the big one has been when, on the Cinnamon writing retreat Jan, who runs Cinnamon Press, said she wanted to mentor me and my writing. To be mentored properly I cannot just have my writing as something I dip in and out of when I want to – or rather not when I want to but when I let all the other things that crowd my life butt out. I have to take it seriously and have to give it the time. Cinnamon then ran a competition for

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Books in my study for reading and researching as I start on my writing project

bursaries which I bravely entered. I came equal second!! Another amazing encouragement. So because of this I am giving up a lot of things and concentrating on what I have always dreamed of doing since I was about 12 years old. It has taken me 45 years to get to this point but I am now here.

Even with that I could put myself down and think of all the wasted time but I will encourage me and say now is the time to seize the day. Carpe diem.

Going back to Mary in the Bible. We often talk of how amazing she was – and yes she was – but she was able to be amazing by the encouragement and support she got not just from God via the angel but from her cousin, Elizabeth. So I will finish this post as I will finish the skit we are going later on by saying: (and go with this even if you don’t believe in God. Substitute “God” for whatever works for you)

Mary and Elizabeth were so excited about being able to support and encourage each other so should we be that excited about supporting and encouraging each other.

We will often find ourselves in situations we can’t cope with on our own and need to remember God’s promises but also need others to remind us who God is and what He says.

So this Christmas time let’s stand together and support each other and then be amazed at what we can do

The Gorse Bush Analogy

Gorse bushes are a bit like life. They can stick with you long after the event!

We were out walking on Conwy Mountain and I slipped. For some reason I chose to grab gorse busha gorse bush to steady myself. Not the best idea. I squealed. My hand went all numb and tingly like it had been poisoned. I poured some water over it and all seemed fine. A week later part of my hand started to throb. My husband graciously used his first aid skills and found bits of gorse bush spikes in my hand! For a week these little spikes kept making their way to the surface of my hand and often had to be dug out. Even now, nearly a month later, my hand is still sore in places and rough where the spikes were gentle encouraged out. But it made me think about how like life this is.

Often things happen to us – we trip, something hurts us, we move on and think we’re fine. Then something else happens and we feel a hurt, a pain, that is not quite related to what is going on. This is because the previous hurt has got deep inside of us and, even though we cannot see it, it is still inside of us.

I wrote on Medium – another blog type site I have started using – something along those line. Read it on Path of Least Resistance and if you like what you have read hold the little path-of-least-resistanceclap hands down for up to 50 clicks. But as you read you’ll see if is from something that is embedded in my childhood that is having an affect on me many years in the future.

Yesterday I saw a dead seagull in the road as I was walking the dog and I sobbed. It was a young seagull and it was flat. We have loads of seagulls here and they nest in the chimney pots and the parents will swoop on passersby! I didn’t cry for the seagull though but for those I have loved and lost, for others who are going through grief at the moment and also because that uncared for death struck something deep inside of me that maybe I can’t even quite explain. It was a gorse thorn that was embedded in me that wanted to get out. I didn’t have time to write or journal about it because I was rushing off out. But later that day I was at a gathering of well-being providers and we were “selling our wares” and so I shared it when explaining about writing for well-being and how I run a course.

Even that passing dead bird had become embedded. Often when I explore in blogs I think of sad things but I think that is because they are the things that get embedded into us that we do not see. I will bring out the lovely times of my life regularly to share with my friends and family but the sad, unhappy, confusing times I hide away keeping them hidden from view. I wonder if that is just a British thing or do all societies do that? Is it just a human thing?

handsSomeone once said you need 10 encouraging comments to balance out one bad one. And also that it is easier to pull someone down and off a chair than it is to pull someone up on to it. Maybe that is why the negative, painful things get lost in our skin and then worm their way to the surface? But actually, on a positive finish, if we keep to the gorse thorn analogy, then eventually they will work their way to the surface where some kind and gracious person can pull them out for us. [Note I could not pull it out myself because the hand I had used to save myself was the hand I use to do things with]

 

Watching Those Stats

I am trying to sort my social media out and so have taken the Facebook app off my phone. That has been great because it has stopped me checking who’s said what on whatever. But actually, apart from putting pictures of my dog on there and advertising my workshops I don’t use it much.

social-icons-51I have just started a blog with my writing on Medium. Find me on  https://medium.com/@barefootatthekitchentable  It is a great site with lots of other writers and is easy to do. One of it’s great features, for those who haven’t yet gone on Medium yet,  is that there is a button at the side of each post to press for “claps”. A reader can hold down the button and let it run up to 50 claps. This morning I was checking my emails and it gave me my statistics. Please note I have only posted 2 pieces on there and not that many people know as yet! But I got into checking who was following and how many claps I had received. It is also possible to check how many claps each person has given you. I could feel myself hovering over to this place but stopped myself. Would it change what I thought of my followers if I saw that they had only given me one or two claps and not the full 50? What would it make me thinking of the posts I had put up there? Wold I get into condemning my writing?

We seem to live in a world now where we are judged all the time and encouraged to judge each other. Medium does reward those who gain over 1000 claps for a piece which is great, but it can still bring in that insecurity.  How often do we look to see who’s “liked” or similar on Facebook posts, on Instagram, on Twitter and more? The media talks of how Facebook and others sites make us insecure about our lifestyles and our looks but I have yet to hear it spoken of about how we feel about the “rewards” we receive.

It is great as writers that there are so many places we can post but I think we do still need to guard out fragile writers egos.

Being a natural encourager I will always “like”, clap, click the heart, etc because that’s who I am. I know of people who are not like me – and I do struggle with them 🙂 – but their way of supporting and encouraging is hold back, to be more restrained, and that is fine too. What is the point of having to be able to give from 1-50 “claps” if everyone gives every piece the maximum? But it does mean that we all need to be careful that we don’t get too caught up in the rewards and turn ourselves into performing seals.

I love to watch Dragon’s Den and some of  what I like is the comments that the ones whoDragons-Den-new-image1 don’t obtain a dragon get. These people are often not unkind but they are harsh. They tell people they are unprepared, tell them that they need to do more, have not researched, etc. They cannot take on everyone who comes through the door, cannot give them all the 50 claps. There are people who are not ready.

So I will continue to post on here, on Medium, on my Barefoot writing workshops website because all three take me in different directions. I will also continue to write for myself and for some friends I share with. I will do my best not to worry about what the reaction is but continue to hone my skills and trust to me not the “fish” I get thrown. I am not a performing seal. I am a writer.

Taking Thoughts Captive

aid3019-v4-728px-Spear-a-Fish-Step-1-Version-2I have heard so many preaches about “taking every thought captive” and think from one I gained an image of spearing the thoughts like they were fish and casting them away. But I think that is not the point. I don’t think that is what Paul meant when he said

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5

My thoughts are not wrong and do not need to be killed. Yes they do need to be captured and shown in the light of Christ, in the love of God. They need to be acknowledged and accepted as my thoughts.

In an Abbey of The Arts online mediation course she talks about focusing on your thoughts, feelings and emotions:

… allowing some time to move your focus and attention to your body. Allow some time to breathe and connect with what you are experiencing. Notice both physical pain as well as emotions. Bring your full awareness to whatever the experience is, without trying to change it. Notice how you experience this in your body. If you feel sad, how is that manifested in your body? Don’t try to change anything. Just stay present.

So I am capturing all my thoughts but not like the spearing fisherman to then discard them but to accept that these are my thoughts. I think making our thoughts “obedient to Christ” means that we learn to accept who we are, what we think and then give it to God. Not to fix, not to change, but to accept.

Here is an excerpt from a fictional piece I wrote around that:

She took a breath and tried to relax. Then all the thoughts and worries and things to do came rushing to the surface of her mind. She held their joys, their fears, their richness and their frustrations. Then she let them go. They rushed onward to the surface of her mind. Each task, each important concern, each trivial chore, believing it should take priority of her time. She let them go. This was the thrum of her existence. This was the pulsating of her life. She smiled. Instead of fighting it she must learn to relax into it and be lifted up on the current of her life.

Being a follower of Christ, I believe, isn’t all about “getting it right” so that God loves us, but is about believing that we are really alright people just as we are accepted and loved by God. And really it is about time we got on a loved and accepted ourselves as He does.

On Thursday I was having some healing prayer and God called me His little princess and showed me a picture of me sat on a rug with Him behind me. He had me between his legs pulled back close to His chest. As anyone, child with parent or with a lover, has sat huglike that, this is where you can feel someone’s heartbeat. I haven’t done anything momentously good. In fact I’d gone for the prayer because I was feeling seriously grouchy with a lot of things and God didn’t tell me to take capture all those thoughts and get rid of them and start doing things right. No! He showed me that He just wanted to be close to me and to hug me just as I was.

So taking those thoughts captive – I truly believe means accepting when we’re down as well as up, when we’re depressed as well as joyful, when we’re anxious as well as calm, when we’re angry as well as understanding, when we’re fed up of the world as well as when we’re content with the world. It is about accepting not rejecting who we are and how we feel. So I’m not going to throw away those thoughts because also some of my so-called “negative” thoughts are actually a great help to me in understand how I am, why I am and what I’m meant to be doing next.

Writing Your Life Story

truth.jpgMy group asked me the other day about how to use real people in their memoir writing. I wish I had found this quote when I was looking for information to share with them.

Mark Twain said,

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.

So obvious and so true, but how often it is hard for people to hear. I have been trying truth telling but often feel unheard.

Another suggestion I tell my group is that it is their truth and may not be someone else’s. Another quote:

Keep in mind that memories are subjective and tend to evolve over time.
[http://helensedwick.com/how-to-use-real-people-in-your-writing/ found 30th July 2018]

That is not to say that the truth changes but how you view the truth changes. There are facts that never change however. Things like “yesterday I went to see a waterfall with my in-laws.” That is truth. But then things like how busy it was, how warm/cold it was, whether it was a good time, bad time, etc become subjective. Even things like “your mum was really happy there” can be subjective. In reality she seemed happy to me but to other members of the family she could have looked sad, angry, distant, crazy, etc. Even thingswhat is truth like “Bob is an alcoholic” is not a truth unless Bob has told the family. So one could say “Bob appears to drink a lot and I am concerned that he is an alcoholic” or “Bob says he is an alcoholic”. Both statements are true because one is that I have seen Bob drink a lot and he has said he is an alcoholic. The concerned bit is my opinion. So with “your mum” I could say she seemed happy to me because that is my opinion.

So even though Mark Twain says tell the truth what is the truth is not as clear. Also as the second quote says our memories evolve over time. Emily Dickenson has a lovely poem:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant By Emily Dickinson
Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

So facts are facts and are unchangeable but our personal truths of what happened to us to change and evolve depending on what story we tell. There are people who say that the truth of their story doesn’t change but I don’t think that is true 🙂 We are an evolving people and so how we remember things will change.

Another quote that came to me as I wrote this was

Jesus said “know the truth and the truth will set you free” John 8:32

Now I wonder with this if Jesus meant that as we grow and evolve our theology will change and alter. Hopefully grow. He was talking to Pharisees who had spent years looking at the scriptures and working out the truth of them. Jesus says it is those who are his disciples and who follow his teachings who will know the truth and be set free by it. For myself I find that understand that how I perceive a series of facts is not how truth_set_freesomeone else might perceive them then I do feel freer to know that what I understand is what I understand and not to have to spend time browbeating the other person to believe in things how I see them. So going back to “your mum was really happy there”. That is my truth. Another family member could say “mum was really upset there” and that is there truth. Maybe we need to ask mum and see what she thinks? But then maybe mum was happy at the waterfall but upset as she walked back. Maybe both things are true and each person saw her at a different time (Note this is made up to help with a point and not factual 🙂  )

It is not about having different morals as is feared by some with the post-modern conversation, but it can be that all truth is subjective to who I am, my experiences, where I am as I tell this tale.

So my hope is, with my memoir writing group, that they can be free to write their story in their words with their memories of the facts that happened in their lives, as each of us should be free to.

Self-Care

stones.jpgThere is a lot of talk about self-care at the moment and yes it is very important, but what struck me yesterday was how you actually need a level of confidence to be able to care for yourself. I was made aware of this because when I mentioned that I was going to start kick-boxing the response I had hoped for, and needed for my confidence, was “well gone. Good on you” but the response I did get was “what do you want to do that for? It’s violent and dangerous.” Now if I had got that response a couple of years ago I would have not gone to my classes because my confidence would have been knocked, but I am still going to go because my confidence isn’t that fragile now. I am able to step out and do things without the need of full approval. The comments, once I was able to challenge that person, were all valid and made sense but they were not encouraging.

I think often we see people who are abused, in a bad place, addicts etc and think “why bigger-heartcan’t they get out of there?” “Why don’t they care for themselves?” But they can’t. They need someone to say encouraging things to them. I have a friend who works in a women’s support group and one of the things she says they try to do is to make the atmosphere as loving and accepting of the women as they are as possible. This is something we should do for all people – accept them as they are not as they should be. Even if we think as they should be would be a much better place. We need to give people encouragement so they can have the self-confidence to look after themselves.

I come back to the verse “love your neighbour as yourself” which doesn’t mean, I don’t What-is-Self-Carethink, giving and giving to someone else. But, I think, it means saying “if I’m an ok person then my neighbour is an ok person, if I can be kind and have self-care for me then I can be kind and care for my neighbour.” Or to look at another often misunderstood Bible verse about turning the other cheek. That again wasn’t about being abused and downtrodden but was about saying “the law says it is ok to slap my right cheek but I give you my other cheek which by law you are not allowed to slap. Will you do that too?” It is about being strong enough to stand up to justice not to lay down and be beaten. It is about self-care not humiliation. It is about self-care and humility rather than putting yourself last and being humiliated.

How have I got to this place? Slowly and with the help of others who didn’t even know. My work at Gwrych has been a great help even though at times it has been a struggle; a struggle with putting in clear boundaries, which of course only come with confidence and self-care; a struggle learning to say what I think about things but in a gentle way not aggressively, which I often stay quiet rather than say anything due to lack of training in how to gentle speak my mind; of learning to balance my time and not do everything. I put on, almost single handedly, an amazing production for WWI working with the local schools. I made mistakes doing it but didn’t feel down heartened by my mistakes. Doing that exhausted me but also energised me. I am running great writing workshops. Not a lot of people come but those who do are faithful and keep coming and I get amazing comments and compliments. Starting to take care of myself help. That started small by getting Kinspa membership and going for a swim and a relax in the hydro-pool regularly, which has led to going horse riding which has led to the kick-boxing.

For me some of it has helped that I am impulsive and do jump in, but when I am not feeling confident I also jump out quickly. As I said a negative word, like I got yesterday, would have caused me to cancel, but now I can keep going and doing what I want notself-love what other people approve of.

Coming back to the topic though of getting self-care – I would say when we see someone who needs self-care instead of expecting them to just do it we need to let them know that we think they are worthy of that self-care. Our role, as we come slowly able to lift our heads up from the gutter and look at the stars, is to help others know they are worthy.

(Interesting note – as I was getting images for this so much was about getting self-care so you could be better at …. whatever …. rather than just saying that it is ok to care for yourself. I don’t want to be better, do more, etc. I want to just be a more contented me doing the things I like doing. That’s why I care for myself. But again it does seem like we are always having to project outward and be “better”. Thoughts for another blog?)