Conversion

“Translations vary, but in our modern day, conversatio morum suorum generally means conversion of manners, a continuing and unsparing assessment and reassessment of one’s self and what is most important and valuable in life. In essence, the individual must continually ask: What is worth living for in this place at this time? And having asked, one must then seek to act in accordance with the answer discerned.”
—Paul Wilkes, Beyond the Walls: Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Life
 This is something I would like to be plaster as wallpaper all around my home at times – both to remind me, to remind the rest of my family, to remind those who come to our home, but also to remind us to give this to others. So often our world works on this upward spiral, including in church, of getting better and better and of achieving, of reaching the goal. But this says that in fact we should understand where we are and asking what is worth living for in the now. It’s not about getting better, of having a purpose, of achieving, but of being and living.
Richard Rohr says something similar today (28th Dec 2015) :
Both God’s truest identity and our own True Self are Love. So why isn’t it obvious? How do we find what is supposedly already there? Why should we need to awaken our deepest and most profound selves? And how do we do it? By praying and meditating? By more silence, solitude, and sacraments? Yes to all of the above, but the most important way is to live and fully accept our present reality. This solution sounds so simple and innocuous that most of us fabricate all kinds of religious trappings to avoid taking up our own inglorious, mundane, and ever-present cross of the present moment.
I have been working with young people who haven’t made it in the education system and all we seem to do is trying to keep them in that holding pattern until the can leave school, which is now 18 years old. Why are we not teaching them how to make the most of where they are? Many of these kids have amazing gifts and talents, just not recognised in the modern school system, so they’ve been labelled and made to feel like they have nothing to give. Yet if we could get them to live fully in their present reality, which for many is really hard, but also to ask what is worth living for in this present moment? I think we could get them to change. I really do believe not just with these kids but with everyone if we could work out what things in this present moment are worth living fully for and how can be be fully present then things would change.
The reason why we don’t teach this? Because so very few people live it. I know I struggle to. But that is also something I’m learning and am going to take in 2016 – that if I don’t get it right today then I forgive myself and start again. I don’t even have to wait till tomorrow to start again. I can start again the moment I realise that I’ve messed up and am not fully present, not looking at what is worth living fully for at this moment.
I was trying to practise this whilst out walking with the dog this morning. Ok it was helped by the fact that there was the most gorgeous burnt copper sunrise. But I’ve got lots on my mind. Today my mum and her husband are coming to “do Christmas” with us, so there was food stuffs to think of; my son is having an operation and I want to be there for him but he leave 200 miles away; my daughter is off back to uni 100 miles away and I was trying to work out whether I could manage to take her back; and of course the big one – we’re moving. All these thoughts were crowding into my head and taking over often. As was the thing of wondering what life will be like this time next month. But whenever I realised that I was not in the moment I wouldn’t be cross with myself but would just pull myself back and go back to enjoying the sunrise and the lovely day, and watching the dog rushing about. And of course my mind would wander again and again would have to be pulled back.
Again I think this is a place where we aren’t kind to ourselves or others; we don’t cut anyone any slack. If we mess up we’ve failed. If someone does something wrong they are labelled as a certain type of person. Very rarely do we give ourselves or others the grace to just say this is a phase. I am learning with my family, husband and children, to try to just let it be and say this is what it is for now. Do I force them to change? No that would be wrong because what do I know about what is best for them. Many times I’m not sure what is best for me until I’ve tried it, and then sometimes its best of then but not later on. I am a fluid evolving being and so are those around me. To truly accept this growth and change and living in the moment we must trust that all will be well.
Or as it said is Star Wars: The Force Awakens “The Light — It’s always been there. It’ll guide you.”  And also “As long as the sun is there we have hope”
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What should Christmas eve traditions be?

6471920I was pondering Christmases past as I’ve worked through a mediation about rest and Sabbath from Abbey of the Hearts and think how things have changed. I was thinking how, when we were in our heady Ywam Scotland days and also involved in lots of full on Christian ministry stuff the kids and I would go to ground for 3 or 4 days. We’d get new pyjamas on Christmas eve, have a bath and get into the new pjs and then not get out of them till Boxing day when generally we needed some fresh air. But even then we would just go for a walk the 3 of us. We generally didn’t see anyone until at least 28th, maybe not till the new year. We needed it to recover and regroup. We’ve had other years when we’ve spent time with family and friends. Before I had children I use to work in hotels and bars over the Christmas time because I christmas-articlewanted to avoid it. So much has changed.

This year is different – because the kids are older, because the people we would have spent time with aren’t here this year (whether moved away or died), those that needed our support last year don’t need it this year.

I do wonder if some of the stresses for Christmas come from trying to have Christmas traditions that worked great at certain times of life – like when the kids were little – and don’t now. So we try to do the Christmas stocking thing but the kids go to bed after us, try to have breakfast together but again by the time they want to get up its nearly lunch time, or we can’t quite relax into it because the dog needs walking, we’ve offered 3ea2219c930313c1ea3665aaf7279b24to look after a neighbour’s cat, family member isn’t with us, we’ve living in a different part of the country. If we say “but we always do ….” then we are asking for a fall. I am sure there are periods in our lives when we can do the same thing year in year out for Christmas, but really this is only for a few years. Things change. People change. We are back to that Change thing again!

I really do believe if we can live in the moment of Christmas this year then we can have peace during it. We can grieve for those who aren’t with us this year – like my friend who would have discussed the latest Star Wars film with her son but her son died 13 months ago – and even when it is longer than that we still grieve for those we would have enjoyed this season with – for myself every year I miss my sister and my stepdad, not because it was all great, but actually because they made the season crazy and drove me mad trying to get things sorted but it was part of the Christmas chaos. Living in the  moment doesn’t mean forgetting those who aren’t here but it does mean having peace with what is here, accepting that this is it.

My husband has always said he likes to have family Christmas, which means seeing his side of the family, which as his sister’s children have got older and since his dad died has got harder and looks different every time. And next year, once we’ve moved, will look different again. For him Christmas is a time to rest from work but to be busy with family and friends. Somehow we have to find a compromise and every year has had to be different because my children have grown older, want different things, have different boyfriend/girlfriends they want to include/not include.

So this year we embrace the fact that our home is full of have pack boxes christmas-presencewaiting for the new year move, that we have both my children here with us for at least 10 days, that we can only get to see all my husband’s family for one afternoon, and that things with my mum, apart from her not being with my stepdad of 25 years but her husband, who she has had now for 9 years, will be with us as usual in the interim between Christmas and New year, that the batteries have stop on the tree lights and no one can be bothered to get that sorted, and that our turkey has been crowned for the first time ever.

Some things are the same, some different, all accepted as the tradition for this year.

Didn’t know it was gone till it returned

I know I journeyed through some stuff over the past 3-4 years, and it has kitty20high20res1been a challenge, but I have thought I was getting stronger. What I didn’t realise, until I got it back, was how much my confidence had taken a battering. Mind you as I look at it I do wonder if I was ever a confident person. I put things on my blog because its easier than saying it to people. And at times I have been quite controversial!

How did I notice this? Well I started work in a local college as a learning support assistant, with a team that had been there for a long time who knew I was only going to be there until the end of the term, and I got taken seriously, what I had to say was valued, and not just that they expected me to input and give feedback. It made me realise that I had lost confidence not so much because of what had happened but by the way people reacted to me. So how did I notice that I had more confidence? Well I offered to read someone’s daughter’s psychology degree essay and when I’d done the mum said that it was nice to have it read by someone intelligent, and confidenceinstead of saying some put down about myself I said yes I am. Also I was in a play at our church and the compare did, what I thought, was a poor introduction and so instead of just sitting back and thinking it I told him so, in a gentle way. And I didn’t blush or make it into a joke which I would have done before.

But you see the thing that has struck me is that I didn’t realise that I needed to have a confidence boost and the team I was working with were not doing what they did for me at all. They were just being them.

The thing that has struck me is how I have got something that I didn’t know I needed and got it from people just being themselves. So I want to white-blank-page-sketch-book-pen-24674827thank my team for being themselves. I want to say how pleased I am to feel an inner strength of confidence that I didn’t even though I needed. And I am also pleased that I didn’t know I needed it until I got it!

Wonder what things I’m going to get in 2016 that I didn’t know I needed. Interestingly I’ve been doing a piece with “Abbey of the Hearts” about asking for a Word for 2016 and what I got was:

Blank Page – Wait patiently for it to be written. DO NOT start to plan and fill it.

Enjoy the empty days

For me, with this realisation of regain confidence that I didn’t know I needed, this Word says that instead of thinking and planning and working it out I just need to sit and let God come with what He has and let Him fill it.

 

(Interestingly in this my fresh meat man Tony of Wiltshire County Fayre has asked if I will consider doing his newsletter once I’ve moved; which he will pay for. So already something is coming. But I need to be careful that I think don’t try to second guess that the other things might be.)

Change!

changeNo one likes change. Really that is the truth. Some people say they like change. I would say that about myself, but in reality I’m ok if I’m the one orchestrating the change. I like to know that the change is mine. I’ve been really frustrated with the changes made to WordPress because I knew how to do things before and now I’m not so sure. It all takes longer.

With our move we’ve had many different reactions but some have been angry negative reactions to people not liking the fact that we are changing change-4-1imepycsomething, changing something they are familiar with. I got cross at first until I realised how upset I get when other people change. My husband is struggling with our change more than I am, which actually is good because he is then more aware of how others are coping. I am ok with our change. In fact I’m quite excited. I’m looking forward to a bigger bedroom, a room to call my own, more than one toilet, etc. Yes there are things I’m nervous about but in an excited sort of way. I then find it hard to understand how everyone can’t just be pleased for us.

“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change -”

Heraclitus

Which sits as comfortably with us all really as “there is no certainty in life but death.” We don’t really want things to change and we don’t want to fish escape conceptdie. Or rather we don’t want other people to change and we don’t want other people to die.

There are people who embrace change and want it continuously change, though again many of these are people who don’t want others to change. And so, as I get older and realise that I like constants in my life, I have to accept that even those who love me don’t like to see me change – or rather don’t want me to move and have a different life than they are use to.

And you know what I can feel for them because much as I like to change when-the-winds-of-change-blowand do things differently I would rather appreciate it if they would stay in the same house, in the same job, doing the same thing so I can slot into their lives as I always do.