Are You Willing To Be Filled?

Well there were repercussions from the Airbnb guests that I mentioned in my last post. They wrote a very damming review about their stay. Needless to say it really upset me. I think I was still feeling vulnerable from their time with us anyway. What upset me most about the review was that most of what they said was not true. Anyway I got on to the community20profile20website20imageAirbnb community forum. Well what an amazing bunch of people. No one made me feel daft for having let them stay and everyone who responded to my post was helpful. Airbnb said that unfortunately they could not take the review down because it didn’t quite break their guidelines. But with the help of the online community from around the world I was able to put up a succinct response to the review which actually, so the community said, took the sting out of the review and gave me the higher ground. And also helped others to see that here was someone just ranting. But it took me a while to potter through all this and come out feeling ok.

Being a well-being writer I of course did my own journaling and explored my thoughts and feelings about what had happened via writing. I realised that I got upset because it was not pen-282604_1280true and I did not like someone saying things that were untrue. As always timing is amazing and I was meeting with my spiritual director and so I told him all this. His response was that we all feel like that, which I sort of know to be true, and that it was ok.

On Monday I was facilitating a writing for well-being group and it came up about the glass half full/glass half empty explanation for pessimist and optimist, when someone said that in an Eastern philosophy (sorry I forget where) they talk about emptying yourself so that you can be filled. So with that thought an optimist would be someone who was happy to be a glass totally empty. But then I thought Jesus talks of us being like streams of living water and of how we need to be constantly emptying ourselves so He can fill us. Very similar philosophy. I can hold on to my half full glass-half-empty-or-half-full-awesomistsglass and oscillate, as most of us do, between feeling like glass is half empty or half full. Or I can go to that total place of letting go where I am happy to give away everything in my glass and wait for the Holy Spirit to fill it.

As I’ve had time to chew this over I have realised that I had to look at the guests from the weekend as ones who did drain me and leave me empty but that then I had a choice what I filled up with. I could have filled up with fear and not ever hosted anyone again unless they were people we knew. I could have filled up with anger and responded from that place both on the response to the review and in a message to the man himself. I could have filled up with hopelessness and just sat and cried. Instead I chose to fill up with forgiveness for the man for being so defensive and so angry, with hope that actually the world is full of some really lovely people who I want to met and I will carry on host and a joy about the world.

Mind you this does not come about by being on my own. The Airbnb Community Forum community-1helped as did various open and honest posts on Facebook from my daughter, from a friend whose total openness about his struggle with his sexuality was amazing, but not just that but the love with which his friends responded. As well as friends I have who are willing to let me be myself and my spiritual director, and my time being able to walk with my dog and think and ponder with God. And also we have just had two Airbnb guests who’ve stayed who have been totally lovely and have reminded me why we do this. So it is by community that we survive and can choose.

So I have to sometimes empty myself and let those who support me, whether I know they are or not, fill me with hope and wisdom and peace. And I do often think when this happens that the Kingdom of God is bigger than just those who profess to be Christians 🙂

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Dog Walker

So I continue with this piece on “who I am/what I do”. Probably what consumes most of my time after the Airbnb hosting is walking my dog. Even though he is only small we walk gwrych-11614-5 miles a day which takes a couple of hours. In the morning is the big walk – through the castle grounds, across the main road, down to the beach and back up via the park. This one is about 3 miles and takes from an hour to an hour and a half. Why the difference in time?

There are two types of dog walkers – those who go walk the dog to be alone and make sure they keep as far from people as possible and even if they do get caught they make the conversation as short as possible. They do not encourage conversation. Then there is the other type, which I come into, those who chat with people they meet. Why do I chat when I am an introvert? I chat because I like to see people smile and like to make them happy so I will have a quick word, try to remember what they said the last time we met so ask about that, and also because I seem to have the sort of face that people want to tell things to. I know a 4445558_380638b3lot about some of the dog walkers I meet. They need someone to tell their tales to. For some it is that they have recently lost husband – either through death or into care homes – , for others they just are lonely and want to tell someone what they did yesterday. But also I learn things from people which enrich my life here in our new town  but also enrich my writing life: to hear about why the lady got 3 greyhounds not just one and that he husband was one of the first high speed engine drivers; to hear  the tales of how this man tamed a
Staffordshire bull terrier after it had been rescued after being mistreated and encourage him; to find out about the places that I see along my route; of the old lady who use to work in the castle that now lies in ruins on the first part of my walk. But also I love just hearing about the general things, not just how the town use to be but where to get the best meat and things like that. All this gives me insight into my area and some of the people in it meaning I can pray for it in general and for the people that I meet.

By stopping and talkabergele-2000-si-panton-r00322542xing I get to learn so much and also am able to bless people along the way. And Renly gets to make new doggy friends and find out who the people are who will give him treats along his way. And also he loves the beach and will rush to the sand and run round in circles when he finds it is still there. As someone responded to my last post about channelling their “inner Renly” – another part of that is just having that whole joy of living and taking delight in what is just there.

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anchor/bookends – in between is my working day 🙂 

And the reason why it fills so much of my day is because it is the anchor in my day. I cannot start any form of work until I’ve walked the dog and I have to remember as the day comes to an end that the dog does need another walk. In fact I do my work, whether writing, cleaning, or preparing my writing workshop business, between the dog walks – so my working day starts with the coffee pot when I get back from my walk and ends around 5.30 when I get a text from my friend to say she’s calling round for us to walk the dogs together.

[looks like part 3 will be my new business venture so I’d best get the website up and running to share 🙂 ]

Airbnb Host

People, both friends and those I meet walking, ask me what I do with myself. My roles are many and varied. I had a some business cards printed that say a multitude of things and so I thought I would write a series of post unpacking what those things mean.

airbnbI am going to start with Airbnb hosting for a number of reasons; one it comes first on my business cards, two is comes first alphabetically, and three it does hold the structure of my day in place.

There are many articles that can be found giving Airbnb a bad name, but I think a lot of that is because, as Brits especially we do like to moan, don’t really like something entrepreneurial and do enjoy a bad story. For myself as both host and guest I think it is great. We have a dog and that means that finding campsites and hotels that allow dogs can be hard work, but the Airbnb filters let us search for dog friendly places to stay.  Yes I know these can be put on other websites for looking for hotels and bed&breakfast establishment, but I have done this before via a site, booked and paid for a dog-friendly room, arrived at the hotel and they have looked at my dog in amazement because the part about having a dog had not been passed on by the website. With Airbnb there is a chance to chat via the Airbnb app to the host and make sure they understood about the dog.

Also as a host, being able to chat to your guest before they arrive is nice, though sometimes it does mean that I have form presumptions about people before they arrive as I have mentioned before 🙂

So why do we host strangers via the Airbnb site? One reason is that we can pick and choosebnb_billboard_011 when we have people. The calendar is easy to use and so holidays for us are possible. Also Airbnb do have a vetting service or sorts, though that is more just to check the people are real! We wanted to make some money and this gives us a way to rent out our rooms easily. Airbnb do take their cut, which is making the guys who set it up rich, but you know for me I think that’s ok. It’s a great idea and by the moment of people using it show how popular it is so why not let them make some money. Really it is just lots of little bits. We are not put out by them taking their small cut and our guests say they still find it cheaper even paying the service charge.

The big thing for me is that we get people like us coming to stay, people who enjoy a chat, want to learn about the area, and want a cheap holiday. My husband says it is like having the world come to us. So far in this house we have had Italians, Polish, Australians, Welsh, English, Latvians, Malaysians, Singaporeans, and more. Most we have had chance to chat to, share breakfast with, eat supper with, learn something from. And it is also something we can do when we have family and friends to stay. Over the last couple of weekends we have had friends as well as Airbnb guests staying. So we sit down to breakfast with our friends, the Airbnb guests grab their breakfast and our friend is teasing our Brazilian guest about football. My husband breaks his foot the day before we are having a new bed for a new Airbnb room we will launch soon delivered and friend and Airbnb guest carry bed to top floor. I couldn’t have asked that if we had been running a hotel!

Also we can say what we want to supply for our guests. We do not need to do a full English breakfast. Our listing says there is bread and cereal if required in the kitchen. We do not supply an evening meal but do allow our kitchen to be used by our Airbnb guests to cook in.

Woman Changing SheetFor me there is a lot of cleaning and changing of beds and washing that needs to be done. But actually I was looking round the house today I realised that because of having guests so often the house is always clean and tidy. We were very lucky that when we moved into this house the previous owners had left it spotless, well decorated and with amazing carpet and curtains. That was a great help to the running of things. So I spend 2 hours a day keeping things up together. Sometimes it is a pain, like this Sunday when we had 2 couples leave Sunday morning and 2  couples arrive Sunday evening. I will give out my business cards to Airbnb guest that we have enjoyed saying and so we do have Airbnb guests who text to ask to come again. This was how we had this big change round on the weekend. So, because we then had paying guest on both floors of our house I had to spend about 3-4 hours cleaning everything. Also one of the couples who left on the Sunday were friends and so the housework had slipped a bit. But this does not happen that often. On the whole it is a steady stream of guests and cleaning and I can pace myself.

The reason it is controlling of my time is that it does need to be done. Airbnb use a rating system both for hosts and guests, and one of the scores is on cleanliness. I work hard to get 5 stars for everything every time. I find this very rewarding.

The hard things about hosting is that we meet such lovely people and then have to say goodbye. We know in truth that we will never see them again even though we all promise 13600090_10153796842010698_7018399500870131622_nto stay in touch. We know deep down we won’t. This is where we need to take guidance from our dog. Renly is loving and welcoming to everyone who stays, after he has done the initial barking when they arrive.  He is friend, follows them everywhere, sits at their feet, wags his tail when they come back from trips and then when he sees them go for the last time with their bags and I start to strip the bed he goes to sleep. His friendships are deep but the ties easily cut. If we are to do this well we do need to make sure we do this more; to love the people whilst they stay and then just let them go. We hoped that we would have a hospitality house where we could bless people on their journeys. With this we have a double portion – being blessed as we do the blessing 🙂

Life Moving Fast ….

4221396001_5030726696001_5030697883001-vsWe seem to be in a time of great political change in our country. For the first time ever we have an uncontested leader of our country. Is this right? Who can say. But it is a first, at least since the time of voting democracy. Watching satire programs in fascinating because by the time they are screen, having been recorded 24 hours earlier they are no longer news but old news. Things have moved so fast. All program makers know that there can often be items that are changing, like with an election coming up or a big football match – like the Wales/Portugal semi-final. Oh and as an aside – I thought it was great that the team that beat Wales went on to win Euro2016. Wales was beaten by the best not the second best 🙂 Anyway that is an aside.

Talking of that who would accept a team as champions if they had not had to beat anyone to win? No one! But we now have a leader of this country who is leading because her rival shot herself in the foot, so to speak. I find this hard to know how things will go when speed_of_lightsomeone is uncontested like this. But again it is saying something about the speed things are moving – within 3 weeks the UK is a very different place.

On a personal note things have started to move here. I came back from a lovely relaxing 10 days visiting friends back where we use to live and enjoying 3 days of a writing retreat but since arriving back things have not stopped. I came back to a full calendar of Airbnb, my mum and her husband staying followed by my mother-in-law staying, in a gap I went for coffee with a friend up here and in a chance conversation to someone who runs a local community centre am now in the process of building publicity to start not just one but 4 writing courses at the local centre, and also have my daughter’s graduation and a full summer. Things are moving fast here.

As I was dog walking this morning I wondered if maybe the world, or at least the UK, is moving quicker. I know time is a relative concept but within the scope of how our country is run has changed dramatically. But also within my own life too. It is a dramatic change. Yes I had put it out there – not prayed as such but mentioned in a post on a writing facebook page that one of my adventures I would like to do would be to run creative writing

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Canolfan Dewi Sant, Pensarn – the location of my writing courses

classes. I did not expect that to happen. I was thinking I could start putting feelers out come September but not start in September. But now the publicity is out there. I’m getting my public liability insurance and will start really selling it in 10 days time at the community centre’s open day. I am a person who doesn’t mind change which is probably just as well. Even within the thoughts on the change of direction of the UK and the whole political situation I do find it fascinating and something I can roll with. With myself and these writing groups I find it a challenge because there are things I need to do – like posters, go chat to people, get publicity out there, put a reasonable facebook page together. All of which I find challenging. Also there is that concept that sitting in my room on my laptop all day isn’t really work – I think this myself at times but also I know others do too. It is hard to say “I’m writing/thinking all day” so I do get lost in the whole thing of emailing friends, reading stuff, buying things that I know we need but maybe not yet. The whole writing phenomena, whether building up a facebook page, a website, or even writing my target of 1000 words for my novel, do seem to slide. And of course there is still the house cleaning to fit in.

Another fast moving things too is that a young girl – 2 days younger than my daughter – has asked if I will support her with Bible study. She says she needs an older Christian 6e4314dd3eb384859b9d1bdaa2e6a591friend and thinks I’m it 🙂 That’s good news but again it is faster than I thought. She goes to the Bible study group we sometimes go to on a Thursday evening. We are still at the point of trying to work out what church we want to connect with and get involved with but here is a girl who wants me to do the discipling/bible study/mentoring bit already.

We have not been here 6 months yet and yet when we went to the local carnival on Saturday we saw 4 people that we knew to talk to!!! And I am moving into that stage of knowing more. I think for me within in all this I have to trust that God is God and He knew before the beginning of time that things would move and happen as they are. That Theresa May is the undisputed leader of not just the Conservative party but the Prime Minister of the UK is not a surprise to Him. Neither is the fact that I’m going to be running creative writing groups and doing some discipling earlier than I thought.So for me I have to trust in Him and believe and pray and wait and see. And also get on and do the things hqdefaultthat I can do, the things I’m meant to do. Trusting God isn’t an idle time but a time of listening doing what He is leading me into – which at this moment means posting this and getting on with some publicity stuff 🙂

I Know The Plans I Have For You …

KevinIn Sunday’s Abbey of the Arts email there is a look at Kevin, a Celtic saint, who lived in Glendalough and was said to have put his arms out the windows of his cell to pray and whilst he had his arms outstretched a bird nested in his upraised hand and he stayed still till the chicks had left the nest. A crazy story but what I like about it this idea, that Christine runs with of plans and how our plans can change. I am sure Kevin’s plans were not to spend three months with his arms outstretched but he did.

In the email Christine says “How many times in our lives do we reach out our hands for a particular purpose, and something else arrives?”

And then goes on to encourage us reading to think of how we react to the unexpected when it arrives.

For me this is encouraging. I don’t think we came here with a plan but there was rough idea. What has happened is different. I think for me, with some of the things I felt I was getting when journalling about the coming year was about getting a calling to this town and getting involved with local church, etc, having some kind of therapeutic writing ministry, and working in local schools a couple of days a week. This has not been the case.

Mind you Sunday for me at church was a bit like that. Ian had gone off with his younger

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Me second from the left

sister climbing in Snowdonia and I decided to visit the local Anglican church. We had been three or four times before so it wasn’t something new. I had seen a spiritual director on Thursday and one of his suggestions had been to just go to a church building and sit in the back. This was my plan. Dog was walked, husband was out for the day, I would just go and sit for an hour and let the service wash over me. That did not happen. Apparently, even though this church has no young families it still does a family style service on the fifth Sunday of the month. It was all low key but the vicar’s plan was that a few people in the congregation would be dressed up to be paraded down the red carpet as an example of honouring and encouraging people. Well some how I got pick in my corner of the church and was dressed up and walked to the front of the church with four other people, all of us giggling away. Not what I had planned but part of His plan?

It seemed to say to me that we have to be willing to put out our hands, to turn up, and just wait. We had expectations about being here but they are very different from what we expected. The Airbnb is going great but we keep getting an overspill of people who come to this area to work who want accommodation. So a room that we had not expected to use because it still has some stuff that needs to make it to the loft, is being used already. My time of going out to work hasn’t happened because I do need to be home to clean, to do the admin, to be here to welcome people when they arrive.

 

540x293_20141228_d7cd1636aea23361de15710d6933b6f3_jpgIt is about being willing to stretch out, to just be and then let God. It is trusting that He does know that plans He has for us but it isn’t like I feel we hear in many churches. I have often heard in sermons that God has plans for us and we need to go and find them and make sure we do them. It is back to us making sure we “get it right”. But now I am hearing through this story of Kevin and Christine’s thoughts on it that we just need to stretch out, to be willing and ready, and just let God sort those plans out.

So no it was not my plan to go to church and be all dressed up, but I do think it was God’s. I just showed up and said Yes when I was volunteered. The same is true for us with the Airbnb and our home. We put our house out there and then we wait for God to sort out who it is He wants staying here.

So much simpler!

I Wish I was My Dog …

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Dog rolling in the sand

One good reason is that he gets me for an owner but the real reason I would love to be my dog is the fact that he seems able to forget the horrid things in his life. I know there are dogs that are traumatised when they are puppies that do appear to remember those things and behave sometimes badly because of it. But Renly was treated well in those early years and seems to be very chilled because of it.

Yesterday he had an incident with a very large, very hairy black Alsation. The dog went for him and at one point appeared to have his jaws around Renly’s middle. The dog then let him go. Renly ran to me and I was able to grab the dog by the collar and scruff of the neck. Renly and I then went briskly down to the beach where I tried all sorts to get him to come to me so I could feel him all over to check he was ok. He wouldn’t come to me and kept running away with his tail between his legs and almost glaring at me. He only let me touch him when we saw a lady we had met before. He then sat at her feet and let her stroke him then let me stroke him. He seemed back to his chirpy self then.

Today i was nervous of going to the beach because of this dog but also because I was

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Dog in the pub in Ireland

concerned that Renly would react badly and be scared. I made sure we were a bit later so we wouldn’t bump into them. But you would have thought the incident had never happened. Renly showed no signs of fear or even slight anxiety.

He has a great memory. In fact just before the incident yesterday he had run to a lady he gets treats from. Today she was later and so Renly set off to get his treat and to play with her dog. In fact he remembers all the people who give him treats and will run up to them, often leaving me a way behind. And the other day we had friends come to visit and he loves their dog but they hadn’t seen each other for 8 months , and in a totally different place, but Renly recognised her and greeted her with such enthusiasm. He remembers key people in his life even if he hasn’t seen them for ages. He seems able to tell with my children that they are family and the boyfriends/girlfriends they bring he isn’t so close to. Yes he is warm and friendly because he’s that sort of dog but his greetings are very different.

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Dog at Wellington Memorial, Phoenix Park, Dublin

So yes I want to be my dog. To be able to remember the good things in life and forget the bad. To be able to not get phased by something that happened once but to be able to let it go and to continue to enjoy the good things in life  – which for him are treats, hugs, beach, car and family.  Simple life!