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,

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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.

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

Where did April go???

Ok so I know April isn’t over yet but where did it go? This month was to be my quiet hello-april-images-1planning month – which actually I have successfully done – on the whole. I have workshops planned and ready to go. I have advertising sorted and sent out to whoever I can think of.  Actually as someone said to me it wasn’t so much a quiet month as an unstructured month where I had few time restraints – at least on the days I had at home.

Mind you I did fit in a friend’s hen do which because it was back where I use to live was a whole weekend away for me. Then said friend got married on 20th. It was a lovely wedding filled with much emotion – which will be saved either for another blog or to be kept in my private journalings.

Someone asked me about how to journal. I find that a hard question because I just write. I write as if no one else is going to read it and let my thoughts flood through. I had a great how-does-journaling-help-addiction-recovery-drugrehab-us_time of journalling over the hen weekend and came to some great realisations. Ok this might seem obvious to many but I have finally realised that

  1. I am  only one person
  2. I can only do so much
  3. if I want to do things well then I have to work out what is important to me what really grabs my heart
  4. I am not as young as I would like to think I am
  5. I have commitments that I cannot get out of – home, family, dog
  6. Airbnb will keep me busy but also free to explore

Ok so not rocket science but it still led me to saying No to things, or rather not so much no but actually stepping down from some things so I can put my whole energy  into a few things. I normally hold on to things so that I don’t hurt or upset people but then probably am not as committed as I should be. Whilst I journaled I looked at the things that gave me life and made me buzz. The things I’ve said I do not have the time to do are not bad things, are not things that I think are great and hope they come to fruition but they are things that I know I do not have the time for. Interestingly too as I journaled I saw that the things I was keeping all fitted together even though to begin with they looked separate. This would not have come about if I had just tried to think about it.

journaling-quoteMaybe it is because I’m a writer that I have to explore my thoughts via writing? I don’t know. All I know is that by the end of that weekend at the beginning of April I knew the things I had to put my energies in for the next year. Oh yes not the next month or so but the next year. This has been such a help in planning the workshops I am going to be doing, doing the advertising which I find tedious and also filling the rest of my month.

Interestingly too after committing to these handful of things that I felt were interconnected they then went and got even more interconnected with people from one set of workshops giving me openings to take the other project to another level.

Rather than repeat myself I am going to copy in bits from my Barefoot At The Kitchen Table newsletter which show what the plan for now is:

Three workshops for this new season, all of which I’m very excited about and am looking forward to starting.

  • Tuesday starting 9th May (not 6th June) for 7 weeks – Releasing the Legend Within at Llandudno Museum, Gloddaeth Street, Llandudno LL30 2DD from 1-3pm  A writing for well-being course looking at archetypes, journeys and being set free to be who one knows one is deep inside. £2 per person per session
  • Wednesday fortnighly starting 3rd May for 5 weeks – Write your life story at Gwesty Glyndwr, Marine Parade, Pensarn LL22 7PR from 11-12.30pm. £5 per person per session. Email to check dates. Always room for more and great tea, coffee and cakes at Gwesty Glyndwr.
  • Thursday starting 11th May (not 8th June) for 10 weeks – Creative Writing Group at Gwrych Castle, Abergele. Two chances to come and write in the Countess’s Writing Room – afternoon workshop from 1.30-3pm and twilight workshop from 6.30-8pm. Booking is essential as there is only enough room for 8 people in the writing room. This term I plan to be looking at questing and sagas. Cost £7.50 per person per session (£2.50 going to Gwrych Preservation Trust). Under 18’s welcome but must be accompanied by an adult.
The Project
I have been asked by Mark Baker of Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust to get involved in a year long project called “Gwrych Castle and The Great War: People and Place” which will be looking at The Countess of Dundonald, others who lived and worked on the estate and lived in and around Abergele, and how live was just prior to the First World War, during and then just after. The First World War caused the greatest change for the landed gentry in history.

​It will be an amazing project with three phases –

  1. Researching the period, hopefully getting in touch the relatives of people who lived and worked in this area during this time, taking their oral histories, copying diaries, photographs, etc.
  2. Taking this material and holding a series of writing workshops to explore and unpack the material and turn it into plays, poems, short stories and maybe even a novel, with the help of various writers and writing groups in the area. Which will take us to
  3. Taking the plays and turning them into performance pieces which will be held in and around the castle grounds at the Midsummer Open weekend in June 2018.
Of course all this is subject to gaining funding. So even though the project itself will only run for 12 months I am already working hard to secure funding. A long and arduous task!

If anyone is interested in finding out more about this project and getting involved please email me on grwycheducation@gmail.com and I can give more information.

So in my journalling it transpired that I really did want to immerse myself in this but I had to then sort out what else I could do and what I would have to put on hold for a while.

Will try to do another post soon 🙂

 

10th Wedding Anniversary

Today is my 10th wedding anniversary. Well it’s not just my anniversary. It’s mine and my 1000-images-about-10th-best-10th-wedding-anniversaryhusband’s. Couldn’t have done it without him – both the getting married and the staying married. I feel like we’ve achieved quite a milestone. And you  know what – we still like each other.

I wondered about doing one of those posts that you see on facebook where one partner gushes about how much they love the other one but much as I do love Ian I also like him. I think it is possible to love someone/something but not quite like it, but Ian and I like to hangout together. Oh yes I love time on my own too but that’s because I’m an introvert and need that recovery time. So yes I do love it when he goes off for his long hikes, or goes away hiking or whatevering for a weekend or even a week, but I get all excited when it comes close to the time of him returning. I make sure I’m ready for him and in the middle of doing something else. I like to see him. Ok yes I get sometimes a bit fed up of the every evening hearing about work thing but sometimes that’s good and its is good to be part of his life that I can’t go to. The same with the outdoor stuff. If I go he can’t walk as far or do as much but it is good to hear what he’s done when he gets back.

Ian and I met and were friends before we were dating and we did have a month or so of trying to decide whether we would start dating. During that time a friend asked me what I 3aecf1348580506df98b8dab8523a84awas most afraid of during this process and I said that whatever we decided I did not want to lose Ian’s friendship. And I can say 11 years after we started dating and 10 years to the day that we got married I do still have that friendship. And I am pleased about it.

Oh my we have weathered some storms over this time that have tried and tested us – the whole untimely deaths of too many people, the change from living with teenagers to them having left home and the interesting things that brings up, changes of jobs for us both, for me ceasing home schooling and doing my degree, and now of course the big house move that is now nearly a sailingintothestormyear old! So many changes, many storms and yet we still want to hang out.

Ian is in the top three amazing things in my life. The other two are my two children who have grown into the most amazing crazy adults that I also still like to be with. All three of them can drive me crazy but all three of them I would fight to the death to keep safe. They sit as join equal in my world.

Ian and I don’t have the same friendship that we had 11 years ago but we have a close and

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My man 🙂

loving one and I am pleased I said Yes 🙂

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.

So We Start

1405623476-airbnb-logo-explanationToday the vision starts to happen. We have our first Airbnb guests staying, a lovely Catholic Polish couple and baby. We also have a long time friend staying too. How will it work with friends and guests staying? Who can tell? But this is what we’re here for.

So far we’ve had both our kids come to stay and have had 2 friends come for lunch; one a friend I went to university with who has moved home to Chester, and another a friend who lives in Bristol but who’s parents live in Liverpool. But this is the start of the real thing, of combining our lives and friends and family.

Over these past few days there has been a lot of preparation going on for our guests.

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ours don’t look quite like this but you get the idea 🙂 

Practical stuff like fire alarms, fire blankets, new locks, etc so the house is all fire safe. We also prayed together. I had been praying round the house as I had been cleaning but we prayed together this morning. Now it is up to God. We cannot make anything happen. In fact it is going to be odd because the way the house is we may not see our guests after we have welcomed them in. In fact with this couple we only knew they had gone out because their baby’s car seat was gone. It really is going to be up to God how much contact we have with these people.

We do have a woman coming for the whole of the month of April. Hopefully we will get to meet with her. During that time we already on the calendar have friends come for meals over that time. Who knows what else?

introvertFor me it will be tough because I am still needing introvert time after an amazing Interweave time in Dublin. I love getting together with those people but do find that I am needing lots of down time after; to assimilate what has gone on, to read the emails that always follow, to listen to the things I believe God has been prompting me, and also just because I need that time alone to recover. Also this week we have my husband’s sister and her partner coming so again that will take away my recovery space, and we have to do important things like get living room furniture, because we will need that private space at the front of the house, and also get another car. So it will not be a calm week. I do need to be careful I do not spend my time wishing away what is going on here. I know this is the vision, to have friends and family to stay. There is no way God has given us this magnificent house

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if only it were so simple!

to keep to ourselves. But also I need to find a way of finding space to recharge and to write even with everything going on around me.

It is going to be a time of wisdom, of ceasing what is there, and enjoying what God is up to with us and through us. And trusting that He does know best.

 

Why do I believe in God?

So there I am this morning at 6am on a windy hilltop in Ireland with a bunch of other Hill of Tara March 2016Christians waiting for the sun to come up, praying and declaring stuff over the whole of Ireland and a question someone asked me a while ago, connected to some of the atrocities in the world that are committed in Jesus’ name came to me: “How can you believe in God?” and was then followed by a “Don’t even try to tell me” comment. I deleted the email and then tried to forget about it. And was doing good till feeling slightly sleep deprived, hungry and a bit cold it came back into my head.

So I believe in God because I’ve encountered Him. Our first proper meeting was amazing. There was me, a single mum in my early 30’s, still doing a bit of drug, still sleeping around a bit, still drinking enough, smoking, and just a bit unsure of my life, and I turn up at this small house church that was meeting on the council estate (social housing project to my American friends) where I lived and God just met me there. All I can say was that something was said during the talking/sermon bit about God’s love and suddenly I could feel myself being covered in what seemed like a thick oil with glitter in it and knowing thatheart3 God loved me totally unconditionally and totally as I was there and then. It wasn’t a text book conversion. It took a long time, a lot of talking with God and Christians, a lot of reading both the Bible and study books, and even now it is still a journey which just involves me going deeper and deeper with God.

I’ve seen money and houses and furniture and stuff just provided where no coincidence can explain it. I’ve seen people healed and lives changed. I have also seen people not healed and die, had my eye sight totally healed but by a surgeon not by some miraculous encounter. Yes I have seen my friends die from cancers, from suicides, from unhealthy lifestyles they cannot leave. Yes I have seen prayers not get answered as I would like. Yet still I pop up to gatherings at the moment and pray.Why?

I’m not sure I know. I know I’m here with this group this week because I believe it’s where God wants me to be. I’m not one of those who brings along things to pray with or even

medicine-bottle-11-with-green-black-herringbone-interweave
I turn up because I’m one of the threads. Without me it would not be complete

mighty words but I’m here. In fact just recently a new acquaintance, who I hope will become a friend, asked me what my role was in this group. I said “I just come to make up the numbers” which actually isn’t belittling but sometimes I think that is what we are meant to do. It is about being faithful in the small things.

So how do I know this is where God wants me? Well I suppose it comes full circle – I believe He talks to me. I believe He has said for me to come. I believe He hears are crazy early morning prayers on the side of a mountain and it does change things. This faith. I cannot tell this person why. I just do. I cannot tell her why God allows these things to happen that do, horrendous awful things, or why members of my family and friendship groups had to die. I don’t know. But I do know God is real because I’ve met Him. And really until she is willing to meet Him she won’t be able to believe.

Actually I think that is why I go off to these places to pray – because until people are introvertwilling to turn and actually meet with God they will not know He exists. Once they have met with Him then they can ask Him all those questions; all the why questions. I believe that when I gather with my friends and pray across the hills as the sun comes up recreating something that happened hundreds of years ago things do get opened in the heavenlies, blind eyes get a chance to see, deaf ears a chance to hear, lives can be changed. Svulnerability21o I will turn up as often as I believe He is asking me to. Does it strengthen my faith? Sometimes. Sometimes it makes me doubt even more. But you know even when I doubt God exists
then it’s Him I go to to find out.