… does something come along to make it even more full? Today is one of those action packed days when I should have said No to some things that I said Yes to. As I led in the bed this morning listening to the rain patter down I went through my to-do list and organised how I would fit everything in – including my coffee time. I went downstairs at 6am to get a cup of tea to take back to my room to journal a bit and found the kitchen floor flooded. So mopped the floor and wondered how the rain had got in over our very high back door step. An hour later came back downstairs and put on a load of washing. When rinsing dishes after breakfast I had to get out the sink plunger to try to unblock the sink muttering to myself as I wondered what I had allowed to go in the sink that should have gone in the food waste. Then the washing machine made a strange gurgle and unloaded its water all across the kitchen floor! Hurriedly turned off the washing machine and shouted to husband.
Long and short due to the storms that raged for two and a half hours yesterday afternoon and flooded our local supermarket, post office, main streets and park, and then came back for another go last night, dirt and soil and whatever has been washed into the drains and blocked them up. In fact yesterday out my study window I watched the small residential street opposite fill with water and then have to be pumped clear by the local water board.
The waterboard have been phoned and will be here within 2-4 hours which means I am now stuck at home. I cannot leave till they arrive. They may come early too if the job they are on is quicker than they hoped. So I cannot go and pay for my car which had a new exhaust fitted yesterday but I couldn’t pay for because the phone/internet lines for the card machine weren’t working. I’ve had to phone to say I might not be able to make it in time to conduct a guided tour around the castle grounds where I volunteer today in case the water board come late. My life has gone from super busy to waiting. I can’t even clean the floors because the workmen might have to walk through the house. I can’t clean bathrooms because I can’t run any water down the sink. In fact I can’t even flush the toilet. Just as well I’m home alone.
There’s a great parable Jesus tells of the rich man who builds barns to store all his grain in but then dies the following day which is used to tell us not to put too much hope in our plans. I’m sure that doesn’t mean don’t plan because I think Jesus had the ultimate plan
that Him and God had sorted before the beginning of time. But I think it means don’t get stressed about what you’re going to do, or even don’t rest on what you’ve already got sorted.
Richard Rohr’s “gateway to silence” words this week are “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding” and I think that is so true for today for me but also for every day for me. Yes I do need to have a bit of a plan because we do have guests arriving and leaving, friends coming to stay, food to think about, but I am not to put my trust in those plans because they might change. Friends might cancel. Drains might flood. But I am to trust in the Lord though all and everything.
I am feeling that what I am doing with a lot of what I do is restoring boundaries – in people’s lives with the creative writing; with the volunteering at the castle; hopefully
with stuff I am going to be involved in with Abergele. But yesterday I learned too that I need to restore the boundaries in my own life. Boundaries must begin at home. And with this it was literally at home!
As you know we rent two rooms on the top floor of our house via Airbnb, work of mouth and I also have a contact in the local hospital where we have had a series of doctors and nurses come through. Often with the doctors I struggle but yesterday I realised it was me not them. Ok so it is them to a point but I let them be. This is my home and I have a style of how I want to run it and I have not been clear in that. This came to me yesterday when a Pakistani lady doctor came to book the room. She had very definite ideas of what she wanted and was very firm in letting me know. I found myself feeling uncomfortable about this but bending to what she wanted because she was the ‘customer’! Hum where did that come from?
When she had gone I chewed over my feelings about what she had said she wanted and realised that, if she came for the 6 weeks she wanted to stay for, that I would be spending most of that time cross. Well that’s silly! But I realised too that I had been doing this with
some of our other guests; giving in to what they wanted, not standing up and say ‘not in my house’, allowing them to set the pace. We have a lady staying this week on holiday who was here on holiday last year and as I was going through things for her she said “you’re very laid back about things and very welcoming because of it” which is lovely and how I want my home to be. But with some of people, especially the doctors, I have been more than laid back. I have been a push over. I have let them set the pace and have been cross about it.
Being laid back doesn’t mean I don’t have boundaries. I have very clear boundaries but realised I am often afraid to show them because I want people to like me. It was very hard last night to send a text to this latest doctor to say that I didn’t think it would work out between us for 6 weeks. I was so nervous sending it, but I did. She gave a short reply which was not rude at all. I did a review for a place we stayed that actually I didn’t like and felt it was overpriced but I felt so bad leaving it. What if she doesn’t like me? The point is neither of these women liked or disliked me. They were just people passing through.
As with doing work on restoring the boundaries at the castle where people do not like it because it means places they have always walked are now blocked so it will happen with me that there will be people who don’t like it because I have changed. But as with the castle being restored to it’s former glory so I will be restored to my true self.
But also in being able to set my boundaries clearly without fear so I can encourage others to set their boundaries without fear. I will not be doing workshops, volunteering, renting rooms in my house, in a manipulative way to get my own needs met but will be able to do it in a way that encourages, restores and elevates others – even if sometimes that will mean saying “you shall not pass“!
For a week of mornings whilst out walking the dog as I walk past the park there have been a group of daffodils who’s faces are turned toward the sun, expectant of the day to come. I kept meaning to bring my camera and take a photo because they said so much to me about looking to the source of light and being expectant and ready for the day. Of course I forgot and now they are gone. It looks like someone has picked them. We have loads of daffodils in and around our park and often people pick them to take home. I hope these expectant daffodils have gone to a good home.
But it got me thinking – how often are we expectant for something, looking to the source and then get snatched away from it? At my church this Sunday we’re doing a little play based around Matthew 23:37 where Jesus wants to gather Jerusalem to him like a mother hen gathers her chicks. A mother hen will spread her wings wide when she sees danger and gather all her chicks under her wings to protect them from attacks by birds of prey. She is willing to give her own life for her chicks. I think so often we think of God as someone we go ask things from and “look to expectantly” but don’t let him cover us from attack/being picked/disappointment. This verse, and many others in the Bible, do say about God being there to protect and support during times of hardship and distress. I’m not sure there are any, or maybe a few, that say He’ll make the bad times go away yet too often the Christian message is “God will make things wonderful and life will be great” and then wonder why people fall away when life doesn’t work that way, when prayers don’t get answered, people don’t get healed, we get “picked” after diligently “looking at the source”.
I’ve just seen a post from a friend of mine who talks about life’s realities sometimes not living up to one’s expectations. With the things I do – the room rentals and the writing workshops – so often things don’t turn out as expected; I don’t get as many coming to the workshops as said they were, or those who come take things off in a totally different direction, or with the rooms people say they are coming for a certain time and then change their minds. We have just had it with the rooms that a couple and a single person both said they were going to be staying for a while. The single then decided that what she was doing here wasn’t for her and left and then the couple found a flat to rent quicker than I’d expected. For both sets of people this is great news, and I am really happy for them, but what it also means is that things have to lived up to the expectations that I had. Things are changing. It felt a bit like I was looking to a certain way of life and then got “picked” and its all change again.
So we need to be willing to accept the changes, go with the flow and also be kind to ourselves and accept that this can be exhausting, and like the daffodils can bring about major changes in our circumstances. And be willing to just hide under the shadow of His wing.
In well-being circles and other “self-help” type areas there is often talk about doors and open doors and walking through doors. I love it and have done loads about them. In fact I could do a whole 6 week series of workshops on doors and transitional places. And in fact this is what we were doing last night at the creative writing for well-being workshop I was facilitating. Then on of the participants gave me food for thought. I do love doing this sort of stuff because I only facilitate and encourage others to bring out what is within them and I am always learning too. I do not have it all sorted.
So anyone someone says “behind the door is a blank wall” and that has really stuck with me. I found it not so much encouraging but something to think about. How often do I think of a door having something behind it? Yes I know a wall is a something, but rather something to go into, a new room, space or place. I have never thought of it going no where. So as I pondered this I thought of how I have been feeling that doors have been flying open for me with regard to running various workshops up here. Although actually there is a lot of stuff sitting in the pipeline and not actually having anything concrete on it but that’s ok. But all I have been thinking is “Wow how exciting. Open doors.” and being me I’m happy to rush through them cos that’s what I’m like.
Well I have realised with one situation it may not be a blank wall but it is a small room and actually I would probably be better to come out of that room because it is dark and also not right for me at the moment. So I will step away quietly, close the door and learn from it. What I have learned is that maybe just rushing in is not such a good idea. I probably need to have a look through the door, see what’s there and see if I want to do there. I need to ask more questions, find out clearly what is there, and then decide. Although knowing me I’ll probably still rush in, which I have done many times before, and then have to walk out.
Not every door leads somewhere but we all need to be bold enough to walk out of the confining space and try another door.
So Sunday I was at the Open day for Gwrych Castle. The theme was Halloween, as it is at this time of the year. Something we can either accept, ignore or try to fight against. For me, as a Christian, I did get some flax about getting involved in something that was centred around Halloween. Did I think about that first of and pray hard? To be perfectly honest – No! I was so excited to be asked to go and do some story telling – something I love doing but haven’t had much opportunity to do ever. Yes I did read to my children when they were small and they loved it. I have read at times but not often enough. So for me the excitement of being asked over road anything deeper than that. :)
So I considered what I was hearing from those around me about whether it was right or wrong to be part of this event. I didn’t think hard about what I had written or the stories I was sharing but stuck very much to the remit I had been given. But as I thought and prayed I felt ok about what I was doing. I didn’t feel like I was glorifying something evil.
So I turn up and discovered that there is a team of paranormal investigators there. I get introduced to them because Mark, who heads up the Gwrych Trust likes people to know each other. Also these guys were planning on taking my photo at some point during my story telling to see if I had a ghost presence around me. So I chatted to them and asked what it was all about. Well it is all very spiritual and it gave me the opportunity to chat about being a Christian and the spirituality of that. Hey there’s a lot I don’t understand and who’s to say that all these spiritual things are evil?
In fact from there we had a great chat about how people put us in boxes. When you say the word “paranormal investigator” you get all sorts of ideas. One of the guys was saying that what they do is nothing like what is seen on the TV and that most of what they find is peaceful and calming. He felt there was nothing to fear from it. He also really did not like Halloween and trick or treating feeling that it just frightened people and made a mockery of what they do. Well this gave me the perfect opportunity to talk about how Christians get put in boxes – ok sometimes they are deserved boxes but that’s a bit like the paranormal stuff that is viewed on TV – and was able to talk about Jesus, God making the world, there
being things we don’t know about, etc. It was a great discussion, and one that we both hope to continue with on another occasion.
This would not have happened if I had decided that I was not to go to the Castle and do my story telling on Sunday. This would not have happened if I had gone wanting to denounce everything there as evil. I don’t think ever Christian should go and do this but I do think that we need to be more open and willing to learn, and not to be afraid. To be honest if God really is as big as I’m hoping He is then I had nothing to fear. I would not go and taunt evil because that would be silly but to go believing that I was where God was allowing me to be, and with a heart that wanted to be open and non-condemning, then I was going to be ok.
And actually sometimes it is going with want to condemn that actually can make the judgemental Christian worse than the exploring spiritual person. And I’m just hoping God can do something with the words I was able to share.
So today is start of NaNoWriMo – the write a novel in a month – where one tried to write about 1600-2000 words a day to get that novel done. Great idea! Yes! So why am I on here and not writing that novel? Well I am going to do the 2000 words per day but maybe not toward that novel. I have to keep up with publicity for Barefoot At The Kitchen Table as well as wanting to put some other thoughts on paper/blog/laptop about our time in Iceland which I haven’t had time to do yet.
The problem with the amazing way Barefoot is taking off is that my time to actually write is become more and more limited. And, as any writer knows, one can’t just sit and do it. There is the thinking, pondering time. That time so of letting those word gel and make senses and become something. I’ve joined a writing group that meets once a week at our local library. I can’t keep up with the weekly prompts because I need a day or two to let them percolate then a day or two to write them and then a day or two to edit and get them to become coherent. Ok so I know those who are mathematician, and even those who aren’t would be able to see that actually that is a maximum of 6 days but within those 6 days I’m also planning workshops, connecting, advertising, planning, and then there’s the whole Airbnb cleaning etc.
Talking of Airbnb I made the mistake of checking my stats to see if the bad review had done much damage. No it hadn’t but there were some people (not just the bad review) who had not given me 5 stars for cleanness. Well talk about going into a decline on that. What a fickle creature I am. Note to self – I really do do my best and I think its pretty clean, as do 84% of the people who stay. There’s very much a blog in that about how we look at the 16% rather than the 84!
Hopefully you’re still reading because what I wanted to blog about was what I learned on
Sunday. Sunday I was at Gwrych Castle supporting their open day by doing some story telling. So I had a plan but the best laid plans, etc. So instead of doing 3 x 1 hour story telling and writing workshops I did 3 hours of continuous story telling. It was a learning curve. I realise now that at family events when people see “storytelling” they think children, which is fine. I also realise that children love a good scary tale. The adult bits go over their heads but other bits stay with them. We have all watched kid’s programs with our children because there were bits that hooked us in as adults. I also learned that the story needs some substance with it. So I was using 2 local myths I had found on the internet, one about an incubus and one about fairies, but I just embellished what I’d printed off rather than writing something myself. What I did write was something I had fleshed out of something someone had told me had really happened to her grandmother. That went down best of all. Yes the small children liked the other ones but everyone, young and old, sat in silence as I read the one I had written. I have also learned that I write a good tale and tell it well. So I had a great time and came home exhausted and exhilarated. Some people took my flyers but no one has yet got in touch. But you know that’s ok.
But here also is the biggie I learned and I am going to save it until tomorrow to post because it curves off in a different direction.