Footprints in the sand

Now I’m sure I’ve blogged on this before but it seems relevant again  – at least for me for now.

bd8142d355ec494c723ae48d3e39be40Most Christians, and many who aren’t, will know the story of the Footprints in the sand; where there are two sets for a while then only one and the person says “where were you Lord when I was struggling?” and God says “I was carrying you.” And it is to encourage Christians to realise that when they cannot go on God carries them. A great metaphor! But why footprints in the sand?

As you know we now live by the sea and most days the dog and I go to the beach for a walk. Sometimes we get sand to walk on, other times we have to walk on the grass and stones above the high tide level. I have noticed, after being here for a year, that the revealed sand is constantly changing. There are streams and rivulets that go across the sand. Last summer I knew where each of them were but now they have moved. Some are deeper, some going a different way, some gone. Even today there was a change between a place I could cross which the sand has now moved around on and it isn’t there.

Which is where I get back to the “Footprints in the sand” piece. Yes I do think there is footprints-in-the-sand-wallpaper-4something there about how God does carry us but I also think that it is in the sand because footprints in the sand get washed away twice a day and as fallible human beings we quickly forget what God has done for us. Just over a year ago I wrote a piece about trusting God and about struggling with trusting God and yet I still want to walk in my own strength through things. So we have  only been living here a year – exactly today we got the keys 🙂 – and I now run a successful room rental via both Airbnb and word of mouth, and am running workshops in various amazing places. Yet I struggle to trust that God will provide – work, participants for workshops, money, people to stay in our home. Because of workshops and also with room rental bookings not all coming via Airbnb there can be times when people cancel due to change of circumstance or ill health. I have noticed that these things happen when I  have projected how much money I should be earning that particular week/month and have started spending it in my head. It is like God then says “excuse me, but you’re trusting in yourself and not in me” and I have to have a rethink. I want to be self-sufficient but God is saying I have to be God-sufficient. It happens again and again because I am so bad at learning my lessons. But I’m getting there 🙂

8504328-animal-footprints-in-the-sand-copy-space-stock-photo-dogSo I think the reason that the it is “Footprints in the Sand” is, one because we forget when we cannot see the evidence, but also because we need to walk in trust with God all day every day so that we can make those new footprints with Him every single day – like I do on the beach with my dog each day 🙂

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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 What Have I Done This Year?

I write the family Christmas newsletter but really it is just a snapshot of things we’ve all done and I miss out things that I’ve done and things that they’ve done too. So in reflection of the John and Yoko song “So this is Christmas … another year over and what have we done?” I thought I would look at what I’ve done.

It was at the beginning of January in my new journal diary that I wrote “Boldness to search for my true dreams and to walk them out.” To being with things didn’t go as expected …

  • I’ve had a poem published on a Mindfulness website
  • I’ve been hung out with some amazing writers in the South West and enjoyed some Sundays and a whole bank holiday weekend with them
  • I’ve realised that even though I’m a great encourager and youth worker, which makes me a great learning support mentor and assistant, I am a rubbish tutor and easily sidetracked – into youth working and encouraging.
  • Again I’m a great encourager and supporter but doing someone’s admin isn’t fun even if they find me helpful and my presence in their office encouraging.
  • I’ve been to Dublin to pray with the Interweave group
  • I’ve been up to the Isle of Arran and enjoyed time with friends and time alone and time with my husband
  • I’ve realised I don’t need to keep going to the end and if I stop one thing then a door can open to another – I stopped the Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes MSc at PGCert stage which then opened the door for Ian and I to do something together
  • And that something was to plot and plan and sell our house and make the move to Abergele in North Wales.
  • I’ve been in a play in which I wrote my own script and have been asked to collaborate with the director and other writer again.
  • I went for 2 interviews and got both of them but only took the one which actually led to a huge leap in confidence for me 🙂
  • I’ve had lunches and drank coffee with wonderful friends over the year
  • I’ve driven miles to support my children in what they do and will continue to be that sort of mum – supporting, encouraging and mentoring.
  • I went to Greenbelt and volunteered in The Tank again this year though without my daughter, but this time spent lots of time with a lovely friend I hadn’t seen in ages, and deepened a friendship with a fellow blogger
  • I’ve blogged intermittently over the year on things I want to share, gaining some friends through what I’ve written and losing others.
  • I’ve looked after 4 fish and 2 shrimps for 12 months now
  • Taken our last chicken to her retirement home before we move
  • Walked miles with my dog in all winds and weathers
  • And so much more that I know once I send this post that I will think of other things

So this is my year in bullet point. I’ve enjoyed it and wonder what will come of next year. The word I have written in my diary is “Blank Page – wait for the writer to write

I know each year never turns out how I expected but I must say that this is the first year I’ve felt like I’m standing on the threshold not having a clue. All I know is that at some point in the next 3 weeks we will be on the move to Abergele. I don’t even know the date for that. And what will our lives look like in Abergele? Who knows? But I do know it will be an adventure and I can walk with God, and with friends old and new.

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Listening

Whilst away on a recent Interweave week one theme that kept reoccurring was “listening” and the whole theme of really listening properly. Or maybe it was just the word I caught hold of. It then jumped at me again when a friend told me about “listening prayer”, as in instead of praying for others after a quick intro from the person asking for prayer the people offering prayer spend time really listening to what the person wants. This can take up to an hour before the group will then pray and lots of questions are asked.

So do we listen? I mean really listen – to each other, to God, to ourselves, to what is going on. I have been interested to note during this moving process how often people latch on the the idea that we are moving to run a Bed and Breakfast establishment, when in fact we are talking about a hospitality house – which yes will have paying guests but it will be more than that. But it is like people just half listen and latch on to the words they understand.

Also what struck me was someone who said to me, after we’d listened to someone talking who didn’t ask about us, “but I used up head space planning what I was going to say.” How often when we are listening to others are we in fact planning what we are going to say next? Either about ourselves or sorting out something that hasn’t been said/doesn’t need sorting? Again I noticed talking to a friend who she had picked up certain things I’d said that she could then talk about but missed others – that in fact I would have liked to have talked about.

When we pray do we really  listen to God or do we just want to talk? To give our list of things we want Him to do? Or even just so we can say our piece? Surely prayer should be a time to listen because how can we do the will of God if we aren’t listening to what He has to say to us? Maybe this is why some prayers don’t get answered because actually God never said He we were to ask for that.

How many places do we get taught to listen? Really listen? And how often does it get modelled? As children we are expected to listen to parents, teachers, etc but these people then talk all over the children, so real listening isn’t modelled. When I did an Introduction to Counselling course one of the first things we were taught was to listen to what our clients were saying and then reflect back again. It slowed the whole process down, made both sides think a bit. The client had to think through what they were really saying. It stopped being just words.

Being listened to brings healing. One of the things with the Using Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes was to read back what you had written so that others could hear it. So healing comes through being listened to and that means listening to ourselves as well. So often we rush through our days not listening to ourselves. I am doing a course at the moment with The Gift of Writing and that involves slowing things down and listening to oneself.

Healing comes through speaking, writing, songs, poems, stories – the writing and reading of, the identifying with and journeying with. It is so great to real hear or read a piece of writing, a song, poem, someone speaking that resonates with where you are personally, that says “you are not alone in this”, to connect with someone else’s journey.

But also not being clearly heard brings a sense of alienation. Being told that someone “understands” when the person speaking wants to shout “no you don’t understand” cause that person, or nation, to close into itself to become prideful and alienated, to think that if someone doesn’t understand and is telling them what to do that they don’t really want to help, want to mould them into their own image.

I am not innocent of this. I catch snatches of what is said and decided that I know best in what they want, especially if I am tired or busy. My husband and I had to have a row to clear the air and really hear each other but that was because we were too busy and too much had been going on. As with the counselling where the conversation becomes slowed down so we must in our regular lives slow things down.

And maybe a radical thought – with nations that are warring, even ISIS we need to slow things down, stop jumping to conclusions and listen to what is being said. This is not to condone the atrocities but to try to understand, try to heal. I know this is different but I work with dysfunctional kids and they often get into fights, violent fights, but often it isn’t the person they are fighting with that they are angry with but a parent, a situation, themselves. We don’t have time or space in the day to listen to them so have to make judgements and so the hurt perpetuates, they withdraw and pride steps in.

Let’s slow things down please!

Poem Published

It’s funny but I never think of myself as a “published writer” and yet once again I’ve had a poem published. This time it was inspired from a Mindfulness course I went on. A part of the course which really struck me was about not judging things as right and wrong but accepting life as it is, which I’m sure I’ve posted on here before but can’t find.

You can find my poem on Michael Townsend William’s site under Listening Mindfully. I won’t republish it here because I’d love if you’d go to Michael’s site, Stillworks,  and see some of the other interesting things that are there. I think too often we don’t network enough to show what other people are doing out there. So here you can find me a “published writer”. And in fact it’s not the first time I’ve been published. I am in Bradford on Avon book about climate change where my poem is found. I do have other places that I’ve been published but I do forget. I wonder why that is? Is it because I just plain don’t remember? Would I remember if I got paid for it? Or is it something deeper? To be honest I really don’t know. And that is the thing, we could all spend ages psychoanalysing ourselves but sometimes we just have to accept where we are. There is nothing wrong with looking at who we are, trying to figure out what makes us tick, but if we use it to put ourselves into boxes of one sort or another we’ve missed the point. To look at myself and how I work, think, behave, and to do that with others, is only helpful if I can be Mindful about it – and accept it as it is without judgement, without having to put what I find into a like/dislike box.

Footprints – part two

After posting the other day I came across this poem by Kathleen M Quinlan in her book From We to I. (An amazing book of poetry that can be bought from http://www.cinnamonpress.com/index.php/hikashop-menu-for-products-listing/poetry/product/10-from-we-to-i-kathleen-m-quinlan for £4.99)

Here are some experts that I think show how at times God makes us walk through stuff rather than carry us.

Footprints, chased by hungry waves,

stumble out of the sea

A woman skips across the sand,

claiming the earth with her footprints

….

And here are some prophetic words that I had spoken over me back in October 2004. I happened to mention this prophecy to a friend not so long back and she asked me to get it out and share it with her. These words struck me as relevant to the walking rather than being carried.

… I bless you with an increase of faith that you might walk with a fierce faith of Jesus … And though you walk in barren places, may you see that which is under your feet as the creation of God before it was scarred, …. Therefore walk to and fro in the land. And where the sole of your foot treads, that will become an inheritance in My Kingdom. …

Often in Christian circles we see walking as when things go well and being carried when things aren’t going so well. But as I said before I had to walk these last few years, but in fact now I can see why. Like the woman I am claiming the earth with my footprints. I had to walk in barren places. In fact Psalm 23 says “even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death …” Life is tough and we, as Christians, have little to offer others if we just say “God carried me through this” because sometimes that doesn’t make sense. But I know I can say “God got me to walk through this and Him and I, we did ok.” It also means I trust Him to walk with me again when life gets tough.

Oh wouldn’t it be great if I could say “well those last few years were tough, I’ve done my bit now and so can I have an easy ride till I die”? But see I don’t think its like that. I’m a gatherer of those who need encouraging but actually I can only really encourage when I’ve really walked it! Ho hum!!

Poetry Month – Day One

The month of April is National Poetry Month in the USA so I thought I would give it a go. Some of the poems will be brilliant, I hope, and some will be not so good and some will just be silly. I don’t see myself as a poet, though I do write a lot of thoughts as poetry.

My first attempt is a pantoum covering both the fact that today is April Fool’s Day and also the first day of Parliament being closed in the final run up to the elections on 7th May. Enjoy!    (I can’t get it to do the stanza breaks so have put in the frog so you can see the 3 stanzas and get the pantoum idea better!)

A Silly Pantoum to start Poetry Month and the dash to UK Elections

First fool!

Is it foolishness to be first?

Frolicking frogs appear forlorn,

furtively all forlorn.

Is it foolishness to be first

on this day when kings became fools?

Frolicking frogs appear all forlorn.

What happens when fools get to rule?

On this day when kings became fools

do they remember to change back?

What happens when fools get to rule?

Would anyone notice the change?