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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Boundaries!!!

boundaries-2Oh I am so rubbish at setting boundaries. I find it so difficult. Maybe I wasn’t taught well as a child? Maybe very few of us get taught how to do it? Anyway it seems that this is the journey I am on at the moment – learning how to set boundaries calmly and firmly without losing it!

This weekend we’ve had those guests staying that really do need boundarying in. This has been a tough weekend. And today I have had to charge them for staining a mattress. And also when I did challenge them he actually, I felt, was quite passive aggressive toward me. Oh man I found it so hard not to be passive aggressive myself back again and not to say “it’s fine” when they offered to pay for the mattress. So yes I did manage to charge them for at least my cleaning time and didn’t lose my temper. But now I am shaking like a leaf and want to cry. I know its silly. Like this is my house, my business, my life, and I have got myself in a boundariespickle being firm to people in my house. But it was so hard.

Mind you I can think of loads of places where I give in and go with people and then try to put my boundaries in later and really screw up and do the whole passive aggressive bit, or even really shout. Actually it isn’t so much their fault, though I may have felt my boundaries have been violated, but sometimes it is because I have not been clear. Too busy people pleasing!!!

With my new venture of facilitating writing workshops I again have to set firm boundaries or I could easily get either carried away and do too much or not be willing to do something because of someone putting me down. I have to work out my life balance. I have things I have to do and things I can do and I have to learn what I can fit into my day and still be me. I need to also find time to write and plan and also just to hang out.

touch-and-emotions-the-role-of-human-contact-in-healing-33-728There are some amazing books out there about setting boundaries – which I have read – but actually it isn’t till you have to set them, and then have opposition to them that you realise how you are. Oh yes it is easy for me to set boundaries whether with the Airbnb rooms (yes we are up to 2 now) or with the writing workshops when people are playing ball with them, or even if they give them a bit of a push but when I say “No that’s it” they affirm me. The Airbnb guest being aggressive toward me upset me. Not because he had done it but because I realise how fragile I am about holding on to my boundaries.

So this weekend was hard work. I made some mistakes with the guests, with my husband, with myself, but I have learned a lot through it. And for me learning is always the greatest thing. I am not perfect but I am always learning. This weekend was good – even if there is now a horrid mess that needs cleaning!!! And loads of washing that need doing!! And guests that are arriving soon. – So why am I posting this? Because I told myself I need to 44bfb75e506e24127aa42088bd617f89publish something on my blog and so I that is also my boundary for me and my writing today.

(Lots of amazing boundary quotes pinched from various places 🙂  )

Success …

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This blog is about my key to success 🙂 

Success – an interesting word. What is success and how to we measure it? (Yes another deviation from the who am I/what do I do mini-series but this does rather cover it too)

This week I had ran my first ever creative writing workshops. And being me I didn’t start with just one but with 4. The reason this came about was because when I was discussing it I came up with 4 ideas and the woman who runs the community centre I’m putting them on in was enthusiastic for all of them and I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to do. Yes that is a bit of “who I am?” – multi-faceted and not single-focused. And then when I mentioned the workshops to a couple of people one could come Monday and the other Tuesday so … Again that is a bit of “who I am?” – wanting to please people/encourage others, which is very different to a people-pleaser. So there I go from not ever having really run a workshop on my own to running four in a place I’m not really known, starting something that had not been done in that venue before and was a bit different to Zumba, Kick Boxing and Weight Watchers.

So how did I do? Well for one class I got my friend who was staying with me and one other

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Workshop number 2

woman, in the second class I got my friend who was staying with me and two other women, in the third class I got no one but had one and half hours to sort out some room rental bookings, the fourth class had three people in, one of whom has said it is not for her and won’t be coming back – though she did say that what I had done was really good and she would recommend it. So I only took in fees half of what I needed for the room rental.

How do I feel it went? For me it was a success. Why? Because all that attended said they loved the content and would recommend it to friends. The one on the first workshop will come back but cannot commit regularly, the two on the second are committing regularly, and two of the three on the fourth are committing to come regularly. So no one is dropping out – apart from my friend but that is because she lives over 200 miles away – and the lady who is already being published in travel publications. All through I felt calm and confident, felt like I knew my material and was able to explain it clearly and confidently. I want to do it again.

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A momentary indecision 

I did on Monday evening have a bit of a dither about whether I should continue in the community centre paying the rental or whether I should have it in my home. The attendees on the fourth workshop very much encouraged me to keep going. So I am going to. I feel at peace with it all and want to carry on.

Success, like Enough which I keep meaning to blog on, are both non-quantifiable. But I think it is something deep inside that helps. In fact the Airbnb guest we have at the moment says that I ooze contentment and appear happy where I am. Ok there are days when I’m not but on the whole I am happy and content where I am doing what I do. Hence the reason for doing the mini-series which isn’t happening much at the mo. But I think this one can be included because “who I am/what I do” is these writing workshops, facilitating others in their writing and CWTP (using creative writing for therapeutic purposes) and feeling successful and contented with who I am and where I am is very much a part of all that.

Timing

(Once again I diverge from doing my mini-series of who I am/what I do but this struck me this morning)

HonorLast night we were watching CSI: Los Angeles. Ok so I’m a bit of a CSI/NCIS addict. It’s low key drama that doesn’t take a lot of thinking about and the characters are nice people – the main characters, and there is generally a good reason why the bad guys have been bad.

Anyway last night’s underlying story, to do with the main characters, was that the tough guy had promised his daughter a toy flying pony which was the ‘must have’ toy that Christmas. He had left it until the last minute and of course it was almost impossible to get. The programme starts with him trying to get it on line with no success. Then the geek guy takes over bidding on various online auctions to be outbid every time as well as doing the crime solving bits. At the end the whole team gather together as their boss says that because its Christmas eve they need to have a drink together. There is some teasing about the tough guy letting his daughter down but then the geek guy gives him the toy flying pony. The boss takes him to one side 810kiwzkabl-_sl1500_and says to the girl geek who is standing with the geek that she knew he had reserved this for himself at Comic Con in the summer and that he was giving away something special.

Ok so what stuck me about this was timing. The geek could have told the tough guy at any time to not worry about it because he had on anyway and that tough guy could just buy him a replacement after Christmas when all the fuss had died down. Or even when he gave it could have said that he’d had it all along. And yes I know it made a better story but it struck me about how as Christians we often get our timing wrong.

If the geek guy had given the gift too soon then the tough guy would have felt ineffectual. He wanted to get for his daughter. If the geek guy had not given at all both daughter and tough guy would have had a not so great Christmas – especially probably the dad because the daughter may have forgotten.

How often as Christians do we step in too soon? We tell people what they want and how to 11406317_10155600699790648_4390248065953060695_odo it and disempower them or alienate them. We think we know best because we have this hot line to God!!! Or we step in and say we can do something when actually when it comes to it we can’t. I have been guilty in the past of saying “yes I will always be here for you” or “I can support you there” when in fact when it came to it I was either too busy helping other people that I had said the same thing to or just didn’t have time or energy or even resources. What if the geek guy had said he could get the pony but his reserved one had not arrived in time? He would have looked stupid.

I also think we need to let people work out what they really really want. I think Jesus makes us ask and ask and look and look but in the end gives it to us. Yes He could have given it to us earlier but there is something in the seeking that makes us more grateful in the receiving. But also makes us feel empowered and also realise that this is what we want.

There is a possibility that if the tough guy had got the pony straight away he would not have been grateful to receive it at the last minute or more likely, if it happened more often would just come to rely on the geek to get things rather than his own resources.

I remember once when I lived in Belfast at a church event one woman really stealing fromstealing the church. It was a barbecue and the lovely church members took those in the local area for a barbecue at a local nature reserve. It was common to do this every year. The church booked the coach, picked people up, cooked the food and provided everything – drinks, crisps, sweets – and waited on the people who came. This one woman was sending her son up to keep getting cans of drink, packets of crisps and sweets and had brought a small rucksack to put this in. As the bottom feel out of her bag because she had too much she laughed and said “well that will have to be enough for lunches for the next week.” She saw it that the church had more than enough – which they may have done – but she was not grateful just grabbing.

Yes there are people in need but I think, as Christians, or as any person who supports others, we need to wait for them to know what they want and then help them to get it, and if all else fails then give it, but I do think too often we jump in as do-gooders and give something that actually people aren’t sure if they really want.

New Venture

So part three of what I do with my day/who I am/what I do mini series.

I’ve had rush to get a website and facebook page up and running so that I can post here. jumble of ideasFor a while I have fancied running creative writing workshops, especially after I started the Creative Writing For Therapeutic Purposes MSc. I have loads of thoughts and plans and ideas written all over the place and half baked ideas for websites. It was some of the reason I started this blog; to get an online presence that I liked.

When we moved here I thought I would start in earnest planning workshops. I am a great planner but not so great a doer but it looked like God/fate/destiny had other plans for me. I was connected to this lovely Christian lady who is the most amazing networker and encourager I have ever met. She is amazing. So there we are one day, me and her, chatting down in a local cafe she wanted to show me and in pops the person who runs a local community centre. After chatting a bit I say “so you’re the person Penny wanted to

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Very much how I network 

introduce me to to talk about creative writing workshops”. Well before I really knew what had happened I was signed up for running 4 writing workshops over two afternoon/evenings at this community centre.

So I’m working for myself, having to find my own insurance, do my own publicity, etc, and pay for the room rental. Now both these lovely ladies are networkers so they are putting my publicity out there as fast as I can get it sorted. This has meant that I have then been connected to other people. One of these other people as well as working for the local council on their well-being team is also a business coach and networker! So she now has the local council supporting half of one of my workshops but also has given me great advise on marketing, etc, which is why things have started a bit ad hoc but are getting a bit more professional.

I have also been connect to a lovely online lady called Lisa who runs Roots And Wings, an online support site for business people. I haven’t had much time to look at her site but the big thing I have got from it is about being in for the long term. And thankfully because of that I am not panicking that my start isn’t as professional as it should have been.

So I have now started on a website called Barefoot At The Kitchen Table, because I know

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The mobile kitchen table

that some of my best times with people are around my kitchen table and that really I only wear shoes because it hurts my feet to walk outside barefooted. As soon as I can I will take my shoes off. I would love it if you would click on the link and have a look at my site and share it with your friends.

I have also set up a Facebook page, Barefoot At The Kitchen Table,  which has been hard work in the making and in the trying to get profiled but please again go on and click “like” so that it boosts its profile figures.

But both the website and the new facebook page have come into being after I started advertising. At the moment I do not have many people signed up for the workshops and could finish up having to support the workshops via the Airbnb income, but you know I’m not worried. Why?

bare-female-feet-under-vintage-table-white-retro-tired-businesswoman-woman-girl-leg-cramps-relaxing-no-high-heels-50400483_origBecause I’m in for the long haul and through starting I have connected with other people, have actually got something off the ground, am being known as a person in this area who does this sort of thing, and feel like I am doing something. I feel excited about what is going to happen in two weeks time with the start of these workshops but also excited about what will grow from it. Now I’ve started I will keep going. In fact now its out in the open I will get encouragement from these lovely ladies that are now in my life and who knows where it will go and morph and become.

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 🙂

It says it CLEARLY in the Bible

bible-promises-smallOh my! How often have I heard that? I have studied Reformation History too so as well as hearing it in churches since I “became a Christian” 24 years ago I have also read it. I did get in to a bit of a discussion about it at a group we meet with on a Thursday evening. What I wanted was a “where does it say this so clearly?” I know I have been totally guilty of it. I still go in repentance to God regarding a relationship I had with a young man who had started seeing a girl. He was a Christian, she was seeking, he wanted to date her, I firmly told him know and clearly showed him passages in the Bible that made this relationship wrong. What happened? He stopped attending the group that I was a leader of. He did start dating the girl. And I do not know what happened from then because he moved away. I now feel that what I said was naive and not properly thought through.

But yesterday it all came to me very clearly how dangerous this can be – using the Bible to clearly tell us things. I had the privilege of being able to pray with a girl who was running prayer-810x250away from being forced into an arranged marriage. As I have shown before I am very good at making presumptions so I had decided she was Muslim, etc. Oh No! She is a Christian. Her parents are Christians. In fact she said her father was a missionary. Her family are from Taiwan though she was brought up in Canada. For her parents the Bible clearly says that they are to choose a bride for their child. In fact she even saw this as correct and proper. What she was running away from was the fact that she did not want to get married to this man and so her family were trying to coerce her into the relationship. I am presuming they could clearly see that it was ok to coerce their daughter into marrying a man of their choosing. Maybe like many of the things I read in the times of the Reformation, they were doing it for what they saw as the right reasons. (And I googled “Christian arranged marriages” and there are a lot of sites out there who are very pro arranged marriage!!)

Often we try as modern “enlightened” Christians to distance ourselves from the Crusades, for the burnings of both Catholic and Protestants during the Reformation, of Christians having slaves, by saying that they did not believe properly or they weren’t proper Christians – whatever that might mean. But actually if one reads the writings of the time these people could quote the Bible and say that ‘the Bible clearly says …’

the-mystery-of-godWe need to beware when we say the Bible clearly says that in fact there are many things in there that it does not clearly say. Much of this is to do with us not have the original texts in front of us, and we never will. Some of it is because words change over time. And some of it, I think, is because God is a mystery, and wants to remain that way. I believe He is seeking relationship with us, which means we must converse with Him. Ok there are some people who have been married a long time who can say “my spouse would clearly say …” but even at times they can be taken by surprise!

Let the mystery of God reign within us and not keep wanting to have clear answers.