I was woken by rain hammering down on the skylight in the roof. I look at the window and see the rain pouring down. Things are not as they should be for Easter Saturday. I know as Brits we will laugh, shake our heads and say “typical British Bank holiday”. But actually we know they aren’t all like that but also we know this isn’t how they should be. Thanks to good old Facebook memories I was reminded of a picture I took from my window this time last year of the tree outside my window starting to blossom. This year it is still bare branches. Spring really is later this year.
But I wondered what the first disciples thought the day after Jesus died. Things definitely were not as they should have been. Things weren’t right. This isn’t why they had followed Jesus. They had expected more. There might even have been some who remembered his teachings about dying and rising again. But he was dead and had not risen again.
How often do we wait for something to happen and it always takes too long? Even if we know that date of a birthday, wedding, celebration it always takes too long to come about. Imagine not knowing the date? But also imagine not knowing for sure what would happen?
So this Easter Saturday, as things are not being as they should be, I am going to ponder the disciples and share this piece I wrote a while ago
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.
Oh 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 pickle 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.
There 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 publish 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 – 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
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.
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.
We seem to be in a time of great political change in our country. For the first time ever we have an uncontested leader of our country. Is this right? Who can say. But it is a first, at least since the time of voting democracy. Watching satire programs in fascinating because by the time they are screen, having been recorded 24 hours earlier they are no longer news but old news. Things have moved so fast. All program makers know that there can often be items that are changing, like with an election coming up or a big football match – like the Wales/Portugal semi-final. Oh and as an aside – I thought it was great that the team that beat Wales went on to win Euro2016. Wales was beaten by the best not the second best 🙂 Anyway that is an aside.
Talking of that who would accept a team as champions if they had not had to beat anyone to win? No one! But we now have a leader of this country who is leading because her rival shot herself in the foot, so to speak. I find this hard to know how things will go when someone is uncontested like this. But again it is saying something about the speed things are moving – within 3 weeks the UK is a very different place.
On a personal note things have started to move here. I came back from a lovely relaxing 10 days visiting friends back where we use to live and enjoying 3 days of a writing retreat but since arriving back things have not stopped. I came back to a full calendar of Airbnb, my mum and her husband staying followed by my mother-in-law staying, in a gap I went for coffee with a friend up here and in a chance conversation to someone who runs a local community centre am now in the process of building publicity to start not just one but 4 writing courses at the local centre, and also have my daughter’s graduation and a full summer. Things are moving fast here.
As I was dog walking this morning I wondered if maybe the world, or at least the UK, is moving quicker. I know time is a relative concept but within the scope of how our country is run has changed dramatically. But also within my own life too. It is a dramatic change. Yes I had put it out there – not prayed as such but mentioned in a post on a writing facebook page that one of my adventures I would like to do would be to run creative writing
classes. I did not expect that to happen. I was thinking I could start putting feelers out come September but not start in September. But now the publicity is out there. I’m getting my public liability insurance and will start really selling it in 10 days time at the community centre’s open day. I am a person who doesn’t mind change which is probably just as well. Even within the thoughts on the change of direction of the UK and the whole political situation I do find it fascinating and something I can roll with. With myself and these writing groups I find it a challenge because there are things I need to do – like posters, go chat to people, get publicity out there, put a reasonable facebook page together. All of which I find challenging. Also there is that concept that sitting in my room on my laptop all day isn’t really work – I think this myself at times but also I know others do too. It is hard to say “I’m writing/thinking all day” so I do get lost in the whole thing of emailing friends, reading stuff, buying things that I know we need but maybe not yet. The whole writing phenomena, whether building up a facebook page, a website, or even writing my target of 1000 words for my novel, do seem to slide. And of course there is still the house cleaning to fit in.
Another fast moving things too is that a young girl – 2 days younger than my daughter – has asked if I will support her with Bible study. She says she needs an older Christian friend and thinks I’m it 🙂 That’s good news but again it is faster than I thought. She goes to the Bible study group we sometimes go to on a Thursday evening. We are still at the point of trying to work out what church we want to connect with and get involved with but here is a girl who wants me to do the discipling/bible study/mentoring bit already.
We have not been here 6 months yet and yet when we went to the local carnival on Saturday we saw 4 people that we knew to talk to!!! And I am moving into that stage of knowing more. I think for me within in all this I have to trust that God is God and He knew before the beginning of time that things would move and happen as they are. That Theresa May is the undisputed leader of not just the Conservative party but the Prime Minister of the UK is not a surprise to Him. Neither is the fact that I’m going to be running creative writing groups and doing some discipling earlier than I thought.So for me I have to trust in Him and believe and pray and wait and see. And also get on and do the things that I can do, the things I’m meant to do. Trusting God isn’t an idle time but a time of listening doing what He is leading me into – which at this moment means posting this and getting on with some publicity stuff 🙂
I did not intend to blog for a while. My mother has been visiting and then today my mother-in-law comes. I have a story that is in the editing process that I need to get to a place of understanding so I can leave it for the weekend but then this post from Richard Rohr came up. I am going to paste it all at the end of this but I felt it was rather apt for the state of UK at the moment. I was going to just share in on my facebook feed but then realised I was adding a whole post to it as I went.
Here is a quote I was going to pull out of it to share as an intro:
Change can either help people to find a new meaning, or it can cause people to close down and turn bitter.
No matter what happens with all this the UK is in a place of change. I even heard last night of a couple who had been dating for over 5 years have ended their relationship because they have realised how opposed their political views are. I have also heard of families that cannot now sit together to eat together. And these are people who were close not estranged families. Someone said before the referendum that the spiritual atmosphere felt like a civil war was coming. Now I’m not sure how much I understand of that but what I see is very similar to what I have read about. Being a historian I also know that The Civil War of Roundheads and Cavaliers was not the only one. Ever since the Norman invasion there have been wars across our land where families have been divided on which side they would support; French or Norman, French or English, Woman as leader or Man as leader, Protestant or Catholic, York and Lancaster, and many more. This division is part of who we are as a nation and we haven’t come out of it very well.
So will we in this time of Change find a new meaning in our lives or will we close down, turn bitter and get into name calling. Each person had their reasons for voting the way they did. I know someone who voted Remain because of the emphasis on the economy and heard of another who voted Leave because she felt that the Remain campaign just went on about money and didn’t seem to care about people. There have been Christians on both sides saying this is God’s will and voting from their interpretation of scripture. And on it goes.
… transformation … more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart–chaos–invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is falling apart. Otherwise, most of us would never go to new places. Whatever it is, it does not feel good … You will do anything to keep the old thing from falling apart. This is when you need patience, guidance, and the freedom to let go instead of tightening your controls and certitudes.
The world is transforming from what we know to what we don’t know. It is painful. There can be no argument about that. To deny the grief would be wrong. But are we willing to listen deeper? Not just to what we want but to what might be going on at another level? On one very open level now we are hearing about open racism. I cannot believe that this is because people have suddenly become racist. No I think it was under the surface all along but no one wanted to listen. I am not old enough to remember Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech when he spoke about how bring in a lot of migrants would cause problems in our land. He was shut down and called racist. But there are people in the UK who are fearful of those they don’t know, fearful of things they don’t understand. I think just to say “racism is wrong” is missing something. I believe we need to listen at a deeper level and try to hear the why’s.
Someone else, a Leave voter, was saying that she had been accused of being provincial by someone who lived in London. She felt that it was those who lived in London who wanted to Remain because of what they would get out of it. Now we get the city/country divide. It is not just a North/South, Rich/Poor divide but also a City/Country divide.
I do wonder if we are willing to listen deeper if we will hear more of these division. Are we then willing to support and help through this or do we just want to close these voices down and go back to pretending they don’t exist? Are we willing to be patient? Are we willing to let go of being in control? Are we willing to trust that God knew about this before the beginning of time and that He has a plan?
Here’s the whole of Richard Rohr’s message if you want to read it:
Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
Change as a Catalyst for Transformation
Thursday, June 30, 2016
The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation, the mystery we’re examining, more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart–chaos–invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is falling apart. Otherwise, most of us would never go to new places. The mystics use many words to describe this chaos: fire, darkness, death, emptiness, abandonment, trial, the Evil One. Whatever it is, it does not feel good and it does not feel like God. You will do anything to keep the old thing from falling apart. This is when you need patience, guidance, and the freedom to let go instead of tightening your controls and certitudes. Perhaps Jesus is describing this phenomenon when he says, “It is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14). Not accidentally, he mentions this narrow road right after teaching the Golden Rule. Jesus knows how much letting go it takes to “treat others as you would like them to treat you” (7:12).
Transformation usually includes a disconcerting reorientation. Change can either help people to find a new meaning, or it can cause people to close down and turn bitter. The difference is determined by the quality of your inner life, what we call your “spirituality.” Change of itself just happens; but spiritual transformation must become an actual process of letting go, living in the confusing dark space for a while, and allowing yourself to be spit up on a new and unexpected shore. You can see why Jonah in the belly of the whale is such an important symbol for many Jews and Christians.
In the moments of insecurity and crisis, “shoulds” and “oughts” don’t really help; they just increase the shame, guilt, pressure, and likelihood of backsliding. It’s the deep yeses that carry you through. Focusing on something you absolutely believe in, that you’re committed to, will help you wait it out. Love wins over guilt any day. It is sad that we settle for the short-run effectiveness of shaming people instead of the long-term life benefits of grace-filled transformation. But we are a culture of progress and efficiency, impatient with gradual growth. God’s way of restoring things interiorly is much more patient–and finally more effective. God lets Jonah run in the wrong direction, but finds a long, painful, circuitous path to get him back where he needs to be–and almost entirely in spite of himself! Looking in this rear-view mirror fills you with gratitude for God’s work in your life.