Memories and how we handle them

Christmas does seem to be the time to focus one’s memories as I was saying in a pre-Christmas post. But how we decide to handle them is the important as they race through vsour minds. We cannot stop them coming in. A smell, a look, a place we’ve been to and enjoyed, and even that card that does not arrive all can release painful memories. And it does seem as we get old there are more memories that evoke sadness due to either death or that person just no longer being in our lives. So what do we do with all that?

We have a choice on how we handle them. Yes we do. We do not need to let that first initial, what can be gut-wrenching lose take over our day. We can let it go that way and that is our choice. It will be important to acknowledge that pain and loss but we do not have to dwell there. We can choose to remember the good times we had with that person, can choose to enjoy the memory. But we can also choose to let it totally envelope us to the point where we do not see what is good around us.

After what I’ve gone through over the last few years I would not say with certainty that “the dead are gone” even though in the flesh they are. They still haunt us. But also the tumblr_lt6x1rkwun1qf70r5o1_500living are very much with us. If we get too far down the sadness of those who have gone – whether died or just no longer part of our lives as they use to be – they we can so miss those who are with us now. I know of someone over  Christmas who was in a place that evoked memories of those past and also those who were really ill. She was with a new partner but could have stayed with those sad memories but she didn’t stay there. She remember with sadness and with fondness, prayed a bit, but then also went back to enjoying her time with her new partner.

Many loses are really hard to get over, especially ones that are untimely and too early – although I do know of someone who said his mother died at 99 and that was a year too soon for him. It could just be that every death or loss always comes too soon. Although violent young deaths do cause so much pain – but that is not to say that we must stay in that place where our grief overwhelms the joy that we have.

There is a verse in the Bible that says “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” During 2012 I joyofthelordfound it hard to find how to deal with it. I felt it was saying that I should not acknowledge what had happened but now I think that is wrong. I think it means that if we can look at where we are, the good things we still have around us, can remember with poignant joy those who have gone, then we have the strength to keep going, keep loving, keep being there for those who we love who are still with us,

This year I think I made it through, and enjoyed Christmas, not just because both my children, who are in their twenties, were with me, but because I decided to not let the sadness of the memories overwhelm me but to see what was good around me, to remember those I’ve lost with that poignant joy and to wait on what is to come.

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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.

Carpe Diem – Seize the Day

So a slight twist away from my on going mini-series into what I do/who I am.

6f47d3dae834da213ef7956e9fe60921This has struck me recently but I know I’ve blogged on it before. But just recently we had a couple in early stages of dementia stay and they were talking of what they had done but also what they would like to do and can’t do now. An older friend had told me how her and her husband had saved hard and kept their children short of things because of all the things they were going to do after he retired. He was struck off his bicycle by a lorry in his late forties, had brain damage and is now dead. One of the ladies I meet dog walking said how her and her husband moved to this part of the world when he retired but within 10 months he was head. She has been here ten years now. I can recall many tales from older people who say they wished they had seized the moment instead of saving for a future that never happened. Even with my husband’s broken foot at the moment, he has been saying he will now miss the end of the summer and the clubs he had planned on looking into “tomorrow” will now have to happen next year. At least he does have next year to look at whereas these with deceased spouses or debilitating illnesses cannot do that.

It made me think about when I go walking on the beach. Our beach has a series of little pensarn-beach-2streams that bisect it. Many of them look deep and they can cut short a walk. The other day I decided to go for it reasoning that the worst that was going to happen was that I would get my feet wet. You know what – some of them weren’t actually that deep and did not come over the thickness of the soles of my shoes but also I did get my feet wet at times, but I did not die/come to any harm and in fact had a much longer walk because of it. I did not let those little inconveniences stop me.

The Bible talks of being careful about planning too much for tomorrow because you do not know what will happen. It talks of a man who has a huge harvest and builds a huge barn to put everything in because he is just then going to go and enjoy himself. God say that he is foolish because the following day he is dead. But I don’t think he was foolish for actually building the barns because it would have been foolish for him to just leave all that harvest lying about. I think it is to do with planning toward something that you do not know if it will happen.

e2809cnever-leave-that-till-tomorrow-which-you-can-do-today-e2809d-e28093-benjamin-franklinWhen I talk to the dog walking lady she is sad that her husband is not with her but has lots of happy memories of when they did come together to this coastline and I love to hear her tell me about them. The dementia couple had tales of what they use to do. The friend who’s husband had the accident unfortunately is sad about the things they missed out doing with their children.

Life it so short anyway to spend time worrying about the future because often this is what the problem is. Thoughts of having to save because of never having enough, of having to wait because you could made a mistake, of being fearful that … (we can all fill in that blank). I posted a piece on my business’s blog yesterday which says about just giving things a try and seeing what happens. Check it out – “Do not be Afraid

So it is not about being reckless but about not putting off till tomorrow what you can enjoy today. I am so grateful for the crazy things I did with my kids and with my life. And my life is not over yet. Watch this space 🙂

How we view things …

I have realised it has been over two weeks since I last wrote. There has been a lot happening in my life so not much time to find head space to write. My days have been full of family visiting, my daughter’s graduation and then her visiting, as well as spending time getting ready for the open day at the community centre where I will be running some writing course in September.

walking_in_the_water___by_dodephineIt was strange but I felt really flat after the open day and had to ponder why. Some of it was because I had been really busy and was tired and needed some introvert time. With running a hospitality/Airbnb/room rentals house it can be hard to find that time. I need to learn to seize the moment rather than expect long days for just me.

Some was because it would have been my sister’s 53rd birthday yesterday. It’s odd but I miss her more and more as time goes past. There is that old adage that “time heals” but for me it seems to hurt more at certain times. And it got me thinking about anniversaries. There are so many and then can converge on each other and we have to choose how we look at them. We could focus on what isn’t, what has gone 122378_story__movingonbut then miss out on the good. As you should know I do not want to bury my grief but I do know the anniversaries of deaths, birthdays of those gone too soon, things that didn’t happen, coincide with good things – graduations, moving house, birthdays and weddings of the living – so much. Which way will I look?

This is some of what I journaled this morning:

As I look through the window at
the trees billowing
the raindrops
the small clouds drifting in front of the bank of trees on the hill
I marvel
Marvel at the blessings
It would be so easy to remain
in this well of sadness
to count the losses
court the pain and
let them rule.
I want to list them to let the world see
how much I have to grieve
And yet …
I look out of my rain splattered window and know
that I am blessed.
Like that small cloud emboldened on the darkened landscape
I can drift
I can choose which way I look.
At the dark backdrop or
out to sea.
I can look up or can look down
I can choose, for now,
to take myself away
Like that small cloud I can enjoy the view
I can choose to marvel at my God
Today I choose to look and see
that I am blessed.
Today I choose LIFE!

Maybe not the greatest of poems but it says what we can choose. And so yes I do feel sad waiting-for-godand needing space but also know that I am blessed.

I have a follow on to this about being open. Both the thing about perspectives and about living in the light seem to be reoccurring themes for me at the moment.

 

Do We Want To Grow Through This?

flutureI 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 082cannot 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.

transformation-in-text-webpage-711x200-jpgSo 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 young-businessman-standing-with-back-opening-doorbecause 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 downtumblr_ne6or13mvb1tm1y5io1_500 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
Two red and black insects protecting an egg sack.
Transformation:
Week 1
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.
Gateway to Silence
Teach me how to see.

Presumptions

Wow! Have I been learning about presumptions of late! As you know we are renting rooms via Airbnb which is a very open site which says encourages people to give a profile about themselves so both host and guest sort of know what they are letting themselves into. patentlawpic858Well when we had a Malaysian girl staying for a month and working at the local hospital I had decided she must be a nurse. No she was a trainee doctor and a fascinating person too. Just last week we had a French guy book in for him and his girlfriend so I just presumed they were both from France. No she was from Russia and he was studying in UK. Again a mistake made. Then our latest guest, I could not quite make out the name but for some reason had decided that we had a man staying. Imagine my surprise when I met this lovely woman.

I am never sure how I make these presumptions but I know we all do. We have boxes we put people in and for some reason that is how we view the world. I am sure some of it is because it makes life easier in the broad sense. But I also think this is where we can make so many mistakes. I have often had people say to me that I am nice for a Christian or that I don’t behave like a Christian. I remember once when living in Belfast and going to a lovely church that was really into reaching out to the people who lived in the more deprived part, which was actually where we lived, one of the ladies being supported saying that she couldn’t believe I was “church” as she said. Why? It was her presumptions. I couldn’t be a Christian, be “church”, if I lived where she lived, spoke like she did, let my kid play with hers maybe. But that was something that was holding her back, and many like her from getting to know God.

I also think in this run up to this EU referendum we have to down to personalities and that euthen gives rise to presumptions. If Boris supports Leave then it will look like “x” but if Patrick Stewart supports Remain then it will look like “y”. Why do we think that? Because our preconceived ideas cannot cope with certain people being in certain camps and then us joining with them.

How do we get beyond that? I think we need to be aware of it. So I need to be aware when I make a presumption about one of our guests that I have done that. I need to look at why I my first thought for a Malaysian girl coming here to work in a hospital was that she must be a nurse, that I couldn’t imagine a French person going out with anyone other than another French person, and that somehow the wording on things make me decide gender.

Just recently Airbnb has been pulled up because of prejudices from its hosts – which actually is a silly thing to pull the company up for. It is basically a forum to help people find cheaper accommodation not an employer. And also its host rating system is based on those who stay not on those who don’t. There are a few people I would have liked to have given 1 stars to who never got back to me, or who stayed with us but did not do reviews for us, but that is not how the system works. Ok so its not foolproof but the ratings do work ap22304414966_wide-555ee6d2536f14d3ced3468bd4730e9843676057-s400-c85for when people stay so … But the point is we do not know where the prejudices from these hosts who have refused come from. Perhaps when they see that someone is of a different colour, race, religion, sexual orientation they have some presumption of the character of that person. Should legislation force them to have these people in their homes? I don’t think so. We cannot change people’s hearts by forcing them. I know if I was forced to have someone in my home I did not feel comfortable with for whatever reason I would not behave well. I have had one or two that I have wondered about beforehand but have let them stay and all has been fine. But that was my choice not a law telling me I had to.

So how do we change people’s preconceived ideas? We can’t. As with everything we can only change our own. But then we can share with others in a kind way. We are part of a Bible study group that have their own presumptions about things. We cannot tell them they are wrong but we can say about those we know who are different colour, race, religion or sexual orientation to us, but also we have to accept these people as lovely people and not be prejudice against them. In fact I think this is one of the hardest things to deal with – not being prejudiced against people who have prejudices we disagree with. If we do not love the gun toting right wing fundamental then how can they ever change?

My presumptions could lead to prejudices which could lead to me not allowing people into mayaangelou101310my home, not let me speak to people in a supportive way, and I need to be aware of that. The only person I can really change is me but the only way I can do that is by being aware.

I Know The Plans I Have For You …

KevinIn Sunday’s Abbey of the Arts email there is a look at Kevin, a Celtic saint, who lived in Glendalough and was said to have put his arms out the windows of his cell to pray and whilst he had his arms outstretched a bird nested in his upraised hand and he stayed still till the chicks had left the nest. A crazy story but what I like about it this idea, that Christine runs with of plans and how our plans can change. I am sure Kevin’s plans were not to spend three months with his arms outstretched but he did.

In the email Christine says “How many times in our lives do we reach out our hands for a particular purpose, and something else arrives?”

And then goes on to encourage us reading to think of how we react to the unexpected when it arrives.

For me this is encouraging. I don’t think we came here with a plan but there was rough idea. What has happened is different. I think for me, with some of the things I felt I was getting when journalling about the coming year was about getting a calling to this town and getting involved with local church, etc, having some kind of therapeutic writing ministry, and working in local schools a couple of days a week. This has not been the case.

Mind you Sunday for me at church was a bit like that. Ian had gone off with his younger

13327518_1313771811971118_5335999616240931755_n
Me second from the left

sister climbing in Snowdonia and I decided to visit the local Anglican church. We had been three or four times before so it wasn’t something new. I had seen a spiritual director on Thursday and one of his suggestions had been to just go to a church building and sit in the back. This was my plan. Dog was walked, husband was out for the day, I would just go and sit for an hour and let the service wash over me. That did not happen. Apparently, even though this church has no young families it still does a family style service on the fifth Sunday of the month. It was all low key but the vicar’s plan was that a few people in the congregation would be dressed up to be paraded down the red carpet as an example of honouring and encouraging people. Well some how I got pick in my corner of the church and was dressed up and walked to the front of the church with four other people, all of us giggling away. Not what I had planned but part of His plan?

It seemed to say to me that we have to be willing to put out our hands, to turn up, and just wait. We had expectations about being here but they are very different from what we expected. The Airbnb is going great but we keep getting an overspill of people who come to this area to work who want accommodation. So a room that we had not expected to use because it still has some stuff that needs to make it to the loft, is being used already. My time of going out to work hasn’t happened because I do need to be home to clean, to do the admin, to be here to welcome people when they arrive.

 

540x293_20141228_d7cd1636aea23361de15710d6933b6f3_jpgIt is about being willing to stretch out, to just be and then let God. It is trusting that He does know that plans He has for us but it isn’t like I feel we hear in many churches. I have often heard in sermons that God has plans for us and we need to go and find them and make sure we do them. It is back to us making sure we “get it right”. But now I am hearing through this story of Kevin and Christine’s thoughts on it that we just need to stretch out, to be willing and ready, and just let God sort those plans out.

So no it was not my plan to go to church and be all dressed up, but I do think it was God’s. I just showed up and said Yes when I was volunteered. The same is true for us with the Airbnb and our home. We put our house out there and then we wait for God to sort out who it is He wants staying here.

So much simpler!