Winter Solstice

winter-solstice-scenery1366x76854654Today is the winter solstice. The day when the sun stands still for three days before days start to lengthen again.

Today I got a revelation as to why the early Christians picked December 25th as the day to celebrate Jesus’ birth. It is a random day I’d always thought. Or had heard stories of how the pagans had celebrated on 25th because the sun had decided to reappear rather than disappear completely. But then I remembered another time when it looked like The Son had disappeared completely.

Two thousand years on from the event, knowing that outcome, as we also know that the sun will move on and the days will start getting longer, we forget what it must have felt like. Imagine firstly being a pre-science person and each year wondering if the sun would really continue or whether it would decided that it had had enough and the days lunar-eclipse-icelandwere just going to keep getting darker until there was no more. [Though maybe that isn’t so hard to imagine as we see the news and read the newspapers. We appear to be in dark times that are getting darker. So maybe we can understand.] Now imagine how it must have felt when you realised that the days were slowly minute but minute getting longer. I’m sure they had devises to be able to show them this was happening because their fear must have been great. Don’t think with 21st Century eyes and minds but with ancient minds who were not sure.

Then think back to that event two thousand years ago at Passover. So many people had given up everything – livelihoods, reputations, status, money – to follow Jesus and he’d been crucified. They knew he was definitely dead. If they hadn’t seen it they would have heard about the soldier putting his spear in Jesus’ side and the blood and water flowing out. Here was someone who was definitely dead. The Son had stood still for three days. The Son had been put in a sealed tomb – not because he was anything special but because it stopped the stench of a decaying body from seeping out. He had been still for 3 days.

I also think we miss some of this because the organised church decided that people wouldn’t wait that long so they put the crucifixion to a Friday and Resurrection to a copy_of_tombofkingsjerusalemSunday. Often I’d miss the whole Easter story by seeing the detail in that and so deciding it wasn’t a true story. There are not 3 days between Friday and Sunday no matter how hard you try. But there are scholars who have said that in certain years there are more “sabbaths” due to Jewish tradition and that Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday. [I suggest googling this yourself before I lost the thread of what I’m saying 🙂 ]

So try to imagine you think this is the man who will light into the world, who you have given up everything for, but here he is not just one day, not just two days, but three days still. Dead. In a tomb. Imagine then how you would feel when he came to stand with you, when people you knew told you they had seen him. When people said The Son has risen.

 

It was like a big light going on. The whole idea of the sun staying still at the time we 1-3-1393234669celebrate Jesus birth fits hand in glove with the time we celebrate Jesus resurrection. God is so clever. And I also think as we do feel like we are entering a very dark time politically with Brexit, Trump, North Korea, wars and rumours of wars, refugees, more famines, and other atrocities we often don’t hear about we need to remember that it might look like The Son is standing still but the light is still with us and it will conquer the darkness.

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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.

Tis the Season of the Christmas Newsletter

 

… and seeing as Facebook has reminded me that I sent one this time last year I will sent this one. I feel like I am cheating a bit because I have lots of ideas in my head for a proper blog about stuff but actually Word decided to fight with me about doing this so it has probably taken longer than a regular blog 🙂 Anyway here is it 🙂

 

christmas-bellsTis the season of the Christmas newsletter and here is ours

Merry Christmas and Happy 2017 to everyone

This letter should be title “2016 – the year of change” because I don’t think there is one thing that is the same this year as last. Yes I know we could all say that every year is not the same as the last but this one does seem to have much more changes in it than normal!

Where we live – is now totally different. As you may remember this time last year we were in a state of angst and packing boxes, waiting for the solicitors to sort a moving date for us. We moved in stages; first to a short term Airbnb let on Anglesey on Friday 5th February so Ian could start work at Bangor University as IT manager of their medical trials unit on Monday 8th, our stuff moved from Bradford on Avon on Wednesday 10th, got the keys on Friday 12th, moved to Sea Road on Tues 16th Feb and our furniture caught up with us on Fri 19th Feb. Because of the wonderful state the house had been left in we were able to get settled very quickly. By 30th March we had our first Airbnb guests, and have had a steady stream all through the year, along with a regular stream of friends and family coming to visit too. We opened our second top floor bedroom officially as an Airbnb room on 8th October, although we have had paying guests staying there before that date. Many of our Airbnb guests come back to stay with us again which is lovely. We may have only been in this house for just over 10 months but very much it is home, which has been helped by those who’ve come to stay in it – both paying guests and friends and family.

Ian – last year was going to work on a busy commuter train to work on wind turbines, now drives on a not so busy A55 looking at the wind turbine farms in Colwyn Bay to manage the IT side of the medical trials unit at Bangor University. A change from catching a train to driving, from working on wind turbines to looking at them, and also from working 5 days per week to working 4, giving him scope to explore other ideas that he can use his talents in. He is now going to a pottery class once a week, slowly connecting with others in various church things, and trying to fit in swimming and cycling. Unfortunately a lot of walking has been put on hold because Ian broke his foot at the beginning of August and it has been taking a while to heal. He was not able to drive for 3 weeks but is now on the mend but he has to be careful, which is hard because the mountains are becoming to him every morning.

Diane – last year was working at Lackham college and helping in the office of Characters Stage school, and now is spending 2 hours a day keeping the house clean and tidy for guests, putting on various creative writing workshops, connecting with others in the creative scene. Doors keep opening on more and more opportunities to do writing workshops and story telling sessions in local community centres, at a local Christian conference centre, within the home and at the castle we can see from our bedroom window; Gwrych Castle. She has set it all up under the title “Barefoot At The Kitchen Table” (www.barefootatthekitchentable.weebly.com) She is also finding time to write and has finished one novel but needs to sit down and edit it, as well as having several short stories and poems in a similar position. She has connected with creative people at the Anglican church we’ve been attending on a Sunday which could lead to organising a creative therapeutic weekend at a local Christian conference centre that is reopening in April 2017, and is also starting a regular St. Michael’s church creative group to put on plays, parades and similar through out the year.

Ben – this time last year he was waiting to go to hospital to have his collar bone rebroken and fused properly and was out of work. Within this year he had a successful operation, moved to Bath to work, then moved back to Cornwall where he is now living with Sarah in St. Just, and is working at a lovely restaurant in Penzance. We have not managed to catch up with Ben as often as we like because of the distance he is away. It takes 10 hours on the train and 7 if we drive non-stop. We did finally get to see him, where he is living, where he is working and to meet Sarah in October. Both of them are making the mega train trip to us for Christmas.

Tabitha – has gone from being a student to being out in the work place. She graduated in June with a 2.1 in Theatre Arts, moved into a flat in Forest Hill, London with a friend, went from working in one restaurant to working in another with better hours. She is adjusting to life having to pay bills, etc in London. She loves where we live and comes up to visit us often as London is just over 3 hours on the train. She also is coming up for Christmas.

Animals – we still have Renly, Damson and Archie-rabbit living with us. We are no longer chicken owners. The last of our chickens went to a chicken retirement farm just outside Devizes a week before we left Bradford on Avon, which meant we were able to Freecycle the chicken housings. Renly is enjoying long walks through Gwyrch Castle grounds and woods, regular walks along the beach and in our local park. We are very spoilt to have woods, a ruined Victorian castle, a beach and a park all within 15 mins of our house. Renly is making new friends, both dogs and humans. Damson has become an indoor cat and loves that. She is much friendlier and more content since living inside all the time. She even comes to talk to our guests. Renly of course loves every guest who comes to stay, although some more than others. Archie-rabbit lives on the raised bed in our backyard where Ian worked hard to make a secure run for him which he jumped straight out of and also has dug himself a large burrow under his cage. He is happy with it all though which we’re sure is the main thing – probably!

Church – we now attend an Anglican church. Very different from Bath City Church! But the people are warm and friendly and very welcoming. Diane has instigated the performance of a Christmas play there on Christmas Eve and has managed to encourage others to join in. Ian attends a mid-week Bible study there. We are slowly making friends there. In fact due to a lovely friend of ours who lives in Llandudno emailing all the people she knew who live in Abergele we have made lots of friends in different churches which helps to make us feel settled and that it is not just the house that is home but the area.

We did mange to travel a bit – Between us, either separately or together, we have managed trips to Ireland, London, Cornwall, Manchester, Peak District, back south a couple of times for manic rushing rounds seeing family and a few friends, and most exciting of all to a friend’s wedding in Iceland. That must come under the highlight of the year.

We are quite tied over the summer with Airbnb bookings so this does make it hard to go visiting, but always make sure we have one room spare for our family and friends to come and see us. And of course family and friends do stay for free. All we ask is good wine and/or good conversation 🙂christmas-dragon

Merry Christmas and hope to see some of you in the new year

much love

Diane, Ian, Renly and Damson

Pagan Christmas!!!

170px-rockefeller_center_christmas_tree_croppedOh you know I get really fed up of people whether Christian or not going on about how Christmas is a pagan festival. Ok so we know that Jesus probably wasn’t born on Christmas day but what the Celtic church did was show people who were celebrating the return of the sun Jesus within their festival. Also forgive me if I have posted on this before. I feel though it is a bit like the Cliff Richard song “Why does the Devil have all the good music?” My thoughts are “why should the Devil have all the good symbols/festivals?”

On Sunday at church the service was called “hanging thhanging-of-the-greens-picturee greens” which meant that the church was going to be decorated ready for Christmas. Each part of what happened was explained. So Why do Christians put up evergreen Christmas trees and
put evergreens in the church? Not to bring paganism into the church but because …

green represents renewal, new life, freshness and rebirth. Plants like pine, fir, holly, ivy and mistletoe are called evergreens because they do not appear to die. They remain evergreen throughout the year. … Advent is a time of preparation for the ever coming of Christ, God’s gift to us of renewal and transformation.

Because the needles of the pine and fir trees appear not to die the ancients saw them as signs of things that last forever. Isaiah tells us there will be no end to the reign of the Messiah. Therefore we clothe the church with evergreens shaped in a circle, which in itself has no end, to signify that the kingdom of God, to which Christ is eloquently testified, is also without end …

(quoted from Hanging of the Greens service sheet)

I was going to harp on more about this and then this morning Ian was reading to me from a book he’s got from the library of Advent readings and it said that when Jesus came not only was the known earth an easy place for the good news of Jesus to spread out across romempmapbecause of the Pax Romana, but also the pagans had become disillusioned with their religion. They were finding that their sacrifices weren’t working and they were having to do more and more human sacrifices to “make things happen.” They were ripe and ready for something to come along to tell them that the ultimate sacrifice had been made. Now that is God being clever again 🙂

Can you truly imagine what it must have been like to hear that Jesus had made the ultimate sacrifice and your virgin daughter was now safe from being sacrificed? It’s a bit of a no brainer really. You would have leapt at wanting to know more about this new religion, this person who had taken on board all the sacrifice. You would have been able to see that your celebrations in midwinter to call back the sun, or to make the crops or whatever they were doing all these human sacrifices for were only a poor shadow of what God had done. See I just think that if one was in that position one would not have wanted to get a new festival date but would want to accentuate the one that was already happening, and to use it to show how mu200000-copy2ch deeper
this new Christianity was.

Also I do think we need to remember that the paganism we see celebrated now has many of its roots of rebirth in the Victorian era. I wonder if this was a reaction to the strictness of Christianity and the lack of life within it?

So I’m going to put up my Christmas tree (ok not till a couple of days before Christmas cos I find it just gets in the way a bit!!) and I’m going to get a holly wreath to put on the door – oh especially the holly wreath because ….

In ancient times, holly and ivy were considered signs of Christ’s passion. Their prickly leaves suggested the crown of thorns, the red berries the blood of the Saviour, and the bitter bark the drink offered to Jesus on the cross.

(quoted from Hanging of the Greens service sheet)

How cool is that!! There is too much within the Christmas festival that is at the heart of the Christian faith that I want to reclaim it not deny it.

5465489_origInteresting thing – I once heard a Jewish person say that they didn’t like the idea of becoming Christian because Christians don’t seem to want to celebrate. Jews find an excuse to celebrate a lot of the time but so often Christians can be quite dour about things. Ok so I’m not a party person but in my own quiet little way I am going to make this a festival to celebrate and enjoy. 🙂

What should Christmas eve traditions be?

6471920I was pondering Christmases past as I’ve worked through a mediation about rest and Sabbath from Abbey of the Hearts and think how things have changed. I was thinking how, when we were in our heady Ywam Scotland days and also involved in lots of full on Christian ministry stuff the kids and I would go to ground for 3 or 4 days. We’d get new pyjamas on Christmas eve, have a bath and get into the new pjs and then not get out of them till Boxing day when generally we needed some fresh air. But even then we would just go for a walk the 3 of us. We generally didn’t see anyone until at least 28th, maybe not till the new year. We needed it to recover and regroup. We’ve had other years when we’ve spent time with family and friends. Before I had children I use to work in hotels and bars over the Christmas time because I christmas-articlewanted to avoid it. So much has changed.

This year is different – because the kids are older, because the people we would have spent time with aren’t here this year (whether moved away or died), those that needed our support last year don’t need it this year.

I do wonder if some of the stresses for Christmas come from trying to have Christmas traditions that worked great at certain times of life – like when the kids were little – and don’t now. So we try to do the Christmas stocking thing but the kids go to bed after us, try to have breakfast together but again by the time they want to get up its nearly lunch time, or we can’t quite relax into it because the dog needs walking, we’ve offered 3ea2219c930313c1ea3665aaf7279b24to look after a neighbour’s cat, family member isn’t with us, we’ve living in a different part of the country. If we say “but we always do ….” then we are asking for a fall. I am sure there are periods in our lives when we can do the same thing year in year out for Christmas, but really this is only for a few years. Things change. People change. We are back to that Change thing again!

I really do believe if we can live in the moment of Christmas this year then we can have peace during it. We can grieve for those who aren’t with us this year – like my friend who would have discussed the latest Star Wars film with her son but her son died 13 months ago – and even when it is longer than that we still grieve for those we would have enjoyed this season with – for myself every year I miss my sister and my stepdad, not because it was all great, but actually because they made the season crazy and drove me mad trying to get things sorted but it was part of the Christmas chaos. Living in the  moment doesn’t mean forgetting those who aren’t here but it does mean having peace with what is here, accepting that this is it.

My husband has always said he likes to have family Christmas, which means seeing his side of the family, which as his sister’s children have got older and since his dad died has got harder and looks different every time. And next year, once we’ve moved, will look different again. For him Christmas is a time to rest from work but to be busy with family and friends. Somehow we have to find a compromise and every year has had to be different because my children have grown older, want different things, have different boyfriend/girlfriends they want to include/not include.

So this year we embrace the fact that our home is full of have pack boxes christmas-presencewaiting for the new year move, that we have both my children here with us for at least 10 days, that we can only get to see all my husband’s family for one afternoon, and that things with my mum, apart from her not being with my stepdad of 25 years but her husband, who she has had now for 9 years, will be with us as usual in the interim between Christmas and New year, that the batteries have stop on the tree lights and no one can be bothered to get that sorted, and that our turkey has been crowned for the first time ever.

Some things are the same, some different, all accepted as the tradition for this year.

Tis the Season …. To send Newsletters

At this time of year everyone sends round their family or ministry news. Its that time of year … to catch up on news. My inbox is becoming quote-kind-guardian-readers-have-been-forwarding-me-round-robin-christmas-newsletters-for-simon-hoggart-13-46-81inundated with various newsletters and I am being no exception. After I have written this post I will send our newsletter to everyone in my contacts list – well almost. Not to those companies that I email but to all those who are sort of friends even if I have not spoken to them all year. And for some it will be just old news rehashed because we’ve been in contact.

Why do we do it? For me, I started sending my newsletters back in

fdts_students
This was my team back in Sept 2001

Christmas 2001 when I was on mission with YWAM (Youth with a Mission) in Scotland. The reason I did it was, for one, because everyone else on the team was doing it. They were Americans and well into technology and support raising. I had my own computer but hadn’t really got into it all at that stage, and was not into the whole support raising. In fact I was a bit unsure of how to share myself and what I and the kids were up to. We were having a blast and getting other people to support us. Awesome! How do you put that in a letter? Also back then very few people I knew had email addresses and so I had to ask someone to print it off for me and post it onward. Also that was how I was told you did it then – part of the support stuff was to have a point person who would do the actual sending of things. Actually I can understand that for the Americans but for myself, well actually it was a bit lazy really, or so I felt.

Well now I probably email over 100 people and print off less than half a dozen. I was going to say I have never liked the whole Christmas card stuff but in fact I do remember sending over 50 at one time. I think I like people to know what I’m up to. I also like to know what others are up to and so I get a bit disappointed when I don’t hear back from people, though of course the hundreds of newsletters may never get read properly but I do like them.

So anyway I am adding in my 2015 Christmas newsletter for anyone who checks out my posts on FB and would really love to hear back.

Merry Christmas

It’s that time of year for being a recap on what we’ve been up to and tell others about it. There is loads and loads of news of things that have gone on this year but one thing is just taking over from all the other things that have happened – WE’RE MOVING!!!

From what started as a joke, a dream, a nice idea, became a reality in September. It had been a dream for a few years, then became a bit of a silly idea in the early summer and then at the end of September we went house hunting and it became a reality. Our dream is to be able to offer space and hospitality to people and so being able to buy a six-bedroomed house with 3 reception rooms in North Wales for the same price as our house in Bradford on Avon releases us to do this. Our hope it to be able to have regular lodgers and Airbnb guests and friends and family come to stay and visit, and also for Ben and Tabitha to have room to come and bring their friends, partners, etc with them too. We are also hoping that by having an income from paying guests we will be able to have time and space to pursue our own interests. We have made sure there is space for us to have our own offices; for Diane to write, be creative and pursue ideas for working for herself in the creative industry, for Ian to pray, be creative, and maybe go back to exploring working for himself. So we are moving to 6 Sea Road, Abergele LL22 7BU towards the end of January 2016. Here’s a link to the house on Rightmove.co.uk http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-36194364.html

Here are just the highlights of those goings on in the year –

Airbnb – In March we became part of the Airbnb community, renting out the larger of the children’s bedrooms to guests. We have met some wonderfully interesting people from many different nations, and did also gain a regular lodger from it: a businessman who often works in the area who has now stayed with us 5-6 times. It was through these guests that we rediscovered our love for hospitality again but also the realisation that our present house was too small for us to really enjoy the experience.

Ben – joined the army on his birthday only be invalided out at the end of his 28 days induction due to a problem with the collar bone he broke back the previous year which had not healed properly. He will be having surgery on it in early 2016 and will then decide what he is going to do; whether try for the army again or go in a different direction. So in April, after being discharged, Ben decided he would like to continue living in Cornwall for the time being, got himself a room in a shared house, a job at a local outdoor/sports shop and has been involved in the local rugby team as well as doing lots with a kayaking group in Truro. Though he is talking of moving to north Wales with us after he has had the operation on his collar bone.

Tabitha – finished her second year at Middlesex university well and was back in Bradford on Avon from mid-May to end of September and spent most of her summer working in a café on the far side of Frome. This meant lots of taxiing for Diane taking Tabitha back and forth to work but also gave Diane the opportunity to use the swimming pool connected to the café complex and to catch up with friends in that area. Tabitha is now completing her third year at university and enjoying the design aspect of her Theatre Arts BA.

Diane – did some tutoring at the start of the year, 4 hours per week, for a twelve year old girl who had just come out of main stream schooling. This gave her the impetus to apply for other jobs and since October has been working as a learning support assistant with foundation students at a local college. Because of taking this post she is already signed up with an agency in North Wales that employs learning support assistants and teaching assistants in the various schools and colleges there. She has had some great trips with the Interweave Reconciliation group she is part of, the March gathering being very much reconciliation with God for many of the group and then in November a trip to Dublin to pray into the coming centenary of the Easter Rising.

Ian – has been away with friends climbing in Europe as well as a work trips to China and Europe, as well as trips kayaking in the UK. He also completed and passed his Mountain Leadership qualification, meaning that moving to North Wales will make it easier for him to be able to use this in various outdoor areas. He has just been accepted in a position at Bangor University writing software that will help with research into Alzheimer’s. It will be 4 days per week and comes with plenty of holiday which will give him time to explore other directions too.

The animals – are coming with us to Abegele, apart from the only chicken we still have left who is going to retire to a farm in Devizes to finish her days there. She has stopped laying and the rest of the ones we bought with her have died but she has learned to fly and surprised one of our Airbnb guests by fluttering up to him ad trying to take his cigarette away from him when he was having a smoke in the garden.

Renly – has been enjoying his trips to Wales with us and has also been up to London a few times with Diane to visit with Tabitha. In fact trips on trains or in the car are something he really enjoys, especially if there is a beach or Tabitha or Ben waiting at the end for him. Though he is finding it a bit hard being left three days a week when Diane is at work so Ian has changed his day off to fit in around that so Renly does only get 2 days “home alone”.

So this is just a snapshot of our year. There is so much more on our facebook pages and on Diane’s blog www.aspirationaladventures.wordpress.com that would never have fitted on 2 pages of A4, so please feel free to join us there, if you don’t already.

Love and blessings to everyone

Ian and Diane

plus Ben and Tabitha – and of course the animals XX