Secure in my opinions

keep-calm-this-is-my-opinionMy opinions are mine and mine alone. They maybe right. They maybe wrong. But they are mine. But what surprised me in the last week is how people don’t seem to like it if my opinions differ from theirs. They seem to want me to change or something. Actually I’m not sure what they want because I cannot mind read and would not like to second guess others. One of the things that leads to stress, so the de-stress information says, is to try to second guess what others think.

… will lead to calmly held boundaries, which need neither to be defended constantly nor abdicated in the name of “friendship.

Richard Rohr Sunday 4th December 2016

Very exciting when I read this devotional after blogging and find it is saying similar to me 🙂

So anyway this week firstly I was at a creative journaling workshop. I must say I do love it and love going but it isn’t my thing. I enjoyed the first bit of putting backgrounds on but when I got home I put the journal away and left it till the next session. I happened to say that I am very much a writer not an artist-type. Well I got told I needed to push through, img_0878to get that other side of my brain working, etc. I do understand that this was well meaning but what I was trying to say was that I was excited to find out something that I didn’t want to do. Goodness me there are enough things in the world to do and so I need to know what to use my time in doing. Also what “other side of my brain”? I must say I didn’t ask the question so cannot guess what was meant by it but my first instinct was to think they meant the creative side. And this is where for along time my dilemma came from as a writer. I did not think I was creative at all because I do find I get no joy from painting, pottery, and all those other forms of art. I love writing and I love cooking and I’m good at picking the colours to decorate a room with – though much prefer to then pay someone to do it for me! So because I couldn’t do the official art things I always thought I was not creative, that I had to get that creative side of my brain going. Not true. I am creative. With words I am very creative but I’m not keen on the painting/making stuff side of creativity 🙂

The other place I voiced my opinion and got a hard time was at a course we were going to which I thought was about the connection between Christianity and Judaism which I thought would be interesting. Finding the roots of my faith – in fact going to the roots of anything – is what I love. It turned out it wasn’t really that but was about showing how it says in the Bible that the Jews should be in Israel. Now that in and of itself I do not have issues with and think maybe it is true. But what I did have issue with was that what the course, on this Friday’s session, was saying was that Israel did not wrong in going into maxresdefaultPalestine, that the British had a right to give the land to the Jews and when I voiced about the atrocities that were performed by the Jews on the Palestinians I was given short shrift. I tried to leave as quietly and politely as I could, voicing calmly why I was leaving as I went and got a real hard time from one of the course leaders and from a couple of the people present. Because I felt secure in my opinions, and not wanting to say theirs were wrong I was able to sleep well and calmly that night and have just been left, from both these times, wondering why people seem to not let others have their own opinion.

But of course it got me wondering as to whether I am guilty of trying to get people to agree with me. Hopefully this blog is where I say what I think, maybe try to persuade, but would be ok with others thinking differently. I am hoping that if the people who I have mentioned here read this then they will not get hurt and offended. I am not saying they are wrong at all. I am saying that I think differently to them. It is about being different not right or wrong.

For me recently I have found the things said on social media to be hard to stomach as people have been so rude about those who have different opinions to them. Once you think someone is stupid your brain will no longer want to listen to them. If one can say “I sometimes-the-right-thing-for-you-is-the-wrong-thing-for-someone-else-quote-1think differently to you and this is why” then maybe a dialogue could continue. Should I have stayed and not walked out of the course? I have pondered that. And actually at that moment in time walking out was the best thing as I was feeling upset by what was being said so wasn’t in a position to listen. I also knew, from the reaction I received to things I had said during the meeting and as I tried to leave, that I was not going to be able to openly discuss but would be told I was wrong.

Agghh!! Never tell me I’m wrong!!! And actually that goes for all the people who read on social media that they were “wrong/stupid” for what they voted for. They become defensive. They are not in a position to be persuaded.

I think too that if I am confident in my opinions and secure in what I think  – not bombastic but gently secure – then I can feel free to say “sorry that’s upset me so I need to leave” or “that isn’t for me” or “I don’t like that” or “I feel differently to you” but I do think we don’t allow others to say or think like that because we aren’t secure in what we think or feel. Also I do think with some things that what we enjoy, think, feel is so amazing for us that we want to encourage – which can become forceful – other into doing the same us as, thinking the same as us, feeling the same as us.

So yes I think that those on the course are passionate that God wants the Jews back in Palestine and I am sure my lovely friend with the creative journalling enjoys it so much that she wants everyone to find her enjoyment too. I am sure that I have things that I respect-7would love others to feel the same way as I do but I have to learn that all I can do is show them my enthusiasm and then leave them to see what they think. I can tell them what I know but then respect how they react to it.

So it has been an interesting week and I have learned so much – about me most of all 🙂

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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.

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.

Conversion

“Translations vary, but in our modern day, conversatio morum suorum generally means conversion of manners, a continuing and unsparing assessment and reassessment of one’s self and what is most important and valuable in life. In essence, the individual must continually ask: What is worth living for in this place at this time? And having asked, one must then seek to act in accordance with the answer discerned.”
—Paul Wilkes, Beyond the Walls: Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Life
 This is something I would like to be plaster as wallpaper all around my home at times – both to remind me, to remind the rest of my family, to remind those who come to our home, but also to remind us to give this to others. So often our world works on this upward spiral, including in church, of getting better and better and of achieving, of reaching the goal. But this says that in fact we should understand where we are and asking what is worth living for in the now. It’s not about getting better, of having a purpose, of achieving, but of being and living.
Richard Rohr says something similar today (28th Dec 2015) :
Both God’s truest identity and our own True Self are Love. So why isn’t it obvious? How do we find what is supposedly already there? Why should we need to awaken our deepest and most profound selves? And how do we do it? By praying and meditating? By more silence, solitude, and sacraments? Yes to all of the above, but the most important way is to live and fully accept our present reality. This solution sounds so simple and innocuous that most of us fabricate all kinds of religious trappings to avoid taking up our own inglorious, mundane, and ever-present cross of the present moment.
I have been working with young people who haven’t made it in the education system and all we seem to do is trying to keep them in that holding pattern until the can leave school, which is now 18 years old. Why are we not teaching them how to make the most of where they are? Many of these kids have amazing gifts and talents, just not recognised in the modern school system, so they’ve been labelled and made to feel like they have nothing to give. Yet if we could get them to live fully in their present reality, which for many is really hard, but also to ask what is worth living for in this present moment? I think we could get them to change. I really do believe not just with these kids but with everyone if we could work out what things in this present moment are worth living fully for and how can be be fully present then things would change.
The reason why we don’t teach this? Because so very few people live it. I know I struggle to. But that is also something I’m learning and am going to take in 2016 – that if I don’t get it right today then I forgive myself and start again. I don’t even have to wait till tomorrow to start again. I can start again the moment I realise that I’ve messed up and am not fully present, not looking at what is worth living fully for at this moment.
I was trying to practise this whilst out walking with the dog this morning. Ok it was helped by the fact that there was the most gorgeous burnt copper sunrise. But I’ve got lots on my mind. Today my mum and her husband are coming to “do Christmas” with us, so there was food stuffs to think of; my son is having an operation and I want to be there for him but he leave 200 miles away; my daughter is off back to uni 100 miles away and I was trying to work out whether I could manage to take her back; and of course the big one – we’re moving. All these thoughts were crowding into my head and taking over often. As was the thing of wondering what life will be like this time next month. But whenever I realised that I was not in the moment I wouldn’t be cross with myself but would just pull myself back and go back to enjoying the sunrise and the lovely day, and watching the dog rushing about. And of course my mind would wander again and again would have to be pulled back.
Again I think this is a place where we aren’t kind to ourselves or others; we don’t cut anyone any slack. If we mess up we’ve failed. If someone does something wrong they are labelled as a certain type of person. Very rarely do we give ourselves or others the grace to just say this is a phase. I am learning with my family, husband and children, to try to just let it be and say this is what it is for now. Do I force them to change? No that would be wrong because what do I know about what is best for them. Many times I’m not sure what is best for me until I’ve tried it, and then sometimes its best of then but not later on. I am a fluid evolving being and so are those around me. To truly accept this growth and change and living in the moment we must trust that all will be well.
Or as it said is Star Wars: The Force Awakens “The Light — It’s always been there. It’ll guide you.”  And also “As long as the sun is there we have hope”

Listening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s slow things down please!

So what’s the Vision? What’s the big idea?

‘ve stolen this line from the poem “The Vision” but I think it sums up what we’re up to. Ours is not some big website ministry. The Vision Ian and I have is a little one; a front line out of sight living life vision. As my friend John Bell would say “We’re doing Life” – with a capital L.

So what is the Vision? The Vision isn’t Wales – though God has led us there through our love of the country, our love of beach, mountains, walking, and the people of Wales – and when we are there we will be praying for the land we’ll be standing on, and interacting with the people. But the location is almost incidental without that sounding disrespectful to the country that is accepting us. No the Vision is also the house and the space in the house’ the space for us to grow to be more like God intended us to be and to help and support other people to grow into their God given destiny. So what it is is

the front garden

the space. We asked for 6 bedrooms, 2 living rooms and a big communal space. What are these spaces for? This is the important part of the Vision.  We can “see” a space to have a lodger living full time with us as part of our family, with the whole giving and receiving that comes with family. Plus we want to be able to do the Airbnb thing more; having holiday makers, travellers and business people pass through our home. This is something we have enjoyed doing already but have found our little house a bit too cramped. We have been able to host Chinese, Londoners. Polish, Brummies, Australians, Americans, Lithuanians, Bulgarians, French, Italians, Indians, others from across the UK, some who have been working in the area, some who are holidaying, some who are on long term travelling, some who need to talk and eat with us, some who want some space. All of which has taken some discerning. We like doing it via Airbnb because then we can be a spare room in a family home rather than having to comply to all the regulations that come with official Bed and breakfasting.

So that is 2 bedrooms with functions. We also feel like we would love to have our own separate spaces. We were both single for a long time and it has been a challenge to get use to living and sharing our space, but we have done well and are enjoying it, but it is like to expand as who we are we could do with “a room of my own”. For me it will be to write, to be able to leave my writings out and not have to tidy up, to be able to have books piled about so I can pick up when I want, and for room to study, though as to what the study and where it will go I do not know. For Ian it will be a place to explore, to work from home and also to not have to tidy away because this house now is too small for us both to leave things out.

Two more bedrooms with functions. Then of course we will have our bedroom and that leaves one more bedroom. This will be for our children and for our friends; a place where those we already know can come and be with us, can enjoy what we have got, can walk on the beach, can be revived and refreshed.

The reason for the space downstairs? We believe there was need for a communal space where every one could draw

the kitchen/diner viewed from standing in the kitchen

together. Plus a living room for us to relax in and another living area that was just for us as a family so we could withdraw when need be.  This house we hope to get has a kitchen/diner with one end a lovely square cooking space, with breakfast bar, that then reaches into a space for a reasonable size table (6-8 places) and room for a couch too. The reason for 2 living rooms is, much as we want to share our lives, we also want space to withdraw. We also found with the Airbnb guests there were times when one of our children needed just us but there was no place to withdraw and just chill out. So the front living room will be our family space alone and then the other one will be for sharing. There will be times when we have a lot of guests and the functions of the rooms will have to change but that’s ok. This is very much God’s house and He will have His way. We hope that it will be filled with love, laughter, prayers and tears. We’ve done too much of life to know that tears are very much a part of real life and that is what we want this place to be.

So this is The Vision. This is the Big Idea. As Habakkuk 2:2 says “write the vision plainly so the runners can run with it/so that it can be read on the move”. Here is our vision written plainly so we can keep moving ever closer to it. Unless it is written clearly it is easy to settle for second best. In fact when we were house hunting we so knew that God wanted us in this area that we almost settled for a house that did not have what the Vision called for. It is so easy to  miss out when it isn’t written down.

It is also like God has given us this house vision and then the desire for the area but also kept us in mind to our needs. Things like the need for a large attic because we do still carry a lot of our children’s belongings, which gives them freedom to travel and explore the world unhindered, but also we have things that we would like to keep too, as well as Ian have all his outdoor stuff which will be so important to him when we are so much closer to “the big outdoors”.

Sometimes I think we get afraid to write it large and write it bold and stick to it. I know we have which is why it took us so long to get here. But we cannnot look back on shoulds and oughts but only keep on going forward, ever growing.

Greenbelt Reflections 2015 – A Bright and Soggy Field

It’s always hard to do a reflection of Greenbelt. It is so eclectic and focuses more, for me, around my time volunteering in The Tank and catching up with friends. This year it has also been followed by my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday picnic and meeting my son’s new girlfriend; both of which came hot on the heels of a busy weekend so my thoughts become befuddled.

Highlights:

catching up with a long term friend, Kate,

yearly coffee with blogging friend, Paul,

listening to bands in my tent because my feet will no longer hold my weight – Polyphonic Spree, Unthanks, and others who’s names didn’t know

happy hours working in The Tank, both allocated hours and extra ones, and catching up with other Tank regulars

living in a Tangerine Fields tent for 3 nights and not having to worry about putting it up or taking it down

volunteer’s food vouchers and finding the best deals

Dr Chris Meredith of Winchester University making me/us think and question what we think we truly know about the Bible

hearing the truth about the atrocities that those fleeing war zones have to face when they arrive on British shores

portaloos with hand sanitizer and toilet paper

being without mobile signal and internet and the freedom and frustration that brings

challenges to my way of thinking that I want to hold on to and blog some more about

This is what I love about Greenbelt. It is a mishmash of deep and trivial, challenges and settling of things. A place to share 21068331525_c1a82dfd4e_mdreams and to hear of others dreams, to laugh with strangers and to have fun. This year my daughter didn’t come with me so that gave things a different perspective; like the fact that I had to decide for myself where I went and who I saw. This is my sixth Greenbelt, fifth volunteering, and second without my daughter. I do hope there are many more to come, with or without her. As things settle and I find time to breath, and to sleep – I am still really tired because of not quite having time to stop as yet – there will be more to write, more to think about. In fact in my unpacking I have found my Sunday morning service sheet with thoughts scribbled across it which may become blogs. Who knows?