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.

 

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Life Moving Fast ….

4221396001_5030726696001_5030697883001-vsWe seem to be in a time of great political change in our country. For the first time ever we have an uncontested leader of our country. Is this right? Who can say. But it is a first, at least since the time of voting democracy. Watching satire programs in fascinating because by the time they are screen, having been recorded 24 hours earlier they are no longer news but old news. Things have moved so fast. All program makers know that there can often be items that are changing, like with an election coming up or a big football match – like the Wales/Portugal semi-final. Oh and as an aside – I thought it was great that the team that beat Wales went on to win Euro2016. Wales was beaten by the best not the second best 🙂 Anyway that is an aside.

Talking of that who would accept a team as champions if they had not had to beat anyone to win? No one! But we now have a leader of this country who is leading because her rival shot herself in the foot, so to speak. I find this hard to know how things will go when speed_of_lightsomeone is uncontested like this. But again it is saying something about the speed things are moving – within 3 weeks the UK is a very different place.

On a personal note things have started to move here. I came back from a lovely relaxing 10 days visiting friends back where we use to live and enjoying 3 days of a writing retreat but since arriving back things have not stopped. I came back to a full calendar of Airbnb, my mum and her husband staying followed by my mother-in-law staying, in a gap I went for coffee with a friend up here and in a chance conversation to someone who runs a local community centre am now in the process of building publicity to start not just one but 4 writing courses at the local centre, and also have my daughter’s graduation and a full summer. Things are moving fast here.

As I was dog walking this morning I wondered if maybe the world, or at least the UK, is moving quicker. I know time is a relative concept but within the scope of how our country is run has changed dramatically. But also within my own life too. It is a dramatic change. Yes I had put it out there – not prayed as such but mentioned in a post on a writing facebook page that one of my adventures I would like to do would be to run creative writing

canolfan-dewi-sant-centre
Canolfan Dewi Sant, Pensarn – the location of my writing courses

classes. I did not expect that to happen. I was thinking I could start putting feelers out come September but not start in September. But now the publicity is out there. I’m getting my public liability insurance and will start really selling it in 10 days time at the community centre’s open day. I am a person who doesn’t mind change which is probably just as well. Even within the thoughts on the change of direction of the UK and the whole political situation I do find it fascinating and something I can roll with. With myself and these writing groups I find it a challenge because there are things I need to do – like posters, go chat to people, get publicity out there, put a reasonable facebook page together. All of which I find challenging. Also there is that concept that sitting in my room on my laptop all day isn’t really work – I think this myself at times but also I know others do too. It is hard to say “I’m writing/thinking all day” so I do get lost in the whole thing of emailing friends, reading stuff, buying things that I know we need but maybe not yet. The whole writing phenomena, whether building up a facebook page, a website, or even writing my target of 1000 words for my novel, do seem to slide. And of course there is still the house cleaning to fit in.

Another fast moving things too is that a young girl – 2 days younger than my daughter – has asked if I will support her with Bible study. She says she needs an older Christian 6e4314dd3eb384859b9d1bdaa2e6a591friend and thinks I’m it 🙂 That’s good news but again it is faster than I thought. She goes to the Bible study group we sometimes go to on a Thursday evening. We are still at the point of trying to work out what church we want to connect with and get involved with but here is a girl who wants me to do the discipling/bible study/mentoring bit already.

We have not been here 6 months yet and yet when we went to the local carnival on Saturday we saw 4 people that we knew to talk to!!! And I am moving into that stage of knowing more. I think for me within in all this I have to trust that God is God and He knew before the beginning of time that things would move and happen as they are. That Theresa May is the undisputed leader of not just the Conservative party but the Prime Minister of the UK is not a surprise to Him. Neither is the fact that I’m going to be running creative writing groups and doing some discipling earlier than I thought.So for me I have to trust in Him and believe and pray and wait and see. And also get on and do the things hqdefaultthat I can do, the things I’m meant to do. Trusting God isn’t an idle time but a time of listening doing what He is leading me into – which at this moment means posting this and getting on with some publicity stuff 🙂

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.

The Day After …

tumblr_static_eli55hk87s8oos8gckg0sgowoWell I cannot believe what I am reading. I know that some of my friends voted to remain and some voted to leave but I cannot believe the vitriolic comments I am reading on various sites from both sides – vitriolic anger from the Remains and vitriolic glee from those who won. What is the matter with people!!! And also the level of sadness, verging on depression, from those who lost.

My thoughts  – we live in a democratic country. 76% of the population voted which brilliant. There was only 4% difference in the outcome which actually I do not think is a big enough difference to make such a monumental change on. David Cameron has resigned. I think that is terrible. We do seem to live in a culture that when people lose, or regarding celebrate-the-international-day-of-democracy-step-9football teams, the team loses, those in charge step down. David Cameron put forward this idea of a referendum on Europe surely a real leader should be willing to help whatever the outcome was. In my opinion, humble as it is, I feel that he should be willing to help and support the change that he ensued.

So the two things I am saddened by are that the man who led us into this referendum is not hanging around to help sort out the mess he has made; and the other that people are so angry that democracy did not go their way.

16227As some on the Northumberland Community facebook page said “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” And for all whether believer in the Lord or not we do all need to work out how we can sing and live in this strange new land rather than rant or sulk about it.

I Know The Plans I Have For You ….

I started this on 14th June and have only just posted due to being on a writing retreat and having to leave my room to get to the internet 🙂

queens-80th-the-queen-and-prince-philipfillheight_186_width_160In the service at St Paul’s for the Queen on Friday 10th June as part of her birthday celebrations they used the Bible verses, “I know the plans I have for you” from Jeremiah and “You are fearfully and wonderfully made” from Psalm 139. From what I can remember of it four days later and after doing lots of other things, Justin Welby was saying that the Queen, like all of us, was fearfully and wonderfully made, but also that God knew the plans He already had for her even when she didn’t. She never knew she would be Queen at such a young age or for so long, but God did. I am thinking that actually when she was born her father didn’t even know he was going to be king. I am sure Edward VIII abdicated after Elizabeth was born. But Welby seemed to be saying that even though no one knew this was going to happen God knew and He had prepared the Queen and had her ready for the task of reigning for over sixty years. But the Archbishop was also saying that God knows this for all of us.

How often in Church do we really hear that? That God knows the plans He has for us? We 579800_349221105167506_3204321_noften hear that He knows the plans He has for us but then we have go find them. There have been millions of books written and sermons taught of how we need to go find out our purpose and then live it out. But here, in this interpretation, it appears that God knows the plans He has for us and He will bring them to pass. Wow! How much easier! And how much more putting our lives into God’s hands than into our own.

As anyone who has been reading this regularly will know this time last year we did not know we would be living in north Wales. In fact we had never heard of the town of Abergele before October when we went to look at our house there. And then when we were in the process of moving up here we thought I would be going out to work but now I am a home person; walking the dog, writing and cleaning. I think God knew all the time what was going to happen and was just waiting for us to catch up.

I do think often one can spend too much time angsting about what God wants for each of us, all that trying to figure out what His plans are, and then missing out completely because of fear of getting it wrong and so not moving at all. I often wonder if there are those who don’t do the searching for the plans God has for them, whether Christian or not, who actually are doing more of God’s plans for their lives than those who are searching for them. Its not that it’s passivity but more an acceptance to go with what is happening – a bit like the Queen had to do. She didn’t get a choice in whether she did or didn’t I don’t suppose. Ok yes she could have stepped down like her uncle did but she didn’t. She went with what fate/God had laid before her.

trusting-like-a-childI often think of when my children were little. I am not one of those parents who dictates what their children do, please do not see me as that. But there were times when I chose what they did, whether classes they went to, clubs they joined, holidays we went on, even the whole home schooling thing, which actually did shape their lives. So I have to trust God like my kids, when they were small, trusted me, and just be willing to go where He leads, not angsting, not searching, but relaxing into His presence.

Do we know what is going to happen next? No! What should we do if we don’t ever know and are just waiting on God to bring to fruition His plans? Are we meant to sit idly waiting? No I don’t think that at all. We have ourselves and our hearts to prepare.

So I think we should just get on and live our lives working on the principles that God lays da790ffa4ac5296baa1ab7aba6b98404out – to love Him with all we have, to love our neighbour as ourselves and then also to seek His kingdom. Yup that’s my added on for this year. I have been exploring the first two for a while but I have a feeling there is something in the “Seek first the Kingdom of God” that could be a key to loving Him and loving ourselves and each other. And then once we are in the process of doing that then He can just get on with the business of revealing the plans He has for us to do. Sometimes for me I think that is just having a chat to the old people I meet on my walks with the dog, or the emails I find time to send, or even being nice to my husband when he gets home from work because I am not stressed with things. Maybe, just maybe these are the plans God has for me for this season of my life!

I think I might explore what “fearfully and wonderfully made” might mean in my next post 🙂

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!