Finding Hope …

Wales is now back in full on lockdown as of midnight on Saturday 19th December. This morning I was on the beach praying for all the pubs and restaurants that would lose hundreds of pounds today because they had bought in food to prepare Sunday lunches, which up here is the time when most people go out to eat, and will have to throw it all away. Where is the hope in all this?

I wrote a piece not so long ago called Full Moon and I still hold to that – of God being above our chaos looking down and being with us through it. But this morning as I turned to walk back from the beach it started pelting with rain, cold icy rain, and the sky was just filled with black clouds. There was not even a fringe of false dawn or red tinged clouds. It was black. And it made me wonder “how can we know there is hope when all is dark?” But then I got thinking about the Christmas story, which many of us won’t get to hear in church because of lockdown, about of how when we tell that we tell it full of hope and yet I am sure there were very dark days.

Can you imagine how Mary and Joseph must have felt as they came into Bethlehem and were shunned? How dark must that have felt? They knew God was there, knew God had planned this, but so much was clouding that hope. I think often we “big up” the Christmas story too much and don’t show the other side of things, which then leads us to feel like we are inadequate, that we have to rise to a place that is beyond what we can reach.

I totally believe that God is in all that we are going through, even this sudden lockdown and the loss of earnings from too many places, and mental health and suicides that have come from the anxiety and fear and stress of all this time. This, though for me, is where faith comes in. But too often the burdens we bear make it too hard to look up and find that faith. And that is when we need to be kind to ourselves and to each other, be honest that actually on some days we have no hope, we have no faith. We can only see the storm that is gusting around us.

[I was in the process of pondering how to finish the above paragraph on this post when my daughter messaged to say she’d tested positive for covid-19. She has very minor symptoms and had done the test because someone she worked with had tested positive. So it was all a bit of a shock, especially as she’s been trying to work out how she could get from South Wales to North Wales now we were all in lockdown. So sometimes the storms are crazy and the sky is dark but I am pleased I could find the words for the above paragraph to give myself the encouragement I needed]

A Christmas Carol

Advert for BBC’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol

The BBC have done a fascinating interpretation of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, where they have given Scrooge a larger backstory than the Ghost of Christmas Past shared in the novel, as to why Scrooge is the way he is. Episode two where Scrooge is taken to Christmases past should be shown to all business people who put profit first. This is not a problem that has gone away

But the thing that stuck me most were the issues this version has chosen to highlight. Scrooge was as he was because he had been unloved and abused as a child, been told the only way to survive is to have money in the bank, not to trust others, and be be his own person. Bottom line – he was afraid and had built his own saftey net around him.

The alcoholic or drug addict doesn’t abuse their body and their families because they think it is a good idea. They do it because they are afraid. Even the person who abuses their partner or children or attacks others does so because they are afraid. And these are the things society notices. But there are also those who have more money than they could spend in a life time, but they are also afraid – of not having enough, of not being safe, etc, etc. If each of us is honest we are all afraid of something and have all built walls, big or small, to keep ourselves safe.

But this is the time of year when the Bible expounds with “do not be afraid” – to Mary, to the Shepherds, to my big hero of the Chrismas story, Joseph. Joseph has such a bit part in this story and never gets any of his own lines, but twice he is told not to be afraid; the first time when he finds out Mary is pregnant and is told not to be afraid of how she got with child, and the second when he has to leave everything he knows and go to Egypt to keep this child that is not his own safe. He is amazing because he marries Mary, but doesn’t sleep with her till after Jesus is born, takes her with him when he goes for the census so that there is no chance of her being stoned whilst he’s away, and then goes to a land to live as a refugee until God tells him it is ok to come home again, and home to a place he really doesn’t know what his relatives will think of him.

God tells him not to be afraid, and we too often read that as “dont be scared” but I think it means “to let go of all those issues you carry with you that will encourage you to build walls of self preservation around you and trust God“. I think Jesus learned a lot from Joseph about how to be open and trusting even in a place of fear. And Joseph through all that went on around him learned to trust God, to not be fearful, to put aside his own strength and not build up walls.

I believe fear kills because it causes us to shut ourselves away from not just others but from out true selves. Fear causes us not to trust others, causes us to use other things for our safety; like career, profit over people, having ‘enough’ money, etc, being accepted by others, alcohol, drugs, being the life of the party, food, overly caring for others at the detriment of ourselves, not being able to say yes, or not being able to say no, relationships, and … here ponder and name your own.

I don’t think God asks us not to be scared but asks us not to be afraid and to stay open and trusting to all the facets that make up the Godhead, and trusting others too. So as we enter this season of vaccines and Brexit and being unsure let us be open, trusting and not afraid, not build walls, and lean on the One who can hold us through.

mary-joseph-with-baby-jesus-39533-wallpaper.jpg (1291×1600) (wordpress.com)

I Am Who I Am

I have been reading this book, Untamed by Glennon Doyle, in the afternoons after walking the dog. The subject matter is brilliant – about hearing with your heart what you want to do and not pleasing people. Actually just this morning it made me decide to write this instead of doing an online Welsh class. My heart said “get this written” but it was interesting explaining to my husband why I was doing one thing and not the other how I started to not trust my heart. But despite it being an amazing book I think Glennon could have made her points in half the time and still had an excellent book. It does go on reiterating the same point a wee bit

But the bit that will stay with me is the end chapter which reads like a poem. Glennon has taken that passage from the Bible when Moses asks God “Who shall I tell the people you are?” and God answers “I am who I am” [Exodus 3:13-14], and from that writes a list of quesions as to whether she’s happy, sad, straight, gay, Christian, heretic, good, bad, believer, doubter, etc, etc. And she answers with “I am, I am, I am”.

It made me wonder if God never meant “I am” to be sacred but was just saying “I am who I am”, as in I am a conundrum of all difference, full of love and yet I do get anger, totally involved and yet sometimes distant, in each situation I will be who I will be. If “I am” is not a holy phrase but just God saying they’ll turn up as they will in a given situation surely that also releases me to follow my heart for each situation?

I am who I am. Today I am a writer who has so much stuff in my head that is tumbling out that I need time to get it out. Other days I don’t want to write a word. I am funny and crazy but also deeply serious. I like people but only in small amounts and get my energy from being alone. I like to plan but can’t stand it when those plans get to tight. I have roles like mother, wife, friend, but none of those should define me.

I believe, after reading this last chapter in Untamed that God spoke those words and Moses, or whoever wrote down Exodus, recorded those words to release us and not to keep us afraid. It was to show both the conundrum of God and the conundrum of ourselves. We should be free then to release God to be all God will be at any given moment and release God from having to confrom to a formula. But also we should be able to release ourselves from shouds and oughts and whatevers, or even “but last time I did x then y”. I am who I am gives me the freedom to be who I am whenever and wherever I am.

I am who I am gives me freedom to listen to my heart at that moment, and also means that I can trust God to listen to their heart at that moment in time. No formlua. No explaination. Freedom!

Humility

Newborough Beach, 2007 – taken by me

This season for me, as you can tell from reading my blogs, has been being reminded of prophetic words. When I first got into this prophetic praying one of the major verse was:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14

I believe this is another of the “Reset” places we should be exploring as the pandemic still creeps across the world.

I believe the word “sin” basically means that we have screwed up, been selfish, missed God’s mark. So we need to go back and humble ourselves before God and say we have screwed up. This is being highlighted in Black Lives Matter, the continued abuses and inequalities between women and men, wanting to see the economy recover often to the detriment of people, climate change, animal welfare, etc.

Reading this news I have noticed that whenever some country or world leader boasts about how they are doing with this virus suddenly they get a spike in Covid-19 cases. Pride steps in, they want to tell everyone how well they did and then bam! they get walloped. It is like the virus is saying to “get off your high horse” and be humble.

Being a practical person I have always have to say what can I/we do?

Well I think the only true way is to stop saying we know what we’re doing and stop, wait, rest and let peace flow into our troubled minds and stop rushing about trying to sort out what the “new normal” is going to be.

But, as I’ve said before, I see people being busy, wanting answers, rushing into the next thing. And this happens as much with Christians as much as anyone. There has been a rush in our church to deep clean to get things “open again” and in England Sunday services are happening so it won’t be long before they start in Wales. But I don’t know of many people who have been praying to find out what God wants to happen next.

But to stop moving forward and to wait on God – or if you don’t believe in God then the universe, a higher power, that inner gut feeling – takes time, and might cause change. Do we really want change?

I took my own advise seriously and during my morning dog walks on the beach I started to ask God what I was do with my “one wild and precious life”. I came away feeling that I was to take my rooms off Airbnb and not advertise for anyone to stay and to trust that if we were meant to have people staying they would find us. Over coffee that Saturday morning I chatted with my husband and he totally agreed. It is odd because the only reason we moved up to North Wales and bought this big house was to do Airbnb! We move up here a place of trusting God, but that was to do something. Now this whole waiting to see what the plan is next is much harder and more humbling because we cannot do anything.

Two blog posts have been particularly helpful in this process: Trusting in Jesus, do not let your heart be troubled and Let Jesus Hold Your Stuff For You

I believe with all things, if we don’t give them to Jesus and leave them in his hands, then we will never be humble. It is not easy and is an on going process, one that God started with me nearly 30 years ago. I’m glad God has more patience with me than I often have with myself.

Lessons Via A SatNav

Bottom line – things change but you have to trust the voice that is leading you! 

Maybe that’s all I will write. Do you need any explanation? Do you need to know where I was when I realised that? Do you need to know what thougths were going through my head at the time? Probably not.

BOA.jpg
Somewhere that I used to know but someone has put in stepping stones!

I did realise too that I have more trust at times in the satnav on googlemaps on my phone or on the BBC weather app than I have with God. I suppose some of it is that they are clearer. The satnav much more open in her directiveness. If only at times God would say “turn left here” then shout at me if I miss the turning. If only, when there’s an accident on the road I hoped to go on would tell me the best way to avoid it. Or maybe this is my fault?

I only hear the satnav when I have the media volume turned up high. I also have found I need to radio off so I only hear her speaking. When she sends me a direction I was not expecting because I thought I knew the road I trust her and take that turn.

So maybe with God I need to cut out distractions, turn the volume up a bit more and

Renly at BOA.jpg
Oh to be a dog and just trust where you are and enjoy it for what it is!

when sent somewhere different trust that he knows best?

Why when the day is already full …

… does something come along to make it even more full? Today is one of those action packed days when I should have said No to some things that I said Yes to. As I led in the bed this morning listening to the rain patter down I went through my to-do list and to_do_listorganised how I would fit everything in – including my coffee time. I went downstairs at 6am to get a cup of tea to take back to my room to journal a bit and found the kitchen floor flooded. So mopped the floor and wondered how the rain had got in over our very high back door step. An hour later came back downstairs and put on a load of washing. When rinsing dishes after breakfast I had to get out the sink plunger to try to unblock the sink muttering to myself as I wondered what I had allowed to go in the sink that should have gone in the food waste. Then the washing machine made a strange gurgle and unloaded its water all across the kitchen floor! Hurriedly turned off the washing machine and shouted to husband.

Long and short due to the storms that raged for two and a half hours yesterday afternoon and flooded our local supermarket, post office, main streets and park, and then came back for another go last night, dirt and soil and whatever has been washed flash-flooding-at-abergeleinto the drains and blocked them up. In fact yesterday out my study window I watched the small residential street opposite fill with water and then have to be pumped clear by the local water board.

The waterboard have been phoned and will be here within 2-4 hours which means I am now stuck at home. I cannot leave till they arrive. They may come early too if the job they are on is quicker than they hoped. So I cannot go and pay for my car which had a new exhaust fitted yesterday but I couldn’t pay for because the phone/internet lines for the card machine weren’t working. I’ve had to phone to say I might not be able to make it in time to conduct a guided tour around the castle grounds where I volunteer today in case the water board come late. My life has gone from super busy to waiting. I can’t even clean the floors because the workmen might have to walk through the house. I can’t clean bathrooms because I can’t run any water down the sink. In fact I can’t even flush the toilet. Just as well I’m home alone.

There’s a great parable Jesus tells of the rich man who builds barns to store all his grain in but then dies the following day which is used to tell us not to put too much hope in our plans. I’m sure that doesn’t mean don’t plan because I think Jesus had the ultimate plan

parables2bof2bjesus2bparable2bof2bthe2brich2bfool2bdrawing2bby2bt2bbertram2bpoole
http://christianartnow.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/the-rich-fool-parable-painting-by.html 

that Him and God had sorted before the beginning of time. But I think it means don’t get stressed about what you’re going to do, or even don’t rest on what you’ve already got sorted.

Richard Rohr’s “gateway to silence” words this week are “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding” and I think that is so true for today for me but also for every day for me. Yes I do need to have a bit of a plan because we do have guests arriving and leaving, friends coming to stay, food to think about, but I am not to put my trust in those plans because they might change. Friends might cancel. Drains might flood. But I am to trust in the Lord though all and everything.

Footprints in the sand

Now I’m sure I’ve blogged on this before but it seems relevant again  – at least for me for now.

bd8142d355ec494c723ae48d3e39be40Most Christians, and many who aren’t, will know the story of the Footprints in the sand; where there are two sets for a while then only one and the person says “where were you Lord when I was struggling?” and God says “I was carrying you.” And it is to encourage Christians to realise that when they cannot go on God carries them. A great metaphor! But why footprints in the sand?

As you know we now live by the sea and most days the dog and I go to the beach for a walk. Sometimes we get sand to walk on, other times we have to walk on the grass and stones above the high tide level. I have noticed, after being here for a year, that the revealed sand is constantly changing. There are streams and rivulets that go across the sand. Last summer I knew where each of them were but now they have moved. Some are deeper, some going a different way, some gone. Even today there was a change between a place I could cross which the sand has now moved around on and it isn’t there.

Which is where I get back to the “Footprints in the sand” piece. Yes I do think there is footprints-in-the-sand-wallpaper-4something there about how God does carry us but I also think that it is in the sand because footprints in the sand get washed away twice a day and as fallible human beings we quickly forget what God has done for us. Just over a year ago I wrote a piece about trusting God and about struggling with trusting God and yet I still want to walk in my own strength through things. So we have  only been living here a year – exactly today we got the keys 🙂 – and I now run a successful room rental via both Airbnb and word of mouth, and am running workshops in various amazing places. Yet I struggle to trust that God will provide – work, participants for workshops, money, people to stay in our home. Because of workshops and also with room rental bookings not all coming via Airbnb there can be times when people cancel due to change of circumstance or ill health. I have noticed that these things happen when I  have projected how much money I should be earning that particular week/month and have started spending it in my head. It is like God then says “excuse me, but you’re trusting in yourself and not in me” and I have to have a rethink. I want to be self-sufficient but God is saying I have to be God-sufficient. It happens again and again because I am so bad at learning my lessons. But I’m getting there 🙂

8504328-animal-footprints-in-the-sand-copy-space-stock-photo-dogSo I think the reason that the it is “Footprints in the Sand” is, one because we forget when we cannot see the evidence, but also because we need to walk in trust with God all day every day so that we can make those new footprints with Him every single day – like I do on the beach with my dog each day 🙂

Success …

ea-blog-712x394-success
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

2012-01-01 00.00.00-8.jpg
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.

vujxrd
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.

Timing

(Once again I diverge from doing my mini-series of who I am/what I do but this struck me this morning)

HonorLast night we were watching CSI: Los Angeles. Ok so I’m a bit of a CSI/NCIS addict. It’s low key drama that doesn’t take a lot of thinking about and the characters are nice people – the main characters, and there is generally a good reason why the bad guys have been bad.

Anyway last night’s underlying story, to do with the main characters, was that the tough guy had promised his daughter a toy flying pony which was the ‘must have’ toy that Christmas. He had left it until the last minute and of course it was almost impossible to get. The programme starts with him trying to get it on line with no success. Then the geek guy takes over bidding on various online auctions to be outbid every time as well as doing the crime solving bits. At the end the whole team gather together as their boss says that because its Christmas eve they need to have a drink together. There is some teasing about the tough guy letting his daughter down but then the geek guy gives him the toy flying pony. The boss takes him to one side 810kiwzkabl-_sl1500_and says to the girl geek who is standing with the geek that she knew he had reserved this for himself at Comic Con in the summer and that he was giving away something special.

Ok so what stuck me about this was timing. The geek could have told the tough guy at any time to not worry about it because he had on anyway and that tough guy could just buy him a replacement after Christmas when all the fuss had died down. Or even when he gave it could have said that he’d had it all along. And yes I know it made a better story but it struck me about how as Christians we often get our timing wrong.

If the geek guy had given the gift too soon then the tough guy would have felt ineffectual. He wanted to get for his daughter. If the geek guy had not given at all both daughter and tough guy would have had a not so great Christmas – especially probably the dad because the daughter may have forgotten.

How often as Christians do we step in too soon? We tell people what they want and how to 11406317_10155600699790648_4390248065953060695_odo it and disempower them or alienate them. We think we know best because we have this hot line to God!!! Or we step in and say we can do something when actually when it comes to it we can’t. I have been guilty in the past of saying “yes I will always be here for you” or “I can support you there” when in fact when it came to it I was either too busy helping other people that I had said the same thing to or just didn’t have time or energy or even resources. What if the geek guy had said he could get the pony but his reserved one had not arrived in time? He would have looked stupid.

I also think we need to let people work out what they really really want. I think Jesus makes us ask and ask and look and look but in the end gives it to us. Yes He could have given it to us earlier but there is something in the seeking that makes us more grateful in the receiving. But also makes us feel empowered and also realise that this is what we want.

There is a possibility that if the tough guy had got the pony straight away he would not have been grateful to receive it at the last minute or more likely, if it happened more often would just come to rely on the geek to get things rather than his own resources.

I remember once when I lived in Belfast at a church event one woman really stealing fromstealing the church. It was a barbecue and the lovely church members took those in the local area for a barbecue at a local nature reserve. It was common to do this every year. The church booked the coach, picked people up, cooked the food and provided everything – drinks, crisps, sweets – and waited on the people who came. This one woman was sending her son up to keep getting cans of drink, packets of crisps and sweets and had brought a small rucksack to put this in. As the bottom feel out of her bag because she had too much she laughed and said “well that will have to be enough for lunches for the next week.” She saw it that the church had more than enough – which they may have done – but she was not grateful just grabbing.

Yes there are people in need but I think, as Christians, or as any person who supports others, we need to wait for them to know what they want and then help them to get it, and if all else fails then give it, but I do think too often we jump in as do-gooders and give something that actually people aren’t sure if they really want.

Carpe Diem – Seize the Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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