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2020 Review

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Normally I would do my end of year review to coincide with Christmas cards I was sending, whether physical or electronic, but this year I have decided to wait until 31st December to post, and am even tempted to wait until midnight just in case. It is not that I am fearful but this has been an “unprecedented” year.

At the time I would normally have done this post I was still laid up with bruised ribs from falling off that horse though was starting to plan what I would write, and I suppose even Different Christmas was a lead up to that. But then just as I was in the planning stages for that my husband got shingles and has been very sore with that. Then on Saturday 19th Dec Wales announced that all was change for Christmas and we were going into lockdown again – though from the volume of traffic I would say that only means that pubs and cafes have now closed. Not sure if I can see much other difference on the roads. It is definitely not back to April’s sparse traffic volume. But then on Sunday my daughter announced that she had tested positive to covid and so, even though she wasn’t coming up here for the holidays it did mean she was going to have to spend it home alone! All this in just a week!

This has been the strangest of years. Even to the point that our cat went from eating biscuits to demanding that we feed her cat meat from a tin. She now has meat twice a day and ignores the biscuits that sit waiting for her to be hungry enough. If it hadn’t been for the local cat rescue places being closed all the tins that had been in the cupboard for the last few years would have gone to them but now she’s eaten them all.

Talking of pets – our crazy rabbit died in the summer, happily of a possible heart attack whilst he was sunbathing before begining yet another digging project. He was buried inside his own warren of tunnels that he had constructed over the four years he had been living here. He is still very missed and the amount of veg peelings in our food recycling bin has increased.

As with everyone 2020 started normally enough, though it was odd for us because my husband chose to stay home for New Year’s instead of going to a youth hostel with old university friends. So actually even the start of the year was different for us with us being together when we woke on 2020. We went away as always for our wedding anniversary at the end of January, which was followed by my husband going off for a week of intensive Welsh learning on the Llyn Peninsular. He managed to get away climbing with friends in Scotland at the start of March, but by the time he went away then things were starting to change and covid was being muttered about. We had two Airbnb guests, both in the medical profession, who went from saying it was nothing to worry about to slowly getting more and more concerned about it, to our guest from Burma having to cut short his stay so he got home before all airports were closed.

I was supposed to go on my regular March writing retreat but felt uneasy about going which was just as well because suddenly things got serious. So instead of being in Gwynedd I went Cardiff to bring my daughter to stay with us when the pubs closed. We bought her some walking boots the day before the country went into full lockdown. We thought we were going to be walking all over North Wales, but then the 5 mile rule was introduced and we finished up doing lots of walks around where we live. We have seen my daughter more this year, probably a good 4 months of the year, than we have since she went off to university about 7 years ago. I picked her up yesterday, now that she is over her coovid isolation time and will spend New Year with us and stay until this lockdown lifts. So even though we have seen so much more of her this year when it comes to everyone else – my son and our mothers and our friends – we’ve seen them less than normal.

My husband changed jobs at the start of lockdown and has now been working for his new company for 8 months and never seen the inside of his office or met any of his colleagues face to face. We are so grateful for our lovely big house and him being able to work upstairs in his own office. But his is the only work going on in the house because, with all the guidelines and restrictions, it is not safe to run our house as an Airbnb rental home for the time being. Read more about that on Humility. And since not having guests coming and going it has changed how I see the house and what it is for. For now I’m not making any decisions how things will look regarding Airbnb and room rentals in 2021, but I do know I see this place much more as a family home now than a business.

We did manage to get away for a flying visit to Somerset to see our mums and a couple of friends at the beginning of August and my son and his fiancee came up to us for a long weekend in mid August. Both times we were blessed with great weather. And we managed 6 days in Northumberland in late September, though because Northumbeland went into tier 3 we were not able to see one friend who had moved there a couple of years ago, and also a friend’s 50th wedding anniversary party was cancelled. But we did manage 6 days of walking, reading, and resting together.

As well as Airbnb all my work has stopped – no more writing groups, no more schools work, no more workshops in the library. All very strange. But I have been doing a lot of my own writing and a few of my blogs from here are being published on Godspacelight.com which is quite exciting. I have also been working with a young illustrator and we have a book called The Little Yellow Boat which is with BumbleBee Publishing in the process of being put together and published later in 2021. I will tell more about that once it is out in the big wide world. My plans for 2021 are to work on more short stories and other ideas and of course to blog more. I do not want The Little Yellow Boat to be my only publications. I have also been working towards an MA in Celtic Studies and have loved the modules about the Mabinogion, especailly the Four Branches. I am thinking of doing some stores around the women from the Four Branches.

Every year we do not know what is going to happen, but I think 2021 is probably the one where we have the least idea. Will the vaccine prove effective enough to bring back “normal” life? Will we have enjoyed some of the changes and not want “normal”? For some their business will never be the same again. Many will be bankrupt. For others there plans will be delayed and will be able to move forward a year or two later. But also within that not knowing are things we do have control over. I plan to continue with the Quantum Energy Counselling healing work I’ve been doing. I will work on my own writing and develop a body of work and look at being published. I will meet up with people when I walk with my dog and have great conversations. I will email my friends. And I will carry on reading. All these I have control over. As to whether I’ll start Airbnb rental again or whether I’ll be able to restart writing workshops and schools work, that I have no control over, so will hold lightly. Also I do have control over how I behave towards what is going on around me and I hope I can hold Joy and Hope in the right place and walk as God wants me to through whatever is thrown my way.

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I Saw Through His Disguise

At dawn, especially this time of year, I hum the line from Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s “I Believe in Father Christmas

I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn

and I saw him and through his disguise

I’ve often thought, especially around the other lyrics, that it meant a time of disillusionment – being coerced into believing about Father Christmas, virgin birth, etc but this morning, whilst pottering round the park with the dog and watching the amazing colours pushing through the clouds I felt differently.

We put so much whitewash around the Christmas story, we dumb it down and make it “user friendly”. What if we could look clearly at the new light of dawn and truly see the magic of Jesus birth, of God coming down to walk amongst us? What would happen to each one of us if we saw through the disguise? What difference would it make if we truly woke up and really looked with open eyes and really saw through the glitter and tinsel, the children’s nativity, the presents, food and drink, and truly saw what it was really all about? And that revealing would be so very different to each one of us. God is not a one size fits all, thankfully.

My thoughts and prayers for each person who reads this, and for those who don’t but that I know, is that they can see through the disguise, the illusion, that gets placed around Christmas and that God placed around Christmas. See through the disguise and come to meet the real God, real to each one of us, but each one of us only sees a facet of that diamond, and too often we have been trying to get others to see the side we see instead of hearing about the side they see.

So as we all do something different this Christmas to what we would normal do, and for us who’ve had to have plans changed suddenly because of these new rules, my prayer is we don’t miss seeing through the disguise and seeing the real meaning of God coming down to earth to walk amongst us. So …

I wish you a hopeful christmas

I wish you a brave new year

All anguish pain and sadness

Leave your heart and let your road be clear

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – I Believe In Father Christmas lyrics | LyricsFreak” [Found 24th Dec 2020]
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Our Rabbit

I’ve been doing some writing exercises with Writers HQ as a bit of advent fun. The other day we were encouraged to write “iconic obituaries”. I pondered and then thougth that as we’d lost our mad rabbit over the summer I’d do an obituray for him. I don’t think we do them for our animals often enough.

Archie – born Easter 2011 died 23rd July 2020.

In the unprecedented year of 2020 Archie decided life was too good to keep on digging so had stretched himself out on between the wire fencing that encircled the fuchsia bush, which being encased in wire had grown to be a fuchsia tree, and the fencing that encased the bush that he had destroyed when he had eaten through the main tuber.

It had been a long and successful career of tunnel building, though as far as everyone knew there was no purpose to any of it. Many had expected him to die within one of his tunnels when it had collapsed on him, but he had chosen a warm sunny day and had let his breath leave him in the warm summer sun. Archie had started life living indoors but had been finally been banished to live outside after chewing through the telephone wire when someone was on a call. The chewing of the TV cable had been kept secret from most. He had also enjoyed wallpaper stripping but because of his height, or lack of, he would never have progressed to being a decorator.

He was buried within one of his own tunnels, and a memorial herb garden will be placed above him. He leaves behind a confused dog who, for a while, could smell him but not find him, and an overflowing food waste bin. Archie will be missed by all who knew him.

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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]

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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)
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Gains

Snowdonia April 2018

This “Gains” post is to follow on from the “Loss” post, which is unusual for me to remember to do the follow ups 🙂

What have I gained this year whilst I have cast off so much? Some strange things I must say. Probably like many I’ve learned more about myself and what I am like than I have done in any other year. I have discovered that I try to keep myself busy rather than do what I know I should do. For instance – I know that I am a writer, which has been proven in the fact that I’m having a children’s book published next year. [That is definitely a wait till it is in print before I share more] but I don’t make time for it. In fact I do my best to make sure I don’t have time to write – or rather I allot time to do some actual writing but don’t put aside time for those things that are needed to build up to writing – thinking time and reading time.

I will excuse myself for not having written War and Peace or similar because, as many writers are saying, it has been very hard to concentrate. But instead of giving myself space I took on things to fill my head. And some to stop me feeling guilty about not doing anything. As I’ve mentioned in another post, there is a website for women over 50 called “RestLess” filled with loads of things to do, as though doing nothing is a sin. I’ve a lovely young friend who is struggling with resting too because, again she’s been brought up to think you should be busy.

So I would love to say that one of my big gains has been lots of time but it has not because I’ve filled it up with other things. But I have learned a bit about who I am, and that is that I’m afraid to give myself the time to just sit on the couch and ponder. So I’m trying to release myself from many things so that I can find time to sit and think and write.

Mind you another of my gains is the couch. Ok this sounds silly. When we moved into this house I was so grateful to have my study, which was going to be the place where I wrote. I do love my study and it is nice to have somewhere that I can keep the stuff that is just mine. But when I fell off the horse and hurt my ribs the only place I could sit comfortably was on the couch. So I spent those first 2 weeks led on the couch with tables postioned around me with books and laptop, pens and coffee cup, close at hand. But then I realised I like the living room. It had been a room that until the begining of October I had kept closed during the day and would only let people in when it was evening. I would struggle when we had friends staying and they would take their morning coffee into the living room. But now I go into the living room when I first get up, put on the fairy lights and do some yoga, then leave the door ajar, go out and walk the dog and come back to carry on doing in the living room. I am loving looking out the window and seeing people walking by, loving the light, the space. It’s changed.

So one of my big gains is letting go of the need for my special space and making my space special in the family space. Who knows how long I’ll stay down here but for now this is my space too.

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Dealing with a different Christmas

My son putting the final touches to our tree 2018

I know we are all going on about how it wil be a very different Christmas this year. Even if we gather the same people around us there will still be that hit of either defiance about breaking guidelines or fear that just maybe that person has brought the virus home. No matter how hard one tries the conversation will slide round to the Covid issue.

Both my children have decided to not come to visit us this year for various reasons and that is fine. This will be only the second Christmas I’ve never seen either of them and probaby the fourth my son has not come up. Life is constantly changing just because that is what life does. Who was it said “change is the only consistant thing in life”?

Last time it was just going to be me&him for Christmas we sorted out an frenetic trip down south to visit all our family and friends over a four day period. It was crazy and stressful and I did vow never to do it again. Well this year we can’t because of all the restrictions and not knowing what we’re allow or not allow to do. And even though my Mum will be at home for Christmas for the first time in 16 years, I still don’t want to down. All wayyyyy too complicated to organise.

Also this year due to not doing Airbnb and the guests that come with that, not being an elf at Gwrych castle, not doing the town council Christmas play or a skit in church for Christmas eve, not trying to fit in a prayer day before Christmas, and all those other things that I did, I have had time to think through how I really see Christmas and what I really do want from it. I have been working through Beth Kempton’s Calm Christmas book. She does also do an online writing course around this but that just didn’t work out for me. One of the things she suggest looking at is – what are your views of Christmas? Traditional, Reglious, Magical, Connected, Abundance.

A big thing for me with this was that I struggle to do the same thing every year; to build up a tradition. I can do the same things for 2-3 years but then life changes. Also I was struggling to remember Christmases as a child. Realising that “traditions” were not my thing was a great release. In fact as I went through it all I found that I love present giving but it has to be just that right thing for the right person, that I only like the religious bit when I was involved which really then was more about connecting than anything. Yes I do love the magic of God coming to earth as a baby and of the angels doing their stuff, and the lowest of the low, the shepherds, being the first to see him, and then those who weren’t even of the right belief system being the next one recorded as seeing the baby God. But as in going to church etc? Naw!

So with guidance from the book and checking in with my own heart (which probably comes from having done the Untamed book and the QEC counselling) I am having the Christmas I want. I haven’t put a tree up because that was something I did with my kids so with them not being here it isn’t a thing. I’ve got lovely fairy lights in my window because I want those passing by to see. I’ve still gone for a turkey and a joint of ham because I love those meats so much. I’ve sent presents I feel are right to my kids and have got 2-3 presents for my hubby. I’ve managed to book some trips to local cafes with friends so we can wish each other happy Christmas.

This year I am having the most almost perfect Christmas The only thing that would make it totally perfect is if both my kids were here but also I’m not going to force them. And my challenge will be next year if they do decide to come and I am back renting via Airbnb to make sure things are just as chilled for me and not to get sucked back into the crazyness of how life used to be.

And these are my fairy lights Christmas 2020
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Joy

It’s that time of year when everyone is talking about “joy”. “Joy to the World”, the “joy of Christmas” and in Advent devotional that I am sticking with for now, Christine says she focuses on joy for this season. I don’t work well in in abstract so I thougth “what does joy look like?” and did a bit of a study. “The joy of the Lord is my strength” it says in the Bible. Practice Co said “joy is like a seed”. But none of that helped so I sat down with my journal and pen and asked myself what joy would look like to me.

Joy is a woman. A tall strong warrior woman with long flowing hair left loose so the wind can blow through it. She stands at the edge of the water allowing the waves to brush over her bare feet. She wears a long white shift but the breeze does not reveal her shape. Joy is not sexual. She faces into the wind, which can turn from gentle and refreshing to a storm in moments, and change back just as fast. She lets the wind play with her hair and waves roll over her feet and ankles. She knows those waves cannot touch her body. Even when the storm comes with its freezing rain, and even hail, she keeps that gentle smile, keeps her composre, keeps her stance. She does not deny that there is a storm, does not deny the cold, the hurt, the unfeelingness. But she remains rooted and strong, standing tall, erect, still only letting the waves roll over her feet and ankles.

Joy is not impervious to the storm or unrealistic that storms, ills, floods and fire come. Yes she stands strong. Joy is anchored. Joy is strength.

For me this picture of joy helped for ground it for me. It also helped me to look at “the joy of the Lord as my strength” in a very different light. It also reminded me of the Full Moon post I wrote about God being above the chaos of our world. But in this one Joy is within the chaos too but standing strong and unaffected by it. Interestingly I, just before writing this, I watch a recommended YouTube video about Laughter yoga, which fits in nicely with the whole idea of joy, laughter, being good for your health but something you can hold on to even if life isn’t going your way. He talks about laughing with your body till your mind gets it. With the QEC therapy that talks about getting it with your heart and body so your mind can catch up. Too often we live in a world where we put our mind first and try to make it happen. But with this idea of laugher yoga, OEC, and walking with the Joy of the Lord, it is much more about it happening in your heart and your body and not so much your mind.

Thoughts for another post another day?

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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!

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False Dawn

Dawn over Lochranza, Isle of Arran – taken by me Aug 2013

I’m reading a brilliant fantasy fiction novel by Raymond E Feist, the first in the Firemane Saga, and twice in it the characters have mentioned a “false dawn”. That is the time when light starts to appear over the horizon but daytime is still a long way off. Here in North Wales it starts getting light about 7am if the sky is clear. This is the time of our false dawn. Then around 7.45 the sky is then shot with reds and purples (again only if the sky is clear), but the sun does not rise until after 8am. Our false dawn lasts for about an hour or more depending on the time of year.

I think the world is entering a false dawn from Covid-19. We are hearing about vaccines being made ready and of brave people coming forward to take the vaccine. But, as was said on two news satire programmes, very few people seems overly excited about it. I believe this is because we are in that false dawn time of breakthrough. A new day is coming. We are coming out of the darkness of this unknown virus. But the new day is still a long way off, and it is ok to not want to get involved in what is going on yet. As with this morning’s sunrise it was full of colour and promise but by lunchtime the rain had started and by early afternoon it was pouring with rain and the wind was billowing, and the dog and I just did a very short walk.

I think it is wise to be cautious with the news of vaccines and even of Brexit deals. We are in the time of false dawns, where things are just starting to be seen, just starting to come into focus. It is ok to tread carefully, to want to still stay safe and at home, to be fearful of planning something. The sun will rise because it always does, but no one will know what the day will look like until the signs of the sunrise are fully known and the day comes into complete fruition.

So I would say don’t beat yourself up if you are one of those who are feeling cautious and don’t feel like celebrating, whether that’s the vaccine, Brexit, or any number of other things that have come to light during 2020. Wait and watch and be ready for the new day – whatever it looks like.