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Saint Dwynwen – Welsh Patron Saint of Lovers – 25th January

First published on Saint Dwynwen – Welsh Patron Saint of Lovers – 25th January – Godspacelight on Saturday 23rd January 2021

Picture from VisitWales.com

On 25th January many people in Wales will be celebrating Saint Dwynwen’s Day. This is the time for marriage proposals and, at least pre-covid, of romantic meals out. From little independent card makers to big supermarkets St Dwynwen cards are being sold. She is the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine. But why?

The little that is known about Dwynwen is that in the 5th century she was betrothed to a prince called Maelon, but he tried to seduce her before they were married. She cried out to God to be released from loving Maelon, which was granted, and Maelon was turned to a block of ice. Dwynwen then prayed that Maelon would be restored, she would be allowed to live a chaste life and that God would allow her to intercede on behalf of other lovers. God granted all three things. But there has been a chapel to commemorate her on the tidal island of Llanddwyn, Anglesey since around the 11th century. In the fourteenth century a renowned poet wrote asking her to help him in love situation. By the fifteenth century so many crippled and love sick people came and left offerings for Dwynwen to intercede for them that Richard Kyffin, the rector at that time, was able to build himself a fine home and live like a noble man.

Of course with Reformation the veneration of saints was curtailed but people found other ways and by Victorian times 14th February and St Valentine was becoming known as the time for lovers. It was in the 1960s with the rise of the fight to preserve the Welsh language and Welsh traditions that Vera Williams decided to revived St Dwynwen.

The character in the story of Dwynwen had some awesome qualities that need to be remembered. Firstly she would not marry a man who tried to manipulate or abuse her, even though he was prince. She knew he needed higher standards than just taking what he wanted when he wanted it. Are we willing to have clear boundaries and hold on to them within our relationships? And are we willing to not try to take things just because we want them?

Secondly she had the grace to forgive her abuser and release him from being frozen. I wonder if “as a block of ice” is a metaphor for being cold or hard hearted? Dwynwen prayed that he would be free to no longer be cold or hard of heart I believe. Are we willing to let go of those who’ve hurt us? Especially if we could just leave them as they are?

Thirdly it was not just that she wanted to then lead a chaste life but that she was willing to help and heal others who had been hurt by love, by relationships. It was not that she wanted everyone to be single like herself, but that she wanted them to be free to truly love with no hinderances.

It is interesting too that crippled people came to her shrine. I wonder how often we are crippled by relationships so much so that our daily walk is hindered? How often do relationships bring us to a point where we are not free to hold ourselves up right and to walk freely? I do wonder if there is a connection between hurt and abuse in relationships and being crippled bodily. We do have to remember that our minds, hearts and bodies are interlinked not separate parts. Perhaps those who came to Dwynwen’s chapel understood this and after they had made their offering and received prayer they were healed and able to walk tall and be all they were meant to be – as Dwynwen was.

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Dealing with being bored

Conwy Beach, June 2019

I’m dealing with lockdown boredom this week. It was creeping up on me, probably due to the torrential rain we’ve been having. Or maybe because I’m starting the next module of the MA in Celtic Studies I’m doing online, and struggling with. Not struggling in the “not getting good marks” but more struggling in the “finding academic writing really boring” struggle. But it seems like I am bored because I have something to do. That doesn’t make sense. But it is something to do that doesn’t have to be done at a certain time on a certain day. I can do it as and when I want so long as I submit the assignments on time.

But I think it is something that many of us who are not working due to either, in my case, not being able to because of too many restrictions with room rentals or running workshops, or furloughed, are having to deal with. Yes there are some who have got on and wrote, found new hobbies, etc, but I suspect even they have days when they are just bored. Most of us need a bit of structure or routine and not having it wears on the soul after a while. It is not helped by going back to this rule of only being able to walk from your own home. The picture above is of a beach only 7 miles from our house. It is a huge beach and even if the car park is full and tide in there is still lots of room for people and dogs to walk, run and play, but at the moment we are not allowed to go there. And there is a possibility of incuring a £30 fine. A lot of walking somewhere a bit different for an hour!!

Yes we are really luck that we live in a beautiful part of the world and have a beach, a park, a couple of steep hills and a wood all close by. When I’m busy doing things I find that doing the same old walk every day is brilliant because I can switch off, plan my day, know how long it will take, etc. But when boredom sets in I find I need a change to liven my brain up. So how do I do that?

Well I think firstly I need to be kind to myself and accept this is how I feel at the moment. Acknowledge those feelings and name them for what they are.

Secondly I need to not compare myself with others, to not feel guilty that I’m not doing all these amazing things that I see other people doing on various social media things. Good luck to them and I’m pleased for them but I must not envy them.

Thirdly I must be careful not to just hang about with people who are also feeling bored and listless and moany. That will help my brain to just move in that direction and shape itself more and more into that lethargic way of being. But also I need to be with people who are honest about things. It is one of the reasons I love WritersHQ.co.uk because they are open about the struggles we are all having trying to be motivated as writers but also then try to give some encouragment. They are also open about the struggles they are having.

So that would then be fourth – be with likeminded people who want to move forward.

I would say there is a fifthly – which is have a place to vent and share alone whether that is journaling, talking to God, sharing with the universe, meditating – though that would have to be after venting. You can’t vent and mediate I don’t think 🙂

And then sixthly – be honest with yourself and ask “what do I need to restore my life and my faith?” And by faith that can mean many things. For me it is faith that God is here in the midst of all this with me, that God is with me even in my boredom and fedupness with the world, that God’s is on and over and with all this – in the good and the bad bits. For you this could mean something else.

Well I have just spent time putting this blog piece together and I feel better now. Not so bored. So for me I have remember that I need to write to help relieve this boredom feeling, to let go of those “have tos” that I have with the MA and housework for no reason apart from it is my house that I am keeping clean not for a 5* Airbnb reveiw, and all the many have tos that can lurk in my head.

So maybe there is a seventhly – go and do something you like doing whether it is productive or not. Just go and enjoy yourself – and maybe, as this post has done, – stretch your brain a little bit.

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St Kentigern – 13th January

Also published on https://godspacelight.com/2021/01/13/st-kentigern-day/

Many preachers and scholars, C.S. Lewis amongst them, have said, The Bible is true but not always factual” and itis similar with the tales of the Celtic Saints. Their biographies were written many years after they had died, and were to show a truth rather than to be factual accurate. As I researched St Kentigern, and read about his miracles, and journeys, I asked myself: what does this Saint Kentigern have to teach us today? 

He was born in Scotland, was said to have established Glasgow as a religious centre. The four symbols of his main miracles are on the coat of arms for Glasgow; a bird, a tree, a bell and a fish. But when persecution of Christians came to Strathclyde, he move to Wales. Even though Kentigern had been a leader of a religious community, he was content to come under St David’s leadership and learn from him. Whilst in North Wales, he set up a monastery which, according to Jocelyn of Furness, who wrote Kentigern’s biography in about 1185, he did it because he believed the scattered Welsh monks needed a place to gather for education and to support each other. When he went back to Scotland, he left it under the care of Asaph. The monastery and the subsequently town that grew up around the monastery, are called “Llanelwy” in Welsh, meaning church by the river Elwy, but are better known by their English name of St Asaph. It is only the hospice on the edge of the town, opened in 1995, which bears Kentigern’s name. He also established churches through Northern England. 

For me, the three key areas that stood out are (1) he was not constrained by nationalistic or ethnic boundaries; (2) he was not afraid to learn from others; and (3) he did not need to be recognised for his achievements. 

In the UK, we have just left the EU. Also, as one watches the TV reports on the Covid-19 pandemic, one can see how divided the principalities of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland are. In Europe and America, we see issues of politics and immigration dividing countries. And that immigrants are fleeing their countries because of ethnic and political issues. The world appears to be dividing up along stronger and stronger nationalist and ethnic boundaries. This, in turn, leads people to become more and more afraid to learn from people who are not “of their tribe”, which is as true for some Christian denominations as it is for the secular world. At least, following on from the Black Lives Matters protests, more of us are reading books written by people with lives and experiences that are diverse to our own. 

The third point I noticed was how St Kentigern did not need recognition for his achievements. I know this is something I struggle with. There are a few people that I have befriended and encouraged, who have gone on to do amazing things and have forgotten that I supported them when they were new to an area or needed a leg up. I have struggled with that but am learning to let it go by asking myself why I need that recognition. Somehow we need to all let go of the need to be recognised. I’m sure we can quote the verses about praise in heaven, etc, but can we live them?

So how do we let go of our ties to our nationalistic, political and ethnic boundaries? How do we make ourselves willing to learn from others who are different to us? And how do we let go of needing to be recognised? I think it is by letting go of fear. From the things I have read about St Kentigern and many of the other Celtic saints, is that they had a holistic faith so did not need to be bounded by identity, being known for their knowledge or their achievements. Kentigern trusted in God, talked and listened to God, and fully accepted that his reward would come in heaven. He had nothing to fear because he knew he was doing what God had called him to. His miracles all show his care for the natural world and for his fellow humans. 

To follow Kentigern’s example, we need to let go of our fears of needing others to know what we’ve done and what we know, and be content to learn from whoever God places in our path. We need to do the things God shows us we are to do but then hold them lightly and let go when told. And we need to be content and secure in who we are and our relationship with God. 

“The only thing that stands between us and the awesome energy of love [God] is fear. To live without fear, we must stop analysing it, stop agonising over it, stop fighting with it, and let it go.”

-Love is Letting Go Of Fear by Dr. Gerald G. Jampolsky 

The story of St Kentigern, as with many of the Celtic saints, shows a life lived without fear and lived out filled the awesome energy of God. This is the lesson this saint can give us today. 

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2020 Goals – #100 books

This post should have gone out a couple of weeks ago but life got in the way!!

Last year I set myself the goal of reading 100 books in the year and posting them on Instagram. I have had years when I have read 100 books so I knew this wasn’t an impossible task but this would be the first year I had posted them. Well little did I know that I would not have the free choice I normally had on my reading material.

During the week of the middle of March I heard from a friend in England that their library was going to be shutting its doors that day because of the approaching pandemic. I went over the road and asked what was happening with my local library and was told that, even though they hadn’t heard anything official they suspected they would be closed by the end of the week and to just gather as many books as I could carry. So I left loaded down with about 20 books picked randomly.

By mid July the library was sort of open but to get a book one had to fill in a form and the librarians would select books on the answers you had placed on the form. My local librarians know me well so that helped but I was at their mercy as to what I read which does mean this year I have read books I would probably not normally have read.

Also with the #blacklivesmatters protests I wanted to read from my diverse authors so joined Shelters Book box #shelterbookbox. Once every 6 weeks or so I will recieve a book from a writer in a part of the world associated with Shelter International. Again this leaves me at the mercy of whoever chooses the book.

I would say my favourite books – the ones that have affected me the most – are Shuggie Bain, about poverty in 1980s Glasgow; American Dirt about a woman and her son fleeing from a drug lord in Mexico on the migration route to America; Girl, Woman, Other which about a connected collection of British black and mixed race women exploring how they dealt with underlying race in this country and how they explored their sexuality; Pull Of The Stars by Emma Donoghue set over 6 days in Dublin at the start of November 1918 with all the chaos of the Spanish Flu mixed in with the political situation there.

I’ve also explored my usual mix of dystopian fiction with the likes of Margaret Attwood; fantasy fiction with the likes of Raymond F Fiest and Conn Igguldon; historic fiction with Bernard Cornwall and Elizabeth Chadwick; and many other amazing books. I read books by black, Asian and Latino writers. I read academic ones for the Celtic MA I am studying. And ones that took me to other worlds where I could escape. I’ve read about people exploring their sexuality, their faith, their ethnicity; books that explore my own faith journey; books that have kept me awake during the night and invaded my day time thoughts and others that I have forgotten as soon as I have finished them.

I’ve learned that I love reading and definitely prefer fiction to non-fiction. I would love to be able to do all my MA learning via historical fiction books; that I prefer a good tense thriller to a romance; and that for me historical means over 100 years old. I see anything newer as current affairs 🙂

I’ve learned that I can put myself under pressure when I give myself a target and noticed that especially towards the end of the year I was reading to complete my target rather than reading for pleasure. But that also I can get distracted from reading and find myself playing on my phone when I could be reading.

I am going to do an Instagram story of this year’s reading but I have not set myself a goal. So I will still count the books as I post them but be kind to my target-driven self.

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For Healing To Go Further Than Just Skin Deep

Bewts-y-coed, Conwy April 2018 taken by me

I have been chewing over this blog for a few days now and each time I go beyond a paragraph it becomes either a rant or way too personal but last night, as I led down to sleep, it all fell into place.

I believe too often we heal the surface but do not clean out what is causing the wound. I think of friends who have gone to the doctor’s or even to hospitals and have got medicines, had operations, taken antibiotics etc, Yet if one googles the NHS diagnosis will say “caused by stress or anxiety”. But very rarely does anyone take time to find out what is causing the stress or the anxiety, or if they do then it is again treated superficially rather than getting to the heart of it. But that is because getting to the heart of something is hard work and painful.

The piece that brought this blog to a place I felt I could share with others was when I read the introduction to David Olusoga’s “Black and British: A Forgotten History”. He recounts of how when he was a young teen, himself, his mother, two sisters, a younger brother and his grandmother, were driven from their home by repeated nightly attacks where the perpetrator would throw bricks through their windows and of how over time all they had was boarded up plywood where the windows should have been. He recounts the terror they felt along with the sleepless nights and the well meaning, but misguided advise of a teacher. Eventually the family were moved to temporary accommodation but when he crept back into the estate he saw a swastika and the words “NF Won Here” daubed across the plywood windows. How do we delve into that pain, that fear, that helplessness, that terror of David’s family and too many other families like his? Changes of law are surface things. There needs to be real listening and real hearing and real learning.

As I pondered this I got to wondering why would someone want to abuse a family like this? What fears and anxieties were they harbour? Are we willing to talk to the perpetrator as well as the victim? But also there is another group in this tale – those who kept quiet and said nothing. Those who lived in the same street, the same neighbourhood, went to the same school, and who would have been friendly to the family and yet did not step in and help. Is it like the school playground where, once one person is being bullied, the rest can relax because it isn’t them? How do we look at the wounding within all these groups without getting judgemental?

Well the obvious answer is Jesus and that I would not deny. But I do wonder how often we are holding similar fears, similar needs to be top dog, to turn the other way, to keep our heads down and just do our stuff within the deep psyche of our churches? I think of the story of the Good Samaritan where good and godly men walked on by, not because they were bad but because they were afraid or relieved that it wasn’t them. Again these are wounds that need to be healed but often get overlooked. We do like the simplicity of good guys/bad guys even though each of us is more complex than that if we real look within ourselves.

I’ve a friend who said her family are praying about the lawlessness of this country and the churches need to have more of Jesus in them but as they have really engaged with praying they have realised that they need to deal with their lawlessness within themselves and their deep need of more Jesus. Too often we point the finger outwards and don’t look at ourselves.

So we know God wants to heal us, as Christine Sine reminded us in her blog on Monday, but do we want to lay ourselves bare and let God heal us? Do we want to let go of the boundaries we have build around ourselves to keep us safe that we have built so long ago that we don’t know they are there? I believe every time we can turn aside when someone is suffering, or make sure we keep our own group safe then we have ignored the walls that we have build. But can we really be ready to stand up for the victim when they are being bullied and abused? Can we also be willing to love the perpetrator and find out why they do as they do? We can if we are willing to pray more, to heal our own deep wounds and stop being afraid of what might become of us.

Things like the basics we are doing at the moment to deal with covid-19 – wear masks, don’t gather in groups, keep 2m distance, sanitize – are great starting points, as are regular healthcheck ups, eating well, exercise, etc, – are all great. As are changes to the law regarding racial, gender and other issues where there has been discrimination. But these are only a first step. We need to change our hearts. That is something we can only do if we spend time really looking at our wounds and really wanting to clean them out.

Create in me a clean heart, O God.

Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence

and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation,

and make me willing to obey you.

As Psalm 51:10-12 says – it’s got to start with me not them!

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Epiphany Eve

This post can also be found on https://godspacelight.com/2021/01/05/epiphany-eve/ along with many other great articles and posts.

Today is the day before Epiphany. The day before the church calendar celebrates the arrival of the Wise Men visiting Jesus. Some days before a big day are marked – like New Year’s Eve or Christmas Eve. But some days aren’t. The day just happens.

I wonder how those Wise Men felt on the night before they found this king they’d seen predicted in the stars. I’m thinking that on Epiphany Eve they were feeling a bit confused. They made their way to Herod’s palace and got a cryptic message from him as he tried to cover up for the fact that he didn’t know a king had been born in his province. I’m sure they were pondering their encounter with this man and his words. Herod, even though portrayed in church tradition, as a tyrant, was actually a great leader. He build extensively, not just palaces for himself, but aqueducts, theatres and public buildings, and generally raised the prosperity of the land. I think the Wise men would have been perplexed that this leader, who was well connected through the known world, did not know of this king that they had seen predicted in the stars that would change the course of history.

Not much is known about the backstory of the Wise men. No one knows for sure where they came from or what status they held in their own land. We don’t even know how many of them there were or how big a retinue they came with. All they get is a handful of verses in gospel of Matthew and one day in Anglican and Catholic church traditions to look into them.

Our church has a tradition associated with Epiphany where letters are chalked on the church door. Last year they read – 20+C+M+B+20. The initials C, M, B are for the traditional names of the Three Kings. Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, but also in Greek translation can stand for “Christus Mansionem Benedicat,” which means “May Christ bless this dwelling.” . But it is a bit like a code. Until you are in with the “in crowd” you haven’t got a clue what those letters mean. But I think this is so relevant for the coming of the Wise men.

The Wise men weren’t part of the in crowd, either in the land of Palestine or within the Jewish tradition. They were as much outsiders as the shepherds. The shepherds were despised within their community but at least they knew how the community worked, whereas the Wise men, because of their wealth would have been viewed with respect and would have been honoured, but they were on the outside of something they did not understand. The person they had expect to support and lead them, Herod, had let them down and had sent them on their way with a vague description of where to go and what to expect, but had left them to it. They were camped at the end of a small nondescript town where Herod had sent them. I wonder how they felt?

So today, on Epiphany Eve, imaging being in your expensive Bedouin tent [imagine your equivalent of]. You’re with your friends but you’re not sure where you are going. You’re not at the place you expected to be. You also know it is one of those places where everyone knows everyone. You can tell that from looking at it. But the sign that brought you here, this big star, is still telling you this is the way walk in it. Personalise it and think about how many times you’ve stood on the edge of something you don’t quite know what it was but you know you have to keep pressing forward.

We are just five days into 2021 with the US about to enter a new presidency, the UK being out of Europe with the deal we have to now make work, with the vaccine being given to more and more people and things lifting but lockdowns continuing, not knowing what the world economy will look like and the East saying they’re doing alright. For many there are exams and schooling to ponder how it will work out, babies being born, weddings happening, futures out there waiting to happen, but still there is waiting and not knowing, but we all have to walk forward.

As we didn’t know this time last year what this Covid virus would really mean to the world so the Wise men did not really know what awaited them in Bethlehem. But they followed, and they waited, and they arrived, and they gave their gifts, even though that must have seemed weird. But just for today they waited on the outskirts and pondered the journey they had been on and what their destination would look like. So at times we also stand on the edge and wait and ponder but we must place our hand in God’s and keep on keeping on.

This poem seems more appropriate this year than it has for a long time:

“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied:

“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.

That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.

And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East. “

by Minnie Louise Haskins

So let us walking into the unknown, find God’s hand and walk gladly no matter what comes this year.

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The Leaves of The Trees

I would like to share a poem by my friend, Julia McGuiness, who is poet in residence at Chester Cathedral. This poem can also be found on The Leaves of The Trees and on the sidebar you can click to find other poems by Julia. I have chosen this one because I feel it fits in with my Review of 2020 and also my posts about Joy and Hope.

The Leaves of the Trees

by Poet in Residence, Julia McGuinness

Trees weep, a fall of leaves
swirled by wind to lost heaps
of silence, of dry beauty.

Scattering unswept, vulnerable
to being trodden, trampled
under indifferent heels.

Bend, humble as a branch.
Lift to the light with tender hand
what weather and time have torn.

The scars leaves bear are cuts
that frame the sky with HOPE.
This holding is for the moment.

Shimmering silver turns to bronze;
leaves shift colour and currency.
Let it go. You too have changed.

The air you breathe is imprinted
with invisible shapes of hope;
love is a gift with holes.

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2020 Goals – #100walks

This was both our first walk for 2020 and our first walk for 2021. In 2020 we did this walk for the first time and then decided yesterday to repeat it.

At the start of 2020 I decided not to set any new year resolutions but to have goals which would challenge me but feel attainable. Little did I know!!

I walk every day, often twice or three times a day, with my little dog. It is usually the same route – down our street, into the park or along the beach, and sometimes up into the woods behind us. So I thought at the start of 2020 I would challenge myself to, at least once a week, look for a new walk myself and then on the weekends dog and I could go for a new walk with my husband. We even had a jar that we had filled with walk suggestions, and planned to add to during the year. Well then Covid-19 struck and lockdown and the five mile rule, where we couldn’t go further than 5 miles from home to exercise, and were encouraged to not drive at all. For over three months we walked lots but always over the six similar routes. Then come October I fell of the horse and bruised my ribs and wasn’t able to drive so, once I was able to get back walking, it was back to those same regular walks. So we did lose about half the year! Also I found that even when lockdowns lifted we were lethargic and didn’t pull out any of those suggested walks in the jar because we wanted to go back to tried and trusted ones that were not too far away.

But in fact we did add to our list of local walks, and explored new places on those three times we were able to get away, So even with all the disruptions we did manage to do 48 new walks, all recorded on Instagram. I am pleased with this because even though the goal was not achieved this year, in a “normal” year it would be doable.

But through it I have learned something – that when things are tough we do need the familiar because sometimes doing something new is too much to have to think and plan. And you know what? That is alright. So I will be kind to myself that I didn’t achieve this goal and will look forward to this year. Even though I have not set a walking goal I will still count the new walks I do and see what happens.

I suppose my biggest achievement I have learned from this walking goal challenge is a great understanding of myself – which is not a bad thing.

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Welcome 2021?

View from the Little Orme. My last photo of 2020

I hope we are kinder to you, 2021, than we have been to 2020. We have spoken harshly about the last year when all it did was tell its story. In fact it did all it had to do. In January we cried out, “2020 the time of perfect vision” and then we did not like what it showed us so we cried “begone”. Yet it could not go until its time was spent.

2020 showed us things in our world that we need to change – the fragility of our health service, of our government having to make sound-bites and snap decisions. In fact it showed that most of our government is out of touch with regular people, not understanding that there are too many that, once their pay-checks decrease by a small amount they are plunged into poverty. We saw this with the food handouts by Unicef, the increase in foodbanks, having to have a footballer tell those in power that children needed feeding even in the school holidays. We were showed the deep held racism in our land, the class divides, the divisions of the principalities that make up the United Kingdom. We also saw the support that there was between people and the care as communities came together. We also saw how selfishly we all were as we bemoaned not being able to go where we pleased and do what we wanted. We realised how much we needed each other and how much we do miss our friends and family. We saw how much we compare ourselves to other nations and ran down our leaders and then wonder why they do not perform and were always working to try to please the crowd.

All these things and much, much more 2020 and its mandate, Perfect Vision, were revealed over the last 365 days. So why did we bemoan it? What did it do wrong? For me I would like to honour 2020, to say that yes there were too many things I did not like in it, too many losses, changes, deaths and more, but also there were good things, great things, deep and amazing changes that went on. Can we say 2021 will be different? I do not yet know what its mandate it. But all I can say is that I would like to be able to honour it when it has spent its 365 days with me and see both the good and the bad, the things I can control and the things I cannot, and know that every day things are unfolding as things have unfolded over all the years since man first stood tall and walked this earth.

So bless you 2020 and may you rest in peace. Welcome 2021 and let us walk together and just see what will occur.