It’s not just the blossom on the trees or the bud of new leaves, the singing of the birds chatting each other up or the primroses appearing, the clocks changing or it feeling warmer. The caravans have started to arrive in the caravan park I walk the dog past and the small animal zoo has opened again. Life is springing up all around.
But also I still see the remains of Storm Doris and the destruction she caused. The fallen tree I still have to climb over, the branches scattered in the park, the red tape around the trees made dangerous by the storm. It reminds me of my life. There are so many new and exciting things going on here. The doors that are opening
are amazing and I am using my degree to its limits with the projects I am becoming a part of – both paid and voluntary. But there is still in my life the remnants of the storms that I have endured; a missing person here that I’d like to tell, a reason why we’re living here not somewhere else, the pains, stresses, and sadnesses that I carry even though this glorious awakening.
It does feel like spring has come to my life with the workshops, the projects, the challenges of different cultures with the Airbnb. I can truly see our vision coming to life and it is amazing. But there are times when I wonder why I feel sad and low and then remind myself of the storms that have passed through. At times it feels like they block my path and slow me down and that the climb over them is too hard. But climb over I do because the openings and new growth that are happening in my life are too good to stay and dwell on the storm. But as I acknowledge the fallen tree and step over it and walk around the scattered branches so I must acknowledge what has gone on and not try to walk as though it is all as it was.
For the land this spring is different because of the destruction that passed through but it will rise into new growth and so will I.
For a week of mornings whilst out walking the dog as I walk past the park there have been a group of daffodils who’s faces are turned toward the sun, expectant of the day to come. I kept meaning to bring my camera and take a photo because they said so much to me about looking to the source of light and being expectant and ready for the day. Of course I forgot and now they are gone. It looks like someone has picked them. We have loads of daffodils in and around our park and often people pick them to take home. I hope these expectant daffodils have gone to a good home.
But it got me thinking – how often are we expectant for something, looking to the source and then get snatched away from it? At my church this Sunday we’re doing a little play based around Matthew 23:37 where Jesus wants to gather Jerusalem to him like a mother hen gathers her chicks. A mother hen will spread her wings wide when she sees danger and gather all her chicks under her wings to protect them from attacks by birds of prey. She is willing to give her own life for her chicks. I think so often we think of God as someone we go ask things from and “look to expectantly” but don’t let him cover us from attack/being picked/disappointment. This verse, and many others in the Bible, do say about God being there to protect and support during times of hardship and distress. I’m not sure there are any, or maybe a few, that say He’ll make the bad times go away yet too often the Christian message is “God will make things wonderful and life will be great” and then wonder why people fall away when life doesn’t work that way, when prayers don’t get answered, people don’t get healed, we get “picked” after diligently “looking at the source”.
I’ve just seen a post from a friend of mine who talks about life’s realities sometimes not living up to one’s expectations. With the things I do – the room rentals and the writing workshops – so often things don’t turn out as expected; I don’t get as many coming to the workshops as said they were, or those who come take things off in a totally different direction, or with the rooms people say they are coming for a certain time and then change their minds. We have just had it with the rooms that a couple and a single person both said they were going to be staying for a while. The single then decided that what she was doing here wasn’t for her and left and then the couple found a flat to rent quicker than I’d expected. For both sets of people this is great news, and I am really happy for them, but what it also means is that things have to lived up to the expectations that I had. Things are changing. It felt a bit like I was looking to a certain way of life and then got “picked” and its all change again.
So we need to be willing to accept the changes, go with the flow and also be kind to ourselves and accept that this can be exhausting, and like the daffodils can bring about major changes in our circumstances. And be willing to just hide under the shadow of His wing.
Here are some thoughts in following on from my post yesterday about Pagan Christmas. Whilst I was out walking today and marvelling at how each day is different – yesterday we
had a thick frost, today it is mild and damp. I always wish I took my camera with me because there is a view great view where I walk over the bridge over the A55 and look out to see. In our bay we have wind turbines, lots of them, and it is amazing how the cloud and sea and sky can make them look so different. The other day they looked like they were standing on the ground. Today like they were floating in the air. Some days they are brilliant white, some days grey and forlorn looking. So there I am marvelling about this and realised how much most of Christianity can miss about God and how also the pagan side missed about God too.
Ok so this is generalisation so please forgive me 🙂 Pagans are very much into worshipping creation and Mother Nature, which I think is awesome, and do believe it is one facet of God. Christians on the other hand can get so fixated in Father God that they miss the nature side of things. Both Father and Mother are facets of God. And they are not the whole even when joined together.
But then things get silly as Christians. If I told you I was a Creationist Christian then you would think that I believe the literal story in the Bible, that God made the world in just 6 days. I don’t. But I do believe God created the world. See I think that to do it in 6 days is actually a bit easy. To make man exactly as he is now is easy. It’s almost what we like in our instant McDonald’s world – that quick instant fix. And in the grand scheme of things 6-7,000 years is pretty instant when put in regard to eternity. I think the whole idea that God took millennia to make the world is awesome. As a creative person I am learning that to make anything really read well – or to make my Barefoot At The Kitchen Table business viable – I have to be in for the long haul, and I do have to be willing to edit, to change, to work with what I have.
Oh! I hope that’s not blasphemous. I’m not saying that God has been doing editing and changing and doesn’t know what’s going on. But I do think God works on growing things and changing and being in for the long haul. Even for what He is doing with me personally He has to be committed for the long haul and for things to edit and to change. I am not the same person I was when I first met with God 24 years ago. In fact I’m not the same person I was last week. Last week I was gathered with my Interweave friends and that always changes me. Yes one could say that because God is outside of time and space He knew where I’d be and how I’d been today but He did also give me free will to get to here as I chose. And I’m not sure if “here” is where He really wanted me or whether we are both just working with the material on offer at the moment 🙂
So the idea that God takes millennia to get the earth to how it is now, and He hasn’t just done it Himself. He has let Mankind be involved too. My view out my window and on my walks is a mixture of God and man working in tandem. I was going to say harmony but I don’t think that is always the case. As I’ve posted before this view is different to what it was and in a few years it will be different again – maybe.
So my point today is to say please let us stop doing either/or but yes and. Let us see God in creation and creation in God. And also realise God is in this for long haul not a quick picture.
I met a lovely lady dog walker a couple of days ago who told me about a walk from my
house that goes via the castle which I can see from my window, over the North Wales Expressway, then on to the beach and back via the park. It is a lovely walk taking in all sorts of terrain and today the tide was out so we got sand too. What struck me though as I walked was how much mankind has altered the terrain, tamed it, organised it.
First of all I was thinking of the two roads I have to cross – one, the old A road that is still well used. This runs along an older carter’s route. Modern man has just tarmacked it. This has then been replaced by the dual carriageway, much faster and straighter A55 where traffic goes along at a steady 60-70 miles per hour. These two routes make it clear how
man has used the landscape for his own means. These routes have to run where they do because it is near the coastline and so flatter.
Then there is the castle, built in the nineteenth century and looks like a fairy castle. Again it has taken the lie of the land and shaped itself around the hillside, put in proper roads and paths. At the moment there are a group of long term unemployed people who have to come and work the estate so they get their unemployment benefit. They are taking what is there and moulding it and shaping it, putting in more paths and are going to make a children’s playground. Again taking what is and changing and making something that fits where life is now.
As I walked I thought that at least the sea has been kept from all this but no! As you look out there are three different groupings of wind turbines standing sentinel in the sea. In fact you can see the wind turbines from our bedroom window which is how we know we can see the sea! Again man has harness what is to make it his own. Though the wind does decide as and when it is going to make energy. Yesterday the wind was so strong, the tide so high that it was a wild and woolly day, but today the sun is out, the wind has dropped and the sea is hardly rippling. Even though mankind does take what is there is still some of nature that still has it’s own way.
So as I walk I am amazed at what we human beings have done to this land. There is very little there that would have been the same to the iron age hill dwellers who camp I can just see from my house too. Even back then they took what was there, the hill with its view of the sea and back across the land, and shaped and changed it into the circles of hills and ditches that would keep the families safe.
So as I ponder global warming and all that I have great confidence that mankind will adapt and change, will somehow find a way through. I wonder what the fears of Iron-age man, Tudor man, Victorian man where? Yet each of them shaped and changed and alter what was to work for them. This is not to say that we should just carry on using energy and resources like we do. No we should definitely take responsibility, but I do think we should stop fearing and trust in our own ingenuity.
“Translations vary, but in our modern day, conversatio morum suorum generally means conversion of manners, a continuing and unsparing assessment and reassessment of one’s self and what is most important and valuable in life. In essence, the individual must continually ask: What is worth living for in this place at this time? And having asked, one must then seek to act in accordance with the answer discerned.”
—Paul Wilkes, Beyond the Walls: Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Life
This is something I would like to be plaster as wallpaper all around my home at times – both to remind me, to remind the rest of my family, to remind those who come to our home, but also to remind us to give this to others. So often our world works on this upward spiral, including in church, of getting better and better and of achieving, of reaching the goal. But this says that in fact we should understand where we are and asking what is worth living for in the now. It’s not about getting better, of having a purpose, of achieving, but of being and living.
Richard Rohr says something similar today (28th Dec 2015) :
Both God’s truest identity and our own True Self are Love. So why isn’t it obvious? How do we find what is supposedly already there? Why should we need to awaken our deepest and most profound selves? And how do we do it? By praying and meditating? By more silence, solitude, and sacraments? Yes to all of the above, but the most important way is to live and fully accept our present reality. This solution sounds so simple and innocuous that most of us fabricate all kinds of religious trappings to avoid taking up our own inglorious, mundane, and ever-present cross of the present moment.
I have been working with young people who haven’t made it in the education system and all we seem to do is trying to keep them in that holding pattern until the can leave school, which is now 18 years old. Why are we not teaching them how to make the most of where they are? Many of these kids have amazing gifts and talents, just not recognised in the modern school system, so they’ve been labelled and made to feel like they have nothing to give. Yet if we could get them to live fully in their present reality, which for many is really hard, but also to ask what is worth living for in this present moment? I think we could get them to change. I really do believe not just with these kids but with everyone if we could work out what things in this present moment are worth living fully for and how can be be fully present then things would change.
The reason why we don’t teach this? Because so very few people live it. I know I struggle to. But that is also something I’m learning and am going to take in 2016 – that if I don’t get it right today then I forgive myself and start again. I don’t even have to wait till tomorrow to start again. I can start again the moment I realise that I’ve messed up and am not fully present, not looking at what is worth living fully for at this moment.
I was trying to practise this whilst out walking with the dog this morning. Ok it was helped by the fact that there was the most gorgeous burnt copper sunrise. But I’ve got lots on my mind. Today my mum and her husband are coming to “do Christmas” with us, so there was food stuffs to think of; my son is having an operation and I want to be there for him but he leave 200 miles away; my daughter is off back to uni 100 miles away and I was trying to work out whether I could manage to take her back; and of course the big one – we’re moving. All these thoughts were crowding into my head and taking over often. As was the thing of wondering what life will be like this time next month. But whenever I realised that I was not in the moment I wouldn’t be cross with myself but would just pull myself back and go back to enjoying the sunrise and the lovely day, and watching the dog rushing about. And of course my mind would wander again and again would have to be pulled back.
Again I think this is a place where we aren’t kind to ourselves or others; we don’t cut anyone any slack. If we mess up we’ve failed. If someone does something wrong they are labelled as a certain type of person. Very rarely do we give ourselves or others the grace to just say this is a phase. I am learning with my family, husband and children, to try to just let it be and say this is what it is for now. Do I force them to change? No that would be wrong because what do I know about what is best for them. Many times I’m not sure what is best for me until I’ve tried it, and then sometimes its best of then but not later on. I am a fluid evolving being and so are those around me. To truly accept this growth and change and living in the moment we must trust that all will be well.
Or as it said is Star Wars: The Force Awakens “The Light — It’s always been there. It’ll guide you.” And also “As long as the sun is there we have hope”
On Wednesday we watch Inside Out, the new Pixar movie. I will try not to give too much away, though my movie blogs should always come with a spoiler-alert. Anyway suffice to say that one cannot be happy all the time, and all the memories we have come with a healthy mix of happiness and sadness, and this in fact leads us to become much rounder people. If we all tried to be happy all the time then we would miss out on so much. Interestingly this revelation was followed by a family relationship meltdown; lots of shouting, misunderstanding, mistakes made, and a need for some space. I look back on many days, many memories and it is very rare that they are just happy. There is generally a mix of sadness, anxiety, misunderstanding, as well as happiness.
Out walking the dog the other day I was amazed that one of our favourite fields was glowing golden; an amazing mix of oranges, reds and golds with the highlighting it. It turned out that the farmer had covered it in some form of weed killer and was going to plough it in and change the whole look of the field. A mix of wonder but also trauma and change.
There are so many incidents when we really think about them that are a mishmash of things, and yet we spend good money trying to be happy as much as possible. And what happens? Well people are disappointed, feel let down and actually are sadder for it. If one could be content in all circumstances then that would be so much better. I could use my anxiety to try to change things, my misunderstandings into working out where I go wrong and to make me a deeper rounder person. Again that is an interesting one because so often we think we should get better, but actually as I grow I want to become deeper not better. I am ok as I am but I can become more of what I am. Yes I want to be able to understand my family to a deeper extent, but as someone said to me today I need to learn what my boundaries are too to be willing to let them have theirs. That means I am deeper and rounder but not better.
As a Christian I know God loves me as I am but that doesn’t mean I want to stay as I am, or even that God wants me to stay as I am. I love my children as they are, but I also want to support and help them mature, and want to see other people in their lives supporting and helping them. I not sure if God is like this but I know as a parent what I really would love is for my children to have other people in their lives supporting and helping them to grow because then they would become deeper and rounder. If they only have me then they will actually be very much like me. Though I suppose with God He is much rounder and deeper than I’ll ever be, which makes you wonder why we want to try to make Him able to be understood. Wouldn’t faith be so much more if we let people connect with the unfathomable God rather than the God that a church leader can give the explanation of???? 🙂
Please note that I do think there are loads of times when God carries usFor many years Christians had the poem “Footprints” somewhere in their homes. it basically said that there are times when life gets too tough and God carries you through. I’m not sure if that’s right for every time. I think there are times when God holds your hand and you walk together or even times when He lets you go to see what will happen, to grow your faith. It’s not that He’s miles away. In fact I think He’s standing closer than you realise but your human eyes don’t let you see it. But I think there are times when you have to walk the road because then you can show to others how to do it. I must say, after the few years we’ve been through, I only trust those who’ve walked a hard path too. I struggle with those who say “God carried me”. I know God kept me going through it all but because He made me walk it I am stronger for it.
When I was away a couple of weeks ago I took a series of pictures of a path the dog and I were walking, just the two of us, on the Isle of Arran. As we walked I would
occasionally not be too sure where I should be walking but then would come across a footprint in the mud where someone had slipped of a stone. I knew I was on the
right path, not just because someone had gone that way before but because someone had slipped off and got caught in the mud or bog. If the people who had walked before me had been super careful and stuck to the stepping stones or been carried by some greater force I would never have know this path was walkable. It gave me such reassurance to know this path had actually been walked by someone. And that is why, I think, at times God doesn’t carry us but makes us walk along. I think too, that at times He wants to strengthen our faith and let us walk unaided.
Again after the last few years that I have walked through I know I am a stronger person, but interestingly too that hasn’t made me more self reliant, but almost more trusting in God, have a deeper faith in God. I no longer trust for something or have faith for something but have faith that God is God and trust that He loves me unconditionally. It’s an interesting place to be. But I also know if He had carried me all that way I would have nothing to share with my friends who don’t see God in places, who don’t expect to see God.
It is an interesting phenomenon that the more I know I can the more faith I have in God. Paradox or fact of life?
All day every day we run around exhausted trying to work out what’s good, what’s bad, what we like, what we don’t like, instead of just experiencing this world. I’ve been doing a Mindfulness course and I must admit till then I thought that Mindfulness was just about stopping to look at things, even then to put them in the good/bad, like/don’t like category, but I don’t think that’s the case. It is about judging. I talked about this in my post on Keeping Sunday Special in regard to how we judge people’s faithfulness but I think I’m taking it further.
Over the past few days I’ve been walking the dog and trying to look and listen to nature without judging, without deciding whether I like it or not, and then have been trying to take that on into my life. At the moment my daughter is home from university, which means for a lot of the time she’s in the living room – in my space – which actually I then find it hard to write, to even think creatively. So I can decide if I want to decide if I like her being there or not or just accept that’s where she is. To a point I do like the fact that, when she isn’t working or out with friends, that she likes to be in with me. Though in honesty it is because the internet connection is better on the couch. I also don’t like her being there because I find the continuous computer gaming annoying to listen to. Now I can either get upset and put it in
“don’t like” box or even try to work myself up to liking it and so putting it in the “like” box, which it can fall out of, or I can decide that this is the way life is and if I’m not able to be creative for 3 months then that’s what it is. See actually I almost wrote “it won’t be the end of the world” as though that made things ok, and it needed to be in the “ok” box”. That’s the other place we use if we actually don’t like something but aren’t sure what to do with it we say its “ok” which like “nice” or “interesting” has a myriad of meanings. Often “OK” can mean that actually we don’t like it but we want others to think we are good people so we tell everyone that it’s ok. So with my daughter I have to say “that’s how it is” and then work my life around it. I can also tell her how I would like to have some space. Or as happened yesterday I said, calmly, that I would like her to help more in the kitchen and we made supper together. It was helpful. Yes it did go in the “like” box but actually things to. We will always have things we like and don’t like, and that’s ok but we still need to accept that those are our tastes and not right or wrong.
So I like some help in the kitchen and I do have my own way of doing things. This isn’t right or wrong but how I like things. I like the house to myself and everything quiet, but that’s me. it isn’t right or wrong, good or bad, but just me. And when it comes to being out in nature there isn’t a right and wrong, good or bad. There are just flowers, grasses, birds, trees, cars, people, colours and sounds. All just being there.
Now that I am accepting not just what I see in the countryside as “more than just ok” then I am bringing it into my home life, my friendship life, my working life, my creative life, my Christian life. In fact I would say this article says how we should live life more than anything I could write. Integration of the Negative. Jesus didn’t put things in good or bad, right or wrong, but he did suggest ways that made life work more fully for all. And this is where I like this practise, if I’ve got the Mindfulness thing right, is that even though it benefits us we are doing it for others. If I am accepting of everything then I am a calmer, less critical person to live with, probably less anxious too. Though even if I’m anxious or depressed I can just accept that that’s the way I am and it’s ok. Not to judge me either!
Oh I seem to be back to the “love your neighbour as yourself” 🙂 which was a reoccuring theme in my other Diane’s Daily Thoughts.