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.
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 TheLittle 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.
I waited until I got my most recent credit card bill through because it had got a bit maxed out due to needing new glasses, car being MOTed (which it passed magnificently again), and husband’s birthday, and then I bought myself a Nutribullet. I have wanted one for ages and had got a cheap one from Aldi which I had used to death but now for the main article. So Saturday morning I went to the dreaded Amazon site, the place we all love to hate but that fits the bill for all our needs, and ordered a little bullet. I couldn’t quite bring myself to go the whole hog but have gone for the magic bullet. Amazon promised it would be delivered between Weds and Fri of this week. Excited!!!
Then I got an email to say it was coming Sunday. No not Sunday! I didn’t want a Sunday delivery. I felt that Sunday should be a day of rest. Postman get the day off so why not white van man? Though the day off thing does not work for my local Tesco, which I often pop into on my way back from church, or cafes or pubs. Hum! Something to think on there!
So Sunday about 2pm, which I was pondering taking the dog for a walk, the doorbell goes and man trusts parcel and electronic signing thing into my hand. I say thank you and he is gone. I wanted to say something like “I’m sorry I didn’t want it delivered today” or words to that effect but he was gone. But as I was walking on the beach with the dog I pondered – how was I to know whether this man was maybe a Jew or a Muslim. Maybe he had Friday or Saturday as his day off? Maybe he didn’t want Sunday off at all. Maybe he had a horrid home life, or lived alone, or ….? How was I to know what his life was like and whether he was happy or not to work Sundays? I used to work in hotels and bars and restaurants and used to love working Sundays when I was single. I used to like working over Christmas because, at the time, I didn’t want to spend it with my parents and their new partners. I used to love the camaraderie and fun of working over Christmases. Sundays were often a bit of a slog. We didn’t get extra money because it was a weekend or holiday time. In fact we got nothing extra at all, not ever time off in lieu. Most of the time we were just casual staff in the days before minimum wage so had to work to pay the rent!
I know there is the thing about delivery people not getting well paid but they get badly paid from Monday through to Saturday, as do those in hospitality. I suppose the thing is the delivery drivers have to work to fulfil what is seen as the “need” to get a parcel immediately. And for me I think that’s where the rub is, that we should have a bit of delayed gratification. Just occasionally.
Thought – but then I suppose I did buy from Amazon because I didn’t want to make a trip to Argos and pick it up from there. I did want it now! Hum!
Yesterday the dog and I went for a walk up along Conwy Mountain. It’s a walk we’ve done before so I was walking without really thinking. There were times when I came to places where the path wasn’t clear and I had to guess where we were going and then we’d come across the path again. It reminded me of a time when my kids and I were walking in a Country park in Scotland and again we’d walk, lose sight of the path and then find something that showed we were going the right way – a green arrow, a bench, etc.
On Tuesday I went to see “Legally Blonde The Musical” and in that she has a set path that she is going on – to marry Warner for love – but he decides he wants someone more “serious” and so Elle decides to become more serious. From this she finishes up graduating as a lawyer and winning a case based on her bimbo knowledge, but also her skill with reading people. Originally she didn’t know her path would take her to being some great lawyer, she just wanted to find a way to marry the man of her dreams, who she doesn’t in the end either.
So often we think we are on a path that leads us in a totally different direction, or not sure if we are on a path at all, but what we need to do is keep walking.
I was thinking of all the other houses we looked at before we bought this one. We had a path “to move up to the mountains and the sea and run a hospitality house”. We are now living in a town we’d only heard of 2 years ago, I’m involved in a project with a castle I knew nothing about 2 years ago, and we have friends and guests and neighbours we didn’t know of till we met them. If we had bought another house then our lives, our friends, what we do, would be totally different.
Sometimes we don’t know the path, sometimes we do, but we do need to be bold and fearless and walk that path.
My son has joined the army this week. We have actually been unfair to him by asking him where he expects to go with his “army career”, and then at times worrying about what he’ll do after. My goodness he has only just joined and he doesn’t know what comes next. He can see the steps for the first 3 months. He can see some of the things he hopes to achieve but until he gets to A he won’t know what B is. That is the same for all of us. We had to buy this house in this town before we could start exploring what our lives would be.
What path will we be on in 10 years time? Who knows, but I know I will keep walking it whether I can see it clearly or not know that it is there in front of me.
I was walking the dog on Conwy Beach this morning looking toward Deganwy and felt God speak to me as I was looking at the basalt column that rises above the down. He felt Him say “on this rock I will build my church” so I asked for a bit of explanation as it’s a verse we all know well and have often been told it means the confession of Peter that Jesus was the Messiah.
As I was walking I kept thinking and chewing this over. Basalt columns pushed themselves up during a time of great volcanic upheaval, not a peaceful time. The rise above the surrounding area because erosion has stripped away all that may have surrounded them. This is how my faith feels. My faith came up during a time of upheaval
for me – single mum leading a lifestyle that focused around drinking, drugs and random people staying at my house. When it started it was surrounded by loads of supports, theologies, rules, etc but all those have been eroded away.
I went to the funeral of a dear friend last week who’d died at 43. A lovely, crazy, opinionated friend who sometimes drove me to distraction who had argued through her Christian faith. Gone way too soon. At her funeral the vicar read I Corinthians 13, the love chapter as it is often known. Whilst listening to it I could feel something stirring in me but wasn’t sure what. The walk today revealed what it was. Everything has been stripped away. I no longer care about whether it makes you a “proper” Christian if you speak in tongues or prophecy or say the right prayers at the right time or whatever silly ideas I had. I’ve been watching Gunpowder [and have studies this period too] and it amazes me how people were willing to die or to take the life of another for a believe which I’m not sure God even cares about. I may not have been that bad when I first came to faith but I know I lost friends because of my dogmatism. That has all been stripped away. Now very little remains but I stand – not so much tall but I stand like the basalt column.
What is left? Faith – A faith that God is bigger than anything I ever hoped or believed and that He is always there for me whatever I walk through and that I will stay with Him forever. Hope – that God is bigger and that those who’ve died before me will be with Him, that those who don’t profess to knowing Him on this earth will be with Him at the end [see I can’t believe that if we are all made in the image of God – and that we don’t just become made in that image when we “pray the prayer” – that God will take what He has made to be with Him . But that’s another thought entirely ] Love – that God loves me, loves those I love, loves those I don’t love too, and that I must learn to love too.
Faith and Hope and Love that is all that remains but I feel that God said to me today that this is what He’s building His Church on and I need to stand on that no matter what more the storms have to throw at me.
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.
Now I’m sure I’ve blogged on this before but it seems relevant again – at least for me for now.
Most 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 something 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 🙂
So 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 🙂
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.
Ok so the title was going to be about focus again but I thought I’ve used that before so would try something new. I’m feeling a bit down. I had a bit of a not reprimand but just a feeling of screwing up when I sent out an advertising for my writing workshops on a new email group I’m part of. It left me a bit low. Also we are having our first long time Airbnb guests after the hard work guests of a couple of weeks ago. I am feeling apprehensive.
I was giving myself a talking to whilst out walking the dog this morning. I was telling myself that we have had way too many lovely guests so why am I letting one 3 night stay discombobulate me so much? And also with this reprimand regarding advertising – why am I letting it get to me when I have so many people supporting me and this whole writing workshops stuff is growing so fast? Then I remembered something a friend had said to me ages ago about how much easier it is to get down about something than up. The analogy was of someone standing on a chair and someone else reaches up to them and of how it is much easier for someone to pull the other person down off the chair than it is for the one on the chair to pull someone up. Down is an easier place to go.
In our well-being group yesterday one of the things that came out of my facilitating for me was that we have to all be our own cheerleaders. It is great to have other people rooting for us and we do need that mightily but if we do not have that self-belief then no amount of others cheering us on will ever get us anywhere. Yes to get to where I am now with Barefoot At The Kitchen Table I have needed a host of people to encourage me from my lovely friend Penny, to Theresa at Canolfan Dewi Sant Centre for booking me in the first place, to Clara and her business coaching, to Mark walking me to do things at Gwrych Castle, to the lovely people who come every week to my workshops. I needed all of those to get me to here but if I had just said to Theresa “great idea and I’ll think about it” I could still be here thinking about it. If after talking with Clara I had not then done anything about it I would still be sitting here thinking. And so on and so forth. I have now got an opportunity to go on local radio, to work in a local arts and community centre, to discuss ideas for working in a local hotel, and more. Even from making a mistake with advertising on this new emailing group too soon has meant I have learned something – but also have 2 people who are interested in coming along. Nothing wasted.
Oh I’ve just given myself the pep talk I should have earlier on 🙂 I do need to remember that I am a writer and that is how I think. I love walking with the dog and talking to God as I go but actually when it comes to sorting out life, etc then I do need to write. Which brings me to the question of that self-belief but also self-knowledge. We all have to know how we can problem solve that works best for us as individuals. If I walk and talk and think I get somewhere but when I write I get answers. For other people it is the other way round. But again this comes from self-belief. In fact I walked out of a craft day put on by a lovely new friend of mine, Dee of Poke the Muse, because it was craft based rather than writing based and I couldn’t figure out what I was doing.
And now I feel confident in who I am. I’ll make mistakes because I often think too fast but then I would rather have made mistakes and learned than never to have tried at all.