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Census equinox lockdown spring unprecedented

21st March 2021

Daffodils. Image taken from Pixabay.com by dendoktoor
Image from Pixabay by dendoktoor

Today is the 21st March, the first day of spring. It is also Census day here in the UK, an event that happens every 10 years. It is the 1st anniversary of the first ever lockdown in the UK. So much has changed in the last 12 months but then so much changes every year, but through it all spring stays the same. And it is the mix of mighty changes and the constants that I am holding on to today.

The mighty changes got me thinking about how very different each of my “Census days” have been.. This will be my 6th. My first, I was not quite 10 so my parents would have filled that one in. We had moved from London to a bungalow in the country. I had friends with horses and maybe too much freedom. Fast forward 10 year, as a family we moved twice and now live in a different part of the country, I am married, own a house and have a job. Ten years further on, I’ve divorced, moved a lot, had a crazy ten years that I am grateful to have lived through, and now hold my brand new son in my arms and know I need to calm down to keep him safe. The next 10 years again, are filled with huge changes. I have an amazing God encounter, marry, have a daughter, get divorced, move lots, and as I filled in this census form we are preparing to go to live with a Christian mission organisation. In the ten years from there I have worked in the mission organisation for a while, moved around a lot, settled back in the town I filled in the last census form, then got married and moved again. Now to this year’s census form, again many changes though I am still married to the same person, my kids have left home [though my daughter is staying with us whilst she’s furloughed], we have moved and I have published my first book.

Lots of other things have happened during the last ten years – deaths of family and friends in tragic circumstances being the major ones – but also amazing times of growing up, of getting a degree, of no longer running away.

These past 12 months will go down as a year of monumental change and I know that this year of lockdown isn’t over yet, but what I have discovered as I have thought back through my “census years” is that life events don’t fit kindly into a calendar pattern. Months and years don’t all start on the first day of the week. People don’t die far enough apart to give one time to grieve through each one. Things happen in a mess. They happen in a confused state.

The media and many others are asking governments to come up with a “get out of lockdown” plan, but as someone said on Mock the Week earlier in the year “this is a virus and it won’t stick to a plan”. The phrase that was spoken a lot at the beginning of this pandemic was that we were in unprecedented times. Why do we expect someone to have a plan when things are unprecedented? When I filled in my first census form as an adult I would not have been able to tell you that 4 census’s later I would be living in North Wales with a published book and degree in Creative Writing and History. I’ve had many “unprecedented” years, and most times there is no plan. The “pandemic years” will be different as they are something we experience as a nation rather than an individual. But sometimes I have come to realise is we don’t know our way through we just have to keep on walk.

feel I’ve walked a life time of unprecedented and know that there is a pretty strong chance that the next however long I’m blessed to live on this earth will be unprecedented – some maybe just for me and mine but some maybe for the world country. I am grateful that after my 3rd census I met with God in such a way that I have never been able to walk away. I didn’t met with doctrines or theology but met with the Creator of the Universe who told me how much I was loved even though at the time I was a mess. I believe the Almighty can do it now for each and everyone.

I share a poem from Jan Richardson who has been on an awesome journey through unprecedented times for her and can still say she know she is Beloved.

Today in the Northern hemisphere is Spring Equinox. From today there will be more daylight than darkness, and as I write the sun is shining. I hope this is the start of more light in our world than darkness, more warmth rather than cold, more trusting and less fear. We will all walk, either as individuals, as families, or as nations, through unprecedented times, but as Easter approaches, help us to remember that we do not need to walk alone.

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change Llyn Anafon new normal poem snowdonia

Llyn Anafon

Llyn Anafon taken by me Sunday 27th Sept 2020

Yesterday was the last day of our holiday. It was our first holiday this year due to lockdown. The first 6 days of it were spent in Northumberland in a self-catering cabin, but we had to come home early because we could not stay with friends in the area for the weekend due to the NE of England being in local lockdown. So on Sunday we walked into Snowdonia, away from the tourist crowds and had a picnic Sunday lunch by this beautiful lake where I wrote this poem.

Black mirror broken only by occasional jumping fish trying to catch the last midges of summer.

Blobs of white undefined sheep gather together then drift apart enjoying the last grass of summer. 

Man watches, thinking, pondering, closes eyes & dreams drifting on the last warm rays of summer

Interestingly this could be the last time we see this llyn like this because Welsh Water is draining it and returning it to how it was before it became a reservoir in the 1930s. This will mean they will not have to keep looking after the concrete dam there. But it is interesting how the local people have reacted The extraordinary saga of Snowdonia’s ‘vanishing lake’ that has left people ‘seething’ 

I wish I could find an article that said how the local people reacted when the stream was dammed up in the first place 90 years ago. I wonder if it was with similar outrage? And it got me thinking as to how vehement we can be about change and how it upsets us and yet how quickly we get used to the “new normal”, coin a recent phrase. I wonder if in ten or twenty years we will have got used to local lockdowns and will bemoan them if/when they cease?

You can just see the blobs of sheep across the lake. Taken by me 27th Sept 2020

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change Change the world clapping the nhs Covid-19 NHS uncertaintiy

Clapping the NHS

aplauding nhsInteresting times we are living in when many in the neighbourhood go out on their doorsteps at the same time every week to clap people who are not there. I’m not knocking those who do it but for me it is strange. I think the NHS are doing an amazing job and I worry about people I know who are having to be in there dealing with it all; friends, family and acquaintances. A sister-in-law, an NHS worker, has caught Covid-19, though thankfully only mildly and as yet none of her family are exhibiting signs. A friend’s cousin, also an NHS worker, had it mildly but then her husband caught it and is in intensive care. So yes I think they are doing a great job and should be respected and applauded. So I send them messages, tell them I am thinking about them, etc. But I do not go out and do the clapping. But that is because I don’t get it. But then I also do get many of these grand public outpourings.

But what got to me most of all was a local historic castle has very publicly put blue lights on its façade when the clapping was going on, made sure it was on all their social media that they had done things, emailed all their supporters. The emails had a donations button at the end but this was for the monument’s fund raising not the NHS raising. But also this place has made sure all its parklands are locked so no one can walk through them. Thankfully there are lots of other places to walk but I just wondered if a good public gesture would have been to open its parklands to give people more space to walk. Some who might even be those NHS workers who they are illuminating their building to support.

But this got me thinking about how we, and I include myself in this, make big open public gestures but don’t do the little things that will help. So how many people clapping, or even giving to the amazing people like Captain Tom to raise money to support the NHS, will be willing to have their taxes increased to support not just an improvement in the NHS but also to support all those who are on furlough, to improve our schools, our bin services, etc, etc etc. How many people who are in management in these sectors find it easier to clap than to take a pay cut so those below them could have a pay rise? How many are finding time to support local business? Not just now when we’re thinking about it but after this is over?

So I do applaud those who go outside to applaud the NHS, but I also applaud those who are key workers in other areas, but also those who are sticking to the rules and staying at home. But I do wonder what things will change when this is all over or will we just want it all to go back to normal without having to pay for it, make changes, or even look at what is wrong in this world to have brought things to this point. And by this point I don’t just mean this pandemic but a struggling NHS, an overly polluted planet, etc, etc etc.

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dog faith finding anew God Learning always memories satnav trust

Lessons Via A SatNav

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

when sent somewhere different trust that he knows best?

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accepting grief kindness resolutions uncertain

Change in Friendship

dscn0828I realised yesterday that I am grieving the loss of a friend. Not one who had died but one that was moving away. Since I moved to this town this person has been key in who I am and what I do here in my church life. She has spurred me on, stood by me when I’ve stepped out, filled in the gaps when they’ve needed filling. She isn’t the only but she has been one of the strong pillars that have given me the encouragement I have needed to step out. She is now doing, what I have done many times before, and is moving to another town.

I must be totally honest and say I am grieving. It isn’t the same as when someone has died, but it is a profound sadness. Things will not be the same. And if I am honest, I am not sure if I am brave enough to step out and do things without her. There is a team and it hasn’t just been me and her. Each of us has our role and our part but the part she filled will not be filled by anyone else. At least not in the team that is there. Things will shift. DSCN0826 (1)Things will change.

When I gave up a voluntary position recently I was sad and grouchy, similar to this. A wise friend told me to remember that, even though I chose to give up the role, I was grieving its loss. So even though I know that this friend is doing the right thing by moving I will still mourn her not being here any more.

One of my new year resolutions was to be kind to myself. I need to keep revisiting this. In fact I need to keep revisiting a lot of my resolutions – like the no meat, no dairy, no alcohol. All of which I have “failed” but I will keep going back to giving them another go but maybe not with that whole vigor of “a whole month of …” With each of the giving ups I have to keep revisiting and trying for just today. The same goes with the whole thing of being kind to myself. I need to remember that I am grieving and that I did struggle with the party for my friend last night because I didn’t want to be there.

sunset hands love woman
Photo by Stokpic on Pexels.com

So I will be kind and admit I’m grieving for the loss and change. Don’t tell me she is only an email away. It still means she won’t be at the next prayer day/in the next discussion for the next play/etc. The friendship will have change. And I will have to go through my stages of grief. And if at times it means I’m grumpy and out of sorts then I must be kind to me and let it be

 

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accepting Airbnb being me Bible change church daffodils deciding espectations Flexible God gratitude Jesus life nature plans shared blog uncertain walking the dog

Daffodils

xdaffodil2-pagespeed-ic-gijrwg9c4tFor 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. mother henShe 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”.

expectation_vs_realityI’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.

 

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change creativity dog Doris Storm weather

Doris – A Silly Name For a Storm

15867717-largeSurely if you are going to  name something then the name should fit. Why call a storm Doris? Is there anything that conjures up wild, fierce wind, storms, snow, plans being changed or cancelled in the name Doris?

My grandmother was called Doris. From what I remember she was feisty and I like to hope I get a bit of my stubborn nature from her, but storm force. No I don’t think so. Might have to ask my Mum to comment there because I was only 5 or 6 when my grandmother had a major stroke which back in the 1960’s was totally debilitating. She never really communicated after that. She did live with us for another 3 years in a bungalow in Dorset. My mum must have still thought she had some fight left in her because she would go to work and leave her with my sister and myself who were both not yet 10 years old then. But she definitely wasn’t storm force because from my recollection I used that time when my mum was at work and Nan was in charge to be horrid to my sister and make her do loads of awful things that a small child should not have done. And also swore her to secrecy about it. Don’t worry I did write her a very long letter of apology.

Most of these storms that batter our coast that they have started naming have got silly 1500546_billgiles_bbc300names. Names that don’t suit a storm. I think that is because it is scientists, meteorologists, who names them. I’m sure they have a very sensible way of doing it. I am convinced they work through a book of names picking at random. I wonder what would happen if you had a group of creative writers naming the storms.

I name this storm Desdemona. I think that conjures up someone that would wreck havoc around the country, that would love to make people scared, make them want to run for cover, to cancel things that aren’t major emergencies. She even sounds like she should come with an orange warning. Desdemona from Shakespeare enraged and disappointed her father and ran off with Othello, a man much older than herself. Yup that sounds like the storm that’s wiping around here, that made my dog only want to go out to do the ferdinand-theodor-hildebrandt-othello-und-desdemonaessentials and pull to come home, that made my writing workshop group all want to stay home. Desdemona has sent waves of rain water under my front door and soaked the free paper that was there. Thankfully it is only in the porch and only the free paper that got ruined. Also I think a storm called Desdemona would wait till we had cancelled the group, till she had wrecked her havoc and then stopped raining and made wonder why we’d stopped everything. Though I must add that Shakespeare’s Desdemona does eventually get strangled by her estranged husband because his sidekick makes him think she’s an adulteress.

From what I remember of Doris, my grandmother, she was someone who made things happen for me. I remember her catching me in the bathroom early one morning attempting to wash my own hair because my mum would always get shampoo in my eyes and I didn’t like that. I remember her being patient and helping me to do this myself. I don’t remember my mum ever washing my hair after that so my grandmother must have shown me well enough for my mum to be pleased with what I did. This isn’t this vindictive storm that has messed my day up today.

Come on whoever names these storms. More appropriate names please!

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accepting Barefoot At The Kitchen Table change creativity deciding doors Flexible whoiam

Doors

In well-being circles and other “self-help” type areas there is often talk about doors and opendooropen doors and walking through doors. I love it and have done loads about them. In fact I could do a whole 6 week series of workshops on doors and transitional places. And in fact this is what we were doing last night at the creative writing for well-being workshop I was facilitating. Then on of the participants gave me food for thought. I do love doing this sort of stuff because I only facilitate and encourage others to bring out what is within them and I am always learning too. I do not have it all sorted.

So anyone someone says “behind the door is a blank wall” and that has really stuck with me. I found it not so much encouraging but something to think about. How often do I think of a door having something behind it? Yes I know a wall is a something, but rather something to go into, a new room, space or place. I have never thought of it going no where. So as I pondered this I thought of how I have been feeling that doors have been wall-behind-door-brick-open-white-room-lack-access-deadlock-69844395flying open for me with regard to running various workshops up here. Although actually there is a lot of stuff sitting in the pipeline and not actually having anything concrete on it but that’s ok. But all I have been thinking is “Wow how exciting. Open doors.” and being me I’m happy to rush through them cos that’s what I’m like.

Well I have realised with one situation it may not be a blank wall but it is a small room and actually I would probably be better to come out of that room because it is dark and also not right for me at the moment. So I will step away quietly, close the door and learn from it. What I have learned is that maybe just rushing in is not such a good idea. I probably need to have a look through the door, see what’s there and see if I want to do there. I need to ask more questions, find out clearly what is there, and then decide. Although knowing me I’ll probably still rush in, which I have done many times before, and then have to walk out.

63fa6be9fea5a5f83a4a3e42af52c33cNot every door leads somewhere but we all need to be bold enough to walk out of the confining space and try another door.

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accepting allthingsarenew being me change faith friendship glorifyingGod Grace Jesus life light lightonahill Love mindfulness

Light on the Hill

red sunset in the mountains on a black background

This is inspired by a comment from a group we have been invited to, which meet on a Thursday evening just round the corner from our house.

We had been reading John 17, about how Jesus prays for himself and for his disciples before he died and a discussion about evangelising followed. Some in the group are definitely evangelists. Me, I’m not really. My evangelism comes from blog posts like this that question things and, hopefully by my life and the way I’ve hung on in there with God through what has gone on. I’m not one to go out and tell people I meet about Jesus. I admire people who do though.

So the discussion has got on to evangelising and someone said “we need to be like a light on a hill. Let our light shine” and then they said “and die to self” and that is what struck me. If homebanner-its_not_about_me1we die to ourselves, to our own wants, needs, expectations, even wanting to see others come to know Jesus, then we can truly shine. We can stop doing things because we want some form of recognition or someone to fulfil our needs.

But also in this chapter Jesus prayed that people would know his followers by their love for each other. And it was this that struck me – I can only really truly love someone if I die to myself and my needs, wants, likes and dislikes. If I die to myself then I can love people who are not like me, who are not people I would normally want to be seen with, etc.

It was was interesting because we were all moving into the whole thing of just having a bit of moan about church organisation, and about hurts we had sustained within churches, and just almost saying how we would do it better. Though there were times when it was “let’s not talk about them but about us” which was good. And in fact I should bring it closer; “let’s not talk about us but about me.” Yes I know we need to stop looking at what How I loveJesus did as individual salvation and much more about corporate salvation but actually I can only change me and how I look at the world, how I react to the world. So if I die to self and then love others unconditionally there is much more of a chance of me being able to look at things corporately because I will no longer worry about whether someone in my “pack” does something I will be embarrassed about.

In fact if I “die to self” I will be able to be comfortable in who I am, what I believe, etc and will not worry about the God other believe in. As Karen Armstrong says in “History of God” we do all actually believe in a different God. That is not to say God is made up but because He is multifaceted we all all see Him slightly differently. But if I am too concerned about how someone else sees God then actually I have not died to self because in fact, deep inside, I am worried about what others thinks. If I have died to self I can let others believe in God how He has revealed Himself to them, which will be different to how He has revealed Himself to me – and you know, that’s ok.

So to be that light on the hill means to be totally transparent, to lGlowing personet the Light of God shine in and through me. It will mean I will care for others as God cares for them which i
s often in a very different way to how I would care/love them.

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being me change ingenuity Love nature trust walking the dog

How Mankind Tames Landscape

I met a lovely lady dog walker a couple of days ago who told me about a walk from my

220px-gwrych_castle
Gwrych Castle 

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

north-wales-coast-nr-abergele-looking-towards-colwyn-bay-showing-the-crffc4
Ariel view of the area

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 2013-05-15-14-36-11fact 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 castellcawrphotosafe.

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.