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2020 Review

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Finding Hope …

Wales is now back in full on lockdown as of midnight on Saturday 19th December. This morning I was on the beach praying for all the pubs and restaurants that would lose hundreds of pounds today because they had bought in food to prepare Sunday lunches, which up here is the time when most people go out to eat, and will have to throw it all away. Where is the hope in all this?

I wrote a piece not so long ago called Full Moon and I still hold to that – of God being above our chaos looking down and being with us through it. But this morning as I turned to walk back from the beach it started pelting with rain, cold icy rain, and the sky was just filled with black clouds. There was not even a fringe of false dawn or red tinged clouds. It was black. And it made me wonder “how can we know there is hope when all is dark?” But then I got thinking about the Christmas story, which many of us won’t get to hear in church because of lockdown, about of how when we tell that we tell it full of hope and yet I am sure there were very dark days.

Can you imagine how Mary and Joseph must have felt as they came into Bethlehem and were shunned? How dark must that have felt? They knew God was there, knew God had planned this, but so much was clouding that hope. I think often we “big up” the Christmas story too much and don’t show the other side of things, which then leads us to feel like we are inadequate, that we have to rise to a place that is beyond what we can reach.

I totally believe that God is in all that we are going through, even this sudden lockdown and the loss of earnings from too many places, and mental health and suicides that have come from the anxiety and fear and stress of all this time. This, though for me, is where faith comes in. But too often the burdens we bear make it too hard to look up and find that faith. And that is when we need to be kind to ourselves and to each other, be honest that actually on some days we have no hope, we have no faith. We can only see the storm that is gusting around us.

[I was in the process of pondering how to finish the above paragraph on this post when my daughter messaged to say she’d tested positive for covid-19. She has very minor symptoms and had done the test because someone she worked with had tested positive. So it was all a bit of a shock, especially as she’s been trying to work out how she could get from South Wales to North Wales now we were all in lockdown. So sometimes the storms are crazy and the sky is dark but I am pleased I could find the words for the above paragraph to give myself the encouragement I needed]

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A Christmas Carol

Advert for BBC’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol

The BBC have done a fascinating interpretation of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, where they have given Scrooge a larger backstory than the Ghost of Christmas Past shared in the novel, as to why Scrooge is the way he is. Episode two where Scrooge is taken to Christmases past should be shown to all business people who put profit first. This is not a problem that has gone away

But the thing that stuck me most were the issues this version has chosen to highlight. Scrooge was as he was because he had been unloved and abused as a child, been told the only way to survive is to have money in the bank, not to trust others, and be be his own person. Bottom line – he was afraid and had built his own saftey net around him.

The alcoholic or drug addict doesn’t abuse their body and their families because they think it is a good idea. They do it because they are afraid. Even the person who abuses their partner or children or attacks others does so because they are afraid. And these are the things society notices. But there are also those who have more money than they could spend in a life time, but they are also afraid – of not having enough, of not being safe, etc, etc. If each of us is honest we are all afraid of something and have all built walls, big or small, to keep ourselves safe.

But this is the time of year when the Bible expounds with “do not be afraid” – to Mary, to the Shepherds, to my big hero of the Chrismas story, Joseph. Joseph has such a bit part in this story and never gets any of his own lines, but twice he is told not to be afraid; the first time when he finds out Mary is pregnant and is told not to be afraid of how she got with child, and the second when he has to leave everything he knows and go to Egypt to keep this child that is not his own safe. He is amazing because he marries Mary, but doesn’t sleep with her till after Jesus is born, takes her with him when he goes for the census so that there is no chance of her being stoned whilst he’s away, and then goes to a land to live as a refugee until God tells him it is ok to come home again, and home to a place he really doesn’t know what his relatives will think of him.

God tells him not to be afraid, and we too often read that as “dont be scared” but I think it means “to let go of all those issues you carry with you that will encourage you to build walls of self preservation around you and trust God“. I think Jesus learned a lot from Joseph about how to be open and trusting even in a place of fear. And Joseph through all that went on around him learned to trust God, to not be fearful, to put aside his own strength and not build up walls.

I believe fear kills because it causes us to shut ourselves away from not just others but from out true selves. Fear causes us not to trust others, causes us to use other things for our safety; like career, profit over people, having ‘enough’ money, etc, being accepted by others, alcohol, drugs, being the life of the party, food, overly caring for others at the detriment of ourselves, not being able to say yes, or not being able to say no, relationships, and … here ponder and name your own.

I don’t think God asks us not to be scared but asks us not to be afraid and to stay open and trusting to all the facets that make up the Godhead, and trusting others too. So as we enter this season of vaccines and Brexit and being unsure let us be open, trusting and not afraid, not build walls, and lean on the One who can hold us through.

mary-joseph-with-baby-jesus-39533-wallpaper.jpg (1291×1600) (wordpress.com)
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Dealing with a different Christmas

My son putting the final touches to our tree 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And these are my fairy lights Christmas 2020
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Winter Solstice

winter-solstice-scenery1366x76854654Today is the winter solstice. The day when the sun stands still for three days before days start to lengthen again.

Today I got a revelation as to why the early Christians picked December 25th as the day to celebrate Jesus’ birth. It is a random day I’d always thought. Or had heard stories of how the pagans had celebrated on 25th because the sun had decided to reappear rather than disappear completely. But then I remembered another time when it looked like The Son had disappeared completely.

Two thousand years on from the event, knowing that outcome, as we also know that the sun will move on and the days will start getting longer, we forget what it must have felt like. Imagine firstly being a pre-science person and each year wondering if the sun would really continue or whether it would decided that it had had enough and the days lunar-eclipse-icelandwere just going to keep getting darker until there was no more. [Though maybe that isn’t so hard to imagine as we see the news and read the newspapers. We appear to be in dark times that are getting darker. So maybe we can understand.] Now imagine how it must have felt when you realised that the days were slowly minute but minute getting longer. I’m sure they had devises to be able to show them this was happening because their fear must have been great. Don’t think with 21st Century eyes and minds but with ancient minds who were not sure.

Then think back to that event two thousand years ago at Passover. So many people had given up everything – livelihoods, reputations, status, money – to follow Jesus and he’d been crucified. They knew he was definitely dead. If they hadn’t seen it they would have heard about the soldier putting his spear in Jesus’ side and the blood and water flowing out. Here was someone who was definitely dead. The Son had stood still for three days. The Son had been put in a sealed tomb – not because he was anything special but because it stopped the stench of a decaying body from seeping out. He had been still for 3 days.

I also think we miss some of this because the organised church decided that people wouldn’t wait that long so they put the crucifixion to a Friday and Resurrection to a copy_of_tombofkingsjerusalemSunday. Often I’d miss the whole Easter story by seeing the detail in that and so deciding it wasn’t a true story. There are not 3 days between Friday and Sunday no matter how hard you try. But there are scholars who have said that in certain years there are more “sabbaths” due to Jewish tradition and that Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday. [I suggest googling this yourself before I lost the thread of what I’m saying 🙂 ]

So try to imagine you think this is the man who will light into the world, who you have given up everything for, but here he is not just one day, not just two days, but three days still. Dead. In a tomb. Imagine then how you would feel when he came to stand with you, when people you knew told you they had seen him. When people said The Son has risen.

 

It was like a big light going on. The whole idea of the sun staying still at the time we 1-3-1393234669celebrate Jesus birth fits hand in glove with the time we celebrate Jesus resurrection. God is so clever. And I also think as we do feel like we are entering a very dark time politically with Brexit, Trump, North Korea, wars and rumours of wars, refugees, more famines, and other atrocities we often don’t hear about we need to remember that it might look like The Son is standing still but the light is still with us and it will conquer the darkness.

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Memories and how we handle them

Christmas does seem to be the time to focus one’s memories as I was saying in a pre-Christmas post. But how we decide to handle them is the important as they race through vsour minds. We cannot stop them coming in. A smell, a look, a place we’ve been to and enjoyed, and even that card that does not arrive all can release painful memories. And it does seem as we get old there are more memories that evoke sadness due to either death or that person just no longer being in our lives. So what do we do with all that?

We have a choice on how we handle them. Yes we do. We do not need to let that first initial, what can be gut-wrenching lose take over our day. We can let it go that way and that is our choice. It will be important to acknowledge that pain and loss but we do not have to dwell there. We can choose to remember the good times we had with that person, can choose to enjoy the memory. But we can also choose to let it totally envelope us to the point where we do not see what is good around us.

After what I’ve gone through over the last few years I would not say with certainty that “the dead are gone” even though in the flesh they are. They still haunt us. But also the tumblr_lt6x1rkwun1qf70r5o1_500living are very much with us. If we get too far down the sadness of those who have gone – whether died or just no longer part of our lives as they use to be – they we can so miss those who are with us now. I know of someone over  Christmas who was in a place that evoked memories of those past and also those who were really ill. She was with a new partner but could have stayed with those sad memories but she didn’t stay there. She remember with sadness and with fondness, prayed a bit, but then also went back to enjoying her time with her new partner.

Many loses are really hard to get over, especially ones that are untimely and too early – although I do know of someone who said his mother died at 99 and that was a year too soon for him. It could just be that every death or loss always comes too soon. Although violent young deaths do cause so much pain – but that is not to say that we must stay in that place where our grief overwhelms the joy that we have.

There is a verse in the Bible that says “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” During 2012 I joyofthelordfound it hard to find how to deal with it. I felt it was saying that I should not acknowledge what had happened but now I think that is wrong. I think it means that if we can look at where we are, the good things we still have around us, can remember with poignant joy those who have gone, then we have the strength to keep going, keep loving, keep being there for those who we love who are still with us,

This year I think I made it through, and enjoyed Christmas, not just because both my children, who are in their twenties, were with me, but because I decided to not let the sadness of the memories overwhelm me but to see what was good around me, to remember those I’ve lost with that poignant joy and to wait on what is to come.

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Tis the Season of the Christmas Newsletter

 

… and seeing as Facebook has reminded me that I sent one this time last year I will sent this one. I feel like I am cheating a bit because I have lots of ideas in my head for a proper blog about stuff but actually Word decided to fight with me about doing this so it has probably taken longer than a regular blog 🙂 Anyway here is it 🙂

 

christmas-bellsTis the season of the Christmas newsletter and here is ours

Merry Christmas and Happy 2017 to everyone

This letter should be title “2016 – the year of change” because I don’t think there is one thing that is the same this year as last. Yes I know we could all say that every year is not the same as the last but this one does seem to have much more changes in it than normal!

Where we live – is now totally different. As you may remember this time last year we were in a state of angst and packing boxes, waiting for the solicitors to sort a moving date for us. We moved in stages; first to a short term Airbnb let on Anglesey on Friday 5th February so Ian could start work at Bangor University as IT manager of their medical trials unit on Monday 8th, our stuff moved from Bradford on Avon on Wednesday 10th, got the keys on Friday 12th, moved to Sea Road on Tues 16th Feb and our furniture caught up with us on Fri 19th Feb. Because of the wonderful state the house had been left in we were able to get settled very quickly. By 30th March we had our first Airbnb guests, and have had a steady stream all through the year, along with a regular stream of friends and family coming to visit too. We opened our second top floor bedroom officially as an Airbnb room on 8th October, although we have had paying guests staying there before that date. Many of our Airbnb guests come back to stay with us again which is lovely. We may have only been in this house for just over 10 months but very much it is home, which has been helped by those who’ve come to stay in it – both paying guests and friends and family.

Ian – last year was going to work on a busy commuter train to work on wind turbines, now drives on a not so busy A55 looking at the wind turbine farms in Colwyn Bay to manage the IT side of the medical trials unit at Bangor University. A change from catching a train to driving, from working on wind turbines to looking at them, and also from working 5 days per week to working 4, giving him scope to explore other ideas that he can use his talents in. He is now going to a pottery class once a week, slowly connecting with others in various church things, and trying to fit in swimming and cycling. Unfortunately a lot of walking has been put on hold because Ian broke his foot at the beginning of August and it has been taking a while to heal. He was not able to drive for 3 weeks but is now on the mend but he has to be careful, which is hard because the mountains are becoming to him every morning.

Diane – last year was working at Lackham college and helping in the office of Characters Stage school, and now is spending 2 hours a day keeping the house clean and tidy for guests, putting on various creative writing workshops, connecting with others in the creative scene. Doors keep opening on more and more opportunities to do writing workshops and story telling sessions in local community centres, at a local Christian conference centre, within the home and at the castle we can see from our bedroom window; Gwrych Castle. She has set it all up under the title “Barefoot At The Kitchen Table” (www.barefootatthekitchentable.weebly.com) She is also finding time to write and has finished one novel but needs to sit down and edit it, as well as having several short stories and poems in a similar position. She has connected with creative people at the Anglican church we’ve been attending on a Sunday which could lead to organising a creative therapeutic weekend at a local Christian conference centre that is reopening in April 2017, and is also starting a regular St. Michael’s church creative group to put on plays, parades and similar through out the year.

Ben – this time last year he was waiting to go to hospital to have his collar bone rebroken and fused properly and was out of work. Within this year he had a successful operation, moved to Bath to work, then moved back to Cornwall where he is now living with Sarah in St. Just, and is working at a lovely restaurant in Penzance. We have not managed to catch up with Ben as often as we like because of the distance he is away. It takes 10 hours on the train and 7 if we drive non-stop. We did finally get to see him, where he is living, where he is working and to meet Sarah in October. Both of them are making the mega train trip to us for Christmas.

Tabitha – has gone from being a student to being out in the work place. She graduated in June with a 2.1 in Theatre Arts, moved into a flat in Forest Hill, London with a friend, went from working in one restaurant to working in another with better hours. She is adjusting to life having to pay bills, etc in London. She loves where we live and comes up to visit us often as London is just over 3 hours on the train. She also is coming up for Christmas.

Animals – we still have Renly, Damson and Archie-rabbit living with us. We are no longer chicken owners. The last of our chickens went to a chicken retirement farm just outside Devizes a week before we left Bradford on Avon, which meant we were able to Freecycle the chicken housings. Renly is enjoying long walks through Gwyrch Castle grounds and woods, regular walks along the beach and in our local park. We are very spoilt to have woods, a ruined Victorian castle, a beach and a park all within 15 mins of our house. Renly is making new friends, both dogs and humans. Damson has become an indoor cat and loves that. She is much friendlier and more content since living inside all the time. She even comes to talk to our guests. Renly of course loves every guest who comes to stay, although some more than others. Archie-rabbit lives on the raised bed in our backyard where Ian worked hard to make a secure run for him which he jumped straight out of and also has dug himself a large burrow under his cage. He is happy with it all though which we’re sure is the main thing – probably!

Church – we now attend an Anglican church. Very different from Bath City Church! But the people are warm and friendly and very welcoming. Diane has instigated the performance of a Christmas play there on Christmas Eve and has managed to encourage others to join in. Ian attends a mid-week Bible study there. We are slowly making friends there. In fact due to a lovely friend of ours who lives in Llandudno emailing all the people she knew who live in Abergele we have made lots of friends in different churches which helps to make us feel settled and that it is not just the house that is home but the area.

We did mange to travel a bit – Between us, either separately or together, we have managed trips to Ireland, London, Cornwall, Manchester, Peak District, back south a couple of times for manic rushing rounds seeing family and a few friends, and most exciting of all to a friend’s wedding in Iceland. That must come under the highlight of the year.

We are quite tied over the summer with Airbnb bookings so this does make it hard to go visiting, but always make sure we have one room spare for our family and friends to come and see us. And of course family and friends do stay for free. All we ask is good wine and/or good conversation 🙂christmas-dragon

Merry Christmas and hope to see some of you in the new year

much love

Diane, Ian, Renly and Damson

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Pagan Christmas!!!

170px-rockefeller_center_christmas_tree_croppedOh you know I get really fed up of people whether Christian or not going on about how Christmas is a pagan festival. Ok so we know that Jesus probably wasn’t born on Christmas day but what the Celtic church did was show people who were celebrating the return of the sun Jesus within their festival. Also forgive me if I have posted on this before. I feel though it is a bit like the Cliff Richard song “Why does the Devil have all the good music?” My thoughts are “why should the Devil have all the good symbols/festivals?”

On Sunday at church the service was called “hanging thhanging-of-the-greens-picturee greens” which meant that the church was going to be decorated ready for Christmas. Each part of what happened was explained. So Why do Christians put up evergreen Christmas trees and
put evergreens in the church? Not to bring paganism into the church but because …

green represents renewal, new life, freshness and rebirth. Plants like pine, fir, holly, ivy and mistletoe are called evergreens because they do not appear to die. They remain evergreen throughout the year. … Advent is a time of preparation for the ever coming of Christ, God’s gift to us of renewal and transformation.

Because the needles of the pine and fir trees appear not to die the ancients saw them as signs of things that last forever. Isaiah tells us there will be no end to the reign of the Messiah. Therefore we clothe the church with evergreens shaped in a circle, which in itself has no end, to signify that the kingdom of God, to which Christ is eloquently testified, is also without end …

(quoted from Hanging of the Greens service sheet)

I was going to harp on more about this and then this morning Ian was reading to me from a book he’s got from the library of Advent readings and it said that when Jesus came not only was the known earth an easy place for the good news of Jesus to spread out across romempmapbecause of the Pax Romana, but also the pagans had become disillusioned with their religion. They were finding that their sacrifices weren’t working and they were having to do more and more human sacrifices to “make things happen.” They were ripe and ready for something to come along to tell them that the ultimate sacrifice had been made. Now that is God being clever again 🙂

Can you truly imagine what it must have been like to hear that Jesus had made the ultimate sacrifice and your virgin daughter was now safe from being sacrificed? It’s a bit of a no brainer really. You would have leapt at wanting to know more about this new religion, this person who had taken on board all the sacrifice. You would have been able to see that your celebrations in midwinter to call back the sun, or to make the crops or whatever they were doing all these human sacrifices for were only a poor shadow of what God had done. See I just think that if one was in that position one would not have wanted to get a new festival date but would want to accentuate the one that was already happening, and to use it to show how mu200000-copy2ch deeper
this new Christianity was.

Also I do think we need to remember that the paganism we see celebrated now has many of its roots of rebirth in the Victorian era. I wonder if this was a reaction to the strictness of Christianity and the lack of life within it?

So I’m going to put up my Christmas tree (ok not till a couple of days before Christmas cos I find it just gets in the way a bit!!) and I’m going to get a holly wreath to put on the door – oh especially the holly wreath because ….

In ancient times, holly and ivy were considered signs of Christ’s passion. Their prickly leaves suggested the crown of thorns, the red berries the blood of the Saviour, and the bitter bark the drink offered to Jesus on the cross.

(quoted from Hanging of the Greens service sheet)

How cool is that!! There is too much within the Christmas festival that is at the heart of the Christian faith that I want to reclaim it not deny it.

5465489_origInteresting thing – I once heard a Jewish person say that they didn’t like the idea of becoming Christian because Christians don’t seem to want to celebrate. Jews find an excuse to celebrate a lot of the time but so often Christians can be quite dour about things. Ok so I’m not a party person but in my own quiet little way I am going to make this a festival to celebrate and enjoy. 🙂

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change christmas family gratitude grief mindfulness movinghouse relationships

What should Christmas eve traditions be?

6471920I was pondering Christmases past as I’ve worked through a mediation about rest and Sabbath from Abbey of the Hearts and think how things have changed. I was thinking how, when we were in our heady Ywam Scotland days and also involved in lots of full on Christian ministry stuff the kids and I would go to ground for 3 or 4 days. We’d get new pyjamas on Christmas eve, have a bath and get into the new pjs and then not get out of them till Boxing day when generally we needed some fresh air. But even then we would just go for a walk the 3 of us. We generally didn’t see anyone until at least 28th, maybe not till the new year. We needed it to recover and regroup. We’ve had other years when we’ve spent time with family and friends. Before I had children I use to work in hotels and bars over the Christmas time because I christmas-articlewanted to avoid it. So much has changed.

This year is different – because the kids are older, because the people we would have spent time with aren’t here this year (whether moved away or died), those that needed our support last year don’t need it this year.

I do wonder if some of the stresses for Christmas come from trying to have Christmas traditions that worked great at certain times of life – like when the kids were little – and don’t now. So we try to do the Christmas stocking thing but the kids go to bed after us, try to have breakfast together but again by the time they want to get up its nearly lunch time, or we can’t quite relax into it because the dog needs walking, we’ve offered 3ea2219c930313c1ea3665aaf7279b24to look after a neighbour’s cat, family member isn’t with us, we’ve living in a different part of the country. If we say “but we always do ….” then we are asking for a fall. I am sure there are periods in our lives when we can do the same thing year in year out for Christmas, but really this is only for a few years. Things change. People change. We are back to that Change thing again!

I really do believe if we can live in the moment of Christmas this year then we can have peace during it. We can grieve for those who aren’t with us this year – like my friend who would have discussed the latest Star Wars film with her son but her son died 13 months ago – and even when it is longer than that we still grieve for those we would have enjoyed this season with – for myself every year I miss my sister and my stepdad, not because it was all great, but actually because they made the season crazy and drove me mad trying to get things sorted but it was part of the Christmas chaos. Living in the  moment doesn’t mean forgetting those who aren’t here but it does mean having peace with what is here, accepting that this is it.

My husband has always said he likes to have family Christmas, which means seeing his side of the family, which as his sister’s children have got older and since his dad died has got harder and looks different every time. And next year, once we’ve moved, will look different again. For him Christmas is a time to rest from work but to be busy with family and friends. Somehow we have to find a compromise and every year has had to be different because my children have grown older, want different things, have different boyfriend/girlfriends they want to include/not include.

So this year we embrace the fact that our home is full of have pack boxes christmas-presencewaiting for the new year move, that we have both my children here with us for at least 10 days, that we can only get to see all my husband’s family for one afternoon, and that things with my mum, apart from her not being with my stepdad of 25 years but her husband, who she has had now for 9 years, will be with us as usual in the interim between Christmas and New year, that the batteries have stop on the tree lights and no one can be bothered to get that sorted, and that our turkey has been crowned for the first time ever.

Some things are the same, some different, all accepted as the tradition for this year.

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christmas family movinghouse relationships

Tis the Season …. To send Newsletters

At this time of year everyone sends round their family or ministry news. Its that time of year … to catch up on news. My inbox is becoming quote-kind-guardian-readers-have-been-forwarding-me-round-robin-christmas-newsletters-for-simon-hoggart-13-46-81inundated with various newsletters and I am being no exception. After I have written this post I will send our newsletter to everyone in my contacts list – well almost. Not to those companies that I email but to all those who are sort of friends even if I have not spoken to them all year. And for some it will be just old news rehashed because we’ve been in contact.

Why do we do it? For me, I started sending my newsletters back in

fdts_students
This was my team back in Sept 2001

Christmas 2001 when I was on mission with YWAM (Youth with a Mission) in Scotland. The reason I did it was, for one, because everyone else on the team was doing it. They were Americans and well into technology and support raising. I had my own computer but hadn’t really got into it all at that stage, and was not into the whole support raising. In fact I was a bit unsure of how to share myself and what I and the kids were up to. We were having a blast and getting other people to support us. Awesome! How do you put that in a letter? Also back then very few people I knew had email addresses and so I had to ask someone to print it off for me and post it onward. Also that was how I was told you did it then – part of the support stuff was to have a point person who would do the actual sending of things. Actually I can understand that for the Americans but for myself, well actually it was a bit lazy really, or so I felt.

Well now I probably email over 100 people and print off less than half a dozen. I was going to say I have never liked the whole Christmas card stuff but in fact I do remember sending over 50 at one time. I think I like people to know what I’m up to. I also like to know what others are up to and so I get a bit disappointed when I don’t hear back from people, though of course the hundreds of newsletters may never get read properly but I do like them.

So anyway I am adding in my 2015 Christmas newsletter for anyone who checks out my posts on FB and would really love to hear back.

Merry Christmas

It’s that time of year for being a recap on what we’ve been up to and tell others about it. There is loads and loads of news of things that have gone on this year but one thing is just taking over from all the other things that have happened – WE’RE MOVING!!!

From what started as a joke, a dream, a nice idea, became a reality in September. It had been a dream for a few years, then became a bit of a silly idea in the early summer and then at the end of September we went house hunting and it became a reality. Our dream is to be able to offer space and hospitality to people and so being able to buy a six-bedroomed house with 3 reception rooms in North Wales for the same price as our house in Bradford on Avon releases us to do this. Our hope it to be able to have regular lodgers and Airbnb guests and friends and family come to stay and visit, and also for Ben and Tabitha to have room to come and bring their friends, partners, etc with them too. We are also hoping that by having an income from paying guests we will be able to have time and space to pursue our own interests. We have made sure there is space for us to have our own offices; for Diane to write, be creative and pursue ideas for working for herself in the creative industry, for Ian to pray, be creative, and maybe go back to exploring working for himself. So we are moving to 6 Sea Road, Abergele LL22 7BU towards the end of January 2016. Here’s a link to the house on Rightmove.co.uk http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-36194364.html

Here are just the highlights of those goings on in the year –

Airbnb – In March we became part of the Airbnb community, renting out the larger of the children’s bedrooms to guests. We have met some wonderfully interesting people from many different nations, and did also gain a regular lodger from it: a businessman who often works in the area who has now stayed with us 5-6 times. It was through these guests that we rediscovered our love for hospitality again but also the realisation that our present house was too small for us to really enjoy the experience.

Ben – joined the army on his birthday only be invalided out at the end of his 28 days induction due to a problem with the collar bone he broke back the previous year which had not healed properly. He will be having surgery on it in early 2016 and will then decide what he is going to do; whether try for the army again or go in a different direction. So in April, after being discharged, Ben decided he would like to continue living in Cornwall for the time being, got himself a room in a shared house, a job at a local outdoor/sports shop and has been involved in the local rugby team as well as doing lots with a kayaking group in Truro. Though he is talking of moving to north Wales with us after he has had the operation on his collar bone.

Tabitha – finished her second year at Middlesex university well and was back in Bradford on Avon from mid-May to end of September and spent most of her summer working in a café on the far side of Frome. This meant lots of taxiing for Diane taking Tabitha back and forth to work but also gave Diane the opportunity to use the swimming pool connected to the café complex and to catch up with friends in that area. Tabitha is now completing her third year at university and enjoying the design aspect of her Theatre Arts BA.

Diane – did some tutoring at the start of the year, 4 hours per week, for a twelve year old girl who had just come out of main stream schooling. This gave her the impetus to apply for other jobs and since October has been working as a learning support assistant with foundation students at a local college. Because of taking this post she is already signed up with an agency in North Wales that employs learning support assistants and teaching assistants in the various schools and colleges there. She has had some great trips with the Interweave Reconciliation group she is part of, the March gathering being very much reconciliation with God for many of the group and then in November a trip to Dublin to pray into the coming centenary of the Easter Rising.

Ian – has been away with friends climbing in Europe as well as a work trips to China and Europe, as well as trips kayaking in the UK. He also completed and passed his Mountain Leadership qualification, meaning that moving to North Wales will make it easier for him to be able to use this in various outdoor areas. He has just been accepted in a position at Bangor University writing software that will help with research into Alzheimer’s. It will be 4 days per week and comes with plenty of holiday which will give him time to explore other directions too.

The animals – are coming with us to Abegele, apart from the only chicken we still have left who is going to retire to a farm in Devizes to finish her days there. She has stopped laying and the rest of the ones we bought with her have died but she has learned to fly and surprised one of our Airbnb guests by fluttering up to him ad trying to take his cigarette away from him when he was having a smoke in the garden.

Renly – has been enjoying his trips to Wales with us and has also been up to London a few times with Diane to visit with Tabitha. In fact trips on trains or in the car are something he really enjoys, especially if there is a beach or Tabitha or Ben waiting at the end for him. Though he is finding it a bit hard being left three days a week when Diane is at work so Ian has changed his day off to fit in around that so Renly does only get 2 days “home alone”.

So this is just a snapshot of our year. There is so much more on our facebook pages and on Diane’s blog www.aspirationaladventures.wordpress.com that would never have fitted on 2 pages of A4, so please feel free to join us there, if you don’t already.

Love and blessings to everyone

Ian and Diane

plus Ben and Tabitha – and of course the animals XX