Categories
Alignment heart

Heart of Stone/Heart of Flesh

Stone pillar, Isle of Lewis. Taken by myself May 2018

My husband and I were discussing the whole thing of the heart of stone which God changes to a heart of flesh and I got to thinking. We have always either been taught, or picked up, in our churches that a heart of stone is something that is hard, feels negative emotions, etc, but that a heart of flesh is joyous, happy and only feels positive emotions – which sort of takes us back to the good box/bad box idea which I looked at a bit in Two Trees. But I don’t think that’s right. See I don’t think following God should be all happy clappy everything is wonderful. I think if we feel that way than we still have that heart of stone.

A heart of flesh is vulnerable, feels things, notices things, is flexible, is free to experience things not encased in boundaries. It is free to be flexible and go with the flow. A heart of flesh will feel hurt and pain, will feel sorrow and anger. It will of course also feel joy and love, carefreeness and happiness. It will feel all these things to a much deeper level that the heart of stone will. But it does not mean it will be pain free. In fact it is the heart of stone which will be more pain free because it is encased in something solid and safe.

I often wonder when we first get to know God and try to follow Jesus that we get confused when we get angry, get hurt, feel sadness, feel pain. I wonder if we try and fight our way of out it. There is a Bethel song that says “sing a little louder” and of singing in the middle of the storm, etc. But what if the pain is too deep? What is you don’t want to sing? What if you just want to curl up on God’s lap and lie there? What if God just wants us to curl up on their lap? What if God doesn’t want us to sing a little louder but to quietly walk through the valley of the shadow of death?

Your heart of flesh is going to let you know what to do and when to do it. I’m not saying it is wrong to sing loudly when things are tough but I think to only do that if your heart of flesh is wanting to. But if it is hardening of heart around what is really going on then that isn’t accepting the heart of flesh God wants you to have.

A dog walking friend was moaning about how at her young niece’s funeral the pastor said that God taken this young girl because he wanted her to live with him. My friend was so hurt that her heart has been hardened away from God. But I do wonder if the pastor was hardened too. If the pastor did not want to weep and bemoan the loss of someone so young. Sometimes it is ok to be angry with God, to shout at them for allowing something one doesn’t like to happen.

Life isn’t all great and plain sailing and with a heart of flesh it will actually be harder. Your heart of stone can protect you whereas your heart of flesh can let you feel. Your heart of flesh can let you full experience what is going on around you, let you be honest and open with yourself and with others, and with God. The heart of stone will keep you safe and closed and maybe not that much help to others.

The heart of flesh will feel the so called negative emotions as much as it feels the so called positive emotions, whereas the heart of stone will keep you safe. The question is – what would you prefer?

Categories
Everyday Wrods writing prompts

Speak Simply

Pensarn Beach strand. Photographed by Diane Woodrow
Taken this morning [27th April 2022] on my early morning beach walk with the dog

There have been a few ups and downs clouding my outlook and stopping me looking forward to my holiday. One of them, which might sound trivial, is these prompts from Everyday words. As I have said before they are so full and there is so much to think about that I have been doing them slowly. But they are now filling up my inbox and my “get it done” nature is struggling with them all. So I decided to take a new tack and am doing the ones that are most recent. So today I have done today’s prompt even though I still haven’t done Day 10’s. Coming from this approach has stopped me feeling so overwhelmed. I am learning too that sometimes life in general overwhelms me and I have to find a way out.

Preparing for a holiday can overwhelm me. I feel like there are so many things to get done – packing, sorting and preparing things for the animals that are either staying [the cat] or coming with us [the dog]. I feel like I need the house clean and tidy and all the washing done. Some of that comes from wanting to be kind to my future-returning-from-holiday-self, but it does make me panic a bit. This morning I was really pleased when my husband hugged me and thanked me for doing the washing so that there would be clean clothes for the holiday. It is probably from those words that the inspiration for this poem comes from.

Even though the PDF says one thing I am renaming it “Simple Things“. So the prompt comes from my friend Victoria Field’s poem ‘Dandelions’ which can be found in her new book A Speech of Birds. and Sarah’s suggestion of taking the line “Dandelions speak dandelion…. write about what they might say to each other”

My dog walk this morning was filled very much with the simple things of a dog enjoying being on a walk, of the sea and these lovely plants that grow on edge of the shore, of chatting with fellow dog walkers and a friend giving some wise advise. In my preparations for my holiday I need to keep the simple things in focus and not get all ‘Marthaed” and do what doesn’t need to be done.

Categories
poem Prompts writing

Everyday words April prompts – 6th and 7th

Amazing colours and frosts looking over a local park in Abergele, Conwy taken by Diane Woodrow
Picture of my local park April 2022

So I am steadily getting further and further behind with these prompts and loving them more and more. These two clash, contradict and I think compliment each other. One is based on the horrors unfolding in Ukraine and other other was written Easter Saturday morning whilst we were staying in our friend’s house.

So this one from Day 6 was inspired by Laurie Wagner’s poem Things I Didn’t Know I Loved For me this has an even more poignant feel after I’ve read the Joel News report from Ukraine. Joel News’ remit is to show the good news that is happening in the world, to show where God is moving. And yet this week’s one talks of the awfulness of the war in Ukraine and of the coming global famine. It makes one ask “Where is God in all this?” But also one of the things I’ve learned with QEC is that to keep aligned and not get into high stress I need to be grateful. So really this poem is about what I realised I was grateful for and often take for granted. I’ve also called it Things I Didn’t Know I Loved.

This next one from Day 7 comes from a poem by Catherine Smith called Hero, about a bus driver really. But one of the prompts was ‘Where would you go to if a bus driver would take you absolutely anywhere?’. I did the prompt whilst we were staying down south visiting mothers and friends. It was a busy weekend and I was up early with the dog sitting in our friend’s conservatory enjoying some time out – something that I realise I do need to add to my “Things I didn’t know I loved” poem. So here is “Where would I go if I could go anywhere?” This one also comes with photos of the view I had.

As Brits we can have a perchance for moaning about what we do not have. Sometimes it is good to remind ourselves what we do have, but also then to remember to pray for those who do not have. We must never get smug and complacent, but I think that by being grateful one can learn to not be complacent and also to pray others can have what we too often take for granted.

Categories
Faux Pas Lord's Prayer

Faux Pas

Desolation and lone footprints. Photographed by Diane Woodrow
Footprints across a deserted beach taken by myself March 2022

Why is it that it is so much easier to remember one’s mistakes and faux pas than one’s triumphs?

Yesterday I was chatting with a fellow writer and something slipped out of my mouth that I did not mean to say. He was a bit irritated by it at the time but I apologised and the conversation resumed. All the way home in the car I was waiting for my friend to say something about the gaff I’d made, but she never did. All she wanted to do was talk about the serendipity of being in the building at the same time as this person she knew through other outlets. And we twittered on about how amazing life can be, etc, etc.

But still when I was out with my dog walking I could feel the embarrassment of it. As I pondered by reaction rather than what I’d said I realised that it was actually my autonomic nervous system [ANS] that had gone into fight/flight/fawn/freeze mode and I needed to calm down my “meerkat” panic.

So as I walked I pulled my ANS back into a calmer, relaxed place via things I’d been taught via QEC – telling my ANS to realign – which is just says “ANS come back into alignment“, repeating “I’m safe, you’re safe, we’re safe” thus convincing my subconscious that there was nothing to worry about, and also being grateful – for the encounter with the fellow writer, for the time with my friend in the car there and back, for the joy of walking my dog. By the time I got home I was calm.

Even as I write this I can feel myself laughing at what I said, because it was daft and out of order, but I do not feel that awful grumpy-dragging-me -down-ness that I have felt in similar situations before. I can see it as a mistake I made and that I have learned from but not an “end of the world” thing.

It has made me wonder how many times I may have not done something, or even done something, because I was in that heightened “meerkat” mode – fearful, hyper-alert, anxious – rather than acknowledging it, taking those breaths, realigning myself and being able to let it go. Because that is very much what I did – let it go.

It also made me think of the lines in the “Lord’s Prayer” – about forgiving and forgiveness. Too often we are ready to forgive others but how often do we forgive ourselves. Or even how often do we say “Lord, forgive me my trespasses” but we are not willing to do it ourselves – thus making us bigger than God???

So as I realigned myself, stepped out of my fight/flight/fawn/freeze mode, I also forgave myself for what I’d said and have been able to get on and do things – which today have involved sending a proposal for some work and entering a writing competition. I have moved on from my faux pas!

Categories
Courage faith

Role Models

Picture of a path through the woods with the sunlight peeking through. Taken by Diane Woodrow
Picture from my morning walk – 14th March 2022 – taken by myself

I was reading Jon Kuhrt’s blog on Herd Immunity this morning – [and I know I use parts of his blogs often, but that is because what he writes resonates with me. I would suggest everyone sign up to follow him.] It was the part about Courage and Faith that I pondered as I was dog walking this morning, and of how to be able to live in Courage and Faith we need to have role models to help us walk it out.

The picture above is of a walk I used to do regular but then, for some reason, I got nervous climbing up the steep track to get to it. Everyone who climbs it says they get out of breath but for some reason I decided it was beyond me. Also there are loads of lovely walks around me that I could do so it wasn’t a great hardship. Then on Friday I met up with a friend for a dog walk. She lives at the bottom of this hill so suggested going up there. And we did. And I realised why I loved going so much – the trees, the light through the trees, the peace, being above the town – and so this morning my dog and I went up there. And we loved it. But we needed that supporter, that role model to encourage us back up.

But that was what got me thinking about living in courage and faith and not getting caught in herd immunity. If one has always been brought up with being fearful, of not stepping out, of not disagreeing with people, of believing what is taught or told from the media, of believing the world is dangerous, of deciding that God only answers prayers if they go a certain way, even that God isn’t quite to be trusted, to never say No because you need to be a “good girl”, to always need friends around you whether they enlighten you or drag you down. All those things encourage people to live in fear, anxiety, distrust, doubt, and feel safe agreeing with their herd, their tribe, their group.

But if one doesn’t have a role model to help your live in courage and faith one can swing in the opposite direction. So when one has been told not to disagree and wants to breakaway then one can swing to being angry and argumentative and always defending their point of view. If one wants to breakaway from being brought up not to trust God or others, and that the world is a dangerous place, one could swing so far the other way that it becomes a blase, “Pollyanna” way of life. If one has been brought up never to say No and wants to change from that, one could move into always saying No even to good things. If one been brought up not to be courageous then one can step out and take too many risks and get hurt or hurt others.

So we need to have role models to help us walk courageously along the path chosen for us. We need to have role models who model true trusting faith in a mighty creator who loves us unconditionally. To find them we need to be bold. To find them we need to test if they are what they say they are. To find them we need to not follow the herd to next big name, the next big issue, the next big thing.

We need to test the waters. We need to be bold enough to look within ourselves. We need to be healed from the need to follow the herd, to be safe with a crowd. That is not to say we need to be on our own but we need to be with people we can be ourselves in all our fallenness and that we can accept their fallibility.

We need to not be swayed by the waves of media which feed our fears but be bold enough to really listen to what God/the Universe is saying to us. Then we too can be role models to others.

Categories
honest Praise

Life Isn’t Fair

plants struggling to break through the shingle on a beach somewhere taken by Diane Woodrow
Scottish beach – Sept 2019 – taken by myself

I’ve just written an email to some people in my writing group about another member of our group telling them how ill she is and how fast she has deteriorated. It has been therapeutic to me to put all that in words to them but has left me going “life isn’t fair”. Here is a lady who was intelligent, articulate, neat, tidy, organised, independent, one of those women one wants to be when one gets to late 70s/early 80s. Yet over the last few months she has lost weight, lost confidence, lost her independence, now needs her daughter living with her, is refusing to wear clean clothes and even has lost power in her voice. The medical profession doesn’t know if it is physical or mental – my thoughts are probably both – but all they are doing is throwing pills at her because they really do not know what else to do.

What do we do when life isn’t fair? Where do we go? In Joel News they are sharing about Ukrainians praying for peace and praising God though all that is going on, of Yuriy Kulakevych, a national leader in the Pentecostal church in Ukraine sharing about amazing events and miracles There is so much in this email that I would love to share it all but I won’t.. These people are being amazing at focusing on praising God and not bemoaning their circumstances.

I shared the email with a friend and this is what she said –

I think the first thing is positioning ourselves before God with honesty and gratitude then change follows….I remember praising God very intensely a couple of years ago when I was depressed, and became closer to Him/Her than ever before.

Response from a friend that I shared the email with

So my thoughts are when I feel life isn’t fair I need to move into being open and honest with God and then being grateful for God, for the things within the situation, then just praising God for being God not for what is going on, then waiting on God/the Universe to wrap me up and hold me through it all.

Stories about these Ukrainians are not unique. In most places where there are really awful things going on – war, persecution, hunger, poverty, sickness – many, many Christians turn to praising and being honest with God and then they themselves change within that situation.

All I can say is that if they can in their situations then I can in mine – with my friend, with my fears, with everything – I am going to praise God

Categories
Day of the Dead grief loss

Day of the dead

Conwy Beach in October 2021 with the sun trying to break through the clouds and rise. Photographed by Diane Woodrow
Conwy Beach – October 2021 – 7.35am – taken by myself

I had been planning this blog post in my head for a few days as I am learning how I need a special day when I can honour and remember those who have gone before me. Then Sunday on Facebook was a post from a friend that appeared to be saying that a mutual friend, someone who had supported myself and my husband through a time of grief, had died. Then Monday there was an email from another friend to confirm that this lovely man had had two or three heart attacks on Saturday and had not recovered. It is a reminder that death comes suddenly to anyone and seems poignant that Nigel is the first person I will mention in this post and the most recent to leave this world. He was an amazingly pastoral person. I can still picture him keeping a straight, kind face even as our puppy drank his cup of tea whilst he was praying for us, or crawled on the back of the couch behind him and rolled downwards into his neck. Those are my big memories of Nigel. And even as I pray for his family – wife, children and grandchildren – I can still smile at that memory from nine and a half years ago.

My first death that really affected me was also my first suicide. He was my boss and we went to the funeral as an office group. No one knew why he had taken his own life so we sat with pints on the table and talked of the good things about him, of which there were many. Pat taught me that people are more complicated than the novels I was reading.

My youngest death was a lad whose parents had asked my boyfriend and I, both of us in our 20s, to be the “responsible adults” at Simon’s 18th birthday party. We were very honoured. The next time we saw his parents was 10 days later at Simon’s funeral. At 18 and one day Simon had gone off on his brand new motorbike with a friend and been impaled on a lamp post. He left me with a memory of seizing every moment because of never knowing what is round the corner.

Around this similar time my grandmother died. But I had lost her around twenty years ago when she had endured a major stroke and never really spoken again. With her I learned that grief is complicated and can arise many years after the loss.

My sister’s death was more complicated but that was the relationship her and I had; complicated. But for fifty years of my life she stopped me from being an only child. I miss having a sister though I am not sure I miss her per se. Again a lesson in how complicated relationships are.

I miss my friend, Felicity. Tthe more I delve into my own writing around Welsh Medieval history the more I wish she was still here to read what I was writing. It was with her that I explore historical novels and authors that we both adored.

Our friend, Jon, took his own life just after my sister died. Even though I still have time being cross with him for his decisions I can still laugh at silly dinner party conversations we would share which would drive the rest of those at the table into frustration. One that comes to mind today is of us in fits of giggle talking of how those who built Stonehenge managed to get the stones from Wales by strapping sheep together into fluffy rafts and placing the stones on them to drift across the Bristol Channel.

I cannot end this list of names without mentioning my father-in-law. Another one who chose to take his own life but even still I will remember him as the man who welcomed me into his family, when I started dating his son, knowing that because of my age and that I already had two teenagers I would not be blessing his son with children that would carry on the family name, and of how he publicly called my two teens his grandchildren.

I am not going to list all those that I have lost because there are many and I do not want to forget any. Friends, family, colleagues, and more besides who left this world in many different ways – suicides, heart attack, cancer, accident, old age, and other ways. These today are just a snapshot of my life as well as theirs.

Each person that I have know, those mentioned by name and those not, have affected my life in many different ways, and still do even today. I’ve learned so much from those I’ve known, about life, about myself and more. Even though I grieve for the fact that they have died before me I am grateful that they were in my life for however long or short the relationship, however deep or trivial.

So I will continue to allow people close to me even if it means there could be pain in ending because life and people are too rich to not walk with for however long. This is my post to honour them

Categories
blessing QEC

Blessing not Processing

Picture of a honeysuckle bush close to a barbed wire fence with trees the other side taken by Diane Woodrow
Taken by me on Sunday 5th September 2021

I seem to have blog a lot and then stopped for a week or so. The reason for stopping is that we have had a busy time with family and friends, which has been lovely but the introvert in me has got tired from it. But something struck me through it all – I could moan and grumble about not having time at to myself [cursing] or I could see what was going on a a blessing.

In Moses’s last soliloquy to the Israelites he says that they must choose between blessing or cursing. Often I have seen this, and maybe been taught this, that it is about the way I behave, but over the past couple of weeks I have started to see it as being about the way I think. As with the QEC way it is how you think that determines the energy you give off. From the energy you give off comes the way the atmosphere around you is and from there how you can affect those around you.

So instead of seeing those who stayed with us as hard work and an inconvenience I saw them as a blessing to my world. And the interesting things was not only was the atmosphere nice but also they were a blessing to me. Yes I was tired by having people around but wasn’t stressed with it. I understood the why I was tired and so made sure I took myself to my bed to read alone early enough in the evening, and found time to “unfolded” in the mornings alone. But I had a great time

It also seemed to happen that things were said that wouldn’t normally be said, conversations that had needed to be said were said in a gentle atmosphere and no one fell out. Yes these conversations were emotional, some of which because they had been bottled up for a long time but they didn’t come out like they had burst from a fizzy bottle but came out gently and well-poured.

The above picture is taken one morning when I was able to get out on my own with my dog and got to write some poetry, which was well needed. But again it was a blessing not a “having to get away”.

I came back tired but refreshed and also came back blessed. I have accepted how I felt at some of the times through what was said, triggers that happened, but instead of processing I was able to turn them into blessings which actually I feel is one step further on than even stopping looking through the garbage.

Categories
friends friendship Godspace The little yellow book

Jesus our Friend

Diane Woodrow's dog, Renly, sitting on a rock looking up lovingly
“Can I be your friend?”

These thoughts on Jesus our friend were prompted by Lilly Lewin’s Post from 5th May entitled “Cups of Connection and Joy“, from starting talking about connection the post flows into the John 15:14&15 were Jesus tells his followers they are friends not servants.

How often do we see those in church behaving like servants, running round doing stuff, keeping the whole show on the road, even busy doing the praying stuff – which looks so righteous – but in fact they are spending time in praying, whether at alone, online, in prayer rooms, not to hang out with a friend but to serve.

When I tried to share this I was reminded that the Bible talks of asking for things, of petitioning prayers, etc as if that meant that we had to do rather than hang out with our friend. It got me thinking about my friends and how I behave with them and what I expect from a friendship. I though about the words in The Little Yellow Boat book where she says “She realised she did not want to be rescued and taken home. She wanted help to continue her quest.” She then realises those boats she had dismissed, which become her friends, all have different things to offer and different ways to help her so she goes to them for different things.

My friends are all very different and I go to them for different things and expect different things from them. I have friends who I would go to for help to do things, friends that I would go to if I was trying to workout what to do next, friends that I would walk with, others I have never walked with but drank a lot of coffee with, others no coffee but lots of meals and wine. Some of my friends are Christians like me, and some even think about God in similar ways to me. Some are of other faiths and some none. Some challenge me and turn my thinking upside down. Some are a calming influence. When I met with them I am different depending who I’m with.

I found it interesting that there are many many Bible studies and Christian groups that look at God the Father but very few what look at Jesus as our Friend. I wonder if that is because there is distance between us being able to father/parent someone else and us being someone’s friend? With talking of Father God we can stand back a bit, forgive parents and welcome in God, or if parents repent for our misplaced parenting, but perhaps we keep our distance from looking at Jesus as friend because it would challenge us more. I also think being a friend is much harder to define than being a parent. As I’ve listed above I expect different things from different friends and give differently to my different friends.

Yet every day we can get up and be a friend, in whatever guise that is, but how often do we choose to do that?

Categories
being me blessing church community creativity driving friends friendship musicians relationships

Worth The Drive

So last night was our wedding anniversary and we drove for one hour fifty minutes one way and one hour thirty minutes the other to go to a small coffee shop in Manchester -going via Chester to pick up a friend to share this time with. Why did we do it? To see the img_20170127_205453428most amazing group of young musicians that we know – Orphan No More.

What makes them special and worth a trip like this on our anniversary? We met Josh and Kara, the founders of this gathering of musicians not so  many years ago when this was just starting and we believed in what they were doing so have been supporting them since. So we know them that’s one reason – Relationship. The key to so much.

Why  go via Chester adding half an hour at least each way to our trip? To pick up a friend that I went to university with who moved back to her home in Chester only weeks before we moved up here to North Wales. She came with us when we saw these musicians perform a couple of years ago when we all lived near Bath and I knew she’d enjoyed them as much as we had. Again – Relationship.

Talking of driving a long way for Relationship, my facebook memories tells me that this time two years ago we did a similar long journey to see my daughter in a play when she was at university. Relationship! And that was the reason we went all the way to Iceland for a wedding in September, and actually went to Oregon, USA nearly 10 years ago for another wedding. Relationship! I think there could be a whole blog just listing the miles we have driven or flown for Relationship!

Last night was not just about Relationship bur also about talent. The set was only about an hour and a half long but was so gifted. We saw Sophia do the hardest bit of being the opening act. She has the most amazing voice and sings about her life from her heart. She did really well to pull the crowd in and get people listening. Definitely a lady to watch. She was then followed by Tom Bishop, a spoken word poet and his alter ego Bish, a rap musician, who made us sit up and think as he rapped and spoke about Palestine, refugees and also our love for our homes. Amazing man and made us all think. (Unfortunately can’t find links for him so you can check him out. Will edit when I do) And of course headlining was the main man – Josh Luke Smith and his band. I must say I am always so amazed when I see talented singers like Kara Ann Marie and Rachel Jane will to be backing singers when they are amazing in their own right. As always his song “Carry Me” left me in bits. A song about a young person hurting their mother which hits me on many levels being both a mother and a daughter.

It was an evening that touched my heart in many ways. It was church in a different form. There was preaching as Tom told us to think about migrants, as Sophia got us thinking about relationships, as Josh reminded us who we were are and how we should be. For me I could feel God speaking and moving through it all. Yes we heard the words of God in a way that was fresh, real and deep. We didn’t get told how to behave but got challenged on how to think. There is so much more I want to write and probably will as I start to unpack what I heard and saw last night.

But for me this morning the thing I woke with was the importance of relationships and why I am who I am, why Ian and I are who we are, which actually has been echoed in the likes, comments and reactions to yesterday’s post. Relationships are hard but often worth driving to encourage.