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Intentionality Written In Pencil

Picture of stoney beach looking out to still clean sea taken by Diane Woodrow author of The Little Yellow Boat book
Llanddulas beach walk which I did when a writing group I run had been cancelled due to only one person showing up. Intentionality written in pencil!

I was reading Lisa’s blog on Musing From a Sacred Summer, of how she is being intentional with the things she does before leaving Seattle, but that so often we don’t know what is round the corner. If these past 18 months have taught us one thing it should be that we don’t know what’s coming. Every January we sit and plan, roughly, our year so that we’ve at least got some idea of what is going on. Even as February 2020 came into being and rumours were starting about this new virus we still went ahead and book a trip to see my son’s flat and a couple of other events later in the year. For us here in the UK March 23rd was “end of the world as we know it” day. Lockdown day!! The signs were there. It had been coming. But I don’t think anyone really believed it would be as it was.

So things will change but does that mean we don’t plan any more? I don’t think so. But it is how we plan that will help to keep us sane.

I am trying to make my whole day intentional. I am a writer and, as most writers know, unless you carve out time then you don’t get to write. In fact I think that is probably true for most self-employed creative people without deadlines. I don’t have a publisher waiting round the corner for me to produce my next book, next collection, but I do love to write. I have published a book. I would like to publish again. But there won’t be anything if I don’t intentionally set aside time to write. So I am putting aside time in my diary. I also live in a big house that needs cleaning regularly. It is easy to keep clean if I intentionally set aside time to do it. I have paid projects that I need to be doing too.

Some people write their plans in stone. Some people don’t write them at all and wonder why things don’t get done. But I am planning on writing my plans in pencil. Not because I don’t take them seriously but because things can change. Take for instance my cleaning routine. I had it all planned out and then heard from a friend that someone she knew was going to be homeless for a couple of days, so a quick change, replan and they’ve got rooms ready for them. Or this morning, I had a list of what I was going to write. One of which was to finish off a blog post to share on Godspace but as I was writing it I put in a reference to this blog, that I hadn’t written at the time so thought I’d best get it done!!!

As I’ve mentioned before I intentionally put an Artist’s Date in my diary, where I go for a walk and write. I was planning to do that today but in the end went yesterday because there was a space. I am so glad I did because today there is sideways rain crashing down. Even the dog only got a 15 min walk. Intentionality written in pencil.

Hopefully this will make me more flexible, more trusting in God and the Universe, more able to do what I have to do. So I put things in my diary, make my to-do list, and hold everything lightly, and trusting that what I get done for that day, be it writing, cleaning, working on a project, emailing, seeing friends, or all the other myriad of things I love to do, will be what I am meant to do for that day

Intentionality written in pencil!!!

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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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I Am Who I Am

I have been reading this book, Untamed by Glennon Doyle, in the afternoons after walking the dog. The subject matter is brilliant – about hearing with your heart what you want to do and not pleasing people. Actually just this morning it made me decide to write this instead of doing an online Welsh class. My heart said “get this written” but it was interesting explaining to my husband why I was doing one thing and not the other how I started to not trust my heart. But despite it being an amazing book I think Glennon could have made her points in half the time and still had an excellent book. It does go on reiterating the same point a wee bit

But the bit that will stay with me is the end chapter which reads like a poem. Glennon has taken that passage from the Bible when Moses asks God “Who shall I tell the people you are?” and God answers “I am who I am” [Exodus 3:13-14], and from that writes a list of quesions as to whether she’s happy, sad, straight, gay, Christian, heretic, good, bad, believer, doubter, etc, etc. And she answers with “I am, I am, I am”.

It made me wonder if God never meant “I am” to be sacred but was just saying “I am who I am”, as in I am a conundrum of all difference, full of love and yet I do get anger, totally involved and yet sometimes distant, in each situation I will be who I will be. If “I am” is not a holy phrase but just God saying they’ll turn up as they will in a given situation surely that also releases me to follow my heart for each situation?

I am who I am. Today I am a writer who has so much stuff in my head that is tumbling out that I need time to get it out. Other days I don’t want to write a word. I am funny and crazy but also deeply serious. I like people but only in small amounts and get my energy from being alone. I like to plan but can’t stand it when those plans get to tight. I have roles like mother, wife, friend, but none of those should define me.

I believe, after reading this last chapter in Untamed that God spoke those words and Moses, or whoever wrote down Exodus, recorded those words to release us and not to keep us afraid. It was to show both the conundrum of God and the conundrum of ourselves. We should be free then to release God to be all God will be at any given moment and release God from having to confrom to a formula. But also we should be able to release ourselves from shouds and oughts and whatevers, or even “but last time I did x then y”. I am who I am gives me the freedom to be who I am whenever and wherever I am.

I am who I am gives me freedom to listen to my heart at that moment, and also means that I can trust God to listen to their heart at that moment in time. No formlua. No explaination. Freedom!

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Humility

Newborough Beach, 2007 – taken by me

This season for me, as you can tell from reading my blogs, has been being reminded of prophetic words. When I first got into this prophetic praying one of the major verse was:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14

I believe this is another of the “Reset” places we should be exploring as the pandemic still creeps across the world.

I believe the word “sin” basically means that we have screwed up, been selfish, missed God’s mark. So we need to go back and humble ourselves before God and say we have screwed up. This is being highlighted in Black Lives Matter, the continued abuses and inequalities between women and men, wanting to see the economy recover often to the detriment of people, climate change, animal welfare, etc.

Reading this news I have noticed that whenever some country or world leader boasts about how they are doing with this virus suddenly they get a spike in Covid-19 cases. Pride steps in, they want to tell everyone how well they did and then bam! they get walloped. It is like the virus is saying to “get off your high horse” and be humble.

Being a practical person I have always have to say what can I/we do?

Well I think the only true way is to stop saying we know what we’re doing and stop, wait, rest and let peace flow into our troubled minds and stop rushing about trying to sort out what the “new normal” is going to be.

But, as I’ve said before, I see people being busy, wanting answers, rushing into the next thing. And this happens as much with Christians as much as anyone. There has been a rush in our church to deep clean to get things “open again” and in England Sunday services are happening so it won’t be long before they start in Wales. But I don’t know of many people who have been praying to find out what God wants to happen next.

But to stop moving forward and to wait on God – or if you don’t believe in God then the universe, a higher power, that inner gut feeling – takes time, and might cause change. Do we really want change?

I took my own advise seriously and during my morning dog walks on the beach I started to ask God what I was do with my “one wild and precious life”. I came away feeling that I was to take my rooms off Airbnb and not advertise for anyone to stay and to trust that if we were meant to have people staying they would find us. Over coffee that Saturday morning I chatted with my husband and he totally agreed. It is odd because the only reason we moved up to North Wales and bought this big house was to do Airbnb! We move up here a place of trusting God, but that was to do something. Now this whole waiting to see what the plan is next is much harder and more humbling because we cannot do anything.

Two blog posts have been particularly helpful in this process: Trusting in Jesus, do not let your heart be troubled and Let Jesus Hold Your Stuff For You

I believe with all things, if we don’t give them to Jesus and leave them in his hands, then we will never be humble. It is not easy and is an on going process, one that God started with me nearly 30 years ago. I’m glad God has more patience with me than I often have with myself.

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Trust

Who do we trust these days?

I was reading the headlines this morning on my newsfeed. I must admit I have given up Llsnfairfechan and Ian's birthday 053.JPGopening articles because they are so negative. But as I was walking this morning I got to thinking about trust. I was brought up with the adage that you couldn’t trust politicians; that they were all two-faced, etc. Those of us politically minded would then go on marches, send letters, etc, even visit our local MP or go to the Houses of Parliament. This was in the days before online petitions so one had to be a bit dedicated to write and remember to buy a stamp, go to the post office, etc.

There is a tagline going around at the mo that says “the 0.2% have voted” which works on the lack of trust that these 0.2% have any idea what they are doing. It has almost gone beyond the “all politicians are two-faced” but to the “they haven’t got a clue”. Now I do believe there are a lot of politicians that don’t have a clue about being on benefits, dealing with the NHS, the state of the education system, trying to use public transport etc, etc. But I do think there are a lot of other people who don’t know or understand this either. So I think we need to be careful where we go with that.

But again this moved me on to the TRUST thing. Who do we trust? Llsnfairfechan and Ian's birthday 050.JPG

Or more personally who do I trust? I trust my weather app and will look at that rather than out the window before I go for a walk! 🙂

But it led me to do I trust God? Followers of my blog posts, and my life, will know that we have been through some stuff where God hasn’t done as we would have liked. Do I still trust him?

Llsnfairfechan and Ian's birthday 049Lesson from my dog – Renly and I were out walking at 7.30am this morning and it was still wayyyyy too hot so when we got to a stream I tried to persuade him to get a drink. He was frightened because the bank was a bit steep and he is only little. So I threw him in the water. He stood there with the cold water lapping round his belly and then walked out further so it was over his back. He drank and drank. For the first half of the walk he had trailed along because he was too hot. On the way back he ran like a mad dog because he was cool and so was happy. I’m not sure if he will still trust me by streams in case I throw him in but just maybe he learned that it was a good idea.

So sometimes God has to throw us into things for our own good to help us with the next part of our journey – no matter how hot or steep that next bit is but he wants to not just “lead us by still waters” (Psalm 23) but immerse us in those refreshing waters. We might not trust him next time he has us stand by those waters but he might just throw us in again for our own good. But it would have been much easier for Renly and for me if he had just jumped in when I’d showed it to him first of all and easier for us too if we just trust God a bit more.

So I may struggle to trust politicians or the media but I do need to, through the turmoil in our country and the direction of my life, trust in the Lord with all my head and lean on his understand – not my own (Proverbs 3:5)

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Christmas is a good time to think about Words for Well-Being

Christmas is an odd time of the year. It seems to focus so many feelings, and seems to encourage the time to put on those tinted glasses. Not just the rose-coloured ones where montage-1024x812we may view our childhood Christmases or the darkened ones where we may remember things with despair.

For me I think of those people I haven’t received a card from – the sister of my step-father who was always the first card to arrive but she is now dead, the friend of my mum’s who was often the second card to arrive who has had a fall and has been on life support in hospital and at the moment cannot move or speak, the friends who have moved and we’ve lost touch, the family of ex-husbands who no longer keep in touch – and one often wonders if they have died, the always late and badly written card from my sister which of course will  not come now – and never one from her husband who is now remarried or her 25 year old son who is a typical 25 year old boy when it comes to keeping touch. It can bring me down and make me wish I had know when it was going to be those last Christmasses. Would I have done anything different in December 2011 when we’d gathered with my sister’s family? I’m not sure I would have. Would I have phoned my step-father’s sister more often if I’d know when she’d not be with us? Would Christmas 2012 have been any different knowing that by Christmas 2013 by father-in-law would not be with us? To be totally honest I don’t think it would have been.

I had an email from a older friend of mine who says she finds it hard visiting as she sees glass-be-gratefulthe deterioration in many of her friends and wonders if it will be their last Christmases together. So she does make a difference; she makes sure she turns out over the Christmas holidays to see them, puts it in her diary to visit more often, and most importantly is grateful that she is still fit and well and able to get about and prays that it will continue.

So how will writing help? Well instead of bottling up those feelings write. Write to those people who aren’t with you any more – whether dead or alive. Tell them what you think of them and how you are feeling with them not being around. Tell them how much you’ve done in the last year. Read it out to them as thought they are sitting with you. Who knows they might even be listening? Write down all the good things you remember and don’t worry if the rose-tinted glasses are on. Enjoy the good memories. Again read it out loud. Say thank you to whatever you believe maybe listen – God, the dog, the chair, Mother Earth, etc. Write down a list of things you are grateful for this year – even if it is that you can write things down. When you think of the impossible write it down too and again speak it out. There’s nothing journal-writing-2-300x225wrong in hoping for what might not happen but don’t let it make you overwhelmed by what will not be. Write what your perfect Christmas would be then even look at what things you can do to make that happen. Remember that you cannot make everyone cheerful but you can make sure you don’t let their grumps get you down. And if they do take yourself off and write about it.

Make this Christmas a time when you compose some cool poems that talk of the joy and sadness of your Christmas – past, present and future. Use that notebook that some well-meaning person got you years ago that you’ve never thrown away and just write and see how that will change things for you. 3ab6538e0c445f0b29935d3a718972c3

As we were reminded in our Advent reading this morning Jesus didn’t come down to change things but to walk with us in them.

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Life Moving Fast ….

4221396001_5030726696001_5030697883001-vsWe seem to be in a time of great political change in our country. For the first time ever we have an uncontested leader of our country. Is this right? Who can say. But it is a first, at least since the time of voting democracy. Watching satire programs in fascinating because by the time they are screen, having been recorded 24 hours earlier they are no longer news but old news. Things have moved so fast. All program makers know that there can often be items that are changing, like with an election coming up or a big football match – like the Wales/Portugal semi-final. Oh and as an aside – I thought it was great that the team that beat Wales went on to win Euro2016. Wales was beaten by the best not the second best 🙂 Anyway that is an aside.

Talking of that who would accept a team as champions if they had not had to beat anyone to win? No one! But we now have a leader of this country who is leading because her rival shot herself in the foot, so to speak. I find this hard to know how things will go when speed_of_lightsomeone is uncontested like this. But again it is saying something about the speed things are moving – within 3 weeks the UK is a very different place.

On a personal note things have started to move here. I came back from a lovely relaxing 10 days visiting friends back where we use to live and enjoying 3 days of a writing retreat but since arriving back things have not stopped. I came back to a full calendar of Airbnb, my mum and her husband staying followed by my mother-in-law staying, in a gap I went for coffee with a friend up here and in a chance conversation to someone who runs a local community centre am now in the process of building publicity to start not just one but 4 writing courses at the local centre, and also have my daughter’s graduation and a full summer. Things are moving fast here.

As I was dog walking this morning I wondered if maybe the world, or at least the UK, is moving quicker. I know time is a relative concept but within the scope of how our country is run has changed dramatically. But also within my own life too. It is a dramatic change. Yes I had put it out there – not prayed as such but mentioned in a post on a writing facebook page that one of my adventures I would like to do would be to run creative writing

canolfan-dewi-sant-centre
Canolfan Dewi Sant, Pensarn – the location of my writing courses

classes. I did not expect that to happen. I was thinking I could start putting feelers out come September but not start in September. But now the publicity is out there. I’m getting my public liability insurance and will start really selling it in 10 days time at the community centre’s open day. I am a person who doesn’t mind change which is probably just as well. Even within the thoughts on the change of direction of the UK and the whole political situation I do find it fascinating and something I can roll with. With myself and these writing groups I find it a challenge because there are things I need to do – like posters, go chat to people, get publicity out there, put a reasonable facebook page together. All of which I find challenging. Also there is that concept that sitting in my room on my laptop all day isn’t really work – I think this myself at times but also I know others do too. It is hard to say “I’m writing/thinking all day” so I do get lost in the whole thing of emailing friends, reading stuff, buying things that I know we need but maybe not yet. The whole writing phenomena, whether building up a facebook page, a website, or even writing my target of 1000 words for my novel, do seem to slide. And of course there is still the house cleaning to fit in.

Another fast moving things too is that a young girl – 2 days younger than my daughter – has asked if I will support her with Bible study. She says she needs an older Christian 6e4314dd3eb384859b9d1bdaa2e6a591friend and thinks I’m it 🙂 That’s good news but again it is faster than I thought. She goes to the Bible study group we sometimes go to on a Thursday evening. We are still at the point of trying to work out what church we want to connect with and get involved with but here is a girl who wants me to do the discipling/bible study/mentoring bit already.

We have not been here 6 months yet and yet when we went to the local carnival on Saturday we saw 4 people that we knew to talk to!!! And I am moving into that stage of knowing more. I think for me within in all this I have to trust that God is God and He knew before the beginning of time that things would move and happen as they are. That Theresa May is the undisputed leader of not just the Conservative party but the Prime Minister of the UK is not a surprise to Him. Neither is the fact that I’m going to be running creative writing groups and doing some discipling earlier than I thought.So for me I have to trust in Him and believe and pray and wait and see. And also get on and do the things hqdefaultthat I can do, the things I’m meant to do. Trusting God isn’t an idle time but a time of listening doing what He is leading me into – which at this moment means posting this and getting on with some publicity stuff 🙂