At the start of 2020 I decided not to set any new year resolutions but to have goals which would challenge me but feel attainable. Little did I know!!
I walk every day, often twice or three times a day, with my little dog. It is usually the same route – down our street, into the park or along the beach, and sometimes up into the woods behind us. So I thought at the start of 2020 I would challenge myself to, at least once a week, look for a new walk myself and then on the weekends dog and I could go for a new walk with my husband. We even had a jar that we had filled with walk suggestions, and planned to add to during the year. Well then Covid-19 struck and lockdown and the five mile rule, where we couldn’t go further than 5 miles from home to exercise, and were encouraged to not drive at all. For over three months we walked lots but always over the six similar routes. Then come October I fell of the horse and bruised my ribs and wasn’t able to drive so, once I was able to get back walking, it was back to those same regular walks. So we did lose about half the year! Also I found that even when lockdowns lifted we were lethargic and didn’t pull out any of those suggested walks in the jar because we wanted to go back to tried and trusted ones that were not too far away.
But in fact we did add to our list of local walks, and explored new places on those three times we were able to get away, So even with all the disruptions we did manage to do 48 new walks, all recorded on Instagram. I am pleased with this because even though the goal was not achieved this year, in a “normal” year it would be doable.
But through it I have learned something – that when things are tough we do need the familiar because sometimes doing something new is too much to have to think and plan. And you know what? That is alright. So I will be kind to myself that I didn’t achieve this goal and will look forward to this year. Even though I have not set a walking goal I will still count the new walks I do and see what happens.
I suppose my biggest achievement I have learned from this walking goal challenge is a great understanding of myself – which is not a bad thing.
Normally I would do my end of year review to coincide with Christmas cards I was sending, whether physical or electronic, but this year I have decided to wait until 31st December to post, and am even tempted to wait until midnight just in case. It is not that I am fearful but this has been an “unprecedented” year.
At the time I would normally have done this post I was still laid up with bruised ribs from falling off that horse though was starting to plan what I would write, and I suppose even Different Christmas was a lead up to that. But then just as I was in the planning stages for that my husband got shingles and has been very sore with that. Then on Saturday 19th Dec Wales announced that all was change for Christmas and we were going into lockdown again – though from the volume of traffic I would say that only means that pubs and cafes have now closed. Not sure if I can see much other difference on the roads. It is definitely not back to April’s sparse traffic volume. But then on Sunday my daughter announced that she had tested positive to covid and so, even though she wasn’t coming up here for the holidays it did mean she was going to have to spend it home alone! All this in just a week!
This has been the strangest of years. Even to the point that our cat went from eating biscuits to demanding that we feed her cat meat from a tin. She now has meat twice a day and ignores the biscuits that sit waiting for her to be hungry enough. If it hadn’t been for the local cat rescue places being closed all the tins that had been in the cupboard for the last few years would have gone to them but now she’s eaten them all.
Talking of pets – our crazy rabbit died in the summer, happily of a possible heart attack whilst he was sunbathing before begining yet another digging project. He was buried inside his own warren of tunnels that he had constructed over the four years he had been living here. He is still very missed and the amount of veg peelings in our food recycling bin has increased.
As with everyone 2020 started normally enough, though it was odd for us because my husband chose to stay home for New Year’s instead of going to a youth hostel with old university friends. So actually even the start of the year was different for us with us being together when we woke on 2020. We went away as always for our wedding anniversary at the end of January, which was followed by my husband going off for a week of intensive Welsh learning on the Llyn Peninsular. He managed to get away climbing with friends in Scotland at the start of March, but by the time he went away then things were starting to change and covid was being muttered about. We had two Airbnb guests, both in the medical profession, who went from saying it was nothing to worry about to slowly getting more and more concerned about it, to our guest from Burma having to cut short his stay so he got home before all airports were closed.
I was supposed to go on my regular March writing retreat but felt uneasy about going which was just as well because suddenly things got serious. So instead of being in Gwynedd I went Cardiff to bring my daughter to stay with us when the pubs closed. We bought her some walking boots the day before the country went into full lockdown. We thought we were going to be walking all over North Wales, but then the 5 mile rule was introduced and we finished up doing lots of walks around where we live. We have seen my daughter more this year, probably a good 4 months of the year, than we have since she went off to university about 7 years ago. I picked her up yesterday, now that she is over her coovid isolation time and will spend New Year with us and stay until this lockdown lifts. So even though we have seen so much more of her this year when it comes to everyone else – my son and our mothers and our friends – we’ve seen them less than normal.
My husband changed jobs at the start of lockdown and has now been working for his new company for 8 months and never seen the inside of his office or met any of his colleagues face to face. We are so grateful for our lovely big house and him being able to work upstairs in his own office. But his is the only work going on in the house because, with all the guidelines and restrictions, it is not safe to run our house as an Airbnb rental home for the time being. Read more about that on Humility. And since not having guests coming and going it has changed how I see the house and what it is for. For now I’m not making any decisions how things will look regarding Airbnb and room rentals in 2021, but I do know I see this place much more as a family home now than a business.
We did manage to get away for a flying visit to Somerset to see our mums and a couple of friends at the beginning of August and my son and his fiancee came up to us for a long weekend in mid August. Both times we were blessed with great weather. And we managed 6 days in Northumberland in late September, though because Northumbeland went into tier 3 we were not able to see one friend who had moved there a couple of years ago, and also a friend’s 50th wedding anniversary party was cancelled. But we did manage 6 days of walking, reading, and resting together.
As well as Airbnb all my work has stopped – no more writing groups, no more schools work, no more workshops in the library. All very strange. But I have been doing a lot of my own writing and a few of my blogs from here are being published on Godspacelight.com which is quite exciting. I have also been working with a young illustrator and we have a book called TheLittle Yellow Boat which is with BumbleBee Publishing in the process of being put together and published later in 2021. I will tell more about that once it is out in the big wide world. My plans for 2021 are to work on more short stories and other ideas and of course to blog more. I do not want The Little Yellow Boat to be my only publications. I have also been working towards an MA in Celtic Studies and have loved the modules about the Mabinogion, especailly the Four Branches. I am thinking of doing some stores around the women from the Four Branches.
Every year we do not know what is going to happen, but I think 2021 is probably the one where we have the least idea. Will the vaccine prove effective enough to bring back “normal” life? Will we have enjoyed some of the changes and not want “normal”? For some their business will never be the same again. Many will be bankrupt. For others there plans will be delayed and will be able to move forward a year or two later. But also within that not knowing are things we do have control over. I plan to continue with the Quantum Energy Counselling healing work I’ve been doing. I will work on my own writing and develop a body of work and look at being published. I will meet up with people when I walk with my dog and have great conversations. I will email my friends. And I will carry on reading. All these I have control over. As to whether I’ll start Airbnb rental again or whether I’ll be able to restart writing workshops and schools work, that I have no control over, so will hold lightly. Also I do have control over how I behave towards what is going on around me and I hope I can hold Joy and Hope in the right place and walk as God wants me to through whatever is thrown my way.
Yesterday the dog and I went for a walk up along Conwy Mountain. It’s a walk we’ve done before so I was walking without really thinking. There were times when I came to places where the path wasn’t clear and I had to guess where we were going and then we’d come across the path again. It reminded me of a time when my kids and I were walking in a Country park in Scotland and again we’d walk, lose sight of the path and then find something that showed we were going the right way – a green arrow, a bench, etc.
On Tuesday I went to see “Legally Blonde The Musical” and in that she has a set path that she is going on – to marry Warner for love – but he decides he wants someone more “serious” and so Elle decides to become more serious. From this she finishes up graduating as a lawyer and winning a case based on her bimbo knowledge, but also her skill with reading people. Originally she didn’t know her path would take her to being some great lawyer, she just wanted to find a way to marry the man of her dreams, who she doesn’t in the end either.
So often we think we are on a path that leads us in a totally different direction, or not sure if we are on a path at all, but what we need to do is keep walking.
I was thinking of all the other houses we looked at before we bought this one. We had a path “to move up to the mountains and the sea and run a hospitality house”. We are now living in a town we’d only heard of 2 years ago, I’m involved in a project with a castle I knew nothing about 2 years ago, and we have friends and guests and neighbours we didn’t know of till we met them. If we had bought another house then our lives, our friends, what we do, would be totally different.
Sometimes we don’t know the path, sometimes we do, but we do need to be bold and fearless and walk that path.
My son has joined the army this week. We have actually been unfair to him by asking him where he expects to go with his “army career”, and then at times worrying about what he’ll do after. My goodness he has only just joined and he doesn’t know what comes next. He can see the steps for the first 3 months. He can see some of the things he hopes to achieve but until he gets to A he won’t know what B is. That is the same for all of us. We had to buy this house in this town before we could start exploring what our lives would be.
What path will we be on in 10 years time? Who knows, but I know I will keep walking it whether I can see it clearly or not know that it is there in front of me.
I was walking the dog on Conwy Beach this morning looking toward Deganwy and felt God speak to me as I was looking at the basalt column that rises above the down. He felt Him say “on this rock I will build my church” so I asked for a bit of explanation as it’s a verse we all know well and have often been told it means the confession of Peter that Jesus was the Messiah.
As I was walking I kept thinking and chewing this over. Basalt columns pushed themselves up during a time of great volcanic upheaval, not a peaceful time. The rise above the surrounding area because erosion has stripped away all that may have surrounded them. This is how my faith feels. My faith came up during a time of upheaval
for me – single mum leading a lifestyle that focused around drinking, drugs and random people staying at my house. When it started it was surrounded by loads of supports, theologies, rules, etc but all those have been eroded away.
I went to the funeral of a dear friend last week who’d died at 43. A lovely, crazy, opinionated friend who sometimes drove me to distraction who had argued through her Christian faith. Gone way too soon. At her funeral the vicar read I Corinthians 13, the love chapter as it is often known. Whilst listening to it I could feel something stirring in me but wasn’t sure what. The walk today revealed what it was. Everything has been stripped away. I no longer care about whether it makes you a “proper” Christian if you speak in tongues or prophecy or say the right prayers at the right time or whatever silly ideas I had. I’ve been watching Gunpowder [and have studies this period too] and it amazes me how people were willing to die or to take the life of another for a believe which I’m not sure God even cares about. I may not have been that bad when I first came to faith but I know I lost friends because of my dogmatism. That has all been stripped away. Now very little remains but I stand – not so much tall but I stand like the basalt column.
What is left? Faith – A faith that God is bigger than anything I ever hoped or believed and that He is always there for me whatever I walk through and that I will stay with Him forever. Hope – that God is bigger and that those who’ve died before me will be with Him, that those who don’t profess to knowing Him on this earth will be with Him at the end [see I can’t believe that if we are all made in the image of God – and that we don’t just become made in that image when we “pray the prayer” – that God will take what He has made to be with Him . But that’s another thought entirely ] Love – that God loves me, loves those I love, loves those I don’t love too, and that I must learn to love too.
Faith and Hope and Love that is all that remains but I feel that God said to me today that this is what He’s building His Church on and I need to stand on that no matter what more the storms have to throw at me.
Now I’m sure I’ve blogged on this before but it seems relevant again – at least for me for now.
Most Christians, and many who aren’t, will know the story of the Footprints in the sand; where there are two sets for a while then only one and the person says “where were you Lord when I was struggling?” and God says “I was carrying you.” And it is to encourage Christians to realise that when they cannot go on God carries them. A great metaphor! But why footprints in the sand?
As you know we now live by the sea and most days the dog and I go to the beach for a walk. Sometimes we get sand to walk on, other times we have to walk on the grass and stones above the high tide level. I have noticed, after being here for a year, that the revealed sand is constantly changing. There are streams and rivulets that go across the sand. Last summer I knew where each of them were but now they have moved. Some are deeper, some going a different way, some gone. Even today there was a change between a place I could cross which the sand has now moved around on and it isn’t there.
Which is where I get back to the “Footprints in the sand” piece. Yes I do think there is something there about how God does carry us but I also think that it is in the sand because footprints in the sand get washed away twice a day and as fallible human beings we quickly forget what God has done for us. Just over a year ago I wrote a piece about trusting God and about struggling with trusting God and yet I still want to walk in my own strength through things. So we have only been living here a year – exactly today we got the keys 🙂 – and I now run a successful room rental via both Airbnb and word of mouth, and am running workshops in various amazing places. Yet I struggle to trust that God will provide – work, participants for workshops, money, people to stay in our home. Because of workshops and also with room rental bookings not all coming via Airbnb there can be times when people cancel due to change of circumstance or ill health. I have noticed that these things happen when I have projected how much money I should be earning that particular week/month and have started spending it in my head. It is like God then says “excuse me, but you’re trusting in yourself and not in me” and I have to have a rethink. I want to be self-sufficient but God is saying I have to be God-sufficient. It happens again and again because I am so bad at learning my lessons. But I’m getting there 🙂
So I think the reason that the it is “Footprints in the Sand” is, one because we forget when we cannot see the evidence, but also because we need to walk in trust with God all day every day so that we can make those new footprints with Him every single day – like I do on the beach with my dog each day 🙂
So I continue with this piece on “who I am/what I do”. Probably what consumes most of my time after the Airbnb hosting is walking my dog. Even though he is only small we walk 4-5 miles a day which takes a couple of hours. In the morning is the big walk – through the castle grounds, across the main road, down to the beach and back up via the park. This one is about 3 miles and takes from an hour to an hour and a half. Why the difference in time?
There are two types of dog walkers – those who go walk the dog to be alone and make sure they keep as far from people as possible and even if they do get caught they make the conversation as short as possible. They do not encourage conversation. Then there is the other type, which I come into, those who chat with people they meet. Why do I chat when I am an introvert? I chat because I like to see people smile and like to make them happy so I will have a quick word, try to remember what they said the last time we met so ask about that, and also because I seem to have the sort of face that people want to tell things to. I know a lot about some of the dog walkers I meet. They need someone to tell their tales to. For some it is that they have recently lost husband – either through death or into care homes – , for others they just are lonely and want to tell someone what they did yesterday. But also I learn things from people which enrich my life here in our new town but also enrich my writing life: to hear about why the lady got 3 greyhounds not just one and that he husband was one of the first high speed engine drivers; to hear the tales of how this man tamed a
Staffordshire bull terrier after it had been rescued after being mistreated and encourage him; to find out about the places that I see along my route; of the old lady who use to work in the castle that now lies in ruins on the first part of my walk. But also I love just hearing about the general things, not just how the town use to be but where to get the best meat and things like that. All this gives me insight into my area and some of the people in it meaning I can pray for it in general and for the people that I meet.
By stopping and talking I get to learn so much and also am able to bless people along the way. And Renly gets to make new doggy friends and find out who the people are who will give him treats along his way. And also he loves the beach and will rush to the sand and run round in circles when he finds it is still there. As someone responded to my last post about channelling their “inner Renly” – another part of that is just having that whole joy of living and taking delight in what is just there.
And the reason why it fills so much of my day is because it is the anchor in my day. I cannot start any form of work until I’ve walked the dog and I have to remember as the day comes to an end that the dog does need another walk. In fact I do my work, whether writing, cleaning, or preparing my writing workshop business, between the dog walks – so my working day starts with the coffee pot when I get back from my walk and ends around 5.30 when I get a text from my friend to say she’s calling round for us to walk the dogs together.
[looks like part 3 will be my new business venture so I’d best get the website up and running to share 🙂 ]