Tis the Season … of the Christmas Newsletter

quote-kind-guardian-readers-have-been-forwarding-me-round-robin-christmas-newsletters-for-simon-hoggart-13-46-81At 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 inundated 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

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Filed under Christmas, Family, Friends, journeying together, New season, remembered

So long and thanks for all the fish

Ok so the title of this will only make sense to those who’ve read/watched the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. Its the title of one of the books and is what the dolphins say as they flee earth before it gets destroyed. I would like to say I am not fleeing earth and earth is not going to be destroyed. Its all ok. But I have decided to stop using this site to randomly blog on.

There have been a lot of changes recently and God has been saying very clearly that this is my “advent” season, my season of preparation. In June I started work at an after school club. In September I started studying for an MSc in creative writing for therapeutic purposes. I really thought I could juggle both. In fact I was going to but some things came up at work that made me question whether being there was the right thing. One of the reasons for not blogging recently has been that there has been a lot going on that if I had blogged in my raw state it would have been detrimental to the situation but things have moved on. As I talked and prayed about it all I felt that God was saying that I was entering a season where it was time to “Focus and prepare”, for what I don’t know which is why I’m changing blog spaces. 

This is the first time in my life that I have ever finished something at the end of a year. Even with home school we might finish a project but were still home schooling in the new year just the project had changed. Often things were left on going as we took a Christmas break. I’ve never finished a job at the end of the year. I suppose the closest was when Ian and I got married at the end of January but that was still over 3 weeks into the year. Tomorrow, the 19th, I have my last day working at the after school club but am still officially employed there until 31st Dec. Ok so the MSc will run on and I am in the middle of my first assignment but …

From 1st January all I will have to do will be the MSc and work more on my own writings – and of course my lovely family🙂 I will job hunt, looking for something that will fit in with what I am studying towards.

So I just want to say Thank you to everyone who has followed me and wish you all a peaceful Christmas and gentle holiday time and wonders for the new year.

If you want to keep following me then check out http://www.aspirationaladventure.wordpress.com which will be taking on a different and more professional format. This site will be up and running from the first week in January🙂 New Year, new season

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Life is **** and then you die

Lots of heaven pics have clouds in them!!! Strange. Not sure I like clouds either

The phrase is meant to mean that lots of bad stuff goes on and then its all over, I suppose. Though the more I think about it the dying part isn’t so bad its the being left behind that is. Ok so I’m not saying dying is easy. Far from it. But in dying, like in going off to do something, its you doing the going – whether through long illness or by design. Ok so its not so much an adventure and it must be so scary going into the unknown. Even as Christians we don’t really know what it’ll be like. I heard a talk once where a guy had one of those “heaven” experiences and he said he saw a field that was just full of waving grass, no weeds in it, and I thought “I don’t want to go there. It sounds boring”: there

Very crowded!!

was another one who talked of being surrounded by friends and family who had gone before and I thought “I don’t think I’d like that. It sounds too crowded.” I have my own picture of what I want the life after death place to be. I think I’m hoping that I’ll have more time to read and write and hang out with friends and family. I suppose I’m supposed to say I’d look forward to being with Jesus/God all the time, which is sort of true, but I’d also like time with friends. I’m sort of hoping that God is a more tangible presences than He is now, but that I still get my space. Not sure how that fits in with the whole Christian thing. I think I’m a bad Christian anyway. I struggle at a recent Christian gathering, where I was feeling sensitive, but there was lots of teasing going on and at  one point I couldn’t decide if I wanted to scream or cry, so I said nothing. It wasn’t what I was hoping heaven would be like. Mind you I’m hoping in heaven because God really does know me He won’t tease me when I’m feeling low, won’t presume from me because of what He sees on the surface, won’t have expectations.

It’s been a bit of a rubbish week. Lots have gone on but the two biggies for me effect friends of mine more than me. One is her brother-in-law who went to a hospice a couple of weeks ago for the final time and the staff have said he will be dead by the end of today. He wasn’t looking forward to the next bit of his journey. She said it was heartbreaking to watch him crying as he packed his case to go to the hospice. It wasn’t where he wanted to be. Another friend who’s son has been in remission with a brain tumour that has now flared up again. He’s only in his 20’s, not much older than my son, and he isn’t ready to die yet. But in both these cases these men are the ones walking the walk and are also the ones who will not be there when there is the gap. A part of me is envious that these families have got time to say goodbye. I wonder what difference it would have made for me if my sister, my friends and my father in law had given us a few weeks to say goodbye. Maybe we should always be at that place of being able to say goodbye, but actually that would just be a hard place to be.

I think these cancers have made me miss those I’ve lost more. A friend told me grief is like a black dog always in the corner which can jump out at any time. This week the dog wants to be noticed and is using my friend’s tragedies to make him self known. This time, because its not me in the thick of it, I am struggling to keep busy. Maybe this is the time to just let it wash over me? It’s hard because I’m supposed to be doing work for my MSc and I can’t get my head around it. It’s a lot of writing and reflecting and all I keep doing is wanting to cry. Maybe this is a cathartic time? Maybe this is what I need? Perhaps this is the next part on my journey, the bit that comes much later and that we aren’t quite ready for.

Death is the bit where we all move on but it does leave a great big hole for those who are left behind!

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Filed under a thought, Christian, death, Depression, dog, Friends, grief, remembered

What to do you when most of your life revolves around being creative and you don’t feel creative?

A long title but how I feel today. Most of what I do, even in work, revolves around being creative. Today at after school club I’m doing a reworking of the classic story of The Three Little Pigs completed with playstations, facebook and wind machines. Because that comes under a “have to”, as in its work and I can’t say “I don’t want to today” I will do it and I’ll do it great. But I’ve come back from this weekend’s MSc weekend of study tired and with an empty head. So I’ve filed all the work, made lists of what I need to do and checked facebook. Now what?

Some of it is that I am just tired, some of it is that I need to do lots of reflecting on what I’ve done and I’m a bit nervous of that, some of it is that its dark and cold and wet, and some it because I am struggling with not starting work till 2.30. Even if I start earlier its working till nearly 9am then back again at 2.30pm. It’s easy when in a non-motivated mood to not get anything done. But does it matter? That is the key question. Like I say I do need to do the story at after school club and be alert for the children, which actually I can do because I am a professional there. But if to that it will help to take it easy and just get my work in order today that’s probably the right thing to do.

In fact over the weekend we were talking about how so often we all talk about being busy and about achieving but very rarely say that all we did was sit about and read or chat with friends. Sometimes even friends or family can be put into that busy “have to” place rather than something we can just kick off our shoes and enjoy. I visit my kids because I like them and like to spend time with them, but I know I’ve been guilty in the past of seeing friends because of other reasons; pretending its ministry stuff. How crass! I think now as I’ve had to whittle down my social  life because of not having much time my friends have become special to me. I see them, text them, email them, however works best to communicate, because I like them and they like me. They are my friends not my contacts, not my busyness, not my “have tos”.

So today I’ll allow myself not to be creative. Yes I will pile up my study stuff on the table, not so that it nags me from the corner but because it will be sorted and easy to deal with there. I’ll pick up a book and I’ll just enjoy the few short hours I have this morning just to chill. And I’ll be grateful that I have this time and I will enjoy it. I won’t feel guilty because I have “achieved” this morning. And maybe by being grateful I will have achieved something in my heart?

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Promised Land, Promised Time – Chapt 14

I’m just starting on Brian McLaren’s devotional book “We Make the Road by Walking.” I love the title because, for me its so true. Sometimes Christians can get so lost in working out where God wants them to go, which is the right path, whether they are at a crossroad or what to do next, but in all honesty I agree with Brian McLaren we need to get walking to make the road. God loves us truly so He’s not going to leave us. As David said in the famous Psalm 23 “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” It didn’t come with conditions that goodness and mercy would only follow us if we went the right way. For anyone that’s read about King David in the Bible then they’ll know he wasn’t great at getting things right. It was just the infamous Bathsheba incident but quite a bit of his kingship he screwed up but God was always there following and giving him mercy and goodness. In fact I think you can miss out on both goodness and mercy if you stand still waiting. Something cannot follow you if you aren’t going any where.

So why are does this say Chapter 14 at the top? Because McLaren says that the devotional can be used to fit in with the Church calendar. To have been able to start on chapter one, I think I should have started in September, according to the blurb on the front. I think I should get the Christmas stuff in sometime in the right place. Hopefully🙂

Each chapter has starts with Bible verses to look up and a key verse followed by some thoughts from McLaren and ends with some questions to engage with. It can be read individually or in a group and then pick questions that are relevant. The one that keeps buzzing in my head as I walk the dog is the one about what one thing in the passage challenged me. For me it was

To be alive in the adventure of Jesus is to have a desire, a dream, a hope in the future. It is to translate that hope for the future into action in the present and to keep acting in light of it, no matter the disappointments, no matter the setbacks and delays. … light a candle for the prophets … hopes, dreams and desires. Let us keep the flame growing strong in our hearts.

My dreams and desires are becoming more simple as I get old. They are starting to sound more like someone from a Miss World contents. I desire to take the peace of Jesus in me into the places I am sent. Where am I sent? I’d like to be sent to Weymouth and live there, but I know there is more than me to think of there, and I just keep trusting. That’s another one, trust in the Lord more and more and more and lean less on me and what I am. With these dreams and desires there are always setback; when I’m not walking in a place of trust and so not in a place of peace.

Talking of walking in trust, every day when I go out to walk the dog, even though I take roughly the same direction, there are a number of ways I can go and I often just “ask” which way I should go, and very often it leads to a meeting with someone I didn’t expect, a conversation I hadn’t planned. Sometimes it leads to a walk totally alone, but then I have to trust that that was what I needed that day. Today I bumped into someone I’ve got on to saying “hello” to at the school where the after school club I work in is situated. We bumped into each other as I was leaving the field and she was entering with a friend and had a lovely long chat and got to know each other. Next week when we are both in school things will be different between us just because of that “chance” encounter.

The other part of this paragraph that challenged me was this whole idea of being “alive in the adventure of Jesus.” How amazing is that! Its not like we’re just plodding along hoping we do the right thing but that, if we walk, if we have a desire, a dream, a hope in the future, and start walking it out now, we can be truly alive with Jesus. The idea of being totally alive like that, in that place where things can happen, is my greatest desire. And so often it doesn’t happen because I’m busy, tired, fed up, got other things on my mind.

I have chosen to concentrate on just three things in my life at the moment (over and above God, my children, husband and home). I am focused on my after school club job, the MSc in using creative writing for therapeutic purposes and progressing with my writing. In these three things I will live the adventure. I may not know how they all fit together but as my work colleague said this morning, it doesn’t matter because it is about enjoying it. I love my job and can see how I am giving a hope in the future to the children I work with. I can see a dream and desire emerging with the MSc and the writing. But you know if all of it I need to stick close to Jesus and let that flame of being totally alive in the adventure of Him just grow and flow.

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Remembrance

I’ve been really busy with my job at the after school club, which I must blog about some day too, and studying for an MSc and have found my creative head for story writing again which means this blog is being neglected a wee bit. But this  morning I was doing some planning for an enrichment activity I’m going to do with the children on Tuesday and thought that a good way to help me remember what I’m doing is to type it out.

So:–

Why do we have poppies to remember the war? What war? It was the first world war that ended in November 1918, nearly 100 years ago. That was when it started but now is to remember all soldiers who died in the 20th and 21st century. And we buy poppies to help raise funds for the British Legion which gives money to help servicemen and women and their families. But who started all this? And why?

On 9th November 1918, 2 days before the official end of World War One Moina Belle Michael was working in the office in New York, where a conference to do with the ending of the war was going on. Someone gave her a copy of a women’s magazine which contained John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields” illustrated by a poppy. She decided to “Keep the Faith” and wrote a poem in response by that name but also decided she would always wear a red poppy as a sign of remembrance for all those who’d died for the rest of her life. In this office she worked in she made sure that there were always fresh flowers and three of the delegates gave her £10 to say thank you for this. She went out in her lunch hour to find some silk poppies to buy with this

I like this, that America do remember her. Though this was issued in the 1940’s

money. In a local department store she managed to find one large and twenty four small silk poppies. She wore the large one and people were queuing at her desk to have the others. This was when she became determined to  make the red poppy the national symbol of remembrance in America.

By March 1919 Moina was living and working in Georgia, USA, and had start a campaign to use the sale of remembrance poppies to help wounded soldiers.

Anna – much harder to find a picture of her, even though without her the poppy may never have become a worldwide symbol

By 1920 the American Legion was using the poppy as it’s remembrance symbol. That was when Anna Guerin, who lived in France and worked for the French Legion heard about Moina and the poppy and decided to do the same in France. Anna wasn’t content with this to just be a French or American symbol but was determined to make it a symbol. But also for it not to just be a symbol of remembrance but for ex-servicemen to make the poppies that would be sold to give them some dignity.

In 1921 she travelled to America, Australia, Belgium and New Zealand promoting this idea. She also went to Britain in 1921 and spoke to Earl Haig, the head of the British Legion. November 1921 was the British Legion’s first poppy day appeal, 3 years after World War One had ended. Poppies Factories started in all the countries where young men had died in the war.

Moina’s gesture was a small personal gesture but from that she changed the world. Anna had the bigger vision but would only have had that with Moina taking that first step. I have had times when I have started things but others have ran with them. I started a home education support group in Frome from which has sprung many other groups but many in those new groups will remember my friend Lesley, who started the first larger group, which Lesley says only happened because I’d started the first one, but many of the new home educators don’t even know who I am. I have also started 2 church youth groups, one of which is still going in Scotland and one, even though it ended, sent six young people to Zimbabwe to support an orphanage. The young people told me they were only at the church because I’d helped them form the group but many in the church were new and I had moved away and I didn’t get a mention.

So I am then going to ask the children in my after school club what small gesture could they do to change things? What do they feel they want to do? What is important to them? And also how would they like to be remembered? I’m going to be kind and let them run with things like “best footballer” etc but it will be interesting to see what comes out. I’ll get them all to write it on a large piece of paper with a poppy symbol on it and then we can feedback what we thought, maybe even come up with ideas of how to make that happen. I’d like then to come back and revisit it in the first week of the new term in January and talk about new year resolutions.

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Sheep

In studying for an MSc in Using Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes (CWTP) I am reading Thomas Moore’s “Care of the Soul”.  It has been sat on our bookshelf for a while. Ian was recommended it. I must say I’m loving it because it is all about accepting where you are rather than trying to either get healed of things or change things. For instance the person who is always talking about changing their situation but never does has to first accept this is where they are. I remember when I came back from 18 months travelling Europe, which was probably a trail of trying to sort myself out, I realised that actually I’d taken me with me wherever I went and had to be content with who I was. That was one of the things that prepared me for Jesus and to let Him do some restoration and sorting out.

In the book Moore says “Care of the soul begins with observance of how the soul manifests itself and how it operates. We can’t care for the soul unless we are familiar with its ways. Observance is a word from ritual and religion. It means to watch out for but also to keep and to honour, as in the observance of a holiday. The – serv – in observance originally referred to tending sheep. Observing the soul, we keep an eye on the sheep, on whatever is wandering and grazing — the latest addiction, a striking dream, or troubling mood.”

Now what really struck me with this was the whole “sheep” thing. In a parable Jesus says about how the shepherd went off, leaving the 99, to look for the wayward sheep who’d wandered off. I never liked this story and would worry about the 99 left alone out there with no one to look after them. What if the wolf was using it as distractionary process, luring the shepherd away to attack the others? And why would the other 99 be good and stay together and not split up and wander off? It use to bother me. But this sort of makes more sense. Its not so much about God leaving us alone to sort look for some wayward soul but it is about us looking after our own sheep, our own minds and souls, and taking each thought, negative feeling, addiction, etc captive and reining it back in again.

So we have all these sheep flocking around inside of us and every so often one of them gets an issue in its head and decides to go its own way. As I heard in a recent talk rot and decay don’t happen suddenly. The homeless person didn’t get up one day and think “I know I’ll leave my home, my family, my job, go and live on the streets, sleep in doorways, and drink lots of alcohol. Sounds like a

what the sheep in our brains look like

plan.” Not at all. Gradually things eroded until this was the only option. And like the person Moore talks about how is unhappy in his job and moans about it, once he takes his “sheep” captive and accepts his situation, he starts to enjoy his job but is also then ready to move on. Its that phrase about being happy where you are.

I think, in the modern world, we aren’t taught to be happy. I see it in the after school club where I work even. We are often talking about the next thing they’ll do, the new school, the future, and then there’s always the talk of holidays coming; not living in the moment but looking forward to the holidays. Now as a planner I do need to know what’s going to happen and have dates fixed in place, and there is nothing wrong with that – in fact I’d say the wrong is in not having dates book but that’s me the planner speaking – but I must make sure I don’t spend my time planning towards them. I am trying to look at my diary every day and see what’s in there rather than knowing what I’ve written in there. So yes I have dates when I’m studying, when I’m writing, when I planning for work, etc but I don’t live for them. I have to be happy where I am, and that’s where I need to keep my little sheep in order because mine have a habit of running into tomorrow. I know other people who’s sheep have a habit of running into yesterday, or of going over the same old ground. We aren’t to ignore those sheep but we are meant to bring them back in with the other 99 contented sheep.

So maybe it was a head thing rather than a physical thing, that the 99 are just content where they are and there is this wayward 1 who’s wandered off to be discontent, but that’s what Jesus said we were to do – bring in that one sheep back to being content where it was.. And you know if we believe, as Jesus did keep saying, that the Kingdom of God is near at hand/within you then this whole parable makes so much more sense – at least to me!

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