Monday, 27 December 2010

New Year's resolutions

It’s coming up time for the New Year. I really like New Year’s resolutions. It helps me get a clear frame on what my priorities are for the short and medium term – to start on right now but expecting to take a while to process.

This year I have three resolutions.

Eat chalk

Walk – spend time in nature

Live spaciously

EAT CHALK – well, I posted about that during November. What I mean by that is that 2011 is to be a year when I focus on how I speak to people, to make it gentle and quiet, both in my voice and in what I have to say. All through the gospels, right from when the angels announced His birth and through a variety of incidents in the course of His life, we come across the phrase “Fear not” in connection with Jesus. “Don’t be afraid, it’s me.” I really like the idea that the voice of a person’s life, what a person’s whole self says, could be “Don’t be afraid”. So that when people see it’s you the tension goes out of them and they sigh with relief, “Oh! Phew! It’s you”.

For that to happen, the voice of a person’s life would have to be gentle and quiet; and strong too, I think. So that the sound of their voice brought people home to themselves, spoke peace.

To work towards that is one of my 3 tasks for 2011 – and that’s what I mean by “eat chalk”.

WALK – SPEND TIME IN NATURE – I really could do with getting some more exercise. I also crave time just being with the beauty of everything. During 2010 I did so much writing (I wrote 4 books; that’s a lot!) that all through the breezy blue sunlit days I was perched up in my garret, writing and writing, with a cloth hung from the window to keep the noon light and the afternoon light and the light of the sun setting out of my eyes. I didn’t go on the beach even though I live near the sea. I didn’t go walking in the hills or the woods. I didn’t sit out in the garden. I didn’t cook outdoors. I just wrote.

I wouldn’t quite know myself if I wasn’t writing something, and I have started a new book, but this one can go more slowly. This year I want to spend time walking, and being outside in nature. I love the earth. I love the beauty. It moves me so deeply, and it fills my soul with joy; all of it, the grass and the light on the water, the flight of birds and the stateliness of trees, the smell of dust and grass and flowers, the feeling of sun on my skin, the sparkle of frost.

This winter when it snowed, one day I had to go up into the hills to take a funeral, and the roads weren’t safe for my little car. So I had a lift with the funeral director’s bearers, and we had to go a circuitous route to stay on safe roads. The latest fall of snow had been very light and soft, every leaf and twig bore a tottering load of snow. The funeral was at half-past three in the afternoon, as the sun was low in the sky. Travelling up to the crematorium we drove through a fairy land of snowy trees, and when we came out from the funeral the sun was setting. The grass lawns of the cemetery were smooth expanses of untrodden snow, sparkling and glistening where the light caught and shadowed blue. Across these expanses fell great panels of vermilion light from the setting sun. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I’m so glad I didn’t miss it.

So this year I want to spend more time outside, to walk and think and just be, knowing I am alive and marvelling at the beauty, being grateful for the chance to have been here, the chance to have been part of this beautiful earth,

LIVE SPACIOUSLY – I don’t know exactly what’s happening with me, but I am getting less and less able to accommodate mental clutter. I cannot cope with complicated relationships – tension and arguments and games. I cannot even bear too much human company (Julie if you are reading this, it does NOT mean your visit to us in September – maybe you are not exactly human; I will be just fine with you :0)

And I can’t be bothered with the endless interaction Things require – tidying and sorting, washing and organising – some of them will have to go. Things set up a kind of IV to themselves from one’s soul – they drain energy away. And I can’t cope with complex schedules. I can feel the tug of a number of people I’m supposed to visit and spend time with… and somehow… I don’t.   I care about them. I am happy to pray for them. I think about them. And there it stops. I’m not going to see them.

Today, we had visitors for the day. Fortunately, having raised five children, my hands know how to put together an adequate meal with little input from my head. But as I looked at the crumpled, slightly grubby cloth on the table, and put out for each person just a fork and a paper napkin, I had to concede that my performance as a hostess makes even the stable at Bethlehem look relatively stylish. Basic. That’s all I can do. I can feed them something tasty and nutritious, they are welcome at my fireside, and I care about them – how they feel, how they are in themselves, what their dreams are and their faith, their spirit inside them. More than that I cannot do.

I feel guilty about it often. An example: my mother is on the brink of moving house. She is coming to live near us so that as she gets old we shall be there for her. I am conscious that as her daughter I should have been to stay with her and helped her pack up her home. I have left it to her friends to do that, and it is remiss of me. But she is a lady of many treasured possessions, and very decided and particular preferences – and the will to tangle with all of that is like expired elastic in me. I can’t make myself do it.

This year, I am giving permission to myself to live without guilt in relation to these changes. I am going to make space for the urgent need to live simply. I will have only the honesty of who I am to offer, here in my home. Sometimes, when I can, I will make it to someone else’s place to visit, but if I can’t get my head together to do that, I will accept it in myself, and just hope they do too.

I am going to undertake the discipline to do one thing at a time, to let things go, to walk quietly through the days of my life, building structures of the Peaceable Kingdom.

I have thoughts about life, but in social situations – parties and visiting scenarios – I have less and less to say about anything. I am going to accept that.

If I am not harassed by things to do and deadlines to meet and social interactions to accomplish, then when my grandson comes to visit me, I am pleased to see him. When I am overwhelmed by the pressure of what people want of me and tasks scrambling to get done, then he becomes a nuisance. I will not have a child become a nuisance; that is not of God. So in 2011 I am going to make my life more spacious, so that there is room in my spirit to welcome the little ones of God.




IN 2011 – THAT’S ME


Ganeida said...

Ember: I am completely off topic here but my Liddy gave me In Celebration of Simplicity for Christmas & when I am done reading it I would like to chat about it on my blog. Is that ok with you? I am enjoying it so much [as I knew I would] but I am still recovering from my wog & the Gothic so it might not be any time soon. If you'd rather I didn't no offense taken. ♥♥♥

Ember said...

I'm not sure that is off topic.
I'm so glad you're enjoying it.
Yes, feel free to chat away :0D
Nice to hear from you - hope you had a happy time at Christmas.
Not surprised you're still recovering - you certainly had to extend it a bit to get everything done, didn't you!

Julie B. said...

I like New Year's resolutions too. I like honestly taking stock of the past year and asking God what He wants me to more diligently cooperate with Him on in the coming year. :) Your three are three of my five. In fact, I have a post ruminating about gentleness, and you wrote so much better about it I think I'll just plagiarize what you wrote. Okay? And if I don't get more exercise I will become a Waddler. And the spacious life? I have yearned for that for years, and am making slow progress. You have been a mentor in that one, Ember. Your blog is a balm to this balmer.

seekingmyLord said...

Ember, I am sitting here just smiling. I usually do not do new year's resolutions, but this year I decided to try three things and--believe it or not--one of them is what you are calling "Eat Chalk," to calm my spirit and home and hopefully my daughter's tongue in the process as she mirrors me. This is going to be a big change for me as I come from a family who tends to yell, but I did not yell much for it was only my husband and me...until my daughter. (Children can bring out the best and worse in a person.) I also want to be a source of enjoyment to other people, including my husband and daughter, and to find enjoyment for myself every day. It may be too big of a challenge but certainly a worthy one.

Mrs. Patterson said...

I also have your goals, and I must tell you that I have a LOT of chalk to eat. The biggest thing, however, is also the *urgent need* I have, as you do, to live more simply. You just hit right on the point when you talked about things having a life of their own!! I am also finding difficult relationships and too much human company to be ....well....draining.
So, thank you for the post! I think its beautiful! I pray that you find just the peace you are looking for in 2011! ;) --Sara

Ember said...

Hi Julie, Hi seekingmylord :0)

Yes Julie, EXERCISE is looming large for me too. Do I want to grow into an old age fraught with strokes and diabetes, I ask myself. Er... no! So the Wii Fit board has been dusted off and walk walk walk is on the agenda. Running in public parks and swimming in public baths is not what I do really; the Wii Fit is a total salvation. Also we are those kind of gym bunnies that take out annual membership in January, go faithfully until February, stop, feel guilty, have a brief resurgence in October, and never go again; then take out new membership the following January. With the Wii Fit we do exactly the same, minus the £250 annual membership fee.

seekingmylord, I like to have a little catchphrase like Eat Chalk because it amuses me ('makes I larf' as I like to say to myself)and I can carry it round in my head like a small mantra, which makes me much more likely to do the actual thing than if I have to cling onto the rationale behind it in a heated moment.

mamaof3 said...

Ember you must have been in my thoughts lately! I too have ambitions to do all 3 things you talked about. Esp eating chalk and simplifying my life. I am just dying to read your book I am hoping to get it soon. Oh by the way I figured out a solution for the headcovering problem. Yay I will email and let you know. Kate

Ember said...

:0) Hi Kate!

Alice Y. said...

Loving to read this! Best wishes with all. I especially rejoice in your aim towards spaciousness of soul. I recognize something powerfully gospel-filled in your third aim there. Maybe there is always something scandalous in following Jesus!
It is a difficult task to learn to live out the Kingdom values, against the grain of 'the worldly world'. So necessary, and so much like growing up all over again, to learn to live in the grain of God's truth instead - where spaciousness of soul is a treaure that will multiply in the others who touch your soul. I think the struggle you are describing is a vital part of coming to know ourselves as God knows us, and being more present and available to the real needs of those who are in need, who we are called to serve.
I think what you are describing may be something about how we are called to live out the entwined spiritual and physical wellbeing that Jesus demonstrates - wellbeing at a level which will meet the needs of all of us. Not necessarily the standards that the people of a de-industrailizing, ex-imperial nation are used to.
I don't know if I am expressing my meaning clearly - it is my intention just to quietly cheer you on in this quest: because I hear the truth in it, and the necessity, and the difficulty of it as well.

Ember said...

Alice :0)

I am so hoping I will manage to get myself to Yearly Meeting and we may meet up there. Do you still dress Plain?

Persuaded said...

I am another one who loves making New Year's Resolutions... sadly, I rarely keep them very long, but I do like the making of them. As you said, the process helps one to sort of stop and take stock of one's life. Make priorities. Sift out a bit of the chaff and set aside the wheat. (At least that's what I think you said;-}) That said, I haven't a clue as to what my own resolutions will be... I do think one will have to do with my writing and hopefully moving closer towards publication. One will probably be something rather dreary like "organize bill paying system" or "lose weight." I'd like the other one to be something inspiring and thrilling to my soul, but like I said, I've no clue. No Idea.

I am looking forward to the process though☺

Ember said...

Hi Persuaded! :0)

Well, now, that *does* sound focused!!!


Ember said...

Hi Sara (Mrs Patterson)sorry it took me such a long time to post your comment - and, thank you! I have Gmail, which stacks incoming mail relating to one thread tidily, resulting in my missing a message in the stack if I'm not really careful. With big stacks (this one had 13 msgs as each comment generates a msg when it comes in and another when I post it and another if I post a comment in response) i check again before deleteing FOREVER! As I just did and found - eek! - Mrs Patterson got lost in the heap! So, my apologies and thanks so much for commenting.
Some people don't bother with comment moderation, but I had a problem with spam posters so had to raise the hurdles a little.


Michelle-ozark crafter said...

My resolutions? Not to make any! LOL!

Ember said...

:0D Hi Michelle!

chicory cottage said... the part about not being of GOD if children are seen as a nuisance...if only more people, more PARENTS, my parents realized this...

Ember said...

Hi chicory cottage - love the pics on your blogs! :0)