Treasure hunt

IMG_0467I went out for my walk by the sea this morning knowing I have limited time to get shit done before picking up my son from nursery and I was scrambling in my head for a blog post. My walk is meant to be part of my self care routine as is my practise of centring prayer, which didn’t get done this morning because I slept in. So the morning had kicked off with a ton of whingeing and hustling and patience practised through gritted teeth.

I dropped the children to school, bundled myself off, called a friend to catch up on her life and walked the beach. Once my chat was done, I thought, I should go home, I should get writing, if I stay out I’ll be short on time….

But I kept walking and turned it into a meditation. Centring prayer is the practise of letting go of thoughts that come and returning to an intentional open hearted place using a sacred word, allowing the Divine to be present and do what He/She does without attaching to an outcome. It’s just as difficult as that sounds.

Fr. James Finley tells of a workshop he gave on centring prayer to a group of religious sisters and after the session, one of the sisters came up to him quite distressed and said ‘Oh Father Finley, I had to use my sacred word a thousand times!’ To which he replied, ‘How wonderful! You turned to God a thousand times.’ This story makes me feel a lot better.

So there I was saying my sacred word quite frequently, and trying to let go every time my head said ‘what about this for that blog post?’ Gradually, my monkey mind quietened and I started to notice the beach and the tide coming in and the sea birds playing in the breeze and the sea glass dotted along the shore, all the time coming back to my sacred word as an invitation for Divine presence.

I found one piece and it looked so pretty that I took a photo and then I continued my walk. Then I thought I should go back and pick it up and take it home. Perhaps I could start a collection of little green treasures from the beach. So I retraced my steps and could I find that little piece of green? Could I heck.

IMG_0472And then it hit me; you can’t find joy in the past. There is no point wishing for the life you could have had, or the treasure you wish you’d kept. It’s gone. That was then, this is now. But the beauty is that there is always more joy where that came from and all we need to do is take the time to notice, and accept it.

Abundance is everywhere. All is grace. From the sea birds dancing on the wind, to the racing inward tide to the little shards of broken glass made smooth by the work of the water.

Life can be hard. There are days when darkness descends and it can be hard to find the energy to look. But the treasure is there, even in small quantities, all we need to do is notice and accept it.

 

 

Shout Out – WildCard by Jenny Large

It’s always so exciting when someone you know reveals a talent that you had no idea they had. There’s nothing I like more than to celebrate women’s creativity so I’m delighted to shout out Jenny Large’s new venture WildCard.

Jenny and I had children in the same class when I lived in Wicklow. I knew she had a background in advertising and production design but what I didn’t know was that she was also a beautifully perceptive and talented photographer. She has just launched a range of stunning Christmas cards with images of Wicklow in winter.

Dan tree darker

She’s taken her passion for the outdoors and her love of the mountains and valleys of Wicklow and created a range of Christmas cards that are so pretty, you’ll want to frame them. I’ve scrolled through them and can’t decide which I want for me and which I want to send to family far afield!

Jenny signs and hand titles each card, the photos themselves are printed on gorgeous top quality paper and individually mounted on card stock.

first frost no envShe’s just getting started so I imagine there’ll be many more stunning images to collect as Jenny spreads her wings.  Be sure to like and share her Facebook page and check out her brand spanking new shiny website, beautifully designed by her husband, Paudge.

All the best Jenny, I look forward to seeing your lovely work travel far and wide this Christmas.

Dropping the ball

trapezeIt’s taken me a couple of weeks but I’ve finally figured out the source of a gnawing sense of restlessness and unease. I’ve had this low level panic running underneath my days and have been avoiding looking at it head on by scrolling through Facebook and Instagram and eating chocolate biscuits.

I’ve been overtired, snappish with my children, impatient with my Love, and feeling as if there’s something I’m forgetting to do all the time. Part of it is certainly adjusting to a new life in a new town and a new, albeit very familiar, country. Part of it is the descent in to winter that impacts me more these days than it used to.

But it was on a walk by the sea, a walking meditation at the end of the week last week, when it came to me as clear as anything what I’m missing: nothing.

There is nothing wrong. There’s nothing lacking. I’ve been on a hamster wheel trying to build something, hustle for something – some indeterminable, intangible thing – to make me feel worthy of all the goodness there is at my finger tips.

I’ve been trying to earn something that was only ever going to be a gift. Instead of joyfully tending to the things I love and derive energy from, I’ve insisted on striving for something that was never mine to own, or at least not yet. I’ve been juggling balls, demanding approval and affirmation for my juggling skills, while I’ve been longing for the trapeze and it sits lonely and still above me. I was never meant to be a clown, I’m the trapeze artist.

So I’m going to drop the ball.

There’s a gorgeous translation of the 23rd Psalm that I love. Usually we intone the familiar words

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want….

But there’s another way of saying the same thing that immediately infuses my soul with a sense of peace

The Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need…

We live in such a culture of hustle and grab, productivity is King and money the sign of worth. But my soul knows it’s not the way for me. It’s taken me so many years to understand that nothing beautiful that has come in to my life has come through striving. And especially as we begin to go into the dark of winter, reassess what the year has been for us, we need times of quiet and stillness to restore our souls.

So I’m dropping the balls. I’m excising ‘should’ and ‘ought’ from my vocabulary, I’m turning down the volume on the World’s demands. I’m gratefully receiving the gift of abundance that is everywhere and always to hand. I’m ceasing the striving to be someone I’m not.

I’m having a swing on the old trapeze, touching the freedom of birds that fly.

What things are you holding that don’t belong to you or are in fact holding you back from your true purpose and peace? Here’s the permission to drop the ball. Let go and know there is always enough, your empty hands will be filled with abundance. 

 

 

 

 

 

All I want for Christmas Part 2

I’m practically drooling at all of the lovely things on this list. Treat yourself to some luxurious browsing with a nice cup of tea.

Maple Tree Pottery

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The wonderful potter started out making things in her kitchen and only this year has got her own studio in the back garden. I’ve gifted her lovely things to many a friend and have always had a warm response.

On the Verge

ontheverge

A French woman living in Cork making stunning ethical clothes and accessories. You couldn’t make it up.

Vanessa Marsh

VanessaMarshMoonI know I should be making a list of these gorgeous paintings and gift them to other people but I kind of want them all. Beautiful paintings on vintage book pages. What’s not to like?

Sarah Bessey

Jesus-Feminist-Cover-copy

I have followed Sarah Bessey’s journey on her blog for nearly a decade and her books have been an affirmation and encouragement on my own journey to an authentic expression of my faith. She’s a strong and prophetic voice for Christian women navigating the 21st century.

Paula Batt

paulabattocean

This is a local artist in my new hometown. She does all of her work by hand and has a delightful little studio on the seafront. I’ve sent her paper cut pieces of Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway to far flung shores.

There are so many wonderful independent artists and buying from them around this time of year makes a huge difference. You’re not paying into a monolithic empire where the profits go to a very few. You’re investing in a small business and helping them grow. Keep your local artists in mind this Christmas and share the love.

 

 

 

 

Winter

I’ve noticed in recent weeks just how far north we have moved because the evenings draw in even earlier than I expected. The shift in seasons is always a weird time because I’m someone who craves daylight and blue skies and nothing makes me happier than long, bright evenings. Indeed, it was what I missed most when I lived in the south of France. I enjoyed the warmth in the summer evenings but it was invariably dark by 8:30 and I used to long for the extra stretch that we get here further north.

It is winter. It’s the season of Samhain [sow – wyn] when the harvest has been gathered, the store houses stocked up and we hunker down in the dark to await the solstice and the turning of the year once again toward the light.

It’s taken me a long time to realise that my body likes being in tune with the seasons and that the winter is the time to slow right down. But, in wanting to keep up with our modern age, instead I push and strive and frantically create work for myself and it always ends in tears.

It is winter and my body, my soul, needs quiet, calm, warmth and nourishment. Now is not the time to hustle and strive, no matter what great strategy is offered that will transform me into a productive and profitable artist. Now is the time to work slowly and methodically on my creative practise, letting go of big expectations and promises of great outcomes.

When I don’t listen to what my body, my soul needs, it takes a toll until eventually my body must shout to be heard. This usually entails a couple of days wiped out and incapacitated and being of no good use to anyone – which is totally contrary to my true desire, which is to be of service to many.

The world says push, my soul says rest. The world says hustle, my soul says be still. The world says share, my soul retreats, recoils even and nestles down into the dark in order to be reignited with fierce grace and energy when the spring comes round again.

Advent is coming, the waiting time. Traditionally, it wasn’t the waiting time for Christmas but the waiting time for fulfilment of all that Christ promised. You can’t be ready for the gift if you’re strung out hustling for it.

It is winter. Time for poetry, log fires, soup, candlelight, gentleness and peace. I hope that you can find some for yourself in the coming weeks.

Be blessed.

Enough to mother

img_0400-1This is me having got the three children back into school after half term. It’s been a hectic couple of weeks with visitors and travelling to see family and friends over the break. I’ve filled up on good conversation, soul food and laughter over the past fortnight but there comes a point when I crave the solidity of routine again.

I’ve also had a burst of inspiration and energy about some new projects I’m working on and I’ve been itching to get decent blocks of time and space to knuckle down and do some work. I find it near impossible to grab a half hour here and there while the children are around and they resent any time I give to ‘work’ if I’m with them, even if they are happy on their screens.

I’ve been so inspired recently by women like Kate Northrup and Danielle LaPorte who unashamedly embrace entrepreneurship and motherhood and help others do the same. I’ve been connected to an online community of women over the past six months who are all attempting to negotiate their own businesses and families and it’s been amazing to see what you can achieve given the right amount of nouse and support.

This morning, after I dropped the children off at their schools, I went for a leisurely walk along the beautiful beach near where we live. The solitude was soothing as the sea slapped against the wall, the previous night’s full moon tugging the tide all the way in. I collected a couple of messages from our corner store and got home, tidied myself up and got down to work.

Needless to say, my monkey brain found it difficult to focus on one thing and I ended up starting about three different tasks and leaving them all unfinished by the time it came to go get the children from their grandfather’s house. I spent the rest of the afternoon, making dinner, navigating homework, negotiating peace deals and itching to get back to my list of ‘to do’ – to feel some sense of achievement as if that would validate my day and make up for two weeks of apparent sloth.

It was only when I was settling the Littlest Angel to sleep that I stopped myself in my tracks. I kissed his cheek and a memory came flooding back of the nights I’d nurse him to sleep and he’d have that delicious milk-drunk look on his face. I used to bend my face to his and cover it with kisses just because I could.

All of a sudden, he’s three and a half with a technicolour personality and the will to push me away if my kisses become an intrusion. He still loves to fall asleep holding my ring finger but that might not last much longer.

Here I was rushing my children to sleep so that I could get back to work when maybe, it was enough to mother today. How is it that despite my championing of mothers and motherhood, I still undervalue myself in the role? I’m in the very privileged position of being able to be at home with my children and while it’s never felt like a natural fit, I’ve grown in confidence and found a way of being at home that works. I still think that my husband would do a far better job at managing our home than me. I still think his naturally patient and nurturing way with our children would make their day to day more fun and easy going. But I’ve come to believe that I am actually a good mum and I’m doing an alright job of being at home.

I love my creative work, my entrepreneurial adventures. I know what fills me up and makes me feel alive and on purpose and I feel fortunate when I get the opportunity to do what I love. But I often make the mistake of lessening the impact of my mothering by imagining that my value as a person comes from my non-mothering work.

And it’s enough to mother. It’s enough to make lunches, tie ties, send cheerful children to school confident that they are loved. It’s enough to power through the laundry, wash dishes, tidy for the umpteenth time and stock the fridge. It’s enough to sit through times tables, spellings, reading, silly toilet jokes, knock knock jokes, makey up jokes that aren’t even funny but because they are invented by your three year old, you laugh anyway. It’s enough to make their favourite dinner because you know they’ll eat it, even though there’s a nagging voice in your head that there should be more green on the plate. It’s enough to lie down with each of them, listen to their hearts, defences finally down as they relax into sleep. It’s enough to kiss their faces despite their laughing protests because they may be nearly 10, 7 and 3 but they’ll always be your babies.

That’s a good day’s work after all.

And isn’t it all mothering anyway?  Building something that can bring in an income around your children’s lives, modelling perseverance and grit and determination and passion. Dreaming and having vision and then doing what is needed to bring it into reality.

It’s enough to mother. It’s enough to be me. I’m enough.

‘Diane and her girls’

photo credit: Damian Jackson