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On Sunday our pastor preached an awesome sermon.  But isn’t it funny the things that stick in your mind afterwards?…

“You can’t hurry a tomato”

Seldom has a truer word been spoken!  In the context of the sermon our pastor was basically exhorting us to live life richly, to ‘dwell’ where we are wholeheartedly.  And that one little phrase really stuck out, and came back to me again today as I was pottering about the house (got some horrible bug so have been off work for a couple of days, and am sad to note I seem to be getting worse rather than better at the time of writing.  Sigh.) and I spent a few moments admiring our daughter’s flourishing tomato seedlings that she planted just a few weeks ago at Sunday Club. 

I’m mentally planning which seeds need to be sown in our vegetable patch this year, and am already anticpating the long and (im)patient wait for the first bursts of life.  I’m a very very VERY novice gardener and had more failures than successes last year, but I enjoy the fact that so much of gardening seems to involve patience and trust.  Trust in the seeds to germinate and ultimately bear fruit, trust in the soil and the sun and the rain to each play their part.  And the long tormenting journey from seed planting to final harvest.  The torment and the joy is in the waiting of course.

There are profound and deeply resonant lessons to be learnt through planting a seed…

Okay, so my first RAOK was a washout (although in the end I got to eat all my chocolates myself, so I was happy), but the next day I decided to bring joy to my workplace and take some yummy Green & Blacks chocolate in to the craft class I teach on Fridays.  The previous week there had been grumblings about our centre’s ‘rubbish’ healthy eating policy, which if truth be told isn’t very hard-core anyway.  So I took in the chocolates and watched the pleasure unfold.  The remaining chocolate was shared at the staff meeting and went down pretty well too (although some people discovered they don’t like ‘good’ dark chocolate, philistines…!).

Phew!  Just got to find the right recipients.

Other RAOKs this week have included giving away something I spent a long time making, which a friend coveted and I was glad to give to her. 

But there’s going to be more I’m sure. 

Anyway, this is the big week for The Art of Joy.  If you haven’t already had a look please visit theartofjoy.wordpress.com, and if you are anywhere in travellable (is that a word?) distance come along to the opening night of the exhibition this Wednesday night at The Lot, on the Grassmarket in Edinburgh.  It will be fantastic, the artwork looks great and The Lot is a great venue, a lovely building in it’s own right sat at the foot of Edinburgh Castle surrounded by the history and the hubbub of our capital’s heart.

I didn’t manage to do it yesterday, but on my way home from work today I called in to a wee newsagents to buy a drink and some chocolate to sustain me until I got home.  As I chose my chocolate I recalled the RAOK challenge I’d issued myself with, and felt suddenly very foolish and slightly sick at the thought. 

All the same, I bought a packet of Munchies, figuring I could share them with the guys behind the till – one serving, one sort of hanging out.  Paid for my purchases, suddenly very aware of smiling, then, opening the Munchies as I picked them up from the counter I offered them each a sweet, murmuring something vague and ineffectual about it ‘being something me and my friends are trying to do’ (?).  The guy at the till looked dumbfounded.  The other guy looked sort of blank.  I rapidly calculated I’d need to up the charm offensive to get them to take a sweet from me, and simultaneously realised that I’m Not Very Good At This.  The blank and puzzled looks changed to slightly shy smiles, and sort of apologetic ‘thanks but no thanks’.

Never thought my joy-offensive would be turned down!  (I don’t think I was actually offensive)

Ah well, try, try again.  It has bought me some amusement and a nice line in gently-mocking interior monologues today, and who knows what tomorrow will bring. 

 

Told you we needed a masterclass in this stuff – I certainly seem to.  Maybe I need to be more circumspect in my ‘joy’.

I’ve been flicking through “Random Acts of Kindness” by Danny Wallace (and his Karma Army) on and off through most of this evening.  A bit rude actually,as it’s a small group night.  In my defence, since we were discussing The Art of Joy, I was contemplating how to do some guerilla joy-bringing, and remembered I had this little gem of a book which has some great ideas in it.

I like this one:

RAOK [that’s Random Act of Kindness, by the way] No. 264

Buy a chocolate and then give it back to the man who sold it to you

I like it because of the simplicity of the idea.  I imagine it would work equally well no matter what the gender of the sales assistant/shop-keeper! 

Might try this tomorrow.  Let me know if you do too, and how it went.

There definitely is an art to joy, since it is not always a natural state for us. (BTW I’m over myself and my doom and gloom last week,  apologies for the self-pitying – pretty certain it was illness related)

So it’s exciting and challenging to be part of The Art of Joy this spring.  A group of us, friends and fellow small-groupers from MBC, dreamed what felt like a big dream and we now find ourselves galloping towards lots of great activities which suddenly need organising and thinking through.  I am newly appreciative of the diversity of our small group, the skills and talents that there are which are all required to make such an undertaking happen.  There don’t seem to be quite enough minutes to deal with everything, but collectively it feels like we’re making progress. 

There’s going to be a lot happening, an art exhibition going up this weekend with an official opening before the end of March, a therapeutic art workshop, knitter natter for anyone who likes or wants to try out knitting or crochet, a fantastic closing event featuring two great bands and a stand up comedian… and that’s only what we’ve got planned so far!  We’re aiming to bring a bit of joy and light using the arts and the fantastic creative gifts of people in Edinburgh and beyond.  Most of all I’m looking forward to meeting new people, getting alongside people in a creative way and exploring how the arts have the power to make connections which are often unexpected, and almost always intriguing.

Check out The Art of Joy’s website to get an overview of what’s happening and find out how you can get involved. 

I’m wondering if we could do some guerilla joy-bringing too.  How would the people of Edinburgh receive it?  How do I receive it?  Do we welcome unexpected joy with open arms?  With suspicion? With pessimism?  Do we welcome joy with gratitude and expectation of further unanticipated wonder to come?  A masterclass in joy-giving and joy-receiving might be no bad thing in our world.

Personally, I’m feeling pretty low.  This is unusual for me, and I’m unsure why exactly it is.  However, last week I was down with a nasty bug for a few days and as well as feeling unwell I also felt, for want of a better word, depressed.  This week I’ve had a mild return of some of the symptoms and with it a pronounced return of just feeling plain rubbish about myself.  Very unpleasant.

I feel discouraged, worried (to no purpose), tired, and everything I say and do is just making me cringe.  Ever wish you could hibernate for a while?!

However, in the spirit of counting my blessings, here’s some of the little and lovely things I’m thankful for today:

  • sunshine (although it’s now waking me up in the mornings before I’m ready to waken.  Got to get some decent curtains in our bedroom)
  • a day off work with my daughter
  • my husband bringing me a paper and a bottle of diet coke for later, before he left for work this morning
  • a fridge full of food
  • a chance to sit in the sun in my kitchen typing this while my daughter watches some CBeebies (that won’t last long though, she’s getting bored and is ready for action)
  • God (don’t always feel his presence but I can look out of my window just now and see buds on our blueberry bush and a dusting of snow on the grass and wonder at this world he made and has placed me in)

I had a horrible dream last night which woke me up in the wee small hours and kept me awake and unsettled, afraid even, for a good couple of hours or more.  It was a relief to eventually find peace and fall back asleep for a while and even more of a relief, in some ways, to find the world full of sunshine this morning as well as sprinkled with snow – two things guaranteed to lift my spirits.

Hopefully I’ll get over myself and be back to normal soon.  Apologies to all – especially those I’m around in person – if I’m not much fun just now.  Joy is currently on hold, but will return soon.

Yesterday’s blanket of snow over much of Britain has produced a tide of coverage and comment in the media.  I particularly enjoyed reading Stuart Jeffries’ lovely ode to snow in today’s G2 in The Guardian.  It has made me wish I was in London (for once), I’d have loved to see such a magical transformation – not just of the physical landscape but the way people responded to and interacted with it.  It’s funny and very sweet, the way this kind of  ‘can’t go to work or school’ snow brings out the playfulness in us.

Today in Edinburgh the snow has vanished overnight.  People are talking about more coming but I don’t know if I believe them.  That said, it was a treat to see the Pentlands still blanketed in snow as I came home from work a wee while back.spaceball

Well today (like many days in my life, it seems) I’m sick.  I think I’ve caught the bug my daughter was so poorly with last week.  After feeling a bit odd at various points yesterday and managing to dismiss them as the outworkings of a busy weekend and not enough sleep, I spent last night feeling increasingly yuck and then trying and failing to get myself functioning this morning. 

As is the way with these things, I find it’s often when I need the most sleep that I get the least.  So during my sleepless hours last night when I awoke feeling unwell I found myself ruminating on the kind of random tangents that the 2ams are so well known for.

One of the random tangents came from a conversation we’d had with a minister friend of ours who was round with his fantastic family on Saturday afternoon.  We’d been joking about my increasing interest in the idea of communal living and how this works itself out in communities we’ve come across.  After considering the areas we’d find most challenging about communal living (pretty much all of it) our friend said that they had approached it from the other direction and basically let people know they had an open house for anyone, whenever.  I wondered if this was an expectation of their role in the church he leads, but apparently not – so many of his congregation had never been inside the church manse until he took up post.  Marla has also spoken in various places on her (fantastic) blog about having doors open to whoever needs them.

As I lay tossing and turning in bed, head and body aching, mind whirring, I began to wonder how I would find communal living, or living with ‘open doors’ when, like today, I was unwell.

Would it be great to know that if I needed something there would likely be someone around to help me out?  Or would I struggle with feeling my space was restricted, that Iwould need to make conversation when I just wanted to lie or sit quietly?  And in terms of reciprocity would I be willing to go into someone else’s house when they were sick and be there for them? I would, but being the over-empathiser that I am, I tend to imagine others share the same feelings as me and wouldn’t welcome my presence.

I am full of admiration for those who open their homes to the world, and can see that actually the physical act of letting someone in the door is not always the big deal.  It’s the opening and sharing of lives which follows which is the real challenge, the real joy and the real act of servanthood and love.

I haven’t made any resolutions this year.  But this area is something I am challenged by and challenged into doing and not merely thinking about.  I intend to work on it this year.  I suspect it will be a lifelong project

June 2017
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