Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Croeso i Cymru!

A new adventure this weekend - I've been to Wales!  I have proof...

Once a year my church, Open Heaven, has a Weekend Away at the Quinta centre in Shropshire, right on the Welsh border.  It's a chance for us to get away, spend time together to grow as a community, and put aside a bit more space for God in what can be very busy lives.

I really needed this weekend actually.  I've been a bit out of sorts, particularly over the past week as I try to reconcile my work-life balance.  It's a Catch 22 that at the moment my job holds very little interest for me, but takes up the time I need to practise in order to get to a professional level at what I'd rather be doing.  I have to do the one because I won't yet succeed at the other, but doing the one prevents me from succeeding.  It's all very frustrating, and I've been feeling like I'm having to fight for even the smallest amount of time, exhausting myself by dashing around outside of work trying to keep my life interesting.  Vacating the rest of my life was exactly what I needed.  It forced me to stop, to take the time to think it all over, get God's opinion on a couple of things, and be encouraged that I will have to fight for the things I want but it's worth doing because essentially I'm fighting for the things that make me Me.

I got to draw some drawings too.  The kids were talking about forgiveness, and the idea that if you're holding onto to many grudges (represented by lots of squishy balls), it stops people from being able to hug you properly.  It's a neat little analogy, and they all got a squishy ball to take home along with some picture instructions on the steps to forgiving someone, which I got to draw.  The first two are my favourites.  Grumpy people are just more fun to do.

1. Something happens that makes you feel angry and upset.  You know that you need to forgive someone in order to let those feelings go and start to feel better.

2.  You ask God to help you deal with those feelings, and show this by putting them into your squishy ball (I totally messed that ball up, but it just looked like a stain otherwise!)

3.  You throw your ball as far as you can, representing how you're letting your anger be taken away from you into more capable hands.

4.  Now you're not holding onto the bad feelings any more, your hands are open to start recieving good things instead!  Hooray!

This might be the last year we go to Quinta as we'll probably be trying out a new, closer-to-home venue next year.  It's important since we have so many young familes now, but for me personally there is something special about this place.  It's literally minutes from the Welsh border, and pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  It's quiet.  There's so much green and space, and the building itself is old and lovely, full of panelling and masonry.  It reminds me of the places we used to go for residential trips when I was in middle school that always made you feel like you were in an Enid Blyton book.

In the Library, on a rainy day

As if to prove this, I saw my first live badger!  I've seen roadkill badgers and taxidermied badgers, but never a real live badger!  I was walking up from the main building to the hall when it popped out of the bushes about 7m ahead of me, ambled across the path, and disappeared into the trees on the other side.  It was about 2ft long and looked rather like a squat little bear.  I was so pleased!

On Saturday afternoon we went out for a walk, down the hill and over the border into Wales.  The weather was classic pre-spring; cold, muddy and damp, but the walk was good and took us a good two hours at least, clambering over stiles, ducking through tunnels and tramping through fields (some which contained some very antsy horses who looked like they were going to charge us at one point)

The village of Chirk has an extremely cool map

The canal tunnel below is over 400m long, has one wooden handrail and no lights.  By the time you're a tenth of the way in you can see nothing at all, except the faint disc of light at the end, far ahead of you.  In a way it's easier like that.  When I could see faintly I kept straining to see more, trying to judge where I was and where the water was and where the ceiling was and where my friends were.  When I couldn't see at all the pressure to figure it out was suddenly gone and I could relax and just keep walking, knowing there was nothing I could do but carry on and it would end whenever it ended.  I'm sure there's a really deep metaphor in there somewhere...

When you're on one side of the aqueduct (left) and viaduct (right) you're in Wales, and when you reach the other, you'll be in England!  Magic!

On the way back I found evidence that spring might actually be coming after all.  The first snowdrops of the year!

And, slightly more weirdly, a house being guarded by a pair of rabid demon-squirrels.  This hasn't been photoshopped, it's eyes really are that red.  It looks like it's trying to stare you down.  We started referring to them as the Squirrels of Nimh.

Being me, I also found a tree to hide in.  And I had company too, although slightly smaller comapny thatn last time!

The amount of times I had to lift those kids over stiles...  My arms were aching the next day.

It was a great weekend, and like I said, I really needed the break.  On the Friday night when I arrived I went to bed at 9.30pm and slept almost straight through until 8am the next day, and even then I didn't want to get up!  I arrived worn out and fed up,  but after some great talks, time with my friends, and a good go on a tyre swing, I went home (still tired, but the good kind instead) encouraged and back to my usual self.

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