Marvellous…

Marshall, my assistance Hearing Dog, needs daily ‘out-of-uniform’ walks when he can run free and play with his canine friends. One of our favourite places for this is in the ‘Groves’, a beautiful beech wood that’s a stone’s throw from where we live.

IMG_6589

It has numerous tracks that weave around the contours. In summer it’s mainly dry underfoot, but in winter the Welsh climate makes it squelchy! To make the paths that lead into town more accessible during inclement weather, some of the paths have been topped with crushed rock, including one which has a very steep gradient.
Recently I remarked to my adult son who was walking with me, “It must have been very hard work to make this path, just imagine moving all that aggregate up the incline”. He stopped, and with a bemused expression, replied, “But they would have worked their way down, not up!”
Clearly, I had missed the obvious. I always walk up the steep path (I use a different route going down) and therefore assumed the trail-blazers had likewise worked from the bottom up.
We burst out laughing, but truth is, sometimes my assumptions blind me to alternatives.
So I’ve been reminded to be more flexible in my thinking.

One of my favourite films is ‘Marvellous’. It’s the true story of Neil Baldwin who refused to accept the label of learning disabilities, and instead has had an extraordinary life as a registered clown, university welfare officer and football kitman.

two_neils_zpskmbeszuiNeil Baldwin, and actor Toby Jones who plays him in the film ‘Marvellous’

Whereas some people have tried to limit him with their narrow assumptions, Neil has broadened many people’s outlooks with his wide assumptions. If he wanted to do something, he did it, and astounded people with his results.
He wanted to be a clown, and so he joined a circus.
He wanted to welcome students at Keele University, and so he became a familiar figure over the years, with an honorary degree being awarded in recognition of his contribution to student welfare.
He wanted to work at Stoke City Football Club, and so he became Kitman, with the Manager famously saying it was the best signing he’d ever made.

We all have had, and have, difficulties in life, and these can lead us to feel we’re  pushing a load up an incline. But Neil offers us an alternative view. “I always wanted to be happy, and so I decided to be.” That’s not to say that he, and we, won’t experience setbacks, but as he says: “when bad things happen, I remember something good.”

Truth is… Unlike the culture around you, dragging you down, God brings the best out of you. Romans 12:2

Surprised by joy!

I was pleasantly surprised the other day, when someone close, described me as ‘joyful’.
Truth is, life doesn’t always feel full of joy. It’s often full of the unexpected, like my partner having unstable health, and various other challenging circumstances (which have prevented blogging recently). So it was lovely to know that despite all this, joy seeps out!
Feelings are not necessarily the same as facts. I may feel overwhelmed at times, but deeper facts tell me a different story. As Mother Teresa said:

“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much” 

I find a refreshing humour and hope in this.

So what is joy? I believe it’s what bubbles up from a deep connection with God, and there’s something special when this flows over into other people’s lives – for both the receiver and the giver.

joy-1804593_960_720

Joy is different to happiness.
Happiness is a feeling, and feelings are generated by circumstances. They’re changeable, just like the sea. Sometimes the sea of life is calm, and all is sunshine and light.
Other times it’s dark and stormy. We are tossed about, and happiness can be swept overboard before we know it!

Joy though, is deeper. Its source is God, and rises from the depths.
However much positive thinking I do, I cannot make myself truly joyful – deep joy comes when I plunge the depths and am honest with God. It gives me the sense that there is more to life than meets the eye. It gives me a different, lighter perspective, and nudges me onwards and upwards.
It’s there for everyone. We just need to dip our toe in – in all our messiness and hurt and uncertainty. When we allow ourselves to be surrounded by God’s current of love, joy will seep into our inner selves and swell our hearts. It will make a difference to us, and those around us.

There’s a family joke that my epitaph will be ‘She was a maker and a mender’. Spot on, but to be thought of as ‘joyful’, is even better!

smile-mouth-teeth-laugh-65665

Truth is… “[may] my joy be in you and your joy be made full” John 15:11