Hello again! Hope you’re enjoying the beautiful Autumn colours all around.

Great news – our wonderful car, Minty, passed her MOT today (after failing on four different points a fortnight or so ago)! We’ve relieved and very happy.

Ben’s job is going well, and he’s excited about developing his new role as Café Mission Worker and seeing what will come of that. So far he’s organised an afternoon tea event to bring together some of the more isolated people in the community, and is about to start regular ‘Living Room’ afternoons with coffee, cakes, interesting speakers, and most importantly a safe space for people to mingle and form new friendships. He’s also considering starting a ‘talk to me’ table in the café, where people can sit and chat with one another if desired – and home visits (with free coffee and a good chat) with housebound residents. Various other ideas have been floating around of course, but he’s trying to focus on one thing at a time, so the Living Room gatherings have become the current priority.

My work is going well too, and I’m now more officially a ‘guide’, supporting and mentoring various community workers across the County (both paid professionals from other organisations and residents who would like to engage more deliberately in this work in their free time), as well as supporting various churches to explore ways that they can meaningfully engage with their communities and utilise the Asset-Based-Community-Development model. I’m now also working with someone from the Diocese to create an Asset Mapping resource, and in the New Year will be supporting her to run workshops with a few different churches that would like to more formally engage with community building in their own contexts. I’ve also been tasked with creating a community building guidebook/toolkit resource that can be made available both to enthusiastic residents/Connectors and to professional community workers in the future. So I’m stepping back from the hands-on community building in Barnwood & Hucclecote, and a couple of new and slightly different projects will take my place there in the near future, run by some of the residents that I’ve been working with.

Last month Ben started a year’s counselling training with a local Christian organisation called the Listening Post, and he’s thoroughly enjoying it – though not particularly keen on the essay-writing involved. This takes up every Thursday evening and one full Sunday a month, as well as a marked ‘journal’ in between sessions and some essays dotted throughout the course. He gets on well with the other participants – and we realised we had connections with a couple of them (small world!). He loves exploring some of the tools and methods that are useful in becoming a fantastic listener generally, and, in time, potentially a decent counsellor too. The course is 50% practical, which Ben finds very useful and enjoyable, role-playing counselling scenarios in small groups and learning from one another.

My ‘DeeperCards’ project has somewhat grown and taken off over the past few months, with between 20 and 30 designs going to print every few weeks since June, having expected (or hoped for) it to be around 20 designs every quarter…! It’s been really inspiring to support so many artists, photographers and creative people in their first steps into the world of greetings cards, and to see their confidence grow hugely as people complement their work (and buy their cards). It’s also been fantastic watching some of the designers use their greetings cards as a way to share their story and to talk to their friends about what’s most meaningful in their lives! And it’s great to see so many environmentally friendly greetings cards being bought and exchanged (recycled and recyclable, FSC-approved, plastic free etc) rather than the usual shop-bought ones. If you know anyone who might like to have their artwork or photo(s) printed onto beautiful, professional-quality A6 greetings cards, do give them my contact details or direct them to 🙂

Various Christmas markets and the like are coming up in the next month or two – November is usually my best business month for the JewelleryOfLove sales. Hopefully this year it’ll help to cover the costs of Ben’s counselling course. I also hope to start writers’ retreats in the near future (probably the New Year, unless people express interest in doing one next month – I have a lovely venue provisionally booked for Friday 23rd November just in case…). There are three streams of these day-retreats: a creative writing toolkit day with various exercises to learn and practice together; an ‘escape and write’ day in which a few writing tips and tools are explored and there’s time for participants to work on their own writing projects in a peaceful and inspiring environment; and a self-publishing day for those who are ready to make their finished book available to the world through Amazon (walking participants through the steps involved and actually publishing their books by the end of the day, and celebrating with Prosecco or mocktails before leaving). Watch this space to see how things go…

Another project I’m working on at the moment is a book for Operation Restoration, the charity that Ben and I worked for in Bolivia. Originally this was going to be simply our own stories and memories, but it’s expanded and will now include more stories from others who are heavily involved in the organisation, including its founders – hearing a little about the history and how it started, as well as the day-to-day things and some of the lives of the youngsters who have come into contact with the organisation. Exciting!

Ben and I have been running a Youth Alpha course in our church, with the Vicar, and this has been going well – we’re now preparing to take eight young people away to Viney Hill Christian Adventure Centre next weekend. How has it crept up on us so quickly?! The course will finish at the start of December, and we’ll be thinking with the young people at that stage about what’s next. Again, watch this space for updates.

I think that’s all our news for now. And what about you? What’s going on in your life? What’s been on your radar lately, and what have you been up to? Do let us know – we’d love to hear from you!

Enjoy Autumn, and keep warm 🙂

Ben & Kat