Sunday, 1 January 2017

2016 Review

As you can tell by the date of my previous post, 2016 has not been a good year for my blog! However, it has been a year which we can all agree to be momentous in so many ways so I think it's worth a post, and I do hope to follow up with more regular blogging in 2017!

I know there will be many for whom this has been a wonderful year; people who got married or had children this year, people who went on exciting adventures or made significant achievements. But on the whole, it seems like 2016 was full of heartaches and shocks, so I couldn't even begin to summarise or comment on the global picture. Instead I'm going to be brave and look at my personal picture of the year and share it with anyone who might be reading (quite possibly no-one but I don't mind that!)

For me, this past year on the surface looked pretty good; there were some great camping trips, an epic holiday, a trip abroad with work, a family wedding, I trained for and completed my first triathlon, I got accepted onto and started a Masters degree, I even achieved most of my new year's resolutions (although I am still yet to complete watching the entirety of Desperate Housewives!) But under the surface, I've actually been a huge mixture of confused, stressed, lost, emotional, challenged, doubting, rebellious and a whole bunch of other emotions at various times throughout the year. I feel like pretty much every part of my life and my identity has come into question, which can be fairly exhausting and upsetting. Don't get me wrong, I haven't suffered any great sorrow or tragedy, and I am still very aware of all the wonderful things I have in my life; family, friends, mental and physical health, church, dancing, a home with a housemate who consistently blesses me, never needing to worry about having food on the table or money in the back, the list could go on. I just feel like I used to be so certain about who I was and what was important to me, but now it's a bit more blurry. 

However, I know that this is a season, and although it is difficult I am assured that working these things out and asking lots of questions could be exactly the preparation I need for whatever season lies ahead. Notably, it's been a quiet season, with me not saying much to God or hearing much from Him, except for one significant thought which I am holding onto. I'm going to share it here although I can't take any credit for the words at all. They come from a book I was reading in the summer by Adrian Plass. It's actually a comedy for the most part, but there are little nuggets of truth and the extract below hit me right between the eyes:

The context is that Father John is a monk who has been speaking at a church weekend away and this is the final question and answer session before everybody goes home: 
       " 'Father John, I know this is a ridiculous question to ask as you're about to go, but could you just tell me - where do you think we can find the love of God?' 
     'Ah, you always have an easy one for me just before I push off, don't you?' he chuckled.'I am so flattered that you think I might have any answers to a question like that. Actually, Adrian, people quite often want to know this kind of thing. Where is God? How do I perceive him? Where will I actually discover the love of God for myself? There are so many answers. Music, the Bible, the natural world, prayer and worship, poppies with a small and a capital "P", romantic love, Marilyn Monroe, kindness, all those things. All good and true answers in themselves. But, as I near the end of my life, what do I believe? I believe we need the courage, the humility and the sheer will to be able to say, "The only place where I can guarantee that you will find the love of God is in me." I personally have decided to do my best to be an aid-agency for the distribution of God's love to all who need it. But I am not responsible for supplies. As I give out, so my supplies seem to be replenished and replaced, and it is in the willingness to give out that I also experience the love of God in my life. 
     'Adrian, please, never forget that because of this we are so deeply indebted to those we serve. They are our generous benefactors. They are making us rich. In the meantime, I'm afraid there will be no great credit attached to this role. Each of us needs to be a sort of depot. We will have a delivery door at one side and a collection counter at the other. Amid all the truly impenetrable conundrums - those mysteries that remind us how the darkest and sharpest of shadows can be thrown by the brightest of lights - it might be almost as simple and as practical as that. The wages are good, though, or so I'm told. I shall know very soon.' "
I think this is a wonderful sentiment. I really believe that the more I can understand this for myself, put it into action and share it so that others can do the same, the more answers I will have to my questions, the more I will practically grasp the love of God and the more hope I will see for 2017 and the years that follow. It's already on my heart to put this into action not only with my friends and family, but also with those we might consider more risky to love - in particular the homeless and refugees. This may just be on a small scale; chatting to and giving to homeless people I pass, supporting charities who work in these areas, writing to my MP or signing petitions when government are forming policies affecting these people. If it stops there, then I hope I can do these things with all of my heart, but my prayer for 2017 is that God will show me my full capacity to love those near to and far from me and give me boldness to step out from where I am comfortable so that I can grow into a bigger 'depot' or 'aid-agency' like Father John describes.

So here's my anthem for the year. It's not new, but I absolutely love the song and the words and I can't stop playing it! Hope you do too. Happy New Year to you all 💕


Friday, 1 January 2016

Christmas Reflection 2015

It might be New Year's Day, but there are twelve whole days of Christmas so I don't think it's too late to squeeze a festive blog into the season.

Christmas this year has, as it has many times before, arrived whilst the world is in turmoil. Political and terror crises seem to be heightened almost more than ever, climate is devastating populations right across the globe and you don't need to look very far to see hurting people in need of miracles. What on Earth can the birth of a baby over 2000 years ago speak into such situations?

Every year I revisit the Christmas scriptures and more often than not, some little nugget will stand out to me. This year, that same thought has kept coming back to me at the many (7 I think!) carol services I've attended. I absolutely love carols; I love the harmonies and descants, I love their familiarity and I love the depth of truth found in those familiar words. However, I'm not a huge fan of one particular festive favourite, Silent Night. It just seems to create too tidy a picture. Would a newborn baby really be silent, especially if that baby was born in an animal store and cradled in a feeding trough? I don't think so.

But I began to think, whilst Jesus' birth might not have been silent to the immediate vicinity, it was utterly silent in terms of its global significance. If a royal baby is born in the UK, you can guarantee crowds and photographers gathering for their first glimpse, and the story hitting the headlines and social media almost immediately. Yet when Jesus was born, Son of God made man, it was in a borrowed corner of some little town with only a handful of shepherds to visit (and some wise guys from far off lands eventually). The world kept turning, people carried on living their lives just the same none the wiser and the political situations remained unchanged. We know now how significant this birth really was, the whole of history is divided into before and after it's occurrence and its religious, social, political and personal impact on the world is immeasurable.

I look back at the current world circumstances and I think we need to see massive change. But this Christmas reflection reminds me not to dismiss the insignificant not to expect it to stand out when we follow God's will for us personally and for the world around us. Who knows what amazing things might come out of us doing something selfless in secret? It could be financial giving, time giving, investing in causes, investing in people around us, any number of things. The important thing is not to need thanks or praise for what you do, but just to know the joy of being in line with God's heart for doing incredibly significant things, insignificantly. If we leave the rest in His hands, who knows what wonders we may have inadvertently been a part of? And even if there is no measurable effect whatsoever, we will be following His beautiful example.

And another bonus little nugget of Christmas loveliness!

Friday, 18 December 2015

'Thank God for' Friday

It's been quite some time since my last one of these. If you're not familiar with the concept, then basically every now and again I take a moment to reclaim the phrase and actually reflect on something I want to thank God for, and blog about it.

This week, I thank God for...

New Friends.

You may or may not know, but I am a busy person. Intentially so. I like having a packed out diary; cramming as much as possible into every week and having lots of regular commitments to fill up my time. I also really love spending quality time with people, but this is not always compatible with being super busy, and in the past I have ended up squeezing quality time with friends into breakfast dates, quick half hours between other engagements or late night catch ups - which is my worst part of the day for brain functioning!

But this year, I have actually gained quite a lot of spare time as regular commitments have dropped. I decided I couldn't commit fully to choir anymore so I stopped that, and dancing also went down from two nights a week, to just one. Together with a couple of other minor schedule changes, I suddenly realised I had several free evenings each week, which is something that I don't think I remember having since I was about 6 years old! This is a very strange sensation for me and it has taken some getting used to. Don't get me wrong I haven't just been sitting doing nothing at all every evening, but when talking to other busy people about everything they had going on, I found myself feeling either guilty or jealous. I didn't exactly articulate this out loud, or even fully understand what I was jealous or guilty for. Maybe I was jealous of their beautiful and complete diary with so many appointments to prove that they are capable of handling a lot and that lots of people wanted them or their time. Yet at the same maybe I felt guilty that while they were getting exhausted and burnt out from all of the ties on their time, I was able to enjoy my time and be flexible with it.

Perhaps I should take up a new hobby or challenge to make me busy again, I thought...

Then I realised something, I have actually developed a new hobby. It's called making friends! I think most of us probably grow out of this hobby fairly early on in our lives. Maybe our own inhibitions or time constraints hold us back, but now that I was a bit more flexible I was able to invest that time into new people. That first part of a friendship can always be a bit awkward, getting past the small talk and introductions, but if you have the time to give a bit more the rewards are immense. It turns out, I love making new friends; I love when you get past the point of trying to be normal and release some inner weirdness, I love when you begin to build up trust and one or other of you shares something that really matters, I love discovering shared interests, I love when the hours have ticked by without you noticing and you realise that spending time together is so easy and natural, I love when you first find out what makes a person tick and what makes them amazing.

I find all of this incredibly exciting! And I am so thankful to be in a position where I can say that even in the past couple of months, I have made several new friends who I can already tell are going to be great friends. In this past week, I have had the joy of spending Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening with different new friends. Each of them is different but incredible, and they are all inspiring and teaching me about God in unique and wonderful ways. So it turns out that making and maintaining friendships is and is going to remain my most important and fulfilling hobby, and this Friday I truly thank God for that.

Thanks God, for new friends.


Saturday, 28 November 2015

The Ultimate Unrequited

He feels the rejection
He feels the heartbreak
The object of His affection, the crown of His creation
Daily choosing another lover, choosing another path
He feels it

He understands the pain
He understands the burden
He too can't stop thinking about them
He too would do anything to see them happy
He understands you

He knows that knot
He knows that ache
The longing for them to feel likewise
Yet they remain oblivious or dismissive
He knows

He longs to show
He longs to share
The depth of His love and affection
The lengths that He would go to to win them
He longs just like you

So He came
He made Himself known
He showed in the way He cared 
In the way He prayed
In the way He spoke
In the way he valued people
Yet His love was unrequited
And those He loved put Him to death
But because He loved them
He bore the pain, the separation, the heartache

For one reason

He feels this love for you
He understands your deepest needs and weaknesses
He knows the best path for you
He longs for you to choose to walk it with Him

So come
Because He loves you

Monday, 26 October 2015

"Ahhhh Vienna!"

The song referenced in this blog post title was popping up in my head aaaaallll last week. Why so? You may ask. Well I got myself on a little jolly with work to a programming conference that was held in Vienna. I took my tour-guide-german-speaking brother with me for company, adventures and communicating with locals! Here is a very brief summary of our week in pictures (disclaimer, I am no photographer, these shots are all just for fun):

After some initial exploring around Vienna, we took the bus to the Beautiful Schonbrunn Palace. As you can see, it was pretty chilly so we're modeling our favourite woolly hats!
And of course, one must curtsey when one visits a palace!
After a tip from a friend we visited the Strudelshow at Schonbrunn where they demonstrate how they make the traditional Apple Strudel. Rhys even managed to get himself roped into helping out!

I, on the other hand, focused my energies into sampling the Viennese treat!
Speaking of sweet treats, this is something Vienna has no shortage of. The cafe culture there is amazing, with beautiful, ornate buildings, live piano music and of course the wonderful food and drinks.
In amongst the eating and enjoying ourselves. There was work to be done and a conference to attend. It was a really good experience and opportunity to see a bigger picture of the industry, but so much information to take in!

And they don't just send you on a jolly for nothing, I did actually have to speak in the Industry Starters stream. I think it went well though, I had positive feedback and was a big learning process putting it all together and sharing it with people.

Then as the conference finished my brother and I celebrated by going to see Mary Poppins 'auf Deutsch'! It was fantastic, such a spectacle and even in another language it got pretty emotional. Supercalifragilisticexpealidetisch!

On our last free day, I thoroughly enjoyed riding around Vienna on a Segway, which is something I've been wanting to try for years. Such fun!

As well as sampling Strudel, the one thing you have to do in Vienna is hear some Mozart. On our last evening, we saw this small ensemble play a whole range of pieces including a couple of Mozart's at the stunning Karlkirche. It was beautiful.

 Ahhhhh, Vienna!


Sunday, 27 September 2015

Great

The first song we sang at church this morning began with the words, 'Great is the Lord'. It's all about thanking God for everything He's done. But after we finished singing our Pastor pointed out that regardless of our experience, regardless of how we've been blessed, regardless of anything we've seen God do, the first four words still stand.

Great. Is. The. Lord.

Great for the beauty of creation. Great for His inifinite love. Great for His plan of redemption. Great for His relentless forgiveness. Great for a million different reasons.

So here's another song about His greatness. It's beautifully arranged (by Chris Rice) and I can only vouch that the delivery is heartfelt, although not expert by any means.

My rendition of How Great Thou Art. I hope you enjoy it, but more than that, I hope you think about how great God is and what that might mean to you.


O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"


Friday, 14 August 2015

Man, I feel like a woman.

I enjoy cleaning
I like wearing dresses
I don’t cry that often
I wear heels as I cycle
I lift weights
I change my own car bulbs
I love to dance
I like wearing make up
I like not wearing make up
I knit and crochet
I can chat on the phone for hours
I want to nurture people
I can be really selfish
I’m not a big fan of pink
I am a huge fan of yellow
I like taking on a challenge
I enjoy pretty things
I don’t really like movies
I am frequently out of my depth
I knocked down a wall on my own (on purpose)
I am fond of cooking for people
I enjoy talking
I love listening
I can have a bit of a potty mouth
I love getting a sweat on at the gym
I want to be bolder with my faith
I want to be gentler with my faith
I don’t like driving
I am ace at assembling flat pack
I can be manipulative
I rarely hug
I quite enjoy researching finance
I love colour co-ordination
I have a hidden talent of washing cars


Recently I’ve been thinking more and more about what it means to be a woman of God. A lot of what I read focuses so much on 'traditional' ideas of what biblical manhood or womanhood is and I think though such ideas are not necessarily wrong, it's just so narrow and misses the point. Being a woman of God, is about so much more than modesty or gentleness, and being a man of God actually probably encompasses these characteristics also. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that being a woman of God is pretty much exactly the same as being a man of God. It is simply loving Jesus, knowing Jesus and sharing Jesus, whether that looks traditionally ‘manly’ or ‘womanly’. Every single statement above is true about the woman of God that I am, no item on that list makes me any more or any less of a woman. I want to stand up for girls (and guys) today, to dispel any myths of expectations they think apply to their gender and encourage them and to give over every part of themselves to a God who wants to bring out the best in them. I love being a woman, but mainly I just love life and the life-giver Himself.