Category Archives: Uncategorized

Paris, je t’aime

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I lived for a while in the south of France, and a little piece of my heart will always belong to that country. Paris is the city of my dreams, I hope to live there some day, and I wish I could be there now, doing something, anything to help, to soothe the broken, to ease the pain, to bring light and hope into the darkness and fear.

But I’m not there, I’m here. And while I may feel ineffectual, I believe in One who is bigger than the powers of darkness, stronger than the mightiest army and more loving than anyone could imagine. It is Him who brings comfort and hope, and I trust Him to be working in how we respond to the darkness we see.

And it is true, that we live in dark times, times of fear and anger and pain. Times of uncertainty – how to react in the face of such atrocities, how to protect those we love and show compassion to those in need. The attacks in Paris this weekend have brought the reality of the situation in the Middle East so much closer to home for us and have given us just a brief glimpse of the horror that millions are living through, dying in, fleeing from.

In these times, I believe we need two things: compassion, and hope.

We need compassion to share the sufferings of those who are hurting, and not just the people like us. We need to recognise that we are part of a global community (whether we like it or not) and we need to work together – to feed the hungry, house the homeless, rescue the captives.

And we need to have hope – that good will conquer evil (even if it takes a while), that love is stronger than hate, that light always dispels darkness.

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L’Eternel est mon berger

Je ne manquerai de rien

Il me fait reposer dans des verts pâturages

Il me dirige près des eaux paisibles

Il restaure mon âme

Il me conduit dans les sentiers de la justice

A cause de son nom

Quand je marche dans la vallée de l’ombre de la mort

Je ne crains aucun mal

Car tu es avec moi

Ta houlette et ton bâton me rassurent

Tu dresses devant mou une table

En face de mes adversaires

Tu oins d’huile ma tête

Et ma coupe déborde

Oui, le bonheur et la grâce m’accompagneront

Tous les jours de ma vie

Et j’habiterai dans la maison de l’Eternel

Jusqu’à la fin de mes jours

Confession: I am a selfish blogger

Last week one of my favourite bloggers, Jon Acuff, wrote about a lesson it took him 13 years to learn about blogging. It was this:

‘Your platform isn’t for you. It’s not yours. Your name might be on it. It might be your smiling headshot that folks see each day on your blog or your twitter profile, but the platform is not for you. It’s for other people. Readers, friends, family members, this is why we blog. Not to get, but to give.’

So this is why I feel I must apologise, dear Reader. I am a selfish blogger, and a selfish writer. I don’t think about who might be reading what I write. In fact, I generally assume no one is reading. It takes me by surprise when someone likes or comments on a post, or tells me they like something I wrote. I do enjoy getting new followers, but it also always makes me feel slightly guilty that I don’t post more often.

Again, I apologise, dear Reader. At the start of the summer I promised I would post more often, once I’d recovered from essay writing exertions. But the posts never quite materialised. I found that I needed more time than I thought to rest after the busy academic year, and never quite found the headspace for lots of writing.

But here’s the thing. I have to disagree with Jon Acuff (sorry! I think you’re awesome, but sorry). For some people, writing a blog is about their platform, their self-promotion, their face on other people’s computer screens or tablets.

But that’s never been my focus, that’s never been why I write. I’m not really bothered by how many followers, or page views I have. Don’t get me wrong (or stop reading!) I love that you, dear Reader, have found your way to my little corner of the internet, I’d love for you to stick around, and I hope that my words bless and inspire you.

But, if I’m honest, and I always try to be, I’m writing for me. I always have done. I think I’ve said before that writing is one of the main ways I process the world. It helps me to understand what I am living. I also love wordcraft – playing around with words and phrases, constructing sentences. My blog is where I practice writing, learning and honing my craft. Please don’t be offended, I love that you are here, but this is for me.

So for this reason, I am not going to make any more promises. I am not going to try to boost my follower count by posting more frequently, regularly, or consistently. I’m not going to let myself feel guilty if I don’t post anything for a few weeks. I’m not going to try to pre-write posts any more, so I can post on schedule even when I don’t feel like writing (because, to be honest, those posts never seem to connect with you, dear Reader, as well as the spur of the moment ones anyway). I’m not going to force myself to try to write when I don’t feel like it, because at the moment, that is not what I need from myself.

I love writing, and I want to enjoy it. I never want this blog to feel like it’s a chore, because my writing will suffer, and I know you will notice, dear Reader.

So please, stick around and bear with me, if you enjoy what I write. Because I know that when I am writing from the heart it does resonate with people. And thank-you, dear Reader, for sticking with me thus far. Writing my blog blesses me, and I hope reading it might bless you too.

Leaving a Legacy

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I went to a funeral last week, of someone I had known all my life, a good friend of my parents, who had died unexpectedly a few weeks ago.

I find funerals strange occasions. There is such a mix of emotions, especially when the mourned and mourners are Christians. There is a sudden hole in your life that you know nothing will be able to fill, but you have to keep going. Yet there is always that knowledge, that hope, that you cling to that you will see that person again, and that they are in a much better place.

As I was a few stages removed from the family of the deceased, due to the distance that time and space brings, my grief on this occasion was secondary – I felt compassion for their sadness over their loss, and it brought back memories of when I lost grandparents, and created imaginings of how I would feel at the loss of my parents. I also seem to automatically cry when I see others in tears.

My own sentiment, and I hope you’ll not think me callous, was one of celebration of a life lived well. Testament to this was the number squeezed into the tiny church hall, overflowing into the lobby where there was a video link. The stories of remembrance were full of humour and light, memories of a man with a generous heart and ready wit, who always knew how many days it was until Christmas.

We sung some of his favourite hymns, which mostly had references to being received into glory, and I could imagine him gleefully running to join the cloud of witnesses, being reunited with his relatives, and smiling down on us and giggling at the irony of what we were singing.

The service got me thinking about legacy – what do we leave behind us when we go? Hearing the testimony of this man’s life – how he came to faith through the love and wisdom of his grandfather and in turn passed this onto his own grandchildren; how his strong work ethic and sense of humour made him a shining light in his workplace – I could see the fruits of his years of faithfulness to Christ and the beauty of that legacy. I thought about those, including this gentle-man, who have had an impact on my life and wondered: what trace am I leaving on the lives of those around me?

In the last year or so I have become more aware of my own mortality. I would not say I am afraid of death or believe that it is coming soon for me, I have just been struck by the realisation that people my age and younger can die just as easily as those who are getting on in years (there’s a cheery thought!) I am more conscious of not wasting time, and of focusing on all I want to achieve in life. I am also driving more carefully!

I want my life to be positive. I want to make a difference to others. I don’t need a big stage or a large following, but I do want to be faithful to what I have been called to do. I want to make the most of the gifts I have been given and the opportunities set out in front of me.

I felt God’s whisper as I listened to the funeral service. He has given me words, and my words will be my legacy. My words will remain long after I have gone. This is a great encouragement to me as I sit down to write and is also a reminder to be prayerful in my writing – whether in this blog, in my poetry or in my novelistic ambitions – to seek God’s purposes in the word-craft, in the stories I am trying to tell.

But it meant more than just writing to me. Like most people, I speak everyday. I talk to people, and they listen (usually). I converse with colleagues, have deep chats with friends, I instant message people all over the world. Those words have an impact too. Most of it may be forgetten, but some of the words we speak, positive and negative, leave our mouths and go straight to people’s hearts.

In the Bible, James compares the tongue to a fire that can burn down a whole forest. He says it is like the rudder of a ship, that can turn it and direct its route. I have done a bit of sailing in the past, and I know that if you let go of the tiller, the rudder turns the boat into the wind and you are at the mercy of the weather. We need to watch what we say, because our words have potential to heal or to hurt, every single time we open our mouths.

I hope I remember these lessons I’m learning along the way. I am determined to be more careful with my words – both written and spoken. I pray that I may leave as positive a legacy as that of the man we said farewell to this week.

And it is 116 days until Christmas.

The hard road to achieving your dreams

I skipped church again this morning. Some Sundays I feel that the last thing this introvert needs is small-talk with a load of people I barely know, which, even though I’ve been at my church for close to a year now, still seems to be the case, especially in the holidays. But that is not what this post is about.

I knew that even if I wasn’t going to church I needed to get my soul straight. Recently I have been struck with a strange lethargy, an inability to do anything remotely useful (by my own definition), almost a numb tiredness at times. I’d been feeling this way definitely since coming back from youth camp but probably before that too. Really, since handing in my last essay of the term, it felt like part of my brain had gone into standby mode, like I wasn’t able to reflect or process anything correctly. In part it was the adjustment to suddenly having a lot of free time again after a really busy academic year. And I knew that I needed to rest and recover from that busy time, but I didn’t even feel like I was resting successfully.

So this morning I stopped, and did something that I should have done a while ago. I picked up my too-long-neglected journal and I started to write. I wrote, I prayed, I tried to understand where this feeling of disconnect from myself was coming from.

I realised quite a few things…

First, that I was already worrying about next term and beyond – would I have enough money for the course fees? Would I cope with the workload? Would I be able to do all the things I want to next summer? Do I need to start thinking about my dissertation? etc etc etc. I know, and have been repeatedly been telling myself, that God is holding all this future stuff and that I need to trust Him, but that message hadn’t made it’s way to my heart quite yet, where the worries were starting to set up shop. So this morning I started to let them go, one by one, again. I know I will have to keep on doing this, regularly. Trust is one of my chosen words for the year, and I need to start acting like it…

Secondly, I acknowledged that I was feeling stuck. So many of my friends are getting engaged, getting married, having children, getting their own places… etc… Last year I chose to move back home and give up full time work to take up my course. It was the right decision (still is) but at times it feels like a massive step backwards. It has required sacrifices. And that is something we don’t think about when we decide to pursue a dream – choosing one thing means sacrificing every other choice. Even when you know you are making the right choice, it is often painful to let go of the others. I have given up independence, savings, free time, a social life, even some of my hobbies, in order to devote time to my studies. I love my course, and I’m doing well at it, but I need to let myself grieve for the opportunities I’ve had to miss out on to pursue my dream. And I need to remind myself that I’m in this for the long haul, but that it will be so worth it.

A year ago, I came up with five goals for the next five years:

  • get a Masters in theology
  • finish the first draft of a novel
  • move back out from my parents
  • find a job I really care about
  • meet the man of my dreams

(you can read the whole story here)

The problem is, part of me feels like I’m no closer to 4 out of 5 of my goals. Yes, I am a third of the way through the Masters (and when I wrote the list I hadn’t even been accepted onto the course), but I was struggling to see any development in the other areas. And with two more years of the Masters to go, I was finding it hard to see when I would be able to work on the others.

But… but… but…

These are FIVE YEAR GOALS! So what if years 1-3 are focused on goal 1? That still leaves two years for the others!

Sometimes one of our dreams has to take priority over the others, and that’s okay.

And when I really thought about it, I started to see how working towards goal 1 is helping in some ways towards the others – through writing essays my research, planning and editing skills have all improved, and the quality of my writing is better, which will massively help with eventually writing my novel. And the Masters will open doors for me into jobs which engage my interests and convictions. (And I do love the job I have right now!)

Again, when I stopped to think about it, it all came back to trust. A year ago I told God what I wanted to achieve in the next five years. And I have to keep giving those goals back to Him, seeking His will and trusting that because He gave me the desires of my heart, He will help me realise them.

I also remembered this morning what the ultimate goal of my life is, one that I have been sadly neglecting recently: to know God and make Him known. All my dreams, plans, and goals amount to nothing when I lose focus on that, but by seeking Him first, I will achieve the things He has called me to do.

One last thought: Sometimes I feel I am not coping with life. I have heard people say in the past: “God never gives you more than you can handle” but that is not true. God often, intentionally, gives us more than we can handle so that we recognise how much we need Him to help us handle it.

Youth camp revelations 

I was helping on a youth camp last week – and it was amazing and exhausting. I had a bit of an emotional rollercoaster week for all sorts of reasons that I’m not going to go into just yet, and I still have loads to process from the week. But for now I want to give you some of the top things I learnt from the week.

1) God’s plans are amazingly beautiful and intricate and we need to stop second guessing them (and Him). A year ago I went for a youth work job at a church where I had previously done some training. This was my dream job, and the timing seemed so perfect, I was sure it was God’s plan for me to get it. But I didn’t. Last week a friend who has been working with that church was helping out on youth camp. She is now engaged to the guy who got the job, and they wouldn’t have met if I had got it. A year on I can see how that job wasn’t the right into for me at that time, and how happy I am with my life right now… God is good, y’all.

2) It is so easy for each of us to be a different person in different situations, and we don’t even realise it sometimes. Last week I got a little frustrated with some of the young people who were so switched on and engaged in sessions, and seemed very spiritually mature beyond their years, but would go outside and be airheaded bimbo girls or laddish show-offy boys and forget everything they just said or did or learned. Part of this is just teenagers finding out who they are, but I think we all do it, we compartmentalise our lives and put on masks to be different people when we need to be. Can I ask that we drop the act, work out who we are and be that person the whole time? Be authentically ourselves? (Me included)

3) Never, ever, ever, underestimate young people. They are awesome. Our speaker, my good friend Neil, decided to pick as his topic for last week the book of Revelation. The whole book. In a week. And the kids kept pace. Sure they won’t have taken it all in but they definitely took it seriously and appreciated that we were willing to challenge them. Sometimes young people are referred to as the church of the future, but they aren’t. They are the church of today and until we really understand that we will keep wondering why they want to leave.

There is so much more I could say but, as I said, I need to do more processing. I am so thankful for the honour it has been to serve on youth camps for so many years and see the fruit of that investment in people’s lives.

More words coming soon… I really promise…

so I know what I said… That when I finished my essay and my course was done for the summer I would have more time to write etc etc etc but what I’ve found is I’ve needed a bit of time of not writing to give my brain a rest. Also, Wimbledon is on and that is such a pleasant distraction and has really been helping me unwind…

But I do have a few things ticking over in my brain and I just need to sit down and write them out. And I plan on doing it soon. I can’t go very long without writing. I need to write regularly in order to function. It’s how I process life – even if what I’m writing bears little resemblance to what is happening around me. It’s the process of taking a jumbled bundle of thoughts in my head and making them into something that other people can understand. I feel better just for these few short paragraphs.

So bear with a little longer and new stuff will be appearing here soon 🙂

Happy Birthday mayibethemoon!

mayibethemoon is one year old today! Yay!

Unfortunately I have an essay due on Monday and loads still to write, so no celebrating for me this weekend…

But once the essay is handed in, I get a break from my course until the autumn, so I’m hoping to have more time for writing for fun over the summer and should be able to post a bit more frequently 🙂

Until then, thank you all for reading and sharing over the last year. Here’s to many more years of poetry and reflection.

Post-mortem of a friendship

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I saw you the other day. You were with your husband, whom I barely know, and your child, whom I’ve never met. I saw you, and I was filled with the usual mix of hope and dread. Hope, that you would come over and say hi. Dread, because if you did, I wouldn’t have a clue what to say. But you didn’t, and I left, experiencing the usual mix of relief and sorrow. Relief that I wouldn’t have to find the words to cover the years and spaces between us. Sorrow over the death of a friendship.

If someone had asked me when the sickness in our friendship began, I would have said it was when we stopped living in the same place, but, on reflection, I can see now that the symptoms were there long before. You see, both of us assumed that we would be friends forever, and so both of us took the other for granted. Perhaps you more than me; because I realised one day that I was losing you, and I didn’t want to let that happen. But by the time I realised it was already almost too late.

So I fought. I fought hard. I wrote and emailed, texted (I didn’t call. I don’t like unplanned phone calls). And I received some responses, but it always seemed that they were half-hearted promises, never fulfilled or too late to make a difference.

You have to understand that I don’t blame you, because in the end, I gave up. I couldn’t keep fighting because it hurt too much.

I recognise, too, that the last missed opportunity was my fault. We had actually made plans. I was meant to drive over to see you. But then the day came and I was sick. And as I am being honest, I need to tell you that part of the sickness was out of fear. My life was a mess at that time, and as much as I wanted to see you, I didn’t want to have to explain, and I didn’t have the strength to hide all the stuff I was dealing with. So I cancelled, and you were lovely about it. You said we’d try again soon, that we’d meet in the middle, both make a trip to cover the distance between us. And this meant so much to me, because all I’d ever wanted was for you to meet me halfway.

And that was the last time I heard from you.

It was your birthday a few weeks ago. Social media reminded me. Even if it hadn’t, I would have known. The date is etched into my mental calendar. And again, I faced the dilemma – do I acknowledge it or not? I tried to remember if you had acknowledged mine. In the end, I let it pass. Once again, I was at a loss for what to say.

Maybe I’m a coward. Because the truth is, I have no idea how to fix this, and I’m scared it’s too broken, and I know I can’t do it on my own, and I’m scared that if I try, I’ll get hurt again if you don’t make the effort. Sadly, it becomes easier not to try.

And I’m sorry, I’m sorry that in the end, history and shared experience have not been enough. I’m sorry that I’ve given up, sorry that maybe you didn’t even notice I had. Sorry for any awkwardness if you should come over to chat next time.

Who knows, maybe one day this will all be forgotten. Maybe there’s a chance it will be like old times again.

So you must know, I forgive you. And I hope you can forgive me.

Why I pick a word

Greetings. We’re nearly a month into 2015, and I realise it’s been a while since I wrote. Well, 2015 so far hasn’t been quite as straightforward as I could have hoped. But more on that to come.

I’m part of an awesome online community and in the run up to the end of 2014, there was much talk about what word we would be picking for 2015. To some this was a new idea and they were keen to know what it was all about, and it got me to reflecting on what it means to me to pick a word for each year.

You see, this is something I’ve done for several years now, and it was good remind myself why I do this. Each year I pick a word that I want to help define that year, to help me reflect and to guide my decisions. Last year I decided to pair it with a Bible verse as well, to help me focus on God and what I felt He would want for me in that year.

Let me give you a brief history of the words I picked and why…

2012 – this was the first time I picked a word. I was serving God in a church and loving it, so I settled for the word ‘dedicated’ because I was giving the year to God, and wanted to focus more on Him.

2013 – unfortunately, many things in 2012 didn’t happen as I would have liked, leaving me with many questions, and basically feeling a bit like I’d gone through the blender. So the word I picked for 2013 was ‘change’ – I wanted to be different, renewed, more hopeful, more trusting, and I wanted to see my life change for the better. This led me to make some brave decisions, to relocate and face new challenges.

2014 – In some significant ways, however, my life had started to get worse. My new job, in a new city, was much more challenging than I had expected, and by the end of 2013 my health was suffering. So my word for 2014 became ‘health’, and my verse was Luke 10v27: “The Scriptures say, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.’ They also say, ‘Love your neighbors as much as you love yourself.’”

With this verse, I thought about how I could show my love for God by taking better care of myself in each of the four areas of heart, soul, strength and mind. I took this one pretty seriously, and took several pages of my journal to outline how I was going to practise loving God and myself in each area (if you followed the previous incarnation of my blog you may remember reading about this). The trouble was, as I plunged headlong into 2014, some of the lessons took a long time to stick. I got to April and suddenly realised how much I was struggling at my job, and how unhappy I was in the city – I’d been living there nearly a year and felt so isolated and alone. I suddenly knew, for the sake of my health, I had to leave.

I think this was the hardest decision I had ever made.

After a brief holiday, during which I’d admitted this to myself, I returned to work and had a difficult conversation with my boss, the minister of the church I was working for. And as I explained how I’d been feeling, it was like a huge weight lifting off my shoulders. I agreed to stay a few more months, to give the church and myself time to plan our next steps.

Last year’s word brought about such significant change in my life. It helped me realise what my strengths and weaknesses are, and helped me realise letting go is not the same as giving up. It challenged me to remember what my dreams are and gave me the courage to follow them, even if it seems crazy or risky to others.

So as the end of 2014 approached I started to think about what I wanted from 2015. I had several realisations, including the fact that I was finally living in the same town again as two of my best friends growing up, and wanted to make up for lost time with them. Also, for the first time in a long time I am working in a non-Church environment, and I want to build good relationships with my colleagues who aren’t Christians and hopefully have some opportunities to share my faith with them. Third, I realised that as an introvert, I can tend to shy away from social situations as I find them intimidating, but I don’t want to let my weaknesses define me, I want to let them refine me and make me grow.

So the word I have picked for 2015 is ‘relate’, and I’m focusing on the second part of last year’s verse: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. This means that this year I am trying to make decisions that will help me to build relationships with others and give me opportunities to show them how amazing they are, and how much they are loved by God.

However, as I said at the beginning of this post, things didn’t start out quite how I’d planned in 2015.

I picked up a nasty bug over Christmas, and spent the first couple of weeks of this year feeling decidedly under the weather. I also had spent more money than planned over Christmas and New Years and was starting to worry about whether I would have enough saved to pay my tuition fees for my course. I was also anticipating changing times at work, as I would be taking on new responsibilities, especially with a colleague moving onto another job. Having only been in post for three months, I was worried about how I would cope with the changes. I was also worried about my course, and whether I could cope with the workload

Basically, I started 2015 scared.

But fear is not what I want to define my life. I had a sudden moment of clarity in the middle of my fever, where I realised how scared I was. And I decided not to be scared any more.

You see, if I have learnt anything over the last couple of years, it is that God is so much bigger than any situation I find myself in. And He cares. He cares so much for me that He doesn’t want me to live a life of fear. And He always has a plan. I could never have dreamed a few years ago that I would be where I am now, but He has lead me so gently, that I know so deeply now that I am where I am meant to be. So I don’t need to be afraid.

So I had to pick another word for myself, to help remind me of this every time I start to let the fear in: Trust. And the verse to go with it: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3v5-6).

Since making this decision, I have felt such peace about my finances, my course, my job, and my relationships. It’s not easy, but everyday I am choosing to trust God in everything and asking Him to bless my relationships. I am still learning, but I am also more aware of Him at work.

It’s still early days for 2015, and I am excited to see how it will progress as I focus on trusting God and loving my neighbour. I’d love to hear whether you’ve picked a word for 2015, and what it means to you.

Normal service now resuming (hopefully…)

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First of all, apologies for no posts in nearly a month… A lot has been happening!

Three weeks ago I started both a new job and a new course. The job is a part-time admin position, mainly taken so that I could afford to do the course. It’s been great fun so far, but as with all new jobs there is a lot to learn!

The new course is a Masters in Integrative Theology with the London School of Theology. Again, it is part-time and for me is being done entirely online, which is very new, hi-tech and exciting! Three weeks in, I’m starting to get used to what I need to do each week, and finally getting the idea of what the course is about (it’s the first year the course has run, so there wasn’t a great deal of information before we began!) In future posts I’ll hopefully be able to outline a bit more of what I’m learning and where the course is taking me mentally, but I’m still trying to get my head round it a little bit, so watch this space!

I’ve also been battling a demon cold and trying to re-establish a social life in the town I grew up in since I’ve moved home, so it’s been pretty full on the last couple of weeks. I’m settling into a new church where I already feel I am challenged and growing, and I’ve met some really lovely people. I’m looking forward to getting involved and serving the community there.

All of these exciting things going on means I find I now have less time for writing for fun, meaning I am afraid for now I will only be able to post once a week for the foreseeable future, and may miss some weeks entirely. I hope that things will start to settle down as I get more used to the rhythms of work, study and social-life-ness, and that will mean I’m able to post more often again. I enjoy writing this blog too much to let it go, especially now I’ve paid for a domain name!

Thank you for joining me on this journey. I hope what I write inspires, challenges and encourages you, it certainly does me as I’m writing it! Please continue to travel with me.