my second favourite Christmas present

My favourite Christmas present last year was easily our family holiday in Cyprus. No competition. I love travelling, seeing new places and different cultures, and to be able to do so and tie-in visits to my extended family, courtesy of my wonderful Nan, is hard to beat.

Coming close second in the Christmas present rankings was the gift from my parents of a new Bible. It is no ordinary Bible, though, it is a new version of the NIV with lovely wide margins for making notes and doodling, and COLOURING PAGES. I find colouring quite a soothing activity, and the Bible is one of the few books I don’t mind scribbling all over, so this really was a perfect gift.

It is such a beautiful book, however, that it has taken me a few weeks to build up the courage to tarnish its pristine pages. There was one day last week though, when a verse kept tumbling through my mind and I just needed to doodle it out. I sketched a bit in pencil first, but when I was happy I outlined the text in pen and got colouring. I’m new to this type of artsy-creativity (more of a crafty person myself) but I was quite pleased with the result, and am now filled with the desire to learn more calligraphy and lettering styles…

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#30by30 number 21 – Become a Patreon

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One of my aims with #30by30 is to support and promote things that I care about, in an effort to be less self-centred, I guess.

Anyway, not too long ago I heard of a website called Patreon which allows creative types to fundraise from supporters to help them to continue to create in fields that are often difficult to progress in when you are starting out. It’s a bit like Kickstarter or Indigogo, but instead of helping to get a specific project off the ground, patrons fund the ongoing work of a writer, actor, artist, singer etc.

I currently can only afford to support two people at $1 per month each, which, with the associated fees and currency conversion rates should be a little less than £2 per month, but I’m hoping to be able to increase that in the future as most of the artists offer extra content to the higher level supporters.

But for now, it gives me the opportunity on this blog to tell you about the people I support and to promote their work to you 🙂 I also recommend you head over to www.patreon.com to check out some of the other creative people that use that site to see if there are any you would like to support!

 

So the first person I chose to support is Mya Gosling of goodticklebrain.com – a mostly Shakespeare webcomic. The first time I heard of Mya was when her three panel plays were featured on some list or other of things to check out on the Internet. In those comics she condensed each Shakespeare play to three points, illustrated by stick figures. She also retells the plays act-by-act and scene-by-scene, which really helps to bring the stories to life. She does other one-off or occasional comics – the recent Shakespeare’s missing mothers series had me crying with laughter, as did the Hamlet/Sound of Music crossover comics. For a Shakespeare geek like myself, there are very few more enjoyable things on the Internet. Also, the complete works t-shirt she created is one of my favourite items of clothing and a great conversation starter…

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My second patronee (not convinced that’s the correct term but never mind!) is Mary Kate Wiles, an actress and vlogger. A couple of years ago some friends recommended I watch the Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube – a modern adaption of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which Lizzie has a video diary. I LOVE Jane Austen so I am always a little reluctant to watch spin-offs and non-period adaptations, but with much Persuasion (!) I gave it a try and I did not regret it.

Mary Kate was cast as Lizzie’s irrepressible younger sister Lydia. One of my favourite things about the show was that Lydia really came to life as a rounded character rather than just a plot device (sorry Miss Austen!) – showing the quality of the writing but also MK’s brilliant acting. Last year I re-watched the series and mentioned to a friend that I was doing so, and she asked if I had seen MK’s Craftversations videos, which I immediately investigated. In these videos, MK interviews a friend from the world of YouTube (actor, writer, producer, etc) while they carry out a craft activity. I love these videos because not only do they give me great ideas for craft projects to try but they have also introduced me to lots of other fun YouTube series that I wouldn’t have come across otherwise.

So there you have it, two of my favourite Internet people. I’d love to hear if you support anyone on Patreon and if so, who and why 🙂

Happy New Year – 2017!

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I’m sure I’m not the only person who was slightly relieved to have reached the end of 2016. While I had some great experiences last year, there were some quite tough times too. Add to that the political tensions and international crises, and the great sadness of losing so many well-loved actors, musicians, writers and other significant people; I know I was glad to lay 2016 to rest.

But there were good times. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by all the negativity in society and the media, so I have to keep reminding myself that I had some pretty amazing experiences too. For one thing, I was involved in a flash mob, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. (It was a Bollywood routine at a friend’s wedding and it was so. much. fun!) I also had the privilege of serving for two weeks on kids and youth camps in Moldova in the summer, which reawakened my love for youth and children’s work, gave my faith a much needed boost, and introduced me to some of the loveliest people I’ve ever met, many of whom I am sure will remain a great source of prayer and support for years to come. I also stepped out in faith a few times and found the courage to do a few things I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.

In terms of personal goals, I completed the second part of my Masters and managed to maintain my high academic standards even while taking on extra hours at work. I read the complete works of Shakespeare – the plays, sonnets and epic poems (I just have the apocrypha to go, which weren’t included in my edition of the complete works). I read 70 books and only bought 17 (not including ones for uni) – but as I borrowed and was given a fair number unfortunately by goodreads to-read count only decreased by one…

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may remember that my word for last year was rest, and actually I realised towards the end of the year that I hadn’t been very good at this. It is definitely something I need to keep working on so when I planned out the next nine months as I work on my dissertation I have factored in short holidays to give myself a break.

But all-in-all, it was not a bad year. It’s nice to reflect and see all the good things in black and white, actually. But I am really excited about 2017! I can’t help but think it will be a very good year, as I hope to see the fulfilment of a few long-held dreams.

In view of this, the word I chose to help my shape my year is Imagine, and my verse for the year is Ephesians 3:20-1:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

I want to dream bigger about what God can do in and through me, to see and take opportunities and be faithful in the little things I am given. If He can do more than I imagine, I want to imagine the biggest, most excitingest things I can and see Him exceed my expectations.

I haven’t made any resolutions this year as I have my #30by30 list to work on (I’ve ticked a few more things off, by the way, which I will let you know about over the next few weeks). However, I have made the more general decision to try to give up negativity, instead I want to be positive, brave and kind and to remember that I carry the Kingdom of Heaven with me wherever I go.

Presence

Ushered into the Awesome presence

I edge forward in fear and reverence

Knowing I stand on Holy Ground

A voice like rolling thunder

Eyes of fire

Clothed in bright light

I fall to my knees

for I am not worthy

How can I stand in Your awesome presence

How can I gaze on Your beauty and majesty

I am suddenly so aware of my failings

the stain of my sin marring what once was pure, and I am ashamed.

 

But then I hear Your whisper

telling me I have nothing to fear

You raise me to my feet

and clothe me in white

making me clean

blood red washing me white as snow

and Your voice

 

“I am the beginning and the end

the Living one who died

See I have saved you

redeemed you

made you mine

made you new.”

 

So now with the Saints I sing

of the One who has saved me

I sing of the salvation He has won

the great things He has done

The Holy Holy Holy LORD God Almighty

who always was

and always is

and always will be

 


 

I wrote this poem back in 2012, partly inspired by Revelation Song by Jesus Culture (below). It’s been on my mind recently and I was surprised to realised I’d never shared it on this blog.

30by30 number 6.2 – meet someone famous(ish)

Now, my #30by30 challenge is barely a month old and I’ve already hit a hitch. I’ve had to swap out one of my challenges.

In the summer I was sent a picture of a flyer for a group that knits items for the neonatal unit of a local hospital, and I had intended to join this group as part of my challenge. Unfortunately, when I called the number there was no answer. I have since heard from a friend that the flyer had such an overwhelming response that the phone number had to be disconnected.

I love knitting, crochet and other craft activities, but tend to mainly make things for myself or for friends, so I am still hoping to find a charitable project to unleash my knitting skills on (if you know of anything based in the Hampshire area please let me know). In case that doesn’t work out, however, I have come up with a replacement challenge.

I had toyed with the idea of putting ‘meet someone famous’ on the list in the first place, but thought it unlikely that I would get the opportunity. So seeing as I met some slightly famous people on Friday night I decided it would be remiss not to use this as my new challenge no 6.

A little over a year ago there was a series on BBC called The Naked Choir – a competition to find the UK’s best a cappella group, presented by Gareth Malone. I love anything a cappella and Gareth Malone has a great track record for uncovering talent so I knew this was worth a watch (his latest show The Choir: Gareth’s Best in Britain is not disappointing, either).

I quickly identified the group I hoped would win, and sure enough, they did! The Sons of Pitches are a midlands-based, all-male, six-piece group with brilliant technique and a great sense of humour. Since winning the competition, they have built up a fairly large YouTube fan base and are currently on their second UK tour. I persuaded some friends to tag along to their Basingstoke show on Friday night and it was easily one of the best gigs I’ve been to in my life, ranging from hilarious improvised songs about roundabouts and Philip Schofield (you had to be there) to simple emotive performances (their rendition of Wuthering Heights still gives me chills every time I hear it). Seriously, if you have the opportunity to see them live, it is definitely worth it.

The great thing about seeing a band at the start of their careers is that they are still small enough to be able to come out to meet the fans after the show. And as I had driven, my poor friends had to wait patiently while I said hello to each band member (and take photos for me).

So that’s probably enough fangirling for one week, but you really should check out their YouTube channel, or at least just watch this one video:

 

Book Review: ‘Everyday Isn’t Perfect’ by Dr K.L. Register

 

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I have been following KL’s blog  ‘The Ninth Life‘ for some time now, and I always get a little excited when bloggers I like announce book releases. Unfortunately, I have a strict rule in place about buying books at the moment, so this volume was languishing on my Amazon wishlist for a while until a kind friend spotted it there and bought it for me for my birthday.

If you read KL’s blog, you will probably recognise some of the stories as they have appeared there, but I like having them all in one cute little book that I can refer back to.

My first favourite thing about this book is the title. I didn’t get together with my friends to celebrate my birthday until a few days later. On the way to the restaurant, several of us had been complaining about how upsetting and stressful our work days had been. So a little bit later when I was opening my presents after dinner, and I pulled this book out of the giftwrap, we all had a laugh at the appropriateness of the title on that day. In itself, it is a good reminder that we don’t have to be discouraged when things go wrong, we can just shrug, and say ‘Everyday isn’t perfect!’ knowing that we have a new opportunity the next day.

I really enjoyed this book. It is a collection of short stories, essays and poems, each one no more than a couple of pages long. Some are accounts from her own life, some are entertaining encounters with her patients (she is a dentist), some are more general thoughts on life. I choose to read a couple of ‘chapters’ each evening to make me smile before going to bed, but you could just as easily read one at the start of each day to help put you in a good mood for the day – something I will probably do the next time I read it.

KL writes with honesty, wit and humour. Part of the reason I enjoyed this book is probably because we have a similar outlook on life. Although we have had very different experiences, her writing is very relatable and is full of encouragement to be brave, have faith, and to love yourself. Heartily recommended for anyone who needs a bit of a boost.

(To get yourself a copy, head over to The Ninth Life and follow the links)

as fast as he can…

I found myself facing disappointment recently. Something that I’d been hoping and praying for, something that I felt God was calling me into, didn’t come to fruition, and I was left feeling bereft. I told myself that it was just God closing a door, but I had this nagging voice in my head telling me that it was because there was something wrong with me, that I wasn’t good enough. I kept trying to take my disappointment and diminishing confidence to God, but I was finding it hard to let go of the situation. I needed reassurance. And then I had a dream.

The Bible gives many examples of God speaking to people through dreams, the most famous probably being the two Josephs (in the Old Testament, the son of Jacob sees in a dream that his older brothers will bow to him, and is given a position of great power and responsibility in Egypt after God enables him to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams concerning a famine to come; New Testament Joseph marries Mary after an angel tells him in a dream that she wasn’t unfaithful to him, but that her child is God’s Son, and the Saviour of the world). It is something that I have experienced a few times myself. Not all my dreams have hidden meaning, some of them are completely ridiculous, but as I tend to remember a lot of my dreams and reflect on them, I often find God’s quiet whisper in them. This one, I knew as soon as I woke up that God was telling me something.

This dream was about my wedding, at least, what my wedding could be. Things weren’t quite as I myself would have picked them, but I knew it was very much about us as a couple – there was music, good food, and lots of cake.

The weird thing was, the man I was marrying seemed to change, he was someone different at different points in the dream. As the dream continued, I realised that my new husband and I had been separated by the crowds of our family and friends. I wasn’t sure where he was, but I wasn’t worried until the time came for us to leave the venue. I went looking for him, and found him waiting by the car. I said, ‘I’ve been looking for you’ and he said ‘I was waiting here for you, but that doesn’t matter, we’re together now’.

At the moment I am faced with various choices about my future that could lead me down different paths. I’ve written in the past about how I don’t believe God necessarily has a fixed plan for each of our lives, as that doesn’t account for the choices we or others make. Sometimes He does clearly open or close doors, as I experienced recently, but mostly I believe He provides us with opportunities and lets us choose which to take, how to serve Him.

The changing husband in my dream was telling me that whichever path I choose, God will be faithful to the promises that He has made to me, to give me a place and a purpose, and the home and family that I so desire, but that that will look different depending on which way I go. The conversation between myself and my husband in the dream reminded me that while I and the man I will end up marrying are currently in a period of searching and waiting, we will be brought together in the right time, God’s time.

One of my favourite sitcoms to watch when I need a boost is How I Met Your Mother. I really relate to the central character, Ted, who is a hopeless romantic trying to make sense of his life, when it seems that everyone around him already has everything figured out. At the end of season four, Ted has a conversation with a woman he thought he was going to marry, who left him for someone else. He tells her that he is impatient to find what she has, and she tells him that the woman he is waiting for is coming ‘as fast as she can’.

I was thinking about this as I reflected on my dream, and remembered that God’s notion of time is quite different to ours. In his second letter, Peter reassures his readers: ‘Dear friends, don’t forget that for the Lord one day is the same as a thousand years, and a thousand years is the same as one day. The Lord isn’t slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is.’ (2 Peter 3:8-9a, CEV). In the book of Habakkuk in the Old Testament, a similar promise is made:

At the time I have decided,

my words will come true.

You can trust what I say

about the future.

It may take a long time,

but keep on waiting—

it will happen!

(Habakkuk 2:3, CEV).

 

If, like me, you have recently experienced disappointment, remember that in all things God is working for your good, and He won’t say no unless there is a better yes to come. And if you are feeling impatient, remember that He always keeps his promises and brings them to fruition in His perfect timing.

As if I needed further reassurance of this, and let’s face it, I probably did, I have seen two rainbows today. The first was this morning as I was driving and trying to decide whether or not to pursue a certain opportunity. The sun was shining, but out of nowhere it started to rain. I looked up and there, for the briefest of moments, was a perfect rainbow. It was there and then it was gone. But I knew then that God was with me, whatever I decide.

 

The second was this afternoon, as I was writing this:

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