Tag Archives: reflections

A ‘sorry-it’s-been-so-long-general-life-update’ post…

 

Hi. So. Things got a little crazy for a few months there, with my final project for my Masters basically taking over my life from July to October, and I have essentially spent the last month and a half recovering. To be honest, having written a 15000 word dissertation I struggled to want to write anything for a while afterwards. I also found that coming to the end of something that had been the biggest part of my life for three years was quite hard on my mind and soul, and I found myself getting down and anxious, particularly until I received my results. But God is faithful, and keeps holding us close, even when He can feel far away.

And it was worth the wait to get my results, it was worth all the time, money and effort I put into the course. I found out my dissertation mark a few weeks ago, and I’ve heard this week that I have officially passed my Masters with Merit. Graduation is not until next summer, but it feels nice to be adding a few extra letters after my name!

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You may remember that I had a list of thirty things I was trying to do before I turned thirty at the end of September, and you may be wondering how I got on with that. Well, it may not be a surprise that with the Diss taking over my life for a few months I didn’t actually achieve everything on the list, but I didn’t do too badly (and finished a few things off since, and added a few extra). I do intend to write in more detail at some point about the items I have completed, but for now I will just list them and give a little explanation about the ones I didn’t manage… (If I have previously posted about an item I will link to it, I now realise how bad I have been at writing these up…!)

 

Completed

1) Finish Masters (finished 5th October)

3) Watch Star Wars

5) See a play at the Globe

6.2) Meet someone famous (ish)

9) Get another tattoo (aquired 30th September)

12) Reach 30 on the Shakespeare list

13) at least partially own my own home

15) have a herb garden

16) finish writing ‘The Girl in the Electric Blue Dress’

19) Climb Winchester Cathedral Tower

21) Become a patreon

22) Get a new job

23) Finish Susannah jumper (completed 3rd November)

24) Visit the Hundred Acre Woods

25) Grow Sunflowers

26) Visit Hay-On-Wye

28) Get a Jolly Roger Shipping Co. tee (or other fandom shirt)

29) twin my toilet

30) get Netflix in time for the new series of Star Trek

30.2) join a book club

30.3) become a Goodreads librarian

30.4) get National Trust Life Membership

22 items completely completed

 

Completed with slight modification (I may write in more detail about these later too!)

6) ‘join Neo-natal knitters’ became ‘find a charity knitting project’

– this was a project at a local hospital to knit items for babies born early. Someone gave me a flyer but when I contacted the number I didn’t get a response. I subbed in a different item for the challenge, but then was asked to make items for Christmas and Easter parcels my church was giving to people in need.

8) ‘sponsor another child’ became ‘support an awesome charity’

– I currently sponsor two children through Compassion, and wanted to support another one, through them or someone else. When I looked into it, however, I struggled to find a programme that would fit with my budget. Then I found out about Hope for Justice, an anti-trafficking charity. I was so inspired by the work they do, that I decided to support them monthly instead of taking on another child sponsorship.

14) ‘go on a date’ became ‘find a way to meet new people and not let being single be an excuse for not doing things’

– (quite a long new item, I realise!) The problem with going on a date is it requires someone to go on said date with, and I realised the difficulty with that is finding opportunities to meet said person. So I thought this could just become ‘be less of an introvert’ or ‘be less socially awkward’, neither of which were actually going to happen, let’s face it. So I settled for ‘try to meet new people’. My friend Rhi told me about this cool app called ‘Meetup’ which helps you find groups of people in your area who share interests. A lot of the groups I joined on the app have seemed too intimidating to actually meet up with, but I did join a lovely writing group, which sadly fizzled out after a few weeks, and I am hoping to join a local craft group in the next couple of weeks.

3 items completed in modified form!

 

Partially completed

4) Finish Wheel of Time

– this is Robert Jordan’s fantasy epic, with the last three books completed by Brandon Sanderson. At time of writing, I am on page 674 (of 909) of the fourteenth and final volume. At this stage, however, it is mostly long descriptions of battles and I am struggling (it’s taken me five months and counting so far). I’m sure I will get there someday, it just may not be this year…

7) try every recipe in a cookbook

– I probably should have chosen a very short cookbook, seeing as I didn’t have my own kitchen until June, but I chose one I was given for my birthday last year: Bake a Difference (a fairtrade cookbook). At time of writing, I have managed 31 out of 77 recipes, which isn’t bad going. My colleagues have greatly assisted in the eating of all the cake.

18) learn how to budget

– I wrote a budget out and stuck to it for about half of the year, with a few adjustments from when I moved into my own place to account for the extra bills and whatnot. When disstertationing took over, however, I didn’t have time to keep track of my spending and I haven’t started again since. But I know now that it is possible, and my New Year’s resolution will be to create a budget and stick to it.

27) finish Poldark books

– of all the items on the list, I think this is the one I’m most sad about not completing. I was trying to finish Wheel of Time first, which turned out to be a stupid plan. I still have three books to go in the Poldark series.

4 items partially completed!

 

Not going to happen this year/unattempted

2) visit Northern Ireland/Ireland

– I’m sad I didn’t manage to fit this in this year, as Northern Ireland is the only one of the home nations I’ve not visited. But I did make it to Edinburgh, which is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. And I’ve just got back from Barbados, which was my first time in the Caribbean. So I don’t feel too bad. Maybe next year.

10) Ride in a hot air balloon

– this one made the list because one of my friends had told me we’d be doing it for her birthday, which is before mine. But we didn’t. By the time I realised it wasn’t going to happen I had too much else going on and quickly worked out I couldn’t afford it with everything else I’ve been doing. Maybe this can go on the 40by40 list?

11) learn to make macarons

– macarons are my absolute favourite treat. I got as far as buying a cookbook, but haven’t managed to actually attempt these yet. But I have eaten A LOT of macarons anyway…

17) make a Moldova scrapbook

– last summer I went to Moldova and took loads of photos and I have been intending to put them in an album. I just haven’t had time.

20) get Dashner off of my Goodreads Most Read Author list

The Scorch Trials was hands down the WORST book I’ve read in recent years. It made me rethink my Goodreads rating policy. Goodreads ranks authors by how many books you have read, and my ‘Most-read Authors’ list currently includes authors if I have read two of their books. I assumed it would list the top 20 authors, but I currently have 29 authors at joint 35th,, on two books each. If anyone can enlighten me as to what ranking it goes up to, I would be most grateful!

5 items not attempted/completed

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So there you have it, I think we’re all up to date. And hopefully I’m going to get back into the swing of writing more often again now…

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Happy New Year – 2017!

2016-12-27-16-19-45

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.

Book Review – ‘Girls With Swords’ by Lisa Bevere


I finished reading this book this week, and I must confess I read it a bit too quickly. I intend to read it again more slowly and thoroughly in the future and I’m sure I will get a lot more from it.

I’m just starting my research for my Masters dissertation, for which I have picked the topic of Feminist Theology. As I have had a bit of a break from studying over the summer, I picked up this book to try to give myself a gentler reintroduction to academic reading, which may be why I rushed it as I was feeling guilty that I wasn’t reading something meatier…

I loved the imagery of the sword used throughout, especially the word play of God Sword/God’s Word. Most of the time it was helpful, although occasionally I lost the thread of the point Bevere was trying to make in between all of the fencing terms. I also struggled to find the practical take-aways in what she was saying, but both of these things may have been where I was rushing a bit to read it.

It did make me reflect on my reasons for writing about feminist theology. My starting point for research is that some of the traditional teaching of the church has been a factor in the oppression, or at the very least, the marginalisation of women both within the church and in wider society. We have been told that only certain types of women are pleasing to God, i.e. the silent submissive kind. This has left women open to attack in all sorts of ways, and ill-prepared to defend themselves. But there are so many examples in the Bible and in church history of women taking the lead, making a stand, teaching, preaching and bringing people closer to God. (One small criticism of the book is that Bevere mainly uses male biblical characters as examples to make her points. Though I understand why given the points she is making, and I’m happy to have male role models, I can’t help feeling that the awesome women of God in the Bible should be getting more airtime, especially from female writers).

Girls With Swords is a call to women to equip themselves with the Word of God and to speak out, in love, mercy, forgiveness and against injustice. It is a reminder that we are daughters of the King, and he has entrusted each of us with a mission. I know my rushed reading didn’t do it justice, and I intend to reread it, and also to recommend it to women everywhere who need to recognise that they are people of power too.

My favourite chapter was about the flame-bladed sword, or the sword of song. Last week a friend a church prayed that I would find a new song, and this chapter was about how when we sing praise to God it strengthens us and brings His kingdom that bit closer. One of my favourite verses in the Bible is Zephaniah 3:17, which tells us that God delights in us and sings with joy over us. The day after I read the chapter about the singing sword, I was half listening to a song on the radio when I felt suddenly sure that I needed to note the name of the band and look the song up when I got home. I don’t know if the songwriters have a faith or what the song means to them, but for me it is the song God is singing over me, and, honestly, it just makes me feel epic. It’s called Warrior Daughter and the band is Wildwood Kin, please use the link below to see the video (I’m typing this on the iPad so I’m not sure how to embed the video, sorry! I promise it is worth the click!)

https://youtu.be/SPjWuQBaUNo

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.