7 Dec 2014

More Heart Less Attack


If you follow my movements on facebook (which I know you all do) then you will know that I recently had a little jaunt to Iceland. It was a holiday to make up from my disastrous summer trip to Tenerife. And it was EPIC!

I had such a good time being chilled and just exploring another place. Here are a few pics:










Iceland is known as the land of Fire and Ice because of all the volcanoes and glaciers that they have. And I guess that in itself gave me a lot to think about. If someone is known as fiery or icy than those aren't necessarily positive descriptions. Yet Iceland is beautiful! (As hopefully you can see in the photos) It got me thinking about how even in our flaws there can be beauty. 

Iceland is pretty crazy place to live, there are live volcanoes, earthquakes, and I experienced a hurricane whilst I was there. Yet in the midst of what might have been an inhabitable land, there are places that make you stop and just breathe a bit deeper hoping that something of the rugged beauty will seep into you so that you will remember it accurately. These are times when a camera just can't capture the mix of views and feelings that they evoke. 

With regards to us, we can often be people who are unstable - like volcanoes we can lose it, like earthquakes we can have melt downs. Yet God sees us as beautiful. In spite of the risks, God still chooses us. He loves continually. He sees beyond the dangers and into what could be. The person I could be. 

That last photo is one I took just opposite the Cathedral; I spotted this little embroidered square tied to a lamp post. It's so true - more love would be better! 

On Tuesday we flew home and I went to a gig by a band called NEEDTOBREATHE 


They played a song which has been on my mind ever since. Surprise - it's called More Heart Less Attack. It's all about trying to be people who love better and attack less. You see I feel like all of this links together. I am an unstable person, we all are. We over-think, blow things out of proportion, take things personally, get defensive; yet God calls us to be people of more love. He sees the people we could be, the world this could be and says love more. Because more love would be better. 



 Have a listen.

25 Nov 2014

Blurred Vision

It could just be me, but over the last few months I have felt like I have a hundred pairs of lenses over my eyes - making life look very blurry.



Do you ever get it when you just feel like you can't see anything clearly? Like everything is an effort to think about and life just seems a bit overwhelming? I have very much felt over the last few months that my brain is full. Yes my life is full of activity, but I think my capacity to give has been clearly failing. I love to give! I love to serve. 

So why has it been so hard? 

Over the last few months I have spent quite a lot of time being introspective - definitely a new experience for me - and I've just been trying to be honest with myself about why I do what I do. I don't know if you've ever heard of this thing called "cognitive dissonance?" It's basically where we can convince ourselves that we are in the right when very clearly we are not; we all have this ability to lie to ourselves. We do it for a number of reasons; a lot of the time we want to think the best of ourselves - that we are people of high moral character. Or we don't want to face the consequences of what happens when we get it wrong. We lie to ourselves and we believe the lies. 

Now for me, for some reason I have found myself in a place where I'm recognising my own fallibility and limited capacity. For the first time I'm admitting that I can't do it all, and that that is ok. If I'm honest I have felt sadder in the last few months than ever before. Having your eyes opened to see that you are not all that is painful! 

And yet. 

I have known a deeper intimacy with God which has been something I have craved. For a long time I have wanted the joy of knowing God closer, but without admitting my own limitations and failings. I have wanted to keep believing that I am part superhero and so don't really need God, but then have the kind of relationship which requires me to desperately need God. 

Just a heads up - that doesn't work. 

God has taken me on a journey and throughout it I have really been reminded of this verse:
"Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." Isaiah 64:8


Being molded into someone that reflects God's glory is pretty painful. But if I'm honest, I don't want a mediocre life. I don't want to go through life being complacent or afraid to go through these experiences.

I started this blog way back because I wanted to be someone who celebrated adventure in the big and small things of life and even when it's difficult I want to be that person. 

I feel like slowly I am getting rid of blurry lenses and things are becoming clearer. If I want to be an authentic person who is fully known, then I need to be able to know and be honest with myself and with God - I'm realising the purpose of reality checks, the benefits of honesty and the gentle nature of God. 

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

7 Oct 2014

Love and other stuff

For those of you who read my blog consistently you will know that I am sometimes fairly sporadic in my blog post publishing. In the past this has been to do with being horrendously busy and not having time to process thoughts, but recently that has not been the case at all. 

If anything over the last few weeks I have probably had more time and opportunity to think deeply than I have in a long time. It has been wonderful! There are a number of reasons for this:

  • At work I have been told that we are aiming to "ruthlessly eliminate the hurry from our lives" - this has been taken from a book that we are reading called "Soul Keeping" by John Ortberg. I would seriously recommend this book - I am being made to only read a chapter a week and it is incredible how much more I am taking in. 
  • I have had to cut down how much I am working. For a while I have been working more than I should have been in terms of my contract, but this year I've been told to sort it out and bring it down to what it should be. It's pretty crazy how just doing that has freed up A LOT of time.
  • I have spoken to a number of wise people who have really helped to balance my thoughts and have asked the right questions.
  • For a long time I haven't valued time by myself, but I seem to be in a new season where I am becoming more ok with not being with people 24/7. Means a lot more thinking happens. 

So one of the reasons I haven't blogged in a while is that I have been thinking a lot and not sure if my thinking is fully thought out enough to put something down in words. I'm very much still in that place but I figured I'd catch you guys up a bit so you know where my heads been. 

I've been asking the question:
How far should you love someone?

I guess I have always been quite a people person and as such have made a number of friends. As is inevitable some have hurt me. Now my natural response is to want to tell them to piss off, retreat, build a wall and keep myself safe. But as a Christian that doesn't sit well with me. I mean you don't see Jesus blanking Peter after the denial do you. 

But on the flip side I am also reticent to put myself out there to be hurt over and over - how far is too far? As a Christian is there ever a too far?

I have had a number of conversations with people about this and would appreciate further input because I don't have any answers yet. I am inclined to think that there must be a middle ground to retreating or being hurt repeatedly. But trying to work out what that is and what it looks like is taking a while and I think I'm on a journey of self discovery as I'm working it out. 

I've been recommended a couple of books to read so as and when I learn something or make any progress on knowing any answers I'll be back.

In the mean time I'm enjoying taking life at a slightly slower pace - it's good for the soul. 

3 Sep 2014

Weird Taste

Today I went back to work. Mentally I felt like I had been away a lot longer than two and half weeks! Which I guess is a good thing as I genuinely hadn't really thought about work until Monday when I realised that the return was creeping up on me. 

My annual leave had a bit of a weird taste to it this year. 

I probably was the saddest I have been in a long time, but then also had some of the most meaningful moments I've had in a long time too. 


My Grandad died on Wednesday 20th August. I was on holiday by myself at the time and to be honest the news came as a shock. Generally you never think that the last time you see someone is going to be the last time. I had known for a long time that my Grandad wasn't very well but I hadn't necessarily known how serious it was or how quickly he would deteriorate. Having had time to reflect it probably was for the best, he was sick, wasn't getting any better and was becoming more and more of a drain and burden for my Nanna. However, when grieving those kind of facts don't really matter. It doesn't stop the realisation that they won't be available for a quick coffee or to tell you stories about the war. 

In addition to this sad news I got very ill. I don't really know how to describe what I had because I was a bit of a medical mystery - no one knew what was wrong. But essentially my skin blistered and rolled away leaving bare flesh - so my face, neck, arms and torso were incredibly sore. Being ill and sad on your own in another country is possibly the worst thing ever. I strongly do not recommend it!

(not the most flattering photo that's ever been taken of me)
So that part of my annual leave wasn't particularly restful; however, on returning to the UK not only did I get to spend some quality time with my family, but I also had some time to just chill knowing that I was on the mend. It meant that I got to catch up with some very caring friends who came to visit me and was able to spend time not feeling stressed. 

I went back to work today and to be honest I was ready to. I love having time off but there is something particularly comforting about having a structure and being able to operate within that frame. I've blogged before about how I struggle when I'm not in control and obviously people dying and getting sick sometimes just isn't within the sphere I have influence over. I feel like coming back to work has given me a chance to take a breath and remind myself that things are ok. 

Because I am actually really excited about this coming year. I am getting a new team, I have new ideas and am wanting to impart some fresh wisdom. It's easy to spend time wallowing but to be honest life is just too short and I want to make the most of the time I have coming up, rather than moping. 

This sunset is a picture I took whilst on holiday - I love sunsets, I feel like they both inspire me with the fact that today has been beautiful but also excite me with the fact that tomorrow will be good too. 

28 Aug 2014

Tenerife: a poem

Looming mountains
Sandy beaches
Rocky beaches
Blue day skies
Blue, starry night skies
Skulking cats
Sweet, melting ice cream
Visiting Church
Lazy movements 
Exploring
Hunting bus stops
Attempting Spanish
Incredible scenery 
Sandy body
Sangria
Whirring fan
Isolation
Sleeping naked
Morning dawn calls
Inexpressible grief
Silent tears
Books
Paranoia
Strong black coffee
Sunglasses 
Body blister sores
Pain
Foreign clinic
Self conscious 
New eyes

I haven't written poetry since school so don't judge this attempt. I don't think I can write in prose about my recent holiday yet but I wanted to express something of it. This hopefully gives you an idea.

14 Aug 2014

Hurt - a learning curve

So the general theme of the last few posts I have written have been about me dealing with the shifting of seasons, change, loneliness, and feeling sad. It's been kind of weird to deal with those emotions in a relatively public way through this blog and through speaking with people, but I've felt like speaking and being open has helped overall.

I'm an extremely external processor - I generally need to talk things through to work out what I'm thinking. Part of my issue recently has been that the normal people I would do that with haven't been as available. This has been good and challenging. Good in that I've been able to develop friendships with some new people, challenging in that I've struggled to communicate with those whose actions have impacted me.

Something I've been thinking about for a while now following some conversations is how when you are hurt you are more likely to hurt others. You see I wrote those posts from my own stand point, articulating my own emotions, thinking about how hurt and sad I was. I didn't think through how my words could possibly hurt others. It wasn't even on my radar. Like I genuinely was so obsessed with my own feelings that I just splurged them all out without thinking of those who would read/hear them. 

In doing this, I hurt people. People who love me and who have been totally brilliant at loving me and being my friends. You see my intention never was to aim my posts at people and say "you're doing a crap job", it was much more to say "lots of things are going on and I feel rubbish". But that's the thing, I know my head, other people don't. 

Out of my hurt I didn't think through my actions. I hurt people.


Friends of mine took some of my words to heart that they weren't doing enough to be good friends to me. Yes I could dismiss this and say "you misunderstood, that wasn't what I was saying". But I think there are lessons to learn here. 

When I was in that place of being all sad and feeling sorry for myself, I was only thinking about myself. I was selfish and distracted from loving others. Yes I was dealing with my own emotions and that is important. But it came at a price. You see I think it is crucial to understand yourself and know where you are at as much as possible, but I also think we are called to love God and love people. 

It has made me realise some of the perils of using a blog to process emotion - in conversation you can explain exactly what you are thinking and how you mean something, in written form that isn't completely possible - there is room for interpretation, which means sometimes people can be hurt by my words. 

But most of all it's made me realise how being hurt isn't an excuse to be self indulgent. In my hurt I'm still called to love people well and be someone that brings life and truth - not someone who makes people doubt themselves. 

Learning curve. 

24 Jul 2014

Taking Control

So over the last few weeks I have been feeling a bit like:

"Argh I am just coasting through life, am I wasting my time?!"
"Should I be doing something different because this is not what I imagined I would be doing?"
"How am I already 26 and I still don't know what God wants to use me for?"

So I decided that I would make a few little changes to feel like I am more in control of what is going on. The biggest one being that I shaved the back of my head...


I have been wanting to do something a little crazy for a while. My thinking was either, tattoo (which lasts forever), facial piercings (which can scar/get infected) or something hair related. 
Originally I was thinking something like this:

However, I spoke to a lot of people and the consensus was that I probably couldn't pull it off. Plus it would take A LOT of maintenance and work in the mornings. 

So I decided to go with something that essentially is SUPER safe and yet quite a big thing. I mean I have shaved the back of my head! It feels amazing. Like I spend a lot of time stroking my head. And in this heat it is wonderful to have a breeze on the back of your head. 

The benefits are that from the front and when my hair is down you can't tell anything! So if I have any official engagements I can look vaguely respectable. 


The down sides are that not everyone likes it - my brother's comment was "Nai that looks horrible!" Ha - innocent, harsh truth. 

But to be honest I think part of this is me getting over what people think. Too much I have not done things because I'm worried about what people will think of me. If I'm going to make the most of this life I need to get over that.

I love this quote from George Eliot - it encourages me to not give up already.


Taking control a little bit at a time.


23 Jul 2014

Unfailing

The last few posts I have written have been pretty depressing and just re-reading them now you would be forgiven for thinking that I was wallowing in a pit of despair. However, I'm not! My mum asked me why I put my thoughts/feelings out here for the world to read, she was worrying that I was exposing too much of myself. I guess to some extent I am exposing myself - I am saying what's really going on. But I do that because I don't want people to have some unrealistic expectation of who I actually am. I'm not someone who has everything worked out and who is able to be happy all the time. I'm someone who is just trying to work out what I was created to do/be. I guess I am trying to show that if you are feeling down sometimes, you aren't on your own.

Saying that, these last few weeks I have been feeling a whole lot better. Having a bit more of a work life balance is helping. Seeing people who are good for me is definitely helping and knowing myself and how I tick is opening my eyes as to why I think the way I do. 

I have been reading the book of Proverbs in the Bible and was struck by part of a verse:


My translation reads: "What a person desires is unfailing love..." and it struck me because it is so true. One of the reasons I was getting frustrated is because I want people who put me first, who don't cancel on me, who ring me up and meet up for dinner with me. I want people who speak good things to me and about me. 

Whilst I do know a number of people who do a pretty good job of loving me - upon reflection I was just really aware of how, as people, our love does fail. We desire unfailing love but we are unable to give it. I cannot be 100% unselfish 100% of the time. I mess up. I say and do things that I don't mean and later regret. I don't think of others all the time. Even when I'm really trying I don't get it right. 

But I guess it made me all the more aware of how our desire for unfailing love is met in Jesus. His love for us truly does not fail. Like even when we feel at our lowest or farthest, his love is still readily there. I desire to be loved unconditionally and God does that. I love the verse in Romans where it says "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). God didn't wait for me to love him before he loved me - God has always and will always love me. His love is unfailing. 

Most of the time I cannot get my head around that. I base my understanding on what I know of the world, and lets me honest if you annoy someone and don't listen to them there is a limit to how much love they will have for you. But God isn't like anything I know. A lot of the time I feel totally unworthy that God would love me - despite knowing all of the stuff I have done and continue to do, he still loves me. But the fact that he does means that I can trust him. And that helps a lot when I feel alone. I desire unfailing love, and I have a God who is able to satisfy that desire.

1 Jul 2014

Moving forward...very slowly

Just want to say thanks to people who got in touch after the last post - really felt the love and it helped in not feeling so alone, knowing that other people get it. 

Since that post a number of things have happened:
  • I've had quite a few conversations with people about how I've been feeling. This has helped quite a bit as I am an external processor and part of the issue was that I was struggling to find people to talk to who would help me work out what I was thinking.
  • I've had some time to think. Admittedly not loads, but I've been able to think and think a bit more rationally. I am someone who generally over thinks and has an overactive imagination, so I think through a lot of "what-ifs" even though in reality some of them are ridiculous.
  • I've had some people be brutally honest (in love) with me about how I cannot be as selfish as I currently am. Other people's lives do not revolve around me. Obviously I wish they did - if I'm honest I wish that people did take my feelings into account before making decisions and life choices. But that is unrealistic and unreasonable to expect. 
  • I've been able to connect with people who are in similar places in life and chat through the fear element of being left behind.

Coming out of all that I've had some thoughts about how I want to move forward. This isn't at all to say I've got it nailed down, and even this evening I've had a little cry because of feeling excluded, but I do not want to stay in this sad, lonely, unsure place. It sucks and it steals all of my joy and I don't like it. Here are some ideas:

  1. Remembering what it is that God has said a) about me, and b) to me. God doesn't think I'm a loser, or that there is stuff wrong with me. He says I am wonderfully made and precious to him. He has also said he has a plan for my life, and while I really wish I knew what that was, I can trust that he knows and he knows best.
  2. Remembering that people value me for me. I don't have to keep up and do what everyone else is doing. Hopefully my friends like me for who I am - no matter what stage of life I'm in.
  3. Things change. They just do. And yea it sucks. I have always struggle with the idea of change because I have had issues making real friends. All through growing up and into adulthood I have had a lot of people I would consider to be friends, but barely any who I actually consider to be close and who I can be totally honest with. So it sucks when those few then aren't as available as before. It does make me feel replaced and like I don't matter. But people don't have to base their lives on my feelings. I know that this is a season and that I will make new friends and get close to other people. Does it make this season any easier, no. Does it give me hope that I won't feel like this forever, yes.
  4. Talking is better than not talking. I think part of me is programmed to not want to look like I struggle. I'm a manager, a youth worker, an independent woman, and a lot of the time I want to look like I've got it together. I don't want to be vulnerable with people because it's risky. What happens if they don't get it? But the more I talk the more I realise other people have been there and can help. Other people are sometimes in it and are looking for people to help them through. Not talking isolates, whereas talking tends to open things up.
  5. Crying isn't bad. I have cried so flipping much these last few weeks. I hate it because it makes me feel out of control. Like I don't have a handle on how people see me. I think I have put a pressure on myself to always be ok. I can have bad days, but I should be fine because that's what people expect. At the moment I am not fine. The tears remind me. And it's ok. Not going to lie I am defo not enjoying this. But actually coming to terms with where I am at is positive and recognising that it's alright to not be ok and need other people is not a weakness. We have been created for community and too often I try to do life as a Lone Ranger. Crying reminds me that it's ok to be in this place.
From reading this I hope you don't think I'm messed up. I blog a lot of the time because I find it helpful to articulate feelings so I can process where I'm at. My hope is that the process resonates with others and helps us all to feel like we're not on our own. 



21 Jun 2014

Coping

I know things have been a bit quiet recently - sorry for that. I haven't intentionally not been writing, it all comes down to me feeling sad and not necessarily knowing how to articulate it. These last few days I've had a bit more space to think - hence this post. 

For the last two weeks I've been feeling pretty overwhelmed and sad. To the point where there has been spontaneous uncontrollable crying, lack of sleep and appetite. Why? Well everything is changing. You might not know but apparently I don't deal with change very well. In fact I hate change. 

I had forgotten about how much I hate change, but today I was reminded of when my best friend Naomi got married. I was a bridesmaid.
I was so incredibly happy for her to get married - she was marrying one of my other best friends so it was a very joyous occasion! But as soon as they had both left the reception I cried SO much. Marriage means change. I do not like change. Change that I am not in control of. 

At the moment a number of things are changing in my life:
  • Work - a number of my friends are leaving XLP in July. I am gutted to see them go because they are so quality; but I am more scared about their replacements and what they will be like. With lots of people going it makes me think "should I be going too?" and wondering if I am getting left behind. 
  • Friends - a number of my friends are being hit with the summer dating bug and have paired up. Obviously I am really happy for them! But it also changes dynamics and expectations. I really don't want to be the third wheel.
  • Babies - I love babies and a number have been born in recent weeks which is ace. But with that also means changes in socialising and relationships. I don't want to invade families.
When I break it down changes make me feel
  1. Lonely - because I don't necessarily feel I have people I can just offload to. 
  2. Scared - because I don't know what's going to happen next, what happens if there aren't new people to make friends with and then I am just alone?
  3. Powerless - I can't control other people, but their actions affect me. 
I really don't deal with change well. 


The thing is a lot of my sadness is irrational. It's not like I'm necessarily losing friends, but relationships change. I'm scared that everyone is sorting out their lives and I am being left behind because that isn't happening for me. I hate feeling lonely. 

In the midst of this God has been talking to me quite a lot. Mainly about how he is the rock, he doesn't change, he is dependable and the same yesterday, today and forever. But also about how the control needs to be his anyway - I find change scary because I don't know what's coming next, but God promises to guide me and lead me in things that are good for me. 

There is hope in the midst of this - I am learning more of God's character and hopefully he is using this situation to mold me and make me more into the person he wants me to be. Someone who trusts in him, someone who turns to him before anyone else, someone who relinquishes control and follows his plan.

"Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." Isaiah 64:8


2 Jun 2014

Look Up

It's June already, where has this year gone?!

I have just got back from a holiday to Spain. It was pretty epic. Lots of sun, sea, sand and chillaxing. Just what I needed. I went for the week with my parents and youngest brother to an area of Spain called Roda de Bara, about 45 mins South of Barcelona. 

It was a week of rest and quality time. I spent a lot of my time reading, sunbathing and playing table tennis (not all at the same time). 


One of the days we made a visit to Port Aventura. Its a theme park just south of town called Tarragona and it has the highest rollercoaster in all of Europe. Now I wouldn't say I am much of an adrenaline junkie, I like rollercoasters but am not too fussed either way. But there was no way I was going to visit this theme park and not complete that ride. I thought you might want to see what it was like - so here is a little video.


It was terrifying. As I slowly went up all I was thinking was, "why did I get on this? I'm not going to like it. This is not going to be fun". However, in true rollercoaster fashion, it took my breath away. Yes it was terrifying and yes my stomach has probably been left there (along with some brain cells), but it was also incredible! 

The next day we went to Barcelona and one of the places we visited was the Cathedral. It was a huge building and inside there were loads of little side chapels with statues, sculptures or pictures to look at. The building was very grand and there was so much going on at eye level that I almost missed looking up. The ceiling was pretty epic.
 

The photo totally does not do it justice. I love looking at ceilings, because as much as buildings are cool, a good ceiling to me just shows going above and beyond. Also I find it insane how tall buildings are (maybe its because I'm so short?). A couple years ago I went to Rome and saw Michelangelo's work in the Sistine Chapel. Crazy to think he spent four years painting a ceiling! In the same way at this Cathedral I was wondering how long it took to finish the interior. 

It also struck me that so many people might just miss the thing that made me stop and take pictures. There was loads of other things to see and it would be easy to not glance up and miss the intricacy and workmanship above your head. 

Having a holiday also gave me some good thinking time and I was mulling on how in life its easy to just get on with what is in front of you. It's easy to get into routines and make friends and get comfortable. It's pretty easy to do all of that without necessarily looking up and asking God if that's what he wants. You see when I was on that rollercoaster at the start, all I could do was look up. I was facing the sky for what felt like forever. But I couldn't see anything else to distract me from the task in hand. I wasn't concerned with details, I was concerned with the main reason I was there. 

For me, I know I can get so easily side tracked - in conversation, in work, in life. I forget what the main thing is. What am I supposed to be doing? Why am I here? And instead I get bogged down in lots of things that can be and are good, but aren't necessarily what God wants me to focus on. Like I can be enjoying the room, but missing the masterpiece of a ceiling. 

I don't want to do that. I don't want to miss what God is doing, both in me and around me. I think I've been reminded that I only get to live this life once and so I want to make the most of it. I know I am at my best and most fulfilled when I'm in step with what God is doing. So it makes sense to check in, look up and make sure I'm not missing the good stuff.



21 May 2014

Kiddiwinks

Wherever I look at the moment I am being bombarded by interactions either with kids or about them. I'm at the stage of life where a number of my friends are having or have kids - friends at Church, friends at work, friends on our road, school friends, uni friends...etc. And I love it! I love little kids - they are so hilarious and despite the incredible amount of energy you need to have to look after them, they bring a crazy amount of joy. 

I love being part of a Church and having friends who live close by who I can watch and support as they tackle the parenting adventure. Lets be honest, it is a massive learning curve! Bringing up a child is a huge responsibility, especially in a climate where more young people than ever feel unable to cope with life. 

Living in London is a real mixed bag. I love the diversity, the activity, the community. I do not love the poverty, the abuse, the neglect. Now I know these issues affect people from all strands of society; however, I especially struggle when they happen to vulnerable children. On a daily basis I probably see a child being treated in a way that I worry about. Whether its a 6 year old playing outside on their own near busy roads, or a toddler being screamed at by a parent for no good reason. Now I don't want to judge at all - I don't know what it's like being a parent. I don't know the daily grind of kids winding you up or sleep deprivation. But I do know that research has proven that children need a number of things to succeed in life.

  • Stability - having routines; access to shelter, food and essential amenities; a consistent family environment.
  • Boundaries - knowing where they stand, not having erratic expectations. 
  • Quality time with adults - intentional time of quality interaction.
  • Opportunities to have new experiences - chances to take risks, safe places to fail and learn. 
  • Positive affirmation - being told that they can achieve, believe in themselves etc

If I'm honest I look at the communities I live and work in and a lot of families are broken. I look at some of the kids and they do not have any of the above list. 

Working for a youth-work charity I see how young people struggle to communicate positively with adults because they have had few opportunities to. I see young people reluctant to try new things because they are afraid of failing. I see young people who have messed up home lives and trust issues. I see the impact of a young person not knowing that they are loved. 

It makes me think.

As a member of my community I have a responsibility to help and support parents and children in whatever way I can. Whether its by babysitting or going out for a drink with parents, or by giving up time to go and help parents during the day. I would love there to be a day where youth workers are no longer needed. Where young people feel so loved and cared for by their families and communities that my job just doesn't exist. 

However, in the meantime I want to be someone who has time for children. As a Christian I take Jesus' example pretty seriously - he prioritised spending time with children.
 "But Jesus said, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children." Matt 19:14

Below is a video about a girl that XLP has been working with for about 2-3 years now - I'm not putting it up to plug XLP, but rather to show the impact that comes from having people that believe in you.



17 May 2014

HTB Leadership Conference

The May Bank Holiday was a brilliant weekend for me for a number of reasons. 

#1. It was my friend's 30th birthday and we had planned a surprise weekend away at a converted barn in the middle of countryside just north of London in a place called Hitchin. It was a fantastic weekend, super chilled, beautifully sunny and with some quality friends.

#2. Then on the Bank Holiday Monday and Tuesday I was lucky enough to have tickets to visit the HTB Leadership Conference at the Royal Albert Hall. It was so inspiring. A bit like a breath of fresh air in the midst of the droll of daily life. Imagine learning and worshiping with 7000 other people in one room! It looked a bit like this -



There were a number of things that challenged me. Having had a chance to reflect over all that I have heard and experienced I will try to relay some of the ways that God was speaking to me. 
  • I was reminded of God's faithful character. If you have ever read the Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis you might recall that one of the ways that the devils try to undermine God's plan is by making Christians think they are fine with God, when actually they are slowly drifting away. Well I think that for me it has been easy to think that because I work for Christian charity and take part in corporate prayer all the time, that I am fine with God. Obviously it takes more of an active engagement on my part and this conference reminded me of how faithful God is at calling us back to himself. 
  • I was challenged about how much I trust God. Kay Warren, wife of Rick Warren who wrote The Purpose Drive Life and leads a big church called Saddleback in California shared a message that was so powerful I have just been speaking to everyone about it. There was too much goodness in there for me to type it all out so you can watch the whole thing for yourselves 
  • My faith and expectancy levels were raised. In short, my housemate has been suffering with a trapped nerve in a neck/spine and for the last 4 weeks has been in varying levels of pain. At the time of the conference I had a stiff neck too. During the conference there were opportunities for people to have prayer for healing and despite my neck injury being ridiculously non-serious, I really felt like I should go and get prayer for it. As I was being prayed for my neck really wasn't feeling any better but I just had a sense that my housemate's would be improving. And it was true! The pain she was experiencing significantly improved over those days. 
One of the things I found pretty inspiring was just hearing from normal people that God was using in pretty incredible ways. It just reminded me that when we are obedient to God he can use us to do more than we ever imagined. 

I would really recommend listening to talks or going to this conference yourself - it is well spent money!



20 Apr 2014

God At Work

It's been all quiet on the blogging front for a few weeks. Believe me, not for lack of things to say - never! But more that life has been pretty jam-packed and blogging just hasn't been up there as a priority.

As a brief overview this is what I have got up to:

  • I had a weekend away with kids at a place called Macaroni Woods. We took 12 kids from one the estates I work on to go and experience the joys of Oxfordshire. It was a glorious weekend, lots of sun and adventures, however very little sleep. Thankfully the weekend allowed us to have some quality conversations and to deepen relationships. God is good.
  • The following weekend I had a quick trip to the Design Museum in Tower Bridge, a birthday party and then trained down to Tunbridge Wells for a little surprise for Mothers Day. I found out that my Grandad hadn't been very well and was in hospital. Thankfully I managed to go and visit him; he's home now, but that visit was pretty crap - he didn't know where he was, who I was really or why he was in the hospital. Getting old is rubbish. However, since then I have had opportunities to speak to him about God and that hasn't happened ever.
  • Planning and then going to Spring Harvest. I was heading up the 11-14s venue "Distinctive" for the first time and it was flipping amazing! Beforehand people were asking me how I was feeling about it all and I felt pretty unprepared and nervous as I really didn't want the week to flop. However, God was incredible. Not only did I get to see young people become Christians, but I also saw young people get healed, healing others, having words and being released from all host of things. I saw God use my team and myself and it was just awesome.
  • In between all of this I have actually been working with XLP too. I have continued to do lunch clubs, youth clubs, bus sessions, girls groups and mentoring...as well as line management with my team. It's been a busy few weeks!
In the last few weeks I just feel like God has been doing something in me. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but I just know that he's at work. It's exciting. Love the adventure.


19 Mar 2014

Invisible

I don't know if you have ever been tempted to do something a little crazy? Something that maybe you would never normally do, but in extreme circumstances you think "yea ok, why not". 

Well, yesterday I did something a little crazy. 

I have started playing netball on Tuesdays and yesterday by some miracle we won our game against the team that was top of the league - we won with only 6 players (there are 7 players on a team on the court at all times), it literally was insane! I don't think I've ever run as much as I did last night. 

But after that I was supposed to be going for dinner. Now, attractive as I naturally am, I didn't think turning up in pretty minging, sweaty clothes was probably going to do me any favours. I was going directly from the game to the restaurant and so I had limited time/scope to change, but I knew I really should make a bit of an effort. 

So I did something a bit crazy: I changed clothes on the bus. 

Yea, I went upstairs right to the back and changed out of a sweaty tracksuit into some jeans and clean clothes.

Now, this would have been fine; really it would have been fine - it was quite an empty bus. However, two things happened to make this not fine.

  1. This bus happened to have a rare ticket inspection half way through my journey. So as I was about to whip my trackies off, an inspector came and checked my ticket. Pretty awkward. However, not as awkward as...
  2. The fact I forgot that the back seat on the upper deck has like 2 cameras on it that are displayed as part of a rotation on a TV screen downstairs. So as I descended to alight the bus, I got a few claps...yea. AWKWARD.
I was thinking about this and how sometimes we can do things thinking we won't be seen. Like I would never have done that if I had (thought it through) known that cameras were watching me! But it made me think about the things I do/think when I feel like no one sees. 

Like the times when I secretly judge people on appearance or accent. Or the times when I let my mind wander to sex or lust - things that I know are not healthy for me to think about. 

On Sunday I heard a sermon and something that the speaker said has stayed with me this week. He said "God is our Saviour, but he is also our Judge" - he was saying that in the context of how God has done so much for us, he has chosen us, adopted us, forgiven us, empowered us, released us (and loads more); but how for us to fully appreciate all of that it requires a response. It means we need to change how we live to honour God. Of course we will never get it 100% right, but God sees the heart and sees our intentions. 

I think sometimes I forget that God sees everything. Just like on that bus I forgot that people could see me. There is nothing I can hide from God. That is both a little scary (I can't hide anything from God), but also hugely freeing. God sees EVERYTHING. But yet he still has chosen me and loves me! WOW. Sometimes we want to hide our brokenness, guilt and inner-ugliness from God, but he sees through all of that, all of the crap we carry, and sees Jesus in us. 

For me it was a bit of a shake-up, I can't hide things from God - not even the things in my head. But I can ask for his help in making me to be more like him.
"For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." Ecclesiastes 12:14


16 Mar 2014

Community

In the past if you have read this blog you will know that I talk a fair bit about community and the importance of it. It helps with feeling valued, like you belong and gives you an increased sense of identity and purpose. 

Well I have been trying to invest in the community I find myself in by:
  1. Actively engaging with my (actual next-door, or on my road) neighbours - great banter from Maurice next door!
  2. Joining a netball team to meet new people and widen my community - loving the girls, and the games.
  3. Being committed to my Church mid-week community group - doing life with these guys every week. 
This week at my community group I was leading a part of it. Every week we eat together, pray, worship, share what God might be saying and take communion. Its a pretty relaxed affair and I always leave being pleased that I went.

Last Wednesday I decided to run a little exercise that I learnt from my friends over at XLP. We took part in the "Cup of Kindness".


For anyone getting worried it's not a weird occulty thing. Essentially, everyone gets a post-it and writes their name and something they would like prayer for on it. It goes into the cup and then everyone pulls a name out. Then we went around the room and when it was your turn you had to encourage/praise the person who you had pulled out of the cup and pray for them. The idea is then that everyone has an opportunity to jump in and encourage that person too and then for that one person you pray for them for the whole week. 

Now, before when I had done this it had always been in quite small groups of people who knew each other quite well - I wasn't exactly sure how this was going to go down as within our group (there's anything between 10-20 of us) there are people who I know really well and those who are still at the start of the friendship journey. But it was such a fruitful and uplifting time. 

Sometimes being honest about what you like about someone else not only does wonders for their self-esteem, but also for yours as you can see you are making an impact. Community only can go as far as the people within it will let it. Genuine community is about sharing life, the ups and downs, hopes and fears, weirdness and insecurities. That can only start when you really feel like people like you! 

I know that for me I have spent a large part of my life working or manipulating situations so that people like me. It's sometimes hard to believe that people will genuinely like me for me. The real, weird, over-the-line, energetic, possibly-too-much, me. I struggle with myself sometimes, even I find me annoying! But yet, in trying to be real, and the mess that comes with that, I have entered into real community. Where I can be honest about my fears and failures, where my uniqueness is celebrated and where I am encouraged to be myself. 

Last week I met up with a friend of mine who I have nick-named "Queen of Encouragement" because EVERY time we catch up I leave feeling like my spirit is soaring. Now not only did she buy me coffee and cake, but she encouraged the socks off of me. Being surrounded by people who can and WILL do that is a totally blessed place to be in. But it's where anyone wanting to grow in faith and living for Christ should be. If you want to grow you have to be in fertile soil; soil that is going to help and is full of nutrients. The people you associate with are either a blessing or a drain, there is limited middle ground. You need to make sure you have a good balance to spur you on. For me, I've been challenged; am I a blessing to those around me? Do I build them up? 

I'll stop with this verse:
"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another" Hebrews 10:23-25

11 Mar 2014

Becoming a follower

So it's been a week since my last post and I just feel like loads has happened. It feels far longer than 7 days. I wanted to give an overview of what's been going on and a couple lessons learnt.

This week has seen the commencement of 40 Acts which I wrote about in my last post - it's an opportunity to live Lent generously, to think of others and bless them rather than try to legalistically give something up. So far I have been challenged to:

  • Start a journal with a post about all the things I am thankful for
  • Begin a generosity jar (I used a Loyd Grossman jar and tweeted him about what I was doing and it started a little convo about my favourite Loyd Grossman sauces! Random)
  • Use the gifts I have to bless someone (I used my gift of encouragement to praise some people)
  • Connect with people I come into contact with on a regular basis - I started a chat with the builders opposite
  • Actively be thankful - I went and said thank you to my train driver on the way to work
  • and today's was to think about the spheres of influence you have and share something positive with one of them...I'm hoping this post will count!
I am loving the challenges to think more, have space to reflect and then actively do something positive. Tomorrows challenge is to connect with someone properly. Like not through a random text or email but actually talk to them. My friend Rachel over at Dreaming of the Country has already shot-gunned a call from me! (But let me know if you want one too!)

As well as that this week I went to this incredible event called "WEDAY" at Wembley Arena. I was taking kids from work to what had been described to me as a "youth empowerment event". However, it was incredible. Some phenomenal speakers came and spoke to kids about being positive change in their communities - Al Gore, Spencer West, Malala Yousafzai, Martine Wright and Richard Branson. As well as some epic performances from artists like Jennifer Hudson, Dizzie Rascal and Ellie Goulding. My highlight was definitely listening to Malala speak - she was incredible. For someone who has gone through the kid of experiences she has and to still be so articulate about the issues surrounding education for all, I was mindblown (and in tears!) Also getting to be in the same room as Prince Harry was pretty epic!


On Saturday we had our XLP Lewisham Arts Showcase Rehearsal which was amazing as usual - so fantastic to see young people encouraging and helping each other to improve. This Saturday for the real deal is going to be insanely good. (check it out here)

Then on Sunday it was SUCH A BEAUTIFUL day! I spent the day surrounded by friends, enjoying the sun, being very chilled. Loved it. 

Last but not least - you may or may not know that I recently have joined a netball team with the intention of making some new friends as well as putting those competitive Allen genes to good use. Its a team of 9 strangers who have all signed up just to play and make new friends - and we are doing well! Played 3, won 3! 

But it's kind of strange. I noticed it this evening; I am so used to being in charge that I can get a little bossy. I have posted in the past about how I have often found myself in positions of leadership without really knowing how it happened. But I am now in a place where actually I need to be reminded of how to be a good follower. I am by no means the best player on the team, or the most vocal (surprisingly!), and it is quite a challenge to step back and let others take control. But if I am trying to be more like Jesus and he says that he did not come to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45) 

Think I'm still at the start of this journey...watch this space!

4 Mar 2014

Lent-a-rosity

Today I have already enjoyed pancakes. Shrove Tuesday, the day where you traditionally use up ingredients from your cupboard in preparation to fast from luxury foods during Lent. Now Lent is supposed to be a time where you examine yourself in the run up to Easter, to make sure that your life is in line with where God wants it to be. 

In the past I have enjoyed the opportunity to give something up in order to focus more on God and listen to him. Whether it's been facebook, chocolate, coffee or cake - all have given solid chances to engage more with God - especially when you are surrounded with people who haven't given those things up. 

However this year I wanted to do something different - and then I stumbled across this:


(click on it)

Basically 40 Acts is a challenge to live Lent generously. It's run by a Christian Charity called Stewardship which aims to make giving easy for people. So much of the time I can think about giving and only think of money, but this initiative is excellent at helping you to think outside of the box in terms of how I can give of myself. 

If you read my last post I was talking about how some of the time I feel like I don't have much to offer because my resources are low. Well this is an inspiring way to give in a way that doesn't deplete resources, but that actually blesses you too! 

Everyday you get emailed a link to a blog/thought for the day and are set a little challenge - each challenge is an act of generosity. The hope is that after 40 days you will have built generosity into your life and will continue to act generously after Easter. 

I am pretty excited for this to be honest - I so easily can run out of creativity, but this is a resource that is easy to access (you can like them on facebook, follow on twitterpinterest or instagram, or sign up to their youtube channel) and encouraging as loads of people are doing it all over the country (maybe the world?!). 

So, if you fancy it, join me! I'll probably be blogging about my experiences so you might as well give it a go too.