29 Aug 2013

Chill Time

The last few months my life has felt a bit like a round bale of hay hurtling down a hill with no way to slow down or take stock. Sure I've had days here and there but I guess it's the image of putting your phone on charge and waiting for it just to be charged enough to carry on rather than having a full battery. I've been running on just enough for a long time. And to be honest I've been exhausted, physically, emotionally, spiritually.

Being a youth worker is hugely rewarding, but its also massively draining. Patience, energy and always being flexible is costly and there are times when it's literally all I can do to get through a day of sessions. Don't get me wrong I love my job, but its hard! Being responsible and managing people is difficult and at times horrible. 

BUT I have just had a little holiday and its been amazing. 

Like seriously so restful and refreshing. I went to spend a few days with some of my friends Tom, Naomi and Malcolm at Tom's parents farm. It was so fun! I know these guys from university (in fact I've written gushing posts about all of them in the past), and they are the type of people that know loads about me and we can just tease each other and laugh together. We had SUCH a chilled time. 

Highlights included:

  • Staying up late in pj's everyone talking in my room
  • Strolling down country lanes
  • Enjoying Tom's Mum's cooking
  • Feeding the horse
  • Watching Tom's whole family have a family photo
  • Mooching through antique shops
  • Tasting amaretto and cranberry for the first time
  • Laughing at everything
  • Becoming a wasp ninja...or rather watching Tom dish out wasp wrath 
  • Getting stuck in all the traffic ever.
  • Singing to Moulin Rouge, Mamma Mia and Christmas cds
  • Basking in the sun

I feel that even after only a few days, catching up on sleep and being in some fresh clean air has totally rejuvenated my soul. 

photo courtesy of Nom and Malc at Mustard Yellow Photography

25 Aug 2013

London to Brighton Torture

I have been very encouraged by how people have really got behind me with regards to this cycling challenge. Already I have smashed the target of £300 set for me by XLP - anything beyond this is bonus! So if you want to donate anything please go here

Yesterday I continued with my training by doing a London to Brighton bike ride with some of  the team from Moonpig. 60 miles in the rain. And not like a little drizzle, at times it was proper downpour - I was so SO soaked! I was wearing my raincoat and it got drenched through so for a good 50% of the ride I was pretty cold. 

BUT I did it. I had to get off and walk some of Ditchley Beacon which is a KILLER hill just outside of Brighton. After you've cycled about 54 miles the last thing you want is a long steep hill. Apart from that I rode the whole way on the hybrid bike I cycle around London. 

I'm not going to lie, I found the day incredibly difficult. The rain made everything heavier and more horrible, plus I was riding a bike that's great for a few miles around Lewisham but for long distances is heavy, clunky and not quite in the best of conditions. The first 30 miles were fine, but after that it was up and down and I genuinely was praying as I went that God wouldn't let me fall into any cars/tractors that over took me. 

Good news is that I was cycling with some really experienced people who were brilliant at telling me what I need to sort out before the real deal. Also they've done the big one before and told me that yesterday was harder than any 1 of the days we'll be doing over the 4; just because it was so so hilly. 

Also I am hiring a road bike for the real thing - and having ridden one before and feeling how different it is and how much smoother the ride is I am feeling confident that I'll survive the big one. 

Today though I am in pain - mainly in my right leg joint, it's super painful to lift my leg. Everywhere else is ok, bit achey but not too bad. I think this is just a foretaste of the pain that is to come....!

22 Aug 2013

XLP Camp

If you know me or have ever read the "About Me" section on this blog you should know that I work for a Christian Youth Work Charity called XLP. I have done for the past 2 years in the role of Senior Youth Worker for Lewisham Borough. 

XLP does a variety of forms of youth work ranging from mentoring to football coaching, in lesson support to arts showcases. One of our core summer activities is to take young people we have worked with over the year away to Dorset for a 4 night camping/activity adventure. 

I have just got back from one on Monday and it was a blast! 

The aim is to take young people who might not otherwise get out of London, or young people who we want to build deeper relationships with, and give them opportunities to take part in activities they might never done before. 

This year we did: Tunnelling, Mountain Biking, Archery, Dragon Boating, Big Swing and had a trip to the beach. 

It's pretty interesting watching how kids react to various things. I mean they are teenagers so they moan A LOT. Generally about waking up, being hungry and not wanting to do anything which exerts energy. Each day to wake them up we had a car blasting out different songs - which almost definitely got stuck in my head for the rest of the day. They were amazed at the lack of chicken and chip shops in Dorset and couldn't understand why we were camping in literally a field with a shed that had toilets, a row of plug sockets and a cooker. 

It's an intense few days of being with young people 24/7 and trying to encourage them to try new things and have fun. Not going to lie taking part in the activities is a bonus - although there were some that were challenging for me too! I find it fascinating though how what a young person might express through words and body language is not what they actually think.

I guess the thing that got me was doing evaluation forms - on the way home we stopped at services and I did about 10 evaluation forms with various young people. The questions are like rate the trip/activities/accommodation etc, have you learnt anything? Why do you come to XLP? etc. Pretty much all the ratings were excellent, despite loads of them complaining NON-STOP about the lack of facilities. If they wanted to charge their phone they had to earn charging time by cleaning up, being helpful, being encouraging etc. Clearly very different to being in London where electricity is on tap. One guy who had been pretty frustrating to be honest said that he had really learnt to appreciate what he had! Another said that they wanted more time for reflection throughout the time away as they felt they wanted to digest all that they had learnt. 

It's bizarre how taking young people out of their normal environment can impact them in ways you don't realise. I was really encouraged because one of the questions on the evaluation form was "how would you rate the staff?" and all of the guys I asked rated us excellent and said we were supportive, encouraging and approachable. It's amazing to think that for some of those kids it will be their only trip outside of London this year. Just hoping that it's been a positive experience and impacts the choices they make when back at home. 

It was totally exhausting and I am so glad to be back sleeping in a bed, but also a great opportunity to influence young people to realise their potential. 

21 Aug 2013

Moving forward

So far I'm 65% of the way to reaching my fundraising target for my sponsored cycle ride - so if you haven't sponsored me and you want to you can sponsor me here

The last couple blog posts have been vaguely depressing and I have got to a place where I feel I've got a bit more perspective and there is hope. So I wanted to let you know I'm not wallowing in a state of gloom. 

I think 2 things have happened to help me change my thoughts:

#1. I have spoken to a number of people about why I'm sad and they have been able to help me see the actual truth and not my own skewed version of the truth. I think as an extrovert that has been pretty important for me - sometimes talking and being real is what I crave. The friends I have spoken to have just been super. Like the type of people who you know you can tell anything to and they aren't going to change what they think about you. I love that. It is so safe! I'm not going to lie, there are times when I think "can I really tell you this?" when I'm scared about people's reactions; but building proper trusting friendships has definitely been one of my better investments over my years in London.

#2. People have been praying for me/I have been praying. If I'm honest I feel like sometimes I am just too weak to change anything myself. Like when you feel sad, it's really hard just to snap out of it. You need something bigger than yourself to help. I genuinely know that God has been really drawing close to me and helping to renew my mind over these last few days. I know that a number of people who read this don't necessarily believe the whole God thing - but for me I have felt God's power at work in me; talking to people is great, but the real change is in the mind - and I have struggled to change my own mind, totally believe that God has had something to do with it. 

Anyway, the short of it all is that I am ok. I want to love God better, I want to serve people around me in a more loving way, I'm aiming to be someone who shines Jesus into every situation I find myself in. 

There is hope.

14 Aug 2013


After yesterday's post and the response it provoked I felt like I should write down a few thoughts. 

Firstly, I have been seriously blown away by the number of people who text, messaged or commented - I didn't write the post to get sympathy or a response; I wrote it because I was sad and I have been genuinely astounded at how many of you have got in touch to let me know I am loved. 

Thank you. I do really appreciate you guys. People say the online community isn't real community, but following this I would beg to differ. 

The things people have said have totally varied: a number of people identifying and sitting in the crap with me, some encouraging me in who God has made me, some reminding me of truth, some just sending me a hug.

It struck me that I am totally not alone in sometimes feeling a bit crap and asking the question, "what is wrong with me?" That is a little sad, because it seems that a lot of us can be in that place and not share the thoughts, and so potentially believe that there is actually something wrong with us. When, for the most part, there really isn't and it's a big fat lie. 

Today 2 separate women from Church met up with me and gave me cake and chat and just exposed the lies that I was beginning to consider to be truth. It was pretty hard and I cried a lot (in a cafe which is always a little embarrassing, no one looks good when they cry) but even just having truth spoken over me changed my perspective. 

The thing I realised is, sometimes despite KNOWING something in your head, believing it can be really hard. E.g. I can know that God says he works all things for my good, BUT do I really believe that God is working things for my good? Well a lot of the time it does not feel good so it's hard to believe. Does that mean God isn't working things for my good? No. It just means trusting in him is hard. 

I look throughout the Bible and see so many examples of people who were able to trust God despite hugely difficult things happening to them and I want to be someone who can stand firm and plant myself on God the rock. My friend Sarah told me this story today about how somewhere there were this cliffs which were really hard to climb up and if people got into difficulty at the bottom it was really hard to get to the top to safety. So the people who lived there decided to cut steps and little caves into the cliffs so that people could make their way up and to safety. Doing that saved lives and allowed people to take shelter on their way up. Sometimes we have this image of standing on God the rock being victorious, but right now I feel like I'm more like someone sheltering in a cave somewhere within the rock and trying to trust that God is looking after me. 

I found a verse which I found helpful today too: 

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." 
Psalm 34:18

Basically, I feel like today I have learned/gleaned a lot and have been really encouraged by a lot of people. I am incredibly blessed to be so valued and cannot express how much of an impact a text/message/comment makes. 

Thanks friends. 

13 Aug 2013

Heavy heart

A quick reminder that you can still sponsor me for cycling 400 miles in 4 days (not going until 5th Sept)

Today something hit me and to be honest has really upset me. 

All the people I've had relationships with are either married, engaged or seeing other people. 

Now, I know that clearly, if they aren't with me then of course they should be out there finding other people to spend their lives with. And I am genuinely really happy for all of them - I am, not just saying that. 

But, there is a little part of me that has clocked that all the people I have invested into have someone else and that breeds the thought that I'm not good enough. 

I know that is probably an irrational thought but it's what I'm feeling. 

11 Aug 2013

The Actual Rules

Thanks to all who read my last blog post and have sponsored me - really does mean a lot and is a huge encouragement in the whole training process to know that people are supporting the cause. Just so you know I'm going to mention the fact that I'm doing this sponsored cycle a lot in the next few weeks so this a warning that if you read my blog a lot you might get bored...i'll try to keep it short. You can sponsor me here! 

Today I was running a youth session at my Church and one of the youth said something really really interesting. 

"People talk about Christianity and the freedom it brings, but it's actually loads of rules to follow and is really hard"

It struck me that if that is what Christian's inside the Church might think, then I wonder how many people who are outside the Church think that too. I know historically the Church has sometimes been known for being legalistic and judgmental - keep to the rules or else; but I wonder how many people hold to that view of Church and Christians today. 

I wonder because I totally don't agree. 

We ended up having a little discussion about it and it came back to these verses:
Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” 
Matt 22:36-40

A lot of the time (and I do this too) we can think of all the laws/rules in the Bible, like the 10 Commandments and all the laws in Leviticus, and think "flip Christianity is not about freedom". But when it comes down to it Jesus has told us that we have 2 rules to live by - Love God and love others. 

Everything else comes out of those 2. It's like having a different perspective of the same thing. I'm not going to go and steal my neighbour's dog, not because I know I shouldn't, but because God has told me to love others and it wouldn't be loving to steal their dog. 

When we truly get our heads around loving God and loving others it impacts all other parts of our lives. But it's not a chore. It's not like "oh I'm trying so hard not to gossip about that person because I know I shouldn't", it's more that you love them and so why would you gossip about them.

Clearly this is a journey - I do not perfectly love God or other people, and neither will you. But if we are genuinely seeking to be obedient and keep these two commandments we may well find it becomes less about rule keeping and more about loving more. 

8 Aug 2013

Why my shoulders are hurting

If you are friends with me on facebook you might have seen a status about my shoulders hurting following a lot of cycling. Why am I doing so much cycling right now?? 


Somehow, and I'm still bemused as to how I got roped into this, I agreed to take part in a fundraiser for my charity.

On 5th September I leave the UK for the continent where I will be partaking in 4 days of intense cycling. We are aiming to do 400 miles in 4 days through 4 countries (Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France)


Well we have partnered with Moonpig (of moonpig.com fame) to raise money for XLP, the charity I work for. It is getting harder and harder to get money to support the young people we work with and so we are fundraising and aiming to raise £20k between us. 

Considering I am not a keen cyclist - in fact before beginning some training for this the furthest I had cycled was around Bewl Water (about 13miles), now I have done a number of practise cycles and have just signed up to do the London to Brighton on the Saturday of August Bank Holiday. 

Safe to say this is going to be a real test of both physical and mental endurance. I am pretty nervous about the whole thing - excited about the prospect of being finished and able to say I completed it....but that is a way away yet!

Anyway - if you feel you could sponsor me even a little bit then please visit my justgiving page and encourage me to push through the bum pain.

Many thanks.

7 Aug 2013

Now to mull

The vigilant amongst you will have noticed that I haven't blogged in like almost 2 weeks!! Clearly that's not because I haven't had things to say. If anything I've had LOADS to say...its been mainly due to lack of wifi and then lack of suitable brain space with which to formulate coherent sentences. Not 100% sure I'm there yet but we'll give this a go.

My last post was about taking time to reflect and I feel like I have done a fair bit of that over the last couple weeks. However, being at New Wine last week has given me a whole fresh load of things to digest and to meditate on. 

I'd like to point out that reflecting, meditating is not a natural thing for me - if you read some of my earlier blog posts from a few years ago I have really struggled to tune my extroverted nature to trying to think through what things mean to me, rather than just having a surface level interpretation. I'm definitely not there in terms of doing this well, but I am trying to do it which is a step in the right direction. 

But things that I feel like I should mull over are as follows:
* How much do I really trust God?
* How much am I willing to take risks for God?
* Am I being the best steward of my resources that I could be?
* Why has God given me this gift of connecting with people and making friends quickly? What can it be used for?
* When there's an issue in my life is God my first port of call? If not, why not?

So there you have it - these are the things I am hoping to think more deeply about. I will no doubt blog more about New Wine and the experience because it was flipping awesome...but for now that's all you get. 

Team Lewi 2k13 Tribute

(Ok so this post was actually written on Friday 26th July...but only been published now for some reason - enjoy!) 

So today has been a day of reflection. Reflection over the last year of my job and reflection of where I am now. 

Part of the reason I have needed some space to do this is because I have found it pretty emotional saying goodbye to my team this year. They have been quality. Each member has been totally unique and has brought something different to the team, but together we have worked really hard and have achieved loads of top notch youth work for young people in Lewisham. Not only that but we have become solid friends and have actively supported each other through the various things life has thrown at us over the year. 

Basically today has been a bit of a letting go day. They have been super fun and have set a really high standard. But come September I'll have my new team and it will be another year of youth work. 

In the meantime I wanted to share this video that we made to show at XLP graduation explaining some of the work we've done this year and showing a bit more about what my team has been like.