24 Sept 2013

When its new but not

It's been all quiet on the blogging front since I've gone back to work after the epic cycle and that is because being off for 3 weeks means I accumulated a ridiculous amount of work to return to.

It's actually been a little stressful, although I've been attempting to remain chilled and just do as much as I can do. 

You see this year the way I work and lead my team has changed - my decision. I decided that to develop the youth work I do in Lewisham I needed to restructure. Which was, and I still think is, a wise decision. But it has just meant a whole new approach to preparing. Now I'm planning for 2 teams, working out 9 other people's timetables in my head. Planning new projects, developing current projects and trying to get in contact with schools/Churches/various organisations is hard! And just really busy. 

The thing is once most of it is set up it will just run and won't need the same levels of attention. But until then I am very busy. 

Also it's a bit weird because for all intents and purposes I have done this before. I have had a new team, I have had to set up at the start of term, I have had to establish new projects. But for some reason it all feels brand new. Like because a few key things have changed it's like I'm starting from scratch.

I think until I actually establish my own timetable I'll prob feel a bit like I'm drifting all over the place. So that's my plan to sort that out. Also got lots of little bits to sort out which I'm going to sit down tomorrow afternoon and blitz. 

In the meantime here is my new team. 

13 Sept 2013

Cycling: The Evaluation. Part 2

Ok so I gave you a brief overview about how the cycling went in my last post but I wanted to get a chance to reflect a bit further on various aspects of the trip.

  • The Dutch couple who helped me when I fell off my bike - despite me not having a clue what they were saying they were so kind to me and really did clean me up and check I was ok. This actually made my day! Like they were total strangers and could have just cycled past but they stopped wiped up my leg, dried the tears on my face and gave me a plaster. What blessings they were.
  • Finishing the 103 mile day (day 3). Not only was it a HUGE achievement (one I had serious doubts about whether I would actually be able to complete) but the genuine relief at thinking, "I will never have to ride a bike this far in one day ever again," was written all over my face. 
The team at the start of day 4 - Dover-London. Look how happy we all look! It didn't last long...
  • Getting into Belgian beer. Those of you who know me know I don't really like beer at all - much more of a cider fan. However, having a few drinks bought for me and deciding to embrace the continent I powered through the beer and it has grown on me! (not that much, but a little)
  • The total generosity of the people at Moonpig. I was completely blown away about firstly how many of them had taken time to come and experience pain with us. But also they looked after us so well, from accommodation, food and drink, to all the support while we were cycling...it was so well done.
  • This action shot.
Taken by an ex XLP young person
  • Making new friends - was so lovely getting to know the Moonpig (and extras) people. They are a lot of fun and seriously know their stuff when it comes to cycling which was a super blessing, especially when I got a puncture. But it was great to get to know why they individually were taking part in the ride and to make friends with them. We're going for reunion drinks in a couple of weeks - friends for life right there. 
  • Having 2 young people who have come up through XLP come with us and be part of the whole experience. Seeing how they dealt with challenges and persevered was pretty inspiring and it was great giving one of them their first experience of being abroad!
Some of us XLP guys with the van - ex-young person lying in front of it!
  • Waking up on Tuesday morning not with everyone else. I always find that when I have been away and made friends with people and spent lots of time with them my extrovertedness loves it so much that when I come back I always end up feeling lonely. 
  • The hills. Especially coming over the North Downs on Monday on the way to London. It was the one time I considered getting in the van...thankfully it was a fleeting thought and I kept on going. 
  • The number of people who saw me semi-naked due to the bib-shorts. So bib-shorts are cycling shorts which have straps that go over your shoulders. Think shorts with braces or a swimming costume without the boob part. Well anyway, they are great to cycle in but rubbish when you need the loo as you practically have to get naked to pee. Because of this and the time I took to undress/dress it meant both members of the public and members of the team saw more of me than I would have liked!
  • My view to eating has changed. While we were away I was just forced to eat as much as I could ALL THE TIME. If I didn't I wouldn't have energy; it literally was if I eat something I'll be able to pedal, if I don't, I won't. So in the evenings I would try to eat as much as I could but was SO tired I couldn't eat much meaning I would wake up RAVENOUS. I am still waking up VERY hungry and want to want to eat all the time...but I am not enjoying food...my stomach just wants the food. 
I genuinely loved this trip. SO much. I had to return my bike to the cycle hire shop on Wednesday and I had a pretty emotional moment saying goodbye to it - we had been through a lot together. 

This is probably a topic/thought for another post but it's that whole thing of when you really try/invest/persevere you have something to show for it at the other end. Not only have I cycled through 4 countries in 4 days but I have been a part of raising £24679 for XLP - woop!

Having got to the top of the North Downs and being told it was all down hill to London - smile!

10 Sept 2013

Cycling: The evaluation. part 1

You will be pleased to know that I survived the 4 days of doom relatively intact. We rode into London and arrived at Moonpig's head office at 9pm last night after a totally HORRIFIC day. Rain combined with a number of hills and legs like jelly made it the hardest day for me by far. But I made it. I cycled the entire route and now have thighs of steel!

So let me give you a quick break down of what went on...

THURSDAY: We left Liverpool St Station with most of the bikes on a train to Harwich and got an overnight ferry to the Netherlands (Hook of Holland). I have never been on an overnight ferry and the experience of sleeping in a cabin was pretty fun! Everyone was pretty psyched for the riding so it was a fun evening. What was not fun was....

FRIDAY (Netherlands): ...4am start. Due to time difference and the ferry docking early it meant we got about 4 hours sleep if that. NOT ENOUGH! We got off the ferry and began the cycling adventure
The group - I'm the one on the right in the blue helmet

It was a great start and we got to cycle along a B-E-A-Utiful coastline. However, as we were doing that I managed to slip on some sand that was on the cycle path and came off my bike. This LOVELY Dutch couple came and helped me and cleaned my knee up while my own back up team arrived but it was a bit of a shock.
I am still not 100% sure I'm ok with someone taking photos of my pain!
Anyway, I got back on and kept going through headwinds, rain and along some beautiful canals. We arrived about 8pm in Bruges having cycled a total of 94 miles. Ate amazing food and drank some beer.

SATURDAY (Belgium): We were supposed to be doing a full 100 miles today but we had heard that the headwinds were due to be incredibly strong and seeing how long it had taken us to do the Friday we decided to do a shorter 50 miles route. It was a good call - beautiful day but still hard work. We got to the hotel in Lille about 6pm and then went to a restaurant that had the SLOWEST service ever. Also ate the rarest steak I have ever seen. 

SUNDAY (France): Today we did a 103 mile day. It was painful. The first half of the day was actually ok. I felt like we were getting into a rhythm and we were going quite fast which was really encouraging. I learnt how to ride in a team (slip stream) and it was pretty flat which was a bonus. The second half of the day was not flat. In fact it was incredibly hilly with one beast of a hill. I had a dodgy sick-in-the-mouth moment at the top which lingered over the next 10 miles or so which I was not happy about. But it was an incredible moment cycling into Calais and knowing I had cycled 101 miles and still had a couple to go. The ferry was insane as we were all booked into the VIP lounge and so I had my glass of champagne and promptly fell asleep. Cycling up a long hill on the other side to reach our hotel in Dover was not fun but I was in a psychological high and people were singing so that helped. 
One of the rest stops with the Moonpig/XLP vans - taking in a lot of water/sugar/carbs
MONDAY (England): Was the worst day by far. 87 miles of PAIN! It was so hilly! Firstly I was feeling very stiff at the start of the day and so getting back on the bike was a challenge. But then the whole rolling hills thing was tough! We weren't going very fast as well so each time we stopped it was a bit disheartening to hear that we had only done a few miles. And then it started to rain. I was SO wet. Like probably from about 10am onwards my shoes were soaked through. However, by this point in the journey I had made a cycling buddy Caroline - we seemed to be going generally the same speed and so decided to stick close by and it helped so much! Made it back to London and cycled a very interesting route through Surrey Quays in Lewisham/Southwark before heading for a celebratory drink.

Things I have learnt/done:
  • Cycling is so a team sport - yes you are an individual on a bike but for so much of it it's the motivation of the team that helps you keep going
  • It is a psychological rollercoaster! One minute I would be doing great and feeling fine and then the next I would be almost crying in pain
  • When you are cycling that distance you are burning at least 4000 calories a day - generally you are supposed to eat 2500ish...so I ate A LOT of carbs over this trip. If you want a sport where you can eat what you want I would recommend this. The amount of snickers/mars bars and general sugar I have consumed is insane!
  • You lose ALL dignity as a cyclist as you learn to pee wherever you can. Even if that is in broad daylight in full view of a road as 20 motorcycles come past....#error
  • Road bikes are amazing. I want one
That's all I can say for now but I'm sure there will be more...just too tired and achey to type more now. 

But thanks so much for your support everyone - raised over £500 for XLP which is great and as a team we are up to £18960....our aim was to get £20000 so if you know anyone who might want to support the cause give them a ribjab and tell them to get on it please. 

4 Sept 2013

Cycling Gear Joy

So tomorrow I leave on my big cycling adventure to get the ferry to the Netherlands.

So today what have I done??!

I don't know why everything is so white in this photo! Where did my elbow go?!

That's right...I've put on all my cycling gear (which is surprisingly comfortable!) and taken a load of timed photos.

Just for fun?

Well there's that...

But there's also the fact that I want to encourage as many of you to sponsor me as possible. 

Pictured you will see the fancy road bike I have hired to help me through Friday-Monday. You will also see some incredibly attractive cycling glasses! My snazzy blue helmet which is going to protect my brain from all potential damage. Some hot cycling shorts, gloves and shirt...which all have the potential of attracting European guys who I might whizz past and dazzle with my obvious good looks and unique fashion style. 

All I can say is that this weekend is going to be an adventure and seeing as I love adventures it should be very fun, if a little painful. 

For all you pray-ers out there please pray for safety/no injuries as I really don't want to hurt myself long term doing this. 


3 Sept 2013

Youth Prayer Journey

You might not know that I have taken on a leadership role with the youth at my Church here in London. For the last few months we've been meeting once a month after Church for lunch, teaching and worship. It's been really fun and a great way to get to know the teens in the Church.

On Sunday we had the September meeting and this month I decided it would be cool to encourage the youth to go on a little prayer journey; to engage with God on a personal level. A lot of them have been at a Christian youth festival called Newday over the summer and have come back really fired up and passionate about spending time with God. So this was a little exercise to help them to keep that alive.

We had 8 different stations with different activities and Bible verses which ranged from praising God to confessing sin, affirming our identity in Christ to praying for the persecuted Church. 

The stations were:
#1. Praise God (by listening to worship music, reading Psalms, writing own Psalm)
#2. Confess Sin (by reflecting on our failures and how we want to change, taking a stone and dropping it in water to signify sins being taken away)
#3. Affirm Identity in Christ (by looking in the mirror and assessing what is seen. Reading post-its with truths from Freedom in Christ book on - taking any that are particularly meaningful)
#4. Give worries to God (by writing worries on post-it and then screwing up and throwing in the bin as an act of giving them to God)
#5. Thank God (by having a wall of thanks that people could write on)
#6. Prayer wall for friends/family (by having a "wall" that people could write in the bricks for people)
#7. Pray for persecuted Church (by having an Open Doors booklet which youth could read and then pray for countries)
#8. Pray for Lewisham/London (by having a big map of Lewisham and some prompts to pray for: Police, Mayor, Councillors etc)

We ended the session by sharing communion together. It's so interesting being able to be a part of the spiritual journey of these young people! Like the questions they come out with are so unpredictable and yet are really key in building solid foundations. 

I think I took a lot away from the session too - I think sometimes giving space to really engage with God is what I need. There are so many distractions in everyday life and having some prompts and time to commit to spending with God is always really beneficial for me. 

If you are a youth worker or want to use this prayer journey let me know and I'll send you the full resources I've created.