Back again…this time for good (I hope)

Hello.

I am back again after yet another prolonged blogging break.

To be quite honest, I have thought about writing a blog post countless times (at least once a week) but that has never actually evolved into a physical blog post. I’m sorry if you are following (or lurking) and have been waiting for a post with any kind of anticipation.

The truth is that life has been quite overwhelming lately and I just haven’t known how to put anything into words and not have it turn into a frustrated-at-the-world rant which would a) not achieve anything but prove that I know a lot of angry words, b) be quite unnecessary, and c) not glorify God in the slightest – which is the best reason I can find for having “held my tongue” over the past few months.

As the ever-so-wise Thumper rabbit said:

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Or as the writer of Ephesians said: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

Plus, everytime I watch the news I am saddened and horrified and humbled that my problems are so insignificant compared to the problems faced by others in the world right now, and I feel a bit ashamed of myself. My problems feel very real to me but I am aware of their insignificance and sometimes that helps me re-focus my prayers where they need to be.

All I seem to do in the last few entries is write a blurby-overview of what has been happening in the long intervals between posts and then make an empty promise to post more frequently. Sorry. I won’t do that again – promise, that is – I am definitely going to blurby-overview my last few months. Beware, many photos ahead!

Here’s what’s new with me:

Home …

Bingley Palace

As of August 1st I am an official resident of the “Bingley Palace” and it is quite lovely. It was a very difficult transition – emotionally, rather than practically (thank you Moving Men!). I found it very difficult to pack all the *stuff* in my sweet little house into boxes and decide what I got to take with me and what had to be donated/stored. I lived with chaos and boxes for weeks and I hated it.

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This is my 11th move in 16 years and for some reason it hurt me more than any of the others. I think because I had really felt that my little house was a gift from God and a chance to finally settle…and it turned out not to be the settling-place. I had to fight not to be angry or annoyed at God for allowing me to feel that connection to the little house, and then letting it be taken from me – instead I had to choose to be incredibly grateful to God for providing the Bingley Palace (it already had the nickname before I got here!) and 2 sweet Christian girls to live with.

I have lived here for almost 4 weeks now and it feels like home. Although I often forget where I live and on several occasions have driven halfway to my old house, I am already seeing the opportunities that God is giving me in this place, and I am beyond pleased to have housemates again. Heather and Emma – you are wonderful already.

Work…

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Ofsted is pending. And that’s all I need to say.

Family…

Jessica newborn

This tiny bundle of gorgeousness starts school next week, and turns 5 in 6 weeks time. I don’t feel like I have had enough preparation for this moment.

Jessica June 2014

This is her on holiday a couple of months ago. She loves Frozen (who doesn’t?!)

I am hoping to go home for a weekend in September to celebrate her birthday. I haven’t seen her since June and it aches.

Other family news is that my sister and brother-in-law graduated University in July. Mum and Abigail drove up to Bangor from Plymouth and Jonathan and I were both able to take time off work to join them for a few days. We were able to watch her graduation on live stream (hats off to Bangor Uni for that!) as there were only enough tickets for Mum and Simeon to sit in the ceremony, but it was very special. It was fantastic to see my little sister get her degree (a FIRST!) and to see the place she has lived in for the past 3 years.

rebecca graduation screenshot

Chester Zoo

We also had a fun day out at Chester Zoo which was equally, but differently, fantastic!

Life in general…

I had a wonderful Bank Holiday weekend, thanks to my incredible friends. I went to visit Rachel and Phil who are now living in Peterborough and expecting their first baby in 4 weeks time. It was a very peaceful few days; lots of tea and cake, board games, movies, and chatting about the baby. I was able to completely shut off from thinking about work and just enjoy re-connecting with my bestest Uni friend. I went to their church on Sunday and it was a really great service. I felt connected to God and enjoyed meeting their friends.

Bank Holiday Monday was a wash-out (torrential rain ALL day) but I didn’t mind because Rosie and I had planned a sewing day, and we spent many happy hours transforming a dress of hers into a skirt. I taught her how to sew on the machine and it was very quaint and civilised. We also watched the film Safe Haven which was traumatic and there were tears shed. If you haven’t seen it, don’t. Or at least make sure you have tissues and a friend handy.

i have a new car! It’s pretty swanky and I rather like it. After the small incident with my Corsa I didn’t feel very confident in driving or parking it – what if something else decided to fail with no warning?! I decided to explore the mystical world of Car Finance and am now the proud sort-of owner of a “Silky Shadow Green” Astra. It feels much larger than the Corsa…the size of a tank in fact – but it is safe and mostly clean (I left a window open by mistake and half a tree got in) and it drives like a dream. So I like it.

I’m getting married.

Jokes! I am still very much single. No, I went to my colleague’s wedding reception – and caught the bouquet! There were only 5 of us (plus a 4 year old) in the running so the odds were pretty good. It is a very pretty bouquet and is still a little bit alive in my living room. 

Long Wedding - bouquet

I’m watching the BAKE OFF!!! I love this programme. It is so calming, despite the baking tragedies which occur. I love the pastel colours and the measuring and the commentary and the contestants little quirks and oddities. I love Norman whose pesto is exotic, and Richard who measures everything, and Chetna who uses so many spices I can almost smell it through the TV. I mostly love Martha because I decided in Week 1 that she was the Christian contestant – and then yesterday I found out that she is! And she goes to a New Frontiers church and is a baker/fundraiser for Teafund which is doubly and tripley awesome. I had hoped to make something from the Bake Off each week…but my excitement waned. I basically didn’t want to make florentines or any kind of biscuit…and then last week’s break week was throughly uninspiring, but watch this space. I am quite pleased with my Swiss Roll from Week 1!

swiss roll

And finally: my current excitement…

Mum and I are going on holiday on Saturday! It is quite alast-minute, but much needed, 5 day/4 night break to Prague in the Czech Republic. A few weeks ago I had a bit of a meltdown and decided I needed to do something radical, like cut off all my hair or get a tattoo, otherwise I would go absolutely crazy with my life. Fortunately my reasonable side kicked in and decided it would be a good idea to book a holiday – so I did! Mum and I fly out of Heathrow at silly-o-clock on Saturday morning and get back on Wednesday evening. We went to Majorca together 2 years ago and it was such a fun time, just the 2 of us.

Sometimes you just need to get away from things for a little while, you know?

I know I said I wouldn’t promise…but I will try to get back into blogging. I do miss it really!! I hope you have enjoyed the little update. It has been a nice way to pass the evening, and a good reminder that despite the stresses and anxieties, there is a lot of GOOD going on in my life.

-x-

 

 

Priorities

pri·or·i·ty
[prahy-awr-i-tee, -or-]

1. the state or quality of being earlier in time, occurrence, etc.

2. the right to precede others in order, rank, privilege, etc.; precedence.

3. the right to take precedence in obtaining certain supplies, services, facilities, etc., especially during a shortage.

4. something given special attention.

adjective
5. highest or higher in importance, rank, privilege, etc.: a priority task.

Lately, I have been questioning my priorities and what I give my time to. The things we prioritise say a lot about us, don’t they?

Over the last fortnight I have been really challenged by a situation at work. It has been so difficult and actually quite distressing. We have been dealing with foster carers who are prioritising their own wish to go on a holiday over the needs of the little boy they look after – they’ve only had him for a few weeks and want to go off and leave him with other carers when he’s barely settled with them. It has become clear that their priority is not the child they are caring for.

It was so clear to me that this is not ok, but then since being confronted with this whole thing I have thought about my own priorities. My mind has strange connections – I think about one thing, which prompts something else, and then another thing which seems unconnected but actually makes sense in my mind.

(Example: this evening I drove past a town-house that I liked and thought “I’d like to live in a town-house”. Then I wondered, why are they called town-houses. Then I wondered why the New York versions are called “brown-stones”. Then I wondered how much houses cost in Manhattan. And then I had the song “Manhattan” by Ella Fitzgerald in my head!)

But anyway, let’s not get too off track.

Back in June I came close to quitting my gym membership, since I figured that £30 a month is expensive when I only went once or twice a week – and that worked out at around £5 a session which itself seemed like a lot of money. But I like going to the gym and getting fit, and I think it’s healthy for me – so I decided to prioritise going to the gym regularly and actually making the most of my membership – somehow it’s crept up to 5 times a week, but it feels so good to be active. I do classes and I have a weights routine with an instructor and everything.

I also prioritised eating healthier – I have such an addiction to chocolate and sweet things! Give me a pudding over a savoury any day of the week. I challenged myself to not eat biscuits at work for an entire month – and I did it. I felt so much better during my work day; less energy crashes in the middle of the afternoon.

It seems that if I put my mind to something, and make it a priority, it is not that hard. As my first discipler once said: “you make time for what you care about”

So why then, is it so hard for me to prioritise God in my life? I love God and I want my life to honour him and bring him glory, but I forget him SO often.

Yesterday we had a worship evening at Small Group and it was a great, peaceful, praising time.

But in my own life, when it relies on my own motivation, I really struggle to seek God. I am completely involved in my Church, but when I am serving and don’t get to listen to the service, I very rarely listen to the preach online – although I always say I will … but then I can find time to watch Emmerdale or Coronation Street on itvplayer (hey, you already knew I was middle-aged inside)

Yes, I listen to worship music – but only when I’m cooking dinner… Yes, I read my Bible – whilst I’m eating breakfast. Sometimes I pray at times other than when I just want something – but usually in the car when I get sick of what’s playing on the radio.

When did my time with God become something I tried to multi-task?

I have always struggled in prayer, because talking to a Holy, Infinite, Ever-Loving Father is just not a concept I could understand – to trust that what you ask for will be given, and that he is always there. Actually it was a pretty alien concept.

It’s different now, though…I truly know God as my Father…but how come I can’t prioritise Him. I struggle so much.

I know that everyone struggles, really I do – but I forget him so often.

How can I remedy this issue?

I don’t want some “5-steps to a closer relationship with your Saviour” type spiel. I want a deeper, more honest, more reliant relationship with God.

But how?!

At work I split my tasks into groups: 1) URGENT AND IMPORTANT, 2) NOT URGENT BUT IMPORTAND, 3) NOT IMPORTANT OR URGENT. This really helps me figure out what I need to first, and what can wait until later. (Some of my “not important and not urgent” tasks have been sitting in that pile since April though…should fix that)

God should be URGENT AND IMPORTANT, shouldn’t he?

More thoughts to come on this, I’m sure.

-x-

Learning from Deuteronomy

Yesterday we went to church. My friend David is one of the Pastors at Morningstar church in Salem. One of the lead pastors gave the sermon from Deuteronomy chapter 8. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sermon which contextualised Deuteronomy so well before. Pastor Ken explained that Moses is reminding the Israelites of the covenant that God made with them and of his continued faithfulness to keep his promises by blessing them and taking care of them, even though the Israelites have complained and gone against him many times.

And there I thought Deuteronomy was boring! Turns out all I needed was the context. Moses knew he would die before the Israelites got to enter the promised land but he needed to remind them of what God had done, because they had a tendency to forget.

I have a tendency to forget. Yesterday afternoon during the kids’ rest time I sat and read through the first half of Deuteronomy and was amazed at what I read. It was like reading it for the first time.

While the sermon yesterday was mainly about giving thanks to God for financial provision (the church is working through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University right now) it really made me think about all the ways that God has provided for me in my life…things that I too easily forget because I let life get in the way.

I want to cultivate a thankful attitude, and acacknowledge ALL that God does, and has done.

Practical ways I’ll be doing this to follow in another post

-x-

Oh lovely day

Today has been a good day 🙂

It felt like a good day from the minute I woke up, and it really hasn’t disappointed!

I had a little lie-in, then got up for church and for the first time in about two weeks I didn’t have mad panics trying to work out what to wear [I’m not usually that girl but recently none of my clothes have felt right and it takes a proper old drama and tizzy to find any outfit that I’m happy with] and just wore jeans and a top that I felt comfy in. I even felt like my hair looked good – it’s been difficult these past weeks because I’m trying to grow it longer for this but it’s at that awkward place where it doesn’t want to do anything and I end up shoving it in a ponytail or bun – Not so today, I left it down and felt good about it!

I read my Bible whilst eating my breakfast, and I’m at that bit in Numbers where the donkey talks so that’s always a treat! Makes me giggle to imagine it.

After breakfast it was off to church, where I chatted to some lovely folks whilst drinking tea out of my favourite green mug (I have a little contest with a guy from church to see who gets the green mug each week – this week he had left it for me! How sweet) It really is the best mug.

I was serving in creche for the 9am service, and it was the most chilled out time we’ve ever had – 9 little ones between 3 helpers, and the cutest little kiddos. Admittedly there was a LOT of snotty-nose wiping and at one point, one of the other ladies’ had to physically hold my child’s head so I could wipe the gunk off his face…but other than that, we played and we sang and we cuddled and it was just joyous!

Because of serving in the first service, and because I wasn’t at church last week, I decided to stay for the 11 am service to hear the preach. And yay, for getting to worship at both services. It was a great service, a guy called Geoff preached about how we can evangelise to people by just telling them our own testimonies. Very encouraging and I love his preaching style.

After church I meandered around the supermarket (forgetting one of the only things I actually needed, but coming home with a melon…just because) and went to a discount store to buy fairy lights for Thursday’s shopping evening…and then I came home and watched some of the OC whilst I had lunch.

Anyone else remember how good the first season of the OC was? I simply cannot believe that it was on about a decade ago! It makes me feel so grown-up [old] when I think that I was in my early teens when I watched it. But it was oh-so-good, and just hearing the theme tune makes you want to live in Californiaaaaaaaaa

So yeah, lunch and the OC – falling in love with Seth again, and wishing that silly Anna away because oh-my-gosh-he-is-just-meant-for-Summer-even-though-she-doesn’t-like-him-right-now-she-will-soon. Yay for the teenage romance drama!

And then, in the middle of the Ryan-Marissa angst, I had a sudden burst of Need-to-craft-itis and then proceeded to absolutely cover my living room with floor, pins, tape measures, ribbons, cardboard templates and all other kinds of haberdashery paraphenalia [with my Christmas songs in the background, of course] for about 5 hours and I made some very lovely stockings and tree decorations.

In the midst of my sewing I realised it was dinner-time so I put food in the oven…but then got so absorbed in the sewing that I completely forgot about my dinner and it was only when I looked up and the flat was basically a cloud that I realised it had been in there about an hour too long.

Whoops. Mishap of the day. It was all fine though, I opened all the windows and threw away the burned food and started over – making sure I kept an eye on it. Dinner Mark 2 was actually quite tasty!

Once I was done with the sewing and the flat looked as if a bomb made of fabric & ribbon had exploded…I had a tidy up! And watched some TV (Strictly results…I’m sad Victoria went, but she just isn’t as good as the rest of the celebs and it was her turn. I hope Louis goes next week)

And then, need-to-craft-itis hit me again. So I’ve spent the last two hours in my kitchen messing around with melted chocolate. Not gonna tell you what for (in case it doesn’t work out) but right now it all looks so good. And all this to a lovely soundtrack from Colbie Callait, Lady Antebellum, Agnes Obel and Madeline Peroux – courtesy of Spotify.

I’m just hoping all my crafty stuff sells on Thursday because otherwise I will have a bunch of stuff that I have no idea what to do with! But…that’s a worry for another day!

-x-

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

With one month to go…I am SO ready for Christmas! I’ve spent the afternoon listening to Christmas music, wearing Christmas socks – and decorating my flat!!

(yes, I know the pictures are awful and blurry…I’ve got the shakes at the moment for some reason)

Hooray for Christmas movies!!  The book is my favourite Christmas book of all time, it’s so lovely. It’s about a family who have loads of guests (expected and unexpected) on Christmas eve, so they have to have people sleeping in the bath and on mantlepieces … they put the baby in the sink and the five skinny aunts in china dresser. We read it every Christmas, and it always reminds me of when my Mum first read it to be when I was only 9.

I feel like I’ve been getting ready for Christmas since October, because my church is holding a Ladies’ Shopping Event this Thursday (the 5th Annual!) and I have a stall selling little stocking fillers & other crafty gifts. I’ve made cards, cinnamon ornaments, bath bombs, tea-cup candles and glass votives…it all looks very pretty – but I won’t post a picture until after the event.

I’m really looking forward to it – I’ve done stalls twice previously,  and I don’t know whether I prefer being a seller or just a buyer. It’s a lovely atmosphere and it really gets me in the mood for all things Christmas.

Just look at some of the things from my pinterest Christmas board:

Trying to organise family Christmas on the other hand, well – that’s been a little tricky.

I’ve probably said before, but I’m one of 4 children [plus two younger siblings from my dad’s second marriage] Add to that, two of my siblings have partners so we also have to factor in their plans with in-laws etc, and the added fun-fact that my Dad is currently working in Afghanistan so only gets a certain amount of leave and isn’t coming home until 28th December … that makes a LOT of different schedules and priorities to figure out so that we can all spend time together.

Since Christmas 2010, there has only been one weekend where we were all together; Abigail’s 18th Birthday weekend in June this year. I see my sisters more often, but my brother comes home less regularly and he and his girlfriend spent last Christmas in Canterbury, just the two of them.

I think I’ve given up on trying to ensure we are all together – because everyone seems to do what they want anyway! I don’t mean that in a grumpy way [well, maybe a bit] … I just mean that, my brother and sister are both in serious relationships, and my younger sister’s job has fairly anti-social days/hours (she works in the pub across the road and they have a fully-booked restaurant for Christmas day).

I sometimes think I need to loosen my grip on my Ideal Christmas…but at the same time I think, why should I?

It’s a hard compromise, because I really value the time when we are all together and love all our weird little Christmas quirks and traditions – even when all of us together means that you can’t move without tripping over someone, and having to wait over an hour for your turn to shower!

I think I’m a little autistic in the way that I would love to keep our little routines at every Christmas – but at the same time I have to accept that my siblings are in different phases of life, and value different things to me.

I guess I’m just going to try not to stress about it – the more I try to organise things and get a plan together, the less organised and less planned everyone else seems to be… I think they do it on purpose! So it doesn’t help me anyway – I just get very anxious and worried that it will all fall apart because no-one else seems to think that planning is necessary.

Sometimes I wonder how my very “anti-planning”, hippie-fied, “what will be, will be” mother ended up with a stressy type-A daughter like me…

But, for now, I have my Christmas tree, I have my pile of presents and my list of things to buy, and I have a great idea for how to decorate my presents (thank you Pinterest!) and that is enough for me!

{via}

-x-

Flip that frown upside down

Today started out as a REALLY crappy day.

A few days ago my dad called my sister to say he was going back to Afghanistan in 2 weeks, to take up his job at the Airbase in Kandahar. My sister told my mum, who told me. I didn’t get so much as a text from my dad. And then yesterday, I spoke to my mum who said that my sister had received a text from my stepmum saying my dad had flown out “a few days early” and was already in Afghanistan.

Cue heartache. The thing is, I’m not upset that he’s there. It really makes no difference to me whether he is in Plymouth or Afghanistan – actually it could be that it will be easier now he’s there because there is an excuse for having little/no contact.

What hurts is that I didn’t even get a call to say he would be leaving, and nothing before he decided to fly out early.

I had such angry, horrible dreams and woke up in such a bad mood that I had to cancel plans with Eleanor because I knew I would be terrible company. I just needed to spend time with Jesus. And I cried.

We’re talking ugly, hiccupy, big tears crying. I only ever seem to do that over my dad.

It’s a complicated relationship. No matter how crappy a dad he is, I always hope that something will change. And then when something like this happens, even though every time I say that I won’t be surprised, it feels like I’ve been punched in the stomach.

I hate that it upsets me so much, because I feel like I should be used to it right now. But no matter how much I pretend that it’s ok that he doesn’t call, text, or really make an effort to know me at all, I still feel like a lost little girl when things like this happen.

But after a call to my mum and time with Jesus, listening to worship music and praying/crying for a while, I felt a little better. Tasha and I went to my friend Karen’s because her parents were having a get-together with people from church and I was reminded that while my biological family are, for the most part, pretty rubbish (immediate family excluded) …

I am blessed to have an absolutely amazing church family.

It was so much fun, I think I’m actually bruised from laughing so much. We ate, drank and were merry – and I spent time chatting with people I didn’t know so well before. We even played board games, it was just genuinely the exact thing that I needed. I am so thankful for a God that knows what I need… at a time when I was feeling heartbroken (for the thousandth time) and desperate, he takes me to a place where I can be comforted and loved.

Just what I need.

-x-

February snow

I absolutely love snow. This is my fifth year living in Canterbury, and it has snowed every year. Coming from a city by the sea, snow didn’t feature very much in my childhood…although I remember a few winters when I was younger when it did snow, and I just thought it was the best thing you could ever imagine.

Snow fascinates me; the prospect of a snow fall turns me into an excitable five-year old. I love pulling on two pairs of socks and legwarmers underneath my wellies and going crunching in show halfway up to my knees, and I equally love sitting in my comfy chair with a big blanket and a cup of tea – just watching it all fall.

I could look at pictures of snow virtually all day long, because it’s always so different. You wouldn’t think so; it’s white and it’s wet and when there’s a lot of it, it tends to cause chaos. But I think it’s beautiful and it makes me think of God.

This weekend we had our first real snowfall of 2012. We had about 1 inch on Friday night, but not enough to stop me getting to work on Saturday morning. By 11pm on Saturday night though my car was completely covered and I was sat, curled up in my comfy chair with my big blanket and my cup of tea, just watching out of the window as the complex where I live was transformed into an absolute wonderland.

Early on Sunday morning I got up, while it was still dark, and just stood at my window – looking. I love how when it’s snowed, it’s never really dark outside. It was beautiful. My window looks over our car park and onto a wooded area, but at that time of the morning I couldn’t make out any cars, just vague bumps underneath sheets of white. The trees were completely weighed down with thick white snow. I loved it.

I walked to church on Sunday, leaving about half an hour earlier than I normally would. It was only about 8am, so the snow was completely untouched; I was the first. I couldn’t believe how quiet it was all around me – usually even on Sundays there is traffic noise, people noise…but today there was nothing. It felt like an amazing gift from God, just for me to enjoy.

My camera doesn’t do justice to the beauty…but then replications never do. Here are some of my snaps.