What is life, and what do I want from it?

Do you ever feel that you are just ‘plodding’ on in life? That things are ok … nothing to complain about… that you’re “happy enough, I guess” but you feel that you are lacking the ‘WOW’ factor ? That’s how I’ve felt for a while. Quite a while, actually.

I can’t see the path that I’m on and I have no idea what I am “doing” with my life. I know that I’m not ‘entitled’ to see the path that God has for me… that He makes the plans, not me. I know that God’s plan is better than any plan I would ever make. I just wish He’d give me a hint once in a while, and let me know what way to go.

Many-Paths-To-Take

I’ve really been seeking in this lately. I had a long talk with my discipler a few weeks ago, and we thought about why I feel so aimless. I think partly it’s because my life now doesn’t match up to the expectations that I had for myself when I was younger, and in comparison with others around my age, I feel a bit inadequate.

I turn 28 in 2 months. (2 months minus 2 days actually)  If you had asked me 10 years ago, aged almost 18, where I would be now, in April 2017, here’s what I’d have said:

qualified social worker, happy in my job, owning my own home, married, probably with at least one child

Well…I have one of those things ticked off, since I qualified as a social worker almost 7 years ago. I’m still pretty pleased with my accomplishment, although 7 years post-qualified doesn’t feel all that much progression from 1 year post-qualified, and doesn’t get any more recognition from my current employer

It’s clear to me that life now is not what I thought it would be.

Job: I’m *ok* with my job but it would be hard to say I’m happy. I had a bad few weeks in March and spontaneously applied for another job…in Plymouth. When the interview offer came, I realised I didn’t want to move back home, but I am open to looking for another job where I might feel more stretched, or challenged, or at least valued – which I don’t always. Don’t get me wrong, compared to my old job I’m positively ecstatic and I’m in no way dismissing the great gift that God gave me by rescuing me from my old place and moving me here… but over the past few months it all seems ‘samey’ and I don’t like ‘samey’. I like challenge and new and feeling that I am making a difference.

  • I am doing something about this though (this is not purely a moany post, don’t worry) I am waiting on a date with our Head of training and development to talk about further training options that I can take up, since I’m a big geek and like to learn and pass on what I’ve learned

Home: I love my home. I have a very lovely housemate. I have almost abandoned the hope of owning my own place. I am a working professional with a steady job, but house prices are so high that even with a very healthy savings account there is no way I will be able to afford to buy. Even if I were to scrimp and save even more (I save the equivalent of my monthly rent and utilities bills every month, but still have plenty of money left for treats and luxuries and holidays etc…for point of reference) it would probably still not be enough since house prices just keep going up!

I feel content with this, now. I realised that I was working towards owning my own home because that’s what people my age do. The main difference was that either most people my age, who were buying houses, were married (therefore 2 incomes, therefore less financial strain and slightly better chance at affording local houses) or had parents who could help with deposits (or sometimes both)

Since I’m single, and since I don’t have any wealthy (or even ‘well off’) relatives waiting in the wings to give me all their money, and since actually I don’t want the responsibility of having to pay for boiler services and roof leaks and broken pipes and blah blah blah, I have decided that it is actually completely practical and completely acceptable to be renting……. although it took a long time to decide that since it’s not what people my age do!

Marriage and children: … no ring on this finger…no current prospect of one. Does that mean I’m a failure?! Um. NO. It doesn’t mean that I’m putting my life on hold and sitting like a Disney Princess waiting for my Prince to come, and it doesn’t mean I’m out there on every dating website and desperate for a man (nothing against dating sites, just not for me)

I’m living life as it is…and open to a relationship if I meet the right person…but it hasn’t happened yet and comparing my singleness with friends who were married, with one or more kids, when they were my age, is not helpful.

comparison-is-the-thief-of-joy-black-and-white-watercolor-canvas

So, going back to my original point. Life is OK. I have a busy life and activities all over the place … dance class and choir on Mondays, Pilates on Tuesdays, Yoga on Wednesdays, Small Group on Thursdays, Yoga on Fridays, rest on Saturdays, and church on Sundays. Also, I crochet, I binge-watch Netflix, I read, I am exploring my family history, I help my friends in their garden renovation project, I practice self care and get regular massages, I go for brunch and afternoon tea, and I go to the cinema with friends (we loved Beauty and the Beast).

I’m busy and happy…but I still feel a bit purposeless…and it feels that I’m often just finding activities that fill my time up so that a) I’m not bored and b) to exhaust me so that I don’t get attacked by my insomnia [but that’s a post for another day]

Recently I asked my small group to pray for me, about this feeling of purposeless…and one person had a picture of me carrying a tablecloth, all bundled up, with lots of things in it… like this I think:

hobostick4

(who knew this was called a ‘hobo stick’?! Not me, but it seems appropriate)

Anyway, he had a picture of me carrying a bundle full of things I wanted…and felt God was encouraging me to lay the bundle down, spread the tablecloth out, and take up only what I wanted from the things carried inside.

I’ve been praying about that every since, trying to identify the things I’m carrying, hoping for, wanting, and filter out whether these are things that I really want for myself, or whether I want them just because I feel I should (see above about buying a house)

Since that time though, I feel almost more purposeless because there are several things I think I want and I don’t know which of them is right. I feel like a compass with all these different things, or opportunities, in different directions and there’s no arrow pointing me to the right one!

I know that I’m not lost. Not really. There’s a poem by JRR Tolkein which goes;

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring

There’s a lot of hope in that, and in knowing that God’s plans for me are completely known to Him –

Jer-29.11-e1363787816786

Being patient and waiting for Him to lead me though….. that’s another matter!

 

 

 

-x-

 

 

 

Day 3/5 of Ofsted – or – I am BLESSED

I have been a social worker for 3 years now. I was with the Agency where I am now employed as a student for a year before I qualified. So that makes 4 years of fostering experience. There have been many times in those four years where I thought “surely this [incident/event/situation] is as stressful as it’s going to get. Once I’ve got through this, it’ll be a piece of cake…”

And then Ofsted came.

Having every teeny part of my work – our Agency’s work – scrutinised, is exhausting. I think I’ve spent about 15 hours with the inspector over the past 3 days.

Last night on the way home I prayed for today’s meetings with the inspector, that God would give me wisdom and peace in it all, that our staff morale would boost (scrutiny is stressful) …and then I remembered something…

My salvation is not affected by this inspection

Jesus died for me. His opinion of me is never going to change.

Irrespective of what this inspector says about the agency I work for, or even about me specifically (good or bad) I am saved. This is what God says about me:

I am a child of God.
But to all who have received him–those who believe in his name–he has given the right to become God’s children … (John 1:12).

I am a friend of Jesus.
But I have called you friends, because I have revealed to you everything I heard from my Father (John 15:15).

I have been justified and redeemed
But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).

The Holy Spirit dwells in me…
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you (1 Corinthians 6:19)?

…and helps me.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my [Jesus] name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

I am BLESSED
…our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

And so, in conclusion – for now…

Yes, Ofsted is very scary and intimidating and exhausting and time-consuming and emotional and I don’t really like it…

I know that I am blessed…and it will be okay.

 

My sister has cancer

There’s a scene near the end of the film “Sweet Home Alabama” where Reese Witherspoon is ditching Patrick Dempsey at the altar. He stands there, numb, and says “So this is what this feels like”

That scene made sense to me yesterday, when my little sister Abigail (who is not so little; 19 years old and 6 ft 2) called me up after work and told me that the series of lumps she found in her neck six months ago are in fact, thyroid cancer.

goofysister

I don’t know about you, but when I hear of horrible situations happening to people I know, my mind wanders a bit and I wonder how I would cope in that situation. I wonder how I would feel.

As it turns out, there is no way to prepare for news like this, and more than 24 hours later, I still don’t know how I feel.

Today I was such a scatter brain that I managed to spill a nearly full cup of tea over myself. First thing in the morning. While wearing a white t-shirt. Idiot. The rest of the day I had the attention span of a gnat. Oh, and I almost poured boiling water over myself whilst trying to make a cup of tea later in the afternoon.

Right now, I am focusing on the things that I know – rather than the things I don’t. I’m resisting the urge to Google…once I know the official name of it, I’ll do some research but until then it would just be too weird.

Things I know
Abigail has thyroid cancer which is also affecting her lymph glands
She is having surgery to remove it on 2nd October
After that, she’ll be having radio-iodine treatment to eradicate any further cancer
God is in control

loveneverfails

I know that lots of people, when faced with awful situations, will rail against God and blame him. Millions of people use the fact that there is sickness and suffering in the world as an excuse not to believe in Him. Not me. I know that God is in control and He has this whole situation in hand. More than that, He’s been preparing us for this.

How?

Abigail has a friend called Jess, who earlier this year had a stroke and later found out she had leukaemia. Jess is a good friend of Abigail’s and they work together, so Abigail has seen her at her best and worst through her own illness. Jess’ consultant is called Dr Malik. Dr Malik is also Abigail’s consultant. When she was waiting for her results, Abigail sat down with Jess and Jess was very lovely and explained exactly what it’s like to have cancer. Abigail then felt reassured that she knew what she might be facing – even though none of us wanted it to be this. What an angel Jess has been.

This time last year, our family’s support network was very small. It was basically just the immediate family; eight of us, a rabbit and a dog. Yesterday when I spoke to my mum and my sister, there were about a dozen non-family people that we could think of who will help us through this – my mum’s new friends that she has met through a course she attended and a lovely friend from work, my brother-in-law’s family, our friend Penny who lives in the village… we have people.

This time two years ago my Mum and Abigail both suffered from severe depression. Both of them still have depression, but nowhere near the extent that they did before. While this has knocked us all for six (daft expression) it is not going to beat us down.

So while I do still feel unprepared for news like this; I know that God has prepared us for this – and I can, and will, turn to Him throughout this time.

Tomorrow, my sister and brother in law are driving back to Plymouth from Wales, and after work my brother and his girlfriend and I are driving down as well. We are all assembling, like the Avengers, to talk and hug and watch Disney movies. This is what we do.

Abigail has started a blog – of course – because she is a fighter and wants to document her journey. You can read more here: http://mylife-cherryblossom.tumblr.com/

There may be blog-silence for a little while. There may be blog overload for a while. I don’t know really.

But what I do know?

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant through the trial and the change
One thing remains
One thing remains

Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me

On and one and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid
One thing remains

In death and in life I’m confident and covered by the power of your great love
My debt is paid there’s nothing that can separate my heart from your great love

(One Thing Remains; Jesus Culture)

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Two things…

I have had two grand revelations this week…

The first is that I am awful at maths. I said in Sunday’s blog post that it was 10 days until my trip to the States. Obviously that was very wrong, because at that point it was actually 12 days to go. Now it is 8 sleeps! Maths was never my strongest point; I’m an English/History/languages girl. There’s way more flexibility and room for thinking than in maths. Clearly, I cannot even do basic counting. Never mind. We can’t all be Einstein.

The second revelation this week was much more amazing and wonderful. As I said in Sunday’s post, I am entering into a transition period where I’ll be moving, again, to a new house. I also said that I couldn’t afford to live alone…so I have had to give this situation completely over to God and trust that His plans are good. Having moved house so many times, I really liked the idea of staying in one place more than 2 years. I love my house, and it is so great to live here – but I’ve had to surrender the whole situation to God. Not easy…but worth it! I prayed about it and worked out what I felt needed for living in Canterbury to be financially viable.

What I didn’t say was that last Friday, I approached my boss and asked if it was possible to increase my hours at work, or increase my salary. I currently work 4 days a week (32) and usually work at least 8 hours “overtime” during evenings/weekends to make it to a full 40 hour week, but I take my overtime as time off in lieu. (Clear as mud, yes?) I was asking if I could work a standard 40 hour week (Monday to Friday) or stick at 32 hours but for a higher rate. I’ve not had a payrise in the 2 years I’ve worked there, but I’ve never been in a position to need one.

When I raised it with my boss, she asked if we could schedule a meeting this week to talk about it in detail. I spent the weekend NOT worrying about it, because I know that God has greater plans than anything I could ever orchestrate and that all things would work out in the end:

Romans 8:28 – And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good

The meeting with my boss took place yesterday, and the amazing thing is that she had already decided to give me a payrise…because I am being promoted!

Whoop!! I’m now Senior Social Worker at our Fostering Agency. I get to take on more responsibilities, a supervising role for our students, and the financial benefit means that I can afford to get my own place without any difficulties!! As I said to my friend Simon, I won’t be buying a yacht anytime soon and won’t suddenly have a craaazy lavish lifestyle, but I will be able to start saving and will have more financial security.

God is just so incredible. He already knew that everything would be fine; he had worked it all out but through it I learned more about trusting him and relying on him completely. There was nothing else I could do, but lean completely on him and I’ve seen, yet again, how faithful he is. What a demonstration of his love; that he gave me peace in the situation and I was able to rest knowing that He had good plans for me. He knew exactly what I needed – to be able to stay in Canterbury near my friends and my church, and to be able to have a place to call “mine” – how blessed am I to have such a powerful but gentle Father God, who cares about what my heart craves and desires.

I am still completely in awe and overwhelmed by his gracious love.

-x-

Four months

Rosie and I have been living in our lovelylovely flat for four months today 🙂

In honour of the occasion, here are some photos of my BEAUTIFUL room which is FINALLY tidy since my OCD is flaring up. (Joke…I’m too lazy for OCD)


I like photos in my room…many many photos 🙂 Fortunately the previous people who lived here also liked to have stuff on the walls, so there are pre-existing nail holes which I’ve used. I’m on the look out for something to go over my bed, since that whole wall is pretty plain. I just got the white frame (the 8 photo one) this weekend, and I spent an hour or so yesterday finding the right photos for it. I think it looks pretty.

Speaking of pretty – look at these photos which I just found, I took them on my camera when we were on holiday:

I JUST LOVE THEM! I love the bold colours and the light on them. Mum got a bit annoyed with me at times, I think, because I figured out the “macro” mode and kept stopping to take photos of weird things and then zoooooooming in on them really closely. Like ladybugs – I have a whole bunch of ladybug photos saved on the computer at home. I’ll try and get Mum to send them to me, because they really are quite cool.

Get me, with all my photography talk. Such fun!

-x-

I’m moving!

Eek. On 1st May, my friend Rosie and I are moving into our brand new flat!! We didn’t expect to find one, and have such an early moving date, but the landlords were willing to reduce the rent if we could move in on that day; as they are moving into their new place at the end of April and don’t want the flat to be sitting empty for long.

It’s BEAUTIFUL!! It’s a brand new 2 bed apartment in a new development in Canterbury, two bathrooms and two parking spaces (which are like gold dust!) – it’s perfect. We are very excited.

The scary thing is that it is unfurnished (doesn’t even have a fridge!) so we are relying on God to meet our needs – and He is already doing it – people at church have offered us furniture; a sofa, two armchairs, a dining table, a bed, a chest of drawers, a TV and a freezer, and Rosie has managed to get a double bed frame and a double mattress from Freecycle today! And we have some bids on Ebay as well, so we know it will all work out.

It’s so exciting!