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-

 

 

misdirected emotions

I am a great example of how to display an emotion completely separate from what I m actually feeling. I have written before that I can be an ostrich when it comes to emotions and feelings but I also have a knack for completely dwelling on something minor as a way to distract myself from what I’m really feeling.

Case in point: about 2 hours ago I said goodbye to my wonderful American friends. I just about held the tears back as the kids all got emotional and as they prayed for me and told me their favourite things about my visit. I felt so sad to be leaving that I wanted to tell Rachel to turn the car around and I would just stay forever!

(But of course I didn’t and I said goodbye at the bus stop with a huge knot in my tummy and a lump in my throat from trying so hard not to lose it)

So then I spent an hour on the bus trying not to cry, reading my Bible and praying and looking at pictures. By the time I got to the airport I still felt sad but I was thankful for my time with the Libbys.

Then I checked in and my bag was too heavy and I had to pay the excess fee and instead of being my usual practical self and rearranging items between my carry-ons to make my check-in lighter I just went ahead and paid the whole charge! Which left me kicking myself all through Security for not making a wise decision.

Of course, I got so frustrated with myself over it because I didn’t want to think about what I was missing with Rachel and the kids.

I really had to fight to let go of that frustration and not let it take away from the joyful time I’ve had. Seriously, I’ve just had 2 wonderful weeks with some of my favourite people and I’m going to dwell on an insignificant thing like paying a baggage charge?!

How could my heart and head be so ungrateful so suddenly. It honestly took a lot of prayer and thanking God for all blessings of the last two weeks to make me see that while yes, maybe I made a silly split second decision, but it was even sillier to let it spoil my heart.

In the end I was thanking God that he provided me with enough spending money in my purse that I could pay the charge in cash and still have enough for a Starbucks while I wait for my boarding time. He didn’t have to provide that, but He did, because He loves me.

One thing I am taking away from this experience is to always have a thankful heart even when you feel silly or frustrated with your situation, because there are too many blessings to count if you look for them.

The other thing I am taking away from this is to be more wware of what I am feeling and why. This has always been a thing for me, and I have to constantly examine myself: what am I feeling, why am I feeling that way? But now I also need to challenge myself to change my attitude if it is not right and focused on God.

Such deep thoughts whilst sat at Gate D11. I have another hour or so until my flight starts boarding so I think I will head around the concourse in search of that Starbucks!

-x-

Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014

Today is the first day of 2014. A new year; an exciting year. 

2013 hasn’t been the easiest year of my life – my family has dealt with cancer, and other illness, and I’ve faced challenges left,  right and centre in my personal and professional life.

But despite the seemingly negative things that happened last year (which feels strange to write as 2014 is only 22 hours old) there were many more positive and wonderful things that happened which made 2013 a pretty great year overall…

Such as, 

 

 

– I got to visit my amazing friends in America during the Spring,  and spent 2 whole weeks playing games with their children,  reading scripture and having great talks with them

 

 

– I moved into my own house; something which scared me a lot at first that has turned out to be a brilliant decision.  My house is beautiful, and peaceful,  and a real sanctuary after busy times at work. I love entertaining here and having my family stay at Christmas made this Christmas the sweetest we’ve had in many years

 

 

– my sister beat cancer!

 9 weeks after she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, during which she had a life-threatening operation and radio-iodine therapy, we were told there’s no cancer left! She is doing so well and I am so thankful to God for sustaining us through this. We had a cancer-free Christmas and Abigail is getting back to her old self.  She even has modelling work lined up for this month! 

 

– I got promoted at work…twice! Back in April I was made Senior Social Worker in our Agency,  and following our Ofsted inspection in October I have been enrolled on a management course so I can begin working as Deputy Fostering Manager!  I am excited and a bit daunted by this new challenge. My course is a Level 5 NVQ in Leadership and Management of Health and Social Care Services (Children and Youth Services) We hope that I’ll have completed the course by the end of this year. 

 

– my sister Rebecca got married to Simeon in June, and he is a delightful brother-in-law 🙂 they have 2 terms left at University and then they’ll be moving down to Plymouth again

 

…and that’s only a few of the brilliant things that have happened this year.

 

Dear 2013…

You have been a good year,  and I thank God for the blessings – the fun, laughter,  happiness and love. I’m also thankful for the challenges; the difficult bits, because in those times I have been able to rely on God to keep hold of me and comfort me. 

 

Thank you,  2013, for being lovely. I pray 2014 is full of wonderful things too

 

-x-

Why yes, I am still alive

I don’t seem to have the hang of this blogging regularly thing, do I? Looking back through my “recent” posts, it’s a bit shameful that all I’ve done is post briefly captioned photos.

At least it’s proof I am still actually alive. And to be honest I have been thinking about blogging, and meaning to post updates – but life has just been the absolute definition of insane!

So here’s a bullet-point update of my life, as is, right now.

Work:
Busy as busy can be. Our Ofsted inspection did not have the outcome we had hoped for, but one positive is that the inspector has recommended I am trained up and promoted to Deputy Manager. Unfortunately this came too late for me to enrol in the 13/14 intake, but next September I will be enrolled on an NVQ Level 5 Leadership and Management in Health and Social Care Services course at the local HE college. Yay for further education, yay for new challenges. Yay for 10 months to brush up so I feel ready for this!

Day to day work is busy, but that seems to be the status quo right now. We’ve just got to roll with it. I am praying lots to get through the day.

Home:
I have decorated my house for Christmas and it looks BEAUTIFUL! Pictures to follow in a separate Christmassy post. My family are coming to stay at Christmas and I cannot wait to have them all here.

Family:
My sister is cancer-free!!! Hooray hooray hooray!! She had her radio-iodine treatment 20th-22nd November, and on 22nd November had a scan which showed no sign of cancer at all. We are all so pleased and relieved and thankful. She still has a recovery – to adjust to not having a thyroid and keeping her thyroxine and calcium levels stable (with medication) but she is doing brilliantly. Our family gets a cancer-free start to 2014 🙂

General:
In general I am well and happy. Currently a bit stressed over work issues and a minor car bump that happened on Saturday, but it’s in the hands of insurers and the important thing is no-one was hurt. Hard to sustain injury at barely 1mph, isn’t it?!

I have an “exciting” appointment with my dentist tomorrow as my wisdom tooth has been playing up for 2 weeks and I’m getting frustrated. It’s really painful, but I don’t know if it’s normal pain or “there’s a problem” pain. So I’m getting it checked out. Last time I went to the dentist I got my first ever filling and I was mortified. It wasn’t even to fill a hole, just to cover where my tooth had gotten sensitive but I still could have cried.

And that’s about it, my life in a condensed version. Life is dominated by work, if I’m not working I am with my friends, or at church, or at the gym.

If none of the above, I can usually be found sleeping. I love my bed and my bed loves me.

Hopefully more regular updates will resume now/shortly but for now, please don’t give up on me!

-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.

 

I.S.F.J … or, my 200th post

This evening, I read a blog update by one of my favourite bloggers: Renee at FIMBY

You should visit that blog. It’s great. Sometimes I just look at her amazing photography and go back to read the post later. I am inspired (and at times jealous) of her family’s lifestyle.

Renee writes a lot about being an ESTJ personality (according to the Myers Briggs personality test) and in the latest FIMBY post she mentions it again. I’ve often wondered what I would come out as…and today, at the end of a long-long month, and feeling rather fragile after a not-so-good day at work I thought I would see if my personality type explains why I feel things how I do. So, I found a version of the test on line.

My result is ISFJ – which is Introverted – Sensing – Feeling – Judging

(As opposed to: Extroverted/iNtuition/Thinking/Perceiving)

This is what the website says about ISJF personalities…

Introverted Sensing personality types are dependable, reliable and trustworthy. They like to belong to solid organisations that are reasonable in their ambitions and loyal to their employees. They feel useful when their roles and responsibilities are clearly established and they can monitor their activities and productivity in tangible ways. They tend to be rather modest, traditional and conventional, to like sensible clothing, to be thrifty, careful and wise with both money and possessions

Once they accept a project, they will see it to the end. They manage their time well and are realistic about how much time and resources will be needed.

They tend to like to stay in one neighbourhood, often choosing to live close to where they were themselves raised. They are often involved with volunteer organisations and have a developed sense of citizenship and accountability. When they purchase something, it is after careful consideration; rarely will they buy something without having a known need or use for it. They may keep possessions for a lifetime and treasure those that were given to them.

They tend to have a good memory for specific facts that are necessary in their day-to-day life at work and at home. They accumulate facts and details to orient themselves, relying on repeated experiences that have been proven trustworthy. A fact once experienced may be the product of circumstance and happenstance; it is not in and of itself reliable. When an introverted sensing type hears an idea, they rummage through reams of archived facts to find an experience that provides information for the relevance and realism of an idea. When an introverted sensing type utters, “It’s never been done!” they are saying that no information about the relevance or usefulness of the idea is available to them. They tend to shy away from surprises and what is perceived as unnecessary change.

Apart from the bit about sensible clothing – which is true, but a little bit rude – I can totally see how that is my personality.

Want to see what Google Images says about ISFJ personalities?!

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isfj2

isfj-personality

Apparently I’m a cross between Sam from LOTR, Marge Simpson, and a super-over-achieving Mum. Great!

More seriously, though – ISFJ…that’s totally me!! The bits about work… that’s me!!

I appreciate reasonable expectations and loyalty – not being expected to keep a hundred-thousand balls in the air, and then be criticised publicly when I drop the hundred-and-first ball rather than praised for managing to keep the first hundred up there.

Can you tell I had a bad day?

Actually, let’s get some perspective. It wasn’t that bad. I prayed on the way to work this morning that God would:
… give me peace – because I have been feeling very anxious recently and in particular last week at work
… help me to stand firm in His promises – because I have been feeling like I am on very shaky ground
… help me to guard my tongue and speak wisely, not letting frustrations get the better of me – because I have been such a snarky, gossipy girl over the last month, saying the first thing that comes to mind and not being the example of Christ that I could be in my workplace

And, thanks be to God – I felt less anxious and more assured: trusting that my worth does not come from my colleagues’ opinion of me but from God’s opinion of me. I held it together: despite being criticised unjustly in front of my colleagues and a carer, and trusted that God has a purpose for this time – even though it is uncomfortable for me.

Tonight I am signing off tonight with a few verses that I need to learn…absorb…take hold of. I particularly love Exodus 4:14 which was a key verse in our sermon at church this week.

James 1:2-4
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”(NKJV)

2 Corinthians 10:3
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.” (NIV)

Exodus 14:14
“The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (NKJV)

1 Peter 3:9
“Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.” (NLT)

1 Peter 3:9
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (ESV)

Psalm 46:10a
“Be still, and know that I am God.” (KJV)

-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-