It’s just I’m not sure I fit in here. There’s no one I can really talk to.

Take a deep breath. Try not to over think things. Remember why you’re here.

New situations, rooms full of new people, places I haven’t been to and sometimes places that I have can almost literally petrify me. If you have met me and I have started a conversation rather than waiting to ‘speak when spoken to’ you can probably count yourself among the honoured few. If I have divulged a secret or shown you a glimpse of who I really am you can count yourself honoured indeed.

I wear masks, not actual physical ones usually, the figurative type we can all put on. Sometimes they get me through the door into the new situation, the room of new people or the place I have never been. If there is a chance I will observe and adapt. I do have a generic ‘go to’ if there is no opportunity to adapt.

I remember walking into my current church for the first time four years ago. I had been at my previous church for eleven years and that church had become like family. Changing churches was a big deal, at that point it was like a child leaving home. We, Brother, Sister and I were leaving our safe, cosy church where everyone knew everyone (I left small out of the description) to walk into this new, unknown church. We knew it was a much bigger and, boy did we hope, younger church. We were changing churches partly to find other Christians our age. The first service I went to was a family service and as we approached the building I reminded myself of the three things at the top of this post. I think it was remembering why I was there that got me through the doors. Once through the doors things were okay, there was no fuss or anything. In fact for most of the service no one spoke to me, which was a good thing. I liked that no one pounced on the new people and I could just enjoy church without having to speak to anyone new. After a few weeks of only speaking to my sister’s friend and her parents who would kindly give us lifts for the evening service however I was starting to miss the people I could talk to and wonder if I was in the right place.

Brother had quickly found out about a congregation that met in a bar on Wednesday evenings called Conversations. I thought I would try it and see if it might have what I was looking for. I guess I needed it to be somewhere I didn’t feel invisible or anonymous but I could still keep the mask on. That is what it was. I went and was welcomed by someone who genuinely wanted to know who I was and found out more that evening than people in the central church congregations had all month. There was still a background to fade into, but as I watched I hoped I had found a place to fit in, to make friends, maybe even to belong.

It took a while to settle in to Conversations and I was mostly happy to just sit back and observe as I tried to work out who might be a friend and perhaps ultimately a confidante among this new group of people. It was still difficult for me because although I was in a place where the congregation was small enough that everyone noticed me there were only one or two people who made an effort to find out about me. I guess it got to the point where I was there and felt like part of the furniture but at times felt as though this still wasn’t quite where I belonged and couldn’t really say that I had real friends there, probably more acquaintances. There were some people I met occasionally away from the meetings on a Wednesday and we had a prayer group but I still never really found a person to really confide in.

When I met Fiancé at New Wine he was another new person. I was unsure at first whether we would even talk never mind making friends or anything more. I guess that being with people I had known for a while at the pub in Lincoln gave me a little bit of confidence although I don’t remember saying very much to him then except to ask what he did for a job. After New Wine he started to come to Conversations and I started to notice things about him that made me interested. I started to make sure I sat at the same table a him and I listened whenever he spoke. I guess I fell for him by degrees, a little more each week until around Christmas time, 4 months after we first met, when I realised that despite some family things that were going on I couldn’t keep him out of my mind. I prayed one night that if he was the one God intended me to have a relationship with that he would ask me out, the next day I received a text asking me to go to dinner.

Fiancé and I have been together for a year and eight months now. We’ve been through some tough times and some happy times together already. I think we’re a good couple and fit well together. We spend our time together and share our lives with each other. In April Fiancé will become Husband. He is one of my best friends and my confidante. I know that I can talk to him and usually he’ll listen.

Sometimes though I miss my friends from my previous church still. I might want to talk to someone about Fiancé or our relationship, to ask for advice from someone older and wiser or just to have a girly chat about the things that don’t interest Fiancé. Conversations doesn’t meet any more and the people I met there are becoming little more than facebook friends. I wish that there were someone that is a regular part of my life now that I could talk to but most of the ‘friends’ I have right now who I see every week do not fit the bill. I sometimes long to sit down with friends who have moved away or that are too busy leading their own active lives to see me every week and pour out how life sometimes makes me feel. Maybe my prayer life isn’t what it could be, but even then there are some things you want a discussion or real conversation about and it doesn’t always seem like that is possible with God. There are times when I still feel alone in a room full of people.

 

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Any day spent with you is my favourite day. So today is my new favourite day.

This summer has been one made mostly of long, lazy days. Perhaps it hasn’t felt much like summer with the weather we have had and the days where staying in was definitely preferable to going out. Due to limitations I have not seen some of the people I wanted to or done some of the things I thought would be good to do this summer. Despite that fact though summer has been good.

I have had the chance to spend time with people, sometimes people I have had little time for this past year. In the middle of carrying out my role as Children’s Ministry Parish Assistant and living away from home I forgot to make time for my family, for sitting in the living room with my parents and siblings and sharing time together. Okay, a lot of the time we don’t really ‘do’ anything but of all the simple things in life I enjoy I think just being with my loved ones is my favourite.

This year summer has meant something extra to me, not just the usual week away working with the children at the New Wine conference I attend every year. This year I had time to spend with my fiancé making memories. He was not at New Wine this year and although I missed him while I was away there was no time in the busyness of working with the children and spending time reconnecting with good friends for me to dwell on how much I wished he were there too. When I arrived back and he drove me home from the train station I realised that my week without him had been missing something and that something was him.

Nine days after I returned from New Wine Fiancé and I set off for Shell Island in Wales. It was about a 4 hour drive from where we live in York so we stopped for a little while in Chester. The drive was okay so far as drives go and when we got to Chester we parked the car and went for a walk. We peeped through the peepholes in the big iron sheet that is acting as the cathedral door while the real doors are away being restored and then we walked the full circuit of the Roman walls there, which were adapted into a promenade around the city by the Victorians. We sat and ate pasties on a bench in the town centre besieged by greedy pigeons. When we continued our journey it did not take long for the road signs to start appearing in Welsh and English and we followed long winding roads under mountains and across to the north-west of Wales. Shell Island is a pretty camping area, it’s big enough to accommodate many families and their tents or motor homes (caravans are not allowed on Shell Island). There is a harbour to the north end and a wide clean beach beyond the sand dunes to the south. We could choose any spot for our tent so long as we were at least 20 metres from neighbouring campers and not on a ‘No Camping’ area such as the top of the cliff. Our first attempt at choosing was not very successful we realised, as the wind tried to rip the tent from our hands. We moved and found a spot that was more sheltered from that particular wind. After we got the tent up and had sausage and beans for dinner we went for a walk.

We went down to the sand dunes and walked through them to a point near the car park where we could sit and look out over the sea. The sky was just starting to turn orange as the sun thought about setting and the breeze though cool was refreshing. We sat cuddled up to each other talking about how it was our first ‘real’ holiday and wondering if when in years to come we take our children to Shell Island we will remember the first time we were there as a couple. We watched the people who were just packing up or walking dogs on the beach and enjoyed just being there together. As I was looking out at the sea thinking how beautiful the location was and how wonderful it was to have Fiancé there to share it with I saw a flash of the sun off a dark fin and wondered whether it could be… and there it was again and I was sure as its friend came to the surface beside it and disappeared too. There were dolphins swimming in the bay below us. I had only ever seen dolphins on the TV or in the movies before although I once thought I caught a glimpse of a minky whale that caused great excitement on a ferry crossing to the Hebrides. I watched the dolphins playing for few moments and then Fiancé looked over to the left of us and saw that the setting sun had painted the hint of a rainbow on the clouds. It felt truly magical to be there in that moment with Fiancé, like God had placed his seal of approval on us being there by blessing us with the dolphin sighting and the rainbow.

 

The next day we drove through some of Snowdonia National Park and eventually found ourselves at the base on Mount Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales. Although we had arrived too late in the day to climb the mountain and the train rides up were both fully booked and too expensive standing at the bottom and looking up to the peak that was shrouded in cloud made me think of how small we really are and how big God must be to have created the earth and everything in it, to have placed everything in just the right way that these natural structures tower over the engineering feats man has achieved. Although we did not climb Snowdon we did walk a little way up its foothills to discover a pretty waterfall. I found it tiring walking up and would have turned back and missed the beauty of the fall if Fiancé had not been there, striding ahead on his long legs. When we reached the viewing point and crossed the mountain rail track we could see and hear the beauty and the power of this Welsh waterfall.

When we walked back from the waterfall and realised we would not be able to get the train up Snowdon I suggested we might like to try the train I remembered from my previous holiday in Wales, one that took you down one side of the lake at Llanberis and back again. We went across and got our tickets and I bought a Slushie while Fiancé had a Cornetto. We boarded the train when it arrived and rode around the lake. On the trip back we got off a stop before we had got on as we had seen that the National Slate Museum was at that stop. Although the museum was closing an hour and a half after we arrived we were still able to see the film on slate mining and to look around the houses that were set up as they would have been when the slate mine there was thriving. We went and saw the water wheel that powered the machinery in the workshops, harnessing the power of the water from a stream like the one that made the waterfall. I bought a few thing from the gift shop and we walked back around to where we had parked the car.

That night the wind was terrible and kept us awake, Fiancé especially. In the morning the tent was battered and nearly collapsed on me while I slept so we cut our time at Shell Island short. We packed up as quickly as we could and headed away from Shell Island. We remembered that a friend had mentioned a place that did cakes and ice-cream in a little town called Harlech that we would drive through so we stopped off and bought flapjack for our breakfast. From there we were unsure whether to straight home or try to find somewhere to stay. As Fiancé was quite tired finding somewhere to stay seemed to make most sense. As we drove in Caernarfon in the rain we noticed there were two reasonably priced places to stay, a Premier Inn and a Travelodge, right next to each other. We were relieved to have found somewhere and Fiancé went to get us a room while I sheltered in the car. We got our room and headed straight for the bed to catch up on some lost sleep. After some sleep we felt more human and went for a wander in Caernarfon. We had some dinner and went to the castle gift shop to finish off my gift buying. After a night in Caernarfon we drove home by the scenic route as Fiancé’s sat-nav was not working properly. It was an interesting journey but we made it home in one piece.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget certain parts of our holiday, but most of all I won’t forget spending those days just with Fiancé away from all the concerns of home life. And although, yes, every day spent with Fiancé at the moment is pretty good as we learn more about each other and share in the adventure that is preparing for marriage, those days in Wales will be favourites for a few months yet.

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I Am Still Here :)

Hi

Just wanted to quickly throw out a line and let any of you wonderful people who follow my blog know that I have in fact not disappeared off the face of the Earth.

I haven’t been sitting here deliberately letting you hang waiting to see what I write next. It’s not like I’d just forget that there are people who do read what I write here. I’m searching for an excuse but there are very few that I feel would suffice and I did say I would be honest.

In the midst of doing ‘end of year’ stuff on my Parish Assistant (intern) year at church, packing up my things to move back in with my parents and looking forward to the summer conference where I will be running around with a bunch of 6 year olds all week the blog seems to have been pushed to one side. I haven’t been not writing at all, in fact I realised I had made a mistake with some timings in my story and have gone back to the root of that to rewrite and rectify the mistake. The rewrite is over a fair chunk of stuff that I had written and was satisfied with so I’m kicking myself for the slip up. I have also been reading, eating up Cecilia Ahern’s Book of Tomorrow and Thanks for the Memories. I’ll have to choose a new book to take to the conference for my down time.

So, on Friday I go to my housemate’s wedding ceremony, perhaps get a bite of cake at the church and then dash off to get across town, pick up my bags and get on the train for the one hour train journey that takes me to the station where I get a taxi to the show ground where the conference is held. In my bag along with the clothes, toiletries, towels and teddy bear will be my paper and pens, partly to take notes alongside my Bible, partly for the purposes of writing my story and recording new experiences from the conference.

This means that it will be at least ten days before I write another blog post, assuming I don’t get too absorbed in story rewriting, new story ideas and reading my way through other books.

I have to head out now because, as if everything else wasn’t enough I have a mock interview scheduled to try to help me get that elusive job.

I am still here, still writing and there will be another blog post soon.

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It’s that time of year again.

It wasn’t terribly surprising to find that there was not a Disney quote to go with the subject of this post, well at least not on the face of it. Perhaps a little deeper digging might have found one, but the idea is not that I spend all night looking for a quote to go with a blog post I haven’t written so I decided to prioritise the post over the title.

Summer is sweeping in and soon the children will have broken up from school and will be everywhere. I look forward to the summer still. It’s a different anticipation now than it was when I was still a kid and summer meant six weeks off school away, mostly, from the bullies and able to just be me. For the last six years, and again this year, summer has meant eight nights under canvas spending seven days as part of a children’s team at New Wine North and East summer conference.

The dreams that creep up on me somewhere around March are usually the first indication that somewhere in my subconscious I am already beginning the countdown. I have a tendency to dream that something’s not quite right, either I can’t find which cowshed I’m supposed to be in or I’m really late for team time and miss the important stuff although I know the normal layout of the Newark Show-ground like the back of my hand by now and haven’t ever been late enough to team time to actually miss anything. Even with the dreams it takes a while for my conscious thoughts to catch up with my subconscious.

July, the month of preparing and more often than not some element of panic. For the first few years I knew I had my gorgeous Eurohike Paint Your Own tent that had been lovingly decorated for me by my best friends in my house group, a snuggly warm sleeping bag and a big backpack that matched to carry everything in. I even went so far as buying a camping chair in the same fabric as  the sleeping bag and backpack. The main panic was the paperwork, where had we put the essential letters that had the tear off part that was our ticket and conference badge? Even after no ticket year and the wait in the information office which ended in relief we would still panic when the paperwork was mislaid. Two years ago a very sad time came; after years of being used for one week in the summer and being put away perhaps a little carelessly my beautiful distinctive tent that had a double skin so never leaked had succumbed to damp and mould and really was on its last legs. I borrowed a friend’s tent last year and got leaked on so the slight panic is in the hope that Fiancé’s tent won’t leak when I borrow it this year.

Looking back I have so many memories of great things that have happened at New Wine. Besides my love story starting there (which I will tell another time) there have been so many great stories of what God can do in the lives of these children. I’ll never forget the evening the kids left the venue late because they were all chanting ‘Jesus’ over and over, or the girl, Siobhan, who arrived at my group in Boulder Gang deaf but went home at the end of the week hearing after the kids prayed for her.

Every year I make sure that as we pack down on the Friday night I have made a list of every child that was on the register for my group. These lists go into the back of my journal and I try to remember to pray for the children from one New Wine to the next.I have the lists from 07 – 10 in front of me as I write this and I can remember children even from as far back as 2007. Some of them you don’t forget quickly and some will stay in your memory forever. From 2007 there are three boys I can still picture as if I last saw them yesterday.

Kids and what God does for them and through them are I guess at the centre of my focus every year at New Wine and as I go as a children’s worker that is only right but what then of the amazing people who are there for the team? Every year so far I have gone to New Wine leaving something not quite right at home. One year a very close friend and her husband were separating, other years I have been out of work and had to scrape together the train fare. I cannot pretend that there has been a year yet where I have been happy to get onto the train/into the car at the end of the week. Perhaps, as this year I’m leaving Fiancé at home I will be happy to come back. There are some pretty awesome people, well they have to be awesome for me to have felt so comfortable with them, who are there for the team members. They are our team pastors. For the past 3 years I have been able to talk to my team pastors without the usual clamming up and not being able to say what I wanted. God has worked in life at New Wine and these people have helped massively. Claire, Panda and Becki have all listened and prayed with me as I told them virtually the same story and felt like I was a stuck record waiting for the needle to skip. I guess Claire opened the door a bit, Panda was great at helping me step through and Becki went above and beyond. Becki’s pastoring last year led to me going to see the lay pastor at my church and working through the issues with him. Thanks to Becki and the lay pastor I don’t think the same issues are going to be as pertinent this year. Maybe they’ll be there in the background but there will be much more important things for me to want to pray about.

Whatever awaits me in the week after I watch my housemate get married I know that I have awesome team leaders and hopefully an awesome team pastor who I will be able to talk to. This year I am going to working with a younger group of children with the challenges that will bring but with God’s help and the support of my team, the team leaders and the team pastor I know that whether the challenges come from the children or from somewhere within me I will be able to handle them, although I’m not expecting that this year’s team pastor will be as willing as Becki was to bring a cookie to my sick tent.

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Quote Quiz- Answers

Okay, it’s been five days and no one has even attempted the quiz 😦 There were no comments for me to moderate and no messages in my Facebook inbox. Slightly disappointing, but I’ll live. So, just in case any of you out there were guessing away quietly and didn’t want to send me your answers here they are:

1. Oh yes, the past can hurt. –  Rafiki to Simba, Lion King

2. You’ve got a friend in me. – Woody (song), Toy Story and reprise in Toy Story 2

3. That’s our lot in life. It’s not a lot, but it’s our life. – Queen, A Bug’s Life

4. Life’s only worth living if you’re being loved by a kid. – Buzz Lightyear to Woody, Toy Story 2 (apologies for mistake in original post)

5. You think you’re very grown up, but you have a great deal to learn. – Wendy to her daughter Jane, Return to Neverland

6. A photograph can take you back in time to faces and embraces that you thought you’d left behind. – Tigger, The Tigger Movie

7. I am always with you. Even when you can’t see me I’m here. – Bambi’s mother to Bambi in a dream, Bambi 2

8. Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart. – Winnie the Pooh

9. Faith, trust and pixie dust. – Originally Peter Pan, Peter Pan in a slightly different format but also Jane, Return to Neverland in this format.

10. What do they have against people who are different, anyway? – Esmeralda, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

I hope some you got at least some of these. Future posts will continue to have Disney quotes as titles so look out for them and see if you can tell which film/character they’re from. There may be another quiz for you to participate in.

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Pooh: Where are you going? Piglet: That’s what I’m asking myself. Where?

In just over three weeks I finish as a Parish Assistant (intern) at my church. I’m coming to a crossroads, one where I can’t afford to go back and spend half of every week helping to plan and lead my church children’s work.

If I want to marry Fiancé 41 weeks tomorrow I need to find paid work so I can contribute to the cost of that. Looking at the different aspects of a wedding can be daunting, especially when I don’t have a job.

I am trying to follow God’s leading in the search for employment. It’s not an easy time to be looking for a job. So many people are in the same position. Every vacancy has hundreds of applicants and it is easy enough to see that some people have more qualifications, experience and confidence than I do.

I don’t know exactly what I will do with my time after the next three weeks are up if I don’t get a job. I have a Christian summer conference to go to and help with the kids there and perhaps some time away with Fiancé. Aside from that I don’t know what I will do if I don’t find a job soon. There are options. I can do a limited amount of voluntary work. I have stuff, lots of stuff, that I could sort out and maybe sell. I know that the work involved in wedding planning will take up a lot of time as will doing all the D.I.Y aspects that save money on the detailed stuff.

I know I have skills, knowledge and experience to offer and employer. I believe God can open the door to the employment where my skills, knowledge and experience can be used best. I don’t know when or where that will be, I have to trust that God does and keep trying to push doors. One door will open and I will find the right place to work.

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Quote Quiz :)

As this is my 13th post I thought I would do something a little different with it.

For 10 of my previous 12 posts I have used Disney quotes. I will list them below and if you know the film or the character (or both for extra kudos) let me know either by commenting on here or by messaging me on facebook. In post 15 I will give everyone the answers and name the ones who did best (pseudonym with answers if you don’t want your true identity revealed on here) 🙂 Happy guessing, have fun and take care one and all 🙂

1. Oh yes, the past can hurt.

2. You’ve got a friend in me.

3.That’s our lot in life. It’s not a lot but it’s our life.

4. Life’s only worth living if you’re being loved by a kid. (I mention the answer in this post)

5. You think you’re very grown up, but you have a great deal to learn.

6. A photograph can take you back in time to faces and embraces that you thought you’d left behind.

7. I am always with you. Even when you can’t see me I’m here.

8. Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.

9. Faith, trust and pixie dust.

10. What do they have against people who are different, anyway?

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