Tag Archives: God

Standing on a Road I Didn’t Plan.

I can look at my life right now and quite confidently say had you asked me 5 or 10 years ago what my life would be like on February 8th 2013 I wouldn’t have described anything like the reality. I used to be a real dreamer before life got its teeth in. I would probably have told you that I saw myself married with a baby, probably a boy called Martin, and quite possibly still on maternity leave from a full time job that had provided handsomely for us to save  little nest egg toward the overall cost of raising Martin and any siblings who may come along. I would have probably told you I couldn’t see myself living anywhere that wasn’t a quiet village within the catchment area of a good Christian school.

Life has an uncanny ability to take your dreams and plans and twist them or tear them up and destroy them. Sometimes along the way it has felt like even the dreaming was foolish and I was deluding myself. There have been times when I thought I would end up on my own for the rest of my life, although I didn’t ever believe that was God’s plan. Many times I got impatient and prayed angry, impatient prayers demanding to know why I was stuck in a rut. I remember one particular evening where it really felt like God was holding out on me.

My previous church had traveled from York to the Lake District for the first of two away weekends, the B-on-Fire Weekend (the second was at a similar time the following year). We all arrived across Friday evening, having dinner when we arrived and sorting out who was in which dorm. We enjoyed a time of fellowship that evening and it was great to be together as a church family. We shared time on the Saturday too and some of us went out and walked up some of the big hills and mountains. I went up one of the big hills, Cat Bells, with my sister and two best friends (who I really miss right now). We had a great sense of achievement and another member of our church group took a photo of us at the top. After the exertions of the day and all the time spent together I decided to find a quiet place and have a few minutes to myself. I remember I sat in a stairwell and thought back over the day and reflected on what I was going home to the following day. Home was okay but it felt lonely at times and the monotony of stacking shelves five days a week had worn me down. I wanted a better job, a partner who would love me and a hope at least of having a family. I sat on the stairs telling God that if I was going back to life exactly as I had left it I would rather not go back, but that wasn’t an option. When JLW found me I must have been there 15-30 minutes and I had tears running down my face. She tried to get me to talk but I was so upset I couldn’t at first. It took at least 5 more minutes and LCT joining us before I managed to sob out that I didn’t want to go back to my life the way it was. They prayed and LCT said that all the pieces would fall into place.

The following year when we were there again I had changed my job and moved to lodge with IndysGrandma but I still slipped quietly to that stairwell again because my job wasn’t secure, lodging didn’t feel like a home and I was still single. I went and prayed and cried all on my own that time because JLW and LCT had some fairly big issues of their own that, unbeknownst to me, were kicking off while I was in the stairwell. The pieces weren’t in place for me or for my friends right then.

Over the years I’ve watched my friends as the pieces have fallen into place for them but not for me. I have tried so hard not to covet their partners, children or lives as I see them. I’m sure that JLW’s life isn’t always as great as it seems to be and that everyone has their struggles at times. I just look at where my life has gone in the 5 and a half years since the tears in the stairwell that first year and see a mess. I’d love to be married right now to an amazing man and be expecting my second child, a sibling for my 2 year old, in about 5 weeks.

I’m unemployed, not working even part-time and that makes me very frustrated and often quite down. Life at home has been difficult because both of my parents have been out of work for health reasons so we’ve had financial struggles. Church can be difficult, walking into what feels at times to be a very middle class environment where I don’t always feel at home.

There is however one gem, one shining light even when I’m down and church feels like walking into a room full of strangers; my fiance. We’re often at church together and sometimes having him there makes the difference between whether I stay or walk straight out. He makes me laugh at the most ridiculous things even when I’m down and his arms are there if it’s really bad.

In eight weeks I will marry my own amazing man. We can look forward together to spending some time building our relationship stronger because although after 2 years it seems quite strong we recognise we still have some building to do together. In about a year we’ll start to think about adding a little one or two, although we’re not planning on calling a son Martin. We’re starting to make my dream a reality. Still there’s a piece missing, I’m still trying to find the right path to the right door that leads to the job God has in his plan for me. I try to believe it’s there somewhere and it will happen one day when I’m not expecting it, but for now it’s hard sometimes to keep the faith and knock at the doors.

Where will I be in 5 years? I don’t know. I think I’ll be happily married, hopefully with at least one child. I hope I’ll have a job, even just a part-time one. I might be playing with my creative skills and selling things I knit or decorating cakes or something. I might even find someone who’ll pay me for my writing. Only God knows and He isn’t sharing that information with me. I’ll try to live each day as it comes and not worry about tomorrow.

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

“Spiral Speirsy.” “Specky four-eyes.” “Tell us that pirate joke again.”

I think I was six when it started. The name calling, the teasing, okay, let’s call it what it was, the bullying. We had a fancy dress day for Children in Need and I coloured the patch I wore for my lazy eye black and went as a pirate. The joke flopped and the teacher, Mrs Taylor, defended me against the jeers of my class mates. That was the day they noticed – the glasses for the lazy eye, the lack of confidence and the reliance on the teacher for approval and acceptance. I played almost exclusively with two other girls that school year and didn’t really push to try to make other friends. Bryony and Amy were enough for little me, although one other girl, NameFriend, who shared my middle name did try to build a friendship.  Come Easter though Bryony had moved away, her dad was in the R.A.F and if I remember correctly it wasn’t long before Amy said she too was leaving. I never was much of one to push myself forward so when I looked around and the others were in friendship groups already I didn’t know where I would fit when we went back to school after summer and I didn’t have Bryony or Amy any more.

Then when the new school year started our class was spilt and my half, the older half, were in a class with the younger half of the year above. The older kids noticed me then and they seemed to decide I was the one they would pick on. For a while it was just the occasional ‘Spiral Speirsy’ and a selection of other choice phrases including the really original ‘Eurgh something smells around here, oh it must be you’. Things that I soon learnt to shrug off.

For a while I didn’t realise that this even was bullying, innocent little kid thinking it was what we would probably term ‘banter’. I realised later in life that no, that wasn’t what it was at all. At the time it was attention from my peers and somehow I thought that must be a good thing.

Then my life changed, got flipped right round, when my baby brother died.

“Your brother died because you didn’t look after him properly.” Words another child said to me on the day my parents, family and family friends went to the church to bury my brother. I had, apparently, chosen to go back to school.

The words people had said before were nothing compared to that one sentence. I knew absolutely that what this older girl had said was not true; I had sat and listened as the men from the coroner’s office explained to me and my parents that David Martin had died because he had a hole in his heart. I knew it was nothing to do with how well he had been looked after, but we had looked after him brilliantly, thank you very much. I got so upset and Mrs Dixon, the dinner lady had to look after me and take me back in to my class teacher as it had happened as we lined up at the end of lunch break. Of all the things that have been said to me those words are the ones that have stuck in my memory.

As time went on I guess I gave up really trying to make friends, even with the people who didn’t bully me. Brother was there in the playground most days and I could always chase NameFriend around the playground when she was in a grump. With my next teacher, Mr Eldridge, when I was 8 almost 9, I really wanted to impress him and do my best. He was a fun teacher and although that first year in his class was mostly my year of daydreaming the second year he was my teacher I did everything I could to impress him and, I guess, to make up for the first year. The other children noticed and they started to call me ‘Teacher’s Pet’ and to pick on me because I would always get good marks in tests and ‘Harry hedgehogs’ on pieces of work. The other thing they had started to notice was that I was ‘chunky’ and although the cheers on sports day when I was last in the race, again, were endearing the comments about my weight the rest of the year were not. Throughout my time with Mr Eldridge some of the older children had been bullying me too, some were older siblings of my class mates or lads from across our estate but some just picked on me because I was the fat kid that couldn’t run.

My last couple of years at primary school were marked with bullying. I was constantly teased and called names. Some of the lads started trying to trip me if they were ever in line behind me and in those years the physical stuff started too. We had eggs thrown at us one ‘Mischief Night’ and pebbles thrown. A certain family moved into our village and had started to spell trouble not only for me, Brother and our family but for others too.

Secondary school seemed worse. I walked into the classroom the day I started, two days later than the others and by lunchtime it was fairly obvious that some of the kids who knew me had been telling the others about me. It didn’t even take until Christmas for these new classmates in this much bigger school to start with the names and comments. Before too long it felt like my year was split into three groups, the ones who bullied me, the ones who didn’t seem to know I existed and the much smaller group, the ones who tried to be friendly. The split happened in the first year and the groups were pretty much defined from that point on.

Hearing every day that you’re fat, smelly, stupid, being called some of the most derogatory names I had heard, it doesn’t really boost your confidence much. I joined the junior choir, the bullies told me I couldn’t sing. I became a librarian and the bullies laughed and called me names because it was ‘sad’ and ‘nerdy’ being a librarian. My sporting prowess never appeared, my artistic skills were never given the space to bloom and being good at English, Maths and Science meant you didn’t fit in. I liked my teachers and always tried my best. I could often be found at Mr Tibbits office waiting to talk to him in my first two years at secondary school. Sometimes when other kids would see me outside Mr Tibbits office they would tease me for that and they definitely still teased me for being ‘Teacher’s Pet’. After Grandma died when I was 13 I would spend a lot of time talking to Mr Tibbits, Mrs Wood or Mr Kershaw about how I was doing, about my school work and also about the bullying. They never managed to do anything effective about the bullying. I had some older friends who I knew because Mum worked for the parents of one of them and they were my ‘best’ option for company at lunch time. A younger girl who caught the bus with me and who was probably as much of a target for bullies as me once asked me why I was bullied so much. I told her I didn’t know, maybe it was because I was different.

The bullies never really got all that physical with me but there was an incident once where my brother was beaten up by bullies and the police were involved. There were also incidents where Brother got physical with bullies. One time boys in the lunch queue behind him were giggling and because he had been bullied all through school he assumed it was him they were giggling about and pushed a pizza in one boy’s face. The other time I remember was on the bus when we were in foster care. One of the lads on the bus was being unkind about the way I was holding my in-ear earphones in and Brother saw red, quite literally after the scrap left him with a broken nose.

Bullying made my entire school life seem like Hell. On Sunday Fiancé and I were in the small market town where my secondary school was and he asked if I would go back to my school days if I could. There are so many reasons I would go back, the lack of responsibility, the learning new things (not that that has stopped), the opportunity to actually prove myself academically instead of letting a teacher I trusted convince me that I should let go of my best chance at GCSEs and A levels because my attendance the year after Grandma died was erratic at best. The main thing that would have stopped me was… wait for it… no, not the school dinners, the bullying.

Unfortunately for me when I sought out a nursery nursing course at college to try to bump my future back onto my choice of track I couldn’t escape the bullying. This time only two people with any prior knowledge of me were in my ‘tutor group’ and they had not been bullies. I walked in there hoping I could start with a clean slate. The problem was my confidence was shot, I was shy, quiet and from the country so not streetwise enough to fit in with a group of rough and ready girls, oh and when I did speak what I said was often peppered with talk of church. The advice the child psychologist had given me just over a year earlier failed to work. I didn’t  make friends easily although there were 2 or 3 girls I would have given that label to in the first year. Again I was bullied because I actually listened to everything the tutors said and tried my hardest, I was bullied because of my faith and, when my first placement failed me after about four weeks because I ‘never spoke’, I was bullied because of that too. It was awful when we had music appreciation and I didn’t have an angelic voice or a sense of rhythm because they all wanted to know how I could say I was a Christian when I couldn’t sing. These days I would tell them I ‘make a joyful noise unto the Lord’ but I didn’t have that one in my arsenal then.  Many times I would be in tears because of things that had been said and I would tell the tutors, then feel let down because they had made idle threats to chuck any bullies off the course. I stuck it out for as long as my patience let me, and my patience can stretch for miles. My patience stretched almost to the end of the two-year course. I had missed an assignment from the first year that I could have caught up and I had quite a few observational studies to complete, as well as placement hours to make up, but I thought it was still possible for me to complete the course. The bullying had continued and, had the tutors been true to their word when they said bullies would be thrown off the course they would have only had one student, me. I remember one lesson maybe three weeks before the course was due to end when Meg, one of the nicest tutors, had us all in the art and craft room and she gave the others a lecture on how hard college had been for me because of them and their bullying, I never did find out how it ended because I left the room in tears. A week later I was in floods of tears again. Because we had been told that if we didn’t all finish together everyone would have to wait for the last student before the work went for moderation and we could qualify the bullying got really bad and they were all really nasty about the fact I was behind the rest of them and because I wouldn’t finish on time I would hold them all back. The last controlled test was on the anniversary of David’s death and that added another factor to my decision to leave. I stood in that classroom and told my favourite tutor that I couldn’t take any more, I knew I was close to the end and even she said I would be able to finish, but my mind was made up, I was going to walk away from the college that afternoon as an unemployed person, not a student.

Decisions I have made in my life have been influenced by other people more than once and I have let the bullies have things their way. My life could be very different now if I hadn’t bent and broken under the peer pressure of the bullies. Maybe then I should be grateful for what the bullies did in some ways, my church, Fiancé, wedding plans, dreams for the future might be positive outcomes of the bullying, but I don’t really think they are (although they are fantastic things). You see God has a way of taking us to where His plan was leading, even when we divert our own paths. I would have been in the right places at the right times still, but perhaps with a job, a car, smart clothes, maybe even my own flat. As it is I’m unemployed, I usually wear clothes that are at least 5 years old if not older, don’t drive and as soon as I finish my internship at church I’ll move back in with my parents. I sometimes wish that the me who Fiancé proposed to had been the ‘better’ version, one that had totally learned to be confident, to stand on her own two feet and not rely on things so much for security. One day I will be that person because I know she’s inside, hiding still, but for now I’m glad Fiancé loves me for who I am today.

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Faith, trust and pixie dust?

So, for about two weeks now I have been feeling challenged to think about my faith and how much I really trust God.  It kind of started really when I was helping to plan our mid-week children’s small group material. We’re using the ‘What’s in the Bible?’ DVDs by Phil Vischer, the creator of VeggieTales, for the second half of every term. We have just finished writing the material up to the end of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, and the DVD looks at how the Israelites were in the wilderness for 40 years because they did not trust that God would give them the land he had promised.

Through the ‘object lessons’ we are using with the children in the small groups we are teaching the children that our relationships with God can be like that, sometimes we don’t trust God even though we believe that He wants the best for us. We try to work things out in our own way rather than trusting God to be in charge and doing things his way.

The things we are teaching the children are things that I have struggled with myself. I have been working as a Children’s Ministry Parish Assistant (like an intern) with my church since September and this has made me look at my faith in new and challenging ways. The things I have learnt myself and been teaching the children over the past nine months have made me stop and consider what I believe, why I believe it and what my relationship with God is really like.

One night in November I had a revelation about my relationship with God. I was at a Kids’ Leaders Training event and I was there with my new colleagues, people I had seen at church and wanted to get to know better, but didn’t really know at that point. I was feeling beyond myself and wished that my best friends were there with me to talk to. I figured maybe God was trying to teach me to depend on him and that was really difficult for me. All I could see was the brokenness and the bad things that had happened in my life, the things I thought I had dealt with but had only locked away. It felt like the grief and anger of my losses were locked behind a door inside me but were emitting a gas that seeped under the door and through my life.

It was after midnight when the penny finally dropped. I couldn’t put my dependence on God because I didn’t trust him implicitly. I felt betrayed by the God I believe in. My God was a god who could wrap great joy in the same package as devastating heartache and make that package a tiny baby boy I would call David. The same God gave me a loving, supportive grandmother and then took her away when I needed her more than ever. How could my head and heart trust that the blessings God gave would not be taken, that every good thing would not have a sting in its tail?

Luke 11:11-13 says: ‘You fathers – if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?’

It had felt like I was asking God for eggs but getting scorpions, which would kinds of suck, so there was no wonder I was a little cautious about what God had given me since I asked Jesus into my heart. I can see now though that the main ‘scorpions’ in my life were before I had a real faith and the poison from their stings was still in my psyche. I had to adjust the way I look at things to stop the poison affecting the good gifts God gives me now.

God doesn’t give gifts with a sting in the tail, all his gifts are good. I’m trying to trust God with the little things in my life more, because I can see the time coming, just around the corner, where I have to trust Him with the big things.

Having realised this and tried to learn the lesson for myself I feel more comfortable that  I am one of the right people to be teaching this group of amazing kids about trusting God. I still have more to learn, but I think most people do. I just know that I’m trusting God more and trying not to lean on my own understanding as much these days.

I’m having to trust that God knows what my fiance and I want for our wedding and will help us to achieve those things. It’s an exciting time and although a little scary knowing that I have God to trust makes it seem less daunting.

This evening I’m going to be one of two leaders in  our group. I have spent almost three hours drying out a quantity of play sand that I bought at a pound shop so that we can all make sand timers to remind the children of the Israelites in the desert and how they were there because they didn’t trust God. I’ll be holding onto mine after so that I have a reminder too.

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