Tag Archives: sister

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

Today I should be singing ‘Happy birthday’ to my youngest sibling, my second brother. I still could I guess but standing by a grave and singing ‘Happy birthday’ always feels a bit odd. On the day he would have turned 22 I will remember him as always and the memories will, albeit briefly, bring me solace. We had precious little time together but I will always remember my brother and love him deeply.

Dear Davy boy,

Today is your birthday. If you were still here you would be 22 today. I don’t know what you would have been doing because in the two weeks we had there was no time to get to know you. We’re left with the memories of a little baby boy and the tears we still shed because you had so little time to live.

When Daddy came to Grandma’s to tell us you had been born I imagined being your big sister, helping to look after you while you were still a baby, reading to you and teaching you our games as you got older and being there for you to talk to every day of your life. When I met you the following day I knew that I would do all I could to always protect you and keep you safe. You were my baby brother and at eight I thought myself grown up enough to protect you from all the bad things in the world. I would love you the way a mother loves her baby and protect you the same way. You filled me with pride and joy and I would never let anything take that away.

When you came home I helped Mummy with you. I decided you should have a teddy so I stood by your pram one afternoon with Sister beside me and cut the whiskers off Nurse Cat so she could go into your pram with you. I made that sacrifice for you and it was a sacrifice as Nurse Cat was one of my favourite toys, I never got her back. I loved being your big sister and having you there. It was the most amazing thing ever. I had loved you and wanted you from the day Mummy told us she was pregnant and I suggested calling you David Michael. Mummy and Daddy didn’t like Michael so Brother suggested Martin and there you were, David Martin, from that day on.

I often think of you and I wonder what you would be like. Would you have been clever like me? Would you have been the one that actually went to university and really made something of his life? When I was younger I used to imagine what you would look like. I think you might have kept those beautiful blues eyes and had the dark hair that the rest of us have, even if you had gone through a blond phase like Brother did. I was always sure you would be handsome and would never be short of a girl or two to ask out. I hope you would have been friendly and popular and never felt alone.

Twenty-two is a great age, you would have loved being twenty-two I’m sure. I watch young men I know who are around that age and I wonder where you would have fitted in. I guess you would have been fairly easy-going and probably a bit of a joker as Daddy is a complete wind-up merchant. Brother is quite like Daddy in some ways and I think you probably would have been too. I know that Brother would have liked being able to take you down the pub for a few drinks and last year, being at Conversations on your 21st birthday, was difficult for us as we could imagine having you there.

I still remember the day you died, but this is your birthday and I don’t want to dwell on the memories of the heartache that came that night. I will say that we had a chance to show you off that day and I could not have been a more proud sister.

I will always remember the two weeks when we had you, you will always be in my heart. I love you always David Martin.

Xxxxx

Two of the three pictures we have. One taken before David was born, the other after he had died. We unfortunately have no photos from the two weeks he was with us.

 

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

Today is the 17th anniversary of the day my Grandma did not wake up. I wrote this post 8 days ago and scheduled it to publish today because I don’t think I could have written it today. The quote is from the sequel to Grandma’s favourite Disney film, a sequel she did not see. The rest of this post is a letter to my Grandma, but one I don’t mind sharing with you as it tells a little more of my story.

Dear Grandma,

How is Heaven? I hope it is still lovely and that you are with Nancy, David and Granddad.

I know time does not pass there and you must think you have only been gone for the blink of an eye. Here today is the 17th anniversary of the day you left us. I still feel sad when I think about it.

I can still remember, even now, how I sat on the manhole cover by the sports field and prayed you were in Norwich for Pukey’s 7th birthday 17 Novembers ago. I even wondered what my gift from that trip would be. I didn’t want there to be a reason for the doctors to keep you in. The next time I saw you was in the hospital. You didn’t look like my Grandma, or feel like her when I hugged you. The spark had gone, that ‘something special’ we had was broken. I guess, deep down, I knew I had lost you that day, especially as I screamed inside when you said you would not have treatment. I hated hearing those words. I thought you would at least try to fight the cancer for Brother, Sister, Soppy and Pukey, but especially for me. I did not understand how my Grandma could give up so easily.

When Aunt LC arrived you got her to take me to get my ears pierced (piercings that have since closed up). It was a long promised thirteenth birthday present but you thought you might not make my thirteenth birthday. I hated that day. It should have been you with me, I hardly ever knew LC. I had to paint a smile on my face when I showed you gold studs. I cried myself to sleep that night, my ears stung and kept reminding me those holes and studs might be all I got from you for my thirteenth birthday. All of a sudden I didn’t want them, I wanted the old Grandma back.

You lived to see me reluctantly become a teenager. As I hugged you in floods of tears as we left that night I already wanted to turn back time and live in another era of ours. I wanted to go back to the glorious days when cancer was something that killed Nancy years ago when you were young but had never darkened your door since. To a time before I ever felt the need to ask God to let you live longer, a time before I dreaded Granddad’s knock on the door.

We had six months between you laying in the hospital bed accepting the last chapter of your book was being played out and the wet Thursday June 1st when we laid you in the ground. We had time together, just you and me and shared time with the others. We even took Sister when we went to Coltishall for Easter with LC, Soppy and Pukey. We made memories.

I have walked through life for so long now not able to see you but carrying you with me; the memories, the dreams we had, the love yo left. I’m not 13 any more, on my last birthday I turned 30. I have been engaged for nearly six months, his name is not Cuthbert but I know you would like him. I’m trying to convince him that those 4 letters need to start the name, first or middle, of one  of our children and my middle name should be our daughter’s first name. We’re trying to plan our wedding, at Newton of course. I couldn’t get married anywhere else.

I love you Grandma, I always will.

Your little pet xxxxx

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

When I saw the quote that is the title of this post I knew that I had a post to write to go with it, and I could find a photograph. JLW, AMW, Sister and me are all on the photo, with AmericanGirl, YoungMum, Wibby and LCT. I remember the weekend it was taken. It was over 4 and a half years ago, the weekend I had quit my job stacking shelves at one of the big 4 supermarkets in the UK and was at the start of what turned out to be a tumultuous time in my life. Wibby and LCT were both about to embark on new chapters of their lives, starting at university and our youth group would break apart four months later. It was a month before JK became a bigger part of my life. AmericanGirl was someone JLW had met and was only really part of our group for that weekend with her brother and their parents.

The weekend was fun. We met together on the Friday evening and had some worship time with another youth group from a church a friend of ours had contacts with. It was good to spend the time with another youth group and we were sad to see them leave at the end of the evening

JLW was staying at her parents’ house and all the girls slept over there while the boys went back to AMW’s house just down the road and stayed there. The following morning the girls had breakfast and went for a walk. After the walk we all got together for lunch that JLW’s sister helped to prepare. AFter lunch we had a talk on ‘Creation and Evolution’ that was given from a scientific viewoint so although it did not argue completely for one thing or the other it focussed in on ‘intelligent design’ and how someone had to have designed so much of the universe. We played some games out in the long lawned garden after the talk.

Mid-afternoon we all went to AMW’s house and we had another worship session, this time with CellMum and CellDad, who had stepped down from leading the youth cell about 3 months before. It was always good to get together with them and we always had fun with them. We had dinner together there and slowly but surely people started going home.

That weekend was amazing and I have been on other amazing weekends since but the friends I shared that weekend with were different to all the others and although looking through the photos on LCT’s facebook I can see the friends who have drifted away because life and work and studies have called them in different directions I know I will always treasure them and the memories we made in our time as ‘True Vine’. I often think of those friends and we are in touch through social networking sites, although one or two went last time I sorted my facebook friend list. I know that some are still studying, some are married or have been, two have babies and one is about to become a father. I wish them well in their futures and although some will be left behind I am sure some will be part of my future as well as my past.

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

Tears stung my eyes as I cuddled up to Fiancé in the dark. It was Christmas Eve 2011 and we were staying at his father’s house in Arnold, Nottingham. It felt like it had been a long day. We had two fairly late nights before, on the Thursday we had been to the pantomime, Brother, Sister, Fiancé and me because Friday was my 30th birthday. Then on Friday we went to my family home for dinner and watched Love Actually two days earlier than my family’s new tradition dictates. It had been so lovely to spend time with my family and Fiancé for my birthday. The two late nights and then the drive from York to Nottingham had made us both quite tired. Then there was an extra ingredient, alcohol. After sending FiancésFather out to get cola from the shop before it shut it would have seemed rude not to have a drink or two of vodka and coke. I went for two.

So the tiredness and the alcohol were not great aids to my emotional stability and the fact that this was the first Christmas properly away from home I had ever had did not really help matters. Fiancé and I had been talking on the drive about him finding a flat to rent in the next few months, somewhere he could take on that would eventually become our first home together. It was all so exciting, we had been engaged two weeks and were talking about getting a flat to live in together. My head was merrily cantering ahead of anywhere we had reached already dreaming of the children we might have and how awesome that would be. It was also trying to plan the wedding all on its own, in the way that your imagination sometimes runs away with you. All of this was spinning round in my head and in the bed in the dark with Fiancé on the camp bed just feet away (or was he?). It suddenly seemed all too much and the tears came bringing a sob or two with them. Before I could speak Fiancé’s arms were around me holding me close and safe. That’s one thing I love about Fiancé, how just having his arms around me can make me feel like there’s nothing that can hurt me. I tried to explain, still crying, that it all seemed so terribly grown up to have just turned 30 and to be talking of weddings and flats, of getting married and spending the rest of my life living with Fiancé. He listened and tried to reassure me. I don’t remember exactly what he said but I do know that he made me feel we could face whatever the future and growing up might mean together, that he would always be by my side.

I had tried to rebel against growing up. Since the darkest days of puberty, which were mixed with the grief of knowing Grandma had cancer and then her death, I had wanted to be anything but grown up. My fight to cling on to some of my childhood was going quite well, thank you very much. I still slept with a big Pooh Bear teddy most nights and several other dolls and soft toys by my pillow. My duvet sets had Tinkerbell and Pooh Bear on them. My Baby Born doll occasionally came out to play as did the six-month-old size baby doll Zoe that is jointly owned by me and Sister. I had tried to become a nursery nurse, to help other people by looking after their children and partly because it would give me an excuse to still be a child myself. For me being a grown up seemed to mean that I would have to leave everything of my childhood behind, that meant David and Grandma too, and I wasn’t sure if I could do that.

Since meeting Fiancé I have chosen to/had to do a lot of grown up things. Things like: going on proper dates and dressing like a real young lady instead of some grunge fan teenager, going to house parties where alcohol is being served, applying to work for my church unpaid and moving out of my family home to do that, having to fend for myself when it comes to doing the household things like washing and cooking and getting engaged. A lot of these things barely seemed like blips on my radar eighteen months ago, even less so six months prior to that.

In some ways it feels like emotionally I have been fired on a rocket from where I was two years ago to where I am now and Fiancé lit the touch paper. Some of the things I have met with our church staff chaplain to talk about kept getting pushed back onto the shelf even a year ago because I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to consider really confronting them, things about how my grief for David and Grandma has held me back and about the insecurities I feel when I get close to people. I’ve gained in confidence a little and because I now have Fiancé to talk to and I know I can trust him I am starting to open up with him.

I still feel like this is a roller-coaster sometimes and inside there’s that scream that I’m never sure whether it’s excitement or fear.  At times I am desperate for it all to stop and let me catch my breath before we go round again, but there’s almost a sense that is too much to ask right now. There’s a wedding to be planned and that seems to bring with it more ups and downs to be negotiated. We spend time together at Fiancé’s flat, testing the water there for when the day comes that I actually agree that yes, I live there and that can be a little testing at times. We usually get on quite well though. I’m trying to find a paid job so that I can make a contribution to the wedding fund and with the current economic climate that is often not easy.

The one thing I do know is that I know the guy who is operating this roller-coaster and I trust him to be in control. It’s God that’s in control and he’s the best one to be there. He knows what we want from our wedding, which at the moments seems more than we know ourselves and He knows how we’re going to get it. He has answered prayers before that may not have been spoken and I trust that He can do the same with this wedding. We want to glorify God with our wedding day and He will make that possible in ways that we don’t yet know. I’m not sure if Fiancé, who is a younger Christian than I, is quite on the same page as me with God’s plans and provision but I’m guessing that when everything falls into place he’ll see.

Hopefully when the wedding planning is all done and I’m no longer Miss but Mrs the roller-coaster might stop for a while, or at least hit a plateau, but in the next 11 months I know I have a lot of growing up still to do and an awful lot still to learn.

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Life’s only worth living if you’re being loved by a kid.

The quote from Toy Story 2 I chose as the title for this blog perhaps over-eggs the cake a bit, but when you remember that in the film it is spoken by a cowboy doll (Woody) to a cowgirl doll (Jessie) it makes sense. For them life is all about being loved by children, for me it’s mainly about loving children.

I have always loved being around babies and children. For the most part they don’t judge you or make you feel bad for being you, unlike some adults. The innocence of a new baby is something to be marvelled at  and treasured. As adults we have an obligation to protect that in them, to teach them about the world without pushing them out into its dark places before they are ready. As a children’s worker in church part of my role is to teach them that Jesus loves them and they are never alone in the world. We teach children that they can talk to God about anything and everything and that he is always there and ready to listen. Sometimes I think the best way we can teach them that is by building relationships with them where they know they can talk to us about anything and we are always there and ready to listen. In some circumstances with some children that is easy, but it’s not always so.

My previous church was a small church, all the adults knew each other and trusted each other. Parents there knew that the church would look after their children and keep an eye out for them. I had the privilege of being a Sunday School teacher there. My sister and I taught the under 8s about God and Jesus. For the most part because of the size of the church that meant we would be in a room with no more than 7 children between us. We would often do something together at the start like singing a song or reading the Bible story and then split into under 5s and 5-8s for the part where we talk together and maybe do a worksheet or craft activity. When the planned activities finished there was time for the children to play while we might tidy up or join their games. Play time was always good for building relationships between the children and us and for building on friendships the children had with each other. The children we were teaching were usually children we had know since they were tiny babies and had been building relationships with for that whole time. The children would talk to us and tell us their stories. Sometimes we would be there to listen when a pet died or when there was something else upsetting them, like bullying at school, and that came out of the relationship we had built. With certain children we had such good relationships that they would come straight to us at the beginning of church, before Sunday School went out and want to be with us all the way through until they went home. We were always open and let them spend time in the service with us. Their parents knew and trusted us and it really did feel like we were all part of one big family.

When we changed churches we did so partly because the children were all leaving our old church. There weren’t any ‘regular attendees’ left who had children for us to provide Sunday School for and we knew that our strengths and skills were in children’s work. When we joined our new church we quickly got involved with the children’s work, starting over again with new children. This time though we hadn’t watch as these children made their mothers’ tummies expand or seen the shiny new smiles on their tiny baby faces. They were little people already, aged 3-5, and they already had some experience of the world. We couldn’t be what we had been to the children in our old church, we weren’t faces they had seen almost every week since they were tiny. They had not learnt our names when they were learning to speak and had not been held and cherished by us when they were still in nappies. Being with these children was daunting at first, we knew nothing about them and they knew nothing about us. Because there was a rota we wouldn’t be in that room with them every Sunday morning building the relationships as we had in old church either. The road looked long and winding, but we stepped onto it. We started learning names and ages, noticed the different character traits of certain children and discovered where they were in their understanding of God and Jesus.

It’s been three years and we’re still working on things, still building relationships. Sometimes the way things are structured gets in the way. We lost a few of the children from our Sunday mornings when the church started a tea-time service and our church is a big one where people come and go. Some of the little ones that were in our Sunday morning group when we started have moved up to mid-week groups for the older children. Maybe we don’t have the relationships with the children now that we had in our old church but we still invest the time and the love and sometimes we get a return on that. There’s a little boy who is quiet with most adults, but he speaks to us. I help with one of the mid-week groups and two of the children from the host family are coming out of themselves more with me and will talk to me even when we’re not at their house.

Sometimes working with children is all about being loved by them, but it’s more important for it to be about loving them. There will be the children that readily run to hug you and the ones that run in the other direction, to cling to mum. Investing time and energy in teaching children about Jesus is always worth it and when that brings good relationships with the children that’s a bonus.

I’ll close with a quote from Bob Gass on Word for Today;

‘In this world if you are serious about becoming more like Jesus you must learn to love children.’

Are you there yet?

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