Tuesday, 22 November 2011

How the heck did i get here?

There was a time, many years ago, when naivety was my friend and I would think, 'WOW, my possibilities in life are endless! I could LITERALLY do anything I wanted!' and ''NOTHING can stand in my way of what I want to do. Nothing.’

Yet here I find myself at 24, living once again with my parents, jobless, pretty much skint, and with very little to show for what the whirlwind of 5 years in the life of Me has achieved. I feel almost in a state of shock; rather stunned at how I ended up exactly right where I started, and not overly sure at how to progress forward.

I know I’ve changed and I know I’ve grown in so many different ways, but right now that doesn’t feel like any consolation for the position I find myself in. ‘Amazing friends’, and ‘spiritual growth’ and ‘maturity’ (etc, etc…) are all great things to gain, and very shaping personally, but it doesn’t qualify you in anything, and nor does it get you a job, especially at a time when you are a measly 1 millionth fraction of the ‘1 in 1 million aged 18-24 who are jobless and seeking gainful employment’. Brilliant. Just Brilliant.

How the heck did I end up here??

To add to this rather overwhelming predicament I seem to have found myself in, I am also intensely lonely. Don’t get me wrong; I am very blessed by my aforementioned amazing friends when I hear from them or get to see them, but they live scattered around the country, engrossed in their busy jobs and busy lives. Yet here, in the 5th (I think?!) largest city in the UK, I can count the number of friends I have in close proximity on one hand (and even that may be a little bit generous). I know a LOT of people, this being the city I grew up in and everything, but knowing someone doesn’t make them your friend. Maybe I’m just ungratefully lucky, but never in my life have I had such few friends nearby, especially too after 3 months of ‘putting myself out there’ and actively seeking out friendships. Even at church I feel very small and insignificant in the congregational hugeness that I find myself plunged in to despite the many ways in which I actively serve and am involved there (more on church another time… that rant can have a post all of it’s own….).
It would be more than neglectful of me to not mention the friends I do have who keep me going, and I am more than thankful for the presence of Becky and Ellie in my life – lifelong friends who also find themselves jobless and back in Sheffield. Without them, I would be going insane, and we provide much-needed support, snuggles and laughter to one other. I am immensely grateful too for my wonderful boyfriend Matt, yet he now also lives miles away (in Manchester, to be precise, so not too far… but far enough), and is kept busy with the beginnings of his PhD. He carves out more than enough of his time to love me, to walk with me, encourage me, laugh with me, chat with me, drop me a text even. Yet, I’m still lonelier than I ever thought I could be.

The OBVIOUS fillers to my questioning and my loneliness is met with Sunday School answers: God. Jesus. The Bible.
And I still love God, and I still believe in Jesus, and I still trust the Bible, but I’m having a real tough time blending the two together.
I get that God has brilliant plans for my life and that by being patient I need to wait on Him and He will reveal them. I get that He walks with me and never lets me go as I push doors and search out possibilities
I get that Jesus should be the only friend I should ever want or need and he can and will fill every gap of loneliness I could ever experience.
I get that the Bible has the capacity to feed me and stretch me and teach me and change me and has done in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

I understand all that and I get it. I REALLY do. Head belief. Heart belief. The whole lot. I’m in this ‘Jesus’ thing for the long haul. But life right now?? – Nothing quite fits together… yet.

I really think God is wanting to teach me something(s) from this ‘lull’ period in my life. My natural response is to try and work out what this is, but I’ve tried... and failed. Only in hindsight, as with all other events in my life, will I really figure out what that time in my life ‘from September 2011 until God knows whenever’ taught me. Easy to type – hard to say – harder to carry out.

I don’t write this post to Pity Party myself, or to seek sympathy from others. Purely to be honest. Painfully honest. Some of these things hurt and are so hard to deal with, but it doesn’t mean I love Jesus any less.

I am continually, probably rather divinely, reminded of 2 Corinthians 4:

'We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.'

I feel like I’m being driven to the depths of despair sometimes. And that some days I feel so crushed that I cant breathe. And there are those very real moments when I just couldn’t feel more abandoned. But the truths are a far different reality and regardless of my emotional exhaustion, Jesus keeps on fighting for me, on my behalf. The battle is not, and cannot, be lost.

The chapter continues…

'That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.'

So, I’m definitely not there yet. But this is where I want to be: At the stage where I know my spirit is daily renewed. In a place where my gaze is fixed heavenwards always.

Maybe, hopefully, I’ll get there.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

February Love - Street Angels

I spent a night in February volunteering with the Street Angels. I do this once a month (though, like many things, have never blogged about it), going out 10pm-3am on the streets of York dressed in bright orange jackets (which are pretty synonymous to a Postman’s attire) helping where help is needed – giving girls flipflops when they’re walking round with their epically-heeled shoes in hand, giving bottled water, providing directions, chatting to upset / angry / hysterical people, etc. A job that doesn’t feel too rewarding sometimes, especially if it’s a quiet night. But you always bump into some tipsy, hyper person who runs up to you shouting ‘Street Angels! You helped my friend last week!’ or ‘Hey! You guys waited with me for a taxi the other week!’, or other similar affirmative things. It can feel sometimes that we don’t make much of an impact, but I think that’s because in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t have much of an impact upon our day-to-day lives.

We are all Christians, and although we don’t explicitly tell people that (nor do we shy away from our faith), it shines through in what we do. I think, sometimes, as Christians, we forget how hard it is to love, or because we always have the unchanging love of Jesus, we sometimes forget what its like to not have that – we take for granted what its like to be in a position where we don’t know if someone loves us that day because we are always loved, and we know God is constantly with us. But when we show even just a little of that to someone who has had a hard day, or who is so drunk that they’ve been left by their friends to find their own way home because the friends want to carry on their night out, or a girl who is feeling vulnerable, or whatever the reason – the potentially tiny impact that that has on you, maybe holds real weight for the person you’re helping. Because maybe they have been so hurt by so many people that they’ve forgotten what it’s like to be loved and cared for, or you’re the first person to actually stop and give them directions because they’re so lost – probably in more ways than one.

I think we could all be showing people a little more love. I was stood on Stonegate today waiting for a friend, when I overheard a conversation between a couple that suggested they thought they were on the Shambles. After stifling a little giggle, I turned round and helpfully pointed them in the direction of their desired location.
Im not saying we should be giving all the tourists directions because that would just be incredibly frustrating. Im just suggesting that we could probably all be investing into others. If I invested an extra minute into a passing conversation, friendships would develop a lot quicker and deeper. If I sent more letters to my friends or texted something encouraging or bought my coffee date their Starbucks for them, there would be a lot more love and a lot more blessing going on. I know how touched I feel when someone buys me a coffee, or how blessed I feel if I get some personal post, or how loved I feel if someone asks me how I am, and they genuinely mean it. I just need to be giving it out a little more, I think. And I know I try to do these, I just need to be trying harder and motvating myself to do it. But ‘Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another’ (1 John 4:11), then that should be all the motivation that we need.

[PS - Favourite Quote of the night from Street Angels… a slightly tipsy man walking behind us is reading the writing on the back of our jackets and says “What’s a ‘Street Angle?’” LOVED it :) ]

February Love - A Besom Project

February kicked off with a ‘Conversations Do Besom’ project for a lovely lady, C. We had visited her house before, painting her kitchen and hallway, and this time we returned to decorate her bedroom ‘Sexy Pink’ and clean her carpets. Backache-inducing work, and such a tiring use of a day, but C’s gratitude to us was just massive – she even provided us, very generously, with lunch as her way of trying to express a little bit of the thankfulness she felt towards us. So now she had a bright pink bedroom, a sunglasses-worthy orange kitchen and a lurid green hallway – colours we might not necessarily jump at choosing, especially not in a mass quantity. But for C they were so pivotal in reviving some brightness and vitality into her life.

I never really ‘think’ before doing a Besom project. I just ‘do’ and then leave. But I have always (I’ve done 2 projects, just to contextualise) found myself struck afterwards, upon reflection. The ways that God uses us, even when we’re pretty unaware, is astounding – that he can be using me to bring about His glory without me even realising until afterwards is madness. And I know it shouldn’t be like that – I should be going into anything and everything as Christ’s ambassador here on earth. I should be open, willing, and ready for him to use me – and I am, just passively often, and sometimes quite oblivious. The Bible tell us to ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15)’, and I hope I am prepared to do just that. But if I don’t go into every situation fully focused on God, then I would be more than likely to be caught off-guard, giving a textbook answer to a deeply personal question, rather than one from my heart. I might give an awful answer when it matters most, or skip over a question that is vital in the eyes of it's asker.

But i think this says a lot about me too. It says i need to open my eyes more - to give answers in situations, but to also be looking for situations too, not expecting each one of them to land in my palm. My contact with those who are unbelievers is shamefully low. i need to be putting myself on the line - sacrificing my pride for the sake of the salvation of others. A daunting task, and a seemingly costly one. But the cost for sharing the gospel, for being able to answer people's questions and letting God use me to bring people to Him? Priceless.

February Love

I wish I blogged more. I enjoy it, and find it conducive in processing what is happening in my thoughts and my life. But I just never seen to get round to it. So, inspired by February and the amorous connotations it brings, I am going to write a little series over the next few (maybe) days, about love. I am not in a relationship, nor am I about to inadvertently confess my feeling for someone, so if you are here for some juicy gossip, then now is your opportunity to exit -->….. awesome. I just wanted to share some of my musings from my life, centred around the topic of love, from the past month that have really struck me. About how I’ve shown love and been shown love back, and the complications, challenges and joys that come with it.

So, of course, there was Valentines Day – pretty much like any Sunday, except a friend visited, which was lovely :) (oh, and not forgetting the 6 anonymous cards the landed on my doormat, ar 3 dozen red roses…). But the month seemed to have been filled with its own array of ‘love-based’ events…

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

What Christmas REALLY means to me

Last Wednesday the pub church that I work for had an open mic testimony time based around ‘What does Christmas mean to you?’ I was fully adamant I wasn’t going to say anything, but at some point I found myself stood at the microphone, uttering all kinds of non-sensical and jumbled words. Intending to encourage, i went to resume my place in the audience red-faced, embarrassed, and feeling as if I’d just wasted 5 minutes of everyone’s time. I wish I’d planned what I said, and it’s been on my mind all week, so I thought I would write down what I wish I had said, so here it is….

I am a Christian, but grew up not knowing about God. Christmas was all about the presents and the food, as far as I was concerned, and the only baby that would get a look in would be a new plastic dolly in my mound of gifts.

However, my childhood wasn’t the easiest, and I have some deep emotionally scarring memories from Christmases past. I found out (rather traumatisingly) that Santa wasn’t real, and the ‘magic’ of Christmas, for me, was sucked out rather quickly and rather too early. As a result, I would dread Christmas, as the concepts of ‘’Christmas Cheer’ and ‘in the festive spirit’ just didn’t exist for me. My difficult family relationships would become even more strained as we were forced to spend day after day confined to each other’s company, because at Christmas time, that’s just what you do.

At somewhere along the line, when I was 15 to be more exact, I became a Christian. This had nothing to do with anything Christmas-related, but the effect has ricocheted into all areas of my life. I try to seek God in all I do, think and say. In how I act, react, and adapt to the events that unfold in my life. And this includes the Christmas season.

Since becoming a Christian, I now see the immense Joy that God brought into the world by sending His son. The baby was sent as our Saviour, our reconciliation, our future. He is our Hope. He is the one who will wipe every tear from our eyes, and because of Him, no more will there be death or sorrow or crying or pain. And because of all these things, and so many more, I need not hate Christmas. Instead I know to focus on what really matters. Over the holidays, the joy of the Lord will be my strength in a very real way.

A few people on Wednesday shared how thankful they were for their families and how they were really happy they got to spend these holidays with them. I know, for me, that this time will be an uphill struggle in my relationships with my family, as has always been the case, regardless of the epic amount of forgiveness and healing that has taken place. But that’s ok, because I know to prepare myself for the worst, and I know that God’s unfailing love will hold me through it all. But as I sat there on Wednesday, listening to these tales of positivity, I felt really lonely with my little fractured situation. But the stark reality is that I know that’s not the case.

We all, this Christmas time, will come across someone, a situation, whatever, that we will find so incredibly difficult to face and deal with. This might be an ill relative, colliding viewpoints, unbearable friction, buried emotions, some self admittance, a painful relationship. Whatever. All these deeply sad scenarios could spend the holidays eating away at us, consuming us, and tainting our happiness. But only if we let them. And in this, we have a choice. We can choose to dwell in the dark and depths, to show anger and to bear grudges. Or, we can spend our time looking to that Joy, which came to earth over 2,000 years ago to give us the strength and up-lifting to get through Christmas day, the holidays, and whatever else we may face. This Joy is there to open our eyes and to lift them heavenwards. It’s there so that as we walk into all these hard and seemingly unbearable situations, there is a visible glimpse of Light. This Joy, this Hope, this glimpse of Light, is what gets us through.

This Christmas season I am going to try my utmost hardest to live within that ray of Light. There will be difficult times, and I’m not trying to mask those – I’m just trying to remind myself that I will always have a choice, and I want to keep on aspiring and remembering to choose Joy. Here’s to trying.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

How He Loves Us

This isn't really a blog post as such, i've just fallen in love with a song recently, the lyrics of which blow me away, and i just wanted to share....

How He Loves by David Crowder Band

He is jealous for me
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh! how He loves us,
Oh! how He loves us,
Oh! how He loves.

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…

Saturday, 31 October 2009

a new realm

I'm intrigued by the world of blogging... so figured i'd sign up and check it out.

Here goes nothing...