One Year Blogging Birthday

So today is the anniversary of starting my blog. WOO! A whole year. I love writing but I have started several blogs before and never stuck to them. So I guess this is the ‘right’ one! So, today’s post is a quick reflection on that year.

I started the blog about 2 months after really discovering what God is all about. What a revelation. I have been looking back over some of the past years posts and realise that whilst I have stepped into the life God had planned for me right from the start, I am still the same, questioning things, wanting to know more, seeking. I am so desperate to know God more and I never want to loose that. I said that a year ago and people said, oh you’re a new Christian, you will settle into to…’ but I still say, I don’t want to loose that hunger and desire to learn. Isn’t that what keeps us humble?
My first post said this:

So, this is my story and my record of this wonderful journey I am embarking upon. It will be the full account, the whole warts and all approach, from my heart. So I make no apologies for being enthusiastic, over the top or a religious nutcase :) I will wobble, fail and fall, I will doubt and wonder, I know that. Neither is this is not a manual for being a good Christian, it’s just my journey and I welcome your comments and questions.

So, I guess that all still stands today. I am still on a journey, I won’t apologise for what I write and I welcome comments. In fact some of my favourite posts are not those that have had the most visitors, but those where good debate has happened. Probably because I learn from debating stuff, from questioning and hearing others viewpoints. The post with the most comments was:

That was a really useful debate and half those comments were from me asking things of those who commented. But I learned heaps from it about different approaches.

The O Word and 10 reasons not to become a vicar. also had lots of comments. and how funny to think that just over a year after our renewal of faith I am in the process of seeking ordination. God is full of surprises that’s for sure. Those posts were realy useful too because I got off my chest all the things that were bothering me about the calling and most of my flimsy reasons were debunked by those commenting. (In fact the ’10 reasons post’ is my most visited post!!)

One of my favourite posts was a recent one – controlling the control. Because in all this reflection I have been doing, and via someone elses blog (thanks Emma) I realised something about myself that it has taken me 20 years to recognise!

People often post about why they blog or whether it is valuable in the ‘real world’, you know ‘isn’t it just all pretence, just a virtual world?’ But I have seen through both my blog and others, how blogging really makes a difference to people on a completely personal level.

So what are my hopes for this coming year? Well, considering the one just gone I am slightly concerned about what God is going to throw at me! But I am excited, ready to listen and grow, and to head along that path he has prepared for me. I hope to know God more and to see him moving in power, to be more loving – to act out my faith, and to learn more.

Miracles – thing of the past?

We’re about to embark on a series of study at church looking at Acts. I am seriously looking forward to this as it doesn’t only include the Sunday talks but also follow up study in our ‘satellite’ groups (‘home groups’ in old money…). So we started this week with an intro from our Curate, who is always inspiring. One of the starting points was, why do no we not see mircales, signs and wonders happening today?
So, why don’t we see miracles as common place? Anything remotely amazing tends to get written off as coincidence or chance, a ‘fake’ or a fraud. One of the things he didn’t talk about is that things that were miracles/signs or wonders 2000 years ago would not actually be seen as a miraculous today. Science has moved on a such a rate that we can explain earth tremors or lights in the sky. Healing can be done with modern medicine, we can travel very quickly from place to place and so on. We expect so much now. What would a modern sign or wonder constitute? I mean I’m not sure I can think of an example that could happen, that couldn’t be explained away by modern science or technology.
And we are taught to question everything. I teach my children to question things, not to just accept what they hear. But is that a good thing? I want them to be able to form their own, well-informed opinions. They can google every singular ‘fact’ that is brought to their attention (and usually find them disounted by the theory of A N Other too.). We can look up ‘revivals’ or miraculous happenings and form our own opinions on their validity. We don’t just accept it.
When the stuff of the bible was happening, the disciples could share the miraculous things that they had seen Jesus do and be believed, but now? What would people say if we went about saying I have seen a man healed with my own eyes? I saw a man with a withered leg grow back? I suspect the majority would think I was either nuts, lying or decieved.
Some would say that signs/wonders/miracles are not relevant today, that they were used as a tool of evangelising thousands of years ago, that we don’t need them now. That we weren’t intended to use Gods power in that way, that it was just for the original crowd that were called and sent out. I don’t believe that. I believe that we have the ability to use Gods power in that way, that He still desires to heal, to help and to change impossible situations, but I am not sure that it is a particularly productive way of evangelising in todays society, well, not in the way they did alll those years ago.
Have we lost our ability to trust? our ability to believe? As Christians we have faith in God and that’s a pretty big ask isn’t it? so why do we have trouble believing in the miraculous?
What do we have to do to see Gods power come in this way? It is as simple as just believing it can happen? I would like to think so…

My husband…

So, this is not meant as a ‘I’m so lucky’ post, the ‘smug married’ kind of thing, because we all know how irritating that is…;) But I just wanted to say how blessed I am with a wonderful husband. I think so often the people closest to us get taken for granted and we forget to tell them how much they mean to us, or to show them how much we love them. My husband has put up with rather a lot from me over the years. It’s not easy being married to a strong-willed woman! I have been the one who made the important decisions, the one who decided it was the right time for us to have a baby (twice), started her own business without really consulting him… the list could go on and on. and yet he has been an amazing example of love. He has never got cross with me (no, really, never…) He puts up with my wild and crazy schemes, he is always supportive. and yet until recently I have totally taken that for granted. I wish I could say that I do the same for him, but sadly that’s just not true.
Someone gave me the heart above at Christmas and I think it is so true. Love does not, cannot, make things easy, but my goodness does it help! That’s what my husband is like. He can’t make things easier for me (well making the kids packed lunches helps…), he can’t make me feel well but he just sees things in a practical way and when I am feeling anxious he really makes me think that things are possible.

I feel very blessed today.

We are the sheep

ok, so this is a rather tenuous link to what I thought was a very funny video. h/t my friend Naomi who put it on her facebook page (and I see from Youtube it has had 14 million views so sorry if you’ve seen it before – I hadn’t)
So, I watched this and laughed out loud (please don’t tell me it’s cruel to the sheep/faked/done with camera trickery/CGI’d etc I don’t care, it made me laugh a lot and right now that doesnt happen much!). But (and here’s the tenous link..) it just made me think that sometimes we feel like God is herding us a bit like this don’t we? ‘move here, no not there, over here, no, thats not right for you right now…’ but when we finally see the bigger picture (usually looooooong after the event) it all becomes clear. So if you feel like a sheep covered in LED lights right now, remember there is always hope and that HE has a plan to prospoer us and not to harm us. So hang in there….

controlling the control

Control is a funny word isn’t it? We all like to think we are in control of our lives, but really we’re not, even when we think we are. Our jobs are in the hands of our bosses, or the company that takes them over; our children determine whether we can go to work, or even out – a day of sickness can ruin many a good plan; and our futures are usually controlled by money. Does that sound rather cynnical? Obviously as a Christian I like to think that God has rather a large hand on my life (metaphorically speaking. although actually he probably does have large hands..)

Control is something that I have had ‘issues’ (for want of a better word) with for rather a long time, and I have talked about this before, but something I read today has made me question it some more. (gosh I’m sure you’re all wondering when all this endless reflection will end. Probably when I get a job and then won’t have the luxury of time ‘to think’…) So lovely Lesley included Sophies blog ‘a new name’ on her wednesday list today, and I was interested to read about her battle with Annorexia. Partly because I suffered from an eating disorder when younger. Her story spoke to me in so many ways. I recognised many of the things she felt, from my own life. I have never really got to grips with with I had eating issues. I don’t like using the word annorexia – I think that even now I find it hard to admit to. It’s like a label and I see people like Emma who suffered far more than I did and think, well that wasn’t me… But that’s the thing about mental disorders is that actually they affect individuals in so many ways and on so many levels.

Anyway, I digress, the thing is I never really got to grips with why it started for me. People often talked about needing to be in control, and books on the subject that I read at the time strongly suggested that too. But I could never see it. I actively rejected that. It’s only as I became older and became a complete control freak (really, I was/am/trying not to be… a TOTAL control freak) that I recognised it. that need to be in control. of my life. of my family. of others around me. I would try to manipulate situations to my way of thinking. not deliberately of course, but that’s how I would subconsciously behave.

In terms of my not eating properly I suffered on and off for years, probably 10, before really having a decent handle on it (although it is still there in the back of my mind, always will be…) and the thing that finally sorted me out was being pregnant and having children. But whilst I began to eat more normally, I can see now that that need to control just manifested itself elsewhere. Which is exactly what Emma talks about in her story. As I read it, I suddenly realised, gosh that is me! It wasn’t really about my size at all (not initially anyway). I was always a slim child, I never had a problem with food or my size. That was what I could never understand. Why did it start when I was so thin anyway?! But that’s just it. It wasn’t about size, it was about control. And that need to control just began to come out in other ways. I’m not sure even now where that need came from. I’m not sure I need to know actually, now that I recognise it. But I think a few contributing factors probbaly combined. Teenage hormones obvsiouly cause so much confusion – as Emma puts it, your body stops behaving. My teenage daughter said to me one day, in conversation about an outburst she just had, ‘I can’t help it’ and the thing is, she’s probably right, she can’t. Hormones appear in quantity randomly, for months on end before getting into a cycle. Bits of you grow, bits of you start behaving differently. no wonder teenagers have so many issues.
On top of that, my mum was rather controlling too. I had no one I could really ‘rely’ on. Those around me betrayed my trust regularly. I wasn’t supported at school. Not that I am blaming anyone. The opposite, in a way that’s why I dont want to ‘know’ why this happened, because I don’t want to blame anyone. It was no ones fault. It happened.

So the realisation is, that for as long as I can remember I have had this overwhelming desire, need, to be ‘in control’. It was a joke, before I realised the truth of it, my husband jokingly called me a control freak. I laughed about it. we laughed about it. but now I can see the truth of it!
I know that I am dealing with this. and the funny thing is that for the first time in a very long time I actually do have very little control over my life. I am entering a vocation that I would not have chosen for myself. I don’t know how long the process will take, or whether I will even reach the end. We may have to move house (almost certainly at some point). and to cap it all off, I am ill and need to rest. I keep saying how I am dealing with this, how freeing it is to not be in control. all of which is true, but I realised yesterday that I am not done with it yet! An email from my DDO highlighting timetabling for vocational enquirers, suggested that I won’t be able to start studying (God willing) until Sept 2013. Seems a long way off. and the email totally threw me. Even though I wanted the process to not be too fast, I had it in my head that I would start Sept 2012, it fits with my daughters exams, with us, with me… and instead of saying ‘ok, well, it’s in Gods hands, I have to trust Him in this’, I went into overdrive. My head filled with thoughts of, well how can I get there in 2012, what can I do to speed it up? If I do have to wait, what new thing can I do in the meantime, what project could I start to keep me going…
So I failed. It was like I was put to the test and the very first thing I did was try to plan things my way.

So I guess I’m still a control freak after all. Although one in recovery I hope. Recognising it and seeing it as a ‘sin’, are I think the first steps…

An apology (or several)…

So as you know, I’ve been doing rather a lot of reflecting recently. yawn…
It has been painful, hard, heart-breaking, funny, interesting and a very necessary step in my journey. As I have reflected, re-read my diaries & gone over old wounds, several things have stood out for me. One of these is how selfish and self-centered I have been for much of my life. Not in an obvious, harmful to others kind of way, but it’s been there all the same. I have always thought of myself as a ‘nice’ person, who tries to do the right thing, but I know that God has been showing me so many times when I really wasn’t very nice at all, yet I couldn’t see it at the time. Even situations where I have felt that I was a ‘victim’ and was really hurt, I can now see from the other side. That has been difficult. There have been many tears.
So, it would be a very difficult task to apologise to all those I may have hurt over the years and in some cases I have lost contact. In others they would be wondering why I was apologising, or I would be opening old wounds for them too. But I feel the need to do something. So for all those I have ever hurt (intentionally or otherwise) I am sorry. Truly. I always used to say that I never regret anything, as it is wasted time. But actually now I think that’s rather arrogant. There are things I regret. not necessarily in decisions I’ve made, but more in those times when I have hurt people. Those I would change. I cannot name them all, but here’s some God has brought to my mind:

SW – sorry for listening to idle gossip about you. You are one of the nicest and most genuine people I have ever known
M&D – sorry for not respecting your property and for treating it as my own
HL – sorry for at times being a truly horrible friend, I was selfish
JW – sorry for abandoning you as a friend in such a horrible way
JN – sorry for being so unsympathetic when you needed me. I just didn’t understand
T,P,K,A & T – sorry for being a self centered cow in our relationships. I was so messed up I couldn’t see your feelings.
J – sorry for expecting what you weren’t prepared or able to give.
P – sorry for not considering your feelings. a lot. you know I love you
M – sorry it has taken me so long to come to you
A,E & P – sorry for not always seeing you as the blessings you are

I lift you all to God and ask that he will forgive me for my actions. I pray his wonderful blessings will be upon you all.

Ambition

In my recent re-reading of my diaries I found a list I had written of ‘Ambitions before age 30’. Things I wanted to achieve. They were (with current update in brackets):

Do a parachute jump (not done)
Photograph someone famous (Dickie Bird at Lords, but not in a professional sense!)
To have travelled a lot more (some)
Still play the sax (no)
Be able to play the guitar (yes)
Still be able to speak spanish (sort of – bit rusty)
Go up in a hot air balloon (no – ugh can’t think of anything worse)
To have seen a total eclipse of the sun (yes, as with half the UK, Cornwall 1999)
Still have a beetle (of the VW variety. no, but would love another one!)

When I read that list I was shocked at how shallow they were! There was nothing about family. There was nothing about faith. Nothing about career. But then that is who I was when I wrote the list (I’m guessing in my early 20s). And of that list none are amazingly important to me now, although I do love my guitar!

Ambition is a funny thing isn’t it. Some people seem full of it, others not at all. Growing up I was not ambitious. Not really anyway. the only things I aimed for were the boys I fancied (with little success I might add!). I did not excel at anything in particular at school. I was not sporty, nor particularly academic, although I was quite good at art. I went to a private girls school. (we were, and are, fairly middle class, my parents were not loaded, but my Mum taught at the school which gave her a useful discount on the fees…) The school was driven by success and particularly in the academic field. When, at the end of the 5th year (or Year 10 in new money) we saw the 6th Form director for careers advice I told him I wanted to study art. He sent me off to find out about art colleges by myself as he had no idea. By contrast the Oxbridge candidates were tutored for months on end… I was fairly intelligent and I sometimes wonder had I been at another school whether I would have been given more encouragement and whether that would have made me more ambitious or more confident.

Is ambition something inherent in us that just needs awakening? Can it be taught? What is it that makes some people strive for the top and others happy to be in the middle? Now, I am a firm believer that we should teach our kids to aim for wherever they want to go. Probably this is because I wasn’t encouraged as a child in what I wanted to do, so I feel the need to encourage them more. When I was about 10 I told my dad I wanted to be an air hostess. He told me that you had to be pretty and glamourous to be an air hostess (which I took to mean that I wasn’t either of those things). I still love travelling now, (even though I don’t get to do much of it as airfares for 5 are rather pricey…)

So it was only in my adulthood that I became interested in what I could do or become. When I finally realised that my life was in my hands and that I could go wherever I wanted to, be whoever I wanted to be, I was off! For me it has been life that has shaped me to be strong, confident and yes, I guess, ambitious. I was a late starter in that respect. It look a few knocks along the way to take control of my life, so it’s rather ironic that now I’m trying to let go…

Serenity


I’ve been having a good clear out at home recently. It has been incredibly therapeutic and I will write about it more. But for now I just want to share this picture. It came from a very scruffy old book about Michelangelo that was stuffed in a bookshelf, covered in dust! It is his representation of the face of the dead Christ from his sculpture ‘the Pieta’. I have been lucky enough to see this sculpture when I visited Rome. It is simply, stunning. I am amazed by all of Michelangelos work, but this is something else. In person I found it very moving.

However as usual with famous works of art, you cannot get all that close to the sculpture and this photograph is taken from such an angle as one cannot really see in person. And it just really struck me yesterday. The absolute serenity and beauty in the face of Jesus. I suspect that after death his face would have been rather more scratched, bruised and damaged than this, but isn’t this the kind of image we expect to see? a perfect face, so calm and beautiful, so full of love.

Ok, so it’s just a lump of marble, it’s not Jesus, but wow, did it speak to me.

illness update

such a boring post and I don’t like writing about my health, but a few of you posted such lovely comments on my previous post, so just in case you’re interested, here’s a quick update. I went back to my GP yesterday who was lovely and sympathetic. She went back over my results, and apparently compared to my usual bloods my white cells are very down, in particular the bit of them that fights infection. So according to her I seem to be suffering from a Chronic Viral Infection. This can last months and would seem to fit as I had a severe sinusitis infection last year and have felt tired ever since. She told me that it would clear up in time but that I needed to take it easy, rest more and give myself some TLC. I wonder if my husband will accept that as a reason to spend a week in a spa… ;)

So now it feels a bit like I have permission to do not very much at all (rather than feeling pathetic or guilty as I was). So there we go, put my feet up – how often do you get told to do that! Not sure how long it will be before I get bored though ;), so prayer for a quicker recovery would be ace!

Being creative

As some of you know I was/am/may still be, not quite sure.. an artist. I usually paint big, bold canvases with bright colours, but the draw of this has left me for the time being, maybe forever. In fact it’s been some time since I felt the creative urge at all. A few months ago I saw a papercut that made me think, ooohhh I’d like to try that! As a lover of text and fonts (strange love I know) I wanted to use those and this is what I came up with. (not sure the cutting board as background adds much…) Actually I rather enjoyed doing it, and even more so in that it involved just a piece of paper and a knife, so much cleaner and easier than painting! Bit like my life at the mo really, being pared down to the simple things, but far richer because of it :)