A Nottingham Epilogue

I was encouraged recently to realise that, if we’re leaving a place for the right reasons, then we’re leaving because of the friends we leave behind, the experiences we’ve had. They’ve been preparing us, shaping us, helping us, to be ready for the new challenges we face. We’re not running away, but pushing doors, not fleeing difficulty, but seeking challenge. Our friends don’t stop being friends, in fact seeing them just becomes more special in the new context we find ourselves. Moments more treasured.

As I reflect on my eight years here I am amazed how much God has been changing me and opening my eyes to the diversity, complexity and joy of this world. Through hard times and good I have been blessed with great friends, reminding me of God’s love, my sinfulness and the joy to be found in all of life’s quirks and randomness. For day trips, meals out, random encounters, film nights, pizza nights, holidays, bad days, good days, I thank you all. As a reward, please accept free accommodation in Prague…

I read a really interesting article about how our 20s are the most formative years of our lives and it has been a delight discovering who God made me with you all (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/20-things-every-twentysomething-should-have). These eight years have enabled me to grow in confidence, explore creativity, go on a lot of trips to the pick and mix shop, expand my horizons in many a way, not to mention getting half decent at teaching (a more nomadic friend of mine recently commented ‘You have a profession!” Yikes! Am I supposed to be professional then?). Wonderful experiences all, on reflection.

This is not an end, but a beginning, not a full stop, but a comma. A new opportunity to enjoy God’s bountiful goodness, a new perspective to appreciate the truth of the gospel, and an opportunity to meet, and be met by, fellow travellers. I’m not looking to reinvent myself or leave behind my boring life, but just to step out on faith, as I am.

It has been a delight saying goodbye this week – I have spent wonderful times with wonderful people who are so dear to me. I am sad to leave, of course, but I am expectant of God’s goodness because I can see how he has used each person and situation here in Nottingham to enable me to reach this point. So it’s your fault I’m brave enough to leave really…

And I’ll be back. Count on it.

The (Late) Breakfast Club

Were you a horrid teenager? You know the drill – grunting, drinking, mono-syllabic moaning, messing up your room, generally being a stereotype. Well, I think I missed most of these things in my teenage years (maybe my parents disagree?) but I have had a growing appreciation of the delights of being a teenager recently. Maybe this is further evidence of my refusal to actually grow up and I’m sure it’s rather rose-tinted as well, yet I have been enjoying nostalgically dipping my toes into being a ‘teenager’ again.

I hope you have had the joy of watching classic ‘teen movies.’ Not sparkly-vampire infested ones, but classic, quotable, bad-hair featuring ones. Movies like The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Juno and Clueless. There’s something about the boundless opportunity and optimism of the characters, even when they are forced to spend a whole Saturday in detention, that seems to me to be the thing I miss about teenager-hood. The feeling that the world really is your oyster and that any kind of creative, random, unexpected thing could happen. Too often, this feeling is drowned out in me by jaded, perfunctory, grown-up-ness.

My renewed youth has also been fed by teen-fiction. Yes, that’s right. Sounds terrible doesn’t it. But when I think that I was eagerly awaiting the last Harry Potter book or two well into my twenties it’s not all that surprising. I was totally gripped by The Hunger Games trilogy, loved The Perks of Being a Wallflower and, damn it, was holding back tears reading The Fault in our Stars. There’s something about the intensity of feeling, the ‘universe is centred around me and how I feel right now’ perspective of these characters, as well as the ‘this friendship will never be the same again’ sadness, that makes these books so appealing in many ways. Or maybe just easier to read.

As I think about the future and the possibilities before me, are they really less vast than those I imagined (or not) when I was an actual teenager? Is it not a positive thing to seek to enjoy every moment, eager to await each surprise, rather than dreading the next hiccup? If nothing else, this teenage flashback has reminded me that God has been faithful to me up to now, so much more than I could have expected. Whatever is to come, I look forward to enjoying his goodness and the gifts, whether as big as a new job or a child, or as small as a sunny day and an ice lolly, that he generously gives. And when it’s hard, it will be OK, because time goes on and he is faithful.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Ferris Bueller

Ferris-Buellers-Day-Off-09

 

 

Czech Please….

Do you ever feel like you want to check out of your life?

Now don’t get scared, I mean more in the checking out of a hotel sense. Sometimes, don’t you just wish for something more, something different? The hum drum just gets very, well, hum drummy. It’s all too easy to get a bit jaded with the things around us, even the people around us, even our friends and family.

I have been feeling like I wanted to take a step away from ‘normality’ ever since I seemed to experience a ‘mid-twenties crisis’ back in the fall (I know, how self-indulgent of me). I really felt a deep frustration with where I was, even as I was aware of the great people and opportunities God has given me where I am. I described my feeling to a friend as ‘I just want to go and run in a field’ (amusingly, I literally did that soon after with my accomplice), expressing a desire, I guess, to run away.

Strange how one minute I was feeling rather smug with my permanent job, supportive friends and church, considering buying a house even, then suddenly wanted to run and hide. I’m not sure if it was a case of frustration with the hum drum but I have come to enjoy a feeling that my future is in God’s hands completely – whether here or far away.

The long and short of the situation is that I have ended up ‘Czeching’ out rather literally and moving to Prague to work in an international school there. Well, I will be moving there come the summer. Have I given in to my self-indulgentness? I hope not. I trust that God was giving me a wake-up call and reminding me that the plans I make are subject to his will.

Do I still want to check out of my life? No. I hope and pray that God would keep adjusting my view on ‘my life’ and keep surprising me with the direction it could take. How glancing at an online ad became a 4 day trip to Prague (best interview ever). How that became a job offer. How I’m coming to terms with saying goodbyes.

It’s so easy to wish for something different and I hope this whole post isn’t too hypocritical. I am going somewhere different. But I’m not checking out. Not of my friendships, family, especially not of relying on God. I hope, pray, plead that this is right, God’s plan. I am optimistic.

I think I have come to see that it’s OK to explore new opportunities, that we should push doors. But that we shouldn’t leave the hotel. I don’t need a new life, new friends, new, new, new. I need to go forward with them and that’s what I pray I will do. And maybe there are things I do need to leave behind – materialism, jaded-ness with situations, frustrations. Maybe that’s a bonus.

And I think I will go and run in a field occasionally. They have them in Prague right?

Green field

Teenagers aren’t that scary really

A union jack onesie. Rain. Two hundred sausages. Drizzle. Bakewell puddings. Damp.

I have had the pleasure this weekend of serving as a cook on the church youth group weekend away to the rainy/damp/drizzly Peak District. Along with a couple of buddies I had to cook for 15 or so teenagers, as they spent time studying Romans 12/having lots of crazy fun.

Aside from the fact that I don’t think I’ve worn so many layers inside in my life (it got so bad I invested in a charity shop onesie), it was a brilliant weekend. I’m not sure why but I often find teenagers rather intimidating and came to the startling realisation this weekend that they are, in fact, people. Funny, slightly younger, sometimes stubborn, often lovely, people.

Not sure where this realisation will take me. But I am just thankful for the chance to serve them and their lovely leaders too. And I pray that I would be able to serve them again, God willing.

“We have different gifts,according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12: 6-8

Also, I was given the chance to stand for two hours in Bakewell while dressed as Robin Hood, so that’s a new experience I can treasure.

Potty for Sochi

Things I’ve learned this week –

– What a ‘draw’ is in curling.

– What a McTwist looks like (amazing btw).

– How in the world of luge, being a second in front is considered ‘a massive lead’

– That Clare Balding is obsessed with a shopping trolly…

Yes, I love the Winter Olympics. I love the crazy sports I would never consider watching at another time, the often hilarious BBC coverage, the boring parade of flags, the cheesy mascots (particularly when they are freakishly huge and winking) and even, yes damn it, the shopping trolly. Oh, and I love the amazing sporty stuff.

I think the greatest bit is how all these amazing sportspeople manage to cheer us all up, suffering as we are with February blues. Their dedication reminds us that we don’t really work that hard, their cheerfulness in victory or defeat is inspirational, and let’s face it, some of the sports mean they look pretty funny when they do it (step forward doubles luge).

So I salute you Winter Olympics. I wish you came around every year.

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Welcome to Moomin Valley

I was lucky enough to see the brilliantly wacky Moominland Midwinter with my family at the theatre this Christmas. Having not thought twice about the Moomins since childhood, I was struck once again by their utter randomness, complete nonsensicalness, and gentle cheerfulness (lots of nesses…).

In what other world could Moomintroll and the Snork Maiden go on a walk through the snow to see Too-Ticky and the invisible shrews? Or Little My and Snufkin run into Mrs Fillyjonk or a Hemulen?

I have to say, the names make me giggle, but in a very affectionate way. There’s little better than a silly name to bring a smile to my face. Simple things, eh.

Having sought out some of the wonderful Tove Jansson comic strips, I have enjoyed reading the gentle adventures of the residents of Moomin Valley. Perfect bedtime reading. The tone is like a Scandinavian Winnie the Pooh; colder, but no less warm somehow. Imagine the Hundred Acre Wood transplanted to Finland, with a bit of extra whimsy.

Anyhow, I’d recommend you take a look and ponder with me that age old question, ‘What is a Moonmintroll really?’

Albino hippopotamus? Giant-headed dwarf polar bear? Your guess is as good as mine….!

But it doesn’t really matter. And that’s the point I guess. Which makes me smile. Again. 🙂

Moomin_kuva

Halfway down the stairs

Do you have one? A place where you occasionally slump when you just want a bit of peace and quiet?

Ever since I was small I have found a strange peace in sitting on the stairs. Not the top step or the bottom step but somewhere on the flight (that is the plural right?). Generally in my house, but sometimes elsewhere.

I think this may be due to my early exposure to the simple joy of A. A. Milne.

Halfway down the stairs 

Is a stair

Where I sit.

There isn’t any 

Other stair

Quite like

It.

I’m not at the bottom,

I’m not at the top;

So this is the stair 

Where

I always

Stop.

On these long and somewhat depressing January evenings I enjoy a good think on the stairs. Maybe with a cup of tea. Lovely.

Why don’t you try it?

Picture 12