Five Minute Friday: Change

Today I am joining in with Five Minute Friday, hosted over at Kate Motaung’s blog, heading home. It’s the first time for me, but the idea is that you are given a word prompt and you type for just five minutes on it. Today’s prompt was change.

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There is a lot of change in this uncertain world. There are the things that you want to change, because they have been dragging on to long and are painful and hard to bear. Then there are the things that you don’t want to change, because they are so almost perfect and beautful, that you want them to go on forever.

The last year has seen a lot of changes for me personally. So many positive changes, which are also hard at times. Adjusting to university life away from home was a big change in itself, and there have been things I would like to change, but then there are things which I don’t want to change either.

Change is hard, but it can be beneficial. It is necessary to change in order to grow.

The changes that have happened can be hard to comprehend sometimes. When I come back home, even for the day, the moment I walk in through the front door, it almost seems that nothing has ever changed and that my time at university never happened. I very quickly slip back into my normal home routines.

But then there are things that remind that even when I am at university, things have changed at home. I find small changes around me – the new solar panels on the roof, the new locks in the doors, the new windows and front door, and my father’s new organ. I find that my younger brother and sister have grown older, that they have changed in subtle ways, which I find hard to put my finger on.

And I have changed too. Again, it is hard to put my finger on sometimes, but I have grown more independent and more confident. My role has changed at home – rather than being the big sister and daughter who is almost always there to help out when needed, I am now the big sister whose being at home is a special occasion, though I still lend a helping hand when I can.

But though we all face change at times, we always have an unchanging God behind us, His love enfolding and surrounding us. It may be an uncertain world, full of changes, but we can always be certain of this – His perfect hand in holding and guiding us and His presence to confort and assure us.

(Okay, a confession of sorts – I did not type all that in 5 minutes, because my thoughts did not flow into words as easily as I would have liked. And I also did go back and edit it a little, mainly just to remove typos and to make sure it kind of made sense.)

My First Year of University

It seems so hard to believe that this time last year I had only just received an offer to study children’s nursing.

That offer came at the end of over 6 long months of university applications and unsuccessful interviews, when I had pretty much given up my dream of studying nursing at all that year and was preparing myself for a year of work and planning to start a nursing degree this year instead.

My offer came through a pretty amazing chain of events, and when I first received it, I could hardly believe it, and kept thinking that it couldn’t be true, that there must be some horrible mistake somewhere and that someone at my university would turn around and say, “Hey, what are you doing here? We made a mistake; you should never have been offered that place.” It took a couple of weeks of my course and several lectures for it actually to begin to sink in that I was at university studying nursing, just as I had prayed I would be able to do.

And now, a year later, I am looking back over my first year of nursing, complete with all the highs and lows of university life, all the difficulties and blessings. My heart is filled with thankfulness to the Lord for how He has helped me and led me and blessed me over this past year. He has blessed me richly, above all I could ask or think and has shown me how His plan is better than anything I could ever have imagined for myself.

My first year has not always been easy. I have to be honest – there were moments when I came to the point where I actually asked myself why I ever thought this university thing was something I could do. There were times when I thought “I can’t do this, let alone ever make a good nurse.” Among the many blessings, I have struggled with many things over the past year. For example…

There was the adjustment of living away from home for the first time ever, which was especially hard for someone who had only ever been away from their family for four days at a time before, and that only once or twice.

There were the difficulties I had in overcoming my shyness and making friends with the other students at university.

There was the struggle with working out how I personally fitted in at university as someone who had been homeschooled from the very start and had never been to school or college before going to university.

There was the loneliness – I missed my family and discovered that university housemates are not the same as family, at least not for someone as family-centred as I was.

There were the questions I encountered as soon as I emerged from my sheltered little cocoon and faced the real world: What was it right for me to do as a Christian student ? What music could I listen to? What clothes could I wear? What could I do in my spare time? Why did I believe what I do?

There was the struggle with my lack of confidence and my at times not-so-brilliant communication skills.

And then on the other hand, so many blessings…

There was the blessing of meeting with other Christian students through the university Christian union and discovering that even though we often came from very different church backgrounds, we shared the same faith.

There has been the blessing of my new church while at university, which has become like a second family to me – without their support and love, I trully do feel I wouldn’t have made it through my first year at times.

There were the blessings of friendships begun, despite my personal struggles in that area.

There was the blessing of being finally able to pursue my dream and study children’s nursing, learning both in lectures at university and in my practical placements where I worked with children and their families.

There has been the blessing of knowing the Lord’s help in my studying, helping me through each of my assignments and exams.

There was the blessing of receiving really positive feedback from some of the families I worked with on my placements.

And the list could go on.

It has been such a full and blessed year, one in which I have grown so much, grown from being a shy, nervous, and insecure teenager to being a much more confident, albeit still shy and at times insecure twenty-year-old (nearly twenty-something-year-old). That sentence probably doesn’t make much sense – suffice to say, although I still struggle with the old shyness and insecurity at times, I am so much more confident that I was this time last year. Yes, I have so much to be thankful for!

“Oh give thanks unto the LORD; for he IS good: because his mercy endureth for ever” (Psalm 118:1)

When writing an essay doesn’t go to plan…

My Saturday afternoon seems to have all gone wrong. I was going to work on my essay, finish my first draft, and start reviewing it. Admittedly, I do now have 2250 words out of the 3000 words required, but words have not been coming fast. I can’t think how to write what I have learnt about pain management in children. I can’t think what to base my case study on. I can’t seem to work out how to apply my research on pain management to my as-yet-unwritten case study.

And the printer doesn’t want to work.

Let me explain. When I have written a reasonable amount of an essay, I always like having a printed copy to work from. I just do. I like the clean-ness and clarity of a neatly typed and printed copy – it is just perfect to cover with scribbled notes, suggested changes, and reworded sentences. But today, the printer is being stroppy – it is never good news when it says, “Please wait a while”. Consequently, I have every other page of essay printed, but the other pages are stuck on my laptop, and the printer refuses to print them.

It is at times like this that I can start telling myself that it is no good. That I don’t have it in me to make my way through this three-year nursing degree. I mean, I can’t even print an essay, let alone write it. And I am only in my first year – it only gets harder after this. Not to mention, I am not a good student. I spend too much time watching “One Born Every Minute” (or some other TV shows), when I should really be working. I don’t read as much or as often as I should.  And my memory is like a sieve – I seem to forget everything I try to learn within a couple of days.

The accusations come flying in. The verdict? Not good enough.

It is just one of those kind of days.

And it is also one of those moments when I need to remind myself why I am here. I need to remind myself why I want to be a nurse – how I want to be there for children and their families at some of the most vulnerable moments of their lives when they most need loving care and support. I need to remind myself of my own experience as a little girl of 8-years-old with a very sick baby sister, and how that influenced my decision all these years later.

I also need to remind myself of how I came to be here. I came through so many dashed hopes and so much uncertainty, just to study nursing. I need to remember how the Lord brought me and placed me here – to study nursing. If He brought me here, He can give me all I need to go through with the course. He can enable me to pass this first year. He can help me to do well in my second placement coming up in just over a weeks’ time. And He can help me to complete this essay. We will deal with that lie of ‘not good enough’ another time. For now, it is enough for me to know that I don’t have to do this on my own, for the Lord is my help.

No one ever said university was going to be easy. No one ever said nursing was going to be easy either. But the Lord is Almighty, and He can help me through. As Paul wrote to the Philippians, “I can do everything through Christ, which strengtheneth me.”(Philippians 4:13) With Christ, I can do it!

And it can be applied to so much more. We should never limit God’s power and ability. In the most difficult and impossible situations (and I’m talking situations much, much harder than finishing a 3000-word assignment for the 5th June!)  God is there for His children, and He will help them and carry them through. He will give grace for the darkest moments. He will uphold in the moments when all else seems to fail. He will comfort in the midst of grief. He will bring hope into despair. He will be there for us when we need Him most. He is there, even when we doubt Him, and He loves us with a love beyond all telling. The list goes on. There is lifting up!

Uni – Instagrammed

When looking for photos to picture my first year at university, instagram is my go-to place. To be honest, I have probably taken more photos with the tacky camera on my phone than I have with my proper camera. That sounds bad in a way, but I call it taking photos for memory’s sake rather than for quality! It is kind of like learning to live more in the moment and delighting in those little memories! These photos have been taken since I started last September, and are very much brief snapshots of some of the moments in the last 7 months. It is only an incomplete picture, so many things are missing, but these may give a little glimpse of my life at uni. Enjoy!

wpid-img_20131111_090608.jpg– tea and English muffins –

wpid-img_20131111_184233.jpg– studying my anatomy and physiology module –

(This was back in November, and I am only now facing the exam.)

wpid-img_20131112_161914.jpg– baking –

(because you have to bake at uni!)

wpid-img_20131123_161547.jpg– Saturday afternoon walk and a winter sunset –

wpid-img_20131129_114134.jpg– uni campus from the bus –

(the building on the right is actually the back of the nursing building)

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 – green card for placement, following the completion of all my vaccinations –

wpid-img_20131210_174049.jpg– Christmas lights on campus –

wpid-img_20131211_103456.jpg– a misty morning walk to a 9am lecture –

wpid-img_20131224_221004.jpg– Christmas at home –

(And I’m still not too old for a stocking!)

wpid-img_20140102_211206.jpg–  writing my last essays –

wpid-img_20140131_083559.jpg– morning walk to catch the bus to my first placement (P1) –

wpid-img_20140210_163626.jpg– my P1 wasn’t actually based in this old hospital building, but in a another building on the same site –

wpid-img_20140211_083942.jpg– rain on the bus window (p1 again)!

wpid-img_20140309_102839.jpg– Sunday morning walk on the common before church –

wpid-img_20140313_140801.jpg– on campus one sunny afternoon –

wpid-img_20140314_124001.jpg– travelling back home for a visit –

wpid-img_20140314_202353.jpg– time spent with my little brother and sister –

wpid-img_20140331_182247.jpg– icecream, waffles, and good times with friends –

wpid-img_20140505_203945.jpg– a recent bank holiday walk to a bluebell wood with my family –

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– revision –

(Almost) Six Months Later…

I am sitting here staring at a flat line for the number of people who have visited my blog recently. We all know that a flat line on an ECG is not good news (should be careful here, as I am supposed to be a nursing student, so will really look silly if I get something wrong!) – it is one sign that a person has died, and their heart has stopped working. In a similar way, a flat line on my viewing stats does not signify a healthy blog. Not that you needed to tell me that, as I could have told you that already.

It has been a little while, right? My maths (and it could be wrong, but I somehow don’t think so) tells me that it has been six months since I last updated my little blog. And if my memory isn’t tricking me, that post was a scheduled post. I think more was supposed to be coming, but it never did come. Life went on, and this space was left behind – empty.

I can’t apologise for deserting my blog. Not sincerely, anyway. I rarely felt any twinge of guilt during these past 6 months – Oh no! I haven’t updated my blog – what a bad person I am! I have to confess that for the most part, it has been furthest from my mind. Life has been too busy with other things.

If anyone reads this, by now they are probably wondering, Then why on earth is this person (who is quite possibly mad) writing on her blog now? She’s just been telling us how little she cares about blogging?!

I guess there are times when I just feel like blogging. And this evening is one of those times.

I have to admit it; there are times when I do wonder whether the season for blogging is really over for me, at least for now. I started blogging as a lonely, somewhat isolated teenager (how I like being able to put it that way – being 20 is good!) longing for some way to reach out and connect and get to know other people, especially Christian girls living a similar life to me. That was key for me back me – connecting with people like me, at least in someway, so that I didn’t feel quite so much cut off.

Things have changed such a lot since then. I have begun to realise the value of real-life friendships. Not that online friendships are to be totally thrown off – I have met some very dear and sweet people through blogging and the internet, and still try to keep in touch with some of them. But it wasn’t healthy for me to seek all my friends online; I really needed to know people in real-life. It is hard to explain, but blogging can create the impression of being connected, but away from the internet my reality was pretty lonely.

Since going away to university, I have found that forcing myself away from the comfort zone of my family and their limited circle of acquaintances has been beneficial to me. I have begun to learn to forge friendships with real-life people, friendships which I hope will grow and develop. I have to confess, it has not been easy. I was too used to living quite an isolated existence. I was used to hiding myself behind my shyness. I still do hide myself, and I am trying to learn to be more open with other people. It is easy to be open online, with people who don’t know me in real life. There is safety behind the screen; there is security in knowing that those people can only see so much of me as I let them see. There is security in the fact that people don’t actually know ‘me’. There is a lovely security in being able to write about what I feel, and re-edit it until it is just right. But when with people in real life, I can try to hide, but it is harder. I can’t ‘edit’ what I say – it comes out as it is, raw, complete with all the rough edges.

I am almost at the end of my first year at university now and how time has flown. My first big university exam is looming. (Thankfully, nurses don’t get as many exams as other students, or I think I would be doing my head in – I have never done big exams before.) My life is filled with revision, and the library has become like a second home to me. I am facing my second placement, and it will be my first on a hospital ward. I probably should be revising right now, but it has been a long day, and I am trying to relax – in a semi-productive way! Did I also mention I  have a 3000-word essay to write? Yes, life is busy, it is a little hectic, it can be overwhelming at times, but it is good.

I can’t think of anything else to say right now, save this final thought – God has been good to me, and I am so thankful for all He has done for me over the past year! I can’t say my first year at university has always been easy, but God has been there, overruling the events in it and helping me. And He will continue to do so in the months to come. May all who read this blog know His presence in their lives too!

The One Who Changes Not

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As my blog reader are aware, there have been several changes in my life recently – finishing school, leaving home and starting university, going to a new church… the list could probably go on, and in more detail too! In the midst of any change, it is always so good to be reminded of the One Who changes not – God.

I am the Lord, I change not.  (Malachi 3:6)

It is well for us that, amidst all the alterations and vicissitudes of life—that there is One whom change cannot affect; One whose heart can never alter—and on whose brow mutability can make no furrows. All other things have changed—all other things are changing. The sun itself grows dim with age. The world is waxing old—the heavens and earth must soon pass away and perish!

There is One alone, who has immortality—of whose years there is no end, and in whose person there is no change. The delight which the mariner feels, when, after having been tossed about for many a day, he steps again upon the solid shore—is the satisfaction of a Christian when, amidst all the changes of this troublous life, he rests the foot of his faith upon this truth, “I am the Lord—and I do not change!” The stability which the anchor gives the ship when it has at last obtained a hold-fast, is like that which the Christian’s hope affords him when it fixes itself upon this glorious truth.

“With Him there is no variation!” Whatever His attributes were of old—they are now! His power, His wisdom, His justice, His truth, are alike unchanged.

He has ever been the refuge of His people, their stronghold in the day of trouble—and He is their sure Helper still.

He is unchanged in His love. He has loved His people with “an everlasting love!” He loves them now as much as ever He did—and when all earthly things shall have melted in the last conflagration, His love will still wear the dew of its youth. Precious is the assurance that our God never changes! The wheel of providence revolves—but its axle is eternal love!

– Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

Dear Blog…

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Dear Blog,

I am so sorry for neglecting you over the past few months. I know – just as you were beginning to hope that I would write on you more often and take a little bit better care of you. I am sorry; I realise it must have been tough for you!

The thing is, lately my time has been so taken up with other things. I have been settling in at university, dealing with things like homesickness and overwhelmed-ness and adjusting to a change that is mammoth in itself. I have been working to get into a good study routine on those days when I don’t have lectures while at the same time striving to maintain a good work-life balance. I have been meeting new people, beginning to build new friendships, and learning to step out of my comfort zone. I have been discovering the challenges, as well as the freedoms, of living independently.

I am now 7 weeks into my first term at university. How quickly that time has flown! How long ago those quiet, lazy days of summers now seem! And yet how strange it seems to think that I have another 3 years (minus those 7 weeks!) of university to go before I will be fully finished. It seems a long time, yet I have been told it will fly by. And though I can sometimes feel overwhelmed by everything I am supposed to learn during those years, I am finding that the best way is to take things as they come and not fretting over next weeks’ work when I should be completing this weeks’ work.

My first 7 weeks at uni have been full. Though surprisingly, not as full of lectures as I was expecting or indeed would like. I enjoy the lectures I do have, and almost wish for more, though generally I find that there is plenty to do outside of lectures too. Such as meeting with friends, visiting my family, going shopping, taking walks, and of course, reading and studying!

There has been so much that is good – so much that makes me step back and thank God for placing me here. Yes, in this city which I have known all my life, in this city ‘too close to home’, in this city which ‘isn’t Cardiff’. God knew what He was doing – yes, even when I went through those agonising moments when I looked on UCAS and saw another ‘unsuccessful’ reply and when I thought that I was not going to university this year. He knew what he was doing when He opened the door for me to come here and then worked everything together in His perfect timing! Even in the ‘not-so-good’ moments (and there have been several), He still knows what He is doing, and I know that I can be confident that He is with me now and will be with me throughout all the years of university and beyond!

So that is my life in a nutshell (or some of it at least!).

Anna xx

(And yes, it does feel a little weird writing a letter to my blog, but hey, it’s fun!)