My Crazy Life

Right now I should really be going to sleep – I certainly should not be posting on my blog using my new phone! It seems so amazing to think that in the last couple of months since my last blog post my whole life has changed. Yes, I am now at university studying children’s nursing! It is a long long story how I came to be here – suffice to say that it happened in the most amazing and unexpected way. Life has been a bit crazy, but God has been so good! How good to know that in the midst of my crazy life, he is in complete control and will help and guide me.

More soon, I hope!

Photo a Week: Week 32

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~ Chocolate Courgette Cake (recipe here) ~

This photo captures last week perfectly for me – times spent with friends and family which naturally called for cake!  It was a pleasantly busy week, and included making more memories with my little brother and sister when we visited a miniature railway.

Coming Back to Trust

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Perhaps the heat compounded my feelings of frustration.  Perhaps I really do have too much time currently to sit and think.  Anyway, the thoughts came crowding thick and fast that sunny afternoon: I was meant to be going to university this September, but now look at me.  A whole extra year, and what am I going to do in it?  I would like a job, but what if a job doesn’t come my way? What if I end up sitting at home, getting more and more frustrated?

Don’t get me wrong; I love being at home (generally, anyway!).  But for someone who was planning and working towards going to university to study children’s nursing, and who was planning to do that this year, suddenly finding that she actually has another year at home can be a little frustrating at times.  At least it has proved to be so for me.  Just like the average person – please tell me I am not the only one – I am apt to get frustrated because things haven’t quite gone my way.

When I first received my offer, there was a sense of relief – I have got a place at uni, even if it is for next year.  But then gradually it began to sink in that it also meant I had an ‘empty’ year stretching ahead of me.  And that getting the job I really wanted wasn’t a given.

That final point was what frustrated me. If I could find a job I really loved for the next year, I know that I would not have any problem with feelings of frustration and impatience over the wait.  I might almost be sad when the year ended – but not quite… we hope!  However, it is becoming apparent that finding that job may prove hard.

I think that I am one of those people who really likes to know what they are doing and when they are going to do it.  I like structure, and I like definite plans.  That is one reason why this past half-year has been so hard for me – I have not known where I am going to go and what I am going to do this September.  It has all been hanging, uncertain and undecided.  Even now, I still don’t know.  There are so many ‘maybes’, yet there is nothing definite.

In the end, it all boils down to that little word: trust.  I have touched on this before – the need to trust in the Lord, to wait patiently for Him, for He will, in His time, make His way plain.  Yes, I must trust that my God is able to make all the seemingly messy threads of my life at present come together and ‘make sense.’  Not to  believe that would be to suggest that He is not almighty, all-powerful and sovereign; it would be doubting some of His essential attributes.  To become frustrated with the very messiness, the uncertainty, and the change of plan is evidence of a lack of trust.

There are those words Psalm 116:7: “Return unto thy rest, O my soul.”  They whisper the thought that there is a place of rest, and, though we are so apt to stray from it, it is open for us to return.  When those thoughts of frustration come, these words gently remind of that place of rest – “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.”

Check-the-Box Christianity

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It can be just a little too easy to get caught up in the externals of Christianity.  So much so that you become so caught up in making sure that your Christianity is okay on the outside, that you rarely get any deeper.  Your Christianity begins to look something like this:  Dress modestly, check. Don’t listen to worldly music, check.  Go to church every week, check.  Read my Bible every day, check, Pray, check.  Say all the right kind of good Christian things, check.  Christianity simply becomes a long list of things you should be, and if you can check all the above, then you are alright.

But there is a teensy weensy problem here – a great big one, in fact.  The thing is, Christianity is not primarily about ticking all the boxes and doing all the right things.  Christianity is first and foremost a relationship – a living, vital relationship – with God, the God Who made us and formed us, the God Who saved us.  If we reduce Christianity to a set of rules to be followed or a list of dos and don’ts, we begin to fall into the trap of legalism and make more complicated specific rules to follow in order that we might feel better than our fellow Christians.  The comparison game begins: “I never listen to that music, so I am better than so-and-so.”  “Oooh, so-and-so wears trousers, but I don’t, so I am a better Christian.”

The Bible was never meant to simply be used as a massive rule book – that is why some things (such as definite guidelines on modesty and what music we should listen to) are not mentioned at all.  Instead, there is much relating to our relationship with our God and the visible results of that relationship with Him.  Take verses such as John 15:4.  “Abide in me, and I in you” – we must come into this vital relationship with Christ.  The real danger of a check-the-box Christianity is that it forgets this, the most vital part of Christianity.

This should be our focus: “that I may know Him,” that I personally and intimately know my Saviour and the power of His salvation in my life.  This is not concentrated on externals; it is instead concentrated on the very heart of our religion – our experiential knowledge of Christ.  Rather than seeking to tick all the boxes and simply live as a Christian outwardly, we should be seeking to come a deeper and closer knowledge of Christ inwardly.  We should be taken up with Christ and with coming to that place where “Christ liveth in me” is truly realised in our lives.

It is not to say that the externals don’t matter.  They do matter, but they should always flow from a right relationship with Christ.  Just as claiming to have the relationship with Christ without any of the external signs is empty and dead, having the externals in place without that vital relationship with Christ is also empty and dead.  The two are inseparable, but the relationship with Christ should be our first focus. If we concentrate on Christ and coming into deeper communion with Him, we shall find that we live “right” as we instinctively avoid sinful things and obey HIs commands out of our love for Him.

Rather than worrying about the externals, this then should be our aim: to come to the place where we are spiritually so close to Christ with our hearts so much at one with HIm that the externals falls into place naturally as we follow Him.

Photo a Week: Week 31 [First Steps in Quilting]

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Highlights from last week in brief…

…beginning to piece my first ever quilt (or what will hopefully be my first ever quilt! – pictured), afternoon walks with my little brother and sister, day outings with my little brother and sister to see Nelson’s ship, the first part of my first job interview, and a farewell party for my old music teacher who is moving away.  Busy, but good memories have been made.

The Discipline of Loneliness

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“Lonely” is a word which has found its way into my journal far more often than I would like to admit.  Sometimes maybe there was a touch of teenage blues – generally feeling a little sorry for oneself.  However, it is not all that, for loneliness is something which I have definitely experienced.  I find that I struggle with loneliness, for I am too apt to shrink from speaking to other people, particularly if they are all seem busy and happy with the friends they have already, tending to lead to feeling left out and very much alone.  Then the questions would come: “Am I unfriendly? Unapproachable? Just plain boring?”

I had to come to realise that is not necessarily to case – that there are times when the Lord permits His children to go through seasons of loneliness.  That it may simply be loneliness due to being removed far away from friends, or it may be loneliness due to the feeling that one has no close friends.  That whatever the reason, loneliness is difficult.  That, yes, it is hard, but God can have – no, He does have – a purpose in allowing loneliness in our lives.  That there are lessons that can be learned from loneliness that may not be learned as well when we are happy and secure in our friendships with others.

These then are the lessons I have learned from loneliness.  Some have been and are harder than others for me to put into practice, but I believe they are all very important and relevant.

1.  Value friendships.  Having experienced loneliness, I understand more than ever the value of close friends.  You learn that friendship is to be cherished; it is important to guard against offending our friends and destroying friendships by picking on the little differences between us. Instead we should focus on building up and strengthening our friendships, despite any differences we may have.

2.  Be more friendly In a period of loneliness, it occurred to me that part of the fault may be with me – I was being too self-centred.  Rather than desiring that people talk to me so that I feel more accepted and happy, I realised that I needed to want to talk to people in order to show that I care about them.  Notice the difference – instead of being about ‘me, me’ all the time, it is more about others.  That means being less shy and sometimes initiating the conversation.  It means asking questions, letting the other person talk, and trying to relate to their position.

3.  Try to include the loners.  After too many occasions of being the loner – the person who stands on the outside of a group not talking to anyone and feeling miserable – I hope that I have learned to be more aware of people who are looking left-out.  Simple actions like going over to talk to them and introducing them to other people often mean a lot – they did to me, anyway (and still do!).  But let me remember, introducing them to a group of your friends and then ignoring them often simply makes them feel even more uncomfortable.

4.  Find comfort in the Friend Who is better than all earthly friends.  This is, I believe, the primary purpose of God in allowing loneliness in the lives of His children – to cause them to depend upon Him.  With an absence of earthly friends to distract me from Him, I was driven to Him seek the comfort and love I desired.  And I found that He gives of Himself abundantly, for He is willing and ready to receive and comfort all who come to Him!  Loneliness may cause tears, but it also helps to deepen and strengthen the believer’s relationship with their Saviour and teaches them to cleave closer to Him.  The end result is joy!

 

“Nothing strengthens us so much as isolation and transplantation….  It may not be necessary for us to withdraw from home and friends; but we shall have to withdraw our heart’s deepest dependence from all earthly props and supports, if ever we are to learn what it is to trust simply and absolutely on the eternal God.”

– F. B. Meyer

‘Catch Up’: Photo A Week

This post is going to be a long one, for it has been rather a long time since I last updated my photo a week ‘challenge’, hasn’t it? This post begins way back at the beginning of May, so that shows how long it has been.  I personally can’t believe how the time has gone so quickly! It doesn’t seem so very long ago that this year was just beginning, and now I find myself over halfway through it already!  I think these photos illustrate my life quite well at the moment – lots of quiet, peaceful moments, but with an undercurrent of uncertainty and change.

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Week 18 – Bean Plants

These bean plants are now planted in the garden and are much, much bigger and beginning to yield!  But back then – I think it was the beginning of May – they were only just opening their first leaves.  Sunshine + young plants = ideal opportunity to marvel at the intricateness of God’s creation!

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Week 19 – Apple Blossom

The blossoms on our apples trees were beautiful this year, and they look as though they are going to yield a good crop of apples too!

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Week 20 –London

I had another university interview at King’s College London.  There is a long, long story to be told all about my journey through university applications and interviews; it has definitely been quite eventful and busy for me. But that is for another post.

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Week 21 – Reading!

I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy – finally!  For some reason, I always thought Tolkien was unreadable when I was younger.  However, after seeing some of the Lord of the Rings movie at the end of last year, I decided that I must read the whole story.  Needless to say, I really enjoyed it!

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Week 22 – In the Garden

I feel I must admit to cheating slightly here – there was a big gap around this point when my camera remained in its bag and no photos were taken, so this photo and the photo above were actually taken late, as kind of fill-in photos!  I know that this artichoke was definitely growing in my garden – along with a lot of other things!  The plant was a gift from my grandmother last year, though I have to confess that I think I left the poor artichokes to long before harvesting.  Still, it all can be put down as gardening experience.

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Week 23 – Self Portraits and Hair Cuts

I don’t know whether this photo shows it very well, but I had my hair cut to just over shoulder length, which meant losing about 8 to 10 inches.  I actually really like my new length – though it has grown a little since then.

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Week 24 – A Family Walk

As you can see from the photo, my little sister takes after me just a little, at least when the fancy takes her!

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Week 25 – Sick

Apparently, I was sick this week – I wouldn’t remember this if it wasn’t for the things crossed out in my diary with a little ‘sick’ next to them!  While recovering from my cold, I found jigsaws highly satisfying; they were something to keep me fairly busy, but without requiring too much effort.  I think I completed three.

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Week 26 – Another Uni Interveiw

Yes, that was said with feeling – it was my fifth.  Thankfully, it was also my last – things have been a little crazy, but the Lord has guided (and is still guiding) me.

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Week 27 – The End of School

I received my certificate confirming that I had really finished school!

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Week 28 –

I couldn’t decide how to caption this photo; I went to a young person’s conference at the beginning of this month, and there was a civil war re-enactment taking place in the same town.  Consequently, while I was eating my lunch, there were lots of people dressed up in costumes walking – or marching – about. There were also a lot of dangerous looking poles being brandished and several loud and rather startling bangs!  It was certainly unusual!

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Week 29 – Barges

We visited a relative who lives near a lovely working canal, complete with lots of barges.  This photo brings back memories of a rather short, hot, dusty walk down this canal – it was the middle of our heatwave and temperatures were around 30°C, which is hot for us!

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Week 30 – Summer

I had a slight moment of indecision before posting this photo – do my blog readers really want to see a photo of my feet?  Anyway, this illustrates our summer July – sunshine and flipflops.  Admittedly, the weather has broken now, but that also means that it is a lot cooler, which I prefer.  This photo was taken last week, on a beautifully sunny-but-not-too-hot afternoon walk with my camera.  There is so much beauty to capture!

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In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)