31 Dec 2013

From The Old I Travel To The New

I mentioned on Sunday that we were talking about resolutions at Church. We also sang a pretty old school song that I sang in Primary School.

One More Step Along The World I Go. I've put a copy of the words below so you can refresh your memories of the lyrics - or read them if you don't know the song.

One more step along the world I go,
one more step along the world I go;
from the old things to the new
keep me traveling along with you:
Refrain:
And it's from the old I travel to the new;
keep me traveling along with you.


Round the corner of the world I turn,
more and more about the world I learn;
all the new things that I see
you'll be looking at along with me: Refrain

As I travel through the bad and good,
keep me traveling the way I should;
where I see no way to go
you'll be telling me the way, I know: Refrain

Give me courage when the world is rough,
keep me loving though the world is tough;
leap and sing in all I do,
keep me traveling along with you: Refrain

You are older than the world can be,
you are younger than the life in me;
ever old and ever new,
keep me traveling along with you: Refrain


Now when you are younger you don't necessarily realise what you are singing and I suppose when I actually took in the words on Sunday I understood with a new set of eyes what I was singing. 

There is some powerful stuff in there!

As I travel through the bad and good - keep me traveling the way I should.
Give me courage when the world in rough - keep me loving though the world is tough
And it's from the old I travel to the new - keep me traveling along with you

As I leave 2013 and head into the unknown of 2014 I want those lyrics I sang to be more than words. I want them to be little prayers.

I want 2014 to be a year where I:

  • cling ever more to God
  • become more loving in all I say and do
  • enjoy beautiful friendships
  • experience new adventures
May I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

29 Dec 2013

Resolutions?

Today at my Church we were talking about how sometimes when you make resolutions you find that you fail to keep them in the first few days, let alone the whole year. 


I have for a while had my suspicions about New Year's Resolutions. There is quite a big build up and generally a bit of a binge before New Year's Eve. I can remember when my resolution was to go running every other day and I made it for 2 days before giving up when it was a bit wet outside. 

You see I like the whole idea of starting something new at the beginning of a year. It's like I love using December as my month of reflection and then January is a month of goal setting/creating aims for the year. However, I don't ever think you should wait until the New Year to start something good. 

For instance I can remember when I wanted to read the whole Bible but it was about May and so I waited until the January so that I could do the official Bible in a year reading plan. Now, ideally I would have just started then and gone with it. Why waste time?! Far too often I am one of these people that has to wait to start something at the beginning of a year, a month, a week, a day, an hour, rather than thinking..."hmm this is a good idea let's go for it". This reminds me of how when I was at university I would be writing essays and I'd take a break and always say I'll have 10 mins...now if I forgot to look at the clock and it had been 11 mins I would then choose to wait until it had been 15 mins before getting on. 

This year my Dad asked me for an Inspirational Calender (he gets one every year), however I looked all over in London and couldn't find the one he would normally get. So I had to resort to being creative and adding inspirational quotes to a standard calender (it is actually an Amazing Earth one which has some pretty stunning pics in it). A couple of the quotes I chose really stood out to me. 

"The wise does at once what the fool does at last." Balthasar Grecian

"It is never to late to be what you might have been." George Eliot

Now I don't want to be someone who waits and puts things off until a "good time". I don't know who but someone said "there is no time like the present" - New Years is a good time to start things, but so is today! 

So as I think about what I want my goals/aims for the year to be, one of them is going to be to start good ideas straight away. The rest I'm thinking about.

19 Dec 2013

Hopes and Fears

I don't know about you but I generally find that December is a brilliant time for reflection. There is always loads going on, but there seem to be more opportunities to steal moments to think a bit more deeply. Whether it be at a carol service, or sitting in a cafe taking a break from shopping...December seems a good point to take stock.

There's a Christmas carol that I have sung a number of times already this advent season: O Little Town of Bethlehem 
"O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight"


Now I generally find it difficult to understand anything that isn't in plain English (working with London slang is hard!) and carols generally aren't simple to understand. This verse talks about how Jesus is the everlasting light and that all the hopes and fears that you and I might have are in his hands. 

This has had me thinking. 

You see I never in a million years thought I would be a youth-worker when I grew up (not sure that has happened yet!) I mean as a teenager my thoughts were that I wanted to change the world. My hope was that I would make an impact with my life. My thoughts were on going into politics, or becoming a missionary...not working with young people. 

My fears have always been that my life will count for nothing. That I will be forgotten, rejected and alone. 

As I was thinking about this post a story popped into my head that you might have heard before:
"When I was a young man I wanted to change the world 
But the world was quite a big place, so I thought maybe I'll change my country
However, the country was difficult to influence, and so I decided maybe I would change my town
I didn't have the opportunities to change my town so I thought about impacting my family
My family all had their own ideas 
As an old man I thought if I had changed myself, maybe that would have changed my family, and maybe we would have made an impact on our town and maybe that would have influenced the country, and who knows that could have changed the world."
(I don't know the original source of this - it's just from my memory having heard it a couple of times)

I know that for myself I can easily look around and think about the things I'm not doing. The ambitions I had for myself in terms of impacting those around me, doing good with money, travelling the world. I saw this picture and it made me stop for a moment and think.


My personality is one in which I always want to look at the big picture - where am I going, what does it look like, how am I going to get there. It's good! (It's called being a visionary) But it sometimes means I miss the things right in front of me. 

You see God has my hopes and dreams (not just because the song says it, but because the Bible says God knows a thought before it is even in my head!) - he knows them full well. He knows how I have been made, ambitious and wanting my life to be worth something. But he also has plans for me. 

So often we can get caught up in the whole wanting to be famous and recognised thing. I know I do - so much of the time I want people to see the stuff I do and thank/praise me. But actually I can change the world a) By changing myself into the type of person God can use, and b) By using every day, simple, nothing massive opportunities to bless those around me.


Also you are never too old to either - I think as a kid I thought it was all about being a grown up, then I'd know what to do. But as an adult you can feel like you missed the moment. Neither are true - every moment can be one where God is fulfilling our hopes and laying our fears to rest.

15 Dec 2013

It's beginning to feel a lot like...

...normality...or Christmas...or both.

For the last few weeks its been a bit quiet on here because I've just not felt like blogging. Mainly because I've been busy and a bit stressed and so that has zapped my brain of words to write. I'm still learning the boundaries of life. When to stop and when to work harder, when to take it easy and when to turn the work phone off. I'm not great at knowing my limits yet...so I push it.

But this weekend things have returned to some semblance of normality and it feels epic. 

Not only did I enjoy a winner of a work Christmas Party which included table tennis in a club! But I also spent Saturday chilling, eating good food, celebrating a friend's birthday over an AMAZING home cooked meal. I laughed a lot. And then I spent today with lots of people who are super - at Church, having lunch,at carol services, at XLP Arts Showcase and at home. 



I think more and more I am realising how much I crave genuine relationships. The real stuff. The friendships where you can tell when people aren't ok and they can tell with you. The ones where you can just turn up and not have a plan and that's ok. 

Today at Church I was sharing about how God brings hope when we feel alone. I spoke about how in the midst of heartbreak God doesn't leave us by ourselves. I think in the busy-ness I can tend to make myself more isolated as I have less energy to give. But I was reminded of how God is a rock on which we can stand - he is always there, always dependable, always genuine. 

So as well as properly getting into Christmas mode this weekend, I've also had a blast of good people time. Long may it continue.


3 Dec 2013

The day we all dressed as the nativity

On Saturday I ventured into trying something new.

Busking.

As you might know if you have read this blog for a while, every year XLP runs a mission trip for the people who come on the gap year course. For the last 10+ years we have been visiting a community in Ghana and this year we are going back. However, we are also simultaneously running a trip to Romania too. 

Because I have quite a large team they have split and half are going to Ghana, half to Romania. But for them to go they need to raise lots of money. 

Soooooooo I had a brainwave! Why not go busking on South Bank?! People do it all the time and must get good money because otherwise why would they go back. 

So on Saturday my team dressed as the nativity and went to busk on South Bank.


Clearly you can see the high quality costumes we were fashioning. Ahem. 

We spent about an hour and a half carolling and singing any Christmas Carol we could remember to raise cash. We had to move to different locations seeing as it turns out you need a license to busk on South Bank (however you can do it on bridges, in parks and outside the National Gallery without one). But thankfully it was a really nice day so we got the chance to sing, raise money and see a bit of London. 

Once our throats were dry we called it a day and counted our earnings - £23.28

Not as much as I had been anticipating, however considering our carol singing wasn't the most tuneful or coherent I'm not hugely surprised. 

It was hilarious seeing how people looked at you a little bit weirdly, but then really appreciated the fact we were singing and raising money for other people. 

Probably the most moving thing was when two homeless guys approached us to ask what XLP is and why we were singing. We told them and then they told us they had sold a big issue and so gave us a quid each. It almost stopped me in my tracks. Why?! Why did they do that? Its so bad but I know I fall into the trap of thinking homeless people are all addicts and so don't use money well. This totally challenged that mind frame and has made me reassess my own viewpoint. 

Busking - not sure I'm cut out for it on a regular basis. It's quite boring, cold and doesn't necessarily deliver what you were hoping for.

However, my team are now over 1% of the way to their fundraising target!

1 Dec 2013

The car

On the 2nd November I was lucky enough to take possession of this wonderful Honda Civic. 



You see my friend Laura went to Peru for a holiday and whilst she was gone she was kind enough to add me to the insurance and let me "car-sit".

So for the last month I have had this view... 



...rather than having to shiver at the bus stop. 

I have LOVED IT! I mean I don't think I could ever afford to run a car long term as I had forgotten how much petrol is; but having the freedom to be able to pop over to someone's house in the evening, and not have to worry about getting the bus in the cold/wet, has been fantastic. 

I have used the car to go:
  • To Church (a number of different Churches)
  • Home to see my family
  • Shopping (always better than carrying bags on the bus)
  • To the countryside 
  • All over Lewisham for various errands
  • And bless other people with lifts
Today I went to collect Laura from the airport and to return her car - she has been so kind in lending it to me and also getting me this gift!


Chocolate Covered Oreos!!! What a winner. 

So massive thanks to Laura - the car has been a blessing.

28 Nov 2013

The day I had lunch with some nuns

Today I was lucky enough to take a retreat day. 

Every term my work (XLP) gives me a day to take as a personal retreat day. If you don't know what one of those is...it's kind of like a day where you can do whatever you want to seek God and try to hear what he is saying to you - to get re-focused. 

So this time I decided I would do something a little bit different and I went to a Christian Retreat Centre not too far away from where I live called The Emmaus Centre


It's about a half hour drive from my house and so I turned up about 10 and was shown to a room where I spent the majority of my day reading and reflecting. 



I had decided that I wanted to read the book of 1 Kings from the Bible and just see what God was saying to me throughout the day. So I set up and got reading and thinking. Lots happens in this part of Bible as it's the history part - its a book of narrative about God's people and what happens to them after King David's death. I was really struck by how there is repetition all the way through of:

  • God tells his people how to live and what to do to retain his favour
  • The Israelites do this for a while
  • Then they get infiltrated by other nations and follow different gods
  • God warns them 
  • They don't listen
  • Something bad happens
  • People call out to God
  • God restores things
I have always said that I want to be someone who follows God and who lives for him with my whole being. But I know I am just like the Israelites - I know what God has asked me to do, but do I do it...generally no. Well at least not at first. 

It's been a challenge. 

Then at lunch time I ate with the Emmaus Community which includes 3 sisters and the Chaplain. They live next door to another community who join them for meals everyday so it was a good vibe. What I found fascinating was that these ladies had been nuns for a long time. Two of them had signed up straight after school and another when she was in her twenties. They were so not what I had expected!

My general thoughts around nuns are probably all gleaned from Sister Act if I am totally honest. These nuns didn't wear habits and weren't confined to a convent - they were active and had various jobs that they were doing helping the community. It was really great to be able to learn from them. One in particular was talking to me about silent retreats and the benefits of them. If you have read my blog for a while you will know that the whole concept of silence is one I have been looking into. I'm tempted to do a silent retreat sometime. 

Anyway, as well as reading my Bible and having a think, I also went for a walk in some beautiful countryside


It has been a fruitful day where I feel like God has said some really clear things to me.

27 Nov 2013

The day I was the goalie

This last weekend I was in NEED of a break. I had been working for 2 weeks straight was feeling pretty wiped. 

Generally when I feel like this I need to get out of London and breathe some fresh countryside air. So that's what I decided to do. I drove to the other side of the M25 and stomped around in relative countryside. Had a pub lunch with a friend and then went to drop her at her hockey match...

...however...

I ended up staying to play. Now I haven't played hockey since I was about 15 at school. It was never one of the sports I felt particularly passionate about as I didn't have huge amounts of coordination. But the team my friend was playing for was already a few players down and so they weren't going to play with a goalie...

I had already seen the other team (with their subs) and so didn't think that was a particularly good idea. So I volunteered. I had nothing with me so just put on the goalie kit over my jeans and hoodie - looked a bit like this 


and I had SO much fun! Like not only is being goalie fun because you are so padded up you feel a bit fearless and so dive all over the place; but also I love team sports and the whole camaraderie that comes with it. 

While our team did still lose, I did make some pretty decent saves - one where I practically did the splits (something I didn't even realise I could do!) 

Not sure I can commit to playing on a regular basis but it has made me think about how much I love sport and being part of a sports team. So watch this space! 

18 Nov 2013

Macaroni Woods

For those of you who read this regularly you will know I work for a charity called XLP and this weekend I took a group of young people from one of the estates I work on away. 

We went to a place called Macaroni Woods in Gloucestershire and had a winner of a time. It's a residential home in the middle of woodland which is pretty epic. The house has a number of bedrooms as well as a games room, huge living room and great kitchen where we let the kids show us their culinary skills. 

So the whole aim of the weekend was to give these kids a chance to get out of London and to try something new. We took 10 young people from Deptford. Most of them hadn't been out of London in the last year, 2 hadn't ever been outside of London. 1 hadn't ever learnt to ride a bike, 5 had never been ice-skating, 8 and never seen a live pig and 10 had never seen a live turkey. So it was a weekend of new experiences. 

(Emily from my team holding a chick)
We spent a lot of time outside enjoying the woodland, cycling around on bikes that the place had and around a campfire.  

What struck me most about the weekend was having conversations with the kids and understanding a bit more about what life is like growing up on the estate. I think I have totally taken for granted that I grew up in privilege. 

One guy I was talking to told me that he knew his friends were bad influences on him and could get him into trouble, but what was he going to do. He sees them every day on his estate - if he doesn't talk to them he'll get beaten up or worse. He told me that the best he could do was to stay on the edge and not get involved in any of the more serious stuff. 

It was an eye opener for me. So much of the time we have simplistic answers - If you have bad friends, ditch them and make new ones. Some people aren't that lucky. That isn't an option for them. However, in the midst of huge challenges that guy is at college studying hard with a career in mind. There is hope. 

Macaroni Woods was an adventure and I'm returning in March with another group of kids so I'll let you know how that goes too. 

14 Nov 2013

A Social, A Ceremony and A Birthday

This last week has been a bit mental work wise. Nothing new there - but it has included some epic highlights that I wanted to share.

TEAM SOCIAL
On Tuesday evening my team gathered together for some quality time at the pub. Now you might be thinking, the pub, as responsible youth-workers really? But honestly it was a great evening because of the chat and jokes. I was surprised at the lack of alcohol that was consumed!
Half of my crazy team
The creative side of my team was coming out and it has been great to see people coming out of their shells and just being themselves.


JACK PETCHEY AWARD CEREMONY
On Wednesday night I took two boys from Lewisham over to the Jack Petchey Award Ceremony in Camden to celebrate that they had been given awards for their contributions and achievements at XLP projects they attend. It was a brilliant evening. If I'm honest more to do with the other XLP staff and young people who were there than the ceremony itself, but it was an evening of real celebration and joy at people's achievements. 

What I loved was that our group of young people getting awards was the last group (after about 25 other groups) and even though we'd been clapping and cheering for the last hour we let rip and brought the house down when our kids went onto the stage. Was really special and great to see my boys being really proud of themselves. 

ALISON'S BIRTHDAY
Today has been our first team birthday of the year. As a team we were already booked into go and have dinner with a couple from XLP, so we turned it into a team birthday meal too. It was also the first time our team has had to complete the £1 birthday gift challenge. Essentially buying a gift that the recipient will potentially like/find funny for no more than £1 (including card). Pretty sure this was the winner this time


Not 100% happy with how my team see me! Ha. It's been a great evening being able to laugh at each other and generally enjoy being together. 

Tomorrow I take kids away for the weekend...don't expect another post anytime soon...I'll need some solid recovery time first!

11 Nov 2013

Books

Recently I have been struck by how much I have missed reading. Or more to the point learning. I used to read ALL the time! When I was younger my parents had to take the bulb out of my bedside table so I wouldn't read late into the night. 

There is something about reading that I love. Maybe it's the fact that I rarely read these days because I find it difficult to find time to stop and sit with a book, so when I do it's truly cherished time. Or maybe it's because taking in new information and mulling it over is what my brain has been made to do. I love thinking about things, learning new things, having my own ideas challenged, seeing things from different angles. I want to make more time for reading because whenever I do I enjoy it big time. 


This is a picture of part of my bookshelf with a number of books I've read recently or want to read in the near future. I'm going to throw out a few I've enjoyed reading in the hope I might inspire you.

I'm in the middle of reading "Half The Sky" by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn. It's a book about the treatment of women around the world and how they are exploited, degraded and treated as lesser citizens. Yet it's about hope and how women have overcome incredible obstacles to change communities. Its hard hitting stuff but good to be exposed to the realities for so many women universally. 

About a year ago I read "Finding Sanctuary" by Abbot Christopher Jamison. It was part of my delving into the exploration of silence phase. It came as a resource to read along with a DVD serious called "The Big Silence" which I watched last year too. It's been a really insightful book into looking at how reflection helps self awareness and through that your relationship with God. 

I think I bought "Stop Dating the Church" by Joshua Harris because of the title. But its a pretty decent book advocating real commitment to Church. The current culture is to never be satisfied so that you always want the next best thing...well Church doesn't work like that. This book talks about what being part of a Church is about and how to do it well.

"Thinking, Loving, Doing" by an amalgamation of people, is a book I bought at New Wine this last year. It's been a really challenging book on how each of us is inclined to either be people who are really intellectual with our faith, and can potentially become legalistic; or we love people a lot, which can mean we don't hold them to any standards; or we are do-ers, people of activity, which can mean we sometimes might miss what God is saying in all the activity. We all have a natural leaning but the book is about how to ensure our strengths don't become our weaknesses and how to be people of balance. Some amazing chapters which I'm thinking of blogging about at another date.

I was given "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis quite recently as a late birthday gift. I surprised myself that I hadn't read it already as I've managed to get through a number of C.S Lewis publications (mainly The Chronicles of Narnia). But reading this has helped me to get back to some basics of what faith is about. It's a bit of a tougher read in that you have to be concentrating to take in all the richness on the page, but its worth it. 

I have yet to read "The Naked Christian" by Craig Borlase but it's up there on my to-read list...purely for the comedy title. 

If you would like to borrow any of these or want to know anything further just get in touch. 

1 Nov 2013

Pumpkin Cake/Bread

You may or may not know that I am half American. It explains my general optimism and self-confidence. It also explains my love for foods like:
  • Fluff
  • Oreos
  • Peanutbutter and Jam Sandwiches
  • General sweet things...
and...Pumpkin!!

Most people are a bit suspicious about pumpkin, like its good to carve but to eat no way!
I love Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Soup...and Pumpkin Cake/Bread. Now the confusion over whether it is a cake or a bread is basically because I don't know what the difference is. Banana Bread...is a cake?! Just because you can bake something in a loaf tin doesn't mean it can't be baked in a cake tin!

So anyway, this blog is going to teach you how to make a tasty Pumpkin Cake (well actually 2 cakes, so if you only want one try to half the ingredients.

You will need:
Either - 2 loaf tins (9x5") or 2 cake tins (medium size)
A mixing bowl
A set of cups (or a small-ish mug)
A set of measuring spoons
A grater
An electric whisk

Ingredients-wise you will need:
  • 3.5 Cups of Plain Flour
  • 2 tsp. Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 1.5 tsp Salt
  • 3 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. Nutmeg
  • 3 Cups Caster Sugar
  • 4 Eggs Beaten
  • 2 Cups Fresh Pumpkin OR 16 Ounces if using tinned Pumpkin
  • 1/2 Cup of Water if Pumpkin is fresh OR 2/3 Cup of Water if Pumpkin is tinned
  • 1 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Cup Chopped Pecans (Optional)
It's incredibly easy to make.
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F/180C and make sure tins are greased
  2. Combine (Mix with a spoon) the dry ingredients (Flour, Bicarbonate of Soda, Salt, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Caster Sugar)
    3.  If using fresh pumpkin, chop into easy to hold pieces, peel (with a peeler) the orange            skin off and then grate the rest until you have 2 Cups worth. 




     4.  Add the wet ingredients (Beaten eggs, water, oil and of course the pumpkin) 


    5.  Stir until blended (if adding pecans, add them at this point and mix well)


   6.  Pour into tins and bake for 1 hour


Hopefully you will get something that looks a bit like this! I would recommend taking it out after an hour whether you think it's done or not - then leave it to cool still in the tin and so it will continue cooking a little bit then. You want the middle to be pretty moist so don't want to over-bake it.


You might be wondering what happened to the other cake...well I forgot to take a photo when I took them out of the oven and then I only brought one back to London with me. The other one looked just as good. 

Anyway - let me know how you get on.

30 Oct 2013

Bible Challenge

WARNING: This post uncovers a very geeky side to me that some of you may have not seen before. PLEASE DON'T JUDGE ME! 

So about 10 days ago I was meandering through a charity shop with a couple of my friends who were on a "cheap decorations mission". In charity shops I normally gravitate towards jeans (because people throw out perfectly decent pairs of jeans that have years of life left in them), or books (like I don't have enough already). However, on this particular occasion one of my friends pointed out a board game to me...I think as a joke. Nevertheless, I was transfixed and wouldn't leave the shop until we had got it down and opened it up to see what it was.

The game was Bible Challenge. 

Now, I didn't actually buy it then as the people I was with thought I was a right lunatic for even considering to purchase such an item. I went back and bought it on Sunday because I had been thinking about it all week. Ha!

Right so at this point I want to give a bit of a disclaimer:
By choosing to read this blog you are choosing to know the real Naomi Allen. The one who is weirdly eccentric with hints of Phoebe from "Friends"; the one who has a strange sense of humour and tends to laugh at her own jokes. The Naomi who looks to appreciate the little things, who often gets things wrong and who is unashamedly Christian.

Phew, so now that that is out there I feel vaguely better about introducing you to this wonderful game. So basically it is a board game which tests your Biblical knowledge in a number of categories - think Trivial Pursuit but very Christian. The aim is to get a question right from each of the 7 categories:
  • Old Testament
  • New Testament
  • Life of Christ
  • Quotations
  • Places
  • People
  • General


Once you get a question from a category right you get the corresponding colour ring and once you have all the rings, you have to answer a final question about the life of Christ to win. 


Now, I know that it sounds weird that I actually enjoy this game but I genuinely do! I brought it home to play with my family and it has been hilarious and a great way to see where I should be reading up in the Bible (clearly not just to win the game, generally too!) I think I like it because it proves to me what has gone in when I read the Bible and what hasn't. 

What has baffled me is that I have shown this game to a number of Christians who have just balked at such a game. Clearly if you aren't a Christian/don't know the Bible I probably would not recommend this to you (for obvious reasons); however, I don't get why a Christian wouldn't want to play something that, not only is fun (I love competition of all sorts), but also is helping you learn more about God's word. 

To be honest it's other peoples reactions to the game that have made me a bit apprehensive about blogging about it incase people think I'm some kind of really uncool Bible geek (which I'm not sure is a bad thing). The thing is I am still the same Naomi! I am under no illusions that this is clearly not the coolest thing to be proud of; but I love games and I love the Bible...this then is a winner of a game for me.

If anyone wants to play let me know!

24 Oct 2013

Mentoring Group

For the past year I've been meeting on a monthly basis with my boss and the other 6 people who do my job in different London Boroughs for XLP. We meet to talk about the challenges of the job, support each other and also to learn and grow together to be the best leaders we can be.

Now when this group started I wasn't particularly keen. Sharing is tough! I mean each time I am slightly apprehensive as they generally require an uncomfortable amount of self-disclosure/transparency and that is always a bit scary; but I always come out of them feeling that the honesty has happened in a safe place and that I'm the better for it. 

We have been working through a book that I have endorsed a number of times on this blog called "The Me I Want To Be" by John Ortberg. It looks at how we can practically allow God to make us into the best versions of ourselves. The last couple of sessions we have been looking at temptation, sin and being honest with people. Pretty heavy stuff! It's hard being that open with people.

But the thing is, having people who you can be honest with, who you can share the things you struggle with with, who won't change their opinion of you...now that is so refreshing. 

I am really blessed that the people I work with are people I can also call friends. That they are people who I can trust. They are people who are on the same journey as me, who get the tough bits and the parts which make you cry with joy. They are the people who are honest back and who are willing to take the risk and share too. 

Mentoring group has been a journey. A journey of self discovery within a community of friends who all want to be God's best version of of themselves - I hope through doing this we are getting a bit closer to the goal.

22 Oct 2013

Baptism

This last Sunday I was lucky enough to see my youngest brother get baptised. Now people have lots of ideas about baptism, what it is, why you do it etc...so I just wanted to spend a few moments talking about why he decided to get baptised and why over 14 years ago I got baptised too.

So first of all, to clarify, we are talking about full immersion baptism (otherwise known as believer's baptism, or "the real thing"); not christening or infant baptism where you get sprinkled with water. Here, you go fully under the water, to symbolise leaving your old life behind (dying), and then come up out of the water to symbolise the fact you now have a new life (being raised). 

On Sunday my brother Dan told the whole Church that he was getting baptised because he had seen God's power in his own life and wanted to live the life that God wanted him to live. It was so flipping powerful - like he's 12, and he was really eloquent in why he had come to make this decision. So my parents baptised him.

(can't work out how to rotate this...sorry!)
It wasn't just him who got baptised on Sunday - 3 others from the youth group went for it too. In a world which rarely praises young people I was SO proud of them for being brave enough to publicly say that they loved God and wanted to live for him. 

It made me reflect a bit on the journey I have come on since getting baptised myself. I got baptised when I was 11 after deciding that I wanted God to be in control of my life because I figured he knew better than I did. It was easy to say that as an 11 year old, most people knew better than I did...growing up it got harder to allow God to stay in control. You see developing a relationship with God is kind of like a graph like this:


There are definite high and low points. Places where you feel incredibly close to God, and times when you wonder whether he really exists at all. Times when you have lots of questions and can be prone to doubt, times when your faith is unshakable. 

I have learnt so much about God, who he is, what his heart is, what he asks from me over the years and it is pretty epic looking back and seeing how much he has changed me into the person I am today. 


It all started when I got baptised. 

17 Oct 2013

Bastille and Ikea

Safe to say this week has been WEIRD! 

Like I blogged on Monday night about how life is busy but good. And that is defo still the case. But this week has been the most random assortment of spontaneous events ever!

So on Tuesday I got offered a ticket to go see Bastille (click on the link if you have no idea who they are) in Brixton. Now seeing as I have listened to their album Bad Blood on almost repeat on Spotify I was WELL up for going! And so just like that I went on Tuesday night with my friend Sarah to see them perform. They were flipping immense! Like so incredibly good. I haven't been to many gigs at all but the vibe was brilliant - everyone was singing along and dancing away. I was loving it. I tried to take a pic with my new phone...


...still got a bit of work to do with the ole working the features out. 

Then yesterday my house group was cancelled because one of my leaders wasn't feeling great. So instead I had a little cleaning session (with the bleach - proper cleaning!) of the bathroom which actually made me giddy with happiness. As not only did it smell all clean and happy, but it was all shiny too. It's the little things. 

BUT THEN, I went for a spontaneous Chinese with my friends and then beat my friend James at pool. Cracker of an evening.

Today has been jam-packed but the highlights include:
  • Seeing Dave (intern on my team) give a WINNER of a presentation - was SO good!
  • Writing our boss a "get well soon" card, complete with comforting poem (and picture)
  • Taking the girls from my girls group on a trip to Ikea to buy cooking equipment and it being actually the funniest trip EVER! Tested nearly every bed there. 
And now tomorrow instead of my normal day I'm going to Tunbridge Wells to speak on the topic of "hope"...

...a bizarre week. #lovingit



14 Oct 2013

Relishing

So I haven't blogged very regularly recently and that does frustrate me. Mainly because the longer I leave it without writing a blog, the more I feel like when I do write one it has to be amazing as people will be waiting for it. I think that probably says more about my ego than anything else...but that's some of the inner workings of my brain.

Anyway, my life has quickly returned to it's normal levels of activity. It is bizarre to think that my new batch of gap year students have only been with me for 1 month as it seems like I have been back to work for A LOT longer than that! Just been working hard and long hours. 

The thing is though - I genuinely relish my job. 

I was thinking this the other day when someone asked me how it was going. If I'm honest there have been times when my job has sucked the life from me. When it has been so hard to know what to do or have the motivation to go and hang out with the young people. But not at the moment. 

I feel like this year more than any other I have molded my job to be doing the things I am good at - essentially bossing people around/strategy/starting things

So even though I have been (and continue to be) incredibly busy with meetings, projects, line management, mentoring, networking etc - I am relishing in it. Whereas in the past this might have drained me, now it is invigorating. 

I think this might be down to 2 things:
  1. I really know the kids. In past years I've been getting to know them, now in my 3rd year - I really know them. I know their situations, families, stories and that makes a difference. I now see young people I work with EVERYWHERE. They stop me in the street and wave to me from the bus and interrupt my conversations to say hello. That really means something to me. 
  2. I think ever since moving to London I have had a bit of a dry patch when it comes to reading my Bible. At uni I got really into reading it and loving it, but moving to London I was busy with life and it just wasn't as appealing anymore. But in the last few weeks I have had, what I can only describe as, "a craving" for God's word. Like I've read little snippets that people have posted and then gone and read huge chunks. I've been really inspired/encouraged to get back into reading it and knowing God's heart. 
So despite not being able to blog as often as I have in the past, I am relishing in the fact that God is doing something in me and that clearly I am where I am meant to be.

"And who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this and for this very occasion?" Esther 4:14

3 Oct 2013

Kept Safe

I had a bit of a realisation yesterday as I sat in the park following the sad news that my bike was a right off. 

The realisation was: God keeps we safe through loads that I don't even realise. 

You see, months ago I locked my bike up at Hither Green Station and someone tried to rob it. They had a good go denting the frame, scratching it up and taking the back wheel. I was gutted but just got on with getting a new wheel (courtesy of my buddy Bex), I've been happily cycling around Lewisham and even managed a London to Brighton on it in August. 

Yesterday I took the bike into the bike shop to have a service - it's needed one for a while and so I was prepared for it to be an expensive affair. However, I was not prepared for them telling me I had a crack in the frame which has probably been there since the attempted robbery..! It has been dangerous to cycle since then. 

They wouldn't touch it - told me to get a new bike as they aren't allowed to do work to damaged frames. 

Obviously I am pretty sad that it's the end of the line with the bike - we have been through a lot together. But I am more amazed that it has lasted so long despite being in a dangerous state. At any point that frame could have collapsed - whether it be me cycling down my road, or on a main road on the way to work.  

So I'm pretty thankful that God continues to keep me safe, even when I don't realise I'm at risk. I don't know how many times a day he protects me. The Bible says:

"You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me." Psalm 139:5

I am pretty grateful that he does that - I'm amazed that I can trust in a God who is able to protect me from that which I don't understand or know about. 

So while I'm sad about the bike, I'm happy that at least I know God is looking out for me. 

24 Sep 2013

When its new but not

It's been all quiet on the blogging front since I've gone back to work after the epic cycle and that is because being off for 3 weeks means I accumulated a ridiculous amount of work to return to.

It's actually been a little stressful, although I've been attempting to remain chilled and just do as much as I can do. 

You see this year the way I work and lead my team has changed - my decision. I decided that to develop the youth work I do in Lewisham I needed to restructure. Which was, and I still think is, a wise decision. But it has just meant a whole new approach to preparing. Now I'm planning for 2 teams, working out 9 other people's timetables in my head. Planning new projects, developing current projects and trying to get in contact with schools/Churches/various organisations is hard! And just really busy. 

The thing is once most of it is set up it will just run and won't need the same levels of attention. But until then I am very busy. 

Also it's a bit weird because for all intents and purposes I have done this before. I have had a new team, I have had to set up at the start of term, I have had to establish new projects. But for some reason it all feels brand new. Like because a few key things have changed it's like I'm starting from scratch.

I think until I actually establish my own timetable I'll prob feel a bit like I'm drifting all over the place. So that's my plan to sort that out. Also got lots of little bits to sort out which I'm going to sit down tomorrow afternoon and blitz. 

In the meantime here is my new team. 

13 Sep 2013

Cycling: The Evaluation. Part 2

Ok so I gave you a brief overview about how the cycling went in my last post but I wanted to get a chance to reflect a bit further on various aspects of the trip.

HIGHLIGHTS:
  • The Dutch couple who helped me when I fell off my bike - despite me not having a clue what they were saying they were so kind to me and really did clean me up and check I was ok. This actually made my day! Like they were total strangers and could have just cycled past but they stopped wiped up my leg, dried the tears on my face and gave me a plaster. What blessings they were.
  • Finishing the 103 mile day (day 3). Not only was it a HUGE achievement (one I had serious doubts about whether I would actually be able to complete) but the genuine relief at thinking, "I will never have to ride a bike this far in one day ever again," was written all over my face. 
The team at the start of day 4 - Dover-London. Look how happy we all look! It didn't last long...
  • Getting into Belgian beer. Those of you who know me know I don't really like beer at all - much more of a cider fan. However, having a few drinks bought for me and deciding to embrace the continent I powered through the beer and it has grown on me! (not that much, but a little)
  • The total generosity of the people at Moonpig. I was completely blown away about firstly how many of them had taken time to come and experience pain with us. But also they looked after us so well, from accommodation, food and drink, to all the support while we were cycling...it was so well done.
  • This action shot.
Taken by an ex XLP young person
  • Making new friends - was so lovely getting to know the Moonpig (and extras) people. They are a lot of fun and seriously know their stuff when it comes to cycling which was a super blessing, especially when I got a puncture. But it was great to get to know why they individually were taking part in the ride and to make friends with them. We're going for reunion drinks in a couple of weeks - friends for life right there. 
  • Having 2 young people who have come up through XLP come with us and be part of the whole experience. Seeing how they dealt with challenges and persevered was pretty inspiring and it was great giving one of them their first experience of being abroad!
Some of us XLP guys with the van - ex-young person lying in front of it!
LOWLIGHTS:
  • Waking up on Tuesday morning not with everyone else. I always find that when I have been away and made friends with people and spent lots of time with them my extrovertedness loves it so much that when I come back I always end up feeling lonely. 
  • The hills. Especially coming over the North Downs on Monday on the way to London. It was the one time I considered getting in the van...thankfully it was a fleeting thought and I kept on going. 
  • The number of people who saw me semi-naked due to the bib-shorts. So bib-shorts are cycling shorts which have straps that go over your shoulders. Think shorts with braces or a swimming costume without the boob part. Well anyway, they are great to cycle in but rubbish when you need the loo as you practically have to get naked to pee. Because of this and the time I took to undress/dress it meant both members of the public and members of the team saw more of me than I would have liked!
  • My view to eating has changed. While we were away I was just forced to eat as much as I could ALL THE TIME. If I didn't I wouldn't have energy; it literally was if I eat something I'll be able to pedal, if I don't, I won't. So in the evenings I would try to eat as much as I could but was SO tired I couldn't eat much meaning I would wake up RAVENOUS. I am still waking up VERY hungry and want to want to eat all the time...but I am not enjoying food...my stomach just wants the food. 
I genuinely loved this trip. SO much. I had to return my bike to the cycle hire shop on Wednesday and I had a pretty emotional moment saying goodbye to it - we had been through a lot together. 

This is probably a topic/thought for another post but it's that whole thing of when you really try/invest/persevere you have something to show for it at the other end. Not only have I cycled through 4 countries in 4 days but I have been a part of raising £24679 for XLP - woop!

Having got to the top of the North Downs and being told it was all down hill to London - smile!