Friday, 26 September 2008

Goodbye Leicester (20th September 08)

Almost a week ago, Mum Dad Alex and I piled all my worldly possesions into our family car and headed east towards the University of East Anglia, which has been my home for the last 6 days. Looking back it seems a lifetime ago already, but everything here still feels a bit new and weird. Anyway, on the way here, this is what I wrote (sorry for the delay.)..

I’m being very geeky with my laptop out in the back of the car as we’re parked at Leicester Forest East Service station. Today marks the end of the longest summer holiday ever, and we’re off to the University of East Anglia, my new home! Saying ‘see you at Christmas’ to all and especially the cat was more traumatic than I expected it to be. Embarrassingly, I cried my eyes out when we took Winston to the cattery yesterday for his holidays, as the rest of my family are off to Norfolk for the weekend after dropping me off a t uni. It finally dawned on me yesterday that I won’t see my closest friends or people from church for quite a long time- its mental finally being parted from those people who have been your closest friends for years. Still we can’t be accused of having wasted any time over the last few months, which have really just been big one long party. Celebrations aind Lamentations in honour of the last week at home together in Leicester haven’t exactly been minimalist either, these last few days comprised of more nights out than in, lots of dancing, tea, church, public house visits and general merriment.
Despite the shoddy weather and the impending doom of leaving home, it’s been an awesome summer. From the moment I put my pen down after finishing the epic phillip larkin exam essay to the moment my head hit the pillow last night, following an emotiod. nal last farewell Deb and thegang-it has been fun times. Also, a pretty productive time.. I’ve been a leader at Bonsall, and spent the weekend on a lovely rainy barge in Thurmaston, left my first ever job with more money than i started with, been baptised and passed my grade 6 singing exam with quite a few more marks than i needed. I’ve stayed up all night and crawled into work in the morning, got some good A levels and my picture in the paper, written an article for the church magazine, slept in the principal’s bed (she wasn’t there) and on the whole withstood intense peer pressure from certain friends to become a drunken mess. Despite this there have still been some seriously late Saturday nights, of course followed by ridiculous Sunday morning music practices. We’ve said goodbye this summer to John Hall, our minister at Groby URC who is beginning retirement, but not without a standard awesome church party, BBQ, prayers and lots of singing. I’ve learnt a few new songs, read a couple of books here and there, danced to music from the 70s 80s 90s and 00s, had a few lie ins and a few horrendously early mornings for one be reason or another. I shared a week of awesome with Ellyn while lots of the other girls lived it up in Ibiza, and I’ve been bought ten red roses. I’ve walked the streets of Derbyshire dressed up as Oliver Twist (Standard), met up Helen whilst on holiday with the family in sunny Kefalonia and kept track of all this on a calendar, accounting for each day so I can scrapbook everything in due course.
So after a summer of madness, it’s time for, well more madness I presume. I’m more scared than i thought I would be, but I know that I’ve got an insane amount of prayer support from home. Deb has given a mug to me this morning, with a bible reference (John 3:16!) on it...a late baptism present, but what an object to bring to uni with me! I’m currently crammed into the car with all my worldly belongings besides my bed, piano, and the few cuddly toys and Christian books which had to be culled and sadly left at home. After a dilemma and a half, I decided to leave my guitar at home in favour of the harp, an all round less useful instrument but less disruptive to the neighbours I think. We have now reached another service station, Travelodge Swaeyesey apparently, and all this writing about musical instruments has just made me realise I’ve forgotten my soul survivor digital item of vital importance in the home!
So it’s time to say Goodbye to Leicester, and Hello Norwich! It is now time to say goodbye, for now, to the recently adopted church-pub-church routine. Goodbye to the Castle, and the Stamford Arms. Goodbye late evenings on the swings, at Groby pool, picnics in Bradgate park and stargazing in the field. See you later, wonderful people of Groby College, and churches together in Groby!

From the back of the car in the service station car park I can see quite a few cars with kids my age in and cars full to the brim with stuff similar to ours, and a ‘Modern Jesus Army’ minibus..maybe I should just join them and forget this uni business? I feel a bit ill, maybe from hunger, or nerves, or most likely because I’ve been staring at a screen in the back of the car for far too long. Seriously though, I don’t want to go, and I do. I’m not really sure, but either way, the sun is shining, and this is the day that my God has made!

And whatever happens, God is bigger than everything, and if my God is with me, whom or what can I be afraid of!
Goodbye Leicester!

Monday, 15 September 2008

'This is a sign of the covenant I am making between me and you'

Genesis 9:12

I am seeing rainbows everywhere. I love seeing a rainbow appear in the sky so imagine my joy today where I've been at Urban Saints all evening, staying for all of our Monday night youth groups where we've covered the story of Noah and co. not once, not twice but three times with varying age groups. In the space of a few hours we've created a big colourful ark poster full of animals (above), made bracelets of rainbow coloured bracelets, made rainbow badges, decorated cakes forming a rainbow from skittles and acted out the story with an array of children in pairs doing animal impressions, amongst many other colourful activities. I loved reading the story to the youngest children (I love reading aloud) and then was granted the privilege of being the wife of Ham (Noah's son) in the drama. All good fun. You really haven't lived until you've built an ark out of chairs and stood with your church friends inside it wearing a waterproof jacket to represent Noah and co. for the educational entertainment of small children.

I feel like I should be a Noah expert,but I've still got lots of arktastic questions hanging about on the tip of my tongue for another day. If you think about it long enough, you realise that when God asked Noah to build the ark, he probably wasn’t that cool with it straight away. If God asked me out of the blue to make an ark and then find a pair of every animal out there, I'd be like 'sorry...whaaaaaatttt!?'. It's a strange request, so I bet Noah was pretty baffled. Still, he went and did it- taking some serious faith i think! It was really refreshing to hear the response of one of our children today when Deb asked the group of primary school children what they would do if God randomly and unmistakably asked me to build him an ark. I had to admit, alongside other leaders, that I'd be thinking twice about the whole situation, but she was on the ball. She answered immediately, as if the most obvious response in the world, 'Well I'd go and build it'. What a simple response, and yet wise words from a seven year old who often teaches me! Perhaps this is what Jesus meant by becoming more like a little child!

If I didn't love seeing the rainbow so much I'd say it has been Noah overkill this afternoon, what with hearing the story three times, acting in it, singing about it, cutting out animals..etc. but I doubt the rainbow will bore me, I just love the colours. And this is before I even begin to think about what it stands for. A sign of God's promise- the passing of his judgement, His awesome love and faithfulness always!

It has been another lovely day, beginning with the visit of Mawbs and Sian before we headed to college to see the photos Helen Brown (assistant principal) has from the prom and results day. We caught up with Fran, our old english teacher and I popped in briefly to see Aimee my singing teacher which was lovely. Mawbs went off to work at one, and Amy joined Sian and I for lunch at mine, consisting of beans on toast, followed by a 'Banana surprise' - my improvised dessert created from angel delight (banana flavoured), bananas and kit kat (both grated and intact.). Effort went into this I can assure you, presentation in Brandy glasses was key to the surprise. After casual viewing of Loose women and Airport which were more background noise to our somehow quite in depth discussion on how to put the world to rights, Bo came to collect me and we visited the co-op to buy dinner before heading up to Quest for the arktastic evening of Noahness.

It has been kind of sad this evening, today being my last Monday in Leicester and therefore my last Quest and Rock Solid sessions for a while. I’ll miss regular moments like today when we had to spring spontaneously into action to act dance and sing the parts of Noah, Moses, David, Daniel and Jesus- again for the entertainment and education of those younger than ourselves. I will miss ‘Chris/Tom (nominal male)...can you be Jesus again please..?’, and having dinner with my church family as today was my last until Christmas! I, the girl who never cries at much, even found a few tears welling up when saying goodbye to big sister Pat this evening! It is the end of an era, without sounding too cheesy, but I know that on my departure I’ll never be short of love or prayer from back home, and judging by the example of my elders such as Chris, Tom, Ruth, Becca and the rest of the gang, I will most definitely be back in a big way at Christmas for church Chinese and a whole lot of Christmas services!

This year I have really come to appreciate that my church friends, really are my family. As cheesy as it might sound to say 'Brothers and Sisters' the truth is that as christians, we believe we are part of God's family, his children. And because we are all Children of God because our relationship with him is restored through the death of his son Jesus, my friends who are christians, truly are my brothers and sisters! And i love them!

photo taken on the 7th september concluding our weekend on the barge!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Yesterday, Today and Forever.

A new blog. How exciting :D

Feeling the overwhelming urge to be a bit more cool and sophisticated (but only a bit) as student life quickly approaches, I’ve discarded the email address referencing my pre-teen love of Pop Idol’s Gareth Gates and discovered a website where I might be able to learn how to include photos within my blog.

The longest summer holiday ever is nearly over! Spending three months doing everything and nothing has made me quite lazy and my blogs less frequent. I need to learn to write again and also recover all the science which has slipped into the back of my mind and become obscured by biblical Sudoku puzzles and poems about cats. It isn’t that I’ve lost my love of writing, but I thought maybe I could do with a change of scenery to revitalise my enthusiasm for excessive blogging. Also, I really love that picture of the rainbow!

It has taken me 4 years to grow a bit tired of writing everything I do into a blog but I’m determined to keep it up because it’s good. It’s just that I am starting to slightly bore myself by writing ‘...then I went to church...then I went to The Castle....then I went to fanclub’, seemingly allll the time, as much as this sort of routine has proved a great way to spend the last few weeks.

Having said all this, as I recount the last few days, I realise that they have inevitably involved all of the activities above. This being our last weekend at home in Leicester seemed to give us a licence to go a bit more mental than usual, starting Friday night at The Castle and ending at Fanclub, visiting soarpoint along the way. Unbelievably, It has only just struck me ober the weekend just how much youth in general subscribes to this bizarre excessive binge drinking culture- I realised this whilst watching Joycey’s lone and rapid intake of two whole pitchers of some cocktail...absolutely unreal.

The last two days have been wicked. After a lovely lunch in town on Friday with Chris we wandered around the new shopping centre for a while before visiting the home department of both John Lewis and TK Max. We excitedly explored the kitchenware sections discussing what sort of teapots and chopsticks we would buy were money no object, and spent a very long time assessing what we do and don’t need for uni (ie teapots and chopsticks). We somehow ended up at one of those ridiculous knife selling demonstrations in Debenhams and narrowly avoided getting a great bargain on some knives, advertised as ‘the sharpest knife in the world’. We did however, pick up a free ‘magic spiral vegetable cutter’ each and a free ‘juicer to the couple over there’ which definitely needs to be on a timeshare. After narrowly escaping the lure of the bargain knives we quickly came to the conclusion that actually neither of us need or can afford any more kitchen accessories. It was so lovely to wander around town with no real purpose or money to spend- like the good old days before Saturday jobs when Saturday was penniless window shopping day. Friday brought standard fanclub fun, with a couple of embarrassing moments when drunken mess Jack kept throwing us literally onto the dance floor. (yes, full on lying down..cringe.)

On Saturday I headed with my parents to ASDA, to buy a terms worth of university essentials such as can opener, cheese grater, baked beans, pasta, rice and party rings. We got ridiculous amounts of shampoo and things like that, a tea tray to match my teapot, oven gloves...the list goes on. Then I went with mum into town and she bought me some really nice clothes and some really swishy red boots. My parents are so very good to me. I also got some socks- with my favourite things on. Actually amazing..two pairs with piano keys on, two pairs with teacups on, two pairs with rainbows! Last night we headed to Helen’s where most people appeared to be drinking ‘ecstasy’ - a truly disgusting bright blue concoction of spirits less than seven I believe. Sure death. My sobriety, is still going pretty well- I wisely steered well clear. I really do prefer dancing to sitting on a kerb, and from a past rather embarrassing experience I really do prefer semi-sensible conversation to being sick on people’s grounds J

After a short time a huge 28 of us (i think) piled into taxis and piled out again at soarpoint (de ja vu) before heading to Mosh, where I honestly saw most people that I know. It was fun times, with some good dancing. I met a man who asked me to marry him which was a bit odd, but my only real (mild) hassle was my painful choice of shoes, but such is life.

Today has been pretty cool too. Although it has been quite upsetting to say goodbye and ‘see you at christmas’ to a few people already, like my Nanny. It’s weird. I’ve thought about going to uni and being there, but not much about leaving home and not being here. It’s weird because people are getting all a bit sad now about going and I can’t decide if I want to be leaving or not. I’m excited and terrified at the same time, in about equal measure. Or as Martyn, my old English teacher would say, I am oscillating at a high frequency between the extremes of hope and despair, drowning in the swamp of confusion whilst the helicopter of clarity is nowhere to be found. Okay, it isn’t quite that dramatic.

I can’t wait to meet my brothers and sisters at a church in Norwich and the university Christian union, but i’ll miss those at home so much. They are truly fantastic, and to me they are an example of how I should live as a Christian. Their love is so big, because it love comes from God. Today Deb made Tom, Ruth and I stand up whilst people prayed for us in church, which was really a nice thing to do, if a bit embarrassing. It is so wonderful to know that I’ve a wider family who somehow love me unconditionally and who are so keen to offer me and the other young ones so much encouragement and support. I don’t want to say ‘see you at christmas’ yet, but tomorrow will be the last time I see lots of the leaders and the young people from youth group for a while. It will be my last official Quest, and Rock Solid- I cannot put into words how much being a youth group leader has helped be over the few years. I might try but it is getting a bit late...maybe a job for tomorrow? It is good, soooo good to know that when we go off to uni there is a serious amount of prayer going on for us back home.

The best thing is this: When I move to uni...loads of things will change. But, God, he never changes. Jesus never changes. And what he has done for me, never changes!

I often think that one of the best things about our God is that he is unchanging. His love is everlasting and his grace is never ending. The world around us changes and we will change, our homes will change, our relationships will change, but the truth God's good news will never change. Therefore we can rest assured that whatever happens If we want to accept what God has done for us, then our salvation is never going anywhere. God's promises are true, and so once we are christians we know that nothing will ever seperate us from his love. God is forever faithful.

Here are the words to a song we sang today.
It is very famous, and rather old I imagine. The words, they are wondeful.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me.

Summer and winter and spring-time and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me.