A letter to my 16 year old self

This is part of a simul-blog started by Alisha (Seattleite Imagery) & her friend Joey (Roddy Life)

Writing a letter to my 16 year old self….where to begin? It was the most bittersweet year of my life so far, and it’s tough to believe it was as much as 10 years ago as it’s a year I remember soooo vividly!

Dear Laura Anne,

So you’re now 16, nobody ever calls you Laura Anne (except Craig who for some reason likes to call you by your full name) and you have made some amazing friendships in this last year. Don’t let them go easily. Invest in those friends who you love and love you back – and most importantly have your back…always. As the years go on, and you face more of the ups and downs of life, the more you will appreciate the friends you’ve had since you were young.

I’m not sure if you met your boyfriend in the best possible way, and there are going to be complications from the decisions you have made now that will affect the rest of your life. Tread carefully not only with each others’ hearts, but the hearts of those close to you too. Especially as you face challenges far greater than most teenagers could barely imagine.

Choose life, and live it. I know that at times you feel there’s no hope, feeling so trapped between trying to survive through the life you are living, and working your way towards the life you can see but never seem to be able to reach. But the simple fact is, the dreams and visions you’ve been having – they are real, and their message is truth to encourage you. You will come through. There will be healing on the other side. There is a purpose for you in this world. Choose to live your life unselfishly.

Ask the GP for Depo Provera. It will save you from years of pain and embarrassing situations (and most likely an unplanned pregnancy). Plus, get a physio referral for your back injury! It will come back to haunt you later on if you don’t…


You are going to have so many opportunities in the next year…I know that you don’t want to go back to high school for another year. But seriously, make the most of it. Get stuck in, work hard and you will get the results you need. Listen to the teachers that are going to encourage you in your learning and help you achieve all you have to the potential for. Ignore the ones who don’t, and do not let the anger and hurt of them bringing you down with negativity get to you. Enjoy the trip to Morocco (you won’t need half the food you plan to take by the way), and get all you can from experiencing life as a dance teacher in Sweden too. You are making memories that will last forever.


Don’t let fear stop you from doing things in the future. Make an active effort to live a life of no regrets.

You’ll be going to university next year, leaving all your friends behind as they finish off high school. This is the right decision, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. You are not the same as everybody else, and these next few years your life is going to change more than you could ever have imagined. You’re going to make amazing friends, learn so much. Yes, you will go through more heartache, but you will not be alone in it.


Perhaps leave the weird jacket and avoid the hair dye at home (it will not work in your dark blonde hair!!).

Do not get your navel pierced….or if you do, remember that if you are allergic to surgical steel earrings, you will be allergic to surgical steel navel bars (even if your infected belly button will get you out of classes pretty much whenever you like because it looks so disgusting, it’s not worth it).

Learn how to manage your finances. (Do not trust your father to teach you about this).

Make time to spend with your family. It will make things much easier as you deal with the rollercoaster ride you’ll go on in years to come with them.


Your worldview is going to change pretty radically in the next 14 months. Um, when the time comes to explain that to your family (particularly your mother and Nana) choose your words carefully so they don’t think you’ve joined a suicide cult.


Don’t put up with guys who treat you poorly. They are not worth it, and it is better to be single than to be with the wrong guy. Do not let them put pressure on you or make you feel guilty. In fact, while you are at university you might be wise to just not get involved in any relationships like that altogether!!

As I write from 10 years in the future, know that you love to sing even more than before (so Standard Grade Music wasn’t such a waste of time after all, huh?). You’ve been to Australia, South Africa, New York City, travelled around Europe, and you are still writing. Some of the people that you didn’t get on with in high school are now your close friends. You now love Starbucks (you’ll grow to love their hot chocolate). You still love to e-mail, and you will make even more friends online in the years to come. There’ll be great tools you’ll discover like blogging, facebook, twitter and skype! I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that the next decade you are yet to face is all milk, honey and apple strudel…

…but I promise you it’ll all be worth it.

Lots of love,

Laura Anne

Wednesday’s Walk: Flashback, Flash forward

We were gathered to celebrate a combination of New Year and my little sister’s birthday in January 2005 just before I returned to Aberdeen for my exams. Before I left my Dad told me he was going in for surgery and tests as doctors thought he had bowel or colon cancer. On my return to university I discovered my exams had been put forward a week, so I ended up with a week off uni before the Spring Semester started. I’d been annoyed about my exams being put forward (less time to study), but had felt prompted by the Lord that the reason for that was because the week I had off was a time when my Dad would need me most because he would become seriously ill.

He went in for tests and was given the all clear on the day of my last exam – I put my ‘prompt’ as being my overactive imagination. A few days later I was heading to visit my Mum in Edinburgh, I felt that prompt again and turned off the M90 to my Dad’s. I walked in, and got told we needed to take my Dad to hospital right away as he was no longer fine and in a lot of pain. My Dad was rushed into surgery as soon as he arrived at the hospital, only to be rushed back out again as they realised he had a major infection and part of his insides had gone gangrene. It was too dangerous for him to be under anaesthetic. I knew there was a good chance my Dad would die. Yet I had an enormous sense of peace – he wasn’t going to. The next afternoon I spent 2 hours silently praying/quietly praying in tongues over my Dad while he slept for the first time in a week. 3 days later the doctors took him into surgery only to discover there was now nothing wrong with him…the infection and the gangrene had disappeared. The doctors said it was miraculous…they had never seen that happen before. I had no doubt where that miracle had come from – Jesus. And I will always be so thankful for the grace that God showed to my family that week.

When I came back from Momentum last week I discovered doctors think my Mum may have breast cancer. We will find out the results of her biopsy later on today. Praying about it, I do not have that same sense of knowing that ‘all is well’ as I did with my Dad back then. I don’t know how on earth I’ll handle it if she does have cancer. For lots of reasons which are complex and no one could understand.

I’m praying with all my heart and strength that this is the last post I’ll write about it, and that whatever the medical staff have picked up on is totally benign.

Wednesday’s Walk: A fantastic friend

I’ve written loads before about how I’ve always really struggled to connect with people within church – particularly the lassies!

It was also difficult to find people who I could build real authentic friendships with. People I could have a laugh with that I would be friends if even if we didn’t have the whole Jesus thing in common, but also that had the same desire to get closer to God and someone that I could be honest and accountable and learn with.

I prayed for years about it, and eventually in my final year at Aberdeen uni, along came Nicola. Like me, she didn’t come from a Christian family. She’d worked as a volunteer for Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, a charity I’d supported since I was a kid. We loved to travel. We loved chocolate cake. We both sometimes found church culture a bit of a mystery and well alien to us really. We had a passion for prayer and social justice.

I started giving her lifts to church, and we met up. Soon we decided to be each other’s prayer partners, so we met each week at either her house or my flat to have dinner, pray together and watch an episode of One Tree Hill – a programme both of us love!

IMGP0573

I felt so blessed by Nicola’s friendship. After 7 months in Aberdeen, she moved away, but we continued to chat via MSN Messenger and by phone where we did bible studies looking at different women in the bible (I think we got to Elizabeth before I really let the side down in the whole reading the bible thing….!). She also started going out with one of my friends (and is now married to said guy…yay!) and a few months later she was back in Aberdeen doing as an intern with our church and Tearfund.

Then a year after she had left. God said to me…time to go back to Edinburgh. It was Nicola that marched me down to STA Travel to ensure I bought my flights to Australia. It was Nicola that I chatted to when I arrived back in Edinburgh 5 hours before I left for London Heathrow.

Although we’ve not been able to see each other often, and finances and busy lives mean we don’t get to speak too often either. When we do we are able to just pick up where we left off. And it’s all the same banter.

Last year during Season 5 of One Tree Hill we text each other at all the advert breaks to discuss what had happened in the episode. It wasn’t quite the same as watching it together, but it is the next best thing.

I got to be a part of her wedding last summer, doing a reading as part of the ceremony. I am so happy her and her husband got together and seem very happy together one year on, but even happier that there is one less person to compete with for Bryan Greenberg’s affections. ;)

IMGP0753

Thanks Nikki for being such an awesome friend!

IMGP1490

Wednesday’s Walk: Moroccan Adventures

A wee note…by now I should have arrived in South Africa and be on a flight to Durban. If there are any updates they’ll be posted here if I’ve had time waiting around in the airport and the internet isn’t too expensive!

Last week, our smallgroup was chatting about what makes community. I got to reminiscing about the first ‘big trip’ I did without any parental unit. I was 16, and our school decided to use our year group to pilot a Geography Field Trip to Morocco. 13 of us went (with 3 teachers, including the legendary Geography teacher I had in my first year of high school…Mr Lobban… whose wife’s marmalade spreading habits I may have to share with you another day…)

13 Higher Geography students on the outskirts of the Sahara Desert...a 52 day camel ride from Timbuktu.

13 Higher Geography students on the outskirts of the Sahara Desert...a 52 day camel ride from Timbuktu.

Why did I use this particular example? Because most of us didn’t really know each other all that well before we went on that trip. Some of us had never even had a conversation, and yet almost a decade later I am still really good friends with about 50% of the group!

So what helped to create our lasting friendships?

1. Missing our connecting flight from Brussells to Casablanca and being stuck in Brussells airport for about 9 hours, being re-routed to Madrid, wandering around Madrid airport for about 30 minutes trying to find where we could get our boarding passes and then getting delayed again…only to arrive in Casablanca to find that 5 people’s luggage had not arrived with us. And that mine was sitting waiting for us in Lost Property…go figure?!

But we had nothing to do but get to know one another

2. Prompting from the girls…mass wardrobe sharing! 3 girls didn’t have their bags for the first 3-5 days of the trip. So if you look at the photos of us in Marrakech and the High Atlas Mountains you’ll see my clothes being fashioned by several of us! Ha ha!

3. Shared challenges (very ‘character building’). Heat and Altititude related nose bleeds. A few tummy bugs (one guy declares Morocco ‘the ultimate dieting country of the world’). Climbing North Africa’s highest mountain. Visiting a shanty town built on what was essentially a land fill site. The tannery…the most disgusting place I’ve possibly ever been too. Camels. Panic attacks. Carpet burns from riding camels for 3 hours. Sleeping in the Sahara. Oh, and not to mention the Hotel de Foucauld (which from the outside looks like a Brothel and gave the girls rooms complete with pubic hair, poos floating in toilets and showers with pee coming out of them…). Yes, we gave that hotel a slightly different name…

4. Being in wonder of creation. Watching the sun set over the Sahara Desert. Sleeping under the stars in the High Atlas Mountains. Driving through the Anti-Atlas. Wow.

Sunset in the Sahara

Sunset in the Sahara

4. The boys protecting the girls from being sold for camels. Yeah, that joke was sooo hilarious before we left! Perhaps we should have taken it a little more seriously…

5. Laughs. Firstly coming up with many Mnemonics for what Sabena stood for. The most tame being coined by Mr Lobban ‘Such A Bloody Experience Never Again’. Jumping in the freezing cold swimming pool. Laughing at some really awful chat up lines from a group of Geordie lads also doing the same trip as us. The day a camel sneezed and a live caterpillar flew out its nose and landed on someone’s bag. Cammy baffling Berbers by wearing a kilt. Oh, and someone coming out of the pool and sitting on a tie dye sarong and ending up with a dyed blue bum.

Ahem.

6. Tears. Caused by missing baggage, PMT, homesickness, anxiety about situations left behind at home, nose bleeds, people throwing up and vertigo.

As for domestic flights…how’s this for discouraging…

Get on plane – you discover your seat is not quite attached to the rest of the plane.

Settled on plane – the air stewards seem to be having trouble shutting the door…

Plane take off – numerous overhead lockers burst open.

Mid flight – smoke seems to be coming out the engine, you notice an air steward praying in the back.

Plane landing – long announcements in Arabic, French and Spanish. ‘We are landing’ is the rather abrupt English announcement. 30 minutes earlier than you expected.

Needless to say it’s a trip none of us have forgotten – mainly because it was pretty eventful and unforgettable. I salute our teachers for their courage and bravery taking us out there, because it really was the experience of a lifetime.

Wednesday’s Walk: Where I got the mischief genes

 

 

I’m not altogether sure where my family stand on the whole Jesus thing. I know my Mum used to pray every night to God about, well, pretty much everything and I remember when I decided to put a towel on my head (I was 7 or 8 years old at the time)and told my Mum I wanted to be a nun when I was older. I was told on no uncertain terms that I couldn’t because I was a Protestant not a Catholic.

Apparently having water sprinkled on your head as a baby makes you a Protestant Christian. Church of Scotland to be precise.

Anyway…I digress again!

My parents were brought up with church, both have remarried to atheists. Both found my ‘conversion’ to knowing Jesus and how my lifestyle changed as a result difficult to accept at first. 

My Mum though has been really supportive of some of the things I do. She’s allowed me back into her home so I could pay for going to South Africa and continue to work for the pregnancy crisis centre. She was the only one of my family who came to see me be baptised. Also she’s seen the good side of church (hurrah!). When my friend’s son became homeless in Aberdeen, she automatically turned to me and asked if I could contact my old church knowing of the work they did alongside the Cyrenians and with Street Pastors. When people have become seriously ill, she will always ask me to get people to pray.

But like me, when she spots things getting a little religously suffocating, she responds by being a little bit mischievous with a wee touch of rebellion.

Mwa ha ha ha ha!

Last year, she came and sold lots of her handmade cards at a fundraiser we had  for the pregnancy crisis centre, which was held in a church hall in town. 

One of her cards had a corset design on it, and an older lady of a certain denomination came up to her and said something like

oh! I don’t think it’s very appropriate to be selling rude cards like that, do you?

So this year, I had joked to her that she better not be making any more rude cards that featured any kind of under-garments. 

In her stubbornness she created a new design.

IMGP3276

Yep, cards in the shape of bikini tops/bras. And cards that look like cartoon covered boxer shorts.

Everyone loved them, and thought they were great. Clearly, not as many easily offended people this year.

I love that the God I follow (otherwise known as Jesus) is the person who started off his ministry by turning water into wine so the party wouldn’t end in humilation or tears. By touching the untouchable. By taking the heat off those who had committed the ‘big’ sins. The dude who in anger started throwing tables when they started using a dedicated place of worship to God as a marketplace. A person who stopped and made time for people. A person who didn’t let rules dictate how, when or where He could perform miracles or show compassion towards ordinary people. A guy who showed truth by how he lived, let people ask questions but also let people make their own choice whether to follow Him or walk their own path.

I wonder what God would say if we sent him the Giraffe design boxer shorts card for Father’s Day though…

Hmmmmmmmm….

Wednesday’s Walk: Graduation Day

Over the last few days I’ve found myself getting angry and frustrated and wishing I was called to something else in life. Something that people understand, get alongside….I don’t know. 

I guess I have a lot of anger inside of me…that inner Leither girl comes close to the surface often but over the last year or so I’ve found that I’m so angry that I sometimes lose the ability to care.

When did I become this person? How did I end up where I am now? When was I happy and content?

The answer?

Graduation Day.

I don’t think any day has been as close to perfect as the day I graduated from university. I remember hearing how JK Rowling was going to be getting awarded an Honourary Degree from our university that year. I figured it would be for her services to literature so imagine my disbelief when my friends Tim and Aggy came up to me in the medical school library asking me if I knew how J.K. Rowling was going to be at our graduation ceremony with us!

A couple of days before my stepmum treated me to getting some acrylic nails (at this time I worked partly as a care assistant and partly as an administrator/receptionist for the NHS so I had to keep my nails short). I loved those nails (I did not enjoy the 4 hours it took to remove them).

My Mum stayed with me in my flat and we woke up to a beautiful sunny day. 

When I turned up, I discovered my friend Doug was graduating with his PhD at the same ceremony. This was really cool as Doug had been the leader of the young adults’ ministry and an elder at our church. He had known of the tears and pain that had drawn me close to quitting uni and turning my back on God. He was also one of the people that baptised me.

My Dad and Step Mum came up and even came with my Mum and I for lunch after the ceremony. I thought it would be a disaster. But for the first time ever, we all chatted, joked, laughed and it seemed as though the bad feeling that had remained over the previous 20 years was behind us.

I’m not sure which was the bigger miracle…my Dad not being late for the ceremony (though I had told him it started 30 mins before it actually did), the lunch or the fact my hair stayed straight pretty much all day? ;)

After graduation I had so many options open to me. 

Going to Ghana…going to college to do my Highers in Human Biology & Chemistry and reapplying to medicine…getting a job…doing an MSc or PhD in women’s health…being part of a new pregnancy crisis centre that was going to open in Aberdeen…

It’s tough not to wish I could turn back the clock, as I wonder if I made some poor choices over the next year.

But I know that I can look back at that day and remember what it felt like to achieve something after obeying God making a crazy choice (Geography to Health Science when I was 7 weeks into my 3rd year of uni?). The sacrifices. The hurt. The pain. The many, many tears trying to understand statistics. And Health Economics. CFS. Mumps. Taking people to hospital in the middle of the night and falling asleep in final exams the next again morning. One handed essay writing. Surviving the university Christian Union.

Oh, and the ‘icing on the cake’ to be noted in that final pic below…notice the colours of a Health Science graduate…a combination of Maroon (medicine) and White (social science). Just happen to be the same colours that the Jambos wear. :D

I did have my dissertation bound in Maroon too…you know…to match…!

I don’t know what I would have done if I’d done a BSc. They have green hoods. Yeuucch!

 

Congratulations to us...

Congratulations to us...

 

JK Rowling graduating (I think!)

JK Rowling graduating (I think!)

 

Me & my very proud Mum!

Me & my very proud Mum!

 

This one is just so you can admire the crazy acrylic nails (taken at my friends' wedding a week later)

This one is just so you can admire the crazy acrylic nails (taken at my friends' wedding a week later)