Overwhelmed, achy and ticking it off…

My friend Sarah & myself - a.k.a. TEAM BOUNCE

My friend Sarah & myself – a.k.a. TEAM BOUNCE

Back in the day, my friends used to joke that I was like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. I was excitable and quite often couldn’t keep still and liked to jump up and down a lot. Even when I was doing my shopping, I like to take a running leap with the trolley in the supermarket car park.

As a kid from the 80s, spacehoppers featured in my childhood. I can’t remember if I actually had one of my own, but I certainly remember playing on them at nursery, playscheme and on paved gardens. For years, I wanted to do a sponsored spacehop for charity but I didn’t want to do it alone – and whenever I mentioned it people would laugh and think it was so hilarious and that I must be kidding.

After all, people do long cycles and run marathons for charity. Sponsored walks. Bake Sales. Skydives. You know those normal charity fundraising things…

Finally this year, I managed to convince my friend Sarah that this was a GREAT idea, and that we should totally do it. While I had her enthusiasm I ordered us both spacehoppers right there and then on our office computer.

spacehoppers

I worried that maybe people wouldn’t donate because it was a bit too silly. We very quickly discovered that it was actually kinda tough get anywhere on a spacehopper. Our first practice session left us bruised and blistered. And wow did our abs get a workout! We realised that we had to lower our distance goal – and hoped that people would realise that despite the fact the distance we would bounce would be walkable in about 5 minutes, it was frickin’ tough to bounce it!

Spacehop practice

Some of my friends came down to our practice session, and my friend Chris took a ton of pictures. That totally helped I think with our sponsors because people thought we looked ridiculous (we did, but it was fun).

Yesterday, we completed our spacehop. I’m not sure what distance we covered or how long it took (it was under an hour). I just know that at the end, I was laid out on the tarmac bright red, tired and in pain! Thankfully, there was a mint choc chip ice cream cone to cool me down at the end to aid my recovery. :)

spacehop day

And I know that today I’ve having trouble sitting down in seats and getting up and down stairs and slopes.

But to see that my £500 fundraising target has been met (with a little extra) makes all that pain and people laughing at us worth it. Thankfully there were lots of friends and my Mum to laugh WITH us while we did it. I feel totally overwhelmed by the generosity of so many who supported Sarah and I in this mad (yet simple) venture. The best part is that not only did we raise money for a charity that really needs it and helps many people, the smiles on faces we brought to people on Cramond Beach as we bounced along was a little bit of a bonus. Another bonus is how loved and supported I felt because I couldn’t believe how many friends donated (and how much they donated!) and how many came down to give us moral support – or tweeted good luck messages. Even my friend’s niece did a little spacehop of her own in the garden to show her support! :) I don’t know if my friends realise how much that encouragement means.

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So now I can cross it off my bucket list. Do a sponsored spacehop to raise money for charity.

GOAL ACHIEVED!

Thank you everyone who helped me achieve it. You know who you are… ;)

Quote of the Week – Week 6, guest starring…Rebecca!

Hi everyone! This week’s quote has been reflected on by my lovely online and now in-real-life friend, Rebecca. She has guest starred on my blog a few times before both as a writer , co-star in adventures like this one and co-mischief maker. I keep up with her mainly through her fabulous blog Making Memories & twitter. Most recently she founded the wonderful movement of ‘A Very Airmail Christmas‘ in honour of one of her patients, and I’m deliberately scheduling this post a day later than planned because today is Rebecca’s birthday!! Happy birthday Becca and thank you for another wonderful guest post…

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I have the typical type A personality. I like things planned and organised or I at least have to learn more about something before I start it. Otherwise I’ll be reluctant to have a go in the first place.

This quote speaks volumes to me. Looking back at MLK’s life it’s apparent he was very religious and led a life by example from the Bible. But I don’t think I need to be religious/spiritual in order for this quote to apply to my life processes. To me it says that you should always take the first step, with the faith that the rest of the staircase still exists, and that eventually you will reach your destination if you keep taking each step at a time.

Last year I made the very difficult decision to leave my first job since qualifying as a nurse in 2010. I was getting stressed, I was not developing my nursing skills how I wanted to and going to work was becoming a chore. I did not become a nurse to feel like that! On the other hand I was scared. Where do I apply to? What if I am not better supported in my next nursing role? What if I leave and realise my previous job was actually better? The perfectionist in me was doing somersaults and I kept telling myself I had to be better prepared for this next step.

Looking back I realised I never even took the first step, let alone the next one I thought I was on! But the more miserable I got the more I realised that this was a situation I could never be prepared for. I needed to have the courage to take the first step on the ladder, even if I could not see more than one or two steps ahead. As petrifying as it was I had to have faith that the top of the staircase existed. I just needed to have the belief I could climb the ladder and have faith that it would lead me to a better destination.

I am now in a much happier place. These are my new work colleagues and I look forward to working with them everyday.

I am now in a much happier place. These are my new work colleagues and I look forward to working with them everyday.

This motto can be used in so many areas of peoples lives! I remember two years ago my sister Nicola was telling me she wanted to start a family. Yet, she kept saying ‘it’s just not the right time at the moment.’ Then that summer they decided to quit the excuses, try and see what happened. Now 18 months later they have my nephew. Even though they did not know the outcome they knew if they did not take the first step in finding out they would never have become parents.

So what now? I have faith that the stairs are there and even though I don’t like the idea that sometimes you can’t see the top of the stairwell. The journey of taking the steps towards the top is half the fun, isn’t it?

Quote of the Week – Week 3

IMGP2479This quote from Ayn Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged has stayed with me ever since I watched One Tree Hill for the first time. I really loved the characters of Lucas and Haley in that first season, because I related to them. I was the quirky girl who prided herself on academics, loved to teach and was usually pretty sure of myself. The ‘responsible’ one, who had a few good friends even if I wasn’t super popular. I identified with Lucas because I was the kid with the single Mum and I had a half sibling (in fact 2!) who lived in riches while we lived not impoverished, but certainly not wealthily.

Growing up I heard a lot of  the word ‘No’, a lot of the ‘what if you fail’, a lot of the ‘that’s not going to be possible’, a lot of the ‘you don’t really want to do that’.

I played it safe. At times I’d get the courage to go for my dream of dancing, but it was made clear I wouldn’t be supported. My request to be picked up (getting a bus home from a dodgy part of Edinburgh was not fun at night, and one time my bus stop got smashed in while I was standing in the shelter) would be met with huffing and puffing. I’d hear things like: ‘Don’t be silly’. ‘No you can’t go to school there, that’s too far away’. ‘I’m not paying for you to go to university so far away’. ‘That’s not a good university’. ‘Oh, I don’t think you should apply there, you probably wouldn’t get in’.

My biggest regret is not training to become a dance teacher. I chose a career in Geography teaching and really I was settling for second best. Something that I knew I could do ‘easily’.

Oh, Laura Anne.

It wasn’t one big moment. It was people’s lack of confidence, people’s own negativity, people’s own thoughts on what makes a good life snuffing out my enthusiasm and love piece by piece. Gradually.

And it’s stayed with me.

In the end, when I decided to quit my degree in Geography and switch to a degree at a medical school (please note, I did NO science study at Higher level) it was damn scary. I kind of organised the whole thing in the space of about a day then told my parents. They were shocked and really thought I was making the biggest mistake of my life. But I’d found a new passion in Community Education and I wanted to follow it.

My fire was reignited.

And then snuffed out again, piece by piece.

I used to believe I could do anything (except team sports….I’m awful at them and I HATE participating in anything that involves a ball). Slowly I lost my confidence in my ability and I stopped trying to challenge myself.

Now…I want to take it all back. Everything I let people take away from me. I always say that the trip I took to Australia in 2007 was my healing place. It was where God began to say to me ‘you can do everything you imagine‘. It was when I discovered I can be alone and not be crawling out my skin. It was when I had to rely on God through worrying moments. It was when I had total peace in the middle of a setback. It was when I begun to trust that I had a bright and interesting future ahead of me.

It was real. It could exist. It was possible. It was my opportunity to walk into.

Our dreams don’t just come to us. We have to work to achieve them, and we have to continue to work to hold on to them.

Don’t get dragged down by negativity. Find things that keep your fire burning. A fire needs fuel, oxygen and a spark to set it off. Fuel yourself with training yourself with the skills you need to make your dream work, give yourself space to learn and have hope, and look out for the spark – the opportunity that is there for the taking to help all that stuff be put to good use. Then you’ll flourish.

What do you do to prevent your passion for something being snuffed out by other influences – whether it be from yourself or others?

The unsung heroes

One of the things I strongly advocate for is the importance of encouragers in your life. Talk to anyone who has achieved success in an attempt to do anything, and they will no doubt list the people who cheered them on along the way. The people who give them a hand to pick them off the floor when they fell. The people who ran alongside them. The people who saw how tired and increasingly hopeless they were feeling and whooped and cheered to get them to the finish line.

I love the Olympics. I don’t think there can be a greater honour that working hard at something day in and day out – using your gifts and skills and having the discipline to make them something extraordinary – and showing the world what you can now do as a result. Representing your country. Competing alongside your peers from other countries with politics aside.

A lot of these people have overcome so much adversity to get there. It takes huge amount of sacrifice not only from them but from friends and family too. Friends and family who have been sacrificial in their encouragement.

The way they have done the tickets for London 2012 I believe is totally wrong. They have not made enough tickets available to the families of Team GB athletes. How crazy that more family members were able to come cheer their loved ones on in Beijing – a city on the other side of the world, but won’t be able to cheer their loved ones on in their home country. Proctor & Gamble have announced the other week that they are giving gifts to all the families of Team USA athletes to get to London 2012 so they can be there. And that’s important. Because even though many of these athlete’s families have good incomes, a lot of it is drained away in helping the athletes training and therapy. It costs A LOT.

Like I said. Becoming an Olympian takes a lot of sacrificing.

Like Shawn Johnson’s family – who remortgaged their home 3 times to support her dream.

The Pastor with the key question

Today I was encouraged.

For a long time, I’ve prayed that a passion would be placed on peoples hearts in areas of the UK where there are no pregnancy resource centres.

I was excited to get an e-mail earlier in the year from someone wanting to start a centre in a place not too far away from here.

I was not surprised when this person got ill which prevented her from meeting me during the Easter holiday. You might have noticed that as soon as a Christian wants to enter into this no-mans land in middle of a highly emotive and controversial subject that the attack begins early. We’re not being ‘Christian’ enough or ‘pro life enough’ for some, and the fact that we believe in God makes us untrustworthy in the eyes of others. We begin the tightrope walk  so we can be the neutral person. The one not to voice an opinion. Just be there. Just offer the information on all sides.

As a wise person put it today ‘It’s a bit like going to see your financial advisor – they’ll tell you what all the options are, what all the potential consequences could be, but they don’t tell you what to do – the decision always gets left up to you‘.

I’m so excited. The person who visited had such a clear calling to this work and is not going into it with rose tinted glasses.

But something extra encouraged me.

Her minister came with her.

He asked me questions about practical stuff, and asked some tough but really good questions. I told them about some of the times I’ve struggled in the counselling room to not revert from listener to mother!

But the best question came near the end as the person was out of the room for a couple of minutes.

How can I support xxxx in this work?

I only wish more people in that pastoral leadership capacity asked that question when someone in their church family was entering into the sort of work we do.

Like my friend who works in the gynaecology ward. Or my friend who used to work in the recovery ward at the private abortion clinic. Or anyone of the people (particularly centre managers & trustees) who are running pregnancy resources centres all over the world.

It’s a question we should all be asking of the people in our church family. You can’t support everyone – and that’s why smallgroups are important! For the people in my smallgroup, I want to know ‘How can I support them?‘. For the people in my team at the centre or the teams across Scotland that Elizabeth & I hope to encourage – I want to know ‘How can I support them?

Today gave me hope.

Someone showed me that there are church leaders willing to stick their neck out to support a member of their church family as they enter into something controversial with compassion rather than a soapbox, and not exactly popular.

Thank you Mr Pastor for asking me that today.

In turn I hope I’m going to be able to support you all as you enter into a new adventure, which I’m sure is going to help a lot of people in the years to come.

:)

Wisdom from Teenagers

When I came back from my first Soul Survivor experience, I started finding myself at City Church – just because it was so much more warm and welcoming than the church I became a Christian in (I think)! I could huddle at the back if I wanted to, and no one questioned it. Plus it was a place of hugs and great chocolate cake.

During the 6 years in Aberdeen (and returning back a couple of times for Imagine and keeping connected with some over Facebook) I’ve watched so many of the ‘kids’ become men and women of God.

The Imagine Festival was a catalyst for inspiring so many of the ‘Mezzo teens’ (Mezzo is the name of the youth group at City), and we watched them move from hanging out at the back to being enthusiastically at the front of church every Sunday. We watched them emerge as leaders in worship, teaching, discipling.

So it doesn’t surprise me how much wisdom is coming out of their new blog.

Every single post is written by one of the teens in Mezzo. These are folks in High School (aged 12-17). The posts are kept anonymous so no one knows which member has written which post.

But seriously…do yourself a favour and head over there: http://mezzoaberdeen.wordpress.com

I guarantee you will come away with your thoughts provoked, encouraged and inspired.

(Oh, and if you are a youth leader in Scotland – do your teens a favour and provide an opportunity for THEM to go to Imagine in 2011. They’ll be missing out if you don’t).

You gotta love encouragement

Last week was in a word: HORRIBLE.

This weekend: LOVELY

Today I dropped my 3 City Church stowaways off at the airport as they headed off to their first residential with DNA. Man, had we been churching it up this weekend – we got our tea at 10 p.m. last night while being subjected to watching a documentary programme (read: car crash trashy tv) called My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, which my Mum had got sucked into somehow.

And then I headed in cheerfully to pick up one of our volunteers as we headed to do a schools visit – this particular visit I always dread every year – it’s all about the ethics and so-called ‘Christian viewpoint’ of abortion. (You wouldn’t believe the utter crap they teach about Christianity in Religious Education, more about sin and rituals than Jesus, faith, love, compassion, forgiveness or restoration). But this year it went the smoothest it’s ever gone. And I’d just like to thank Joy and Linsey for reminding me of a way of facilitating learning & debate I’d forgotten about!

I went back to the office (where I’ve been absent for the last fortnight with all the travelling about), and found out something really encouraging. Let’s just say it’s LOVELY to know that people DO learn something positive from youth workshops I & others have facilitated in high school classrooms in the past…

Tomorrow, it’s the first day of Inter:act. I’m feeling positive about it, even if I’m already 4 days behind in my bible reading. I know Starbucks is round the corner and Luca’s is next door if it all gets too much and I need an emergency hot fudge sundae or cinnamon swirl. ;) Plus I’ve got my coloured pens & my recycled paper notepad, plus the pen with my pregnancy centre logo which have turned out to be pretty decent pens to write with.

Turns out a weekend of training, late night chats, car crash tv, road trips and lots of laughs, tears, hugs and smiley worship and praying for one another was just what was needed to turn me around.

Oh, and watching people try on the empathy belly! :D (Props to Jonny for being game to being the first guy to give it a go on Saturday).

Of course, tomorrow I might be on here wailing and crying because of the early start, full day, ending with a trustee meeting in the evening. Our DP says the early morning starts at Inter:act may be the making of me, but I don’t think she’s spoken to well, basically anyone who knows me and has had firsthand experience of ‘La in the morning’. I wonder if I could attend the morning seminars via Videolink for the rest of the year…..hmmmmmm……..

I also have to remember to call myself Laurie (I’ve reverted back to Laura Anne/La after a weekend in the ‘deen!)

Plus the cute media messages I was getting of Miss S as a flowergirl, Mini Kahuna all dressed for a wedding and so on I got this weekend from Mrs BringontheJoy. And a pile of my friends are pregnant again.

Ok. Really need to go and um, get started on October’s reading… and pray for Mairead.

Sunshine on a rainy day

Today it wasn’t raining literally. It was just a bit of yeuccch day.

You know the ones I mean right? The day your alarm decides to malfunction so it flashes but doesn’t make a noise (I wondered how I felt so good after my 9 min ‘snooze’…turns out 9 mins was an hour). You don’t get time for shower or breakfast. The buses all drive past as you’re parking your car (seriously there IS a BK webcam that Lothian Buses have!!!). You go to Starbucks for breakfast and they don’t have any cinnamon swirls left. Your colleagues’ phone is going bananas because flights have been cancelled again. The centre office looks like a tornado ran through it, and you have a new pile of work to do….all the stuff that was put to one side to deal with the priorities. And you find out your bank balance is so low, you might not get paid at the end of the month.

Oh, poor Anna got pooped on by a bird on her way to the centre too.

Well….enter the sunshine.

Firstly in the form of two ladies (Fiona & Anna) who have just started volunteering with us. It helps that they bring Fiona’s baby son (he’s 8 months old). For the purposes of blogging we’ll call him Mr SmileyBurp. He smiled, laughed, blew snot bubbles through his nose (Mummy gave him her cold…boo!). Oh, and he burped. Together while Mr SmileyBurp was supposed to be napping in his buggy, we started chatting and then we got to praying.

See God gave us a vision, and he’s been speaking to us a lot lately. We’re pretty fed up with what we see, and we want not to whine and complain but do something about it. We reckon our God is pretty big, and He could can do pretty much anything.

So we did. And we decided we’re going to read and study the book of Nehemiah.

And then we might be inviting the leaders in our city to lunch.

I came home. And discovered that the nightmare is occurring. Poor Mr Brown resigned, though he’s probably never looked so happy (at least not that I’ve seen). he left No. 10. And then Mr Cameron (ugh….I’m sorry, I’m lacking grace) got announced as PM. Facebook and Twitter exploded. Out of all my 750 FB friends, only one cheer.

So…uh….Mr Aussie Dude? Now’s a REALLY good time to make an appearance. Beccause I’m looking to leave the country.

But then there was more sunshine….in the form of my favourite couple in the whole world. I can never post this video on my blog enough.

An e-mail with a video, made by the lovely Lori who had been visiting the Quilting Group at Central (they make quilts for cancer patients). And you know that Lenny & Rita are part of that group. So they videoed a message for me and Lori sent it via e-mail.

They didn’t have to do that, and it filled me with so much encouragement and hope. I love you guys!! It means everything to know that there are people praying for us, and yes I hope that God takes me on a puke-free flight from Edinburgh to Las Vegas so I can meet you guys in person.

I have so much love, and feel the encouragement from all these people. Some in person, some over the internet. Each is special, unique and I thank God for each one of them.

Oh yeah, and while I’m still in Edinburgh, we’re going to help rebuild this city…because it’s got a little a lot broken in places…

Crossing the finish line (of this marathon at least)

It’s been a long road since December. We (we = Sarah and I) knew it was going to be a crazy and very busy time for us, and it has been a marathon.

It has been incredible. And I wish I could share it all with you, but I do believe in the importance of confidentiality. Just know that once again, I’m in awe with the networking powers of God, the way he brings the clients at the right time so they end up seeing just the right person in the centre.

I can share this I think: remember way back in January when I told you about the youth event I spoke at, sharing some of my story of pregnancy crisis, abortion & how God led me into working in a pregnancy crisis centre? Well, I found out last night 14 of the young people who were at that event have become Christians since then. How exciting is that? And what a privilege to be part of the night that became a milestone in the journey the youth workers and teens have been on. Wow.

I’ve also seen 7 wonderful women go on a journey learning new skills to help them become pregnancy crisis advisors and support workers. Sarah and I were so anxious teaching a course that was different from the one we’d experienced. I got to see not only our trainees flourish, but Sarah too. There were challenging moments (not least of which when the trainees were in the middle of a difficult emotionally draining exercise and a very drunken man suddenly appeared out of nowhere and sat down in the middle of the hall thinking he was in the café across the road). :?

We did many schools visits – often discovering we were short of volunteers at the last minute, which made things tougher than they should have been. Of course we talked of Jedi Knights, anatomy and how girls can get coughcoughbiggerboobscough when they get pregnant, we wondered if the child in the Ready, Steady, Baby book really was related to the parents and why the woman’s ‘landing strip’ in the birth diagrams to be shaped so strangely. Oh, and the teacher who told pupils while we were in the classroom ‘you shouldn’t tell a Christian you’re pregnant because they’ll judge you and tell you what to do‘.

And my first experience organising a conference… that was fraught with ‘will enough people come so we break even?’ ‘will the volcano stop people getting there?’ It was a wonderful, wonderful day. The venue worked out well, the speakers were so inspiring and how encouraging to meet people starting new centres from as far North as Stornoway right down to Dumfries…

There have been jammed doors, sleep deprived days, many cinnamon swirls, tears, frustrations, celebratory dances, grrrs, days where all we could do was laugh because otherwise we’d cry, weekends I had to avoid church to avoid getting sick (that was tough).

And now it’s all over (at least for 2010). I have 2 days off before I go back to work and start focusing back on our foundations. Finding new premises for next Februrary. Finding a new schools team for next year. Advertising and publicity. Seeing the clients that call, e-mail and walk through our doors. Preparing. And getting on the case of leaders in this city.

Because this weekend, one thing has been made clear to me……this world is very broken. But we have been given a mandate to help restore this world to it’s original state.

Want to join me?

Alone we can do little, together we can do much.

Pregnancy crisis in the UK: can we be the change?

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We had a lovely day this morning/afternoon at our sponsored walk. The above is my fave picture of the day – me and my friend Frances standing during a brief shower looking a little daft and crazy! (not a reflection of what we’re usually like at all….ahem)

It’s been lovely the last wee while talking with others who are passionate about this work I’m involved in.

And so funny, and a little saddening to see the number who glanced at our stall last week and walked quickly on as if standing near a charity involved in pregnancy related stuff is catching or something. Sigh.

You know, most people in this work have amazing stories of how they got involved. So many stories of women and men who’ve been affected by unplanned pregnancy, pregnancy loss and infertility. Stories of how family members having abortions has affected them. Stories of God’s healing and redemption. Stories of abuse. Stories of how they see these issues playing out amongst clients and patients in their professional work life as doctors, nurses, social workers, community education workers, pastors, midwives…

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t know someone who has gone through pregnancy crisis, abortion or miscarriage.

Last week was lovely as I got to meet a woman not much older than me who is going to be a centre manager of a new pregnancy crisis centre down in England. Both of us going ‘man, it’s so good to find someone our age in this work’. It’s great to have ALL generations involved in this, but the reality at the moment is that the number of 20s/30s involved in the UK is very low.

Also looking at a map of centres on the CareConfidential website we have discovered something we’ve nicknamed the ‘Hadrian’s Wall Gap‘. Notice the sparse number of centres in the North and in Wales…?

CareMap

I’m happy to report that I know of 3 services that will be opening in the not-so-distant future in Scotland.

I wonder if you live in a place where there isn’t a pregnancy crisis centre, and if maybe God is speaking to you about it…?

I find it so strange how the church seems to deal with so many of our ‘big’ issues in society – drugs, homelessness, alcohol, debt, marriage breakdown, youth crime… but not anything to do with sex and relationships. It’s like we’re too embarrassed to talk about it, we don’t want things to get too messy, we don’t want to offend or seem judgmental or uncompassionate.

And yet everyday the abortion rate gets higher. The STI rates get higher. People start sexual relationships younger. Women turn to abortion because they lack other options because they don’t have the support they need to continue with their pregnancies.

It’s so easy to judge and be noble in our beliefs when we don’t know the whole story.

It’s so easy to ignore when it’s not in our face, because it’s so often kept a secret.

People still ask me why I shared my story last year. Well I believe it’s about time people know what goes on, how it can affect people, and do you know what…I made a decision a long time ago to be silent no more. Because silence just makes it easier to ignore so we can pretend the issue isn’t there or isn’t such a big deal.

It is there.

In our workplace

In our schools

In our universities and colleges

In our places of worship

In our communities

Can we be the change, the answer, the compassionate family and rebuild community we seem to have lost with ever evolving levels of technology and culture of society?