J’adore

It’s hard to believe but it was almost exactly five years ago I headed down to Watford for a training day in preparation for going to South Africa. For me, that trip is so connected with this blog, because I had so much love, encouragement and support from my awesome online community that got me there, and sustained me while I was there.

In all the trips I’ve done where I had no control over who I’d share a room with, I’ve had the best roommates. My friend Gill when we were doing an Erasmus IP in Spain. The fabulous Daniela and Kapook when we were in Germany. And when I was in South Africa it was the awesome Ruky.

July 2009

July 2009

We met up last summer after four years of distance, and I’m so excited to have booked tickets last night to travel to Paris in May to have another roomie reunion. I only got one day in Paris during my interrail trip in 2002, and I’ve always wanted to go back so this is the best excuse to go ever to spend a few days catching up with a great friend. And this time I’ll be a lot less naive about where the Moulin Rouge is.

I know that I’m almost done with my first year of uni and will have a few months off – during which time some of my uni friends will graduate and perhaps leave the country (noooo).  Next summer I might be pulling my hair out trying to do a Masters dissertation and won’t get to take time off for holidays and festival fun. So with that in mind I’m trying to make the most of having a summer to enjoy things. For five years I didn’t leave the UK. Now I’m going out the country TWICE in one year, and my Mum is talking of the two of us going away somewhere for a few days to celebrate me entering my 30s. One of my best friends is having another baby (a new honourary niece and nephew arrives this summer)! Not to mention the tickets I have to see the gymnastics at the Commonwealth Games. And hoping that there’ll be lots of shows that coincide with non-work days in August during Edinburgh Festivals season…

All this to say I’m really looking forward to this summer.

I’m so aware that everything could be taken away or change in an instant, so I want to take every opportunity to have fun.

I’m taking bookings for fun appointments friends!

The mystery of the blue camper van…

Remember last summer I told you about my nutty almost sending myself to the psych ward moment when I thought God was telling me to look for a blue camper van and told me to buy a shoulderbag?

Turns out, it wasn’t quite so nutty after all. A couple of weeks ago, we discovered where the blue van was – a tale told by my friend over on the Soul Surfers blog today.

Turns out the blue van was right in front of us all along…

(Silly people who painted Davina all green… ;) )

A return to the Gymnastics World Cup

After missing out on Olympics tickets (yes it’s been 18 months and I’m still feeling some resentment!) last year I went to the Gymnastics World Cup accompanied by my lovely friend Lynn.
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I like to think that I made her into a gymnastics fan! :) We had a great day, and decided we should definitely go again ‘next year’.

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‘Next year’ came about last Saturday. We were sad that Lynn’s daughter wasn’t able to use the ticket I had gotten her due to being at a camp for her Duke of Edinburgh award, so Lynn’s husband came instead!

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After he had been part of a flat (possibly vandalised) tyre fiasco on the side of the motorway. He thankfully made it for the last two rotations of the competition to see our country’s own Daniel Purvis win a silver medal. And we all sweated and gasped watching the men perform on High Bar. Which Sam Oldham ROCKED by the way.

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We went out for dinner afterwards. I’ll be honest – the dream of going to the Gymnastics World Cup has been what kept me going for those last few weeks of this term at uni. It was something to look forward to…not only to watch my favourite sport in person, but also to share the day with such good friends that I rarely get the chance to hang out with these days! Already we have plans to go next year.

I’m already excited!!

Thankful…

….and….breathe.

I didn’t realise how much I’d disappeared from the planet until one of my friends came round to my house at the last minute yesterday evening. So much has been going on in my friends’ lives that I had no idea and I realise how much I’ve sacrificed for the college course. It was almost 1 a.m. when I finished typing an essay to get at least one more unit completed. I didn’t finish the whole course and don’t know what will happen, but to be honest I’m just relieved that it is over!

A new challenge begins next week: Operation Kitchen. My flat in Aberdeen is basically falling apart and I’ve been trying to save money to fix it. I have no idea what I’m doing. I have no idea how to buy a kitchen, or how to supervise the building of one when you have no spare cash, no car, and are in full-time university and have a part time job.

The simultaneous challenge is to write my first postgraduate essay. I haven’t even had a chance to properly look at the questions or do any research yet which is causing me concern.

The good thing about this week is that it is the ‘Tattie Holidays’ otherwise known as ‘October Week’ or ‘Half-term’. So there are no Guide meetings – and I have my evenings totally free this week, which is good because I’m so so tired! Next week I’m off work so hope to use a couple of those days for university, a day to go up to Aberdeen to investigate Operation Kitchen and a day to go see a friend and her baby girl who I have not yet nicknamed. Hmmm.

I’m thankful for patient and forgiving friends who I’ve neglected over the last few weeks. I’m thankful for grace. I’m thankful for people who shared their snack ideas with me – going to investigate further into that, because my food making knowledge is so very limited!

I am however proud to announce that after 8 years of attempts, I finally made scrambled eggs successfully.

Ready to go for tomorrow: Tomato & Basil soup, a packet of sunbites, a packet of pistachios, a packet of dried apricots, a smoothie and perhaps some crackers and cheese. Maybe a portion of fruit crumble!

I’m also having to guard myself from the yummy New Zealand chocolate that Holly brought me when she came to Edinburgh in August. I’ve now finished the Kiwi fruit chocolate and working on the ‘Hokey’ one which I think has like popping candy or something through it. I won’t lie, I’ve had a few squares while I was heating up some veggie chilli for my tea, and maybe a couple of squares since. I want to make it last!

Well, it’s an early start tomorrow, so I’d better leave the blogosphere for now.

Catch you on the flip side LFS readers!

Listening to the still small voice (that makes you seem nuts)…

I was at my friend’s birthday party the other week, and  I ended up talking to this lady who goes to Central, and halfway through our conversation she commented ‘You really do a lot of praying, don’t you?‘.

Um. Yes. Yes I guess I do.

However, recently, God has been reminding me that just talking at Him is not really being a woman of faith. And I think he noticed that I wrote on my blog that I hoped getting a tattoo would end the nuttiness. *insert sound of God laughing here*. He’s been testing my faith and my ability to listen to Him with the small things in life and in the last two weeks my friends have laughed with me as I’ve shared these two mundane stories…

It all starts with a camper van. Actually. That’s not true. It really began 4 years ago with some toys, 2 cards, a camera, good food, sunshine which led to giddiness, hilarity and conversation

So it actually wasn’t long after that, my friends Brisaac & Lady V began Soul Surfers. We had a few beach days, got involved in some Surfers Against Sewage beach cleans and this camper van called Davina started making an occasional appearance. We fell in love with Davina – which is a big thing since my love of VW had to compete with my in built dislike of things that are Hibs/Celtic colours.

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The main dude behind Davina, a man named Steve, went off to become a Pastor of a church in the west, and poor Davina was left without people to help fulfil her purpose in life.  However, her owners very kindly agreed to let Soul Surfers use her whenever we wanted. Granted, she’s spent some time in the garage because she needed a part and it was tough to find so we couldn’t take her out for a while, but still. We’re now able to use her, and she’s taken our ‘stoke to broke’ friend and others out for picnics and hopefully she’ll be making a trip to Dunbar for a beach day soon.

My friends had asked me to pray because they really want to do what Steve used to use Davina for. They asked other friends to pray too. And then, when we heard Davina was being put up for sale, they asked us all to pray about whether or not they should buy Davina.

Of course! I said. Praying was what I apparently do a lot of after all.

And so, one day a few weeks ago, sitting on the top deck of the airlink bus, I chatted to God about it all. And text my friend about what I thought God was saying to me. I did not text her the second part of what I thought God was saying to me, because I thought ‘that’s a bit weird, and it’s probably my subconsious dislike of green and white‘.

What did I hear in my head that I didn’t share with my friend?

Look out for the blue van‘.

Aye. Whatever God. There’s no blue van.

And so God and I (in my head) argued back and forth about sharing this second part with my friend. By this time I was off the bus and walking up Cockburn Street. I told myself I was hearing things. But the little voice persisted. Look for the blue, look for the blue. I seriously questioned my sanity.

Until, out the corner of my eye I saw something in a shop window. A blue camper van. In bag form.

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I stopped and stared, laughed, and took a step to walk on, but I just heard this voice again. You need to buy that bag. I sighed, and went in and asked the lady in the shop

Hi, can I ask you how much that bag in the window is?

She went and checked – it was £38. Ok. It was £37.99. But still. For a bag?!

I walked around the shop to see if I could find a blue camper van magnet, mug or something you know…cheaper. I got the feeling that I was to buy some kind of ‘souvenir’ for my friends in relation to their camper van dream and thought surely a keyring would do just as well. I couldn’t see anything. Which was weird, because I’m sure that shop normally has a whole section of VW stuff! I was about to walk out, really knowing deep down that my gut instinct was telling me (ok, God was telling me) to buy that bag for my friends. But why? Surely God would want me to give money to the homeless? Build a school in Kenya or Haiti? Not buy a overpriced bag that looks like a blue VW Camper van.

And I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but I’m the girl who can’t afford to rent a flat or keep a car. The last bag I bought was a small rucksack that cost about £11 because my old one was literally disintegrating. I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than £25 on a bag. A suitcase, yes. A bag, no.

Sorry God, I don’t really have the money to buy that bag

I started making my way out the shop, and stopped dead in my tracks when God responded

Do you  really think that I can’t provide you with the £38 to buy that handbag? If you don’t have faith that I can provide for that handbag, why do you believe I can provide your friends with a camper van?

Ouch. Game, set and match to God.

And so after wandering in another circle for another second, I went back up to the counter.

Hi, I’m really sorry, I’m not sure if I need a psych ward or a church, but I think God is telling me to buy that camper van bag for my friends. Could I please buy it?

And continued waffling to the girl about how it was weird I was praying about my friends who had asked me to pray about this camper van, and then I thought I heard a voice telling me about a blue van, and then 30 seconds later I saw this bag in the window…

The girl laughed awkwardly. I’m pretty sure she thought I was off my rocker.

I don’t really blame her.

I later texted my friend to say…um…I have something to give you. Will explain later.

I’ll be honest folks, I have no idea why I was to buy that bag. I think it was to show some kind of trust and faith and to remind us to have faith for Him to provide for their camper van vision.

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But oh, the little voice stories didn’t end there. A couple of weeks later, I was leaving church. I had planned to stay in the city centre to run some errands and meet up with my friends from high school. The night before one friend had cancelled and I hadn’t heard from the rest. As I walked into town, I was grumpy and thought about just jumping on a bus at the West End and going home instead. But that little voice spoke to me again – and told me I should stay in town.

I was still grumping as I walked down the road. As I reached Princes Street some other friends text me  to say they were heading to the beach – did I want to join them? Joining my friends at the beach sounded much more fun than staying in town on my own. But even as I text back with my ‘yes’ I had that nagging feeling that I should stay in town.

I ignored it.

It was past 1 p.m. by this time, and I was hungry, so after running my errand, I decided to get some food. I had the choice of running to Subway – on my way to my meeting point with them, or walk further along to Marks & Spencer. I was about to decided on M&S and ask my friends if they wanted me to get something, but again that wee voice said ‘don’t text’. I did my phone in pocket, phone back out of pocket dance, and decided they probably would say ‘No, we’re fine’ and it would take me longer anyway. So I obeyed the small voice this time and went to Subway.

And as I was standing in the queue, I looked up and realised the woman in front of me looked vaguely familiar.

It was my baby sister (my 22 year old baby sister). Who I hadn’t seen in a year. Who’s boyfriend’s plans had made her cancel on our scheduled dinner 2 days before when she let me know she was back in the UK (I hadn’t been too chuffed about that).

After commenting on ‘how freaky’ it was, I got on the phone to my friends and asked them if they’d didn’t mind me not coming to the beach after all (I apologised later for saying yes in the first place). They were lovely about it, and I spent a few hours with my sister where she told me she was moving to a country in the continent of Africa.

As I went home, I understood why that still small voice was telling me not to go home quite yet… :)

That is how I’ve been challenged recently – to listen to the ‘still small voice’. Because really, something that seems trivial could turn into something greater for all I know. You think I would have learned by now that obeying and listening – even when it seems strange (like seeing visions of women dressed in red and hearing words in other languages I don’t understand) – could lead to more than I think it will.

I’m still learning that lesson though.

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.

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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. :)

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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 28

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I love giving gifts. I’ve decided that the favourite gift giving I’ve done this year, was getting tickets for me, my Mum, Vicky, Ruth and Miss S for the London Eye so we’d see the sunset over London. So much fun, and in a way quite selfish, because it seemed so romantic, and I loved having people to share that experience with.

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However, learning the art of gracious acceptance has been tough.

My learning really began 6 years ago, when I came to Edinburgh. When I arrived off that plane from Australia, I entered this city with no permanent job, no place to live. As the year went on, I was suddenly given a £800 council tax bill, £1,500 bathroom repair bill and went to the brink of my student overdraft. The next year Cassie the Corsa’s speedometer broke as well (along with a few other things…she was most certainly a ‘Friday afternoon car’). There was the time (or two) that I didn’t get paid from work on time because the charity had no funds to pay me. There was South Africa. There was the day my laptop screen stopped working and I was told it would be pointless to pay the £400 to fix it.

There was the silly humiliations of going to a church in an affluent area, and realising you couldn’t afford to socialise in the same way as they did. Sometimes they offered to pay for my meal so I could come have lunch with them, but I was often to full of pride to accept such an offer. ‘I’m nae a charity case’ ; ‘I’d just feel bad, because I’d never be able to return the favour‘; ‘I’m sorry I can’t accept it when I can’t pay you back‘ are the sort of responses I’d give.

Eventually it was two friends, who built up trust with me, that challenged me on my prideful ways. They often gave me random gifts, especially when I was living in a draughty flat and trying to pay off my debts (and fund a trip to South Africa) – a starbucks gift card so I could go get a caramel hot chocolate and read a book. A postcard. Home baking. But sometimes they gave me large gifts that I struggled with. A cheque to help cover car repairs. A new laptop.

I confessed to them my discomfort. They told me that I needed to learn to accept gifts, because to not, was to deny someone else the gift of giving.

Ouch.

And I knew what they meant, because I love giving gifts. For sure, I don’t earn much on British terms (shown by the fact I currently live in my mother & stepfather’s attic conversion, my phone is a pay-as-you-go ‘vintage’ nokia and no longer have a car), but I love to do it when I can. Whether it’s paying for the meal, or a cinema ticket. Sometimes it’s just being able to babysit or make a batch of cupcakes for people to enjoy. I get so much pleasure out of sharing things with people. It sounds cliche, but it’s true.

I would have been really hurt if my friends had refused to come on the London Eye with me just because I’d paid for the tickets!

I can’t say I’m all there yet, but I do know I”m better. After all, the laptop I’m currently typing this on, was an extremely generous gift from my friends. I totally dread the day this laptop dies, because this one (like the last one) has sentimental value to it.

Plus, none of my friends are my friends because of material wealth. They are my friends because  they are honest with me and allow me time in their company, experiencing things together. Sometimes that can be things that cost us money (like going to see Matilda) and sometimes that can be watching an NCIS finale together or sitting in the park for ‘free’!

So let us find the joy in giving, and work on graciously accepting so we can help others find the joy too. 

To all my online friends from 4 years ago…and to Mama Africa…

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4 years ago, as the 8th July dawned, this was the view from my window as the plane I’d been on all night flew over the continent of Africa.

As I reflect back, one of my vivid memories, was the overwhelming amount of support I got from my online community. I remember people e-mailing me and sending me money to help fund the trip. But more than that, I remember spending a year humming and hawing and spilling out my nerves about going and everything that would be involved to get there. The main one: flying on 6 planes.

The last time I had been on a long-haul flight from Sydney to London and a young girl had got travel sick while sitting next to me. To say I flipped out would be a mild understatement. But as I sat in Edinburgh Airport I remember the tweets from friends all over the world letting me know they were praying that it wouldn’t happen again. I remember texting my wonderful friend Vicky every day – fitting all I could into the precious 150 characters so she could relay it to our smallgroup.

I remember the day the lovely Michelle let me use the internet in her home so I could leave a message on my blog – I knew lots of people wanted to know if I’d met ‘the woman in red’ and how things were going.

I met amazing people. So many friendships began in Durban. I left part of my heart in South Africa that year. It’s true what they say about ‘Mama Africa’.

So today, I want to say to my friends – the friends I made offline and the friends I made online – THANK YOU. You helped me to get South Africa and back. You helped me discover the meaning of themba.

I don’t think I could have got there without you. Those tweets, blog comments, e-mails and facebook messages those years ago meant more than the world could to me.

And South Africa — I hope I can return to you one day…

Fires, friends and broken bones…

Oh man people, what a week it was. Last week was horrible. HORRIBLE. But for a few amazing moments that fuelled me through the quagmire. The first involved fire…my favourite kind of fire. CAMPFIRE. I was quite proud of the fire I built with my fellow Senior Section leader and one of my older Guides’ assistance. It took quite a few buckets of water to put that baby out fully at the end of the night. There were spacehoppers, marshmallows and of course campfire singing. I was finally able to work on teaching 2 guide units campfire songs this term, and they seem to love it! yay!IMGP0866

On Saturday there was a trip to Eyemouth, and on Sunday a trip to St Andrews for ice cream. In between, some frantic shopping for things – please pray that the person who borrowed my sleeping bag 2 years ago actually returns it to me in time for leaving for Cornwall on Thursday. It is a great (and not cheap) microlite one so I’m not going to be too chuffed if I have to buy a replacement for it at short notice.

Tonight, I went to visit my friend who has gone from 365 days of stoke to… (pause while I do the maths here)…127 days of broke. You can hear about his gnarly skate ride and see the fairly impressive x ray of his foot compared to what it should look like on his blog 365 Days of Stoke. Sadly his current plaster cast cannot be decorated, but I’m hoping that he is going to get  new cast tomorrow that we can all doodle on. I’ve also threatened to paint his toenails. Because that’s the kind of supportive friend I am.

On Thursday we begin the journey to the Christian Surfers conference in Polzeath. Before I go I need to make sure I’ve got all the end of term letters, envelopes for badges and so on ready for when we get back on Monday. Oh and pack. Pray we’d have good weather (apparently the surf report isn’t looking too hot).

Oh, and look out for a big announcment on my blog. Another item on that bucket list will hopefully soon be ticked off, but will definitely be needing some support for this one! :)

 

When life gives you lemons…

I wrote a massive long blog post, and then it became a victim of my delete button.

Suffice to say, this week has been challenging. I feel like my mental and emotional state has been under attack and it has just made life a struggle mixed with a weird amount of guilt.

Now behind on my college work, with an increasing to-do list (with decreasing time to complete it).

A few friends have been in accidents of varying sorts over the last few days too. One Thursday, one Friday, one today. I’d really appreciate if you could pray for them, God knows each situation and that’s all I’ll say here.

For me, I’m giving myself some mental health first aid – to-do list or not!

They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. 

Today I travelled down the coast to spend the day with my friends who I haven’t seen since February. Their sons told me they were taking me to the beach to find rockpools and CARTWHEEL! We found rockpools, but before we got to cartwheeling we were caught in a few heavy downpours of rain (reminding us we live in Scotland…!) so we had to take shelter.

What do you do when the rain stops your beach cartwheeling? Pretend you’re Gene Kelly and dance in the rain…

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…and let your friend post on facebook this picture with the status that I was encouraging his kids to ‘pole dance’. :O It was only because there were no lampposts available! Another stellar godmothering moment from me then… ha ha!