The Last Day

Tomorrow is my final day at work.

I feel a little sick just typing that sentence.

It has been a rollercoaster journey, long winding road of ups and downs, twists and turns. No one ever expected our centre to be shut down, as it’s been a sort of flagship for others around the UK.

It would be easy to be bitter about how things have turned out, but instead I want to choose to  be grateful for everything that is good. I’ve met and worked with some amazing people. I’ve got to try out my skills at events planning and am quite proud of the network that my colleague in Dundee and I built up around Scotland and the conferences we ran each year with minimal resources. At least 700 women have been helped while I’ve been volunteering then working then managing that place.

I’ve learned a lot about counselling, a great deal about compassion and boundaries, a great deal about other spiritual beliefs, politics (ugh), grief and faced the challenges of coordinating a team of voluntary staff which is very different to how I coordinated a team of paid staff when I was a Community Learning Worker.

It has taken me to some interesting places too. I never would have dreamt that I’d have been speaking at conferences or youth events. But I did.

I’ve had to have a good team of support around me as I faced attack from both the Christian world and the secular world. Oh the stories I could tell of rudeness, naivete and just well…pigheadedness…

I’m so grateful to the friends that stuck by me through everything. I think what I’ve learned most is that you can’t rely on a church to support you or encourage you. I wish it had not taken me so long to stop trying to change this, and just let the people who were passionate and saw the value in our work be enough for me. I would have saved myself a lot of hurt and heartache.

And lastly, I’m grateful that my values and beliefs have evolved and been constantly challenged, reflected on and adapted as I’ve questioned, listened and learned.

Tuesday begins a new era of life and I have no clue what that is going to look like.

I just hope that I’m ready for it. :)

Seven years of blogging: what changed?

It’s been seven years now since I started blogging. This was one of my early posts back on Musings of a Koala. It’s kinda crazy to read it now.

A friend of mine said she missed me writing on ‘topics’ on my blog. I should really have got clarification on what that meant exactly (if you’re reading, I think you’ll know who you are so remind me to ask you next time we chat!!). If I’m honest it’s gotten tougher to find to time and motivation to write. However, I will say that events in the recent weeks may have changed that slightly…

If I’m right in what my friend meant, I think I stopped blogging on topics about three years ago. And I’m going to try and explain why I think that happened…

A few years ago I went through probably the most anti-climatic and difficult crisis of faith I’ve ever had. It was very different to crises of faith I’d had previously. In my early years of my faith I was up and down in my emotions and faith like supersonic yo-yo.I had to learn a whole new culture that I didn’t naturally belong in, because I hadn’t grown up with it. It took me a good five years. As soon as I was settled, it was like God said ‘Ok. On to the next lesson‘. My first year as a graduate was an unmitigated disaster. I learned a great deal from that disastrous year…because I started losing perspective on my priorities, and I suffered the consequences.

In April 2007 I was a hot mess. But I was determined to trust God and believed He would lead me back to where I was supposed to be. And of course, long term readers know that meant ending a relationship, saying goodbye to the safety of a job, my own home and heading to Australia for a month before I returned to the home city that was so full of horrible childhood memories.

I actually hate looking at photos of myself from that time because I lost so much weight with the stress of it all. By the time I came back from Australia I probably weighed under 8 stone…

IMG_4774This photo was taken in May 2007 just after I got back from Australia when I was up in Aberdeen to get tested for melanoma. I think I look almost anorexic in this picture. 

I arrived back on May 4th 2007. I surprisingly found a church to call ‘home’ almost straight away, and I was actively involved in the life of the church serving as a youth mentor and as a backing vocalist on the music team within a month of my first visit. I joined a smallgroup and the main core of that group are some of my closest friends to this day.

My first few years back in Edinburgh were no picnic. I’m pretty sure I’d have had a total mental breakdown if it hadn’t been for my smallgroup being a steady anchor for me. They were a source of encouragement, challenge and also being willing to let a flawed person like me try to encourage and challenge them in return. There was constant change and drama and it was the one consistent aspect of my life. I knew no matter what I had that safe sanctuary where I could return for a couple of hours a week before I headed back into the madness that was my life.

When I came back from South Africa in 2009, there was a church restructure. I had come back with a lot to process and think about, and I never ended up getting the chance with all the impending changes. Our smallgroup disbanded and it felt like my safe sanctuary, my anchor in the storm was ripped away from me. I tried to suck it up and make the best of things over the next year as many of the folks I’d worked with in ministry left, along with friends and families who’s young people I had worked with for 2-3 years by that point through the youth programme. I struggled. I got hurt. I probably hurt other people in my hurting state. Suffice to say that there came a point when enough was enough and I had to make one has to be one of the most heartbreaking decisions I’ve ever made since I left Aberdeen.

I left the church.

I was also not prepared to be cut off on social media by folks who I’d previously thought my friends. I cared about the people at the church and wished them well. For several months I didn’t attend church services at all – anywhere. I needed that time because I’d gotten to the point where I wasn’t sure if I’d been manipulated and ‘hoodwinked’ into a religious cult called Christianity. Was God real? I needed to find Him in a way I could be sure it was Him and not just being programmed to believe by other people.

After three months, I was assured that yes…God was real. He still loved me. And He was still with me…no matter where I went.

Though I never really found a new place to call home, I did find myself repurposed and using my gifts and skills again elsewhere.

But in terms of writing, I really miss the days where I’d write and knew my readership. Every time I blogged on something I’d find it being read by folks in church who would chat to me about it. I loved that interaction, and I think it motivated me to keep on writing as honestly as I could – the silly stuff and the serious stuff! There were so many posts I wanted to write but couldn’t during those months of brokenness for fear of how they could affect the people reading them. For the first time ever, I began to censor myself.

So back to the recent events…

I feel like I’m at a crossroads in my life once again. My relationship with God still exists, but it is certainly not what it once was. If you asked me today how my life is going, I’d have to say it’s a mixed bag of good and bad. There are aspects that I’m really struggling with right now, and other aspects I’m really enjoying and excited about. I know that I have lots to ponder, lots to reflect on and lots to write about. There are things I think I really want to do, but needing to find more courage for.

One thing I know for sure is that I feel like my motivation for writing is getting back on track to where it once was. Where it’s going to go – I don’t know yet. But I do know for sure that I’d really appreciate your feedback.

 

Goodbye to another decade, hello to a new one soon…

So in 10 days time, I will enter a new decade of my life. Holy crap – how did that happen? Now that I’ve handed in my final assignment for the year (barring a report on the Erasmus programme, but that’s not being marked!) and now I finally have some time to stop, think and catch my breath. Who knew that this wee lassie who dreamed of being a school teacher, ballerina and author (yep – I was ambitious)
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would turn into the much bigger lassie who is back at university for a second time?
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I’m really pleased that I have achieved a lot of things – some of which I never even dreamed of – in the last 30 years. I stood up to my teachers and refused to study Maths and entered university a year early despite them telling me doing such a thing would be a disaster (they were wrong). I got to dance on stage. I got to be in a Gilbert & Sullivan musical. I got a university degree. I went travelling around Europe with my friends. I have seen the sun rise and set over the Sahara Desert. I have been to the top of the Empire State Building and found the Alice in Wonderland Statues in Central Park. I’ve read great books. I have watched great films. I have had fun doing backing vocals in my years on church worship teams and at the Powerpoint youth event. I’ve been a bridesmaid and I am a godmother. I’ve surfed. I’ve hugged a koala. I’ve been on a train on the bridge/viaduct at Glenfinnan. I have cartwheeled (sorta) on many beaches and I’ve made great friends. I’ve even raised £100s for charity by bouncing on a spacehopper. I think my only regrets were not being able to continue with playing the cello and giving up dancing at 16. I wish I’d continued on with it during my final year at high school.

There are lots of things I’m looking forward to doing this year…to name a few

1. participating in Colour Me Rad for the Make-A-Wish Foundation

2. Going to visit my friend in Paris

3. Going to see gymnastics events at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

There’s also a ton of stuff I’d love to do as well…for instance…

I’ve discovered the University language centre! Going on Erasmus has really made me want to go back to my love of languages and try and learn to communicate in other languages. I feel so ashamed that so many people learn English and I can only speak my mother tongue. I’ve taken out a learn French pack to try out, and I’ve noticed there is a Spanish one too.

I’m going to try running. I’ve downloaded the ‘Couch to 5k’ and we’ll see how I go. I’m well aware my knee and foot are a bit screwed up so I’m not going to push myself too much!

Doing more of the touristy things in Edinburgh! I’m hoping to get a membership to Edinburgh Zoo so I can just go pop in whenever I want.

Seeing more indie films at the independent cinemas. I may even try going to the cinema alone.

Saving up my money to do fun things with it – whether it be to give it away, go travelling or get another car as I really do struggle not having the freedom to drive to see friends who don’t live on my bus route or just to be able to drive out the city to go out for the day or weekend.

Researching my family history. I’ve been able to track my Nana’s lineage and thanks to my Uncle my Granny and Grandpa too. There are other things I’d like to find out, and my Grandad’s lineage is a total mystery to me. A trip to the Scotland’s People centre it will be.

 I’ll see how we go, but in the meantime, I’m going to try and get used to suddenly having more free time and do my best to use it productively. I hope my friends realise I want to see a lot more of them! :) I also need to plan how I’m going to celebrate my birthday. Other than having 3 fabby friends in Edinburgh for the weekend which I’m looking forward to most of all!

Courage over fear…

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At the beginning of this year, I said that my ‘word’ for 2013 would be more of a phrase. Courage over fear. We’re now almost at the end of 2013. This year has been such a blur, and as we head into Christmas week I cannot believe it has been 2 years since we got the call that my friend had been found dead on Christmas Eve.

Perhaps it was the Olympics, perhaps it was realising that whether I like it or not, as a Girlguiding leader I am a role model for the girls I work with – for good or for ill! I just remember looking out the bucket list, and looking at my wall. As I gazed at the wise words from two of my favourite authors, I realised that I need to start applying the wisdom rather than just acknowledging it.

I have not failed this year.

There are things I hoped to do that I didn’t get done – my ALQ is yet to be completed and I never got my Open College Network coursework all handed in.

But I did start coming up with ideas for a children’s story based on my two reindeer who never went back into the box with all the Christmas decorations and sat on my chest of drawers all year instead. I applied for a dream job with British Gymnastics. I didn’t get it, but I went for it without regrets. I worked up the courage to do a spacehop for charity and was overwhelmed with the support I got. I got people collecting Active Kids vouchers for our Guide unit and friends were kind enough to post me vouchers from as far away as Northern Ireland to help us. I investigated universities and finally took the plunge of submitting an application, even allowing a few friends to know I was applying despite my fears of rejection. I gave a guy my number when he asked me out after we got chatting on the bus one day. I did ring my friend Kathy in a panic almost straight away after, because I have pretty tight boundaries now when it comes to guys given my history until I know that they know they are in the ‘friend zone’. I handed in a pieces of work I knew I hadn’t had time to do my best on instead of simply quitting my degree. I applied to go to a winter school in Germany. I went on long road trips with people I don’t know very well yet. I went rock climbing – twice.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of things that I considered doing and didn’t because of being unsure or not having the time or money to do it. But as I look back, I realise that I have come farther this year than I have since being in Australia 6 years ago.

There are a lot of things I’m afraid of still. But I remember that courage is not the absence of fear, it’s the bravery in facing fears.

Next year I hope to do my best in Germany and not be too afraid of me getting ill or others getting ill. I hope to use my time out of uni wisely. I hope to get my ALQ finished. I hope to get a new kitchen in my flat and to start saving for a car. I hope to meet up with Rebecca and Holly in York. I hope to catch up with friends like Nicola and Sinead that I didn’t get to see in person this year. I would like to go visit my friend while she is studying in Paris. I would love to do some more rock climbing. I would love to do a dance class. I would love to try and learn some more sign language. I would like to help grow Girlguiding. And I’d like to see more films (I am gutted that Kill Your Darlings is not showing in any of the Edinburgh cinemas now).

I lost two grandparents this year and two close family friends – all to cancer.

That, and remembering that the boy I spent my first formative years with who I said I would marry when we grew up has already been gone from this earth for two years…reminds me that I need to keep pushing to do all I can to make the world a better place. To enjoy life as much as I can. I don’t know when my time will be up, nor when any of my loved ones could be taken.

So here’s to 2014 when it comes, and making the rest of our lives, the best of our lives!

2013 in review…

What, for you, was the high point of 2013? Were there any other highlights?

For me, the high point of 2013 was my April trip to London. I loved seeing Matilda, I loved seeing Miss Sweetroot’s responses to her first time in the city, I loved being with such great friends and a special memory was made watching the Sunset from the London Eye.

Other highlights include Soul Surfer Road Trips to Polzeath, Aberdeen and Cardiff and watching two of the Guides getting awarded their Baden Powell. And getting accepted to do my postgraduate qualification at Glasgow uni!

What, for you, was the low point of 2013?

2013 has been the year of the Grim Reaper. Two grandparents, two uncles, one of my Mum’s best friends and my childhood friend’s Mum.

Plus Feb-April being ill with flu, my café spill and some weird sinus/viral infection thing was just a bit rubbish.

Tell me some things you learned this year.

I learned how to use moodle. And I learned how much I hate moodle too! I learned the art of nagging to get things done in girlguiding. I was reminded how passionate I am about learning over teaching, education in general and how education will always be more of a passion than counselling ever will be.

Who would be your “person of 2013″? It could be someone you know or a famous person who’s inspired you.

Back in November, my friend asked the leader of Christian Surfers International for his one bit of wisdom he would share. It was this: think about who’s kingdom you are trying to build. The main reason being that it takes jealousy, competition and pride out of the playing field.

Amen to that.

What was the best film you saw this year?

I’ve seen very few films this year, but probably Les Miserables.

And what was the worst?

Thor 2.

Or Lincoln – does it count if we switched it off half an hour in because we were so bored watching it?

What was the best book you read?

I can’t pick between How the Girl Guides Won the War and The Perks of Being A Wallflower.

What was the best thing you saw on TV?

I was not impressed with how NCIS ended last season….DUCKY!!!!!! (and if you are in America, Australia or you have fancy TV in the UK – yes, we’re only on Season 9 and you’re all on Season 10 and 11).

And of course…How I Met Your Mother.

What, for you, was the sporting highlight of 2013?

The European Artistic Gymnastics Championships. If anyone thought that London 2012 was a fluke, think again. Our lads took home a lot of medals…and then Kristian Thomas and Max Whitlock followed it up by bringing home a couple more from Worlds later in the year. Happy British Gymnastics fan here!

What was the best album or song you heard in 2013? What song did you play most?

Back in May, my friend Judith and I ended up wandering round a branch of Fopp in London’s West End. They had a tune playing and I loved it so I asked what it was they were playing. I ended up bringing home Sam Amidon’s Bright Sunny South album home with me to Edinburgh.

Unsurprisingly the most played song on my iTunes is ‘My Old Friend’.

What are you looking forward to in 2014?

I am looking forward to going to Germany with some of my coursemates from university to do the Lifelong Learning winter school. I’m hoping to meet up with friends from around the UK. And I hope to do lots more fun things with the Guides and Senior Section! :)

From the words of Gavin DeGraw…

Last week, I went on the search for something – I can’t even remember now what I was looking for, but I came across a shoebox filled with photos that had been peeled off my bedroom wall when I moved from Aberdeen to Edinburgh. The photos were all from my rail trip round Europe – I tried to take a picture of every station we stopped at, and when I got home I had a picture of each station or at least an iconic picture in its place if I hadn’t managed to get a photo of the station.

I realised looking through that I couldn’t remember now what some of the photos were and where they were taken.

On Saturday, I went to Westside Plaza with my Mum so I could help her take a linen basket full of glasses and cups that had been my Gran’s to a charity shop there (as we’ve now emptied her house – some things have been taken by family members, the rest we’ve given to charity and hope that others will be able to use it to set up their homes). We ended up in a shop so my Mum could look at clothes (sigh) and while I was waiting for her I spotted these cool boxes. I decided it would be great to buy a few to replace the envelopes, old shoe boxes etc I’ve used to store up all my memories that these days are all higgledy piggledy! Then, we went to Staples so I could get some sharpie markers and glue dots for making some scrapbooks.  I’m not crafty at all, but have always taken photos and kept journals since I was a teenager. And I want to document what the Guides do in a ‘unit’ scrapbook (if nothing else so we leaders can remember) and to finally put the memories in a form that I can easily bring them out and peruse them.

While searching for my Australia memorabilia and the misplaced photos from my Europe trip, I came across other bags and boxes that contained the postcards, song lyrics, pictures and other random things that used to adorn the doors and walls of every home I’ve had since I was about 15/16.

One of the things I found were the lyrics to a song by Gavin DeGraw, which I still love. I think it ended up on more than one of my car mixtapes when I first got Cassie the Corsa (RIP Cassie – I miss you). It was used as the theme tune to One Tree Hill. That particular show has a lot of memories for me – it started when I moved into my own flat when I was 20. It really formed the basis of a friendship with one of my very good friends. It enhanced my love of indie music (they used a ton of great tunes, as the creator of the show is a bit of an audiophile and figured TV could become the new radio since radio has become so commercialised). They often used inspirational quotes as the basis of each episode. I liked quotes before that, but it sure encouraged me to continue on my hunt for great writing and little gems of literary wisdom like memory verses!

I ended up listening to that song again on YouTube.

Two lines in that song always impact me. Every time I listen…

“Part of where I’m going, is knowing where I’m coming from”

“I’m tired of looking around rooms wondering what I’ve gotta do, or who I’m supposed to be. I don’t want to be anything other than me”

As I read bits of my first ever teenage journal, full of hurt and rage, I thought about how far I’ve come as a person since then. The 15 year old Laura Anne is almost totally unrecognisable from the 29 year old she has become. In a month where I’ve questioned myself, wondered if I’m being successful in my goals for life or whether I need to quit being obstinate and conform because it’ll get me on a higher up career ladder…I only have to look back to those journals – the photos that stand testament to friendships made, things learned and amazing experiences had; to know that I’ve come so far. And to remember my promise to always be myself no matter what the world tries to make me to be. After all, I believe one E.E. Cummings said that’s the toughest battle any human being can fight, and never stop fighting…

:)

Anyway, I plan to take some time on my week off to make some scrapbooks of my trips before I forget. I’m now so thankful that I had got the blogging bug while I was in Australia so I have a record of my trip, as I wrote posts every few days. I only wish blogs had been popular in 2002!

Making it Count

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Yep, summer is still here. And I’m absorbing all I can.

More friends are turning 29, and it’s bringing that all important 3-0 closer, there are so many things that once you pass 30, you don’t get the opportunity for. Like a working holiday visa in Australia, for example.

I don’t know why, but each day I’m reminded how I could be dead tomorrow. And it makes me want to have as much fun and enjoy life. Get every scrap out of it I can. I was watching Adam Hills Tonight, and they had a segment called Naked Tuesdays. Naked Tuesdays was started by a great guy called Craig Coombes, who has terminal throat cancer. He just seems like the epitomy of an ‘Aussie Bloke’ – down to earth, sense of humour, friendly, caring, wants to have fun and doesn’t take himself too seriously. He started Naked Tuesdays as a way of showing his family, friends and the world that it’s still ok to have fun even in the face of terminal cancer. That he’s ok with his body. His mantra is ‘Make the rest of your life, the BEST of your life‘. Amen brother – let’s do it!

And I don’t want to wait to get runover by a bus, or diagnosed with some horrible disease to start living.

I love my bucket list. There are loads of ‘normal’ things on it, and some random things on it. Over the last week, as I’ve strolled, sipped iced lemonade, snoozed or read in the glorious sunshine, I’ve been thinking about other things I’d quite like to do.

Like be part of a flash mob. And go punting on a river. Learn Spanish, French and Sign Language. Get my holiday permit for Girlguiding. Try out an adult gymnastic class. Go see the NCAAs. Have lots of campfires and barbecues with friends. Go to more music gigs. Go to a symphony. Oh plus all the stuff that’s already on my bucket list!!

If I die tomorrow, I want people to know I have so few regrets. I don’t even regret days I lay cosied up in a duvet watching a DVD boxset of White Collar. Because I love that show. :) Or when I dance in the kitchen along with the How I Met Your Mother theme tune while cooking my tea before going to a Senior Section meeting.

The times I’ll regret, is the times where I could have done something but decided I couldn’t be bothered. That just sucks.

And so, I’ll jump on a train to meet my friends so we can go to the beach because the weather is gorgeous. I’ll stay in the beer garden and end up going to (what turns out to be a totally crap) fringe show with my friend at 1 a.m. I’ll go rock climbing with my friend. And I’ll go to the cinema to see Despicable Me 2 and randomly say ‘Bottom hee hee hee’ on facebook or while in the car driving with my friends for many months later. I’ll buy the How I Met Your Mother boxset so I can watch it on the days I’m sleepy and just want something that makes me smile. And I’ll attempt to do things on beach car park furniture that can act as a balance beam as the sun is setting over the sea. I’ll give my friends kids squeezy hugs and teach my godson and his brother silly things like dancing in the rain and swinging off of bars. I’ll bounce on a spacehopper or go to university in my pyjamas for charity. I’ll sing out of tune in the shower and the car. And I’ll cartwheel on a beach and end up falling in the sand. I’ll wait by stage doors to meet Logie winning Aussie soapstars. And I’ll wish that I could be in Bristol to go Gromit hunting with my friend. I’ll cheer people on, and try to encourage people to use their gifts and skills and not be afraid of failure. And I’ll bully my boss into pretending to run down a beach reenacting Chariots of Fire. I’ll read my bible. I’ll listen to God, and then I’ll get the words He tells me inked on my skin so I always remember the nutty moments of faith.

I don’t get to choose how I die, but I get to choose how I live.

And I choose to live so I have lots of fun and stories to share.

What else are blogs for?!

Travelling Tuesday Throwback – My worktown!

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The summer of 2006 is one of the best summers I can remember. It was the summer I graduated university, I went on holiday 3 times, I got my first post-graduate job and the weather was AMAZING (except the first few days of the Imagine Festival). There was a 10 page spread the local paper that year when Aberdeen reached a record breaking temperature of 29.5°C (85°F). The only day we weren’t too thrilled was that Aberdonian graduation robes and the Mitchell Hall was not designed for such heat. ;)

Even though my first job was tough – in terms of getting used to work politics, rubbish pay and having the shock of being a city blossom used to inner-city youth work flung into community education in a rural area  – Kincardineshire was a beautiful place to work.

Last Friday, I had the chance to do something I never really had time to do when I worked there – take some pictures of the beautiful town I was based in. Every morning I would come off the A90 southbound and this would be my view as I drove down the slip road to Stonehaven. And of course, when I first began, the weather was like it is above because that summer had been so great – the weather was mild until about October that year and we had a fairly mild winter too.

One day, I’d like to go back and get pictures of all the little villages and towns that were in my ‘catchment area’. My favourite place was Johnshaven – a teeny fishing village with the most friendly community council and school. :) (Sorry to the other towns, but if you’d given me cake at your meetings and a free shopping bag and made me an official ‘friend’ of the local school, you might have been in better competition for being my fave village in Kincardineshire & Mearns!)

Here are some more Stonehaven pictures…

Church & graveyard near Cowie Stonehaven Stonehaven Harbour

The road I took…

Leaving Australia

3rd May 2007 – getting ready to return home to Scotland

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost

It’s tough to believe it’s been 6 years. 4th May 2007 was the day I landed in Edinburgh, jet lagged, still a bit nervy from a girl who had got travelsick on a long haul flight from Singapore. I had no idea what would happen next. And it was not the easy path I had chosen. It was the unknown one.

The previous summer I had graduated from university. A graduation five long years in the making. But for the first time in a very long time, I was contented. I had finally settled in my Aberdeen life. I had a great family of friends. Things with my blood related family were better than they ever had been. I’d begun a relationship with a Christian guy who I first thought was on the same page as me. I split my time between Edinburgh and Aberdeen working some weeks as a care worker, others as a receptionist or clerical worker in NHS hospitals while I looked for a job. I’d been rejected from my applications to study medicine and midwifery. I was about to start re-applying and looking to study some of the qualifications I needed to do medicine. My boyfriend convinced me not to. Instead, I started applying for jobs, and got a temporary contract as a Community Education Worker. I was thrilled. A proper wage (I now realise the pay was AWFUL) and the hope of a permanent contract at the end with the promise of them paying for me to do my Community Education diploma while I worked.

In those seven months, I worked myself into the ground. I was out of my depth. I was asked to lie to people. Or at least to me it was lying. My boyfriend brought the worst out of me. He discouraged me from doing things I was scared to do. I don’t know if it’s possible to forget the first time I led worship at my church. Afterwards he told me he thought I should never do it again. Every time I’ve led worship since (and those times have been few) I’ve heard his words and seen his face in my memory. In March 2007 I was invited to reapply for my job to get a permanent contract. I prayed about it, and felt like maybe I was to go back to Edinburgh. I told him so. He broke up with me.

Relief.

It was however an upsetting day. He stayed in my flat for an hour and wouldn’t go away until I went to work. I went through my day, and when everyone else went home, I locked myself in the Senior Community Worker’s office. I called my friend and started bawling. That day I made the decision – I was returning home.

The plan was sensible. Finish my contract til March 31st. Get the flat ready for selling, and live there until I sold it or found a job in Edinburgh. My Dad and stepmother offered to financially support me until I was able to do this.

Only it didn’t happen like that. That night, I went home after that evening’s youth work meeting. I cried on my friend’s shoulder. And then overnight I developed a fever and by the next morning I had the flu. I lay on a mattress on my living room floor for days. Friends came in and out. I prayed to God, and the answer I received was clear audible one: It’s time to go home. And I’m not going to tell you what you’re going to do when you get there. You’re going to have to trust me.And then I call came from Los Angeles.

It was decided I’d go out to Australia to meet my friends.

And then I’d come back and look for a job and sell the flat.

Only it didn’t happen like that either. The day my friend walked with me to STA Travel to make sure I  booked that flight, we bumped into my (now ex) boyfriend’s best friend and his girlfriend. They desperately needed a flat to rent that they could afford. And so I said ‘why don’t you rent mine?

And suddenly I realised that I had 3 weeks to move out of my flat. And when I came back from Australia I had nowhere to live, and no job to go to.

I did let my friends at the respite home I’d worked at know I was coming back to Edinburgh, and I was grateful that they had said ‘yes’ to putting me back on their pool staff team. That put me at ease a bit as it made it all sound better when I was explaining to people what I was doing, why I was leaving so suddenly.

God did a lot of work in me during those 4 weeks in Australia. It’s why Australia means so much to me. I feel like Australia gave me my life back. It made me myself again. All the rubbish that had been spoken over me and into me began to fade away. Courage and confidence I thought I’d lost forever, I found once again. I returned home, still unsure, but very much at peace.

I realise I could have followed the sensible path. I could have stayed, sold the flat, never gone to Australia and waited to get a job. Or I could have applied for a permanent contract and perhaps I’d have that all important piece of paper that says PGDip in Community Education that I need to get a full-time job in this city.

But would I have learned so much, been as brave or met the friends I know now?

Most likely…no.

Photo on 2013-04-28 at 17.28 #4

The Hogmanay Review Questions

So every Hogmanay  I do a ‘review’ of the past year. it’s an LFS tradition now. Just in case you’d like to do it too, here are the questions I’ll be using, and you can feel free to adapt or skip any questions that don’t apply to you!

1. What were the highlights of this year?

2. What was the low point of this year?

3. Best Book I read

4. Best quote from my visits to schools

5. Best film I saw at the cinema

6. Best film I saw on DVD

7. Favourite TV Show this year

8. TV Moment that almost made me cry

9. Most listened to song this year

10. Favourite worship song this year

11. What  was the sporting highlight of 2012?

12. Who would be my  ‘person of 2012′

13. What I learned this year..

14. What I’m looking forward to next year…