Quote of the Week – Week 19

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There are two reasons that I ended up choosing this quote for the week. Firstly, off the back of what I shared on my blog last week about what I left behind when I left Aberdeen I ended up sharing about some of the after-effects while chatting with my friend in the car. Secondly, an amusing misunderstanding when one of my friends messaged me in a panic after I posted this on facebook to thank my friends who’ve been collecting Active Kids vouchers for one of my Guide units…

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…she thought she had missed a major event in my life. Due to the fact the webcam takes a mirror image photo it looks like the ring I always wear on my right hand, is being worn on my wedding finger. It took me a while to realise why she was apologising that she’d missed my wedding. I’ve missed it too I thought. And then as I scrolled my facebook page to try and understand where this information could have come from, I suddenly realised…!

A conversation into the night revolved around singleness and dating after we had clarified that I hadn’t gotten married, or engaged. I’m almost proud to say that I’ve been single now for 6 years. There have at times been flickers of potential boyfriends, but it’s not something I actively pursue! Or ever have done really. I’m content now being single – and that was a journey for a wee bit, as an extravert loneliness is a huge big deal. But I realise that being single and being alone doesn’t have to be the same thing.

There’s another element too. I’ve learned what love is really all about in these last few years – and trust me, in my job you really get reminded how important it is to make wise choices when it comes to love.

Someone who loves me is going to care about me.

Someone who loves me is going to be for me, rather than against me.

Someone who loves me is going to respect my boundaries.

Someone who loves me is going to understand that my faith in God is the most important thing in my life and not try to change that.

Someone who loves me is going to accept that I am who I am, and encourage me to be the best version of myself.

All the other stuff – looks, hobbies, football teams, music, films, tv shows, where we come from, how much we earn or what kind of jobs we have – all that is not invalid, but really isn’t the big stuff and shouldn’t really matter even half as much as the stuff in the list above.

Lauryn Hill, you may have been prisoned for not paying tax this last week, but the words of your song still remain true.

Love is respect and devotion, greater than planets, deeper than oceans…

Friendship Tips: Maintenance

Callie at Through Clouded Glass has started a blog series on ‘Friendship‘. My friends (online and ‘IRL’) often joke that I seem to apparently ‘know everyone’ (I really don’t), but I guess it’s because I love networking and building relationships with people. So I love the idea of this blog series, and couldn’t help but join in!

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Maintenance

I really suck at friendship maintenance.

There are a few reasons for this.

1. My health since I was about 16 is so unpredictable. I usually put work first, volunteer commitments second and friendships last. Particularly in winter time, I avoid people, because they have germs. And germs are evil. They make me sick. For aaaagggeess.

2. I don’t have the same interests as the majority of my friends. None of my current friends were dancers. None of them are crazy gymnastics fans. We don’t all have the same taste in film and TV (this especially a continued issue with my female friends who are fond of chick flicks or shows like X Factor and Gossip Girl). Oh, and being around very drunk people makes me nervous.

3. My life is a little bit mental. I have lots of friends and they are all very different people, with different beliefs, different personalities and at different life stages (birthdays are a nightmare – there is no way I can celebrate my birthday with all my friends at the same time, doing the same thing). I’m a pretty busy person. My family are…well…hmmm….yeah. Recently a fairly new friend on learning a bit more about my history said to me ‘How are you not completely insane?! Like…how are you normal?’

SO. I’m really not the best person to be giving tips on maintenance. But here’s how I’ve been trying to keep up.

1. I use the seriously long and dull bus journeys to and from work to catch up with people by text message. I do pray for my friends (yes, I’m weird like that) and usually if you pop into my mind while I’m chatting to God, you end up getting a text. Or a tweet soon after. :) Just checking up on you, and maybe seeing when you are next free to meet up. :)

2. Facebook. I try to keep up with my long distance friends by stalking them online. (Hi Nicola!) I ‘like’ and comment on their statuses. Ya know, just to remind them that I’m still interested in their lives and care about what they choose to share.

3. I rarely get the chance to travel to see friends, but if I think I could be near them and there’s a chance I could see them, then I’ll give them a shout to see if they can meet up. Even if it means getting a tube across London so I can eat lunch on a station bench for a 20 min catch up before I have to head back to Scotland.

4. I try to find the shared interest we have (no matter how geeky) and organise with them to do things around that. Like stalking Ray Meagher with Rebecca, Ruth, Oli and Mike. Watching NCIS with my friends Kathy and Duncan. Going to the gym with my friends from high school. Going to watch football with Richard and Ralph. Spending time with my friends Brian & Vicky and Andy & Carrie usually involves their kids (that’s Miss S, Mini Kahuna, Elastatoddler and Mr Teapot to all you folks) and sometimes we have ‘grown up time’ (dinners with serious grown up chat when kids are asleep, or outings when they have babysitters!) but it’s usually always preceded with time where they continually let me be a corruptive influence on their children indoctrinating them with Lilo & Stitch, Sylvanian Families, stoned sounding skater mice, headbanging and *occasionally* a little bit of mischief. Ahem

5. Shared experiences. Once in a while, you need to do something you don’t do every day with your friends. Whether it’s hanging out on the beach, going on holiday together, going to get a tattoo or trying out something new…you’re gonna make memories which you’ll look back and reminisce together on.

Nothing bonds you like going to university, the supermarket & rehearsals in pyjamas during an Aberdeen winter

…or staying up all night to watch sunrise on Summer Solstice

Road trippin’ in another country

parade through the dark, cold wintery streets of Edinburgh with fiery torches to start off Hogmanay

organising a gig and art exhibition together

going to see the not-so-popular films together

perhaps a spot of afternoon tea!

paint a bathroom…(and get high on paint fumes)

or just encourage each other that it’s totally a good thing to get super excited about the Olympics being in your country.

I’d love to know what you guys think, and tips you have on how I can be a better friend to people.

Please leave your friendship maintenance tips in a comment below...

Friendship tips: Starting Friendship

Callie at Through Clouded Glass has started a blog series on ‘Friendship‘. My friends (online and ‘IRL’) often joke that I seem to apparently ‘know everyone’ (I really don’t), but I guess it’s because I love networking and building relationships with people. So I love the idea of this blog series, and couldn’t help but join in!

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Starting Friendships

I’ve never really had a problem with starting friendships. Even as a teeny bopper I made friends with kids wherever I went! It didn’t matter to me who they were or where they came from, I would find a way to try and communicate and hang out with them.

Part of that for me is that I’m an extravert and I’m also a bit shy. A lot of people don’t get that  because they associate shyness with introversion or quietness and I am anything but quiet! But if there’s a social situation I’m unfamiliar with, I am FREAKING OUT on the inside. I get very intimidated walking into a room on my own – even if I know the people in it. If someone speaks to me I don’t know how to respond and I’ll either run away as quickly as possible or verbal diarrhoea will set in.

So I like to have lots of friends so I don’t have to enter large group social situations alone.

I guess my one tip for starting friendships is that you shouldn’t judge people. Some of my best friends are not people that I would have naturally associated myself with and we are very different people. In our interests, in our politics, in our beliefs, in our personalities, in our life stages. The trick is to find some kind of common ground in which to have a shared interest in and work from there.

My second tip is having patience. Building a new friendship takes time, and it’s highly unlikely you’re going to be best buds straight away. It takes time to build that trust and knowledge of each other. There’s not really a way of rushing through that.

My third tip is ask question – show interest in them. It can be very easy to assume that someone knows something about you that is common knowledge. So if they talk to you about something and you’re confused – just ask! Walking on eggshells will likely only make you feel awkward, and also could end up with you putting your foot in it at some point without realising. Respect each other if one of you asks a question you don’t feel comfortable answering – and also don’t be afraid to say you’re uncomfortable if you are. Honesty really is a good basis for any relationship. It’s what trust & respect are built on.

What are your tips for starting friendships?

The worst on-screen sex talk since Now and Then

Oh people.

I avoided Cougar Town because I thought it would be a show I would hate. I caught an interview with Busy Philipps (who I loved in Dawson’s Creek and in ER) and went online to check out the show purely because I was intrigued to see her in it. Anyway. I discovered this clip from it where Jules (Courtney Cox) tries to give her son and his new girlfriend a ‘safe sex’ talk.

It kinda reminded me of my days of a youth advice worker where kids nicked condoms off the sexual health clinic stall and had a water ballon fight outside in the car park.

Oh dear. This actually beats the ‘All woman have a garden…’ speech from Now and Then!

But points for creative thinking. The intentions were good… Tee hee.

Curiosity may get me in trouble from my friends…

One thing is for sure, I think I’m discovering why there are so many ‘Mommy bloggers’ out there in the blogosphere. Kids sure provide you with much to write and think about. Sorry to say that not much to blog from last weekend when Mr Teapot turned 2 – but check out my friend’s creation for the event (totally homebaked from scratch!). The best part was the fact that it was chocolate cake inside.

The only downside – my jeans got literally ‘caked’ with Thomas. And I didn’t notice until I went to put my jeans on to go to church on Sunday morning. Ha ha!

However, last night was one of those nights that I had one of those potentially corrupting children moments. Several of them in fact, complete with a classic BK style malteser moment. It all began as me & Miss Sweetroot were watching a DVD of her dance show from a couple of years ago. We’re talking about the dances, and the dance teachers we’ve had. Then out of the blue she just asks:

“Do you have a job?”

I of course answer “Yes

This is of course followed up by the key question: “What do you do for your job?”

Panic sets in. This is my friend’s only just turned 7 year old daughter. I’m pretty sure they have not had ‘the talk’ with her at this point in her life. I’m definitely sure the subject of people getting pregnant when they don’t want to be pregnant has never been talked about because she has only known pregnancy as something to be celebrated and excited about. I’m now wishing I’d become a teacher. Teacher would be an acceptable self explanatory answer to this question that my friend’s daughter would already know about. Pregnancy counsellor and teacher of sex education? Even amongst adults in the pub this answer can be quite the conversation shocker.

I think my answer was quite honest (and hopefully not going to get me killed by her parents!)

Well, I help people who are pregnant, and some Mummies whose babies went to heaven while they were still in their Mummy’s tummy before they got to be born“.

At this point I’m praying that this will be acceptable answer for her.

It seems to be.

She tells me of someone she knows whose baby went to heaven while it was in their tummy. But then she asks me the toughest question of all:

Why does God let the babies go to heaven before they get to be born?

Thankfully my truthful answer of “I don’t know” is acceptable. (Phew. Because I really don’t know.)

Later I take her up to bed and I read her a bible story (Jonah and the big fish), and she reads me a story (Chip & Wilf’s Arctic Adventure). We’ll skip the part where I had to climb up to her bunk bed and in the process caught my scarf with my leg, almost knocked myself out and fell in ungracefully into a pile of stuffed toys. We chat to God together for friends we know on holiday (prompting a question about whether they have sharks in Morocco in case our friend gets his arm bitten off while surfing like Bethany Hamilton).

I’ve no sooner gone downstairs, when I hear little creaks and footsteps outside the living room. I’m reading ‘Father Fiction‘ by Donald Miller.

What is that book about?

It’s about people who grew up without having Daddies” I say.

“How does that happen?” she asks.

And let’s just say that for the next 20 minutes we have lots of chats about half-siblings, step siblings, step parents, how some people’s Daddys might go away by choice and others don’t, and whether the Mummy of mine she’s met before is my ‘real Mummy’ and how I have lots of brothers and a sister but we don’t have the same parents.

Thankfully, when my friends came home and I told them these stories, they did laugh. And they told me that when she starts asking how babies are made, they are going to tell her to ask me instead.

I really hope my friends are joking. (You are kidding, right?!)

Anyway. All this to say that I’m back in the business of corrupting children. Or trying not to corrupt them. These conversations are definitely up there with the time when Miss S asked me about why I had two earrings in each of my ears.

And I now realise I’m officially getting too old to try and climb onto bunk beds.

:)

 

The wall: Love is respect and devotion…

“Father you saved me and showed me that life was much more than being some foolish man’s wife, showed me that love was respect and devotion, greater than planets, deeper than oceans.”

from I used to love him -Lauryn Hill

When I was in high school, I loved Lauryn Hill. I listened to her album ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill‘ many times. I didn’t really pay much attention to the lyrics of her songs though until the summer when I was stuck in bed with post-viral fatigue syndrome. It was then I discovered how much of her own story was in her songs – as I guess is the case with the majority of songwriters.

I do not have a good history with guys, and when I became a Christian I felt a huge pressure and expectation that to be a successful person I needed to be married. Preferably soon after graduating from university. I met several girls in the Christian Union who told me that the main reason they were at university was to meet their future husband. I remember a conversation with one friend about what we hoped to do after graduating and she said ‘Well, I plan to be married’. As if that was a definite and that was her full identity.

I began to wonder if maybe my independent ways were wrong. I never really sought out relationships, but they seemed to find me. I remember going out with a guy soon after I became a Christian just because he was interested in me and I thought ‘oh well, this must be God bringing my husband to be into my life’.

Yes. I was nuts.

I soon realised that it was indeed crazy.

But as I entered my last couple of years of uni, I let guys treat me really poorly.

I still remember going to a retreat with my church and our pastor’s wife praying for me. She told me that God was saying that I had been disobeying Him and I needed to do what God was saying I should do. I knew exactly what she meant – I knew God had been telling me to walk away from a relationship I was in. My faith and self-esteem were taking a beating and I think the only one who noticed was one of my friends (and I think she’ll know who she is). I went back and this person said it was like I had life back in my eyes again. I felt after that weekend that I had been brought back to life. We needed to talk I said. He said to me ‘God told you to break up with me, didn’t He? I was really scared you’d come back from that weekend and break up with me

It made me feel guilty. And so I didn’t do it.

I was a fool.

Eventually things escalated and he told me he didn’t want to be with me.

I felt such peace.

Did I bawl my eyes out later that day? Yes. As soon as I was at work alone I locked myself in an office and burst into tears calling several people. I got home that night and called my friend who came round with a box of tissues and let me sob into her shoulder for the longest time. I came down with flu that night and was off for a week. It was a horrible time.

But there was still peace deep down underneath the fear of being alone, the anxiety of the next phase of life.

I feel like I was saved though, I realised how much I had not been with someone who knew what love, respect or devotion really was.

And now I know.

Life is so much more than being a foolish man’s wife.

It’s not that I’m against being married, if a wise man came along who loved me and who I loved, who I believed shared my core beliefs and values, who I could see a compatible future with…then yes. I would be happy to become his wife.

But life does not depend on that.

And I’m not alone, because I have friends and people around me who know that love is respect and devotion, greater than planets and deeper than oceans. 

Those are the wise people I choose to have be a big part in my life.

The foolish ones are no longer allowed into my inner circle.

:)

All about anger

So these last few weeks I’ve been reading all about Anger.

Anger is an emotion I’m very familiar with. I’m pretty good at borderline passive-aggressive/aggressive anger. I say borderline because it comes with all the qualities of passive aggressive anger (rebelling, deliberately doing things to annoy said person I’m angry at without actually saying I’m angry at them) but usually comes with much stomping, ranting and ‘grrr-ing’. And swearing.

A few years ago now, when I was invited to lunch by a couple from the church I had just started attending (Hi John & Esther!) they introduced to me to the NOOMA DVDs. A new one had just come out that they’d bought and we all watched it after lunch called Store. I felt pretty convicted watching it. It showed a guy and his passive aggressive rage with all the irritating things that happened during his supermarket shop. I could relate. At the end though he does something constructive with his anger.

A couple of weeks later I entered my local 24 hr Tesco. I felt the rage. But I remembered the DVD. This was the result.

Last night, while doing a training session on Anger, we watched the DVD with our trainees (and yes, I fully confessed about my own supermarket rage incident).

I’ve learned a lot about anger over the last few weeks. What it does in our bodies chemically. Thinking about what we’ve been taught directly or indirectly about anger as children, and how that affects us today as adults. How destructive suppressing anger can be. And how we can express our anger constructively.

In our recovery programme, we talk about positive anger, and suggest a formula of expressing it…

When you did ….. it made me feel …..

This week I read about an extra part, which I think is really important.

When you did …. it made me feel …. and what I would like is …

The reason I think it’s important is that even when we manage to pinpoint the cause of the anger – the action rather than the person and tell them how it made us feel, that’s all well and good. But we’re not mind readers to know how to prevent the bad feelings from rising again.

Unless we work out what the alternative action should be.

Now what I need to do is put ‘assertive communication’ into practice, to express my anger positively and constructively.

In the meantime, I’m off to read about Grief.

:)

 

More than friends

In a week of catching up with some of my friends, one friend asked me a very wise question:

How do we make our friendships truly authentic?

One of the concepts that Jud and Mike talked about in a book that they wrote is ‘Character Creep’. You probably don’t remember, but I wrote about one of my challenges with character creep that occurred on my way home from a holiday in Cornwall two years ago.

We talked a little about this. I don’t know about you, but I’ve watched many friends and relatives slip down a slippery slope. The worst is when you find that your friend or relative is at the bottom of the slope and you didn’t even realise that he/she was slipping.

Like your friend being sectioned, and it’s only then you find out she’s been self harming and suffering from bulimia for months and attempted suicide a couple of times. How did I not see something was wrong?

Or maybe your relative is taken to court accused of fraud, and you begin to realise things that you brushed off as you being ‘ridiculous’ suddenly make a whole lot of sense. If I’d challenged them on it, would they have told me the truth?

Perhaps your friend has been having an inappropriate relationship with a person, and it’s just something you couldn’t have imagined them ever getting involved in. Why didn’t I realise?

The thing is, we all have our secrets and the stuff we get tempted by that causes us to thank our stars that nobody on this planet can read our minds. We know right and wrong, but sometimes we struggle to make the right choice. And occasionally circumstances make it way too easy to take the path we know is not going to do us any good in the long run.

How then, do we build the kind of friendships where someone might pull us back off the dodgy track?

As I thought about it (out loud, as us extraverts tend to do) I realised the question was not ‘How do we build friendships where we can ask the challenging questions‘ but ‘How do we build the friendships where someone feels they can confess to us‘.

I’m not sure I have the answers to that question, and I’m almost definite that there is no formula that can be followed to create that kind of friendships.

I do know that I have had that kind of friendship. One was my best friend in high school – the only one I told that I was pregnant because I was too ashamed to admit it to anyone else. And I had a whole bunch of those friends at my church in Aberdeen. They earned the right to challenge me, but the also proved themselves trustworthy of confessing to because of their supportive and non-judgmental attitude (for which I’m very grateful).

Do you have that kind of friendship with someone, and what helped you get to that level of transparency in your relationship with them?

 

Characteristics & Relationships

Hi People of the Blogosphere,

I know I’m blogging less at the moment, just because my brain is full at the moment try to take in the whole bible in a year, theology stuff at inter:act (I fell asleep on Tuesday trying to listen to some talk on Romans…) and been visiting a couple of pregnancy centres this week too. And also trying to work out how and where I should be involved in the life of the church I’m part of in Edinburgh. Eek.

Anyway, I’m putting together some youth work resources on Relationships & Sexual Health – and need some help from the general online public. Can you help me by answering the following questions?

1. Name 1 (or more) characteristic(s) you look for in a friend

2. Name 1 (or more) characteristic(s) you would want to avoid in a potential friend

3. Name 1 (or more) characteristic(s) you look for in a girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife

4. Name 1 (or more) characteristic(s) you would want to avoid in a girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife

Thank you blog readers!

Your help is so very appreciated. Thank you also to everyone who has helped sending in recipes. It’s not too late to help!

Laura Anne xx

More lessons in leadership

This leadership thing is tough.

For those of you who hopped over to Shelley’s blog last week to read my guest post (thank you to all of you who left me a comment, I really appreciate every single comment I get on any post I write) you might realise that I have a fair bit of insecurity regarding my current status in this area!

It has not been an easy ride.

I’m battling the whispers and memories of negative words spoken over me. Why is that you always remember the bad stuff? My friend Tam talked about this recently, and I can only echo my agreement with all she said in her post that day. The power of word is huge.

These battle scars are not ones that can be seen. And it is so easy for old wounds to be reopened.

Something that deeply concerns me is the lack of support and the unwillingness of organisations to open their doors to pregnancy crisis support, sex and relationships education and post abortion & miscarriage recovery. People seem to be scared of what I do. It seems to make them uncomfortable.

There is a huge generational gap in our organisation, and as cancer seems to attack (quite literally in some cases) I worry that with death or retirement our work is going to die too. And it is still so needed.

Something I’m trying to encourage the folks in leadership of centres across the country is making sure they have pastoral support, a team of encouragers and prayer warriors and to be training up the next generation.

I’m making that my own goal for this year.

Lead by example.

I want people to learn how to do my job – because if this year has taught me anything, it’s that even though I’m ‘only’ 26, I don’t know how long I have here. I need to be replacable! If I’m Moses, I need a Joshua, and if I’m Paul, I need a Timothy… :)

The one thing I have very little control over is financial support, pastoral support, encouragers and prayer warriors. About 99% of this form of support I receive through cyberspace. Lovely, but not ideal. I’m so thankful it has been there though. I don’t think I’d have got this far otherwise.

The nervousness of ‘shocking’ people. As I spoke to the group in front of me in the Highlands on Monday night, a few eyebrows were raised, some expressions stony…but eventually there were smiles (phew!). But the stigma and fear of being part of this kind of ministry seems to remain.

In the meantime, we end up having to turn away people needing our help because of the lack of resources.

I’m not sure if that makes me sad, angry or just decreases my faith….or maybe a combo of all of the above!