I am grateful…

Oh man, it’s got a bit negative round here. :) After a loongg and exhausting week, it’s now Friday. I’ve done (more) than my work hours. My girlguiding tasks (minus paying a cheque into our bank) are done. I’ve run out of water, juice and living on the contents of my freezer. And thank the Lord for herbal tea so I don’t dehydrate in the meantime. It is time to get to work on the assignment I think most (or all) of my classmates have been working on since last weekend.

So naturally, I’m pausing to write on my blog!

One of the two friends I met through  blogging before finding each other at our church, has been doing this great thing on Instagram sharing the things she is grateful for. It’s a good discipline I think, remembering all that is good instead of focusing on all the stress and crappy things that happen.

So here is what I’m grateful for right now…

…I’m grateful for my incredible friends. There is a core of close friends (and even that bunch are a large group) who continually encourage me, support me and remind me of their love in a whole variety of different ways. Since starting university I’ve been a flaky friend and yet they still love me. I asked on twitter, and I’ll ask it again…remind me never to take them for granted.

…I’m grateful for good tenants. The tenants in my flat just now have been fantastic at not trashing the place and even going as far to clean up what previous tenants didn’t bother to clean. I’m going to miss them and wish they weren’t moving out.

…I’m grateful for God’s provision in financing my studies. It’s been a costly thing this postgraduate life. One of the things that has blessed me most was my “Young Persons” railcard that I got as a mature student. Because of that each commute to Glasgow has cost me £20 rather than £26. When you think there have been weeks I’ve had to make two trips, the difference between £40 and £52 is pretty significant. It also saved me about £10-15 when I had to go up to Aberdeen to meet the builder a few weeks ago. A couple of friends bought me an Amazon voucher for my birthday this year, and that helped a lot in getting some books (I don’t like using Amazon, but sadly a lot of the books I’ve needed haven’t been available in the library or in the university bookshops to buy).

…I’m grateful for Girlguiding. Not only have I made some fabulous friends, and reconnected with old Girlguiding friends via facebook, but it is so rewarding to see the girls I work with growing, maturing and gaining independence. To see one of the girls whose name I learned first (never a good sign) standing and taking seriously the honour of holding our unit flag on Remembrance Sunday was worth those extra grey hairs I had to get Ruth to cover up with hair colour! Even better is seeing their self esteem rise with feedback they received from people who saw the girls and thanked them afterward for getting up on that frosty Sunday morning to take part.

…I’m grateful that I’m no longer a teenager. Is it just me, or are we asking too much of kids these days? Education seems increasingly inflexible, rule-driven and lacking in freedom to learn.

I hope I can work on changing that after I get qualified!

…I’m grateful for the shelf in the freezer stocked with chocolate banana teabread and chilli when it’s been two weeks since I last made a supermarket trip.

…I’m grateful for my health. Yes, there are minor issues that niggle me and maybe I have to be more careful than some. But in the grand scheme of things I’m doing pretty good, and if I’m honest, I had concerns that by this point in the season I’d be flu ridden from germs shared on the bus/train/subway.

…I’m grateful that it hasn’t snowed yet in Edinburgh.

…I’m grateful for all the people supporting the charity I work for as we head into one of our busiest times of the year (and have to pay our rent for our centre’s premises next week).

…I’m grateful for heating, shelter and clothing. Two pairs of jeans, three pairs of pyjamas and one cosy winter jacket is quite a lot when I consider a person I know who lost everything but the clothes she had on not too long ago. Or the 1000s in the Phillippines who lost their belongings, and even worse, loved ones a week or so ago.

…I’m grateful for the chance to go to Germany in February. And I’m even more thankful it might give me a chance to see some people living ‘on the continent’.

…I’m grateful for that we are getting back to basics and getting stuck into some bible study on Tuesday evenings with Soul Surfers. It’s fun to grapple with man-made studies, but nothing beats grappling with God’s Word, which is always challenging and/or encouraging.

…I’m grateful for the chance to go to a church service on Sunday. Yes, I’m still hurting a little, some of my friends are still hurting a lot. But the hurt is easing, and in a strange way not being able to go every single week has made the times I do get to go much happier and I appreciate it much more. When I know that so many are under threat if they gather around to sing hymns and songs to God and pray together, it makes you really appreciate the freedom to worship – and to choose what you do or don’t believe in.

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…

Fi’s Texan Thanksgiving Challenge

So my friend Fiona who now lives in Texas did this really cool Thanksgiving challenge where you list 100 things you are grateful for. I thought that sounded pretty cool, so I thought I’d give it a whirl!

10 Physical Things

Water – Colour – Sight – Dance – Gymnastics – hugs – flat cycle paths – bridges (no ferries!) – Fruit – Glaciers (they make the countryside look so much more awesome)

1o material things

Fleecy blankets – jeans – my laptop – DVD boxsets – earmuffs – gloves – shoes – car access – bags (of all kinds) – Innocent Smoothie hats

In case you missed it on twitter – my first 2 Big Knit hats of 2012!

10 living people

My Mum – My sister – my friends – Nelson Mandela – Desmond Tutu – Michelle Obama – Martha Payne – Beth Tweddle – Bethany Hamilton – all the unsung heroes who we never hear about who believe in people’s ability to fulfil their potential when they don’t believe in themselves.

10 Deceased People

my Nana – Rosa Parks – Martin Luther King – Queen Elizabeth, the Queen mother – Ludwig ‘Poppa’ Guttman (if you don’t know who he is…you should find out) – John Peel – The Suffragettes – James Simpson – Pyotr Tchaikovsky – Elsie Inglis

10 things about today

Closer to equality for women & people of all ethnic backgrounds – Sainsbury’s and the amazing range of healthy food there – the National Health Service – education for all chlidren in our country – contraception (freedom, access and choice of method in our country!) – Public transport – Chocolate – ease of communication across the world – movement between social class is possible – the Arts (dance, theatre, film, painting, sculpture, architecture…)

10 things about nature

Koalas (of course!) – beach – ocean waves – ducks swimming on ponds & rivers – trees – glaciated landscapes (I appreciate them now I don’t have to study them) – deep fresh fluffy snow – sunshine – sunflowers – fresh fruit & veg

10 Places

Scotland (too many places in this country to count separately) – Barcelona, Spain – Blue Mountains NP, Australia – High Atlas Mountains, Morocco – Constantine Bay, England – Central Park in New York City, USA – Black Forest, Germany – Cape Byron, Australia – Lyon, France – Amanzimtoti Beach, South Africa

10 modern interventions

Film in your own home (or indeed many episodes of How I Met Your Mother, White Collar, NCIS, Friends etc.) – cars – mobile phones – the internet – ultrasound – organ transplants – central heating – electric showers – blenders – all the ways to play & record music

10 foods

Chocolate (Green & Blacks Milk, almond, butterscotch OR Lindt is my fave!)- Camembert cheese turned into fondue with breadsticks – Berries (raspberries, blueberries & blackberries especially!) – yorkshire puddings with chicken gravy – Baby Leaf Spinach – Cherries – Cupcakes – Pasta Napoli – Pizza – Kathy’s Chocolate Brownies

10 spiritual things

grace – prayer – compassion – love – forgiveness – redemption – mercy – blessing – spiritual gifts – themba

Bawling to the top…

How did life go from this

to this

in the space of 24 hours?

To say this weekend was a tough one would be a wee bit of an understatement. A few weeks ago, I wrote an ‘ode to a normal week‘. I realised later that building a campfire twice in 7 days and arriving at my friends’ house at 11 p.m covered in melted slug, mud and charcoal stinking of campfire smoke so we could get up at the crack of dawn to watch people running through the streets carrying a flaming torch is not particularly ‘normal’. Or restful!

I said this to two of our volunteers last week as we painted things and waited for carpet fitters and furniture deliveries.

Sounds like a normal week in the world of Laura Anne though‘ they said.

I realise that not an awful lot of things in my life are particularly average or ‘normal’. It’s maybe why I find it difficult to fit in with other people and often struggle with feeling really isolated and alone in this crazy world.

I had a fabulous time on Saturday night in ‘Hawaii’ celebrating a friend’s birthday. There were lots of people I hadn’t seen in a while there, many from my old church. A lot of them asked about my work – was I still there? How was it going? Was I getting support from people in my new church for what I do?

Maybe it was what began to set me off. All I know is one minor thing at church on Sunday morning and I felt the tears welling up. I got up and walked out, went to my car and just started bawling my eyes out.

Turns out, it would be a theme for the day.

I went to work, knowing that things in our refurbishment project hadn’t quite gone to plan on the day I wasn’t there. I was in no way prepared for what I walked into and it induced a great deal more tears. Oh, and a flare up of my old RSI injury. I was upset, frustrated, angry and feeling a bit hopeless. Truthfully, I was exhausted and feeling really oversensitive and I had no idea why!

Eventually I came home, getting some food from my favourite Italian takeaway en route, and then found out the news about Sheree. (More tears). Curled up in my duvet feeling drained, sad and in a small bit of pain and discomfort I wondered what I was doing with my life.

Today though, seeing all the pain and stress as the hard work came together and saw how encouraged people were to see the massive difference in the look and feel of our centre…made it all worth it.

And I remembered why on the nights I was packing our centre into boxes at 8.30 p.m. with Sarah, or the Saturday I was getting high on paint fumes thinking how I’d have to do a 5 hour round trip to fulfil my property owner responsibilities the next day, the bank holiday where we were clearing paint off the floor and trying to make everything functional…I had to keep saying to myself ‘It’s all going to be worth it in the end‘.

What I told myself was right.

My job isn’t just a job because I love what I do. I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of comforts to continue doing it, but seeing the culmination of 4 years of dreaming…is incredible.

And thank you – because honestly without my online friends who have encouraged me, cheered me up, prayed for us and even given financially to us, I think I’d have thrown myself into the Water of Leith by now! It’s meant so much to know that there are people who have my back and ‘get it’ and accept me for the slightly crazy person I am! ;)

Thankful Thursday

So for a while there my lovely friend Ruth was doing a thing called ‘Thankful Thursdays‘. Today is Thursday, which is weird because yesterday felt like a Thursday all day and I had to keep reminding myself that it was in fact WEDNESDAY. And I’m very thankful today.

Music is a huge part of my life. I love to listen to it, I love to dance to it, I love to sing to it, and I used to love to create it. The door jamb of my car is still filled with mixtapes (redundant since an iPod tape adaptor got stuck in Cassie’s tape machine a couple of years ago). When the (evil) tramworks began on Leith Walk, I used to drown out the noise and destruction of the suburb that I love with my iPod when I walked to my work. When I housesat for my eco warrior surfing jesus loving friends, I’d pop my iPod into their massive dock and rock out in the kitchen as I made my tea or listen to worship music on Sunday mornings before church as I ate breakfast. My iPod earphones helped combat earache from the wind tunnel walk to the medical school. Music energised me through exam revision. It calmed me or helped me express my anger. It kept me alert as I drove my car up and down the UK.

And then my poor little iPod began to die.

My laptop became my iPod on train rides to London.

Silence or talking got me through gym sessions – not so productive without my ‘Gym Playlist’.

Journeys became more tedious in silence or with background noise.

Somehow, I managed to save money over Christmas. I’m still unsure how because there’s no miraculous donation in my bank statements. With that, plus the money returned for a gift my Mum bought me that never arrived on our doorstep I was able to purchase a refurbished iPod nano this week. I just know that I really, really appreciate the privilege of having an iPod again. I look forward to cooking to music, having a soundtrack for my journeying and some encouragement and inspiration for the treadmill/rowing machine/bike/cross trainer.

:)

I know that I loved my old iPod, and I’m sad that it ‘died’. It was frustrating not to be able to just replace it. Now that I’ve been able to, I know that this is a luxurious gift.

One that I truly appreciate.

 

Grateful

You may have picked up from twitter/facebook that I’ve been an invalid koala for the last few days. To be expected I guess when my ‘mbc’ and ‘irl-friends’ twitter list feeds are filled with ailing tweeters. Even one of our volunteers who NEVER gets ill has been down with a horrible cold. And today, I’m sad because I was DETERMINED to be well enough to go see Harry Potter, but in the end had to admit defeat. :(

But  I want to say that I am grateful.

I am grateful that I have lasted this long before I got ill. Though I’ve had a few days where I’ve felt really yucky but it’s never come to anything, really this is the first time I’ve been properly ‘out of action’ since I can’t remember when.

I am grateful that I don’t have a cold (at least not yet). I’ve fought fevers & been coughing my guts up, but my sinuses have been behaving themselves!  Therefore I can get sleep and don’t look like Rudolph.

I am grateful that when I had a fever the other night, it took me a while to find some paracetamol. Because so rarely take paracetamol. I still remember when paracetamol and other painkillers were a regular item on my supermarket shopping list.

I am grateful for the fact that I’d been gradually taking over a drawer in my Mum’s freezer and was able to make a whole batch of ‘mumps soup’ the other week and freeze some of it. Plus that Innocent fruit squeezies have been on special offer in Sainsbury’s lately. With little appetite and zero energy, I’ve been thankful for both!

I am grateful for heat packs and hot water bottles since my muscles are kinda sore from all the coughing.

I am grateful that there is a whole week until the first Rock Gospel choir practice (phew).

I am grateful our heating is in good working order, and for twitter which keeps me sane when I’m stuck in isolation!

I am grateful for the inter:act team who prayed for me on Tuesday when I was out for the count at home, and for the team at our  pregnancy centre…especially our counselling supervisor. We had our annual team meeting which was very important, and I couldn’t miss. They helped make being there manageable by bringing stuff, getting there early to set up the room, tea/coffee, baking stuff, printing off agendas I sent by e-mail.

It would be very easy to wallow in the fact I feel a little bit rubbish right now, but really? I have so much to be grateful for!

And to end, I just wanted to share some pics of 2 groovy characters I ‘met’ when staying at Sarah’s parents’ house near Blackpool on Sunday night…


Sarah reckons that me and the orange fluffy fish are long lost twins. And can you believe that ‘Tickle Me Elmo’ was rescued at a table top sale by Sarah’s Mum for a mere £1 (he’s worth so much more than that!!!). You can see Elmo in action here.

A Week of Thanksgiving: The Happy Bus (at CarolineCollie.com)

Tomorrow is THANKSGIVING over in the USA. And my international North Carolina friend, Caroline is letting her friends take over her blog for a week of thanksgiving posts…

Today, I’m the very honoured guest. You may remember Caroline, Mark & the Bear (soon to be joined by a new addition to the Collie clan early in 2011!) when they were guests on LFS Introducing… telling us about their journey to South Africa to start Samaritan’s Feet.

It’s Easy to be Thankful on the Happy Bus

“Wait! I thought I got to stay on the bus forever?!”

Poor Lisa. I remember when it was me who was the new Christian, and my friends had told me that knowing Jesus was the coolest thing ever (truth) and that I’d never be sad again (lie) – I was pretty destroyed when I discovered that being a Christian did not keep me on that proverbial ‘happy bus’ forever.

There are times in our lives when God is so obviously and blatantly present in our lives, we feel close to Him, we can hear His voice clearly and it seems we are abundantly blessed. Life is good. Everything is not just as we had hoped, but so much better than we expected!

And then there are those other times…

Continue Reading here…

 

We’re thankful for…

Happy Thanksgiving to my Americanese friends!

Hope you are enjoying a holiday with family and/or friends today.

Thought it would be nice in the spirit of being thankful, to give thanks together…

I’m thankful for…

…lovely friends

…a sister who is now living in London (please Jesus provide an opportunity for me to go see her in 2010!)

…an afternoon off today watching Up (slightly weird but great film)

…that God is doing some incredible things just now

…chocolate – yummy and without which Saturday’s fundraiser and the recipe collection would be non-existent!

…washing machines, especially when you’re the person that managed to somehow drip melted cheese down in the inside of your top and cardigan sleeves. And then on smart trousers. Oops.

…a great team of volunteers who help keep the pregnancy crisis centre going and do a fantastic job with clients and with teens in schools we visit.

…that our plane didn’t crash onto the runway at Edinburgh airport when we landed last night…and that no one near me was sick (seriously, it’s a miracle).

What are you thankful for?

Confessions and Questions

Last week, a post of Pete Wilson’s caught my attention, (as they often d0). I have been running on empty for a looonnnnggg time now.

I realise that part of my stuggle was trying to separate God’s expectations from my own/other people’s expectations.

Since 2004, I’ve always used the sentence ‘I have been healed from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’.

This week I’ve been forced to recognise that as much as I really want to believe that to be true, there is a strong possibility that it’s not true.

I hate admitting this.

It brings so many questions.

How do you balance that with being in leadership? How do you still serve as part of church? How do you get spiritually replenished when you can barely get out of bed in the morning?

How do you say ‘no’ to things you really believe in and are passionate about? Should you be saying no at all? Should you just be trying to push through?

How do you cope when someone gives you a compliment and it just makes you want to cry because more and more you are struggling to do what you love? How do you cope when your spirit says one thing and your body says another?

When the culture you are part of is ‘all or nothing’…how do you deal with the fact that your limitations force you to try find a compromise? Will people accept that, or is it that you’re going to have to be replaced in God’s kingdom?

Something I’ll never forget was the first year of dealing with CFS and the different responses from people in church.

On a really bad day I was rota-ed on to sing in the music team, the worship leader was awesome. He picked me up from my flat because he knew I wouldn’t be able to walk at that time in the morning. They had a seat so I could sit between songs or while I sang if I couldn’t manage to stand.

After the service the band and service leaders came together in a prayer huddle.

A leader turned to me to tell me off for having a seat because it wasn’t ‘worshipful’.

Should I just have not sang?

Should I have stayed home?

Was it my lack of faith?

And why couldn’t I just ‘snap out of it’ like so many people suggested I should?

These are the questions in my head right now. As I struggle to even pray. I can pray for everyone who has really life threatening stuff going on. That stuff is the real stuff that needs prayer.

As I keep trying to do all the work I can, so thankful now that I only work part-time. Thankful I work with an amazing group of people who are incredibly understanding. Thankful (in a wish you hadn’t been through it too, but glad you understand what it’s like) that someone in my soon-to-be-made-extinct smallgroup has been through this. Thankful for social networking which is becoming a lifeline & at times my only connection to the outside world. Thankful for people I connect with online who understand what this is like. Thankful for so many encouraging blog friends who encourage and get me thinking.

But scared.

Scared as I look ahead to heading to Basingstoke in a couple of weeks time (booking a 6 a.m. flight now seems utter folly). Scared as I know that there will be no smallgroup come January…it’s going to be just little me from there forward.  Scared when I think of the training course Sarah and I will be leading January-May. Scared as I think of schools visits, the germs, and no one to replace me if I get ill.

Holding on…

Holding on to the words of Isaiah

“The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 40: 28-31