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…

Hopping on the Priscilla bus

I think I’ve got out of the habit of blogging a little bit. I’ve not really wanted to write too much this last week, because I’ve been struggling a little bit with the deepening onset of Winter Blues. I’m now on the search for winter clothes. I’ve been really finding it tough to find clothes to wear as my wardrobe is filled with clothes that don’t fit or clothes that are so worn they need to be binned. :( sad times. I having to suck it up and rake through the sale racks (not good for my OCD – I can’t stand messy clothing stores).

The biggest news this week though is… I’M GOING TO SEE PRISCILLA!!!

Lots of my online friends know that I’m a fan of Home and Away. And was dead chuffed that Ray Meagher FINALLY won a Gold Logie last year (thanks Diane & Paula for tweeting the results that night).

Last year we found out Ray was coming to the UK to be in Priscilla. Rebecca, Ruth, Carolyn and I had hoped to all go, combining a ‘tweet-up’ with a chance to see ‘Alf’ in action. However, Ruth and I were doing inter:act, seriously low on funds as a result of that and couldn’t go. Sob! :( I kept trying to win tickets for us, and I won a signed t-shirt instead (which is pretty darned cool).

Then, Diane tweeted me to say Ray Meagher was going to be on This Morning (a well-known TV magazine show in the UK, the closest equivalent I can think of in the USA would be Today Show or Australia’s Morning Show). From watching that we discovered that Priscilla was closing at the end of the year and Ray was back to be in it for the last 3 months.

I knew that I was headed to London so I could get a lift with some folks from one of the London pregnancy centres to our national conference in Northampton in November. Would the stars align?

It would seem that yes they would. It was cheaper for me to travel down on the Wednesday, which is the night Rebecca was free to see the show. My friend Mike (who lives in London) said he’d be up for going. Then Ruth found out that she’d be able to come on the Wednesday too. Rebecca’s friends were able to come also. The only sad part is that Carolyn’s job means that she can’t come with us too.

We got a great deal on tickets, Ruth & I got a great deal on train fares and hopefully we will get a great deal on a place to stay on the Wednesday night too.

Priscilla – we are coming! And Ray Meagher – we fully intend on hanging around the Stage Door to meet you after!

I am so excited to have something to look forward to this winter.

Even if now I might find it a challenge to feed and clothe myself for the next few months.

 

More tales of online friends becoming ‘IRL’ friends

 

I was trying to explain to some of my ‘IRL’* friends about the friendships I’ve made through blogging and twitter. When I told my Mum about my road trip last year, she was afraid for my life and didn’t really get it. A lot of my friends don’t ‘get’ twitter either. And I can understand that. I didn’t either at first, and really would have given up on it, if it hadn’t been for encouragement from one of my friends.

I have met so many amazing people through twitter especially and friends of bloggers! Miss Flinderella above is a fine example. I love that now flinderella is meeting some of my ‘IRL’ friends via twitter networking (thank you muchly to Follow Friday shout-outs) and we’ve now met two times more since our first ‘IRL’ meeting last summer, the most recent being in April when we headed to eteaket for afternoon tea. If it hadn’t been for blogging I would not have met her, and if it hadn’t been for twitter I would not have got to know her as easily and now I know my life is richer for her friendship!
And the most recent…Rebecca! Rebecca and I have been trying to meet up for over a year now, and I was so excited when she announced that she was planning a ‘city break’ to Edinburgh. Firstly, it meant there was a good chance of meeting her in real life at last. Secondly, I hoped I’d get to be a tour guide a little bit (something the blogging friends who have met me in this city have probably realised I love being!). She wrote a lovely post about her Edinburgh experience which you could read here. I’m sorry it rained so much for them (actually Becca & her friend got Edinburgh on a drier patch of our summer so far, believe it or not). But I just wanted to say I felt exactly the same about Becca – there was no pretense and one of the things I’ve always admired about Rebecca in her blogging and tweeting is her honesty and authenticity – meeting her in real life just affirmed that.

And yes, we did do the Witchery Tour. If you’re in Edinburgh, and not someone who takes themselves too seriously, I totally recommend it. We’re pictured here with Alexander Clapperton (our deceased guide who works in the Cemetery) and Ruariadh MacLeod, the highlander who invaded the lowlands. He looked suspciously like Agnes Finnie, the foul clenger & the beggar though…hmmm. Suspicious ghosties!

Haste ye back blog friends!

 

* IRL = ‘In Real Life’

 

 

 

Alf would call us “Flamin’ Gallahs”

You might know that amongst the LFS Blog community there are a few of us that are huge Home & Away fans. The only problem is where myself & Rebecca watch it on Australian time, others are a week or so behind on UK time, and they don’t do what Rebecca and I do (watch previews, go on the H&A Australian website to try and work out what’s going to happen next).

Rebecca and I got caught talking about H&A by our mutual tweeting & blogging friend Ruth. And so we decided to hide our real conversation by creating a few um….made up storylines. Which got more and more unlikely as we went on.

And on that bombshell, and the fact that we thought our twitter friendship with Ruth may soon be broken forever, we finally confessed.

So just to clarify (to our knowledge): John hasn’t cheated on Gina with Morag, Angelo is not in cahoots with April & Roo trying to poison a pregnant Nicole, as far as we know Miles and Elijah remain just friends, and Miles has not discovered GHDs in Africa. Colleen doesn’t have a crush on Miles nor did she catch him out naked ‘Brad Style’ in a bathtub outside Summer Bay House, Alf & Irene are not going to elope and there are no alien invasions or asteriod attacks on the Summer Bay caravan park.

We hope that Cameron Welsh & Sam Atwell (who are part of the H&A crew & both on twitter) have not been watching our tweets & getting weird ideas. Though we do hope when Elijah comes back it is because he’s in Summer Bay to STAY.

And to Ruth, we’re very sorry for being so mischievous.

Please forgive us?

God can speak through Mma Ramotswe too

So…I created a bit of a stir with this tweet this morning…

I admit, yesterday I had some buttons pushed when I was interviewed for some research (namely ‘Define mission’ – gah! If I hear that or ‘missional’ being spoken one more time I may scream. Or just have another rant). And you know I do read Christian books. I’ve recommended Christian books that I’ve found very thought provoking and enjoyed reading.

But I do get seriously depressed by seeing multiple invitations to Christian event after Christian event on my facebook, and the endless promotion of ‘I’m reading all these Christian books’ on Twitter.

Does everyone seriously just go to church, do outreach and listen to Christian bands and read Christian books?

Because you are really missing out.

And you are going to struggle to explain anything of your faith or the reasons of why you live your life without occasionally dipping into the culture that is out there.

Our ability to create is so related to our muses – how we get inspired.

Yes. I read Christian books. Yes. I sing as a backing vocalist at church and local youth worship nights. Yes. I listen to Christian music. I even own a few NOOMA DVDs.

But you know what I also read? Alexander McCall Smith & Jodi Picoult & Paullina Simons. Sometimes I throw in a bit of Steinbeck and I can’t wait to have time to dig into Richard Yates, Nicola Hulks & Fran Brady! I’m also a complete Harry Potter geek. I listen to my Tim Hughes, Brooke Fraser and Matt Redman (mainly to learn new songs or reflect on things God has been talking to me about). I also listen to Lauryn Hill, Alexi Murdoch, Nada Surf, Oasis, Death Cab for Cutie, Ben Folds and Jack Johnson. Just occasionally I might dance to Madonna. And I love going to the cinema on Cheap Tuesdays and chatting to my friends about films we’ve seen.

So though I love to hear it when you’ve read a book by Donald Miller (who’s writing really inspires me by the way), I encourage you to share about something else you read or heard or seen that wasn’t created by Jesus loving hands that inspires you.

Do you honestly believe that Christians have a monopoly on creativity? Can God not use any means to draw something to your attention?

And I’m encouraged by some of the responses from my friends…(and this is probably why I feel like I know these folks on twitter/blogosphere. They don’t just share about the ‘spiritual’ parts of their lives).

The only problem is that I have a pile of Christian books I have to read for inter:act (best cure for insomnia ever as it turns out…) and for work. And now I want to run to the library and get stuck into some of the suggestions above!!

Let’s hope for a sunshiney summer of reading in the garden. I can almost guarantee Wayne Grudem & Bruce Milne won’t be joining me with my ice lolly.

Standing up and standing out

You might have noticed by now that I don’t have a lot of tolerance for sexual exploitation of any sort. Whether that is trafficking women into the country to get them prostituting themselves, raping babies because you think it’ll cure you of HIV, slipping a drug in someone’s drink in a nightclub or selling stuff using sex, or using someone purely for sex with none of the commitment to relationships……..(and lots of other things I could list…)

It quite frankly gets me pretty ticked off. The ‘inner Leither girl’ is awakened.

And I know I’m not the only one who feels that way.

So when I heard what my online friend Diane & her friends were doing for Stand Out International, I jumped at the chance to support it!

Especially when Diane created a supercool portrait of me to use as my avatar! :)

Thank you Diane! And well done to everyone at Stand Out International, and everyone supporting them in the work they are doing. (Oh, and blog readers…if you are able and wanting to support them too…GO FOR IT!)

BK’s UK Tour: Days 9 & 10 – North Wales

Leaving the street party early, I headed back onto the M56 and an hour later was met with the sight of a dragon etched on the side of a hill…I had indeed cross the border from England to Cymru with many places with names I could neither spell or pronounce properly, and with roads signed in both Welsh and English.

I got a little lost trying to find the right street, but got there in the end, the funniest thing phoning the Gills and trying to find something close by to pronounce to explain where I was!!

A lovely dinner was had with mixed mexican and welsh cakes (both yummy), meeting the many pets (including the evil hamster whose works I’d seen on facebook), and then sharing some of our favourite comedy clips which started with a Coldplay spoof since Jeff remembered how much I hate, despise, would rather rip my ears off than listen to, absolutely cannot stand Coldplay tunage. :)

This morning we were all up early, as we had to (ok, Jeff & Christine had to) set up for church. I’ve wanted to visit the folks at i61 for ages. The church started in a pub, so I figured it had to be pretty rockin’ right?

Yes. That IS right.

I love a church that advertises using their own beermats!! Tee hee!

But in all seriousness, it was a wonderfully friendly, down to earth bunch of people I got to meet. They had rugs with instruments for kids to sit on during part of the service (all the service for the kids in years 6-8). The musical worship was great, and led very ably by a team of different people from church (great to see a lassie on the bass) Lots of people contributed. They prayed over a team of all ages about to head to Uganda this week (which includes Jeff & Christine’s eldest daughter). Jeff brought some of the people of their smallgroup called ‘Discovering Spiritual Maturity’ which had all ages (from 12 up to people in their 40s?) – so refreshing to see a church living out the things they say (age & maturity are not the same thing).

Oh. And Jeff as he began preaching decided to give me a shout out. Introducing me as someone he met on the internet.

Because that didn’t sound dodgy AT ALL! Lol

I also got to meet Lee & Sarah who I vaguely knew from Twitter (and who will be meeting the Paynes from Norfolk in real life later in the summer!!)

I was sad to leave, and did put it off for as long as I could…packed off with some of Christine’s homemade welsh cakes for the journey and hugs all round.

A big massive fail is that I didn’t get any pictures of the Gills or indeed, North Wales.

So clearly, I’m just going to have to go back to visit some time to rectify that!! ;)

When virtual friends become in-person friends…

It’s funny the timing of this post by Lori on Leading and Loving It. Because this week I was leading and living it.

I first started making virtual friends when my stepfather brought home a computer and immediately set up our dial-up internet connection (I bet most of you barely remember…if at all…a time when being on the internet meant you couldn’t use your homephone at the same time!). It was Day 4 of Chicken Pox for me(Day 2 after I finally confessed when my scratching got noticed…darn) and I think they were a little freaked out by me having (out of pure unadulterated boredom & cabin fever) cleaned the entire house…including pulling out sofas and scrubbing at skirting boards.

Just so you know, at no point during my high school or university exams did my boredom or procrastination ever reach that level of obsessive cleaning again.

First of all, I met several people online – one of which I still keep on contact with on facebook though we’ve yet to meet in person.

And then I quickly got introduced to ICQ. Soon, when my friends got internet in their homes too, they joined ICQ.

So I was 15 when I had a virtual friend become an in-person friend for the first time…

Both of us grew up in Edinburgh but came from completely different backgrounds. Where as my friend went to one of Edinburgh’s most prestigious independent schools (and one of the weirdest I might add!), I grew up in a nice enough part of Edinburgh in the catchment area of one of Scotland’s worst high schools. Where the girls at my dance school and the Girl Guides in Morningside area didn’t want to associate with me because ‘oh…you’re from Leith? Aren’t they all schemies there?‘ that didn’t ever matter to my friend. When I went to Aberdeen, and he went off to study at ‘Oxbridge’, we have kept in really good contact. 11 years on, and we remain very good friends. It was fabulous to have he and his girlfriend last year at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and equally to see him in his new hometown of London in April.

It’s weird to think it’s been 11 years we’ve known each other, and it’s funny when people ask how we met!

Since coming into the world of blogging and twitter…the number of virtual friendships that have been created has increased.

Last year I had the chance to meet Connor when he was visiting friends in Edinburgh. And it was not so long ago, a new lassie in our church had discovered my blog. Despite going to the same church services for several months at least I met both Lindsay and Ruth online before I met them in person. In fact Ruth’s Mum calls me ‘Ruth’s internet friend‘. :)

Well this week, I got to be Emily  (@eMSY) and Mark’s (@mark_uk) first ever tweet-up. We met through our Night Before Christmas video adventures, and have connected on twitter ever since. So when I heard they were coming up to this neck of the woods, I was determined to make the time to meet up with them.

And we did…

They are exactly how I expected them. What they’re like online and in person are one and the same. Lovely, fun, kind, silly and crazy (in a good way), laid back & organised all in one. I honestly felt like I’d known them for years – not like it was the first time we’d met at all. I got the privilege of being their tour guide – you might guess from Flower of Scotland Fridays how much I love Scotland and I lovelovelove showing people around my city and this fabulous country I have the honour of being born into! I was super impressed by their son (known online as JT) who just went with the flow of being driven and being made to walk up Edinburgh’s many hills by this crazy lady who his parents had met online!!

For sure it’s got me more excited (and a little less nervous) about my road trip in July. Already Emily, Mark and JT were going to be one of my stops – so thank you God that we seem to like each other in person as well as online! I can’t wait to see them again, as I’ve had so much fun with them the last few days.

Although I’m going to have to be careful in July…I now know from the pics Emily has put up on Facebook that she’s like the Twitter paparazzi! :)

So now, more than ever I hope to get further into the world creating in-person friendships with my virtual friends. And I hope you guys in Australia and USA realise how much I am desperate to be camping out on your sofas and floors so I can do this!! ;)

Stone the flamin’ crows!!!

If you know me, you’ll know that I love Australia.

And where did my love of Australia begin? From watching Home and Away.

The Logies award ceremony was tonight (basically like the Aussie TV BAFTAs) and I was so annoyed they don’t 1. show the Logies in the UK 2. let non-Aussies like myself vote for who wins.

And I really wanted the legend that is Ray Meagher to win. That’s Alf ‘flamin’ Stewart for those of you who have ever watched Home and Away over the last 22 years (he’s the only original cast member left).

Well, he did win! Yay! Thank you to my Aussie twittering friends – Paula & Diane – for letting me know by tweeting as you watched the whole thing live.

It made me, Becca & Ruth well chuffed….since we are huge Alf Stewart fans. We’re actually planning a bloggers meet up to see ‘Alf’ as he’ll be in the UK for 6 months to act in Priscilla: Queen of the Desert in London’s West End. I think Carolyn is coming too now.

Sooooo excited!!!!!

I’m off to save up now…

What am I doing?

Well, I’m on holiday from work, but I’m making a brief return to my blog because of the responses to this on Facebook/Twitter.

Yes, I’m a woman of mystery! Don’t worry I’ve not gone COMPLETELY nuts. I do have 2 bank accounts (one is for normal use, the other is one I had for Australia, and now use for money I save for things like trips to South Africa, shoes and webcams…)

But the funniest thing is people trying to work out what I’m doing. So far the suggestions have been:

-Flying somewhere

-Unicycling

-Becoming a part-time driving instructor

-Snowboarding

-Running a marathon

-Tightrope walking

So, you are more than welcome to guess (I won’t say if anyone has guessed correctly just yet). You can totally pray, because what I’m trying to do isn’t easy (for me), but something I really want to do. 2 friends have been in on the secret from the beginning and have been helping me over the last week or so, but today was us really getting started.

And I’m paying the price (quite literally!) and that’s ok.

Right now, it’s very early days and what I hope to do may not happen, so I’m not going to share much for now.

But you can continue guessing what it is if you want to while I goback to being on holiday from work & from blogging… :)