Sunday 16 November 2014

The Vicar's Tea Party has landed!

Well, after that anvil sized hint in the last blog post you may have guessed that I am in the process of launching a new blog. You will probably also realize that this post is going to be one great big plea for all you lovely lot to come join me over on my new platform....ah go on!

Should you need further persuasion here is the blurb for the new blog....Vicar's Tea Party.

'Life eh? Sometimes it can be so darn crazy that we don't get a chance or the space to think about the big things in life, or sometimes the little things either!
Enter Vicar's Tea Party. A place to relax. A place to think. A place to get ideas for revamping that old bedside table your Granny left you – because that is important too. At the Vicar's Tea Party you can mull over life's little eccentricities from how to grow your spiritual life to easy ethical life style swaps to how to bake a cake that makes Monday worth getting up for again.
Vicar's Tea Party is a place you can grab a brew, put your feet up and feel a bit more human again.
On the blog you will find four categories for whatever takes your fancy today: 
Vicar's Sofa – a place to curl up with a brew and ponder some of life's big questions

Vicar's Kitchen – a veritable feast of seasonal recipes sure to give your week a little extra something something.

Vicar's Study - a place to stretch your mind and spirit with book recommendations, news and reviews.

Vicar's Craft Corner – posts stuffed to the rafters with crafting ideas, tips for green living and second hand and vintage finds galore!'

See you there?

Sunday 19 October 2014

New Blogging Shores

Confession time - I've run a ground a bit on this blog. It makes me a little sad because this blog has accompanied me through some of the best times in my life. From starting out writing for the first time, to writing my first short stories and seeing them in print, to being selected to train for ordained ministry and all the ups and downs of that journey so far.

I have met wonderful people, been inspired by the blogging community and given much needed space to reflect on all the adventures that have been part of my life over the last few years. It's pretty amazing to be able to look back on where I've been and how much things have changed in that time. But what I have loved the most is sharing that with you lovely people and hearing how these simple stories have been an encouragement to some of you. That is the best part by far.

In this blog I've also discovered a love of writing that has run and run and allowed me to branch out into other platforms in this magical world of the interweb and partly it is this love of writing that is spurring me on to something new. I've had an idea for a while now about a new blog I might launch and I have this annoying nagging feeling that I ought to just be getting on with it.

The problem is that the idea is just so much more successful and brilliant in my head than it might be in real life. Annoying that, eh? I feel a bit like I am standing on the safe shores of this blog looking out to some distant, possibly awesome/possible snake infested island of the new blog and thinking 'Well, its no so bad here, really. Perhaps I'll just stay a while longer'. But the thing is I am starting to drag my heels here. Ideas aren't coming so easy for this platform but are coming thick and fast for another.

My greatest concern is that the new blog turns out to be a total snore fest and really is better off in my head where it currently lives majestic in all its glorious unreality. For that reason I'm going to be enlisting a few of you to comment on this new hair brained scheme of mine. In the meantime, watch this space, I still love you and I will be back!

Thursday 18 September 2014

Diverse World

I've been here on Uni Campus for the last three days now and it has been quite the education. It feels both nostalgic and like brand new territory. In many ways it feels like just yesterday that I was arriving at University and facing that horrible moment when your parents drive away and you are sat on your bed thinking 'What on earth do I do now?!' A few hours later and I was happily ensconced in the bar but, still, it is a life changing moment, the feelings of which are still etched on my memory, probably for all time.

But there are also so many new things I am discovering here. Though I have been interested in multi-faith work for a while this is the first time that I have been in a truly multi-faith setting where different religions work together under one roof to serve a single population of people. It's quite wonderful really. There is so much that is shared between the major faiths that it isn't really so hard to find common ground and a shared purpose of serving the student body, of all faiths and none. This seems to bond people in a special way as they go for a shared vision.

The chaplaincy here is like a little hub of life with everyone popping in. I've chatted over a cuppa with atheists, Muslims and Catholics in the space of a few days - to name but a few. As well as just hanging out a huge range of people use the space to pray and it strikes me that there is something wonderfully ideal about a room where people of all the major faiths, and of no faith at all, come to pray or meditate. It feels to me like something we should be aspiring towards more in society. Not an abandoning of our differences but an understanding of our shared humanity. Seeing that difference, rather than being a hindrance to relationship, can be creative and inspiring.

It also reminds me of how important a space is to reconnect with what it means to be a human being rather than an employee or a role or a grade. Having just emerged from the higher education bubble I know how easy it can be to get sucked into evaluating your worth on the basis of your last essay grade. Likewise whatever stage of life we are in it can be so easy to equate our value with our latest appraisal. We're just worth so much more than that though, right? And all these things are temporary and nothing compared to the real value we have as people. It's great to be part of a place, even for a little while, that seeks to remind people of that.

Another great placement, another great adventure of Summer (can I still say that now its gotten so grey!?) This really is the vacation that keeps on giving!

Monday 8 September 2014

The Countryside...Continued!

Still here! Still alive! You know how I discovered last week that I really am a townie? Yeah, well, now I REALLY know I'm a townie. Don't get me wrong, the countryside is beautiful, especially with this revival of summer we are experiencing here in Blighty but nonetheless I really miss coffee shops and people watching and ready availability of supermarkets.

Its is rather nice!

Things have been going well here though. In the nicest possible way I have learned what I am not made for but that is valuable in and of itself, right? I think it is safe to say that I am not destined to be a country Vicar cycling from parish to parish and waving hello to all the tiny hamlets I pass on my way. I miss the hustle and bustle and, well, shops and stuff.

Nonetheless there is much that is transferable to my preferred habitat of suburbia. People, after all, are much the same wherever you go. Same questions, same worries, same ups and downs. I've done heaps here from leading a whole load of services, giving a whole load of sermons and even had the chance to entertain the local primary school with the first story I have penned in an absolute age. It reminded me of how wonderful it is to have a chance to be creative and even better when it is part of the day job.
Summer makes a welcome return!

There have also been challenges too. I am on a journey and a half when it comes to preaching. I've mentioned before that I have been nervy, genuinely knee knockingly nervy, when speaking in front of people until very recently. I've overcome that now, such that people actually think I am confident when I speak in front of them (that's called acting, dahhhling!).
And in a weird way I am becoming more confident, fake it till you make it and all that. But I still have a long way to go and the temptation to settle at 'just ok' is so much stronger than I anticipated it would be. Turns out it safer to hide behind a lectern clutching notes than to boldly emerge, look people and the eye and tell them what you've got to say.

Still, now that I'm here blogging about it I suppose I am committing myself to the harder path, striving not for perfection but to being really bloomin' good and that, I know, involves boldness, bravery and a whole lot of practice. I have one last sermon here to give before I head off for my next placement at a Uni in London for Freshers (ahhh, its like returning to the mother ship!) so I suppose I had best make it a good 'un. Be brave!!!

Much love from the country....!

Saturday 30 August 2014

A little bit Country

If I ever needed any confirmation that I am an urbanite then I certainly got it today. Navigating my way around rural Oxfordshire for the second half of my church placement this summer was considerably more difficult than navigating my way around super urban Barcelona. Hopping on and off a metro - fine. Wandering up and down country lanes where houses are named not numbered – not so much.

I was even dressed like a daft urbanite in high heeled boots dragging my supplies of Dolmio stir in sauces and a bag of pasta behind me for my two week sojourn here. It really is beautiful here though and we have been given the sweetest little bolt hole to stay in by some kind people at the church who took pity on us and so have saved us from traipsing across Oxford every day. Its making me feel all autumnal and like I want to hunker down for the season with a packed of digestives and a box set. Shame I'm here to work....

Speaking of work, I kicked off my placement here with a quintessentially English event of a country wedding. I love a wedding, even, as it turns out, when I am working at one. I sat to watch the service in the choir stalls grinning like a Cheshire cat as I thought about the fact that, all being well, I will be doing weddings myself this time next year! Tremendously exciting! As at every wedding I have ever attended I got a bit weepy at the magic of the whole thing. All those promises, all that hope. I'm such a marriage fanatic!
I then went for a walk with my beloved (he gets a great deal eh, being dragged around with me?!) to explore rumours of a pub only to discover that it didn't open until six. That being the only public building other than the church we made our way back to our little country abode where we are currently watching a David Attenborough documentary on frogs (ah married bliss.....?!) and making in roads into the tea stash we brought with us.

Country life eh?

Saturday 23 August 2014

The Mind Makeover

As I mentioned in my last post this summer has given me a great opportunity to get into some new books. Most of these have been gloriously unproductive but there have been a couple of books on my reading list this summer which have made a real impact on me. The first of these was 'The Mind Makeover' by Sharron Lowe which I wrote about a bit in a previous post - The Feisty Fly!

The book explores in some depth how our thoughts can either limit or empower us. In particular I found her mantra 'Expect massive change' a revolutionary idea. I don't know about you but I often think about change as laborious, hard going, a mountain climb. I've certainly experienced that with learning to drive and the ongoing slog can make you feel like you will never really change and this problem will always be with you.

After reading the Mind Makeover I felt a firm nudge of challenge to this idea. I knew what my goals were with driving, why couldn't I make a massive leap forward that week? Why couldn't I experience massive change in one day? I knew that most of my issues with driving were all in my head anyway. Lowe challenges the phrase 'I can't' suggesting that when we say this we usually mean 'I don't want to' or 'I don't know how to'.

I live in a very hilly area and I realised that part of my 'I can't' with driving was 'I don't know how to'. I booked a lesson with my instructor and asked him to spent two hours making me drive up hills, explaining the mechanics of how the car responds in various scenarios. The next day I drove up to my college on my own for the first time up a massive hill. This was a goal I had set to be completed by Christmas and I had achieved it six months early, in a single day. Massive change indeed.

Lowe also puts an emphasis on the importance of hard work, not luck, for success. I put this into practice in Barcelona when I was asked to lead a full service and give the sermon. I have previously been nervy about public speaking and I really didn't want this to show as I have experienced myself that nerves are contagious. I didn't want to put the congregation on edge.

I desperately wanted to succeed and so I went downstairs into the empty church everyday and practiced. Even down to how I would get up from my chair, how I would smile, how I would stand during hymns. I crafted everything to give off an air of confidence and ease. The result? The Vicar told me it seemed like I had done this a hundred times not just once. In reality, with all my practicing, I nearly had! Though I stil lhave much further to go, hard work brought me success that day.

And lastly Lowe talks convincingly about getting out of your comfort zone. It seems to be an unfortunate truth that much of what is worthwhile in life rarely comes easy. While I was packing my bags for Spain, desperately trying to make my baggage adhere to the Easy Jet hand luggage restrictions, my husband found me slumped on the floor tearily clutching a euro plug adapted wailing 'Why am I doing this to myself?!'

I knew full well I could have gone up the road for placement and it would have been much less scary. But it was so much more satisfying to do something I wasn't quite convinced I could do. It was a time in my life I will never forget and one that just thinking of it gives me confidence for the future.

So I very much recommend this brilliant book to you and will be back in a few days with another of my fave summer reads - 'The Happiness Project;.

Thursday 21 August 2014

Summer of Fun!

There I was in my last post signing off for a week to 'dip my toes in the Med' and here I am a month later sheepishly popping my head back up wondering (again!) where the time has gone. In all honesty I've just been having such a brilliant summer that all thoughts of recording my thoughts have gone well and truly out of the window. Not a great trait for a blogger, I grant you, but a lovely luxury nonetheless.

It's all been rather nice really and like any self respecting blogger I've drawn a bit of a lesson from it. That the chance to say nothing, to put planning, striving and being in any way productive to one side and instead indulge in completely frivolous activities is hugely restorative and very well advised. This, in my case, has involved eating out with friends, celebrating my 30th (again!) in Greece, buying a waffle maker and taking long walks along the river with my parent's spaniel. The later is quite well needed given that most of my other activities involve vast quantities of food. Ho hum....

This summer has, in many ways, felt like one of those long lost summers of my Uni days. Having such a long stretch off is such a luxury. You can stack up a pile of books to read with the happy realisation that you might even have time to read them. Then you can promptly spend your time staring into space comfortable in the knowledge that you can read anytime you want to. This is an especially wonderful luxury when every book I've picked up in the last two years, thanks to my degree, had to be speed read and dissected for the important bits.

Even though this summer has been well packed with placements even those have been invigorating because I chose them. How nice is that? To be able to choose a lovely little adventure for yourself with new people, new places and challenging new work. Since returning from Barcelona I've been struck over and again by just how brilliant it was. I'm not ashamed to say I wiped away a few stray tears when I left there and I'm still, several weeks on, marvelling at how well the situation worked out, how much I learnt and what a great bunch of people I found there.

Most importantly it set my enthusiasm level to bursting for this church ministry lark and left me with the happy assurance that, despite how seemingly mad this whole journey has been, I was right to follow my instincts and I am, after all, on the right path. This is all pretty good timing as the job offers for my first proper job as a minister are starting to come in. I know! I can't really believe it myself either!

But even as life starts to look more serious again and the temperatures start to plummet (sob!) I'm hoping to keep that summer feeling with me for a bit longer. To spend entire mornings, completely guilt free, in the quest for the perfect waffle topping, to learn something just because it is fun, to take on new challenges just because I can and, best of all, to take out some quality 'staring into space' time. Summer of fun, indeed!