Thursday, 27 September 2012

Tired and Inspired

I've been itching to write a blog post since I started college on Monday. But as it is this week has been planned down to the last minute, nay second, with meetings, tours, warnings, encouragements all neatly packaged into twelve hour days. Tired doesn't cut it!

The church in Cuddesdon - the site of much damp, chilly prayer this week! (from
Tired, yes but also inspired. Every corner of college is a piece of history. Samuel Wilberforce, founder of the college and son of the great emancipator William Wilberforce, looks down on us as we eat our meals. The wings of the building are named after past principals, vice principals and benefactors each with their own fascinating story. All of them innovators, lots of them the thorn in the side of their contemporaries because of it. Each of them standing up for something different, for higher ideals that they refused to compromise.

Samuel Wilberforce, what a legend.
The history is as winding as the staircases. I'm captured by it, a bit entranced. Ready to be a tiny little bit of the history of this place and very thankful for it. The library is a slice of heaven, volumes and volumes lined up around perfect reading nooks all looking out onto the rolling hills of the Oxfordshire countryside. Study has begun in earnest, my first essay is due next week, but I'm smiling to myself as I leaf through the reading list. I'm finally here at last!

Today we visited some churches, barely a few days in I can't help but wonder about the end when I'll be back in the community, ordained with a ministry of my own. We visited a couple of churches near Oxford ending up at Dorchester Abbey. Every ordained role is so different, every community so unique and for the first time I feel inspired by the people I meet. I want their jobs. I've never felt this way. I've always been the one in the training rolling my eyes and thinking 'man, I DO NOT want your job!' and despairing that I feel that way. Wondering if I will ever find my 'thing'.

But oh am I tired! My legs feel like planks of wood from cycling up and down the hill. I have a cold coming and I know it's only getting tougher, busier, more challenging from here. But I AM HERE! For the first time I have a bubbling excitement at my work, a rising hope in me for the future. I've got a secret smile and that wonderfully happy-making feeling sneaking up on me in quiet moments that this is exactly where I am meant to be.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Our new home

It's taken three weeks, with a slight pause for some sunshine in Portugal, but the house is finally unpacked and sorted. I really wanted to get this done before college started so that home would be a relaxing place to come back to (when I actually so get to come home!!) rather than somewhere that more work is lurking.

I got totally ridiculed my in laws and husband when I brought this table and jug but I LOVE it. It's right opposite the sofa and I just stare at it thinking, 'that looks utterly brilliant!' I'm modest, right?!

I love the feeling of the place. It's so light and we felt comfortable here from the first moment we arrived. Now it has a bit more personality stamped on it and has those all important little reminders doted about the place. You know the kind of thing, a gift from someone that reminds you that you are cared for, or a postcard with a slogan that reminds you why you're doing what you're doing.

The lantern in this picture was a gift from a friend at Uni. It says 'Let your Light Shine', a pretty good message to read every day!

I sewed this picture at the old house and it now lives on my dresser. I love this dresser. It was an old brown Ikea thing I picked up from Ebay and after about a year of looking at it and wondering I painted it bright blue. Best thing I ever did! It came alive and now it looks like it was made to be in the new house.

Isn't it gorge? The chair was a fiver from a local listing site and the crockery were all gifts or charity shop finds. The heart picture was an engagement card from a friend I met in Greece so it always reminds me of her and of how much fun it was being engaged. Speaking of Greece we found this lantern there on a recent holiday and I'm so happy it finally has pride of place somewhere. It took up my whole suitcase so I wore about fifteen layers to the airport but it was SO worth it!

 In the bottom right you can see a wedding pic and a black and white one of my beloved Nanny who passed away last year. I love the picture, she looks so independent, ready to face the world. The world was a different place then and she didn't have half the opportunities I have now. When I see it it reminds me to go for it, that it's good to have that same look in my eye!

One of the best things about the new place is that it has a garden. I love growing and most of them were in containers at our last place so, much to my Dad's dismay on moving day, I brought them all with me. There have also been some new additions like this gorgeous orchid.

I'm determined not to kill it. I've even been reading books about it! I know! Dedication! (Speaking of gardening books for total dunces, check out The Virgin Gardener by Laetitia Maklouf, all her instructions are so basic and for people with small amounts of space to grow like windowsills or patio gardens.)

I have a new lovely lavender to replace the bush that lived at our old house. It's such a deep purple colour and smells heavenly.

The garden is still very much in progress what with going into autumn and all but this is our little sun trap to sit in with a cup of tea and a good book.

Craft has been a big feature of this house move. I am so glad I bit the bullet and bought a sewing machine. I am also so glad that I googled 'how to make curtains' because they are SO easy. Seriously, if you can stitch vaguely in a straight line then you can make them. The fabric is so much cheaper and nicer than buying ones from shops. I used this tutorial to make these:

...for the office and these.....

...for the bedroom.

I also made these simple tab top curtains for the bathroom using Cherry Menlove's tutorial.

All this crafting is now very much assisted by having a craft desk. Every time I see it I swoon.

And of course the house is packed full of obligatory daftness. I have a particularly absurd sense of humour and I like having things around that break any tension I'm carrying and make me laugh. If you can't have it in your own house than where can you eh?!

Note this sign is conveniently located next to the books of church liturgy and a Greek New Testament. No further comment required!!

Ha! Hilarity!

And that is our new pad! :)

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Best friends, beach bars and cheesy bananas

I spent last week in Portugal (ooh err what a jet setter eh?!) with two of my best friends. It was absolutely blissful. The sea was within touching distance from our pretty swanky but very cheap apartment, a white sandy beach with the world's coolest beach bar was a fifteen minute ferry ride away and there were more restaurants than we had hours to enjoy them. Best best of all was the chance to get away with two people I think the world of. To have a chance to laugh, talk about the future, to be silly and not have to think twice about it.

On the second day we discovered the aforementioned world's greatest beach bar. The island itself is largely untouched, just a lighthouse, an unspoilt beach and a handful of holiday homes. The sound system pumped out Jack Johnson and other silky voiced beach crooners as we laid back in our multicoloured deck chairs sipping pina coladas. One of my friends wants to open a bar in the sun one day. We decided I would come and do the décor and she would pay me in cocktails. 

I pretty much believe my friends can do anything. In fact, I know so. We've known each other since we were kids. When the discussion opens up to the future the chat nearly always comes back to the shared imaginings we have had of each others futures. They so often correlate, 'I always thought you would live abroad', 'Me too!'. There is a depth of knowing that has great hopes for one another, greater than we can even dream for ourselves. True friends are cheerleaders of the highest order.

On the last night we ate dinner in an Italian restaurant, bemoaning that we would soon be in the UK, cold and thinking of Portugal. We ordered a bottle of Mateus (when in Portugal...!) and scoffed our way through a carb loaded feast. When dessert came my friend decided to be adventurous and went for a 'Top Hat' having no idea what it was besides the fact that it contained bananas.

Oh hilarity. It arrived in an earthenware dish, two bananas, dusted with cinnamon and covered with what looked worryingly like cheese. It took my friend four mouthfuls to decide unequivocally that, dear readers, it was cheese. I have never laughed so much in all my life, side splitting, tear streaming, gasping for air laughing. Man, did I need that! That's a true friend for you, they'll even take on a cheesy banana to give you a laugh!

And so I've been reminded that the best thing in my life is my people. Those girls that are like a gift straight out of heaven for me. When I'm holding my ground on being a young woman in leadership, questioned and challenged to stay true to myself and what I believe in or taking the next step on a road that scares the life out of me I know where my confidence comes from. Those people that have got my back and let me know it. Friends, where would we be without them?

Thursday, 6 September 2012

New home firsts

Now that I've had a few days to settle in and unpack (and managed to cycle up to college and back, hurrah! I really did make it up that hill!) the house is starting to look more like a home and less like a box factory. It's not in a state for any real recording to be done yet but I did take a few snaps on my mobile of our first few days here and how this homemade home is shaping up.

The first area I got to work on was the kitchen. I was dying to have an area to sit in the morning and this spot is bathed in sunlight from the patio doors first thing. The perfect place for a cup of tea at the start of a busy day.

On the left are my cook books and on the right my favourite poetry and gardening books. The bench is the monks bench I posted about and painted up. I then sewed the cushions for it from some offcuts I had laying about. The chairs were all ebay and local listing finds and I'm painting them in different pastel colours. The poster is my absolute fav and was actually found by my husband (I'll make a bargain hunter out of him yet!) It's a map of the world called 'Tea Revives the World' with the story of tea mapped onto it and is in a frame I picked up for a fiver and dragged home on the bus and then painted. So worth it!

Another first for the new place was a visit from my parents very mischievous and very amusing spaniel, Lily. She is going to be a frequent house guest and wasted no time making herself at home on the sofa.

A first today was a chance to sit down at my new craft table to knock up some curtains for the bathroom. It was so great to be back behind my beloved sewing machine.

And this was the finished result! The blue bottle on the left is an amazing art deco bottle that I found in a charity shop for three pounds. THREE POUNDS! There was a lot of mocking as I struggled home with that. It is rather thick and heavy. But whose laughing now, eh? It looks BRILL! I got the idea for these curtains from Cherry Menlove's blog, check it out if you fancy having a go.

And so there are a few firsts at the new place, more to come as it takes shape!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012


So we've arrived. We are in the new house and semi-unpacked. The decorating has begun in earnest and the place is already shaping up just how I imagined it (A post on that to come of course!). You'd think this would make for a great week but quite frankly it's been a bit of a 'mare. I can't say I ever find change that easy but this time it has been accompanied by the dawning realisation that after all the talk, all the interviews, all the explanations it is finally happening. I am going to start training for ordination.

Now logically I know that this is cause for celebration, that many good things as well as challenges are on the horizon. All that planning, prayer, thought and preparation have been for this end. But all I have felt this week, as I have been painstakingly unpacking each box, is 'What on earth have I done?' Suddenly I'm overwhelmed by the feeling that I might fail, no that I'm going to fail. I'll not be strong enough or clever enough. I'll let people down, worse than that - I'll let God down.

All the logistical problems associated with my STILL not being able to drive feel insurmountable, There is a big hill between me and the college that I am way too unfit to cycle up. I don't even know how I'm going to get there on my first day. It feels like a giant neon metaphor for this whole endeavour, all I can hear is 'You can't do this' and I'm inclined to agree.

And so tonight, after the first day I've had at home to just potter about the house, I sat down in my arm chair, unpacked my favourite cushions, brewed up an earl grey and took my shaky heart to God. After all these years of praying, all these years of 'getting to know' who God is, even being an advocate for how loving, how all together wonderful God is I still found myself creeping towards him on my hands and knees saying 'I'm going to let you down' and expecting a rebuke for not being strong enough.

But what did I get? A reminder of the journey so far, of the great big yes I have given to every challenge thrown in my path and the still, strong voice telling me that that means something. And even more than that the reminder, like a flood of light into the soul, that nothing else matters than what I already have, I can be loved no more than I already am. Every thing is going to be all right.

The challenges haven't gone away, I feel no more confident in my ability to get this right but I feel like I'm standing on the rock again. Knowing that succeed or fail I already have everything I need. And isn't that the point of this whole ministry lark anyway? Love, acceptance, some solid ground? For all of us? It is good to be loved, necessary. And with that love there is just enough in me to say another quiet yes. Let's do this. I will climb that hill.