Sunday, 28 April 2013

When your hero wants to quit

Tonight saw the return to church of one of my favourite sermon givers. When I hear him speak I feel a deep strength of conviction that that is exactly how I want to communicate one day - with integrity, skill and passion but most of all with real honesty. What I love about this guy is that he tells you exactly as it is, for good or for bad, even if that means telling you exactly how it is with him when I'm sure he'd rather not do. Even to the point where today he told us that, on his recent sabbatical, he had seriously considered packing up being a Priest, after twenty years of ministry, and started mentally filling through alternative occupations.

It was amazing and shocking to hear this from someone I respect and look up to so much, whose books I have on my shelf and whose sermons had a vital hand in getting me into ministry in the first place, and even more so when I heard his reason. With some time away from work, memories of all the times a sermon had misfired or he'd said the wrong thing came back to haunt him to the point where he decided he would never speak again. Never mind all the many, many times he had encouraged, inspired and moved people on to better, more fulfilled lives. No, the soundtrack that ran through his mind was one of doubt and blame and it nearly drove him out of the place where he is utterly meant to be.

I don't know about you but I've got one of those soundtracks of my own. It is so easy to remember the times you got it wrong and to let those moments dominate to the detriment of the many more times that taking that risk was well worth it. The more I write and speak the more I appreciate what a risky business it is. The commenter who calls you ignorant when you speak from your heart or the talk where you stumbled over your words and feel the flush of embarrassment of just not being able to say what you really want to. Suddenly this is the reality, every other moment of success and support fades away into the distance under the neon, day glow flashing critique that you just can't seem to shake. That you fear, after all, might be the one thing that has been said that is really true.

When someone so inspirational to me said he wanted to quit because of these things I wanted to stand up and yell 'Never, ever, do that!' and yet at the same time to hear that even someone who I deem so very competent has the same fears as I do gave me a sudden sense of release. Perhaps this is just how we are and, as he advised, we all need to adjust how we remember. We all need to paint the positives in neon too and let the negatives sits in perspective for a while in the company of the things we get right.

I spent so very long looking for 'my thing' in life that I never really considered how tricky it can be to persist in it. To keep speaking when you would rather be silent, to put yourself out there when you'd rather hide. But bravery has its rewards and sometimes we don't even know it. Sometimes the reward is in someone else's life that is enhanced and encouraged in a way we may never even know or understand.
As for me, I'm going send an email tonight to add my day glow positive sign to the mix for my favourite priest and sermon giver because quite frankly I think he ought to know. And the next time I feel my knees begin to quake at the thought of stepping out there into the unknown I'll remember that I'm not the only one and that little act of bravery might have all kinds of consequences that I will never know.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Weekend Crafting and Book Love

This weekend has been a veritable feast of crafting and enjoying all things beautiful. The weekend started off with my husband meeting me from the train with a copy of the Great British Sewing Bee book that I had bee drooling over in a bookshop a couple of days previously. As he was off to a football match he thought it might keep me entertained in his absence. And oh yes it did!

Every since I started watching the show I've been dying to try out making clothes for myself. It has been on my radar for a while, largely because I cannot even begin to consider wearing the shirts that most clergy outfitter produce and fitting is notoriously difficult (and expensive). So to save myself from fashion disaster and serious money troubles I thought learning to make my own would be the best way forwards.

And so without further ado, here is my first attempt at a top modelled for you in a super pose-y photo!

What do you think, alternative career as a model?! Ha!

I think my favourite part is the back which I jazzed up with some buttons that I picked up for 2p each in Oxfam!

It was so easy to make, really, and it fits like a dream. I'm now on the hunt for more cool fabrics to make a slightly longer version.

As well as doing lots of sewing I headed down to a second hand and antique book fair where I, wait for it, TOUCHED A 17th CENTURY SHAKESPEARE!!! It was so amazing and I found the most remarkable (and reasonable priced) find -  a book on the Apostle Paul (who I study for my course) from the 1870s with an inscription in the front of my, not very common, maiden name. Truly wonderful.

So that was my weekend, how about yours?

Thursday, 18 April 2013

A little light Life Philosophy

As I write the sun is streaming down on my garden, bathing my little herb garden in light. The weather has been switching between bright sunshine and flashes of rain. The air smells amazing. New little buds are appearing on my fruit plants, ready to yield a new crop this year. The last few weeks have given me a good few opportunities to just slow down like this and enjoy my surroundings. As of Monday I am back to college. Life is changing slightly in that arena as I've now been let lose from all other responsibilities and placements to focus on my academic work for the next year and a bit.

As much as I love the practical side of things, and that is ultimately what all this is for, I'm eagerly anticipating this change of pace and the sheer luxury that is time to think and study in such a remarkable place as Oxford. There is truly nothing I love more these days that wandering through the sun filled quads and frequenting the cafés on Oxford's many gorgeous side streets. Spring and Summer in Oxford are some of the best times of the year in my opinion. There is a veritable feast of pretentious entertainment as every college in the city competes for your business with their latest Shakespeare production on the lawn. The festivals get going and the city looks beautiful. I'm so thankful to be here.
Thankfulness has been a bit of a theme of my holiday as I reflect on my college journey so far. Every day is by no means perfect but I feel a deep seated thankfulness for the opportunities I am being given and the path that is unfolding before me. There is no doubt that it is a path of many uncertainties. I have no idea where I will be moving to in two years time, it could feasibly be anywhere in the country. I don't know how I will spend summer next year or what I will exchange my sunny Oxford side streets for. All of it is blank and just the little bit of the road ahead of me is visible for now.

But you know what? I'm really glad about that. Despite being a natural born planner (mostly because I think I could live five lifetimes and not fill them with all the things I want to do!) I'm relishing in the joy of truly not knowing, of simply being where I am and loving it. I'm finding that uncertainty looks a lot like freedom when you seize the opportunities in front of you and really make the most of them. I'm trusting myself to do that in whatever circumstances unfold as I practice it day by day and feel those wonderful moments of happiness welling up as a result.

All this philosophizing has made me a bit morbid in conversation recently and I have been musing to friends over coffee that 'we really are all headed to the same place anyway'. I know, what a cheery companion eh? But it reminds me to take things just seriously enough that I take risks and embrace everything that life has to offer me and not too seriously that I am stuck, paralysed by what might go wrong.

At the end of the day, no matter how much we might avoid this reality, life does end. If the last year and the hours spent at hospital bedside tell me anything then it is the reality of that. One day we will have had our shot and our time in the sun and it will be time for a new generation to take on the world. But right now, these are our days. Isn't that a wonderful thought, shot through with possibility? As for me this is my motto as summer approaches: Live life, enjoy it and be thoroughly thankful.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Holiday Crafting - the Travel Quilt

We are currently house sitting a rather temperamental but intensely loveable spaniel which has meant that life is revolving around home for me. This is pretty rare as I'm usually up at college for the best part of the day or dashing around Oxford with fifteen thousand books on my back (ok, slight exaggeration...). This is my lifestyle of choice and I love to be busy but it is just brilliant to devote some serious time to my lovely little house and lovely little four legged friend.

Believe it or not I am STILL on Easter Vacation. I know, hate on. (I do have to do reading for my course if that helps, no? Ok then). My bum has barely left the sofa all week and my has lap has been filled on a rotation system by text books, then sewing, then an overexcited and under-entertained spaniel. Since my first attempt at a quilt, which was such brilliant fun and much easier than anticipated. I decided to make another one for the end of the bed in the spare room.

The spare room has somewhat of a travel theme in our house. I want people who come stay to lay back and look up at pictures of lovely lagoons and flick through the travel guides on the shelf and dream up some adventures. I had some gorgeous material looking for a use that I picked up in Zambia, the usual bucket of offcuts and a burning desire to embroider and...voila! The travel quilt is born.

Ok, so it's unlikely to win any awards at the Great British Sewing Bee (How much are you loving that by the way, I'm thoroughly inspired!) but it really makes me smile and I loved making it. I embroidered on some designs I knocked up during one of my many sofa stints of travel quotes and capital cities.


I did however managed to weld myself free from my house to do a bit of charity shopping and just had to show you my latest acquisition, a 1960's coffee pot for a fiver!

How amazing is that! If you're not a second hand shopper then really, what are you waiting for? Craft and charity shop on my friends!