Sunday, 23 March 2014

Little Girl in Barcelona

Last year about this time I went to a conference called 'Talitha Koum'. Translated this means 'Little Girl, get up!' and is from a gospel story where Jesus restores a little girl to health and draws her back onto her feet again. It's a powerful story and it was a powerful conference with the aim of saying to a generation of young women: wake up, step up and go into the future that is waiting for you. Lead, be bold, have confidence in yourself.

For me that event was a big deal. I was a couple of terms into college and still feeling shy about being there. I'd arrived fresh from six months of running a church, alongside the church wardens, after beginning an admin job and being promptly told two weeks in that I was on my own as the Vicar was retiring! Suddenly I was the one filling out the marriage registers and booking in the Baptisms. I planned the services, fought with the printer each week over the news sheets, assisted at funerals and even had the great joy of swinging open the church doors for the entrance of the bride on a good friend's wedding day.

But despite all this the feeling of finally stepping into a role as daunting as offering leadership to a church congregation, many of whom are infinitely wiser and more experienced than I am, still left me decidedly wobbly. Who am I to stand up and give a sermon each week? Who am I to help shape the future of a community, to develop and to train people? I felt decidedly like a little girl in some oversized robes. And yet I had been selected for this role and in many ways prepared for it. I really needed to be told, 'Little Girl, get up!'

Now I look at the role I am going into a little differently. A place of leadership in the any organisation is one role among many and no more valuable than any other. Leadership is about encouraging and enabling. If you have felt like that scared little girl (or boy!) then you are in many ways even better equipped to lead. You understand what holds people back, you know what it is like to have obstacles and you know how to overcome them and how to help others do the same. I have been invested in and theologically trained to a level where, quite frankly, my brain is swimming. But I know I am enriched, that I am always pushing on to be better at what I do, and that what I have been given is a gift to be taken out into the places I go next.

So the next adventure for this little girl is another spell in a church without a Vicar but this time in Barcelona. I'm very excited, with just a little bit of wobble, and busy reminding myself of the things that I've been given in these last few years that I can take with me into this new challenge. My tutor reliably informs me that by the end of my exams in June, when I will be heading off to Spain for those few weeks, I will be at be my intellectual peak so if nothing else they will hopefully get some good sermons out of me!

I'm also reminded that this is just the beginning and soon I will be going to interviews for my curacy (an assistant vicar type to you and me!).The challenge is set, then, and I'm getting ready to go. It looks like this little girl just got up!!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

A life that's good

It seems rather surreal to say it but I am now fast approaching the end of my fifth term at college and I am more than half way through my Vicar training. In some ways it feels like I have been there for ever. So many long, dark nights out yonder in the countryside! So many, many essays! And yet in other ways it is as if I have just arrived. The whole thing can still be mightily mysterious even on my best days.

I find that I am changing so rapidly here that it's hard to keep up with myself and my own thoughts and feelings. One of the great blessings of my time at college so far has been the chance to study theology to a depth where my whole world view has been shaken up and reordered again. I feel more uncertain and yet oddly more sure. Best of all I feel so much more in awe of this world and of God. I feel like I'm setting out on a new journey and a lifetime of learning.

My experience of training has been given a major boost this year by the church I have been going to and helping out at a bit. There I am reminded of all the things I love about Church. It is down to earth, passionate, brilliant fun, a force for good in the community and a place where I feel happy and rested. When the going gets tough it is good to have a place like that to remind me of where I am heading and that working in church really is a place where I feel fulfilled and at home.

This is a great comfort when, like me, you wander round church practically wearing a sandwich board with the word 'Why?' plastered across it. I really believe that we have to get happy asking 'why' and happy answering it if we are going to make faith and church in any way understandable to a new generation. This is the blessing (and sometimes the difficulty!) of being an interloper into the church as one raised outside of it. I have little attachment to anything but God and his goodness.

No, my heart is tugged more often by very ordinary things and I'm learning to love that. This is what our lives are made up of after all. We need to understand that the holy place is right where we stand. And so last week my heart was tugged by this song on Nashville. It struck me that through all this time with fancy theories and ways of doing things, for all the 'oughts' and 'shoulds', I find myself, deep down, only wanting to return to the simple. To live a life that's good. Nice one, Nashville! 

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Sunshine! Quick, get gardening!

Growing stuff, ah it's great isn't it? As the sun decided to make a brief appearance this weekend I took full advantage to do a bit of pruning and feeding of my little babies. I find it significantly easier to give a monkeys about my plants when they are doing something in return for me, namely feeding me and, ideally, looking pretty at the same time. Even then life on the Hulks plot can be tough what with our fondness for swanning off round Europe for weeks on end and our definite lack of fondness for watering.
Tried some peas last year!
I'm generally pretty challenged in the gardening department but I don't see that as any reason not to have a go. It is amazing how many plants will survive, and even thrive, with completely inept caretakers. Like pretty much everything in life I take a 'try and see' approach to gardening and three years in my fruit plants are all still alive (pretty much...don't mention the gooseberries!) and as they are in tubs they can come with us from house to house which makes a lot of sense given our slightly nomadic lifestyle!
If you fancy a go then these are my top five, seeming unkillable plants to try!
1. Mint

Stick it in a tub. It will grow. And grow. And grow. And grow! It needs a bit of watering in the summer but I often forget and it always springs back. My mint plant once entirely proved its worth by saving a Church garden party when someone forgot the mint for the Pimms. I also enjoy it all summer for mint tea.

2. Rosemary and Thyme

I planted these into tubs about five years ago and they survive very well indeed under the arid and unpredictable conditions of my gardening regime! Plus they flower, so look pretty, and smell great.

3. Blueberries

I love my blueberry plants. They need ericaceous compost (you can get little bags of this at the garden centre) and apparently prefer rain water to tap water but mine aren't that lucky! I put my plants near the house so I can grab a handful of blueberries when I want and so the birds keep off them. They like company too so buy a pair.

4. Lavender

Lavender is a bit 'treat it mean keep it keen'. It doesn't like too much water and so far has grown happily on my patio. Lavender bags and lavender biscuits are my go to uses for the plant and I have dried lavender all over my house! It likes a good trim so go for it.

5. Lettuces

This is the easiest thing to grow EVER. Just sprinkle a load of seeds on some compost, stick it on a window sill and watch them sprout up! When they are a few centimetres tall then 'thin' out the seedlings (i.e. remove a few so that each one has a good few centimetres around it to grow). Sew them a few weeks apart in any containers you have hanging about and you will have a constant supply of lettuce for the £1 price tag of a bag of seeds. You will never buy a bag of limp lettuce again!
Rosemary in bloom

This year I have actual real flower beds to grow in. I know, get me! Going up in the world eh? This involves a whole new level of gardening know how and, I'm sure, comedy mishaps. Still, I do love getting out and tending to the plants. There is something very therapeutic about it. Fresh air and the excitement of Spring just around the corner again. Seeing the bees buzzing around in the summer. Dashing out like a mad woman to scare birds away from the blueberries. Good times!