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!