Monday, 31 January 2011

January Blues

After two weeks of heavy depression, I enjoyed a blissful weekend of utmost peace, only to fall sharply back down to earth again today when I saw the rota for next week. I have been put down to work 72 hours straight over my birthday weekend (although I do get my actual birthday off). 

I've tried not to hark on too much about how I hate my job, but things have been pretty unbearable these last few weeks, and I'm beginning to feel trapped. Spud, on the other hand, feels trapped in his spell of unemployment. We have both applied for jobs and attended job interviews but to no avail. I have no more jobs lined up. 

I don't know what to do. I was hoping to find a way out fairly soon, and haven't yet found one other than handing in my notice and trusting God to keep me out of unemployment by finding me a new job quickly, but Spud keeps urging me to not to resort to this because at least one of us has a job. We are so short staffed anyway as we have lost a lot of staff and our manager seems reluctant to recruit, so maybe it's God's will for me to stay where I am for the moment. So I am hanging in there. Just. 

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Picture in Words

When I dressed that day I forgot it was still January. The winter had been a long one and it was so much milder than it had been, that I chose leggings that ended just past my knees, and a pink cotton shirt-style dress. I wore a thick jacket over the top, but my legs remained exposed to the elements. Not that I cared. I felt alive as we drove along the winding roads, enjoying the comfort of the heated car seat, and the winter sun that hung in the clear sky.

Our adventure began in the small town where recently we've considered settling down. We quickly gave up on the high street, exiting down a narrow side-street leading to the main road, which we crossed, gaining access to fields and water; more my scene. Quietly, I absorbed my surroundings, dreaming, envisaging myself living there in the near future... 

We drove the short distance to the coast; to a dramatic cliff that has been ravaged by the sea these last couple of decades. Indeed, the waves have so eaten away at the soft rock that now the little cottages stand right at the edge of the cliff top, and many more have already tumbled down onto the beach below, along with the road that ends quite suddenly. Their remains are strewn across the sand: bricks and mortar, pipes, even a concrete block that was evidently once a doorstep. The remaining houses have been long abandoned, their paintwork worn thin by the elements. I was filled with awe by the silence and stillness of the place, shivering as the violent waves wreaked their havoc below. 

That night, as I dropped Spud off, we heard a great flock of geese in the sky above us, their calls and wing beats disrupting the quiet, as they began their noisy migration, invisible against the dark sky. They accompanied me all the way home, and it was only as I let myself into the house that their cries grew fainter, shortly ceasing as they continued on their way, leaving me with a poignant sensation of peace. 

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Another Love Story

Do you remember we were sitting there by the water? 
You put your arm around me for the first time
You made a rebel of a (careful) man's careful daughter
You are the best thing that's ever been mine

Taylor Swift - 'Mine'

Those lines describe perfectly my first meeting with Spud and our first fairy tale kiss under the stars, and I think it's finally time I shared the whole story. 

It all began a long time ago. Well, sometimes it feels like a long time ago, and other days only yesterday. About four and a half years ago I received an online message from a boy who found my MySpace profile and wanted to get to know me. Raised by loving but somewhat over protective parents, my upbringing had been a sheltered one, and I knew all too well that they'd disapprove if I took the initiative and replied to that message, letting a stranger into my life. But I took my life into my own hands and said yes. I think I knew then that my life was about to change. 

After two months of emailing each other daily, and scheduled chats on instant messenger, I knew I was falling for him, and we began to discuss the possibility of meeting up. Pretty crazy considering he knew his parents would be against this as much as mine. We formed a plan: next summer at Bible camp. And then there was the long, long wait, during which I spilled the beans to my parents, unable to keep them in the dark any longer. 

Their reaction was predictable: they were pretty worried. No. They were horrified. The situation was the cause of our first and last rows. It's not that my parents stood in my way, but they were pretty reluctant to let the meeting take place, even under the most secure of circumstances. With all the tension, those ten months until August dragged. There were also one or two heart-stopping moments when I feared Spud was beginning to lose interest. But our relationship developed through our daily correspondence, and August did arrive at long last.

I felt sick that day. I was so sure Spud was the one (even my parents were by then), but the 300 mile journey gave my nerves time to grow. My parents pulled up beside the marquee, and I watched Spud approach, looking about as shy as I felt. He introduced himself while we unloaded my things from the car. I then said goodbye to my parents for the week, realising that everything was going to be alright. 

This assurance increased throughout the afternoon and evening, and when the evening session ended, Spud led me to the bottom of the field, a few yards from the cliff edge. I could hear the waves and see ships (mere lights) upon the water. The sky was dotted with stars, so bright and clear. We lay on our backs, side by side, and watched the shooting stars. Spud pointed out the milky way. 

Just after eleven he asked me out and when I said yes, he told me he loved me and put his arm around me. I don't know how long we lay there, his arm crushed beneath me, but I could barely look at him. I knew we were going to kiss and I was so nervous. At some point, though, I turned to face him and moved closer, my lips brushing lightly against his. 

We parted company shortly after that, heading to our own separate tents. When I woke the next morning the previous night felt like a dream, but when he took my hand on the mini bus, later that day, I knew it wasn't a dream at all. It was the most real I had ever felt. 

Friday, 14 January 2011

Unto the Hills

With the start of a new year I've picked up Billy Graham's daily devotional, Unto the Hills, to read alongside my Bible reading plan. Graham's title is taken from Psalm 121: 1-2, which reads:

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,
from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord,
which made heaven and earth.

This has to be a passage I often return to as it is the source of great comfort. Similarly, Graham's daily words of wisdom seek to provide comfort, and I believe he succeeds in this. Graham's devotionals do not follow a running theme but bring, each day, something fresh and new, giving the reader something to think about and meditate upon throughout the day. Each devotional leads us to God, the source of all our help and comfort, reminding us that we are not alone in our hardships. 

The devotionals follow a similar format, beginning with a catchy title and a line of scripture that introduces the day's meditation. Graham then launches into a two minute sermon that is easily accessible to the reader, and leaves us with a thought or two to carry through the day. Graham then closes with a line or two of prayer. 

My only criticism is that Graham sometimes seems to have a particular audience in mind, and this has the potential to exclude individuals. For example, some of his devotionals have been strictly about marriage and children. Perhaps this is just me being finicky! Other than that, I've been really impressed with Unto the Hills and I'm sure that each devotional will provide me with a little comfort and insight each day as I continue on my journey with God. 

I review for BookSneeze

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Words of Wisdom

We want to encourage you that whatever you are going through with your family or anything else, NOTHING is too difficult for God!

He is able to do more for you than you could ever imagine or dream and give you the strength to face the future. He has done it for us. He will do it for you! He loves you and plans for you in love!

Extract taken from a Round Robin Letter, written by a former missionary whose husband was returned to her after two years of imprisonment in the Gambia. 

These words really gave me hope. So much so that I snaffled the newsletter from the bundle my parents receive each year, and copied the words into my prayer journal, as they were the words I really needed to hear. 

So many faith affirming things have happened for me personally over the last fortnight. I've had  answers to so many prayers, reminding me that I do not walk alone, but that I am protected on all sides by one who loves me. You know how unhappy I've been in my current job. I now have two interviews this week within 24 hours of each other, one of which came completely out of the blue.  I am nervous as I know these are huge opportunities, but I am also feeling optimistic and excited as I know my God is capable of anything. This is something that I have been slow to grasp, but with each and every revelation of God's steadfast love, my fear and uncertainties have been dispelled. 

I also want to acknowledge my colleague Carole (although she will probably never read this) for agreeing to swap shifts with me. She will never know how much that means to me, as this enables me to attend a reunion. This was another answer to a prayer. My worry was needless. God always comes through for me.