About Time

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Sometimes, it can feel like it’s all go go go with little idea of where we’re actually going. Like we’re plowing full steam ahead with little real direction and there comes a point (or many points) in life when it’s ‘about time’. It’s about time you properly started your dissertation. It’s about time you stop hitting delete on every careers email before reading it. It’s about time you realise you’re at university to do a degree. It’s about time you stop eating peanut butter from the jar and go and do something with your life. I could go on.

As I final year university student, I have had to come to terms with saying goodbye to some truly treasured things in my life recently and quite frankly, emails, posters and articles entitled ‘Hello future!’ do little to rectify this. So, as a small tribute to what has passed, here are my top three, lest we forget.

A cozy cafe. Now sadly, this is one I actually rarely got round to visiting as much as I would have liked which makes it all the more traumatic now it’s gone. This particular cafe was called the Novel Cafe. As a literature student, I appreciated this very much. It was a cute and cozy little place in the centre of town with second hand books to borrow and exchange, full of people just reading, chatting and drinking tea. It was also the first cafe I went to on first visiting the town before coming to university deciding (optimistically) that I would go here all the time to read before immediately losing said cafe on arrival at university. To my excitement I then rediscovered it last year only to find that this year, it has closed down. It will forever be somewhere I wish I had visited more.

A pub. As a student, everyone has their go to favourite pub. For us, this was a small quirky little place with live jazz music, drunk locals and a table of questionable free food. Many times we would be sat upstairs on the brightly coloured, slightly threadbare and hazardously wonky armchairs until late into the night with an odd collection of old books and instruments hidden behind and under sofas. There were often tipsy locals singing in the corner and there was rarely a time we went and didn’t ourselves break into song, often with whoever was in the pub at the time with some kind of unspecified string instrument but there’s no denying it had character. At the end of its life, we all went for a final night of fun before the bell rang and it closed for the last time and we all walked down the street singing loudly to commemorate the good times.

Finally, and I’m sure many will join me in the mourning of this one, the Bake Off. I know there will be some smart people out there who say it hasn’t really gone, but let’s be honest, we have lost the pure, unadulterated innocence of the Great British Bake Off. I’ve seen some of the things on channel 4 and the beauty of Bake Off has no place fraternizing with the likes of that. It has taken a long time to come to terms with it but they do say all good things must come to and end. I’m still not convinced and don’t even get me started on Len leaving Strictly Come Dancing. What will our dreary autumn terms be like without the dream team of Mary Berry and Len Goodman?

There are times to say goodbye but there are also many times to say hello to new things. I have recently come to the conclusion that I probably do too much and still regularly forget I have a degree to do, so naturally in the spirit of saying hello to new things, I’ve decided to learn how to jive. I may have to spin round 8 times so quickly that I fall over but sometimes you have to ask yourself ‘why not?’

It’s about time I started thinking about things but I’m not going to give up the things I love to do so, or start applying for things just because they’re what everyone else is doing. I went to a Halloween party this year where everyone was adorned with latex scars and gory masks, I wasn’t a big fan of the whole scary theme so I went as Where’s Wally and sang Disney songs late into the night; it’s about making every opportunity your own.

Every day another friend comes up to me with a big career offer they’ve landed but I went on a weekend away last week and was reminded we have a future so much greater than that. One that no matter how much changes at the end of this year, will remain the same. We also went on a mountain walk in the Cumbrian countryside. It was completely covered in full thick snow and yet the skies behind were blue and the sun was shining. Someone said to me it was sad how now people just don’t appreciate the beauty of these things because I’m really not sure I have ever seen a view so beautiful and just like all those Romantic poets I realised how insignificant all our plans are in the grand scheme of things. No matter how much you looked on the view, there really was no way of taking it all in or capturing the awesomeness of it all. We had snowball fights, slid down the hill and wrote our names in the snow. That night we stayed up telling each other stories and laughing constantly until we cried. And once again, it’s the simple things, the things that are quite simply out of our control that often bring the most joy and it’s about time I started appreciating that🙂

 

 

Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card

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What I’m about to say really isn’t a story about me or even mine to tell but as I was there and it brightened my Friday morning, I thought I would take the time to share it with you or at least my small part of it.

On Friday morning, I, with a few others sang in the university library in the silent study zone no less for someone’s proposal.

For the record, this is not someone I knew or had any connection with so let’s backtrack. A couple of months ago someone approached our uni choir director saying he wanted a choir to sing when he proposed to his girlfriend and since we got back for this term, nine of us and our conductor put in a few extra rehearsals to make this happen. The couple met in our university library and so this was the venue for our romantic setting.

Rehearsing the morning of and walking down to the library, I was very excited. I love a good proposal, we all occasionally get a little teary in the films and videos and I love hearing peoples’ proposal stories but like many, I had never actually witnessed one myself. It was only when we got up to C floor of the library that I got really quite nervous as ten of us all went to browse the first two shelves of the art history section. I realise I was by no means the most nervous person in this situation nor did I have right to be but when the library is as busy yet quiet as it was, the thought of bursting into song in the silence is quiet a scary one. We waited, pacing up and down the bookshelves behind the wall sandwiched between Islamic Art and The History of English Cathedrals waiting for her to arrive.

There she was. Camera man and videographer were in place. She came up the stairs to meet him for lunch and that was our cue. As he told her that he just wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, there we were singing an a capella version of  If it ain’t You before he got down on one knee to the applause of everyone in the library. I have never had so many cameras on me in my life, well, not on me of course, I’m not pretending this is a story about me but to have at least been in sight of so many cameras. When she came up the stairs and the singing started it was like everyone in the library came over with their phones out. I’m fairly sure I’ll never be on so many snapchat stories at once again and it seems no one really minded about silent study for such a happy occasion, in fact it was probably quite a welcome break for many. And it was a very happy occasion, it was clearly a surprise but she did of course say yes you’ll be pleased to know and wasn’t the only one there to cry. Even with no real connection, I could almost feel myself getting a little teary as we could all see how happy they were.

It was like our fifteen minutes of fame, within minutes it was all over social media – Yik Yak, Facebook, The Tab, YouTube – ‘SHE SAID YES!’ ‘Library proposal’ ‘Guy proposed in the library, WITH A CHOIR’. The weirdest thing was that I left still not knowing the couple beyond their names, which I found out on the day, and yet this will be a story they will recount over and over again, a story I got to be a part of. I really do hope they will have a long happy life together and I will be ever thankful to have the opportunity to see where it started, you did good man🙂

Spontaneously Unprepared

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Third year. It’s the final push and for some reason the time when everyone starts really enjoying the question, So, what comes next? I have to say, I’ve mastered a few answers to this question; I’m seeing where life takes meI’m more a go with the flow kinda gal, and the one that people seem to be happiest with but is probably furthest from the truth, I’m exploring my options.

I have recently discovered that there is a fine line between spontaneous and unprepared and I plan on spending the majority of this year finding out exactly where that line is. For example, this summer I went to a couple of days of a festival with one goal; to pack light. When travelling on the train and effectively camping on my own, it didn’t want to be weighed down with excess baggage. Consequently this led to me standing in a field having not brought any cutlery or crockery, any means of cooking, anything to sleep on or indeed a tent. But it was okay, I had the full works of Shakespeare. In hindsight, this was probably less packing light and more badly thought through; unprepared. But I do also believe some things need to be done just to confirm that they are in fact a bad idea. As a result, when I went camping the following week, I went prepared with all necessary sleeping and eating equipment minus only the tent pegs; it’s important to learn from these experiences.

The day after the first festival, I spent the day in Nottingham without any means of transport home. Consequently, instead of forking out and waiting around for the train, I ended up getting a lift the full four hours home with a comfortable ride and good company and then having these friends over for a nice dinner at home; spontaneous.

I’m entering my final year at university and I may not know exactly what I would do in every situation that may or may not end up occurring in my life but don’t call me unprepared when I have a separate mug for every one of my tea needs. Whether it’s a standard cup of tea, a cosy night in, a dissertation sized brew,  guest mugs or a quick cuppa without wanting to be up all night, I’m ready. I may still be working out exactly which way the sheets go on a double bed and I may still get off at the wrong bus stop on occasions but I like to think I know the things that matter. We recently went on a CU conference and yes, I may have forgotten all of my tent pegs and set a table on fire but we learnt some incredible things preparing us for a year of faith and evangelism.

My cousin recently got married and it was beautiful. An outdoor marquee in glorious sunshine with croquet and a bouncy castle on the lawn and a jukebox and fun photo booth inside with the most incredibly beautiful naked sponge cake I have ever seen. Looking at them, in my life, I plan to be that happy. The following week was my parents 25th Wedding Anniversary and I was again on making Mary Berry proud in the kitchen for their big party to celebrate (now that cake really was a comeback if ever I saw one, after many a mishap I really did think at one point there was no coming back). But the point is, what ever happens along the way and however I get there, I plan on still being that happy 25 years later.

Right now, I am spontaneously unprepared for life with big dreams and few ideas and who knows, maybe by the end of the year, I’ll be a little more spontaneous and a little less unprepared, but for that we will just have to wait and see.🙂

Beyond the Flags

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What is meant by Justice? Is justice placing a penny in the charity pot as you walk past? Locking people away for the bad things they’ve done? Shouting for your rights on a street corner? Building a wall between your land and mine?

And What exactly is Peace? The absence of conflict? A quiet place in the desert or a still water? A desperate prayer in the middle of the night?

And Freedom? The chance to say what you think? The ability to be lost without being found? The chance to move without being followed? The chance just to be without being questioned?

These are all words I’ve come to question and reevaluate recently.

I wonder what comes into your mind when you hear the terms refugee and refugee camp. Is a refugee a helpless victim, someone far from home or a potential terrorist? When we think of a refugee camp, do we see tents, a shambles of lost people or a dangerous place? So many people around the world now are fleeing their homes in desperate and terrifying situations and being taken away from their families and these are all things that went through my mind but so many people around the world have been refugees all of their life. People that have never known any different, not running away and leaving the comfort of their home but people that have never known a place called home.

This summer, I had the privilege of visiting and staying in a Palestinian refugee camp and meeting some incredible people. Not helping the needy but walking with friends. I cannot even begin to explain how much I learnt. First of all, and possibly most importantly, I learnt that the media is not all it’s cracked up to be. Now I know this sounds obvious and something we should all be aware of by now but it’s scary the difference between what we’re told and what is really going on. We all know about ‘the conflict somewhere in the Middle East’ but not the extent of the oppression and injustice around the world that is simply hidden from our eyes.

I learnt that I was a lot freer in their country than my friends are in their own country. I’m free to go wherever I want and talk about whatever I want. I’m free to go home and boycott the products that they depend so heavily on and yet simultaneously inhibit their own progression and take away their independence and freedom. I was amazed by the people that I met and the things that I saw and for a people with so much to hate, they are all such a people of peace. I shared tea with people that had been shot multiple times and danced in the streets with people that have seen their friends and family killed and still only long for peace.

I got the chance to go an awesome culture, arts, and justice festival in Bethlehem and visit a lot of the Holy sites around Jerusalem and Israel which was incredible, but the times I felt most safe was the time spent with my refugee friends, because to me, they aren’t refugees, they are just my mates. Even when there was gunfire on the street we were on, I always felt safe with my friends. And sadly, I came to the conclusion that I was safe simply because I am not Palestinian, or Israeli for that matter. As a Westerner, I am free to walk around their streets, safe in the knowledge I will not be harmed, free to sleep soundly at night in their country.

I don’t necessarily know who has theological claim to this land but I know that God never intended people to be treated this way. I’ve heard so many harrowing and heartbreaking stories, I’ve seen walls built between real people, I’ve shed tears over the people I’ve met and above all, I’ve learnt that these stories need to be told.

I’ve seen that Justice isn’t just wiping your hands clean of the powerful and the powerless but acknowledging people have been wronged. I’ve seen that Peace can be loud cries or passionate and vibrant graffiti. I’ve seen that Freedom doesn’t just come to the powerful but even those in power can be trapped. It’s time to look beyond the flags that cover this beautiful land and stand up for the forgotten.

So, for all my Arabic friends out there:

 🙂 !Yallah Makloobeh شكرا لكم، دعونا العثور العدالة

 

Another Decade Down

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Take every opportunity of enjoying yourself.
Mrs Bennet Pride and Prejudice

This weekend marked the halfway point in my time at OneSound as I made my way to St Albans after reaching the grand old age of twenty for another weekend of fellowship and music making. I am now no longer a teenager. I am in my third decade. I am closer to being forty than I am to being born. I am the age I will be when I graduate. I am also halfway through my OneSound life. It may seem all downhill from here but I’ve recently come to the conclusion that there are still plenty more opportunities for enjoying myself.

Two weeks ago, we were up in York for a fabulous time of worship which left me faced with a rather daunting nine hours home. But I do love a good road trip and as tired as I was, with music blasting loud and the prospect of heading home for the summer, it was all in all a good end to the weekend. Last weekend I was again able to see friends from every corner of the country, mostly from university, as we caught up over some good old fashioned French cricket, pubbing and midnight musicalities. It seems the summer has only just begun and I’m already missing them all.

It was fantastic then to have two OneSound weekends so close together as we congregated in St Albans. One again, we were laughing until we cried at even the smallest of things, spending time in prayer for one another and just enjoying each others company. We enjoyed a glorious afternoon of sunshine in the park as well as trips to the pub and many cups of tea together. I even somehow ended up on a lads trip to the pub one evening before finding myself sat in the back of a rather shady looking van on a street corner with the ‘lads’ the following night, drinking beer and eating 20″ pizzas. Now, if like me, you find it difficult to visualise 20 inches; each slice is a two hand job. I admit, it probably looked a little sketchy to each passer-by at one o’clock in the morning, but we were having fun with our chairs crammed into the back and the retro purple carpet lining the inside of the van. We did of course make lots of music together too throughout the weekend, with our voices and our playing, from rehearsals, the concert, singing for an elderly day care centre and leading worship in the service, all in worship to the LORD. It just shows how fun God made life to be when you learn to use what you’ve been given.

Life is about making your own fun. By the age of 20, Mozart had composed multiple symphonies. By the age of 20, Andy Murray was British number one. Elizabeth Barrett Browning published her first volume of poetry, Jane Austen had written Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice and Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. I’m simply taking every opportunity to enjoy myself.

Grateful Goodbyes

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How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. A.A.Milne

As second year draws to a close, there have been some incredible memories and some difficult goodbyes so, to make it a little easier, here is my sign off to second year as told by Winnie the Pooh.

You can never quite prepare yourself to say goodbye to people you love because the more time you spend with them, the closer you get, the same is true of university. Second year it seems is very different from first year in many ways, not least because you’re living in a house or actually working towards your degree. It seems everything means more. Work means more, decisions mean more and friends most definitely mean more. I now go out with people I actually really want to spend time with instead of anyone and everyone. Last year I said every week that I wouldn’t go out that week and somehow still ended up on the bus or in the club, this year, I said every week that I would go out and somehow ended up in my pyjamas with a brew. You can tell you’re a second year when a cup of tea means more than a night out or when they make your spot in the library a silent study space and you’re okay with it. Last year, at church, I skipped the queue to get squash and chocolate cookies, now I wait in line for a cup of tea and a rich tea biscuit.

We didn’t realise we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun. 

I’ve found friends that are there to celebrate all the good times, even when it feels like there isn’t much to celebrate. Recently my friends decided to celebrate my birthday about two months early as a joke. After about fifty messages and about the time the barbershop choir broke into Happy Birthday in the pub, I decided to just embrace it and I can honestly say, it’s the best fake birthday I’ve ever had.

It’s more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?” 

There have also been multiple celebrations for the end of exams which is one good thing about everyone finishing at different times – the summer comes early and the party never stops. These last few weeks have been filled with picnics in the park, dinner with friends, summer balls and all kinds of end of term revelries. But I’ve also found friends that are still there when life is less than a party. Even if it means coming home from a lecture to find you asleep in their bed or missing a deadline for a spontaneous long walk. People who know when something isn’t quite right but don’t ask complicated questions like ‘how are you?’ or ‘what’s wrong?’ but more exactly the right questions like ‘cup of tea?’ I’ve also found people that care enough about me to introduce me to tea and for that I will be forever grateful.

Some people care too much, I think it’s called love.

These are the people that make it difficult to say goodbye. Particularly those that will not be returning next year. Even to the point of a desperate Hollywood style run across an airport to say goodbye only to see the last train pull away from the platform as I got there. Am I okay with finishing my second year and saying goodbye? Well, I’m on my fourth cup of tea and I’m eating peanut butter out the jar. Tears have been shed multiple times so far but only because I am lucky enough to know people that make saying goodbye so hard.I have noticed that, like Piglet, even though I have a very small heart, it can hold a rather large amount of gratitude.

People say doing nothing is impossible but I do nothing every day. 

Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering. 

I feel this one particularly sums up my university experience because although I’m rarely left bored, little of what I do I would call ‘investing in my future’. It appears most of my friends are leaving early to make far too sensible decisions and do something beneficial with their lives and because of that I am very happy for them. I on the other hand….. People ask me what my plans are for the future and I can usually say what I’m having for lunch but when they ask me more long term I panic because I usually haven’t thought about dinner yet.

One advantage of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.

I have, however, tried to be a little more spontaneous these last few weeks. This has included surprise parties, flying home for a day to surprise my family, an unintentional day trip to the beach when I fell asleep on the train and woke up in Blackpool including a trip to Pleasure beach and Blackpool tower,  and making an impulse decision to go to Bethlehem in the summer. I may not be entirely in control of my life, but where’s the fun in being orderly? As Winnie the Pooh knows….

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day. 

So here’s to the friends that have got it all sorted out, to the friends that are ‘on a different journey’, to the friends that know exactly what to say, and the friends that always have a cup of tea on standby. Here’s to the friends I’ve sat in a&e with, the friends that would drive me an hour at six o’clock in the morning, the friends I accidentally invite over for dinner and the friends that get me questioned by the police. To the friends that dance with me in the kitchen, the friends that aren’t afraid to cry and the friends that make you laugh so hard you have belly ache for two days after. Saying goodbye is hard but you’d be missing out if it wasn’t.🙂

 

 

 

Love is… Not in our hands

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Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

That’s how Saint Paul defines love.

In the address of a wedding I attended on Saturday, the minister said how love was described by a group of 4-11-year-old children. The answers included Love is when you fall down and they help you up again. Love is when your eyelashes go up and down so quickly it’s like stars come out. Love is when you like someone so much, you would share your food with them. Love is when someone says your name but it’s different and it sticks in your mind. Isn’t that beautiful? When asked how you know who to marry, one child replied, “You don’t know who you’re meant to marry, God knows from the beginning and you just have to wait and see who you’re stuck with”. I think there’s something amazing about that; the sense of adventure while still knowing it’s in good hands.

The wedding on Saturday and in particular, the couple getting married, well, that’s how I’d define love. I remember a fair few years ago now, sitting and praying about this very day with the bride. At the time, we had no idea what was going to happen but it’s fair to say, we put it in good hands and our prayers were answered. It was the most beautiful day. We were all blessed with glorious weather; the sun was shining all day. After a beautiful afternoon in Richmond park, we went on to the reception at an incredible venue with absolutely stunning views over the park, right through to a breathtaking sunset over the horizon.

Right through the speeches and first dance it was clear even from their faces that this couple are meant to be together. Listening to the speeches, I was amazed at how much of their lives I was aware of or had been involved in in some way and it was such a honour to be able to share the day with them.

It was so happy, so beautiful and just so perfect throughout, finishing the day with a good old ceilidh and as an honourary northerner now, I can say proudly, no, this is not simply a barn dance. What better way to get everyone up and dancing and just enjoying themselves. It was also great to catch up with old friends and finally celebrate my 18th birthday nearly two years later with one friend in particular and the first time joy of an open bar.

Every minute was fantastic, every minute was perfect. Having known the groom since I was less than knee high and the bride for a good few years now, I have known them separately and I have known them together and I’m not sure I can think of two people better matched. I guess that’s what happens when you leave it in the hands of Love Himself. Sometimes you just look at people and know it’s forever.🙂