Spontaneously Unprepared


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


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


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


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


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.🙂

The First Day of Many


Sometimes, you can build something up so much in your head, preparing and getting ready, that it can never possibly meet your expectations. But sometimes, something is so special that no matter how much you think about it, it’s more than you could have imagined.

This is how I felt when my sister got married last weekend, and I only pray it’s how she felt too.

A year and a half ago, my sister got engaged, the day before Christmas eve, and it seems like since then, when we were all together, it was all we talked about, with so much to plan and prepare. We started planning the invitations and after deciding on a design and measuring and folding forty of these invitations carefully, my sister decided it would be a good idea to check they fit in the envelopes. They didn’t. After a long discussion about whether to sit and refold them all or simply buy bigger envelopes, it’s fair to say I won. We bought bigger envelopes.

Preparations like this continued and as months went on, decisions were made, dress fittings and shopping trips became much more frequent and excitement grew every time I saw the family. Skipping forward a little, I had the great privilege of being asked to be chief bridesmaid, meaning it was my job to sort out the hen party.

For someone that is awful at keeping secrets, this was quite difficult but it did help that for a lot of the planning we were at opposite ends of the country and she was kept guessing right to the point of being presented her first outfit on the day (an Alice in wonderland fancy dress theme). First up, after a bit of quality girlie shopping including a kids caterpillar ride, we went to a trampoline park where not only the floors but the walls were all trampolines, including a game of dodge ball and swinging into big foam pits we thought we’d never get out of. After coming out, all feeling worn out and significantly older than we are, we found out just how much the bride and groom to be really did know each other with a classic Mr and Mrs quiz and a few bottles of bubbly before heading out to a Caribbean restaurant for a meal and a few cocktails and ending up dancing the night away to cheesy 90s classics in a local club. The next morning we were up bright and early (somehow) for a pony trek around the New Forest where I think it’s fair to say my horse was not installed with the same sat nav as everyone else’s. I also had trouble finding the breaks as we decided to canter on in front of everyone else when told to try a ‘gentle trot’. However, it seems horses were not actually an issue when we were sat on top of them, it was only when we went for our slightly windy picnic that we encountered some over friendly wild ponies that didn’t exactly stay friendly for long and ended up kicking us and stealing our picnic. After that excitement we relaxed in the spa of a posh hotel and joined up with other members of the family for a posh high tea (again with bubbles) where everything is so tiny and yet you still get so full.

With the fun of the hen party done, it was down to serious final preparations. Table centres were cut out of wood and carefully covered in satin and painted with names and dates, the last buttons were stitched onto the flower girls dresses, the cake was assembled and delicately piped (more than once) into their favourite books, things were getting close. Three days before, I baked 233 cupcakes, by the time it got to decorating them the next day, there were only 228. With help with piping and making the sugar paste decorations I hand decorated each one with individual blossoms, hearts and cakes, spending a grand total of thirteen and half hours making cupcakes over those two days.

Finally, after every hand stitched button, every hand decorated cake, every carefully assembled table centre and place name, every meeting and shopping trip, every hour and pound spent, the day was here. All morning we had people coming and going from our house delivering things, picking things up, getting things ready, it was like the wedding version of Clapham junction; Photographer, hairdresser, makeup artist, usher, best man, driver, bridesmaids, it was all go. Soon we were all at the church, nails painted, hair done and faces on. As chief, I did my duties, I let the flower girls loose at the appropriate time to follow my sister down the aisle, I signed the register witnessing the marriage and I sorted out the train and veil multiple times. My sister, well, she got married.

The whole day was absolutely beautiful and it seemed every hour spent was entirely worth it although that’s not what made it so beautiful. It was beautiful because although it went so quickly at the time, this was only the first day of many for them. It was beautiful not because the flower girls were indescribably adorable (which they were) or because the cake was so creatively amazing (which it was) but because my sister gets to spend the rest of her life with the man she loves and I got to see how happy that made them. It was such a fun day throughout, full of dancing, fun in the photo booth and fully decorating the bridal suite with tacky bunting, confetti and balloons along with the best man and my cousin. The first dance was magical as everyone watched them for the first time as a married couple before being joined by our parents and the best man and I along with other friends and family and by the end of the night everyone was on the dance floor for all the classics. I enjoyed every minute from the service through to the dinner, speeches, photographs and full cooked breakfast in the morning, having stayed there over night. There was even some dancing on the tables after a few shots and much merriment from all.

It was also my first time in my own proper hotel room and as a student I was going to make the most of it. You offer me a sachet of coffee – I’m taking all five. A packet of complementary biscuits? That’ll do for the train journey back. It was most exciting, although for a good few days after coming back, the only things in my cupboards were what I could scavenge free from the hotel. It felt so odd going back, especially to the world of coursework, having been totally consumed in this amazing occasion, surrounded by the people we love and I hope the hype continues for the happy couple throughout the honeymoon and beyond. It was amazing to have a whole day reflecting even a bit of the fun so far and that is still to come in their lives.

So congrats! I wish you all the happiness and blessings in your life together as you start the rest of your lives, and thanks for such a wonderful day🙂



A Life worth dying for


It is about this time of year when we tend to ponder the greatest love story ever told. The love that came at greatest cost but brought the greatest reward.

Jesus didn’t come so that we could survive, he came that we could thrive. So that we could be absolutely showered in the blessings that he deserves but would rather share with us, even if it did mean dying a horrific death.

“I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.” That’s the promise we have in Jesus, that we can live life abundantly in everything we do. This last week of term for me has been absolutely amazing and not because of any one big event or exciting adventure but because of a series of little pockets of perfection.

On Wednesday, it was glorious weather and I got to spend the time walking home from campus unexpectedly with a friend, catching up about everything and marveling over a beautiful bird of prey. In the evening I had a lovely dinner with a family from church before going to a lent course learning about the privilege of prayer and the incomprehensible connection we now have with God thanks to this day.

On Thursday I had my explorers hat on teaching children about the environment and planting vegetables in the sunshine. I then went to my friends flat for dinner before all the fun of a St Patrick’s day bar crawl, playing and singing along to folk music in every bar.

Friday we were already starting planning for our carol service this year, and as far off as it seems it is such an exciting endeavour and an absolute privilege to be a part of it all. I then went home to the emotional roller-coaster that was watching all three Toy Story films one after another with my friend, inspiring my Jessie costume for my friend’s Disney themed birthday party that night. She let me stay at hers as I had rehearsals on campus in the morning and even gave me her bed as we rolled in at three in the morning, like a good old fashioned girlie sleepover.

Saturday was a day of musical enjoyment, starting with nine thirty choir rehearsals and somehow ending up last minute playing the nicest clarinet I’ve ever played in another ensemble where the only music of the set I had seen before was the kazoo part. This was all for a big alumni concert in the music society that night where we were joined by ex members from far and wide to make music with us. This was followed by a big social in the bar with old bands reuniting to continue the music revelries and nostalgia before the party moved to a friends house. At about half past four, I walked home collapsing in a fully satisfied heap on my bed and setting my alarm for four hours and thirteen minutes to help lead children’s groups at church in the morning.

For a day running on just less that four hours sleep, Sunday was near perfect. After hiding seventy two little bunnies around a church hall for an Easter hunt at church, I met up with a friend for coffee and got to meet and chat to someone from another CU. My friend suggested we took a picnic to the park and I couldn’t think of anything better despite being a little tired. We went back via mine to charge phones and contact friends and having also been at the party the night before, my friend and I both collapsed exhausted once again in my room, singing along to music. We then went up to the park with a few friends, a picnic entirely of different varieties of cake and some speakers. We sat on the hill, listening to music, eating cake and watching the sun set over the city. That moment was so beautiful, at the end of term without a single care or worry in the world and just then, I wished that it could last forever. I then went on to church and heard an inspiring sermon about how in Christ, we really do have nothing to worry about, before rejoining my friends in a quaint little local pub. There was chilled live music downstairs and board games upstairs and a couple of my friends from the barber shop started singing some songs round the table. One man with a guitar came over and started accompanying them and we all joined in including who I can only assume was this man’s wife, it was wonderful. Once again, tired, but fully satisfied.

On Monday we had a chilled but still relatively productive day in the library after another beautifully sunny walk to campus. We then reconvened for a film night in the evening. My friend and I both said we were not going to be staying very late that night but we didn’t get round to picking the film until half past ten/eleven o’clock and after the film my friend revealed that he had brought jungle speed. Before we knew it, it was five in the morning and were still fighting for the totem. Between us, we were covered in bruises and cuts and I was suddenly very aware that I had a full day of CU planning the following day but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. We walked home and as much as I knew I needed sleep, I also knew I wanted to spend as much time with these people as I could, one of whom I had only met on Saturday and yet I already felt like I had known her forever.

I don’t know what would be your perfect week but for me, this came close. Nothing spectacular as I said, but after a term of what just seemed to be one thing after another, it was such a blessing to be able to just sit back and relax and have day after day of simple, unadulterated fun. One night I laughed so hard, I still had belly ache two days later, npw that’s the life.

In faith, hindsight is a wonderful thing. This isn’t a new idea, I think Pilate probably thought the same thing when he realised just who he had crucified all those years ago. Yet Jesus still thought he was worth dying for. In hindsight, I can count the blessings I receive every day and know it is nothing to do with anything I’ve done but simply a free gift I have been given. I’m free to live every moment, as simple as it may be, fully and abundantly. I’m free to know that I don’t have to worry about a thing because someone somewhere has already taken all those worries on for Himself. Because I was made to enjoy creation and each one of my days is already planned to be the best it can be. Because someone somewhere cares about me more than I can ever imagine. Because someone somewhere thinks I’m to die for and for that, I will be eternally grateful🙂