Sunday, 3 February 2013

New blog

I have a new blog set up for my faith-based posts. Here : if you want to take a look!

Monday, 21 January 2013

A brief reflection on Winter

For the past two Sundays Jim has been preaching on how to overcome the (literal and metaphorical) Winter Blues. I was in church yesterday and was inspired suddenly to write this, because his words were so relevant. It seems I'm not the only one who has reacted with writing, judging from posts on my friends' blogs. Anyway, this is my take on Winter, as for me, it is more than a literal season right now.


Snow makes for a silent world. There is no wind to stir these laden branches, bowed with their burdens. All is covered, muffled under this blanket that leaves nothing untouched. I ball up snow in a gloved hand and laugh with the rest of them, but after a while, it becomes impossible to ignore winter’s chill. The cold creeps through my shoes, steals between my buttonholes. I find relief in hot tea and cosy feet, but the sky is still iron. Winter is still dead, and Spring is far away.

But I am learning, in the winter of my life, that it hurts, but it’s going to be OK. There is no Spring without Winter. My circumstances get noisy, clamorous; jabbering at me from all sides, and sometimes God seems as silent as the snow. But something is happening underneath the soil, and I know it will blossom into something beautiful, because that’s who God is, the God who’s notice does not escape a single sparrow falling to the ground.

My God knows. Everything. And He is passionately interested in my life. He is the Author and Finisher, and He will see me through to Spring. Every time I lose sight of Him, He steps in, picks me up again, and reminds me that He is so, so good. He has not forgotten me. He has not left me to harsh, cruel Winter, and He will not send me into the cold without bundling me up in His love first. 

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Best of 2012 in photos

From April onwards I began to make a point of capturing my favourite moments in a photograph, and though I've often been too busy or forgotten my camera, I'm so glad I took the time to appreciate what I saw around me. I'm not a photographer (though with more time and a good camera I'd like to get better in  future), but taking pictures taught me to find beauty everywhere. In nature I saw God's glory- in the perfection of a single flower or in the colours of a sunset; and in man-made structures, like buildings and streets, I saw His creativity gifted to us.

These are roughly in chronological order. Apologies for them all being different sizes, that's just what happens when you crop photos.

Hoping for more photo opportunities this year!

Monday, 31 December 2012

2012- thoughts on this year and hopes for the next

Nobody is going to find a summary of my year all that exciting, unless you’re the type who loves receiving Christmas cards with those family newsletters attached. I’m mostly writing this for me, to remember everything I have to be thankful for and to figure out what I want for the future. But if you are reading this, I hope it brings some encouragement.

This time last year I was off to the cinema before ushering in 2012 with the firework display in town. It sounds ridiculously corny, but I remember being with friends, watching the glitter of those fireworks and feeling really good about the year ahead.

It actually got off to a rocky start. I didn’t know whether I even wanted to be at University. The first week back after Christmas, I was a mess of indecision. I put on a brave face, but inwardly I couldn’t have been more miserable.

Help came in the form of very patient parents and good friends, and by the end of that week, I had my answer. I was walking through campus and I suddenly knew I wanted to stay. God showed me where the problem lay, and He showed me what I really wanted. Since then, I focused on everything that was good about my uni life, and though I was still homesick and hating the house I was in, things got better.

Within a fortnight of deciding to stay I’d started volunteering at ‘Kidz Klub’, joined the belly dancing society, and generally made peace with my situation. One of my best friends told me that if I stayed, I’d ‘grab the bull by the horns and really make the most of things’. He was right.

Perhaps best of all about those two weeks was that five other girls and myself found a house for 2nd year. From the moment we saw it, we knew that house was a gift from God. Everything about it was right, and somehow we managed to be the first viewing of the day and beat several other interested groups to signing the contract. I remember we prayed this house would be a joy and a blessing, to ourselves and to anyone who walked through the door, and after having lived in it for a term, that prayer has been answered in such an obvious way.

Through good and bad (and there were many bad days), God was right there, whether I recognised it or not. With every passing day, I learnt something about myself. Romans 5 v 3-5 says this: ‘But we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.

First year passed; the hardest, strangest, and actually most blessed year of my life so far. Suddenly I was back home, bored after suddenly having nothing to do, and realising I was in desperate need of a job. That prayer was answered too, and I got more than I bargained for with a full time contract in a madly busy office. The job was pretty rubbish really; complaints departments are never fun, and when money is the cause for complaint, you can be sure people are going to be very upset, often obnoxious, and sometimes rude. For an inexperienced temp I had more responsibility than I’d imagined, but also, for an inexperienced temp I was well paid. That job gave me the money I needed to finance a whole term of rent, so with my student loan I was independent of my parents for the first time in my life. (Not sure how next term is going to be financed, but God will sort that one out too).

The most summer holiday I got this year was three days in Northern Ireland to visit a friend, but hopefully next year will be different! We can’t have it all can we?

Eventually September came, I left my job, and Uni started again. The first term of second year was amazing, with countless laughs with my lovely new housemates, growing closer with friends, enjoying my course, and most importantly deepening my relationship with God. I am so so thankful for every friend, every good thing I experienced in the past few months. So happy to be a part of the church I go to. Yes there were low points and difficulties, life is like that, but overall I had a great term.

And suddenly the year is over and I’m sitting contemplating it all. Since coming home for Christmas out family has been hit with a few obstacles, but I know God has good things to come! Since being home I’ve really been seeking him and rejoicing in what he’s done this year, and it’s made me even more excited about next year! And of course, I’m going to Berlin in September! A year ago, I would never have been brave enough to make such a decision.

So what do I want for 2013?

Above all things I want to know Jesus more. I want to go where he leads me, love others the way he loves me, be a blessing to others the way he has blessed me. As of yet I have no other resolutions, because everything good comes from focusing on him. All my hopes and plans are in his hands. Proverbs 16: 3 says ‘Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.’ Not got much to worry about then really.

Well that was my year. I’d love to hear about your’s (and I mean that honestly, I’m one of those people who love reading about other people’s experiences). 

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Joy to the World?

Apologies for my silence of late. I’ve been busy with essays and carol concerts and present shopping and social events, etc etc. This time of year is a bit mad for everyone, isn’t it?

Well, I’m back now after having spent the past few days finishing off festive preparations and catching up on much-needed sleep. I’m profoundly grateful to be home for a few weeks as I really need the rest, but if you’re a student you probably know what I mean when I say that coming home is a bit weird. For one reason or another, it’s never quite what you think it will be; expectations don’t quite align with reality, but I’m readjusting.

I’m trusting God will provide a solution to my every problem and concern. Taking one day at a time and 
remembering to be thankful for every good thing (and there are so many) really makes all the difference.

What I’m about to say was coincidentally (or not!) pretty much summed up at church this morning by our speaker, but after jokingly telling him he stole my thunder, he told me that there’s no copywright on what I wanted to share.

This time of year is my almost favourite- I love Spring best of all, but the Christmas and New Year period comes pretty close. There’s so much to enjoy- from family, friends and food to decorating the tree, watching silly films and singing carols. And yes, I do quite like presents too.

None of these things would have any real purpose if we took the true message of Christmas away. I think if we truly grasped how ridiculously amazing the Christmas story is, we would be celebrating with ten times more enthusiasm. John 3: 16 tells it in short. God sent his own son Jesus Christ, to be born amongst men in a messed up, broken world. Born in the most humble of shelters, to an ordinary teenage girl, in a small town in Israel. Jesus, wholly Man, related to us, sharing in our sufferings, and yet was wholly God, healing the sick, showing compassion to the unloved. Through Jesus, the world got to hear the Good News- a Saviour born to free us from the punishment of separation from our Father. On a wooden cross, Jesus paid that price, and rising from the tomb he conquered sin and death.

This is God’s love for his creation; through Jesus, the relationship between God and Man, broken by sin, was mended. This is the greatest gift that ever was and ever will be given. John 10: 10 says ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly’. This ‘life’ includes Freedom to know this God, from whom everything good comes, and the promise of returning to the one who created us, who knows and loves us completely, for an eternity in a realm of perfection.

Maybe you’ve heard all this before and know it in the depths of your soul. Maybe you’ve heard it before but never really believed it was true. Maybe you think it sounds completely insane.

You might be asking how this could be such great news when there’s so much suffering on Earth. The recent Connecticut shootings. War. Poverty. Loneliness. Sickness. For many, many people, Christmas is not a time of joy.

So how can we really enjoy Christmas when there is all this pain in the world? A large part of it is being grateful for what we have; fully appreciate the food on your table, the presents under your tree, and the people around you. God loves to give us good things, but the richest blessings come when there is a thankful, rejoicing heart.

Several weeks ago, the pastor at my church spoke about the Kingdom of God, and how it is Here and also Not Yet. Jesus came to bring salvation, but he is coming again to make all things new. To make right a hurting world. Suffering is a part of this life, and we cannot make it all go away.


The Kingdom being ‘here’ means that though Jesus is not walking the Earth as Man any longer, the Holy Spirit dwells among us, working to free us from pain, from oppression, from guilt. And with that freedom comes the opportunity to love as we have been loved, to help ease all that suffering just a little bit.

This time of year does highlight the extremes of joy and pain in this world. The difference we can make to the lives of others may not seem much in the face of so much sadness, but let that never be a discouragement. Let’s be generous where we can, be it with time, money, patience or love. Not ‘because it’s Christmas’; there is always need. But if Jesus is truly Joy to the World, let’s respond to that message accordingly.

The happiest of Christmases to you all.


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Things I Love

This month has been a drag. Wet, cold, windy and dark, it's fortunate Christmas is fast approaching- definitely been feeling a touch of the November Blues.

I really like lists though, and thought I would compile a list of other things I like to cheer myself up.

Here it is.

Choosing a new tea from the tea shelves at the supermarket
The view from campus over the city on a sunny day
Finding a new band or artist you instantly love
Walking through dancing leaves when it’s really windy
Walking into Fenwicks, spraying my favourite perfume on from the tester bottle, and walking out again smelling awesome for the rest of the day
The smell of fresh coffee
When you beckon a cat and it comes to you to be stroked
The first day of the year you can feel the sun’s warmth
Giggling over silly things with my housemates
The mutual joy my brother and I share whenever I go home, and the mutual arguing that happens five minutes later
Crisp winter mornings
Being given chocolate
Playing the piano
Belting out the Wicked soundtrack when no-one is home
Mint choc chip ice cream
Finding something amazing in a charity shop
When someone’s laugh is really funny
Wandering around Canterbury town centre’s back streets
Long walks with the family
The sound of waves on the shore
Sunday mornings at church
Vintage shops and markets
Belly dancing
Writing and receiving letters or cards
Holidays abroad
The anticipation before Christmas
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Crunchy leaves
Reading a book in my favourite chair at home
Getting excited about future events or plans
Coffee and cake at Oma's 
Summer evenings
The smell of roses           
Timely encouragements
Going on day trips to London
Spring flowers
Long chats with best friends
Dressing up to go out
The sound of my Portuguese family all talking over each other at high volume
Small group
Cute cafes
Babies laughing
Walking along beaches
Good essay marks

Friday, 23 November 2012

This Week

Feeling inspired after reading Emily Dickinson, I decided to be brave and try my hand at poetry. It's at once more liberating and more restrictive than prose; I have the freedom to say less and let my meaning remain ambiguous, yet these few words must be more carefully chosen.

I have no idea what good poetry really is. I don't know if it's about its structure, rhyme and meter, or if it's purely about emotion. The following is just some of my musings about the past week. They are not intended to make a lot of sense, and for the record, I am very close to getting excited about Christmas, finally!

For your reading pleasure. Love, C.

Christmas feels wrong this year
Too early still for M&S promotions and obnoxious 80s hits
To these indifferent crowds I am another obstacle
Slowing their progress toward the display of cashmere sweaters
They have them in every colour; I picture middle-aged men pulling safe brown ones from the wrapping
Pecking well-meaning wives on the cheek
‘Thank you darling, just what I wanted’.

The expectant frosty twinkle cinnamon feeling floats ahead
Not too far off now, but far enough still
To make enjoying every day for its own sake
A possibility; life now has its share of excitement, the present reality is adequate
A hope - a dream - became reality this week
Berlin is no longer a musing, safe in its disconnection
I ask myself, can I have made such a decision?

Perhaps I am two people at once
Brave, smart, confident, joyous
Anxious, stuck, proud, a fake
Mechanical smile, forced laugh- not trying to be, but who doesn’t wear a mask?
Is it a mask when you are happy and hurting both?
More happy than hurting at that.
Life has bipolar tendencies. I cannot remain unmoved.

Why does one sting make all the good insignificant?
Humans have the best memory for negativity
So many words of love given by so many, easily forgotten
I choose to cling to these affirmations, take heart in God’s promises.
What a fragile strength is mine
Thin as spider silk, it bends but does not break
Corinthians flashes in my mind; in Him I am strong.

Truth can be slippery
I feel that I grasp it, before a careless word
Startles it, and it slides through my fingers
And I am back to second guessing myself, feeling guilty for not being above it all.
Telling myself I shouldn’t hurt
Shouldn’t take offence
Shouldn’t care too much when understanding too little.

‘Part of life is a lesson
Of how to let emotion ride in the backseat without letting it drive’.
Such wisdom is what makes Sunday mornings such a blessing
 ‘blessing’ ‘blessing’  ‘blessing’ so often this week
It doesn’t look like a word anymore.
If I wrote down every answered prayer this term
Being out of control would feel like relief.