Monday, 23 November 2015

first love (a letter to my former self)

Hello. I've gone a bit weird and written a letter to myself when I was at uni. 

These days, I'm so tired every day. I think everyone my age is constantly exhausted from dealing with babies and jobs and well mainly just the babies. I'm spiritually just....tired. 

I don't really get to listen to people talking about Jesus because I'm always with the kids at church. I'm the mum with the boy toddler who shrieks if he sees me even glance towards the door, especially if he can hear worship music in the other room. He knows. He knows I want to go, and he knows that I won't if he yells at me. Vexatious. So sermons, podcasts, worship sessions, even team prayer times are dominated by brrroooom cars and crackers and I can feel my brain powers being sucked out of my ears....

But I'm going to be ok, and this is why.

Dear former me,

hello from your future. Our next decade is a bit mental, in the best possible sense. You'll complete your first bucket list alarmingly quickly and then your life will get hijacked by some other stuff. Have fun with that. I know I did (this letter is weird).
The next decade after that one is shaping up to be a little bit intense - I'll let you know how it ends when I've got more of a clue.

You're so young! So casual and frivolous, you don't think you are but trust me honey, you're a tiny girl child playing at adulthood. I'm pretty proud of you but I know that you won't believe me. You've got so many wounds still and I know that life can feel really difficult sometimes, and here's some things that I wish you knew already....
- You're not fat. You never have been fat. Actually, you should think about wearing more slutty clothes. 

- People like you. They really do. They will continue to do so and those girls you're hanging out with? Do that more. They're brilliant.
- That boy you're hanging out with? Do that less.
- In fact, just forget about all the boys and all the silliness of why are all my friends engaged already angst etc (little clue: stop fancying people who don't also want to follow Jesus, it doesn't work and they know it even if you don't yet. Also stop toying with the notion of going out with boys who are absolutely terrified of your passion for God stuff and who basically want a kitchen wench.) Forget it, because in a few years you'll meet him and you'll be so, so grateful that nothing ever happened with the others. Oh, I know you don't believe me and I know you feel awkward and rejected, but just be a bit more patient and then....yum. Believe me. I know you don't believe me. Alright. Carry on. You'll see.

To the point. I'm writing to you to thank you. You're doing things that I am so grateful that you're doing. I know you're insecure and angry and you're going to have to work a lot of stuff out pretty soon but right now, keep doing what you're doing.
Keep falling in love with God.
Keep that anti religious thing you've got going on, 

that testing and searching,
keep praying in nightclubs and being the weirdo behind the bar (no, they will never let you serve drinks but that's ok because this will be a funny story in fifteen years) and slumping on the floor at the back in communion and challenging everything and making friends with everyone and oh, wow, yes. Just keep doing that.

Because - and don't be scared 'cos it's going to be ok - there's going to be some tough things in your future. When I'm writing this, one of the toughest things is how tired you are, how little of that passion you feel anymore. How little time you're going to have to read the Bible let alone go on theological retreats with your best friend. You're going to be giving out everything that you have to the people around you and you're not going to have time to refuel yourself.
Oh, and the religion. I'm so sorry that they're going to try to squish you.

Enjoy Brighton, my friend, because not everywhere is that scruffy or relaxed. Grownups will find you hard to handle and you will box yourself, squash yourself, please everyone but yourself in an effort to keep the damn boat still. Afloat.

You're going to work for fellow Christians for a really long time, paid and unpaid, and you're going to have to wear that badge too. Because you really are one but it's going to get a bit alien - conservatives and liberals and predestined free willed chosen random oh alllllll the labels. You will understand and empathise with so many different people, so much so that you will sometimes find it hard to know what you even think about the things headed 'theology'. Sometimes you're going to be a full time Christian with very little opportunity to hang out with Jesus.

But thank you.
Because you have no idea now, mainly because you're self involved (that's ok 'cos I am too) and spending most of your time prancing around thinking about boys and music....these years are beautiful. You're doing things, unintentionally and just for fun, that are the foundations of your ability to function later. I'm alright because of what you're up to. Thank you.
Do the 24/7 prayer week night shifts. Do the cell groups. Do the conversations and the dancing and the, of course, appalling poetry.
(Oh, and definitely go to Thailand with Ruth. You'll love her forever. God's gonna do some miracles as well, which is fun. Macedonia, too. The Meg girl is wearing the t-shirts with Christian slogans on them ironically, she's amazing and she'll be your first baby's Godmother and you're being an idiot.)

So when things get all heavy and boxed later on, you'll be ok. Because you'll know God as he is: Fun. Funny. Dynamic. Gentle. Honest. Kind. Relentless. Holy.
You'll have deep deep roots, an underground lake fathoms deep to draw on when you don't even know it because this falling in love with Jesus thing that's happening to you right now, it's huge and it's shaping who you're going to be. Keep going. He's doing ginormous stuff in your heart, real and solid. He's got you, He's drawing you in and I am so, so pleased that He is/ did.
There will be times when you will just need to remember the treasure of your past/ your now, and it will be enough to get you excited again. The people and ideas and beliefs that you're discovering now with bolster you, uphold you, keep you safe when you're doing some really hard things.
Now go and dance more. We should definitely dance more.

Love, most of the time, You. 



Monday, 16 November 2015

Noel Edmunds

Dearest lovely people.
Missions is difficult, as you well know, because I tell you all about it all the time until you most likely wish to never hear from me again.
And although the hard things are all so very terrible, blah blah blah, there are also many good and positive things to be gleaned from a life in YWAM Vinnitsa. I'm going to tell you about them - without too much backhanded complaining or sarcasm, just straight up nice things I hope - because I'm realizing that it's important to acknowledge the good stuff that God does for us, and to say thank you. I think positive is powerful. I'
m just like Noel Edmunds. Exactly like him. In no ways different from him.

So here's a list. Everybody loves lists. Or maybe Raymond?
List: Good things that happen to you and your family when you're a missionary. 

1- Gratitude becomes very normal. You get excited about things that you once so very much took for granted. You jump up and down and squeal over things like marmite, cumin, heating, running water, electricity, kids clothes from HandM, toilets with seats and lots of other stuff. Also things like buying food. And paying rent. Because every single thing we can purchase is a direct gift from God and our friends and it is amazing.

2- Our brains are constantly engaged because we have to try so hard to learn a new language. In our thirties. In your FACE, Alzheimer's.

3- We're completely out of the loop when it comes to pop culture. I have no clue who is cool, and I actually really like not having a clue about who is cool. Also for a really long time I didn't know that the Anaconda video exists. Or Donald Trump's views on....anything. Or that for some reason the Christmas Sherlock will be a period drama which is in my opinion taking the thing that made it fun and making it less fun. 

It was nicer not knowing these things. And i'm happy that I find out about them late, or not at all. No thank you, world, because you make a lot of awful things.

4- We're basically Bear Grylls. Our babies are bear cubs. We are tough as nails, mate. Blizzards, heatwaves, corruption, war, shortages, dead man on the road outside our house, burgled by people we tried to help, national economic chaos....three years in and we're pretty flippin' hardcore. I look back on past versions of Fritha and laugh at her for she is a pansy.
 And then I pick up my gun and go shoot dinner. 

5- We get to host lots of amazing people who are staying here for reasons like 'i'm adopting my third Ukrainian orphan person' or 'I'm touring Ukraine to pray for the people affected by the war' or 'I'm here to pay for, and work on, your attic being converted into a classroom and i'm using my two weeks of annual leave to do it'. Such people are gracious, giving and inspiring house guests and they do a lot of washing up. And they make me want to be like them when I grow up. I would never get to meet these people if I wasn't doing this 'job'.

6- Our kids are growing up aware of things. Yes, it's not great that B saw a very poorly old homeless man collapsed on the road (won't do details but it was much worse than anything i've seen in the UK), it's sad that she knows that 'this little girl doesn't have a mummy or a daddy' or that 'Svieta's mummy has cancer and is too poor to buy things'. But you knows what's absolutely brilliant? That she is engaged. Not afraid. She knows these things and she comes back with 'let's give Svieta's mummy some money and take her to hospital'. She says 'that man needs to know that God loves him' and 'we should take that little girl home and look after her!'. I kid you not. She says this stuff and she says it without pause or reservation and she looks me in the eye (usually when she's doing a poo and i'm NOT ALLOWED TO LEAVE because it's talking time) and proclaims the ways in which we shall change the world. I could not be more proud of her, and more grateful that God is using our lifestyle to shape my daughter into a strong, kind and compassionate little woman. Just. Wow.

7- On a similar note, our kids don't get Sunday church. At this age church involves me sitting with them in a room while they go on a slide. For two and a half hours.
Instead, they're absorbing Christianity like sponges - playing with lego in the middle of the room while we intercede for refugees, dancing to the worship songs, helping package up the humanitarian aid, helping me teach orphans how to bake (eating their cookies, mainly), listening to us pray our lada back to life, saying Amen when they feel like it and saying nothing when they don't. Unforced, un-imposed, doing life with mummy and daddy because we don't have childcare so just along for the ride and learning so much about Jesus' love every day. Kingdom building full time is their normal. Again. Just. YES.

8- Kids again. They are third culture kids. They have no concepts of 'normal' or 'i'm wrong and other people are right'. You eat pig fat on bread? Yummy! You think please is the most important word in the world? Then i'll say please! You believe you can't open a window on a train in summer? Cool, let's get sweaty! You love the queen? Yeah, go Queenie!
Before we moved here I was so arrogant about my country, my culture and my perspective. My kids are growing up so flexible and open minded and I love that.

9- There were no pre packaged foodstuffs when we moved here. So I learnt to cook everything. All the things. I make naan. No kidding. My cookery genius level is set to MAXIMUM. 

10- We're much healthier here because we eat stuff from our garden, or the local markets, and we cook everything from scratch. We're even making our own wine! Ok that's not so healthy but I am going to be SO smug and middle class when I drink it and i'm going to instagram the crap out of that first glass.

11- When you do small things successfully you feel unbeatable. I managed to buy flea drops for the cat last week and I was high for a whole day. Language (mime) WIN!

12- Kids again. They are missions kids. By the time B was two she'd flown thirteen times and helped host over 150 people. Strangers are not scary. Hilarious flipside - strangers are also no big deal so if they don't feel like it they're not going to respond to your peekaboo nonsense. Cue socially awkward unblinking toddler death stare.

13- If Beth, hypothetically, shouted BOLLOCKS in a shop nobody would know that we're the worst parents ever. Hypothetically, you understand.

14- The big house that we live in has a sauna. John says that's a good thing. (Yuk)

15- Things you get to do in England become unspeakably exciting. Taking the kids to the doctors, for example. It's better than anything else. It's better than chocolate. Oh! The dentist in England! Oh! The optician! I'm getting giddy just thinking about these things...come on, December....

16- Finally, because Alla just ran into the door and Sim's going to wake up wondering what the almighty crashing noise was. Finally. People pray for us. If we're screwed then we send an email and people pray and then we're not screwed anymore. Thank You!