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Mary Poppins, Harry Potter and Jesus

 When I scanned through the last post, my eyes focused on the line "play games, sing songs and do crafts," which made me think of Mary Poppins. I guess I've been a lot like Mary Poppins this week, in fact, with my humungous handbag filled with: a plastic sword that blows bubbles, a pink wig, and a cardboard parrot template, to name just a few. The week went so quickly, and I've learned so so much, and I think the kids have too!

It's really struck me (once again) that God always exceeds expectations (which makes me think of the grades that the Harry Potter characters get in their OWLs--geek alert!). But not only does he exceed expectations, but he exceeds them in ways that you wouldn't expect. I  guess I'd assumed that God would exceed our expectations by bringing loads of kids along, but in fact (though the numbers were good), he exceeded them in the response that we got from the kids to our teaching, and to our bad jokes!

And God ALWAYS exceeds my expectations in terms of how well he provides for us; even down to the tiniest of details he's there. Whenever you're most flagging (cue semaphore jokes), that's when God refuels you with a load of fresh energy, and whenever you're feeling the most tired and brain-dead, that's when you'll have a really good conversation with a child about Jesus. I guess God does it to remind you that you're not working on your own strength, but on him. I suppose we're all inclined to forget this a lot, but it is when we feel that we can do things on our own that we stop doing them well.

This is not disheartening, in fact it is a great freedom. If we had to rely on our own strength we would be fallible, we would falter, and we would fail (I love alliteration!). But because we know that we cannot do a single thing on our own, we rely more fully on God. I certainly don't rely on God as much as I should or would like to, but it's a start. God has infinite resources of strength, which is freely available for us to tap into when we set aside our self-sufficiency.

I'm reminded, perhaps for the millionth time, of some teaching we had at our new leaders' training weekend, nearly 18 months ago when I first started a year on the committee for the Christian Union at my uni. We had a bunch of talks on 2 Corinthians, and one was particularly inspiring to all of us. 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." The treasure referred to is knowledge of Jesus and salvation, which is the greatest thing we could have (see Philippians £:8, and my previous blog post!), and it is in clay jars (us). Clay jars are fragile and show cracks, but because of this the light of God inside them shines all the more brightly because we can see that the glory is from the treasure, and not from the jars. 

Aside from all this, I genuinely had a great week. The awful punchlines and cheesy songs will haunt me for some time, yes, but the friendships that grew and the huge amount that I learned (and hopefully that the kids learned) will last much longer. Although if I hear another fish-based joke, I think I might cry!

Can a tragedy nearly happen?

 I'm pretty tired and that seems like a very morbid title, but this really isn't a morbid theme that I want to expand on , just a thoughtful one; if, indeed, it is a theme at all. This may be entirely incoherent. So I'm going to mark this as for my eyes only until tomorrow when I can re-read it.

Today was the first day of Holiday Club at my church at uni (as opposed to the church that I go to when I'm at home--that is, my parents' home). This is a morning activity club that we put on for kids in the area to come and play games, sing songs, do crafts, and most importantly, where they can learn about Jesus. I've been concentrating so much on what God's going to do with these kids that I forgot to think about what God is going to do with me. After any kind of mission I'm always amazed at how much I've learned, when I'd been thinking only of what I can teach others... which really is a very unhumble attitude. (Unhumble is not a word, but bare with me, I'm pretty exhaused, even though it's 10:45pm, not the early hours, even though this is my preferred bedtime--at the age of 20). 

So, vague musings that I thought of today, probably unconnected with the Holiday Club, but maybe somewhat useful anyway.

1) Age REALLY isn't important, or anything to worry about at all. I was remembering at how freaked out I was at the prospect of turning 18 a few years ago, as I thought it meant I had to grow up. When, actually, nothing changed. Then I was really freaking out about turning 20 as I wouldn't be a teenager any more and would probably have to grow up and be boring, when actually this has been the most fun year of my life. And as my 21st birthday is only a few weeks away, I realised that turning 21 doesn't bother me, and I thought it probably should do, according to the pattern I've set myself. (I won't even go into what turning 13, 14 or 16 was like! I'll save that angst for another day!) 
In a world where 5-year-olds get leukaemia, and 84-year-olds teach me to waltz age doesn't  really matter at all.

2) A fair few tragedies have almost happened in my family recently, but life kind of continues anyway. And the tragedies haven't actually occurred like we all (and sometimes only I) assumed they would. Life isn't a film, we aren't oscar-winning actors, and sometimes stuff just doesn't happen. And sometimes it does and we react to it in a totally un-cool way. And sometimes nothing happens and we still react to it in an un-cool way. And the reason we get angry with those we love the most is because we know they love us back. (This is pretty much a direct quote from a film that I just watched with my housemates.) This is cheesy and awful, and kind of on the same awful track as those films that I love and they hate, but maybe that's OK.

3) There's more. There's so much more, and I guess there always will be. I don't think this is even a thing I've learned, but just an observation. I could say more here, but I need my beauty sleep. And I can't wait to see what God is going to teach ME tomorrow!

Just to close, this is our memory verse for the week. The kids have ASTOUNDED me by memorising it already, and I want to put it here (if I can remember it! It'll be shameful if I have to turn to my Bible to look it up!). It is so challenging to me as a 20-year-old, and I expect will be challenging to me as a 25-year-old, 40-year-old, 60-year-old, 80-year-old, and will reach its full glory when I do!

"Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as rubbish. All I want is Christ."

(I had to look it up--my memory isn't what it used to be!)

The Turkey Blog

Sun, sea, sand... and slimy men.

So, my friend and I went to Turkey for a week, a resort called Bodrum. It was quite an experience; we went mainly for the beach, and to soak up a bit of the culture, but everything was so Anglicised. There were countless 'British pubs' and karaoke bars, and even a restaurant that proudly proclaimed that it served gravy pies! We did have a great time, lazing on the beach and sipping cocktails and such, but we were hassled constantly by people trying to sell us stuff, and men getting too friendly. Don't get me wrong, they never laid a hand on us, but they seemed determined to become our best friends, and continually talked of 'finding the one' I think we can loosely translate 'the one' as 'an English Visa'.

Here is a piece that I wrote whilst there, on the beach. I was suffering with homesickness quite badly, so it's not the most upbeat prose in the world, but I quite like it... it kind of sums up the contrasting juxtapositions that we were immersed in. I also feel that I should mention that a man offered me fifty camels for my friend Beccy. 

Anyway, here goes:

On holiday, one dreams of romance, supposedly. But nothing could be further than that here. Perpetually single, I’m surrounded by unhappy couples and screaming children. And yet there are those couples too wrapped up in each other, sometimes quite literally. A waif of a woman reclines in her sunbed with the leg of her man wrapped around her like a serpent. He keeps readjusting her, as though scratching a part of himself. And then their son, perhaps fifteen, stands up, into my view, from the sunbed behind them, and they shift in my perception.

Bodies become a thing you’re much more aware of: writing or reading over your own stomach, the damp cling of a bikini you wish you’d purchased a size larger. There is a man without a belly button, and I wonder how he was born. My own winks at me, a constant reminder of where I came from, the very fleshiness of it all. The sag or squeeze of a pair of swimming trunks reveal too much of a man’s shape. And I marvel, too, at the many men with hips, as if androgyny is creeping upon us, one saggy male bottom or man breast at a time.

Then there are the children: the little girls with straight, up and down bodies. They’re quite tall, and seem to me like a plank of wood. I wonder how all of their organs can even fit in there, and if they can be truly alive. I guess they’re playing a waiting game, or their mothers are, while they play blissfully unaware in the place where the sea meets the shore, until one day a pair of breasts will spring up and surprise them.

Ladies struggle down the beach in neck-to-ankle bathing suits, baggy, with their heads covered, so as not to offend or arouse. But doesn’t this offend them? It seems, to me, to draw more attention to the issue—but perhaps this is because I’m not used to it. Yet they plunge into the waves gleefully with their children with water guns, and the sea, pulled by the moon, brings out their abundant curves of its own accord as their thin fabric is plastered to them.

This strikes me as such a contrast to the young men, who accost you from outside of bars. ‘Won’t you shake my hand?’ they ask you, after shouting ‘hey girls!’ and calling you like cattle. I wish they could understand the sensibilities of a handshake. They lure us for our money, and yet in some, the younger, the ones who are newly rearing their heads through twenty, there is a glint of something else, a more base greed, as they comment on the whiteness of our skin.

Homesickness sticks like a lump of apple pie somewhere between my bottom ribs and my heart. It’s higher than anxiety, which lingers around my belly button and creeps saltily up my throat. And yet it is not so high as heartache or depression. Though there is something delicious in heartache, a universality, knowing that it strikes all, like the burning sun. It is unavoidable, unlike these other pangs, which may or may not affect an individual. They are wolves, which hunt out the weak and rip at their organs.

Writer's Block: Where I want to be

What was your childhood dream? Did you ever accomplish it?

My dream, ever since I wrote my first 'book' at five, has been to get a book published. I achieved this when I was 17/18! So now I need a new dream... bestseller list maybe?? I'll worry about finishing my degree first though.

Montage

 So this failing to blog seems to be a recurring theme. I have a friend who sadly moved to America when we were eight, but we see each other every year, usually, and e-mail frequently; every time we send an e-mail it starts with, 'Sorry it's taken me soooo long to write!' and it seems that blogging might be much the same. Except that nobody is eagerly anticipating my ramblings. Although, suddenly today a lot of people I don't know have added me as friends, and I'm not sure why... can anyone shed some light on this?

One of my housemates always says that when she has a bunch of stuff she wants to fast-forward through she wants a montage, like they do in films when the director wants to cover a period of time quickly. This is what this blog is going to be: a montage of my last week at uni and my first week back at home.

The last week in Norwich was a blur of parties, visits and goodbyes. Monday we had a party in our house to celebrate one housemate's birthday, and to say goodbye to another housemate who, devastatingly, is moving to another uni in September. We made cocktails and danced around the kitchen, then went to Optic, where I'm a little ashamed to say I'd never been to before, whilst spending a considerable amount of time in my first year at Mercy... cringe.  It was great dancing with all the single ladies (and the boys), but sadly we had to leave relatively early due to crippling high heels a couple of us were wearing... again, I'd like to remind the reader that I AM five foot two! 

Tuesday was a day of pancakes, I believe, and not getting dressed until the late afternoon. We had the youth from church come round in the evening for pizza, and they were asking us questions about what it's like to be Christians at the age of twenty. They had some preconceptions that only old and boring people are Christians, but we soon put them straight. I was hoping they'd catch a glimpse of my tattoo to blow all of their expectations out of the water, but sadly I don't think they noticed it. Then it was LCR time; Wild West theme, so me and all the single ladies changed to all the single cowgirls! Good fun, but appalling music... except they did play that Hoe Down Throw Down song from the Hannah Montana movie, which I secretly (well, not that secretly) LOVE!

Wednesday saw the film Letters to Juliet, which I had been dying to see since I first saw the trailer a few months ago... but sadly it wasn't very good. Well, it was OK. I enjoyed it, but it was VERY predictable (not that that's necessarily a bad thing, I quite like that I know where a film is going, it makes me feel safe.) and the last line ruined the whole thing. She says to the guy, 'Can you move?' and he says 'Nothing but my lips,' and proceeds to kiss her. Ultimately cringeworthy even for the biggest bad-film-lover in the world--me.

Thursday and Friday was mostly catching up on sleep missed the rest of the week, and PACKING... oh my goodness, so much packing. I had to pack everything that I would possibly need for the whole summer into boxes that would fit into my parents' car. My mum was coming to spend the weekend with me, on Friday, before driving me home again on Sunday. She said she had a surprise for me... the surprise was that she brought my grandma with her!  So the three of us had a bit of a touristy weekend around Norwich, going to the cathedral and such. 

Which, of course, brings me to my time at home. The term 'home' becomes very confusing, because is my home the house that I live in at uni with all my friends, where I spend the majority of the year? Or is it where my parents live, where I lived until I went to uni, and where I go every holiday? I think home at uni is home, and home with my parents is home home.... So, this brings me to my time at home home. This blog has not been much of a montage so far, but I shall make it one now.

The first week at home home has been mostly unpacking, reading, watching telly and doing crafty things. (by which I mean making things... i.e. craft... not doing things that are crafty, like coming up with cunning plans. Sadly I have no need to formulate plans). I finally got caught up on Glee and Gossip Girl, so now have to wait until the next season of both of those comes onto TV. I also indulged myself by starting to watch The Vampire Diaries too... I was literally obsessed with those books when I was thirteen, and was reluctant to watch the TV series because I was sure it couldn't live up to my gothic teen-age (a look I've thankfully long outgrown!). However, it is actually quite good, and I'm enjoying it far too much. It's like Twilight, but better because the girl in it (I forget her name, now) actually reacts to things in a normal way, unlike Bella who just lets her love for Edward blind of everything else, especially common sense. However, I say this a little reluctantly, as I know that if I were in love with Edward Cullen I would literally throw my common sense away and dance in its wake.

I've been reading Dracula, because I'm ashamed to say that I have never read it; I feel a little hypocritical because of this. I've also started reading Jamaica Inn by Daphne De Maurier because a friend of mine told me it would be helpful for the novel that I'm working on now. Talking of which, my novel is coming along well--I've written 14 pages on my laptop now; so that's not too bad I think. I was in town a couple of days ago making some notes for it, and a few youth and a man who was possibly drunk, possibly high, possibly mad (possibly all three), said to me disparagingly, 'what are you doing? Writing a book?' 'Yes.' I replied. 'What's it about?' 'This town, actually, but set in the 1800s.' 'Oh. Can I be in it?' The guy that said this had a mohawk.

English Summertime

 So my plan of blogging about the week every Sunday afternoon definitely failed... by 24 hours. But here I am nevertheless. If anybody was biting their nails in anticipation of this, then I'm sorry. And I recommend Barry M base coat and nail hardener. 
I've been in a perpetual bad mood, it seems, all week, so I apologise to my housemates and, for that matter, anybody that I've come across. 

This has been my first week of 'yes to everything' (our catchphrase for post-exam fun), although it's been more like 'yes to some things, but other things I just can't be bothered to do'. However, stuff has occurred; mostly sunbathing because we have had some scorching weather (hooray!), watching bad films, reading trashy novels, shopping and the like. Oh, and barbecues... there have been so many barbecues this week!

Tuesday was the CU (Christian Union) BBQ... in the rain, sadly, where I nearly believed that Jesus had a twin brother called Nesus...

Wednesday was Apprentice night, with chinese takeaway because we hadn't got our act together in time to actually do some shopping and make some amazing food. I'm getting a little obsessed with this Apprentice series now, it took me longer than usual because it's not the real thing, only Jr. Apprentice, but nevertheless, I am now hooked. I want Tim to win, I think he's secretly great. He's so cool, and has a great smile... and I have to remind myself that he's only seventeen... I don't want to get a reputation! (cough)
After The Apprentice we went into the city to watch a midnight viewing of Sex and the City 2... it was really good, actually. I've never watched the series, but I saw the first film last week, and I really enjoyed it. Oh my gosh, the fashion! It made me feel like I'm a bad person because I don't own those clothes. Actually, it's the shoes that I'm really covetous of... but move on, envy isn't attractive on me (or anyone). I really loved the way they contrasted what it is to be a woman in America with what it is in a Muslim country... although perhaps it was bordering on racist at times. Good female solidarity, good sense of overcoming adverse situations, amazing fashion, overall a pretty good film. Will most probably purchase the DVD. One of the girls moving in with us next year has the entire set of SATC, so I'll watch those come September. My friends tell me I'm just like Charlotte, but I like to see myself as a Carrie, the whole writer thing etc... but I'll have to watch it and see!

Thursday I had a goodbye breakfast with some amazing people, as the third years are sadly graduating and leaving us. Genuinely heartbreaking, but amazing toast. On campus in the afternoon there was loads of free fun stuff, with inflatable assault courses, climbing wall etc, and amazing sunshine. Of course, we just got a jug of sex on the beach and lounged in the square watching all the action, which was quite exhausting enough, thank you very much. Then we went to a party (and, of course, BBQ) at some friends' house. Loads of our friends played some live music too, which was awesome, including two who have just released a charity album, check them out here http://dukeandsaunders.bandcamp.com/ their songs are so funny!

Friday included more sunbathing, and our friend who is going to Thailand for four months came to cook us dinner. He made amazing white chocolate truffle cake, and couscous salad, and it was genuinely one of the best meals I've had for ages. Mega kudos to him. And we had a game of Risk; we played global conquest, expecting it to take until the small hours... when in fact he wiped all four of us out in an hour and a half. Just because he'd conquered Europe early... we shouldn't have underestimated it. Rooky mistake. I'm secretly a massive board game geek. Actually, not that secretly.

Saturday was walking in the park by myself, and generally being grumpy.

Sunday, after church, I had a picnic with some friends who are going back to New York at the end of the week, so that was a little emotional. There was a thunderstorm too, talk about pathetic fallacy. It was great though, I love thunderstorms. I made some awesome cupcakes too, with my new silicone cupcake moulds, heart shaped ones that I bought in Lakelands, I seriously recommend them, as they don't go all wibbly. 

Tonight we're having a party, but you'll have to wait until my blog on Sunday to hear about that! I bet you're counting down the hours already.

This week I haven't done as much reading as I would have liked, the same as every week, really. I read some trashy novella called The List, by Aneva Stout, which was fairly rubbish, except that it was actually quite interesting, narratively, written entirely in the second person, and as a list. It reminded me of a short story I wrote last year... I might post it up here if I can find it. It was called 'How to Fall in Love', and was inspired by the story 'How to Become an Expatriot'... I can't remember who wrote that though, someone American. My memory stick died, though, so I've lost all my writing. However, I think this story is in a notebook I have at my parents' house.... I'll try and find it once I'm at home (at the end of this week! I can't believe it's almost summer already!).

I'm also reading One Hit Wonder by Lisa Jewell, which I assumed would be equally trashy, but it's actually well written, and I'm really enjoying it. Might check out her other book too, for a bit of holiday reading. Still reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, too, which I love, although makes me feel pretty unworthy, as a woman. And I'm scared about getting old by it, too. I'm turning 21 in September, and then I'd like to stop ageing please. I also started a Christian book called Where is God in a Messed up World? by Roger Carswell, which is all about suffering etc. so that's really helpful. 

I've managed to do quite a lot of writing. I started a novel, set in my home town, and I finished the first chapter on that this week, and I've done the first page of the next chapter too, now, so that's great. I've got one of those gold-dust friends who has offered to proof-read it for me, also, hooray! Incidentally, it's his birthday today, so happy birthday! He won't read this, but maybe he'll feel blessed from the cyberspace good wishes going his way nonetheless. I'm also writing a Christian book, which I felt really called to write a week or two ago, and I've done the first chapter of that too, so quite a productive week on the writing front. Full steam ahead!
 So this week has been a very long week; it started with me dropping my toothbrush out of the window, and ended with a ball--I think Austen would be proud of me!

Sunday the weather was gorgeous, so after church (and after somehow dropping my toothbrush out of the bathroom window so that it sailed downstairs, past the kitchen window -- to the surprise of my housemates -- and landed in the garden), we had a spot of picnicking, and instigated a new game of Human Cluedo, resulting in the deaths of two out of three guys present (in the cafe with a hat, and in the park with a fork). After eating enough cake for three kids' birthday parties, we returned to church for the evening service, and I was given a bicycle by a lady who didn't want it any more. She insisted she didn't want me to buy her anything to say thank you, so I'm being sneaky and made her a bracelet to take to her this evening.

The rest of the week was a blur of procrastination and a small amount of studying for my Austen and the Brontes exam, which was on Friday, with a brief interlude of curry and Apprentice night, with lots of friends and lots more tea. It seems to me that exams are disproportionate to the amount of work and stress that goes into them: weeks of studying, days of anxiety and hair falling out, all for two hours in an angular room and answering two questions--out of the twenty possible ones you studied for. It doesn't seem fair to me, and I'm sure neither Austen nor any of the Brontes would be pleased to know what their novels have become subject to. However, I have now finished my second year at uni, and I don't have any exams next year (my final year), so sucks to be you, everyone else!

Wagamama with housemate occurred, with loads of noodles, green tea, and chilli cheesecake (if you haven't sampled it... do! now.) We accidentally went shopping and spent too much money. Purchased some Benefit mascara under strict instructions from aforementioned housemate... I'm quite impressed thus far, I have to say. Even if it did cost a week's rent (no, not quite!).

Which, of course, brings me to last night's ball. I went with that housemate and our friend from accross the park, who kindly drove us, and, for that matter, invited us, as it was HER church's ball, not ours. Nevertheless, we looked beautiful, and even arrived on time. I was slightly concerned that her car might turn into a pumpkin at midnight, but it was fine... and both shoes remained firmly on my feet. All five inches of them... I was still only just the same height as everyone else though. Luckily being five foot two doesn't stop you dancing all night.

There was an awkward moment when the band played a slow song and "take the hand of that special person" occured, when my friends and I (all the single ladies) were sitting down at a table. It felt like being a 12-year-old bystander at the school disco once more, when the parting of the Red Sea divides the couples and the singles. And yet, it didn't actually bother me. That must have been the first time ever (apart from my smug, being-in-a-couple days). 'Being content in my singleness' is something I struggle with a lot, but I think I might have cracked it at last.  Hooray! I finished reading a book called Mirror Mirror by Graham Beynon, this week, which has been really helpful about things like this, reminding me that my identity is rooted in Christ, and not anything superficial--look it up on Amazon... I can't seem to put the link in this (anyone know why?). Also Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes has proved invaluable to me recently. 

This week I've been reading The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Leguin, after watching the film The Jane Austen Book Club, thinking I should give science fiction a go (I've been experimenting with genre... trying to figure out who I am as a writer/reader), but I didn't take to it, really, and couldn't quite finish it. I found the names too much of a barrier, and my brain switches off as soon as anything scientific comes a long... the clue was in the title really, I should have known. I've also been reading Wilde's The Portrait of Dorian Gray, and thus far I'm loving it. I especially love "there is nothing so real as words", I really relate to that--words are so powerful (as I argued in my last Shakespeare essay).

But it's not just about rhetoric; words are so powerful in conjuring emotion too. I laugh, cry and fall in love far more freely in books than I do in real life (well... I do all of those things often in real life too). We all love Lizzy Bennet and hate Mr Collins, and those are genuine emotions that are being kindled... yet Austen never pretends to us that her characters are real. Look at Northanger Abbey, she keeps stepping into the plot herself, as the author, and telling us why she has Catherine do certain things... yet we treat them as true life, almost, nonetheless. 

Practice

 So I guess this is a practice post, to see where this ends up, what I'm actually supposed to do with it and relieve me of the pressure of writing something of note. Remember that sense of panic when you started a new exercise book in school, knowing that the first page had to be perfect?

I want to start blogging for a number of reasons, which means, essentially, that I don't actually know why I want to start blogging. I love writing; other than Jesus and my family and friends, writing is the most important thing in my life (so... I guess it's quite far down on the list!), and this is a form of writing that I haven't experimented with yet, so here goes! I also thought it would be a great way to keep my friends updated on what I'm up to over the summer, as we'll sadly be scattered across the country once more once uni finishes for the term. Also, if I do actually end up pursuing this, then I know my parents will be thrilled to be able to read what I've been up to in more than one-sentence updates on Facebook or snatched phone calls.

I don't know really want I want to blog about (can one use 'blog' as a verb? I like to think so-- 'text' is always used as a verb), I'm not sure what they are used as... they're more detailed than status updates, but less personal than diaries--so, something in between the two? Perhaps. I guess nobody will really read this, anyway.

Maybe 'My Literary Life' would be a good title for my blog (if a title is something that I need to give it), so it can be my reflections on life, books I've read and, more frequently, me treating my life as if it were some kind of book. Hopefully I won't start referring to my friends as "characters" though... although some of them are!

I really must do some research into how to properly use grammar within brackets.