In these last days…

It doesn’t seem like too long ago that I was just arriving on this island.  Scared, jet lagged, and having NO clue what exactly I was in for. The road hasn’t been easy, and it’s constantly challenged me to learn more about myself and EVERYONE around me. I never thought I’d learn so much about the HUGE world outside of little ‘ole North Carolina. 

Last week the UK YAGMs went to our “closing retreat” and Cliff Graduation ceremony. And I couldn’t help but think to myself…”HEY MOM, I’M FINALLY GRADUATING,” when i received my certificate for the class we took. hah. But, seriously..we talked about transitioning into home, said goodbye to each other, to TfG, and started the process of saying goodbye to our new found home.

I said goodbye to some of the best friends i’ve ever made. My friends for life and new family. Words can’t describe how much each one of them means to me. I said I wouldn’t cry, and I wouldn’t write something uber cheesy…yet here I sit. Writing with a tissue box right next to me. Who am I again? I think I ask that question a lot. To each one of you amazing individuals: you have showed me what it means to really have great friends, and I appreciate every. single. one. of. you

OK, and since I haven’t written a lot this year like promised, I figured I’d give you a little insight on my journey thus far..but it’s a little hard to put into amazing, prolific writing. So just…. take what you will from it:

When I started this whole year I know I was running from something. Maybe myself? Who knows..But I do know that I ran right smack into a wall. I came into this feeling like I deserved something more, or something…insightful, but I just brought all my “rubbish” with me, so to speak..and this whole year I’ve been trying to figure it all out. But let me just say life is ONE HUGE SERIES OF QUESTIONS. At some point, probably later than I should have, I learned to stop asking so many questions and just be in the moment…Even when it’s the hardest thing i’ve had to do.

In the moments I’ve spent here since, I’ve opened my eyes to an amazing group of kids I work with, wonderful congregation members, and a team of vicars who have showed me what an amazing place I’m in. I can’t help but sit here and be thankful for every moment, and every lesson i’ve learned….because let’s face it: i’m unbelievably stubborn. So, none of it came easy. In the difficult times, when it was hard to find joy…I somehow learned how to dig deep enough to see something good in every situation I’ve been in. Now I can say I’ve come out of this at the other end. With an amazing feeling of accomplishment, sense of self-worth, and an even BIGGER sense of adventure. So, with that said I can’t WAIT to see what’s next for me.

As for that endless stream of questions: I hope I always have questions. I hope I am constantly searching to please, help, and love. The moment I, as a follower of Christ, stop asking questions and feel that I have it all figured out…I will be worried. So I hope that never happens. I hope when I get the answer to one question, 100 more will follow that I can TRY to find the answers to. Because, let’s face it…that’s the magic of life and God. Faith is resting in the questions, trusting, and the constant seeking of something more to aim towards. I pray for another adventure to follow the last. I don’t want to ever lose that.

Here’s a prayer that’s really hit home for me in these last few months of being in this place:

“O Lord God, I have no idea where I’m going, I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself and the fact that I think I’m following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact plea you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire to please you. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always. Though I may seem to be lost, and in the shadow of death…I will not fear, for you ate ever with me. And you will never leave me to make my journey alone.” -Thomas Merton

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He has risen indeed!

Wow, it’s actually Easter…

We’ve now passed through holy week, and i’m now into the last remaining bit of time here in England. That’s hard to believe. It feels like just yesterday that I was sitting in a room full of YAGMs and listening to “passover remembered” completely overwhelmed by about 100 different thoughts and emotions going through my head. (although I still have that amount of emotions on a daily basis, i think…)

I will be the first to say that times have been hard. But, on this beautiful time of remembering the life of Christ and his ressurection ..I am thankful to be alive. Thankful to be here. And most of all, thankful that his life was laid down to save me and everyone else in the world.

Services in the Anglican church are very traditional, for sure…Much like the Lutheran church, I think. But I just want to go through some of the week with you to tell you all what I’ve been up to.

I went to a HUGE ceremony with about 300 clergy members on Maundy thursday to celebrate their years of service and to renew their vows of ministry. Talk about weird. I’ve never seen that many clergy members in one place. Truly fascinating.  Thursday evening, Myland Methodist, and St. Michael’s Myland teamed up to do a passover meal together where communion was given and LOTS of food was served. It was so amazing to see two churches combine to share a meal and worship together. 

I’d have to say Friday was my favorite day, though. About 300 people came into the church for the annual EASTER EGG HUNT for kids in the parish. I got to teach some camp songs from home to the kids, we did our puppet show, and everyone gathered back for hot cross buns and tea. (how british)

Saturday was the lighting of the Pascal candle which was a service I’d never experienced before. ,and then TODAY it was finally Easter. Everything has been awesome this week and I’ve definitely kept myself busy.

I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking about things that have happened since I got here, and how I felt before I came. Because this all is a time for remembering. This time in my life will always be one that I will remember. I appreciate how i’ve changed, what I’ve done, and even the hard times…which are hard to appreciate in the moment.

 

I am so unbelievably moved during this week every year. I am incredibly lucky to be in this place, and worship with this community. 

 

Happy Easter! 

Sunday Family Service

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Every Sunday in the Anglican church, we get an order of service. Us Lutherans are pretty used to it, but it’s a little bit different here. Every Sunday is designated to something different. You have Baptism Sundays, Family Service Sundays, and then communion services. I may be getting some of this wrong, who knows.. I haven’t been here long enough to know EVERYTHING about the Anglican church. But it’s not that different from what I’m used to. Anyways, this past Sunday was a family service. All the Scouts come to church in uniform with their families, and present their flags. Ray always gives a really warm and inviting sermon where the congregation participates. Family Sundays are the one day a month that families might come to church who normally don’t…. so there are more than normal. The band sings and plays, and it’s all really joyful! Ray always says that he wants the church to be a warm environment and inviting. So the heating is ALWAYS on (which in other churches…it normally is very cold) and there will ALWAYS be tea and coffee!

Every order of service always has some kind of prayer that really stands out to me on a Sunday morning and reminds me of why I’m here. This Sundays call to worship prayer:

“We come here on our own, we come together. We come with our excitement and with our lack of expectation. We come with our lamps burning brightly and with our lamps hidden. We come with our longing and with our pride. We come with our words and with our silence. We come with out music and with our resentments. We come to you, God of truth, with our hands open and ask that you reach out to us afresh.”

It rang true in so many different ways for this year. We come to the church in so many different parts of our lives all in the hopes that God will reach out and speak to us. I came here this year without many expectations, but the ones I did have were completely blown away. I came into this year with my hands open in hopes of God reaching out to me and give me a fresh view. That is definitely happening.

Good times, and bad times…I’m blessed.

Re-energize yourself

I started writing this at the beginning of the month, and I just haven’t had the right words to say. But here it is:

 

Wow..it’s already 2014..I love the inspiration that the Christmas and New Year season brings. It’s not about getting flashy gifts from people, or going out to party with my friends…but, celebrating this new life that was given for us! Shortly after, we all get ready to count in the New Year all around the world! The idea of having a “blank slate” reminds me that I can do anything. Sometimes people get overwhelmed by that feeling, but I love the freedom in it now.

I especially loved counting into 2014 in a whole other country. Not being stuck in the same life, constantly running around in circles worrying about what’s next. It’s so wonderful knowing that there are endless possibilities in this life. We aren’t bound to anything that we don’t choose for ourselves. That’s the beauty in life that i’ve failed to see.

When I decided to sign up for this year…I felt very similar to the feeling that every person gets at the start of a new year. The idea of living my life somewhere far away felt so invigorating and freeing. Now that i’m here..I’ve had some interesting and amazing experiences. But, I let myself grow comfortable. Something I’ve discovered about myself in the last four years of my life is that when I become too comfortable, I grow discontent and honestly…pretty damn lazy…With comfortability my faith life grows stagnant. I had stopped thinking about the things I was thankful for, and ways I had seen God…and focused on all of the negative things I’ve been feeling.

Well I was having a talk with Rosie (one of my supervisors) one day, and she asked me about how i’ve felt that I had grown in my faith in the last 5 months…I didn’t really have a good answer. She proceeded to tell me that she looks at every day and tries to see at least one way she’s seen God in that last 24 hours. Some days we have to look harder than others, of course…but in that comes the strength of even getting through the worst of days. On our best days we can see God everywhere, and we feel so lucky to be alive! Well I officially have a new goal for 2014/ my year here in the UK: Sit down, breathe, and look at just one way every single day that I’ve seen God. 

It started that I was looking at things I was thankful for in the beginning….and somewhere in the middle of being here I realized I wasn’t thankful anymore. I was unhappy, growing anxious, and looking at everything from a negative perspective. Yes, it’s hard. I’m not going to lie and say that life here has been roses and rainbows. But, it’s also rewarding. I’ve grown so much. Every day we have a blank slate. We can re-write the pages of our lives, and see that God is everywhere and everything is spiritual. Even the cloudiest, and loneliest of days seem to have a God filled presence about them.

I’ve been leaning towards the serenity prayer a lot:

“God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”

I can’t change the way things are here, but I can change the way I look at them. Even when things seem the hardest, I always know I have something on my side. I’m winning and persevering no matter what.

It’s the little things.

As I’ve rolled on through these three months of being in the UK, I’ve come to appreciate so many things. I have come to value how truly blessed I am when I’m in the presence of other people…even if I feel like I don’t want to be. I value the amazing gift of human contact, and have really seen how it re-energizes me and my faith. It’s amazing…the healing power of a simple hand shake, or a pat on the back. Even at my lowest points, I am teaching myself that living out this time in my life amounts to all of the small things. They really add up. Instead of languishing and second guessing choices I’ve made, I’m trying to pace myself and not try so hard to see the “big picture”…what is that anyways?

I read somewhere that life is made up of this long “dance” we’re having with God. Once upon a time (I’m acting like I’m old or something), I took a ball room dancing class, and I definitely struggled the whole way through. My friends would make fun of me because I was always the one in the back, three steps behind everyone else. Now I tell people, unashamed, that my hips DEFINITELY lie. But, one thing I learned, is that if you have a good leading dance partner, things won’t turn out quite as  disastrously as you anticipated they would be. If you worry so much about counting your steps and getting the right foot work, all you’re going to do is break your partner’s poor toe. No one wants that. Me, being the mere mortal that I am, always anticipate things WAY too far in advance. I’m missing the next step, because I’m looking four steps ahead and trying to see what’s going to happen. It is ritual for my host family here to sit down in front of the TV on a saturday night and watch “Strictly come dancing!” Which is like “Dancing with the stars” in the States. My mom and sister LOVE to watch that show, so sometimes I feel like I’m home in spirit. At the beginning of the season, the “contestants” kind of, well….suck. They’ve never danced before. But eventually towards the end of the season, you see these beautifully choreographed dances and think “WOW! They’ve gotten so good!” It’s because every day, with practice, they’re becoming more graceful, and flowing freely with the steps and the rhythm of the music.

I agree with the person who wrote that quote. I don’t want to keep looking at the floor and counting my steps only to figure out I missed the whole dance. I want to feel the music, and flow with the beautiful rhythm of life. Even if I’m still learning, I know God is there leading me every step of the way.

I want to look at each day, horrible or not….and take away at least one good thing I did from that day. One thing I’m thankful for. In one whole crappy day, there’s always a God moment. We just need to choose to see how God is playing in our lives, even if we aren’t necessarily getting all the steps right….at least it’s a life WE’RE living in a relationship with him..or her.

A handshake, a hug, singing a song I actually know in choir, playing with a child that absolutely adores you, or having a nice conversation with a friendly person, a brisk walk/run in the cold weather…These are all little things I am beginning to appreciate more. The things keeping me grounded, and in the moment. There isn’t just one month out of the year to sit down and be thankful. Theres a whole lifetime to get into step with. To see beauty in every day is a real challenge, but it’s so worth it….because I am seeing God in all of the little things that life has to offer me.

Amen.

Service

Well here I am again…struggling on trying to find the right words to say to describe this experience.

In our course at Cliff College, we learned about discipleship, serving, and leading in our communities. I left thinking…”ok…well so much for leaving school. I just went back to it.” BUT, I came back and had an experience that showed me what it means to really serve and follow God.

The weekend before last was our annual Harvest festival at the church. All the scouts and people of the church collect items to be donated to The Beacon House (a local homeless shelter)…We had over 100 people turn up to the service to give back to the church and a wonderful meal following the service!  So on Monday, John and I set out across town to deliver all of the goods the church collected. When we showed up with all of these things and saw the look on everyones face I was so filled with joy. I learned about this place and how they are struggling to keep things running as much as they’d like to due to the lack of volunteers that come in. I’d been  struggling with looking for ways to fill my free time, and I knew that this was the answer. So, I’m applying to volunteer there as well.

I’ve expressed that…

I’ve had days where I just didn’t want to get out of bed. I’ve butted heads with some people, my patience has been tested,  and I’ve been completely frustrated. But, over all I’ve been able to say that I’m having the experience of a life time. I always knew that this wasn’t going to be an easy road, but God has shown up every day since I’ve been here.  Whether it be in the talks that I’ve had with people, to just proving constantly to me that I can make it. There are costs to being a disciple, and trials we must face…but I can honestly say that every step, good or bad, is worth it. I’ve never felt so motivated to serve, and I’m loving it. 

I’m so excited to see what the future has to offer me, and what I can do while I’m here.

“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does it’s work.” Ephesians 4:16

Just some pictures to show everyone that I’m not sitting on my butt ALL THE TIME. 😉

Just learning some fun history!

Just learning some fun history!

Ray, Sue, and I at Hampton Court!

Ray, Sue, and I at Hampton Court!

Working on some art for our bible study!

Working on some art for our bible study!

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Possessions: breaking my shell.

Let me start by saying:

 

I’ve been blessed to have been welcomed into such a beautiful home.

Being apart of this program made me think of all the things I had that I gave up to be here. No, I’m not in a third world country…But I’m taking the steps to “live simply” and go on what I have…even if it’s a little. Now I think that in some of these blogs I’ve mentioned the idea of “living simply” a lot but haven’t realized myself what exactly this really meant. 

Giving up things doesn’t necessarily mean your worldly possessions. Giving up friendships and the stability of school to hop onto a plane and be a volunteer was a huge challenge. It didn’t really give me the warm fuzzies inside when I thought about it. It made me uncomfortable and, quite frankly, scared the pants off of me.

“Living simply” has not only meant that I can’t go out and eat every night because I just don’t have the money…I’ve been forced to live in the moment, and to make things in my life more simple. When people say to me “Ohhh, yeah! I just like to live my life day by day..it’s much easier.” I’m sitting there thinking to myself…”well whoopdie doo…aren’t you special?” Mainly because I think i’m just jealous…It’s easy to sit and listen to people talk about these things, but not so easy to do. Especially when I still have this anxious feeling in my stomach that my future is going to hit me like a train.

The other day I found myself being so upset because I’ve been feeling so alone. So, of course, I began to think about all of the things that I was missing at home. My family, my “home”, my friends, and the comfort of my own bed. Even on my worst days in North Carolina, I knew that I had my own bed…my own home I made for myself to turn to.

So I had this defining moment: It was a Sunday morning. I was feeling like I couldn’t even face the day. My adjustment period and homesickness have been hard for me to get over. So, I made myself talk to Ray and Sue (my host parents) about how I was feeling. The gist of what they told me was “Scarlett! Come out of that room once in a while! We want to make you a part of this family.” Wow…These people really want me. In their home, and in their lives. People at home AND at work have been making this huge effort for me, and here I am…feeling selfish and not seeing what’s in front of me. 

At first I knew I was coming here to do something bigger, “better”, and to respond to my call to this ministry. They told us at orientation how we wouldn’t make much of a difference in what happens here…but these people would change our lives in some way. I’ve been here almost two months and every day I see myself becoming a different, much stronger person. Letting myself go and letting people in has been so hard for me. I’m used to being alone in a lot of things I do. But little by little I’m feeling  my shell cracking and realizing that I truly am meant to be here…with these people.

My pride and my fear what I don’t know has kept me locked in my room, but the term “living simply” defines what is turning me into a brand new person. Forcing me into community and breaking me out of my shell. Now i’m not by any means proud of myself…I’m new. I’m new to the love that I’m allowing myself to give and also in the new love i’m allowing myself to receive. Even from people I barely know. I’m starting to let myself be recharged on life through these new relationships. I’m slowly feeling more at home, more comfortable with myself and my flaws, OK with living simply, and breaking my barriers to let everyone see me and what I have to offer. So, if living simply means that I sit in front of the TV with great people instead of going out….Or go to church on a Saturday to have instant coffee with congregation instead of spending the 25 pounds to visit a friend….Then I’m ok with it. If my best friend here is over the age of 60…i’m ok with it, because these wonderful people have become a new family to me….and are breaking me away from my old ways.

 

So let me say again:

I’m been BLESSED to have been welcomed into such a beautiful home..AND a beautiful community.

Thinking about all of this reminds me constantly of the prayer/poem we read at orientation called “passover remembered” by Alla Bozarth-Campbell.

“The core of man’s spirit comes from new experiences.” -Into the Wild

 

So, this week was the start of work for me. I do everything from working in a neighborhood community center, to working with the little babies through teenagers. It’s been quite a change of pace for me because at camp I’d see kids for one week at a time, ship them off and be ready for a new set. NOW, I see these same kids every week for an entire year…I guess what they could call me around here is a “youth worker.” I’ve never lead YOUTH GROUPS..this is scary. (In a good way of course.)

Tonight I started a bible study with the older youth about seeing where we fit ourselves into God’s story..or more like how God’s story fits into our lives. Some of us grow up knowing significant parts of the bible like Noah and the Ark…but if we started to actually read it, we look at those tiny words, and UNBELIEVABLY thin pages and think…”there’s no way I can get through this all.”  Of course then we start to maybe feel guilty or get even more confused about how this HUGE book connects at ALL to our lives. So, the idea is to make this map around the books of the bible, and see how we can bring them back to our lives in a realistic way. We know there aren’t TALKING DONKEYS, or people parting water…but the words are meant to teach us lessons that we apply to OUR life story.

I know i’m going to learn just as much from this as they are.

All of these new experiences like…getting hopelessly lost in London train stations (check), or leading bible studies is helping me to figure out how God is working in my life. It’s still hard for me…being away from home and all..But I know that there’s this story that I’m writing. There’s also a way for me to fit God’s story into my life. Someone once said that these words are poetry…They’re not meant to make sense all of the time, but you’re supposed to dig deeper and read in between the lines. So I’ll continue to read, and learn, and grow…even though I get confused sometimes I know I have the tools to keep me going.

I haven’t gotten to the point where I can quote the bible by heart, but I feel like i’m starting to sound like my mother…..Sheesh.

2 Timothy 3: 14-17

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is God-breathed  and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

“Don’t suffer in silence..”

The title would put me off…but it’s there for a reason. Don’t for a second think that I’m anywhere BUT where I am supposed to be…with the most supportive and nurturing people I’ve met aside from my own family. This is home for me now. One day soon I’ll post a blog of pictures and descriptions of the people I’ll be working with and what EXACTLY i’ll be doing. For now, that’s all really still up in the air.

Today, I wasn’t feeling very well…and instead of asking for help, I sat in my room…cried, watched a TON of netflix, and suffered in silence. The whole time thinking…”I don’t want to burden these people with my problems.” I go down for dinner, which we all sit down for every night..and they can tell right away that I’m not “ok”. Ray and Sue (host parents) look at me after dinner and ask me whats wrong… and say, “Scarlett…Don’t suffer in silence. We’re here to help you! Tell us!” Sue comes over, gives me a hug, and tells me everything’s going to be ok…and helps take care of me. Just then, I, of course, start to cry. I’m consumed with so many emotions being here. It’s been two weeks now, and I’m happy, sad, anxious…completely overwhelmed.

Since i’ve been here, I can’t help but sit and think on down time of what exactly I’d be doing at home. Probably going to school, HATING it…and wishing that I could be doing something HUGE. Well, here I am…I’m doing it. I’ve left everything I’ve known to answer a call. I’ve jumped in the deep end without my swimmies, and I’m learning. Soon, I start my job..I start my life here, in Colchester, England. This Sunday I’ll even be helping lead a family church service to show that I am here, and apart of the leadership team. (who would have thunk it!)

I’ve started to make a list of things that I’m thankful for. Sometimes we pray for God to fix our burdens and sadness, and don’t stop to realize all of the gifts we are given. So now, I sit down and write out the things that I thank God for in that day. Today I’m thankful for God teaching me how to ask for help..and letting me know I’m supported.

I’ve been given a once and a lifetime opportunity to live and work day by day. Who needs to constantly be living in the future, when we have no idea what’s even going to happen in the next HOUR of our lives? For now, I’m happy with simply being here..and maybe worrying…not so much for myself at the moment..but for pedestrians..(my first driving lesson is tomorrow! eek!) I know it’s normal to feel all of these emotions…and I know i’m not alone. That’s all I can ask for…and that is what I am thankful for.

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1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances: for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Welcome home!

“I am responsible for the house I did not build, but in which I live.” -Dorothee Soelle

Yesterday….or today…Not sure which one right now..jet lag.

I met a woman named Beth. We managed to bond over our mutual motion sickness, and In the span of an overnight plane ride, she managed to tell me her life story. Stories of her only son, how she found love, where she lives, and what she wants to do with the time she has on this world. Beth is a sweet and very beautiful woman originally from Chicago, who moved to Canada to be with her husband who has a steady income. Her and her husband met when her son was still a young boy and fell in love. She broke it off when they first met, thinking that it would be best for her to raise her son alone. Well about 16 years later, she is still in love and manages to find him..and, of course,  he is still smitten with her. It’s really a hopelessly romantic love story. Anyway, they’ve been happily married for four years, but recently she found out that she has leukemia. This strong woman manages to have such a positive outlook on life, even when the odds have not been in her favor. She builds her life around family, and friends and is determined to find a better job with medical benefits…

This story made me think a little bit about this past week in orientation. How we chip away at this metaphorical “iceberg” to learn about people, and where they come from…We, as a community of God,  or “one body”,  have a duty to bear one another’s burdens and joys. This is not a trip for me, this is a continuation of my life..a time for me to bear people’s burdens and joys and form a community among God’s people.

This year will not be a cake walk. I will have hard times, and want to go home…but I trust that God is wrapping her loving arms around me, and filling me with learning experiences..We are all responsible for the house that God has built for us. Taking time to listen to people, and build relationships with the most unexpected people is all apart of that journey. Beth’s story told me that you don’t have to be worlds away to make a difference in people’s lives, and build relationships. You never know who will make the smallest changes in your life.

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