Comfortable

It’s been about three days since I got back from a Christian training camp in Canberra, and I haven’t written about it. Partially I think that lies in not knowing what to say, despite the usual burning desire to get something reflective out of it. Partially it might be in being afraid to say it. To acknowledge that it wasn’t what I wanted and I don’t really know why.

To be honest, this all really starts from when I was asked whether I wanted to go and I said no. By some cosmic joke, someone paid for me to go anyway.

And because I just can’t- make of that what you may- I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm I wanted, or the right response when people asked me how I was feeling. So much of life involves putting on a mask, it would seem, of being happy and perky because it’s expected- my work with kids, making friends at uni and trying to be grateful for an opportunity to go and learn and be stretched in God’s work. I just couldn’t be happy. That, ironically, makes me sad.

On one hand, I want the people around me to know that when I smile it was because I am genuinely happy and when I laugh it is because I am genuinely moved to- I want to be as raw, and as real with the people around me as possible. On the other hand, I felt ungrateful to the person who paid my way, and grumpy to the people around me and trapped in my own emotions like a tiny ant in a thick spider web.

I have wondered since then whether it was because I was uncomfortable. I was worried about all of the people and what it would be like trying to make friends with everyone I met. The people driving me, the strangers in my tent- on one hand, I knew things probably wouldn’t go wrong if I put in enough effort. On the other hand, I was terrified of the amount of energy it would take to get where I wanted to be. It was overwhelming to get to a conference of 1,800 people, and tiring to put up a tent in the rain and I honestly just wanted to go home because I was so far out of my comfort zone that I couldn’t even see it.

But the thought has occurred to me that, like a pot plant, growth doesn’t happen once you’ve reached the limits of your comfort zone. If God’s intention was to grow me, I’d have done a lot less of it at home.

Apart from all of the new people and new experiences, something that hit me hard was seeing the people I already knew. A couple of Christians at the event but also catching up with a few who lived in Canberra.

For some reason, I just thought at the end of last year, when we were all so happy, that we would all stay happy. And when I saw my old friends, and all the different ways in which their hearts had broken, and all of the different ways they had grown, whether apart from each other, apart from God or apart from their plans, I felt such sorrow for the people I love. On one hand, it reminded me that not only my year hasn’t gone the way I thought it would- at one point, we were all going to grow up and get married and live happily ever after, and I was so torn apart when that didn’t happen for me. Once again, you can’t only trust God’s plan when it follows yours. On the other hand, I felt slightly powerless- only there for a couple of days to listen and leave, not sure when I’d be there again. That’s not within my hands, I know. However, I must admit, it was a bit of a shock to be reminded of. I know enough of them to know they’ll probably be okay but, more to the point, I know enough of God to know he’ll take care of them whether I’m around or not. [And if they quit smoking. Seriously. Stop.]

Anyway, there were positives. The likes of many, I’m sure I won’t see the results of for many years to come. However, I did learn a lot. I learned about prayer [coincidentally, one of the greatest things I learned is that when God promises to work all things for the good of those who love him – Romans 8:28 – that isn’t his promise to change our circumstances, but rather to change the people who love and trust him to be more like Christ, which is ultimately the best we can ask for. That mentality really came in handy], and I learned how to seriously pick apart a bible verse.

In the end, I did make friends, especially with those former strangers in the tent. It’s good to have a few more familiar faces to look forward to around campus. I was reminded of the benefits of pushing through feelings- one of the sermons actually said outright that our feelings are unreliable, particularly when faced with fact; I’m glad I didn’t leave. I met up with some old friends who are still as awesome as they were when I left them and it was sad to say goodbye again, sometimes only after a brief chat at McDonalds.

I still have a while to go before I feel as zen on the inside as I try to look on the outside, but I’ve been encouraged that if I’m starting to pick up on my own habits and ideas, the next step can be to change them. It would probably be worse if I were completely oblivious to them- like a parent with a brat, it’s better I know rather than don’t.

At the end of the day, with all the concern from people who care about me, and the fears pulsing through my brain, and the really, really good reasons [like pouring rain and a cold] I don’t want to say it was hard, so I gave up. I want to say it was hard but I did it any way.

And that wouldn’t even be true, because it was hard, and I wanted to give up but God did it through me anyway, and all I can do is pray I’m a little more like Christ.

My joy in sorrow’s tears,

My strength to cast out fears,

No other name but Jesus, Jesus.

My hope in darkest night,

My broken soul’s delight,

No other name by Jesus, Jesus.

-No Other Name [Emu Music]

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Why I Decided To Be A Teacher (part 1)

I was inspired to be a teacher by three particular women.

Unfortunately, you have probably never heard of them but weirdly, they’re the sort of women who wouldn’t really mind that. Quite happy to leave their mark on a small portion of the world, they certainly made a mark on me.

If you want to put it into simply terms, they changed my life.

The first, Ms N., inspired in me a love of English teaching. I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl- not much has changed in that respect. I have also always appreciated the English language and everything it affords people from dry sarcasm and puns to deep explorations of the human condition. However for a long time I wanted to be a primary school teacher. A few people told me I would be good with high school students but frankly, especially while I was IN high school, they scared me. Sometimes they still do. But thankfully, my university offers a course where you can end up teaching primary and high school, so I can back out in the end if they are still too threatening. Maybe I’ll wait until I’m Ms N’s age.

Ms N had a smile, when she was truly elated, that looked like she’d just tasted a lemon or done something naughty. I don’t know, perhaps she had. She told us stories about the farm she owned [she drove a convertible and her neck was usually adorned by pearls], and explained how she believed the world should be. She once told us that buildings should only be half as high as the street they’re on is wide, so we don’t feel trapped by concrete as we so often do in the city. I often think about this and agree, especially as apartments are built in my area that I am old enough to remember used to be quite quaint.

Best of all, though, she made books interesting. She was happy to make fun of authors who were stuck up [Alain de Botton, we are looking at you]. She read out the entirety of Shakespeare’s “Tempest” by herself, pausing to add her own commentary or thoughts on the characters [after much reflection, Miranda was decidedly naive]. She read our essays and short stories with intrigue, not with the keen eye of an eagle minded marker who has many other papers to mark. When I myself had to do some marking on practical placement recently, I tried to afford each paper the same care. My supervisor told me I wrote too much, but after all, that’s what I wanted from my teachers and that’s what Ms N afforded in her spindly, graphite handwriting. I wonder if it was lead pencil so, in case we wanted to, we could rub it out and treasure our work rather than the black crosses drawn by other teachers.

She made me feel smart.

She also once told me I have great style.

Then there was Ms P. She was the favourite teacher of many of the students at my school. Soft spoken with loud opinions and a quick wit, she was as affectionate as she was clever. Once we walked into a lesson on Pompeii only to be faced with Russell Brand who had recently said something smart, so we watched that and discussed it before getting into the lesson. Perhaps that sums her up rather nicely- she had a deeper fascination and care for what was living rather than what was dead and unchangable, although she was very good at teaching it. I appreciated her for her heart for us. When it came to our final exams, she said she expected us to help each other rather than work for our own marks, which is the way it’s usually done- she told us we were a team.

In year 11, the thing happened with my friends. She was actually the only one who sat all three of us down and asked whether we couldn’t work it out and apologise. “Sorry” was muttered simply because we couldn’t bear to disappoint her. She was strong, and calm and steady- a good mother hen figure who reminded me that teaching is not just a job. It makes you a conductor, facilitator and fixer of relationships, communication and love. You are not dealing with machines but people which makes it both dangerous and exhilarating.

The final lady who encouraged my love of teaching was Ms J.

She once told us that she was actually a businesswoman but, frustrated by the lack of world knowledge young people were arriving to her with, she decided she could either complain about it or fix it, so she dropped everything and became a teacher. She once jumped a fence in New Zealand to bring back a contraband sample of raw cotton for us. She wore 1920-1940’s style hats and high heels every day, except for when she sneaked running shoes out of her purse so she could jog down to the road to her other job teaching at a university. She just spent every day changing lives because she could. And I wondered why I shouldn’t do the same.

Last year, I held a concert to fundraise for a mission trip to Fiji and went to school to personally invite her- she came.

She told me I am a good person, and I believe her, especially when I don’t feel like one.

I could have that sort of impact one day.

Me in high school, on the right. (Cancer fundraising face painting.)

Going Postal

THE VOTE ON GAY MARRIAGE

The postal vote on gay marriage has turned Australia into something uncomfortably absurd. 

Over recent months, we have not demonstrated ourselves to be a country that is young and free, welcoming and jovial. On an early morning talk show yesterday, two guests were presented with the chaos currently surrounding the vote- uni students being beaten, lives being threatened, a campaign lunch interrupted by protesters with signs that said “burn churches, not gays”. One guest suggested that maybe this is all acceptable because gays have been treated this way for years. 

“An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind”, said Ghandi. Of course, Jesus said something similar, but I wouldn’t dare quote him in this current climate. 

What’s interesting is that, because of the things happening from the campaigns, people are voting based on a heap of things other than the actual question [should gay marriage be allowed in Australia?]. I have heard Christians decide to vote yes because they are sick of seeing innocent children caught up in the crossfire. I have heard gay people are voting no because the conditions of the vote don’t satisfy them. I have heard people who don’t want to vote at all because they have no idea which decision would be less harmful. And so, an often opinionated Australia is caught up in a tidal wave of confusion, even if people are just too scared to say what they really think out loud because they know they’ll cop backlash.

I have made it no secret I am a Christian- just check your web browser. I have no qualms calmly discussing the matter with those genuinely curious to hear my views, however I haven’t found many people who are ready to hear me out using their inside voices. I have kept my head down and why? Because not for the first time in my life, I am afraid of the repercussions from people who call themselves my friends. 

In Year 11, someone got the wrong gist of my opinions and instead of confronting me, told everyone who they thought I was. In two weeks, no one would meet my eye and yet it took me two years to find out what had actually happened- what had I actually done wrong? Nothing. 

About a week ago, my friend changed her profile picture to include an “it’s okay to vote no” frame, and her boss, instead of engaging in personal discussion and hearing her out, fired her and posted to Facebook about it. It must make a coward feel a whole lot better to be surrounded by a select few backing her up. 

This is not okay. 

This cannot be okay. 

I decided not to write a post about what people should vote. I know two things about Australians- 1) they hate being told what to do, and 2) they’ll tell you all about it. I decided to write a post, therefore, suitable for any voter. 

The madness has to stop.

I saw a post by someone I met and friended a couple of years ago on Facebook who asked anyone voting no to unfriend him. I have seen “no” voters called homophobes, even when they may be gay themselves. I have seen relationships broken over words that can never be retracted, and to think this is all happening over a clash of opinions. It really didn’t take much. 

I refuse to lose friends over a vote. I refuse to limit myself and my discussions to politics. I refuse to be defined by a box I ticked or ostracised by gossiping ever again. I refuse to live in fear, and the solution to all of this stopping is ironically exercising what the vote is meant to be advocating: love. True, pure love. 

You who are calling for acceptance need to stop bullying those who are different to you. 

You who are advocating for equality but ignoring pleas from the opposite side that their rights are being denied need to listen. 

I am asking for an end to the madness. 

You may be left with the question, so what am I voting?
My answer would be to first ask yourself: 
1) Should it matter?

2) Would you ask me face to face?

3) What would you do if I said something you didn’t like?

Adulting

Today, I was almost reduced to tears [it really doesn’t take much. My record is a dog food commercial] because I tried to be an adult and it didn’t work. 

There was a lost dog wandering around our compound which followed me home while I was walking my neighbour’s dog, so I decided to do the grown up thing and call the council, seeing as it was friendly but didn’t have a tag. The friendly man on the phone named Timothy informed me that someone would be around to pick him up within half an hour.

 I waited in the cold and the dark for an hour before finally giving up once the dog started to get super friendly with another dog- I have my limits, and today I reached them while sitting on the curb watching the driveway because I had to watch anything other than that dog right then. 

I went inside, had a hot shower and fretted about that dog. I hadn’t gotten a phone call, no one had come to the door and eventually, I decided to sit down and watch funny youtube videos- after all, I had been mature enough for the day. 

THREE HOURS LATER, a man knocks on the door. He has driven from over an hour away, in the cold and the dark, to pick up this dog. It not having a collar, and us having a canine-phobic canine, I had left it where it seemed happiest. I wanted to bring it into the house [and force poor Enzo outside], but it would not follow me and I wasn’t going to get in the middle of it’s new found love affair, so I walked away. And now this man had turned up and I had nothing to show for his travels. What was worse was that he’d called three times to check we had it before coming out, and my phone had been on silent in the living room. 

So I present to you this situation. 

I was kind of proud of myself for trying to do the right thing. I went above and beyond to do the right thing, for about an hour. And then, somewhere along the line, I lost that thread of grown-up-ness and I got in trouble with a tired man who thought I could have done more. And I also got lectured by my parents about having my phone on hand. 

So I did what any adult does, and I went to my room and sulked. 
I don’t know when I became an adult. 

Oh sure, there’s the legal adulthood, of drinking and voting, but those are two things no one really wants to do so they make an age where at least one of them is compulsory. 

On the other hand, there are all the subtle nuances that are expected of adults. When it’s unacceptable to dress however you feel is probably the first sign I noticed. When I actually started trying with make up and “my sense of style”. But also just the way you speak to people changes. You make an email signature that says “regards”, and your email isn’t “christianawesomeness” it’s “patty.ayres”. Or you start having conversations with people who casually swear and it’s no longer a big thing. Plus, you have no one to dob to. I don’t know when I thought I was wise enough to make an official call to the council, and I don’t know when it became a big deal I don’t answer phone calls, and I don’t know when it became so that I have to take responsibility for when I do something wrong, although I guess you always have to face the consequences for inconveniencing someone else. And I don’t know what happened to that darn dog. 

Trying to find a job has been a big eye opener for me. Figuring out the split in my wardrobe between “smart casual” and “every day” is the most boring thing I have ever done- I now own a plain navy blue shirt just because I realised that nothing I have was boring enough for a job interview. My last job fell into my lap because of a family friend. This new one matters.

No one ever really said, you’ve got to grow up now. The worst part is, people always used to tell me I’m mature for my age. Now I’m worried I just had a head start and everyone’s catching up, or even passing me by. 

You know the last time I had my phone off silent? It went off during that job interview, the one with the navy blue shirt. 

Adulthood is a series of not winning, no “participation awards” and high expectations. It’s everybody watching you and fewer people watching out for you. It’s scary and big and as simple as not picking up your phone so you lose a dog and a man yells at you while you’re in your pyjamas. I’m sure there are some perks to it. I’m just too young to have found them. 

Maybe adulting is just sleeping through your alarm but still making it to class. 

Maybe it’s as simple as staying up too late but discovering concealer.

Maybe it’s picking up the damn phone. 
  

Trusting God

Everyone has stories of times when they trusted someone and were let down.

A few spring to mind for me, from someone literally just letting me fall during a trust exercise, or twice in my life when boys have pulled the chairs out from underneath me as I was about to sit down. 

However, one really takes centre stage. I was doing the high wires at a fitness camp- where you’ve got a harness, and your objective is to shimmy along these wires two or more metres off the ground- for the really brave, there are places where you have to just take leaps of faith to get to the next place of safety. However, you’re wearing these harnesses so that if you fall or want to stop, the person spotting you can let you down. I watched my partner with the vigilance of an eagle. When I looked down at her, she was chatting with someone else, and typically, the shock of betrayal caused me to fall. So, in the most awkward way possible, I dangled there like a flailing fish until I managed to catch her attention. 

No wonder people have trust issues. 

Two weeks ago today, I quit my job. I wish I could say I’d thought about it, and had the dignity of a speech and strutting out with my head held high. However, unfortunately that was not the case. There was yelling, and crying, and my brain sort of melted so that I went outside to finish the shredding before grabbing my cactus and waddling home in my high heels. [I had to sneak in the next day to get my tea and leave the key on the desk.] To be fair, I had always dreamed of quitting. I just always thought I’d have something to move on to, and I’d have my speech ready before I went in, not at 3 am the next morning. 

Then, the next day, my Dad was attending a meeting for the church’s kids holiday club and, running with my adrenaline, I decided that day that I would do kids club with absolutely no physical or mental preparation or planning. 

So that’s how I ended up doing kids club two days after quitting my job [and after telling everyone for six months there was absolutely no possible way I could help out because I’d be working.] [I got an award at the end for “Best Life Choices”.]

And, the day after kids club ended, I packed my bags and headed off to a week of leading on a high school camp. 

I can’t explain to you what I was thinking, because the easiest summary is that I wasn’t. I was trying to think of how to write a post-camp blog post yesterday, and my head was just spinning from two weeks of not sticking to my usual strict regimen. My hair is frizzy because I didn’t have time to wash it properly, and my face is breaking out because of what, stress? Lack of sleep? An unusual amount of physical exercise for someone who used to sit at a desk for nine hours a day? 

And I realised the only thing that is still true after two weeks, and maybe six months of falling down a rabbit hole of insanity, is that God is good. 

In the past six months, I have had my first major break up, transitioned into a new church, started uni, finished up with my old Sunday School, started a new one, and quit my job. But while my head has been spinning, “on Christ my solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

With no planning, I expected last week to be hard and disorganised. But I was surrounded by a team of people who trusted and loved God and worked to include but not overwhelm me. This week, I expected to be awful because the last high school camp I went on I was completely out of my depth. But once again, I was surrounded by a team of people who worked endlessly to pull their weight and make sure I was okay, plus I was blessed with an amazing group of girls and co leader. 

And for those two weeks, every time I thought about getting a job, a sense of panic began to well up inside of me, but I have been reminded time and time again- even when we are skeptical, God will never let us down. It’s just not in his nature. 

So, when none of my girls seemed to respond to the talks, I decided God has a plan for them, and I’m just not watching it play out yet. When I got half a dozen rejections for jobs I’d applied for, I figured I would just keep praying. And when I woke up each day at six thirty in the morning and it was dark, and freezing, and my eyes kept gluing shut during prayer in the leaders meetings, I reminded myself that this was a chance to prepare to make camp the quality God had in mind for it to be. 

On the last night of camp, we had a time for people to tell their testimonies. The amount of kids who are struggling with situations at home, at school and even struggling with demons in their own heads was heart breaking. And yet, in amongst it all, there was this incredible sense of hope. Because, as Christians, we know that even when we have no idea what is going on, and everything seems like it is just falling apart, God has got us and he knows what he has in store. It is for our good, and not to hurt us. 

I was reminded during one of the talks of a verse where Jesus says God is going to prune us- to non gardeners, it seems odd to cut off what seemed to be fruitful and beautiful branches, to leave the tree smaller and bleeding sap. But to those who know what they are doing, they know those trees are only going to produce more fruit, even if it takes a while. 

I have decided, in the end, that I’m not going to look for a job for the next two weeks of my uni holidays. When I go back to uni, I only have a little while before I’m on practical placement, so it makes sense logically, but also I started to think that maybe the reason I haven’t found a job is because instead of rushing to find one, and panicking about the future, maybe I just need to stop and rest for a while. I have worked full time during every holiday I’ve had since the beginning of last year. My longest actual “do-nothing, have-fun” holiday has been three days. 

I want to enjoy life instead of worry about the future. 

I want to spend time with the people I love instead of listening to the fear and the panic that has been fuelling me for a while now. 

I want to trust God. 
  

Trusting God

Everyone has stories of times when they trusted someone and were let down.

A few spring to mind for me, from someone literally just letting me fall during a trust exercise, or twice in my life when boys have pulled the chairs out from underneath me as I was about to sit down. 

However, one really takes centre stage. I was doing the high wires at a fitness camp- where you’ve got a harness, and your objective is to shimmy along these wires two or more metres off the ground- for the really brave, there are places where you have to just take leaps of faith to get to the next place of safety. However, you’re wearing these harnesses so that if you fall or want to stop, the person spotting you can let you down. I watched my partner with the vigilance of an eagle. When I looked down at her, she was chatting with someone else, and typically, the shock of betrayal caused me to fall. So, in the most awkward way possible, I dangled there like a flailing fish until I managed to catch her attention. 

No wonder people have trust issues. 

Two weeks ago today, I quit my job. I wish I could say I’d thought about it, and had the dignity of a speech and strutting out with my head held high. However, unfortunately that was not the case. There was yelling, and crying, and my brain sort of melted so that I went outside to finish the shredding before grabbing my cactus and waddling home in my high heels. [I had to sneak in the next day to get my tea and leave the key on the desk.] To be fair, I had always dreamed of quitting. I just always thought I’d have something to move on to, and I’d have my speech ready before I went in, not at 3 am the next morning. 

Then, the next day, my Dad was attending a meeting for the church’s kids holiday club and, running with my adrenaline, I decided that day that I would do kids club with absolutely no physical or mental preparation or planning. 

So that’s how I ended up doing kids club two days after quitting my job [and after telling everyone for six months there was absolutely no possible way I could help out because I’d be working.] [I got an award at the end for “Best Life Choices”.]

And, the day after kids club ended, I packed my bags and headed off to a week of leading on a high school camp. 

I can’t explain to you what I was thinking, because the easiest summary is that I wasn’t. I was trying to think of how to write a post-camp blog post yesterday, and my head was just spinning from two weeks of not sticking to my usual strict regimen. My hair is frizzy because I didn’t have time to wash it properly, and my face is breaking out because of what, stress? Lack of sleep? An unusual amount of physical exercise for someone who used to sit at a desk for nine hours a day? 

And I realised the only thing that is still true after two weeks, and maybe six months of falling down a rabbit hole of insanity, is that God is good. 

In the past six months, I have had my first major break up, transitioned into a new church, started uni, finished up with my old Sunday School, started a new one, and quit my job. But while my head has been spinning, “on Christ my solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

With no planning, I expected last week to be hard and disorganised. But I was surrounded by a team of people who trusted and loved God and worked to include but not overwhelm me. This week, I expected to be awful because the last high school camp I went on I was completely out of my depth. But once again, I was surrounded by a team of people who worked endlessly to pull their weight and make sure I was okay, plus I was blessed with an amazing group of girls and co leader. 

And for those two weeks, every time I thought about getting a job, a sense of panic began to well up inside of me, but I have been reminded time and time again- even when we are skeptical, God will never let us down. It’s just not in his nature. 

So, when none of my girls seemed to respond to the talks, I decided God has a plan for them, and I’m just not watching it play out yet. When I got half a dozen rejections for jobs I’d applied for, I figured I would just keep praying. And when I woke up each day at six thirty in the morning and it was dark, and freezing, and my eyes kept gluing shut during prayer in the leaders meetings, I reminded myself that this was a chance to prepare to make camp the quality God had in mind for it to be. 

On the last night of camp, we had a time for people to tell their testimonies. The amount of kids who are struggling with situations at home, at school and even struggling with demons in their own heads was heart breaking. And yet, in amongst it all, there was this incredible sense of hope. Because, as Christians, we know that even when we have no idea what is going on, and everything seems like it is just falling apart, God has got us and he knows what he has in store. It is for our good, and not to hurt us. 

I was reminded during one of the talks of a verse where Jesus says God is going to prune us- to non gardeners, it seems odd to cut off what seemed to be fruitful and beautiful branches, to leave the tree smaller and bleeding sap. But to those who know what they are doing, they know those trees are only going to produce more fruit, even if it takes a while. 

I have decided, in the end, that I’m not going to look for a job for the next two weeks of my uni holidays. When I go back to uni, I only have a little while before I’m on practical placement, so it makes sense logically, but also I started to think that maybe the reason I haven’t found a job is because instead of rushing to find one, and panicking about the future, maybe I just need to stop and rest for a while. I have worked full time during every holiday I’ve had since the beginning of last year. My longest actual “do-nothing, have-fun” holiday has been three days. 

I want to enjoy life instead of worry about the future. 

I want to spend time with the people I love instead of listening to the fear and the panic that has been fuelling me for a while now. 

I want to trust God. 

Trusting God

Everyone has stories of times when they trusted someone and were let down.

A few spring to mind for me, from someone literally just letting me fall during a trust exercise, or twice in my life when boys have pulled the chairs out from underneath me as I was about to sit down. However, one really takes centre stage. I was doing the high wires at a fitness camp- where you’ve got a harness, and your objective is to shimmy along these wires two or more metres off the ground- for the really brave, there are places where you have to just take leaps of faith to get to the next place of safety. However, you’re wearing these harnesses so that if you fall or want to stop, the person spotting you can let you down. I watched my partner with the vigilance of an eagle. When I looked down at her, she was chatting with someone else, and typically, the shock of betrayal caused me to fall. So, in the most awkward way possible, I dangled there like a flailing fish until I managed to catch her attention. 
No wonder people have trust issues. 
Two weeks ago today, I quit my job. I wish I could say I’d thought about it, and had the dignity of a speech and strutting out with my head held high. However, unfortunately that was not the case. There was yelling, and crying, and my brain sort of melted so that I went outside to finish the shredding before grabbing my cactus and waddling home in my high heels. [I had to sneak in the next day to get my tea and leave the key on the desk.] To be fair, I had always dreamed of quitting. I just always thought I’d have something to move on to, and I’d have my speech ready before I went in, not at 3 am the next morning. Then, the next day, my Dad was attending a meeting for the church’s kids holiday club and, running with my adrenaline, I decided that day that I would do kids club with absolutely no physical or mental preparation or planning. 
So that’s how I ended up doing kids club two days after quitting my job [and after telling everyone for six months there was absolutely no possible way I could help out because I’d be working.] [I got an award at the end for “Best Life Choices”.]
And, the day after kids club ended, I packed my bags and headed off to a week of leading on a high school camp. 
I can’t explain to you what I was thinking, because the easiest summary is that I wasn’t. I was trying to think of how to write a post-camp blog post yesterday, and my head was just spinning from two weeks of not sticking to my usual strict regimen. My hair is frizzy because I didn’t have time to wash it properly, and my face is breaking out because of what, stress? Lack of sleep? An unusual amount of physical exercise for someone who used to sit at a desk for nine hours a day? 

And I realised the only thing that is still true after two weeks, and maybe six months of falling down a rabbit hole of insanity, is that God is good. 
In the past six months, I have had my first major break up, transitioned into a new church, started uni, finished up with my old Sunday School, started a new one, and quit my job. But while my head has been spinning, “on Christ my solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
With no planning, I expected last week to be hard and disorganised. But I was surrounded by a team of people who trusted and loved God and worked to include but not overwhelm me. This week, I expected to be awful because the last high school camp I went on I was completely out of my depth. But once again, I was surrounded by a team of people who worked endlessly to pull their weight and make sure I was okay, plus I was blessed with an amazing group of girls and co leader. 

And for those two weeks, every time I thought about getting a job, a sense of panic began to well up inside of me, but I have been reminded time and time again- even when we are skeptical, God will never let us down. It’s just not in his nature. 
So, when none of my girls seemed to respond to the talks, I decided God has a plan for them, and I’m just not watching it play out yet. When I got half a dozen rejections for jobs I’d applied for, I figured I would just keep praying. And when I woke up each day at six thirty in the morning and it was dark, and freezing, and my eyes kept gluing shut during prayer in the leaders meetings, I reminded myself that this was a chance to prepare to make camp the quality God had in mind for it to be. 
On the last night of camp, we had a time for people to tell their testimonies. The amount of kids who are struggling with situations at home, at school and even struggling with demons in their own heads was heart breaking. And yet, in amongst it all, there was this incredible sense of hope. Because, as Christians, we know that even when we have no idea what is going on, and everything seems like it is just falling apart, God has got us and he knows what he has in store. It is for our good, and not to hurt us. 

I was reminded during one of the talks of a verse where Jesus says God is going to prune us- to non gardeners, it seems odd to cut off what seemed to be fruitful and beautiful branches, to leave the tree smaller and bleeding sap. But to those who know what they are doing, they know those trees are only going to produce more fruit, even if it takes a while. 
I have decided, in the end, that I’m not going to look for a job for the next two weeks of my uni holidays. When I go back to uni, I only have a little while before I’m on practical placement, so it makes sense logically, but also I started to think that maybe the reason I haven’t found a job is because instead of rushing to find one, and panicking about the future, maybe I just need to stop and rest for a while. I have worked full time during every holiday I’ve had since the beginning of last year. My longest actual “do-nothing, have-fun” holiday has been three days. 

I want to enjoy life instead of worry about the future. 

I want to spend time with the people I love instead of listening to the fear and the panic that has been fuelling me for a while now. 

I want to trust God. 

The Christian Feminist

Do you believe that women should be equal to men?

If you said yes, you’re a feminist. 

[Sorry if you were getting ready to fight me, it’s actually quite a simple principle.]

Feminism isn’t like a meringue- with precise measurements, and needing a lot of whipping into the perfect white shape. It’s more like being given the order of a “cake”. You can add or take away based on your own wants and passions, but there are a few foundational things without which it would not be counted as cake. 

As soon as you begin to believe that women are not considered or treated as equals globally, you begin to understand feminism. That women’s clothes and gendered products are more expensive despite the fact they get paid less, that displays of emotion are seen as feminine [and not masculine], that there are clear gender stereotypes, women can’t work in some societies, pornography and the sex slave trade are booming, and issues of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and harassment are deeply woven into every society. Once you start to think about all of this, it’s actually rather easy to consider the feminist perspective.

However, last night I was faced with a lady who had decided not to be known as feminist because she was a Christian, and so here I have decided to outline what I believe feminism means for Christians, both male and female. 

To keep it short and simple, I will list 3 cans and can’ts. 

A Christian feminist can be a Christian and a feminist. 

This seems remarkably obvious to me, but was not to the lady last night. She argued that feminism challenges the very foundations of what it means to be a woman, and destroys the ideas and purposes God has laid out for us. That feminism argues against the idea of [particularly a male] headship. However, a Christian feminist should listen to God as much as a normal feminist would listen to whoever is teaching her how to drive when she’s on her L plates. He is still sovereign, the Creator and loving. Like with science, political views need to correspond with biblical teaching, but often cover other or additional areas. Science explains the how, feminism explores a response to fighting for justice in a sinful world. 

I believe that feminism gives Christian women an opportunity to express freely what and who God has created them to be. In societies around the world, women are told what to wear, who to marry and how to behave. Feminism fights for a world where a woman is valued just because of who she is, while Christianity fights for a world where a woman is valued just because of who God sees her as. If they work together, they can achieve aa world where God is sovereign and a woman can recognise how much she is to be loved despite her appearance, grades or social status. A world where a woman is not defined by whether she is dating, but simply by her relationship with Christ. 

A Christian feminist can decide what they will and will not support and still call themselves a feminist. 

Many Christians disagree with abortion and same sex marriage. Honestly, some Christian women are uncomfortable not shaving their legs, wearing make up or having short hair. But this doesn’t mean they are excluded from the movement of feminism. This just means they are choosing their battles with another perspective. You should not purposely ignore every invitation to go to a rally which supports or opposes something because it is based on feminism [for instance, political rallies, mental health days, fundraisers for organisations which benefit females]. Indeed, it is probably more helpful to present a positive Christian influence than to withdraw from a name for fear of incorrect association. 

A Christian feminist can disagree with other Christians and still call themselves a feminist. 

I disagree with the woman from last night about a couple of the things she said, and that’s okay. Just like with church and Bible study, and everywhere else I get challenged on things in the Bible, it means I have to have a humble heart and allow myself to be challenged before I write people off. Sometimes quarrels are unnecessary, and weirdly, she might just end up fighting for things that I do under a different name. But that doesn’t mean neither of us can be feminist. Complementarians and egalitarians alike can be feminist, Protestant and Catholic- as I say, anyone who thinks women should have equal rights to men.

A Christian feminist cannot choose feminism over Christianity. 

There are admittedly times where it seems preferable to ignore what the Bible is clearly saying to follow everyone else. However, we simply should not compromise our faith to follow an easier or more popular path. There are many issues many feminists support which I do not believe actually benefit women or their rights, due to my understanding of God’s plan for the world. That means I cop some flack. Christ will always come before anything of this world.

A Christian feminist cannot purposely do things just to bug others. 

This is a weird one, but it is one that was brought up last night and has stuck with me. Another of my friends doesn’t believe in feminism because she recognises all of the things the word is attached with rather than the simple definition I began this blog post with [whiny middle class “slacktivists” who are happy to retweet other people’s opinions but refuse to change their lifetyles, and wish to oppress men. For example, my high school drama teachers, who didn’t recognise a need for the male gender at all.] [I do not subscribe to this view.]

 Popping the word “Christian” on the front means that, wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we still have a mandate to be kind and loving. To not shove our opinions in other people’s faces unhelpfully, and to test every opinion that comes our way before mindlessly adopting it. The woman last night said she purposely shaved her head and ignored authority because it annoyed men, and that’s what [she thought] feminism is. However, there is a way to fight for better rights and still be helpful, meek and humble. I have shaved my head, but it wasn’t to shove it in anyone’s face [it was for charity]. I still have short hair, not because I despise femininity but because it’s practical, and, I believe, better for the environment. As with everything in life, consider how it affects others, how others perceive it and what you would say if you were asked a question about it.

A Christian feminist should not be scared. 

There are many scary things in the world today, and often the feminist movement has an urgency about it. However, the best thing about being a Christian feminist is that I know I am fighting to make this world better, but a day is coming where there will be no inequality, no fear of the future. A Christian feminist doesn’t have to worry about what other people think, or when other people disagree with her, as long as she is fighting for a world which is like God’s kingdom. 

In conclusion, I believe every Christian should be a feminist, no matter whether they’re male or female, and no matter how many of the “extras”/hashtags/movements they partake in. I think feminism campaigns for a world like God wanted, where men and women worked together not for themselves, their individual genders or the competition of it all, but for God’s kingdom come, his will done and earth like it is in heaven. 

The Book Store

  

Today I walked into one of the most beautiful book stores I have ever been in. 

Sometimes book stores just have this aura- this sense that the walls are lined with stories and not just printed pages. I wanted to thumb each spine and read every word. What really caught my eye were these reimagined covers of some old classics. They had gold edged pages and were intricately designed- you could tell someone had really put thought into how to capture the essence of the story and not just rebrand an old tale to sell again. 

It may have been the light pitter patter of rain outside in the dark, or the warm glow of fairy lights- I can be manipulated by atmosphere like any fool. But I think it was more the smell, of new books and the fresh leather goods they had for sale. I think it was the smile of the shop keeper, who left their store open for wanderers like myself. I think it was the sense that this store wasn’t just selling a product but something special, like each book was a present with a surprise inside. 

This is true- when I got in the car, virtually dragged away (by the words “I am parked illegally and will leave without you”), my mum said when I was little I had entered a writing competition in that very book store (and won). I have absolutely no recollection of this. But it is fact that, since I was young, I have loved to read and write. To tell my stories and to make people laugh with them. 

However, receiving stories is just as fun as creating them. Reading books has always been a way to expand my mind, take me places and remind me of a world that is not half bad. A world full of magic and justice and love- although rare in their purest forms, they exist. Good will triumph over evil, the girl will get the guy and the world will keep on spinning, a little better for its heroes. 

And to step inside a book store is to step into a world of possibilities. 

To step inside a good book store is like flying into that world.

The Art of Conversation

When I was in high school, I used to offer to braid people’s hair all the time.┬áThis may sound weird to you, but I went to an all girls school, where the length of your skirt, weight you had gained or lost and the huge pimple on your head you hoped no one would notice, smothered in make up, were all open to conversation, judgement and uncomfortable probing. (Now, every time I get a large pimple I hope no one will notice, a little voice in my head says “my school would have,” and I leave it be.)
So really, saying “you have pretty hair, would you like me to braid it?” wasn’t so out of the question.

The best thing about it, far from the feel of unwashed hair in my hands, was the conversation that sprung up from it. Like having dinner with someone, or chatting while the two of you play video games, people open up when they aren’t looking someone in the eye, and they forget their inhibitions, distracted. I’ve mentioned more than once I was a loner towards the end of high school, and I found myself starved of interaction, until the day I learned I was a fine braider.
Nowadays, it’s not that easy.

People at university don’t have time for you to braid their hair. Most of them come fully done, their make up and hair so perfect they look like they’re headed to formal dinners (men included). I sometimes worry I have missed the chance to break into groups and start random conversations- now it seems I had to have “been there that time”. At church it’s a little easier- you can ask them what they thought of the sermon, what they did that week, about upcoming events and, if all else fails, note that the cookie selection is not particularly to your tastes, save the mint slices. It seems I have still not mastered the art of conversation. There was one particularly fateful camp where I became known as “facts with Patty”, because all of the random knowledge I have stored up over years became the only thing I could think to mention. Tonight I did whip out that stockings started off at socks, until it became fashionable to wear them higher and the gentry couldn’t get any higher than stockings. Anyway.

 
I think, if this post is to have a point, it would be this. That, I have been the loner. Indeed, in my current state at uni, I am in danger of once more being so. And it’s not that I don’t have things to say, and it’s not that I don’t want to say them. It’s just that I get a similar feeling around everyone the way I do around a crush. They’re always busy, or talking to someone else, or what you had planned to say has no relevance now, and you’re not quite sure how to start, so you blush, and curl up into a ball in the corner or resort to chatting to a well known friend like wrapping yourself in an old blanket. When I actually have a crush, I just wait for it to die from a lack of attention before I even bother thinking of something to say.

Oh yes, the point.

Well, I’ve been a loner and it was no fun.

It was easy, and I had books and schoolwork and stuff, but constantly feeling left out of stuff when deep down I knew no one knew I wanted to be let in felt bad. Avoiding someone you like, and never knowing how they feel about you (or whether they know you exist) feels bad. Being alone in a room full of people you feel cut off from feels bad. And one day, you run out of fun facts and realise all it took was a little leap.
I just need to find something better than, “can I braid your hair?”