Counselling for dummies…

The second event I mentioned in my last post was starting a course called Certificate In Counselling Skills. I had actually seen a poster on the subway for the cbt centre in Glasgow running a course, and long story short, I ended up coming across a similar one at University of Glasgow. I deliberated over it for a few weeks, because I was scared I wouldn’t be any good at it and would fail. But after lots of encouragement from friends and family to go for it, I applied – literally days before the wedding! I had a telephone interview for it whilst in Toronto on the first day of our honeymoon, was offered a place, and started at the end of September.

I was really nervous, both for applying and for starting. If you’ve read anything on here before you’ll know I don’t know what to do with my life – I’ve never had a clue – but something keeps drawing me to the idea of counselling. This course is a part time – only 1 day a week – And is an essential introductory course for anyone wanting to pursue a counselling diploma and career, and is accredited by the Scottish governing body of counsellors. I was scared of the class size – only 20 – as there would be nowhere to hide, unlike in a psychology class of 150 at its smallest. The course is very experiential based, and we do practical skills practice every week, which I was terrified for. I hate being put on the spot, or thinking on the spot, and I don’t like the attention being on me. I’m drawn to counselling because I like listening to people, and think it’s one of my key skills, but I’m not so good at responding or talking, and knew i’d find that really challenging, so that scared me too. These weaknesses and fears make me constantly question why I might think a career in counselling could ever be a good thing for me…

7 weeks in though, we’ve just finished module 1 and I have hugely enjoyed it. I’d almost go so far as to say I’m enjoying it more than I ever enjoyed my 4 year Psychology degree. It is challenging, and it is emotionally exhausting and draining, but I love it.

The skills practice aspect of the course is exhausting in every way. You get into groups of 3 and take turns of being the speaker, listener and observer. As the speaker, you ‘just’ have to talk about yourself – live, emotional content (positive or negative) for a set period of time (started as 5 mins, now at 15, and will continue to expand!). The main focus is on the listener – their responses, attendance, interventions etc., and the observer feeds back to the listener what they did that was useful and less useful. I find the being the speaker really draining, particularly as ‘live emotional content’ for me recently has mainly been about my Gran passing away. It is draining, but it is noticeable that if my listener is good, I come away feeling like I’ve had 10 mins free therapy, which is pretty refreshing sometimes and I’ve managed to figure a few things out even in those short times. Being the listener is stressful and I need as much practice as I can get. The course is based on person-centred counselling approach, in that you help the client explore their own feelings, as opposed to offering advice or solutions. “How does that make you feel?” is a big part of it 😂 I always knew I would find this aspect the hardest though with knowing how to respond, and I’m trying hard not to compare where I’m at with other people in the course.

It’s also making me realise how good (or not!!!) my listening skills are. How often I sit on my phone whilst someone is talking, or turn the conversation round to be about me, or listen to provide a solution or advice, rather than really listening to the person. A valuable lesson!!!

I’m learning a lot – not just intellectually, but about myself. As well as being aimed at anybody using counselling skills, the course also has a huge focus on self-awareness and self-development. For the reason that you need to understand your own beliefs, values, experiences and possible biases, in order to treat clients with full acceptance and empathy, free from prejudice. I’m loving the self-awareness aspects of the course, as you may have guessed by any of my previous posts, I like to reflect and analyse so this is right up my street. It doesn’t necessarily sound like real work and may not be academic, but it really is hard going and is so draining. (If pretty rewarding when you figure something out or see or make a change in yourself)

So far I’ve noticed that I don’t necessarily, or didn’t, take feedback very well. Even if it was constructive. I got some reasonably harsh feedback in a practical session early on about what was ‘less useful’ in my listening, and it bugged me for days. This course makes you consider why things affect you the way they do, so I was able to consider why this annoyed me so much. I cane to the conclusion that I don’t like not being good at things, and I like to appear capable. Whether this is for my own satisfaction, or to save embarrassment in front of others, or for a different reason altogether I’m not quite sure yet. But I liked having the self-awareness to consider this, rather than just ruminating on it for ages.

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n thing I’ve noticed is something that has come up in class a few times – our inner critic. We all have this inner monologue, but how truthful, or kind, is it really? We did a self-awareness task using the Johari Window, which helps you identify what aspects of yourself are seen to yourself and/or others. Part of this required us to tell 3 people in the room what our first impression was of them, and vice versa. (Which by the way, was a very odd and rather awkward experience – it’s just not something you ever do!) I was surprised by the responses I got. The apparent impression I gave out wasn’t at all what I thought it was. I was oblivious to the sometimes positive impression I was giving out, and they were oblivious to the negative traits I thought I was showing. Two different people said I looked organised, and like I had it all together – I could not have felt further from that!!! My inner critic told me I looked shy and awkward and unfriendly, and while I might have seemed quiet or nervous, the other negative qualities just weren’t true.

Similarly when we do Skills practice and I take the role of the listener, I constantly panic about what I’m going to say or what questions I should ask, or if I’m sitting the right way or have the right facial expression. Thing is though – this uncomfortable panic will no doubt show, only the speaker will think I’m awkward or panicky because of what they are saying, not because of the madness of my inner monologue at that moment. And I’m sure this can translate to normal conversations too.

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itten about this multiple times in previous posts – about how we can be so much nastier to ourselves than we ever would be to someone else. I wrote in a reflective assignment for the course that it was something I was trying to change, but it is something I find really difficult. I find it hard not to overthink things. Messages I send, conversations I have, looks people give, even conversations I don’t have, but think I should have or could have. I worry what people will think about me – will they judge me? My confidence has somehow taken a hit recently -not sure why – and I’m struggling to push it back up. So often I doubt my ability. I tell myself and genuinely think that ‘I can’t do it’. I think I’m not good enough or outgoing or confident enough to be any good at things, especially this course sometimes. Despite how much I’m enjoying it, I still got super panicky and negative about a formal observation I had for my practical skills and a presentation I did last week. Any achievements I do have, I downplay. I’ve lost count of how many times Matt or my Mum have told me recently to have more faith in myself, to stop being self-depreciating and negative, and to believe that I can do things. I would never be so mean or discouraging to anyone else – friends, family or strangers. So why do I do it to myself? And is it just me? I’m certain it’s not.

I know that’s something I need to improve on. I am capable and I need to remember to believe that! And I didn’t say all that for pity or compliments or anything like that. Just being honest and sharing what’s come up for me on the course so far, and maybe someone can relate to what I’m saying. Like I said, I’m sure it’s not just me.

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, I hope that anyone who made it to the end of that isn’t too bored! Just a quick insight into what I’m up to, and how eye opening it is in many respects. I’m excited to see what module 2 brings!

Remember, everyone else is making it up as they go along too…”

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Where am I

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything on here – 3 months in fact – and some big things have happened in that time:

  • I got married, and went from being Miss Roslyn Adamson to Mrs Roslyn Fuller
  • I started a part time course at uni, called Certificate in Counselling Skills
  • My Gran sadly passed away

As you can probably guess, there are a lot of emotions mixed in with all three of those events – positive and negative. There has been, and still is, a lot to process, so I thought I’d try writing and see if that helped. Not entirely sure where this post will end up though..!

So, getting married! It had been 2 years since Matt proposed on that beautiful beach in Australia. 2 years of planning and imagining. 2 years of decision making – my favourite thing 🙄 And it all came down to that one day. The last few months were pretty hectic – between my dissertation and final exams and graduation at uni, and making arrangements and decisions for the Wedding, I forgot what it could be like to not have a to-do list. When it came down to the day though – I was pretty chilled! The early start didn’t go down so well with me – I don’t do mornings! But once my stomach settled down, and my hair and make up were done and I put on my dress (and it fit, and I could breathe in it…something that had been up for contention the previous week!), I was just excited. The idea of walking down an aisle with 70 people staring at me should have been something that terrified me – and it gave me many a panic in the lead up to the big day. I don’t like being centre of attention, and this was an extreme version of that. But in the car, and when we got to the Uni chapel, I didn’t have any nerves at all. I was confident in myself, I was so, so happy, and I was just excited – for Matt to finally see my dress, and to become his wife after 9 years together! Everything went to plan (well, other than my auntie breaking her ankle!!!), and the day was everything we had hoped for. There was something incredibly special about being surrounded by people who love us, and I genuinely didn’t stop smiling – like proper, genuinely grinning from ear to ear – all day. I literally had cramp in my cheeks at one point from smiling so much!!! One friend said she had never seen me look so comfortable in my own skin – and that is the perfect description. 💗 Married life is proving positive so far. It’s surreal seeing my new name, but I love sharing a home with my husband (that still sounds surreal) who I love so much!

The second event I mentioned is starting a counselling course at uni – and I’ve written a whole other post about that cos it turned out pretty big!

The last thing I mentioned was my Gran passing away. It’s still really quite raw, as it only happened about 6 weeks ago now. They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and sadly this was partly the case for me and my Gran. In my eyes, she was a wonderful woman! Wacky, but wonderful. We weren’t close in the sense that I would tell her every secret or worry I had, but I spent a lot of time with her, both when I was younger and recently. I could list a million memories, but that will no doubt leave me lying here in tears. Something I admired, Albeit maybe in hindsight, is that she was fiercely committed to things. The Salvation Army in particular and she was a songster (choir member) for 60 years! She loved to sing – and was a proud alto (something I’d like to think I’ve inherited!) She rarely missed a meeting until this past year, and was proud of the army and the faith it helped her sustain. If it wasn’t for her, I’d never have gone along to the army at all – I’m beyond grateful for her encouragement. More than any of that though, she was immensely proud of her family, and was never done worrying about one of us. I hadn’t realised how much I valued spending time with her until that was taken away – it now constantly feels like something is missing. I know everyone loses people, many of us lose grandparents – but I just wasn’t at all ready for how I would feel when it happened. I’m still trying to process the emotions but most of all it’s just sadness. I miss her daily – The funny phone calls, the mad visits and outings, her interest in me (and her bemusement at how long I seemed to be doing uni work and exams for – I am glad she finally got to see me graduate!) and a thousand more things that made her who she was. My Gran 💗

Other things in my life at the minute:

– I’m looking for a job. And struggling. I’m struggling over whether to settle and apply for something generic, or hold off and try to get something specific to Psychology or counselling. And either way, I’m getting increasingly irritated at how bad I am at writing a CV!!

– I’m also trying to apply for various volunteering positions, including one with childline. While I’m excited for that prospect, I’m also getting frustrated at how I seem to have lost the ability to write coherently or eloquently about myself! (This post proves that 😳😂)

– God stuff/faith. It comes and goes, as always. I continue to question and doubt everything, but continue to pray and try to have that faith. Posts to follow hopefully.

So well done if you made it to the end of this post – as this and the next one are both pretty random, pretty messy, and maybe not that interesting for anyone to read. They are however honest, and true accounts of where I’m at with certain things just now. I’ve had more emotions than I can understand over the past couple of months, and I wanted to write that down. Maybe someone can relate to something, or maybe it’s all just for my own sanity, who knows. The main thing I’m trying to remember is that wherever you are and however you feel that is ok. Don’t compare yourself or your situation to others. Keep perspective, but don’t compare. It’s ok to feel like crap, even if your day wasn’t quite as bad as someone else’s. It is ok.

Authenticity: be you


I came across this on Pinterest last night and it was so in line with conversations I'd been having as well as thoughts that have been going round my head all week, so I'm going to try and write something on it.

Authenticity: knowing who you are and being brave enough to live it.

Authenticity is something I really value. It is a characteristic I admire in people and it is a trait I appreciate and look for in friendships. And it's a virtue I'd love to live out.

Definition:genuineness

Synonyms: accuracy, correctness, credibility, dependability, factualness, legitimacy, purity, realness, reliability, trustworthiness, truthfulness, validity, veritableness

It means to be genuine. It's a word we quite often use when describing someone: "He's such a genuine guy", meaning that they're very real. There's nothing fake about them – they're pure in who they are, and exhibit most of the synonyms listed above. It's something that actually, while it sounds straightforward and simple and obvious to live out, it's often not. We often have different versions of ourselves, different personas we use in different situations, or with different people. And sometimes that's ok – I.e. Your work self may be slightly more formal than your social self, or something along those lines. Which is fine. But often, it's nothing to do with that. Often we put on different versions of ourselves not for us, but for other people. We try and act and behave how we think others want us to. In ways we think will get us liked more, or more included. I've been doing it for years – I think everyone does it at some point and to some extent, particularly growing up. I don't know if the shy thing maybe accentuates it, but all through school and in the army as well, I would try and be who I thought my 'friends' wanted me to be. I'd try and be more like them, less like me. Whether that was kid stuff like trying to do my hair the same as theirs (I went through a phase in early high school of very slicked down pony tails cos that's what everyone else did…it was never a good look and with my thick crazy hair it was even worse!), or going to a club and attempting to dance, pretending it was something I remotely enjoyed, or imitating the language they use (be it good or bad!). I always thought that if I could be more like them (whoever 'they' happened to be at that time) then I would be fine. I would finally fit in. I would make better friendships. I would be liked more. I would succeed more. But frankly, that's a load of crap.

I guess for lots of people, it comes down to whether, or how much, you love or even like yourself in the first place. That surely will determine how much you want to be that other person – the other you, the 'better' version of you. And why is that? Like, why are we so much better at loving other people, at seeing their positives attributes and what makes them great, yet when it comes to us, we so often have negative-tinted glasses on. It can be like we're blinkered. We see what we can't do – the things we're not so good at, or the traits we don't have that others do. We see the things we think are holding us back, but never the things propelling us forward. Why do we struggle to build ourselves up, in the same way we would so easily encourage or compliment others? I would never speak to someone else the way I've so often put myself down. So why do we do it to ourselves?

I get wanting to be better in the sense of being kinder, more caring, more compassionate, more conscientious etc., but you don't need to change who you are to do that. Whether you believe in God and Christianity and that God made us in his image or not, being authentically you is the best thing you can do. You were made the way you are for a reason – traits, qualities, flaws and all – you literally wouldn't be you otherwise. Being authentic not only helps and benefits you – making you happier and confident, letting you worry less about who you're 'supposed' to be – but it makes your relationships more real, more genuine, and stronger too. And to me at least, that's super important. And judging by the amount of posts I found on Pinterest about 'being you', I don't think I'm the only one who thinks about this.

This post is super messy, but it's something I care a lot about. Being authentic is important to me. I've spent years trying to get out of the mindset that I should be or need to be someone else, to stop telling myself I'm not good enough, and I'm still trying to some extent, albeit a lot less. The other side of authenticity I find difficult is in relation to my faith or to the Salvation Army. And it really bugs me. But I think that's going to be another post in itself. When I'm not being super skeptical, I believe that God loves us for who we are, warts and all – 'we can't escape his love or take ourselves out of his care'. God loves you and your family and real friends love you for exactly who you are, so you need to do the same and love yourself too.

complete side note: sometimes it probably comes across that I'm completely miserable, or that I spend my entire life thinking or feeling down or in turmoil, beating myself up, but it's not like that at all. I mean, yeah I think lots, and sometimes I do struggle with faith/personal stuff/relationships, like everyone. I just write it down because it helps me process stuff and dwell on it less, in the way that people would keep a diary. I don't think I'm special or superior and I'm not looking for attention. I guess I share it in the hope that by being so open and honest, even one person might relate to something I write and realise it's not 'just them'. (Even if it means I get judged for posting or sharing it, or get a whole load of anxiety every time I do post!!) And anyway, I enjoy writing them, and I enjoy the discussions that occasionally come from them. ☺️

How do you live like you believe? #questions

Well, that was an interesting night! I was strangely nervous/anxious for most of the day yesterday (Partly from being at the hairdressers, which every introvert knows is a traumatic experience in itself haha!) but also for the summer school festival at night. I was beyond excited to see and catch up with a few people, having spent the week texting them, wishing I was there to spend time with them in person. But I was also really apprehensive and anxious of what kind of emotions it would bring up. I've spent the week feeling strangely nostalgic, I sobbed for about 10 minutes on Sunday night, wishing I was there and having a serious case of fomo (fear of missing out 🙄😂), and I knew it would feel weird going back to Kilgraston in particular, somewhere I'd spent so many weeks of my life (especially weird going without Matt!). I know everyone stops going at some point and I'm not trying to be melodramatic or exaggerate at all, but when something has been such a big part of your life for so many years, it's really weird to not be involved. Anyway it was all fine! I mean it was weird to be there to listen rather than take part – I had to control my tear ducts when the whole school started singing at the start (and again near the end of the band piece Purpose…), but it was lovely to just be there and particularly to chat to everyone. (Me, aka super quiet, non-chatty Roslyn, was in fact literally the last person to leave the school. Maybe Matt's rubbing off on me after all 😉) Although it's true that I may have had (more than) a few tears when I got home… 🙄

The festival itself was great – everyone taking part played/sang/danced/acted/sported(?!) really well and to a great standard. For me, I really enjoyed the q&a with the new students, the multimedia video and the chat with the sports students – because from hearing them all speak, it was clear what an impact the week was having on them. Not only that, their faith, or at least their desire to explore that faith, was evident. Seems like the sign of a good week to me (and that's only the halfway point!)

I was really intrigued by the theme for the week – live like you believe. Because it's not necessarily an easy thing to do. As far as I'm aware they've been looking at different traits, such as compassion and accountability, and how to live these out. I'm actually really sad to be missing all of the teaching and cells. It's always been something I've looked forward to, particularly in recent years of going to summer school. I like being challenged, I like being made to think and I like hearing different perspectives and points of view. I'm even more sad to be missing tonight – a lot of people hate the Thursday night, but it's something I've always really enjoyed. It can involve a lot of emotion for some people, but that's something I actually like. I like that it's a space where it's acceptable to be emotional or vulnerable, without 'losing face' or whatever. There was a kind of stability to it for me – like a yearly opportunity to sit and take stock of where my life was, and where my faith was, and where it was all going next. I like the amount of support that is always there, from people you expect and those you don't. I love the opportunity it gives for conversation and discussions, so open and honest and real. That's the thing I've missed most this week I think. Those real, genuine, authentically honest conversations. They are my fav 💗

I do have a question though. (Wouldn't be me if I didn't!!) How do you 'Live like you believe' if you don't quite know what you believe? If you take the statement literally at least, then how does that work if you're unsure or just downright confused about God/religion/faith/Jesus etc.? If you don't know what bits you understand, what bits you believe or agree with, where does that leave you? (Or me!)

I go through spells of being really 'confident' in my faith – I pray a lot, I'll read lots, I'm enthusiastic. Then I give myself even a moment to think about it, and I realise I don't understand the majority of what I'm claiming to be enthusiastic about. That when I read bits in the bible, they don't make sense or are too far fetched. That I disagree with every defence of Christianity in a book full of questions about how real it is, or isn't. That I don't understand or believe in or agree with the hymn/song lyrics I belt out in the car or the shower. And then I feel really inauthentic, and hypocritical, and struggle to see the point in dealing with or caring about it at all. Why is it so complicated?

Traditionally, I'll spend at least part of the Thursday night sobbing to Matt/Ian/Sharon/Adam/Karen that I just don't get it or just don't believe it – that I want to believe it but I just don't. That I want to believe it and feel it but I just don't know how or understand what that really means. (Side note – I've been thinking a lot and reading a lot about having a 'personal relationship with God' – blog post to come at some point!) I'm sure they'll all be very glad not to have to deal with my constant 'but why? But how?' questions tonight 😂 But for me the questions all still stand.

So, how do you Live Like You Believe, particularly if you don't know what you believe? Summer School students (and staff!), I'm looking for answers and clarification from you! ☺️

(p.s…make the most of the rest of the week, and tonight especially. Ask the questions, have the conversations, be open to anything and be present in it all. 😌)

Pre-summer school (blues!)

It's getting to that time of year when I'd usually be posting a 'pre-summer school' post, or at the very least, I'd be posting something after the event. This year, not so much. And now that it's getting close, I'm a bit gutted! Now don't get me wrong – I'm getting married in 20 days (oh my goodness!!!!) and I am SO excited for the wedding, getting married, and the honeymoon in the sun. And the week of summer school itself I'll be knee deep in dress fittings and the like. However, I am going to miss what has become a routine of my summer for the past 10 years.

I've been reflecting on it a lot this past week, particularly with seeing posts from territorial music school popping up now and again, and a few anticipatory tweets from people about next week's summer school. And after attending 10 music/summer schools, there is a decent amount to reflect on and reminisce over.

I still don't know what spurred me on to go that first year. I'd been going to the Salvation Army for 6 months with my grandparents, and I vividly remember my mum asking if they still had 'music camps'. I had no idea what she was talking about but after she explained, I asked someone at the corps, and in the end, myself and another girl at the corps decided to go. She was literally the only friend I knew in the army who was roughly my age, and would be the only person I knew going to music school. I was much, much shyer then than I am now, so I have to assume that God was guiding me in that direction without me realising, as there is no way I'd have braved it on my own accord.

I remember arriving at Queen Victoria School in Dunblane, and seeing loads of people with big suitcases running up to their friends and hugging and chatting, and I instantly wanted to leave. I stood in line and got to the front of the registration desk, to be told I looked terrified by the person checking me in. (This person turned out to be Sharon – someone who is now one of my closest friends, whose daughter is my flower girl in a couple of weeks time, and who I love very much…..another sign to me in hindsight that God was directing me somewhere specific). I went for my brass audition, and the girl in front of me came out crying, which terrified me even more. (a girl who turned out to be Rachel – who later became my best friend, and in a couple of weeks will be my maid of honour and help get me down the aisle, as well as being my fiancé's cousin!) The week of course turned out to be great, although I do remember being super embarrassed and self conscious on night one as we had to record music videos in groups, and again when I couldn't find the door to get out of the chapel after my vocal audition, and not knowing what was going on during the 'greeting meeting' – the whole talking about God and your faith thing was so foreign to me, not to mention having a reformed murderer come to talk to us for the evening! I remember being surprised by how friendly people were, and how quickly I made friends, something I usually wasn't very good at. At least some of those friends I still have to this day, and who will be at the wedding with us in a few weeks.

I have so many fond memories from those ten years of summer school. 70 days of my life. Many band pieces played. Many excruciating vocal auditions. 3am open airs or water fights or pranks. Seeing the sun come up at 5am one Friday before the (slightly dodgy) Saturday festival. Many awkward silences in cell groups. (Or just silent cell groups in general – I never seemed to be in the chatty age group, and clearly I didn't add to that haha!) Late night pizza deliveries. Being part of the student forum and getting to influence what went on. Singing grace before meals. Barricading ourselves into rooms at night so 'the boys' couldn't get in. Many special moments. Terrifyingly giving testimonies on the Friday morning. Being followed around for a week by Matt. My first kiss 😳😂. So much laughter. Ceilidh photos, and bruises. A band. A chorus. Many tears – not all negative. Exam results. Friendships made. Friendships strengthened. Community. Feeling included, and part of something bigger. Orderlies/staff who supported and encouraged. Praying out loud with someone for the first time. Being prayed for. Being inspired, and supported. Being pushed out of my comfort zone. Many questions, even if not answered. Discovery.

On top of that, I've met all of my closest friends, and of course my fiancé. My life would not be even remotely the same had I not gone to that first music school, or all of the others since. I wouldn't be the person I am or have the life that I do. Or even the faith that I do, albeit in all of its shakiness. That's all got to be God's doing, right?

That, and SO many more specific memories it would take me hours and pages to list. It has never been about getting a good seat in band or getting into A chorus for me. When I was younger, the main thing I went for was to spend a full week with my friends. The last few years, it's been about taking advantage of that one interrupted week of being able to learn about god. To focus on my faith, ask the 3000 questions I always have, have discussions, let your guard down, get inspired, and challenged, (and usually confused) with people who are in similar positions to you. People who have the same questions. Staff who have already worked their way through those questions. Hearing different perspectives, looking at the material for the week, listening to people speak about faith and god and their own experiences. It's something I love, and something I will miss this year. Because it's something that doesn't happen often in 'real life'. For me at least. It's so hard to find time to meet up, and when you do, having deep conversation isn't always easy or appropriate. And doing it by text, as many of my friends have experienced, means you have texts the size of essays to read and respond to, which just doesn't work that well.

I'm going to miss that buzz, that energy that comes from spending the week focusing on what's important, and focusing on god. It's a special kind of energy that can set you up for months to come, and that I find really hard to find anywhere else. Sunday services just don't give me the same enthusiasm, or create the same engagement within me, even when I try really hard.

Looking back at this and so many more specific memories, I (think) I firmly believe God has been guiding me along this whole time. Leading me in a direction, towards these people, and everything they would bring into my life, everything I would learn from them. Towards the experiences I would subsequently have, both during those ten weeks, and as a result of. My confidence has grown exponentially, much of which is from those weeks. I might not have it all figured out – faith, or my plan for life – but I know my experiences at summer schools have firmly shaped who I am and who I want to be.

So the point in this big rambling, reminiscent post, is for those going this year. Make the most of it. Be engaged. Be kind to each other. Look out for and look after each other. Get involved. Let your guard down. Listen. Search. Focus. Enjoy. (And I'll see you at the festivals!)

Does that make me a better person? 


"Does that make me a better person?" 


That is a question a friend posed the other day in relation to something we were talking about. They were referring to something that always either made them frustrated or made them sarcastic and mocking, so posed the question, and considered cutting it out of their life. And the concept has stuck with me all week. 

We had a divisional youth fellowship earlier in the month and part of it involved group discussions. One of the questions that came up was "What is the Salvation Army to you?" (It was along those lines at least – I'd look at my actual bit of paper but it's packed up in a box in the garage of my new house!) I don't think I said much at the time – other than an eye roll, a sarcastic look and a chuckle. But it's something I keep coming back to. It does occupy a considerable part of my weekly schedule – 2 hours on a Wednesday for Songsters, 2 hours on a Friday for band, another hour for kids club, and roughly 5 hours on a Sunday if we have 2 meetings/a second activity. Plus another 4 hours a month for divisional youth band and chorus, as well other events and concerts throughout the year. Oh and the ten weeks of my life I've spent at summer schools. 

 So, what does it mean to me? Is it just a church? Is it my church? Is it just a place I go to out of routine? Is it somewhere I go enthusiastically, or begrudgingly? Do I go to really meet with God, and/or to spend time worshipping him? Do I go because I want to? Do I go to find out more about God? Do I go because I want to meet with and spend time with other Christian's?  Am I engaged and connected when I go there? Or am I there out of duty? What kind of person am I when I'm there? Does it make me a better person? 

I'm not going to answer those questions just now – maybe at some point – but I'm not sure the answers would necessarily be what is expected or required. Actually, I'm not even sure the answers would be static – I think they'd change depending on my mood and on recent or specific situations and experiences. 

It makes me think though, and consider how it impacts me and my life, and I suppose in turn, how I impact it. How about doing that with your whole life though?  Looking at everything you do, everything you take part in, even everyone you spend time with and interact with – do all of those things and all of those people make you a better person? Do they – the situations or  places or the people – add anything beneficial to your life? (Not just in terms of fun/enjoyment/inspiration/encouragement/positivity etc. etc…but potentially in terms of challenge or teaching you things too I guess?) Do you add anything beneficial to theirs? Could you?

How about on social media? Regardless of how many people on your Friends list are actually your real friends, you can influence them, and they will be impacting and influencing you. So, is it a positive or negative influence? And if it's negative, why? And what can you do about that? If it's on your end, fix it. Sort out your attitude or online behaviour, and make it better. Be kinder, or more generous, or more patient or accepting or whatever it takes, do it. And if it's not, then take some action. Speak up, talk to them, or remove them as a 'friend' if you need to. Block them on twitter or snapchat. Why have that negative or distructive or detrimental influence, when you can change it or remove it? 

I think it's an interesting way to look at things, whether that's all the time, or when sporadically taking check of where you're at and how your life is doing. Because I think we should always be trying to better ourselves. Whether from a Christian viewpoint or otherwise – nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes and we all get things wrong, sometimes even when the intentions are correct. So bettering ourselves – whether to be more like Jesus(?!) or just to be a better version of yourself for your own sake and for the sake of those around you, seems like a noble and worthwhile task.

A task which can be way easier said than done…

Know thyself  in 25 questions


1. What does your ideal day look like? It wouldn't be too full or busy. But it would be full of the people I love most and who make me smile and laugh the most. Like when you're laughing really hard and realise how great being in their company makes you feel. I'd want to spend it with those people. It would involve some simple but good food. And sunshine. Warm sunshine. Other than that, what we're doing would be irrelevant to a huge extent. 

2. What did you want to be when you were younger? – an artist at one stage. An accountant at another. And a lawyer for a while. I've still not figured out what the answer is. 

3. Who are you most inspired by? Why? I don't really know the answer, and yet I feel it should be quite straight forward. Different people inspire me in different ways. My dad inspires me to be generous with my time and money. My mum inspires me to be caring and kind and to look out for people even if others aren't. Matt inspires me to be confident and to be passionate and loyal and committed in everything I do in life. I have friends who inspire me to be braver, to be myself, to be more thoughtful, and so many more things. I'm inspired and spurred on by them all in different ways.

4. Who would you love to meet? What would you ask? – I'd love to meet David Tennant, just because of my teenage (who am I kidding, permanent) crush and love for him. I don't think I'd be able to ask for more than a selfie though. On a more intellectual level maybe, I'd like to have met Jesus. Ask him what the deal is with everything. 

5. What habit would you most like to break? What habit would you most like to start? – I'd like to break the habit of procrastinating so much, and being quite lazy at times. It's not an attractive, or useful, habit by any means. I'd like to learn to cook frequently, more or less from scratch, and enjoy it. 

6. Think of a person you truly admire. What qualities do you like about that person? – The qualities I admire are the same as the ones I said inspire me a couple of questions previously. I admire honesty, sincerity, authenticity, loyalty, and true friendship. There are a few people who jump out that I admire and they harbour at least some of these qualities. Those, and other adjectives like hard-working and committed.

7. How do you like to relax? - Sometimes on my own: I'm an introvert at heart at I often recharge best by spending time in my own company. Whether that's doing something productive or hibernating in front of the TV. Otherwise, I like going for walks. I love shopping and am far too good at spending money. I like eating. And I like doing these things with people I'm comfortable with.

8. When was the last time you did something you were afraid of? - umm…I've had to make a lot of phone calls recently – which sounds pathetic but to an awkward introvert like me, that is seriously scary stuff. I've had to put myself out there a few times recently and take part in social situations that feel really far out of my comfort zone too. They're all I can think of just now.

9. What are you most proud of? – right now, getting a 2:1 honours degree in Psychology. When I took voluntary suspension of my course at Strathclyde, I was concerned I wouldn't get anywhere. That I was stuck. And I'm so happy to have proved myself wrong. From the thousands that applied, to the 600 students on my course in 1st year, to scraping into 3rd year honours despite narrowly missing out on the required grade. And along the way there were many moments I thought I couldn't do it. Many meltdowns and panics. But I made it. I am a graduate. I have an upper second class MA(social science) honours degree in Psychology. Yasss.

10. What are you most afraid of? – the weird answer is vomit. *shudders* I have a fully fledged phobia of sick. Of others being sick, of me being sick, of anything to do with it. I don't know where it originated from, but it's been there for as long as I can remember. For that reason I get super nervous on long coach trips, aeroplanes, rollercoasters, pubs and clubs with drunk people, watching casualty….anywhere people are likely to throw up gives me a annoying amount of associated anxiety! 

11. If life stopped today, what would you regret not doing? – Not being brave or confident enough to do things (letting fear get in the way.) Not keeping in touch with people from school. Not making friends at uni. Not taking up/keeping up hobbies. 

12. Who would you like to connect (or reconnect) with? Why?similar to the last question, I wish I'd made more of an effort to keep in touch with some people from school. Looking at the wedding invite list (which don't get me wrong, has the people most important to me in the world on it, plus many more fab friends and family) makes me disappointed that I didn't keep in touch with anyone. There are about half a dozen friends I wish I'd made more of an effort to stay friends with. The reasonfor this is that they knew me from when I was about 5 – I have no friends left in my life, other than on Facebook, who can backdate me beyond around the age of 12, which just seems a little sad. 

13. What qualities do you admire in others? - Kindness. Authenticity. Honesty. Sincerity. Loyalty.

14. What practical skills do you wish you had? – musical ones. I wish I could play the piano. I wish I could become at least average at playing a brass instrument (preferably without having to practice haha!). And actually more generally, the practical skill I wish I had is being able to make conversation😳😂

15. Imagine you're in your 90s. What memories would you like to have. What stories would you like to tell? my instant response here is a bit sad and bittersweet, in that I would just want to have my memories, and be able to remember my stories. Alzheimer's and Dementia are a sad reality, so my real hope would be to just remember the life I've had, what I've spent it doing and who I've spent it with.

16. What is your favourite book/movie/song? Why? I always struggle with questions like this. Maybe cos I'm so bad at making decisions.

Book = recently, my fav has been 'Small Great Things' by Jodi Picoult. But I have no idea what my all time favourite is. I really liked the book 'Rebecca' when I was in high school. My fav childhood books were 'The tiger who came to tea' and 'peace at last'. But I don't have an all time fav. Maybe I've still to come across it.

Movie = same situation… I can't decide on just one. And actually, my favs are really all a strange mix of childhood favourites – Matilda, Home Alone, Legally Blonde, Mrs Doubtfire. Things I could recite the lines to and that make me smile.

Song = I don't think I can pick just one for this either. I love the song 'He will not let go' by Laura Story. How to Save a Life by the Fray is up there (partly because of Grey's), Read all about it from Emeli Sande, For good from Wicked, a few Coldplay songs, Keep Breathing from Ingrid Michaelson, and lots of Laura Story's songsactually. And SO many more.

17. If you could make one change in the world what would it be? – I would want people to be kinder. To see the similarities between us, not the differences, and live a lot more harmoniously than the world does at the minute. Seems like an idealistic fairytale these days for sure.

18. What do you love to do for, or give to others (not an object – something from you personally) I love to listen. I love being able to just listen to people when they need someone to talk to or offload to. I don't often (or usually) have the answers or solutions, but I love being able to just give my time and be there for them by listening. 

19. What excites you? – The future. The next few weeks and months. Marrying Matt, moving into our beautiful new house and starting married life together. On a smaller scale – food and sunshine excite me a lot. Grey's Anatomy quite often does too. And more often than not, silly things that would generally excite a 5 year old like rubber ducks or pool lilos or turtles.

20. What do you wish you did more of? this sounds like a generic answer, but I wish I could spend more time with some of my friends. The ones who make my heart happy (again with the cheesiness), and make me laugh really hard, and make me feel the most like myself. People are so busy and have families and jobs and churches and lives of their own, and it can be so so hard to arrange time to spend together. It makes me sad! So more of that for sure. 

21. Pretend money is no object – what would you do? selfish answer is that I would go on a very long holiday in order to travel and explore. I'm not really a hostel or overnight train kind of person, so if money wasn't an object, I'd definitely do as much travelling as possible. 

22. What area of your life, right now, makes you feel the best? Which area makes you feel the worst? Why? - Best = Matt/Wedding/future, for obvious reasons. Worst= post-uni plan, cos I don't really have one. Although actually that's not stressing me too much right now, so maybe church and god stuff?

23. Lets jump forward a year. What would you like to have achieved in the past year? I would like to have a job, or be doing more studying. And be happily married and settled in my house with Matt. Oh and also to be actively involved with the Youth at Clydebank in some aspect. And to have found some stability and excitement in my own faith.

24. What piece of advice would you give to 5 year old you? 16 year old you? 21 year old you?

5y/o me = take up some hobbies, practice hard and stick to them.

16y/o me = stop trying so hard to be who you think other people need you to be, stop trying to change to fit in. Stop following the crowd.

21 y/o me = be braver, be more confident. You can do it. 

25. How do you want to be remembered in life? for being authentic, and honest, and loyal, and kind. I'm not quite there yet on some of them, but they are values which are important to me, so I'd like to hope they are traits that I do or at least will eventually exude.

Confident graduate 

After 4 years, my time at the University of Glasgow has come to an end. And I couldn’t be happier!! It wasn’t always plain sailing, but I got there in the end. I am now a graduate. I have an upper second class Master of Arts (soc sci) Honours Degree in psychology. aka, a 2:1 MA hons in psychology. 🎓 


There were SO many times when I didn’t think I’d ever get to that desired end point. From taking voluntary suspension at Strathclyde from a course I hated, to having to apply and start at the beginning again on something totally new. To getting an unconditional into the Psychology course at Glasgow and being part of the class of 600 in 1st year. Second year was horrible – with everyone fighting for their place in honours. You needed an average of a B2 across both semesters to progress, and I got a B3, yet miraculously was allowed to continue with psychology, and narrowly avoided having philosophy as my major. (Which I’m sure would have been just as fun, just not where I wanted to go!) 3rd year was ok, other than having the flu and an ear infection for finals which tanked a few of my exam grades. And 4th year really was difficult, and challenged me in so many ways. I lost count of the amount of hours I spent panicking/stressing/freaking out about my maxi project (dissertation), so I was thrilled to discover the other week that somehow, I got an A4 for it!! It was a tough 4 years, and I am THRILLED to have a 2:1 honours degree. 


So, what now? Well, up until a few days ago, I didn’t have the slightest clue. I’ve now come across a counselling skills course I really like the look of, so am planning to further look into that. Whether that’s what the next step is or not I’m not 100% yet, but at least I’ve got a slight bit of a plan. People keep asking me what the end goal is, and I really don’t know. Sometimes I like the idea of being a counsellor/therapist, but deep down I just don’t know if I am capable. The listening part I could manage, but I don’t know if I have the skills/manner/personality to master what else there is to it, even with training. But other than that, I have no suggestions or incline as to what I could or want to do. So we’ll see what happens I guess! 


But for now, I am happy. If you’ve seen my graduation photos on Facebook or Instagram, you will be able to see just how happy I am. Someone said they didn’t know I could smile so big, and joked that they didn’t know I had teeth 😂. I don’t know if that means I’m usually miserable looking or not lol! But I’ve had several comments about how genuinely happy I look in the photos – and it’s because I really was. I was, and am, proud of myself. That’s not something that happens very often, or that I’d ever admit so freely, but I am proud. I’ve had various challenges over the past 4 years – nothing earth shattering thankfully, but different little things, academically, physically, emotionally and mentally, that have made it difficult at times – and I’m really really proud of myself for pushing through it all and getting the result I wanted. I might not be a straight A student or be at the top of the class, but I have my degree and that’s something to be proud of!


My confidence had taken quite a hit at the beginning of this year. I’m not totally sure why, but it was lower than it had been in a long while. But doing well in exams and getting my degree has helped boost it back up. The weekend the youth band spent in Birmingham and Coventry also helped that. Being part of the ‘staff’ team reminded me that I can be looked up to and respected, and giving part of the sermon on the Sunday morning was a huge step. I’ve given testimonies before, but this was more than that, and in the end I wasn’t even very nervous. I didn’t rush through it, I made lots of eye contact, and i (think) I sounded confident in what I was talking about. The response I had from a variety of different people afterwards made me feel valued and capable, and again shoved my confidence up a much needed notch. Other random things have helped too – friends being super supportive and encouraging and believing in me, hearing them say they’re proud of me too. And even small things like socialising with Matt’s work and band friends – something that often makes me anxious, but that I’ve gone and done anyway. I’ve never liked being the shy and nervous girl in the corner, and love when I sometimes manage to step outside of that. 

So the main point of this ramble isn’t to boast about how amazing I am – far from it. It’s more to share where I’m at, what’s been going on, and emphasise that even when it feels like things aren’t going to plan, they’ll work themselves out. I was distraught and confused when I left Strathclyde, and while I still don’t know exactly where I’m headed now, I’ve managed to go from that confusion and upset and get a degree in something I’m interested in and care about and want to use to try and make a positive difference. Things don’t always go to your plan, but they’ll work themselves out in the end. Just keep going, change direction if need be, surround yourself with people who care and who love you, and things will be ok. 

Salt & Light – Be Authentic and Accountable

So if you’re friends with me (or say 50 other young people) on Facebook, you might have realised that the West Scotland Divisional Youth Band of the Salvation Army (that really is the longest title!!!) spent the weekend in Birmingham and Coventry. We performed a 30min concert in the foyer at the army’s Symphony Sounds event, spent the evening at the event, then lead worship as Coventry City corps on Sunday morning, followed by an open air. I’m going to write another post about the weekend in general, but thought I would start by sharing what i shared in the morning meeting yesterday in Coventry. As ‘female band sergeant’, I had the opportunity to share a ‘thought’ during the meeting. Myself, Matt (who is the male sergeant – cheesy double act that we seem to have become) and Thomas (who has way more experience at this than either of us do!) all did a ‘thought’ based on verses in Matthew chapter 5 in which Jesus tells his disciples to be the salt and the light in the world. Matt began by explaining the verses, and relating them to three values in his own life of love, commitment and ambition, and Thomas followed me by talking about how being the salt and the light relates to love. 

I had never done anything like this before. I’ve given testimonies when asked to before, but i’ve never given anything along the lines of a sermon. (Thomas described what Matt and I were to do as a ‘testimony with insight’, so it’s a bit of both) But I have never spoken to a congregation of that size, of whom I didn’t know, like that before. Given what i’m usually like, I thought i’d be terrified, but while my palms were sweating before hand, I felt surprisingly confident. I wasn’t self-conscious. (Well, not very much). I believed in what I was saying. I was even able to look up quite a lot and not read straight from my notebook (something i’ve never been good at), and it was great to see a few friendly faces dotted about who had come to support the band. Some people would find standing up and speaking, or ‘preaching’ like that quite easy, but given that i’ve never been quite sure of exactly what I believe, or even of myself, i’m actually quite proud of myself. I think I did ok! (Youth band, feel free to disagree/give constructive criticism haha!) I hadn’t realised I was capable, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. (As well as truly privileged to have this role within the band – but more on that in my next post!) 


Youth Band at Coventry – Salt and Light

As Matt has already said, the key point of these verses in Matthew 5 is to be the salt and the light in the world. As Christians, in everything we do and everywhere we go, it should be evident that we know and love God, and want others to experience that too. The presence of a light in a dark room or space will be unmistakeable, and in the same way, Christians need to be a beacon of light in what can be a scarily dark world, as we have been reminded of again this weekend with events in London. We need to be a light in the darkness both in the sense that the truth of God’s word brings light to darkened hearts when we sin, but also in the sense that good deeds must be evident for us all to see. And our deeds will be evident if they are performed in line with the other principles Jesus mentions throughout the New Testament, for example in the Beatitudes earlier in Matthew chapter 5.

The thing is though, in order to really be the salt and the light, we need to be authentic. We need to be all in. In order to shine God’s light in the world, there has to be a difference between the Christian, and the world. Any choice by us which blurs the distinction between the Christian and the norms of this world is a step in the wrong direction. Whether we’re accepting the ways of the world for the sake of ease, comfort, convenience or even fear, it distances us from Christ and who He wants us to be, AND makes us less able to truly be the salt and the light for him. 

It’s not always easy to be authentic though, particularly for young Christians like those in the band. As it says in Romans 12, a passage the band are quite familiar with: “Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention upon God.” It can seem a lot easier sometimes to conform to the pattern of this world; to say you’re going to ‘some band thing’ rather than admitting that it’s a church event. Or to be completely quiet and not acknowledge your faith at all. But to be the salt and the light Jesus is telling us to be, we can’t hide it away.


Personally, as well as struggling sometimes with being authentic, I also struggle with knowing how to shine his light through me. I find it difficult to find my own ways to shine – not for my own sake or benefit, but so I can share God and make it clear to those I interact with that there’s something different about me, in the most positive way possible. In my nature, i’m naturally quiet, quite shy, and quite reserved. I definitely wouldn’t describe myself as outgoing or very confident or charismatic – unlike my charming fiancé you heard from earlier! I’ve always found it tricky to make myself heard in all kinds of settings, so how does someone who prefers to blend in with the crowd and stay relatively in the shadows shine bright enough to let others see the brilliance of God and his love? How do I shine, and where?

A few years ago I decided to start an online blog. For me, it works a bit like an online diary. Every so often I would write a post, often just to empty my head a bit, and topics would range from general life musings to quite frequently; faith. I would write about questions I had or things I didn’t quite understand. I’d share almost-testimonies of what God was doing in my life and ways I was relying on him, as well as posting devotions when it had been my turn at band or songsters. I initially wrote it all for myself, then eventually got brave enough to share it on Facebook. What I found was that firstly, people actually read and were interested in what I had to say. Secondly, people, and often people i’d least expect would message me wanting to discuss with me something i’d written about faith, or to say they related, or were even encouraged or inspired. I’m not in any way trying to blow my own trumpet here, but highlighting the influence I was able to have without even meaning to. I may see communicating in person as a flaw of mine, but God was helping me use writing as a skill to share him through. It showed me that you don’t have to be the loudest or most charismatic person in the room for it to be clear that God shines through you. As long as you are authentic in your belief, and committed to being as salty and full of God-flavour as you can be, as Matt alluded to earlier, you can be what Jesus is telling us to be in this passage. 

It doesn’t mean you have it all figured out or that you are or need to be the perfect Christian. The impurities of the world, and circumstances, are going to dilute your saltiness and dim your light from time to time, but that is totally ok. They key is being authentic, honest, and following the commandments Jesus has for us. Simple stuff like being truly kind to people: anything from holding open a door, to supporting someone when they need it most. It’s not really that difficult, and may not always seem significant, but it is at the heart of what Jesus is constantly teaching us. 

Show his love in whatever way you can and in whatever way works for you. Be authentic, and accountable – to yourself, to others, and most importantly, to God. Make the influence you have on the world be not just a positive one, but one in which you are truly shining for God. 


Devotions – uncertainty 

It was my turn on the rotas to do devotions for both songsters (choir) and band last week, and thought I’d share them on here. Shares a tiny glimmer of where I’m at just now, and the holy and biblical parts are stuff I really do believe and hang on to. Well, I like to think I do. Sometimes. Or on good days at least. 
Uncertainty is something we all experience. It’s a natural part of life, but it’s something we generally don’t enjoy or like to deal with. I’ve just finished all uni exams and coursework and am now waiting on results and my degree classification. All being well, I should hopefully graduate next month with a decent degree in psychology; but where I’m going after that I have no clue. As much as I enjoy sitting in my pyjamas watching Grey’s Anatomy repeats all day, I’m reasonably sure that’s not a great long term goal, and finding a job or career or future studies would be a better plan. But for the moment, I don’t have any idea what direction I’m going in in that respect. Combine that with planning for a wedding and getting the keys to our first house this week, it’s clear that there’s a lot of excitement going on, but also change and uncertainty. Plus on a wider scale; general elections, brexit negotiations and general turmoil such as the incident in Manchester this week, signify a huge amount of uncertainty both nationally and globally. 

However, whilst we may have uncertainty in our country or in our individual lives, we can always have certainty in God and his love for us. In the Message translation of Isaiah 42v16, the Lord says, 

“I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way, who can’t see where they’re going. I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take, making sure hey don’t fall. These are things I’ll be doing for them – sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute.” 

While in Philippians 4v7, Paul writes that, 

“The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guide your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

These verses remind us that regardless of uncertainty, our peace comes from the confidence that the Lord loved us and He is in control. He alone provides the comfort that settles our nerves, fills our minds with hope and allows us to relax even in the midst of changes and challenges. It will all be okay. 


— I did borrow the second last sentence from a devotional reading I came across online —