Share your story

So our songsters (choir) led the morning meeting at a small Salvation Army corps (church!) in Springburn in Glasgow last Sunday morning. They only have a congregation of around 10 – despite having once been a large thriving church, as far as I am aware – and with no offence intended, the average age must be quite a high number. I do however have a huge amount of respect for what they do there – despite being few in number they run mothers and toddlers, a community choir, amongst various other weekly activities. The thing that struck me most on Sunday morning though was that yes, there were only ten of them, and they have no appointed officer (minister), but they all seemed so enthusiastic and passionate. It was evident that they were there for the right reason, and that they truly received blessing from being here. You don’t always (don’t always or don’t usually?!) get that impression from everyone in larger congregations, certainly not in my experience. Anyway as part of the meeting plan, I had been asked to give a personal testimony, and I thought I may as well share it. It’s nothing overly profound and probably doesn’t say anything I’ve not said on here before, but thought I’d post it anyway: 
My name is Roslyn, and I somehow agreed to share some personal testimony this morning. I thought I’d start by sharing a bit about me…so I’m 23, I’m getting married in August, I’m in the middle of buying my first house, and I’m in my final few months of a degree in psychology at the university of Glasgow. I grew up in the Church of Scotland, then at around 13 started attending the Salvation Army in Hamilton with my grandparents, who have been soldiers in the corps there for the past 60 odd years. After a few months at the corps I got the chance to go to my first Salvation Army music school, and I decided to give it a go. I’ve always been quiet and shy, even more so when I was younger, so at 13, going to an event with around 100 people when I only knew one other person was terrifying, but I can only assume it was God guiding me in a certain direction. I’ve now been to 10 music schools, and it has had a huge impact on my life, both in general and spiritually. It led me to meeting my fiancé – which I presume was a good thing!! 😉 – but it also led me to start worshipping at Clydebank and brought me to where I am now.

The theme for last year’s music school was ‘Transform’, and we focused on people’s stories and testimonies, God’s plans, and how God can transform our lives for the better. Something that came up a lot during the week and that really struck me was the fact that God takes the lives of ordinary people just like every one of us, and transforms us. You don’t need an incredible background story or to be at your lowest or going down the wrong path, but God will transform us wherever we are. 
Romans 12 verse 2 was mentioned a lot during the week and has stuck with me since, and I really like the way the New Living Translation puts it. It says: 

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

‭‭The message translation describes it as ‘taking your everyday, ordinary life’ and placing it in line with God. And I have to say I find this quite a challenge – i find it easier (though still very difficult at times!) to try and put myself in tune with God and listen to him when I’ve got a big decision to make or something significant is happening, but in terms of every day life – going to uni, interacting with people, even things like band or songster practice – i find it takes much more conscious effort to be in line with God and to let him shine through what I do and how I behave.

I have always found the idea of God having a plan for our lives a difficult one to take in or be comfortable with, particularly at the minute when I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do once I graduate from uni…whether I’ll be able to go on to further studying or get a job or build a career or anything like that. This verse however reminds me that as well as letting God transform me for the longer term picture, I need to try to rely fully on him for the present too. I need to listen to what he’s saying and focus on where I am just now, and remember that wherever I am, whatever my situation is, God is using me all the time without me even realizing it. In the small things just as much as in the big things. God is constantly working to transform our lives whether we’re aware of it or not, and I thank him for that. I pray that I’ll be able to listen and follow where he leads me, but also that he’ll use me and equip me to help transform others too. 




– And I really do mean that last bit I wrote/spoke. I don’t have all the answers or have it all remotely figured out, but I do pray that I’ll be able to listen and follow God and what he has in store for me, however that works or whatever that really means!! I don’t know what I’m meant to do with this life, but I do know I’m passionate about helping people, supporting people, and experiencing this journey with other people. So I really do hope he uses me to help others figure it all out too. 

“Praise is rising, eyes are turning to You; We turn to You 

Hope is stirring, hearts are yearning for You; We long for You

‘Cause when we see You we find strength to face the day

And in Your presence all our fears are washed away”

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Always more questions 

Finally for a faith based post after my weekend at Deep Impact. (The first one, at least!) I took lots of notes in the sessions at the weekend and it’s something I actually found really helpful. Jotting down either things that stood out to me because they made sense, or because they didn’t. And some were just quotes or song lyrics that I liked. The process of writing it all down and being able to look back over them helps me to process what I think. There was a large number of people sitting with pen and paper, or with the notes app on their phone, writing things down throughout the sessions. There were even people doodling or sketching away, using their own talents to make sense of what they were hearing. I really liked it, but how many people do that on a weekly basis in Church? Certainly in mine, very very few, if any. If I took a note pad out and started writing during the sermon I’d no doubt be judged for being weird, or being disrespectful and not listening, and would have to justify to some that it was actually taking notes to help me process what was being said, for the sake of strengthening my relationship with God. (Oh, and I can only imagine the response if I took my phone out to start taking notes!!) 

Anyway, rant over 😉, I thought I’d share some of the questions I took down in the first session about prayer. I’m not sure how many people really read this blog and after posting 3 days in a row, anyone who did read it is probably bored now. But I’d be really interested to hear anyone’s opinions on the questions below. I had many discussions over the weekend, (and actually, there are parts that I’ve become closer to figuring out myself over the last couple of days) but would love to hear different people’s takes on it. So…

How do we lead others to Christ if we haven’t experienced it for ourselves? It is difficult to get excited about a place I never go (prayer). How can I get others excited if I’m not? 

This is actually something I had been thinking about prior to the weekend. I’m enthusiastic about my welfare role in the youth band, and I’m passionate about helping other young people develop their faiths…but I do feel like a bit of a hypocrite standing doing devotions or preaching at them when I’m pretty clueless and confused myself. Is that ok? Can we really bring others to God without completely understanding it or having experienced it ourselves? Is that possible? Without knowing if we’ve had that real experience of God? 

Step beyond knowledge, and into experience of intimacy with God. 

This point struck me quite hard and I love the way it is phrased. We can know everything there is to know about prayer and God, but there’s a huge difference between knowledge of it and experience and practice of it. 

But how do you know if you’re doing it right? What constitutes ‘experience’? Is there a certain way to do it? A certain amount of practice that is needed to qualify as ‘experience’? (My reasoning behind these questions is that you could pray a prayer everyday, that is generic and has little thought or passion behind it…but does it still count as real prayer and intimacy with God? People often compare a relationship with God to a relationship with a friend, in that if you don’t put in the effort, your relationship will not become/remain close. If you only speak to a friend about superficial things and only do it out of habit, your relationship probably won’t grow. Surely the same thing goes here?) 

It is easier to trust him and worship him wholly and passionately when we see his face and meet with him regularly

But HOW do we ‘see’ him or ‘meet’ with him? What does this really mean? As I said in my last post, I am someone who values and craves deep relationships, and I would love to experience that with God – after all if what the bible says is true, then that should be the most special, important, and intimate relationship of all right? I just don’t really understand how to achieve it. 

Any answers/suggestions/opinions would be welcomed! As I said in my last post, i love having proper honest conversations with people and I love the fact that this blog often opens up opportunities to do that! 

“I’ve seen many searching for answers far and wide, but i know we’re all searching for answers only you provide; ‘Cause you know just what we need before we say a word.” 

Values and Relationships

So as part of my homework for my Positive Psychology class, I had to complete a ‘strengths’ questionnaire. I’ve always loved filling out questionnaires of any kind (is that just me?!) , but particularly personality questionnaires. This one was a character strengths questionnaire, which is supposed to help you understand your core characteristics, by ranking 24 character virtues based on your responses in the questionnaire. It’s selling point is supposed to be that it focuses on your best qualities, rather than positives and negatives like other personality questionnaires do. I wrote a post about a year ago about the values I thought I had, but I thought i’d post the results this questionnaire generated. Interestingly, there is lots of similarity between what I thought my top values were, and what my questionnaire answers generate them to be.

1. Judgment
2. Spirituality
3. Kindness
4. Forgiveness
5. Love
6. Honesty
7. Prudence
8. Fairness
9. Humility
10. Perspective
11. Love of learning
12. Gratitude
13. Social Intelligence
14. Team Work

 

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My top characteristic strength is:

1. Judgment
Thinking things through and examining them from all sides; not jumping to conclusions; being able to change one’s mind in light of evidence; weighing all evidence fairly.

Which, to anyone who knows me, or even anyone who’s read any previous posts of mine, shouldn’t be a surprise. If you read my last post in particular, you will be aware that I analyse and think a lot about things before forming opinions or conclusions. Combine this with prudence at number 7 (being careful about one’s choices) and you’ve got me described pretty well!

Strength number 2…

2. Spirituality
Having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe; knowing where one fits within the larger scheme; having beliefs about the meaning of life that shape conduct and provide comfort.

Again, makes sense! My life is indeed shaped by my spiritual beliefs, and these beliefs do do provide comfort (amongst other things like confusion, angst, frustration haha!) Although, there is definitely some irony in the statement “having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe”… I have beliefs, but they are often far from coherent!!!

Strengths 3, 4 and 6 are Kindness, Fairness and Honesty – which i would certainly like to think are accurate descriptions of me and my personality, as well as three things that are important to me and which I value in others too.

5. Love
Valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing & caring are reciprocated; being close to people.

I’m almost surprised this one isn’t a bit higher, as if I was choosing the order myself, I would have put this description right at the top I think! I wrote a blog post last night about relationships and friendships and then never posted it, so i’m going to combine it with this post as it follows on quite nicely from the description of the character virtue description of love…

If you’ve read any of my other posts you will likely know that it is in my nature to be shy, quiet, and introverted. I prefer to listen and observe more than I do talk, particularly in larger groups, and I enjoy spending time on my own. I hate small talk and really struggle to do it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to speak at all. Like many introverts (many or most? I’m not sure), i love deep discussions, particularly about things that are important to me. Which is why I was so thrilled and energised by my weekend at Deep Impact. Not necessarily because of anything spoken about in the sessions (although some of that did have an impact..blog post still to come on that!), but because of how many real, honest, deep conversations I had with people.
Throughout the weekend I had countless talks with people – real, open conversations – about faith, God, church, Salvation Army practices, youth work, plans, dreams, feelings, and just life in general. And it made me so happy. I don’t really mean that in a ‘beaming from ear to ear, cheesy smile’ kind of happy, but in a cliche, ‘it made my heart happy’, content kind of way. I had these chats both with people I would regularly speak to about ‘real’ things, and also others I wouldn’t generally talk to very much. From group discussions to conversations at dinner or in the car, there was plenty of honest chat this weekend. I didn’t always speak – sometimes I just sat at listened to other people being honest and open and truthful about their feelings or opinions, but either way it was so refreshing to have these sorts of exchanges.

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Because all too often, in my opinion at least, we don’t. We internalise things, either afraid of what others will think if we start being really deep or even honest, or sometimes in the busyness of life we are rushing about and don’t get a chance to properly talk to even the people we love. And to me, that’s just rubbish. I think another introverted trait is craving deep connections with people. You don’t necessarily need lots of friends, but you invest wholeheartedly in the ones you do have and that are important to you, and things like authenticity and sincerity matter to you. The Grey’s Anatomy quote: “At the end of the day, all we really want is to be close to somebody” is so true, for me anyway.

“And if you have someone in your life who you are grateful for — someone to whom you want to write another heartfelt, slanted, misspelled thank you note – do it. Tell them they made you feel loved and supported. That they made you feel like you belonged somewhere and that you were not a freak.”

This quote is from a blog post by someone called Lisa Jakub. She is most well known for playing the oldest daughter of Robin Williams in the film Mrs Doubtfire, but she actually retired from acting not too long after that (have recently read her autobiography!) and is now a writer. I follow her blog, and find a lot of it relatable. She writes a lot about being introverted, and what it’s like to experience anxiety and be shy and a bit awkward. (Not hard to see why I relate to it ay?!) She wrote the quote above in a blog post some time ago, but reshared it on Instagram today and it just stuck out as it was so in line with what I’ve been thinking since the weekend about relationships. ((Side note – I was convinced I’d shared this quote before, but I’ve just scrolled through every one of my posts and can’t seem to find it, so maybe I haven’t, but no apologies for sharing it again if I infact have!))

I am so deeply thankful for the people I would call my closest friends. When I sat and thought about it last night, not one of them is the exact same age as me, and there are very few of them who I see on a really regular basis, like Tv shows or movies portray friendships. But they are there for me, and they support me, they make me laugh, and they make me feel like I belong. Another quote Lisa Jakub uses is ’embrace your weird’, and my friends let me do that. There aren’t many places I feel comfortable to be ‘me’, but I’m grateful for the people who make me feel like being me is a good thing, even if I do have my quirks. (Lets face it, who isn’t a bit weird?!!)

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I wholeheartedly agree with her quote in terms of telling the people who make you feel loved and supported and normal, just how much you love and value them. And I do try to do it as much as possible. Although I do sometimes feel like a nutter, and worry that they think the same!! (What if they think I’m weird and embarrassing for saying this? What if I’m annoying them? What if I’m reading it wrong and they don’t actually like me very much, and the relationship is one sided?) But I still think it’s important. I’ve written about this so many times from different stances, but I always come back to the same point of telling the people you love that you love them. What’s the worst that can happen? Maybe sometimes they will think you’re mad. But sometimes it’ll be exactly the moment they need reminding that they are great.

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Is your brain as annoying as mine? 

So I’ve spent the weekend in Aviemore at Deep Impact youth and children’s work conference. It is a Christian conference for anyone involved in paid or voluntary youth or children’s work across Scotland, and since I help (or hinder 😂) with the kids stuff at Clydebank, and have a welfare role with the divisional youth band, I was able to go. It was an interesting weekend with challenges in several capacities. Challenges to my own personal faith but also how I can work with youth/children and share about God with them. I was hugely interested by the way people from different churches and denominations worship completely differently to how we do (future blog post…). I was also challenged to think about my relationships and even just about who I am as a person. And I will no doubt write posts about several of those challenges.

But for this post, I’m going to ramble on about me as a person. I titled this post before I wrote it – which I don’t do very often. Usually I write down whatever’s going on in my head, then try to think of something to stick as the title at the end. But this one, I at least know where I’m trying to go with it. (Whether that’s where it’ll end up, who knows) 

Is your brain as annoying as mine?

Well, is it? Let me explain what I mean, and then you can decide. 

  • I overanalyse everything: I do. Past, present, future, doesn’t matter which..I overanalyse every detail. Take today as an example. I spent the weekend with friends; some of whom are extremely close and very important to me and who I know care about me and love me and all the rest of it. But that doesn’t stop me spending a good few hours on the way home going through conversations I had, wondering if I said the right thing at the right time, or even the wrong thing. Should I have said or done something differently? What if I gave off the wrong impression? What if I annoyed them, or offended them? Do they really like me? Were they really interested in what I was saying? Were they judging me? These are the sorts of things that will go through my head for hours/days/weeks, even longer sometimes, after an event or conversation or situation. Is this just me?! 
  • I question and doubt and overthink: I’m taking these together to hopefully ramble a little less, but they could probably be separated. I am terrible at accepting what I am told. I question things. I doubt everything. And it is very annoying. If you’ve ever read any of my posts, most of them involve me either doubting aspects of Christianity and faith, or questioning practices within the church, or questioning my own path or personality. Just questioning. All. The. Time. It’s exhausting. But it just seems to be who I am. Faith wise, every time I start to take a step forward, 1000 why? questions seem to arise. ‘But why?’ ‘But how do you know that?’ ‘But why should I believe that?’ Someone mentioned today that it’s a good thing because we need both people who readily accept things, and questioners, but being one of the latter sure is draining sometimes. (I also overanalyse this and think that with my constant questions and unwillingness to accept people’s answers or justifications, they’ll think I’m deliberately being awkward and obtuse and get frustrated with me. See? It is all linked…)
  • I worry: I do seem to spend a lot of my time, particularly recently, worrying about things. “What if” is the very familiar question that rattles through my brain multiple times a day. A lot of it comes from my dodgy, uncooperative insides, which make me really nervous. What if I don’t feel right? What if they act up when I’m out or with people? Some of it comes from the irrational sick phobia. What if someone is sick on this plane/bus/train/anywhere? What if I’m sick? What if someone else gets sick and I’m near it? What if I catch something? What if Matt/Parents/anyone gets sick? Some is uni based: what if I don’t pass this exam/coursework? What if I fail the course? What if I don’t know what to do? What if I can’t figure out what to do after uni? What if I can’t get a job? And the rest of it just comes from general awkward me: What if that stranger who just sat next to me starts a conversation? What will I say? What if I say the wrong thing when making that phone call? What if I don’t know what to say? What if, what if, what if?! 

Right so what am I on about? I think a lot of what I’m going on about here comes back to anxiety. Now everyone has some experiences of anxiety in their life. Before a big test, before giving a talk, before something important/exciting/scary. It is the body’s natural response to get nervous and have anxiety with certain kinds of experiences and situations. And that is normal and healthy and can be useful. However, there’s definitely a double edge to it. If you have too much anxiety, and when it’s not really necessary, it can be a problem. And a serious pain. I’m not saying I have an anxiety problem. I know people who do struggle immensely with anxiety and I don’t envy them one bit, but I do understand how hard things can be when your brain just won’t stop worrying or reacting anxiously to normal things. (Even more so when physical symptoms start joining in!) Taking the test for generalised anxiety, my score suggests low mild anxiety. My social anxiety score does suggest moderate social anxiety, however I’m not remotely surprised by that – I also think the combination of shy and introverted already shapes you up for having at least some social anxiety! 

I do however give myself a hard time for struggling with things that other people seem fine with or for not feeling normal, and I see a lot of my personality aspects as negatives. Just yesterday one of my closest friends made a passing comment about me being quiet and not a chatty person – she didn’t mean it negatively, she was just stating a fact that that’s who I am – I’m not one of the chattiest people and that’s not a bad thing! – but I realised after I jokingly took offence, that I do see that as a negative. I was incredibly envious of the same friend this morning when in a group discussion she was able to openly talk for ages about her point of view and things that were important to her. Meanwhile, my palms were sweating and my heart was pounding every time I wanted to join in, then by the time I got brave enough, we’d moved on to another topic and my chance was gone. (I did manage to speak up at one point! Although I have been overanalysing it ever since 😉)

So ultimately, what am I saying here?! I think I’m asking, is it just me who has these issues of overthinking, overanalysing, doubting, worrying, and just generally being a bit insecure? Or is it more common and I’m actually more normal than I think I am? Is it just in my nature to be quiet and questioning, or are these things, like confidence for example, that can be improved or changed? Any opinions welcome 😊 

(Side note…I’m not trying to be negative or self deprecating, nor am I looking for praise about how wonderful I am and that I’m perfect just the way I am, quirks and all. (Lol!) I’m just genuinely intrigued to know if it’s just me who has these thoughts!) 

“Everyone is weird once you get to know them” 

    Using time wisely

    So I was supposed to be on devotions for youth band tonight, but I’ve got one of those annoying cold things going around and had a super sore head and ears and couldn’t make it. I did however send on what I’d prepared and someone else read it out for me. Anyway, I thought I’d share it on here, as who knows, someone might find it relevant 🙂 
    So I’m currently in my final year of my psychology degree and I’m in the middle of doing my main project where I need to carry out research into a particular topic. I’ve chosen to do mine around Facebook, and the impact that has on wellbeing. (BTW If you’re over 18 and have a Facebook account, you can take part in my questionnaire!!) I’m looking at how people use Facebook, whether this changes for different personality types, and how Facebook use impacts self esteem and depression. Part of my questionnaire asks things like how long you spend on Facebook per day, how many friends you have on Facebook, and how often you post about different things. 

    Looking into these things has made me realise just how much time I spend on social media – be it Facebook, twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or a variety of others. On Saturday night the General kept mentioning that time is precious, and a combination of that and my uni project have made me very aware of how much time i spend on social media compared to how much time i consciously spend with God. How long can you last without checking Facebook or Instagram or Twitter? I know for me, it would be a lot less time than if you asked me how long I could and do go without reading the bible. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. 

    Don’t get me wrong – social media can be great and among many other positives, we can actually share and learn a lot about God online. But let’s face it, a lot of the time we’re just procrastinating. Or I certainly am. Previous generations would have spent hours sitting on the phone to their friends, whereas we sit on Facebook messenger or text each other for hours..but in amongst those exchanges, how often do you talk about your faith or what God is doing in your life? Do you ever talk about praying for each other, or even together? It’s important that we talk to each other about our faith and how we’re doing spiritually, just as we would have a conversation about how we’re feeling physically. I know it can feel awkward, but it really shouldn’t. 

    Everything we spend our time doing – be it using social media, watching tv or films, listening to music – it all has an impact on our lives. It influences how we spend our time, how we make decisions, and how we see both ourselves and others. All of this noise and information speaks so loudly into our lives that it actually shapes who we are. And often, we are not even aware that it’s happening. 

    Colossians 3:2 says “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

    ‭‭Basically, when there are so many things that can impact us, we need to make sure that the main thing we are being shaped by is God.
    —side note: I wrote in my last post that I was going to write a ‘2017’ post and I haven’t got around to finishing it yet. It’ll come, but it’ll probably be a ‘new month’ post in February rather than ‘new year’ like I intended it!—