Brightest stars

On Saturday night, I stood in the Scottish countryside in Peebles and gazed up at the most incredible night sky I’ve ever, ever seen. It was truly breathtaking because of the volume, clarity, and brightness of the stars that shone above us. I’ve never seen anything like it – and I gazed with my mouth, and eyes, wide open, at the beauty and grandeur of what was above and around us. I wish I could have captured it on camera.

As the lyrics to a song called ‘indescribable’ were played, the moment couldn’t have been more perfect (except, perhaps, if Matt had been there beside me!! 😘). As someone sang “creation revealing your majesty”, I couldn’t help but grin at all that was around me. It was a special, special moment that I won’t forget for a while.

The chorus of that song reads:

Indescribable, uncontainable,

You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name. You are amazing God

All powerful, untameable, Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim; You are amazing God

Again, the serendipity (or perhaps it was planned) of the moment gave me goosebumps – singing about God placing the stars in the sky, because the sky did look like that Bruce Almighty scene where he draws in the stars (only twinkley-er!).

Whether you (or even I) believe God placed them all there, is almost irrelevant. Even if we don’t believe in a God, or believe he’s amazing, the world around us is. We can still be awestruck by its indescribable beauty and power. Because gazing up at that vast sky reminded me of how small we are, but of how big an impact we can potentially have. Some of those stars (to my human eyes) looked so small, but without each and every one of them, it wouldn’t have had the same special, awe-inspiring impact. And that’s the same for us. We’re all needed, we all bring something different and something important. And that can be so hard to remember some days. I’ve been singing a song from the musical Dear Evan Hansen all day today and the lyrics fit so well with the point I’m trying to make here – we all matter. Even if we don’t know it or realise it.

“No one deserves to be forgotten. No one deserves to fade away. No one should flicker out or have any doubt that it matters that they are here

No one deserves to disappear”

I searched for ‘stars’ on Pinterest just now, and came across this quote:

While it’s true and accurate, I read it on a less literal level, and related it to life itself. We all go through hard times – whether that’s a difficult season of our life, or a dark night or two. But it’s those hard times, those painful, or testing, or confusing or challenging moments, that shape us. That help us find a deeper connection with ourselves and who we are. That bond us tighter to those who love us beyond measure for who we are. It’s within those dark nights that bright lights, or stars, shine from within us, and from those around us. And that’s special, and important. Remember to try, as hard as it can be, to keep your eyes open for those bright stars shining around you, and within you. They make the dark nights all the more worthwhile.



Dare to be different…

The thought I shared on Saturday night at Peterborough Salvation Army with the Youth Band…

The theme we’ve chosen to focus our thoughts on for this weekend is “Dare to be different”. I’m sure as soon as I said that phrase, many of you will have started singing the well known Army song, “I dare to be different” in your heads. While many of you will know the song, or would be able to put in the alto or bass part, or hum the euphonium part from the tune book, I’m wondering how well you know the words and what the song is actually talking about.

The main concept of the song is daring to be different, by living like Christ. So what I want to briefly look at tonight is what that actually means, and what it looks like for us today.

So first of all, what does it mean to ‘dare to be different’? Being different means to be unlike another, to be distinct, or separate. Now, we live in a world where we place a huge importance on fitting in. On being the same as other people. For young people in particular, having the right clothes, the right technology, the right interests, beliefs and opinions, is crucial in order to fit in. We want to blend in with the crowd, not be the odd one out. My background is in psychology, and there’s a theory called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which ranks social belonging as the 3rd most fundamental human need, only behind physical and safety needs.

So if belonging and fitting in is so important to us, why would we dare – why would or should we take the risk – of being different?

The main and simplest explanation I’ve been able to come up with is that God wants us to be different. I’ve come across lots of instances in the bible where God asks us, or tells us, to act, behave, and think differently to the world around us. “Don’t be shaped by this world, instead be changed by a new way of thinking” is what Romans 12 says. In Ephesians 4, Pauls says “With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness as they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. But, that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your old way of life. Instead let the spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy.”

It’s clear God wants us to turn away from the sin and negative ways the world so often turns to. So we choose to be different, we choose to take that risk, in order to be the kind of people God made us to be, and that he wants us to be.

And we do this by being like Jesus. Simple!! Or… In theory it is. We dare to be different by living like Christ…but how do we actually do this? Is it enough to turn up to church each week, hear the sermon and sing the songs, or to open our bible every now and then, or go to cell group each month? I don’t think it is.

James 2:14 reads “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?”

The line of the song doesn’t say “I dare to be different by ‘reading’ about Christ, or by hearing about him, but by living like him. So finally, what does living like Christ actually look like for us today?

Jesus was pretty perfect – he said and did what was right, he stuck to his (and God’s) morals, he helped the poor, he healed the sick, he was kind to everyone, and he spoke to the people no one else would. But in reality, living up to those standards as the flawed humans that we are can be really difficult.

However, what we can do is try our best to aspire to showing and living out those Christ-like qualities.

Matt spoke last night about patience as being one of Christ’s key qualities. He was endlessly patient with the people he interacted with, and he patiently waits for us to choose to follow him. We can follow his example, by exercising patience with others and ourselves in our efforts to improve.

Jesus was also extremely giving and generous – his ministry was filled with service as he shared his time, talents, and love with others. This is again something we can emulate in our own lives – opening our eyes and hearts to the needs of others, and helping in whatever ways we can – whether that be monetary, or through encouragement and support, or by simply giving our time to listen.

There are so many more positive traits Christ showed throughout his life – he was forgiving, humble, wise, faithful – all things we can really quite easily demonstrate in our own lives. One of the clearest to see things about Jesus was the kindness and love he showed to people, and this is something we can definitely emulate and live out. As a Christian, kindness should be a distinguishing feature of your life. Even little acts of kindness are so powerful, and they can change the world around you. Ephesians 4:32 says “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

So daring to be different and living like Christ really doesn’t need to be that complicated. Our faith should be shown in how we live. Our actions should be evidence that we’ve been changed, that we know and love God.

There’s another song called “live like that” which sums up the point of daring to be different, and living like Christ, that I’m going to leave as a challenge and something for us to perhaps aspire to

It says:

“I want to live like that,

And give it all I have,

So that everything I say and do

Points to you…”

Another summer school testimony…

I’ve been intending to post this for a few weeks now and am only just getting around to it. I stood up and shared my testimony on the Friday morning at summer school, and thought I would post it onto my blog. Why not……

So I was really undecided about coming this year – i literally only signed up on Friday – and I was undecided for so many reasons. But despite all the things on my pro/con list (got to love a list!), there was a nagging feeling telling me to go for it. Whether that was god or not, I don’t know. But something was urging me – something besides Adam – to go for it. Ignore my fears, or what other people would think, and just go for it. Like Vicky said the other night, this was also a ‘step out of the boat’ moment for me. It might not have been a big deal for most people – but after a year out and not having Matt or any of the people I’d traditionally hung about with here, It was more like a leap than a step for someone who feels as quiet, shy and socially awkward as I do.

This is my 11th summer school, and this place – music/summer school – has shaped so much of my life. It was here I had my first experience of people my own age who had a belief in god and a faith and who talked about it. It’s helped me make big decisions, like changing corps, and it was after a cell group one year that I got the encouragement and therefore courage to quit the uni course that I hated, and go after something I’d enjoy. It was here I met Matt, literally here at Kilgraston – 10 years ago – and now he’s my husband. And perhaps most importantly – though don’t tell Matt I said it was more important than him – the foundations of my faith – however weak or ignored that faith might be at times – were built here.

I’m so happy I changed my mind and turned up this week. (Although it pains me to say that Adam and some others were right!!) I’ve pushed myself way way outside my comfort zone – i couldn’t just hide behind matt or stick to what feels safe and comfortable. I’ve pushed myself, and forced myself to try and just be comfortable being ‘me’ – something I don’t find easy to do. But it’s been so worth it, and the conversations and experiences I’ve had this week, some with people I might not have normally spoken to, have been so worthwhile.

Being honest, i’ve been struggling quite a bit recently, even if I’ve hidden it and pushed people away so I didn’t need to admit it. I’ve been panicking over what I’m going to do next in life job and careerwise, my relationship with myself is quite poor, and I’ve just been feeling a bit numb and stuck in general.

So I came hoping to find some clarity – clarity around who I am, what I’m doing with my life, and god.

At the end of the week, I know I’m nowhere close on any of those fronts – but I’m maybe slightly further along that journey than I was on Saturday. I’ve also been reminded time and time again that we’re not on our own in any of it – both because we’ve got each other – and the friendships we make here can be so strong – but also because even when we don’t realise it or accept it, and I certainly don’t most of the time, God’s right there with us, and I really hope i can remember that longer than just this week.

So that was the testimony I stood up and shared on the Friday of summer school. I can’t reiterate enough how glad I am to have spent that week where I did and with the people I did. I loved singing in girls chorus all week. I felt like I learned quite a lot(even managed to sing notes higher than I ever have?!!), I enjoyed the music (as you’ll know if you read my last post 😂) and there were poignant moments, but mostly Marjory just made it a lot of fun, which makes such a difference.

I enjoyed cell group, as despite it being quiet at times, we got some good and challenging conversations as we got to know each other more and explore things about God.

The friendships I made or strengthened that week have really sustained me since -it’s been lovely to see so much support not just during the week but since, both in person and across social media.

As for God, I’m not sure where I’m at. And that’s ok. As for me? I’m a bit more positive than I was before I went, but that may just be because I’m currently lying in Crete, next to a swimming pool, in 30 degree heat 😎😂 We’ll see how I get on in a few days once reality really hits, but I know I can figure it out.

I saw someone share the Youbible App’s verse of the day yesterday, and it’s one I screenshotted and have had coming in and out of my head since.

“You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail” Proverbs 19:21

Whether I’m taking it out of context or not I’m not sure, but there’s a huge reassurance in the thought that God has a kind of overarching purpose, rather than any exact plans, for our lives. So no matter what my next step is, whether it works out or not, God has a purpose for me 👌🏻

You will be found

If you’ve been on social media since Saturday, and are friends with anyone who was at East and West Scotland Summer School last week, there’s a good chance you’ll have seen more than a couple of FB, Instagram, Twitter and Blog posts. I think I’m going to write a couple of blog posts about my experiences last week, but I’m going to start with one based on the song I cannot stop singing, and that I know has impacted a lot of people who were there last week: You Will Be Found.

You Will Be Found is a song from the musical “Dear Evan Hansen”, and is one I’d come across a couple of months ago after someone i follow on Twitter recommended the soundtrack. But I could never have imagined it being as impactful as it turned out to be this week. It’s a song Marjory picked out for the Girls Chorus to sing on Saturday, and as soon as she announced it, there were a few “yessss” responses from around the group, from people who already knew it. Before I go any further, I’m going to post the lyrics, so you can get an idea of what I’m rambling on about.

Have you ever felt like nobody was there

Have you felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere

Have you ever felt like you could disappear

Like you could fall and no one would hear

Well, let that lonely feeling wash away

Maybe there’s a reason to believe you’ll be okay

Cause when you don’t feel strong enough to stand

You can reach, reach out your hand

And oh, someone will come running

And I know they’ll take you home

Even when the dark comes crashing through

When you need a friend to carry you

And when you’re broken on the ground

You will be found

So let the sun come streaming in

Cause you’ll reach up and you’ll rise again

Lift your head and look around

You will be found

There’s a place where we don’t have to feel unknown

And every time that you call out

You’re a little less alone

If you only say the word

From across the silence

Your voice is heard

Even when the dark comes crashing through

When you need a friend to carry you

When you’re broken on the ground

You will be found

So let the sun come streaming in

Cause you’ll reach up and you’ll rise again

If you only look around

You will be found

Out of the shadows

The morning is breaking

And all is new

All is new

It’s filling up the empty

And suddenly I see

That all is new

All is new

You are not alone

You are not alone

You are not alone

You are not alone

Even when the dark comes crashing through

When you need someone to carry you

When you’re broken on the ground

You will be found

So let the sun come streaming in

Cause you’ll reach up and you’ll rise again

If you only look around

You will be found

Even when the dark comes crashing through

You will be found

When you need someone to carry you

You will be found

You will be found

I’ve highlighted a few verses and sections, but realistically, every line speaks to me.

The first 4 lines are something I can’t help but relate to. Have you ever felt like nobody was there? Yes. So many times. Have you ever felt forgotten? Yup. Have you ever felt like you could disappear, and no one would miss you? Yup, that too. I’m not being melodramatic, but feeling lonely, or isolated, or unwanted (with friends, not family!) is something I’ve struggled with on and off for my entire life. I’ve never felt like I fit in – i’m always too quiet or not interesting enough or not fun enough or too shy and boring. Even when I’ve thought I fit in somewhere, the feeling never lasts for long, and I’m back to feeling like the odd one out. I’m sure at least part of this is caused by my own low self-esteem, but whatever the cause, it’s a horrible feeling. And an even worse one to admit. I’ve always gone through patches of feeling really alone (side-note – this doesn’t mean i’m unhappy and I know I have so many lovely people in my life!!!!!!) – i think I even blogged about it once – but this week I realised something.

I’m not the only one who feels like this!!! Seems like common sense, but generally no one admits it, so we don’t realise we’re in the same boat. Tonnes of people feel like outsiders, like they don’t fit into whatever circle they’re in. Like no one would notice or mind if they stopped texting or contacting them, stopped making an effort. I know I have felt like this so many times – and frustratingly, even in the past couple of days – but it turns out loads of other people do too. I had a conversation early in the week with a staff member – someone I look up to, who appears to be full of confidence and has no issues chatting to anyone and everyone. But during our conversation, they mentioned that even they’d always struggled with feeling like they don’t fit in. I was really struck by this, as it was the least likely impression I’d have ever picked up from them, but there it was. It wasn’t just me after all.

Even when the dark comes crashing through, when you need a friend to carry you, when you’re broken on the ground: you will be found”

The next part of that first verse goes on to talk about how maybe there’s a reason to believe you’ll be okay. Because no matter how low we feel, or how alone, we can reach out and someone will be there with us. But something else that became apparent this week was how terrible we are – the majority of us it seems – at reaching out for help and support. And I presume there are a myriad of reasons why this is. Fear – of appearing weak, of embarrassing ourselves, of being judged, of being rejected when we do reach out. Not wanting to worry people, or burden them with our ‘stuff’ when they’ll have enough of their own to cope with. I’ve had multiple conversations this week with people who admitted that they bottle things up. They put on a front, and hide how they really feel.

Now there’s no denying that admitting how we really feel – especially if those feelings are on the negative side – makes us feel vulnerable. It’s scary. But as it turns out, so many of us feel the same. Without revealing anything personal, I was part of a conversation this week with 3 others, where 2 of us were upset about very similar situations. We’d barely ever spoken before, for no apparent reason, but it turns out we could relate to each other on so many levels. After an innocent comment of “do you two not talk about things?”, we’ve ended up doing just that – talking. About situations in our lives and feelings. With no shame, no judgement – just acceptance and listening. And even after a few days, it’s clear it’s special and important, and necessary to have people in your life who will listen like that. Support. A safe space to be vulnerable, and for someone to say ‘it’s okay that you feel that way’. Someone to remind you that “you are NOT alone”.

There’s a place where we don’t have to feel unknown. And every time that you call out, you’re a little less alone. If you only say the words, from across the silence your voice is heard.”

This post feels more vulnerable than some that I right, and I’m forcing myself to share it properly on Facebook (rather than hiding it from some and being selective like I often do!) because I think it’s an important topic, regardless of your age or stage in life. And the point in this post? Be honest. Reach out. We all think we’re alone in whatever we’re going through, but we don’t need to be. As a wannabe counsellor, I fully advocate for the fact that talking about how we feel is a positive thing. Often a hard thing, but a positive thing nonetheless. I’ve always craved close relationships and friendships, but there are several that i’ve sacrificed by trying to protect myself – isolating myself so I don’t need to face what I’m feeling. Making myself feel even lonelier by refusing to admit how I feel to people I’m sure would have supported me and pushed me back up. And it’s just not necessary. People will be there. You will be found. You are not alone. However you want to phrase it, it’s just as true.

So take that step (cue for another post about last week…), and reach out. Because no matter how you feel or how broken you think you are, no matter what you’re going through? YOU ARE NOT ALONE. None of us are.

New England Adventures

So I wrote most of this post at 30,000ish feet in the air, and thought it was as good a time as any to write a bit about my adventures from this past week in Boston and Old Orchard Beach.

The trip came to fruition after Matt was asked to play with the Household Troops band on their tour to Old Orchard Beach. After some thought and many discussions and pro/con lists, I decided it was feasible for me to travel out to the US with him. My reasoning was that I wanted to see/tick off 3 new states, I wanted to do some sightseeing, being jobless meant I didn’t need to get holidays from work, I wanted to experience the Salvation Army USA style, and I wanted to support my husband and see him do something cool that he loves doing. Oh, and of course I wanted to see him wear one of their iconic helmets (side note – he didn’t look too ridiculous in the end…..)

So I made the plan of sightseeing in Boston and staying there on my own for the first two days/nights, then getting the Amtrak train up to Old Orchard Beach to join Matt, and attend the events the band were taking part in, in between exploring the area on my own, plus a couple of bits of free time with Matt too.

Despite being almost 25 and married, people kept reacting surprised and incredulous when I said I was staying in Boston on my own, asking how I’d cope staying on my own or eating in restaurants alone, if I would be ok. Either it wasn’t something they would want to do, or was something they hadn’t thought I was capable of. But in all honesty, I wasn’t apprehensive at all about this part of the trip. I was confident and excited to get out there and explore, proving that my shy, quiet exterior wouldn’t stop me having a brilliant time, adventuring on my own, travelling around the city and seeing everything I wanted to.

And it was fab. I explored, I ate lots, took loads of photos, shopped a bit too much, and saw lots of sights. I took the hop on/off tour bus round the city, I visited Harvard University (bucket list type thing for me!!), I saw Fenway Park and sat and read my book by the harbour. I asked for a table for 1 in the Cheesecake Factory, and ignored the possible looks of ‘why’s she on her own’ from the tables beside me as I tucked into my massive plate of nachos. It was fab, and I’m thoroughly glad I did it! I so often let the ‘quiet’ thing hold me back, I think it’s a hindrance and it lowers my confidence on a lot of things. But I proved to myself and maybe others that it doesn’t need to be. I had no issues communicating, I made small talk with taxi drivers, chatted to a girl from Scotland in a cafe at Harvard, and asked strangers to take my photo. Key message – don’t let yourself hold you back!

I then got the Amtrak train up to Old Orchard Beach (again a success – other than my strong man act trying to lift my 24kg case onto a shoulder height luggage rack, where about 6 other passengers walked past without helping!!), got an Uber to the hotel (another new experience!) and met Matt. Not going to lie, meeting up with the band was the bit that made me most nervous on the trip. I didn’t want them to think I was weird for coming with Matt – I was worried they would judge me for tagging along on a band trip or being on the band bus, and I certainly didn’t want them to think Matt was under the thumb and that I was following him about cos that definitely wasn’t the case!!! I’m never too comfortable meeting new people, but I was even more nervous than normal. I was trying not to be too shy, but at the same time I was trying not to stand out (hard combo!) or draw attention to myself. Equally, I was trying to spend some time with Matt, while not wanting to steal him away or get in the way of him being part of the band and the banter.

I have to say though – everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming and made me feel almost at ease pretty quickly. I’ve spoken to nearly everyone in the band (a big feat for me haha!) and have met some really lovely people, and hopefully made a few new friends. I’m super grateful to the band for making me feel welcome and including me in the banter and the socialising – I hope I wasn’t an intrusion! – and I really enjoyed my time with them! What a lovely (and super talented!!!!) bunch!

Old Orchard Beach was a crazy wee place. Tacky pier, massive beach that stretched for miles, and lots of little food kiosks. During the few days I was there, I think I tried the Pizza, Nachos, Ice Cream, Smoothies, and copious amounts of fries. To be fair, what more can you want?! I spent some time doing my own thing in OOB and wandered along the beach one afternoon and paddled in the sea, and it was lovely. There’s something you just can’t beat about walking along the sand with your toes in the sea!

Seeing the Salvation Army in the USA was something I was looking forward to – I knew it would be different and I was right. I mean in many respects it’s the same – but to me the main difference was the level of enthusiasm they have. I’ve been to UK congresses and divisional or territorial events, but I’ve never seen as many people go to the mercy seat, praying together, as I did on Sunday morning. It was eye opening, touching, and slightly unsettling haha! Their commitment and excitement for God and Jesus in their lives was palpable at times – it was impressive and infectious. They were much more open with it than I find we are in the UK – we’re just naturally much more reserved I guess.

The short march down to the Pier was one of my favourite moments. Firstly there’s just something special about seeing an army band marching down the street – it might be a bit old fashioned or traditional, but there’s something spine-tinglingly special when you hear Emblem of the Army blasting towards you. Not just for army folk though – because the interest and excitement was clear from the faces of passers by who stopped to watch too. Young and old, they all stopped, pointed, listened, photographed, videoed. It had an impact.

The thing I found most compelling was on the Sunday Morning, when the ‘ARC’ choir took part. I can’t remember what the letters stand for, but it’s a group of at least 100 people who have been helped by the Salvation Army for addictions, whose lives and families have been torn apart by their drug or alcohol addictions. They sang a song called “We believe”—

“In this time of desperation, When all we know is doubt and fear. There is only one foundation, We believe, we believe.

In this broken generation, when all is dark you help us see. There is only one Salvation, we believe, we believe.

We believe in God the Father, we believe in Jesus Christ. We believe in the Holy Spirit, and he’s given us new life. We believe in the crucifixion, we believe that he conquered death, we believe in the resurrection, and he’s coming back again, we believe.

So, let our faith be more than anthems, Greater than the songs we sing. And I. Our weakness and temptations, we believe, we believe! “

Now they might not have been world class singers, but the conviction they sang these words with was SO powerful. The rawness to it made it all the more powerful. They’ve been through some desperate, dark times, yet they now know that the power of God’s love is strong and can get them through anything. My eyes welled up when they were singing – it was more than just words to a song, but living truth and true belief coming through those words. I saw 2 guys fist pump when the song ended, and i couldn’t help but grin. They were happy and proud of what they’d just done, and it was really special to see! They were some of the people praying in groups later in the service, and it was so inspiring to see – that declaration and action of love and God’s love was perhaps more powerful than a half hour sermon often is. Belief in action and all that. It was exciting to be witness to, and I’d love an ounce of their enthusiasm and belief.

This is a bit of a mismatched blog post – it’s been a while since I’ve written anything at all on here, my head’s on the messier side at the minute trying to figure out what courses and jobs to apply for and all of the joyful stuff that comes with that (potential future blog post…), and I’ve been awake for like, 30 hours, but I wanted to write about my week.

I’m not sure I’ve captured what I was thinking, but I think the essence is, it was another great adventure. If an opportunity arises, grab it. Explore. Push yourself out of that comfort zone. Make the most of things. All such cliche statements, but so relevant and true.

Go for it.

Hello and goodbye

Well hello there! It’s been quite a while hasn’t it?

Well I’m actually only writing to give a heads up that I’m going to (try my best to!!!) take a break from social media for the time being. Or at the very least, to reduce and moderate how I use it.

In an average week, say this week for example, I spend a lot of time each day scrolling. It’s the first thing I do in the morning, and the last thing I do at night. Scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, checking Snapchat and Timehop. And when I’ve read all I can on those, I’ll sometimes head to Pinterest or WordPress. I waste time on these sites. According to the battery usage data on my phone, in the past 7 days I’ve spent (roughly, I hope) 6 and a half hours on Facebook, and 3 hours on Instagram. How ridiculous is that?! How embarrassing!!! (I’d like to think that if others had a look, they wouldn’t be too far off those numbers…..)

Now don’t get me wrong – some of that time on FB or Instagram in particular, I am catching up on what a few of my friends have shared about their days/holidays/kids/lives. But in all actuality, that probably makes up a tiny percentage of what I’m actually looking at. Weird videos, adverts, acquaintances of acquaintances or ‘celebrities’ posting stuff I’m not remotely interested in. What is the actual point?!

It’s nice to catch up on (or lets be honest, keep an eye on?!!!) what our loved ones are up to, but to be totally blunt, if I was really all that interested, wouldn’t I just text and ask how their week is going or how their holiday is or how they’re feeling? Chances are I’ll get more detail, more honesty and more genuineness than whatever has gone on Facebook anyway.

I’m not slating social media in any way – I know there can be positives (I did a dissertation on it and read a lot about it!!) but for me right now, it’s a total time waster. That, and it does nothing for my self-esteem. I see what others are up to, and get jealous. I post something and don’t get many likes, and wonder why people don’t like me. I check messenger, then get despondent that no one has contacted me. It’s not healthy really, is it?

So, from tomorrow, I’m going to try and reduce the time I spend on it. I think cutting it out completely would feel drastic, so I’m going to attempt to use only FB, Insta and Twitter, no more than once (maybe twice for fb) a day – for no more than 5 mins max. Maybe not groundbreaking, but it’s a start.

I may still use WordPress to catalogue how I’m getting on, and/or to chat about what else I’m spending my time doing! My plan is that when I get the urge to go on social media, I’ll read a book, and I’d like to catch up on some psych related podcasts and ted talks – something that will be more useful than solely scrolling through news feeds. Oh, and finally getting my ironing basket emptied (isn’t grown up life fun?).

So, over and out for now!

New year, same me.

So it’s getting to that time again. We’re quickly heading towards December 31st. The end of the year. And no doubt a multitude of posts and photos on social media celebrating/commiserating/documenting the last 12 months. So why not join in? 😉

I actually wrote a post recently that summed up a lot about this year so I’m not going to make this too big or drawn out. 2017 has been a mixed one for me, as I’m sure it has for many. It’s had mountain top highs, basement level lows, and a lot of in-between too.

✅ Holiday to Vienna with Matt and Parents

✅ Submitting Maxi Project (dissertation)

✅ Buying our first house

✅ Graduating with a 2:1 honours Psychology degree

✅ Getting married to my best friend

✅ Beautiful honeymoon to Toronto & Barbados

✅ Starting Counselling Skills course

✅ Trip to Orlando & New York with Matt and Parents

✅ Successful first Christmas dinner in our house, with both families

❌ Leaving my wee flat (not a low – but sad in ways!)

❌ Gran passing away

❌ Car accident + car getting written off

These are some of the absolute extreme highs and lows. There have been so many more positive (and some less positive) events and memories throughout the year too. Countless youth band events, my hen do, lots of lovely days out or walks or time spent with people who are important with me. Some special and intimate memories with family and friends. Some moments of pure stress and terror (often uni related!). Some mental challenge. I’m grateful though that numerically, the highs far outnumber the lows. I’ve never been happier than I was on my wedding day. I’ve never smiled so much on one day before. I’ve never been prouder of myself than the day I graduated from uni. Or as relieved as when I finally submitted my maxi project. But though the lows are numerically less, they were still big blows, the effects of which can definitely still be felt.

Whilst considering the past year, I came across this on a post on Facebook:

And It gave me rage, to be honest. Because it’s just not that simple, and nor should it be. Simply deciding to ‘be more positive’ won’t make everything better. It won’t mean everything is suddenly fantastic, or fix whatever crap you’re muddling through. I don’t believe you can instantly ‘put all of your pain behind you’ – it just doesn’t work like that. Yes there are lessons to be learned and found in both the good and bad, but they won’t always be obvious, and sometimes the pain is too intense for it to be disregarded that easily. It takes time, and work, to process things – especially negative things, but everything really. And in regards to ‘being ready to grow and be happy again’ – sometimes it’s just not natural or appropriate to be bouncing off the walls happy. And sometimes it is. And that’s ok. And I believe you grow, or have the opportunity to grow, whether you’re happy, sad, or anywhere in between.

There is SO much pressure to look and feel ‘happy’ all of the time. We can’t ‘feel’ our feelings because we’re so busy trying to fix them or turn them into something positive. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for permanent negativity here. But it’s ok to feel sad, or angry, or upset, or guilty, or anything else. Feelings are just feelings. They’re not positive or negative, good or bad. It’s us that assign these connotations to them. They’re literally just ‘feelings’. And they’re all ok to have. Don’t wallow or get stuck down there, but don’t beat yourself up for not being the social king or queen of the party if in reality, you’re exhausted or sad or feeling like crap and wanting to be anywhere else. Because that is ok.

I have some issues when it comes to New Years resolutions, and the whole ‘new year, new me’ thing too. I appreciate and agree that the start of a new year can be a great time and a great reminder to take stock, and see where you are. Looking at the last year, seeing what did and didn’t work for you. Seeing what went well, and what you struggled with, and taking the lessons from all of this. I also think it can be good to look forward, and thinking of ways you’d like to grow, or improve. New things you’d like to try, or things you’d like to put more effort into. But none of that should involve a ‘new you’. What’s wrong with the current you? Why do we think we need to change ourselves every year? It seems a bit sad to me. Growth and development and education and pushing ourselves are important and good practices, but they don’t mean creating a new you. The current ‘you’ is more than enough.

So after those lovely rants, what am I hoping for in 2018? What are my New Year’s goals, or challenges, or dreams?

  • I want to cook more – I managed to cook a turkey for 9 people on Christmas Day with no ill effects, so I think I’m capable of cooking properly more often. Not just taking things out of packets in the freezer and shoving them in the oven, but properly cooking. I just need to be a little less lazy and a little more adventurous. I think that’s achievable.
  • I would like to visit some more new places. Self-explanatory really, but I like exploring other cultures, and of course cuisines!! And I love taking photos, which ties in well with travel.
  • I want to challenge myself to read more. I read loads as a kid, but these days I spend more time scrolling aimlessly through social media at night than reading a book, and I want to change this.
  • I want to do more frequent exercise. I reckon this is stereotypically on many a ‘new years’ list, but I want to make it stick. Matt and I have started playing badminton and I love it, but I want to do more than that too. Partly so I don’t put on a load of weight, but mainly so that I can be and feel a bit healthier and fitter. A sprit triathlon is still a potential idea…
  • I want to get a job!! If I don’t, I could end up spending all the money we do have by going home furnishing shopping, and that’s not a good plan. Seriously though, I want to work again. Whether that’s something psych/counselling related or something totally different, I don’t really mind at this stage.
  • I want to write more frequently. Whether that’s blog posts, or in a journal or something else, I don’t mind. But I enjoy it and find it relaxing (mostly), and want to do more of it.
  • I’d like to keep trying to build my confidence. It goes up and down like a yo-yo at the minute, but I’d like it to keep going up, if possible. I know some things that help it, and others that hinder it, so doing more of the first and less of the latter will hopefully happen.
  • I want to do things that make me happy. Photography, writing, reading. Learning. Exploring. But other things, like the bullet journal I did for part of last year. It really helped me, especially mentally, to write and to keep track of lots of different things that impact my well-being. I’d totally recommend.

There are a few other bits and pieces, some more private or personal than I’m brave enough to share on here, but you get the gist. I want to make the most of opportunities and I want to be optimistic. I hope it will be a good year, with lots of positives to stick on my list this time next year. More than anything though, I just want to spend as much time as possible with my husband, my parents, and the friends and family who are truly important to me. That’s what it’s really all about, to me at least.

So, Happy New Year to all of my friends and family, and to anyone who reads this! Best wishes for 2018 – I hope it brings you all plenty of good things ☺️

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.

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.

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.

, 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…”

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.


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. ☺️