An open letter to my beautiful Mama

Hi hi hello!

I just wanted to write you a line and tell you how wonderful you are since, y’know, do I need a reason?

I’m going to get straight to the point. You’re awesome. Kind and wise and strong. You have people skills you can’t even recognise. You’re funny and not afraid to be yourself. You’re loyal and trustworthy and you make good cake. You’re brave, not the kind that comes from stubbornness (although there is that) but the kind that comes from knowing there is nothing you can do to lose God’s love.

I know you’re not perfect. (Seriously, Grandma’s wonky hip gene? Thanks for that.) But that’s why I love you. I have never needed Barbie dolls or Disney princesses to set a shiny perfect example for me- why do you think I love Miranda and Bridget Jones, any film with Hugh Grant in the 90s, Mulan, Hermione Granger, Stephanie Plum and the Gilmore Girls so much? It’s because of their imperfections.

If Mulan was the prettiest, most graceful ‘perfect porcelain doll’ she would have found her husband in the first 10 minutes of the movie, never have left home and wouldn’t have saved all of China! Lorelei Gilmore had a baby at 16 and it changed the direction if her life entirely- but she made it work and she became secure in herself for it. I know they’re both fictional characters so how’s this… you might not be defeating Voldemort or catching criminals every day but you do so much for other people, you’re on every committee going, you can run teams and orchestrate large groups of people in a way I can only dream of, you’re a whizz with a sewing machine, an excellent tea-maker considering you don’t drink it and an even better cake-baker. You’re the most selfless person I know and you still find time to garden. You’re strong and beautiful and you saved me from disappearing completely when I was at my most ill. You’re you and you have so much time for anyone who wants it!

I’m proud to say I learned everything I know from you because although you’re only human you’ve taught me both by your words and your example that all I have to be is myself and God will do the rest.

… proud to say you taught me everything except how to dance. You learned your best moves from Granddad and that’s enough said about that.

Love you this much Mama Bear,
Katey Crocodile xxxx

All Change

Hi.. It me.. I sorry it’s been so long since my last blog post but life has gotten a little crazy since January! I’ve started to write several million posts in that time but I haven’t had time/inspiration to finish and post them! Here’s a little blog-ette I wrote in the first week of February which gives you an idea of how much things have sped up…

“Last week was A Big Week. 5 nights out, baked 2 cakes, 3 adventures on busses, a new youth club, a new youth group, one emotional trauma, more flipping soya milk than I ever planned on and a spontaneous sleepover. And a partridge in a pear tree.

Last Sunday was a family service with baptism and it went fairly predictably and according to plan. We sang a bit, a baby was baptised, a young person did the Bible reading and my youth group, TNG, did the prayers. Then, at the very end, we prayed for Ronya who is going home to Zimbabwe now she’s retired. Expecting the blessing to come next we all relaxed and then my vicar, Derek, said “and now might be a good time to mention.. I’m leaving too.” The whole church gasped, a couple of people burst into tears and then Derek explained that he and his wife Jane will be leaving the church in May and returning to South Sudan where they lived in the 1980s. It was shocking but ultimately not surprising. Nobody knew except the church wardens, it was the best kept secret I’ve seen in the C of E lately but I almost wish there had been whispering so we had a little idea what was coming.

Sunday lunchtime all the interns in Rushden (and Jakob who works in nearby Irthlingborough) got together for lunch before I had to head off to Costa to meet my (new) young leaders for an hour before the first meet-up on my new youth group, Space, who are essentially the older half of TNG. I limped home in the rain at about 6pm.

Monday I met Derek for our usual supervision meeting and did a lot of prep for youth group. A normal Monday to balance out the rest of the week!

Tuesday morning I made a coffee & walnut cake for the first time and took it to home group where it was well received! Then we went straight to a service at one of the nursing homes, then we picked up fish & chips before I ran out to TNG. A fairly quiet day…

Wednesday morning I met my friend Ruth, a second year intern in Rushden, for breakfast (at 11.30!) then started to make Cream Egg Brownies. I had to make them in parts to accommodate the youth club I’ve been asked to be a part of on Wednesday evenings which is run by mainly interns.

Thursday morning I got up at 6.30 to get on the bus to Kettering at 7.50 (armed with the brownies) to head to the Christian Resources Exhibition (East) at Peterborough to represent Peterborough Diocese and the internships. It was quite quiet, probably due to the original and larger CRE in London drawing businesses and customers away but we had fun- Joel, Gareth and I, eating brownies, joking about and occasionally talking about what we do as interns! From there I went straight to Angela’s house to throw some dinner down me before Fridge, a group at her church for more vulnerable girls who need positive social groups and we can teach life skills like cooking and budgeting to and have fun with sparkles and scrapbooks. We managed to pack up and get home in an hour and a quarter, which is actually a record for us! … We like to talk…

Because I had such a full week I decided to use my day off wisely and sleep until lunchtime. At 5.15 I decided to take up a dinner invite for 6pm in Kettering with some of the other interns and promptly hopped on a bus, pillow in hand since I’d be missing the last bus home!

Saturday Angie and Ruth met me in Kettering and we did a little window shopping and ate a lot of cake!”

… And that’s pretty much how it’s been ever since- minus the CRE and add in a coursework deadline, the occasional training day, a weekly tots group and a lunch club at a local primary school one day a week!

Sunday was Derek’s last service at St. Peter’s so Saturday night we had a leaving party for them in the church hall which was lovely and a bit emotional! We met Thursday night to ‘hand me over’ to my new line manager, Karen, who I already know and am friends with so I know I’m in safe hands and we’ll have a lot of fun working together but it still feels so surreal to know I probably won’t see Derek again!

I know it’s going to be an amazing time, though, for Derek & Jane (following God’s calling always is!) and for St. Peter’s as we work out how to ‘muddle through’ until a new vicar comes. The vacancy has been advertised and they’re interviewing in June so hopefully we won’t be vicarless for too long!

I keep coming across Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you'” says The Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” which is one of my favourite verses & always relevant but especially at times like this, with fresh starts and my own plans being made it’s really important that we keep claiming that promise for ourselves. God’s got the whole world in His hands. That means you!!

Probably I will find myself even busier than usual so I’ve queued up some blogs to post themselves so it won’t be another 4 months!

Katey xx

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Perspective

Today I saw the freckle on my right ear for the second time in my life. Presumably I’ve had this freckle for the past 20 years but it’s on a part of my ear that faces away so it came as a bit of a surprise when I discovered it last month.

It got me thinking, how many aspects of our personality do we not notice or acknowledge because we can only see ourselves face on? No matter how I try and bend my eyes (or ear) it’s hard work to even catch a glimpse of this freckle. On the other hand anyone else could observe it quite plainly but it’s nothing special, why would they comment? No one else is going to walk up to you and say ‘did you know you have a freckle on your ear?’ because it seems so obvious!

Self-awareness is a beautiful thing, it allows you to grow and build better & healthier relationships, but you have to be aware of mundane freckles on your personality too. ‘I work well with post-it’s’ is just as valuable a thing to be aware of as ‘I’m hopeless with timekeeping’ and ‘I don’t know my 8 times tables’ as ‘I’m a starter not a finisher’.

Tell someone in your office they make a cracking cuppa, tell your friend when they have their skirt tucked into their pants, encourage simple honesty because self-awareness is hard to do by yourself.

If you want to do it seriously there are some great websites you can use to (anonymously!) survey friends & colleagues. I hope this was a helpful thought for some in the inevitable season of ‘new year, new me’ and not just deep thinking on a freckle!

Katey xx

Do not fear.

I’ve just got back from having my hair cut and I got asked the standard ‘would you like a magazine’ and I said no, I don’t need to read about who’s just lost 10 stone, come out, got married, having a baby since everyone in real life seems to be doing the same! And it got me thinking, New Year’s Eve is one of the few times I let myself look back and reflect on the long term and this year seems to have gone so fast, I haven’t done much and I’ve spent a quarter of it living somewhere else! It looks as though 2013 might have been quite empty, if it went so fast. So by comparison 2014 is going to be huge, weddings, babies, graduations, new houses and jobs and adventures- probably none of them mine, but it’s exciting none the less!

My resolutions for 2013 were to keep off the medication I had been taking to help my CFS/ME and to start something in September, both of which I’ve managed but I don’t really have any New Years Resolutions this year, other than to keep moving. To evaluate the negatives and then leave them behind and not dwell on them. To focus on the exciting things around me and to look after myself so that I can carry on at a pace I want to.

I hope God blesses you all in 2014 and that the next 365 days are full of happiness and joy and sunshine and even if they’re not, the Bible says ‘Do not fear’ 365 times, one for every day of the year.

Katey xx
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“The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love —love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God. Those who fail to keep to this point soon wander off into cul-de-sacs of gossip. They set themselves up as experts on religious issues, but haven’t the remotest idea of what they’re holding forth with such imposing eloquence.”

(1 Timothy 1:5-7 MSG)

Off the grid

Okay so I went off the radar there a little bit, apologies!

So this is what’s happened since last time… (The short version)

I went to the first residential of the year with all the other interns, made a lot of friends, fell in a river and gained a nickname and on the more serious side we had lots of training in things like safeguarding and leadership, looked at what Gilmore-Fraleigh’s Friendly Style Profile said about us (I’m a constant yellow, if you know what that means!) and thought about rest. Ha!

Then from there I had my first supervision meeting followed by a meeting with the lady who used to run the youth group and the guy who’s helping me now.

Friday is my day off (take note!) but my first experience of that was a bit mixed! I had a lovely lie in, read a bit, thought about my first youth group session and then the guy I’m staying with was rushed into hospital! He had a blood test done in the morning for something unrelated and when the doctors got the results back in the afternoon they told him to go straight to the surgery and from there they sent him to A&E in an ambulance for a blood transfusion. Anyway, long story short, 3 pints of blood and 2 nights in Kettering hospital later and he’s a new man! They’ve still got to investigate why this has happened so your prayers are requested but on the whole he’s much better than he was before this all happened.

So Friday night while everything was up in the air I went for a 4 hour McDonalds with Simon and Ruth who are both interns at one of the other churches in Rushden.

Then that Saturday I went to a Food Festival in a village called Olney with Joel, Gareth, Jakob and Jordan, some more interns (and I’ve just now realised they sound like a boyband. They even have an Irish one!) and spent a few lovely hours stuffing our faces and sampling, err, drinks. Yeah, let’s move on.

That Sunday was pretty full on, I helped with TNG, the teenage Sunday morning group, at church then had lunch at the vicar’s house, then stayed for a meeting with the other leaders of that mornings group and by the time I got home David was out of hospital!

Tuesday the 10th I had my first youth group and my timings were hopeless but I had 8 kids and they all seemed to have fun and noone but me got hurt. A prayer board fell on my head and I’ve been having funny face/neck/jaw pain ever since. It was one of those moments where you think ‘God’s telling me something here’ it might well have been ‘how much prayer did you put into planning this session?’ But it could just as easily have been ‘you shouldn’t be playing with a beach ball indoors you numpty!’

The next morning I helped Derek (the vicar) lead an assembly in a nearby village just over the Bedfordshire border which was nerve wracking but ultimately okay. They were all under the age of 7, so how disastrous could is have been, right? Right?! .. Well let’s not think about that!

From there I went to the Ladies Friendship Group (best described as Mothers Union meets the WI but altogether less militant) and spent a sedate hour listening to records from the 40s and 50s followed by tea and trifle. A pretty good afternoon even if I was a quarter if the average age!

Then, (skipping the less exciting details) a week later I found myself at a junior school in the town doing another assembly- this one slightly messier than the last with the putting-the-toothpaste-back-in-the-tube game but just as un-traumatic! I might be getting a taste for these… Shh! Don’t tell Derek!

After that I went to home group for the first time (second, if you count my brief visit to Rushden in June) and they were lovely and Not Sensible and I feel quite at home with them already.

On Thursday I had my first training day with all the interns. I got up nice and early and we all gathered at the Diocesan office in Northampton to learn about the Bible and styles of leadership and catch up and fear a giant spider and generally be a bit daft which was nice and not nearly as tiring as I feared.

The couple I’m staying with went off to Cornwall for a week while in was in Northampton and another set of surrogate grandparents have moved in to dog-sit. And, let’s be honest, Katey-sit. (I couldn’t work out the microwave the other night so I just put my beans in for 5 lots of 20 seconds. I’m a hazard.)

Then Friday was a glorious day as I took delivery of my brand new shiny (very very) pink iPhone. I even did a happy dance. The delivery man saw and shook his head. Then I did some errands (so now I can register at the doctors and get Youthwork Magazine- double yay!) and we had dinner at the pub.

Yesterday was spent dissecting 6 courses for new Christians and trying to decide which is the best one to run in October and just as my brain was starting to fizz and produce smoke we went to a lady from church’s house for a barbecue and ate until we could eat no more.

This morning I was helping with TNG again and this time there was GLITTER!! I regretted it almost immediately but oh well, we cleared most of it up! Because we were so late coming back into church they had started communion already so we all went up together which was nice. (Even if I had to confiscate a McDonalds toy off an 11 year old boy at the altar rail!) The group is starting to bond which is nice since half of them are only just 11 and new to both TNG sessions. Then after the service we gathered all the children up to learn a song for Harvest Festival. Raise your hand if you can spell ‘car crash’ but they have two weeks to learn it so… We’ll see. Worst comes to the worst we’ll just play the CD very loudly in the background!

And now I’m exhausted! …And I still have stuff to do before my supervision meeting tomorrow …And I still need to have a clue about youth group on Tuesday.

I suppose I didn’t come here to have plenty of spare time. I came here to be stretched and challenged and the first hurdle is having Actual Grown Up Responsibility and as scary as that may seem, my 2 new favourite mugs tell me ‘keep calm, I’m a youth worker’ and ‘He hath made all things beautiful in His time’ reminding me that this is my life now, God has brought me to this point because I’m ready and he’s not going to leave me now. Maybe the prayer board was a bit of a kick about praying more seriously- taking God’s direction and, as my favourite Bible verse says, doing things through God’s strength.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 NIVUK)

Even when we’re not talking about literal strength, it’s not my strength that matters, it’s His, and as long as I keep asking, He keeps providing.

On that note, I’m off to sort out all my last-minute jobs before another ridiculous week starts!

Katey xx

(Sorry that my days got a little messed up at the end, I meant to post this yesterday! I managed to get all my jobs done, my meeting went well, lots of new things in the pipeline and now I’m off for a nap!)

Hit the Ground Running

I don’t have much to say but I think the last 24 hours definitely deserves a post.

I arrived in Rushden last night and went for dinner at a pub in a nearby village called Souldrop- it felt as if Simon Pegg was going to come charging out of the loos being chased by a zombie! Then this morning was my first service at St Peter’s as an official Rushden-ite. I have never been greeted by name by so many people I’ve never met before! (Although it would appear that the church is 95% Alans and Lindas…) I certainly feel welcomed though and have a couple of volunteers to help me run the youth group which has been a bit of a concern I must admit. We came back to David and Vivian’s (my hosts) for a yummy roast lunch with another couple who are very involved in the church and whose house group I’m hoping to be a part of. Then in the last hour I’ve waved my parents off and have just now finished unpacking… more or less.

Yes, that is all one paragraph. Yes, I do feel like I’m in the middle of a hurricane. Yes, I am quite overwhelmed. No, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Tomorrow?  Off to my first residential for training and team building where I’ll meet all the other interns and be comissioned by the local Bishop!

It’s all very fast-paced and exciting and I’ll let you know all about the residential soon but for now I think a nap is in order!

Katey xx

Good For the Soul

So, in 4 days I’m leaving home to be a youth intern in a church nearly 100 miles away. My friend Alice, youth work adviser extraordinaire, says I’ve been in boot camp for the past two years, picking things up as I go in preparation for this move and I’m still learning.

Last week I went to Soul Survivor for the first time, leading my youth group for the last time. Sob! We went as a group of 9, paired with a group of 4, part of a group of 50 and by the evening of the second day there was banter and teasing and a real family feel even between kids that had never met before. I learnt a lot about my relationship with God by seeing theirs develop, I learnt a lot about mothering through the joys of washing up, i witnessed the presence of God with 8,000 other people, and I came to the realisation that I’m on top of the mountain that seemed impossible to climb even two years ago. I proved to myself that I can actually do this.

It was a week full of proof now that I think about it. Proof of God’s faithfulness to me, proof that I can’t function as a youth leader in the morning without tea, proof that my little brothers are more wonderful than i can handle, proof that air beds are the only way to camp, proof that i’m a ‘nurturer’ (surprise surprise! thank you Tearfund for that revelation) and proof that I look like a youth worker. That last one came from the guy on the Tearfund stand as well and my gut reaction was one of serious elation. “If I look like I ought to be a youth worker then maybe I can blag my way through this next year after all!” No?
It wasn’t until we’d been branded Nurturers and left the stand feeling thoroughly underwhelmed that Liz pointed out that on day 4 of a 5 day camp that really only meant that we were wearing hoodies and looked like death. So I went and got pointless jewellery and visible henna tattoos just to reinforce the ‘I DON’T HAVE A PROPER JOB’ image.

And now I’m home and it’s quiet, people aren’t being knocked down in the Holy Spirit, there’s no morning greeting of tea and a bacon sandwich before I’ve even fully woken, there’s no need to wear a onesie and do the Shepton Shake (you’d be surprised how upsetting that is) but that’s okay too, this is the real world and I’m ready for that. As a tweet i spotted Friday afternoon said “If God calls you, he also equips you” I’ve been called and I’ve been (sneakily) equipped and I can’t wait to use it for His glory. I wouldn’t be who I am, on the verge of what I am right now if God hadn’t got my back and I’m excited to share that faithfulness and mercy.

Before I go and try and pack up my life some more, I’ll leave you with a song we learnt last week which i have on constant replay at the moment…

“You go before me, you’re there beside me and if I wander then love will find me. Goodness and mercy will always follow. You go before me, my guardian.”

Katey xx