Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Confessions of Shadowing Mental Health Chaplains Part One

Three days in and I have finally found the time and energy to blog about placement. I did my usual underestimation of how difficult I would find it but it has truly been an amazing experience thus far.

Aside from the placement I am flat-sitting for some friends, so I'm learning the mechanics of living alone for the first time as well as a pretty tough day job! I don't do things by halves...

Surprisingly enough I've loved living on my own, cooking for myself and friends and getting my bearings when it comes to power showers and different oven temperatures! I feel in my element being the hostess but when it comes to practicalities such as getting a power shower to work of a morning, I get a bit panicky (!)

On my first day of placement we began with a midday prayer which the whole spiritual care department stop for every day. It was a lovely way to begin and set the tone of the immense amount of praying I've done in the last three days!

I then accompanied Verity, my supervisor to an acute slow rehabilitation unit where she delivered a talk to the staff on what the Spiritual Care department do within the Trust. Practically speaking, the driving around and orientating myself have been a really hard part of the week because as anyone who has been with me when I've had to use my sense of direction - it becomes clear that I have NO sense of direction!

So I got lost on the way to the Shrodells Unit situated at Watford General hospital. I arrived rather harassed at the unit and found it very eye-opening to see not only the conditions of the unit but also how ill the patients are.

The day ended in a lovely fashion, cooking for Kat, Lucy and Lizzie. A fantastic end to a difficult but rewarding day!

Friday, 23 July 2010

“What we are is God's gift to us. What we become is our gift to God.” Eleanor Powell

Since my first year at LST ended, I've been non-stop. Job interviews, away with the family, working full time and then some truly wonderful birthday celebrations before heading back to work! Now I am gearing up to begin my vacation placement with the Hertfordshire Partnership Mental Health Trust Spirituality Department. If that's not enough, for the first time in my live I will be living completely alone for a fortnight, flat sitting for Simon and Suzy. I'm excited to finally be able to act on some of the dreams and passions I've had over the past year and take another step towards what being a grown up as I live alone for a while. 

Joining the 'rat race', commuting up to London everyday and travelling around to different 'centres' in London for work has been a really interesting experience, throughout which the constant refrain in my head has been 'I'm enjoying this - and what's more I will be able to understand something of what the thousands of people who run the rat race every day go through so that I can pastor to them'. Through the most far away experiences from being a pastor, I am learning that God is training me for what he has planned. 

It's weird, because the terror that I so often have felt before big events; starting a new school year exams etc is notably absent. Throughout the interview process I was blessed with what I know to be a God-given calm. I am not a calm person. I panic. I flap and flail. This time, the terror - and I am not exaggerating when I call it terror - had dissipated and in it's place was a spattering excitement and a few butterflies swirling around in my tummy. For me, it truly marks one of the most significant changes that I have undergone this past year. I no longer live in terror. Of course I still get nervous and frightened, but the persistent fear clutching at my chest has gone, and I am more thankful than I can say. 

I was also reminded just how loved I am. My birthday was beautiful and I felt truly cherished by the ones I love - I even got a song written for me on a piece of tissue! Some of my presents moved me to tears with the thought put into them and perhaps the best part of my birthday was the refrain running through my thoughts as I fell asleep the first night of my twenties:

 "I love my life". 

I want to keep loving my life and worshipping the God who gave me that life. Using the life God has given me to reflect His glory on the earth. 

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


I don't know if you remember where you were five years ago today. The country had been gripped with excitement about Live8 and the Olympic Bid, when in a flash, all that was forgotten.
In our school, in our small corner of Essex, the excitement changed to terror in a flash.

Terrorist Bombs.

In London.

Fear and confusion were everywhere, no-one knew what was going on and we were scared. For me and my friends, it was compounded by the fact that we had not been gripped with excitement, we were struggling to deal with the fact that one of our friends' Dads' had been diagnosed with cancer. Grief, mingled with a sense that we were not grown up enough to handle the situation had dominated our week and now this.

In at IT lesson, all work was abandoned as we all searched through internet news sites, desperate to get our hands on some information that could let us know if our loved ones were safe. Of course the phone lines were down so we were totally reliant on what the internet was telling us. Once we knew our own families were safe, we began to worry about the others we knew who could have been in danger. It was a horrendous day and I barely had space in my head to be thankful that everyone I knew was safe.

I think that week, in all of its terror, I learnt what it means to cry out to God in a new way. I was only fourteen and I had never prayed in that way before, I was truly crying out to God - lamenting. I wanted answers and comfort.

I was reaching beyond any kind of pretence I may have had around my faith or God. This was a gut wrenching cry of agony, and in its midst I knew God was there. I didn't understand, I was hurting, but God was Lord.

It was an important lesson for me. To call out to God in a new way, to cry out in pain - but not forget the sovreignty, the power and the love of God. I learnt to thank God when it feels like there is little to be thankful for.

Today I thank God, for the past five years, for their beauty and brokenness and the for the hope that arises from that.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Looking Back

When I walked through the doors of LST, late September, laden with bags and flanked by my Mum and Dad - I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Yes, I had dreamed and planned and fought to get to LST; it was what I had wanted for over five years. Becoming an LST student was, quite literally a dream come true.
Over the past nine months, I have come to realise that LST is somewhat unique. One of our lecturers described it quite early on as a kind of monastic community, and I'm inclined to agree with him. It is the most infuriating, wonderful, painful, exciting, difficult, insane and amazing place I have ever had the pleasure to be a part of.
The difficulties of my first few weeks have been well-documented, and I am amazed every time I look back to that first week, how far God has brought me, the work He has done in me and through me. In committee meetings over the past month we have been discussing freshers week and in particular, committee on the couch. Committee on the Couch for me, is one of the only clear memories I have of freshers week. It occurred to me, that when I return I will be one of those people that the Freshers will see first - I will be the one among friends, who knows her way around and feels relaxed because it's home. If I can be as nice to the freshers as everyone was to me - I know I'll have done my job well! 
As corny and cliched as it sounds, being at LST has changed me. The love of the people, who allow God to shine through them, the things I have learnt both inside and outside the lecture rooms, the times when I have had a revelation of who God is, and who I am as a creation of Him have turned my world upside down. It's been painful, but amazing. 
I hope I have retained some of the person I arrived as, but I know that I have changed immeasurably - I think it's called growing up...
I still have lots to learn; about God, the world we live in and myself. 
It excites me to see the people I am living and working with, be healed and transformed by the work of God in their lives. It excites me that I've got two whole years left. It excites me that I get to meet more amazing people and grow closer to those I know already. It excites me that God will do more in me and that he will continue to draw me closer. 
It is still strange to me, to be so excited by the future; undoubtedly wonderful but I still find it odd to be living in the present and having hope for the future. It is something I hope I will never take for granted. 
So for now, I'm going to return to the present, which happens to be a beautiful house in the heart of cornwall.