A line I love from the film "Sense & Sensibility" (based on Jane Austen's excellent novel) is when Marianne Dashwood and her younger sister Margaret have taken a walk in the countryside and it starts to properly POUR rain. Margaret never wanted to come along and whines, "I told you it would rain!" Marianne pays her no attention and says the following memorable line:
"There is some blue sky! Let us chase it!"
She promptly starts to run down the hill (not wearing sneakers) and falls, spraining her ankle.
It's April today. The month of March is over, and in it was a great deal of pouring rain. And it was very busy. VERY. For several months - not merely this last one - I've been making sure I was getting by and hanging on and making spiritual progress here & there, because I didn't feel up to chasing blue sky, not to mention there were times I couldn't see any to chase; it was a time to settle in and serve and I'm sorry to say (uncomfortable to admit) my relationship with God was more on the back burner than it's been in awhile. Now I think God is slowly showing me bits of blue sky to pursue. I don't feel that it's without risk; not at all or else I'd have been racing by now... So I'm thankful for that gift of His...
I'm not as frequent a blogger as others, and a good bit of what I write about isn't just detailing what I do but also what's happened to me as a result of all this - the gems I have to share from struggles and successes. I wish I could write more because I have SO many stories, but I'm so busy doing what I do (or recovering from it) that I have little time & energy to write... Also, my blog is read by people here in England, so I feel it would be disrespectful (and in some cases a violation of confidence) to reveal everything I have to tell.
I mentioned in an earlier blog that the UK is similar to the US in a lot of ways. If it were more different, it'd probably be easier to select tales to tell and sharing what all has happened would be a bigger motivation. Becoming an SM here at Stanborough Park Church has greatly involved my personal life & affections. While I refer to the teens as "my teens" that's getting a little more awkward to say here in England (not so much on this blog) because they're not my spiritual guinea pigs and never have been. Beforehand they were strangers who intimidated me, and now they're my friends and family in varying degrees. I love them and will miss them more than I can say... But nevermind about that now.
To write in more detail would be to pull the plug on my personal life and theirs, which I can't just DO... It definitely is a JOB to work here, but what the job IS is living a new life. Even when it's my day off or when I'm not in the middle of an event, I'm being watched and people continually adjust their opinion of me. While it'd be so much simpler to brush off or scoff at some people's complaints (since some just ARE ridiculous), I can't because it'd look bad. I just have to swallow it down with grace. Believe me, sometimes I want to retaliate, make myself heard and get some stuff to just QUIT because of how trivial it seems to me, but I can't. Not to mention, people WILL NOT hear even the best persuasion unless they're open to it. They'll literally will against hearing.
My fellow SM (Sara Baptist) is a choleric-sanguine, whereas I am a melancholy-sanguine. She is primarily a doer, secondarily a talker. She is a complete extrovert and often makes me crazy. I am primarily a thinker, secondarily (close second) a talker. I have DEEPLY ROOTED introvert needs but have the appearance of an extrovert, which screws up people's expectations about me. I know for certain that I make Sara as crazy just as often as she makes me crazy. But despite our differences, we are good friends and have bonded over our taste in food, a portion of our taste in films & music and the fact that we're apparently the two SMs who invest the most in our hair & makeup compared to the last two sets who've worked here. For all the people who've sometimes joked that they think I have ADHD, let me tell you that I know I don't have it, because Sara does and I now have almost 8 months experience of living with what it REALLY is like. For whatever reason, she is nearly incapable of sleeping past 6-8 hours and most nights sleeps for less than 6. I am not that way at all. I am a deep sleeper and since I am an intense person who expends a great deal of energy after waking up, I have major needs to recharge my batteries physically in sleep as well as emotionally in time alone. I don't remember the term, but when I took my first psychology class I found myself in reading that some people's bodies keep track of the sleep they lose and won't feel rested until that sleep is made up for. I carry this burden. I am NOT lazy or slow, this is just the way my body works. If I get only 4 hours of sleep one night, it doesn't matter if I get 8-10 the next night. My body still carries around the deficit. It's not a nifty or pithy thing in my life, but I have to deal with it. Once, when traveling to the Middle East, in recovering from jet lag, I slept 21 hours in a row.
When I first arrived, as I've covered a few times, I was depressed beneath the surface and so I slept extra on top of taking a long time to recover from jet lag. Since my job as an assistant in the bookings center is to get up at whatever time necessary and set up rooms, I had to face a lot of early mornings as a ROUTINE. I'm a caffeine addict for a reason, as you can see, but even caffeine is no help when it's hard to wake up in the first place so that it can be ingested at all. Once in early October, we had - what I thought - was one of the meanest bookings schedules EVER. In addition to the other random bookings, we had to have a big room ready by 7:30 AM (tables, chairs, drinks table, & projector/sound I think...? + cleaning up when the day was over) every day and serve breakfast, lunch & supper. I can't quite remember if there was a 3rd meal, but there were definitely 2 and one was breakfast. After they'd finished, we had proper dishes to do, since they weren't using paper cups, plates & utensils, like most bookings. There was a morning that week, when I'd gotten up for the early bit, but having gone back to bed during the breakfast meal, I'd slept through the doing of the dishes, which Sara was not happy about. I wouldn't have been happy either! My boss (I have so many of them, this one is Michael who's in charge of the bookings aspect of Stanborough) asked if I was alright and then said I needed to get myself under control. I had no defense; I had a struggle, I'd made a mistake I was sorry for and I could only be embarrassed and agree.
A few days ago, Michael has told me that he has complete confidence in me and describes me as "very reliable." I was so glad to hear that affirmation from him! Because I worked VERY hard to tidy my personal struggles (and preferences) so they wouldn't cross lines into my work & responsibilities.
Something ridiculous that I wish I could make others quit is their joking about my "sleep life."
This is the most recent example, which made me angry, which is why I'm typing this blog:
Earlier this evening, I was rehearsing in the sanctuary with my pianist because I was asked about a week ago to sing for the baptismal service tomorrow. We met up before the teen vespers began so we could hopefully get it done (the song is simple) beforehand so I could stick with all my responsibilities. We didn't quite finish on time (but the teens seem to deliberately come late anyhow, with a few exceptions) and I got a call from the youth pastor asking where I was because one of the teens had asked and someone else joked that I must have been upstairs sleeping.
Really? At 7:30 PM on a Friday, THAT is what I'm doing??
I STARTED TO SEE RED.
There's still a little red on the edges of my perception right now.
There's an option that no one seems to think of: since I've been awake, present & dedicated to all my usual responsibilities and have been POURING myself into NEW ones that I VOLUNTEERED for, why can't that stupid joke begin to get shut down by the people who know me?! Where is the loyalty?? I don't give my own loyalty & effort IN ORDER to get it back, but I'm sure I can get an amen or two (at least) that it's VERY NICE to have what you give returned back to you; i.e., to at least NOT get what you DON'T deserve. I know that life is unfair, but this is a rant, so I'm say it like it bubbles up.
The loyalty is as simple as saying,
"That's not funny anymore; I'm sure she's around here somewhere."
It's as simple as taking the affirmation given to me in private and turning it inside out as a defense to someone saying something ridiculous...! Since affirmation given in private by a man who doesn't suck up or mince words is VALID, then why can't it be just as valid - even more so - when interacting with teenagers on scene??
Remember how I said Sara's the extrovert and I'm not? How I was not hip as a teenager? She blends so well with the teens she's nearly one of them. I love her - warm fuzzy feelings & everything - she's my friend, and I don't judge her differences from me. But I'm never going to BE her. My gifts and abilities mean that I'm capable of growing to getting along with the teens, being their friend - and occasionally counselor - but I also get very involved in things that Sara doesn't. It doesn't mean I'm less dedicated to them, it just means that I get spread a little wider. And what Sara does with the teens and for them is EPIC. She's an amazing events planner and is fluent in speaking "teen." I'm capable now, but the stuff she does without breaking a sweat is stuff I'll never be able to do without stressing. Sara is friends with all the more popular teens, and I connect more readily with those on the edge and a few who are flat-out rejected. But since they're not as socially prominent, it's less seen or more easily forgotten what I do for people. I listen when some girls want to cry and I pray for/with others who are so depressed that they hide in their hoodies, while most people look at them like they've got a bad rash. The more socially prominent teens aren't all that interested in opening up & dealing with their crap so my friendship with them can only go so far. It's fantastic that Sara gets along with them better and for a longer time than I do - they have as good a connection & reason to come to church socials because of her friendship as the depressed, troubled & rejected kids do because of mine.
There's a conflict here between Main Service & Parallel Service. Parallel is less traditional; an alternative with a lot of heart and less ... pomp & circumstance, if you'll forgive me. I was mistaken for a "main service" person over Christmas break since I'd spent so many Sabbaths in there. Main Service reminded me of home while I was still adjusting; it was more of a comfort zone. Being mistaken this way disturbed me because I support Parallel's ministry and STRONGLY disagree with people who say it's "not doing what it's supposed to be doing" just because people attend Parallel & not Main Service. Church is about JESUS, not which room & style you choose for worship. End of story. When I was informed of this misunderstanding, I threw myself into Parallel and have pretty much not seen Main Service except on the first Sabbath of every month when there IS NO Parallel Service. I get called to do a lot of musical favors in both Main Service or in afternoon/evening services. When Messy Church happens, since I'm not a natural with kids & crafts, I help prepare food in the kitchen & set up chairs & tables. Trust me, I made mistakes and wasn't always at the right place at the right time when I was learning the lay of the land, but now I FIND places to be helpful when the instant options aren't what I'd be a great aid to. And at Stanborough Park Church, several different places need help at once when events are happening.
I also get angry that my differences with Sara continue - by some - to be interpreted so she is the ninja and I am the slow follower. I'm not slow or stupid. I take longer to process things and I don't have ADHD which basically forces me to always be on the go, nor was I born with such a hearty sanguine streak that I can't stand to be by myself. And what gets me is that some of the same people who highlight this difference between us criticize/make fun of Sara behind her back just because she doesn't apologize about who she is or try to hide it, and continue to compare her to a former SM who is Sara's best friend. Sara also has a beef (though she presents it with a smile) to not be seen as stupid just because she's a social butterfly; she's incredibly smart - someone it's not wise to mess with. Both of our personalities block people's perceptions of our true worth sometimes. Yet since Sara is more of an overt doer than I am, there is this struggle I'm ranting about that she does not share with me.
Not only was Sara not home-schooled, but she hasn't been living with her parents since she was 15. We're both 21 now. I was home-schooled and while I did shoot into the dorm as soon as I started college, I kept coming home in the summertime. Sara loves to argue, debate, get things done, talk, laugh and just zoom, zoom, zoom!! While I am definitely an avid & animated communicator, and while I'm capable at completing tasks and fulfilling responsibilities, I'm not super-choleric and always on the go. I'm an artist and a feeler. I get recharged - not depleted - by being alone, and I'll readily admit that my congeniality wanes to a very forced & plastic form when I'm depleted, and I very well may APPEAR slow since it takes MORE effort to piece things together and/or understand in a HURRIED situation though I'm getting pretty good at it now... What makes me good at my job NECESSITATES that I not be always on the job, whereas others have the luxury of being energized by never quitting. Such an annoying phenomenon to live with...! Even more annoying that Sabbath is the least restful time of my week.
What happened to Sabbath in our church? The Sabbath DAY and the Sabbath PRINCIPLE of breathing OUT, not just breathing in...!
It's as if we maintain our Seventh-Day Adventism by making sure that lots of Christian busyness happens on Saturday, when what God wants it to be is admittedly against the grain of our culture: to set the day aside for HIM. To calm down and stop working. To let the fussing CEASE! We want people to come into the church because we say a relationship with God is important, but there's so much DOING in the church that there's less time than ever to do what DOES build a relationship with God; unplugging from people & life in order to plug into God. He is a jealous God and while it's a blessing that we can pass up popcorn prayers as we go through our days because His Holy Spirit is always with us, we shouldn't treat it like cheap grace and never make the effort - let alone shame those who do make the effort! - to spend extended time alone with God!!!
I'm angry that of all things, this stupid joke about my sleeping habits (never mind all the on-the-spot jokes & pokes I smile & brush off at how my personality is different from Sara's) makes me feel guilty for taking care of myself in an extremely basic way. Tonight I wasn't off at the cinema or shopping when it was time to put some chairs out, and for heaven's sake it was only chairs!! (And good grief, the bulk of the teens didn't show up for the next 15 minutes!) I was right across the hall doing something I NEEDED to do - not for myself - but as a student missionary. SHEESH!! Being irresponsible, being absent, being rude in social situations: bring on the corrective criticism!!
But oh wait...
I AM responsible.
I'm NOT absent.
I AM polite in an almost SPARTAN way...!
And ONCE MORE:
My "sleep life" hasn't caused a problem for the past 5 1/2 months.
Sleeping is a very basic need. I APOLOGIZE (with a bow & flourish) that my body works differently than others' do. WE ALL need to recharge our batteries, I work very hard and I'm sick of this dumb joke and even sicker of people continuing to let it slide like it's still a current issue and then lecturing ME because someone JOKED.
Get a life. Get some glasses to fix your vision, because I haven't been doing anything wrong or missing anything for a VERY. LONG. TIME.