The last 12 months…

I have always been hopeless at those “where do you see yourself in five/ten/twenty years?” type questions. Honestly, even when I was 4 I had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go.

That being said, I have a weirdly crazy memory and adore the feeling of nostalgia as I remember random things people have said and done. I also think that looking back allows me to realise all God has done in my life and sometimes maps out where I might be heading.

So in brief, I want to sum up my past year and explore how all things work together for God’s purpose. Amen right?


September 2016: I turn 18.

What? 18? A proper grown up. This probably was the year I’ve actually felt different on my birthday. I was applying for university, getting in gear for A levels and it just seemed like I wasn’t keeping up. My relationship with God possibly wasn’t as great as it should’ve been because I was way too focused on growing up.

December 2016: Friends and Fires

God has a way of putting the right people in your life at the right time in some weird ways. I was not on the market for new friends when I suddenly meet some awesome Christians and manage to reconnect with an old christo pal as well. Through prayer and snapchat these friendships have become solid forces in my life and it was so refreshing to being able to talk about Jesus and life in such a positive way. Shout out to my pals.

Then.. 21st December around 2 AM, an alarm starts going off. Being the chill person I am, I ignore it. A few minutes later my hall is full of black smoke and I end up stood in my pyjamas barefoot on the street. Turns out my dishwasher decided to catch fire and trash my house way worse than anyone did at my 18th birthday party. It sucked. Not only was it the day of my winter ball, but life was completely switched up. Thanks to my Christian friends, who had literally been in my life 2 weeks, my relationship with God was back on track. As soon as I went back into my slightly black-er house, I got out my bible and sobbed. It was super personal. It really brought into perspective that God is a God who is with us in our suffering, and that’s when we need to push into him most because it is where we need his strength to rely on. (Wise words from a team pastor)

2017: I will really be brief now I promise.

I went into the new year slightly more emotional than usual, but knowing I was dependant on God and nothing else. Moving around different houses and 5 months of building work was really not enjoyable. Add into consideration that I had family overseas with the army and my final high school exams lurking. I prayed and talked to people and decided university was not for me this coming September, so I applied and was accepted onto the New Wine Discipleship Year, which I am super excited to be starting in the next few weeks. Whatsmore, my friendships with different people became stronger which was super cool to see.

August 17th was my results day, and I felt sick all of the week leading up to it. Lying in bed at 4 AM hoping for sleep I had the realisation: that it is all in God’s hands. Like, everything. I became aware of his love over the last year and I knew that whatever I gave to God, he would give back. He was so present in exam season and whatever that sheet of paper said, it was for his purpose. I went to bed slightly more at ease and woke up to find out I had A*AAA and find out I had been accepted to study Psychology in 2018. God is so good. Where he had been God in my suffering, he was now God in my rejoicing as well. If I take anything away from this last year, it is that God is good ALL the time.

I know this is super personal (and believe it or not, nowhere near as in depth as I would like to go.) But it is so amazing to look back at everything He has done.

I still don’t know what I’ll be doing in five/ten/twenty years, but I know that I’ll be in God’s hands with him leading the way.

Summer Time … and the livin’ is easy

I am officially on summer break! (Well it officially started after my Intermediate Ballet Exam on the 26th in  London, but still, it’s summer.) As this should hopefully post I will be exploring and relaxing in the gorgeous Amalfi Coast in Italy, chasing the sun and taking way too many photos on my phone and camera. I’ve never been to Italy, but I’m hoping my 4 years of Italian lessons in primary school and a few blasts on Duolingo will have me covered for 2 weeks.

Summer is a bit of a crazy time. It’s the longest chunk of time that you get off in the year until you eventually enter the world of work. Going into this summer I’m feeling very nostalgic over summers past. Most of my childhood was spent in my grandparent’s house in Brittany (France), as we got older we travelled around France and Belgium but tended to opt for holidays later in the year, so summer holidays became less of a “thing”. Two years ago I spent 6 weeks in Uganda with my family, since then I’ve been to Malta but that’s pretty much it – so I am very excited for what may be my last family holiday!

But that’s not the main focus of this post. Typically summer is a super exciting time, and in a more lifestyle-y blog fashion, I wanted to give a run down of how I will be spending the next 8 weeks to anyone who is interested.



Like I said, I started my first week of summer with a ballet exam, woo exciting! I’ve studied RAD ballet since I was 3 years old, so it always fills my heart when I have to travel to London to the RAD headquarters to take a vocational exam. Very intimidating, but it was a sunny day in London and as far as exams go, I had a good day.

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Later in the week, I travelled to Bristol to go to dinner in the house I’ll be living in from September. I’m sure I’ll go into this another time, but I am falling more and more in love with Bristol and really looking forward to spending the next season of my life there. Then on Friday… I went blonde! I was naturally very blonde as a child so I feel like I’ve just gone back a few years. There are some photos – but I’m definitely still getting used to it. Finally, on Saturday I had my Summer Ball/Valedictory Dinner, it wasn’t the greatest but it was lovely to spend the night with friends to celebrate (I slept all of Sunday afternoon after church, having got in at 4:30 am)


Now here are my plans!

  • I spend 2 weeks in Italy exploring Pompei and Naples and the coast from the 8th.
  • As soon as I get home I will be jumping back into action and heading up a Holiday Club at my church, hopefully the two weeks of relaxation will boost my energy going into the week.
  • Once that is done I drive to Shepton Mallet for one of my favourite weeks of the year – New Wine. I will be serving on team like I have done in previous years, it’s the most amazing opportunity to connect with God and see him working in kids as well as your own life.
  • Then I’m home and I have 4 weeks until I leave. The plan is to find some kind of work and prep for September, I don’t have many plans but we’ll see what happens.

That’s pretty much it!

Ciao from Italy x

Green Armchairs, Breakfast and Board Games

Over the years, I’ve grown up going to various Christian events and festivals like Soul Survivor, New Wine and Leader’s Days. Whether it was a day, weekend or week-long they are always something I look forward to because I know the teaching there is going to be solid and the people around me will be so on fire for Jesus.

If you’ve never been to any type of conference they go a bit like this: worship, basic info about the day, worship, a sermon/talk, lunch, more worship and talks. Obviously, it’s a bit more complex with seminars and a range of other things, but they are a great opportunity to connect with God, good teaching and other Christians.

The thing is there is a problem with these events, and that is that we often rely on them to fill us up and then we struggle on until the next conference – and repeat this. At a seminar I attended last year, Bob Wallington (youth pastor at Soul Survivor Watford) called this the “Christian rollercoaster.” We all know life isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, but times spent at Spirit filled festivals and days are described as the highs on the rollercoaster. We’re soaring really high, enjoying ourselves and then we find ourselves back in our everyday life stuck in a rut and wishing we were back at the high points. This isn’t a realistic lifestyle, life has its natural lows and there are times the presence of God isn’t so apparent in our lives. These times are when we really have to strive to walk by faith and not by sight,  and I wanted to share 3 of the best tactics I’ve been taught over the last year for ensuring our faith is persevering even in the low points.

[Disclaimer : A lot of the time I’m really rubbish at these, so do not think I know anything special – I need all the help I can get]

  1.  Green Armchair

The Green Armchair is a space that you dedicate to spending time with God. Personally, I don’t have a physical green armchair, but sat on top of my bed with everything but my bible and journals tidied away. Devoting a space to God is something I have found really effective in developing my relationship with God. In reality, I want to find somewhere separate from my room that I can really set up as my own space to spend 10-30 minutes a day in prayer and reading the bible, but that probably won’t be realistic until I move out and have my own place. So, number one : find yourself a green armchair and use it

2. No Bible No Breakfast

One of my team pastors when I was working at New Wine last year introduced this idea to me. The concept is simple, do not do anything else with your day until you have spent time in the word and with God. Woah. That’s a pretty intense ask and unrealistic? Yeah, I feel you. But I have seen a difference in my life when I make the conscious decision to read by bible as part of a routine. FYI definitely does not need to be breakfast – whilst I was still in school I was definitley as “no bible, no bed” kind of person because that suits me better. The meal time is totally dependant on what works for you – might even be: “no bible, no lunch” or “no bible, no coffee” etc etc

3. What Game do you want to play?

Thirdly and finally, this is an activity we used at New Wine last year which really helped me and I have continued to use. Basically, as a starting point for prayer and talking to God, you ask: “God, what game do you want to play with me?” Once you have that game in mind (not limited to board games) you ask why and can get into some really deep conversations with God about where you are in life and where he wants you. I do this fairly often when I’m struggling to hear God or want a starting place for prayer. For example, a few week ago I was doing this and God wanted to sit and make daisy chains…

In no way is my prayer life perfect, but these things have really set me on the right path whenever I get a bit lost. I hope you find them helpful in some kind of way.

P.S I have a full set of notes from the “Getting Off The Christian Rollercoaster” seminar by Bob Wallington, obviously I can’t take the credit but I’m happy to share them if anyone is interested.

P.P.S I have recently, as in a few days ago, started a “prayer binder” as something to try out. It’s new to me so I was wondering if anyone may be interested in what is is, how I set it up, and maybe in a months time – how effective I think it is.

 

The Name Game

Names are a weird thing. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this, basically they are a word that your parents have assigned to you that you will forever be tied to.

So the name given to me when I was born was Isabel Grace, and to be perfectly honest I don’t really have a problem with it. If I was given the opportunity I don’t think I’d opt for something cooler. However, on a day-to-day basis I go by “Izzy” or “Izzy G” as my friends like to call me. When I was younger I used to hate being called Izzy, but gradually it became my name. In fact, I can remember the first time I ever introduced myself as Izzy instead of Isabel. I was 14 and up until that point I’d always say “Hey, I’m Isabel” and over time that would change into my nickname. For me introducing myself as something other than my “real” name was a huge moment. In that second I’d decided to define myself by my own accord. So now, to most people apart from my family I’m known as Izzy. If I was in a school situation, sometimes I’d be caught off-guard if someone called me by my full name.

The more I become known as Izzy, the more I focus on the Isabel. That may sound weird but let me explain. My mum would never call me anything other than “Is” or “Isabel” and that is because that is the name she chose for me. Out of the thousands of names anyone could fathom she chose that one in particular.  I would never say a name defined you as a person, however, when I look at what my name means in Hebrew and ancient languages I fall in love with the deeper meaning behind the history of my name.



Isabel

Version of Elizabeth

-Devoted to God-

-My God is Bountiful-

-God’s Promise-



I’ve got 2 thoughts to finish with as I discuss names, the first is this. Just as my mum named me something special, she chose carefully and picked out a name just for me, God poured so much into you when creating you. My mum doesn’t like it when I change my name, I can imagine that God feels the same way. He made us in his image and ensured we were fearfully and wonderfully made, so when we try to change his creation surely his heart breaks. But, as the ultimate father figure he stays nearby and eagerly awaits the moment when we realise we have become less of him, and more of the world.

Secondly and finally, I’ve never gone through the process of changing my name, but I imagine even going through that process, you are still connected to your old name in some way. But in the Bible, there are multiple occasions where God takes an individual and re-names them. For example, he takes Abram (high father) and Sarai (my princess) and makes them Abraham (father or multitudes) and Sarah (mother of nations.) In the New Testament, Saul becomes Paul and there are loads of other times God does this. These moments mark a time where God recognised their old self and redefined them for a new purpose for him. So, if God were to rename you for his purpose, what would it be?

So yeah, I’ve gone on again – but I think there are some interesting things to think about. I’ll still continue to introduce myself as Izzy, knowing full well that my name is actually Isabel and that my identity is in Christ.

 

Leaving School and Moving On

So far in my life, the only experience I’d had of leaving school was moving from primary to secondary school. Now, I’m sure at the time that was a massive and scary thing for me, I’m sure it wasn’t as huge as I thought it was. The James Bond leaver’s party (to which I wore my first ever New Look dress, I was cool) and the assemblies and awards were super fun at the time, I knew I was moving on to a more exciting portion of my life.

Fast forward 7 years, I’m leaving secondary school. I’m yet to go to my Valedictory ball, but as a whole, I can’t say there’s been as much fuss. The chaos and stress of A Levels seemed to be non-stop since September, so when I finished my exams at 11.15am on the 23rd of June it seemed pretty anti-climatic. There were no fireworks as I left the exam hall, I wasn’t met with cheers from my friends or a glass of champagne. Instead, I went to see some of my teachers and then walked out of school like it was any other day. Arguably this is way more intense than moving from Year 6 to 7, but it doesn’t seem to have the same dramatics as the move to secondary school.

Perhaps this is because I made the decision not to go to university this year (I’m sure I will explain in great detail some other time,) however, I am still moving away this coming September to start my year on the New Wine Discipleship Year.  As autumn draws near I’m having a cocktail of feelings. On the one hand, I cannot wait to move away from the town I’ve spent 18 years in and have probably outgrown. On the other hand, I’m getting very sentimental and nostalgic as I walk around Penarth and Cardiff and meet up with friends. What I can say is that I’m expectant to see what comes next, even if there haven’t been fireworks.

I want to finish this first rambly post (I do hope I get better at this) by saying that to anyone who feels they could never possibly leave school, that was me 6 months ago, it’s okay to let go. But those people who cannot wait to get on to their next stage of life, whatever it may be, take some time to appreciate the beauty in the past and present whilst you can.

So, that’s me done for now.

Again, I do hope I get better at this, but we shall have to wait and see.