building something good

Hello, friends. I hope you have had a good week. I had an awesome moment last night, at the gathering of our wider student community, the Nest, of looking round the room and realising that a good handful of our student leaders from last year have really come onboard with where I see the group going. All of them were getting to know the new students, clearing up after dinner, moving the evening along, making people feel welcome – no matter what had happened in their weeks, which they were able to set aside to be fully present for that gathering.

And I know these guys – I know that some of them have some really tough stuff going on, while others are really busy and tired. They are amazing people.

It reminded me of a quote I read before, from a psychologist called Peter Kramer, who said that the opposite of depression isn’t happiness – it’s resilience. These student leaders (and good friends of mine) weren’t necessarily having the time of their lives; to them, it was just another weekly gathering, another time to serve. But they had the capacity, the tensile strength, to prioritise that mundane, but essential calling for the evening over sinking into some mire of self-pity and exhaustion and checking out.

And that choice, by these people working as a team, is making a real difference to the 40+ people who have visited the Nest these past couple of weeks. It is stamping positive memories of being in community, being loved and wanted and thought interesting, on their first weeks of living in Coventry.

I am so proud of them.

Feels like we’re building something good here.

*

Ps. Other interesting snippets from the week:

Related article about raising up team and shaping culture.

Watched this classic with my housemates on Monday night. How true to life is that Mexican-wave-softball-game scene?! Nora Ephron = pure genius.

Good bedtime reading that I’ve just finished. Very honest, funny, and delicious – you may need to fix yourself a midnight snack.

It’s an old album now, but she has a really great voice:

Advertisements

a party, with lanterns

I’ve lived with my new housemates for five days now, and it’s been thoroughly good so far. Nothing earth-shattering, just little things like eating breakfast together bleary-eyed in the mornings, asking if anyone needs the bathroom before you shower, and swapping accounts of the day before bed. But it’s exactly those little things that make us feel known and valued and like we’re not alone in the world, far away from home.

Speaking of feeling known and valued, a lovely friend of mine, Emma, had a pretty special birthday party last weekend. Besides the usual food/music/conversations, she asked each guest to bring along a story, poem, song, magic trick, craft, or just any other creative thing to share on the spot with everyone else.

This past week it was Mid-Autumn Festival, so I brought along some Chinese paper lanterns, and told the story behind the festival. Other friends composed Emma a birthday song, read from this hilarious book, sang Bruce Springsteen and the Civil Wars covers, and put a broken matchstick back together (how?! These tricks always baffle me).

It was so fun learning about friends, some old and some new, through what they had brought. And it reminded me that people carry such fascinating interests and skills with them all the time, if only we have eyes to see.

Isn’t that such a fun, simple party idea? I had a great time.

lanterns

(Photo: from here, with thanks.)

Ps. In case you’re wondering how furnishing the house is going – I got given a bedframe that is (guess what) exactly the same model as the old one that got thrown out due to bedbugs months ago! Plus, two really great friends of mine have just moved in round the corner. Amazingness. 🙂

Thankfulness: a commercial

colour run

I was at a festival recently, where one of the speakers said that she does ‘thankfulness commercials’. When her kids start to get grumpy or complain, she makes them stop, and each name five things that they are thankful for.

And you know what? She said that once they start, they never ever can only name five. They just carry on – “I’m thankful for…my mum, my dad, my brother, my house, the sun, the moon, the stars…” etc.

It made me think how mostly, the white noise of my heart is not thankful noise. It is grumbly, complain-y, ‘if only…’ noise.

This week, I am thankful for:

  • A fab weekend away – the Colo(u)r Run, thin-crust pizza, a sandsculpture festival, the sea, and About Time
  • A warm, sunshine-y afternoon
  • Casual weekday badminton (and flexible working)
  • One of my new housemates discovering that he owns a microwave (!)
  • Other furniture gifts still coming in: a dining table, another sofa, a wardrobe, vintage porcelain dishes, money
  • A garden harvest of fat green beans and six beautiful tomatoes
  • A team and job that I love
  • A friend to sit with while reading
  • Winning at this game.
  • Long-distance phone chats
  • Encouragement to persevere, from the book of Hebrews
  • A borrowed umbrella when it was raining
  • This good read
  • The most bombastic crumble ever – plum, peach, rhubarb, fig and ginger
  • My entire church staff helping me to move house
  • My vicar/boss sawing a hole in the back of my bookcase so that I have access to power sockets
  • A helpful contact agreeing to be interviewed for an assignment
  • Cantonese curry. Stroopwafels. Home-baked jam cookies the size of your hand.
  • That man in the queue behind me at Costa, who helped pick up my change that had fallen all over the floor. (He also said it was an ‘omen from the Lord, telling me to relax today’…! Maybe so, Mr. Helpful)
  • My baby nephew. Oh the cuteness, oh the chub.
  • Complete support from ex-housemates (‘do you need any food? Cleaning supplies? Anything at all?’)
  • Indoor picnics with the just-moved-in look

 indoor picnic

And that, my friends, is all.

Have a weekend full of things to be thankful for!

the Color Run, vindication, and…an exciting announcement

Dearies, it has been a most up-and-down week. There was a big misunderstanding with this course that I’m doing, with them threatening to make me resubmit an assignment and cap my score at 50%. But after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and sleepless nights, it has all been resolved with me not needing to do anything – very relieved and thankful to all who prayed and said kind things and got indignant on my behalf. One thing I have discovered, my people are very sweet.

And now, onward – to Brighton for THIS. And camping and eating Italian and Japanese food and exploring a sand sculpture festival, with my lovely lovely housemate. Feels like a proper last hurrah to the summer, and a much needed getaway.

 

new house keys

In other news, my community house is multiplying! This has been in the works for awhile; I had a sense that while we all dearly love one another, it was time to share that with some other people, to grow to include more friends in our community life. So over the next couple of weeks I’ll be moving down the road to live with two friends, both international students, who are just great, and to build up a community life of our own. At the same time, it’s not the end for my current housemates; we’re going to share rhythms of prayer and mealtimes across the two houses, and obviously stay fast friends. Exciting (and crazy) times! We got the keys to our new house yesterday 🙂

Our new house is also unfurnished apart from kitchen appliances, and God’s massively come through on providing furniture that we can’t easily afford to buy so far. We’ve been offered, by people in our communities, entirely free:

– Two single bedframes
– A wardrobe
– Three chairs
– Two dining tables
– Two sofas
– Three desks
– A picture
– Two armchairs
– A portable radiator
– Six standing lamps

And…entirely unnecessarily:

– A piano keyboard and stand (which I just tacked onto my wishlist, thinking, “Oh, we’ll never get that”)
– A murder mystery game (the day after I had thought how nice it would be to have a collection of games)

Don’t you love it when the standard for reasonable provision is not ‘bread and water’ but chocolate too 😉 wish us luck/pray!

Have a colo(u)rful weekend, everyone.

 

holiday miracles

museum of copenhagen

Miniature model of the city from 16th century, outside Museum of CopenhagenRosenborg palace and rose gardenRosenborg palace and rose garden

My dears, I hope you have had very excellent summertimes (for those of you who do have such seasons) and that the back to work season isn’t hitting too hard.

Just recapping my holiday highlights, and this crazy wonderful thing happened to me in Copenhagen that I really had to share on here:

So when you go to that lovely city, the tourist must-see is this beautiful old amusement park called Tivoli. Everyone wants to go there, especially at night, because of the gorgeous lights, and on Fridays, they have really good free gigs by famous musicians in the park. However, because it also costs an arm and a leg to get in, I just wasn’t planning on it, and neither was the friend whom I was staying with.

Dragor - a pretty seaside town south of Copenhagen

Dragor – a pretty seaside town south of Copenhagen

little mermaid

The entirely underwhelming little mermaid statue (who, incidentally, turned 100 on the day that all this happened)

On my last day in the city, I was on the way to the Museum of Copenhagen to view a Kierkegaard exhibit, and on the way, passed by a square where stalls were being set up for a Singapore Street Food Festival. Now, I am nothing if not hungry, and so went back to check it out for dinner.

I got to the front of the ticket queue, and it turned out that they had stopped selling food tickets two people before me. I had this conversation with the cashier:

Me: (gasp) You haven’t just stopped selling tickets, have you?!
Cashier: You can come back tomorrow…
Me: But it’s my last day!
Cashier: (pause) (maybe realises that I am actually Singaporean and far away from home) Okay. I’m going to sell this girl a ticket.

old archery targets

Old archery targets on the ceiling of the Museum of Copenhagen

So I’m sitting there, eating my chicken rice made by none other than the celebrated Wee Nam Kee, who has flown in for this very occasion, when a Danish couple sit down by me. They’re discussing where to get drinks from, and we get into a conversation. Turns out they heard about the food festival from their Singaporean friend, who then comes over and joins in. I discover that they are all Christians from Hillsong Church Copenhagen.

They start telling me their stories, and it just gets curiouser and curiouser – the Singaporean girl, J, has moved around to wherever she feels God is calling her to for about the past ten years, working for lots of different churches and Christian ministries along the way. She’s the first Singaporean I’ve ever met in my generation who has made such similar life choices to me. We also have a mutual friend (my best friend from primary school). I have the gradually growing feeling that God has set us up…

And THEN. Eventually the Danish couple, who are lovely and radiant and kind and sweet, ask:

“What are you doing this evening?”
“Umm, I don’t really have any plans…”
“Well, this famous Danish musician, Mads Langer, is playing a gig at Tivoli, and we have a pass to take a guest in for free. Wanna come?”

Mads Langer in Tivoli!

Mads Langer in Tivoli!

At this point my jaw is on the floor and my eyes are bugging out of my head. But I still decide that, heck, when life is crazy good why not make it better still for someone else.

“Umm – I don’t suppose you can take TWO people in for free, can you?!”

(They talk among themselves in Danish)

“No – but we can pay for one of you!”

So this is how my friend, whom I’ve been staying with, and I get to see Tivoli and go to this incredible gig on our last night in Copenhagen.

These things, you just can’t make them up! How like God – fun, funny, surprising, overwhelmingly good and incredibly last-minute.

*

In other news, these. Are great.

Also, does anyone know where you can watch Ilo Ilo in the UK?

summer in full swing

Hello my dears, I am off gallivanting to Copenhagen (holiday) and Kent (retreat) and West Sussex (music festival) this couple of weeks, but thought I’d document some summer memories so far:

Went to see this amazing exhibition a few weeks ago, and was moved to tears by the compassion, sense of humour and all-round sparkly wonderfulness of Quentin Blake. What a genius.

This has also been happening in Coventry recently – lots of outdoor sports activities, including cycling round the (in)famous ring road, and one of my friends dressing up as Skippy (a kangaroo, what else)! Fun times. Making me feel proud of Coventry, especially its design and manufacturing heritage.

It was a real-life steam train! That you could actually travel on! Enough to turn any adult back into a child.

Perfect summery dishes: here and here (works just as well with pork, by the way).

Saw this movie a couple weeks ago – so much food for thought.

And, my summer reading.

Finally, a very beautiful, moving video piece: (Edit 5/9/13: Sorry, this link doesn’t seem to be working anymore. You can view the video here however: http://www.simonchristen.com/adrift.html)

Happy weekend! Hope you have some barefoot, hanging out-y fun.

if you’re looking for ‘meaty teaching’

“We operate with the assumption that giving people new ideas changes people. It doesn’t. Believing ideas is, in fact, a way of not having to change in any significant way, especially if you can argue about them. Ideas become defenses.

If you have the right words, you are considered an orthodox and law-abiding Christian. We burned people at the stake for not having the right words, but never to my knowledge for failing to love or forgive, or to care for the poor. Religion has had a love affair with words and correct ideas, whereas Jesus loved people, who are always imperfect.

You do not have to substantially change to think some new ideas. You always have to change to love and forgive ordinary people. We love any religion that asks us to change other people. We avoid any religion that keeps telling us to change.”

Richard Rohr hits hard at shallow consumerism among churchgoers. Ouch. In this book.