Bloom where you are planted, new beginnings!

Three and a half years ago, at the start of my final year of school, I wrote a blog entry which quoted St Francis of Assisi who once said, ‘bloom where you are planted’. It was a restless time in my life. Many of my closest friends had packed up, moved on and left Plymouth to do new and exciting things with their lives. I found myself feeling very impatient; already dreaming of the things I could do and the places I could go and yet knowing I had to sit through my final year of A Levels to get there.

I re-read this original post a couple of days ago when I decided to update my blog after over two years and, funnily enough, I found it spoke exactly into what I wanted to write about and how I was feeling. Not only this, but as I read upwards in my blog to more recent posts, I found myself reflecting on it again a year later in a post that I wrote after the first two weeks of University. In both cases, I was reminding myself that God places us exactly where we need to be, and that whilst it might take courage and faith to follow where he is leading us, its a leap we have to take in order to continue on the adventure of walking in faith with him.

In the past 3 months, I’ve been thinking about what I want to do when I graduate. For someone who sucks at making decisions when it really matters, it was easy… I was going to be a teacher. Now, all I had to do was make the application, go to to the interviews and see what happened. Before the interviews, I was more apprehensive than I had ever been in my life. I promised myself I would only share it with people who needed to know, but in my panic I told anyone who would listen about my upcoming interviews and gladly welcomed any well wishes and prayer that they offered. The night before my first interview, where I had to give a presentation on why RE should be on the curriculum, I painstakingly rehearsed until the early hours of the morning and dragged my flat mate Rudy into my room to give me any feedback. Then, when I really should have got into bed and slept for my 6am start, I sat at my desk in the mountain of Q cards that I had gathered and prayed. I remember not really knowing what to say except HELP, and in this moment some lyrics from the song ‘Guardian’ came to me, ‘you go before me, you’re there beside me’. And so, in my exhaustion and nervousness, I simply prayed that I would go into the interview knowing that God went before me and somehow had it all figured out.

The next day, I arrived embarrassingly early to St Mary’s Twickenham and so decided to go on a walk in my attempt to not look so keen. That would have been a great idea, if I didn’t get lost and end up showing up just on time with a bright red face from a mixture of walking faster than my fitness level really allows and the freezing cold November air. I joined a bunch of smartly dressed people mostly around my age and waited in awkward silence to be told what to do next. (If you know me, you know that I don’t like awkward silences, and this was probably the hardest part of the whole interview process). Before long, an equally flustered and out of breath man showed up who would be looking after us for the day. He had a cracking sense of humour and a warm persona from the get go and introduced himself as ‘Uncle C’. He reminded me of my dad, and straight away I took a deep breath and thought ‘how bad can it be?’.

That week was looooooong. I had three back to back interviews for two different training providers, and I lived in fear of being asked a question about Islam that my three weeks of cramming from ‘Islam for dummies’ had not equipped me to answer. Needless to say, I lived through it, and ended up with offers from both places. I ended up withdrawing from the third interview because I already had two great options and I didn’t want to miss teaching my Debate Mate kids for two weeks in a row. (It was nice after trying to convince people for the whole week that I was good enough to be a teacher to go back to my own class who sometimes make me feel like an oracle who knows all the answers when in reality I’m learning alongside them).

So, then came the hardest part… actually deciding. God was so faithful to my prayers and made the whole interview process more of a joy than a struggle, and there I was, faced with a whole new problem. The girl who sucks at making decisions when it really mattered returned. Do I go with the familiar safe option or try somewhere new? I was constantly reminded of the time that I picked one university for my degree, then rang up UCAS to change my mind after the deadline, then told them it was fine, I was just having a bad day. Whilst laughing at how useless I am at making decisions, I thought about what eventually drew me to King’s. On paper, it was a bad idea, a big change that I don’t think I was ready for. But as always, hindsight is a beautiful thing. What would I have missed out on if I hadn’t gone to King’s? My job, my friends, travelling the world? I guess what i’m trying to get at, is that I realised that whilst ‘change’ was scary- its always fruitful. It always leads to some kind of growth, sometimes in ways that we didn’t even realise we needed.

I prayed for a clear answer about where to go, and when I got it, I found myself saying ‘yeah, but…’ Here’s where Ecclesiastes 3:1 comes in, where it clearly states, ‘there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens’. Sometimes, we have to take a leap and go, even if we don’t know what that will look like. I HATE uncertainty, and this was half of my problem with the decision making process; but one day I laughed at myself when I remembered that if we follow God where we are called, its always fruitful. 

So, from September 2017 onwards i’ll be a student teacher at St Mary’s on a Schools Direct programme- and I have no doubt that i’ll be one of those ones who shares all of their joys and frustrations with whoever will listen. Once again, the words of old St Francis are ringing in my ear… ‘bloom where you are planted’. Even though I may have been reluctantly uprooted from where I was, i’m going on a journey, and it’s gonna be a good one.


Wherever you are, be all there.

Hello all,

What a crazy eleven weeks it has been. The last time I wrote, I was only one week into the craziest adventure of my life- and now, eleven weeks on, I appear to have survived AND (so far) passed my first semester of university life at King’s College London. There is so much to say and reflect on, but above all else I wanted to talk about some of the many things I have learnt in my first three months of central London living.

1) It’s amazing how fast you adapt and start walking at 100 miles an hour. 

The truth is, once you actually know where you are going in this crazy city, it appears that the pace of your walking picks up somewhat. Just last night, whilst back in Plymouth, I found myself marching up a  hill I would usually stroll up slowly, and I wasn’t even out of breath! (shock horror). Of course, once you adopt this London walking pace, people who don’t know where they are going seem to be drawn to you, because you look like you know where you’re going. 2 weeks in, someone asked me for directions, and when I actually had a rough idea where to send them, I felt like a real Londoner for the first time. Needless to say, sometimes it can be quite annoying, and if you really want to avoid this- you adopt a ‘resting bitch face’ whilst walking- which is basically a slang term for looking at people in a way which makes you far from approachable. It works, trust me.

2) It turns out the tubes aren’t even that bad.

Before moving to London, I had little experience of the tubes. One (which i’m pretty sure I mentioned previously), that struck me, was being stuck on the Hammersmith and City line in 30 degree heat on a broken down tube. That wasn’t fun, and it put me off tubes for what I thought would be life. Inevitably, living in London, there wasn’t much chance of me avoiding the tubes, and my oyster card is now my new prized possession. The trick? Follow the signs, and once you’ve done that for a bit you pretty much know where you’re going. Whilst my first rush hour experience on the Northern line is something I would rather forget, my experiences on the tube are now getting increasingly more pleasant. Also, I learnt pretty quickly that living in Elephant and Castle, and at the end of the Bakerloo line, certainly has its perks in rush hour.

3) Theology is the best subject in the world ever…
Well, DUH. Obviously this is entirely down to my own opinion, but on a more serious note, I have enjoyed the first semester of my course way more than I could have possibly imagined. I would be lying if I said this course is not a challenge- in most cases, I am learning entirely new things in every lecture, which definitely makes essay writing a bit of a challenge. BUT, in most cases, I’ve been able to keep my head above water. I would be lying if I said it has all been easy… (note to self; New Testament Greek is bloody HARD), but it has certainly been interesting. Despite how difficult its been, Greek is by far my favourite module. If I actually survive the exam in January, then I will be able to start studying primary texts from the Bible in their original Greek form, which you know, for a Theology nerd is kind of super cool. Watch this space for my Greek progress.

4) London IS the land of opportunities.

After months of tossing and turning and having no clue where I wanted to go to university, I ended up going with London for two key reasons. The first of these was because I wanted to be thrown in at the deep end, completely out of my comfort zone, and the second was because (and I quote my original Facebook status) there are some opportunities that only a city like London can bring. Whilst being able to walk across Waterloo bridge on my way home from lectures every day is one of those perks, I’ve been hugely blessed to be able to work for a charity called ‘Debate Mate’, in my first term, with the work ending in April 2015. Debate Mate is so much more than a catchy name- its a charity doing amazing work in several of the major cities in the UK. As a mentor, my job is to go into schools and teach kids how to debate. Having never debated myself, this has been a bit of a journey and experience, BUT working with the same kids each week and seeing them grow is so rewarding. During the first session, they all put their hand up to say that they were afraid of public speaking- but now, with a couple of weeks until our first competition, they are amazing, and I couldn’t be more proud. For me, working for Debate Mate has been an amazing opportunity that has helped me get into schools, experience teaching first hand, and has confirmed that educating people is something I am hugely passionate about. Debate Mate is also only operating in schools where kids don’t normally get these kinds of opportunities, so giving them these amazing opportunities that they would otherwise go without makes it even more amazing! For the record, if you are reading this and you’re a student in either Birmingham, London, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham or Bristol, check out their website to find out how you could be involved next year. I honestly cannot recommend it enough!!

5) In a city like London, community is important. 

One of the great things I have learnt about London, is that, if you’re having a bad day, it is so easy to escape in a place other than your bedroom. In a capital city like London, you can easily get lost for a few hours and have absolutely no chance of running into someone you know. I learnt this the other day when I went shopping alone in Covent Garden- (yeah, I didn’t think I’d ever be doing this either). Whilst this is a great thing about London, I can imagine sometimes it is very easy to become isolated- something which I felt a lot in my first few weeks here when I still had no clue what I was doing. Now, one semester in, i have been blessed with a lovely group of people. Both those I live with, my friends in the building, course friends and of course the Christian Union. Leaving my friends at home behind has been, and continues to be hard- but I learnt that you have to let life go on and move along with it, otherwise you’ll spend all your time wishing you had something you don’t and ruining the opportunities in front of you. If you had told me even a year ago that I would be living in central London and actually managing to get myself around, I would have laughed in your face, and yet here it is, a reality. A strange, exciting, exhausting and beautiful reality. I honestly could not imagine myself now at University anywhere else.

So there you go, some brief reflections on my first term, and to finish here’s a quote that couldn’t possibly be more relevant right now.

Wherever you are, be all there-
Jim Eliot

Merry Christmas all,
Madailein x

Central London living- One week in


What a crazy few months it has been since I last posted- mixed with both successes and failures, both of which i’ve managed to reach the other side of! The summer of 2014 was a wonderful one- it was the first full summer in which I could drive which meant a lot more trips to the beach, and with that a lot of confusion about how to get to Wembury. I was also lucky enough to have several volunteering opportunities this year at various Christian festivals. It started in late June with ‘Clear Voices’ a Theology festival hosted by my local diocese. What an awesome weekend- I served alongside a great bunch of people, AND I got to meet and introduce Alister McGrath (crazy Theology fangirl moment). I also had a defining moment on our last night when I was reminded that the ‘academic God’ that we study in textbooks is also a personal God who reflects his heart for community directly into our own hearts when we get to share in that experience. In early July, I was a steward at a children’s festival called ‘Spree’ run by Urban Saints. This was a somewhat more sweaty experience, but in the exhaustion of hauling kayaks out of the water all day, I found a wonderful community of talented people with amazing testimonies to walk alongside, and it was overall a very humbling and encouraging experience. Finally, I ended my festival experience with a week long trip to New Wine, where I volunteered on THE best team, Gems, as a worship leader for 0-3 year olds (yep, it was a crazy experience to say the least). I also met some lovely new people within the camp I lived on, and developed existing friendships… allowing me to experience further God’s heart for community. AMEN.
Summer 2014 was also a successful one family holiday wise- as we went on a 4 day break to London and didn’t fall out once. You can tell me and Ciaran are getting older 😉

All that excitement aside, I am currently sat at 1am in my new university bedroom when I should probably be reading. The pro? I have an amazing view of the shard. The con? The reading won’t do itself. Despite this, as I move into an entirely new season of life, I wanted to reflect on the past year and what may be ahead for me. For anyone who doesn’t know, tomorrow I start my three year BA degree in Theology at King’s College London, a subject which I am hugely and unashamedly passionate about! If you had said to me even six months ago that I would be living in London I would have laughed in your face. Last time I was left to deal with the tubes alone I nearly had a panic attack (and it was only a direct tube from Kings Cross to Paddington). The big city, though it is a place of dreams and opportunities, scared the crap out of me, and still does really. However, in a crazy turn of events I made this my firm and somehow ended up here. And how blessed I am to be too. I’ll be honest, the city still daunts me hugely and I’ve had a wobbly few days of wanting to curl up into a ball and run home. BUT, I then asked myself why I am here? Because the course for Theology is amazing… and also because one day, on a bit of a whim, I felt like Kings may be the place for me.

Whenever people asked me why I picked London, I gave them the same answer: its an opportunity that I cannot afford to miss. This place is diverse, runs 24 hours a day and has so much going on that I know in three years I won’t even scratch the surface. (For the record, in the first week flat 604 are doing well- we even made it to Camden… eventually). When I really think about it though, I think it’s about more than that too- its about being put out of my comfort zone, which is definitely already happening. In March, I went through a stage of being horribly torn between Durham and Kings, though both had their pros and cons, I picked Kings because it was the dangerous option- the place where I’m more likely to get lost, feel home sick and hate it so much that I want to leave. But what does that teach me? To stick at it, to persevere, and to grow as a person in ways I never could anywhere else. In my first blog post of 2014, I reflected on St Francis of Assisi’s phrase, ‘bloom where you are planted’ and I wrote, ‘I praise God for this one final year at home, where I can keep loving, laughing and crying with my wonderful friends and family old and new’. And what a final year it was- full of development and growth through the good and the bad. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to go back and repeat it all, and have one more year x 1000000. But what do we gain from the same old routine when it’s time to move on? What do we gain from having a safety net? I know for a few weeks I may feel better if i’m at home, but I also know that Plymouth has given me a beautiful 18 years, and I’ve done what I need to do there. It will always be home, I will still be living there 4 months of the year- but now it’s time to ‘bloom where I’m planted’ right here in London. It’s scary, especially as I haven’t seen anywhere where a plant could bloom- but I’ve already started meeting new people, going to new churches and embracing my new adventure. I hope all of you can do the same. Let me leave you with one of the verses which defined my first few months of faith, and one I will always cling to.

consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything’ – James 1:2-4

So there you go, it’s hard, but also a time for new things, new people and new challenges and triumphs. Sorry it’s not more exciting. I can share ‘interesting’ fresher stories with anyone who asks!
God bless,

Madailein x

You can take the girl out of ND but you can’t take ND out of the girl

In May this year, I left school. It was definitely as surreal as I expected it to be, especially as I’ve still been going in most days to revise. However, that was the last time we would ever be together as a year group with our teachers, the people who have supported and encouraged us endlessly over the past few years. To ‘commemorate’ it, I wrote a speech about ‘The Notre Dame experience’ and read it at the leavers liturgy. I thought it would be good to post it here, so those of you who have no idea of how special ND Plymouth is can gain a little insight, and those who do can hopefully agree with the experiences we’ve had. Here goes, enjoy… and to all those in the class of 2014, thank you, its been the best seven years anyone could have asked for. 

I want to start by asking you a question, where were you seven years ago? If you were anything like me, you were wearing a skirt that was around your ankles, a tie that was so tight around your neck it nearly strangled you, and a royal blue jumper so bright it shouldn’t have been legal. Alongside that, you probably had mixed feelings of excitement and uncontrollable nervousness as you approached Notre Dame for the first time as an actual student. It all sounds very cliché, but for me, it was true. In fact, within the first few months of year seven, I told my parents I was ill because I was too scared to go in and (true story) Miss Darragh had to come out to my dad’s car and walk me into school holding my hand. I look back at this story and laugh because, the truth being told, whilst seven years ago Miss Darragh was begging me to come into school, seven years on I am pretty comfortable and she will probably be begging me to leave. I wanted to share that embarrassing story with you, because it represents for me, the way that Notre Dame has changed me. All embarrassing anecdotes aside, whilst we will spend a considerable amount of time this afternoon laughing at how unattractive we used to be and remembering the days that we thought a particular hairstyle was the best thing ever, I want you to also think about your experience at Notre Dame. For some of us, that has been seven years of sports days, enrichment weeks and food from the school canteen, whilst for some others it has been two years experiencing what for me has been the best and most stressful two years of my school life; sixth form. Regardless of the differences, whilst we have all had our own individual ND experiences, we can all say that we have had ‘THE Notre Dame experience’.

I thought the best way to sum up this ND experience was to turn to the key part of our mission statement which proudly states that Notre Dame educates the whole person; head, heart and hands. The head part of this mission statement refers not only to our academic successes, but also to our ability to work hard towards a goal and achieve it, regardless of challenges. In the class of 2014, we have 13 universities or higher education centres represented, as well as numerous gap year experiences ranging from employment to travel and volunteering. Not only this, but we also have several students hoping to go into apprenticeships and start earning money straight away in a career path that they love and are passionate about. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we have our teachers to thank in so many ways for the successes we have had through our time here; through dealing with our distaste to a particular English coursework question, to trying to support us whilst we had mental breakdowns about our futures. I hope I speak on behalf of the whole year group when I say thank you to all of you staff members here today, and those who are absent, who have invested time into helping us achieve the best that we possibly can.

Secondly, Notre Dame educates the heart of a person. Regardless of your own personal level of faith, I doubt any of you can deny the unique ethos that Notre Dame boast and the way that it individually values each one of its students. Whilst some other schools primarily focus on exam success and preparing students solely for university, the fact that Notre Dame is a comprehensive school is arguably one of its best assets. For me personally, this school has acted as anchor for my faith for four years- and whether this applies to you or not it certainly prepares us well for communicating with people in the ‘real world’, by constantly encouraging us to be better, more confident people. Just this year, I have been empowered by the message of mother Teresa in which she calls us to do small things with great love, and I hope and pray that this is something that we carry into the world with us when we depart on our separate journeys. As she also once wrote, ‘spread love wherever you go, let no one ever come to you without leaving happier’. Let’s be honest, not all of us are going to be the next prime minister (except Charly) but whether we become teachers, accountants, physicists or doctors, the compassion and faith that this school has taught us is something that we can take wherever we go. On that note, I’d also like to take this opportunity on behalf of us all to thank all of those teachers who have played any kind of pastoral role in our time here at Notre Dame, making sure that our wellbeing is about more than whether we get As. We owe our sanity to you!

Notre Dame also educates us practically through our hands. On reflecting what this meant to me, it struck me that this is a school of action. Throughout my time here, I have had many opportunities, ranging from the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme to being a member of the senior student team. Alongside my personal experiences, the school sent a team last year to Tanzania, many people were lead learners and sports leaders, and of course we have a lovely team of senior house captains. One thing that has stood out to me massively during the past seven years is the schools enthusiasm for fundraising- not only is this something I was able to benefit from, but it also demonstrates to the following year groups of ‘leavers’ both the importance of working in the community- and the joy that comes from doing exactly that. Sure, we have to sit our exams, but we’ve also always had opportunities to take part in other activities outside of lessons which have enabled us to excel in many areas, try new skills and develop ourselves as leaders- as well as helping to create hilarious memories. Of course, we have many teachers to thank for these opportunities- whether it is the PE teachers who had a pretty hard time making us feel excitement towards any sport other than bench ball, the DofE staff who watched us slave for hours over a stove for the sake of some supernoodles, or other staff in independent departments to have worked tirelessly for so long to provide opportunities for us to excel in their subjects. Thank you.


Finally, in a throwback to our childhoods, I was reminded of a quote from Winnie the Pooh and the author AA Milne who wrote, ‘how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard’. That’s how I’m feeling right now. I cant believe that it is finally time to leave, but at the same time I hope that I echo some of your own thoughts when I say that I feel privileged to have been a part of this community for seven years, and I will look back at these days, and the photographs you will see this afternoon, for many years to come. So, for now, I hope you enjoy your liturgy: sit back, relax, laugh and remember.


You give and take away.

‘The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the Lord be praised’- Job 1:21


Hello everyone! Today, whilst finally managing to escape my English coursework, I am going to share what’s been on my heart over the past few weeks. Firstly, as always, I have to briefly summarise what I’ve been up to.. I’ve sat some exams, turned 18, had some wonderful times with wonderful friends and been left home alone for a whole week. Exciting times! As mentioned in my last blog, I really feel like 2014 is a year for looking forward and being excited, not looking back and regretting a load of things.. and one of my favourite christmas gifts; a ‘one line a day’ 5 year diary has really been helping me achieve that.. Praising God for the little things (as well as the big) every day is so rewarding, as will looking back on it all in five years time… So if it is your kind of thing, I definitely recommend that you go and buy one.. or make one of your own! 

So, the verse from Job above is one which i’ve been thinking about for a couple of weeks now. The first time I stumbled across those words, i was fourteen and I was extremely new to church. Like many people my age stumbling into Christian youth groups and Sunday school, the words had little meaning to me, other than the fact that they made up the core of Matt Redman’s worship song, ‘blessed be the name of the Lord’. Even this year, the truth and conviction of that verse meant very little to me- and it was still merely a case of regurgitating worship lyrics. In fact, in all honesty, it was only last month, after being a Christian for 4 years, that I realised the important of those words. Okay, so let’s break it up. 

1) The Lord gives: Let’s face it everyone. This is the easy part. Even today I am still amazed by God’s goodness. He has chosen little old me to have an education, a lovely family and wonderful friends. On good days, we find it really easy to love God. Why? Because we accept what he has given to us.. our ‘hearts desires’ are being met, and we feel great, fulfilled, loved. 

2) The Lord has taken away: This is where it gets a bit harder. We have to slowly acknowledge that the things we desire aren’t always what is best for us. I don’t mean this in a simple or condescending way.. I’m not referring to a thirteen year old girl who is angry at God because she doesn’t have a boyfriend. I mean things that we fall in love with, things we work for, things that we set our whole lives on.
Okay, so here’s the catch. This was me, less than a month ago, waiting for  a letter in the post from Oxford university telling me whether I had been given a place or not. The other day I went back through my entries in my Jesus Journal from June (when I went on an outreach summer school to Oxford) through to August (on results day) right up until the point when I was sat in a room in Oxford unable to sleep because my interview was the next day. Needless to say, I didn’t get in. And, I can honestly tell you I thought my life was over. My first thought was, ‘what the hell am i going to do now?’ I had spent so many hours (as everyone does) crying over entrance essays, and trying to cut down 10 characters in my personal statement, I went to Oxford, met people I could have ended up living with.. ate the food (which was pretty damn good) and fell in love with it all over again… the place, the course, the opportunities I knew it would give me…. And then boooooom it was all taken away. It took a while to get over it.. sometimes when I am struggling to be motivated I still secretly say to myself, ‘what’s the point if i’m not going to Oxford?’  Eventually, with lots of prayer and perspective.. I realised. There is a life beyond my Oxford application. 

3) May the name of the Lord be praised: So, for me, this was the hardest thing to come to terms with after being rejected from Oxford, and it actually applies to a lot of things in life… in fact to every time that something goes wrong. We find it hard to praise God when things aren’t going our way. We think, why should we? What are we praising him for? This is exactly what I was thinking and I had no idea how I could get over it. Eventually, after about 2 weeks, I remembered a list that I made the night before I got the rejection letter. At that point, it could have gone any way (or at least that’s what I thought whilst I was writing it) and I decided that it would be really helpful, if I didn’t get in, to write a list of reasons why I would still praise God for taking me through the whole Oxford process. Now, my heart is happy when I look at them and realise two things. 1) They are all so true and 2) I wrote them before I knew anything- for all i knew, i could have been off to Oxford the next day. I like that thought because it makes them seem so genuine, and not built on trying to make myself feel better the day after, which is exactly why I wrote them the day before. 

a) Don’t ever think that you are not good enough. Part of me thinks it is funny to be writing that now after I didn’t get it.. but when I wrote that, it wasn’t applying to Oxford in particular. This time last year, I nearly didn’t apply for the Oxford summer school (where I met one of my dearest friends) because I didn’t think I would be good enough to get in. I guess my point is, you never know until you try… It is only in taking opportunities that we can learn things from them. God gives us great opportunities and we need to take them!! 

b) Don’t be scared of meeting new people. Okay so that one sounds pretty simple, but I can honestly tell you that the prospect of being in a situation where I had to sit and talk to and have dinner with people I had never met scared the living daylights out of me. Because of the summer schools and the interview process, I now am a lot more fearless when walking into a crowd of new people… as long as i don’t have to ask the same questions that I did at the interviews over and over again… ‘what subject are you?…. what a levels do you do?…. are you state or private?… what other universities did you apply to?’ Note to self. You hate small talk. The best part was finding a fellow theologian who I could debate with.. that was the intellectual stuff I expected from Oxford!! 

c) I love Theology: So this one, I think is the most important. I have to be honest, I read more, researched more and wrote more for Oxford than I ever would have for the other universities. I guess I felt under more pressure, and in hindsight it was a really good thing.. because I can now boldly say that Theology is the subject for me. I could talk for hours about why I can’t wait to study the bible, why I think new testament greek and hebrew are still relevant and of course, the age old question that me and Travis rehearsed in my study for far too long, ‘why do you want to study Theology?’ I guess we’ll leave that one for another day. But in short, it excites me, it’s what i’m passionate about and I cannot wait to be studying it! 

So there you go… stressed, over emotional Madailein was able to put things into perspective, thanks to a whole lot of prayer, a whole lot of perspective and a whole lot of love… as well as a big bar of galaxy bought for me by my brother… So, next time you find yourself really angry at God, try this method. Breaking it down and remembering that his name is worthy to be praised.. through the good times and the bad. And with that, i’ll leave you with a tweet I posted 2 days after being rejected.
‘there is nothing that cannot be made better by the grace of God’. 

 Madailein x 

New Year, same me.


Well, hasn’t it been a while? I can honestly say that I sat down at my laptop many a time attempting to write another blog post. But, as you can see since my last post was in April, it never quite happened! But that’s okay. To sum up the last eight months in one sentence, I sat my exams, I had an American exchange student live with me and insult my attempt at her accent,  I hosted a concert at school, I went to two summer schools, I travelled for the first time alone EVER (only on a direct train, let’s not get too excited).. I made some amazing new friends, I passed my exams, I passed my driving test, (you know what they say, all the best drivers pass fourth time) I applied to University and I started my final year of school. Of course, a lot more happened  and I know I’ll be kicking myself later for not mentioning something pretty major but that’s all for now!

I decided to call this post, ‘new year, same me’, because, as I reflected this time last year also, I think that the end of a new year and a start of new one isn’t a time to think about everything you regret but instead everything that was amazing… It’s a time to look forward not back. That being said, I did have a sentimental moment on the 1st of January when I opened up a box of memories and laughed at everything that has changed and all of the highlights that I jammed into a Yankee Candle jar on little pieces of paper. But, I actually have spent a lot more time thinking about the year ahead and all of things that it is going to bring.

In September/October, a lot of my dear friends packed up and moved out and so did my brother… moving onto new chapters in their lives.. some have gone on gap years, some are living by the beach, one went all the way to Africa and others have gone to University (which is just as cool as Africa, and definitely more expensive). It was strange at first, not just because the Youth Group was much quieter and I didn’t see them everyday, and because me and my brother no longer argued about who could shower first in the morning, but also because I found myself so frustrated. My friends were wondering  off to new places, new people and new opportunities and I was left behind. After a couple of weeks, the mountain of school work I was being given distracted me… and it’s only really tonight, after the first term of Year 13 is over, that I have come back  to this thought. I wanted to get away, not because I don’t love my hometown or my family or friends, but because I felt like there was nothing I could do in Plymouth other than sit back, get stressed and do my A levels.

As I was reflecting on this again tonight, I was reminded of a lovely little quote which simply says, ‘bloom where you are planted’…. and it made me think, that’s what I need to do. If I was ready to move out and go on and do new things, then God would have made that happen by now… But he hasn’t, and thinking about it, I know I’m not. I’ve only just managed to start reversing down my own driveway, so I don’t know if i’m ready to pack up, leave home, and drive on unfamiliar roads yet!! I know that over the next few months God is going to start preparing me to go to new places, and hold his hand and walk into a new chapter of life.. but for now I know that I’m still here for a reason, and as I wrote in my Jesus journal earlier, ‘I praise God for this one final year at home, where I can keep loving, laughing and crying with my wonderful friends and family, old and new’. 

So yes, it is a new year but it is the same me. A lot will change in 2014, I’ll be moving out, I won’t be around my family and friends everyday which I know will be the hardest challenge yet, I’m going to leave Notre Dame which (honestly) is a place so precious to my heart where I have been shown what being a Godly woman looks like and where I have been encouraged every single day, no matter what kind of mood I’m in, and of course, I’m going  to be leaving Mutley, the church I once recreated out of gingerbread, and the place where I found my faith, the place with leaders who have watched me grow and who have prayerfully lifted me up whenever I have fallen. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared.  Anyone reading this who knows me will know that I am good at freaking out… but the greatest way to deal with endings is 1) to praise God for everything these places and people have brought me and 2) to take a deep breath and be excited about what comes next. 

It sounds pretty simple, but I remember my first  term at Notre Dame. I didn’t want to be at the school, I didn’t like not being at Primary school when I was used to the system and the people.. I was scared. (There I admitted it, big old Mads was scared of school!!!) One day, my dad drove me to school and I didn’t want to get out of the car and my form tutor had to walk me into school with tears rolling down my face. I only remembered that the other day and it made me laugh. Not because I looked like an idiot, because I was only really being human, but because its a real testament to how your heart for a place can change if you give it a chance. 2014 will bring for me the new places, new people and new opportunities that I thought I was ready for last year.. but for now, I’d like to finish on some advice that one of dear friends Hollie gave me… in a letter of encouragement she wrote to me once, she simply ended by reminding me that, ‘we are all strategically placed by God to do the things that he wants us to do at that time’. 

There is no point in dwelling in the past, unless it is to look back and laugh and rejoice at all the great things or to reflect on how the not so great things have made you  a better person. Instead, be excited for the future… but, at the same time, (okay I’m bringing out a cheesy one)… live for the moment. I know God will call me to do great things because he calls everyone to, but right not, he’s calling  me here, to my hometown and the people in it,  and that’s okay with  me because its where he wants me to be. So, as my first blog post of 2014 comes to an end, let remind you again, bloom where  you are planted… because God has plans for you where you are now that are just as big and as exciting as if you were anywhere else.

2013 so far… Jesus, LA and a chicken suit

Hello all!
So, it’s been 6 weeks.. WHAT?! The past 6 weeks have been crazy.. not only has school been busy but there’s been lots going on outside of school too. I’ve been to Los Angeles… the city of the angels.. I practically touched James Franco.. (kind of not really) I went to the youth and children’s worker south west conference.. which was  a joy as I was surrounded by hundreds of people who dedicate their lives to annoying buggers like me, and… to top it all off, I walked around town dressed as a chicken to promote my Young Enterprise stall. (Yes, I did stand outside Nandos and shout murderers.. sorry!!)  Busy times. 

Now, from week one I said to myself that God 52 was never going to be a burden, and it isn’t. I honestly see this is a gift, its such a  great way to learn, struggle and ultimately grow, and I’ve  definitely seen the benefits of taking  part in each week. So, I’ll be honest.. for the past 6  weeks, I’ve turned my God 52 radar off and dug a big fat hole for work and revision.. its that time of year again.. ALREADY?!?!
However, despite not doing a great job of keeping up with God 52 recently, I’ve really realised a growth in my  relationship with God, and what more can I ask for really?  So,  I thought I’d spend what should really be my reflection on week 11 as a time to reflect on what God’s been up to in my life so far in 2013, and then (hopefully!) get back into the routine of things next week.

At the start of 2013, I started praying for God to open my eyes to the people around me, and to help me  to see that ultimately, everyone has worth. Okay, so I don’t go around thinking people are worthless, but I guess I was asking for a constant reminder that everyone is equal to God. I  was reminded of this when I attempted the challenge to outrageously love someone for the week. A couple of years ago, my youth pastor (now named Papa Steve thanks to his ordination!) was preaching and said something that struck me.

nothing you do will make God love you more, and nothing you do will make God love you less’ 

This is SO true.. whether I understand people or not, they are perfect in the eyes of God, and because of this, I really want to see people in that way. In my head, I imagined walking down the street one day and just seeing every person sparkle, like in the verse in Philippians when it  says ‘then you shine among them like stars in the sky’…. Seeing God in every person you meet is probably pretty life changing, because you realise that just as he created you,  he created them. and just as he loves you and cares about you, he loves and cares about them. This was something set on my heart by God at the end of 2012, and it has been so great learning this lesson, and just learning to love more. 

When I asked one of my friends what her new year resolution was, she told me it was just to love people more, with a genuine love like you have for your family and friends, when you are interested in what’s going on in their life and what they’re interested in. At the time, it seemed crazy to me. 
I remember thinking.. ‘oh so you’re just going to love people more? That’s like a better way of saying ‘be nicer’…. nice one’. 
But thinking about it now, its a revolutionary action. It’s one of those steps in living life more like Jesus did, because, as Papa Steve’s quote reminded me, he loves everyone, and when Jesus walked the earth, he loved people unconditionally. So.. PRAISE JESUS 😀 because this is testimony to how he is moving in my life and how God is answering prayer, which of course, reminds me of a verse I have become so dependent on recently, Psalm 37:4… ‘Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the  desires of your heart’. 
Already, when I meet new people, or see people struggling, I find it easier to take time out for them because I’ve learnt to see God in them. 
An example of this is in my school Christian Union, in the few times I’ve visited in the past couple of weeks, I have learnt so much more about the girls who attend.. their testimonies, their triumphs and their struggles and it is so encouraging to see and such a blessing to be a part of their lives. I think I’ve  spent too long ignoring the young women of faith in my school, and I’m grateful that God has woken me up to his movement through people in the school. 

Another, slightly crazier example comes from my recent trip to LA. As a group, we were in China Town and our food came by the truck load so we boxed some of it up. I wanted to give it to the homeless (there’s a lot of them in LA) and begged my teacher until he agreed. My heart was stirred so strongly for the people living in the streets that we walked past.. I wanted to talk to them and hear their stories and just try and be friendly.. but unfortunately, my teacher had the risk assessment in my his head and wouldn’t let us stop.. so it only went as far as leaving the Chinese on the corner of the street, but I guess I see where he was coming from. My point isn’t ‘oh look at me I’m a saint’ because I’m not.. it’s that, 6 months ago,  I probably  would have ignored those people all together  and focused on the amazing holiday that I was on, but  God stirred compassion in my heart just a week after a responsive prayer at the YCWSW conference and its a testimony to how he is literally transforming me from the inside out, which is so exciting .. WOOOHOOO!   
Okay so I went to see Les Miserables when it came out with a friend of mine who was seeing it for the third time and was way more excited about it than me… and one quote from the film stuck out to me, ‘To love another person is to see the face of God’. 
(Ps: Eddie Redmayne ‘s face alone makes the film… I’m just saying.. but that’s not the point)
Why is that quote so striking? Because.. it highlights a universal truth, that God literally IS love… and that’s why we see him in everyone, not only because he created them, but also because everything about them is a reason to glorify him. 
I was watching a clip from Bethel Music’s Spring tour this week, and in it Jeremy Riddle said ‘its more powerful when we give glory, then when we cry out for glory’… 
and that highlights  the journey I’m going on.. Sure, I’ve been a Christian for nearly 3 years now, but still everyday I’m learning more about surrender, more about humility, and more about living with a real heart for God, and a heart to see all people come to know him.. CRAZY! 
Also, one thing that has really encouraged me over the last 6 weeks are some words given to me once before I gave a sermon in my church. I was SO NERVOUS and I remember turning round to someone and saying, ‘how can I stand here in front of all these people who know the bible and have been Christians for longer than me and know more about Jesus?’… and they replied simply by saying ‘you know him, and that’s all  that matters‘.
I think those words will probably stay with me for a long time, because they’re an encouragement for anytime that I feel insignificant and think.. how am I supposed to tell people about Jesus?! and I really hope they encourage some of you too. 

and this leads me to my final gem. 

‘Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe’ 

Like I said, I’m on a journey. But I’m not on this alone.. I have wonderful family and friends, and a wonderful God who holds my hand through it all. Sorry for the long blog, its been a long 6 weeks…
I hope this has encouraged you.. please pray that my journey will continue to be as fruitful! 
I promise to get you a picture of me in the chicken suit next week.. (If i can find a way to get it without Facebook, I’ve logged off  for the exam period!)
God bless you all,
Madailein x 

Ps: here is a picture of me and my classmates with the  famous ‘Bob’ from Lightspeed in Bakersfield CA. . It’s kind of a big deal.. Move aside James Franco. 


Week 5&6; you’ve gotta have faith…

Hello, Happy Monday! Okay, so these past two weeks have been busy ones, and that’s why I’m sat here at the end of week 6 having not yet written the blog for week 5, whoops! Guess I’ll be squeezing it all into one blog this week.
So, week 6 already?! Time flies when you’re counting the weeks. Despite  this week being hectic, I am so glad that my youth pastor introduced me to God 52 because it has been an absolute blessing.. a challenge and sometimes a struggle, but always a blessing!

So, week 5…the challenge was to ask someone if I could pray for them. For some people, this would be easy… why? Because to be honest, there’s no shame in praying, but it can be hard to say out of the blue to someone who you know isn’t a Christian, ‘hey, can I pray for you?!’ I’ll be honest, I was scared. I knew straight away that I wasn’t going to approach some random stranger in the street, 1) because anything could happen and 2) because, quite honestly, I don’t have the nerve… and some people I can imagine would not be very impressed. I played it safe… sticking to people that I ‘roughly’ knew, and people who I knew I wasn’t likely to get abuse from. But, even this was scary. So it came to last Monday, and once again, I’d put the  challenge to the back of my mind (whoops!!) and quickly searched my phone and Facebook for the people I felt I should ask. I guess in this case, I played it very safe… behind the safety of a phone or computer screen, even if someone challenged me, I was in a safe place (probably on the sofa) and I could just get on with it without worrying about people’s reactions too much. It went well, I got a good reception from all the people that I asked, and no one hurled abuse at me. The end.
No, actually its not the end, because, on reflection, I can’t help but wonder why I was so scared. I’ve been a Christian since 2010, and in that 2 years  and 6 months(ish!) I can see that I’ve developed hugely in the confidence  that I have in my faith. I’m not afraid to say that  I’m a Christian anymore, and if someone challenges me, I no longer want to run away and hide, but feel that I can stand up for my beliefs without really worrying about what they’re going to say back.

Whilst thinking about the prayer challenge for week 5, I remembered the Mexico feedback service, when the team I went on mission to Mexico with basically put on a service  to tell the whole church about what we did, what we learnt, what we got from it etc  etc. In the evening service, I signed up to do a short ‘talk’ on a passage from the bible, the one about the sheep and the goats, around the theme of service. I was so worried about speaking in front of the church, and with minutes to go.. my youth  pastor said, ‘Hey Maddie, are you ready?’ and I replied with something along the lines of, ‘No, I’m scared’. Why was I scared? Because, to be completely honest with you, I felt like a 16 year old girl  who knew nothing .. and I thought to myself, ‘who am I to stand up in front of these people and speak to them about  God?’ When I said this to him, he simply said something along the lines of, ‘you might not know everything, but you know Jesus.. and that’s what matters’.
In week 5, this is what kept me going. If there’s one thing I’ve been reminded of, it’s that no matter what you believe, you will always find people who believe something else… but hey, as I sang with such certainty the other night, ‘there IS power in the name of Jesus’. At the end of the day, what is the worst that can happen? This week, with  the the help of the wise (not so old) Steve, I’ve remembered that God is totally in control, and that I shouldn’t feel shame whilst trying to ‘expand the kingdom’ but instead, joy and excitement… because who knows what will happen when he’s got the reigns? To any of you reading this who have found this week hard, or who would find  it hard to speak to anyone about your faith, don’t worry.. you could be surprised. I’ve had amazing conversations with people, and even made completely new friends thanks to conversations about God. We should live by it and not be ashamed, and although of course  I appreciate that is easier said than done in the society of today, God  is with us all the way, and his love never fails.

Then came week sixand the challenge was to listen to a speaker giving an opinion on a topic different to your own. Once again, I have to put my hands up and say  that I haven’t done a great job of this one.. I couldn’t really think of  any particular area  that jumped out at me, and last night I was desperately trying to think of something to  tackle and I thought to myself.. why rush? When something pops into my mind, I will tackle it, but at the moment I’m actually quite content. Like everyone, I’m surrounded by people who don’t share  my views, and because of this, I’ve learnt to appreciate other people’s views. I can’t lie.. I still find views about women not being in leadership in church a load of rubbish, but that’s just my opinion. I’m not really qualified to argue because I guess I don’t really know any of the theology behind this type of thing, but what I do know, is that I am surrounded by women who have made a wonderful impact in my life because of their strengths in leadership, and also in my own church and other local churches, women are very much leading the way, and, in my opinion, doing a fabulous job of it. Like I said, I don’t know the Theology of it all, but the idea that women should stay silent in church seems crazy to me, sometimes.. its hard to shut me up.. So I guess I haven’t been very good at this challenge…. but, for now all I can say is, we’re all Christians who are following the same God. Regardless of how we interpret the bible, one thing I know, and one thing my dad pointed out to me today, is that Christianity is rooted in love and forgiveness, and I guess that’s definitely one thing that will never change.
I’m sorry this has been a bit scatty, busy weeks = tired Maddie, but full steam ahead!!
God bless you  all! x