Old Friends and Social Faux-Pas

I feel like Barney from How I Met Your Mother, but instead of dragging Ted around the local bars, I carry hypothetical reading material into any situation, trying to match-up one of my loves with another human being.

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People watching is the height of entertainment for me and, for varying reasons, the past month has seen my social calendar packed. Meeting all of the new people has been somewhat entertaining, as well as terrifying. Therefore, when I look back over the past few weeks, I sub-consciously realised that there are a few set-things I do when confronted with new people;

 

  • Analyse: Everything that I can see from body language or physical appearance, hear from their language or dialect, and feel with my gut-instinct. Trust me, I don’t do this to feel superior, or for the lols, but because it really does interest me. Everything about every person on this earth is different. Yes, some traits we share, picking them up from the environments and cultures we come from; but on the whole, everyone is different in their own special way. By looking at these differences and breaking them down internally, I am able to familiarise myself with the ‘idea of other’. This ‘idea of other’ is something that I use to cope in all social situations. We all see the world as ‘us and them’: the ‘idea of other’ simply helps in understanding that we all have flaws that we don’t want others to see fully into.

crowds

  • Kick into Hyper-Drive: My sentences merge into one long stream of consciousness. All words get jumbled together in one long stream of internal panic. After all, what does one say when meeting someone new? If one is quiet, then awkwardness descends, like a cloud over the top of an already misty mountain. If one is talkative, the other person will label you as crazy and therefore run away as soon as possible. I am super aware that I fit under the latter. Motor-mouth-101 kicks in, and I will spew whatever comes into my head. As human nature and social skills promise, conversation will turn to things we find ourselves secure in: loves, passions, achievements, or interests that the talker lands on-top of the talkee’s shoulders. Thus, it sounds like I am boasting, or worse, being a self-righteous snob whenever I get going.

After all, who else has enjoyed reading Aristotle.    books2.0

No one.

I have met no one who has ever read Poetics outside of ENG341, who has done it for pleasure.

  • Churn it over: Taking everything that has been said and processing it to the nth degree. This will be done in great detail, and served with a twinge of regret. Regret, not for meeting the new person, but for dominating the conversation. I want to be curious without being nosey, yet not everyone wants to or feels able to partake in small talk. Apparently, the knack of small talk is to ask questions; but what happens when you are asking questions and getting one word replies? Tell me, oh wise etiquette people of the internet. What do you do then? So, I spend the rest of the day, maybe even into the next (week), thinking about different ways I could have been a better conversationalist. Being a little annoyed that I was provoked into Motor-Mouth-101 by the silence and then continue to churn over the conversation, trying to understand just how on earth I have managed to survive in this social stratum for so long and not be pin-pointed as a complete narcissist?

 

Now, there may be a person or two reading this shaking their heads; wondering ‘how Nesta, after all we have been through, are you still being introspective when it comes to meeting new people?’

Tell me how to stop doing items number 2 and 3, then I will: I promise.

To be honest, this is a frightfully long introduction into the main body of this post today, which is, that whenever I start Motor-Mouthing-101, my immediate subject with a new person is:

‘So, do you like books?’

I feel like Barney from How I Met Your Mother, but instead of dragging Ted around the local bars, I carry hypothetical reading material into any situation, trying to match-up one of my loves with another human being.

One of these favourites is called Flambards by K.M. Peyton.

No one has ever heard of it.

And when I say no one, I really mean that.

flambards

OK, a friend from school bought me the book for my birthday about ten years ago, and it was so sweet of her. But the reason for her buying the book wasn’t that it was my favourite; it was because there was a horse on the front cover.

Prizes to the first one to message me confirming what type of 11-year-old I was.

So anyway, I always ask ‘What do you like to read?’.

For some inexplicable reason, this kind of question always throws people. It’s almost like they have social skills and have practiced other forms of commutation with each other, at some type of institution, where grown up people teach things like Maths, or Science, or English, or social skills.

Not that there is a lesson plan for such benign things as human interactions, but I clearly remember daydreaming through my playground days. Wandering around pretending to be Elizabeth Bennet, quoting letters from Darcy, and dancing a quadrille (on my own) was far easier than talking to other people. Or worse, playing 1-2-3-tippy.

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Due to said daydreaming, I don’t really know what to do when I meet new people. I’m still learning. At 22, it still frightens me: the idea of getting to know new people, making new relationships and starting new projects with said people. It is daunting.

Anyway, due to ‘So, do you like books?’ I have realised that I must be in the minority. I am not being elitist, or snobby, or snooty, when I say this. Books and reading have just dropped as popular media in the twenty-first century. Not that they aren’t being read: in fact, book sales have beaten e-books in their popularity since 2016 – #itsallaboutthataesthetic.

When I say that ‘I like a good book’, I mean it. Every part of it will enthral me; the smell, the plot, the characters, the narrative, the feel, the feels… all of it. A good book and a cup of tea does wonders for any time I am feeling blue.

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It then makes me a little sad when someone tells me that they don’t like books.

Not that I’d ever force a book on someone who wasn’t a big reader. But it makes me sad to think that they will never know the joy of opening up to a dearly beloved book, to delve into characters’ lives in ways we never can in real life. For example, no one has ever been able to share with me the heart break I experienced, aged 15, when a certain death happened in the Flambards series.

There is no spoiler alert here for I am not revealing anything. No sir. You may go and read, or listen to, or watch the TV series, but I am staying mute. For it felt like a friend had died.

This is what happens when you get invested into the life of a character. You become emotionally attached. As a person who finds emotions hard to show therefore, reading becomes a little outlet for me. It then keeps me sane as I use my over-active hyper-driven brain to analyse the text, rather than something else that I struggle a lot with: myself, as a person.

Reading, then analysing, and then thinking about a text really helps me to cope with the inside of my head. It may be a surprise, as I am not one of the unusually gifted of the world, that there is quite a lot going on up there. I find it hard to stop, take a break, to switch off.

In fact, switching off is my worst nightmare. Doing nothing while thinking about nothing is awful. I can’t do it.

How do I relax then?

Simple.

I read.

That’s why I love reading, books, my course, driving, people watching… all of it. It all helps me to relax. Keeping my mind busy helps me to keep calm. Oxymoronically, doing nothing stresses me out, while having a ‘little project’ relaxes me.

This post is a bit up in the air. But if you take anything away from here, let it be this: do more of what you love. I’ve been wired in a way that makes the way I read a social situation, incredibly similar to the way I read a book. God made me this way. Yes, I can pray, and yes, I can worship and read the Bible: but when push comes to shove, ‘whatever you do, do it all for God and His glory’ for me means doing what I love to do. There are desires in my heart, good ones placed there by my good Father. He knew what He was doing when He wired me up to be a nostalgic-realist-dreamer of a girl, who loves music, and being in her own world.

He knows what I love.

And He loves watching me do it.

Do more of what you love: it’s what we were created for. It may be hard at times, we may need help, but ultimately, as my La (my grand-father) says;

 

‘Do the work that’s nearest,

Though it’s dull at whiles,

Helping when you meet them,

Lame dogs over stiles’

  • Charles Kingsley

 

 

As always,

Love,

Nesta

 

 

 

Did You Just Assume My…

In our world today, we want to know the depths of everyone, including ourselves, as an individual. This is manifested in many mediums – social media, blogging, our jobs, hobbies etc – yet all comes down to one thing…

I wonder what your personality type is? According to the Myers Briggs model, there are sixteen combinations in total. Each Type is labelled under a Role of similar personalities. For instance, the Role that my Type belongs to is called Diplomat and within that, my Type is the Mediator. The personalities of the Diplomat Role are; INFJ, INFP, ENFJ, and ENFP.

When I first did the Myers Briggs test, I didn’t think that anyone had ever explained myself to me, in such a empathetic, logical, informative, and accurate way. Introverted didn’t come as a surprise at all. It just means that I recharge my batteries on my own, away from loads of people, rather than the common misconception of introverts: which is that we don’t like people.

Intuitive (the N of INFP), basically means that in most things I face, instinct will kick in. Coupled with strong Feeler and Perceiver traits, this means that there’s a lot going on under the surface, especially when it comes to the imagination. It also means that I enjoy people watching and reading body language. Don’t be freaked out if you catch me staring at you, and don’t be surprised when I will sometimes jump to the wrong conclusion if signals are mixed.

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Myers Briggs 16 Personalities

So basically, you now know me.

Or do you?

In our world today, we want to know the depths of everyone, including ourselves, as an individual. This is manifested in many mediums – social media, blogging, our jobs, hobbies etc – yet all comes down to one thing: identity.

We love to label ourselves with our different identities:

“I’m INFP.”

“I am female.”

“I am tall.”

“I like reading.”

“I like boys (preferably grown up ones).”

“I am musical.”

Get the picture? Our likes become who we are, or who we want to be seen as, or associated with. And so often we allow these things, these single attributes, to become our whole identity. For example, based on these statements, this is how I would dress with identity in mind: comfortable – because I can see that other people find it easier to be around someone who is comfortable #INFP – feminine, yet with that cool, basic edge that shows I think for myself (#bookbaes) and sure, I’ll grab that beanie to protect the headphones I’ll be wearing for most of the day, as it helps me to study/hide from the world.

It’s a lame example, but you should get the picture. We identify with the things we like, are or are talented in. These then, become our identity, and that is quite stressful when

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Y’all know I love to read, right? 

you think about it. When you tie up who you are in the ideas you have, you begin to lose yourself. It’s metaphysics; once you take away the possibility of the physical and solely push into the meta, you begin to lose the thread of reality. You lose the thing that was definite and wander into the surreal.

Also, whenever we try live in one identity, life itself becomes blinkered. You don’t want to see anyone else’s point of view because what if it changes you? You’d then be back to square one again: minus the identity you had idolised without realising it.

It’s easy to idolise an identity. To put all we have into it.

Personally, it’s really easy to clip a ‘English student’ tag onto my jacket as I run into uni every day. Frankly, because I am not your average person, I could go so far to idolise my course, living from one day to the next excited to be there, thrilled by my work (I do love it and I know that’s not normal, let’s move on), and stressing in the library at how much hasn’t been done that week. It is an idol which I have had to hand back to God, over and over and over again because while it is a good thing, uni isn’t god. I don’t get peace, love, provision, or identity from my university, or my course.

As a Christian, as a son and heir, as a daughter, as a lost sheep, I know in my head that God gives me all the good things I have and am. But I struggle in my heart to realise that my identity is not in the things I can see on earth; it’s in Him. Hebrews 11 says that faith is the ‘assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.’

So, my identity is in Someone, Something, that I can’t see?

OK. Cool.

This idea of identity has been coursing through my head for over a week now. I can’t seem to get away from it. This post feels different to other ones I’ve written on here in the past months, as I am using it as a processing station. I have thought and talked it out to myself, walked, pondered, and prayed. Still I struggle to work out how to fathom it. My identity is in God, in the Trinity, in Christ’s death on the cross. What does that mean? What does it look like?

I know I need to spend more time reading about this and praying about it too, but for now, here are just a few thoughts. It’s Friday night and this may be heavy, but bear with, it can all be done with a cup of tea to take away the blues.

Sonship: For years, I struggled with Paul’s letters in the New Testament. I constantly thought ‘why is he so down on women all the time? Cultures may be different, but you can’t say “love others” and just ignore women, or say that they aren’t as important as men.’ This opinion was truly overhauled this summer.

Paul was being radical in the use of the word ‘sons’. Sons could inherit all that their fathers left for them; sons owned the promise they had received and they worked hard in preparation with the Father for the time that the land would be theirs. When Paul, throughout his letters to the early church, referred to sons he wasn’t over-looking women: he was setting a new precedent in society. Women were equal to men in the promises God had given through Christ; salvation, eternal life, forgiveness, love, to name but a few. Women could inherit. Women could be in a relationship with God as their loving Daddy, who would leave them everything, give them anything, provide what is good eternally.

In such a gender-fluid society of the 21st century, this concept should still be as radical as it was then: our gender doesn’t change, we don’t become men. But as sons in the kingdom, we have a place. We have an acknowledged place beside Jesus in heaven. We are above angels. We are inheritors to the kingdom. Both genders, equally. And this equality doesn’t come down to how strong we are, or our careers, or how much better one sex is than the other. This equality is founded on the fact that we were all lost. The Bible doesn’t say the opposite to ‘saved’ is ‘unsaved’: the opposite to saved is ‘lost’.

sheep

We were lost. But God wanted us to be found. He went looking, and looked everywhere for us. He adopted us into His family. We are no longer on the outside looking in, but with Him, looking out for others who are lost. We were full of sin and now, through Christ’s death and resurrection that paid the wages of sin for those who are now found, we can stand as equals as sons in the inheritance of God. This inheritance can mean different things for different people, I think, as the relationship between God and individual beings is different. It’s personal, it’s a relationship. So, we are sons.

Daughters: We’re also daughters and I want to be bold in saying this; girls and boys can be daughters. If ‘son’ is a word synonymous with inheritance and provision in the Bible, then with ‘daughter’ it should be with ‘protected,’ ‘cared for,’ ‘prayed over,’ and ‘surrounded by God’s love.’

I myself am a daughter. It’s actually a beautiful thing to be, when you think about it. I’ve never been one of those girls that is soppy in the relationship with her Daddy. In fact, we are the same person. He just happens to be male, a physicist, and twenty-seven years older than me. This sparks some embers when we are tired, or having an argument, but it also means that we understand each other pretty well. I know that if I am in trouble, one way or another, I’m good to run towards him, and know that he will help in any way he can. It means too, that as his daughter, he prays for me; that I’ll keep walking with the Lord, that He will help me when everything gets hard, and that I’ll keep dancing with Him in the Spirit. As his daughter, as Philip’s daughter, he will be the one walking me up the isle someday, to hand me over to a guy who is up to his standards (and they are high standards) and as his daughter, I know that I am loved by him, no matter what I do. Doesn’t God do this with all of us? Doesn’t He protect, love, care, surround, and defend us? If sonship is radical adoption into the family of God, then being a daughter is the reality of that radical adoption: once adopted into God’s family, you are loved and protected.

Sons and daughters of the King of kings.

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Gender is a big conversation at the minute. Not one that I am comfortable talking about, but nonetheless, I go into uni every day and someone wants to talk about gender. To be honest, and half of the two-people reading this will be cross when I say this, but I think that if you’re born with the equipment, then you can’t change it. But that doesn’t mean that I hate anyone who does struggle with their gender-identity. The total opposite. Because I have been radically loved, I want to love radically.

Can I leave you with one final, random thought?

Sons and daughters, male and female, both are universally ‘lost’. You can’t find yourself when you are lost. One is not more lost than the other, as both are lost. There isn’t a scale of ‘lost-ness’, nor will the person who is least lost will be found soonest. Lost is a state of being, as is found. Once found, there is nothing that you can do, or I can do, to make you more- or less-found. So, can we stop taking each other down? We are equal in our lost-ness and our found-ness.

We both have individual qualities, and we both are human.

We both are being called out too, and we both don’t want to hear what our rescuer is shouting.

We both can choose to remain, and we both can choose to be found.

We both can love. Because we have both been loved, radically.

 

Love,

Nesta

The Green Sofa of Dreams

If it’s fools that dream, count me among them. But I don’t think it’s foolish to dream. Belief in a definite outcome may be foolish, but dreaming in-its-self is a gift.

Does anyone else have a rabbit-hole experience when it comes to Pinterest? You go on to check up on a new look or for cooking inspiration and suddenly it’s two hours later. Not only have you stalked all of the new and exciting things happening in Etsy, but you probably have three new boards, each boasting 100+ new pins.

If you haven’t been caught down the rabbit-hole of Pinterest, then you’ve probably been down the burrows of Facebook, Instagram and, the most labyrinthine of them all, YouTube.

It happens. It’s OK. We’re moving on.

On that note, please no judging from anyone when I admit that last Friday night, while relaxing on the sofa, enjoying rest that is reward enough after a long week in the library, I added one new board and (what felt like) hundreds of new pins. The super-good people out there will now say, ‘But isn’t Pinterest coveting on a massive scale?’ Answer: I have no idea, but as all things were created for good, I’m going to keep pinning.

Because this time, I have hit on a project that deserves to be pinned: my nest egg.

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A nest-egg is just a sample of ideas and possibilities for homes that may, or may not, exist in the future. We’ve all done it in some shape or form: roving around Dunelm, colour matching fabrics, wandering around Ikea saying that ‘one day all of this shall be mine’, or simply watching Grand Designs and commentating on the things you would do differently.

My new board is technically a ‘sub-board’. This means that it could be in the muthaboard called ‘Decor’ but I have designated it with it’s own special board: mit hus. ‘Mit hus’ simply means ‘my house’ in Danish, which due to an obsession with anything that comes from Scandinavia, suits me perfectly. Minimalism, coupled with contemporary architecture, different materials and textures, and a medley of oak coupled with polished concrete. Just thinking about it sends chills of joy up and down my spine.

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Everything the Scandis do, I enjoy fully. Somehow, they have managed to tap into what a house it all about: home. Recently, there’s a Swedish word (‘lagom’) that has been floating around the internet. It’s means to have just enough. Not too much, not too little, but enough. What a stunning concept in 21st century, Western life? Also, related to ‘lagom’ is the Danish ‘hygge’, the art of being cosy.

So my new sub-board was begun. The intention originally was for it to be a template of what I want my house to be like in the future. As I beavered away, finding the perfect staircase, spaces for books and a piano, I realised that I was designing a house, with other people in mind. I kept thinking, ‘Would that be safe for kids running around the place?’ or ‘What if my husband doesn’t want such a contemporary space/carbon-zero/off-the-grid house?’

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Carbon-zero, nestled into the landscape, bliss…

 

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…wood burners, double height ceilings, contemporary design.

Then I kicked into hyper-anxious-Christian-drive: ‘What if God wants me to serve in Africa? Or better than that, China? He puts people where they are out of their comfort zones, placing them where it’s challenging: after all, what’s-to-stop-Him-from-doing-the-same-here-what-am-I-going-to-do-if-my-husband-and-I-are-called-to-go-somewhere-where-I-won’t-be-able-to-have-a-green-sofa-of-dreams? What if I don’t meet someone to spend the rest of my life with? What if I’m sent out to do mission on my own?’

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The Green Sofa of Dreams from Anthropologie

*Deep breath.*

But then, waking up this morning, I realised something. Whatever happens, whoever I marry, if my dream of a PhD doesn’t work out or if I can’t have kids, won’t it be for God’s glory and my good? Isn’t that a good thing? Why am I worrying about the material when there’s way more to life than that? Why do I need to concern myself with finding a life-long partner when I am only 21? After all, He has created me. He knows what I need and exactly what I can do with the gifts He’s created me with.

itdoesnotdotodwellondreams
– Albus Dumbledore –

We are allowed to dream. We’ve been designed to dream big. To climb mountains, to explore new places, meet new people, and at the end of the day, to come home to love whoever is there. But there’s a reason we have been given dreams: they’re given to us, to hand back to the One who gives us the desires of our hearts. Our lives should not revolve around trying to make the dreams come true, but in living out lives in light of the greatest Truth. John chapter three verses fifteen to seventeen say;

‘Everyone who looks up to Him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life. This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, His one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending His Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.’ (MSG)

In that light, who cares whether I can sit on my Green Sofa of Dreams with a cup of tea from my favourite mug in ten, twenty or fifty years from now? It doesn’t even matter if that particular dream never happens. Because that’s what dreams are about: imagining a future we have no control of. Yes, there are decisions we make and places we will go, but these are not what guide us. Or direct us. Or help us.

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This sounds super desperate and I should get out more, but I met a guy recently. He probably can’t remember my name, and he more than likely has a girlfriend. His heart is for the Lord and he seems so sound.In men too, I prefer a Scandinavian steryotype; tall, fair and… well, you can probably just Google the rest for visuals. In any case, this exact person is ‘my type’. And yet, while I may dream and wonder and think, ‘Is this the guy I will get to live in mit hus with?’; it doesn’t really matter. Because no matter how great this Dream-Boat-Guy is, he’s not going to measure up to the one I’ll get to spend the rest of my days on earth with. Even though I have my plan, God’s one is better.

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Pinterest, for me, is a field of dreams.

 

‘Here’s to the fools who dream’ said LaLa Land. I am a fool then. My imagination is wired so, that I love to dream. To dream and believe that some good will happen everyday. To imagine great things that plumb the depths of my heart, heartbreak as well as happiness.

I say, keep dreaming.

Keep pinning.

Love. Always.

 

Nesta xx

Scones, Meringues and Yummy Th’angs

Hey everyone,

This is a quick little post. I’ve realised that recently I haven’t been posting up many recipes. Maybe it’s because I go crazy with the stuff life is pitching, but it’s no real excuse. So here are a couple of great go-tos: not only are they the best for cobbling together within an hour or two, but they guarantee smiles all around.

Also, sorry that there aren’t any images. My camera isn’t the best and the quality didn’t do them any justice. And they are just recipes from other books that I always use. So, in a way they’re not really ‘mine’ but when you make anything, you make something new.

Sultana Scones

  • 225g/8oz self-raising flour
  • 75g/2oz cold butter
  • 30g/1oz caster sugar
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 60g/a good handful of sultanas
  • 1 egg
  • extra milk on hand
  1. Heat the oven as high as it goes (c.220 celsius). Pull out two greaseproof trays.
  2. Put the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Cut and rub in the butter.
  3. Add in the sugar and sultanas. Stir.
  4. Beat the egg in a separate bowl. Add to scone mix. Stir. If the mix is being too crumbly, add little drops of milk until the scone mix comes together into a dough.
  5. Turn onto a floured surface and gently roll dough roughly an inch thick.
  6. Use an upturned up, if you don’t already have a cutter. Cut the dough into scones and place on the tray.
  7. OPTIONAL: you could egg, or milk, wash the tops of the scones to give them a nice shine.
  8. Put the scones into the oven for 10-15 mins. If your oven cooks unevenly, then turn the trays around half way through.
  9. The scones should be golden brown on top. If you want to check that they’re cooked, poke a hole into their centre with a skewer (or sharp knife): if it comes out clean than they’re cooked. If not, then give the scones a couple of minutes more. A GREAT TIP here is from my great Aunty Nesta (who is not only my namesake, but a total whizz in the kitchen) — if the bake – scone/cake/buns/etc – are just there but you don’t want to burn them with extra cooking, turn the oven off and leave the bakes in for a couple more minutes.
  10. Put the cooked scones on a cooling rack.

Best enjoyed warm with some jam and butter or cream.

If you are gluten free or dairy free, this works really well with the alternative flours. Just make sure that for gluten free you use 1tsp of xanthan gum to bind the mix, and to use a little more milk to help the mix along – GF flour takes more moisture than normal flour. For dairy free, use a bit more DF butter than this recipe says (about 90-100g) as there’s not much fat in the spread to make the scone short enough that it doesn’t become a cake.

(recipe from The Belfast Cookery Book, Margaret Bates, Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1967, p.158)

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Muscovado Sugar Meringues

These are simply, brilliant.

  • 4 egg whites
  • 150g muscovado sugar
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • double cream (to serve)
  1. Heat the oven to 140 degreesC (120 for a fan oven).
  2. Prepare two greaseproof trays.
  3. Separate the egg whites from the yolks – they can be used to make a custard or ice-cream on another occasion!
  4. Beat the egg whites in a kitchen aid.
  5. When they start to form into soft peaks, start to add in the mixed sugars. Go slowly as this will keep in the air, allowing the meringues to rise well in the oven.
  6. When the sugar is in with the eggs add the tsp of vanilla essence. Fold it in.
  7. The egg whites should be in soft, shiny peaks: if you rub the mixture between two fingers, it should feel silky with no bumps.
  8. Spoon, or pipe, the meringue mix onto the greaseproof paper/tray. Aim for the mix to be no bigger than the palm of your hand.
  9. Place into the oven and cook for 1-1.5hrs, even to 2hrs depending on your oven. You will know when they are done, because they will be; a) a beautiful deep golden colour, and b) easy to lift off from the baking parchment. However be careful, as they can be delicate.
  10. Serve with double cream, that has been whipped until it is stiff, but not over-whipped, and some berries or sauce or ice cream; whatever you fancy.

This is a Mary Berry recipe, but as I have made these so often, I can’t remember which book they’re from.

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James Martin’s Parkin

Parkin isn’t something that we eat much in Ireland, but it’s a big thing over in GB when it’s Bonfire night (5th of November). Dad especially likes when I make this, as it reminds him of his childhood in South Wales. James says to make it a few days in advance to allow the flavours and texture to mature. I defiantly agree with that, but if you can’t wait it tastes pretty good to me fresh out of the oven with a cup of tea.

  • 225g/8oz self raising flour
  • 110g/4oz caster sugar
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 egg
  • 200ml/7fl oz milk
  • 55g/2oz butter
  • 110g/4oz golden syrup
  1. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2. Line a 22cm/8in tin.

  2. Sieve the flour, sugar, ginger and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl.

  3. In a small pan gently heat the butter and syrup until melted.

  4. Beat the egg into the milk.

  5. Gradually pour the butter and syrup into the flour and stir. The mixture will be thick.

  6. Pour in the egg and milk and stir until smooth and pour into the lined tin.

  7. Bake for about an hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

It is pretty much word for word off the BBC’s GoodFood Website, but you can never go wrong with that.

*

It’s a pretty random selection to be honest, but they are classics that deserve to be made. Especially when we come into autumn and winter, we can just hibernate in savoury comfort food, forgetting that sweet stuff can be made in the colder months as well as in the summer.

I hope that you’ll give these a go. They honestly are a heap of yummy th’angs.

 

Nesta xx

An Open Letter

Summer 2017: Encounter and Livewire decommissioning update

Dear Greenisland Baptist,

                                                It’s that time of year again folks and due to my dedication (obsession) to university, I will be long gone by the time de-commissioning happens. Added to this, my best friend has upped-sticks and graduated taking with her all of the paraphernalia needed for filming a video, telling you all about this summer’s antics. Ergo, you must excuse the letter; it’s length, vocabulary and spelling errors will have to suffice for now. The length, well, I apologise in advance. After all, as an English student, I have a wordy-reputation to keep up.

            To be honest, I think I could give you all a detailed seminar about this summer. Actually, no, not just a seminar: a lecture with funky power-point techniques, videos, diagrams, pie-charts… the full monty. Not just because it has been a crazy summer filled with awesome people and banter-filled times: but because this summer, I have been blessed while watching a building site, called the Kingdom of God, in full swing. I may have been using my hands, talents, skills and knowledge to serve His purposes (Ex4v2) but it was made so much easier with the people among whom I was serving.

            The thing with short term mission is that, so often we feel like the blessings only reach ourselves and that we ‘haven’t done much’ for the missionaries we work with. It’s easy to feel guilty and inadequate. But this isn’t what God feels when we serve in any capacity. He is working with, through and in us. It doesn’t matter what we feel we have done, compared to what He has done and will do. On that side note, let me tell you all about the teams which you all helped to support me in: Encounter and Livewire.

            Encounter is a programme run by Christians Unions Ireland (part of IFES) and Serge (an American mission organisation). For the month of June into July, this is an opportunity for Irish and American students to join together, and do a course on

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Encounter 2017

discipleship and leadership within the student communities we are a part of. The first two weeks contain the taught part of the course, with instruction from CUI and Serge members of staff. This consists of a programme called ‘Free: to Love’ and a manuscript study of Galatians. Alongside this teaching, the interns (i.e. the students attending) receive mentoring from missionaries belonging to either CUI or Serge. Between these mentoring sessions, the reflections, seminars; to the bonding sessions we all had over the beautiful Greystones scenery and food provided by authors of Avoca’s cookery book, there was a pretty happy group of us.

 

The most beautiful thing about these two weeks was the fellowship we all shared together. ‘But Nesta,’ you may be saying, ‘How could you all get on so well together after only a few days?’ The answer: I have no earthly clue, but I know that God had a big part in it. Mike Ewan asked me to send him a few prayer points for the whole summer and 21078369_1476824175745889_7041986520363573386_none of my biggest ‘worries’ was the relationships that we would share as a team in Encounter. Relationships are always a big one for me as I don’t find it easy to be sociable, or get to talk to people whom I have never met before. God, in His grace and goodness, answered that prayer point in every single relational situation I was put in this summer, and made the whole experience one focused on Him, not on whether I needed to take another time out from people. Praise the Lord greatly for this, as He is greatly to be praised! Through these relationships, it was clear to see the work and heart of the Lord on an international scale. The fellowship we all shared as a team, with the people surrounding us on our O-Teams and then later on in the summer, was a beautiful reminder of the community in which we dwell, living life to the full.

            Those two weeks in Greystones were not all hunky-dory, as much as I’d love to portray them to be. Frankly, the challenges from God and His word were overwhelming. The deep nature of His love and grace was pressed into wounds I have nursed for years and for the first time in a while, I learned what being set free, to love, truly means.

            They were two weeks in heaven. Our ‘anthem’ became a song which is little known anywhere else, called ‘We Will Feast in The House of Zion.’ This was our heart as

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‘Y’all do everythin’ together’

a community of a believers, one that called us to radically love each other; to step out of our normal and share this microcosm with sixteen others. One of the American missionaries turned around in wonder one day: ‘You guys are just… if one of y’all want to go down to the beach, y’all go down together; if one of y’all wants to play volleyball, y’all go and play the most crowded game ever: and if one of y’all isn’t feeling ok, y’all just try your best to pray with them and love them the best that God gives you. Isn’t that incredible?’

He summed it up nicely: we loved each other because we were being changed by the love that God has for us. As we went into our O-Teams (outreach teams) our anthem changed from proclaiming that one day we would feast in the house of Zion, to assuring ourselves that, in Jesus, we were feasting in His goodness right here on earth. God helped us to see that all of His loving goodness being poured into us, isn’t meant to be contained. We have to get out and share it with others. To encourage the tired to dance in the Spirit, to help the lost see Jesus and His Father’s salvation gospel for the first time, and to ‘go into all the world to make disciples’ (Matt28:19).

 

            With that, we went on O-Teams. I was, after numerous team combination-options, sent out to serve on the Liberties team with two of my room-mates from the past fortnight. Jes, our wise and balanced leader, Caitlin, Gabby and I all headed into Dublin

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Liberties Team (a.k.a. Chicken Soup)

and Bray, to work with several ministries that Bruce and ‘Pastor Noel’ had set up for us. Little did we know that those first few days would be the most trying experience of the summer. Not because working with Light House, the homeless ministry, was taxing; neither was the travelling-community in Bray; nor the soup runs through the heart of Dublin, to the soundtrack of bog-standard Irish-missily-rain: oh no.

 

We arrived during the week of Summer Fire, a Christian conference down in Cork. In true Irish fashion, making my Irish-cockles glow deep within my heart, no one knew what we were doing. Even better than that, we had American ministry leaders in one of the ministries, who weren’t too sure of us during our first day in Dublin. But God, in His grace and mercy helped that awkward situation; just as He helped the American gals in

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Love y’all really

the O-Team adjust to the concept of Irish ‘time-keeping’ and me with some USA culture shock. It really is weird being surrounded by Americans alone in Dublin for five days. Ultimately, the whole culture-difference-issue all made us rely on Him for everything we needed and this was a beautiful lesson to learn.

 

 

             The whole experience of O-Teams can defiantly be described as heaven-on-earth. Thanks to the accountability and prayers from the CUI/Serge leadership, we didn’t once have a major fall out. The end of every day was wrapped up with a bit of ‘Good/Bad/Godly’. This ‘game’ became a tool that allowed us to appreciate our human limitations, and God’s limitless love.

I have crammed a diary full of tales from every day, and will probably share most of them with you in the future. For now, I just want to say that if this sounds intimidating – going out to serve, in a team you know not much about and in a ministry that you never had imagined working with – then you may join the club and help with the design of t-shirts. I was terrified, worried, scared, anxious… pretty much a mess at thinking of the thousands of ways I would screw up over the fortnight.

But God; He always managed to take my chin and pull it towards His face. ‘Look at me,’ GraceHe’d say, ‘See I have overcome the world. Would I send you out in it if I knew you couldn’t handle it? In fact, you can’t handle any of it, so take that worry and give it to me. For I know what I am doing and I am going to use you. Your hands will be my hands. My heart and eyes will be guiding you every second of the day. They’ll all hurt at times, but it’s only because hard work hurts, and my own love for every single person on this earth, longs for them to know me. I love you and you’ll be OK chick.’

He always knows what is going on. He knows the bigger picture. And with that, He sent me into a summer of teaching that was surrounded by the call to follow. Followers don’t see, or know what will be coming around the corner; but do you know what? They follow willingly and those who stop following, stop in their tracks. We are called to follow and this was under-lined by Livewire 2017.

Livewire, according to leader-in-chief Scott McMenemy, allows a forum for churched kids to be confronted with big truths in the Christian faith. ‘We want to take cocky/over-followconfident, churched kids, Livewire leaders too, who think that they know everything,’ Scott said at the first meeting, ‘To step back and see, or think, at the wonders God has done for us; who He is and what His mission on earth contains.’ Over the past few years themes such as ‘Him,’ ‘Holy’, ‘Radical’ and ‘Gospel,’ have been examined. 2017 saw a continuation from last year’s focus on ‘Gospel’: we looked at ‘Follow: His glory, our good.’

Every morning we gathered with the punters (i.e. youth aged from 14 to 18) for a time of worship, discussion, hearing from God’s word and some response. Phil Howe, this guy who is known throughout the country for his ‘incredible’ puns, lead the teaching of the 300ish punters through five concepts; call, cost, community, creativity and character. Our call is costly, therefore God provided us with the church community for fellowship, teaching and support, we have been given gifts to work within this church and in following Jesus throughout all of these things, our characters should become more like Jesus’.

The whole week was full of blessings and challenges; from the wonderful relationships we shared as a team, to the discussions we had with our small groups, to the other activities Livewire put on in the evenings, such as the worship night and social. God’s hand was ever present in all of these things, encouraging us as leaders and reaffirming what it means to follow God in our lives. The challenges were not necessarily from the physical surroundings (praise Jesus) but from the words God was speaking over all of us, punters and leaders together. Heart matters of my own were dealt with, but the biggest challenge for me personally, was in the small group I led.

At the beginning of the week, they were so shy. Quit that: I was in standard Nesta-is-nervous-101-mode. Motor-mouth, asking the questions and hoping that with their teen

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Livewire Team 2017

senses they wouldn’t pick up how much I was bricking it. All week long I was praying, asking God, that these teen-façades would fade and that He would work in their hearts. There were only a few talkers, and when one left on the Thursday saying that he’d not be back tomorrow, a part of my insides screamed ‘Noooooo!’ But God had it in bigger and better hands. No surprises there.

During one of the last discussion group times, I asked all of them what they would carry away from this week. Not expecting much from my Mute Minions I was super prideful, worrying that I hadn’t done a good enough job, that because of my efforts they would have learned nothing. But God had been working in ways I had no idea of. One girl wanted to get properly involved in her church, to get stuck in and start serving: another wanted to know more about God, so what when her friends asked her questions, she could answer them confidently: and another one realised for the first time that week that he loved praying and that he had a massive sense of peace in his heart whenever he was talking to God… I could never have imagined that. Oh, this punter also wanted to learn how to disciple his friends. He is 14.

Talk about feeling intimidated. And humbled. Overwhelmed. Emotional. Tearful. Joyful.

Livewire 2017 was full of these sort of stories; testimonies of how God had been, and was continuing to work in the lives of these punters. Some were encouraged in their walk and others really got, for the first time, that following God isn’t just about deciding to follow that guy who taught controversial love and truth, but about actively following Him. Some took up their cross for the first time saying ‘Jesus I am a sinner. Forgive me and help me to live my life with you at the centre’: Taking part in the relationship to which we are all called. To know Him in the only way we can, personally.

God was amazing. God is amazing. I would love to tell you more, but the thought of editing these pages and starting my dissertation in a few days, frankly, is quelling. I will be posting little stories up over the winter. These will just be little snippets and remembrances, for I love a bit of nostalgia in the winter months, remembering past summers’ days.

So auf wiedersehen miene Freunde for the moment. I’ll see you at Christmas, if not before. Thank you for all of your prayers and support, especially over these past few months. Not one of them was unheard and all of them were answered in His perfect way.

God Bless,

Nesta  xx

 

 

Running

Run to Him all who are stressing and exhausted and He’ll give you all you need.

This morning I opened up my laptop, typed She Reads Truth into the search bar and started in on my reading. The current series is all about the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29). Every day the focus is on a small excerpt of this passage, with other biblical contexts and references showing the gospel and truth of what is being read. The past few days have handled forgiveness, lust and the law fulfilled by Christ alone, all three lessons that I have had to learn time and time again this summer.

Today’s topic is ‘Tell the Truth.’  How many times, when I was growing up, did my Mum say ‘tell the truth and shame the Devil’? It’s a phrase that passes through my head when I know that I am being dishonest: with others, myself or with God.

Matthew 5:33-37 isn’t a ‘sexy’ quiet time. It’s not like Jacob wrestling with God or Ruth declaring that the God of Naomi would become her God. Yet they both fit into the truth of this passage.

It says, ‘Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is His footstool […] Let what you say be simply ‘Yes,’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.’

Do we really take this seriously in our multi-activity, hyper-busy, twenty-first-century lives? When was the last time you made a plan and then broke it, because of other commitments, people or personal attitude? When was the last time you told someone ‘No sorry, I have a heap of things on my plate, I can’t do x,y, or z’? Or, when was the last time you said ‘Sure, no problem’ to a plan you knew would fall apart because you didn’t have the time or energy?

Truth is, if you’re anything like me, saying no is hard. Yes seems like the answer others want to hear. Yet, when did God call us into His family just for us to be people pleasers? When did we decide that saying ‘No’ was not holy, or pleasing to God? After all, He has said ‘No’ to all of the sin in our life. He doesn’t have a problem saying ‘No’ to stuff in my life.

When we take that line, it can feel as if God is a party-pooper. The biggest kill-joy out there. But guys, heaven is His throne, earth His footstool. Firstly, what a metaphor! Secondly, He wants what is best for us because He is a good Father. Surely, if God is saying ‘Actually, no that’s not happening,’ we should be able to accept it grace-fully and move on.

If that’s the case then why should we (I) feel guilty about not attending every single thing that is put on by the CU, or church, this semester. There is such a wide choice of ministries and times of fellowship, leading me down Guilt Trip Alleyway whenever I think about what I do and don’t have the time for. I’d love to go to everything and see everyone and do everything and be in the centre: trouble is I am in final year. I’m also quite introverted so if I spend all my time with people, then when will I fit in the rest I need? If I don’t rest then what will the quality of my work be like? What will the love of my subject end up being classified as, if I am too tired to think properly?

Christians on campus’, if you can do all the things and work well, I applaud you wholeheartedly. You are running in a way that I cannot. And that’s OK too.

This struggle I have had over the past few years – doing everything well – felt like Jacob wrestling with God (Gen32:22-32). Jacob was saying ‘No God, I can do this on my own.’ I clearly remember sitting in Sunday school thinking, ‘Huh, this guy is a numpty. Why would you ever wrestle with God and His plans? He knows best. Jacob must have been pretty thick.’ Clearly, never did I ever think I would have this senario in common with Jacob. I made myself and my actions bigger than my Saviour and lost sight of the rest, healing and peace that comes from being quiet. Like Jacob’s hip, God used the things I was physically working with, to show me His heart. It’s the same heart for everyone (literally: every single person on this footstool); His love.

Ruth’s allegiance to Naomi is a beautiful scene (Ruth 1:16-18). Ruth was giving up her identity, her home, her family, everything to go into a new land and people. Most of all, she was shrugging off her old life and stepping into a new one. She was saying ‘Yes’ to Naomi’s God and ‘No’ to the world. It was going to be hard, but ultimately, Ruth found the rest, healing and peace that comes from God’s plan.

What about the business of this semester, however? What about the dissertation and the classes and small groups and CU and church and friends and…

Where is God in all of that? Nowhere.

Again, I need to learn this lesson: run to Him all who are stressing and exhausted and He will give you all you need. In running to Him, all the ‘have-to-dos’ and the ‘should-be-dones’ fall by the wayside. Our baggage drops as we run faster, not wanting to be encumbered by their weight. Running into Daddy’s arms, He hugs us tight and whispers what we need to hear into our ears;

‘Let your ‘Yes’ mean yes and your ‘No’ mean no, Nesta. I’ve already done everything you really need. So give these bags all to me. I want to help you because I love you.’

 

**

Nesta xx

Setting the Record Straight

‘Make a little room in your plans for romance, Anne girl. All the degrees and the scholarships in the world can’t make up for the lack of it.’ – Anne of Green Gables

Confession: I love Gilbert Blythe. Always have, always will. It’s just a fact of life.

I have been in love with him, say, for most of my life. He is tall, dark, clever, funny, kind, devoted, a little proud, handsome and the first boy I’ve ever met who used Tennyson and the Bible within the same sentence to justify an argument. Unfortunately, he married Anne Shirley after a childhood and time of early youth growing together on Prince Edward Island, Canada.

He also, worst luck, is a fragment of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s imagination. He belongs to her world of legends and the færy beings that inhabit some corners of the world. 

His sole existence only within L.M. Montgomery’s stories is the truest thing about him. Despite all of my searching and watching and looking for a twenty-first century, Gen-X version of Gilbert, I cannot find him. Even committing this to type is painful. (Deep breath to calm nerves and wipe eyes) Moving on.

There are plenty of blogs out there telling the world about how brilliant Gilbert is. How he trumps Mr. Darcy, despite the latter’s income and penmanship; how he is a-hundred-thousand times better than Romeo who is a bit tragic, in the melter-kind-of-way; and one of the best male figures in literacy, ever. Period.

This may just be my opinion, but at a young age Gilbert told me something, through Charlie Sloane of course. He told me that ‘being smart was better than being pretty.’ This pretty much changed they way I thought about boys, my brains and all of the stuff we don’t get taught in school, all around the tender age of three.

Anne biffs GilbertConsider this then as an ode to Gilbert: to his love, character and perfection that will never be matched on earth. He wasn’t a saint however, and all the better for it. Anne sums up my feelings on the subject entirely; ‘I wouldn’t marry anyone who was really wicked: but I’d like to think that he could be wicked, and wasn’t.’

So without further adieu, I announce that Gil is my book-boyfriend. I’ll spend the rest of my days with his literary presence on my bookshelf and until any one reads of him in the Anne series or watches Jonathan Crombie act him, you may consider yourself on the bench.

With the love that’s left over,

Nesta xx

P.S. Anne girl, consider yourself privileged.