Tag Archives: Thankfulness

Looking for Europe: Reflections on the tour

Some thoughts on how it’s been following Switchfoot’s tour, now I’m home

I’ve been back a week as I write this, and I’m still fatigued and struggling to sleep this trip off. I was only one hour out at most, but this ‘jetlag’ has been extreme! I put it down to the last two nights spent in airports with almost no sleep, but actually the whole two weeks were intense, with a lot of travelling, a lot of ups and downs, and generally not enough sleep or food, and too much coffee. No wonder there’s a lot to sleep off! It’s felt like I got the authentic Switchfoot tour experience, feeling the strain of having a show almost every day, every day having to travel and wake up somewhere new, not getting a lot of time to take proper care of myself or settle into a place… but having the best time rocking out and meeting wonderful people, which made it so, so worthwhile. I got a taste of what the band experience, and that’s pretty special.

I could talk politics; the sadness of human borders causing refugees to sleep on Paris streets, and keeping SwitchFam apart from one another and their band… I could talk about mental illness adding challenges and shadows… but this isn’t the place just now.

So; some of my highlights:

  • That solo show! There just are no words. I can’t stop thinking about it! I feel whole. 🙂
  • SwitchFam –  this is a world I was only just beginning to get connected into back in 2015, but this time, touring with a ‘SwitchSister’ and meeting so many other ‘fam has been amazing. I’ve loved meeting everyone; we come from all over the world, but are brought together here, it’s really, truly special.
  • The Paris show, for being so insanely rocked out.
  • Basel – such a gorgeous city, and my memories of the VIP event, queue(!) and sound check are so precious.
  • Amsterdam Meet ‘n’ Greet; that was just legendary!
  • Cologne and Budapest crowds – just so much love and energy!
  • A38 boat – what a venue! Floating whilst Floating was so much fun, and it was a spectacular location.
  • The latest songs – I don’t ever want them to stop playing any of these!! They’re on fire.

Compared to the Fading West tour in 2015, the whole thing felt less linear. Not just the way we were back and forth, in and out of the continent, but also in the sense that I felt a clear progression in 2015. This time felt a more complex journey, physically, spiritually and relationally. Last time it had been a definite pilgrimage, moving from a beginning weighed down with baggage and ending in a sense of absolution. This time… God’s been at work without a doubt, but I’m still processing the lessons and experiences I’ve received. There’s been a lot happening. I feel like I’ve grown up a lot as a fan in those two years. I also felt like I was very quickly back to somewhere similar, relationally, to where I left off two years ago, if not right away. Jon again seemed to be getting more relaxed around us each time we met – though after the solo show I was less relaxed around him again. And it still bowls me over completely to think I’ve had the chance to really meet him and tell him what he is to me! What an honour. In two years I’ve never managed to get used to that. He seemed to spend a little less time in or working the crowd than previously; but then, I think that was because he was actually on stage playing guitar more, and that’s definitely a good thing. And all the guys seemed to be having more fun each time, and getting more into it; most noticeably Drew’s soloing and Romey’s guitar playing.

So, the whole business of following the guys on tour; what’s it all about? Appreciation. I think I communicated that and helped them feel loved. I’m sure of that with Drew at the very least. Jon seems so hard to reach though…

And family. I felt a long way from being anything remotely like friends with the guys, there’s far too much of a fame and fandom barrier and I wouldn’t be comfortable with it. But they do make me feel like part of the extended tour family. They certainly know we are a family, and they make us feel that too. It’s not just a name. Switchfoot people are the best, the band, the crew, the fans. We are all so different, living such different lives in different places, with different interests and personalities, sometimes so diverse we’d never normally come together. However, Switchfoot give us a really deep, profound connection, which throws us together and binds us to one another. We didn’t choose it; it just is. And we understand each other. Like any family, we have tensions and feuds at times. But there’s something much bigger than us that pulls us together and means we belong nonetheless.  We are one!

Would I do it again? I have to be honest; yes and no. Yes, because OF COURSE, plus I’m already booked for 3 more shows in 3 days! No, because I’m not sure I could cope with that crazy a travel itinerary, at least not just yet. I’d prefer to do something like the 2015 trip and take it a bit slower with more time to see the places we visit.

Do I love Switchfoot more for having done this? My fan love in a sense feels maxed out already… but on the other hand… they still amaze me! The new music is incredible live; I knew it would be so I was prepared for that, but to experience it has been amazingly powerful. But Jon as a solo artist… wow. When I thought I was already the most in awe I could be, he takes it to another level. It’s difficult to find words for as I’m pretty sure I love both his solo music and Switchfoot to the same extent, but in such different ways it can’t really be compared. Either way, finally getting to experience both has convinced me more than ever that I am, musically, home, that I’m committed for the long run now wherever things go, and could never find another artist I could connect with on such a deep level or want to build up in the same way. This is once in a lifetime for real 🙂

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Looking for Europe 8: Budapest – Floating!

June 4th

Budapest! It was a beautiful day again, and the city is stunning!

After a somewhat inadequate amount of sleep we went for a breakfast wander. Very little was open; it turned out it was Pentecost, which I’d forgotten, but we found an incredible café, which blew my mind by serving my iced tea packed with forest fruits! It was already hot by then, we just wanted to jump in the fountains!

We wandered back to the hostel to pick up swim things, admiring all the beautiful buildings on the way, then headed to find a spa. Budapest is famously full of amazing thermal spas and grand bath houses, so it was something we both felt we had to try, especially since we were in need of a bit of relaxation. The first one we went in was too big and imposing for someone who’d had very little sleep, so we went to a smaller one; it didn’t look much from the outside but was perfect for us. It had a lovely little swimming pool so we chilled out, swam some lengths, then went to the gorgeous thermal pools. The main pool was octagonal, surrounded by pillars holding up a beautiful domed roof with coloured glass stars set into it, with the sun shining through them onto the water. We hung out in there, wowing, for a while, then tried the little corner pools, which turned out to be set to different temperatures, 28, 30, 33 and 42oC. I didn’t go in the cold one but went in the others. When I put my foot into the 42 oC pool I thought it was going to cook me! But I stepped back in… and eventually got in fully… and then decided I didn’t want to leave!! Cook me anytime, please! 😀 Eventually we went back to the main hot pool, and floated where the light shone through the stars… 😉 A quick last swim in the pool to get rid of the very slightly smelly mineral water, then we wandered back. On failing again to find a shop, we ended up eating at a Hungarian restaurant, where I was served a nice stew of peppers, and some mind-numbingly fiery fresh chillis, which I took as a challenge and was indeed victorious! It felt good. Then it was back once again to the hostel to get ready for the show, and back out.

It was all so beautiful! Amazing, elaborate architecture, beautiful hills including one with a church built into it, patterned roofs, and the Danube cutting right through the middle of the city. We could see the venue, a boat on the river, so it was very easy to find. A friend we’d met in Germany was there already, so we went in and had a drink on the deck with him and a guy from Ecuador but living in Spain, who had a Where I Belong banner with him. I told him I had one too but I’d make sure his got on stage this time.

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VIP was on time this time, but later in the day and very short. When we got in, the guys were just jamming together; it sounded incredible, very different to when they’re performing something, and they were all turned to face one another, so it was great seeing how they interacted. At one point, Jon looked like he was teaching Drew a riff… were they learning something new?? It was really fun to watch anyway and they were all showing a lot of skill and looking like they were enjoying themselves. Then they said hi, and played us Learning to Breathe, which was just lovely.

At Meet ‘n’ Greet the band got given a gingerbread artwork and a Hungarian football shirt. And Jude was all the giggles! She had her hair in Princess Leia buns and gave the guys a bunch of silly Star Wars themed gifts to go with a Star-Wars-punning poster she’d made to promote Bro Am…! She even brought some bubble wands that looked like light sabres. Legend. Drew used the bubble light sabre to make bubbles, and Chad rolled up the poster and used that as a light sabre, complete with sound effects, to pop them!

I had composed the guys another letter on the journey (written into a card I made at 5am in the hostel!) and I handed it to Chad; I had a job getting him to take it, I think he was surprised I was giving it to him but I had written a message to each of them this time, with only one (silly) line in it for Jon, so I was keen for one of the others to take it. I asked how they were as they all looked so tired, and thanked them for putting themselves through all this for us. My friend prayed with Jon at the end and encouraged him to keep writing. Jon said he couldn’t help it, he didn’t know how to stop, so I said ‘Please, don’t ever!!’ 😀 Music addict 🙂

The show – wow! I was shattered by this point and had trouble staying awake through the opening band, even though they were again really good, and extremely loud, and using a lot of strobe lighting. I literally was falling asleep. But then the crowd got really hyped up. There was a lot of chanting, silly selfies, sitting on the stage, Switchfoot puns…

Then they were on!

So many feels. As predicted, the awesome Romanian crowd was indeed there again; the room absolutely erupted when Jon asked who was from Romania! Again you could tell they were thinking they needed to play a show there, and they actually asked where they should try to play if they came (Cluj!) There were also fans there from India, Dubai, Nigeria, and of course us, and we all got a little shout out. Jon also remarked how amazing Budapest is, and that it isn’t a place they ever hear of in the USA, though he thought they should – we were quite surprised!

Jon took the mic stand into the crowd to sing When We Come Alive and Love Alone…, and got up on the bar to sing. Someone had a Love Alone… banner that he held up on stage. He came back right through the crowd to where I was stood, so I helped lift him back up onto the stage. Everyone started ‘Oreo’ing again after the song supposedly finished so Jon had to sing some more of it!

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Jon once again picked me out to sing ‘Don’t let go’ to in Needle, the same line he’d sung me at an earlier show. Deliberate? Probably not, but I wonder if he thought I might… But I got a lot more interaction in general. All four of them who could move were right up front a lot, leaning right out over us and easily within touching distance. Romey spent more time than ever up front with the guitar playing to the crowd, almost more than he was at the back with the keys!

They were having a lot of fun on stage that night, with each other and with the crowd. Drew soloed like crazy, totally original as ever. And he and Jon had some fun with Where The Light Shines Through (WTLST); there’s a section where they break it down and sort of play solo tennis, Jon playing a phrase and Drew playing a reply. This time Jon had a mischievous look in his eye; he gave Drew some really weird solo lines, and it seemed like they were messing with one another, trying to throw one another off by playing the unexpected, but they were both coming up with awesome ‘replies’ each time! That was very funny to watch! The ‘samba breaks’ were epic too!

Jon came over to me as he introduced WTLST, took my banner, and this time handed me it straight back saying ‘thank you, it’s beautiful!’ He came over as they began Where I Belong too, again as if to ask for the banner, but this time though I had it in my hand I didn’t hand it to him, and instead turned around to look for the other fan’s one. Sure enough it made its way to the front and Jon took that one and held it up instead. Then during the song I got mine out and a bunch of us held it up at the front for a bit… until Jon took it anyway to wear/ use as a towel!

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They stuck completely to the setlist this time, but got encored again twice, so they played Mess Of Me, We Are One/ Shadow Proves…, and then as they couldn’t finish with the crowd going so crazy and Jon having so much fun, he carried on and played 24, the others rejoining him at the end again. For the second encore, Jon came back on wearing the Hungarian football shirt – and turned round part way through the song to reveal that it had ‘Foreman 24’ written on the back! The crowd went wild!

Towards the end the crowd was giving them so much love and encoring so much the guys all had big teary smiles, Drew, Jon and Romey especially, which was so sweet to see. I can’t get enough of Drew smiling like that! I applauded them all a whole lot, and managed to mouth ‘thank you!’ to both Drew and Romey. And at the very end, Drew came over and emotionally clasped big handfuls of our hands in his saying ‘thank you, thank you’. It was the best feeling seeing them feeling the love. I managed to catch Josh and Chico packing down to say thank you too as well.

Afterwards we stayed on the boat as there was a rumour Jon wanted to play an aftershow on the deck; in any case, an aftershow seemed inevitable! The tweet eventually went out, aftershow on the boat in 15 minutes… but then the staff cleared the venue so we decamped to the gangway and waited there. And then after a while, a clean Jon emerged with a detuned guitar, ready to be packed away, and he led us down onto the steps of the Danube, playing there for us with the city lights reflecting on the water behind him. He joked that the river was ‘exactly like the Pacific Ocean.’! I got front row again, wearing the Where I Belong banner partly because it was wet again 😛 and needed to dry out, and partly because it had actually turned cool and windy by then, I think there had been a storm whilst we were inside.

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Thanks to Jude for capturing this shot!

He played Caroline, The Moon Is A Magnet (WOW! There was indeed a pretty moon, though it wasn’t full and kept hiding behind clouds. Very special!), Vice Verses (he asked did we want a sad song or an upbeat song, and started strumming Just Rob Me! But though I confess I voted for both, Vice Verses won; someone called out we’d had lots of upbeat at the show and it was time for a sad one), and Your Love Is Strong, with everyone singing.

At the end, he said to us that in his mind, the perfect way this would end would be for us all to leave as equals; ‘No elevation, no photos; we’re all one family here, we leave as equals…’ It was both very smart, and very sweet! I let him go; but I did stop him briefly as he passed me just to thank him sincerely for this tour, and I found myself clasping his hand again, just as in Mannheim. And then he was gone, with minimal mobbing. We waved him off and cheered as he returned to the boat down the gangway.

Jude was top of the world as while that was happening she’d met Drew again to hug and thank! We went back to the hostel; a whole group of us across the bridge, then four of us back to get a taxi from the hostel, then after some deep late night conversations with new friends we dropped the other guys off en route and headed to the airport.

We spent an uncomfortable night on the floor of the deserted airport, me wrapped in the banner to keep warm. At 4am the place began to fill up… and suddenly I spotted Josh amongst the crowds, pulling two huge cases of gear!! :O Sure enough, sooner or later we spotted most of the others, and witnessed them checking in the most enormous mountain of kit. That was quite a sight. They were on the flight after ours!! We stayed well out of their way and out of sight at the other end of the check-in hall, and went off to get ourselves some much needed coffee as soon as the café was opened, then checked in for our flight. We saw most of the guys eventually come through security and head to the lounge, looking beyond tired 😦 Love them so much! Their flight was announced just after ours was, their gate was in the same area as ours, and as we boarded, the last person we saw was Romey walking towards it. As our plane took off, we saw theirs pulling out from the terminal (tears!), and then we flew directly over the venue and aftershow spot (more tears!!) and away from them.

Oh the love miles!! Such pain of being pulled (temporarily!) away from these lovely guys, and so many wonderful new friends across the continent and world. I knew I was going to miss everyone so much. I just wanted to stay and hang out with everyone… oh my heart! It was all beautiful, and I cannot wait for more. ‘147 days!!’*

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Read Part 7 here

*I set up a countdown app on my phone when the first tour date was announced; as they announced more dates for the autumn whilst still with us, I reset the countdown on the last day of the tour to give myself something to look forward to when they were gone 🙂

Being thankful

We hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for the first time this year! This has not been an easy year at all, personally or politically, but aside from liking the tradition and fancying the cooking challenge, I wanted to do this as I felt that actually I still have a huge amount to be thankful for from the past year, and that in a time when circumstances make it harder to see the good things and feel thankful, setting aside a little time to focus on what I am truly thankful for is a good discipline. The more I’ve thought about it, the more good I’ve spotted amongst the mess, and it has left me feeling genuinely grateful for those good things and a lot more positive about the year. So; my list:

  • Time at home. My new year’s resolution this year was straightforward after last year’s wonderful chaos; to do nothing! Well, maybe not ‘nothing’, but no crazy plans, no charging around the country(/world) week after week, and to focus on spending time right here at home, with our local friends and church family, and making progress on our DIY projects. And we’ve done that! It’s been really nice being a little more settled.
  • Living in Devon. Related to the last point – we live in a nice place! It’s been good to spend more time just enjoying where we live. Our main holiday this year was to Lundy Island, an island off the north coast in a protected area, which is therefore jumping with sealife. We saw so many seabirds, seals, jellyfish, rockpoolies and dolphins, and it was beautiful – all almost on our doorstep! And the walks and beach trips we’ve done closer to home have been wonderful too. We made an effort this summer to go down to the coast on nice evenings for barbecues or chips on the beach as the sun goes down. I can’t help but be thankful that my life looks like this after years living and working in and near London, it’s a real blessing.
  • The support for our whitewashing nonviolent direct action last year. I’ve been blown away by the amount of support I and my fellow activists have received since our action last November. A huge crowd of supporters turned out to our trial, some coming a really long way to be there. There were far too many people to fit in the viewing gallery and many stood outside in driving rain for us all day, praying, holding banners and looking after us. I’m so humbled! And on top of that, when we received a (much smaller than expected) fine, friends, family and supporters crowdfunded enough to pay it off in full! We checked the amount that came in a week after the verdict, and it seemed a random amount; but then we totalled up our collective fine and realised it was the same amount to the nearest pound! Shortly after this we closed the crowdfunder early as we had exceeded our target, despite not expecting to meet it, and found the amount raised exactly covered our expenses for the action too! I am profoundly grateful to God for so fully honouring our imperfect willingness to do this, and to our supporters, both for the obvious practical help this was, but also for the solidarity of knowing we had so many people standing beside us and willing to also pay the price of speaking out on climate change.
  • Good news on climate change. Aside from the ratification of the Paris climate agreement, it seems politically that this has been a bad year for climate, as in practice the political world has barely moved into action at all, and in many cases we’re still seeing the politics moving backwards. However; more and more this year I’ve seen signs of change, almost in spite of the politics of it all. The economics are starting to shift. As renewables grow, in spite of policies that hamper them, and the combined pressure from increasingly cheap renewable energy, financial disinvestment, uncertainty over the future under international climate agreements and the cost of carbon hits the fossil fuel industries, a real practical shift away from fossil fuels has begun. We have a long way to go, and fast, but this is genuinely encouraging. We need to keep up the momentum on fossil fuel disinvestment, which is really a win-win situation, whilst at the same time urging our governments to think progressively and practically get behind this shift, which would really speed the process up.
  • Vegan abundance! Going vegan ten years ago was relatively straightforward, with plenty of choices available in ordinary shops, and at least something you could eat in most restaurants when out. But there has been such a fast shift over the last year or so! Several vegan/explicitly vegan-friendly businesses have popped up all over town, raised consciousness means I’m finding it more common for non-veggie friends to know how to make really nice things for us, little innovations the world seems to have just discovered (coconut cream makes wonderful whipped cream, chickpea water works like egg whites…) mean vegan baking has suddenly become even easier and cafes are cottoning on, and even some vegan cheese seems to be finally starting to resemble the real thing! I’m suddenly beginning to realise how much self-control I’ve lost over the years, now that what was a ‘special diet’ is becoming so mainstream; I’ve been used to luxuries being just that, and therefore jumping at the chance to indulge when the chance arose from time to time, but suddenly it seems there are easy luxuries everywhere and I have to be restrained for the sake of wallet and waistline! But at the same time, what a nice problem to have – such great news for me, and for animals and the environment 🙂
  • The mental health services. Wow am I thankful for the help that I’ve found available to me this year as I’ve found myself battling depression! I’ve heard the horror stories and know not everyone gets the help they need when they need it, even when they do seek it, but my experience has been good so I know that’s only one side of the picture. I’d love to see the day when mental health is taken as seriously as physical health, because it is, and everyone can find help. But I’m very thankful that I have a good GP, have been able to take part in a well-taught CBT course for free, and have had help from my church towards paying to see a counsellor. Each of these things have been a God-send in an unpleasant situation, and I am so thankful.
  • Supportive family and friends. And again on a related note, I am deeply thankful for the community of people I have in my life who have treated my illness as an illness, been understanding as they can be, and been there to encourage me and share advice. I feel honoured to be able to reciprocate that to others too, and am grateful to have that chance through this circumstance. It’s brought me closer to myself, to others, and to God.
  • The RSPB. Last year I was volunteering for several different charities, often on my own and with irregular hours. This year I decided to change and focus on my work with the RSPB nature conservation charity, filling my newly-free days in the week by taking on some scientific support work in their local office, which means I’m now working with others and with pretty regular office hours, and getting to use my science brain a bit. Simplifying my work this year has itself done me a lot of good; but so has the RSPB directly. Conservation is not always the most encouraging world to work in, with so many species and habitats under threat. But working with the RSPB, I see an amazing array of good news stories as hard work saving nature really does pay off. Both internally and externslly there’s a real emphasis on hope and encouragement around this. The project I’ve worked most with this year has just celebrated a milestone as a little bird we almost lost from the country has been brought back from the brink and is increasing (you can read more about that here, it’s a nice reminder that good news is out there!). But even in addition to this, the organisation takes staff wellbeing seriously (as a volunteeer I am still considered part of the staff team) and has done a lot of work to raise the profile of wellbeing and mental health and promote activities and support that can help. I’m not sure I could be working in a better environment right now!
  • Being able to ‘do autumn properly’. It’s no secret that I love autumn! I felt like I missed out on it a bit last year in my busyness, so this year I made an effort to give time to enjoying it as much as possible. So we went on holiday in the Lake District, swam and bodyboarded in the sea, went for walks in the local arboretum and elsewhere, picked up colourful leaves, made some of them into pretty decorations or collages, went birdwatching plenty to catch the migration in progress, baked for halloween and used it to pray over the world’s darkness, went to the legendary Nottingham Goose Fair (enormous cheesy funfair, and something I haven’t done since leaving home), went to an apple day and made apple fritters to celebrate, had a Thanksgiving party and a Harvest ploughman’s meal, went to a fireworks display, and planted trees in the garden. I don’t think I’ve missed anything this year, and although it’s been unusually warm and dry and the trees gave us a bit of a stop-start display this year it’s been wonderful – and I have far too many photos! 😀
  • Switchfoot. I confess, when I drafted this list, this was the first thing I wrote! A lot of bad things have happened in the world this year. But 2016 was also the year Switchfoot brought us their 10th album, Where The Light Shines Through. And in a dark year, it really has been where the light has shone through for me, not just a highlight of the year for a fan, but also an incredibly timely album full of messages of hope and strength and light, so much needed just now. This band has done more than anyone else this year to encourage me to look for the points of light breaking through the darkness, keep my eyes on the Source of my hope, and work to become where the light shines through myself.

2015 – An intense year

DSCN73852015 was a crazy year for me; I’ve never known a year so packed or so intense in my life! There’s been some bad-intense moments, but overwhelmingly more good-intense experiences. I’m left feeling pretty humbled by it all.

Life in general

It began particularly intense for my husband; 3 major deadlines in the first 3 weeks of the year (requiring a lot of all-nighters to finish it all), and culminating in a two week trip away from home to the USA for a conference and visit to his relatives, and a first experience of properly cold temperatures and American snow. And so the year continued from there!

We’ve been away a lot; my work has taken me away from home more than ever before, with 10 trips to London alone for meetings and climate rallies, plus visits to Bradford and Sheffield to lead workshops, a training weekend in Derbyshire, and several festivals. We went to three weddings, and our band managed to meet up eight times for performances and recording sessions, we attended a very geeky reunion weekend for our old university, and visited family in different parts of the country a few times too, during which we were introduced to three new ‘fur baby’ relatives.

And then there were the two holidays of a lifetime; the second, a trip to the incredibly beautiful Isles of Scilly with my family, and the first, following Switchfoot’s European tour and taking time during our travels to visit friends and family in London, Edinburgh, and Freiburg as well as some quality time exploring European cities together. Both adventures have left us with the most precious memories of happy times together. And we’ve seen some incredible wildlife too; cranes, storks, black woodpeckers, sunfish, dolphins, starfish, sea urchins, sea anemones, seals… amazing.

We’ve had a lot of visitors when we have been home; now we live in a nice part of the country a lot more of our friends and family have been keen to visit, and we’ve been busy giving tours of the local sights. There have been a fair few daytrips just as a household too, including some long cycle rides, hikes on the moors, a fossil hunting expedition (in which M actually found a dinosaur bone), a pirate festival, and trips to the beach. I’ve done a lot more sea swimming than usual; it usually takes a lot to get me in the sea but one day in the autumn the sea was so lovely I spent over an hour swimming!

The little time we have had at home, to ourselves, we’ve spent trying to redecorate our whole house, which has obviously not got all that far given how little time we’ve been able to give to the DIY project! But we’ve learnt to put up wallpaper, and crammed in time for a little housewarming party too once we got the worst of the DIY out the way.

So that’s what my life was like on the whole last year; this is how things panned out with my faith, politics, poetry and fandom:

Faith

Two recurring themes of this year in my relationship with God have been grace, and death as part of the resurrection process. This was a really significant year for me as it was the year I could finally celebrate having been ‘alive for half my life’. I’d been thinking about it a lot as the anniversary approached, and these lessons God has been teaching me seemed really fitting; a time to refocus on all I have been given, both in having my life saved in the first place, half my life ago, and all that I have been given since, and then to question what happens next in this process of being reborn, recreated and resurrected.

Grace has impacted me in so many ways in the past year, and I’ve encountered it from so many people as well as supremely from Godself. I’ve posted here already about the profound grace experience I encountered through my meetings with Jon Foreman whilst following Switchfoot on tour last spring, and also about a very different grace experience, which came about as the result of what felt, to me at least, a real epic fail, but which opened me up to a fresh sense of God’s love for me and my absolute dependence on that Love for strength, goodness and second chances. But I’ve also experienced a huge amount of grace from others through my failures, struggles with health and work, and my political activity; my husband has met all of this with forgiveness, love, patience and humour, and my friends, family and colleagues have been so amazingly supportive, offering prayer, sympathy and practical support over and over again, regardless of whether or not they’ve agreed with me. I feel deeply humbled by it all.

The intimate connection between death and resurrection has been on my mind a lot over the year. It began, logically enough, at Easter, as I remembered again how in Christ death itself died to bring life to us all through the resurrection. But I am a Jon Foreman fan; this past year he has seeded my thought life with so many new songs exploring life, death and resurrection, as well as the older songs that had accompanied my musings over Easter. As I spent the year looking back to the day one version of myself died and a new me came alive, and forward to the future, a day-to-day process of learning to die little by little to myself and live more fully the life I was made for to play my part in bringing in the Kingdom of God, it has been extremely powerful to share the journey with these songs. There have been some beautiful contemplative moments, experiencing God close by in still moments in festivals and out in nature. And I’ve seen more answers to prayers, big and small, than I can possibly count, everything from miraculous healings of people we’ve prayed for at church to good weather when I’ve needed it for travels and work. God is good.

Politics

Politically, this past year has been a battle, and it has taken me beyond what I’ve been able to handle – which in itself has meant depending more and more on grace, and sacrificing a little more of myself to allow more life in, but it has also stretched me to breaking point. I spend a lot of time campaigning for social justice and environmental protection, both with two of my ‘jobs’, and in my personal life, but this year has been very tough, with the election, the Paris climate summit, and the fall-out of both to deal with. It has felt like we’ve had to push extremely hard just to hold our ground, and at times it’s felt like things are heading in a backwards direction instead as poverty, inequality and xenophobia have risen, and climate change and nature protection measures have been in most cases cut, just when we need to be becoming more internationally cooperative, working more actively for peace, and pushing hard for real cuts to greenhouse gas emissions and a halt to species losses. So we’ve been working hard. And unfortunately I’ve felt extremely isolated in it all, working alone from home most of the time, and not having a good network of activist friends living nearby to rely on for help and solidarity.

For the positives – I’ve had a few different chances to speak and lead workshops this past year, including taking part in my first panel event on faith and the environment, I went on my first ever pride march, had wonderful encouraging visits to other activist groups, particularly with SPEAK, which reminded me I’m not alone and that good things are happening, and went to some really inspiring events, including Friends of the Earth’s Basecamp training weekend/ minifestival. And since it has been so hard to move things in conventional ways, I’ve turned to non-violent direct action; firstly supporting a fairly low-key prayer rally and banner drop in the Church of England synod meeting calling on the Church to disinvest from fossil fuels for the sake of those we should be showing love towards, and secondly, whitewashing and ‘rebranding’ the Department for Energy and Climate Change to expose the deadly policy changes taking place behind all the government’s talk on climate. And both went about as well as we could have hoped, and have received a lot of support. I just hope they lead to meaningful change…

Poetry

I haven’t written a lot of poetry this past year; however, I have managed to write, and actually finish, four songs, which is pretty amazing for me. It was mainly a year for the music; my band worked hard to release a new Christmas album at the end of the year, so we had a lot of band meetups and recording sessions to get it done. We also performed at two small festivals and two weddings, which was nice. In the process I have begun to learn to sing out loud, performing with a microphone, singing a duet with M, and finally recording a lead vocal! And improbably, despite our disorganisation, we did get the album out on time, and it’s quite fun!

Fandom

Wow this really has been a year of change in my life as a music fan. Although I’d largely given in to the inevitability of becoming a megafan years back, even up to the end of 2014 I was still fighting myself over it to some extent, trying to convince myself that it wasn’t an integral part of me. After spending some time fasting from all things Jon Foreman at the end of the year, it became clear to me that trying to detach myself too far from my fandom was actually unhealthy, and that I was fighting against my own self. I decided that whilst an occasional short ‘fast’ could be a good thing to stop me becoming too obsessed or unhealthily dependent, on the whole it was far better for me to give in to it completely, stop fighting myself and just become all that it can make me. And it has been an incredible ride!

As well as finding out just how much I can be changed for the better through it, I’ve also been learning what it is to really be a fan; that an artist-fan relationship is not the one-way, purely commercial process that I had previously thought it to be, but that it truly is a two-way relationship, that artists need our support in so many ways, including hearing from us personally.

So. I joined a couple of online fan forums to meet fellow fans. I took the chance to follow Switchfoot on tour around Europe back in the spring. I got tickets for five shows, plus all the buses, trains and hostels that involved to make it all possible. And I made some fan art to take along to show the band, a t-shirt and four banners, plus a couple of letters. And it worked out so incredibly, beautifully well! I made some great new friends, had some wonderful times with M and friends, and finally felt I’d made the connection with Jon and the rest of the band that I’d missed making all these years. I’m still even now getting the happiest flashbacks to it all that make my heart skip a beat or two, it’s hard to get my head around. It even spilled over a little to my relationships with other artists; if I’d been a bad fan to Switchfoot in the past I’d been a worse fan to band #2, Delirious. But last year I also finally got a message of appreciation through to the band’s Stu and Stew too, which helped heal some of those old regrets too.

And the intensity of the last year of fandom did not end when I returned home from that tour either; all last year Jon Foreman was releasing a series of EPs collectively called The Wonderlands (and ended the year by giving us a new Switchfoot song, New Year’s Day) – new music that has had, and continues to have, a lifechanging impact. For someone like me, this is more than ‘just music’; a major release like this becomes a significant life event, new songs become friends, lovers, mentors to me, guiding my walk with God and shaping who I am. I won’t go into details on individual songs here, I’ll leave that for a future post, but these songs truly make me who I am.

I was obviously a huge fan already, but by the end of the year my fan-love really was off the scale; he topped everything by celebrating the final release of The Wonderlands by performing 25 shows in 24 hours in a whole series of different weird and wonderful locations around San Diego, featuring each of the 25 songs from the project played at its appropriate hour, and all done to raise money for local disadvantaged kids. I couldn’t be there in person, but I was more than there in spirit; I stayed up the entire 24 hours, watching social media and periscope to catch as much of the event as I could and sending supportive messages and chatting to fellow fans watching from home too. Oh my heart! I don’t think I can exaggerate how beautiful the whole thing was! I’m not sure what I expected but Jon earnt my admiration hundreds of times over that day, not only keeping going but getting better as it went on, showing a lot of kindness to the fans and fellow musicians there, and having a lot of fun with it all too. There were some absolutely classic moments. It has been filmed, and trust me, if the film gets released you really do want to see it! For now, I collected a playlist of as many fan videos as I’ve been able to find.

Wow wow. Where does it go from here?!

 


 

2015 was also the year I:

  • Got a smart phone
  • Got locked out of facebook over changing my name
  • Discovered I like hazelnut lattes
  • Watched a solar eclipse
  • Tried again to join a samba band…
  • Found out how to chop down the tallest tree in the forest with a herring
  • Had my first eye test for 10 years, and found I have the beginnings of long sight
  • Became a music reviewer
  • Got my first henna tattoos
  • Discovered cheesy chart music
  • Enjoyed a stunningly beautiful autumn
  • Saw my work colleagues in a panto
  • Quit 2 jobs
  • Had a deep conversation with a random guy on a megabus journey
  • Gatecrashed a thanksgiving party

It’s been fun! 😀