2010 In The Rearviewmirror

It’s that time of year again: turkeys, over-indulgence, reflection, rest, crackers, fireworks…

As I read back through this years blog archives, I found some words I’d all but forgotten about, but that God clearly hadn’t:

“I don’t really have any specific resolutions (though if I did they’d probably echo my buddy Chris)
for this year, or decade, but I know I want it to be one where I continue to push myself out of my
comfort zones. I want to be a part of something bigger than myself.”

How true that turned out to be. 2010 has been the most difficult year of my life. Yet I’m glad; I’m glad that I am moving forward even if that has meant going back, and going through seasons of pain.

Thought I’d share a few highlights of 2010.

-> Photographing some good friends weddings
-> Getting to know someone who has quickly become my best friend
-> Photographing Belfast from the top of the Obel Tower
-> Facing fears and taking steps towards healing and wholeness
-> Alton Towers roadtrip
-> Being loved & valued by my Geek Summit community
-> Tell It In Colour, and Jude’s friendship
-> Being a part of the Green Pasture’s family, however briefly

How about you? What has marked 2010 for you?

This Place, These Experiences

A few weeks ago, I wrote this post about my experiences, good and bad, growing up in Northern Ireland. It sparked a few interesting conversations, and I guess I felt that it deserved a bit of a follow up.

Maybe it was my fault for writing in to vague & generic a tone. I don’t mean to paint N.I. with such broad strokes… for all it’s size, it is an incredibly diverse little country.

My post was written from a deeply personal perspective; shaped by my experiences growing up there. Others have had completely different experiences, no less valid.

The post was coming from a place of truly grappling with my past for the first time; with being ready to start to face the fears and hurts I carry from it, as well as the joys.

Those experiences I wrote of come from a particular set of circumstances.

It comes from growing up in the D.U.P. heartland, “Ulster Says Never” area.

It comes from watching a friend be run out of her home because she was the “wrong” religion for the village.

It comes from a lack of space to question.

It comes from attending 5 funerals by the age of 23, only one of which was for someone above the age of 30.

Those are a few of the things that have shaped, moulded, and marked me. They are (some of) what I wrestle with in my dark nights. So, please forgive me if my previous post was too broad-sweeping and perhaps not quite honest enough. It’s all a learning curve, right?

I Wouldn’t Start From Here

I have a confession: I am Northern Irish.

There it is.
That thing I have run so hard from. Tried to hide. Been a little bit disappointed about.

I spent the first 18 years of my life growing up in a land full of blessing and heartache.
And I’ve spent the last 5 years running away from it.

Growing up in Northern Ireland can leave you with a bit of an identity crisis if you’re not careful. Every decision aligns you one way or another, politically and religiously. It’s easy to get a little bit lost in the maze of politics, religions, ethics, scandals, and everything else.

But it’s also a place full of beauty; full of God breaking out and doing new things.
Like my friend Jude, and her dream: Tell It In Colour. Stories of redemption and hope in a land saturated with bad stories, dull stories, colourless stories.

I have so much affection for the little country, but I like to keep it at a distance.

More and more, I am coming to a realisation that I must accept the past, accept the places I have been, the experiences I have lived.

There’s an old story of a man asking for directions, for the best route to a specific location, only to be told, “Well, I wouldn’t start from here!”

That’s so often been how I feel about being Northern Irish. It’s felt like a handicap. Like something to be overcome. Like I shouldn’t start from here.

But I have started from here.
Northern Ireland is the context God placed me in, got me started in.


Now, I am starting to look for ways to see it as a blessing.
It’s my heritage.
It’s where I’m from.
It’s shaped me in more ways that I can even begin to imagine.

And not all of those are bad.

* Please don’t mishear me. I love NI. I just didn’t love growing up there. And I’m trying to find the good stuff in it now, and not run away from it. I’ve done that for too long.

** Also, this post has been deeply shaped by a blog post from Blaine, a conversation with Vicky, and my counsellor, Martin.

On Returning

You always had this in your plan, didn’t you?

They say the grass is always greener on the other side.

SonShine week was always the most-anticipated week of my year growing up. A local community centre ran the week-long program of events in my village. The purpose was simple: Love the village. Bless the community. Get to know the community.

It was powerful; the experience of love instead of judgement.

It transformed me. My experiences during those times, of being on teams working alongside friends and strangers, changed my perceptions of this place.

Then came my escape route: university.

Glasgow scared me to start with. My first week there was a challenge; a country bumpkin adapting to the fast-paced city life.
Now I can’t imagine living without it.

And here I am. Back with my parents. Back in the countryside.

This is the last place I ever thought I’d be again.
This was always in your plan.

Coming back.

Everything’s the same, but it’s not.
People move on. I moved on. Regulars change.
Friends get married. Have kids. Move away.
I’m different too. My perspective is different.

Same streets, so familiar.
Same people, but we’re all so different now.

They say the grass is always greener on the other side.

Grey Hair, Creamola Foam & Silence

I made the arduous trek up the street (all 3 minutes of that l-o-n-g drive) to visit my grandparents this evening. We’ve always lived near my grandparent’s, and I was very close to them while growing up. Granda was always out on the farm with dad, even when he shouldn’t have been. I still have vivid memories of watching him tip the tractor over one year, and crawl out with a broken arm – all while already in his 70’s!

Grandma often looked after us during the summer holidays and after school – treating us to all the things grandparents do. Animal bars and Creamola Foam and jelly straight from the packet. Things you’re parent’s are far too sensible to ever indulge you with.

We slowly grew apart as I got older, and since moving to Glasgow I obviously see them a lot less now. It get’s harder each time to talk with them, and I find myself shying away from it, rather than sitting with them and finding mutually acceptable conversation topics. Tonights ditties on dog euthanasia, Haiti, and marriage among others covered a vast array of interesting opinions.

As I’ve been on this journey of discovering and exploring all the ways story shapes us, I’ve been contemplating what that looks like in families. What it might look like in my family.

My grandparents have their stories. Stories I know nothing of.

Ten minutes after I arrived (unannounced, I might add), my grandparents had (planned) visitors arrive. It was fascinating to watch how the conversations unfolded. Two elderly couples sitting around a fire, with me acting almost as a fly on the wall. I didn’t know most of the people or events they were talking about, but they had an understanding with each other that showed they did.

Sweltering from the heat of the blazing fire, and I noticed two things in particular.

One: Almost without exception, every conversation was framed around a person they knew, a specific relationship. This person’s granddaughter now works here; this mans father passed away; this woman’s dog disturbed the sheep. Perhaps as we age we will gain a greater sense of community, or perhaps it’s growing up in a rural community where everybody knows everyone and everything. Sometimes good, sometimes frustrating.

Two: The stories didn’t resolve. There wasn’t always a clear ending, or even a comma, in many of their anecdotes. Again, I wonder if this is something that we become more comfortable with over time, or is it a memory loss issue?!

Either way, those two observations are leading me to desire a greater ability to sit & learn from my elders. Remember, we’ll need people with grey hair and white hair and no hair at all.

I want to get better at learning to sit in the silence with them, waiting for the right words, or simply embracing the quiet with them.