Saturday, 18 July 2015

Out of the Blue... And Instagram!

Okay, yes.

It's been two years.

Rather embarrassing.

I won't even bother making excuses, but please accept my apology for disappearing off the face of blog-world for so long, haha.

Anyway, I've just popped in to say that, for those of you who are interested, I've started up a 'writing' account on Instagram. I'd be honoured if you would check it out!


(My personal account is maddygracehope, for anyone interested in keeping in touch).

Lots of love and best wishes to you all! xx

I'm hoping to start blogging regularly again after I graduate at the end of this year... Woohoo!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Choosing Confidence for Rita

So you're in a conference, a church, or some type of meeting, and the speaker calls for people to stand or raise their hands in response to something. You sit there sweating, heart pounding, mouth going dry, desperately wanting to stand, but feeling paralysed by fear.

Your mind is raging war with itself. Dozens of doubts and fears pop into your mind, swirling around until you feel drowned by your fear. 'What will the others think of you?' a thought will ask. 'What if no one else gets up?' they say to you. You sit there in a confused state of mind, wanting desperately to stand, yet being drowned by the great fear of what others will think, as you enviously watch those around you rising to their feet.

You wish you could be like them. You wish you had the confidence.

Does anyone else ever feel like this, or is it just me? I faced this very same situation this morning at a conference put on for the older girls in my school. The speaker, Carly, had been telling us all that confidence is a choice, a decision you have to make. She'd asked those who felt that they often lacked confidence or were too shy to stand to their feet and be prayed for. In my heart I cried out, 'Yes! That's me!' but my head gave me a dozen reasons to keep myself seated. I sat and fretted for a minute until the last call was made, and with my heart in my throat I slowly rose to my feet.

Although I still felt like I was recovering from a minor heart attack, I began to feel a sense of freedom wash over me, as I realised what Carly had been saying was true - confidence is a choice. In that moment I had made the choice, and it had worked - I'd gotten over my fear of what others would think of me, and chose to be confident.

Later in the afternoon, I went down the road with a team of girls to go and visit some elderly ladies in a nursing home. I was feeling pretty comfortable as I sat at a table with a lady called Gwenda and one of my teachers, because the teacher did all the talking, and all I had to do was smile politely and 'ooh' and 'aaah' over countless pictures of Gwenda's old lounge room or her great-great-grandkids. I was safe inside my comfort zone - that is, until I noticed an old lady on the other side of the room who was all alone, and I felt bad that no one was talking to her.

Definitely lacking confidence, I got out of my seat and made my way over to her. In my head another battle began. My fears told me things like, 'She probably doesn't want your company,' and 'You'll just make things awkward.' Then suddenly I remembered Carly's words. I stood up straighter, pulled my shoulders back, put on a bright and cheery smile, and skipped over, saying, "Hello! I'm Maddy, what's your name?"

You see? I decided to be confident. I stepped out of my comfort zone. I was terrified, but it worked.

For the next hour I chatted away to Rita, a lady who'd only been at the nursing home 3 weeks and didn't have any friends yet. Before going into the nursing home I had asked God to use me to bless someone, and I believe he did.

Later on, back at school, we had a debriefing talk. The teacher asked if anyone wanted to share something of their experience, and everything went silent. Heart beating fast, mouth going dry, I tentatively volunteered.

I then spoke quite freely, (though I don't really remember what I sad, my nervousness seems to have fizzled my memory of that part), sharing with the hundreds of girls sitting there about how I've always lacked confidence, and how Carly's words on choosing to be confident had really spoken to me. When I was finished, everyone sat there clapping for me with big smiles of encouragement.

In that moment, I felt free. I had done it. Stepped WAY out of my comfort zone, and conquered my fear.

So you see, it really is as easy as that. Just CHOOSE to be confident!

Have a great week everyone :)

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

'The Zone'

I'm currently standing in a small computer terminal in the Singapore Airport. I've got exactly 12 minutes remaining before I get logged out, so this'll have to be quick.

Early this morning my family and I set out from our home to the train station, embarking on our 8 week long Europe trip. I've just gotten off a 7 hour flight to Singapore from Sydney, and after a couple of hours shopping here, we'll be taking off again to Frankfurt, Germany. I've been having a lot of fun, walking backwards on those travelator things, as you do, when you're racing your sisters...

I'm in 'The Zone' right now. You know, the one where your ears are still blocked, and your mind is consumed with the pat-pat of your footsteps, the beat of your heart, and your breathing sounds 10 times louder than usual! It's weird, because my family never experiences 'The Zone' - it seems to be just me.

I don't mind it though, really - it gives me a chance to take a step back from life and look at things from a different perspective... Everything seems so much clearer, like you can literally hear your own thoughts!

So, I guess I'm just letting you all know that I may not be posting for a while - but keep an eye out, though, because when I do, my posts will be filled with pictures of me sun baking in Greece, having my hair braided in Thailand, and touring ruins in Rome.

Well, there's only 7 minutes left on this computer! I'd better go now - 'duty-free' shopping is calling me!

I hope you all have a lovely time, wherever you are, whatever you're doing. Stay safe everyone, as I'll try to!

Enjoying being in 'The Zone,'

Maddy :)

5 minutes to go....

4 minutes left...

3 minutes...


Okay, I'd seriously better go before this thing logs me out. Bye guys! :D

Saturday, 3 August 2013

A More Important Race

The air was filled with crisp cold-morning fog, the stadium filled with the laughter and chatter of hundreds of kids all pumped for their races, and the enticing smell of salted hot chips wafted over the grounds. It was the Athletics Regionals - a chance for all the schools in my area to compete against each other.

Nervously I arrived at the sports stadium, anticipating the 800m, the first event of the day. Even as I write this now I have butterflies in my stomach, just remembering my nervous anticipation from this morning! I went for a jog, stretched, and then waited in the marshalling area anxiously. All too soon it was time for my age group to make our way onto the track. I was put in lane 4, and adrenaline pumped through my veins as I crouched in the starting position, ready to go.

The gun fired, and with a burst of energy I bolted from my starting position. Driving my arms and legs hard, I set about to overtake the other girls. By the time the first corner came around I was winning. I heard the commentator make some remark about what a great pace I had set, and I grinned. I ran fast, and kept my eyes focused on the track ahead thinking, 'Hey, this is great - I might actually win!' I turned the corner and ran along the last 100m stretch of the first lap. My dad was there, encouraging me and taking pictures, my grandparents clapped and waved, and the other competitors from my school were watching and cheering me on.

I felt great - that is, until I completed the first lap. After I rounded the corner heading for my second lap, everything suddenly felt dead. I tried to drive my arms harder, but it felt like they didn't respond. My lungs heaved and gasped for air, and my head swam. I dropped my pace rather rapidly, and could do nothing but watch in despair as I was overtaken by 4 girls. I struggled to keep going, and as my legs started to burn I considered giving up altogether. 'No!' I decided, 'I can do this!' With all the energy I could muster I crossed the finish line at a slow jog, in 5th place.

The problem was, I hadn't done enough training. I'd been sick, I didn't rest enough, and I forgot about dad's advice to 'pace myself.' I gave the race everything, but in the end it that wasn't enough - I wasn't fit enough, I needed more training, and I just wasn't prepared.

Having said all this, my experience last Monday reminded me of another race - a more important one - that we're called to run in. In Philippians 3:13-14, Paul encourages to run the race towards the prize of Christ Jesus:

'Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.'

The thing is, this race is a lot like the one I ran in last week. This race requires training as well - perhaps even more so. You see, if we run the race on our own merits, we'll fall and stumble. We need to run the race relying on God, putting our trust and hope in him. To be the best, an athlete needs to train, get fit, and constantly improve.

Like an athlete, we should be diligent in 'training' ourselves, and seeking advice and techniques to help us run a better race. One way we can 'train' ourselves is by reading God's word - his teachings, advice, and techniques. Reading the bible prepares us for the challenges that face us along the track ahead. When the doubts, fears, and worries rear their ugly heads and tell us to quit the race, the bible will show us exactly what to say to them!

The bible offers us so much wisdom - but it often seems that so many other things in my life get in the way of my time with God, reading his word. I've put other things first in my life, and as a result, I haven't been 'running' too well lately.

This week I'm challenging myself to wake up just a little earlier and spend time with God in his word every morning. Its something I need to do a whole lot more often - besides, I don't want to blow out during the race like I did last Monday!

What about you? 

How's your 'running' going?

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Latin Lunatics, Wayward Wimples, and some very Nonsensical Nuns

Last week, I spent my days as a nun. 

'Has she officially gone mad?' you wonder. 

Well, as a matter of fact, no. She hasn't. But she DID have a very strange and exciting time last week, which she shall now elaborate on...

From Monday to Saturday last week, 9am - 10pm, I was a singing, dancing, latin-speaking nun in our school's big musical, 'The Sound of Music.' On those days I could be found running around the Civic Theatre in black robes that constantly tripped me over, wearing a tiresomely difficult-to-keep-on 'wimple', and sporting a rather mad grin, as I navigated through the constant stream of nuns, general dancers, nazis, and leads upon the crowded spiralling staircases. 

Dressing Rooms
The dressing rooms at the theatre were rather marvellous, equipped with a bathroom and shower, walk in robe, and individual mirrors surrounded by light bulbs, which made you feel like you were preparing for your debut on Broadway. In the red-carpeted corridors it was a tricky path that lead you to the end, which involved stepping over sprawled nuns, tripping on the gowns of elegant ballroom dancers, and dodging around annoyed nazis. That being said, my friends and I kept mostly to our dressing room (actually, it was theirs, not mine), and spent hours playing card games, chanting the oh-so-catchy 'Doe-a-deer', and fixing each other's silly 'wimples,' which just didn't like to stay put!

We would literally stay in that circle for HOURS each day, playing enthusiastic rounds of 'cheat,' 'speed,' and 'spoons.'

Hair and Makeup
When we arrived at the theatre each morning there was a mad dash to throw on our costumes and race upstairs to the makeup room. There we were painted with a more-than-generous amount of orange 'cake makeup', had so much eye liner applied to us that we sported an 'Egyptian' look, and had our hair painstakingly tamed and slicked into a tight bun with many bobby pins. Funnily enough, even the boys had to suffer through the same ordeal, but apparently when you sit in the audience the stage lights make everyone on stage look normal - thank goodness for that! The boys also had to have their hair slicked back with excessive amounts of gel, making it look as though they had grease caked through their hair - I found it rather hilarious, and it was very difficult trying to take the guys seriously as you talked to them, because you couldn't help but laugh at their long, black eyelashes, blushed cheeks and slicked back hair!

I almost enjoyed being 'pampered' each morning as my face was painted - It was sort of fun, and made you feel like you were an important actress being prepared for her show!

Backstage Antics
After our make-up was applied we had a long wait, and so we ran around in our nun costumes like crazed baboons, bubbling with exuberance-ness, (I know, I know, it's not a word...), tripping up and down the stairs, and yelling our latin chant for the world to hear. My friend and I also found great fascination in just about everything, especially taking photos in the light-up mirrors in our dressing rooms. We went a little crazy most days, no doubt helped by our lack of sleep and indulgence in sugar! When each performance was about to begin we would hear through the speakers in our dressing rooms, "Beginners for Act 1 please, beginners for Act 1," at which an excited squeal was let out by all nuns, as we scrambled for the mirrors, tucking in wayward strands of hair, fixing those annoying wimples, and pulling on stockings.

Okay, yes. I admit it. I MAY have been caught in the act of exuberantly singing on the stairs. Which was a common occurrence in my over-the-top excited state each morning...
My friend and I found great fascination in just about everything, especially taking photos in the light up mirrors in our dressing rooms!

The last minute adjustment of wimples before we were called on stage is one part of the whole experience that I WON'T regret. Those silly head coverings had a way of slipping and sliding all over your head, and just when you thought you had finally managed to get the thing to stay put, the side pieces would come poking out again!

Ready to go on stage with ALMOST perfect wimples in place. What a rare sight!

Under the Spotlight
I would love to say that we made our way serenely, maturely, and quietly down the stairs that lead to the stage, but as you've probably already guessed, that was assuredly not the case. During the two minute introduction piece played by the orchestra before the show, backstage erupted with the sounds of excited whispers, annoyed 'ssshhhh's' from the Stage Crew, the running feet of panicky nuns whose battery-operated candles didn't work, the slow thundering of large set pieces rolling by, and the squeaks of the ropes and pulleys controlling all of the stage curtains. After a nerve-racking wait, the large red curtain was lifted, the music began playing, and the nuns slowly and gracefully (on the most part) filed on stage, carrying the little flickering candles with heads bowed, singing our latin song. For me it was the hardest scene that we nuns were a part of, because at the beginning of a show you feel excited, nervous, jumpy, and giggly all at the same time - trying to keep a straight face and look peaceful and holy whilst your heart is beating 100 miles per hour and butterflies are frantically fluttering in your belly can prove very difficult indeed! 

There's me, on the far left of the 'balcony,' trying to keep a straight face!

Sadly, Fame Came to an End
By the end of each show everyone was rather disappointed that another one had finished - the time flies by so quickly when you're doing a performance! The musical ended with bows from all of us, and then an encore. The encores were so much fun - the stage is filled with singers and dancers, all laughing and filled with excitement and energy, and even the nuns get to loosen up and join in with the choreographed moves to the song 'Doe-a-deer!' When the song is finished, the lights dim and the cheering fades away, and that's it. Another end to a show. We all filed back to our dressing rooms, changed out of our costumes, tidied up our belongings, and then got driven straight home, where we fell asleep almost immediately after having plonked on our beds. (Well, I don't know about everyone else, but that's what I did!)

And finally, after all the backstage mayhem, we put on a spectacular show - here are all the nuns at Maria and Captain Von Trapp's wedding. I'm in the top right of the photo, contentedly singing from my balcony!

All in all, being a 'nun' was one of the most fun experiences of my life. Despite the long hours of sitting around back stage, the late nights, sore throats, tiresome wimples, orange faces, bossy vocal directors, crowded passageways and busy schedules, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the musical, and wouldn't hesitate to sign up a second time!

Until next time, my lovely friends :)

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

A 'Hadassah' Life

I was reading back through my journal from last year, and I found an entry that I'd forgotten writing about. I wrote it just after finishing a really inspiring book, and I was convicted today of the fact that I never strived to do all the things on the list that I wrote for myself to do. 

So, I decided to share the journal entry with you, in the hope that you will be encouraged and inspired to live a Hadassah life - the life of a girl whose sole purpose is to serve God in everything she does and love those around her.

4pm Wednesday 21st October 2012

I'm sitting here, LITERALLY breathless and flushed after finishing the third book in Francine River's series 'Mark of the Lion'. It's incredible. Really. Romance, action, violence, history, scandal, all that riveting stuff that makes a good book. But it's MORE than that. I've learnt so much in the past week reading these three books. About forgiveness. Love. True Peace. Humility. And most of all, the heart of a true servant. 

The books are about how God uses a plain, Christian, Jewish slave girl named Hadassah to reach a whole Roman family who are selfish, rich, arrogant, and pagan. Her selfless love and humility, her inner peace, and her undying faith all testify of God's power and grace to the family. I won't tell you what happens, because I'm BEGGING you to read it, but all I can say is, wow! I want to be just like Hadassah.

Some of her traits that I want to acquire are:
~Total humility - no pride, always humble, giving God glory in EVERYTHING that I do.
~Selfless love - not given out of expecting love in return, but loving those who seem to do  
  NOTHING to deserve it.
~Reliance on God - Hadassah's whole life revolves around serving God; she's ALWAYS 
  praying and worshiping. 
~Servant heart - being completely selfless, putting others before her own needs, serving as 
  though it is her passion and joy.
~Quiet and gentle spirit - others are drawn to her because they sense a peace about her. 
  She is slow to anger, quick to love. She doesn't try to defend herself when accused, she  
  doesn't argue, she is quiet and submissive.
~Respect - total submission to authorities and a servant hearted attitude - she's always 
  thinking, 'What can I do for them?' She never asks for things that she 'deserves' but 
  accepts the decisions of her elders without argument or complaint.

Some simple ways that I can practice these traits in my life this week:
~Offer to help mum or dad without being asked.
~Pray to God wherever I am, bringing all my burdens to him and praising him for 
~Love my 'enemies'  even when it's hard or I don't feel like it.
~Don't be afraid to share with others the eternal life I've found through Jesus - tell others!
~Do everything in love - find small ways to help others.
~Place others before myself, serve them and listen to them.
~Don't boast or show pride in any conversations, but focus on encouraging the other 
~Learn to be slow to judge - don't look down on others or judge them by their outward 
  appearance, but instead look at their heart.
~Read the bible, find teachings that encourage me, and spend time actually ASKING God 
  what HE wants me to do.
~Forgive people, even for small things - don't hold grudges.

How about you? Do you live a Hadassah life, or are you, like me, often so caught up in everything life throws at you that you forget to just take a moment to appreciate God's grace and humble yourself before him?

I want to encourage you to take some time this week to think about the ways you could strive to have more of a servant's heart. I know there are so many things that I need to improve in to be more like Hadassah - especially in my humility and the love I show towards others. I'd also urge you to read Francine River's trilogy 'Mark of the Lion'. The books really were so captivating, encouraging and inspiring!

Well, have a lovely week everyone! 

Maddy :)