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 :)

Monday, 10 June 2013

Loving Lucy's Laughs

At my school I'm part of a 'Peer Tutoring' programme. I get paired up with a young Middle School student who's struggling with school work, and then I meet with them everyday to help them improve.

I tutor a gorgeous girl named Lucy. We meet everyday instead of morning break to work on maths together. I must say, it really is SO much fun! We get to play maths games, have a laugh, and I find it so rewarding to see her improvements week after week.

At the beginning of the year the Senior School students in the programme were
told how rewarding it would be to tutor these kids. The teacher told us about all these studies that suggest that it's really the tutor who gets the most out of tutoring, not the kid.

To be honest, I was pretty sceptical about this. I really only wanted to do the programme because I thought it would look great on a resume for work and on my school records.

At our first tutoring session Lucy and I were both quite shy. I found it slightly awkward helping a girl I'd never met before with her maths, and I was really nervous about how she'd respond to my teaching. Over the weeks Lucy and I have grown very comfortable with each other. She comes waltzing in the door at the same time, every day, and we spend half an hour laughing, playing games, and practising times tables.

It hasn't all been easy, though. There are some days when I sit at the tutoring table with my head in my hands, thinking to myself, 'please don't show up!' On those days I'm so emotionally drained and physically tired that tutoring Lucy is the LAST thing I feel like doing - It seems to take a lot of energy to keep up with her, and to try and smile just as brightly and sound enthusiastic and encouraging all the time. Ironically, however, Lucy is the ONLY tutee to have had 100% attendance to all of our sessions, all year - something that I can't even boast of!

Tutoring Lucy has taught me many things. I've learnt to be better at encouraging and giving words of affirmation, and my patience has definitely been improving. Lucy has brought me so much joy in these past few weeks. It's such a blessing to see her bright little face light up when she gets the right answer, and to hear her laughter as she beats me at bingo for the gazillionth time! I love hearing about her weekends, getting high-fives from her, and the way that she runs up to me in the playground so enthusiastically.

Who would have thought that tutoring one small girl would leave me grinning for the rest of the day, so thankful for the opportunity to have an input into her spirited young life? I wouldn't have. And that's because of my attitude at the beginning of the programme - I was only in it for 'brownie points' with teachers, and an impressive resume. I didn't expect to get anything out of it - but I did.

This month I've been trying to have a positive attitude when it comes to trying out new things. I'm not naturally good at it, so it's something I have to work really hard for. The point is, it all depends on how I see things. If I go into something thinking, 'This is going to be terrible!', then I won't get the most out of it. But, even if I'm unsure about a new situation, I can choose to have a positive attitude, and that way I'll be happy, whatever the outcome.

Next time I'm faced with something new or different, I'm going to remember to be positive - are you?

I guess that's it for now - hope you're all doing well! :)

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Beautiful in His Eyes

What makes a girl beautiful? 

Is it the way she does her make up, how she styles her hair, or the clothes that she wears? Personally, I believe that beauty comes from more than just the outward appearance. To me, beauty comes from the heart

For graceful arms, '...reach out with compassion to those in need.' Romans 9:15

For sparkly eyes, '...always look at the good side of other people.' Philippians 2:4

For tender lips, '...speak only kind words toward others.' Colossians 4:6

For beautiful feet, '...always walk with God.' Genesis 6:9

For a charming face, '...always smile with a happy heart.' Proverbs 15:13

I'd encourage you to think about these verses this week. What do they mean for you? Are you beautiful on the inside, or do you put all your thoughts and efforts into being beautiful on the outside? 

God already made you beautiful. You are his creation, and you are more precious than rubies. 

Next time you're curling or straightening your hair, putting on make up, or deciding what to wear, remember that God looks at your heart. What will he see there? Will it be beautiful?

Monday, 3 June 2013

Rainy Days, and the Cupcakes that went Bananas...

Yesterday was a rainy day. The wind howled, the trees trembled, and the rain wept.

'What's better then baking cupcakes on a rainy afternoon?' I asked myself. 'Nothing!' was the obvious answer. So, I decided to make cupcakes. And not just any kind - a seriously fantabulously scrumdidliumptious kind - the chocolate-banana kind! *licks lips and gazes at the leftovers in longing*

Warning: These cupcakes are highly addictive and may cause excessive indulging.

Choc-Banana Cupcakes
Makes 16
25 mins to cook (depending on the efficiency of your oven - mine didn't take as long)

150g butter, soft
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
2 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
200g good-quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (although I would recommend milk chocolate)
2 cups self-raising flour
1/4 cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 180˚c.

2. Beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, banana, and chocolate, and mix well. 

3. Pour in the milk and flour, using a metal spoon to mix. 

4. Spoon the mixture into patty pans, or you can just grease the tin. 

5. Put the tray into the oven and set the timer for 25 minutes.

 (This wasn't actually in the recipe, but I improvised - I mean, what can go wrong when there's chocolate involved?!)
6. While the cupcakes are cooking, melt 100g of white chocolate over a pot of hot water.

7. Once the cupcakes are out of the oven, dig a tiny hole into the top of each and spoon the melted white chocolate in to fill it.

8. I dipped frozen raspberries into the white chocolate and let them harden in the freezer, and they tasted fantastic with the cupcakes!

The whole family gave the cupcakes a big thumbs up - The chances of there being any left when I get home from school this afternoon are quite low, I'm afraid...

Have a great week everyone!

P.S. For the original cupcake recipe, click here :)

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Samir's Story

Hey all! 

I know, I haven't posted in aaaaggges. I've been pretty busy with exams and writing English speeches - ugh! I guess it's just that time of the year... *sigh*

Today I thought I might share with you a little story that I wrote a while back, about a former child soldier. I was confronted by recent campaigns that have been trying to raise awareness of the issue, and after doing a little research myself, I felt inspired to write a story from the perspective of an old man. Anyway, here it is:

Samir's Story

Samir stumbled through the market place, sweat dripping from his brow, his gnarled hands quivering. A salty tear slipped from his eye and rolled slowly down his cheek, the moisture glistening on his dark skin like a jewel catching the sun. It was only his imagination, he told himself. He was safe now. The man he had seen in the stall across the street was just another stranger with that same, awful face which seemed to follow him wherever he went.

Samir pressed on, oblivious to the sounds of bartering and the consistent chatter of voices around him. He reached the edge of the market square and shuffled down a narrow alleyway till he came to an old doorway, which was once used and now forgotten; it’s cracked paint peeling from the wooden frame and years of filth and grime covering the steps. Once hidden in the shadows the tears flowed freely, wetting his lashes and blurring his vision. The shaking continued, and his cracked lips quivered, the fresh tears rolling past and falling into his clasped hands.

It did not take long for the memories to come flooding back to him, it never did. It was as though they lurked in the shadows of his past, hidden beneath tired eyes and a weak smile, waiting until he was alone so they could come out and haunt him again.

He saw the dark and decrepit alleyway transforming in his mind to what it had been years ago when he was a boy; an alleyway full of all the make-believe and dreams of a child. He saw his brother Jamal running past in the dirt, caught up in the game that they had played together, a game where they could block out everything else and just be caught in a world of fantasy for a few hours.

The alleyway changed again, and Samir saw himself, a boy of 13, with a gun thrust in his hand by the soldier, the owner of that very face which haunted his thoughts and ruled his dreams. He saw himself as he was ordered to shoot Jamal, and his own voice echoed through the vision and resonated off the concrete walls, “No!” Trapped in the nightmare, Samir could do nothing but watch as he heard the gun explode and saw his brother’s body crumple to the ground, blood pouring from the wound and turning the puddles they had played in to a deep and sickening red.

Cries arose from within him and burst forth in great, heaving sobs, sending his frail body into spasms of coughs. Samir looked down at his shaking hands, the same hands that had pulled that trigger so many years ago. He had been such a coward, and how he hated himself for it. There was not a day gone by that he didn’t wish it was him who had died that day.

Fumbling in his pocket, Samir pulled out his worn notebook that had survived all of these years. Opening it’s faded leather cover, he began to read from the beginning.        

                      6th May 1953
Last night I had the dream again, where I was back in the alleyway. I screamed and screamed for help but no one heard me, and as I cradled Jamal in my arms he changed into the soldier’s sneering face that laughed at me.

Yesterday we went into a village and recruited more boys. There was one who refused to join our army, and so the soldiers shot him in the head right there, in front of all of us. I saw the boy’s fear written on is face as he said “No”, but he didn’t flinch as the gun was aimed at him. Why couldn’t I have been as brave when I had the chance?

Maalik says that if you stay here for long enough the soldiers will eventually turn you hard and cold. I don’t know if it’s true, but I don’t want to end up like them.

It pains Samir to keep going. He wants to forget it all, but he’s terrified that if he does, he will forget Jamal and what his cowardly actions that day cost him. Samir sits in silence, his calloused hands gently cradling the book in his lap. The book is his only sanity, a reminder of who he was and how those ruthless soldiers changed him into a hardhearted man. He lives in the fear of his past, afraid that it will all catch up with him one day.

Slipping the book back into his pocket, Samir carefully rises to his feet and takes slow, deliberate steps towards the light at the end of the alleyway. For the moment the visions have faded, the memories left him for a while. They’ll come back though. They always do.


I hope this story helped to give you an idea of the kind of battles that former child soldiers go through - remembering their horrific pasts, and not being able to escape their memories. 

If you're interested in finding out more about child soldiers or what YOU can do to help, visit this website.

Well, what a relief it is to have FINALLY written something again! I'd better get to work on that English speech now... I really SHOULD rethink my priorities next time :) 

Enjoy your week!

Maddy :)

P.S. The font sizes are doing something weird, so I'm sorry about that - I've tried fixing them, but it's not working. So yeah. Bye!