20 years ago
The start of ‘Relay’ training.
The start of a year out programme that was fairly impossible to explain to anyone, um, a year of discipleship, helping CU’s in universities, helping people learn about God, encouraging students, reading the Bible with people, drinking tea and being generally lovely to students in Chichester and Bognor Regis, getting to meet up with other people doing the same thing a few times in the year. Working with a ‘staff worker’. People either stared at me blankly or smiled in a vague encouraging way. Kath is going to do something for God. Sounds ok.
This was our first time together. Relay 1. The first of three training conferences.
I sat in talks.
I sang the words, ‘your majesty, I can but bow, I lay my all before you now’. I felt entirely me, that this thing, this encouraging people thing, was what I had been made to do. I felt alive.
The first evening.
Sent into a room after a talk on integrity to be honest with a few others, to pray, to start a journey together of talking about how we were really, deep inside.
Anna and Sarah. Anna showed us pictures of her new nephew. Sarah had an actual proper mobile phone contract, the first person I knew to have Orange everyday 50, she used it to talk to her fiance, James, each night. I would be working with Sarah in the year, she in Portsmouth, me in Chichester. Anna would be in Exeter.
Anna and Sarah. I have no idea what we talked about on that first night but from then the expectation was set. We met up on team days and conferences throughout the year, thrown together in a room late at night to pray. The weirdness of being the only people we knew who fully understood this strange program we were part of drew us together. The wonder of being able to be honest and call out to our God together bound us tight. My sisters.
The end of the year- Relay 3.
The final talk. Where would we be in 10 years time? Would we still be telling tales of God’s work in our lives? Would we still be in touch with anyone from this formative year?
We determined that we would carry on praying together.
We’d been through something. We needed each other’s understanding of this year to process and move forward. We needed each other’s tender gaze and the simple question ‘how are you?’ We needed each others understanding that we meant the answer to be much deeper than the ‘I’m fine’ automated response.
We said, we’ll do it, we’ll keep on showing up and giving our lives over to our Maker together.
And we did. Through weddings, moves to London, moves back home, starting new things, doing the same old thing, journalism courses, knowing the next step, not knowing anything, through tears and pain, through joys and wonder, through cancer, through the darkest days, through a funeral, through the forming of new lives, through miscarriage, through finding partners to walk this life with, through more weddings, through childbirth again and again and again, through job changes, sickness, through the plodding on, through the seasons of our lives, we stuck together.
To say I am thankful for these two amazing ladies and the life we have shared over the last 20 years is an understatement. I don’t know how I would have ridden the storms of life without them, I am honoured to have shared in riding some of their storms with them.
I cannot express the wonder of friendships over the years, of people who know me inside out and have seen me throughout the changing seasons of life. I love these two sisters of mine. I’m so glad to know them and to know that we have a few more years in us to finally get a photo of the three of us where we all look good.
Anna and Sarah, I never had sisters, until I met you. Here’s to the next 20 years of journeying through this crazy wonderful life with God thing.