That one time I realized I was awful at maintaining a blog..

What a four months it’s been! YIKES. With a new year beginning it’s dance I realize that regularly blogging is not one of my gifts. So I apologize for that..if you need an outlet please blame the internet connection, my procrastination, the mold I came out of, or the back seat that discipline has decided to take in my general way of life:)

With the season change has come snow!…that one time. It may have melted by the afternoon but it stayed long enough to take some photos. There’s nothing like waking up to an unexpected dusting of snow to the local surroundings. It’s times like this when I can hear God whispering “I know you miss home, here’s some on your doorstep.” I had a huge smile on my face all day because even though it’s the season for snow, I felt like it was for me.

Image

The winter season has brought about a shift to our normal job of hosting youth groups, school groups and others into doing maintenance jobs within the fleet and onboard Trinity.  With no groups onboard we spend the days as a team working on all of our boats, sanding, painting, epoxying, bolting, cleaning and everything else that needs to be fixed and looked after to make sure our boats are in good shape for the coming season.

The switch was a nice change of pace from the normal madness that comes with children on a boat and I really enjoy learning how to maintain and fix up our wayfarers.

Since we all have weekends off together now, the gap years and I have spent a lot of time together. We’ve all become an even closer family, spending our downtime in various ways, such as:

Random challenges:

Alternative push ups

Alternative push ups…not only are they ineffective..they also look hilarious!

Sailing:

Pete and I NOT helping the head chef sail his catamaran.

Pete and I NOT helping the head chef sail his catamaran.

Headstands in the middle of the road:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Assisting the boys in securing their manhood:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

And (my personal favorite) practicing our swagger:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Since it’s been so long since I’ve been able to write a blogpost, I feel slightly overwhelmed with the happenings that I want to write about, there’s so much that I want to share and I know as soon as I post something more memories with float to the functioning part of my brain, and knock on my skull for a dramatic exit.

The posts that follow will most likely be completely random and certainly not in chronological order, but their memories I want to share with all of you, because it’s because of you that I get to be here, and also fits with the completely random not chronologically accurate person I have chose to become. So Thank you!

Jet Leg With a Dash of “Fishink”

Another year started at Fellowship Afloat and already I’m nursing kayaking wounds with a big smile on my face.  When I returned to the USA a few weeks ago I was excited but anxious about my decision to stay in England for a couple more years. Although I had successfully avoided saying final goodbyes to my UK family, I’d added some even harder goodbyes to family and friends that I’ve known my whole life. The hugs were hard and the plane ride even harder, but needless to say I was relieved to return to the big red ship and have nothing but comfort and a feeling of coming home running through my organs.

Image

I was greeted by the girly gap years as I wheel-barrowed another years worth of belongings down the path (ya..theres girls around now..and it’s awesome). Still struggling with the 7 hour time difference I jumped straight into work right away, with a day sail, a weeks worth of Austrians (mein boat es shnella alz stein boat) and a few days of freakishly small English baby children. Going straight from a gap year volunteer to an almost senior staff member has been quick, terrifying and challenging but I love my new role and am learning even more about all the activities here at Fellowship Afloat. I hope to keep you all as updated as possible and know how much I love and cherish you in my life.

A few quotes from the Austrian group:

(In the middle of a kayaking session)

Hannah: “Ohhh, I am so sick of zis fishink.”

Me: “Sick of the fishing?..Already? Well then you should try kayaking.”

Hannah: ” UGHH zis is what I mean zee kayakink..I’m sick of zee kayakink.”

(during the races, also in the middle of the kayaking session)

Lucca: “Sam! Sam! Sam! Did I go fast?”

Me: “Ya Lucca! You went really fast! Well done man!”

Lucca: “Yes..it is because I did zee powerplay.”

Also, here’s a picture of me and my dog smiling: Image

Why I’m Going Back: And Other Reasons Why My Last Few Weeks Have Been Insane

“I advise you to say your dream is possible and then overcome all inconveniences, ignore all the hassles and take a running leap through the hoop, even if it is in flames.” -Les Brown

Have you ever prayed for something to show up and it shows up so quick you almost miss that its happening? I can now join the many to say that it has not only happened to me but it punched me in the face and said “Jump ya Fool.”

Image

A week before I was supposed to fly home I was offered another role at Fellowship Afloat.  It took me by surprise and I wasn’t even remotely prepared for the possibility of staying to arise.  But after a very quick deliberation and interview I decided that this opportunity was the experience I was hoping for.  Now, on Wednesday (yes..this Wednesday) I’ll be flying back to Londontown to start my second year on the ship as an assistant lead instructor.  It’ll will be a different role in that I’ll get some leadership experience and I’ll get to take the Senior Instructor course at the end of the year.

I was praying for some kind of direction, a clear next step for my life, and God provided. It’s going to be hard, challenging, and another year thousands of miles away from my family but I’m incredibly excited for this opportunity. I plan to keep this blog updated EVEN MORE then I did last year (dream big,) and I hope all of you know how much I love you all and am so thankful for how supported I am.

Please keep me in your prayers as I jump.

“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without the benefit of experience.” -Henry Miller

 

An Update On the Last Month..Plus or Minus 4 Months

Since it’s almost impossible to fit all that’s happened into one blog post and even more impossible to fit all of you into my bag so I can literally show you what I’ve been doing (not a fat joke…just an observation), here are some short but sweet highlights:

Let’s start with our last Time for God conference.

Image

We all met up back at Cliff College to talk about our year, the lessons we’d learned, to see those who finished the course on Christian living graduate, and discuss the most terrifying: what to do when we get home. Many had plans, some had hopes, and I just shrugged.  I knew where I wanted to go I just didn’t have a specific next step on how to get there. “God will lead me where He wants” I kept reassuring myself. But the more I kept trying to reassure myself the more I needed to be reassured. What if God wasn’t waiting with the perfect job for me, or worse, what if I didn’t notice it? It’s scary to stand before an ominous question mark and smile, but I did anyway..not because I’m insistently optimistic, but more because I’m a really ugly crier, and a breakdown wasn’t going to help anything.

One of the best parts of these conferences is hearing over and over how not alone you are in this feeling. Millions have stood before that question mark and millions have made their mark on the world around them regardless of where they thought they were going.  Together we worked on a banner to represent our ups, downs, and lessons of the last year which is what were holding above in the photo.

After some dreaded  “maybe I’ll run into you in our giant mega country we call the United States” goodbyes and teary hugs we all parted ways for the next phase of our 10 very different lives. Its very likely I might not see many of them again, but they’ll be in my heart forever…sarcastically commenting on my life choices as they should be.

A few weeks later Luke Stappler made his way to Londontown accompanied by the lovely Amanda Brateng for an awesome day of catching up and taking photos like this:

10503_10153031760510577_1451714219_n1001514_10153048878450104_1524195816_n

A few days of Trinity maintenance were already in the works by the time I returned to the ship. Volunteers showed up over night, giving their time to help us paint, varnish, sand, epoxy and anything else that was needed for a few days.

1098315_10151843070604257_1762227217_n

Right. Now for the slightly more hectic stuff. I’m going to call this section: LONGEST BLOG EVER PART 2:  MULTIACTIVITY WEEKS

Multiactivity weeks are 2 weeks during the summer that the ship basically turns into a giant camp on steroids. The two things you need to know about these weeks are 1. There is ALWAYS a theme, and 2. It is ALWAYS over the top. This year was no different.

The theme chosen for this year was 007. In a few days the entire ship had transformed into the remote (not very camouflaged) headquarters of MI6, the purpose being to train upcoming kids to be spies to replace all of us who were retiring. Step one, however, was transforming the ship..a task not to be underestimated.

Needless to say it was an epic week full of many a random time. Every night there was an evening show where Pete was the weatherman and I was the secretary Ms. Moneypenny..as you do.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Before I knew it Multiactivity was over, a week of single parent families had come and gone, and our 3 day sailing cruise up the coast was just an amazing memory. It was time to pack and I was anything but ready for the journey. More to follow.

 

 

The Tollesbury Harlem Shake

This is from an event we did earlier this Spring, we attempted to get 100 people sailing on the water at the same time. The final number was around 96 but we had a blast. If your looking for me, I’m the one in the bright red jacket with my back turned to the camera..looking fly.

A Year Long Gallery!

What You Can Learn from an Egg, a Carrot and some Coffee Beans

At our last Time For God Conference, Paul shared this parable about the three things a love consuming the most: eggs, carrots and coffee. Since it was a good lesson for me I thought I’d pass it along to all of you!

Carrot, Egg and Coffee:

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.  Turning to her daughter, she asks, “Tell me what you see.”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg.

Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile.

Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?”

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?   Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat?

Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a break-up, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavour. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to make you happy.

The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way. The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can’t go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.

When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so at the end, you’re the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.

 

That One Time I Fell in While Sailing

Since learning how to sail in September I’ve become quite proud of the fact that at this point of my very short sailing career I have never capsized a boat with kids OR lost anyone over the side…that was not myself.

This is a short story of the day I did a backwards somersault off of a sailboat..completely by accident.

The scene of our tale is a place called the leavings, a wider part of the creek that we sail quite regularly, on an overcast afternoon in June.  The local primary school had come down for an afternoon of sailing and getting to know the area that surrounds Tollesbury. I’ve spent the last few months sailing with kids every week and even teaching some courses, so I was feeling pretty confident about a few hours with 3 kids that had at least seen a sailboat before.

One of the girls in my boat, however, was not as confident. She’d sailed before but unfortunately had capsized it with a friend and was quite nervous about the afternoon. With the phrase “Challenge Accepted” skimming through my mind I spent the day getting her more and more comfortable with the boat leaning, and she slowly worked her way up onto the edge of the boat next to me.

Now when the wind blows on the side of your boat, the boat leans to one side.  Since a flat boat is a faster boat, a few pieces of webbing called toe straps are bolted into the floor of both sides of the boat, the idea being if you hook your feet and lean out the boat will be balanced. 

The whole experience is called hiking, and on a good windy day you can get the kids to lean out all the way and stick their heads in the water. Here’s a photo of my dad attempting it when my parents came to visit (note: the expression that says “no thanks”):

Image

This is what pros look like:

Image

So after an afternoon of getting this girl up on the side and hiking with a smile, our whole boat was feeling pretty epic. After almost touching her hair in the water she came up laughing saying “I did it!,” affirming her victory I immediately said “Excellent! See, as long as you hook your feet on the toe straps you won’t fall in. You can even lean all the way back like this.”  

Cue: toe strap coming untied and sending me straight back head first into the water while my crew of 9 year olds sailed nicely downwind without me.

The boat and I were both quickly recovered and we continued the sail laughing hysterically, while my kids shouted to every passing boat “MY INSTRUCTOR’S THE ONE THAT FELL IN!”.

Although I will be mocked for the rest of the season, I’m happy to be a part of an ironic experience that I will never forget.

Cellphones on the Ceiling

Image

It’s impossible to come into a year long placement with no expectations, but it’s funny how negative mine tended to be now that I look back, forward and up. I’ve always grown up assuming the worst so I could always come away with a smile on my face. “Prepare, prepare, prepare,” you could say. For example, when I knew I was going to be spending this year on the Lightship the normal positives of “Coolest. Year. Ever.” was quickly replaced with a panicked: “I’m going to be the first one to sink the Lightship,” and “Why would giving 30 children bows and arrows EVER be a good idea?”

This is incredible. The people here are incredible. The stories here are incredible. God is incredible.

I think this every day, but I still end the occasional grind exhausted from working sometimes 8am-11pm with kids screaming left and right, demanding they be fed, sailed with, or loved or whatever. It’s exhausting trying to expect everything to go wrong and still be surprised when other parts of your life chuckle “SURPRISE! This is wrong, you didn’t expect it, and there’s nothing you can do about it sucka.” Good, great or horrible, this happens to all of us.

I guess in the end expectations (any way, shape or form) are a ridiculous pastime.  No matter how much time you spend laying out the possibilities or preparing for amazement or disaster, it’s always going to be the equivalent of baking a cake with no recipe, guidance or previous experience. None of us know what life’s going to be, that’s why we’re supposed to trust God I hear.

This week, as what happens all over the world in all different contexts, a tragedy ensued that could not be prepared for or fixed with one of my best friends from home. I spent my day off skyping, cursing, crying and attemping to understand why God could let incredible people be this hurt, heartbroken, and undeservedly sad. I struggle with the bad in life. Specifically death in life. It was a consuming day to say the least but when the kids were heading off to bed the in-house boyband I live with, who was completely unaware of what I had been dealing with all day, decided that today was the day to attack the American.

The next few hours were spent wrestling, karate chopping, being locked in the day room due to a series of knots and chairs and everything in my room sticky tacked to the ceiling. I was emotionally drained and physically exhausted but I was laughing so hard I couldn’t feel my face.

It’s the ridiculous moments like these that I find God.

Looking at the creativity of a few boys asking for war, I could feel God saying “I know there’s bad things in life that you don’t understand, but you can be blindsided by great things too.”

Horrible things happen to great people and sometimes great things happen to horrible people, but this is something we cant control. Sometimes the only thing that we can control is how hard we look for the good things in life, like the mountains in the background, the friends that make you laugh, the weird things that children ask, or even the cellphones that appear on your ceiling.

Image

Image

TADAH! The Children with Amazing English Accents Are Here: Episode 1

Training is over and we are currently hosting our second group of the season with no casualties but a blocked shower.  This last weekend was a “Sail Away Day” where a few church groups with not enough people to come for a week can gather and come sailing for the day. We had an absolute blast, and I didn’t have to sail by myself! (or they wouldn’t let me sail by myself, whatever way you choose to look at it.)  During Sail Away Day a ton of sailing volunteers come down for the afternoon to help out with boats, which included everyone but the assistant chef from last year. It was great to meet last years staff and hear about what they’re doing now, not to mention the amazing capsizing stories that were also told which left me confidence beaming at incredible heights.

After goodbyes had been said, the ship had been cleaned and the ridiculous amount of muffins had been put away, 4 of the current staff and I settled in to wait for 10:30pm to come around with enough water for us to powerboat back to the moorings…in the dark.

Since Trinity sits in a river that generally turns to canals of mud at low tide, when we do a day sail we sometimes have to tie the boats up to Fellowship Afloat’s moorings that are just outside of the river and around the corner where there’s always at least a little water to float on. After the day sail we tied up the boats to the moorings and walked down Fisherman’s Path around the Marina and back to Trinity.  Occasionally, when we need to tow the boats back in, high tide happens to be late in the evening, this was the case last Saturday.

So after waiting for enough water to funnel it’s way into the river, the five of us powerboated across to the moorings which we could only see under the light of a sky’s worth of stars. We tied up every boat that Fellowship Afloat owns to Sandling, a big cement beast, and took a break to stare at the stars before we headed in.  As we towed the line of 10 boats behind us, the water started to turn a speckled glowing green in our wake.  In the water here, lives tiny organisms (some say plankton, some say not plankton, I say magic) that give off a flourescent glow when the water is disturbed a lot like a lightning bug.  Even though my work day went from 8am to 12:30am that day, being in the presence of amazing people, billions of bright stars and glowing speckled water was something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Saying that learning to tie several knots well in complete darkness was a blast seems like an understatement worthy of a politician, but in reality, it was one of the coolest nights of mi vida.

Normally I would end a post there but SURPRISE I have more to tell you! You lucky human you. Although Saturday was an incredible taster as to how things are run here, nothing could have prepared me for how hilarious and energetic our first school group is. I’m listening to their high pitched British accents eat lunch as we speak. Its a small group of only 20ish but they caught on to my accent and other oddities immediately.

They’re so awesome to watch experiencing Fellowship Afloat because they’re just as excited as I am. The tour of the ship was filled with “this is the coolest school trip EVER,” “Look where I can fit my head!” and “I’m stuck!” while sailing was filled with general screaming.

School groups also bring along so many opportunities for the gap years to get to know each other better as well. For example, a few of them were in awe of how much I lie to children because I think it’s funny, they say “lie”, I say “exaggerate with flair.” The example that was brought up however was my tables dinner conversation.    , which went a little something like this:

“Where do we go rock climbing?”

“We have to drive to Tollesbury Mountain.”

“There isn’t a Tollesbury Mountain.”

“Of course there is, its down in the mud so it doesn’t get in the way of the boats and when it’s time to go climbing a few of us have to go into the salt marsh and crank it up with a big lever.”

“Really?……Wait, no there isn’t!”

“Why do you think it’s so foggy here sometimes? Because when we crank it up smoke pours out of it while the Jurassic Park theme song plays.”

(insert the entire table rolling their eyes at once here)

Needless to say, I love it here and am truly blessed every day.

Image

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 504 other followers