The year is in its old age. Snow has fallen. Life spirals on towards Christmas in a vacuum of busyness and glitter.
A picture of my garden. We have had the most beautiful frosty November. What an incredible world God has made for us!
For me, November saw Kenya preparations: designing team T-shirts (they're gonna be great, I'm just saying), getting about a million vaccinations (and I'm not done yet) and having a second weekend with the team. There are eight of us, all girls, and it's a really lovely group.
While I'm in Kenya, there is going to be a fortnightly(ish) team prayer letter. I will not be blogging during my trip (which makes me wanna cry, but there it is) because of very limited Internet. But if you would like to pray for me -- which I'd love! -- please leave a comment with your email address, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would really value it!
|[source] // Becca Stadtlander|
November has also seen work getting really busy. Remember how I used to work in the little shop selling the sparkly trainers? Now I work in a massive shop selling very expensive everything. Christmas is upon us -- not just upon us, mauling us with its ravening claws, or so it's felt -- and sometimes I spend my days stacking cards and wrapping paper and £20 faux-glass reindeer. The Christmas section is right by large electricals, so I can watch suburban couples, accountants and lawyers, pay £500 for coffee makers to take home to their clean streets with their two big cars and holidays to Tuscany. In the cheap sparkly trainer shop, the materialism accepted itself for what it was. Cheap and cheerful were the buzzwords. But this big shop takes itself so seriously (remember the trouser suits?) it can hardly admit it's a consumerist temple in a consumerist nation selling people very expensive things they don't need. As I stacked cards the other week I reflected on these things, and I thought of lines from Mary Oliver:
I want to think again of dangerous and noble things / I want to be light and frolicsome / I want to be improbable and beautiful and afraid of nothing as though I had wings.
And I thought of how the suburban coffee machine buyers would look at me and see a rather wan-faced small girl in large black trousers, stacking Christmas cards in a robotic fashion, and never know that I want to be noble and improbable. And it made me think of lines from Jackie Kay's poem Watching People Sing:
Oh, I think, Oh, who will
sleep at my foot, who will sing to me like that
eyes brimming with love and change and spark.
And then I remembered that I only work part-time, and I'm very lucky to have a job at all when I think of all the beggars I walk past on my way to work, and that I am a writer and an heir of God's kingdom, and I live in the most beautiful country, which is at peace, with a democratic government, and I have parents and brothers and sisters and food and warmth.
And I felt foolish for my dark reflections at the Christmas card shelf.
I have a difficult relationship with the world and myself.
I feel this -- the lines from Dylan Thomas -- so very strongly, and yet I know that I romanticise everything and break my heart over realities that don't exact, over loves that are not fulfilled. But perhaps it is about finding the balance between on the one hand being improbable and holding fast to your dreams and not giving up, and on the other committing everything to Jesus, the one who will never disappoint.
That got a bit deeper than I meant.
|how beautiful is this though?|
Let's talk about Starting Sparks.
You may have noticed that no December prompt has been posted. This is because we are taking a Starting Sparks hiatus.
After over a year of running the link-up, neither Ashley nor I could exactly pretend it has taken off. We normally get one or two linkers and ourselves -- or not even ourselves, sometimes (I am working on my November story, honest). Because we're all busy. And as Ashley pointed out, maybe some of you are reluctant to publish your short fiction online because you are hoping to sell it. As I said, I won't be blogging while I'm in Kenya, and so we've decided to suspend the link-up.
If you've got any suggestions, they'd be very welcome. Is there any other kind of link-up you'd like to see? A way that would make it easier to participate in Starting Sparks? Let us know!
Not a great month in terms of numbers of books, but they were good (and Lanark was frigging massive, so I can be forgiven). Out of Africa was a beautiful portrayal of Kenya, shimmering with a love of the land that made me really excited to see it for myself. A Grain of Wheat was also about Kenya at the time of its Independence from the British: a story of village life, interweaving the personal and the political, and a really wonderful book.
Other Life News
(Notice how I skilfully wove all my life news together? Not.) I have a new niece, Alice, who was born three weeks ago in Singapore! I cannot wait to meet her on Boxing Day. Every baby I see makes me more excited.
|[source] // I really love this|
I'm currently in Oxford. Remember how this happened this time last year? And I got interviewed and I didn't get in and I ended up taking a gap year? Well, we're back. I think I have actually forgotten to tell y'all (do you like my use of y'all? I'm basically American what can I say) that I got an offer from Glasgow. Increasingly I feel that leaving Glasgow is a ridiculous idea and why would anyone do that? So basically I am a confused crocodile (don't question the metaphor). But I am not worried. God will send me where I need to go. And Shakespeare will be Shakespeare, and Fitzgerald will be Fitzgerald, and I shall read Hughes and marvel, so what could actually go wrong?
A Vlog Proposal
One last thing: I am, I think, going to make a vlog soon, because we all know vlogging is the most fun way to do tags,
and you'll miss me so much when I'm in Kenya you'll want to see my face before I go. I have a couple of tags for this. (One of them is, like, a year old, don't judge.) But if you would like to add to the Q&A -- because the more the merrier, right? -- drop me an email to email@example.com (or just a comment would do the trick!).
|[source] // one of my favourite illustrations|
How was your November? Best book you read? Are you excited for Christmas? Remember: email me with vlog questions or if you'd like the Kenya prayer letter!