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Friday, 22 November 2013

Chapter 21 - A story about Bruges and a guy called Patrick

It’s been a month since the last chapter and as you can probably imagine from the size of the gap – there has been a lot going on (a few things of which I’ll obviously tell you about as the chapter progresses) – but my overriding feeling at the moment comes down to one simple phrase – “stick or twist”. I mentioned a few chapters ago that I felt I was at a crossroads but I just didn’t know what the options actually were to take. Well the update now is that I’m fairly sure I do know what the options are and they are quite simple – “stick or twist”. You’ll be pleased to know however (sarcasm) that the big “reveal” moment of these options has probably left me more confused than ever before. 
On top of that - this is the last chapter I’ll write before I turn 30 – and whilst that doesn’t phase me, the idea of turning 30 is really beginning to get to me. I know that I won’t feel any different – I’m not scared of that – but what I’m realising is that when I was younger I had a massive list of stuff to do before I was 30 and there is very little stuff on that list that crossed off (admittedly one of those things was becoming a member of Bon Jovi). Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been lucky enough to do loads of other stuff instead, but I guess what I’m getting at is that I’m realising that time really is short and I don’t want to waste it. Perhaps that was a subconscious reason to start writing 10 Resolutions in the first place and for me to keep on writing it. Who knows? But what I do know is that you needn’t worry about making inevitable jokes about my hair going gray – because it already is.

I finished Chapter 20 by speaking about Detoxtober and Flik mentioning to me that an awful lot of my stories involve booze (which was a fair point). To balance the scales I promised to tell you a story from my younger-person past that isn’t widely known about me (which we will get to in a minute). Before we get there though - I should mention that thinking about this has actually given me the realisation that I find it easy to talk about stuff that should be embarrassing (and there are 100’s of stories left to tell) - yet really hard to talk about stuff like my fears and things like that. When I spoke about Ed in Chapter 20 - the thing that I didn’t say when I said that he broke me down was the fact that he actually had me in tears (on a stag do – luckily there were very few people around at the time….). Again – he certainly didn’t mean to do it – but he could see through my “front” and I guess that he could see that something was hurting me and he called me on it. I honestly can’t remember what it was – but I find messing around and joking really easy. I don’t find it so easy talking about stuff that is close to and on my heart. Hopefully over the course of 10 Resolutions so far you’ll have seen me open up a bit more and my heart change. I’m still a long way away from where I’d like to be though - which is why opening up to tell you the story I’m about to tell and how I remember it (bearing in mind it was a long time ago) could be quite important…….

I was 6 years old and I lived on the Isle of Man. We had a lovely house on a quiet road and we were a stones throw away from the beach and from a wood.
I had a friend called Patrick and we would spend a lot of time with each other and I’m fairly sure that it was at his house that I first tried the wonderful thing that is pizza. Anyway, one day I was at his house and he suggested that we went to play in the woods. Now, my parents had let me go round to Patrick’s house to play - but they wouldn’t have let me go to the woods without some form of supervision / nagging – so I saw a chance for an early shot at rebellion. So with my parents thinking that I was still at his house, Patrick and I went to the woods. Games were played, a fort was built and we had a fantastic time hitting each other with sticks and pretending that they were guns (as every boy does).
We then decided to head down through the woods and onto the beach. The way that I remember it was that there was a path through the woods that maybe followed a stream that went into the sea and that there was a small walkway for maybe 100m along the coast before hitting the beach. What we didn’t realise though was that whilst we had been playing in the woods (and being sheltered) we hadn’t realised the extent of the weather - because by the time we reached the seafront the wind was fierce, the rain was relentless and the tide was rising rapidly. Stupidly (although I cant remember if there was another reason why we couldn’t or didn’t) we didn’t turn back and go back home through the woods – we instead started to walk along this unsheltered single file path (more like a ledge) along the coast that led to the beach. We gradually moved slowly forwards - and then the waves started.

There have been very few times in my life where I have been genuinely terrified – but this remains to this day one of my strongest memories of fear. The waves started pounding the path behind us and on reflection now the easiest way to help you visualise what it was like for me would be running along a road with the road falling away behind you. We couldn’t turn around because we would be hit by the waves. Our path behind was blocked off and we could only move forward along the inclining but continuingly narrowing path. The problem wasn’t that the drop was great - but that the waves were smashing against the path and if either of us fell in there was every chance that the waves could push us into the rocks. A few moments later – Patrick’s foot slipped.

In moments like that, time really does start working in slow motion. I don’t know why that’s the case but it’s probably something to do with adrenaline and the way our minds are wired around fear and stuff.  It felt like I was moving in bullet time in this moment (years before the Matrix invented it and then ruined it with the sequels that will not be mentioned) as I reached out and grabbed Patrick's arm. I held on to Patrick with all my might as he tried to regain his balance on the edge - but he was bigger than me and my feet started to slip as well. And at that moment a giant wave hit Patrick and I lost my grip of him.

The wave hit Patrick first and then I caught the after-effects of it as it pushed me into the wall. Thankfully, rather than dragging Patrick down, the wave actually pushed him into the wall as well. Not wanting to hang around or to contemplate what could have happened we started to move towards the beach again. The waves kept coming as the path continued, but by this point we had started to properly look out for each other and to time our movements in relation to the bigger waves. Eventually though, a completely drenched, relieved and terrified pair of friends made it to the beach and walked home.
I can’t remember ever seeing Patrick again after that (or if we did we certainly didn’t talk about the day again) or what I told my parents to explain how wet I was (there is wet - and then there is walking around with 20 melted ice caps worth of water on your person). It was probably a version of the truth (like going to the beach) but I certainly didn’t tell them everything because I’d have been in even more trouble and they’d have worried about me and grounded me until my 18th birthday. The truth though is that I honestly wish I did tell them everything because I can’t tell you how many times in my life my mind has drifted to those moments and thought of different outcomes. I guess in a way I’ve been haunted by it (or at least I was for a while). And that might not have happened if I’d have had the guts to tell someone about it straight away and to talk it through. It’s a memory that I’ve kept to myself for far too long and despite it being a long time ago – it was without question one of the scariest moments of my life. Don’t get me wrong here – I’ve made peace with it (if that makes sense) but hopefully by telling you all about it it’ll become a conquered memory – and that can only be a good thing.

But now- time to move on and come back to the present.

There are two things in particular I’d like to tell you about from the last month. Two really exciting things – so let’s start with the 19th and 20th October.

Back to the Homelands
The 19th October saw Wifey and I heading to Wycombe. But this time not to see the twins (as they were on a holiday of their own). No this time we headed to Wycombe as I had a couple of sessions to lead on the Sunday. But that also gave us an amazing opportunity to catch up with Phil, Rach and baby Caitlin on the Saturday evening.

Whilst it was my decision to move away at 18 - I ended up sacrificing the next stage of adulthood with my oldest friends. Obviously I still see everyone, and will see them again this weekend (at Dan’s and my 30th party) – but I missed the majority of “20’s” moments with most of them. I was around for weddings and birthdays and things, but I wasn’t around for the everyday stuff – like going round for dinner one night, watching relationships develop (/ fall apart) or just going to the pub to watch the football. I missed the little things. By moving away – I sacrificed them. And I think it was Chris and Sam’s wedding that ultimately reminded me of that. I don’t regret moving – I’ve met some amazing people (one of whom I’m married to) - but I’m now more determined than ever before to share life with these people (as hippy / smiley Christian as that may sound). And that was why it was so amazing to have dinner with Phil and Rach that evening. It felt normal. It felt great and we had a fantastic time.

I’ve mentioned a Church called Elim Micklefield before. It’s the Church where Becky Turner’s parents are pastors. I’ve been there with the band before, but I’ve also been a couple of times without everyone as well – and on the Sunday morning I went along with Padley who gave an amazing message on the boy from five loaves and two small fish whilst I led worship with my old friend Ben Boughton.

Ben Boughton
Ben was one of the first people to encourage me to lead worship – but even before that I’d been around a band with Ben as I’d either drummed or played keys (something we now laugh about). Ben is an amazing man, a humble man, a fantastic musician and father and has been a constant stream of encouragement to me for a ridiculous number of years now (I’m also fairly sure that I didn’t realise that until recently which also means that I’d taken advantage of it for ages). I think that one of my favourite things about Ben is the way that he challenges me (without knowing) – and he has taught me so much about leadership through his actions than he will ever really know.

That afternoon the band arrived and we headed to a Church called Christ the Servant King – a Church which has a very special place in my heart as one of the churches that turned into it was the church I grew up in and where I met Dan, Phil, Lewis and Chris as well as countless others. CSK now has a beautiful new building in the heart of the community – and I was completely honoured to be asked to go back and to lead worship for an evening (in an event not unlike Seek His Face). And continuing the tradition of cast lists – there are few people that attended that I’d really like to introduce you to now:

Mike Bratby
Mike, like Ben was one of the first people who encouraged me to lead worship. But before then he was also instrumental in pushing for letting a young teenager play drums in Church. I’ve known Mike for most of my life now and one thing that I completely love about him is how much he respects others – especially young people – and that is something that is genuinely surprising considering how much grief Dan and I must have given him over the course of our teenage years. For years he was my leader and now I’m honoured to be able to call him my friend. An amazing man. 

Nigel & Carole Flynn
Nigel and Carole are Dan’s parents – but they are also so much more than that - because with the exception of my parents they are without question the two people who had the biggest impact on my life when I was growing up (and especially throughout teenage-dom). They took me in (FYI - I use the term ‘took me in’ loosely here as one day I just didn’t leave….), let me become part of their family (something which ultimately meant that I had the amazing blessing of having two families watch over me at a time when I needed it most) and alongside my parents encouraged me to become the man that I am today. I could say so much about them but I don’t really think I could do them justice so I’ll just say this. Words cannot describe how thankful I am to have them in my life - and the love and care they have shown me over the years is only seconded to my parents. They truly are amazing people and my life would have been so much less without them in it. 

The evening itself was amazing. It was a tremendous privilege to be asked and the band (I think at least) were tighter than ever before (which was helpful as I kept nowhere close to the set list). The band is growing in confidence, and through relationship we are growing together. I also had the complete joy of having Jo play keys with me. I can’t wait for us all to play together again and I can’t wait to go back!

Boats, rings and beer……
The weekend after the Homelands - Wifey and I jumped on a boat with Leon and Hiya for a 2 night mini cruise to Bruges and back. Cue beer, food, chocolate, biscuits, sea sickness, more beer, bingo, a casino and the small matter of LEON PROPOSING TO HIYA. Now I knew that it was coming because I had conspired with Leon to make it happen, but it was still a completely amazing and beautiful moment to be part of – and I loved being a conspirator! Incidentally, Bruges is a beautiful city and I can’t wait to go back – so who fancies going on a mini cruise? (We don’t even have to go to Bruges….anywhere will do!) 

After arriving back at port Wifey and I said goodbye to the newly engaged ones and drove off to Norwich to spend the next few days with my parental units. It was great to chill out and I even got to drive a boat (and then fall asleep on said boat)! Andi the boat driver! I also bought some toys – FOR ME to play with.       

In other news - Seek His Face is growing each month (I definitely get no credit for that), I’ve started my move to a new Church (more on that at a later date), I’m now on the executive board of RIVERcamp looking at marketing and communication (honoured and terrified at the same time), I helped run an Autumn Fete for the Neuro Foundation (which raised over £350), I’ve done a couple of shifts at a Barnardo’s charity shop in Gloucester, Matt and I have started working on his EP and Arsenal are top of the league (which is unexpected to say the least)!

Because this chapter has covered a massive period, there are obviously some things that I haven’t spoken about or I’ve simply glossed over – but don’t worry there are some things and some people that I will definitely be coming back to. I know there are gaps – and I’ve still got lots of questions to answer (both from you and that I’ve posed to myself). But I also get the feeling that this chapter could have been a bit of a dull read and more for me than for you - and for that I’m really sorry. I really get the feeling that stuff is brewing (that could also tie in to stick or twist) so the next few weeks could well be quite exciting. I’ll keep you in the loop. Oh - resolution count in here is 2..... 

I’ll just leave you with this video. It’s fair to say that I had completely welled up by the end of it.

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Have fun, God bless and we will speak soon.