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Friday, 11 September 2015

Chapter 26 - The Last Few Months (Part 1)

It's been over five months since we last spoke. And the worst thing is that I don't really know why. I guess part of it is that I've been adapting to a new way of living (Mon-Fri working for the first time EVER) but even as I write that, it doesn't well explain a 5 month absence. But anyway, I'm here now - and over the next few weeks I'll fill you in on everything that has been going on and everything that is coming up. I'll also be answering some of your questions (random and bizarre as some of them may well be).

As an early heads up though - for a number of reasons these past 3 months have been really hard on both Cass and I. Now don't get me wrong here, it's not all been doom and gloom as there have been some brilliant moments in there as well (which I'll talk about) - but overall I think that this has been the hardest period of our lives since chapter 9. Hopefully though, we are beginning to come out the other side.

In this post I'd like to look at two major things from the last few months.....

My Back
To explain how I'm currently feeling (and for you to get the right context) I first need to explain about my back.
Over a month ago now, I woke up in loads of pain around my Kidney which stretched around to my spine. Fast forward to today and it turns out that I have (somehow) torn a muscle in that area of my body. I'm currently in my 2nd week of physio (today is my 4th session overall, but it'll be my 2nd with a private physio and I've already had two with the NHS) and whilst I've got more movement than I had a month ago (good news), if I don't take my painkillers (that could probably tranquilise a large elephant and constantly leave me feeling nauseous, very drowsy or downright weird / a combination) I'm in no less pain than when I started.

I'm desperate to get back to work as I love my new job and my team, but I was foiled in my attempts to go back on Monday by the doctor and physio. I've been off work since this started and whilst being off for a week or something like that could be a novelty - it has long since worn off. And whilst the company and my boss have been nothing short of exceptional with their duty of care for me. I'm only on probation - and if I was in their shoes I would be looking at me as a big problem. I'm not really an anxious person, I don't really worry and it takes a fair amount to phase me, but in this instance I do worry a little bit about about my job (especially as I'm only 4 months in) but I also worry that I've been letting people down who have been forced to pick up my workload because of my absence and I also worry that I haven't been there for my team when they have needed me. And this has led to me yesterday being told by the physio that I've been pushing myself too hard to get back to work and being told (for the second time this week) that I have to learn to understand that if I go back before I'm ready that I could cause myself longer-term damage.

This week to get out of the house and to exercise my back into a kind of sitting up at a desk environment (the most painful position for me) I went to the cinema. But I lasted just over an hour before being in so much pain that I had to leave. It was at that moment that I felt the most down. I'm generally a positive person, but in that moment I could see just how much further I had to go - and it scared me. When I saw the physio yesterday I was told off for trying to push my exercises through the pain barrier. If I'm being completely honest about it - I'm also worried that she was hiding some information from me. That she knew something about my injury or my potential recovery time that I didn't. I'm hoping that it's just my mind over-thinking things - but she went completely out of her way half way through our appointment to go and see if my X ray results from the previous day had been processed yet (even though they should normally take a week).

But you get the general idea. I'm worried, I'm a bit scared, I'm frustrated with myself. I'm going stir- crazy and to be completely honest about it - I'm starting to feel a bit lonely.Yet at the same time I'm amazingly thankful to the company I work for and to my boss for being so patient with me and just for caring about my well being by looking at me as a person and not as a simple name on a spreadsheet. So that's kind of where I am at the moment - but that's definitely not all that has been happening over the last few months....and in comparison - it pales in significance with what Cass has been going through.

Cass's Grandparents

Cass had always had a very close relationship with her grandparents (her mum's mum and her mum's mum's adopted brother) as all of her family had lived together (parents, grandparents and Cass) since Cass was very young. On the 31st May though Cass's adopted grandfather John died from a heart-attack and on the 16th July Cass's grandmother Gwen passed away following a week in hospital.

Cass and her family have obviously been left heartbroken by these losses. Whilst we always thought that they would go at similar times, we never expected them to be so close together. And whilst the pain is still raw for all of us (and will be for a very long time), I find it hard to describe what Cass and her parents have gone through and what they are feeling at the moment - so I'm not going to try.
I've spoken about loss in 10 Resolutions before and if I'm being honest about it - much more than I'd have liked to have done (to not have to speak about it at all would have been much more preferable) but instead of going over that stuff again I'd like to do something else.

I was given the amazing honour of doing the eulogy's for both John and Gwen at their funerals and as a tribute to them and to help you understand a bit more about them, their amazing lives and the type of people they were I'd like to share them with you now.

When I first started this blog and you started following my misadventures and rants, I also promised that I would be honest about my feelings and that I wouldn't shy away from stuff that might be painful. These eulogy's were the hardest things I've ever had to write, but I hope that they paint you a picture of the amazing people that we have recently said goodbye to.

John Arthur Bradford (Brad)

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to Gloucester crematorium. For those of you that don't know me, I'm not a vicar and I don't work for the crematorium. But my name is Andi Foster and the easiest way that I've worked out to explain what relation I was to John is by saying that I was John's adopted grandson in law. This is probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do, yet it's a complete honour to have been asked by the family to lead this time with you all today.
Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted

We are here today to celebrate the life of John Bradford and to say goodbye to our dear friend. Over the next 30 minutes or so, a couple of us will share a few memories and thoughts about John and his life with us. Crucially though whilst this is a sad occasion, John would not want it to be. So whilst saying goodbye is never easy and while this may be hard, let's focus on the amazing man that John was, and the memories that he has left us all with as we prepare to say goodbye to him.

John was dropped off with his baby sister at Barnados at the age of 7 and never saw her again. After a decade in the system, he joined the army aged 17 and was based in Palestine.

On leaving the army, John went to look for his Dad in Grantham, where he met Doreen and her husband Bernard and he stayed in flats owned by Doreen's sister Doll.

He then moved back to Gloucester with Doreen and Bernard, and started living with Doreen's mum and has stayed with the family ever since.

His first job in Gloucester was as a bus conductor (as that's what he did in Grantham). He then went on to work at the Fleece hotel as a hotel porter alongside Doreen and Bernard who both also worked there (Doreen as a chamber maid and Bernard as a hotel porter).

At this time, Bernard and John surprised Doreen by buying a house for them all together on Wellington Street where they lived for 10 years (This was also where John started to learn the guitar - taught by Bernard's brother) and John left the hotel to start working for Permali welding before leaving to work for the gas board for 26 years. He later had part time jobs working for NCP car parks and as a stage hand in the evenings at the Regal theatre.

After Wellington Street - Doreen, John and Bernard moved to King Edwards Avenue where Kim was born and they lived there for 22 years.

Following Bernard's death the whole family moved in together At Fox Elms Road and have lived there ever since.

It's quite hard summarising a mans life into a few short paragraphs if I'm honest and I'm sure that at whatever moment you met him, and at whatever stage of his journey you came across him you would have a number of stories to tell about your time together. About your memories of John. About how your lives crossed paths. And I'm sure that as we all gather together later, these stories will be told. Some will be stories that we reminisce about, tales that we have heard before and love, but I'd imagine that there will also be brand new stories about John's life that highlight what an amazing man he was and serve as an example to show just how many lives one man can touch. Words won't and words cant do him justice, but just over the next few moments - I'd like to try my hardest and share some of my thoughts on a man that we all loved.

A number of years ago I started pondering a number of life's big questions. I started off with the easy stuff like would I rather watch XFACTOR or the Twilight Films, what would I do with an extra day in the week or if I could only eat one sandwich for the rest of my life what would it be? You know, the big stuff. But as I continued to think, the questions became more challenging.
What would I actually say if I came face to face with a celebrity that I look up to. You see most of us would probably put on a front and become the sort of person that we think the celebrity would want us to be. John wouldn't have been that person though. With John, the person you saw was the person you got. And if he ever did come face to face with one of his hero's you genuinely get the idea that John would end up being the story teller of the two of them. John could tell some amazing stories as I'm sure we could all agree.

The questions of life I was thinking about then started to get harder. They became questions about my character, a person's make up if that makes more sense and the person that I wanted to become in the future. There are so many words or attributes that can be used to describe someone. And I wonder how all of us would describe John. A man who loved to laugh no doubt. A welcoming and friendly man. A man whose first question to me on entering his house was if he could get me a beer. But beyond that who was John? I'd say with little question that to me he was a man of compassion who would help anyone he saw struggling and put his needs far below others, a man of strength who would come out fighting in the hardest of circumstances and a man of integrity who would follow his heart to make the right decisions. He was a man of courage and one of the most honourable people I've ever met.

The question that has been hanging over me though is how I'd like people to remember me when I go. It's a massive challenge for all of us. What is the legacy we leave amongst those that are left. As I’ve been pondering this question over the last few weeks though I've found the answer in John. John was an inspiration who touched so many of us. But even more than that - John was a good man and when I get to the end I would love nothing more than to be known for that.

I probably didn't know John as well as some of you or get to spend as much time with John as I'd have liked. But John was a man that you could spend time with and in just a few moments he could have had a massive impact on your life. He certainly did on mine. It was an honour to have known him.
John was a good man and simply for knowing him I have become a better person. I'm sure that part of him lives on in all of us.

I don't know what you believe or what John believed in his final moments, but after not being able to play his beloved guitars for a number of years now - I like to think that he is now looking down on us completely restored. Guitar in one hand and a whiskey and lemonade in the other. Let's just close our eyes for a minute to pray.

Lord, Thank you for John and Thank you for the many lives he touched. Thank you that he made us laugh, made us smile and told us stories that changed the way we saw the world around us. I pray that you comfort his family and that you bring us all peace now that he has left. I pray that you look after him as he watches over us. We commit him to you now.

Goodbye John.

Gwendoline Doreen Cleobury

Friends, family – good afternoon and welcome to Gloucester Crematorium as we come together to say goodbye to someone that we all loved. We all knew her by different names, Gwen, Gwendoline, Doreen (and probably some that I don’t know about), but as I knew her as Gwen, that's what I'll be calling her today.

Anyway, For those of you who don't know me (or who weren't here 6 weeks ago), my name is Andi Foster. Just to manage your expectations here, I’m not a Vicar or a Pastor and I don't work for the Crematorium - but the easiest way of explaining what relation I was to Gwen is by saying that I was her Grandson In Law. And as hard as it may well be, it is an absolute honour to lead this service, this tribute to Gwen and this celebration of her life. Let's focus on the amazing woman that Gwen was, and the memories that she has left us all with as we prepare to say goodbye to her.

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted

Gwen was born in Gloucester to Elizabeth and Henry White. She was one of 6 children. Her brothers were Ron, John and Bert, whilst her sisters were Doll and Pearl. Growing up she went to Finlay school.

At 14 years old, Gwen started working at the Reservoir Army camp looking after the German and Italian Prisoners of War with her best friend Dink who later became her sister in law (Bert’s wife). One day an Italian Prisoner of War she was looking after played a prank on her by jumping out and surprising her from around a door. The prank backfired though as Gwen ended up cutting her nose. However, recognising the spirit that the prank was meant in, Gwen refused to report the Italian to the base officers who would have harshly punished him.
Gwen then went on to work for Compton's (a shirt making company) before leaving to start working at a toy factory with her sister Pearl. Gwen started working at the factory so that Pearl wouldn't be starting alone, but once they were separated to work in different parts of the factory production line, she found that the role she was given (putting hundreds of each type of box together) was too physically demanding and a while later left the factory. Gwen then went on to work at the Plaza cinema with her older sister Doll. She lived at home with her mum and dad and all of her brothers and sisters.

Shortly after, Gwen met her (future husband) Bernard who worked on the railway. They married in Wales when she was 19.

Gwen’s sister Doll then moved to Grantham, but when Doll’s first husband died, Gwen and Bernard moved up to Grantham to be with her. It was then that Gwen and Bernard met John and he became part of the family.

When Doll then met and married her 2nd husband Charles, Gwen, Bernard and John moved back to Gloucester and lived with Gwen's mum until whilst working in the Fleece Hotel, Bernard and John surprised Gwen by buying a house for them to share on Wellington Street. Gwen then became a mum to Kim at 34 years old and decided to stay at home as a housewife.

The family then moved to King Edwards Avenue, but after Bernard died in 1980, the whole family (including Gwen, John, a now married Kim to Simon and their daughter Cassandra) moved to Fox Elms Road in 1985.

Gwen had lots of friends and family over the years and was loved by them all. Sadly though, many of them have passed away before now - but Gwen will be happy that she is now together with them all again.

I didn't have the pleasure of knowing Gwen for as long as some of you did. I wish I did. I wish I'd met her in her prime and had longer to ask her questions about how she saw the world and about what was going on in her life. I hadn't even met Gwen by the time she had pretty much lost her eyesight, so in her later years I wonder how she imagined the world. I wonder how it looked to her and if her senses were heightened like a superhero after losing her eyesight. I'm also curious to know if she secretly turned her hearing aid off throughout the X factor auditions. But I'm not going to be able to ask those questions anymore though.

Looking back at her life though can tell us a number of things about her character, so whilst I may not have known her for as long as most of you I'd just like to share a few thoughts with you over the next few moments. My words will never be able to do her justice, but I'd like to try.

The first thing to mention is that Gwen was a lady with a kind heart. It's an obvious trait for us all to pick up on and something that we have all seen but it's something vitally important to mention. From an early age Gwen showed kindness to those around her. Whether it was to an Italian Prisoner of War or starting a new job with her sister so she wouldn't be starting alone. Gwen has always had a kind heart and that's something that was reflected in her later life as well. She was always looking to help (I've lost track of the number of times she helped Cass and I) and she always wanted to be there for those around her (including always asking me if I wanted bacon). But Gwen’s kind and compassionate heart also has a legacy as it is something that is now ingrained into Kim who in turn has passed it on to Cass.

The next thing I started to ponder was about Gwen giving up work at 34 years old when she had Kim. I'm sure we can share some stories about this time in her life when we gather together at the Robinswood Hill Club to raise a glass in her honour later but she had certainly done a lot (and had more jobs than most people have had in their lives). But I started to wonder if she had done everything she had wanted to by that point in her life. If she had achieved and accomplished everything that she had wanted to do. Obviously part of it came down to the culture of Britain at the time, but the question for me remained. It was an incredibly selfless and sacrificial act. The answer to this question for me though was found in part of our time together in the hospital.

On the first Wednesday night in the hospital we were told that there was a very high chance that Gwen wouldn't survive the night (or her operation, or generally her time in the hospital). As we were waiting for Simon and Kim to get back from Benidorm, I went to the chapel about 9pm that evening and prayed a very simple prayer. Please just let her hold on until Simon and Kim could see her to say goodbye. Gwen had been asking for them that night whilst she had been going downhill pretty quickly. Cass and I were anxiously awaiting the 3am marker when they would arrive. Time quite literally stopped that evening but after an unhealthy amount of Wimbledon highlights and late night TV it eventually came, as did Simon, Kim and Denver - and with their arrival I was silently overjoyed. We said goodnight to Gwen for what we thought would be the last time.

Except that it wasn't. We arrived at the hospital the next day to see Gwen’s spirits lifted and to see her chatting away to Simon and Kim like nothing had happened. The change was astounding. She was talking more to us than she had done since before John had died. Having her whole family around changed her. Love had saved the day. Love had helped her to keep fighting a little bit longer.

You see family was Gwen's future. Nothing was more important to her. When she gave up work at 34 years old, she might not have done everything that she had wanted to, but for her that paled in significance to the joy of her family and the love that came from it. When Gwen had Kim, her world opened up, the next stage of her life began. It didn't stop. It was simply the start.

At the hospital, we also discovered that Gwen was a lady of incredible strength. Whilst she had been brought in after a fall, it was quickly evident that something else was wrong with her. Gwen had been poorly for a very long time.
I was told in the hospital that she was a lady of incredible strength and courage and that they were amazingly surprised given how poorly she was that nothing had previously happened. I was also told that even if she hadn't fallen, her timescale would have been the same.

I've wondered since then if she knew that something was wrong. It's another question I'll never know the answer to. But if she did, she certainly didn't show it until her final days.
It would be easy to say that perhaps she was too proud to say that something was wrong. But the doctor said that nothing could be done and because of that I'm much more inclined to think that she was one step ahead of the game and that she just wanted to be on her own terms as much possible. She just wanted to go on surrounded by the ones that she loved and just gradually drift away.

Whilst it seems strange talking about favourite moments in a hospital (and I promised I wouldn't mention the story of Gwen hilariously high on Morphine) I'd just like to tell you about my goodbye with Gwen. On the Monday morning I was driving into work when I had a little prompting to turn around and go back to the hospital. Cass and Kim hadn't arrived yet and in that hour I had the best conversation with Gwen that I had ever had. She told me that she always asked John about the Arsenal scores to speak about with me, that she prayed for us all and she told me stories that I'd never heard or been told about her life. That wasn't the last time I saw her, but that is the moment  I have chosen to remember as the time I said goodbye.

How we choose to remember someone is up to us. No one can dictate that. Thankfully we've all got some amazing memories of Gwen. When someone you love leaves you, they never truly go. They stay in your heart. Their legacy stays with you. They become part of you. And I can say without question that Gwen's kindness, her courage, her strength and her love of those around her will stay with me forever. I wonder what she has left everyone here with.

It's never easy saying goodbye to someone that you love and it never should be. And the longer you’ve known someone, the harder it becomes. Gwen had lost her closest friend and someone she had spent a massive part of her life with. And if I'm honest,  I think the truth is that no matter what was physically wrong with her, that Gwen died from a broken heart. And as heartbreaking as that may seem to many of us now - think of the party she is now having with John and Bernard and everyone else she has now been reunited with.

Lord. Thank you for Gwen and for the impact that she had on all of our lives. Thank you for the memories that she has left us all with and thank you that she is in no pain and now at peace.

To Gwen. May angels lead you in.

So hopefully now you've got a better idea of what has been going on with us over the last few months and a picture of the amazing people that have left us. It certainly hasn't been an easy time - but thank you for all of your messages of support along the way. I'll be back with Part 2 of this catch up next week, but in the mean time - if you want to send me a question to answer (and please think of some light - hearted ones as this has been pretty heavy) you can do that in the comments section below, on Twitter or through the Facebook.

Right, I'm off to be attacked by the physio again. Wish me luck.

Keep Safe. God Bless

Monday, 30 March 2015

NG: Thanks for the memories

It’s been a great weekend. I went to the wedding of Danny and Charmind (and stayed in a beautiful..... yet interesting room), my future Godson Jacob (who I can't wait to meet) was born to Mel and Tom,
I spent some time with my beautiful nieces, had a great Sunday morning at church and hung out with Wifey (whilst we were admittedly a bit tired / mildly hanging after the wedding). 
But now my attention turns to something that has been coming for a year – my final two days working for National Grid.

If I’m completely honest, I’ve got real mixed emotions about my last couple of days. I’m amazingly thankful that I’ve got a new job to go to and that I’m excited about (did I mention I’ve got a job lined up now - I can't remember?) and I’m pleased that this slow work death is going to be over with (a year is a long time to be building to any event). But at the same time after pushing down my feelings and powering through for the best part of a year, I’d be lying if I said anything other than that I’m hurting.

It’s not the leaving the job part that’s getting to me. I’ve got to the stage now where I’m running on autopilot and I need a new challenge. But the simple fact is that in two days’ time I’ll never be working with this bunch of people again. I’ve spent 10 years working with these people. We’ve laughed together. We’ve cried together. We’ve grown together. We’ve stumbled together (mainly after pub time). We’ve grieved together and we have fought for each other. Our office is a community. Our office is a family. And my experience from other people leaving and reporting back is that our office is completely unique and that no one has ever experienced anything similar again. It’s something I’m immensely proud of.

Before you say anything, Yes, I’ll go into my new job with an open mind. I really am excited about starting something new and meeting loads of new people. But I’m not ready to think about that yet. Until the 3rd April (our final party), my mind is solely focused on making the most of the time we have together. It’s easy to say that we will all stay in contact with each other but the sad truth is that some will fall away. I understand that. I accept that. I know that I won’t let myself be one of the ones that do drift from our little family but for me that places even more importance on the time that we do have left with each other. A new chapter is about to begin but there are still a few pages left to be written in this one first.

So this post is dedicated to the people that I have had the honour of working with for the last 10 years. My colleagues. My friends. And the ones who have become so much more than that. The ones that I’ve grown so close to that this simply can’t be the end. It’s just the start of another step on our journey together.

Thanks for the memories :)

I’ll leave you with this song as the words, well….. 

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Chapter 25: Future / Past

It's been a while since we last spoke. My bad. I've been wanting to write for a while but in honesty I've found myself too preoccupied with something that I haven't done for over 10 years – looking for a new job. But whilst I'd set aside today a while ago to write this chapter, up until yesterday afternoon this post would have had a completely different feel to it.

It’s funny how one decision or one conversation can completely change the outlook of something. And it's with that in mind that I want to jump back to a question that challenged me when I was in the pub with Lania, Howson, Hayley and Joe a month or so ago (and first started writing notes for this chapter). What I will say is that i certainly didn't expect to discover how relevant those thoughts would be today as I sit here to write this.

It's fair to say that I love spending time in the pub. It's not just the beer aspect, but it's also the social part. Questions can be asked. Questions can be answered. And you can generally find out more about someone in an environment like that than you can in any other situation. But whilst most conversations in the pub will dart around banter and questions that will make everyone laugh, occasionally a question will be asked that really challenges. And on a cold January night in one of Gloucester’s least attractive (yet splendidly cheap) pubs that is exactly what happened.

Have you ever stopped to think about the major turning points in your life and how they looked at the time? Did they seem significant then?

Every single one of us will have had a number of moments when things changed. These turning points might have been through our control or not. They could have been through decisions we have made or because of decisions forced upon us. But you should be able to look back and think of a few moments when things have changed for you. I've got a fair few that spring to mind. You’ll obviously have your own, but let me walk you through some of mine in a vague timescale order and then you can start thinking more about yours. What you’ll find as you start to go through them is how one outcome ripples and influences the rest. So here we go…..

1. Youth club. It’s hard to describe how influential starting to go to youth club was in my life. Youth Club has given me my oldest friends, my brothers and an amazing extended family. Was also when music started being a major part of my life.
2. Secondary school decision. Without which I wouldn't have met some amazing people but more crucially I wouldn't have met the music teacher who not only inspired me but encouraged me (and who I'm honoured to say is still my friend).
3. Started to get heavily involved in New Wine. Without which I certainly wouldn't have the faith I have today (and everything that comes along with it), be involved in so many amazing projects, have properly started leading worship or met some very key people who are still part of my life now.
4. Went to MUSIC college after secondary school. Without which I wouldn't have gotten a major taste of the music industry, started promoting or joined a band (which whilst occupying only a small portion of time in my life had a major impact on the future).
5. Moved to Cheltenham to begin the second stage of my life. Without which, well you’ll see – but I wouldn't have made this move if it hadn't been through the people I met at New Wine.
6. Started The Faction. Without which I wouldn't have met some of my closest friends or even stayed in Cheltenham. I couldn't have done this without the knowledge I gained at college. As a side note, Dan and Christine wouldn't be together and Amelia wouldn't be here if this hadn't happened.
7. Started working for The Quest. Without which (very crucially here) I WOULDN’T HAVE MET CASS. But I couldn't have done this if I didn't have the knowledge of promoting whilst working with the Faction.
8. Romance time. Got together with Cass and because of that decided to leave The Quest. Without which, I wouldn't have started working for National Grid.
9. Started working for National Grid. Without which I wouldn't have been lucky enough to meet some of the most amazing people that it could ever be possible to come across. A number of whom will be part of my life for years to come.
10. Got Married. Without which I wouldn't be the man that I am today. It's very simple. But very true. Alongside my faith this was the most important decision of my life.
11. Moved to Gloucester. Without which my relationship with my friends from National Grid would be nowhere near as strong as it is now (much less time together outside work). Would I even have stayed with the company?
12. Moved to The Bridge Church. Without which I would not be the worship leader I am today or have met some really key people in my life.
13. Started 1:27. Without which I would not have the contacts or experience that I have now. This stems back to a relationship that was built through the Faction and my experiences through it.
14. Joined Exalt. Without which I wouldn't have joined C3, started Seek, got involved with RIVERcamp, met more amazing people and probably wouldn't have the honour of travelling the country and leading worship.
15. Started writing for the Daily Cannon and started 10 Resolutions. Without which I wouldn't have the experience of writing as I do now, understand my football club (or football) as well as I do and crucially wouldn't have understood how important it would be for me to write down my feelings over the next couple of years (and counting).
16. Charis,Joey (and a bit later) Amelia. Without which I certainly wouldn't have the joy of seeing them grow up as I have in my life now, but without them I also probably wouldn't have come out of the next step as the man I am today.
17. Chapter 9. Without which Cass and my relationship certainly wouldn't be as strong as it is now. But if I'm honest about it, I'm still waiting to see the bigger side of this….
18. RIVERcamp, C3 and Seek. Without which I wouldn't have found the most amazing band, started my role for RIVERcamp or push in worship as much as I do now. The most amazing part of this step though is that there is so much more yet to come.
19. News of redundancy. Without which, well……..I probably wouldn't have forced myself into step 20.
20. New job (hopefully soon).. Without which, well…….

So there you have it. The key moments from my life in a nutshell. I'm sure that there are more that have escaped me. And there are also probably some that I haven't yet seen the significance of or properly understand yet. But as I've sat down to write down these steps I've realised how something good has come from each of those life-changing moments. I’d encourage you to do the same. We have all sat down and tried to think in the past about how life would be different if we had made a different decision at a certain point. But what doing this has done for me is to help me realise that I do have hope for the future. If something good has come out of each step (even if I can't see it or understand it yet) then how can I doubt that there will be something good around the corner waiting for me (even if I can't grasp it yet).

Over the last 2 months, my daily life and routines have changed significantly. No longer is the first website I check in the morning the BBC Football gossip column. No, now my morning routine exists of checking job alert emails, applying for any jobs that might have appeared since I checked the night before (it won't surprise you to know that very little changes overnight) and frantically hitting my email refresh button to see if anyone wants me to do a job for them. I've also found that I've been checking my phone unnaturally regularly to see if I've missed a call from anyone that might want to employ me – despite my phone normally being on loud (for the first time in as long as I can remember). Searching for a job is a frustrating thing and the sad truth is that no amount of outsourcing (whilst helpful) or people saying it will be ok (whilst lovely) can prepare you for the experience or some of the setbacks that you may well encounter along the way. There are close to 100 people in my office currently experiencing the same thing. At times, the process is nothing short of heartbreaking.

At the tail end of January I applied for a couple of jobs that I liked the look of and then in the days and weeks following I applied for many many more as the type of job I wanted wasn't readily available (or wasn't advertised). I started applying for roles in desperation as I hadn't heard back from a number of the roles I did really like. It became a bit of an obsessive addiction.
In the second week of February though, (whilst at my lowest point since I'd started looking) the situation started to change. I started to get emails and calls asking me to interview for roles. A few were for roles I really liked. Most however came from the roles I had applied for out of fear for not getting anything else. Over the course of the next couple of weeks I interviewed for a number of jobs, was on two occasions told I was overqualified and also found myself withdrawing from some roles that simply didn't feel right. But what about the roles that I like the look of?
One role had its job description changed so much between the first and second interview that I withdrew my application. Another role had lovely people interviewing me but I didn't feel that the role would challenge me enough so I withdrew from that as well. I then lost out on one of the roles I most liked the look of. I came 2nd out of 142 people but that was of no comfort to me as I didn't get the job. I correctly guessed the person who would get it if I didn't but then after going on LinkedIn to congratulate them, I realised that the person who got the job had previously worked with the advertising manager for 6 years and had been doing some extra copywriting work for them (covering the role) anyway over the last few months. When I found out that I didn't get the role I was gutted and I was hurt. But then the next day I had another email.

One of the first roles I had applied for was with a company that if you you had asked me at the start of all of this if I would like to work for them I would have snapped your hand off in excitement. But I hadn't heard anything. But last week I had an email from them asking if I would like to interview for the role. The interview was on Monday. When walking through the door I wanted to not like something about the company so it would make the possible rejection after hurt less. Yet what I found that was with every moment, I wanted to work for the company even more.

It's safe to say that I have never before walked out of an interview less sure of how I had done. I'd either done really well or really badly. There was no middle ground. And on the train on the way home my mind started to drift to all of the things that I hadn't said. My mind was preparing me for the inevitable. I was told that I would hear by Friday, but when I missed a call from them yesterday I held off on listening to the voicemail because of the finality to it. If I didn't listen to the voicemail then I would still have a chance. I'd spent what seemed like so long waiting for the result of the interview (even though I wasn't expecting the result until Friday) that I didn't want my chance to be over. I wanted the job, I wanted to work for the company. I wanted them to want me. I didn't want them to say no. I prayed for them to changed their minds and to give me a shot. But with a feeling of inevitable rejection I built up the courage to call the company back for my feedback and for them to say no.

But that's not what happened.

It turned out that I had done well in the interview. Very well in fact. So much so that they asked me to come in again and meet the person that would be my future boss for an informal chat. They really liked me and wanted me to meet the future boss to check that we clicked. This chat is next Thursday (a week today) so please spare your thoughts and prayers for me around 3pm that it all goes well. It's not done. It's not dusted. It's not final and it's a fair way off anything being signed. But it's a leap in the right direction.

I wrote at the start of this chapter that the tone of this post could well have been much different. And it could well have been. I don't know what I would have done if I had been rejected. It wouldn't have been the end of the world, I'm no fool I understand that. It would have been a setback. But with nothing else on the horizon, a rejection would have without question placed me at a new ‘lowest point’ since my search for a new role began. It turns out though that yet again I am reminded that I do have a hope and that I do have a future. I'm reminded again of what having faith actually is.

I don't know where you are at in terms of faith or what you believe in or what you don't. I can't answer questions on suffering, why it happens or why certain things or events take place. But what I do know is that looking back at my life I realise that there is no way that I could be where I am today without my faith or be the man I am today without it. There are far too many ‘coincidences’ across the course of my life to doubt that someone is watching over me and my very simple prayer is that as you read this chapter you'll go back over your life and look at some of your steps and see the bigger picture and see how those steps have shaped you. I want you to be encouraged. You do have a hope. You do have a future. And if you feel like you don't, just take a step back and look at the steps that have got you to where you are now. We might not be able to see the next step in our lives. We might not be able to grasp it yet. But it is definitely there. Who knows, the next step may have started but you just might not have realised.

Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future".

Have fun. God Bless. Speak soon (I promise).