Thursday, October 20, 2011

My New Blog: a simple life

Hi everyone,

Thank you so much for following My Radical Journey blog! Living in England this past year was hands down the best time of my life. I met so many inspiring people, did so many new things, and learned so much about myself and God. I deeply appreciate all your encouragement along the way, as I shared with you everything I was experiencing and feeling. But with the end of my Rad Journey year, starts my new adventures. Being back home has been a challenge: Job hunting, buying a car and figuring out my next step have been just a few of the new challenges I face. Not to mention figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my life. It's something everyone has to confront when they come home and begin again. My Radical Journey Blog taught me how cathartic journaling can be, and reignited a passion I have always had for writing and starting discussions. As a continuation of that spiritual discipline, I am staring a new blog! It's called "a simple life" @ Simpleigh. My dream is that it will be a way to continue learning about faith through reflections of my experiences, and a jumping off point for future plans to publish and sell my writing professionally. It's exciting and sad at the same time; I know ending this site is also the end to a very beautiful chapter of my life. Still, I am so looking forward what comes next. I hope you'll visit Simpleigh and continue the conversation. 

Grace and Peace,
Leigh F. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Goodbye Bradford pt.II: Love Wins.

(I wrote this post before leaving BRADFORD. It was supposed to be my last blog in England, but the pictures wouldn't cooperate so I'm posting it now...)
"If you know me at all, than you'll know I am a huge Rob Bell fan. Rob Bell is a Pastor / Author from Grand Rapids Michigan. He is also the creator of the very popular NOOMA videos. This year he came out with a book that has made him less popular in some circles... The book is called "Love Wins: A Book About Heaven Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Has Ever Lived". 

For me  believing Love Wins has become less about a controversial set of arguments, and more about a movement of sacrificial love. 

For me, “Love Wins” is an invitation. 
It’s joining in God’s declaration to the world that yes, you’re loved. 
Regaurdless of labels, regaurdless of doctrine...
Below are people who have joined this movement. 
Not simply by holding a sign, but by loving without limits. 
I love these people so much. Thinking about not seeing them everyday makes me not want to go. 
This year has truly changed my life. I never thought I could fall so in love with a place, or with a group of people. 
Before I took every picture, I had the privledge of telling each person, one by one, they are loved not only by me but by the creative energy which formed the universe. 

"What Jesus does is declare that he,and he alone,is saving everybody...
And then he leaves the door way, way open. Creating all sorts of possibilities. He is as narrow as himself and as wide as the universe...
People come to Jesus in all sorts of ways.
Sometimes people use his name;other times they don’t...

Some people have so much baggage with regard to the name “Jesus” that when they encounter the mystery present in all of creation—grace, peace, love, acceptance, healing, forgiveness—the last thing they are inclined to name it is “Jesus.”

What we see Jesus doing again and again—in the midst of constant reminders about the seriousness of following him living like him, and trusting him—is widening the scope and expanse of his saving work..."

Love Wins.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Everytime we say goodbye...

Yesterday was my final day at Lidget Green. It was pretty funny (actually) because it was our "Tudor" day; as in Henry VII and the Tudor family. Our class has been studying the Tudors over the last month and yesterday was our big "fancy dress day". 

a.k.a They made me dress up like Anne Boleyn. 

It was the perfect time to wear a full-length-faux-velvet Medieval dress, because of course I had to say good bye to al sorts of people... First, the school had an assembly for us where they presented us with some chocolates and  lovely picture book of Bradford. They thanks us for all of our hard work and said we really felt like a part of their family this year. It was very touching because I have felt so blessed by all of the students and staff at Lidget. Throughout the day I got lots of little leaving gifts and cards from the kids. Finally at our end of the day "Banquet," the two year 5 classes presented me with a card they had all signed. I cried for the first time that day, and it was all downhill from there. My final memory of our class will be their smiling faces sitting around me as I got to say a final goodbye to them. I told them they have a very special place in my heart and that they are all wonderful exactly as they are. I told them I wish I could be their next year, but that maybe someday I would come back and visit. And I will, someday...

It probably would have been a long melancholy night if one of our partners from Northern Ireland, Tim, hadn't treated us to dinner last night. It was so nice catching up with him since we last saw him in Belfast. We decided to try out this Russian Restaurant (The ONLY Russian restaurant) in Bradford city center. It was a lovely restaurant, but it screamed any action flick where the secret agent meets with a Russian Mob Head for dinner. It's a shame if anybody actually gets "wacked" before enjoying a Russian dinner, because it was gorgeous!!!

Tim thanked us for coming here this year. He said a lot of people who do service in England don't end up working in such a difficult urban setting. I know what he means... last week someone working at one of the Asian fabric stores near our house was brutally stabbed to death. We were just there a day or so before... Bradford is rough. And yet I have never felt more at home. 

But now I actually have to go home. Back to familiar surroundings.... but this time home will not feel like it did, because I will have changed. I'm going to miss this place... 

I'll miss the row housing...

I'll miss our street...

Our flat with its ghetto picket fence and clogged toilet....

(marie's photo)
Our crafty living room...
Our overgrown PEACE sign in the front yard...

The snicket we walk through everyday...

ARABIAN, the first Asian store we ever went in. Where we met "Fica" and
 broke the news that her name is an acronym for tax collectors in the US...

(marie's photo)
Websters, our local fish and chip shop...

(marie's photos)
Walking to school with Marie through Schoolmore cemetery...

(marie's photo)
The Alhambra theater, Bradfords claim to fame...
(marie's photo)
Walking downtown to the interchange...

(marie's photo)
Lister park with its incredible flowers...

(marie's photo)
Those horses owned by an Irish traveller up by Tescos...

Cannon Mill's Market, and how it made Bradford feel like Pakistan...

(marie's photo)
Looking out my window onto the vicarage...

(marie's photo)
Our local ice cream truck who drove through the neighbor at lightning speed...

(marie's photos)
Playing cricket on a Thursday afternoon with the kids club...
(marie's photo)
Great Horton UMC...

(marie's photo)
Singing unrecognizable hymns in St. Wilfrids...

(marie's photos)
Our British families...

(marie's photo)
Goodbye Bradford....

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Time For June

On my very first day at Lidget Green I met June. (U - Neh)

God was showing off when He made June. 

June is from Norway, and this year she worked as a teacher’s assistant with me in year 5. She's going to school to be a teacher; and in my opinion she is going to be fantastic! 

Not only has she done an incredible job teaching the UK curriculum, she has succeeded in educating all of us (especially the kids) about Norway. During Christmas she showed us how to make woven tree decorations. Sometime after, she brought in Norwegian brown cheese and chocolate! On Easter she skied with her enrichment group around the school and taught them some troll songs. On May 17th we celebrated Norway's National day with quizzes, ice cream and shouts of "Hip Hurrah!!!" 

(June singing Norwegian "Happy Birthday" song in the London Tube)

The very first thing I asked her to outside of school, was to see the movie "Buried." I remember thinking, "this girl is NEVER gonna do anything with me again!"
But we've been close ever since. 

I think my favorite moments with June, and they number among the thousands... have to be our coffee dates. I've never met someone so full of love and encouragement. She is beautiful inside and out. 

Marie, Abbey and I spent last night with her packing and reminiscing about this year: how could things work out so perfectly?
She's here for 10 months - we're here for 10 months.
She chooses England - I chose England. 
She ends up in Bradford working at Lidget Green - we're sent to Lidget Green.
She's put in year 5 - I choose year 5.
More faithful people than I would commonly call this "a God thing." But whatever you call it: fate, destiny, chance, etc... I’m forever grateful it all came together. 
But there is a time for all things under the sun says the writer of Ecclesiastes.  For some reason I thought about this passage on the way home as I silently sobbed in the front seat of the taxi. I used to dread the ending of things, and of course in many ways I still do. It’s like Ecclesiastes says later, 

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
   says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
   Everything is meaningless.”

 What do people gain from all their labors
   at which they toil under the sun? 

... I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind."

I’m tempted to look at endings this way.
But I was reminded, that in life, endings have to happen for there to be new beginnings. Right now it is time to say goodbye, but soon it will be time for a reunion. 
I look forward with hope to the day we will all be together again, remembering fondly our year in Bradford.... for the writer excludes one thing which gives all things, even endings, meaning. For if all things under the sun are meaningless, that still leaves out the Sun. 

I believe in Christ as I believe that the sun has risen: 
not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else
- C.S. Lewis