I became involved with Shine UK which is a Christian weekend for girls, two years ago.
My dearest and best friend asked if I would be interested and encouraged me to have a think about it. She was one of the core team organisers that oversees the weekend.
She described the weekend and to be quite honest it sounded awesome. I will go into more detail about this later on in the blog.
I reculantly said yes for a number of reasons. Firstly, my faith has been well and truly tested for a few years for various reasons. Some of which I will talk about in this blog. Secondly, I was at such a low point in my life I could not a see a path to take. My mental health was a mess to say the least. To add to it I was trying to juggle teaching and being a good mummy to my daughter. Other issues contributed toward this part of my life being nothing more than that disaster but that’s for another time.
The weekend of my first Shine arrives. It’s my first weekend away from my daughter. I start to panic a bit, well a lot. Will I be good enough? Will I show my faith or lack of it? Will I let my best friend down and the other core team organisers that knew me too? Will my lack of confidence in general get the better off me?
My friend knows that I always try to give my best in everything I do. So, on arrival on the Friday, I got stuck in to the setting up and preparing what needed to be sorted. However, before this my friends sister came and gave me a Helen hug. These, quite frankly, are the best hugs ever. They feel like a bear hug but with one key aspect. They are filled with a love, care and support you can’t ever imagine. I could have burst into tears there and then. Both my friend, her sister and family have had their share of battles but what flows, if not oozes out of them both and the other Shine Angels I met was a faith, Grace and peace I knew but had been searching for because I lost it! They had the God factor.
In fact it smacked me straight in the face as I was meeting the other Shine Angels. The calmness, peace and faith that could be felt was astounding. It was a blessing to be there. I had a rubbish day at work and I was so mentally tired but this was the pick me up, the kick start I needed to rediscover what I had lost. My faith! Boy did I need.
Among all the other baggage I was carrying, God was preparing me for 3 battles: nearly loosing my dad, my husband being diagnosed with heart issue meaning our daughter will need to be tested and then a situation at work that caused so much grief and stress. They do say bad luck comes in threes! Ha ha.
God had prepared me for what lay ahead that weekend. He helped me through these and created a path I so desperately needed. The situations didn’t dissappear but I had the strength to get through them and to be placed upon the most incredible journey.
The Friday night and Saturday worships were spent mostly in, tears!! Whilst in worship a lot of the anger, frustration, hate and the feeling of being lost came out. I tried my best to hold it back and on many occasions I succeeded. Was this the right thing to do? Truthfully, probably not. I didn’t want to burden anyone. Non of the Shine Angels knew this until now. Unfortunately, I spent much of the weekend doing this until Sunday in the prayer tent with my dearest friend. I couldn’t contain it anymore!! My dearest friend in the world had stuff to do as a core team member. Yet, this incredible human being spent, what I can only remember as an eternity just sitting with me! We said nothing to each other. She knew where I was with things, what I had been battling for years and years. She didn’t need to say anything. We sat there and every now and again she would lean over and hug me. Very much like her sisters. One of support, peace and grace. A hug telling me that things would be OK. As this time was ending I will never forget her words.”it’s time to let all the hate go, everything you have been through let it go, everything that has happened to you” She was right. I had to. I gave it to God and I still am.
We have known each other for seventeen amazing years and she has been a blessing as well as cheeky!!! She knew I was interested in my husband, the night of my 30th but I lacked the confidence. The rest as they say, is history. She was my Maid of Honour at our wedding and accepted being our daughters Godmummy. She has been at my side through the best and worst times of life. I hope she will continue to do. In fact I know so.
There is no other way to describe her. She is a Angel sent from above.
That weekend brought about sense of faith I had experienced when I first started having a one! I found it at university and I remember it like it was yesterday. The warmth in my tense shoulders. God placing his hands on them saying I am here and am with you. A warmth so deep on my tense shoulders that I had never experienced before, at Shine it was tears. The tears from trying to juggle and work everything out on my own.
I needed peace, Grace and rest. For me, Matthew vs 28-30 summed up what I needed.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and I will recover your life. I will show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me- watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly”.
In the usual Kerry style I threw myself into the weekend. I was asked to come back the following year. Without hesitation I said yes. I must have done something worth while.
Anyone who knows me knows I have a love of sport and fitness. This is one of the reasons why I was asked to volunteer. Though out the two years I have run a number of sessions from basketball, my favourite sport, to stretch and relax, early morning fitness, Circuits and core stability.
I definitely need to up my game for this year. My 3rd year. Ideas are flowing!!
Not only this but there is lots of worship with the worship band, arts and craft activities. Last year was bag making to name one. There are outdoor activities like rock climbing and leap of faith, a film and slient disco. The slient discos are one of the best experiences ever. I have partied the night away for two years straight. The list of activities is endless.
Worship and guest speaker
The weekend also includes guest speakers from other Christian organisations. Last years message was based on the story of Esther, unpicking what it means. Through out the weekend emphasis was placed on being a warrior princess. This was amazing. If I feel like things are getting a bit to much I remind myself of this. I am right where I should be! “I have come to my royal position for such a time as this!!!”
There is opportunity for girls to text a question, anonymously, and then have it answered by a panel of Shine Angels, made up of guest speakers and core team members. It can be about anything.
The prayer tent is an integral part of the weekend. At any point the girls can go and received prayer, chat, or ask any questions they may have and get pampered too. Nails etc done.
The tuck shop is always a hit too and this keeps me going through out the weekend, especially the Saturday from doing early morning fitness right until the end of the silent disco. Obviously breakfast, lunch and dinner are also provided but this gave me much needed fuel boost to keep going. He he.
My second year at Shine was such a different experience. I was much more confident, I knew what to expect, there was no mental or phyiscal exhaustion this time. I was in a better place and I knew it! It was very noticeable according to the lady who organises the weekend. I didn’t feel so tired or worn out. I was living a freer and lighter life. Even with so much still going on.
However, I admit there is still work that needs to be done. The lady who organises the weekend called me over to have words with me. I thought oh no what I have I done? Her exact words were ” I have a bone to pick with you!” my reply “erm ok” She told me I was amazing and I need to recognise this. I was very humbled by this and to this day I need to start seeing and believing it more. Another Shine Angel told me I give lot to the young people without realising. I do get myself in things. One being a dance off with a girl who attended the weekend. I failed epically. I had fun though and the girl smashed it.
After leaving my teaching job of twelve years and feeling like I failed most days. I remember these words every time I go into a school as a supply teacher.
Through out my two years as a Shine Angel it has been amazing to witness young people starting out in their faith, rediscovering it as I have, or gaining more self respect and knowing that they don’t have to go through life with this false image that they see everyday.
Two quotes sum up, for me, what I think Shine is all about. The first:
“What I am is good enough if only I would be it openly”
The other from the book of Esther.
Everyone has a purpose, everyone has gifts and talents, everyone is unique and beautiful. Everyone has a a royal position!
For the last two years I have been on a journey I never thought imaginable.
These amazing ladies, that organise the weekend and the Shine Angels, I have met along the way have had an impact not only on my life but those who attend the weekend. They are role models, both as Christians and encouraging young people that they are amazing just they are.
These incredible ladies have brought me closer to God. My faith is being restored. He has a purpose for me. He always did. I always thought it was teaching but for him it was a different type. His purpose, for me, now, at this moment, is being the best mummy and wife I can be, supply teaching, being a Tiny Soccer coach, being an independent Usborne Books organiser, a Shine Angel, an activity organiser at Spree, being given the opportunity to become the activities coordinator for Shine this year and helping out on my daughters school Ptfa. Using my gifts, talents and passions that have been given to me and I enjoy what I am doing. I don’t have to work at home ’til all hours marking, lesson planning etc.
Where will I be in the future? Who knows but I can’t wait to find out.
Just looking at that list of things I am involved in. I think I might need a bigger diary!
For the first time in a long time I am right where I should be. I am happy, I am learning to put my faith and trust in God again. MANY people have noticed a positive change in me. My dear friend has told me that she has not seen me this happy for a while.
I have the work life balance I have always wanted. My beautiful little girl is put first, I have a wonderful husband who I love with my whole being and who is a devoted dad and husband. I think he feels the same!!! Ha ha. I love having different things I can sink my teeth into.
I am a warrior princess !!!
I am finally beginning to understand my purpose!
After all life is also about making memories and cherishing every moment and I am certainly doing that with Gods grace and this incredible journey I am on.