Do you remember what you were doing this time four years ago? Christmas always gives me a chance to reflect on the past and remember how far I’ve actually come. Make sure you take time to do the same this festive period.
1. Thinking about leaving my teaching job.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I absolutely adored the children I was working with back in Notts. However, I was also fully aware that the system they were in – that I was facilitating – was drastically failing them. I learned that my role as an English teacher in an inner-city school also included being a parent, social worker, role-model and an advocate for these young people. And as much as I tried to follow the systems, I knew these kids needed much more than what I could offer for only a few hours a day in my classroom. It was heartbreaking knowing the school could have put so many better systems in place to invest into the kids but they just chose not to. I refused to be part of this conspiracy any longer and I had made up my mind that Christmas 2014 would be my last in that school.
2. Engaged to Massimo with 6 months to go till the big day.
Weddings are stress! And the decision to do everything ourselves made it that much more challenging for Massimo and I. I remember spending some of our Christmas deliberating over loads of little things that didn’t actually matter in the end. Things like seating plans (which the decorating team messed up, anyway) or name placards (which the decorating team didn’t put out) and intricate logistics of the day (even though the decorating team were tremendously late). My advice? Invest more into your marriage than your wedding. Thank me later.
3. Applying for jobs abroad and getting rejected left, right and centre.
I can’t believe at one point I thought it would be a good idea to spend my first year of marriage out in the UAE. The plan was to wed and be on the next flight out of Heathrow to Abu Dhabi. I now am grateful that Mass and I had time to find our rhythm in marriage first, along with the support of friends and family to guide us through the drastic changes marriage brings along with it. Hindsight is a wonderful thing; what seemed like a disappointment at the time turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Timing is everything.
4. Integrating myself back into a real church community after being burned by a false preacher.
Read your Bibles, people! If you are drawn to a church because of a charismatic preacher and an influx of people, please, please, please beware. It is our responsibility to know God and what He says in His word.
If things consistently don’t align, you are not part of a church, my friend. You’re in a cult and you need to get out of there. Fast.
The prosperity gospel is not the good news that Jesus came to bring. Four Christmasses ago, I learned the valuable lesson that although God wants to bless us, not everyone is meant to be materially rich. Christianity is not based on what God can do for us but rather what He has called us to do for His people. It seems obvious now but back then I was choosing to sit under a preacher who firmly believed in this and I was allowing him to feed me all kinds of nonsense. Don’t follow the hype. Know your stuff.
Merry Christmas, Helen x