Sunday 28 October 2012

First love

I don't want to keep dwelling on the past.  It keeps on surfacing in my dreams and flowing out the tip of my pen.  Neither do I want to forget it all.  So i'm trying to write it out my system.  I don't know if it'll work but I can't not.  The following refers to one of the chapters of my life.  One I find hardest to let go of.

First love

You taught me about being a foreigner, and how to make a home in a new place.  You taught me about being a minority, being a curiosity, being misunderstood.  You taught me about standing out, blending in, trying to hide, and accepting being seen.  You taught me about histories told from different perspectives.  You taught me about guilt and overcoming and walking a different path to those of the people that went before.

You taught me about being lonely, and learning to be alone.  You taught me how much comfort the stars can give.  You taught me that the hills could be my friends.  You taught me that the sky has something different to say, every day.  You taught me about smells that appear under the sun and made me screw up my nose in disgust. You taught me about scents that only appear at night and make me dream.  

You taught me that I could run.  You taught me I’d rather be outside.  You taught me to map-read. You taught me that classroom achievement is not the be all and end all, well not for me, anyhow.  You taught me about singing and passion and acting and how I longed how I longed to dance.  You taught me about rap and rnb.  You taught me about bodies and breasts and skin and hair.  You taught me that clothes don’t matter that much.  You taught me about peanut butter and syrup on fresh white bread, and rice cakes, and mangoes and how milk straight from cows tastes.  You taught me how to blow bubbles with bubblegum.

You taught me that an 8 hour round trip in a day for a swimming gala is nothing.  You taught me about waterfalls and dams and never-ending roads.  You taught me a little about farmers and politicians and missionaries and businessmen and teachers through their children, who became like family.  You taught me how easy it is to damage relationships with my own family.  You taught me to toughen the soles of my feet, and toughen my tongue.  Perhaps parts of me got a little too tough.

You taught me about crushes and love letters and flirting and Valentines day.  You taught me about endless handwritten notes and pouring out my soul into a notebook. You taught me I wasn’t ready to be claimed, that I was stubborn... and certain in my uncertainty. 

You taught me about disappointment and the reality of death.  You taught me about goodbyes and making the most of every moment.  You taught me how much more precious time is when you know it’s running out.  You taught me about true friendships and how big a hole these can leave when there is a few thousand miles separating you.  You taught me how much it hurt to miss you.  

Thursday 25 October 2012

Honest Songs - Noah Gundersen

As we gather round the table 
To say a prayer for those we love 
All the words that will be spoken 
they will never be enough 

to encompass all the feelings 
that our brittle hearts can bear 
all the storms that rage inside us 
fill our organs up with air 

and the sound it makes 
is an honest song 
our hearts sing an honest song 

All the time spend catching raindrops 
all the time we spent in bed 
all the hours we have wasted 
we will never see again 

so be good with what you're given 
for it's all you have to give 
we are only passing shadows 
in a mighty wind 

and the sound it makes 
is an honest song 
our hearts sing an honest song 

so tho I tremble in the darkness 
in the cold and freezing snow 
I am grateful for winter 
because the winter comes to show 

that our trouble's never over 
and our work is never done 
but with the turning of the season 
we will always see the sun 

and the sound it makes 
is an honest song 
our hearts sing an honest song 

may our hearts sing an honest song

from the album, Family

Saturday 20 October 2012


Not my photo!  Stolen from

My arms stretch and my fingers strain but the bars pressing against my chest prevent me from reaching, from taking hold of the fruit which has captured my attention.  The apple of my eye, you might say.  Hunger consumes me and lips moisten in anticipation.  I must eat... I must have.  But I cannot reach.  Cannot reach.  Neither can I turn away.  I know nothing else will compare. So why waste my time looking elsewhere?

I could have sworn that fruit had my name on.

The bars cut deeper as I press myself against them and my shoulders hunch in frustration.  Perhaps that fruit was never meant for me.  perhaps I am doomed to stay here forever, unable to move forward, taunted by dreams of what might have been.

SIGH.  My eyes must have been tricking me.  It can't have been my name I saw.  So I drop my head.  Tears fill my eyes.  My knees give way.  I sink toward the ground.

But before I hit the floor, I feel two strong hands on my shoulders.  Tension leaks away.  Gently the hands lift me and turn me slowly.  And there, to my right, is an open door. An open door leading into an open space where fruit hangs heavy from laden trees.  Fruit all the colours of the rainbow.  The dew on them glistening like diamonds in the sun.

Why did I never notice the door before?  I was too busy focusing on chains and restraints.  There is an open door!!!  A way for me!! And I was not wrong, after all.  There, on that juicy, delicious looking fruit that had captured my eye from the very beginning, is my name.  It is for me.  For me to eat.  And there is plenty.  Go find yours!

Written at ...Stepping Beyond last weekend, one of our creative worship evenings.

Wednesday 17 October 2012


I begin with a confession: I grew up believing that tattoos were wrong (especially for Christians), along with long hair and piercings on men.  Actually tattoos probably topped the list of unacceptable body modifications.  I can't quite believe that's how I viewed the world; a result of parents who were of a more conservative generation and background, growing up in a church in the 1990s, and living in Basingstoke - not exactly the heights of culture and liberalism.  I should also note that for a long time I thought it was wrong for women to wear makeup, but had no good foundation (haha) for this belief apart from the fact that my mum didn't wear it due to skin allergies.  It's funny the conclusions we come to.  I apologise to anyone I judged in my 9-year-old head.  Seriously.  I'm glad to say that no one I know now still holds to those beliefs, yes they might not be to my parents taste, but they'd never say a piercing or two was wrong.  That's a very important distinction (between taste and right/wrong), in so many areas of belief, especially religious belief and expression, isn't it?

But back to topic.  Look how far I've come.  I have my ears pierced several times, my nose and lip.  My husbands has ear stretchings and four tattoos.  And last week I had my first tattoo done.  This is the part where I discover how open-minded Mum and Dad have become... uhhh Surprise!?! :-)

There's a few things that have contributed to my change of opinion.  I suppose it's been mainly being in places where tattoos and piercings are the norm, rather than the exception - in Brighton, Sevilla and Ibiza.
Rather than just a few old ex-prisoners with a skull and crossbones on their arms, EVERYONE has tattoos these days!  And while there's still a lot that I don't like - many are the same, unoriginal, or very dark (why do so many people have images of death and evil marked onto their skin??  What is the attraction?!), there are also plenty that are interesting, creative and beautiful.  Tattoo artists are just that - ARTISTS, with so much skill. Respekt. I've realised that I, Katrina, actually quite like how some piercings and some tattoos look.  I think they can express personality and belief in fun and eye-catching ways, in the same way that a hair cut or new outfit can.  Perhaps it's because I'm too lazy to make an effort everyday with jewellery, makeup and hair styles that I chose more permanent methods of decoration!

Which leads me to explore two of those words in a bit more detail (trains of thought flowing...)

decoration - is it a celebration of creativity, or a way of hiding?  Is it a decision to stand out or to blend in?  To draw attention to ourselves or to disguise who we really are.  Do we modify our bodies because we are not satisfied with the way we are?  Do I have piercings because I think my face is too boring without them?  These are valid questions, but I think they can be applied in the same way to buying new clothes or shoes or using makeup, which are all deemed far more acceptable.

permanence - piercings can be removed but those inky etches are with us forever.  I think it's very hard for our generation to get our heads around permanence.  Everything around us is constantly changing, growing, developing.  In a topsy-turvy way perhaps it's our focus on 'living in the moment' that makes us care less about future consequences of long-lasting decisions (think about all the people who get their lovers name carved into their arm, only to regret it a year or two down the line).  Are tattoos just 'fashionable' at the moment (which is ironic since fashion changes constantly!)?  As with many things, something that started off being anarchic/alternative/shocking has become mainstream.  Perhaps lost its power to communicate a message?  I don't know, maybe it depends on where you are and who you're around.

Anyways, these are just a few ponderings on the matter.  I am no expert.  But I do think it's important to consider our motives in the decisions we make about our bodies.  At the same time, let's be colourful and creative and imaginative!  I'm really happy with the tattoo I've got.  It's pretty! :-)  It's hidden away so only a few will ever see it, but it says something that has meant a lot to me over the past few years, and will, I hope, inspire me to live life in the way I believe it should be lived.  

Monday 8 October 2012

Unity and the Brighthelm Centre

Our church - City Gate Church - has recently moved into the Brighthelm Centre, which is owned by Brighthelm United Reformed Church.  So, two churches sharing a space, sharing a Sunday morning, sharing coffee time in between our services.  And the two churches couldn't be more different, on the surface, anyhow.  City Gate Church barely has anyone over the age of 60, and the average age of the URC's congregation must be around 80.  They have an organist, hymn books and flowers.  We have djembes, guitars, powerpoint and flags.  Their services are pretty traditional and ordered.  Our meetings are...chaotic and random!  We, and our style of worship, has already been referred to as 'strange' and' peculiar'.  I don't think the URC knows quite what to make of us.  And perhaps vice versa.  Perhaps we are all more set in our ways than we thought.  Being 'united' is easier said than done.

BUT, the challenge is a good one.  It's worth the effort.  And this Sunday, when we joined the Brighthelm URC in their service to celebrate 25 years of the Brighthelm Centre, I for one was inspired by the faithfulness and the perseverance that the older generation has invested into making a positive impact on the community around them.  Yes, they may be nearing the end of their race, but there is more to do, and much to learn from their wisdom and experience.  It's a privilege to be able to walk the road together for a while.  This Sunday we stood together, sang together and prayed together.  We drank coffee and ate sandwiches together.  And the visiting speaker said words that we ALL need to hear.  He encouraged us to continue to be SALT and LIGHT - that is to say to make a difference in the world.  And this isn't possible because we are particularly special in ourselves - most of us really are very ordinary.  This is possible because of the One who lives in all of us, the One who is our reason for being, for gathering in the Brighthelm Centre on a Sunday morning in the first place.  The One who first loved us.

Monday 1 October 2012


Sisters in Brum
So I know there's been quite a few blue/grey posts recently.  But please don't fret. Yes, I was particularly sad one day, but I've also been writing quite a lot about colour.  And actually, September has been a month of celebrations, and there's been a lot of happy times.  Mainly because the celebrations have been cause for gatherings, and gatherings mean being with people, people that I love, and don't get to see as much as I would like.  So I am feeling very thankful once again for the beautiful friends and family I have.

Life can feel a bit lonely as we all get down to the daily grind and energies get taken up with basically surviving from one day to the next, one paycheck to the next, etc.  There's only a few friends I now see regularly, and even that is not enough!  It's easy to start worrying that we've drifted apart, that perhaps we are not really that close any more.  And sure relationships change, and sometimes we do drift apart - my Mum was right - you cannot hold onto every single person you meet, but just because a relationship changes doesn't mean it's the end.  There are friends with whom I walked everyday a few years ago, and now I'm lucky if I see them twice a year.  I don't know the ins and outs of their daily lives.  I'm not always there with a hug when they are sad, and we often don't know how good or how hard life is for each other until afterwards.  But that's OK, I think.  As long as we do get those face to face times every once in a while.  When we'll talk about everything or nothing much and all the variations in between.  And we'll make ourselves comfortable in each other's homes without thinking.  And we'll be very honest.  And we'll hug lots.  And we'll be thankful to know each other.

Poetry night in LDN
So hooray for birthdays and anniversaries and weddings and friends making trips over to England from Greece and France (Joey and Heloise and Keena!)... (and Devon and London - Annah and Louise and Helen!)
Spectacular birthday faces
My birthday was especially fun.  Last year I turned 25 and was on honeymoon, so while it was lovely, it was just the two of us, and then we never got round to that housewarming party in our last flat (people would have had to come in shifts anyway!), so this year I really wanted to do something.  I get a bit funny about birthdays, I guess a lot of us do in different ways.  It's not that I'm bothered about getting old, it's more that it seems a chance for old insecurities to get the better of me - mainly that people won't come/remember/want to celebrate/be that bothered.  Silly perhaps, but that's the nature of those voices in our head that say all sorts of unhelpful things.

Brighton originals
Anyways, everything worked out OK.  It was great to have a flat full of faces that are so familiar and dear to me, and to be able to introduce friends to each other, and have a few drinks, and then to dance the night away.  Hooray hooray hooray.  Happy day.  THEN the following day, my flatmate cooked a huge roast which we shared with old housemates, and on my actual birthday Mr Q cooked me breakfast, and we watched a cheesy film, and after work MORE friends came for some girly times of massage, nail polish and ice-cream.  So I am a lucky girl, and I guess I just wanted to say Thanks to everyone who has been a part of make this month such a good one.  I am so blessed to know you.
Always a joy to see friends at weddings