In the summer I reread a childhood classic; The Railway Children by E.Nesbit. I have become somewhat of a Railway Child myself in the last 2 months as I have been travelling by train all over the place attending meetings and visiting people and projects. Sometimes I feel like a train, rushing through beautiful countryside.

I've had the joy of meeting some truly lovely people, and the sadness of not being able to spend much time with most of them.

When I first thought of this train analogy it was in a fairly negative way. As I reflected on the whirlwind of the last 2 months of my life, I questioned the lasting influence that a train has on its surroundings. Must be almost nothing. The birds resettle.

As I remember this book, I'm reconsidering the influence of trains.

In The Railway Children, the trains have a huge influence. The children in the book love the trains. As they watch the train steam past they imagine where it's going and ask it to take their love to their father, who is far away and whom they miss terribly. The trains connect them to the rest of the world. They remind them that there is light at the end of their tunnel. That their father is somewhere. The train can't hold their hand when they cry, or play games with them or make them cookies, but the small thing it can do is very significant to them.

At Youth Assembly 2011 when I was a Youth President candidate, I spoke again and again to the children and young people about our potential to be light - the light of the world. Our capacity for influence is incomprehensible, in a world where people full of emotion bump into each other again and again day after day. Our small things have big effects. Careless words, or lives lived with intention. We are like trains going in and out of people's lives - some trains are slower and some are quicker, but all come and go, and all have influence.

We all have a small part to play in a very big countryside.
Our small part will have influence.

I think my part at this time is to notice people, to listen to them, and to hopefully encourage them.

What is your part?
What is your countryside?
What is your influence?

"I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made the plant grow"
1 Corinthians 3.6
"You can do no great things, only small things with great love"
Mother Teresa (debatably)
"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden ... let your light shine before others"
Matthew 5.14+16

PS the pictures show you a glimpse of my October - a meeting at the houses of parliament - an OPP weekend, the highlight of which was a very fun pillow fight - a banner of encouragement made by Methodist Independent Schools students at a World AIMS weekend for an MRDF project in Nepal - some student at the World AIMS weekend in a cave! Some small but significant moments, I hope.

The Cupboard of Unwanted Gifts

I love the satisfaction on ticking things off a list. It makes me feel extremely content, and a little bit self righteous. I have fought a battle against myself, and won! I have beaten my own criteria for doing well that day! I am victorious!

However, this week, my lists have not satisfied me. Because I have been avoiding something.

Leaving the icky thing til last taints all of the other things on the list and makes them feel less satisfying because I know that’s not what I should have been doing, really.

I have had one particular item on my to-do list for the last 5 days; evidence indeed of my proficiency in procrastination. Well today I have finally run out of things that I would prefer to do and cannot stand my constant sense of guilt any longer. I am reduced to doing the thing that I needed to do the most in the first place.

This blog.

Now this may surprise you given the content of this blog so far, but I really, really love writing. I love it because I’m good at it. I spend time every day doing things that I’m not very good at, like The Tube, and getting up in the morning, and trying to be kind to people who make me cross. These things need doing but we should play to our strengths too; it’s really good to do something that you’re good at, that you can do really well, that is one of the pieces of jigsaw that God put together when he made you.

I know when I start writing, and get into the swing of it, I’ll enjoy it and I’ll usually be able to do a good job. I’ll feel like I’ve stretched my wings. I’ll feel like I’ve been properly alive. I’ll feel like my brain and heart and eyes and hands are awake. I’ll also feel frustrated, and lost, and uncomfortable along the way.

I believe that God has given me a gift and I know that we should use the gifts that he gives us, even if they’re not easy to use.

 At home we have a ‘Cupboard of Unwanted Gifts’. Really, a whole, large cupboard. We got married a year ago and I confess, some of the gifts that we received will probably live a long and unfulfilled life in that cupboard. We appreciated the kindness and generosity of our friends and family but sometimes we simply didn’t need or want or like whatever it was we had been given.

William Morris said:
 ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’

Sometimes you get given presents that aren’t useful or beautiful. And I think it’s ok to put them in a cupboard, or if you’re really brave, Ebay them.
It's not ok to not use good gifts just because you're lazy, or scared.

When I don’t write, it’s like I’m putting this precious gift which God has given me in my Cupboard of Unwanted Gifts. Which is wrong, because it’s a gift that I'll enjoy. A gift that will not run out but only get better as I use it. A gift that is both beautiful and useful. It must be, because God gave it to me. God doesn’t give his children rubbish presents. The gifts he gives us may not be easy, but they are always useful and beautiful. 

What are your gifts?

What can you give the world that will be useful and/or beautiful?

How often do you tell other people of the gifts that you see in them, and encourage them to use them?