Friday, 5 October 2012

Destruction Fest

Nine years ago I bumped into a friend in a high street record store in good old Sutton, and he asked if I was going to Destruction Fest that weekend.  'Destruction Fest?  What's that?'  Turns out, it was a weekend festival in Camden, two nights of gigs, metal, punk, goth, hardcore, run by an alternative church (what's that?).  Nine years ago I was a somewhat heartbroken (and, please know, I was responsible for much of the heartbreak) nineteen year old, home for the holidays, at a bit of a loss and missing my metal-loving Uni mates.

So I went along.  And it was great.  Loud and heavy and slightly overwhelming, especially as I knew no one.  I went to the Sunday service and wept.  And let me just say now, it was not because I was greatly moved by the message or the worship (though I'm sure they were good).  I wept because I was lonely and hurting and guilty, and sitting in amongst this broad community, mostly clothed in black, I felt all those things a little more because I was not really a part of it.  And, although I had wonderful friends, I didn't really have a church community to belong to anywhere else.

But, even with the weeping, I still loved the experience.  So I went back in 2004, and fell in love with Antidemon.  And again in 2005, where I fell more in love with Extol.  And by 2005 I had finished Uni, moved back to London, and was on the look out for a new church.  So I figured part of the weekend would be 'trying out' the church that organised the festival, going along this time not to weep, but to see whether it might be a place I could attend regularly.

I had planned to visit a whole range of churches, but that Sunday I knew that GU was where I was meant to be, at least for the time being.  So, those other visits went out the window and I kept turning up at GU.

As much as I loved it, I found it hard.  I was a timid, shy 21-year old, overawed at the 'cool' people who attended this church.  I struggled to initiate conversation, and when I did speak with people, it was hard to get beyond surface small talk.  But there I was, week after week, and slowly and surely I got to know people a little better, came to feel a little more comfortable in my surroundings, began to feel like part of the family.

Destruction Fest 2006 moved venues, and by now I was on the other side of things - I was not a punter, I was a volunteer.  So I sat at the door, welcoming people and taking money, or manning the merch table, or praying in the back with a couple of others.  My husband met me that night, although I do not remember this (not because he is not memorable, but because I had other preoccupations at the time).  I knew some of the bands by then, well enough to say hi to.  I was bold enough to strike up conversation with people I didn't know.  I wanted others to feel like family too.

We took a break, tried some different things through the years between, and came back in 2009.  Destruction Fest returned, oh yes, just as loud, but with a different vision.  We had an all-day gig, to free up an evening for prayer and worship.  We had a huge service in our new church venue of St Michaels, 'Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down' reverberating off the Victorian stone arches.  We set up and packed down and prayed and fed people and hung out and welcomed and counselled and laughed and sang and moshed, and this year I was part of the core, at the heart of the family.  And I was so incredibly glad.

And here we are again, another three-year break, returning with Destruction Fest 2012.  I'm making cornflake cakes this afternoon to feed the hungry metallers.  Tonight we'll gather to pray and worship, tomorrow we'll head over to the Black Heart in Camden, to 'bang our heads and help the homeless', on Sunday we'll celebrate and feast at St Michaels.

This year is special for me because this year I bring along Button with me.  Safely hidden away, but present nonetheless.  'Your first gig, my darling', and I'll tell the story in years to come of a metal festival leading to a church, which became a family, which became our family, which is a family with open arms to all those seeking, all those lost, all those lonely - and all those who love metal.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

New Nose

The month of May was full of words like new and fear but also courage and victory.

I have been fighting a whole range of fears, big and small, significant and not that important, my whole life, but really, 2012 is the year the fighting stepped up a notch, and yes, it's been a fierce battle.  But May, oh May was a huge taste of freedom.

I could talk about the wonder of CBT with The Greatest and the greatest and my new "friend" Eva; I could mention California and flights and Skyfari and dinner at Pink's and real life exposure; I could mention conversations held with friends and family and The Husband; I could mention opportunities at work and being bold.  And perhaps I will tell some of those stories here, though maybe not, and certainly not all.

But for today, I want to talk about a smaller victory.

My nose.  For many many years I have wanted to pierce my nose.  And, for many many years I've held back, convinced that it would spell the end to a variety of opportunities and strike a blow to a couple of important relationships.  On returning from Cali, still buzzing from all that new freedom, I decided that I needed to make a statement, an Ebenezer of sorts, proclaiming this new freedom, my boldness, the excitement of starting to find out all the things I'm capable when fear isn't holding me by the throat.

My "Ebe-nose-r".  Oh, I crack myself up.
Don't get me wrong, it's not like I've been incapable of doing anything requiring bravery until now.  But May was the month where I started to taste some of the freedom I've been longing for for such a long time.  And some of that freedom is to do with decision making.

I struggle to stand on my own two feet, I struggle to trust my own opinion, thought processes, instinct when it comes to choosing things, because I desperately want to please those around me.  "Fearofman" could be my middle name - which leads me to make decisions not based on what I think, but based around how I think those I care about will react.  Of course, it's important to consider those around you in all things in life, but I'm not talking about being unselfish, I'm talking about terror of disapproval.  

And since opinion of others had been a big reason for not piercing my nose, and that it only occurred to me recently that piercing my nose isn't going to cause actual injury or harm to anyone else, I thought it a good place to begin.  To make a decision either way based on what I thought, not what I imagined others would think.

So, I stepped back and I prayed and I thought and I asked myself and I asked God - is this a good thing for me to do?  

Do you want to do it?

Yes, yes I do.

Then go for it!

So I did.  

And I am so glad!  I love how it looks.  I love that it means something pretty big to me - when I see it in the mirror I remember what statement I am making to myself with it.  I love that the experience itself was pretty pain-free, with the loveliest piercing studio in Camden.  

But the best was to come.  You know those fears about how people might react?  

Blown out of the water.  Completely!

Goodness me I felt stupid - why on earth had I been so worried?  But I am rejoicing in my stupidity, and the boldness it took to take a step in spite of all that fear.  Because if I hadn't, I would never have found out how mundane those responses turned out to be.  I love that this mountain has turned out to be a teeny molehill - because even if I look ridiculous, even if people think I'm silly for worrying so much, I don't care - that is nothing compared to the joy and defiance I feel now I know that fear cannot hold me in that particular place ever again.   

So I celebrate this little victory, and I welcome more to come.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

And this is how I feel {a birthday post}

Today I turn 28.  Happy birthday to me!

I took this picture today, walking round the docks on my new favourite route.  It made me smile to see how the sculpture had lined up with the sunlight, the clouds, the vapour trail, something I hadn't planned when hitting the button on my little fake blackberry.  And it made me laugh as I realised how well this sculpture sums up my feelings as I enter my 29th year.

I feel bold, I feel like I'm striding into something very new, something adventurous.  I feel somewhat fearful too - I will need armour, I will need help, my stance is sometimes for show - faking until I make it.  I mean, that's how it works - adventure, newness, is scary - that's why you need boldness, right?

I feel solid and secure.  I also feel fragile, laid open, vulnerable (because maybe I'm learning that I am not the source of my solidity and security?).

I feel beautiful and strong.  I also still have the voices in my head that love to tell me otherwise, voices I often believe.  But I finally feel like I'm learning a little bit of what it is to be a woman, and more than that, a daughter of the King.  My identity is slowly shifting away from outward and towards inward.

And so I laugh - here I am, a mess of metals and shapes, of odds and ends, of new parts and old parts.  I'm a tangle of solid and tough and delicate and brittle.  But boy, what a sight when the pieces, good and bad, are assembled by a sculptor with both an eye for detail and a sense of the bigger picture.


Monday, 9 January 2012


It reads "10/02/10  07:20AM".

A combination of jet-lag and excitement got me up, washed, dressed and out exploring at the crack of dawn that Saturday in October.  Ready to start my day with some coffee and breakfast, it wasn't long before I stumbled across a Starbucks.  Lame choice huh, Heather?  Oh no, but you see, this wasn't any Starbucks.  This was my first American Starbucks (sticking American in front of pretty much anything made it exciting).  So I headed in, placed my order, and sat at a window seat with my bible and my notebook.

I still have the receipt tucked in my bible, in the midst of the Psalms.  It doesn't mark a place or serve as a bookmark for my current reading.  But I can't bring myself to throw it away.  For me, it is a slightly odd Ebenezer - not a stone of help, but a receipt of help, a marker for a significant time in my life where all I could and all I can do is wonder at God's grace.  

See, we all know that I dislike flying, that I'd once sworn never to fly again, but over time had managed to get back on planes, gritting my teeth as I did so, even on short hops.  This trip presented such a wonderful opportunity - visit friends who are practically family in South Carolina, by way of New York, with my husband and some of our closest friends.  I'd always wanted to go to the US.  I'd always wanted to see New York.  I longed to see our friends - friends I used to see every week until the time came for them to return Stateside.  I wanted to have an adventure and I couldn't think of a better group of people to go with.  

But the flight.  All 7-8 hours of it loomed before me.  You know, if I freak out on a two hour flight, it sucks but it's not too long before it ends.  But if I freak out on a flight like this?  And what if I need the loo?  Usually I can't even stand up on a plane in flight, let alone walk around.  And not just the flight - there's the build up to the flight, the anxiety, the panic attacks, the IBS, the dizziness.  

But I did it.  I sat, strapped into my seat, between my husband and my good friend, holding my husband's hands as the engines started roaring, and as the plane took off, God spoke to me.  And I got goosebumps and my eyes teared up and I smiled as though my face would break in two.  It was fine.  Better than fine - I relaxed, I looked around, I watched some films, I ate plane food (surprisingly good, on the flight over at least), I got up and stretched and walked to the loo.  

Courtesy of the Husband
And eventually we landed and made our way outside and I saw some yellow cabs and, oh, how good did that feel?  My soul soared and yet all I could do was watch and marvel at God's grace.   The trip itself was incredible - everything I'd hoped for, and more on top of that.  So, I keep that receipt, my receipt of help, to make me smile as I remember that woman sitting incredulous in Starbucks at Union Square so early on an Autumn Saturday - that is me.