The Power of Appreciation

Tossing the sea of clothes aside, I changed my focus to beyond the curtain of my changing room.

I could hear a shop assistant complimenting a lady in the room opposite mine. Words of light encouragement, kind direction and laughter resounded. I could hear in the customer’s voice how at ease she felt with the assistant helping her, and I too felt really comfortable to be in such a friendly, light atmosphere. I peaked through the gap of the curtain and saw the shop assistant.

‘She’s doing such a great job’, I thought to myself.

So I decided to tell her.

‘Excuse me, this is a bit random, but I just want to tell you how good you are at your job’, I said boldly upon the exit of the happy customer.

A shocked expression then grew into a smile on her face as I then gave her examples of why she was so good at what she does; how confident, smiley and approachable she is, and how this makes us feel as customers. With tears in her eyes, she thanked me and said that no-one has told her these things before. (This shocked and annoyed me – why aren’t some people encouraging others?!)

I popped into the shop last week and I was served by her at the till. After a joyful and warm”hello!”, she immediately complimented me on my hair. It looked quite lion-esque at the time, so I mentioned to her that my fiance had recently been calling me ‘Nala’. So the assistant then said, ‘Ah awesome! Well, I’m going to call you Aslan from now on!’

After much joviality and conversations about her family, (such fun!) I checked the receipt she’d just given me.

‘This is much less than I thought it would be!’ I noticed checking through my purchases. Then, unexpectedly, she said this…’Ah, yes, well, I’ve put you through my Friends and Family discount, because after all, you are my friend now’. She then came from behind the till and gave me an almighty hug and waved me off saying, ‘Byeeee Aslan!’

And there she was; my first new friend made from showing random appreciation.

Another of my exploits was two months ago at a popular restaurant with my fiance, Scott. Our waiter was HILARIOUS. An Italian chap with a creative, cheeky flair served us and made us laugh so much. After our meal, I went onto the restaurant’s feedback page on their website, told them the name of our waiter, why he was so brilliant and how he’d made our experience so great.

I went back today with my Mum, and the hilarious waiter came over to me. He put his hand on my shoulder and asked if I was the person who had sent in the review. After confirming that it was me (and almost forgetting as I’d done it after my last visit two months previously!), he got down on one knee, kissed my hand and thanked me. He said that my review had been sent round to all of the restaurants in the region and it had been “very good for him professionally” that my review was so positive about his personality and service. Once again, unexpectedly, he asked the staff to give me 20% off our meals. As we were leaving later on, he high-fived me and then kissed my Mum’s hand!

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I urge you to tell people how good they are at what they do. Give feedback on websites or, if you have a moment after your meal or coffee, ask to see the manager and tell them why a certain member of staff was so good. Imagine if your manager came up to you and told you that a member of the public had recognized your strengths. Imagine how special and appreciated you’d feel.

The shop assistant at the clothes shop had told me that I’d made her day. The waiter in the restaurant was beaming and was so thankful that his efforts had been recognized.

So my challenge to you is to bless strangers in the service industry. It’s easy. It’s simple. It goes such a long way.

Wherever you are – your favourite coffee shop, a pub, a restaurant, a clothes shop, a shoe shop, a florist…anywhere! Remember your server’s name, go on their feedback page/see their manager and give encouragement. 🙂

Appreciation goes a beautifully long way.

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Magic.

I call it magic. I call it true. I call it magic, when I’m with you.

I used to think that Chris Martin was a right muffin when I heard those lyrics.

Once upon a time, when I was a wee little Sarah White, I made the decision to wait for the right chap to rock up in my life. I hid when kiss chase ran around the playground. I turned down offers of courtship in the Year 6 choir. I even tore up a Valentines card in Year 4. (And for good measure, I put soap and water on in it in the girl’s loo, then shoved it in the bin. I was a meanie.)

Secondary school then came and went. I had a blast, naturally. I spent the days laughing and attempted to be intelligent. I grew up to be the goofy girl who felt comfortable bellowing with laughter. A few Drama performances were thrown in and I loved growing in confidence.

University was hilarious. I made the bestest friends. I learnt so much about myself during the three years. I challenged myself daily and found joy in each moment.

However, I then finished my degree and my confidence was shaken. I didn’t quite understand how I could enjoy life after university. I no longer had my challenge of analysing literature, seeing my best friends every day or even just having the joy of studying. And I didn’t think that I’d ever be blessed enough to have a guy in my life.

You see, I’m a picky girl. After 21 years of waiting and learning to love and feel completely comfortable with myself, I’d developed quite a list of things that I wanted in a guy. My flatmates once found my ‘list’ of things I wanted in a guy in the bottom drawer of my wardrobe. It was seen as impossible to ever find a guy that fitted all of my criteria.

So, alas, I prepared myself mentally for a life of singleness. And, well, as sad as that could be seen, I was prepared for that.

But, God had other plans.

I met this guy. Who is pretty darn great. And well, I won’t go all gushy and soppy in my blog, but well, I totally know what Chris Martin means now when he sings about magic.

I’m incredibly proud to be his girlfriend and I had the gift of sharing my first ever kiss with him.

Ladies and gents. I urge you to hold out for something wonderful. Grow as an individual. Wait. Be patient. Learn to love yourself. Don’t feel like having a boyfriend or a girlfriend will complete you. Work on yourself. Be the best you can be for when you meet your special person. Pray continually. Seek above.

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

I’m so pleased that I waited to have my first kiss at 21. I know I’m in the minority with that, but if you still haven’t had your first kiss, don’t be ashamed of that. It’s a beautiful and wonderful thing to save.

Wait for someone who you can laugh for hours with. Who you can do your favourite things with. Who you can pray and read the bible with. It’s a beautiful thing when you are rewarded for your patience, trust me. 🙂

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Being Thankful

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed or broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up. God never abandons us! We get up again and keep going.” taken from 2 Corinthians 4: 8-9 (NLT)

Confusion, grief and upset can make us feel like all of the bad stuff is closing in on us; like we’re stumbling through a deep and dark forest that is overcrowded with trees.

It can seem like there isn’t a way out.

However, God will gradually chop down these trees. The sun’s light will shine; the path will eventually be clearer in front of us. We have to remember that God is so much greater than any situation.

For God does not, will not and will never abandon us; even in the deepest and darkest woods.

The pronoun of ‘we’ is so meaningful in these verses from 2 Corinthians. For example, “We are perplexed, but we don’t give up. […] We get up again and keep going.’ This is an incredible reminder of the incredible gift of community that God has given us. That ‘we’ as God’s people are doing life together. We must stick together to comfort and encourage one another in both the sad and joyful times.

My good friend went up to Heaven on Saturday morning. I have screamed. I have sobbed. I have shouted. I have bought flowers. I have written my memories down. I have been comforted and have offered comfort to others. And now, I am irritated. I miss him. I want him to walk through the door and resume all of our conversations I was waiting to have with him.

Grief is odd and I’m finding it hard. But, these verses in 2 Corinthians have kept me going. I am perplexed, but I won’t give up on each day. I will fight and be strong to be who I am, for God has not and will not abandon me.

I am incredibly blessed to be loved by some amazing people; people who pop their heads into the office just to make me smile. People who simply give me cuddles. People who let me cry on their shoulders at church. People who give me chocolate for the sake of giving me chocolate.

I am very thankful. Thankful for my friend who is in a greater place, and thankful for those who I surround myself with.

And ultimately, we mustn’t be bitter. We have to be thankful and remain so. That way, our hearts are glad and our spirits will not be crushed.

– Dedicated to Rick Cole; 1990 – 2015.

Who I Am

Hi, I’m Sarah.

I’m mostly loud, but am often quiet; or I at least crave stillness. Yet, I cannot go a day without music drifting in my ears.

I like to be succinct, but regularly waffle.

Dance is my sunshine. Mathematics is my rain.

I delight in caramelised onions. Scotch eggs scare me.

Laughter is a wonderful gift; it should be shared regularly.

Dogs remind me of the beauty of creation. My dog is my best friend.

The forest and beach are my escape.

Photographs help me remember the days that should be remembered; such beauty should be captured.

Selfies are a lovely addition to modern photography; they show people, in some bizarre way, that they are appreciated.

Jesus is my God, my refuge and biggest inspiration. He loves even when the individual appears unlovable.

I eat crisps. A lot.

Stories intrigue me. Stories drag me into worlds, teach me about our world, and teach me morals to demonstrate in my world.

I like to regularly encourage people and tell them what their strengths are.

Books and films fill my space. I am a dreamer.

I try to make others happy, even when I’m not feeling particularly content. Words are so important. Humourous, encouraging and loving words, I repeat, are so important.

To be a ‘four eyes’ is an incredible thing. For ten years, I have seen the world. Without such an incredible invention, I would not have seen the beauty of life. I am very grateful for glasses.

I have curves. Sometimes, I wish I don’t look the way I do. I look to well-known figures and friends and wish that I looked like them. However, I think I just realised something. Something that I haven’t really just realised actually; for it’s something that people have been telling me for years, but I think I finally understand it…

…everyone is different. So beautifully different. If everyone had their own idea of perfection, then surely perfection wouldn’t exist anymore? Actually, I’m pretty sure if people magically achieved their “perfect” image, then they’d still find flaws in it. I just watched the film, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which has Tom Hanks in it, of course. (I collect his films, for I love his acting and simply adore the chap.) The film focuses on a young boy whose father died in 9/11. I learnt so much from the film, (you must see it!) but one thing that really struck me, was the way the boy and mother spoke fondly of the mannerisms of the man they loved so much. It got me thinking; there are people out there who love you so much for everything you are, so you should love you for everything you are. I know that this sounds like some cheesy self-help book, but I think it’s pretty accurate.

So, the next time you look in the mirror and are disappointed with the reflection, just remember that you were incredibly and wonderfully made. You are loved for everything that makes up who you are; people appreciate you for your individual mannerisms. Embrace the things you love and that make up your day-to-day routine. Fully appreciate the things about the world that you admire. Make these known to your friends, family and later pass on your joys to your children. Be comfortable with your appearance. Have character. If you’re single, stop wishing that you weren’t. There is a right time for you to find someone. You are brilliant and wonderful just as you are for the moment. Be joyful in who you are right now. Time spent wishing you were something else or in a different situation is just silly. All of the points above are things that make up who I am and I’m learning more about myself each day. I am who I am. I am the daughter of three wonderful parents; my beautiful mother, my wonderful father, and my God in Heaven. I was created to be this way. So, why oh why would I wish to be anything else? wordpress

Enjoy The Little Things

5pm. November. The skies are darkening, streetlamps are turning on; casting their strange orange glow. The sun is just about to nip off for the next 12 hours. I cross the road and am immediately greeted with a large pile of beautiful, brown leaves. Without hesitation, I launch my wellies into the mound and give an almighty kick that I’m sure Sturridge would have applauded me for. And, the strangest thought comes to me: “I wonder what age people stop kicking piles of leaves?”
For me, I’m someone who is 21 going on 12. Or perhaps even 7. And I’m completely cool with that. In fact, yesterday, I bought this epic 200 page kid’s book called ‘Megadoodle’ which is this incredibly awesome book where you can colour in dinosaurs, draw and create movie scenes, design maps and loaaaads of other stuff. OH YES. Some people try to grow up too quickly.

At school, people jumped into relationships, excessively drunk alcohol and did ‘adult’ things to appear cool to try and advance their years in some way. I decided from a young age that this was stuff that I didn’t want to get involved in. That I would grow in myself, rather than going out with people for the sake of it or get drunk to try to be someone different. Now, it’s not a secret that I don’t drink alcohol. In fact, it becomes a bit of a joke on nights out when I’m boogying my butt off and people say, “Cor Sarah, how many J20s have you had tonight?!” It’s a choice that I decided in my early teens that I wouldn’t drink alchomofrol. I didn’t like the stuff, didn’t think it was cool to drink to excess and simply thought, and still think, that I’m better without it. Just gimme a juice and I’ll be hyper, happy and will dance the night away. I had this viewpoint when I was a kid and this is still my perception now. I quite enjoy having the same views I did as a kid. It makes me feel like even through everything, I’ve been true to myself and I feel that’s so important for everyone to be; true to themselves.

I’ve finished three beautiful years at university in Winchester and am now in the wonderful world of work. And, well, I feel old because of this. I turned 21 three months ago, and it just sounds like a huge number to me. I just want to be back in my over-sized burgundy school blazer with my silly, huge red backpack on my first day in Year 7 where we’d goof around in tutor group and laugh about the most ridiculous things. However, life can still be like this.

Just because we all age in years, doesn’t mean our mindset has to change. Yes, I have grown older, learnt many lessons, have grown to be a confident young woman who is currently understanding and learning how to communicate effectively with people, and I’m becoming wiser and wiser day by day. But I refuse to lose the things I loved doing when I was younger, just because I’ve grown a year older. Like, enjoying kicking piles of leaves, pulling silly faces, boogying like a goon in public, buying kid’s books, watching a cheeky bit of CBBC on a Saturday morning and be the biggest kid I can be. God has given me this incredible amount of time; I now have a brilliant job where I am surrounded by some really incredible staff and students and I class many of them as great friends. He’s given me the time I need to grow in myself and gain some extra general skills before I prepare to be a teacher in the future. I’m going to continue to have a joyful mindset and be ‘me’ in everything. So, don’t over-complicate life just because your number in age is growing; be happy, do spontaneous things, inspire strangers, be honest, build strong friendships, dance in the rain (even if it does make your mascara run!) be creative, write friends silly letters like you might have done as a kid, go on a really windy walk and see how tangled your hair will get, smile at EVERYONE, don’t over complicate things, be true to yourself and just enjoy the little things like a child would.

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Braving a cliff top walk in the crazy wind!

Matthew 18 v 2-4.

Gowns and Giggles

Walking up the steps into Winchester Guild Hall, my tummy was tingling with butterflies. Carefully putting one foot in front of the other in my glittery, shiny new champagne-coloured heels, I anxiously looked around for someone to show me where to pick up my graduation robes.

This beautiful, large, wooden-floored room was familiar to me. I had once taken a four hour Jive lesson within these walls a10153225_10152772521755149_5055337026780729798_ns part of a New Years Resolution that I actually did for the first time in my many twenty-one years on this earth. Despite the familiarity, my heart still pounded as I signed my name in and handed my form into the official graduation lady. She then pointed me in the direction of the official graduation robes bloke. (I love all of these official graduation people; they were so helpful throughout the morning and looked after my stressed-out self so much! Big love to them all!)

As my eyes followed the direction the lady was pointing me in, I saw a lovely, lovely sight. In amongst the crowds of people packed in within these walls, I spotted one of my very closest friends by the robes collection table. Letting out a little scream, I sprinted towards her. However, just as I got to her, the unfortunate lack of grip on my new shoes decided to make itself known, and just like the little diva I am, I completely slipped over. Yep. You heard that right. Two minutes into a space brimming with social interaction, I cause the whole room to gasp and then go absolutely silent. GOOD ONE, SARAH. My friend, being the legend that she is, caught me before my silly head whacked on the floor. I then yelled out in the silence, “I have arrived everybody!” and normality started to settle in again. I certainly made a memorable first impression on all of my friends’ families that day! Ha ha!

That day, Tuesday 14th October 2014, was a truly wonderful day for me. I was back in my zone; back with those I have laughed, cried and been completely ridiculous with for three years. My course mates mean an awful lot to me. In each lecture and seminar, it was my aim to make them laugh. I wanted to inject some positivity and brightness into the discussions about literature and criticism, even though I might not have felt at my happiest beneath the surface, I found so much joy in waking up, ready to run down to lectures and make my friends giggle.

My mission at university was to be around as much as possible despite the fact that I commuted on the train for 50 minutes each way for two years. Some people didn’t even realise that I commuted; I was so proud when I heard that. I aimed to befriend and speak to as many people as possible due to the fact that I didn’t have the benefit of accommodation at uni, like the majority of others did, so I worked my butt off to try and actually make some friends. And you know what? My course mates just are the most beautiful, creative, hilarious and original individuals I’ve ever met. I am so proud to call so many of them my really close friends. I love remembering the exact moment I met them and then seeing how far we’ve come since that original meeting. I’m SO happy that I awkwardly made a fool out of myself in those initial meetings with so many of them, as it meant that I could be my awkward, goony self with them from that moment on and they’d be pretty much used to me from then! 😉 The best bit about getting off the train in those years was knowing that I was about to walk into a room with so many peDSC_0783ople that I had met and adored so much. Also, living in Winchester for my final year also made these friendships stronger and helped me be around to make more new friends and I’m so grateful for that year away.

This is why graduation was so so special for me. I was reunited with such an incredible bunch of people; individuals who have inspired me, made me laugh and who have encouraged me so much.

I’ve always enjoyed the fact that my surname is pretty much at the end of the alphabet. Being a ‘White’ meant that I could mentally prepare for my name being called on the register. But, more importantly, it meant that I got to sit back, relax and watch my beautiful and handsome friends go up to the front of Winchester Cathedral and graduate like the geniuses that they are. I almost forgot that I would have to go up too! I was enjoying watching my friends strutting their stuff up the front too much!

From laughing too loudly in lectures to creating silly characters and writing silly poems in the start of my Creative Writing classes that I’d hope my lecturer wouldn’t ask me to read out, giving our lecturers funny ‘pet’ names that we’d hope they’d never find out about, singing Disney songs for many hours when we were supposed to be preparing for our huge presentations, procrastinating down by the university pond sipping smoothies, running around campus dressed in cat outfits, eating countless amounts of canteen baguettes, giving presentations about the Fantasy genre whilst playing Lord of the Rings music in the background and simply giving each other cuddles when we found work/life/relationships/friendships/essays/dissertations far too difficult. My best memories were with my English/Creative Writing lot; thinking about them brings watery tears to my glasses-covered eyes. When I’m old and grey, I’ll point to the laughter wrinkles around my eyes and tell my grandchildren about how I got them.

But, for now, I’ll hear those cheers that echoed round the walls of Winchester Cathedral when my name was called out. For those cheers mean the absolute world to me. Those cheers are the icing on the cake for the girl who once didn’t know what it was like to have true friends. Those cheers just mean so so much. Congratulations to my fellow graduates; we did it. We actually did it!

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Blame It On The Boogie

It really annoys me when people say that they hate dancing.

There, I said it.

To my friends who have said this to me in the past, I hope I haven’t offended you, I still love you dearly, but your lack of boogie frustrates me.

Oops.

I really have said it now.

I am pretty passionate about dancing. The Charleston, Jive, Salsa, Streetdance…you name it, I’m passionate about it. So much so, my dancing style is a hybrid of all of these. Freestyle is just my favourite thing to do. I feel truly alive when I dance. I’m at my happiest.

The rest of the time, if I’m not dancing or near a dog, I don’t know how to ‘be’. Dance and dogs are just about the only things I understand about the world. Just last night I was looking after my dog, who was scared by the bangs of fireworks, wrapping him up in a blanket whilst critiquing the dancers on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. The judges would then repeat my exact critiques to the couple just after I’d say them. I just get it, you know? One day, I hope to marry a chap who loves dance and dogs just as much as me. If a guy dislikes or is impartial about either of these, then he just won’t make the grade unfortunately.  Sorry guys, I’m a tough one to please!

In August, I went to an incredible Christian festival called ‘Momentum’. If you haven’t heard of Momentum before, it’s basically one huge field filled with thousands upon thousands of people all who believe in Jesus. (He’s a brilliant bloke by the way team! God put all of his best qualities into this man who walked the earth to show people what God was REAAALLY like. ‘Cos humans had lost sight of who God really was. He did loads of cool stuff too. Like, heal people, bring kindness to those who no one was kind to anymore and he took on a lot of stuff. Like, you know all of those rubbish feelings we all feel sometimes after doing something bad? He took all of those feelings and bad stuff, and died so that we don’t have to feel like that anymore. So that, if we believe in Him, we can live guilt-free lives that strive to be for God, not for ourselves. Oh and he defied death by rising again from the dead. So, this means that, if we believe in Him, we too can defy death and live in Heaven. He’s actually pretty darn brilliant. Think about it… 🙂 )

So, danceyes, I went to this awesome camping festival where we had morning and evening meetings in this HUUUUUGE tent. Live music was played where we sung songs, heard encouraging words and learnt more about what it is to be a Christian. In the evenings were late night cafes, sports halls and mini clubs. I absolutely danced my butt off at this place. At the end of the 5 days, I came home with a really achey tummy. I wondered what the flip had happened to me…then, I realised. I’d pulled my stomach muscles from the amount of dancing I’d done. 🙂 Brilliant! And I love that. Dancing injuries are the best injuries. ‘Cos I know that I’ve had a good day/night from such injuries.acedffcfd09e2936e38a2e15d1881912

My friends and I just had the best time away together. Dance was one huge factor that really brought us all together. Gorgi and I even befriended a group of strangers one night at Momentum and just started dancing around with them during a main meeting. We even went out dancing with them later that night! So so much fun. Gorgi and I also went to a Jive class session at Momentum. We were quite excited to go, but when we got there, it was just a bunch of people not really knowing what they were doing and weren’t really dancing. So, we went to Cafe Uno next door instead and literally danced our socks off. (I actually lost a sock in that place. Gutted.)

Dancing makes me ‘me’! I use it as an expression of celebrating what God has given me. I dance because it makes me truly happy. I don’t need alcohol to dance. In fact, I don’t even drink! But, people at university often thought I was drunk on nights out due to my exuberance on the dance floor. I found/find this amusing. But it also makes me sad that some people think that they need alcohol to have a good time. This is so wrong!

Team, stop caring about what people think about you. Honestly, not caring set me free. I danced like crazy in an aisle at Momentum by myself for a good half an hour. I’m pretty sure I even whacked a few people in the face. But, do I care? Hmm, not really. People could have thought that I looked like an idiot, but I had the best time, and that’s all that really matters.

To all of those who don’t dance because of what others think about you…please just dance anyway. Or at least try. Life’s too short to have a heightened sense of insecurity about your body. Smile and just boogie. Boogie. Boogie. Boogie.

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Back to the Future…

I’d really love to meet my younger self. meeee

It’s something I’m really annoyed that I can’t do.

Like, really annoyed.

I’m sure The Doctor would be extremely angered if I hopped into his Tardis and did this. I’d create a paradox which would then make a hole in time and I’d mess up the universe or something like that. But, I’d really rather love to do it. Despite whatever Peter Capaldi/Matt Smith/David Tennant or any other past time traveller might yell at me.

Being the kid who didn’t believe in Santa, wasn’t girly in the slightest and didn’t follow the crowd meant that I often felt quite left out at school. I wasn’t part of a group in the playground; in fact, some (most) break-times, you’d find me walking around with one of the ‘Cookies’. (That’s a dinner lady for all of those who aren’t down with the kids, yo.) One time in the sweltering heat of summer, the meanest Cookie out of all of the meanies in the history of meanies made me tell all of the kids on the field to put their jumpers on and to not leave them on the field. Kids didn’t really like me for that.

Don’t get me wrong, I did have friends…I think. Well, my 9th birthday party was pretty darn fantastic. I boogied my butt off as usual. But, I still didn’t feel like I fitted in. This was a common occurrence throughout my teens; particularly in my youth group. I was the girl who didn’t join in with conversations about hair, dresses and make-up. The one who never really knew what to say. And when I did speak, people didn’t respond or laugh. So, I’d just stay quiet and feel pretty bad about myself.

This is the point that I’d LOVE to meet myself. I’d rock up during a lesson, at youth group or at an awkward gathering where I had once felt like a lemon. (What an odd phrase…lemons are great. Mmm. Zesty.)
Anyway, yes, so my 21 year old self would then rock up and give my younger self a cuddle / high five / incredible greeting. I’d be that cool older kid that the others didn’t know that would immediately make my younger self cool through association with me. 😉 (This is the best daydream ever.)

I’d then take my younger self to one side and show her how confident I am now. I’d show her, that, you know what? Life does get pretty darn hilarious later on. And that although people weren’t that great growing up, there are going to be some wonderfully wonderful people rocking up later in life. That, one day, I’d feel so loved by the people around me, find the most brilliant, caring, unique and strong-willed friends at university who would strive to encourage me rather than bring me down and that I’d dance and laugh so so much in life. I, of course, wouldn’t give away any cheeky little details about my life…where would the fun be in that? But, I would encourage my younger self that even though the past has been a poo, the future is WAY cooler by how the past has shaped me to be.

I’m really proud of the person I am. I don’t think that’s an arrogant thing to say. I hope not anyway. I’m just really proud of how far I’ve come and that I can enter a room, show my Sarah White-ness to the people within it and just be me. I’ve obviously got such a long way to go; I will never ever EVER be perfect. And I don’t want to be. Learning about how to be is fun. I don’t want that to end. Growing up is weird. But day by day, I feel pretty cool to feel that little bit wiser and to keep aiming towards that goal of mine to be a female version of Rafiki from The Lion King. rafkiiiii

Perhaps create a little timeline of your life. Note the highs and lows. The dodgy hair cuts. The awkward moments. The best giggles. Those inspirational people who rocked up and blew your socks off. See how far you’ve come. I think you’ll be pretty proud of yourself too. And that’s an epic thing to be. 🙂

A Summer Of Change

I jumped onto the train and immediately started dancing in my seat. My beautiful friend was on the platform, preparing to wave me off whilst busting out some moves along with me; waving her arms and Beyonce bootaay shaking. A chap gave me an odd look in the carriage whilst I started ‘shimmying’ and doing the classic ‘walking down into the basement’ to Grace through the window. Stifling back the giggles, I saw people walking past on the platform, watching the pair of us larking around, behaving like the big kids that we are.

Eight weeks ago, I never would have thought that this brilliant situation would have happened. My friend Grace is a walking-talking miracle. She announced just after we finished our degrees that she had a brain tumour. It was a kick in the gut to hear and I wanted to give her a cuddle, but she was so far away! I was very low, went for so many drives to clear my head and really thought deeply about the lows of life on this earth. Anyway, to cut a long story short, our wonderful Gracie kicked that tumour’s butt and after a very lengthy brain surgery, the majority of it was removed AND it was discovered that it wasn’t cancerous! God is so good. Oh the power of prayer!

I had the true blessing of seeing this beautiful friend of mine (who I first met in January after being paired to do a presentation together, just the two of us, and we absolutely ROCKED it!) twice after her surgery. She is such an inspiration to me. She was before her surgery, and even more so now.

This summer has been really tough for me. Finishing university and not seeing my closest friends most days has been really difficult. I also put so much pressure on myself to be ‘successful’ and succeed in the ‘world of work’. In all honesty, I don’t really know what to do with my life. I’ve always said as a stock answer that I would like to be a Secondary School English teacher. Recently, a knock-back at a six hour long interview for a LSA job has slightly tarnished this ‘dream’. I felt inadequate when they told me that I didn’t get the job. This really hurt and it felt like an attack to my personality (especially when they told me that I was too enthusiastic). Since this, my confidence was knocked greatly, and I spent all of my time reading in my garden, not going out (only to take the dog out with the family in the forest) and was generally quite sad. (It was a lovely relaxing time though, don’t get me wrong!)

I couldn’t help but feel that I was failing. Failing at being successful. Failing as an individual. But, as my wonderful Mum who has always been wonderful (particularly over the past few months) often says to me, “Sarah, you just haven’t realised your gifts yet.” This is very true.

However, a series of occurrences this summer have been slowly teaching me lessons. Firstly, Grace’s health scare. She helped me to realise how truly important family are and I’ve spent a lot of quality time with my parents over the past couple of months which has helped me get back into the swing of living back at home. It also helped me to realise that I shouldn’t put such huge pressure on myself; that I should enjoy doing the little things that I love and fully appreciate them, rather than wishing for other opportunities. She has taught me so many other things as well, and she doesn’t even realise it! She got me back into reading, inspired me to be happy with who I am and to smile always despite the mini wars that all go on within ourselves.

Secondly, I spent this week at the New Forest Show working alongside my ridiculously hilarious and talented Dad, Mr Dave White. I nipped over to speak to my friend Stuart Travers-Dade, who is also a trade exhibitor and a great encourager to me. I met him five years ago at the show and we always have the greatest conversations. I explained my situation and how I didn’t know what to do with my life etc. These were his wonderful words to me:
“I urge you, do not stress. Opportunities crop up. They just happen. You’re not a failure as you think. Do anything you like after uni. For the moment, don’t stress, continue to earn a little bit of money, think of adventures and try and do something different each day. But ultimately, don’t stress.”

These words have stuck with me. I burst into tears as soon as he said them and walked off quickly so that he wouldn’t see! He’s fab.

God’s been slowly teaching me, through the people He’s put in front of me, that I shouldn’t worry about my life. For opportunities will come up and I will regret the time wasted worrying. I will continue to enjoy the little things, take life at my own pace, trust God’s timing and appreciate the beautiful things that I do have. I’ll continue to cover my friend’s maternity leave at my part-time job and try to smile the days away with my colleagues.

Every day is a new day. I’m taking each one as it comes. My close buddies know how much I love this man, so of course, I am going to quote him. Are you ready for the almighty Tom Hanks? 😉 Okay, let’s go:

“And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?”

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• Show Simple Signs Of Love

I carelessly dump my camera bag and flowery backpack on the dusty path along the cliff’s edge. Cradling my weighty Nikon in my hand, I look out to sea and watch the crashing waves smash into the rocks. People are watching me as they walk by. Their eyes glance down at the telephoto lens that is fully extended to 200mm on my camera. I feel important. In a time when I actually feel useless, I’m portraying an image of myself that looks like I know what I’m doing.

The cliff is crumbling away. I notice some pink flowers on the edge. Kneeling on the cliff, I look through the viewfinder and focus on the plant whilst the sea lies blurry in the background. The shutter makes that beautiful ‘CLICK’ sound that I adore.

A man in his fifties is being pushed in a wheelchair by a well-dressed woman and a couple of people in their late-twenties walk alongside. The woman is chattering away and they all laugh occasionally. The chap in the wheelchair looks at my camera; he smiles, nods and then goes by. They all look happy in the Saturday sunshine; the glowing heat warms their faces. The man’s cheeks in particular.

Despite being alone, I don’t feel it. I have my trusty camera, three notebooks and the thoughts that fill my mind. However, such thoughts aren’t the best company. My head feels like a waste-paper bin which is full with scrunched-up balls of paper, yet people keep chucking more in which makes them overflow onto the floor. I wish I could sort through the rubbish and remove the worst ones, but I suppose time will just have to get rid of those unwanted bits. The most prominent piece of junk on the top of the pile is some recent news. A friend of mine has a brain tumour. I found out an hour or so before I drove myself to the sea-side. She’d also mentioned my name in the final paragraph of her blog where she’d announced it, which just destroyed me.

Where there are no words, there are tears. Tears represent the language that my lips could not form. My mind and my feet immediately went to the beach. The waves seemed the most appropriate thing to watch. My camera made me feel important when I had originally felt useless.

Seeing the people walk by reminds me of the variety of life. So many people are in different situations. Situations we can’t even imagine what it must feel like to be in. Like the man in the wheelchair. Or what it must be like to have something on your brain.

I’m frustrated. Frustrated that a friend, who is an incredible writer, is trying to be stopped doing what she loves by a stupid tumour sitting on her sweet, little head.

John Green was once quoted to say that, ‘When it comes to knowing and loving each other, empathy is an imperfect tool but the only one we have.’ We can never fully understand how someone is feeling, as we’ll never be in the exact same situation, but simple signs of love mean so much to someone. I wrote a short, poetic note to my friend whilst sat by Lymington Quay that same day. I photographed it and sent it over to her. I know how much it meant to her, especially in this time.

The next time I used my camera was two days later at a different beach for my brother’s engagement photo-shoot. I felt at home with my camera back in my hands, doing something to bless my family. It was beautiful and wonderful. I’ve photographed the Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Edward before, but this was by far my favourite shoot.

People need to show their appreciation for others more. Write little notelets. Take lots of fun selfies with the people you love. Text someone and tell them why you love ’em. Use your giftings to bless others in creative and original ways. It’s SO important. I cannot stress it enough! People may appear on the surface that they’re doing okay, but in fact, they need a boost. A boost that you can provide.

Don’t be like the dusty cliff edge. Be like the blossoming flower that pushes through.

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