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Ok, I have speech to make - remember in LOTR* when Bilbo has his 111th birthday party with the most amazing/perilous fireworks ever? Remember how he gets everyone together, tells them "I don't know half of you as well as I should like, and like less than half of you half as well as you deserve," before promptly disappearing? Well, this is my birthday speech (don't panic I have no plans to disappear at the end of it...yet).

"Today is my twenty-fourth birthday - one year till I hit the big Two Five. So long early-twenties, it was Fun! Hello mid-twenty something. I have things to do. Most of which I have put off for far too long. And so this year is a 25 for 25 year - twenty-five tasks to complete before I reach 25.

Boring tasks I should do to actual deal with my life (sort out finances), useful tasks (learn how to use chopsticks), fun tasks (who wants to come paragliding?) and anything else that sounds interesting. 

Here's where I need your help -

What should I include as one of the 25?

Best ideas on a postcard/comment at the end of the post/email/carrier pigeon please.

Of course, all 25 tasks will be chronicled and placed on the world wide web for your amusement. In one week I will post the list - and then let the tasks begin. 

Thank's team."

*that's Lord of The Rings for those of you who have been under a rock for the last decade.

1. Don't cry down the phone to your mother - she will worry.
2. Don't just go to Tesco and buy more Nutella.  

2. Do form a club with friends who are also mid-crisis. Give it a catchy name, The Quarter Century Crisis Crew, for example.

3. Do work out what it is that is troubling you most. Share it with your club/support group. Come up with some easy steps to help you resolve the issue.

4. Actually do them. Check that the rest of the crew are doing their's aswell

5. Enjoy life

One day it will all make sense, right?

Farther Along - Josh Garrells

Farther along we'll know all about it
Farther along we'll understand why
So, cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We'll understand this, all by and by

Tempted and tried, I wondered why
The good man died, the bad man thrives
And Jesus cries because he loves 'em both
We're all cast-aways in need of rope
Hangin' on by the last threads of our hope
In a house of mirrors full of smoke
Confusing illusions I've seen

Where did I go wrong, I sang along
To every chorus of the song
That the devil wrote like a piper at the gates
Leading mice and men down to their fates
But some will courageously escape
The seductive voice with a heart of faith
While walkin' that line back home

So much more to life than we've been told
It's full of beauty that will unfold
And shine like you struck gold my wayward son
That deadweight burden weighs a ton
Go down into the river and let it run
Wash away all the things you've done
Forgiveness alright

Farther along we'll know all about it
Farther along we'll understand why
So, cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We'll understand this, all by and by

Still I get hard pressed on every side
Between the rock and a compromise
Like the truth and pack of lies fightin' for my soul
And I've got no place left go
'Cause I got changed by what I've been shown
More glory than the world has known
Keeps me ramblin' on

Skipping like a calf loosed from its stall
I'm free to love once and for all
And even when I fall I'll get back up
For the joy that overflows my cup
Heaven filled me with more than enough
Broke down my levees and my bluffs
Let the flood wash me

And one day when the sky rolls back on us
Some rejoice and the others fuss
'Cause every knee must bow and tongue confess
That the Son of God is forever blessed
His is the kingdom, we're the guests
So put your voice up to the test
Sing Lord, come soon 

Farther along we'll know all about it
Farther along we'll understand why
So, cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We'll understand this, all by and by

Now we see things imperfectly, as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now. 1 Corinthians 13v12

So You Told Me Slavery Was Over

so you told me slavery was over.
people were no longer bought and sold.
you said it was abolished by william wilberforce.

you said wicked men came and forced free people onto ships in chains.
they had no choice.
you said they were kept in degrading conditions
by those who cared more about money than humanity.

you said they were bought and sold at auction.
families torn apart in seconds.
you said they were forced to work long hours with no regard for their person.
you said escape was near impossible
they were trapped by stronger men.

it was seen as acceptable you told me,
no-one objected.

no-one really cared.

we said how could they do that?
we'd never have accepted it
we would have put it right

you said the slave trade continued until a small group of people recognised it for what it was,

you said they worked hard to have the slave trade abolished.
then you told me it was finally all over.

bye bye slave trade
hello freedom

but what about today?

what about women promised better lives and then sold like cattle?
what about those kept in degrading conditions
by men who care more about money than humanity?

what about children whose names are replaced by numbers?
those forced to satisfy the lust of 12 men a night?
what about those with no escape
who are trapped by stronger men?

how could you tell me it was over when it so clearly isn't?

you said it was seen as acceptable.
noone objected.
noone really cared.
not us we said
we'd have seen it for what it was,
how could they have been so blind?
we would have put it right
we would have been abolitionists

but what about today?
do we see it for what it is?

do we care?
or do we think it's acceptable?

will we be abolitionists?

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So, this week I went back to school. But instead of having to remember my homework and P.E. kit I had to remember the names of 30 kids and the names of 2D shapes (how many sides does a hexagon have again?). Welcome to the life of a teaching assistant.
So how has my first week been?
I have learned that my reception teacher’s catch phrase of “Don’t knock me I’m not a door” is a completely valid phrase to use when working with children.
I have learned that despite being relatively well educated (or atleast I made it through The System with no major problems) I don’t actually know the basic rules of grammar. I can use (most of) them and I choose to ignore several, but I don’t actually know the rules – this is kind of a problem when you’re expected to help others learn them.
I have learned that I need to listen when the teacher gives instructions.
I have learned race is something 6 and 7 years old discuss, and one of the first questions they’ll ask you (just because one is not white does not mean that one is not English yeah).
I have learned that I need to seperate my wardrobe into clothes that are nice but not too nice for school (just incase some kid throws up on me – paranoid much? Not me)
I have learned that male primary school teachers are human too (who ever would have thought).
I have learned that teaching would be much easier with less children or more adults.
I have learned that I am in danger of turning into my mother sooner than I thought – my mother has been a teaching assistant for over ten years and I'm finding myself using some of her favourite phrases.
I have learned that you should never judge a job by your first day.
I have learned that I need to find where I left my angry voice (somewhere in 2008 I think).
I have learned that I never want to be a teacher. If I ever tell you I want to be a teacher please ask for the real Rachel to please stand up because I have clearly been abducted and replaced by my stepford wife replacement.
As you can see – it’s been educational.
Am I looking forward to next week? I’ll let you know Sunday evening.

So you’re about to depart the comfy confines of your mother’s house (with the never empty fridge and the Laundry Fairy that cleans your clothes for you) to fend for yourself in the strange world of university life. Here are my words of wisdom for those of you embarking on this historic journey:

1. Be  Social. Do you want to have no friends? Do you want to spend all your free time sitting in your room by yourself staring at a wall? I’m hoping the answer is no – so get out and meet people. Sure, you’re bound to meet some people you never want to hang out with again (always make sure you have a tenner and number for a local registered cab firm in case you want to make an early exit). But you’re also bound to meet some friends for life – shout out to my uni homegirls!  

2. Get used to answering the following questions: name, home town, course, halls. The proactive among you may want to get this printed on a business card to avoid having to repeat it a hundred times a day.

3. Find other people who love Jesus. When university life tests your faith and your boundaries it’s good to have other people facing the same pressures alongside you. Your Christian Union will most likely have a few events during freshers week – so go to them. University is often a make or break point for many. Find your CU here.

4. Find a church. So important I should have put it first. The first few weeks of term churches quite often put on a student lunch – meet with other Christians and free food - ForTheWin!

5. Get to know the people you live with.

6. Work out a budget and stick to it. No-one wants to eat nothing but beans and toast for the last few weeks of term because you bought a new pair of boots or a couple of computer games when your loan came it. Check out this articlefor some budgeting advice.

7. Be generous – share without expecting anything in return.

8. Join a few random clubs and societies. They often have free trials the first week. Pick a couple of things you’re interested in and something random that you’ve always wanted to try but never have. Join the first week is often free so take the opportunity to try out something different.

9. Decorate your room. At least stick a couple of posters up. Makes it much more homely and less clinical.

10. Eat properly. Laziness is not an excuse for eating pasta and pizza everyday. Add a few vegetables to your meals. Eat some fruit. You’ll feel physically better for it. Buy a student cook-book or check here for some easy recipes. Can't decide what to cook? Check this website for help deciding. 

11.   Contact your parents every once in a while – they want to know if you’re still alive.

12.  Study. Believe it or not you are primarily there to study. Don’t fall for the lie that university is all about staying up late, drinking too much, getting up late and missing lectures. You are there to study. Make it a priority.

13. Don't forget that through all the ups and downs of uni life God is with you.  He will never leave you. 

With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God