Sunday, 21 June 2020

Making Plans. And Changing Them.

 Each new layout comes with a plan. Often, several plans, before I settle on the final design. Everyone builds differently - some people only buy and build sets, following the instructions exactly and never taking them apart. Others use pictures to guide them, some just make it up as they go along.

Over the years I've found it really, really helpful to be able to plan out my railroad layouts ahead of time,and for this Bluebrick is really helpful, allowing me to keep count of how many track sections I've used/got left over. As I have tracks form 2 different, old systems Lego used, and 9 trains to fit in, I always now build on 2 levels. The pics on the left show the lower and upper levels and then the combined image which helps me work out where I'll need to put bridges and things.

It doesn't have all the details in, but does have what I need. However, as I start building I realise changes need to be made in some places. They're usually small, but not always. I'm in the early stages of building this and have already made a few changes to the plan.

In life, we need to be able to change and adapt as well. Things happen we didn't plan for, and with God's help, it's possible to adjust to them. And if we really mess up, God will help us take the pieces and put them back together. Not always the way they were, but a new combinations, a new way of being.

This layout has exactly the same number of track pieces as my last one, but looks very different. I'm the same person I was 5, 10 years ago, but God has reshaped my personality and my actions to be quite different, and I hope he'll continue to do that to make me more like him over the years to come. In the meantime, it's time for Kids Camp, so let's sit back and enjoy some building!

Thursday, 18 June 2020

The In Between Layout

 So, this is kind of an odd post to be writing, as this layout no longer exists! I built it between December 2016 and Spring 2019, anticipating that I had more time to finish it. However, things changed and suddenly I found myself getting ready to leave my job in Williamsburg, start at Reveille and move house! So it all had to be packed away....

On one had that was frustrating, but on the other, it meant I could start planning a new layout. I really enjoy the planning stage of a layout, seeing what will work in a new space and working in the limitations it creates. For this layout, I really did have as much space as I wanted, so I went and bought more baseboards etc to create more space, it was a relatively easy process, and I could see the big picture quite easily. Having 3 steps down into the room made it particularly easy to see the whole layout at once.

With as large a layout as this though, there are lots of spaces to fill in, so I found myself creating lots of details for the first time - houses, a beach with cafe, volleyball and a boardwalk and so much more.

As we journey through Kids Camp next week at church there'll be a mix of big pictures and small details. We often get hung up on the details while God sees the big picture. I wonder what would happen if we stopped every so often and looked at the big picture. As I work on my new layout I have the plans open every time on my computer, ready to guide me, and give me a big picture perspective. But more on that next time.

Lastly, if you're interested, there's a time lapse video of this layout being built available here.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

It's been a while, I've been busy building....a family!

OK, so I haven't posted here in, well, a long time. And a lot has happened in that time, but I'll get to that shortly.

I'm back on here because, well, isn't everything online now? Pretty much, and certainly everything at church is online, including our upcoming Kids Camp, for which I've been recruited to do a thread based on Lego. So here I am resurrecting this blog and my occasional thoughts on how my faith and Lego interact.

Since my last post in 2014 I've settled well and truly into life here in the US, got married twice (ok, legally once, but we had two weddings, one here and one the following week in Ireland) and become a dad! As a kid my excuse was always "I'm keeping my Lego for my kids..." I may have to start sharing at some point in the next few years now! I've also moved house 3 times, which means I'm onto my third US layout, pics of which are included. I'll do another post about the 2nd one soon.

With Kids Club coming up, I'm reflecting on the theme of "Love Under Construction", to help children see that their relationship with God is an ongoing thing that sometimes needs repair/rebuilding/adjusting and so on. 10 years ago if you had told me I'd be where I am now and ridiculously happy in that place, I would have laughed in your face. But the journey I have been on, both literally in moving over here, and in the growth and learning I've done, has been phenomenal, I've met wonderful people, and grown my Lego collection enormously, which can't be bad.

I'm at the very early stages of this layout, I'll post about the plans etc next week, but it's a stage I love, seeing things begin to take shape, but knowing they'll change as I go along. As I look back on the last few years, I can see so many times I was a project under Love's construction as God has continued to reshape me and mold me into who he wants me to be. My plans for Kids Club may change, but that's ok. Lego, life, and love all require a bit of flexibility. 

Monday, 8 September 2014

New Country, New Home, New Layout.

Ok, so it's been a few months since I last posted and all the change I anticipated has happened. I'm now living and working in the US, serving a church much, much bigger than any I served in the UK. It has been a challenge adjusting to the new way of life and work etc, but so far, so good. Some things though, remain constant.

God is still God, and Lego is still a huge part of who I am! I had a lesson in trust moving over, it was the first time I ever allowed someone else to transport my collection en masse. Sure enough though, it all arrived and work has begun on the new layout. There have been a few minor changes since I first sketched the plans out, but that's life, that's Lego.

It's big, over 4.5 metres (15 feet in old money), and will certainly keep me busy over the next few months! I've also had time to build a purpose made table for it all, so no more juggling of space!

Since getting here I've had plenty of time to ponder and reflect, and am very grateful indeed for the support of friends and colleagues here as I've made the transition.

I spent a bit of time last night with my feet up after everyone had gone home from the house-warming and could only sit amazed at the journey God has brought me on these last few years. Yes, it has been rough, things have happened I would never have expected, but I am where I am, and God has regularly whispered "trust me" through it all. That has been easier to do at some times than at others, but I can only say I'm glad I found the faith to do that from somewhere. What's next, other than, build, build, build, I'm not sure, but after the last few years, I'm much more ready to trust the still small voice of calm saying, "trust me, I know what I'm doing".

I'm eternally grateful that He has opened doors and brought me to a place so different to where I was a few years ago, a place where in all sorts of senses, I live life in all it's fullness. Whatever may come, I trust you Lord.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Looking Forward... change

 It's always a sad day to dismantle a layout, particularly one that was the first one you displayed publicly, and the layout that inspired this blog was packed up and put into storage several months ago once I had been interviewed for the job at Williamsburg UMC in Virginia. That though, was only the beginning of my next layout...

What it will look like when built I'm not at all sure, in the same way as I take this step of faith to move to the US, I'm not sure how it will evolve, but God has a plan, just as I do for the next layout.

It's similar to the last one, but with an extra two sections added on the left as you look at the plans here to extend the track on the lower deck to give space for a countryside section with possible a river/lake/something flowing through it. From the top the images show the lower track level, the upper track level and the two combined. As always I'll be running 12v and 9v systems.

One of the joys of building for me is the evolution of the idea into the plan into the actual layout with numerous changes along the way, it will change is something I have in mind all the way through a build. I have ideas and thoughts for my move to the US and for the youth group I'll be working with, but ultimately I want to seek God's plan first and fit my ideas around his not the other way round, and when you do that, you can be sure there will be change. Whatever it may bring, I'm looking forward to it!

Life-landmark Sets

As well as my train layouts, I have a fondness for the larger Lego Technic sets, and spent 9 hours yesterday building my latest addition, the crane on the left. (Image courtesy It's another of my "lifemark" sets - a set bought to mark an occasion in my life (in this case leaving the Toton Churches, thank you for the gift which enabled the purchase!) or that just have particular memories attached to them.

Among others I still have a train my grandparents bought me for my 13th birthday, the large Technic car that prompted my Mum (when I was 14) to suggest I had enough Lego, maybe I should stop buying it? and a 4x4 friends gave me for my 30th birthday. They didn't listen to my Mum!

All of those sets are kept intact, only dismantled when travelling/moving house and haven't been mixed into the rest of my collection of parts. It's not just that they are impressive models, but they do remind me each time I see them of a particular time/place/season in my life and I look forward to remembering my time in Toton with much fondness. God has been active throughout my time here, using a broken and fragile me to grow his Kingdom. I'm truly thankful for all my experiences here, even the challenging and difficult times for I've seen how God moves in all of them and how he has grown me through those experiences.

To everyone in Toton, particularly the children and teenagers whose lives I've been privileged to share in, thank you. Thank you for the times we have laughed and cried together, for the memories you've created for me,the cards, the gifts of tea pots, t-shirts, chocolates and now Lego that will travel with me to America, but thank you most of all to "the God who spoke my heart into existence" who was with me through it all, leading and guiding and whom I trust entirely as I make my move to the US. I know as I follow where he leads I will soar on eagles wings.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Lost in Wonder?

I made a mistake. I packed this lot up too early, about 3 months too early it turns out.

Once I got back from the US and my interview for Williamsburg UMC there was a lot of uncertainty about when I'd be moving and when I'd be finishing in Toton. Add in the excitement of a new chapter ready to be read and I started taking the layout to bits as it's the easiest way to get it across the pond. The actual trains have been packed carefully in one piece but almost everything else is in bits to be rebuilt later this year in an extended layout, all in the boxes on the left.

I only realised the full impact of that decision tonight though when at a church meeting we were asked to identify three or four things that were really important to us. I listed, in no particular order, Lego, my Bible, photography and worship. (Don't panic family and friends, you are all still very important too!)

As I reflected on it, I realised how much I'd missed building and tinkering over the last few months and how I'd not been "lost" in the act of creating a new layout, model or whatever, and that alongside it the moment of being lost in wonder, lost in praise as this song puts it.

We can all identify occasions I'm sure as people of faith when we've been so absorbed in worship that we don't notice anything else around us, we're so overwhelmed by God's amazing grace and love that the world could stop turning and we wouldn't notice. I've had them at big worship events, in church, on a mountainside or beach, and also when totally immersed in either taking pictures or building Lego. Those two activities are personal acts of worship for me, activities that help me honour God with my spare time and creativity, and hopefully in different ways, share them with others.

And so, having packed it all up months ago, I've not been building, and with the weather as rough as it has been, not taking photos either, and so have slipped into laziness and wasteful use of my time, time that hasn't been honouring of God. Sometimes when I build, and it can be for 8 or 10 hours on a day off, I have music playing, sometimes I consciously leave the room silent apart from the plastic noise of the bricks. Either way, God speaks and refreshes and I experience the joy of creating something.

There is a wonder in building, of watching the image that's in my head grow and evolve as brick after brick is put in place. There is a wonder in people's face when they see a new layout for the first time. There is a wonder and a mystery about God that we sometimes try and restrict to our human understanding and so hold back from being lost in wonder and the state of not understanding. However you do it, let me encourage you to spend time being lost in wonder in the presence of our amazing God who took on human form and died to show us how much he loves us. I certainly intend to do more of it, though for a few months more I'll have to be patient and wait to get the bricks out again.