Saturday, 25 December 2010

The weather outside is frightful...

The view over the Thames and Kingston bridge from the roof terrace,
John Lewis Kingston

The UK has had usually extreme weather the last few weeks, so much so that the AA recommended only emergency journeys be undertaken, and appeals went out over local radio stations to farmers and those with 4x4 vehicles to help midwives and doctors get to their patients. Thousands of schools were shut, the railways and airports closed or disrupted. John Lewis only closed early for one day, but lots of people were allowed to go early to make sure they could travel home safely.

Liberty's of London, September

Working in retail means Christmas starts in September time, as we begin planning months before, Our napkins, crackers and table cloth had to be ordered by mid-October, then the various work Christmas dinners costed. I promised by myself that after the work Christmas dinners (for a total of almost 700) were out of the way, I could actually join in with the looking forward to the celebration of Jesus birthday.

There are also red bows around the bottom of the nets
that I added after I took the picture

I strung fairy lights up through the window in my room overlooking the our street. It just makes the house look more friendly, you know?

We have four Korean girls staying with us at the moment, one 16 and other two 15. Young hyun told them I had a little tree, and they were so excited I let them put that up before they went on holiday. They don't speak very much English, but excitement transcends language, doesn't it? Ellen and I decided we'd wait a little longer to put our nativity scene. We made a stable quite late one night from an old shoe box, some kraft paper, some wool, and a gift tag. Ellen's nativity set is beautiful. We've been edging the wise men closer day by day.

Joseph went missing for a bit, and the angel won't stay upright unless you balance him against the back wall. But at least we found the itinerant father before we had finished.

I emailed the Covent Garden Soup Company not long ago, to compliment them on their delicious home made goodness. The Covent Garden Soup Company were founded in the 80's by a man disappointed he couldn't buy soup like his Mum's in the shops. They very kindly sent me a £5 voucher as a thank you for emailing them a compliment, so I went out and bought 3 cartons of tomato and herb. This is no 'cream of vegetable fat, whey powder and sodium overload' in a can. Fresh tomatoes, onions, basil, a little sugar and nothing you wouldn't recognise from your own kitchen. On Friday morning before I left for Cardiff, I filled my thermos with boiling water to heat it up, heated some Covent tomato and basil soup, filled the flask and ate the remainder for breakfast. I ate it on the train with some yummy brown Genius bread.

The journey itself was without any disruption, though when I arrived in Cardiff everywhere was coated in a sheet of ice. It was a question of sliding by accident or using it to my advantage. It was so dangerously slippery I didn't even make it to church. Which was rather a shame, I really wanted to go.

An uncooked duck is very ugly

We had roast duck, roasted potatoes, carrots and parsnips, pigs in blankets, gravy and stuffing. All gluten and dairy free. The gingerbread stuffing took several tries, but it was worth the effort. When you have cooked a duck, the little wings look like those wire racks you put over radiators to dry towels on.

Thank you Bigger brother!


Sunday, 12 September 2010

"When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted" Psalm 138:3

Often I find myself expecting my friends to understand me without ever having explained myself. It can be painful to explain things about yourself that you are embarrassed or ashamed of, but it can really help you.

I spent a lovely day yesterday on Edgecote Moore, at Chipping Warden near Banbury. After last year's success the MSS and the English Tournament Society and Black Bear events presented the second Edgecote tournament and battle of Edgecote Moore. I confess I don't have any photo's from this year - these are all from 2009. As a re - enactor, you're always torn between taking photos and appearing in - authentic to a public who are paying to see you.

I chose to go for just the Saturday this year. I've had some issues with anxiety lately and couldn't quite face all the organisational and time issues involved in going for all three days.

I left on the 0607 train from New Malden and arrived on the field at 0945. It was a good decision. All the fun of the day, without the stress. It has taken a while, but I've realised that issues connected with time are what cause me most anxiety. One of my friends pointed out several years ago that I am very 'time aware'; I often know what time it is without looking at the clock and I clock watch a good deal. And when I begin to struggle with life, I'm very reliant on routine.

And going away for the weekend for Edgecote, which I LOVE, filled me with dread. Organising food I can eat, going to bed on time, getting up on time, sharing a tent (albeit a very large one!) with four other people....


So I panicked for a bit. First I tried making up excuses, about not being able to leave in time from work on the Friday. They said they would be able to leave later. Then, sat in Starbucks after work, I rang them and explained I couldn't face being with so many people, swallowed my pride and asked if they minded if I came for just the Saturday. They asked about what this might mean for going away in the future etc. I tried to explain that my anxiety levels wax and wane, and some times I can do more than I can at other time. But was really hard, trying desperately not to cry in Starbucks on a Monday after an awful day at work.

Do you know what? It was worth it. I had an amazing day, and my friends know a little more about me. If I friends don't know what we find hard, how can they help us overcome things? God gives us friends to encourage us and uses them to help us change to be more like Jesus.

This might look like failure; I wanted to go for the whole weekend, and I only went for the day. But originally I was going to back out altogether; by God's Grace, I was able to go. By His grace I was humbled and admitted to my struggle. Only when we admit what we struggle with, can we seek His help with it.

I have one friend who is very gregarious. She is always really encouraging when I manage to go along and engage with people at events, because she knows I find spending time with people, particularly large groups, really challenging.

And she challenges me to go to some things rather than letting me off the hook all together. Sometimes we need that too!

I won't ask you to state on hear what you are embarrassed by or are ashamed of, but do have a think about. Pray about it. Our Heaven;y Father is waiting to hear from us.

(the Greek is coming along...slowly..)

Friday, 16 July 2010


or what life long learning looks like for most of us

You'll be relieved to hear that 'androgogy' is not a character from a science fiction novel.

Or disease.

I was introduced to the concept of androgogy (adult learning) during a very dull lecture series at university. It was so boring my friend Jo and I would sit right at the back and make notes from textbook for our other modules. And text our friend Paul about weevils eating our brains. It was that bad.

However, the concept itself peaked my interest. I LOVE learning. I wasn't all that good at it at school; I was dyslexic and didn't know it, and was distracted by bullying. I found solace in writing, skipping from Grade 2 flute to Grade 5 flute in a year, and learning instruments I liked the sound of instead of concentrating on what I should have been. I left with one A level in art (C), an AS in biology (E,just) and an AS in music (D) that I decided I wanted to take at 17 having never done GCSE. I'd have done better in that if the music history teacher had taught us anything; a U in one unit does rather drag down the other B and C. Another overall D grade.

Canbury gardens, Kingston

At university I struggled with the amount of reading and writing, an endless cycle of failing and re-taking modules. I passed all the practical, but was finally forced to leave 6 weeks from the end because I'd failed too many credits. It was heart breaking in a number of ways. I'd failed yet
another thing. But Jesus had brought me home and had given me a place in an amazing family.

Sovereignty of God conference, Easter 2005, Shropshire

I felt like my opportunity at education had passed. I'd failed my A-levels. I'd failed university. I felt I had very little to show for the previous five years.

I worked for GAP. I started learning the trumpet. I nannied for two very cute kidlets. I passed a St John's First Aid at work course and was so proud to have succeeded at something I cried and thanked God for his kindness. I dabbled in learning a language, then another. I joined John Lewis. And I struggled horribly. A department manger saw potential no one else had, including me. I moved sections and found a place where I could fitted in well and flourished.

But I still worried about the time I was wasting working in retail, surrounded by people killing time before finding a 'real' job. I started learning Biblical Koine Greek.

A labour of love

In September I moved in to a new house with six other people. I cleared out lots of stuff. My friend Ellen moved in to the new house too. I was living with an English, Christian girl for the first time in three years. And five Koreans girls, but the Korean part was normal for me. My room is huge, light and airy compared to anything I'd ever had. And a garden we were allowed to play with.

Then I was offered the opportunity to train as a manager. It had a profound affect on me. I made me consider that sometimes, despite our best efforts, good things happen. And that it's okay to be excited about them, and not catastrophise about what might potentially go wrong. Lots of women seem to struggle with this. It's a safety mechanism for me; so many things went wrong when I was growing up, it was just less crushing to expect the worst before it occured.

But it's no way to exist, I promise, because whilst pessimists are seldom disappointed, you miss so many good things.

Jephson Gardens, Leamington Spa, October 2010

When I say good things, I don't just mean becoming a manager. I mean loads of other stuff I had stopped thinking about because my only concept of success was based on receiving a piece of paper. What do I mean? I mean learning as an adult is so much broader and far reaching. It's about relationships with friends and family, learning patience, humility and compassion. It's about God's plans for you, which aren't necessarily the ones you had for yourself. It's about giving of yourself to other people, loving them when it hurts. Scraping dirty dishes, standing up for others, being discreet, sharing with them when they are hurting, smiling day after day and being cheerful. In a suit. Out of suit (hopefully wearing something else instead!) God presents us with opportunities to learn to be like His Son at home and at work.


And the point?

I am learning. Every day. God is teaching me. The opportunities to learn are endless. They are unplanned for the most part, but some times making the best use of them requires a good deal of effort. Keep asking questions. Be curious. Expect Him to challenge you. Enjoy being a student in the school of life. Be kind to yourself, ask for help, seek forgiveness, start again in the knowledge that you aren't alone in this; Christ goes with you. As Rachel from over at Small Notebook pointed out in her post about 'The difficulty of doing less', the problem is is that if we try to have or do the same as everybody else, we miss out on the joy of doing what we are uniquely gifted to do. God knows us best, not society with it's expectations.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Perfect rest

I wrote the following in the January of this year. I waste so much of my life, not seeking God's will, but wishing he would fulfil my own.

I come to the cross
to seek the wisdom of one who has gone before.


It is so hard a task to
cast yourself upon Him
who cares for you,
when he feels so far away.
Are my tears not a drop
more in the ocean of mankind's misery?
But when tempests toss the
waves of my own
mood, who could steady
them but He who
commanded the waters to be still?


What more can I say for
my Lord and His character,
than that when I am at
my lowest, when I
cannot see or feel or hear Him,
I know his will is to be
Why is it that even
when we are resigned
to God's course of actions,
that we are pained when
our own plans do not
come to fruition?


How many tears we shed
at the sight of our own
foolish plans, gone unfulfilled.

How many sleepless nights,
our minds race with
what would not, could not be.

How many an hour spent
in dreaming a future
He did not deem to be ours.

How many hours, days,
months, years and lives
wasted, not content to rest
in His perfect will.


Sunday, 11 July 2010


Isn't rest wonderful?

I woke up this morning and it took me a few minutes to realise that it was my day off. And I smiled to myself. After an exhausting week, I really appreciated it. I really take it for granted that we in the UK are entitled to at least one day off a week. Some of my American friends have told me they commonly worked 6 days a week before they moved to the UK. I'm not thankful enough for my my rest days, but today the Lord has humbled me, and helped to realise what I have.

Some people struggle with sloth. Other's work too much. I fall in the middle. I do so much that I'm then too tired to do much at home. I think I should probably have more respect for the guidance of my Lord who knows my propensity to become a workaholic. I'm making more of an do less.

Don't laugh! It's really hard when you haven't done it for a number of years! Well- not since school anyway.

A major if belated improvement.

The weather has been very hot this week, yesterday it was around 30 degrees C. I spent much of the day running round a poorly air-conditioned building and in a humid kitchen scrubbing pots. The temperature was high, and emotions ran higher.

Today I woke to a blue if gradually clouding sky, and a light breeze. What a relief. Only yesterday my colleague and I commented on the need for rain. But the weather here changes very quickly.

All in forty minutes. But God, please can the rain wait until after the church picnic?

Friday, 9 July 2010

Project work

Things are rather disorganised at the moment. My laundry basket seems bent on world domination, despite my attempts at appeasement. I've just put a load in so I'll have some clean uniform for work, and my only pair of jeans that really fit me.

As always, I have a number of projects on the go; I do so love a good project. I'll just mention a couple.

The material for the young people's summer camp I'm attending as a leader, Contagious, looms over everything. My friend Anne has kindly been helping myself and my friend Janin go through the book of Revelation on Wednesday evenings to prepare. It isn't as complicated as I thought it was; a lot of the symbolism is quite straight-forward, and a good deal the book is drawn from the books of the old and new testament. It's a summery of God's grand plan and the conclusion really of the Bible, which makes sense as it explains what will happen when Jesus comes to judge the world. The school that we use for the week is set in the most beautiful grounds:

I'm doing some Biblical Greek on the side, though I've rather neglected it this week. So far I've just about go the hang of the alphabet, and have learnt my first few words. I've also managed to set windows up so I can use a Greek font if I want to, though as yet I can't get online software to display it in my web browser.

ῤαββι Δαωιδ και Ἰακοβ

The trumpet continues well; I'm still loving my lessons, and my teacher Tristan continues as laid back and patient as ever. I'm working through a book of duets byPhilip Sparke which is surprisingly difficult (surprising in that it doesn't look hard). The rhythms are hard, which as timing was never was my strong point, is really good for me. I'm also learning Dave Brubeck's piece, 'Take Five'. Fiendishly hard, freakishly fast in places. I love it. Learning a difficult piece you love and admire is a bitter sweet experience. Your love for it is what gives you the motivation to learn a piece far harder than you'd generally play. The other side of the coin if you're anything like me, however, is the desperate desire to get it perfect and do justice to the composer and artists. Can you see now why I need such a laid back teacher? Dave Brubeck though. Wow. I could talk about that guy's music all day.

But for your sake, I won't.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Thoughts of September

The weather the last few days has been distinctly autumnal, with drizzly rain, steel skies and nip in the air. Despite the announcement this morning that the north west will begin a hose-pipe ban at the beginning of next week, I find myself thinking past the summer to September.

Part of this harks back to my time at boarding school, where the seasons were punctuated not just by a change of weather, but by complete change of location as we moved back home at the beginning of July for two months.

I've never really shaken off the rhythm of the school year, and September always feels more like an opportunity for new beginnings than new year ever did.

Our church runs along similar lines because young families and students make up such a large proportion of it; our Thursday mid week service closes for the summer completely, and our Sunday evening one dwindles from about 50 to about 20. A few of the students stay, others faithfully commute back and forth at weekends to fulfil their commitments to the music group and Sunday school.

A new school year was new opportunity to work harder, do better, achieve more, but all with it tinged with a darker more unlikely hope....that I'd finally make people like me.

In the September of my last year at school as clinical depression set in I finally accepted I couldn't do that. It took me a long time to learn that I could never do that, because most good friends are made, not won.

I learnt that a September too, when I came to university. It's a lesson that came with time and God's grace. And it was worth the pain of learning by hard graft.

As the 'new' year approaches with autumn, I know that what ever aspirations and challenges I set for myself, I know that not alone. Abba, Daddy, come goes with me, and in his kindness, the friends He has gifted me with come too.

The next few weeks will be filled with the excitement of plans for the new academic year, a development plan for work, a plan for music and Biblical Greek. It will be exciting, but it will also be full of hard work, disappointment, and frustration.

I love to learn, and my Heavenly Father longs to teach me. He probably has some different areas he will plan to grow me in. Knowledge of Him, patience, humility. I won't always know in advance how he will instruct me, but I should expect Him to, and be ready and waiting to try and learn to be obedient to the ways he'd like me to grow to be more like Jesus.

Lessons can be hard, exhausting and take a long time to learn, but with God there is the garantee that in eternity we will finally be perfect, just like Jesus. We'll glorify Him for instructing us in the things we could never have learnt alone. Because once the King starts a job he finishes it. Promise.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010


Store bought hot beverages have become my idol.

Hello Lent, goodbye coffee.

Watch this (grumpy) space.

Saturday, 16 January 2010


Yes, my Christmas holiday begins today! No fear, I haven't mislaid any more of my marbles, it's just that at John Lewis (like most of retail), there's a 'blackout' period on holiday around our busiest times. For John Lewis, that's from the 16th Novemmber to the 17th January, and then again in June for the first week of summer clearance.

So this next week is my Christmas holiday.

Would it surprise you to hear my 'Christmas shopping day' was on the 26th of December??

Quirky, huh?

It's been bitterly cold out, with a good few inches of snow. Having grown up in Germany, and with friends in countries thatget a good deal of snow, I find it amusing that the country isn't prepared and grinds to a halt. Lots of people say, 'well, it doesn't happen often, does it?'. Well, no, but it does happen. It's thrawed out here quite nicely, so now we driving rain instead. I think I prefer the rain, though I'm bias as I live in a 6th floor flat and have no fear of flooding.

I decided I would try roasting a slow roasting a pork joint, to take around to the house of my friends' Hannah and Paul. I tweaked Jamie Oliver's method to suit me.

Mainly I adjusted it because I miscalculated how long I'd have to cook it. Ho-hum.

Early on, I ran down because I could smell burning and the house was getting slightly smokey. I had left it in for the high part of the cooking for a bit long.

But bizzarly, no burning to be seen. Thanks God, the heads up on that one, before it burnt! Possibly I just need to clean the oven. But who wants to think about cleaning kitchen appliances whilst they're on holiday?!

Looking good?

I thought so. Went down very well with Hannah and Paul too. We had it with mashed potato and carrots. Only two measly pieces left over.

So, I've been up to quite a bit, and written quite a lot of 'bits' of entries, but never finished anything.

The quilt is coming along nicely. A couple of weeks ago, on one of our many bitterly cold days, I went to Creative Quilting and bought the batting-the 'body' of the quilt. I chose an all-cotton blend, and have yet to get over how soft it is. It's like a heavy-duty cotton wool, and as such sheds all over everything it touches. When I got to little 2-platform station, I had to wait 30 minutes for the train; the batting, encased in it's bag, made a brilliant pillow for the otherwise icey-cold metal seat.

Bounded on by my new purchase, I managed to sew together all seven long strips in a couple of days. Desperate to see what my quilt would eventaully look like, I taped them all the top of my door.

My next step is sewing together all the long sides. I was doing alright with this, until I sewed one on upside down. Now it'll need unpicking before I can continue...blah. After that, I plan to add a border to make it wider (I'll try and use the batting width as a guide). Then we sandwich it altogether, baste it to hold the bread and filling in the right place, and then finally......QUILT!

I'm hoping I can get a long way into this project in the next week. I really can't wait to start quilting. Should I 'stitch in the ditch', where you just stitch into seems so it can't be seen,or go for a pattern of some sort?


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