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Easter is Approaching!

I just finished day 2 of the @YouVersion plan “JESUS THE KING: An Easter Devotional By Timothy Keller”. Check it out here:

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Order and Chaos

Goodness, I’m sick of being sick. This cold virus has been hanging around my respiratory system for 2 and a half weeks now and tonight I have a new development – earache. Don’t you just want to kick ill health in the teeth? (Sorry – I’m having a bit of a ‘self-pity party’ (with a side order of whinging)).
Two of my favourite pastimes are listening to music and playing an instrument (voice/piano/flute). But the last couple of weeks have been particularly challenging for me in this regard. Last summer I bought tickets to hear Vasily Pretrenko conduct my favourite piece of classical music, Rachmaninov’s 2nd Piano Concerto. The concert was last night. After settling myself in my seat, with a wonderful view of the stage and orchestra, in Symphony Hall, Birmingham where it doesn’t really matter how much you have paid for a ticket because the acoustics are marvelous throught the concert hall, all was well. The first piece, a selection of Grieg’s Lyrical pieces, was wonderfully serene and delicate, beautifully played by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, and my lungs and sinuses were happy to cooperate with my head and heart’s desire for them to be silent and enjoy the music.
Sometimes when you are ill there seems to be another law at work that supercedes all other desires. As soon as the first chords of the Rachmaninov emerged from the silence of the expectant audience, so too did that unwelcome burn of an irritated throat invade my conscience. Not one that could be overlooked or ignored, but a demanding and aggressive customer. Thus the coughing ensued, disturbing the sufferer and all around despite water, pastiles and medication. Sorry everyone, I wanted to stop coughing as much as you all. Where are the holes in the ground when you want them to open up?
I thought I had been to hear Mahler’s Symphony no.5 as a teenager, eager to expand my musical knowledge and experience whilst studying A’ Level beyond my preference for baroque and classical periods which are ordered and predictable, I went to a few BBC Proms – I think it must have been 1990. I remember coming away from the concert reflecting that I wasn’t that keen to expand my repertoire. ‘Organised Choas’ would be my uneducated way of describing music from a period that seemed to be throwing of the conventions of the past (which I still prefer and find more comfortable, reassuring) all in the name of progress. I put Stravinsky in the same pigeonhole, but what do I know?
However, I don’t think it was Mahler 5, because last night it was Mahler 5 – and I actually enjoyed it. Or maybe I’ve changed.
So on to today, and more concert-going, this time performing. More coughing, more listening, to organised Stravinsky chaos, and…liking it. Seeing the value in things not yet comfortable, a bit new to me still. Life in my world is changing, seasons are changing. She who was small has grown big and more independent, the firebird lives and what was ordered is more chaotic, more free, and I’m learning to like it.

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It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas!

I love this time of year! This week of the year, for me, marks the beginning of the Christmas festivities, and it begins tonight with the Warwick Victorian Christmas Fayre I will be there with my lovely daughter and at least one other friend to listen to the Salvation Army brass band, savour the delights of the crepe stall and thoroughly enjoy watching the steam carousel in action.

In fact the only downside of this evening’s activities is that I have to miss my final choir only rehearsal for the Chorus concert on Sunday. We will be performing Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius with the University of Warwick Symphony Orchestra. You can buy tickets here. I love to sing in the Chorus. It gives me time to myself in what is usually a quite busy schedule. I have loved doing this type of thing since being a child in Primary school. At the age of 8 I was chosen to be part of the choir which helped to lead the music at the 100th Anniversary of the charity Barnardo’s, and I haven’t looked back since. There have been a few short periods since then when I haven’t been involved in music making but it never lasts long.

Tomorrow we are hosting our first of the year festive dinner parties and I have been occupied with the menu over the last few days. I love to show hospitality and welcome people into our home at any time of year but there is something a bit more atmospheric about Christmastime.

The Menu

Starter – Roast Parsnip Soup & Homemade Bread Roll

Main – Roast Beef with Yorkshire Puddings and Seasonal Vegetables

Dessert – Baileys & Chocolate Cheesecake


Coffee & Mints


Saturday will mark the annual purchasing of the Church Christmas Tree which is always a fun event for me. I love sort through all the different trees to find the ‘perfect one’ which is almost invariably the most difficult to get to! John has bailed on this excursion this year. He wants me to pick him up when I have bought it.

All these preparations are things which I love and they really help me get into the spirit of Christmas. But the most important preparations to be making this season are in our hearts. Am I receiving enough of God’s grace to be living in a Christ-like manner? One of my favourite Christmas Carols is ‘Quelle est cette Odeur Agréable?’ English translation ‘Whence is that Goodly Fragrance flowing?’ And I am asking myself as I listen to it am I dispersing the fragrance of Christ as I go about my daily chores, ministering to my family and speaking to those who do not yet know Him? Even if I haven’t reached the destination, I am on the road and I know where I am going.

Next weekend we are travelling to London to take part in an evangelistic weekend for youth & families called ‘Wildfire’. We will be sleeping on a church hall floor and facilitating the youth doing dramas and music etc. whilst also being on hand to give a reason for the hope we have. Depending on how we travel there, I may get a chance to see the Christmas lights in the City.

I may not have time to blog next week, but come back soon xx.

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Times of Retreat

Perhaps it is because we are fast approaching the end of the calendar year? I don’t know about you, but I have a sudden urge to start planning ahead for next year. I have lists of personal goals for 2013, events that we need to schedule for church and stuff that I want to achieve before 2012 ends.

What has really struck me over the past couple of days, partly due to a blog I read by author, Sally Clarkson, is that God is really pressing me to have a time of personal retreat at the beginning of the year. A day to spend with Him and get His wisdom for the year ahead. Someone my husband listens to has been talking to him about planning times of daily, weekly, monthly and annual retreat recently.

Actually we are quite good (deliberate) about taking time for marriage retreat. We like to get away for two nights 2 or three times a year to be able to rest and receive from God, and also to be a blessing to each other. As church leaders there is always another legitimate demand on our time that we can surrender to on top of our own family life and goals, so getting some ‘away time’ to remind each other that they are still the most important person in the world to us, is vital. When we celebrate anniversaries that end in a 5 or a zero we do something extra special. 5 was Coombe Abbey Hotel; 10 we went to Tuscany, Italy for the first time and; 15 we had a week to ourselves in a Portuguese villa with a private pool.

We also have a habit of praying on New Year’s Eve about the year ahead. Giving God those first few minutes of the new year is an attempt to set our priorities right. We want to hear from Him first and foremost and He is faithful to speak to us in those times, often words, the significance of which, we don’t realise until much further into the year. Jesus comes first, all else is subservient to His will for our lives (well, that’s our objective anyway!)

But when it comes to personal times of retreat I’m not so deliberate, and that is what the Lord is encouraging me in. He wants me to be the best person I can be, and that only comes from receiving His blueprint, and building accordingly. So today I’m thinking about where to go for a day at the beginning of the year, not too far away, private & comfortable to hear words of wisdom from my Father.

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But Those that Wait on the Lord…

…Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not grow weary, They shall walk and not faint.      Isaiah 40:31 NKJV.

This week I sooo need to rely on this promise! Life is constant with little time to ‘retreat’ and I need to remind myself constantly to recharge my batteries in the Lord. The thing about this verse is that as a busy woman, wife, mother I love the promise that it gives – more energy to do stuff; but it is waiting on Jesus that is the important part.

Today’s list of stuff to do actually hasn’t made it to paper yet. I’ve been busy supervising school, having a shower, sorting laundry, getting dressed (yes, in that order – LOL)! I need to put pen to paper and start to prioritise today before the day takes over and invades my sanity. (I’m list writing now as I type ;-))

Our family calendar even now looks a bit like one long downhill tumble until we hit Christmas, with not a lot of free time for me to do the things I like to before then like gift shopping. But i’m determined to enjoy it. I looked up a new recipe to bake and take to a friend’s house tomorrow, which I am looking forward to doing.

‘Waiting on the Lord’ today will be done sat at the piano – worshiping. I love to sing to the Lord however badly I may do it, and He loves to hear it. Heart to heart, soul to soul.

Trying to do all the stuff that we have planned over the next six weeks in my own strength will lead to some kind of meltdown. But Jesus is the strength of my heart.

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First Things First

I’m turning into a bit of a ‘list lady’. This, in the main, is due to life becoming unbearably busy. I don’t seem to be able to keep everything in my head any more and I need to keep a record of things that I remember I need to do as well as keeping a list of things I mustn’t forget. Yesterday I managed to throw away 5 completed lists that I had written concerning our daughter’s 13th birthday which, incidentally, took about 5 days to celebrate!

I even have a handwritten note to myself on my desk noticeboard that encourages me to do the hardest things on my list(s) first.

Prioritizing is something I know I need to do more of, but too often the loudest voice rather than the most earnest is heard. I am a person who likes to be able to concentrate on a task without interruption, and boy is that difficult if you are married and have children 😉 I have all sorts of strategies that help me to do that, some of which involve me sending my homeschooled daughter to various extra-curricular activities. I also stay up late at night so I can have the quiet house all to myself. However we need the Lord’s direction when it comes to deciding what is important, both in terms of our purpose and future, and also on a day-to-day basis.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way. Psalm 37:23

If we want the Lord to be delighted with what we are doing the only way to achieve that is to submit to His direction and guidance. Jesus said “I only do what I see my Father doing”. How many of us can say that hour by hour throughout the day? Paradoxically, I find that I have more time when I spend a portion of it hearing from the Lord. Things seem to fall into place much easier, somehow. Jesus knows best.

My times are in Your Hand. Psalm 31:15a

We had a prophet visit the church on Sunday, a lovely man who is very gentle in his ministry, but clearly hears the heart and voice of God. One who has read my mail (as they say) in the past. He gave John & me a word about writing. He said that he saw us at desks side by side, writing; and that we should de-clutter our time to give space for this to happen. We need to let some of the spinning plates fall to the ground. So as a response to the Lord I wanted to try and be more regular about writing my blog. As this is my first post in five months, I hope to be doing it more regularly.

See you next week?

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Another Year Passes!

Well, it was my birthday yesterday, and I spent it with some of my favourite people. Here is a picture, taken by my husband of us having a Birthday Picnic at Packwood House.

Karen & Rachel eating sconesAlong with the sandwiches and Eisberg wine we are enjoying freshly homemade scones with Boysenberry Jam and whipped cream, fresh strawberries and more cream, marvelous! IMHO you can’t have too much cream on your birthday 😉

We listened to a very intersting talk about the history of the house and then went inside to have a look around. By this time it was getting a bit warm, but the NT had the heating on to reduce the humidity in the house – boiling!

Getting out of there was a breath of fresh air in the end, so we enjoyed a walk through the garden, the yew garden – with its topiary – and down around the lake and wood.

Here is Rachel sitting on a log, at about the same time that I got bitten by a mosquiMosquitos Beware!to. The mosquito came off worst, believe me!

It was a beautiful afternoon and we were among the last to leave.

Traffic was thick as we travelled home and we just had enough time to put some canneloni in the oven, have a quick shower and eat dinner before we were off out again to the pub with lovely friends.

I had been praying and trusting God for good weather on my birthday for a few weeks, knowing that I was keen to be outdoors this year and how awful the weather has been of late! God always comes through for me even if the answers are not quite what I expect, and He certainly did himself proud yesterday, and we were able to sit outside at the pub, in the garden by the river and 14th century bridge until 10.30pm. Here we are!

I had a lovely birthday, thank you everyone who made it so special. Sorry Landlord, I only remembered this morning that we forgot to put the tables back before we left :-S

Here’s to the next one!

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Learning to be Flexible

I have noticed recently that my daughter doesn’t handle change well. I guess it is one of the downsides of having a school timetable. Having a timetable means we get stuff done, but I don’t want it to teach inflexibility.

I’m a spontaneous kind of person. I like to down tools every now and then and do something different, but having a timetable keeps me focused on what things are needful during a day or a week. I have always felt that having a good routine for homeschooling means that when opportunities arise to do trips and educational visits and activities we are not going to get too behind with work. I have felt in the past that we have a good balance, but now I’m not sure.

Perhaps I need to use these summer weeks to be more  spontaneous and teach my daughter that it’s okay. So we are downing tools for a few unplanned days of camping with friends. School work will need to be done another time. Flexibility is a good lesson to learn.

The other point about learning to be flexible is one of ordering priorities. My number one ministry after that to my husband is to my daughter and her education, and she knows and experiences that daily. However occasionally life happens and I need to alter our day together. Communicating this as a healthy opportunity rather than an imposition is the key to teaching our children to be flexible. After all isn’t one of the main goals of child rearing to teach them that the world doesn’t revolve around them? The sooner they learn to love their neighbour the happier they will be.

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Train up your Child

I just have a few minutes before I go and have lunch with a friend. Rachel is with her grandparents (don’t you just love your in-laws?) She is visiting cousins, back this evening.

John and I have been talking recently about the importance of being prepared for the next stage of our daughter’s development. One great reason for doing The Marraige Course at the moment is to give us some space before we tackle the teenage years.

Even just having a dialogue about this is useful, as it means that we are both thinking along the same lines. There is some really useful information and advice online from (mostly mothers) who have been there and got the T-shirt.

How do we train up our daughters in today’s world to live exciting lives and following Jesus but also mindful of the dangers and distractions that might come their way?

Helping them to recognise their identity in Christ is a good start. When they know how loved they are by God, and the value that Jesus placed on them when He died on the cross in their place goes a long way to teach them what real value and love look like.

Modelling the behaviour and values that we consider important is also vital if we want our teens to sit up and listen to what we have to say. One thing teenagers see through immediately is hypocrisy, so we need the be the role models we want them to have, not just expect them to do as we say. The old adage “do as I say, don’t do as I do” will not cut it here!

So as we embark on this new chapter of our family life we are fully relying on the grace of God to be His disciples and in so doing praying that our daughter will follow the path chosen for her by God.

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