Tuesday, 1 December 2015


I am hoping for more this advent season.
More time to reflect,
more space to open up
and more resolve to see the holiness in the waiting

Advent is too often wished away, a quickstep up to the main event
But there is so much more on offer.

This year impatience has taken on a whole new meaning for me.
5 months pregnant and to say I am extremely keen to meet this little girl would be a drastic understatement.

She has started to make her presence known with movements and karate chops. Every wiggle fills me with an unprecedented joy.

Perhaps more than ever I am appreciating the desire to skip to the end when I get to hold the baby in my arms, and I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to imagine that Mary might have felt the same. 

But pregnancy in itself is a precious time of waiting and preparation, so to wish it away means I am in danger of completely missing the point.

Because this time is limited, never again will I have this precious child so close to me that it’s hard to tell which heartbeat is mine and which is hers.

So it is with advent, often wished fast away or forgotten in all the other demands.
I was recently blown away by Frederick Buechner’s description of advent;

‘In the silence of a midwinter dusk there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself.
You hold your breath to listen…for a second you catch a whiff of a fragrance that reminds you of a place you have never been and a time you have no words for...

The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens.

Advent is the name of that moment.’

Frederick Buechner ‘Goodness and Light advent reflection’

So lets pause together for a while and listen to the still small voice which echoes across the years, taking all of our pettiness and worries into his stride as the old way is made new once again. 

          Pictures from a snowy Scottish adventure this weekend, celebrating one of my most enduring and joyful friendships with this wonderful woman.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

One Eye on Spring

Autumn is wending its way around Cambridge and I’m enjoying the still relatively idle days, watching the leaves turn to russet.

But these aren’t the only changes…

We are excitedly preparing for our first baby who is due in early April next year!
 So as the summer turns to autumn my thoughts are already on the spring.

It’s been a hard few months with sickness to contend with. But I am emerging from the haze of the first trimester and feeling a bit more human,

This happily coincides with some job interviews I have lined up, I am hoping for part time nursery work, to fit into this slightly slower season of life.

In the meantime here are a few Autumnal pictures...

Monday, 14 September 2015


So here we are, easing ourselves into a new city a new home, the fit still feels a little wonky, not helped by our absence this summer. We've been spending time at Lee Abbey, with family and sunning ourselves in stunning Croatia! 

It's been lovely but now that autumn is here it's time to get down to the business of making a home for ourselves, finding friends, and learning the shortcuts!

Recently we decided to wake up insanely early to beat the tourist rush (well any kind of rush really!)

So at 5am we walked into the centre of town to get a glimpse of the 'real' Cambridge. It was beautiful, so many intricate details, and hidden quiet parts, it will take longer than a morning to explore but it was a good place to start. 

My favourite bit was stumbling across the college that Matt is affiliated to, as we peeped in through the gate and a sleepy night porter nearing the end of his shift popped his head out curiously. I explained we were up early to beat the people and he invited us into the college for an early morning secret show around.

It was an amazing moment.

I'm sure three years down the line we we will be a bit more immune to the stunning college gardens and amazing old architecture all around us in Cambridge but I hope that a big part of me will continue to appreciate that God has brought us to this place for this time.

Talking to my grandmother recently she was recalling her own father training for ordination also at Ridley Hall. They lived in a professors attic in Grantchester a neighbouring village and she has very fond memories of the time her family spent in Cambridge. We recently cycled out to Grantchester and had tea in the same orchard based cafe that they used to frequent, still there and still going strong!

Some pictures of that early Cambridge morning...

Sunday, 19 July 2015

For Sheffield (part 2)

How do you say goodbye to a city? 

You can't wrap your arms around it or tell it how good it's been, how much you've enjoyed the ride. It is impossible to put into words the sunsets, the vibrant seasons, cats basking on walls, sunlit graveyards, sheep in fields and toes in water. 

This feeling I have is a combination of many moments that make up eight years in one place, the cafes, charity shops and parks which fade into the everyday.

Even the people pose a problem - yes I can say goodbye for now to those closest to me at this moment, but what about all the others through this time period who made Sheffield so special for me?

The raucous first year friends, the lovely boys who lived in my halls, the wonderful gang of people who brought me a ticket to the ball when I was strapped for cash. 

The small fellowship group at church who became family.

The people I met doing homeless outreach in second and third year, the lessons I learned and the ways I grew. 

The ceilidh dancing, mad twirls of sweaty exhilarated people moving together. 

My first real housemates! The disgusting house that we were so proud of, the silliness and fun, going out dancing and eating Icecream. 

All the church leaders and so many wonderful people I was in community with on and off, all the jokers from Transform cluster which it was my pleasure to lead for a time.

Families who cared for me, older women who invested time and energy, and the ones who I in turn mentored. 

The starlit fires out in the peaks, singing and passionate praying, a catalyst from which my faith evolved yet again. 

The five girls who became like sisters the year we graduated, even the man who became my husband was once a boy in a lecture theatre, sitting three rows down from me.

Oh yes! Things have happened to me In Sheffield. 

Colleagues and course-mates, the lady who helped me when I fell off my bike, children I have looked after, they all come together in a glorious tapestry of memories and senses of ways I have felt and experienced life here. 

What bothers me most, is the bits I'm forgetting because there were too many! Too many wonderful people and moments, too much joy and heartache and all the things that make life worth waking up in the morning for. 

So thank you Sheffield, you've been excellent. 

What I learned while I was with you could fill many pages of many books, I've come a long way from freshers week 2007 when I wrote down a list of five things I liked about you (I had to stop at three because I got stuck..!) 

Maybe one day I'll look over my life like its a film reel, I really would love to see it in its intricacies even the mundane bits that my memory fails to recall. 

Mostly I just feel so grateful, grateful that God brought me here all those years ago grateful for all he's done and will continue to do in this city. 

Sunday, 28 June 2015


My grandmother, for who I am named, is an amazing woman. She was born one of nine children a red headed force of nature. She grew up to be a talented linguist and passionate lover of God, venturing out to Kenya where she was married to my grandfather Peter, mothered four children and stayed for twenty years in the face of all sorts of trials and tribulations.

 In her book ‘Where Love Leads You’ a contemporary of my grandmother, Ruth Strannox Deeth recalls her as energetic woman with a pronounced lisp, she writes about my grandfather becoming suddenly sick whilst far away in the African bush and my grandmothers response…

‘Liza was unique –no panic – no tears, she cooked a meal for the four children, put them to bed and prepared for the next days trip. At midnight, after everyone had gone to bed, the bishop saw a hurricane lamp bobbing up and down in the garden. He went to investigate. It was Liza. “I’m just planting beans in case it rains while I’m away” she explained’ p45-46

This makes me laugh so much as it’s a perfect representation of her priorities, she adores her garden and as long as I’ve known her she has found it a source of sustenance and great joy. Often I would call her for a chat late at night as she never seemed to go to bed before midnight even as an elderly woman!

My grandparents moved to Leeds after coming back from their missionary time in Africa 30 years ago, they made a home and a community there. My beloved grandpa died in 1998 and granny has been living alone ever since. Though she was getting older, her garden was still in magnificent shape, and when I went up to visit as a student I would inevitably be sent out and directed to do the digging and planting despite my sad lack of green fingers!

Fiercely independent and in the possession of a wonderful church family she has managed amazingly living alone these last 17 years, actively involved in serving the community and teaching English to foreign students. But now increasing frailty in her body and the distance of family members has meant she’s become ready to relinquish the house and move down south with my wonderful aunt and uncle in Gerards cross.

We passed through Leeds last weekend and popped in to the empty house for Dad to begin some sorting out. Within about two minutes of being there I was in uncharacteristic floods of tears that wouldn’t seem to abate.

Granny has come to a point where she needs care and family close by, it’s the right thing that she is moving. Nevertheless I’ll miss seeing her in her own small kingdom dreadfully, miss watching her slowly but determinedly walk to the corner shop and greet the family running it that she’s known for years. Also being unable to leave without having about a ton of fruit generously pressed upon me, and of course the memorable experience of watching her cause havoc on an electric scooter in the local Tesco!

We’re all changing and getting older, it is an immutable fact, but I think that as a culture we don’t give enough thought to the end of life.

When I do think of it I think I want to do it like her. Surrounded by friends and an amazing church family, not wallowing in self-pity but accepting Gods plan and knowing that I am drawing closer to finally seeing him face to face as my years diminish.

The day ended well, with two of granny’s friends who had selflessly come by and worked on the garden for four hours of the sunny Saturday.

They saw my emotional state and thoughtfully packed me off to the front garden with a pair of secateurs to pick a flower posy.

This is the bunch that I picked, a testament on my kitchen table to my grandmother’s hard work and commitment, not just in the garden but to everything she has achieved so far in her wonderful life.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Oh the places you'll go

I have a fear,

Somewhat irrational and occasionally debilitating,

I am scared of driving.

As a child, I was in a car accident and though this didn't effect me particularly at the time, looking back it might be where my fear begins, as after the accident I frequently had dreams where I was driving an out of control car.

As a teenager I had lessons but found them mind numbingly scary, the five driving tests I took before I finally passed one were pretty horrific, I have a hazy memory of them at best, but a clear feeling of the sweat soaked trauma.

After taking so many tests my confidence took a nose dive from which it never really recovered.

Though I can and do drive and we were blessed to be given a car the year we got engaged, I really (really really) don't like it.

Though now I am happy making journeys I've done lots of times before, I tend to get thrown by anything new. As we think about moving to a new city with lots of new roads this is becoming more of a problem.

I don't think I am an easily scared person. In fact, I take quite a lot of pride in my general gutsyness,

but sometimes I think this one has got me beat.

Yesterday matt challenged me on the situation, out of love he said that he hates to see me held back by something like this and asked me to think about what we could invest in to help me with my fear.

I responded really well to this loving and gentle challenge - I definitely didn't scream and shout and stomp my feet and demand to be left exactly the way I am, I  certainly didn't say anything along the lines of 'thank you for your kind concern but I love the British railway network deeply and at least this way I won't die screaming in a flaming box of metal'

I was angry, because I was (and I am) terrified that I might have to face this fear. And ultimately Matt is right, I don't want to live in thrall to it. I could spend my life looking for ways around it but that doesn't seem to fit with my desire to embrace every part of life as fully as I can.

At nursery today a small girl brought me a Dr Seuss book to read to her, I felt it was apt for the situation...

This isn't all of the book but a few choice bits...

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.


You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don't.
Because, sometimes, you won't.

I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.


And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on

But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike,
And I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never foget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)


be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
You're off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!

Dr Seuss 'oh the places you'll go'

So there we go, I don't know what your mountain is, perhaps there are many or maybe just one or two but where they feel insurmountable perhaps we just have to start by moving a few pebbles.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Loosing sight of land

We are on the move...

In July we are relocating to Cambridge where Matt will begin ordination training and I...

well truthfully I'm not quite sure what I'll do yet, 

Unfortunately most of my nearest and dearest have developed a somewhat morbid interest in exactly what my life will look like after the move.

personal preference would be to wonder the time worn streets soaking up by proxy all the extra intelligence floating around, taking a few nice pictures and writing this sorely neglected blog. 

But in reality I will seek to find myself gainful employment, preferably in a nursery or school with the forest school values which i have come to love. 

After an 8 year stint in Sheffield it will be a shock to the system to call somewhere else home so we are trying to leave well, taking time to hand responsibilities over and give extra long notice to our jobs.

This is all very well but I have the feeling that nothing will prepare us fully for the day in late July when we will wave off the moving van, cram ourselves into  the Yaris and leave for the next three years.

Until then I will probably be bursting into tears randomly, beginning to pack ridiculously early and upping the free minutes on my phone contract in preparation for the inevitable long catch up sessions!

I know that dear friends will remain exactly that, regardless of the distance but it is a sobering thought that we will need to establish a new home and community. 

Sir Francis Drakes beautiful poem encourages me yet again and all I can hope is that as we Loose sight of the land we may find the stars.

Your One Wild and Precious Life

As a Christian I am generally trying to talk to God, engage in a dialogue and hear him as clearly as possible in order to not make too much of a mess.

Mostly God says one thing when I remember to listen..incidentally this is the same thing that most of the children at work recite as a mantra every waking second, 
He says 'look!'

'Look Rachel that flower is blooming, look at the dad hug his daughter, look at the colour of that leaf, look look look!!!'

I saw this poem by today and it summed this up really nicely...

The Summer Day
Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Saturday, 11 April 2015

of Sunrise and Fire

I woke up at dawn on Easter morning this year, slipped out of bed and out the back door wearing borrowed clothes (something about staying at my parents house makes me want to pilfer old and musty smelling fleeces and wellies rather than using my own.)

Curled in a battered wicker chair, I watched the sunrise creeping up,
I reread the gospel account of the empty tomb, felt the despair turned to disbelief turned to joy of the women, could almost hear the pounding feet as John and Peter tore their way to the tomb hardly daring to believe.

I felt his tenderness over the breathless hope of it all, the feeling of being gathered under his wing in that moment before the dawn, sitting front row as the story unfolded before me.

After a while, dad came and joined me, another early riser, capturing the sky with his camera.

Moments like this change us.

On another note, I have recently learned how to make fire! As part of my super fun level three, forest school training, I will actually be assessed on my ability to create and sustain a 10-minute fire.

This is scary to me. Although I may project the image of an outdoorsy girl, I confess that I’ve sometimes exaggerated the level of my basic survival skills, using a careful smokescreen of enthusiasm, general gameness, and an aversion to make up.

But now I’ve gone and put my money where my north face jacket is and over the weekend created two salacious and roaring blazes, (two because I had to check the first wasn’t a fluke!)

the end 

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Call the midwife

 I have just finished reading the autobiographical work by Jennifer wroth. A truly beautiful book detailing the life of a London midwife in the 1950s, I have previously watched and loved the BBC series but only managed to track the book down last week.

I found the thoughts on faith and life, which Wroth shares in the book profoundly moving.
Jenny describes herself initially as an ‘irreligious girl’ and is perplexed and sometimes disturbed by the life of the nuns that she sees firsthand in the tight knit community she becomes (initially rather unwillingly) a part of.

However during her time at Nonnatus house she gradually finds herself respecting the tireless work of the nuns in loving and caring for their patients. The way that they patiently accept and love one another regardless of circumstance gradually awakens Jenny to the possibility of a real God. 
At the end of the book jenny recollects her conversation with an elderly nun. 

She asks her why she swapped a life of privilege for one of servitude, wondering out loud whether it was the sisters love of people, which prompted her to embrace this life.

 The response came like this;

‘Of course not! She answered sharply, ‘how can you love ignorant brutish people who you don’t even know?’ ‘Can anyone love filth and squalor? Or lice and rats? Who can love aching weariness and carry on in spite of it?’

One cannot love these things. One can only love God and through his grace come to love his people.’ P318-319

The simple truth of this made an impression on me and fills me with real hope.
Wroth is fantastic at chronicling the humanity of the nuns she lived with. 

Yes she writes of their tireless work for others and their conviction of faith but she also writes of their arguments, their petty meanness and their frustrations.

She paints a wonderful picture of sometimes-good-sometimes-bad always-complex people who have made a decision to love and serve God despite all of the rest.

What a relief that even nuns who make an active decision to lay their lives down for God are still so wonderfully human, that they need Gods love and Grace as much as the rest of us

The calling on their lives is the same as the calling on mine, to love God and love others, in that order.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Bricks and Mortar

Lately my signature has been much required, we are in the process of buying a house.

To be precise, we are buying the house that we are currently renting.
(Nothing like a two-year test run as my husband keeps chirpily saying.)

Did you know that the word ‘Mortgage’ directly translates in the Latin as ‘Death Grip’?!
Just a little fun fact for you there!

Now I have been known to wiggle out of yearlong rental contracts that I felt were a bit stifling, run away to France and be done with it.

 I come out in a rash when you so much as mention the words ‘commitment’  ‘investment’ or ‘fixed term rate’ and I’m ashamed to say that I get confused by numbers that are more than four zeros long.

So the idea of entering into a contract with the bank for the next forty years or so is most disconcerting.

Excuse me for a moment while I indulge myself in a little Meyers Briggs
My personality type is ESFP...

I wont go into too much detail but this basically means that I am a fun loving criminal, spontaneous and energetic who lives in the immediate and has a lively dislike of theory and future planning.  

So at best I am in the lucky possession of a Contagious good humour and irrepressible joy of living’ (David Kiersy)

 However at my worst I tend to feel ‘Overwhelmed with tension and stress when driven into a situation which requires deep and careful consideration.’ 


(I would reluctantly say that house buying probably falls into this category)

So its been an interesting couple of months but I feel primarily blessed to be able to take such a sensible and grown up step,

 I am also very glad of a husband who is patient and willing to coerce me into paying due care and attention before signing my life away.