I’ve just got back from a week in Portugal. I read a lot of books. I ate a lot of bread. I drank a lot of really good but really cheap wine. I went barefoot on the beach. I got ridiculous tanlines which will probs take until October to even out so I'm def not wearing a strapless dress to any weddings this summer. I saw a few stars - and even a planet! Every morning the breakfast buffet gave me a legit reason to eat double my body weight in pancakes, cereal, toast, apple danishes, pastel de nata, toast, eggs, cheese, bacon, pineapple, orange, melon, tea, orange juice, toast and sparkling wine (which is totally acceptable if you just call it Breakfast Wine). The gym is now my home.

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My first day back at work was BRUTAL. No sun. No beach. No Breakfast Wine. I’d tasted freedom and this whole 'need-to-set-an-alarm-in-order-to-get-to-work-on-time-and-then-actually-turn-up-and-do-work-and-handle-responsibility-and-be-nice-to-colleagues' thing was just too much. By the end of the day it took all my willpower to not quit my job and jump on the first plane out of Gatwick. Destination Unknown.

It turns out, despite spending the whole of 2019 learning about joy, I’d forgotten that choosing joy can be a spiritual practice too.

Anything can become a spiritual practice once you are willing to approach it that way – once you let it bring you to your knees and show you what is real, including who you really are, who other people are, and how near God can be when you’ve lost your way." Barbara Brown Taylor

Joy is a choice to adjust your attitude from “I can’t believe they expect me to be here” to “I get to do this.”

Joy is a choice to learn to love the liturgy of the everyday.

Joy is a choice to not focus on all the things that frustrate you but instead give thanks for the things which aren’t making you google ‘epic ways to Mic Drop hand in your resignation.'

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Given how much I LOVE sending cards this is me.

Joy is a choice to embrace the hard and holy things.

Joy is a choice to not batter the Roger at work to death with a hair straightener for talking to you about your hair AGAIN but instead take a deep breath and calmly explain that you really don't give a care about his opinion of your hair and so if he could keep his comments to himself that would be much appreciated (“but Rachel its fascinating, your hair is so versatile, it can be frizzy and then straight” – by the grace of God alone this man is still alive).

Joy is a choice to notice the wonder of sunrise from the train platform rather than lament being awake before the sun.

Joy is a choice to abide in the light and let its radiance illuminate the next right step.

Joy is choice to choose joy, even on the days you'd much rather wallow in being the Grumpiest of them all.

Break the bread. Pour the wine. Give thanks. Celebrate.

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img_20200110_0715242802874310517312250443.jpgIt was love at first sight. And they have been my Absolute Faves ever since, faithful companions at nearly every excuse to dress up over the past nine years – weddings, nights out, Tuesdays, Christmas Day (most overdressed in church on Christmas morning? Yep, that would be The Holmes Sisters). Don't judge heels by their height as these shoes are perfect for both dancing through the night and running through Victoria station to catch the last train home. Until recently.

Now they're falling apart and just give me blisters which leave me limping for a week. My soul grieves the loss of my most beloved.

My other heels just don’t match up. Instead of confidently striding around I’m reducing to powerlessly tottering along the road at the mercy of every uneven pavement slab and gust of wind that decides to test my core strength - an incentive if ever there was to spend more time at the gym. But it turns out, wearing heels can be a spiritual practice.

Anything can become a spiritual practice once you are willing to approach it that way – once you let it bring you to your knees and show you what is real, including who you really are, who other people are, and how near God can be when you’ve lost your way." Barbara Brown Taylor

Quite literally unable to walk any faster, wearing heels forces me to slow down and accept my limitations - repeat after me: I will only reach my destination when my shoes allow me to. Wearing heels reminds me that I cannot control everything and instead need to trust in the One who created all the things.

Wearing heels makes me question alllllllllllllllll my decisions – because if I willingly choose shoes I know I can't walk comfortably in what other terrible life choices am I making??!!!! (THIS QUESTION IS RHETORICAL – I DO NOT WANT YOUR FEEDBACK)

Wearing heels forces me to see others as more than just obstacles taking up the pavement and hindering my journey. Maybe the weight of their burdens is more than they can carry. Maybe their snail's pace is in fact a giant victory and I should be praying for their restoration. Maybe everything isn’t all about me. Maybe.

Wearing heels at night transforms a mindless walk home from the station into an a hyper-vigilant mission where I’m aware of every stranger around me and every car that passes – it grounds me in the experiences of the thousands of women who don’t feel safe walking alone. It reminds me to pray for mercy for my sisters whose lives are marked by fear, vulnerability and powerlessness.

Wearing heels steers me away from self-reliance and reminds me that support from others isn't always such a terrible thing - because tottering along is much easier when you’ve got an arm to cling on to and people to help you stay upright on the tube.

Wearing heels reminds me that however unsuitable the footwear I chose that day, God will always give me the shoes I need for the road I’m on and the strength to match the day.

Wearing heels reassures me that however much of a sensible adult I pretend be, I'm still a ridiculous girl far more concerned with the appearance of her footwear rather than its practicality. Je ne regrette rien.

Wearing heels reminds me to be thankful for a slow, torturous walk of far more significance than me tottering home - one to a hill outside a city. A walk that didn't end with kicking your shoes off at the end of the night and a nice cup of tea on the sofa while you wait for chips to arrive.

It turns out, wearing heels can be a spiritual practice, if only we have the heart (and shoes) to find it.

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P.S. If anyone know where I can find some black, size 4 wedge heels help a sister out.

Comfort us, O Lord,
When we cannot face our own disappointment,
When our dreams seem so far away,
Because we tried to do it all,
When we are tired and scared
Because we forgot our hope is in You.

Comfort us, O Lord,
When with trying to live more justly
We have replaced one set of rules for another;
Having become paralysed with information,
We have ceased to do anything at all
And in our efforts to inform others
We have allowed our anger to drown out our Hope.

Comfort us, O Lord,
When we dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas,
While we wait for Your mastery to calm the storms;
Where we have lost sight of land,
And are yet to to see your stars.

We ask you to illuminate
The horizons of our hopes;
As we stumble forwards
In Strength, Courage, Hope and Love

This we ask in the name of our captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Guide us, O Lord,
When we have lost our way.
When we are stumbling from one path to another
Because we took our eyes from your lights on the path.
When we are no longer certain of our direction
Because we are confused about the purpose of our journey.

Guide us, O Lord,
When faced with an abundance of options
We are paralysed with the fear of failure.
Having fallen in love with holding out for the best opportunity
We have forgotten to be thankful for the freedom of choice.
And in our efforts to do your will
We have forgotten that burning bushes are not an everyday occurrence.

Guide us, O Lord
When we boldly dare
To renew our search for your lights on the pathway.
When in following your word
To the pathway of holiness
We shall find the gateway of the narrow path

We ask you to remind us of our identity with You;
And to guide us in re-imaging our future
In strength, courage, hope and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ

I first read this 9 years ago. It's been one of my favourites ever since and I've even written a re-mix or two and re-post it nearly every year. It was most likely written by Francis Drake over 400 years ago (apparently the poetry buffs are still arguing about it). As we get into the stride of 2020 it seems important to pray and ponder it again.

A Francisan blessing:

May God bless us with a restless discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships,
So that we may seek truth boldly and love deeply within our heart

May God bless us with holy anger
At injustice, oppression and exploitation of people,
So that we may tirelessly work for justice, freedom and peace among all people

May God bless us with the gift of tears
To shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation or the loss of all they cherish,
So that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and transform their pain into joy

May God bless us with enough foolishness
To believe we really can make a difference in this world
So that we are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done

There's just something about blessing and benediction that gives me goosebumps. I think its got something to do with witnessing a love that calls down all the good things from heaven on behalf of someone else. So when I read this take on the beatitudes this week I wept - its just too beautiful. By Nadia Bolz-Weber:

Because, what if the beatitudes aren’t about a list of conditions we should try and meet to be blessed. What if these are not virtues we should aspire to but what if… the sermon on the mount is all about Jesus’ seemingly lavish blessing of the world around him. So maybe Jesus is actually just blessing people, especially the people who never seem to receive blessings otherwise.

I mean, come on, doesn’t that just sound like something Jesus would do? Extravagantly throwing around blessings as though they grew on trees? Because I like to imagine Jesus here standing among us saying:

Blessed are the agnostics.

Blessed are they who doubt, who aren't sure, who can still be surprised.

Blessed are those who are spiritually impoverished and therefore not so certain about everything that they no longer take in new information.

Blessed are those who have nothing to offer.

Blessed are the pre-schoolers who cut in line at communion.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. You are of heaven, and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are they for whom death is not an abstraction.

Blessed are they who've buried their loved ones, for whom tears could fill an ocean.

Blessed are they who've loved enough to know what loss feels like.

Blessed are the mothers of the miscarried.

Blessed are they who don't have the luxury of taking things for granted any more.

Blessed are they who can't fall apart because they have to keep it together for everyone else.

Blessed are those who still aren't over it yet.

Blessed are those who mourn. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are those who no one else notices: the kids who sit alone at middle school lunch tables, the laundry guys at the hospital, the sex workers, and the nightshift street sweepers.

Blessed are the forgotten.

Blessed are the closeted.

Blessed are the unemployed, the unimpressive, the under represented.

Blessed are the teens who have to figure out how to hide the new cuts on their arms.

Blessed are the meek. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are the wrongly accused, the ones who never catch a break, the ones for whom life is hard, for Jesus chose to surround himself with people like you.

Blessed are those without documentation.

Blessed are the ones without lobbyists.

Blessed are foster kids and special ed kids and every other kid who just wants to feel safe and loved.

Blessed are those that make terrible business decisions for the sake of people.

Blessed are the burned out social workers and the overworked teachers and the pro bono case takers.

Blessed are kind-hearted football players and fundraising trophy wives.

Blessed are kids who step between the bullies and the weak.

Blessed are those who hear they're forgiven.

Blessed are the merciful, for they totally get it. 

Full post from Nadia here: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2014/11/some-modern-beatitudes-a-sermon-for-all-saints-sunday/

Friends. Here we are. A new dawn. A new day. Feeling good?

Whatever your thoughts about the year ahead, may grace and peace and love and joy and hope surround you and overflow from you.

May you find joy in loosening your sail to the wild wind of the Sprit.

May your good hair days far outnumber the bad ones.

May your roots grow down ever deeper into the soil of God’s love for you - may you know how wide, how long, how high and how deeply you are loved.

May you abide well.

May your eyes and heart be open to wonder and awe.

May you be amazed and perplexed.

May your trains never be cancelled or delayed.

May you choose joy, even on the days that grief is the weight you carry.

May your queues for brunch always be short.

May you be forever changed by all the good gifts around you.

May you know you have the shoes you need for your journey and the strength and grace to match your day ahead.

May your celebrations be abundant.

May you be bold enough to tell the Rogers at work to stop mansplaining your actual job to you.

May you be brave enough to say yes.

May you be brave enough to say no.

May you be hopeful enough to keep asking.

May you stay with the hard and holy things with brazen/bold/barefaced/shameless/unabashed/audacious/unashamed hope.

May your community be wide and deep and rich in all the good things.

May your joys abound.

May your children sleep through the night.

May your children return safe from the night.

May sabbath guide your days and lead you to better rhythms of life.

May you never carry your sorrows alone.

May you know life in all its fullness.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Grace, peace, love and hugs x x

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Are you ready? Are the Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Is Jack Frost nipping at your nose? Are yuletide carols being sung by a choir?

Confession: I am not feeling the Christmas vibes this year. Not at all.

I’ve tried. But mostly all I can think about is the 7 different types of vegetables that need preparing and then the turkey the size of a small child that needs roasting (sidenote - since when so we need to eat 7 TYPES OF VEG ALL IN ONE MEAL?!)

And so, please, be gone from my presence with your Christmas jumpers. No, I will not watch Love Actually. Stop talking about how many mince pies you’ve eaten. And for the love of mulled wine, stop singing Mariah and Bublé and the Fairytale of New York.

I am done. I do not care. Resting Grinch face has been activated. Take your Christmas filled joy far far away from me.

As the poet once said: Bah! Humbug!

And yet, I still stopped to listen to the brass band playing Christmas carols at Waterloo Station.

And I still bought a Poinsettia - because I am my mother's daughter afterall and is it even Christmas without one?! #plant-lady-is-the-new-cat-lady

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Because despite the fact it seems like most of the world is on fire and it's people crying out for liberation, there is hope enough for a weary world to rejoice.

Because actually, being a Grinch in the face of all the hype grounds me in reality that Christmas is a celebration of life-giving radiance breaking through the darkness in the unlikeliest of ways. Christmas is a celebration of pain and suffering and cries for liberation not going ignored. Christmas is a celebration of hope.

Celebration is not just a way to make people feel good for a while; it is the way in which faith in the God of life is lived out, through both laughter and tears. Thus celebration goes beyond ritual, custom, and tradition. It is the unceasing affirmation that underneath all the ups and downs of life there flows a solid current of joy." Henri Nouwen

Because Immanuel. God is with us.

God is with us in joy and sorrow and everything in-between. Some days that’s the very thing getting me through the day. Other days I'm not even sure what it means. And so, when all the world is an altar, and joy and sorrow are intermingled, we break bread, pour wine, feast and celebrate.

And then even my weary Grinch heart finds a glimpse of hope, and reasons to rejoice enough to shed a few tears in the middle of Waterloo Station when the brass band play O Holy Night – it gets me every time.

Immanuel. God is with us.

I hope you have a Christmas of joy and peace and laughter. And if your heart is weary, I hope you can somehow see your way through to find reasons to rejoice.

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2019 will go down in The Chronicles of Rachel as the year I embraced the spiritual practice of letting my hair down in the wind and was (mostly) unashamed to have The Messiest Hair Of Them All.

"Regarded properly, anything can become a sacrament, by which I mean a visible sign of an inward spiritual connection." Barbara Brown Taylor

Big hair don't care, has pretty much become a daily mantra - because if you say it enough times it becomes true, right?

But I'm learning that regarded properly, letting the wind run riot with your hair can become a spiritual practice, by which I mean a visible sign of an inward spiritual connection. And fortunately, thanks to London city planners and tube network designers, London is FULL OF WIND TUNNELS, which means plenty of opportunities for practice.

You see, for someone who has vehemently avoided letting the wind run riot with her hair pretty much her entire teenage to adult life, for someone who is never seen without a hairclip either in her hair or about her person, for someone who's hair goes from 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds, letting the wind run riot with her hair is No Small Thing. It means days of hassle dealing with frizz so big my hair can no longer be crammed under my hat -  A NECESSARY ACTION IN THESE DAYS OF INCLEMENT WEATHER.

But letting the wind run riot with my hair reminds me that I’m not in control of everything and actually, if I trust in the God of All The Things like I say I do, then I can survive not being in control.

Letting the wind run riot with my hair reminds me that the Spirit goes where it will, wild and uncontainable.

Letting the wind run riot with my hair reminds me that sometimes life is more fun when you let it get a little messy.

Letting the wind run riot with my hair reminds me to be thankful for the good hair days and all the other seemingly everyday things I fail to notice (though lets be real, good hair days are a rare miracle these days).

Letting the wind run riot with my hair makes me laugh and laugh and laugh - because who could fail to be amused by the sight of Rachel with Wild Hair. Sorry, not sorry to anyone who's had to be seen with me post channelling my inner Pocahontas.

edcfd79ef74a13a49ef59689c3178d59--disney-cruiseplan-disney-princessTurns out, letting the wind run riot with my hair is one of the many pathways to joy.

Turns out, regarded properly, anything can become a sacrament. Here's to embracing the Wild Hair Days!

Where could a little paying attention and regarding properly lead you to a spiritual connection?

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