Here we are. Friday 12th February in the Year of our Lord/the Ox/Corona 2021:
✔️Bread (choc & hazelnut croissant)
✔️Wine (big ol’ mug of tea)
✔️Fancy Clothes (sunshine yellow dress WITH POCKETS)
✔️Lipstick (glittery L’Oreal plum 255. For months, every time I walked past Boots I would agonise over the ‘I don’t need more lipstick and L’Oreal don’t have the greatest ethics BUT IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL’ dilemma. I gave in. Capitalism won again. BUT IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL. Je ne regrette rien).
✔️A deep breath

To your table
you bid us come.
You have set the places,
you have poured the wine,
and there is always room,
you say,
for one more.

And so we come.
From the streets
and from the alleys
we come.

From the deserts
and from the hills
we come.

From the ravages of poverty
and from the palaces of privilege
we come.

Running,
limping,
carried,
we come.

We are bloodied with our wars,
we are wearied with our wounds,
we carry our dead within us,
and we reckon with their ghosts.

We hold the seeds of healing,
we dream of a new creation,
we know the things
that make for peace,
and we struggle to give them wings.

And yet, to your table
we come.
Hungering for your bread,
we come;
thirsting for your wine,
we come;
singing your song
in every language,
speaking your name
in every tongue,
in conflict and in communion,
in discord and in desire,
we come,
O God of Wisdom,
we come.

Table Blessing by Jan Richardson.

Eat the croissant. Drink the tea. Remember/Lament/Celebrate/Give thanks (fancy clothes and lipstick optional)

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Here we are. Friday:
✔️Bread (brownie)*
✔️Wine (big ol mug of tea)*
✔️Fancy clothes (£4 H&M best dress ever that hasn’t been worn for 4,000,012 days)
✔️Lipstick – MaxFactor Ruby Tuesday (a Classic)
✔️A deep breath

We bring you our week.
All that it was
All that it wasn’t.

All the dreams fulfilled
All the hope crushed
All the times we laughed till we cried
All the times we cried
(especially when we cried before 10.30am)
All the times our joy could not be contained
All the times we doubted we could get through the next hour

We bring you the exhausting monotony of the days
We thank you for the peace we found in surprising places
We bring you all the frantic moments and all the painstakingly slow ones
We thank you for our people who checked in/sent flowers/went for walks
We bring you the pain of all those we miss and have those we have lost

We bring you our week
All that it was
All that it wasn’t
And everything inbetween

We thank you for all the good things we noticed and for those we did not see
We cling to the goodness of God, at the heart of humanity, planted more deeply than all that is wrong
We ask for strength for the day and bright hope for tomorrow.

Eat the brownie. Drink the Tea. Remember/Lament/Celebrate. Give thanks.
(fancy clothes and lipstick optional)

*If bread and wine can be symbolic then so can brownies and tea no?

Dear Friends, Beloved Reader,

Rejoice! Celebrate! Kill the fatted calf! We got through all 5,000,012 days of the most January of all the Januarys.

The Jan Calendar of Good Things - and yeh, still haven’t got round to ordering an actual real calendar yet.
The Jan Calendar of Good Things - and yeh, still haven’t got round to ordering an actual real calendar yet.

How are you doing? Lockdown 3 wasn’t the January we signed up for was it?

I’m alright, just taking it all one minute at a time. I’ve reached the learning to handstand and sorting-out-the-entire-house stage of the pandemic.

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The Boss Bitch Board, documenting and celebrating all achievements great and small, has been replaced by the Cryfest – where we document all the things great and small that make us cry. Fear not, the cryfest is supplemented by the Boss Bitch 2021 Survival Soundtrack - a good mix of dance, nostalgia and Jesus.

My word this year is trust. Last year’s was adventure (yep, I’m still laughing about this). I didn’t go on any grand adventures. But it did teach me that wonder is one way to find adventure when you're stuck. I found wonder here where I am and now have to continually point out the trees, the leaves, the flowers, the moon...

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Trust right now feels very much like a Pocahontas dive off a cliff. I’m trying to enjoy the freefall. Do not be surprised if at some point this year I’ve signed up for a skydive – anyone wanna come with?

I don’t know how this year will turn out, I don’t know what I’m diving into or how I’ll land. I can't even actually dive - I’ve never been able to master the logistics of it. I don’t know where I’ll end up.

But what I do know, the invitation is to trust.

Trust that we will have the grace we need to get through the day and shoes for the road we're on.

Trust that even if everything goes to hell in a handbasket, we’ll be ok - whatever ok even means.

Trust that hairdressers will open again and I'll be able to get my hair cut for the first time in over a year.

Trust that goodness and mercy are never far away.Trust

Trust in the goodness of God, at the heart of humanity, planted more deeply than all that is wrong.

Trust that I’ll find green meadows and peaceful streams wherever the diving board ends up.

Spirit of adventure, holy inviter of ledge-dancing faith and precipice living; be our courage now as we tread nervously the lines of fear and trust." Strahan, Prayer Vol 1

Pocahontas dive GIFs - Get the best gif on GIFER

And then there are the days which are just a bleak, dreary, ominous grey. And no amount of good routine, calendar of good things, welcoming prayer or choosing joy are gonna change the fact that we are still here.

Still at home.

Still isolated from our people.

Still trying to somehow get through furlough/homeschooling/unemployment/job hunting/work/the day without completely losing our mind.

Still waiting for this whole thing to end.

Still here, getting through a global health crisis.

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Away from me with your 'it's a season of personal growth we're gonna be better people on the other side of this.' I don't know what happened to love joy and peace Rachel, she hasn't been seen in time. But grumpy, short tempered, lazy, so-help-me-God-if-you-breathe-in-that-annoying-way-again version of Rachel? She shows up every day.

Get behind me with your 'we’re all in this together and God is in control' because if anything, this has made inequality all the worse and over 1,000 people in the UK died from this thing yesterday and I don't really know where God is in that - none of the standard answers make sense.

I would very much like to be a tree planted by the river not fearing drought or pestilence. But I'm not. I'm def more like those bedraggled trees on the side of a grungy carpark within sight of a fancy cocktail bar, bingo hall and nandos.

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tbh - it's an Emotional Support Brownie kinda life right now

I am grateful for all that I have. And I know I could have it so much worse – my lockdown struggles are just the easier ones. Lord have mercy on everyone facing the very worst of days - I hold you in my heart and in my prayers.

But I would still quite like my Before Times life back🙏🏾

And I don’t really know where to go with all the guilt and frustration and monotony but this from Henri Nouwen has been resounding in my head and heart for a few years and seems all the more true right now:

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.”

And so, as I did every Friday during advent and for new year, I will don my Good Clothes (which haven’t seen the light of day in almost a year 😭😭😭😭) and good lipstick. Stick on the Boss Bitch 2021 Survival Playlist. And then break the bread, pour the wine and give thanks – in remembrance of a God who is not indifferent to our struggles, in celebration of all that is good, in lament for all that we have lost and in hope that we will have all we need to get through the days.

Join me?

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Break the bread. Pour the wine. Wear your good clothes.

I don’t know how to slow down. You would have thought that after all these months (years? decades?) of restrictions and queueing and patiently waiting for things to get better I would have adopted a more relaxed pace of life.

But no. I haven’t.

I have got really good at noticing The Things (like this tree full of parakeets) – I just do it at breakneck speed.

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I love going for a walk but I have to be told to slow down. I love yoga but I have to skip the bit at the end when you just lie on the floor. I love loose-leaf tea (because yes to reducing what I send to landfill) but I find it agonisingly painful waiting the advised 3 to 6 minutes for it to brew, even when I have nowhere to go and no place to be but 3 metres away back at the table replying to another work email. THAT’S 180 TO 360 WHOLE ACTUAL SECONDS OF MY LIFE I WON’T GET BACK compared to the zero brew time of just-stir-it-instant-tea.

And so, after a few weeks of undrinkable weak tea and despite my very best of intentions, I switched back to teabags - fairtrade obs, I haven't abandoned all my morals just yet.

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I was lamenting this very great struggle of not doing the thing I wanted to do but in fact doing the very thing I didn’t want to do, when I was challenged by a good friend to see it as a spiritual practice.

BOOM. Quite possibly the only thing that could convince me to change my attitude and behaviour. You know I love 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

And so, you'll now find me trying to use those 3 to 6 minutes to breathe slowly and remind myself that the world will keep spinning whether or not I wait these 3 to 6 minutes, that my value as a person isn’t measured by my productivity in those 3 to 6 minutes (or any other time for that matter) and that these 3 to 6 minutes are a tinsey tiny act of resistance to culture that desires me to be constantly running from one thing to the next - even if its just to check my inbox.

Grab yourself some looseleaf tea and join me?

Break the bread. Pour the wine. Walk slowly and let the tea brew.

Dear Friends, Beloved Reader,

Here we are again. How you holding up?

I've reached the 'somehow ended up watching far too many episodes of Escape to Chateau DIY and am now convinced I need to buy a rundown chateau in the south of France and spend my life fixing it' stage of the pandemic.

chateauIt's gonna be great. You can come stay and we shall sit in the orchard, under the French sun, drinking wine and eating bread and cheese.orchardorcharrd wineSo yeh, Lockdown 2 is mostly creating a Chateau moodboard. This is kinda saving my life right now.

Many years ago now, a wise old priest invited me to come speak at his church .

“What do you want me to talk about?” I asked.

"Come tell us what is saving your life right now,” he answered.

It was as if he had swept his arm across a dusty table and brushed all the formal china to the ground.

I did not have to try to say correct things that were true for everyone. I did not have to use theological language that conformed to the historical teachings of the church. All I had to do was figure out what my life depended on. All I had to do was figure out how I stayed as close to that reality as I could.” From An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor

It is the year of our Lord 2020, consider the formal china swept to the floor. What is saving your life right now?

Alongside dreaming of Chateau Life, saving mine is:

  • Lunch time walks. Still. After becoming a giant dust bowl over the summer, the common is now a massive mud pit. The ground either springs back underfoot or tries to steal your shoes. Turns out, the world is not a cold dead place.
  • Sunday morning walks – life, questions, uncertainty, hope. We walk and talk it out. Conclusions – we know far less than we thought we did. Life is way more uncertain and far more unpredictable than we like to admit. Hope is still a thing, somehow.
  • After work walks - shout out to everyone marching through the dark just to hang out with friends.
  • Less sitting, more dancing. And walking - obvs.
  • Mixed Up podcast. “Going to the hairdressers is just as stressful as some people find the dentist. You just never know if they’ll be able to handle your hair and how they’ll interpret what you ask for.” NEVER BEEN MORE SEEN IN ALL MY LIFE. Going to the hairdressers is terrifying. This is fact.
  • The calendar of good things is back (its mostly food - and walks):

Teach us to remember, God; make our minds a storehouse for past promises kept, all the good things and hope fulfilled - so that we can be a prophet to our own present, a watchman on the walls of our own still night.” Strahan Coleman

  • Spiritual direction. I offload all my messy theological questions, I get some good questions thrown back at me – somehow this is helping me find my way through.
  • This.

When it feels like the dark
Lingers longer than the night
When the shadows feel like giants
Are You chasing me down?
Tell me where could I run
From Your light, where could I hide?
Hemmed within Your precious thoughts
There's no hiding from Your love
Highs and lows
Lord, You're with me either way it goes
Should I rise or should I fall
Even so
Lord, Your mercy is an even flow
You're too good to let me go
Should I dance on the heights
Or make my bed among the depths
Your mercy waits at every end
Like You planned it from the start
Should the dawn come with wings
Or find me far-side of the sea
There Your hand still fastens me
Ever closer to Your heart
Highs and lows
Lord, You're with me either way it goes
Should I rise or should I fall
You are faithful through it all
Highs and lows
You surround me either way it goes
Should I rise or should I fall
Lord, You're with me through it all
Highs and lows
In the rhythms of Your grace, I know
You're too good to let me go

May you find a quiet place within you – deep and untouchable to the violent, raging voices of the moment – to hear God remind you ‘I am with you till the end of the age.’ Strahan

At least once  a week you’ll find me arguing with the wind:

Me: No. I will not do it. I refuse

The Wind:

Me: I have a work zoom in an hour, I’ll be wearing my work pjs, the least I can do is have hair that looks somewhat profesh and not like I’ve just lost a fight with my hairbrush.

The Wind:

Me: Leave. Me. Alone. Wash Day is 4 days away and I don’t have emotional capacity to deal with giant hair before then.

The Wind:

Me: *sighs, unclips hair, mutters obscenities*

The Wind:screenshot_20201006-214518188005253141173538.png

Yeh, so I argue with the wind – its 2020, I don't even attempt to pretend like I'm normal anymore.

Turns out, letting the wind run riot with your hair can be one of the most grounding and commonplace spiritual practises (turns out this is one of my most valuable lessons from 2019).

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

Letting the wind run riot with my hair reminds me that, try as I might, I can't control everything so I may as well stop trying to keep the world spinning.

It reminds me the Spirit runs where it will, wild and uncontainable. So who I am to try and box it in – was I there when the foundations of the world were laid and the the morning stars sang together? Have I ever caused the dawn to rise in the East?

It forces me to b r e a t h e and then pay attention to where I am.

It lets me know I need to book a haircut. I’m thinking 2020 might be the year I go Beyonce Blonde - thoughts and prayers for this big decision much appreciated.

It asks me if I really believe that God can create a feast in the wilderness. And if I say yes, it calls me to a deeper level of trust, to throw off heaviness and walk in freedom. She who the son sets free is free indeed, right? If I say no, it reminds me that God is with me and Aslan is on the move, even when I can't see it.

And if nothing else, it makes me laugh. ANY EXCUSE TO LAUGH IS WELCOME IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 2020.

So yeh, you’ll often find me on Tooting Common – arguing with the wind and then laughing to myself.

Have you got any everday spiritual practises that keep you grounded?

Break the bread. Pour the wine. Give thanks. LET THE WIND BLOW.

Screenshot_20201006-085317For when you miss the mess and noise and chaos and laughs of your people crammed round a long table covered in food and life before the limit was 6 -

And the table will be wide.
And the welcome will be wide.
And the arms will open wide to gather us in.
And our hearts will open wide to receive.

And we will come as children who trust there is enough.
And we will come unhindered and free.
And our aching will be met with bread.
And our sorrow will be met with wine.

And we will open our hands to the feast without shame.
And we will turn toward each other without fear.
And we will give up our appetite for despair.
And we will taste and know of delight.

And we will become bread for a hungering world.
And we will become drink for those who thirst.
And the blessed will become the blessing.
And everywhere will be the feast.

– © Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.

The table will be wide! And I’m already compiling a menu for when we can feast together.

Break the bread. Pour the wine. Give Thanks.

Dear Friends, Beloved Reader. I am (almost) at a loss for words. I HAVE JUST SURVIVED AN ATTEMPT ON MY LIFE.

It was just a normal Tuesday morning wfh but in the time it took for me to leave the room and make a cup of tea, Lo and Behold, a DEAD MOUSE APPEARED NEXT TO THE SOFA.

Yes, a mouse. A DEAD MOUSE. JUST CASUALLY LYING THERE DEAD ON THE FLOOR AND TRYING TO KILL ME.

HOW DID IT GET THERE? WHY WAS IT THERE? WHY WAS IT DEAD? I’d thought giant spiders trying to kill me during yoga was bad enough.

Dear Friends, Beloved Reader, we panicked. Of course we did. And then we bought all the mouse killing devices we could afford. I try and avoid Amazon (because: taxes, poor treatment of their employees and the Amazon guy has more money than is moral) but in this one instance, thank God for prime.

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Thank you for your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

No, of course I’m not sleeping properly, every strange sound and flicker of light could be another mouse trying to kill me. I am maintaining CONSTANT VIGILANCE. I peer round the living room door every morning, scanning the floor for any signs of another potentially life-threatening encounter with a dead mouse. Walking past the sofa gives me flashbacks. To be honest, it’s getting a little exhausting.

This past week I’ve been thinking about clean slates and what our lives would look like if we stepped into the rest of the summer with a mind and heart wiped clean of the dust of lockdown. Not to ignore all that has happened but what if we could take the lessons of the past few months and apply them in making the next few as good as they can be in these weird Corona Days?

Not gonna lie, two of my faves are getting married on Saturday and I can't be there because corona. What if, instead of adding this to my Rachel-is-Bitter-Because-Corona-Has-Stolen-All-These-Things-From-Her list, I wiped the slate clean and starting tuning my heart to gratitude and thankfulness instead?

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MUCH LOVE TO TEAM TAYLOR 2020

We abandoned the calendar of good things in June. Even my Type 9 live-in-the-moment self struggled to find one good thing when every single day was exactly the same. And when I look into the rest of the summer still being at home, its hard to imagine how life can be anything other than monotonous and a bit of a waste of time. But what if I wiped the slate clean and looked into the summer with gratitude and thankfulness?

I'm kicking off with a few good things from the past few months:

  • Phone calls. I am my mother’s daughter - I just love to chat on the phone. Lockdown has given me the chance to call people I never ever would have called before because it just would have been weird. Much love to all my millennials pushing through their fear of the phone just so I can talk at them for a bit.
  • The grace for the day – from the days when everything was ok, to the days when I was a complete mess.
  • More time for reading. PSA: when you can hardly leave your house let alone the country do not read books all about wild adventure. It will convince you that the first thing you should do when the world reopens is quit your life, move abroad and find an adventure.
  • Living in pyjamas: work pyjamas, weekend pyjamas, night pyjamas, food shop pyjamas. I now consider wearing a bra and earrings the epitome of fancy.screenshot_20200722-2012153515448277954389766.png
  • Supporting local businesses. “You got cake from the café again Rachel? They know your order now?” I AM SUPPORTING A LOCAL BUSINESS. HOW CAN I GET BRUNCH THERE IN THE FUTURE IF IT DOESN’T SURVIVE THE NEXT FEW WEEKS?!! I NEED TO INVEST NOW SO I CAN REAP THE (BRUNCH) REWARDS LATER.
  • Snail mail. Who doesn't love to send/receive good post?img-20200718-wa00011649181499132625062.jpeg

Do I need to wipe the slate clean and stop taking this paranoid is-there-a-mouse-trying-to-kill-me energy into every single day? Yes.

Do I need to wipe the slate clean and stop taking my negative lockdown energy into every single day? Yes.

Do I need to start focussing on the good things? Yes.

Teach us to remember, God; make our minds a storehouse for past promises kept, all the good things and hope fulfilled - so that we can be a prophet to our own present, a watchman on the walls of our own still night." Prayer Vol 1, Strahan Coleman

What are some of your good things from the past few months?

So, here we are. 3 months of lockdown done and dusted. Is it me or have the fires of our global/national/personal/work crises gotten all the hotter these past few weeks?

How are you holding up? Excited by life opening up a bit in July? Daunted by the second wave it will undoubtedly unleash?

Anyone else just done? Done with the banana bread? Done with online study? Done with slowness and silence and solitude? Done with not being able to go out for drinks and dance until the early hours of the morning? Done with zoom? (Though actually, the Zoom is still strong with Friday Night Wine - turns out, I'm a pretty good yoga teacher). screenshot_20200624-1437245458958343651526941.pngDone with your good hair days being wasted because you’re sat inside the house? Done with not having a haircut? Done with all your good clothes and heels languishing in your wardrobe? Yes, these are the most pressing issues facing the world right now.

screenshot_20200624-1416554068289407330215113.pngAre you done with each week bringing a new revelation of something that has been cancelled/postponed/lost?  Done with inequality? Done with the death and the unemployment and uncertainty of when it will all end?

Yep. I hear you. Please summon the Karen who knows how we can get refund for Jumanji 2020.

Take heart, turns out, we’re not the only ones who are done. Apparently there are three stages to dealing with crisis:

  1. Emergency: energy levels increase as we tap into our unknown reserves to deal with urgent tasks.
  2. Regression: we roll back to a less mature stage, we get tired, lose our sense of purpose, we retreat to an emotional comfort zone.
  3. Recovery: we start figuring out how to move out of and beyond the crisis.

Welcome to the Regression/Ecclesiastes EVERYTHING IS UTTERLY MEANINGLESS stage of lockdown. Yay! Go team!

@haleydrewthis
@haleydrewthis

So, how do we get to recovery. I have no idea, but here’s what I’m trying to remember:

  • Hold things lightly, give up trying to control what you can’t control. Embrace the spiritual practice of letting the wind mess up and your hair. Remember that you trust God.
  • If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest ocean, even there God will guide me and even there God will support me. Even there, even now.
  • Even the darkest nights are temporary. God is the everlasting light.
  • These are the days we practised our faith for. We have trained for this.
  • Is my endurance in need of hope? Fix your eyes on Jesus and keep moving toward him.
  • Is my hope in need of endurance? Fix your eyes on Jesus and keep moving toward him.
  • Dance more.
  • Life with God is not on hold - even though it feels like everything else is.
  • Turn all that’s good into thanks and all that’s wrong into prayer and action.
  • Every high’s been low. And every night’s seen day. Every good knows bad. Everyone happy knows sad. Everyone healed knows pain. - Lovkn Faithful to Remain

May you see the storm as a sacred invitation to otherworldly rest; to faith that doesn't the storm to end to stay with God in peace." Commoners Communion