Author Archives: SherlyH

Remember how I said I loved creating routine and structure? Ahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Ha! I do. I love routine and structure. For a while. 

And then, once that while of weeks/months/years has passed, I’m done. And instead of routine and structure being the trellis on which I grow, it puts limits on my thinking, it stifles my creativity and it frustrates my decision making. I love routine and structure, until I’m over it.  

And Friends, Beloved Reader, I AM OVER IT.

The Great Big Future is unknown but my day-to-day is the exact same thing. Every. Single. Day. Over. And. Over. And. Over. Again.

The Calendar of Good Things is mostly pizza, Gogglebox and Sewing Bee these days. Although, I've somehow become a 1940s housewife because we got a new hoover this week and its all I can talk about. I now spend half the day wandering around the house admiring how beautiful the carpets look. screenshot_20200528-2137087282404435362683063.png

My life is routine. Resistance to wonder has been activated. But ultimate LOLZ because my word for this year is ADVENTURE. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?! (Like rain-e-ain on your wedding day)

I crawled over the start line of 2020 an exhausted mess. Having pushed the limits of my capacity through the Summer of Celebration and then on into Autumn and Christmas. Most Sundays I crawled into church wondering how on earth I’d get through the week ahead and begging God to revive me. God is faithful - I was given grace enough to make it through each day.

I realised focusing on adventure, in a year when I had none planned, would force me to slow down and approach life differently. No uprooting myself from my much loved Croydon people, no starting a new job, no big trips abroad, no living solely in the limits of my capacity. As the great Tsh Oxenrieder puts it:

Wanderlust and my longing for home are birthed from the same place: a desire to find the ultimate spot this side of heaven. When I stir soup at my stove I drift to a distant island. When I'm on the road with my backpack, my heart wanders back to my couch and my favourite cup of coffee.

My equal pull between both are fuelled by my hardwired desire for heaven on earth. And I know I'll never find it. "Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees it takes off his shoes, the rest just sit around and pluck blackberries" unless the flickering bushes compel me to remove my shoes, traveling the world will never satisfy. Neither will the liturgy of normal life back home." From At Home in the World.

tomasz-olszewski-4s7zbRR43As-unsplashIts much easier for me to find God when I’ve chosen to test my limits in a wild adventure. My real challenge is in a comfortable and (mostly) predictable life where I don’t even notice I’m happily picking blackberries and ignoring God in the bushes on fire in front of me.

I knew I needed to find the adventure in the everyday but I never imagined the everyday would be confined to the four walls of home, Tooting Common and the supermarket. How much adventure is to be found in Zoom? And no, backgrounds of the beach/mountains don’t count.

So, here we are. Day whatever, of week whatever of the absolute write-off that is 2020. Resistance to wonder has been activated but I am fighting back. Turns out, wonder is a gateway to adventure. Turns out, wonder can be a spiritual practice.

I do the same walk every lunchtime. I’ve learned to consider the grass and the Queen Anne’s Lace and the nettles and the bluebells coming and going (I’ve also learned to ignore the giant rats). My phone is full of photos of flowers and trees and blue sky. I’ve learned to pay attention to the shape of the petals and the grouping of the leaves and the texture of the bark on the conker trees. Are they not clothed in splendour? Are they not wonderfully made? (I've also decided which trees will be the most fun to climb)img_20200528_2102568980112747719861975.jpg

Turns out, there’s no room for monotony when my eyes are wide with wonder.

Do I know how the dimensions of the earth were determined? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Have I ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east? Have I ever visited the treasuries of snow? Does the rain have a father? Who is the mother of ice? Can I hold back the movement of the stars? Can I ensure the proper sequence of seasons or guide the constellations of the Bear with her cubs across the heavens?

Questions from Job 38 (This is a poem. Do not come at me with your science and water cycles and laws of nature)

Forget the Enneagram, Myers-Brigg and any other personality testing, this notebook is the most accurate description of who I am:img_20200528_2128286275843055040856609114.jpg

Turns out, wonder is a part of life in all its fullness, learning to love the sky you're under and embracing the liturgy of the everyday.

May you come to see your ordinary-now as the great place God has you in, as the great moment God has given to you and as the great opportunity it is if only you’ll awake to its wonder." Strachan Coleman, Commoners Communion

Where are you finding adventure in lockdown?

What are you learning right now?

I ask my people this question all the time.

What am I supposed to be learning right now? I ask God this question all the time too. Somewhere along the lines I learned to look for the lesson in challenging situations. I used to think it was a super mature way to approach something difficult.

Turns out, I most often use this as a way to bargain myself out dealing with something difficult rather than embrace mature personal growth - because if you can grab hold of the lesson in the midst of the challenge, then you get to jump straight to the conclusion with less blood, sweat, tears and late night existential crisis phonecalls to your committee, right? RIGHT?! Yes please I will take the conclusion without the process.

So, you know, seen as we have no choice but to deal with these Corona Times, can we all just get on and learn our collective lesson so we can complete the level and jump forward to the end? Thanking you kindly for your cooperation.

But also, recognising what we're learning does actually make it a bit easier to deal with.

What are you learning right now?

Me? I’m learning to live in the tension of hope and disappointment.

I'm learnng to walk in trust through the Valley of the Shadow of Corona, through every real and imagined scenario of even if, even when and even though.

I’m learning to surrender my security in planning and knowing what’s coming next and instead replace it with faith in a God who is always with us.

I’m learning that time is a false concept – because March was at least 72 days long, April has only been two and even though I eat all day I’m still hungry.

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I'm learning that how you frame it shapes how you deal with it. Instead of I'm-stuck-with-the-people-in-this-house, its I-get-to-spend-time-with-the-people-I-live-with. Instead of my-hair-is-in-desperate-need-of-a-cut, its I’m-growing-my-hair-out (out of style, out of shape and all the way the floor apparently). Instead of why-has-God-let-this-happen, its where-is-God-at-work-in-the-midst-of-this?

I'm learning that I picked the perfect time to borrow the LOTR extended editions – if anyone needs me, I’m somewhere in Middle Earth for the foreseeable future.

I'm learning to live with all the things I don’t know – when this will end, how this will end, how much damage it will inflict across the world, when I’ll get to see my people again, if I’ll get sick, if you’ll get sick, if we’ll all make it through, if I’ll still have a job, why God let it happen, why God hasn’t ended it yet.

I'm learning how to endure in these Corona Times.

I'm learning how to abide in these Corona Times.

I'm learning how to choose joy in these Corona Times.

I'm learning to laugh and laugh and laugh because 2017 was all about endurance, 2018 about abiding and 2019 about joy. This should be my moment. I have spent the past 3 years preparing. I should be dispensing my hard-earned wisdom for you lesser mortals at the daily briefing. Instead, I’m super-chill-this-is-totally-manageable one day and then please-God-when -will-it-all-be-over the next day.

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I'm learning that when I miss my Nan’s cooking I start listening to reggae.

I'm learning that I’ve reached the point of lockdown where I will quite happily spend a couple of hours watching Britain’s Got Talent and crying along with all the sob stories: “This is for my sick Gran/my mute brother/to make my kids proud/because I was bullied.” Those producers earn their money - they manipulate my emotions so well I don’t even care.

I am learning that despite thinking I dressed for me, turns out dressing for me actually means wearing pajamas 24/7.

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I am learning that as much as I like to think I'm wild and free, I LOVE routine and faced with time unconstrained I will create a new schedule. Food, exercise, church, family, friends, Steph & Rachel’s Saturday Night Musical Sing-A-Long - my lockdown planner has a time and place for it all. DO YOU NEED HELP WITH A FRAMEWORK? I CAN HELP. I WOULD LOVE TO HELP. I WILL HELP YOU.

I am learning who my neighbours are – we sit by the front window to work for 8 hours a day. We know who is going by. We get worried when Checked Shirt Man and his family don’t go for their daily walk at 12.21pm. Are they sick?! Do they need anything?! Should we go over there and find out?!

I am learning that the invitation, lockdown or not, is still ‘Hey Rach, come take a walk on the wild side.’ And I just can’t say no.

The invitation to joy, peace, love, trust - life in all its fullness. By Jenedy Paige
By Jenedy Paige

I am learning how to get through a pandemic.

What are you learning?

So, how’s your Easter weekend shaping up?

I should be in the kitchen prepping a feast for all the fam coming over later. I should be facing the agonising decision of which of my fancy clothes to wear for Easter morning church – because just like Christmas, if I’m not overdressed on Easter Sunday is it even Easter?

The Feast of Good Fridays Past
The Feast of Good Fridays Past

And then on Sunday I should be celebrating with my people before Feast Round 2 at my Nan’s – roast lamb, rice n peas, curry goat, fried chicken and crunchy potatoes. ALL THE GOOD THINGS AND SECOND ONLY TO CHRISTMAS DINNER.

Instead, celebrations have to happen via zoom. Family are only a few miles away but in this lockdown life they may as well be across an ocean. And I’m probs having lentils for dinner. No roast lamb. No fried chicken and no crunchy potatoes [insert all the crying face emojis here].

in the context of, you know, a global crisis, this is not a big deal. But even so, I’m just a little bit broken hearted at this Easter in a time of Corona.

Good thing Easter isn’t actually about the food or traditions but instead the gateway to life in all its fullness. A life that promises peace and hope and blessing through every circumstance, including, as hard as it might seem to believe right now, through global crisis and escalating death tolls.

Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5 v 4.

I never really understood this – how is it comforting when you’re can’t breathe, can’t think, on the floor in the depths of grief? But then I read this:

Maybe Jesus was simply blessing the ones around him that day who didn’t otherwise receive blessing, who had come to believe that, for them, blessings would never be in the cards. I mean, come on, doesn’t that just sound like something Jesus would do? Extravagantly throwing around blessings as though they grew on trees?" Nadia Bolz-Weber A Benediction

Extravagantly throwing around blessings as though they grew on trees [insert all the heart emojis here]. And somehow 'Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted' sounded more like hope and a promise.

I'm pretty sure we could all do with a bit more hope right now. There is grace here for all of us in this Easter in a time of Corona.

Blessed are those who mourn for you shall be comforted.

Blessed are the fundraisers facing gaps in charity income, for the funds shall come in.

Blessed are the furloughed for your days shall be filled with good things.

Blessed are the huggers for you shall receive allllll the hugs again.

Blessed are those for whom staying at home is not safe for you shall find security.

Blessed are those who are worried sick for you shall recieve peace.

Blessed are those missing sport for one day it shall return (My family have replaced all football discussions with random chat about cats. My father simply cannot handle this but I'm pretty sure its a just retribution for letting football monopolise family gatherings all my life).

Blessed are those trying not to freak out over how this will hit the developing world, for God will (please) have mercy and richer nations will look beyond their borders.

Blessed are the homeschooling parents for you shall figure out how to do long division.

Blessed are those making it through on the 80% for you shall receive all you need.

Blessed are the unemployed for you shall work again.

Blessed are those who plans and celebrations have been so unexpectedly interuppted, for there shall be space to re-make them.

Blessed are those struggling with the uncertainty of it all, for you shall find stability.

Blessed our are hospital caterers and cleaners and nurses and doctors and administrators and everyone else in the NHS that keeps it all going, for your people love you.screenshot_20200410-1049174866719997024794598.png

Blessed are the breadmakers for you shall perfect your sourdough (and when you do please let me know how because mine have always been a disaster).

Blessed are the small business owners for your customers will return.

Blessed are the stockpilers for you shall have peace of mind (and pasta for dinner).

Blessed are those having to remind their housemates that dogs are for life and not just for lockdown and even if that wasn’t true Battersea dogs home is closed at the moment so we can’t go adopt one right now anyway.

Blessed are the church leaders figuring out how to guide their people through a pandemic, for you shall recieve wisdom.

Blessed are those having to remind everyone to go on mute in group video calls for you shall have good audio quality.

Blessed are those having to teach their parents how to use new tech, for you shall receive patience in abundance.

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Blessed are the tired and lonely and afraid, for you shall be filled with life-giving radiance.

Blessed are the please-can-life-just-go-back-to-normal-ers, for this season will pass.

Blessed are those praying for the first time in years, for God is listening.

Easter speaks hope that all these good things are possible.

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. Matthew 5 v 3 - 9 The Message

Friends, Beloved Reader, you’re blessed when you’re figuring out how to live through a pandemic, for God is with you.

Much grace and peace and virtual hugs this Easter x x

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What is saving your life right now?

Many years ago now, a wise old priest invited me to come speak at his church in Alabama. “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 DCT (During Corona Times), consider the formal china swept to the floor - because if you can’t mess up your fancy table setting DCT when can you?

What is saving your life right now? (other than staying at home, obvs)

Saving my life right now is: Sunlight. Taking photos of beautiful things on the Boris sanctioned daily exercise of lunchtime walks. Exercising wonder. Reminding myself this is just for a season.

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Abandoning all notions of being a part-time vegetarian – turns out, in times of global crisis, all I want is comfort food. Turns out, lentils are not comfort food and so, when the going gets tough, the tough eat burgers.

Psalms that lament. Psalms that praise. Psalms that start with lament and turn to praise. The clocks going forward meaning we had one less hour of this to deal with. Yoga. Cleaning everything in sight. Updates on the latest Isolationships. This painting:

The invitation to joy, peace, love, trust - life in all its fullness. By Jenedy Paige
By Jenedy Paige

Good music - praise be for the Quarantunes playlist - turning it up 11 and dancing for joy. Friends sending daily encouragement. Knowing God is present and at work even if it doesn’t feel like it. Online workouts with the gym crew. Not checking the news more than twice a day. Phonecalls with my people. Zoom calls with my people. Memes that perfectly capture life as we now know it DCT:

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The Calendar of Thanks:

Everyday we write one thing we are thankful for.
Everyday we write one thing we are thankful for.

Virtual church – much love and socially distanced hugs to all my Grace and Streatham loves. Hope that this season will pass and we will live in the glorious future of life ACT (After Corona Times). The internet. Finding the flow of new routines and creating some order within chaos:

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Knowing that, whilst they might not be the biggest issues right now, its ok to grieve the loss of: being with my people, routine, structure, any semblance of certainty, seeing horizons, the hustle and bustle of London, being angry with tourists reach the barriers before looking for their oyster cards, Easter weekend food.

Keeping track of every time a neighbour leaves their house so we can let the police know if they're not sticking to lockdown laws - we sit by the front window 8 hours a day, we see everything (shout out to No 243 who did a great job cleaning their windows on Friday).

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I beg to differ - we have top intel.

"As surely as the sun rises, as surely as it sets, we anticpate your goodness, we anticpate the rest." Interlude - Torwalt

Knowing I have enough leave-in conditioner to last a couple of months (if black women ran the goverment you know for sure black hair shops would be in the essential business category). I may or may not have stockpiled.

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Frequent phonecalls with my mum and sister – BCT (Before Corona Times) I called my mother on Sunday afternoons and my sister every few weeks. Now I talk to them most days. I don’t know why. None of us have anything interesting to say – we’ve all been sat at home.

Being extra. Yes, I put on my fancy Going Out clothes, spent the morning straightening my hair and putting on a full face of makeup just to sit in the house and order in brunch. Yes, on Wednesdays we wear pink and Fridays we wear formal business attire to the new office at home. And yes, I was the only one wearing a cocktail dress and fancy earrings for Friday Night Wine Zoom. Being extra is in my DNA and I make no apologies.

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Contemplative prayer and the Lectio365 App. Eating a Malteaser everytime someone on TV says unprecedented (am rapidly running out of Malteasers - please send supplies).

God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.

Every morning I ask for the grace for the day and every day it is given. Break the bread. Pour the wine. Give thanks.

What is saving your life right now?

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Friends, Beloved Reader.

Whoever in their wildest dreams/nightmares thought we would be here. Isolated. Distanced. At home.

I did not sign up for life in this dystopian alternate universe. Can you please wake me up when September ends the matrix has been reset/the ring destroyed?

And yet.

God is good and God is loving and God is with us - through the grief and fear and uncertainty across the world. Through the anxiety and pain we feel right now and that yet to come. Through the daily briefings from Boris. Through all the unanswered questions being thrown toward heaven.

God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good.

And so, I have hope. Kinda scared to write this in case in a couple of weeks I look back and hysterically laugh at my own naivety but here goes:

I am hopeful that we will lean into trusting God through the mystery and uncertainty in a way that resets what we thought possible and unleashes bold faith that enables us to run with the wild of the Spirit into the immeasurably more.

I am hopeful that in the shaking of things we thought unshakable we will discover our real values, where our trust is placed and the courage to reshape our lives with our eyes set on Jesus, making decisions based on faith and not fear.

I am hopeful that God will feel more real and more present to us all.

I am hopeful my hairdressers will reopen soon because I really need a haircut already.

I am hopeful my favourite place for brunch will keep delivering.

I am hopeful this reawakening of community will last throughout our lives.

I am hopeful we will all grow in compassion and love, that we would no longer be able to ignore those fleeing chaos and danger.

I am hopeful this will shape our nation for the better.

I am hopeful this will shape our world for the better.

I am hopeful we will learn new rhythms of rest and prayer and sabbath.

I am hopeful the oat milk black market will keep me stocked in dairy-free milk (STOP STOCKPILING NON-DAIRY ALTERNATIVES WHEN YOU CAN DRINK COW'S MILK).

I am hopeful the internets will cope.

I am hopeful that in three weeks time I'll still remember how to apply mascara.

I am hopeful we will discover how to be present for our people whilst being apart.

I am hopeful I won’t kill my housemates when living and working alongside each other is just too much. I am hopeful they won't kill me!

I am hopeful miracles will abound and when we are asked where God was in 2020 we will say “Here. God was here. And this is my story of God’s goodness.”

I am hopeful that we will dance in the land of the living.

I am hopeful God will empower you with inner strength through the Spirit, that your roots will grow down deep into God’s love and keep you strong. I am hopeful you will grow in your understanding of how wide, how long, how high, and how deep God’s love is. (Ephesians 3v16 -19)

I am hopeful we will reach the other side more loving, more gracious, more trusting, more patient and more Wild.

I am hopeful we will discover that most of those meetings actually could have been a two-sentence email.

I am hopeful that at somepoint soon we will stop storing up earthly treasures of hand sanitiser/loo roll/pasta.

I am hopeful we will remember that darkness has not overcome the light.

I am hopeful we will know God giving us the grace for the day and filling in all our gaps.

I am hopeful that I will remember that this is just a season. I am hopeful I will live it well.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15v13

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

Disclaimer: I have hope but it doesn't mean I don't see the darkness. Hope is not my overiding emotion right now - I’m an optimist but staring down a world-wide pandemic is something else. WHO EVEN KNEW PANDEMIC WAS A REAL WORD BEFORE LAST WEEK?! This is is just as much a choice as joy is. This is a won't-let-go-until-we-see-blessings kinda hope. This is a we-have-no-option-but-to-hope kinda hope.

Break the bread. Pour the wine. Give thanks.

I hold you in my heart and in my prayers. May grace and peace overflow throughout your day/isolation/lockdown/distancing. May goodness and mercy chase you down.

What are you hoping for?

This was right by work. Best graffiti ever.
This was right by work. Best graffiti ever.

P.S. I am already BEYOND EXCITED to be back together again. The joy awaiting in reunion is already too much for my heart to hold.

Its world book day! Rejoice! Celebrate! Books are the greatest!

A few months ago one of my faves tagged me in a book challenge – post one book a day every day for a week. I was SUPER KEEN because I love books and I love sharing what I'm reading. Obvs, I only managed one day because life. But now, here for your delight and edification (and beacause we all may end up at home more than we thought): THESE BOOKS CHANGED MY LIFE AND YOU SIMPLY MUST READ THEM.

First up, is Love Does by Bob Goff. Joy. Whimsy. Jesus. This book changed everything. I LOVE Bob. I don’t leave the country without this book.

I want to go barefoot because it's holy ground; I want to be running because time is short and none of us has as much runway as we think we do; and I want it to be a fight because that's where we can make a difference. That's what love does.”

I even ditched food so they’d be enough space in my bag for it to be carried up a mountain – and food is my very favourite thing. SUCH IS MY DEVOTION. I give this book to EVERYONE – birthday presents, wedding presents, new job presents, thank-you-for-being-a-good-friend presents, how-to-be-a-better-friend presents, sorry-I’m-leaving-the-country-but-let-this-book-distract-you-from-your-sorrow presents… any excuse really.

Next up, is the book that is saving my life right now: An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor. I LOVE Barbara. This book helped me to see the sacred in the unlikeliest of places.

Reverence for creation comes fairly easily for most people. Reverence for other people presents more of a challenge, especially if those people's lives happen to impinge upon your own... I have an easier time loving humankind than I do particluar human beings... Particular human beings rarey do things the way I think they should do them and when they prevent me from doing what I think I should be doing then I can run short on reverence for them."

Third is At Home in The World by Tsh Oxenreider. Tsh and her husband sold all their things and took their 3 kids travelling around the world a year. This book changed everything. Tsh let me know I wasn’t the only one who wants both adventure and routine at the same time.

Wanderlust and my longing for home are birthed from the same place: a desire to find the ultimate spot this side of heaven. When I stir soup at my stove I drift to a distant island. When I'm on the road with my backpack, my heart wanders back to my couch and my favourite cup of coffee.

My equal pull between both are fuelled by my hardwired desire for heaven on earth. And I know I'll never find it. "Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees it takes off his shoes, the rest just sit around and pluck blackberries" unless the flickering bushes compel me to remove my shoes, traveling the world will never satisfy. Neither will the liturgy of normal life back home."

Fourth is The Way of The Heart by Henri Nouwen. This book changed everything. I’ve pretty much highlighted and underlined the entire thing. I LOVE Henri. This book helped me to see how silence is more than just being quiet, solitude more than just being alone and prayer more than just words.

Solitude shows us the way to let our behaviour be shaped not by the compulsion of the world but by our new mind, the mind of Christ. Silence prevents us from being suffocated by our wordy world and teaches us to speak the Word of God. Finally, unceasing prayer gives solitude and silence their real meaning. In unceasing prayer we descend with the mind in to the heart. Thus, we enter through our heart into the heart of God, who embraces all of history with his eternally creative and recreative love.”

Fifth is The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claibourne. This book changed everything. I LOVE Shane. I recently heard him speak and was reminded of how he has such a loving way of challenging what you think it could mean to follow Jesus. Another way is possible.

Our world is desperately in need of imagination, for we have spent so much creativity devising ways of destroying our enemies that some folks don’t think its even possible (much less practical) to love them. We have placed such idolatrous faith in our ability to protect ourselves that we call it more courageous to die killing than to die loving. The faith we have in the market and in the imagination we employ to acquire wealth has so far surpassed our ingenuity to share we cannot help but wonder if the contemporary gospel means good news to the poor whose bellies scream out to God.”

Last is Inspired by Rachel Held Evans. For when the river is no longer a river, the mountain no longer the mountain and all the old answers you had about the Bible and faith and God just don’t make sense any more. This is a recent addition to my must-reads. Disclaimer: may help/hinder/spark a crisis of faith.

God save me from the day when stories of violence, rape and ethnic cleansing inspire anything other than revulsion. i don't want to become a person who is unbothered by these texts... There are parts of the Bible than inspire, parts than perplex and parts that leave you with an open wound. I'm still wrestling, and like Jacob, I will wrestle until I am blessed. God hasn't let go of me yet.

The gospel means that every small story is part of a sweeping story, every ordinary life part of an extraordinary movement. God is busy making all things new, and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus has opened that work to everyone who wants in on it. The church is not a group of people who believe all the same things, the church is a group of people caught up in the sam story, with Jesus at the centre."img_20200316_0720434926429091325460047996.jpg

Got any recommendations for me?

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.