Penelope Bourdillon



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2013

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Interim

Posted on October 9, 2013

I hardly dare hold my head up in the world of blogging as it is so long since I posted anything.  I intend to start again more regularly now, following the threads of life and death and blessings and things spiritual, as I did before; but first I should maybe give a thumbnail sketch of what I have been up to during these past few silent months.
My last blog was about the wondrous trip that a friend and I did in June round the glorious Hebridean Islands.  I feel thoroughly satisfied that I have not been any further afield than Ireland and Scotland this year, and have absolutely no desire to do so!
I have had a few bursts of extreme business, the first was in July when I desperately wanted to be with two lovely friends for their joint 75th birthday part in London.  I popped up the night before – in a heatwave - thoroughly enjoyed the lunch party and travelled all the way back to Wales after.  I had to be at the Royal Welsh Show early next morning and spent the whole day there; then had another long hot journey next day as I dearly wanted to be at Diana Colllins’ funeral near Bournemouth.  It took me nearly six hours with holiday traffic, but it was a beautiful Service at Cranford, as I knew it would be, and what a wonderful send off she had; I was so pleased that I had made the effort.
It then turned into an especially nice weekend, as I was able to go and stay with a dear friend of my eldest daughter in her beautiful home nearby; I had not seen her for many years, and it was great fun to catch up with her and the family.  Then another old friend was revisited next day when I caught up with Johnnie Boden; it was equally thrilling to see him again after so long and to meet his lovely wife and one of the daughters – and the horses – and his home.  I went on my way rejoicing, and spent the rest of the weekend with some of my family in Devon.  Thus a sad occasion turned into a glorious weekend of happy memories and old friends.
August was a happy month, mainly spent here with people coming and going and lots going on.  Notably some dear friends came and led a three day ‘Retreat’ for want of a better word in my barn, which was a very special time.  Then a neighbour wanted to promote a lovely ballet that he has written for children, called Romany Wood, so we had two parties in the barn one weekend with musical entertainment, which went pretty well.  A bit of a water crisis in the middle of it all: there was none on the Sunday morning.  I have my own spring in a wood, and it was a major drama, but is now sorted thank heavens.
Since then I have had a wonderful new younger friend to stay for three different visits to help me plant a prodigious amount of plants in my rather unusual garden.  He ordered over 500 plants, and cleverly go them into his van plus trailer and we worked pretty hard getting them all in on a steeply sloping bank.  It is rather exciting hoping that they will really start to cover the ground next year.  Perhaps one day I will put in a picture, so that you can see the before and after.
I have gone on too long, so will finish now and hope to get back into a rhythm again soon.

Back again!

Posted on August 21, 2013

Hebrides

I am very much aware that I have posted nothing since the end of May.  I didn’t think anyone would notice, but I was rather pleased when two people said that they had missed my blogs, and that I must keep them up.  Encouraged hugely by this, I shall attempt to start again.
My trip to Scotland for the whole of June was wonderful.  Friends asked me before I went why I wasn’t going somewhere warm as we had not seen the sun for two years, and I assured them that I had a very good mackintosh and didn’t mind all that much about the weather.  Amazingly I hardly had need to put on rain gear and the sun shone most of the time, but wasn’t too hot, which was perfect.
I drove north with the friend who was coming with me on the Hebridean Princess.  It was a trip of a lifetime for us: a belated Golden Wedding treat to ourselves, as we both got married in July 1961 and both our husbands are now dead.
We set off from Oban in good weather and the Captain changed the whole journey around so that we could get to St. Kilda before the weather broke.  Sadly we couldn’t actually go on to the island itself because there was just enough swell to make it unsafe, but we got so close that we were able to see the huge cliff face where the gannets nest – and Village Bay where the abandoned cottages still stand in a deserted crescent. There are over 1400 stone-built earth cells called cliets, used for storage, also still standing. We had both read an extremely interesting book about this amazing island, which all the inhabitants finally left in 1947.  It is a very inhospitable place with its unique isolation, which made for a dreadfully hard life, and one could see why they wanted to leave.  The Soay sheep that are still there are the most primitive breed in Europe.
It was sad not being able to go ashore, but that was our only disappointment because we went everywhere else that was scheduled on this glorious trip.  We spent an enjoyable afternoon on Barra, and Castlebay is the only beach in the world to handle a scheduled air service.  Then after St. Kilda we headed towards the Flannan Islands and on round the Butt of Lewis and moored by  Stornoway.  From there our excellent guide had arranged a bus to take us to see the Callanish Stones; hardly Stonehenge, but very interesting, and in such a beautiful place.  The next afternoon we had a glorious visit to the Shiant Islands where Compton Mackenzie used to own the only house on the island and did much of his writing there. We walked and saw masses of wild flowers, watched gannets and skewers galore, and a few puffins.
How I love all these islands with their beautiful deserted white sandy beaches and the silence except for the call of the birds; I could hardly  imagine anything more beautiful, but next day we walked up a gentle hill on the Summer Isles where we could gaze out over hills and sea lochs one way with the mainland behind us, and I decided that was my favourite place.
I am running out of space, so will speed things up… Ullapool was beautiful in the sunshine, and after that we went back down the coast which I have always loved, calling in to see the Inverewe Gardens, through the Kyle of Lochalsh (what memories of dancing at Portree year after year!) and spent our penultimate day on the Isle of Coll where I had fun bicycling with a couple on our boat, finding more wonderful empty beaches.
This is a very prosaic account of a really fabulous trip, where we saw basking sharks, dolphins and puffins and all the wonderful sea birds we had expected to see.  It is hard to describe how beautiful it was.
If anyone wants to hear more, I could go on far longer, but will probably return to the more usual topics next time.
 

Holiday Time

Posted on May 29, 2013

If anyone is interested in reading my blogs, I must apologise for not doing one for the past two or three weeks, but life has been more than usually hectic.  There will silence for the next few weeks as well, because I am going on my first holiday for two years: a friend and I are going round the Hebrides and Outer Isles, including St. Kilda (weather permitting) which I am really looking forward to.  I rather hope that we shall be out of signal and I am not going to take my computer with me even though I shall be away for nearly a month.  After all we used to manage without them, and one must be able to switch off, and not be reliant on them.  I think intuition has gone out of the window since everyone has their mobile clamped to their ears!
So, what have I been doing so busily? We have just had the most amazing three days here in remote and rural mid Wales.  A few energetic people arranged a Festival to celebrate the 275th anniversary of Charles Wesley’s marriage to Sarah Gwynne who lived in the next door village.  It started on Thursday evening with a Reception in the tiny church where they were married.  On Friday the local schoolchildren re-enacted the wedding which was rather fun, and in the evening we had a wonderful Songs of Praise, with Wesley hymns of course, and we all sang our hearts out.
There was a Flower Festival on Saturday with various events throughout the day, including an excellent ‘docu-drama’ depicting an interesting conversation between John and Charles Wesley on the evening before the wedding; this was acted by two talented gentlemen who transported us into the spirit of the occasion.  That evening there was a wonderful Recital of late Baroque music in the big house nearby where Sarah Gwynne lived.
Finally Sunday dawned warm and sunny which was just what was required, as the Church Service could be held out of doors, as arranged.  It was very special, and I rode my horse over there in true Wesley style!  (Did you know that John Wesley rode an average of 4,000 miles each year?) - I only had to go about five miles!
The grand finale was a very good Concert of music by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (Charles and Sarah’s grandson) who was a prolific composer.  So we all went home exhausted but extremely happy because it had all gone so well.
Hay Festival is on this week as well, with a plethora of good things going on.  I managed to get there today, but only have a couple of days now to get ready to go on my epic trip… After the boat trip I go to a Christian house party for a further week; then I am staying with friends or relatives in Edinburgh, Fife, Morayshire, Kirkcudbrightshire, Dumfriesshire and on Mull so it is going to be a long trip.  Most of my cousins live up there so it will be a good catchup time.
I have not kept you up to date with what is happening on the Showground with our new location.  We have moved in but there is not much to report at present.

Dying Matters (Awareness Week)

Posted on May 14, 2013

I’ve been a bit busy lately, and only managed to post a blog yesterday after a fortnight.  Maybe if noone reads them, it doesn’t matter, but if anyone does, I would just love some comments because it feels as if I am writing for a blank wall!
I don’t want anyone to think that I am obsessed with death, having written a book about bereavement, but I was very interested to read loads of tweets on Dying Matters; apparently it is their Awareness week. I was impressed by the way so many people are prepared not only to think about death, but more importantly to talk about it.
They always say that the Victorians were obsessed by death and talked of little else; with the modern generation the subject has been replaced by sex.  (I think money comes a very close second!)  Seriously, though, it is good to have sensible thoughts on death and as one gets older, of course, one must make sure that the family know one’s wishes.
I was incredibly blessed when my husband became extremely ill because we did not know that he had cancer until four weeks before he died.  By that time there was no decision to make about any treatment, as he was far too ill for it be considered.  Of course I would have encouraged him to do anything that would have prolonged his life, but it was not an option; I soon realised that it was so very much better to let him go and allow him quietly to slip away in nature’s timing.  To me that means God’s timing…  I so well remember a good friend ringing up to offer loving thoughts and prayers, and to my astonishment l heard myself saying ‘Thank you so much, but don’t pray for a miracle.  Just pray for a good death’.  I think it was in that moment that I consciously let him go which is the most agonisingly hard thing that anyone can do.  Especially when you believe in miracles, as I do.  I have often seen God’s healing hand at work, but I knew that it was not to be this time.
Funny to say that I was blessed, but I really do see that I was.  He would have hated to be an invalid, and I would have been agonised to see him suffering.  As it was, he died at home, surrounded and supported by loving care from the family and wonderful local carers, with almost no pain at all, thanks to the morphine syringe driver and the NHS.
This does not mean that I sailed through it all with ease.  Even now after more than ten years I know that my heart will never mend, and I long for the day when I see him again. I have not the slightest doubt that I will.  Until I am called ‘home’ I rejoice to be here on this earth seeing my four beloved children bringing up eleven wonderful grandchildren.
All I ask is that I shall be ready to go when that blessed call comes, but how I dread the actual parting.  There will be no need for anyone to mourn because I shall be reunited with my beloved one. Alleluya!

Christian Centre for Rural Wales

Posted on May 12, 2013


Since 1999 a good friend of mine, Marcia Gibson-Watt and I have been involved in trying to get a Christian presence on the Royal Welsh Showgound which is held every year near here in our local market town, Builth Wells.
Amazingly we raised £40,000 from a book that Marcia had decided to do in the Millennium year when her husband was President of the Show: she painted all 63 Anglican churches in Radnorshire and she asked me to do the text.  We had enormous fun doing it, and it was a remarkable success.  Some of the proceeds went into an account which we opened for the C.C.R.W., and we have been adding to it ever since.  So many friends supported us which was heartwarming, and they seemed to like the book, and some ordered 10 or more and gave them away as presents.
We held on to our vision of the Centre: something on the lines of the Arthur Rank Centre at Stoneleigh, on a very, very much smaller scale.  It is absolutely NOT a church, and we get very cross if anyone refers to it as such.  We don’t want to take anyone away from their local churches or chapels, and it will not be open on Sundays.  It will be ecumenical, but definitely under the Christian umbrella.
We have had many setbacks over the past thirteen years: most people think we are a bunch of religious nuts I think, and are very wary of us!  We have had a small Committee which has changed over the years.  We are a tight knit bunch of like minded people under a dynamic lady Chairman (I will not use the word Chair!) who has suddenly turned things around and we have at last made a quantum leap forward, which is very exciting.
She has introduced a wonderfully generous benefactor, and finally we have been   offered an existing building on the Showground for 350 days of the year.  We have the money to make a few improvements and we hope to move in there in the next month or so.
The key people to take it on into the next stage are three delightful men of the cloth: an Anglican Vicar, and two Ministers, one a Methodist and the other a URC.  I personally have an enormous burden to try and stop anyone from committing suicide.  There have been too many here in mid Wales, and the farmers are having a really bad time with such a disastrous lambing.  The sooner the ‘boys’ can be known to be working out of the Centre, and there will always be someone to turn to, the better.  What about the Samaritans, I hear you say? or why don’t they go to their Vicar or Chapel Minister?  Why not indeed ?  The situation simply is that they they have not – and now we hope they will have someone with whom they share any burden.
There is no room to tell you more this week, but we have a meeting coming up and we hope to have heard that we can move in and crack on, so I shall keep you posted in next week’s blog.  Watch this space!

The biter bit / Hope and Salvation

Posted on April 27, 2013

 Where does phrase ‘the biter bit’ come from?  I have no idea, but it was an expression that my late husband used quite often, and it hit me forcibly as I am currently struggling with the recent loss of a very special and dear friend.
I wrote the booklet Hope in the Valley to cheer people on through their grief, and here I am feeling pretty low myself, which is entirely selfish.  I know that this friend who has died is already in a far, far better place.  He was a committed Christian, albeit an unlikely one as he smoked ten times more cigarettes than most people have had hot dinners, and spent a great deal of time in the pub where he did most of his evangelising.  Indeed, anyone who has the first book I wrote ‘How God can peel an Onion’ will read on the very first page about this man David who actually led me to Christ.  The scales fell from my eyes in his workshop, and life has never been the same again.That was over twenty years ago.
I have just read in Word for Today some comforting words that I know so well, but am finding hard to take in at the moment:  Dealing with death separates us into two categories: the hopeless and the hopeful.  The hopeless believe that they have nothing to look forward to.  Their losses feel permanent – the end of life and all that is good. The hopeful have everything to look forward to.  Their losses are temporary – the beginning of an endless life filled with God’s finest gifts.  God wants you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so (you) will not grieve like people who have no hope…  Never again will they be vulnerable to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, strokes, paralyses, weariness, weakness, fear, depression, failure, addiction, remorse, suicidal thoughts, bipolar disorder or any other ailment.
The Bible assures every believer that their death is not a tragedy but a triumphal entry into heaven.  What a promise.  Thank goodness I have absolutely no doubt of where I am going.  I have no wish to sound macabre if I declare that I can hardly wait to be called to glory, (although like most people I am nervous about the actual dying).  Of course one must never hasten the day, and I hope that I shall have a bit longer on this earth, just as long as I am able to do God’s work, according to His will and purpose for my life.
I am comforted hugely when I read on: Because God understands that when we lose a loved one we tend to forget His perspective and adopt an emotion-driven perspective.  Rejoice, believer: the Lord takes good care of what belongs to Him.
St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that ‘Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.’
We want you to know what will happen to the believers who died, so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.  1 Thessalonians 4, verse 13.

Lady Thatcher

Posted on April 22, 2013

I felt so moved watching Lady T’s funeral and so proud to be British, like we nearly all did last year watching the Olympics.  It is now stale news, but I am going to indulge myself and tell you some of the things that I liked best…
I happen to love horses, so am always enchanted by the beautiful horses in any ceremonial parade.  The black ones were magnificent, weren’t they?  What I loved was seeing a glimpse of the hind legs of the last ones in the team; we had such a good view of them pulling the gun carriage: they were almost dancing, like that glorious dressage last year.  Having to go very slowly and still pull the weight of the gun carriage needed such a tension –  between the power that was required to pull the coffin on the gun carriage and the control needed to go so slowly.  Huge strength and total discipline. Not a bad lesson for life if you think about it.
I believe that, many years ago, when asked the most important thing to show one’s faith in God, Margaret Thatcher replied with no hesitation: CHOICE.  There is absolutely no doubt which side she would choose, if confronted with those immortal words from Ainger’s hymn:
“Once to every man and nation come the moment to decide
      In the strife of truth with nations, take the good or evil side”….
I loved every bit of the Service, and thought it was simple, sincere and totally Christian.  No whimsical poems of which I have a slight horror, but they are becoming the ‘norm’ at so many funeral services now.
I thought the Bishop of London set the tone exactly right with his excellent Address; the family were composed and brave; the prayers were lovely, the singing beautiful (oh those choirboys’ clear voices); everyone looked extremely smart. I marvelled at our wonderful Monarch and the Duke of Edinburgh in their older age striding up (and down)the endless steps of St. Paul’s with no handrail, without a stick between them.  Also the supreme strength, discipline and timing of the boys from the Armed Forces who had to carry the coffin:  what a brilliant job they did.  It must have been a fearsome task.  When St. Paul’s was built there was no thought of Disabled Access!
However, to me there was another outstanding contribution, and that was Amanda Thatcher’s portrayal of the passage from Ephesians: the Armour of God.  It happens to be one of my favourite pieces of the Bible, and she spoke it out in her strong voice with such feeling and devotion, and as if she really believed what she was reading. It was superb.
Do you think that God was pleased with the whole thing?  I expect He was – at least He must have enjoyed the worship and the Service; also the fact that there were no demonstrations or forces of evil at work.  Alleluya!
I hope that some hearts were touched by the sincerity and simplicity in amongst the pomp and ceremony.  Let us all take something spiritual from it,  from hearing the Word spoken by good people.
I sent out a tweet on the day of the funeral referring to the words on the insignia which apparently said CHERISH FREEDOM.  I say it again, because we don’t cherish it enough, do we?

Be Prepared!

Posted on April 14, 2013

I was going to do my blog this week on the difference between joy and happiness, but I haven’t had enough time to think it through.    Instead I shall tell you a little about the journey I had today with Marcia, who illustrated the books I have written.  We were going to a Quiet Day in the remote hills of Carmarthenshire, which should have only taken an hour’s drive.
We had been to the place we were going twice before, and we both assumed that the other would know where we were going.  That was our big mistake.  We didn’t!  We had no papers with us (it had all been done through the ether) and we couldn’t remember the address, other than the name of the house.
I stupidly thought the turning was sooner than it is, so we went on quite the wrong road up into the hills, thinking we would recognise where we were, but of course we didn’t.  We stopped to ask at a cottage but they didn’t know where it was.  Hardly surprising as we were miles away!
There we were in the remote hills with hardly any dwellings and no-one to ask, when it dawned on us that neither of us had our mobile phone with us.  We both had meant to bring them, but for some reason we just had not.  The car had no satnav either, but that wouldn’t have helped as we did not have known what to put into it!
When at last we came to a small village Marcia found a telephone kiosk and tried to get the number from Directory Enquiries while I went to ask at a house if they knew the place, which they didn’t. They were very old and extremely deaf, but very sweet and tried to be helpful: we looked in the ‘phone book but couldn’t find it, and Marcia had also failed.  So what to do?
By this time we were getting late, and Marcia said that if we didn’t find it soon we’d go and have lunch in the nearby town.  Somehow I felt strangely calm as I reckoned that no-one would be inconvenienced by our tardiness: we could creep in at the back and I was sure that  they  would not mind.
Finally we went right back down to the main road that we had left an hour so earlier, and suddenly we spied the right turning and off we went – on the right road this time, and arrived triumphantly, but of course very late.
We really felt that we were under attack as one thing after another had beset us.  It is interesting to think this sort of predicament very rarely happens nowadays with all the modern equipment that we can all be armed with.  Anyone young would probably have had the number in their mobile phone, and anyway they would have put the destination into their satnav.  So we felt rather old and very stupid, but at least we got a lovely welcome and had a very good rest of the day.  Heed the warning: I certainly shall.
If there is a moral to this story it is to trust in the Lord, but we must not expect him to do the work for us: quite simply we were not prepared.

Changing Lives

Posted on April 8, 2013

Changing Lives
I have staying in my barn this week some of my favourite visitors,  who come at least once a year: Chris and Emma, Paul and Mel and their children.  They are having a complete switch off here in the peace of my valley, as they all work very hard at home.  As I write this they are making a bonfire with all the rotten wood that has come down in my wood: it is the first day that the wind has dropped and one can actually feel the warmth of the sun, and time to start tidying up.  Maybe spring is on its way at last.
Chris Campbell is a Deacon of a Baptist Church in the Midlands, and more recently has become the Director of a community interest
Company.  This was set up to try and empower young people – through methods of creativity, confidence-building techniques and dynamic employment solutions to combat the negativity that seems
to have permeated the mindsets of some of the young adults in the area where he lives.
Chris and Emma have been working with the youth for five years – mainly through youth groups and outreach projects. His sister Sharon is Pastor at the Ebenezer Church, and her husband Neville is worship leader; they are all wonderfully dedicated in meeting the needs of the community which they serve.
It is very exciting because the local Mayor has recently recognised the work that they are doing;  his interest is not only in the official
opening of the Ebenezer Baptist Hub, but also in the actual work that he has seen being carried out to  assist some of the young people in the area.
Chris was asked to go to Westminster recently to give a presentation on this work because he had received a Star Person Award from The Big Local.  It created a great interest in how passionate individuals can still make a difference.  I particularly liked the joke he shared with the people of Westminster: “We have a saying in the Black Country that we make it in the Black Country; they sell it in Birmingham and they talk about it in London.”  His fellow recipients of the Big Local Awards enjoyed this because they came from similarly deprived areas through the length and breadth of the country.  Maybe the Londoners were not so keen!
Surely this is truly the Gospel in action: walking the walk and not just talking the talk.
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms… If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength
God provides so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.

Easter in the snow

Posted on April 2, 2013

Last week I said that I wanted to have time to reflect and be quiet, which I managed  -after an extremely eventful journey on Thursday.  It was fairly dodgy getting out of my valley, but the snowplough had been through and I was able to get to Ludlow Races on Thursday.  I left there later than I meant to, and my Satnav said that I’d reach my destination at 6.27 p.m.  I can usually beat it and knock off a few minutes, which I did, but had not foreseen getting totally stuck in the snow in a very narrow lane with no signal for my mobile, and no dwelling in sight.  I knew that we had to leave for the church service at 6.40 and that my host would be worrying, as I had planned to be there much earlier.  I did the only sensible thing.  I put it into God’s hands and asked Him to help.  After some deep breaths I began quietly to reverse my car; it was corsetted in by steep banks on either side which helped because the road was so icy.  Eventually I was able to turn round and retrace my route back the two miles or so to the main road.  I arrived at 6.39 with the friends I was going to staying with, and was ready to go straight off, but it was a close run thing.  I can tell you I thanked my Maker prodigiously.  He can (and does) help us even in the minutiae of life IF we ask Him.  Nothing is too big or too small for Him.
So it was not exactly what I had envisaged for Maundy Thursday when I wanted to sit quietly and think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  However, once I had recovered from the panic of the journey, I thoroughly enjoyed the Service: Stripping the Altar - and I was able to focus on the Agony in the Garden and the events following.
Good Friday was just as I had hoped: a peaceful time (while my hostess was busy after breakfast) to read the Gospel stories of Christ’s Passion; we then had a blessed time of prayer together before going off to Brecon Cathedral for the most beautiful Service.  I had often wanted to do this in years gone by, but somehow we always seemed to have had commitments at home, so it was doubly rewarding for me to be there.
We then went to another church in the evening for a very simple and sincere Service, so for almost the first time in my long life I felt that I had managed to be reflective and focussed on Jesus on Good Friday.  Saturday morning also felt truly blessed, when again there was time in the morning to sit and read in the conservatory when my host and hostess were busy.  The sun came out and it was the first hint of a little spring warmth in the air to dispel the vicious cold that has gripped the country for nearly two weeks.  A glimmer of hope in the ordinary as well as the Easter message.  Alleluya!
It has been a terrible worry with the lambs being born in the cold, and most farmers round here do not have big enough barns to keep the ewes in.  That was something Our Lord did not have to contend with, but I suppose His flock still give Him just as much grief in other ways – when we do not put Him first in our lives; remember that we can rely on Him for everything and that He really is our Rock.
“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.”


Holy Week

Posted on March 25, 2013

 

I have had rather an eventful few days.  I left Oxford las week and drove to Shropshire where there was four inches of snow on Friday morning.  However I managed to get myself to Gloucestershire for a very beautiful funeral Service, which included some wonderful Readings and poems; even if one knows them, I always feel that it is incredibly poignant when one hears them read by someone who was especially fond of the deceased, often (as in this case) by a grandchild or someone quite young.
I am now back in Wales, thinking that spring would have arrived by now, like it did last year; but I got my car stuck in a snowdrift in my valley yesterday on the way back, and had to be pulled out by a tractor. So here I am in Holy Week having had quite a roller coaster ride to get here.  I am now going to go a bit slower because everything has been cancelled and it is such an important week in the church calendar: one when I personally want to dwell on the events leading up to Good Friday.
I want to share in just a tiny bit of our Lord’s agony, by reading and meditating on the account of His Passion following the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.  I am going to stay with a like-minded friend where I can be completely quiet and read, in between going to a Service in Brecon Cathedral on Thursday evening when they strip the Altar, and the three hour Service on Good Friday.
Much as I love my family and being with the grandchildren, I am pleased to have the opportunity this week to put my mind to things spiritual.  I don’t want to be jolly at this particular time, and I think that it makes the joy of Easter Day more wonderful – so next week I shall be in a different state of mind.  Always remember that we cannot have Easter without Calvary.
Jesus said: “In me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

 Hurry or Purpose (continued)

Posted on March 19, 2013  


Hurry? or Purpose? (continued from last week)
Life has been speeding up gradually as each decade unfolds. Who remembers Parkinson’s Law?  How right he was: somehow with the advent of each labour saving device, life became busier.  Because transport has improved so dramatically, everyone travels further and faster and more frequently.  So they end up having less time.
No longer do we have to beat the carpets, light oil lamps, chop wood, clean a house made filthy by a range fuelled by anthracite or grow most of the food they ate;  wash clothes by hand; feed animals (remember that the horse was their only transport and they often had to ride or walk for many miles); the list is endless.   I am supremely thankful for a much easier life, but have we not gone too far the other way perhaps?
What do we do with all the time that we have ‘saved’?  We should have so much more time to ourselves, and yet everyone seems to be in a permanent hurry (including me!).  No-one used to have a personal trainer or any need to go to the gym: they kept fit just doing everyday tasks.  Few people had bad backs, probably because they didn’t spend hours in a car – or at a computer.  If they did, poor souls, they probably were doomed to a life of pain and disability. (do we ever stop and think how fortunate we are to have such good medical attention?)  How about having tooth ache with nothing to stop it other than someone pulling it out, probably on the kitchen table with a farm implement? There was no welfare state to spread a safety net for them, and I don’t think they blamed other people for their difficulties.
The young have to work so hard now.  They can hardly afford to take off any time for sick leave in case someone is sitting at their desk when they return.  They often have to travel for miles to work as well as going abroad for the job and I don’t know how these young wives manage to get children to school, play group etc., as well as holding down an executive job, and being a perfect wife and mother at the same time.   Matches and sports are played on Sundays and do you remember, not so long ago, when shops were shut on Sundays and town and city centres were gloriously peaceful? With all this rushing around not many families make the effort to go to church or chapel because, understandably, it is probably the only chance they have to lie in and maybe have some time at home.
So what does God think about all this?  Maybe we should stop and think about that. …
Be still and know that I am God.


Hurry or Purpose?

Posted on March 17, 2013

Hurry?   or  Purpose?
I read these words in a very good book called Word on the Wind by Alison Morgan recently, and my goodness they are worth pondering: “Meanwhile life gets faster and faster, as we substitute hurry for purpose.”  Think on that phrase for a moment, if you can ‘make’ the time to do so.
 I have just posted a blog about the leisurely pace in Victorian rural England, and it makes one realise how much has changed in my lifetime: mostly since the advent of the chip, which was not so very long ago.
I am not going to dig right back to the dim dark ages, but cast your mind back to the beginning of the twentieth century, which you will no doubt have learned about in history or through films, books and stories of your forebears… Of course there were no women in parliament then: goodness no, they did not even have the vote.  Try and imagine what it was like for a young girl who had  become pregnant: the stigma attached to an unmarried mother was vicious.  Yet there was no contraception, and men were strong and powerful and no doubt often impossible to refuse.  There were no helplines or self-help groups, nor therapies etc. to help them through a dreadful time – oh no, life was hard especially for the poor. No wonder everyone wanted a better life for their children, and it most certainly helped to have money: it was far more a matter of necessity then, not such greed as there is now.
Think also of a world with no aeroplanes flying all over the world every day, and of course no-one had a car, so people normally stayed in the same locality all their lives.  Is that such a bad thing?  I wrote last week about community spirit, which I feel is so sadly lacking in this modern western world.  I love to see an elderly grandfather walking hand in hand with a small grandchild: surely it is beneficial to both parties.  Wisdom and innocence are excellent bedfellows.
 
This may all sound very negative but I have more to say on this subject, so I shall stop here and finish it in my blog next week.

Community spirit

Posted on March 10, 2013

 
I wonder if in the U.S there is a better feeling of community?  If so, whether it is better
in the country or in the city?  I would love to know.
I feel that in the U.K. we are getting worse and worse at communicating with ourfriends, let alone our neighbours.  I always love to see an old fashioned film preferably set in a country village in Victorian or Edwardian times.  There are many more people in the villages way back then, and of course no-one had a car, a television, a washing machine, let alone a computer or telephone.  In spite of all this, people had time for each other.  Whether you were rich or poor everyone seemed to have time.
So why were things so different then? Not only the pace of life was leisurely, but far more importantly, people talked to each other when they met as they went about their business : there was always time for a chat; they cared what happened in each other’s lives; families supported each other, thus loneliness was almost unknown except in extreme cases.  Old people were part of the fabric of village life, and the young didn’t go off looking for jobs miles away; they probably stayed and worked on the land or in their father’s business or got work locally.  There were activities for them in the evenings, and they knew how to amuse and entertain themselves.   How many young can do that nowadays without a mobile phone or a computer?  I’d like to hear from you!
I can hear people groaning and saying: ‘Thank goodness it is not like that now.  We can get away from helping to look after grandparents or an ailing sister or brother.  We can afford smart clothes and can go out to a restaurant to eat;  we have well paid jobs and can afford to drive the children miles to a good school in our big car; oh yes, I go and see my Granny, but she lives miles away and I am too busy to go often.  I don’t want to hang around the house doing the chores, I should hate not to go to work, and there is a good crèche only a few miles away – the children are quite happy.  I am changing my job soon, which won’t be so interesting, but the pay is better.  My friend has just got a new iPad and mine is getting so old – well, I’ve had it for nearly two years.  We’ve just been skiing at half term and we are going to the Maldives for Christmas – we do need to see some sun.’ The list is endless.
In your view which serves the community better?

Anxiety

Posted on March 4, 2013

I hoped that I would have some inspiration for my blog this week, and it came from a totally unexpected source…  I went to have an MRI scan for a wrist injury, and thought nothing of it until I saw the ‘tunnel’ in which I was going to be incarcerated for forty minutes or so.
I am fortunate in not being of a nervous disposition, and not frightened by many tangible things, but I have one huge fear, and that is claustrophobia.
I was told that I was going to have to lie face down with both arms stretched up above my head, and I felt mild panic setting in.  Then I thought how ridiculous I was being:
people did it every day; it would be painless; if I didn’t open my eyes I wouldn’t even know that I was in a confined space, and so I’d better get on with it.
I reminded myself that I went down a coal mine once; we crawled for what seemed a long way down a very low narrow passage right up to the coal face.  This had taken an extraordinary amount of psychological persuasion to convince myself that it was perfectly safe and the men did it every day, etc. etc. I was determined to do it, and I did – and I survived.
So I applied the same technique yesterday, feeling a terrible wimp.  I kept my eyes tight shut and decided how silly it would be if I was feeling like this if I then found that I had not actually been in the tunnel at all!  But panic was still churning around in my stomach. However I managed it, and all was well.
In fact it was an extremely good lesson for life.  What is the point in worrying about things which very often don’t even happen? so that is my thought for the week.

Lambing

Posted on February 26, 2013

I love this picture of Jesus carrying the lamb to safety, and it makes me think of Wales where I shall soon be returning to my home in the hills.  Soon it will be that glorious time of year with the daffodils and primroses coming through: I always marvel at the way they appear at the right time, in any conditions.  I have seen daffodils completely ruined in the snow, but I hope not this year as we all need a good warm spring to brighten us up after such a wretched spell of weather.  Maybe be when I get better at blogging I will start taking some photographs of the changing seasons in the hills as it is such a beautiful part of the world.
I have mentioned this in an earlier blog, but perhaps I should explain that I have spent the last three winters in Oxford because I live in a very remote valley in Wales and in my seventies I am beginning not to like the cold.  I have never liked it much, but for over forty years in an old stone house we used to put on extra warm clothes and didn’t worry about it. We weren’t ill very often!  but now I am softer, and I love the warmth of my modern house in Oxford and not having to wade out through mud or snow to feed animals and drive miles on bad roads before the advent of 4 x 4 vehicles – what a difference they have made.
However I am extremely fortunate now, and have the best of both worlds because I do love being in the country during the spring, summer and autumn. then I shall have the pleasure of discovering the delights of Oxford as I begin to find my way around: of course there is so much to see and do here.

On the journey

Posted on February 24, 2013

I think that I shall tell you a little more about myself, so that you will have a better idea of what my journey has been, and I shall intersperse it with various topics, (such as the one I have already done entitled God’s grace), which I hope will be interesting and thought provoking.   These will probably include things like: anxiety; management of one’s time/being too busy; accepting God’s blessings; attitudes and reactions: to which I would love some of your thoughts and ideas.  Better still someone might come up with a  heading that I could try and flesh out, and we could then discuss.
I have already told of how the scales were first taken from my eyes in one of my first blogs, but I then spent eighteen months wondering what was going to happen next.  I set about finding God.  I read avidly: there is a never ending supply of wonderful books written by spiritual giants; I studied God’s Word and read commentaries on the Bible; I began to meet some delightful Christian people with whom I could share fellowship; I heard brilliant speakers propound spiritual truths; I even met some of these amazing people, some of whom have become good friends.  What is so wonderful about walking in faith is that when one meets a like-minded person you can become a friend remarkably easily.
Somehow all these endeavours in the early stages never filled me with what I felt that I was seeking and searching for, and I thought that I would never get over the final hurdle, but I did – in June 1993: almost twenty years ago.  If anyone wants to know what happen, let me know!
I think that I shall continue to tell more about my journey, and I shall intersperse it  with various topics, (such as the one I have already done entitled God’s  grace), which I hope will be interesting and thought provoking.   These will probably include things like: anxiety;  management of one’s time/being too busy; accepting God’s blessings; blessings;  attitudes  and reactions: to which I would love some of your thoughts and ideas.  Better still someone might come up with a  heading that I could try and flesh out, and we could then discuss.
I have already told of how the scales were first taken from my eyes in one of my first blogs, but I then spent eighteen months wondering what was going to happen next.  I set about finding  God.  I read avidly: there is a never ending supply of wonderful books written by spiritual giants; I studied God’s Word and read commentaries on the Bible; I began to meet some delightful Christian people with whom I could share fellowship; I heard brilliant speakers propound spiritual truths; I even met some of these amazing people, some of whom have become good friends.  What is so  wonderful about walking in faith is that when one meets a like-minded person you can become a friend remarkably easily.
Somehow all these endeavours in the early stages never filled me with what I felt that I was seeking and searching for, and I thought that I would never get over the final hurdle, but I did – in June 1993: almost twenty years ago.  If anyone wants to know what  happen, let me know! 

Harnhill

Posted on February 20, 2013

I thought I would tell you where I spent last week which was  at an amazing place near Cirenceter called the Harnhill Centre  of Christian Healing.  I am always slightly reluctant to say a Healing Centre, because healing is an emotive subject, often associated with what might be called mumbo jumbo.  This is certainly not the case at Harnhill, which is run by true Christians who have a wonderful heart for God, and knowledge of the Bible.  I used to go there as a  guest and always loved the people and the atmosphere, and I decided to do a  Prayer Ministry training course there about eight years ago.
I was astonished when they asked me if I would like to join  an august group of volunteers who go in to help the residential team, of whom there are four couples.  In spite of my fears that I would not be good enough I jumped at the chance, and have been  going several times a year ever since.  I would love to be able to go more often but healing weeks run from Monday to Friday, so by the time I have shut up the house and made all the necessary arrangements  it takes about a week out of one’s life.  It is so thoroughly well worth while though, because although it is quite hard work  while one is there, I always leave with a song in my heart, and feel just so privileged to be even a very small part of such an incredible place.
What I love about it most, I think, is that although it is  serious with a deep concern to do God’s bidding, the Warden has a giant-sized  sense of humour and fun, which permeates through the whole place.  Tears of sorrow mingle with joy and laughter,  and the guests who arrive on a Monday rather nervous and anxious are almost  unrecognisable when they leave on the Friday.
I shall tell you more about what we do another time.

GOD’S GRACE

The first lesson to learn about God’s grace is that it is totally undeserved by us.  We do nothing to earn it, except to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God.
The second is that if we don’t accept or embrace it, that is our loss, and ours alone.  We cannot give it to anyone else, although of course we can pray for them, which is about the best present that one can give anyone.  They say that God has no grandchildren, which is a challenging thought: in other words we have to ‘go it alone’ – and yet never alone because God is always there if you want Him to be.
Something I was told soon after I had committed my life to Jesus over twenty years ago sticks in my memory: a rather childish analogy, but it sums up in a simple way the very thing that I want to expand upon… .  If someone offered you a twenty pound note for no apparent reason, would you take it? Quite possibly not, because you might feel that you had not earned it.  Well if you don’t accept it, it will probably be given to someone else.    Now think of this gift as a blessing being handed to you by God, even though you did not deserve it.  If you do not accept it, God will bless someone else with instead. But if you do, He has plenty more for everyone else, so you are doing no favours to yourself or God or anyone else if you refuse the gift.

Posted on February 14, 2013

A little bit about me

 February 5, 2013

I am nearly always called Epony because I don’t much like the name Penelope. I have been living in Wales in an old family house since 1961 when I married an amazing man who lived there. We brought up our four children in a glorious spot surrounded by hills, and ponies and dogs and little else, since it is very remote.

IIt seemed that life would go on forever there, but we moved out in 2001 to enable our son and daughter-in-law to bring up their family in the old family home from an early age, as we had been privileged to do. We did up a derelict cottage in the next door valley where I still spend the spring and summer months, but my husband died unexpecetedly in 2002. It was merciful that we had already done the big move, but of course life is now very different.

Although I am not a very keen traveller now, I have managed to go to Australia, Tasmania, Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong and China, Russia, Canada, including Vancouver Island, and many trips to Kenya and South Africa while my husband was alive, as well as most European countries. More recently I have been to Corfu, the West Indies, Jordan, then Israel – and the Holy Land last year. So maybe I am not as landbound as I thought. While my mother was alive we always spent most of August in Scotland which was not very ambitious but she loved the whole family being there together.  I nearly forgot Hawai’i, where my beloved eldest daughter lives with her wonderful husband and their small son.  I shall mention the rest of the family as we go along: I am blessed with four grown-up children and eleven grandchildren.

After my husband died I decided that if I was well enough organised I could go away for the winter months, so anything I am involved with there has to be seasonal. I live two miles off a very small main road up a glorious valley, which I love. I am surrounded by trees and sheep mainly, and farmers whom I have known for over fifty years. My main love (after the family of course!) is my horse – and my garden – which both take a great deal of time; sadly I have no dogs now, but it does make life easier because I am endlessly on the road. Another huge interest and delight is people coming to stay in a converted barn and enjoying the adventure playground in my wood, and I am involved in quite a few local bodies.

However, I am delighted to be able to leave all this behind round about November when I go to Oxford where I bought a house last year; I am still quite busy doing the finishing touches, but I love having a bit more time and I intend to start writing a new little book as soon as I can put my mind to it. The weeks are flying by, and in March I shall start longing to get back to Wales to get going in the garden. The people who live locally always expect me to come back when the daffodils are in flower. I know that I am incredibly fortunate to have two such wonderful homes. How different they are, and next winter I am looking forward to discovering Oxford and maybe doing a Course there.

 

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