April 12 and there was  a shocking setback,  a personal hit . No need to go into details; but there it was. It hurt and it was hard. But God.

That's one of my favourite phrases in Scripture.  BUT GOD ....

Because part of my daily devotional time includes reading the day's thoughts from a little Dohnavur book  - a collection of writings (notes, letters, thoughts) from  Amy Carmichael, entitled "Edges of His Ways." 


In the front, my handwriting boldly proclaims

Penelope J Walter. Cambridge. April 1975

I have been reading it on and off ever since then. Sometimes in the mornings, sometimes in the evenings. This past Friday, I read it in the evening. And read it again. And again.

I had had a shock; but God knew what I needed.  

Here's what it said:

April 12      2 Cor. 11:28  RV margin: Things that come out of course.

Sometimes things seem to happen contrariwise, on purpose. We are prepared for the usual trials of life, but these are not usual. They are things that come 'out of course,' and they are the most difficult of all to meet peacefully and to pass through peacefully. They are most upsetting things, as we sometimes call them, and they often continue to try to upset us.

It is very humbling to go through the list of ordinary things, as apparently they were regarded by the first missionaries - labours, prisons, stripes, stonings, shipwrecks, perils, travails, - and then stop and consider these added words, "beside the things that come out of course." What were they? We do not know, but judging by the things which were not counted as 'out of course,' they must have been a good deal harder than anything that comes our way.

Is there anything that you do not like and did not expect in your to-day?  If so, perhaps these words will help you to meet it with serenity.

So I went to sleep pondering those words.

And woke early to reach out and read them again. But by then it was Saturday and I needed new grace.  For Saturday was April 13 - the anniversary of my dear mother-in-law's death and my husband was feeling it right hard through the tears.

I read from Amy Carmichael to him.

APRIL 13  1 Kings 8:56 There hath not failed one word of all His good promise.

I have found in times of disappointment of any kind there is great help in these words. .....One of His good promises is, "Whatsoever is right I will give you." (Matt 20:4)   ..... Another is this: "The Lord will not withhold good things from them that walk in innocence."   (Psalm 84:11 LXX)  "No good thing will He withhold "  so that the thing not given could not have been good for us. He knows what is good.

It is just here that faith is tested sometimes very sharpely, and we begin perhaps to distress ourselves over the condition attached to the promise. Is it because of something in me tht this good thing - as I believe it to be - is not given? God, who searcheth the hearts, alone knows our need of the cleansing Blood for motive in prayer, but if by His enabling we will to desire His will, then we may leave all torturing thoughts and rest our hearts on Him. No good thing will He withhold - There hath not failed - nor ever can fail - one word of all His good promise.

We prayed for His good and perfect will. We  gave thanks for dear Granny Nancy and all she had meant to our family - and recalled the chain of events her death had started, which caused us to leave the USA , move to London and now on to Mays Farm, our new home.

No good thing will He withhold ... there hath not failed one word of His promise ...

Amazing grace, because all is gift, even if and when we don't deserve it. His promise will not fail; HE will not fail.

The blessings kept coming, all day,  in and through the hurt and the pain.

Ann Voskamp's blog with its photo

Someone wrote on Facebook: When you are going through something hard and you wonder where God is, remember the teacher is always quiet during a test.

Testing times for me; maybe for you too this week?  But God ..  ?

On a short fuse

Stress. Renovating projects and moving house and changing jobs are all rated highly on the stress indicator tables. Add to that the PTSS and depression of the previous two years, and I can excuse my instant explosions.

That angry tongue.

Those hateful words.

The impatient temper which explodes just when I'm not expecting it.

I even - yes, I confess to this too - I even hit the dog. Not hard, but still. I hit her, because she was leaping up at a visitor: trained already by our lovely workmen (they truly are, always cheerful and hardworking even in the recent freezingly cold weather) to leap as they tease her with their sandwiches. I've only recently discovered this and they do't do it anymore. But old habits die hard, especially in Labradors eager for any tidbit. Exasperated by her disobedience and desire to jump, I scolded and then lashed out, impatient, angry, on a short fuse.

And in front of a wonderful young Christian who had come on Saturday to help us work on the house.

So that's where I was last week.

On a short fuse.

It kept hitting me too, that short fuse.  Exploded externally, nagged internally.

But Sunday. And the sweetness of the Lord came pouring in as the tears poured out.

"This is the air I breathe ... and I, I, I - I'm lost without You, I'm desperate for You."

Worship at The Bath and Avon Vineyard. The Spirit convicting. 

Lord, change me.  I'm desperate for You to change me. I can't seem to get rid of this short fuse.

* * * *

He sent me Words. Words I have known for years but had forgotten. From Amy Carmichael's small but profound book IF  - 

If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word, then I know nothing of Calvary love. For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted.

I need Calvary Love. HIS love, pouring into me, loving others through me, filling me to the brim with His sweetness and patience and grace.

So I kneel at the foot of His Cross, conscious once again of that all powerful Love. LOVE that died for me and my short fuse.  LOVE that can flood me. LOVE - the first of the fruit of the Spirit.

Cross in chapel

The Cross we found (in the floor joists!) is now in the Chapel

close up of cross

I welcome His love in and drink deeply. Oh, LOVE, that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee ...

I'm still on a short fuse.  But I've handed the fuse to Him.

* * * *

SATURDAY  was another work day. The final wall came down, to create the kitchen. And the ceiling came down in one of the attic bedrooms.  That's the end of demolishing; now we start putting it all together. YAY!

last wall comes down

kitchen space!

ceiling comes down

Learning from the bare bones of a house

  Making a new home. Here, at Mays Farm.

A place we intend to be a spiritual sanctuary  for those in need of space and solitude and shelter; a  moment away from life's vagaries and vicissitudes.

A house goes through many changes in its lifetime.

And this one, this one, in its 400 years of history, has seen so much come and go. We are but the latest to inflict change upon it. This front house is a new addition - the late 17th Century part added on at right angles to the original early 17th Century farmhouse behind it (which is still there, the kitchen still in all its primitive glory)

It looked idyllic when we first saw it, in the summer sunshine. Never guessed what lay beneath the surface.


And now the bare bones are laid out for all to see.

It looks pitiful.



top bedroom

Ancient wood joists, barely holding the house together. Now treated for rot and worm, they lie there, daring me to imagine this as a place of beauty and balm and benefaction.

Can these dry bones live? 

Can mine? Can yours?

In the pain and the depression it sometimes feels that all my joists are exposed, all my bones dead and lifeless, I am without hope.

Then someone prayed over me, ten days ago. Knowing little of what I have been through, how I feel; but knowing we are undertaking a Large Project of a House. She saw this renovation as the mirror of the renovation in my life.

And I knew that pain and suffering, whatever form they take, can, if God is allowed to be at work, be the stripping down, the paring back. Necessary for the work of restoration and renovation to occur.

Right now, I am lying, joists exposed, work being done, painful treatment occurring.

But these bones will live again.

New life will come again.

Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. Ezekial 37:5

And so I look at my poor home, and I look at my poor spirit; and in gratitude I give thanks for the renovation and restoration that will one day lead to a thing of beauty, living and vibrant.

The house will take several months; I will take eternity.

Eternity  - to be made into His likeness. And HE is the true beauty.


2 Corinthians 3:18 "And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit."


I will be blogging more about the house and how it is getting on and the beginning of the new ministry here. SO why not sign up (box is up on the righthand side above) to have the posts delivered straight to your email inbox, then you won't miss what's happening! 



Proof of a Miracle


Snowdrops as far as the eye can see - down to the Bybrook. We've often walked along this path to Long Dean and Castle Combe over the past 25 years; some years there's hardly any white and green, some years there are masses of snowdrops. This afternoon: one of the best displays for a very long time.


Here is what I posted on this blog, just over two years ago - three weeks after I saw my mother run over and crushed by an out-of-control car; three weeks into what was to prove to be a long descent into PTSS and depression:

October 2010      Three weeks after The Day

There will be snowdrops again. There will be snowdrops again. I have to believe it. One day soon, the tiny tips will push through, struggling, light seeking, upward bound. First, there will be snow. Frost and freeze. Rain. Anything the elements can throw on a winter’s day. A test of patience, hope, belief. But for now, the bulb lies cold, deeply hidden, dormant.

So lies my soul.

A corpse, buried in winter snow. Buried within my cold cold body. Iced from within. I can see it from above, the rectangle of transparent ice surrounding all that is me.

It is hard to hear you through the ice. Impossible to reach out, touch you, feel your well-meant hug. This ice is brittle, sharp, so-very-cold. It forms a barrier.

Maybe that is my protection, for should the thaw come too soon I would feel too much.

So I will believe that snowdrops will come again. And one day One day My snowdrop soul will grow again a tiny tip of life.

For as [surely as] the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring forth, so [surely] the Lord God will cause rightness and justice and praise to spring forth before all the nations [through the self-fulfilling power of His word].  

Isaiah 61:11 (Amplified Bible (AMP) © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation)


Snowdrop (n): A.D. Miller

 1. An early-flowering bulbous plant, having a white pendent flower

2. Moscow slang. A corpse that lies buried or hidden in the winter snows, emerging only in the thaw.

* * * *

And now, two and a third years later, the thaw is well and truly here; I can feel - too much sometimes, too deeply occasionally.

But I can feel. Above all, I can feel God's love.

Last week, a dear girl prayed for me. I had gone forward for prayer ministry, hoping for a mature, well-practiced pray-er. Inwardly I cringed as a sweet faced young girl approached me - what could she know of my what and where and when.

Lord forgive me.

Lord You work through whom You chose - not whoever I think should be best.

I simply told her I felt I had lost some things in my life over the past few years; and that I wasn't sure that the Cross of Christ was big enough for this.

That's all.

She prayed for comfort and love; then she had a picture for me.

The Lord was saying that there were some chapters of my life that He needs to rewrite. To show me that He was, is,  there in those chapters with me. And that right there and then, a new chapter was beginning, being written. The old chapters  are past and gone; here beginneth the new one.

The tears came; and with them, repentance and acceptance.

And new emotions.


Now try telling me miracles don't happen. For I've proof that they do.


There are HUNDREDS of snowdrops in this part of the world right now.


A sign from God for me.






NaNoWriMo – a way to write a novel in the month of November. 50,000 words by the end of the month – no editing, no procrastinating, just write. And have a first draft completed by the end of the month.

I signed up.

But not to write a novel. Nor to write 50,000 words. I have had on my heart from some time to put together a daily devotional, as an aid for the first year of mourning and bereavement. Just a verse and a few thoughts, for the times when mourning and grief mean that anything longer, anything deeper, is impossible.

For those days when finger-tip-hanging is by just one nail. When grief is all consuming, raw, inconsolable.

I know that. I have been there. For a full two years I have been there. There were times when I barely clung on. When hugs rubbed me raw, and consoling well-meant clichés rang false.

When God seemed far away. I was far away.

I could not read. Anything, let alone the Bible. When the depression and the blackness were all consuming and life was barely worth living.

I had Amy Carmichael's  "Edges of His Ways,” a book of short daily devotionals usually based on a verse of Scripture. Some days were good, comparatively, and I read the brief thought. But it was not specific enough, did not often touch my deepest cries. I needed something more, something very short but very intentional.

I decided to write it myself.

And NaNoWriMo has given the incentive and, if I’m honest, the kick you-know-where to get going. So here’s the plan.

Every day I will post what I am writing. And soon, very soon, I will set up a separate blog to be this devotional, this scent of water. It’s called Grace2Help and I will send you the link very soon.

I will be posting the links and we will see how we get on. Please add your thoughts, suggestions, comments. And please pray.  For my prayer is that this devotional will one day help someone. If it’s only one, it will be worth it.

The book of Job and the telling of his suffering and bereavement  is probably one of the oldest books of Scripture. It asks one of the oldest questions: Is there hope?

Is there hope for a tree cut down?


At the merest scent of water it will bud and grow new shoots again. (Job 14:7-9)

The scent of water. My prayer is for this new project to be the merest scent of water for someone else who feels like a tree cut down.

Walking between 2 walls?

I found myself between Cotswold walls today.

I’d walked a mile or two or three, enjoyed the views and the warm caress of the late summer sun.  Found a place I knew not before. Peered into old churches ringing with centuries of worship and liturgy and people. Imagined ancestors kneeling with toil worn fingers and rheumaticky knees. Imagined them listening to the chants and the anthems. Imagined them slouching on the ancient pews, kept awake by fear of the wardens’ poking poles.

Imagined their prayers and cares, their dependence on God. And heard their silence.

So I walked in the sun again, followed the lane as it wound through the trees, past the grand Manor House and the small thatched cottage.  Smelled the last of the summer red roses, ran my fingers through the rosemary. And found myself between Cotswold walls.  Higher than my head, topped with apple trees weighed down with the promise of harvest. The sun unable to compete with the height of the walls; I was shadowed.

Shadowed - and conscious of the heavy, heady silence.  Sheltered.  Away from reality.

Away from the sunshine. Away from the views I was enjoying. The walls kept pace with the path.  Or the path followed the walls.

A narrow road. A dark road. A road of silence. Beyond: sunshine. Views.  The sound of a lawnmower being tidy.

But here, for me, for now: Narrow. Dark. Silent.

And it was the parable of the past twenty four months: two years of mourning. The years of narrow and dark and silent. Cut off from the land of the living. From the warmth and the sunshine. From the laughter. From the outward view. Confined to walk this path, hearing no-one, seeing nothing, on and on.

And I knew that One had walked this Way before me. Cut off from the land of living. Confined to silence and darkness.  Narrowed. Broken even. For me. For you and for me.

I trudged on. Glimpses of sunshine broke through. Glimpses of a vista, hints of spaces. I came to the chestnut tree and saw the horizon. And my eyes were open and my ears could hear and once again I was in the world around me.

And this is how it is.  For Him, the narrow, the dark, the silence of the tomb. And then the bursting forth.

I greet the sunshine. The view.  And know that it is His Power at work in me to enable me to burst forth too. Slowly.  Carefully. But it’s happening.  He’s doing it.

May He do it for you, too.


  It's been a tough time - 22 months of coping with loss, depression, stress, emotion, exhaustion.

You too know how that feels. We all have rough things to cope with: times of pain, anxiety, grief - from a variety of causes. And it's hard when something suddenly reminds you, takes you back into it when you thought you were learning to cope, learning to live with the 'new normal.' The questions come again and again.

-Why, God? why did that happen? and why do I need to be reminded again today?  when will it all come to an end so I can move on?

It was the sermon Sunday morning. Well meant, talking about Jesus quietening the storm, being there IN it with the disciples; linking it (somehow) to Moses in the bulrushes and God being concerned with every small detail of our lives. And lots of stories of the pain and the suffering that people endure - including one of a woman being crushed under the wheels of a car and killed.

I saw that happen to my lovely 90 year old mother.

Don't be bitter, the preacher urged. Be broken hearted, yes, for the Lord binds up the broken hearted. But don't get bitter. Let the train of faith always be ahead of the parallel train of problems and pains. How, I asked him afterwards. How do I do that? How do I keep the train of faith ahead?  He had no answer but to repeat that there is so much suffering in the world and not to get bitter but allow God to bind up your broken heart. I left feeling bruised and broken hearted all right.

But there IS an answer. We can know what to do, where to go for help. We can't explain why the sorrow and the sadness and the hurt and the pain, but we can look to Christ and seek His peace and His strength. I can't pretend it's easy, for it's not. There are days when there seems to be no peace, no strength, no stilling of my storm. But there are things I am  learning,  that I can share with you, for those days. That I pray will help you as you struggle with the pain and the sorrow, the emotion and the exhaustion.




- ask for help. Personally I don't find that easy. But when you can't pray for yourself, for your situation, for your sorrow and pain, someone else can and will. A trusted friend; the prayer team at church; a prayer help line; even on Twitter where you often see people asking for prayer. All of the above - it doesn't have to be either/or! You don't even have to say why if you don't want to. A simple "please would you pray for me today" can be enough.

- take a short walk. Even if it's just a short walk through a park. Fresh air and looking around at trees or flowers can help. Drop your shoulders, breath deeply...  keep looking around, moving your head, your eyes, to see from side to side. Notice what's around you.

-be grateful. Actively look for, notice, write down, two or three things for which to thank God each day. Whether it's the aroma of fresh coffee or the sun rising again today;  a green light or a parking space; an email from a friend or a verse of Scripture which stands out and helps; a friend, a grandchild, your favourite pair of shoes .... Jot down a couple of gratitudes even in the brokenness.

- allow yourself time. Time to rest; time to recover; time to heal.  We are a busy, rushed society. We don't allow ourselves time, let alone one another, to grieve, to mourn, to recover from loss whether of loved ones or jobs, homes or situations. He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds - but maybe not instantaneously for maybe we have things to learn, things we can share with others, rough edges to be smoothed, pride to be smashed. Go slowly. Rest up. Don't try to do too much too soon.


Know that He cares for you. Look again at the top cartoon. And be thankful.



The illustrations were found on the TECMAN site.








I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25):

A Guest Post by Penelope Swithinbank

I was really honoured and excited to be asked to write a guest post for Anita Matthias on her blog spot



Here it is again in case you missed it

I can remember how it felt – that walking across the Square, arms stretched long with shopping bags.


I can remember how it felt  - that looking at our church, heart stretched hard and cold with unbelief.


I can remember: before coming to that church the years of losing everything – the business I had started, homes and cars and income, all lost; the worldly stuff I had held so dearly, gone.  Taken by God, vindictively it seemed.But then came this church.  Its large draughty  Victorian Rectory. My life turned upside down and not in the way I wanted. For I had enjoyed my status: 20th century vicar’s wives did not usually head up their own nationwide company.


Gone. All gone.


I was tired, so tired of it all.


* * *


But then I remember: that clergy wives’ conference, days after crossing the Square. The reluctant going, the fear of being thought an abject failure, the hesitancy in case someone uncovered my unbelief. A speaker – who was she? And what did she have to say? Lost in time. But then, oh then, another speaker, who spoke creatively, humourously, and who then asked us to stand so the Lord could minister to us.


STAND? My hesitation – what was this about? My desire to melt away and not be part of this. And then finding myself standing, pulled by the Unseen Presence. His Light, flooding the room. His Warmth enveloping me in ways I could not comprehend. His Voice, unheard, speaking into my poor stretched heart: I am here, I am true, I am your strength.  I AM.


Their prayers for me, surrounding me. My tears falling.  Shaking with the overwhelming sense of His being with me.

One stood back, pondered, allowed Him to speak through her voice.


"I wonder," she said, "if this verse might be for you? Somewhere in the Old Testament I think. Words from the Lord.  I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten."


They prayed some more. He took those words deep into that cold stretched heart. He promised restoration, things that would replace what was lost, devoured and devastated.


A swarm of things new and above what was lost.


So I clung to that verse over the years that were to come. Years with ups and downs, but years of fruitful ministry just as He had promised. A book was published, an international speaking gift confirmed, a ministry ordained. The years lost through unbelief were more than made up for.


Always I remembered that verse. He had restored the years the locusts had eaten – and more.


* * *


And then.


Seventeen months ago, my mother died. Swept away. One moment she was there, a feisty ninety-year-young who cared ceaselessly for others, drove old ladies to church, talked non-stop on the phone to her friends and family whenever she could.  Prayed for us all, every day.


And the next she was gone, swept away under the wheels of an out-of-control car.


And I stood there, frozen, helpless. Stunned from having been hit by the same car just a few moments before. Deafened by the shouts and screams and sirens. Deafened by the silent scream inside. And my tears turned to ice and my scream frozen deep within.


She was gone.


I stood at her feet and I tried to pray for her, aloud.  Tried to thank God for all she was and had been to me and others; tried to ask Him to take her to Himself; committed her to the One who loved her the best. And the paramedic had tears in her eyes.  “I’ve never heard anyone pray out loud before,” she said.  “Would you like her teeth? And her watch?”


I took the watch and turned to thank the paramedics and the police and the passersby.  People were so kind; so very kind.


But I was frozen.


For seventeen month now, I have been frozen. Unable to work or to play, to read or to write. Lost, barren, devoured by locusts.


But now.


A slow greening of tiny shoots again.


A decision to be grateful in the brokenness.*

A monthly Happiness Project.+


And confirmation from He whom my soul loves, that what has yet again been devoured by locusts will be restored to me.

The verse remembered.


That decision to have a monthly project – for March, to write again.


He promised.  And there was the verse, my verse: on Anita’s tweet. Her invitation on February 29 to write a guest blog.  And on March 1st an offer of a freelance writing project – very small but it’s writing and it’s paid! Unsought, it brought with it His Voice of Promise: I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.


Confirmation that my ministry years are not over, as I had feared.


He who has promised is faithful and He will do it. Again and again, whenever it is needed:

“I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.” Joel 2:25



*  One Thousand Gifts. Ann Voskamp. Zondervan

+ A Happiness Project. Gretchen Rubin. Harper





  from my journal: October 2010


Psalm 22: “Concerning the morning aid”

This, the title of Psalm 22 in the LXX: concerning the morning aid.

It’s a psalm of deep, intense pain.

A psalm Jesus knew, for He shouted the start of it from the depths of His immense agony.

A psalm He fulfilled, with its descriptions of what He endured.

The darkness and suffering of Calvary.

Sorrow and pain.

Aloneness and being deserted.

Crying out and feeling unanswered in the depths of despair.

Sobbing and sleepless in the night. God seeming so far away.

Life pouring out like water.  Strength drying up.

Counting my bones for I am unable to eat.




And into the dark night of my soul comes this word:

the morning aid.

Say it aloud and it is my mourning aid.

Then I know that He will grant an end to this sorrow that for now is all consuming. That one day I shall know His love and comfort in all their realities.  For,

“even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.” (Psalm 139:12)

He will come. He does come.

“His coming is as certain as the morning.” (Hosea 6:3, old French version)

And He promised to come.

“I will not leave you as orphans [comfortless, desolate, bereaved, forlorn, helpless]; I will come [back] to you.” (John 14:18, Amplified Bible)

Through it all, in it all, He is there ; and if I do not yet know Him in it with me, I will.  I will.

“Oh, that we might know the Lord!

Let us press on to know him.

He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn

or the coming of rains in early spring.” (Hosea 6:3)


October 2010      Three weeks after The Day

There will be snowdrops again. There will be snowdrops again. I have to believe it. One day soon, the tiny tips will push through, struggling, light seeking, upward bound. First, there will be snow. Frost and freeze. Rain. Anything the elements can throw on a winter’s day. A test of patience, hope, belief. But for now, the bulb lies cold, deeply hidden, dormant.

So lies my soul.

A corpse, buried in winter snow. Buried within my cold cold body. Iced from within. I can see it from above, the rectangle of transparent ice surrounding all that is me.

It is hard to hear you through the ice. Impossible to reach out, touch you, feel your well-meant hug. This ice is brittle, sharp, so-very-cold. It forms a barrier.

Maybe that is my protection, for should the thaw come too soon I would feel too much.

So I will believe that snowdrops will come again. And one day One day My snowdrop soul will grow again a tiny tip of life.

For as [surely as] the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring forth, so [surely] the Lord God will cause rightness and justice and praise to spring forth before all the nations [through the self-fulfilling power of His word].                                       Isaiah 61:11

Amplified Bible (AMP) © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

Snowdrop (n): A.D. Miller

  1. 1.     An early-flowering bulbous plant, having a white pendent flower.
  1. Moscow slang. A corpse that lies buried or hidden in the winter snows, emerging only in the thaw.