The Vine at Mays Farm is officially launched and open. And it was a very special day, as friends old and new came to help the launch and have a look around. They came from London and Stamford and the New Forest; en route from Cornwall and Edinburgh and from just up the road in the village. My Pilates teacher; friends from university days; villagers we'd not met before; my psychotherapist and her husband; representatives from the Diocese of Derby; members of congregations from previous parishes. What an enormous privilege and joy to have so many come. A steady stream all day!  Gallons of tea were consumed, apples picked to take home, lots of conversations with lots of different people. What a blessing. But the highlight of the day was the fact that the chapel was used for the first time! It so nearly wasn't. An hour before the celebrations were due to begin, the chapel was still a store room, thick with dust and unusable. I was disappointed; there just had not been time to get that ready, with everything that needed to be done. And then one of our dear Trustees picked up a broom and my husband and her husband set to and moved things  - including the grand piano which was still in the middle of the chapel; and just in time, the little room began to come into life. It's not finished, and the money needs to be raised to complete it. But it's usable.

So we had the service of celebration and dedication, and some 35 - 40 of us squeezed in and Phil Lawson Johnston led the worship and I led the prayers. We sang "The Lord's my shepherd I'll not want .. and I will trust, I will trust in Him..." and we prayed for every single room in the house and for all who come to visit and to stay.

"Heavenly Father, make the roof of this house wide enough to shelter all who come; oil the door of this house so it opens easily to friend and stranger ... May all who enter encounter the Risen Lord, may all who visit grow in your love ... "

And the readings -

2 Samuel 7:28-29 -

the verses Kim & I read on one of our early dates and which have been so special to us for years:

And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant; now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue for ever before you; for you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed for ever.’

And my ordination verses, embroidered on my preaching scarf, and now so wonderful for this place with the vine in the garden -

John 15:1-8

“I am the true vine ..  Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me ... Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing."

Some stayed in the chapel to pray for a while afterwards. One guest said  she wanted the chapel service to go on and on, it was so meaningful and glorious. Many  commented on how special the house feels and that there is a real sense of the peace and grace of the Lord.

All day, people were arriving and walking around -  nearly a hundred came, but in a steady stream so that there was time to greet and chat and proffer tea!  They walked around and viewed the rooms - it's all so nearly finished! And the house responds to people; it seems to come alive with the Lord's Presence when there are guests and visitors in it.


The bedrooms are each named after a place where we have lived - and with furniture or pictures of the places too.




There's also Cambridge and South Carolina. Come and and enjoy a retreat and try them out!



And the final prayer that everyone prayed together: might you pray it too for all who will use this place for spiritual sanctuary and sustenance?

Visit O Lord this home with the gladness of your Presence. Bless all who live here and all who visit here with the gift of your love. May your fatherly care shield them, the love of your dear Son preserve them from all evil and the guidance of the Holy Spirit keep them walking in your ways. Grant that they may show your love to each other and to all whose lives they touch. May they grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you. Guide, comfort and strengthen them; and preserve them in peace, Lord Jesus, now and forever. Amen.


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 ..  ?

What I Have Learnt in 35 years of Marriage

 July 16, 1977.

It sounds even to my ears a long long way back in history. I was very, very nervous -  a shy young teacher, whose school summer term had finished only two days earlier. HE had just graduated from Cambridge. We'd already been engaged for nearly two years, but he had a fourth year of studies to finish and we had decided to wait. I walked down the aisle on my father's arm, wearing the veil my mother had worn at their wedding, and which her aunt had worn years before that. The congregation were singing as we walked - you won't want them looking at you, advised my mother, so have a hymn to come in and then they can concentrate on that and not on you. Crown Him with many Crowns, the Lamb upon His Throne, they sang. And right from the start, we wanted Christ at the centre of our marriage. All Hail, Redeemer, Hail, for Thou hast died for me, Thy praise shall never, never fail, throughout eternity. We knew even then that a life of full time service to Christ lay ahead of us. We learnt our vows by heart, determined not to say them to the officiating minister, the wonderfully Welsh Vicar,  John Gwyn-Thomas, but to each other. As we turned and held hands and looked deeply, we promised.  We promised FOREVER - no matter what: for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, til death us do part. A promise that has been stretched to its limits on many occasions. But we promised in front of human witnesses - our families and friends - and in front of God. He put the ring on my finger; I put one on his. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. A Trinity of witnesses. We sang again. Channels only, blessed Master, but with all Thy wondrous power flowing through us Thou canst use us every day and every hour. And that was our prayer and our commitment.The sermon, by our request,  was an outreach to those of our friends who as yet did not know the Lord. There were prayers; a friend sang a solo from The Messiah whilst the registers were signed; and then the voices were raised in a favourite hymn  - And Can it Be ... my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose went forth and followed Thee. That's what we promised together  - to follow wherever He leads us.

What have we learned in 35 years?

That the promise still stands. A promise is a promise is a promise. Through the joys and the sorrows - the 2am feeds and then the weddings of those same babies; depressing times and times of delight;  6  little grandchildren; broken dreams and heights of splendour; speaking together to large conferences, praying for individuals;  upholding one another; and trying to serve the Lord together. The best times are those when together we truly seek to serve and follow the Lord and His plans for our lives. He has given us enormous blessings, gifts, privileges and  experiences. Not least, a wonderful family of children, children-in-law and grandchildren. But best of all, each other, to love and to cherish, from this day forward. For ever. It's our promise and our love. 


What have you learned in the years you have been married? What blessings can you share?

SHARE THE LOVE: maybe forward this to others, pray for and strengthen their marriage?