Mainly for Americans - but other can sneak a peek!

I've added a couple of books on to my Kindle today. Which is exciting because it means it's nearly time to 'fly the friendly skies' and cross The Pond once again. Three whole weeks in the United States of America is fast approaching - part work and part vacation. Visits to friends and family - including Thanksgiving with the grandsons. No wonder I'm excited! And one of most exciting things is having the opportunity to meet with friends and acquaintances and soon-to-be-friends in 3 different states - California, South Carolina and Virginia.

So here is your invitation to a special event - YOU ARE INVITED!  

It would be wonderful to see you - and you can bring your friends too, anyone who might like to come to Mays Farm, or come on a Pilgrimage with us in Italy. There will be a presentation with photos and video clips; and the opportunity to find out more about future events.

Plus, find out how you can 'own' part of a 17th Century chapel in the Cotswolds.

All you need to do is email me (penelope@ministriesbydesign.org) to say you would like to come, and to which event, and how many you are bringing with you. You will then receive your invite with full details of the event.

 

The Revd Penelope & The Revd Kim Swithinbank

are back in town and would love to catch up with you & your news!

Come and hear about their new ministry

Ministries by Design:

-       retreats at Mays Farm in the Cotswolds

-       pilgrimages & walking holidays in Italy and the Cotswolds

-       discover how you can be a part of a 17th century Cotswold building!

 

CALIFORNIA:

FRIDAY NOVEMBER 15

San Rafael CA 94903

Cocktails at 6.30pm  dinner at 7.30pm

Kindly hosted by Jennifer & Ken Kroner

SOUTH CAROLINA

Friday, November 22

 Church of Our Saviour, Johns Island SC 29455.  

5:00 -  6:30pm

Wine & Cheese

Kindly hosted by Sue & Quentin Jackson

VIRGINIA

Tuesday December 3

The Falls Church Rectory, Falls Church, VA 22046

6:00 - 8:00pm

Wine and Cheese

Kindly hosted by the Revd John and Mrs Susan Yates 

Looking forward to seeing you soon!

*  *  *  *

For full information about The Vine at Mays Farm/retreats/Quiet Days: click HERE 

On next week's blog: Hotel du Chocolat.  Places will be limited so make sure you don't miss out on the opportunity to be blessed by God's extravagant grace

Blessings, burial, burdens – on a Bank holiday weekend!

Blessings There is so much for which to be grateful, always, daily, everywhere. But this weekend has been an especial blessing  - even in our tiredness and brokenness (see below). Friends came from far and wide to lend a helping hand or two on Saturday. Anjeanette from Virginia, Stacie from Colorado,  (yes, really, that’s where they are from and they were here to help!)  Allyson and Charlotte from north London,  Andy and Chris from Wiltshire. Together they scraped and painted and stripped (the walls that is) and in just a few hours made such a difference.

To have friends help, pray, support makes the venture seem a possibility  - even though there is still so much to do, so far still to go. The danger of course is that we try to do it alone, in our own strength, and think we can cope. We can’t; we none of us can.

Only God has the resources we so desperately need – and on Saturday He sent us good kind friends to work hard all day!  They each were and are a blessing to us and to The Vine @ Mays Farm.

Burial

We buried the time capsule on Saturday – well, laid it where it WILL be buried once the floorboards are nailed down! The Trustees of MbD chose Charlotte’s entry as the winning entry to the  competition, and it was a blessing to have Charlotte there!

In a tin which commemorates the 60 years since the Queen’s Coronation (and that was the year Kim and I were born, too, so doubly auspicious!) we placed the items Charlotte suggested – a Bible, a small holding cross from Bethlehem, a copy of my book Women By Design, photos of the renovation works so far, the first MbD brochure.

Then we placed the tin ceremoniously in its hole, before  taking time in prayer for Mays Farm, asking for blessings on it, blessings for those who may come and stay on retreat over the years to come, blessings on the village  - and sweetly, they prayed blessings on Kim and me.

Which brings me neatly to the burdens …

Burdens

Why are we Christians often surprised when the enemy attacks? If God is at work, Satan doesn’t like it and will get in wherever he can – particularly where we are most vulnerable.

So we need prayers for protection!

Would you pray with and for us? Please? We can’t do this without your praying support – and much as I hate hate hate asking for things, I realize that we DO need to ask you for this! Along side the enormous sense of gratitude for all the many many blessings poured out on us, not least the provision of Mays Farm, we would love your prayer support!  I read these words this morning:

Ps 35:7 Roll thy was upon the Lord (Kay’s translation)  “Way means a trodden path, the journey of life, today’s life. Often when we cannot lift a thing we can roll it … Roll everything that concerns you upon the Lord. Roll it again, no matter how many times you did before, and then rest, ‘assure thyself in Him and He, He Himself, will work. ‘ (Derby) “   - Amy CarmichaelPlease pray that we will be able to roll and rest and be reassured!  But specifically:

 

  • Kim has had a cough and poorly chest for over three weeks. After the first week he went to the doctor who gave him an inhaler. After the second week she gave him antibiotics. Now, he is still feeling under par (thought a golfing expression here was just the right note!) and still coughing – and badly coughs at night which keeps us both awake so we are tired and irritable and sleep deprived.  And in the tiny Bolt Hole there is no-where else for me to sleep to get away from the cough!  SO he is finding it hard to cope with the physical work and foremanship. Please pray for healing for him and for sleep for us both.
  • The Bolt Hole has been on the market since Easter and has had only a handful of people look around. We’ve lowered the price, changed agents … and still nothing. It has a lot of our capital in it – which we had assumed we would have soon when it was sold and which we now  need for the rest of the renovation work at Mays Farm!  Please pray for a buyer for the Bolt Hole.
  • The first brochure is due to be mailed out both in the UK and the USA. It is essentially to do three things, listed below. It needs to have envelopes stuffed and addressed and to actually get in the mail – the UK ones hopefully before we go the USA on Thursday! Please pray for reception of the brochure and for  financial provision for the ministry.                                                    1)    to bring awareness of the work of Ministries By Design to as many people as possible

2)    to raise finance for projects such as the Chapel and the MbD office

3)    and a bursary fund for those who need to come on retreat but can’t afford it (mostly clergy!)

  • Yes, we are flying to the USA on Thursday, for 2 weeks. The first week is holiday and staying with our daughter and her family; and the second week Penelope is speaking on a women’s retreat in upstate New York and Kim is meeting with a group of pastor friends (they get together at least once a year for mutual support and prayer – and golf!)  Please pray for refreshment and renewal; and for the Retreat talks and walks.
  • The rental property in Bath that we have owned for a long time and rented out  for years has become a real headache. Without going into too much detail,  Please pray for the Lord to sort it out somehow!
  • We will be holding more Saturday work days when we are back – June 15 and 22. The house and gardens will be most grateful of any possible help. Please pray that people will come and kindly give some very practical assistance!
The hole for the large bifold doors to form a garden/breakfast room
  • We have to get the furniture and all our belongings out of the Vicarage by the end of June ( and what a blessing it has been to be able to leave it there all this time!) Please pray that there will be at least a space large enough to store it when it arrives even if we can’t unpack.

Seven items for prayer!

Could you pray one a day for us for the next little while? And might you let us know if you are doing this?

It would be a vast and glorious blessing to have your support! Thank you.

2 Corinthians 1 was given to me today:

"We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 11 And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety."

Thank you for your prayers already!

 

 

 

 

 

Of burglars, beams, builders, bricks

Ministries by Design is renovating an old farmhouse in N Wiltshire on the edge of the Cotswolds, in order to be a place of spiritual sanctuary, spiritual restoration, spiritual abiding in the Vine (John 15). Regular updates here! So sign up (>>>) to get the updates delivered into your inbox. Might you pray for us as we undertake this enormous project? and come and visit - and maybe help? - whenever you can. Visitors always welcome!  This past week has been OF BURGLARS, BEAMS, BUILDERS and BRICKS

The house became ours, officially, on February 14th. We laughed, gave thanks, were delirious with joy and relief -  six months since our offer was accepted (see that story here) with  ups and downs (here)  along the way (here).  What a gift of Love and Life and Laughter, on Valentine's Day!.

The neighbour's phone call came later. Did we know the door was swinging wide? Were we there?

We were not but we soon were. Investigations showed all too soon that someone had been in.  A BURGLAR , for the brandnew, unopened, rather expensive wall paper stripper was gone. We thanked God that it was nothing worse, no fire started, nothing more precious taken. But husband is rueing the loss of such a useful and expensive 'toy.' As shall I be no doubt when I start stripping.  (the wall paper). Ebay has provided a cheaper substitute already. So much for the burglar.

THE BEAM is the one thing that has thrown up a problem. One vast old wooden beam (out of many) is rotten at one end, over a window. An extra £1500 on top of the budget. We thanked God it is just one beam's worth. The rest of the house is pronounced sound. The timbers have all been treated (which is why the floor boards are up, revealing 17th Century joists) We are good to go on.

Tomorrow, Monday, the BUILDERS return. We had rented the building back from the current owners during January, so that some work could begin, but it had had to halt for a while. We thank God for Tom and his crew; and pray that we will be living grace around them, as we work alongside them. May they see the Lord in our lives.

Finally - the fun of the BRICKS. A story in pictures of what Kim, aided by Chris on Saturday, has been doing in what will be the drawing room.

It begins with a 1950's fireplace, and an outside wall which is about 4 feet thick.

Four successively older layers of brick fireplaces chipped out. A cascade of bricks. Daylight glimpsed. One old ingelnook fireplace. Two tired dusty exultant men - one worship leader, one vicar. Thanking God for safety and fun and discoveries.

What will next week bring?

Sign up to find out! Thank you for prayers and support: you are appreciated!

Blessing upon blessing upon brokenness

 

It's not easy, buying a house. Or selling one. Like most people, we are currently doing both. At the same time as a complete change of lifestyle, ministry, work, business, geography and space. Like many people. So there is excitement, anxiety, stress - and blessing. Blessing upon blessing, many of them small blessings, each of them seeming to be God's provision, timing, leading.

On Thursday afternoon, we stood in the Piggeries at our new home.

 

We don't actually own this house yet. But the Aga for my new kitchen was being delivered, and it is being stored in the Piggeries for now. My husband found the Aga on ebay - a mere 5 years old, unwanted and eventually unbid for. No-one wanted to pay the enormous asking price, I suppose.  We couldn't; but a few emails and phone calls later, and a 4 door cream Aga is ours for a mere fraction of what it should have cost. Just like the house itself -  ours was the lowest offer,yet for some unearthly because heavenly reason, our offer was the one accepted.

The Aga was moved and transported it for us by an amazing father and son team - the son is a young man with severe learning disabilities, but able to help his father in their family business of redistributing Agas. It was humbling to see them working together, interacting, chuntering and cheering at each other. They slipped the Aga into a large piggery, and promised to be back when the kitchen is ready for it. And while we were there, back in London a dishwasher was popped into our garage - unwanted, surplus to requirement and would we like it for our new home? As we don't own one (all the appliances in our current kitchen belong to the church) we were delighted to accept.

The new kitchen needs designing. It's currently 4 areas separated with partition walls, with old uneven stone floors and not much else. But a friendly kitchen designer has offered her services - for free. My ministry of Retreats and Quiet Spaces in this new house needed setting up with a company, a trust, a Board of Directors, a Charitable Status. It's all being done for me - kind friends, congregation members, acquaintances  - giving freely and generously of their time and expertise; and suddenly Ministries By Design is a Company registered at Company House, and charitable status is on its way.

Others, whether friends known for a long time, or friends known only through Twitter, are offering time and prayer and skills for later when we could do with people to paint and decorate.

Or give the double aspect some TLC:

Double view!

Blessing upon blessing.

And as for the huge financial needs - I don't want to go into specific details, but I can mention loans, small gifts, grants (even one to pay the removal costs, as moving without a job to go to means there is no removal payments) donations, provisions.....  A long way to go yet, but enough so far to mean we can move ahead.

Blessing upon blessing, undeserved and unmerited.

At 5 am on Saturday morning, we were both wide awake. Heads full of plans for new kitchens or big physical tasks like laying underfloor heating. Too busy to sleep. Coffee in the kitchen in the darkness of an early morning, laptops wide open. Excited, anxious, worried, gleeful, perplexed.

Wondering whether we are totally mad. Wondering whether I will really be able to do what I feel called to do. After all, I've had 2 years off work, coping with PTSS and depression and broken dreams. I CAN'T DO THIS. WHAT MAKE ME THINK I CAN HELP OTHERS, especially those younger women clergy whom I long to support and encourage?

But then I re-read this, and knew the truth of it:

Many have found that their broken dream was an open door to a better dream that could ONLY come through brokenness.

And I remembered:

Attempt something so great for God that it be doomed to failure unless God be in it.

I am being blessed in and through the brokenness.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Cor 12:9

 

Where have you experienced unexpected blessings?

Where are you finding grace and power perfected in your weakness?

Might you encourage me too by sharing those?