Win two nights on Retreat at The Vine at Mays Farm

Pen &; pup .jpg

Win two nights on Retreat

at The Vine at Mays Farm

I'll tell you how you can do that in just a minute!

Welcome to our new online home! Ministries by Design has a brand new website and a dot com address -  how exciting is that? Well, not very unless you are geeky, perhaps, but even I am excited by this beautifully designed and fresh looking up-to-date site!  Designed and managed by Kim Swithinbank, this new site is where you will now find us.

So, while you are here, take a look at next year's calendar (the link to it comes in a moment)  There are lots of exciting new retreats planned - including the one that always gets an "Oooooh!!!" when I mention it: Hotel de Chocolat. A two night retreat using Chocolate as an illustration of God's extravagant grace. Lots of treats in store over 48 hours - not least hot chocolate around the fire pit and chocolate tasting ..... book soon, because there are already some bookings and places are limited! 

WHY RETREAT?

Because our daily lives are typically filled and busy - things to do, people to see, life to live. And all that is good. But we each need time to BE - and at The Vine at Mays Farm we offer you the much-needed opportunity to step back from the chaos in your life. We offer an oasis, a place of spiritual sanctuary, a safe space to reconnect with God.

Mays Farm - over a hundred years ago!

Mays Farm - over a hundred years ago!

There are walking retreats 

and Silent Retreats

Retreats for clergy

and retreats for writers

Retreats to help you pray for others

and times for individuals to 'do their own thing.'

What would help you most? Which would suit you best? 

Maybe you find it easiest to connect with God when you are out in the countryside...

or when you are reflecting in silence in the Chapel...

Maybe you need others to share thoughts and experiences with....

or maybe you prefer to work through things on your own....

Maybe you like your own room...

or maybe you're happy to share a twin room (and pay a little less) ....

Maybe you'd like breakfast in bed ....

or maybe you prefer to keep the crumbs in the kitchen ...

..... Whatever you prefer, there is probably something to suit you, a time when you can step aside from 'normal' life, be revived and refreshed and renewed; and allow your roots to go deeper and remain in the Vine (John 15:4) You can hop over to the calendar/list of retreats here ... but don't forget to come back to find out how to win 2 free nights on retreat.

Pilgrims walking from San Gimignano to Montalcino , September 2013 

Pilgrims walking from San Gimignano to Montalcino , September 2013 

AND THERE'S MORE!

As well as retreats at The Vine at Mays Farm, we also lead Pilgrimages. In 2014 there will be two pilgrimages for you to choose. Both are on the Via Francigena, the old pilgrim route from Canterbury to Rome. It passes through glorious countryside in Tuscany, and in early June, we will walk from Montalcino to Viterbo, an 8 day holiday, with a walk of 85 miles. In very early September, another 8 day holiday will be a walk from San Gimignano to Montalcino, slightly less strenuous and 68 miles of fabulous countryside.  Click here for photos and descriptions and more information.

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WIN TWO FREE NIGHTS ON RETREAT in 2014

Yes - any two nights at Mays Farm! You might choose Hotel de Chocolat, or the walking retreat or your own individual retreat. But your two nights will be absolutely free, and will include all meals (except lunch on walking retreats). 

To enter the free draw you can either:

SUBSCRIBE TO RECEIVE THE BLOG IN YOUR EMAIL

HIT SHARE ON FACE BOOK  to share this post with your friends.

RETWEET ON TWITTER including the hashtag @minstriesbydsgn

For every time you do one of those things, your name will be entered into a hat and one name will be chosen by a Board Member who is here on a retreat this week! So the more times you share/retweet, the more opportunities you have to be chosen.

The draw closes on Tuesday December 11th at midnight (GMT) and a name will be chosen the next morning and the winner announced sometime on Wednesday.

* * * *

There are places still available on the ADVENT AWAY DAY on Saturday December 14th (10am - 3.30pm) but otherwise 2013 is now fully booked! Look at the calendar for 2014 and book soon.

We look forward to welcoming you to The Vine at Mays Farm. In the meantime,

GO WELL AND GO WITH GOD

www.ministriesbydesign.org

www.thevine-at-maysfarm.com

 

 

 

 

For people like you

We took a photo on Friday evening  - a reunion of  pilgrims.

Pilgrims who once upon a time had ventured to fly to the UK solely to walk 100 miles. And make it an intentional walking with God.

One told my husband, “It changed my life. I’d tell anyone to go take a Pilgrimage.”

There were twelve of us gathering for dinner - an evening in the most amazing home in California,just south of the Napa valley.

 

 

 

A gathering of people like you - people who love the Lord, people who long to go deeper with God.

People who are busy with their lives. Weary from everyday life. But still longing to go deeper with God.

And as we reminisced about Pilgrimage, we knew that we had gradually lost something we'd found when walking.

Because vision leaks. Life takes over. And we wistfully look back at times when we have been close to God; times when we have clearly heard His Voice; moments when we felt ourselves near to Him; journeys we knew to be in step with Him. We yearn for that closeness to return; long to hear the still small voice again; remember with longing the joy and love we experienced when we first knew Him.

Sometimes it happens unexpectedly again. Joining with others in a moment of worship. Being prayed for. Glimpsing the rise of a powerful moon in a pinkly grey sky.

 

But sometimes we even forget that we yearn for more of Him. We are people who live life busily, every moment in our schedules accounted for, crazily careering from one moment to the next.

We are people who often forget to live our lives with eternity in mind.

Maybe we need to walk a mile or three to reconnect with God. Maybe we need to rediscover a rhythm of walking which rests and clears the mind, helping to shed the everyday problems or see them from a different perspective. Being physically active all the time, meeting the challenges of the ups and downs, knowing the accomplishment of a long day of travel and arriving tired but triumphant after depending on God and one's companions to get there.

 *  *  *  *

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. "

(Psalm 32:8; NLT)

We need to get on that pathway. Get walking so that the Lord can guide.  And sometimes making a pilgrimage is a really good way to do that. Doing it physically enables it to happen spiritually.

*  *  *  *

We're offering two pilgrimages in 2014: walking the Via Francigena, the old pilgrim route which traces a path from Canterbury to Rome. In late May/early June (dates depending on when people like you would like to come!) we will walk from Montalcino to Viterbo, a walk described as "one of the world's most unique, classic walks .... South of Montalcino the country becomes wilder, with forests, low plateaux and Monte Amiata and the wide crater of Lake of Bolsena."

In very early September, the pilgrimage will be from San Gimignano to Montalcino, the walk we did in 2013. A glorious, Tuscan trail,  characterised by paths through vineyards, olive groves and forest, and landscapes punctuated with cypress trees and walled hill towns and villages.

These Pilgrimages are exhilarating, demanding, Spirit-filled times. Mountain top experiences, literally and spiritually. Designed with people like you in mind.

 

If you would like to know more, ask to be put on the mailing list (email: admin@ministriesbydesign.org) and be one of the first to get the full details. Each walk has a total of just 12 people so register your interest now so that you can be sure of your place.

 *  *  *  *  

 And if you'd rather walk in the glorious English Cotswolds, come on one of the walking retreats at The Vine at Mays Farm. Details of the first one in March 2014 can be found here.

 

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People like you, people like me - We are people who often forget to live our lives with eternity in mind.

Walking a pilgrimage can help to restore that balance.

 

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Take a peek here for full details of events & retreats at The Vine at Mays Farm from now until Easter 2014 

 

 

 

 

Feeling at the end of your rope? Me too ......

I got it all wrong last week. Ever feel you've reached the end of your rope? That you've got it all wrong; you're barking up the wrong tree; hopelessly out of your depth; mis-hearing God's Voice; and any one of the many other clichés I could quote.

Yes, all of that. And more.

So I posted a sad little note on Facebook.

Said that I wanted to give it all up, as it all seemed like a big failure.

I  felt totally out of my depth. Totally out of perspective.

What had happened?

- we moved into the new house on July 18th; the first retreatant arrived that same afternoon of July 18th.

- the house was full of retreats and lovely retreatants for the next SIX WEEKS! Even at weekends. Oh, and did I mention that I was leading the retreats and doing all the cooking - oh, and still have no Aga and for most of the time had just a microwave and then a small electric oven.

- at the same time, we had all the unpacking to do. The work was still progressing. The builders are still here.

- then we madly had a large party to celebrate rather large birthdays this year and to have a house-warming. Lots of lovely family and friends came. It was a fabulously happy day. And took a lot of organising and preparation. But there was no time to clear up properly for we were off to Italy.

- 2 days of rest and we were straight into leading a Pilgrimage. 10 amazing people came with us as we led them 70 miles on the Via Francigena, leading physically and spiritually. At least no-one was lost or inadvertently left behind.

 

 

 

Returning home on Thursday, we walked into the lovely house we had left - and could not believe our eyes!

We'd left this:

 

 

and we walked into this:

 

you can't see the thick dust in the photos but it is everywhere, over everything, in every room

 

 

The decorator we had hired came in while we were away. And did a terrible job; and didn't do half of what was supposed to be done.

And it's truly colder inside the house than it is outside, even at midday and with windows open to let in the comparatively balmy air from outside. It was much warmer in Tuscany and the difference is stark.

Then there was the post - and the bills and more bills; and no money and no support (we so far have just one person supporting us monthly and are desperately in need of financial support.)

Living by faith is hard. Especially when you are totally exhausted.

Living into God's calling is not always the easiest path - but it's the only one worth walking.

 

*  *  *  *

 

Friends and acquaintances have given enormous support to me over the past few days, all via social media.

Lots of prayers, lots of verses from Scripture, lots of encouragement.

I am exceptionally grateful.

Of course, there's still dust everywhere and the house is upside down and there are about 100 people coming on Saturday for the Open Day and Launch. (will you come? please?) It's still cold and damp indoors.

There's still no money, and only a total of 4 nights of retreat booked in for the foreseeable future and lots of outstanding bills.

*  *  *  *  

But I need to be grateful for how far we have come in such a little time. Grateful for the extraordinary weeks of the Preview Retreats.

And to remember not to give in to despair and frustration.

Especially when so very tired.

And isn't that just when the enemy likes to get in and tell us we are no good and never will be any good and that it's all gone pear shaped?

BUT.

But.

But -

illustration from #smokymtnchristian on Facebook

seen on FaceBook, from the Psalm we learned on the Pilgrimage

So now I am tied to God.

Resting in the power of God.

Learning to be strong, take heart and wait for the Lord.

*  *  *  *

And you?

What do you do when you are at the end of your rope? Where are you tied up?

*  *  *  *  

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 28th 2013

 OPEN DAY and LAUNCH

 

for THE VINE @ MAYS FARM

Wwould love you to come and enjoy The Vine @ Mays Farm

12noon- 4pm

Come for as long as you can - call in, or stay!

Light refreshments served all day

2pm  short dedication prayers in the Chapel

The Board of Trustees will all be here

Come and see what is on offer at this place of spiritual sanctuary -

retreats for you, for your leadership team, for your small group

 

RSVP by email. Thank you!

*  *  *  *  *  *

What retreatants are saying, after experiencing one of the Preview Retreats which were offered over the summer:

"L & I returned home from our Retreat at The Vine this weekend. The retreat center is going to be a wonderful place (it officially opens in Sept) and I highly recommend it to all  for visiting. It might be very special to go with a group of friends.  We enjoyed  meeting new friends, loved seeing the countryside and charming villages, and most especially experiencing afresh God's blessings upon us. The location is beautiful and peaceful, and the ministry very meaningful. The Swithinbanks are called to this place for ministry, and her Godly leadership skills for custom retreats are excellent! "  L&L from USA

"I had the most amazing time and am longing to be back at the best 'spiritual spa' that I have ever been to. I could not have asked to have been blessed with more beautiful and tranquil surroundings . I found utter peace at The Vine - I just loved it.  I came back and felt like I had found how I want to live -  I want to live with the supernatural peace that I experienced at The Vine." S.B. from London

*  *  *  *
www.ministriesbydesign for more information, Penelope's latest blog posts, and retreat details.
Your prayers and support are greatly valued and appreciated as we begin this new ministry. There are huge hurdles ahead of us (not least the money to complete the house and support the ministry) and we are learning afresh to look to the Lord and lean on Him:
Jesus said, "I am the Vine ... Remain in Me."

 

 

 

 

Curiouser and curiouser cried Alice

 

Early thoughts from a Pilgrimage ... 

Last week we (the other pilgrims and I)  walked in Tuscany -  from San Gimignano to Montalcino.  A mere 65 miles of the ancient Cammino, which goes from Canterbury to Rome, a total of 1300 miles. We called it a Pilgrimage for we wanted to make it a time when we intentionally spent time to draw closer to God.

And on the way we met Alice.

Rucksack on back, skin tanned, legs strong -  walking from Hertfordshire to Rome. Alice graduated earlier this summer from her studies of mediaeval history; left her home in Hertfordshire on June 23rd  and set out to walk to Rome. Take time to think. Cogitate on what may lie ahead for her. And meet her parents in Rome on September 23.

We were fascinated, astonished, curious. Why do it? Where did she stay at night? Would she be there in time? What did her parents think about it? And is it changing her, or her attitudes or beliefs?

Her tales were of sordid campsites in northern Europe, of a night finding nowhere to sleep and walking on in the dark - 30 miles without a stop, and then of warm Italians and welcoming Catholic churches and convents and parishes; and of how their faith was drawing her in, causing her to reconsider her agnosticism and making her wonder about becoming a Roman Catholic. And of calling her mother every other day to reassure her.

Later that night, when we had toiled up a hill to stay at the  Fattoria Pieve a Salti and were sitting by the pool under the setting sun, we prayed for her, for her safety and for her faith.  Thought of her sleeping in the parish church at Buonconvento, and of the 201 km she still has to walk to reach Rome.

 

Maybe some of us felt inadequate - our 65 miles felt very tiny in comparison. Most of us felt old - Alice is 22, our pilgrim party contained two who are 73, one who is 70 and one who is about to be; several in their 60's and 50's.

But comparisons are not always reality.

As we arrived in Montalcino after a long steep incline  at 20% there was a grand sense of achievement.

Physically -  many of the pilgrim party were not used to long walks each day, steep hills, strange beds, learning long sections of  Psalm 27: The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple...

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock...

You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”

Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

And spiritually  - thinking of how the deer desires, longs, pants  profoundly for water in the intense heat, especially the day we were unable to refill empty water bottles and the sun was hot and the path long and steep. How deep is our desire and longing for the Lord in our lives?

Or our ability to walk at all, being so wonderfully complex in our makeup, walking so slowly as we revelled in God's creation of us.

Remembering one morning of how He walks beside us. One pilgrim spoke of the intense sense of  the Lord's Presence beside her as we imagined His walking alongside us - and of how that Presence was accompanying her ever since.

One morning, married couples held hands and prayed together as they walked - one couple said they had not walked hand-in-hand for thirty years. Nor prayed together like that. You could almost see their marriage strengthen.

65 miles. 12 pilgrims (although only 10 made it the whole way). 6 days of walking. Too much pasta and plenty of water. No blisters, no falls, no casualties. God walked beside us, watched over us, drew us closer to Him. And each other.

And now it's over.

And already some are looking forward to next year and walking the next part - Montalcino to Vitterbo.

Come with us? Curious though it may be, walking in order to spend intentional time with God seems to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To be a pilgrim.

Today, I am flying to Italy - in order to walk. Walking: the original form of transport. A metaphor as we journey with God.

I don't NEED to go to Italy to do it. Nor to journey with God.

And yet.

Walking along the ancient ways, following the paths journeyed by pilgrims, remembering their search for more of God as they walked from Canterbury to Rome, will help me in my spiritual walking.

 

*  *  *  *

Scripture has much to say about pathways and walking with God.

On the Cotswold Pilgrimage, we learn some of the verses each day, to encourage us as we walk and listen to the Lord. I've listed below some we have learned .

And so I am excitedly stepping out to walk with God; and was astonished this morning to read not one but two blogs on Pilgrimage. Each written by one of my favourite authors, Maggie Dawn and Sheridan Voysey. 

On why we make Pilgrimages, and what we learn from them and why they have such impact upon us.

*  *  *  *

So I'm off to pilgrimage, being joined by 11 others. We will walk the Via Francigena from San Gimignano to Montalcino, over 6 days.

Pray for us? Pray for us as we look at how we can drawer closer to God, face-to-face with Him.

On our walk but also in our everyday lives.

Join us next year when we do this part again, or  then the next part, of the VF?

 

Bless us, Lord Christ, on our pilgrimage,

Be with us and all who are dear to us,

And with everyone we meet.

Keep us in the spirit of the beatitudes –

Joyful, simple, merciful.

                                                                                                                  (Taize: Pilgrim prayer)

 

Psalm 32:8  I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;

I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

Genesis 17: 1 The Lord said, “I am God Almighty (El Shaddai);

walk before me and be blameless.”

Romans 6:4  Christ was raised from the dead by the glory

of the Father, so that we might walk in newness of life.

Proverbs 3:5,6  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on

your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge

him and he will direct your paths.

Philippians 3:12

But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ,  who has so wondrously reached out for me.

Jeremiah 6:16 (RSV)  This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads

and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the

good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Psalm 37:23  The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord; He delights in every detail of their lives. (Though they stumble they will not fall

for the Lord holds them by the hand)

Interior Design

Exciting news this week from Mays Farm - the decorating is about to begin! Not everywhere, but a few rooms are ready for their paint. Bookroom red in the Library, lime white in the Drawing Room and bedroom two, whitewash in the Chapel. The reason? Apart from the obvious ...

The reason that these four rooms MUST be decorated is that all the furniture is arriving during the last week of June and will need to be stored in those rooms until the rest of the house is ready. We have been really blessed that we were allowed to leave all our stuff in the London Vicarage, and not have to pay for storage. But now the Vicarage needs to be emptied and so the Removal Men are booked and we will be reunited with our belongings.

It took FIVE HOURS (on a flight from DC to Heathrow) to go through each of the new rooms and decide which furniture will go where. What a blessing this new calling of our ministry this is proving to be; I was SO excited I could barely sit still even with the seatbelt sign warning on!

But we can't put the furniture into most of the rooms just yet and so it will be stored in one of four rooms - and those need decorating before it is unloaded! Might you like to come and wield a paintbrush with us and others?  Come and enjoy a day in the country at Mays Farm - each of the previous work days have been great fun and we have loved having others around who have blessed us, enjoyed the work, been blessed, eaten lunch together in the Walled Garden. And prayed. We want to pray over this Retreat House, again and again and again.

If the LORD does not build the house, it is useless for the builders to work on it. Psalm 127:1 (God's Word translation)

We pray that The Vine @ Mays Farm will be "auspice Christo" (built with the help of Christ)

Here is your own special invite, to come and be part of this:

 

SATURDAY JUNE 22

9.30 - 5.30 (or whenever you can be here within those times!) 

Painting and decorating party

Bring a paintbrush and wear clothes suitable for painting in!

And if you hate painting there' s lots of garden work to be done too.

RSVP - we will provide lunch so need to know numbers.

Don't be a stranger, see you real soon, as our Southern friends would say!

Latest photos of Mays Farm - they may look as if it is still a building site (it is!) but the developments in the two weeks we have been away are amazing to us.  Kitchen floor will be tiled this weekend too. We're getting there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

POST SCRIPT: One couple are having to cancel their places on the Italy Pilgrimage - so there are 2 places available if you would like to join us Sept 7-14, walking the Via Francigena from San Gimignano to Monticello. Get in touch if you would like more info!  

TIME TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT?

I am currently leading a Walking Retreat in upstate New York - near Lake Keuka, one of  the Finger Lakes.

Here's why I find such days such amazing times.

 

Complete wholeness – of stillness and silence.

As in the absence of interruption or invasion by iphones or imaginations. We stand, gazing at the beauty spread before us, hardly daring to breathe.

This is what we came for, this is what we saved for and trained for. This is the vacation with a difference for which we had dreamed and yearned.

A Pilgrimage.

A long walk with a difference because it is a long walk with God. Intentionally wanting to find Him.

And find Him we did –  in the glories of creation, in one another, in our uplifted hearts.

 

 

And we found the gift of TIME.

Time to be, time to be with God.

 

 

 

Isn’t that what so many of us crave? Time out, we call it.

Time to do something different, BE something different, in some place different.

Pilgrimage has been part of the Christian tradition for centuries. It’s not always been a part of mine, until some 10 years ago, when I was asked to lead one. I discovered that the daily walking, the lack of distraction, the determination to keep going, opens up opportunities for the still small Voice in ways I could not have found elsewhere.  I’ve led many since then, and each one has had its ups and downs, literally and metaphorically. Each one has been special. Sometimes the sun has shone, sometimes it has almost snowed.

On one occasion, we plodded along, one foot then another, one foot and then another. It was hailing, cold wet hard hailing. “All hail King Jesus …” someone began to sing. There were giggles and groans. One foot in front of the next foot.  Onwards and upwards. We had walked a mere 17 miles the previous day. 83 more to go to reach our destination.  One foot then another. The hail turned to sleety rain and tried to invade the scarf wound around my neck.  It was June, it was England, it was Pilgrimage at its worst. And maybe at its best too, for we spurred one another on, sang to God in spite of the cold, and appreciated even more the day when the sun finally emerged.

 

 

A mere 100 miles, each of the weeks of Pilgrimage in England, walking the ancient pilgrim paths and sheep-herding byways, from Chipping Campden to Bath Abbey. Some 60 miles in Tuscany, along the Via Francigena, from San Gimignano to Montalcino.  (Those names, they roll romantically round the tongue, inviting and enticing!)

Sometimes in silence, sometimes in prayer; sometimes singing, often laughing; taking time out from daily lived busy-ness, purposely spending time waiting to hear God speak into the rhythm of walking.

Nothing else to do – suitcases moved by unseen angels, meals awaiting us at the next destination along the way. An evening time of devotions – a short thought; some worship; prayers. Maybe Compline. Sharing our journeys, helping each other along.

 

Pilgrimage is a time of challenge – physically and spiritually.

It is a leaving behind – of daily routine, of family and friends, of expectations.

It is a purpose filled week of deliberately stepping aside and stepping out, in faith, to find God in ways never previously experienced.

It can be a difficult time. No good to pretend it’s easy, however much one has tried to get fit, practice, walk the extra mile.

It’s not the usual walking.

And yet, into this challenge, this sacrifice of normality and time and effort, God speaks. Whether it’s the chill of an English summer or the heat of an Italian one, there is something unusual, something special, something incredible, about this intentionality. So often we don’t know God, don’t hear His voice, because we don’t take the time to stop – really stop, or step out of our comfort zone and wait.

Wait for Him to speak into our hearts.

The Pilgrims are always amazing people. On each Pilgrimage I’ve led there have been people in pain – pain from living, pain from past wounding, pain in this journey. But they keep walking.

 

And each time, God has stepped into people’s lives – sometimes right then and there, sometimes later when reflecting. But God always speaks – if we take time and trust Him to do so.

“It truly was a life changing experience for me; and I met with God in a way I’d never done before.”

The Via Frangicena is another ancient Pilgrim route – from Canterbury to Rome. I Pelligrini (the pilgrims) walked it as an act of devotion to God, as an act of contrition. They carried little other than the walking stick, the hat, the cloak and the backpack.

Sometimes they ‘walked’ on their knees. They had no idea when they set out as to whether they would ever return, after such a long and dangerous journey. But their contrition and devotion drove them out and on, dependent totally on God, their fellow pilgrims and the people they met along the way.

When we first walked a part of it (Tuscany in July) the sun beat down mercilessly, our skins scorched and our tongues stuck with thirst. Yet we gave up relatively little compared to I Pelligrini of old.

And what of us? You and me?

How far would you be prepared to walk in order to empty your life of its everyday busy-ness, its tests and trials, its screaming loud insistence?

What do we need to sacrifice in order to hear that still small Voice?

This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jer. 6:16

How much do you yearn for the rest, the silence, the stillness, in which to hear God?

What might you do in order to take time to hear that still small voice?

 

 

The Revd Penelope Swithinbank is an international speaker and leader for Christian conferences, Pilgrimages, Retreats, Quiet Days and women’s events. She loves hiking, reading and travelling.  Author of ‘Women By Design,’ she is a Spiritual Director, blogger, wife, mother and grandmother, and is about to open a Retreat house – in an old Cotswold farmhouse, a place of spiritual sanctuary for those who need time away, especially those in Christian leadership. 

Website and Retreat details: www.ministriesbydesign.org

 

A fourth way to alleviate the bleakmidwinter blues!

I'm blogging my way out of any potential midwinter blues! I'm only making resolutions that bring energy and enthusiasm; I'm following advice from the Revd Sidney Smith to live as well as I dare right now; I'm getting as much sleep as I can; and I'm enjoying hugs and cuddles like never before. And here's another way that helps. Booking a summer vacation - it's something to look forward to and even though I don't want to wish my life away, there is something rather encouraging and enervating about planning something special for a future event. And something which will energise me and be a real treat, which will get me fitter spiritually as well as physically, and in a most beautiful part of the world.

So I thought you might like to come along!

It's a very special Pilgrimage - and there are just a few places left for the September dates.

Come join us for a Pilgrimage on the Via Francigena? We walk about 10 miles a day; our luggage is moved for us; and we have special times of prayer, devotional talks, spiritual exercises - and plenty of time to relax, laugh, walk, talk or be in silence. It's incredibly beautiful, for our souls and our spirits as well!

Here are a few introductory details, to whet your appetite.  Contact me for more information. We'd love you to come too!

NEW FOR 2013 - Italian Pilgrimages
San g path
San Gimignano
VFmap
Canterbury to Rome
via f pilgrim
Via Francegina
Siena
Siena
Mays Farm MAYS FARMRead more
LogoVisit our website
BOOKING
If you are interested in coming on one of the walks, please email us for full details and a booking form. To reserve your place there is a deposit of £200 with the balance due 8 weeks prior to the Pilgrimage.  Places are limited to just 10 people maximum (plus us) so don't delay!
Please pray for us as we put this together; and pray about whether you might be able to come. Do feel free to contact us with any questions regarding the walk. We are so excited about this opportunity and really hope you might be able to join us; and do pass the details on to others you know who might like to come too.

 

Grace and peace,
warmly,
Kim and Penelope

 

Kim & Penelope Swithinbank
Ministries By Design
Mays Farm, Hullavington
Walking the Via Francigena
San G framed

We are excited to be sending you the details for the first of our new pilgrimage retreats - in Tuscany, next June and September.
As you know, Penelope has been leading
Pilgrimages on the Cotswold Way for many years and many women have appreciated that opportunity.
But now Kim will be joining her in leading retreats and walks for both sexes, for singles and for marrieds  - and we
want you to have the opportunity to come too!
QUESTIONS? call us, we'd love to chat with you!
UK: 07870 497365
USA: (til  Jan 21) : 843 325 5220
fresco
The Via Francegina
This old pilgrim route goes from Canterbury, England, all the way to Rome. Archbishop Sigericus of Canterbury walked it in 994, and wrote down the names of the places he'd passed through. The route has been recreated so that you can follow in the footsteps of thousands of pilgrims over the centuries who have walked these ancient footpaths. You will be walking through the gorgeous countryside of Tuscany; as you walk there will be time to reflect, to seek the Lord, to have time away from the busyness of everyday life. But with Kim there too it won't be silent all the way!! And each evening there will be devotional times led by Kim and/or Penelope.
You will walk each day, but your bags will be magically taken on to the next hotel where we will all have dinner together in the evenings, and you will have many opportunities for tasting local wines and foods.
The route is stunningly beautiful - we have already walked it and just loved it. From the ancient hill top villages to the refreshingly cool Roman-built swimming pool to achingly beautiful old churches and fabulous gelato .... this is a glorious opportunity for you to experience a vacation with a difference.
The vacation will be organised by Alternative Travel Group and you can look on their website for further information about the walks. ATG journey
However, all your bookings and payments will be done through Ministries By Design, so that it is very easy for you - we will do all the admin!
courtyard

Dates:
There is a choice of dates:
June 23 - 30
Sept 7 - 14
This is an 8 day holiday. We arrive on day 1, walk from San Gimignano to Montalcino over the next 6 days and leave on day 8.
COST - £1395 (HB)
 
All costs are per person, sharing a twin bedded room with private bathroom facilities.
You will need to arrange your own flights to Italy (Pisa airport is recommended but Rome works too), local travel to San Gimignano and from Montalcino and also your own travel insurance.  Other extras are any drinks you require with dinner, and provisions/snacks for lunch each day. Everything else is included, which makes it incredibly good value.
Once you have booked,  we will send you the full details including what to bring with you, and how to prepare for this walk - physically and spiritually!

 

Hilltop town

NEW PILGRIMAGE IN TUSCANY summer 2013

NEW FOR 2013 - Italian Pilgrimages
San g path
San Gimignano
VFmap
Canterbury to Rome
via f pilgrim
Via Francegina
Siena
Siena
Mays Farm MAYS FARMRead more
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOKING
If you are interested in coming on one of the walks, please email us for full details and a booking form. To reserve your place there is a deposit of £200 with the balance due 8 weeks prior to the Pilgrimage.  Places are limited to just 10 people maximum (plus us) so don't delay!
Please pray for us as we put this together; and pray about whether you might be able to come. Do feel free to contact us with any questions regarding the walk. We are so excited about this opportunity and really hope you might be able to join us; and do pass the details on to others you know who might like to come too.

 

Grace and peace,
warmly,
Kim and Penelope

 

Ministries By Design
Mays Farm, Hullavington
Walking the Via Francegina
San G framed

We are excited to be sending you the details for the first of our new pilgrimage retreats - in Tuscany, next June and September. As you know, Penelope has been leading Pilg
rimages on the Cotswold Way for many years and many women have appreciated that opportunity. But now Kim will be joining her in leading retreats and walks for both sexes, for singles and for marrieds  - and we
want you to have the opportunity to come too!
QUESTIONS? call us, we'd love to chat with you!
UK: 07870 497365 (NOT Dec 28 - Jan 21)
USA: (Dec 29 - Jan 21) : 843 325 5220
fresco
The Via Francegina
This old pilgrim route goes from Canterbury, England, all the way to Rome. Archbishop Sigericus of Canterbury walked it in 994, and wrote down the names of the places he'd passed through. The route has been recreated so that you can follow in the footsteps of thousands of pilgrims over the centuries who have walked these ancient footpaths. You will be walking through the gorgeous countryside of Tuscany; as you walk there will be time to reflect, to seek the Lord, to have time away from the busyness of everyday life. But with Kim there too it won't be silent all the way!! And each evening there will be devotional times led by Kim and/or Penelope.
You will walk each day, but your bags will be magically taken on to the next hotel where we will all have dinner together in the evenings, and you will have many opportunities for tasting local wines and foods.
The route is stunningly beautiful - we have already walked it and just loved it. From the ancient hill top villages to the refreshingly cool Roman-built swimming pool to achingly beautiful old churches and fabulous gelato .... this is a glorious opportunity for you to experience a vacation with a difference.
The vacation will be organised by Alternative Travel Group and you can look on their website for further information about the walks. ATG journey
However, all your bookings and payments will be done through Ministries By Design, so that it is very easy for you - we will do all the admin!
courtyard

       Dates:
       There is a choice of dates:
       June 23 - 3
       Sept 7 - 14
       This is an 8 day holiday. We arrive on          day 1, walk from San Gimignano to              Montalcino over the next 6 days and            leave on day 8.
       COST - £1395 (HalfBoard)
 
       All costs are per person, sharing a twin        bedded room with private bathroom            facilities.
You will need to arrange your own flights to Italy (Pisa airport is recommended but Rome works too), local travel to San Gimignano and from Montalcino and also your own travel insurance.  Other extras are any drinks you require with dinner, and provisions/snacks for lunch each day. Everything else is included, which makes it incredibly good value.
Once you have booked,  we will send you the full details including what to bring with you, and how to prepare for this walk - physically and spiritually!

 

 

 

Hilltop town
Do please pray for us as we begin this new season of our lives and ministries. We will be leaving London on December 25 (yes, really!) and will be renovating Mays Farm for the next few months. We hope to have the Retreat House ready later summer 2013 - more news on all of that later, but you can read more about it in the link "Read More" on the left!

Three ways to help you exercise more.

9,500 steps daily average was my pedometer reading until a few weeks ago.    Not very good if you are trying to get ready to walk 100 miles in 6 days.  Three weeks ago I decided to step it up, if you will excuse the pun. A new daily minimum of 12,000 please, Penelope. So I started to plan my walking. And to schedule it in the diary. Suddenly, my daily readout looked promising: 12,500; 15,750; 18,900 (wish I had run up and down the stairs before bed to get to 19000!).  A desire to beat yesterday's total began to creep in. Where else could I walk to get to my new target? And who else might come with me?

Here's what I have discovered that really helps:

1. Plan to walk and walk to plan.

By writing an appointment with myself in my diary, I find it's easier to do it.  It means I have a schedule; I know when I am to walk and I know when to do everything else . By putting it in black and white, it's one step further away from procrastination! The two rules of procrastination: 1) Do it today. 2) Tomorrow will be today tomorrow.  SO: I am now planning my walking times - and my walking routes, and putting them into my diary - and doing what I plan.  And planning which way to go is now part of the anticipation and enjoyment.

2. Invite a friend - publically if necessary!

Walking alone is fine, it's something I quite enjoy, and with my new earphones which are actually comfortable to wear, I can listen to praise music and sing along  - even out loud if I am in the countryside!  But I discovered that if I only plan to walk alone I can still put it off.  So I issued a public invitation to friends on Face Book and on Twitter, inviting anyone to come and join me at 10am last Wednesday to walk from Muswell Hill to Hampstead Heath and back via Kenwood.  A 7 - 8 mile round trip.

And of course having invited people I had to do it - even if no-one turned up! They could have phoned at any moment to ask if they could catch up, join in. So off I went - and started to tweet with photos as I went, just to prove I was doing the walk.  

coffee stop at Kenwood House

It was inspirational for me! I repeated the exercise the next day - invited people to walk from Muswell Hill to Raynes Park, which is about 12.5 miles, as I needed to get to Raynes Park by about 3pm.  It began well - listening to praise music, tweeting the progress, taking photos of landmarks en route.

Reaching Finsbury Park via the Woodland Walk/Capital Ring path

But then came the rain and I didn't want to get soaked on that particular day, so I hopped on the Tube at Highbury/Islington (after some 4 miles on the Woodland Walk from Muswell Hill via Finsbury Park and up to Highbury Fields) and decided that with what I would do at the other end, I would be fine. I purposefully climbed up and down every escalator at Tube stations; and then went to Waitrose and back, in Raynes Park - ostensible to buy G & T and a lime, but really to add more steps.  Honestly!

Join me on a walk next week? Castle Combe and the surrounding area, on the MacmillanWay and local footpaths in an 8 mile circular walk - Thursday August 9th. Let me know if you'd like to come. Start and finish in Littleton Drew.

3. Set short term and longer term targets and goals.

Aim for nothing and you are sure to hit it. And that's what I was doing until now. It was rather a hit or miss affair.

But now I have a definite daily goal: a daily minimum step count. And a longer goal: being able to walk 100 miles in 6 days, in five and a half weeks' time. Please hold me accountable!

None of this is anything new - I have heard it all before. What IS new is applying it to yourself as opposed to simply reading it. Being do-ers of the word and not hearers only. Now where did I hear that before? The New Living Translation says,  But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. (James1:22) Plan and schedule your time with God - whether daily, or a special time or retreat; join with friends to study God's word and pray together; set a target - maybe to read the Bible in a year, or to read a whole epistle in one sitting, for example.

As ever, life gives illustration to God's Word - or is it the other way around? The three ways to make myself walk and exercise apply equally as well to my relationship with the Lord.  You can hold me accountable in this one as well.

What have you found really helps you to exercise regularly and effectively - physically and spiritually? What makes a difference? Please do share - we all need as much help as possible in these areas!

I am regularly writing a blog  on preparing spiritually and physically to lead a Pilgrimage of 100 miles in September. For details of the Pilgrimage, click on the dropdown Cotswold Pilgrimage bar at the top of this page. We are full for this year - why not plan to come next year?

I plan to lead three Pilgrimages next year - the Cotswolds, plus 2 new ones: part of the Via Francigena in Tuscany, and the Mary Jones trail in N. Wales. Come with me?