Your prayers are really needed.

The third Preview (ie, free but you are a glamping guinea pig) has just ended. What a fun week we had! Eleven of us in the house, just as the weather decided not to be quite so nice.  Rain in the mornings - so there were work parties on the stairs and landing and in the hall, sanding and filling and painting and decorating. The angelic sounds of singing voices  came wafting down the stairs where they intermingled with the iPad playing worship music. There was a plastic shower cap on one head to avoid paint splashes; rubber gloves on various hands; much fun and laughter. One bedroom door (Stamford) even has its first coat of gloss - which is a first for the whole house! There are miles and miles of skirting boards yet to be glossed ... And in the afternoons we set off to walk.  5 miles across the fields to Surrendell and back; 6 miles round trip to gloriously pretty Castle Combe; and a mere 2.5 miles to circumnavigate historic Malmesbury before investigating the ancient Abbey. And on the feedback forms inevitably a mix:  we walked too far - or not far enough; we walked too quickly - or not fast enough. But Gracie the dog loved it all and enjoyed whichever walk we did.

There was Compline by candlelight in the Library; Lectio Divina one evening, Ignatian Contemplative prayer another. And we finished by sharing in Communion together on Friday morning. The days had flown past and the Lord had graciously met with people in various ways and at various times. Farewells were made with hugs and hugging as email and contact details were exchanged. The Lord brought people together in extraordinarily deep ways in such a short time.

"A strong sense of God's blessing on this place already."

"Three full days was too short!"

"Appreciated being involved and playing a small part at the outset."

"Would definitely like to come back either on my own or to bring a group."

"God really spoke to me in that meditation - I've never experienced Scripture like that before!"

"God was certainly blessing me over these few days and I hope to continue feeling blessed as I take Mays Farm back with me to my life at home."

"Thanks for the quiet times spent together getting into God's Word - very helpful."

"Loved Gracie!"


And so the work continues. And the retreats keep going - we are just starting the Preview cycle again, of individual retreats, then a Guided Silent Retreat and then another Walking Retreat. And next weekend, the first time that a small group will be here - 7 or 8 of them coming together, building their friendship and fellowship through being here, working on a project . The Courtyard is currently being re-laid and we are down to 2 or 3 builders and decorators a day - very quiet after the 8 -10 men we had each day at one stage!

We are now taking bookings for the autumn, and the house will be almost finished. It won't be completely finished   - there isn't the finances to do it all right now, as we have not been able to  sell  our cottage so the money is running out . There's no refurbishing and finishing of the office or the chapel, and we are sad about the chapel as it will be such a vital part of the ministry. The lovely Drawing Room, also for the use of guests, will not be usable yet either. There's no summer house to sit in - just the foundations; but that can wait for another year; and the decorating will not be finished .. we shall sit and paint gloss work for days to come, but that's all right.

It's the Chapel in particular we are concerned about.

Might you pray that the money will be provided for this? That somehow, from somewhere, the Lord would enable the Chapel to be finished and fitted out, so that we can have it for services and celebrations, for devotional times and for spiritual direction times. For groups to use and for individuals to sit and pray. And if you are able to contribute financially that would be amazing too, either for the finishing of the Chapel, or to establish a bursary fund to enable those to come who might not otherwise be able to - such as younger clergy.

But most of all we would love for you to pray for this new ministry and for those coming who need this place of spiritual sanctuary, a place of refreshment and renewal, a of retreat and restoration.









How you can help:

Please pray

Please come -  and enjoy a retreat at Mays Farm

Please tell others

Please bring others

and maybe begin by sharing this blog post?

THANK YOU -  You are MUCH appreciated!



Mothering Sunday and a mothering God


Mothering Sunday (as opposed to the American MOTHERS' DAY in May) is the fourth Sunday in Lent, when traditionally we gave thanks for mother church. I think it was the Victorians who began to send their servant girls home for the afternoon to see their mothers, and it developed and was transformed.  Today it is fraught with difficulties in church, as clergy try to appease so many for whom it is difficult for whatever reason.

Mother's Day is here to stay.

Retailers love it.

But deeper far than any sentimentality (in the best sense of that word) is the mothering of God.

EL SHADDAI  -  I am the Almighty God  (Genesis 17:1 AKJV)   


EL - this very old word for God means might, or power. But  SHADDAI has a very different sense - that of provider, the one who pours out all that is needed. Just as a mother feeds her infant, and provides everything - strength and nourishment, love and contentment. Hugs. Oh the hugging of a mother and child in a loving relationship!


The Lord God, seen as a breastfeeding mother.

Pouring forth into us.

Pouring out all that we need to sustain and nourish us. 

Pouring out love and blessing.

Holding us, hugging us.


Lord, I need to know you as my El Shaddai today:  the lover of my soul.



This post is linked with a post  from my other blog,  (a daily devotional for those in the first year of bereavement) and is from Week Sixteen of The Scent of Water - the rest of the week continues the theme.


photos courtesy of Mother's day:Stuart Miles/Retrievers:khunaspix

The main thing I have learnt this January

How to stave off the annual blues of deepest darkest January?

I've been posting regularly throughout January about  alleviating the bleak midwinter blues - learning about the Revd Sydney Smith, hugs and hugging, living as well as you dare, twinkly lights, sleep.....  check the January post archives if you missed anything.

And now January is coming to an end - its's February on Friday!  So, in this last post on the winter blues, what has January really taught me?

What I think I overlooked or forgot is the encouraging fact that January is a new beginning!

A fresh start.

A field of pristine untrodden sparkling snow awaiting the first footprint. 

photos taken whilst I was on the Captivating Conference in Colorado in February 2012


A fresh start is almost always exciting – as a child, that thrill at the start of the school year with new pencils to sharpen, new books to get ready, new uniform clothes, the eager anticipation of seeing friends again, that sense of adventure, heartpounding thrill and newness.

And inhaling the faint air of exciting possibility.

Even now, starting a new journal – opening to a blank page, wondering what the words will be describing as the year progresses, what adventures and emotions will be committed to the paper.

Maybe it’s to do with the fact that we have a God who also enjoys new things.

“This is what God says: ‘Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history.  Be alert, be present.  I’m about to do something brand new.  There it is!  I’m making a road through the desert…’”  (The Message).

“Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.  I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness …”  (NRSV)  Isaiah 43:19

God is always doing new things and moving us on and changing us to be the people He wants us to be.

He wants to make a road through (THROUGH!) the desert – not take us out of the desert but enable to cross it and He does a new thing to enable this to happen.

But sometimes the new is scary.

That newness at the beginning of a school term could be scary too. Would we like the new teacher? Would we be in the same class as our best friends?  Would we fit in? Would we cope?

The anticipation is tinged with anxiety and apprehension.

What will happen this year?  Will we cope?  Will we like the changes? And even – where is God in all of this?

But there’s help for this, too, in Hebrews 13:8

For Jesus doesn’t change – yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself.” (The Message)

Or, as many know it,

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (NRSV)

Jesus is the same: all may change but Jesus never.  And THAT’s where our security lies, that’s where we can find our stability and confidence.  The Lord Jesus never changes; He is always there for us, always loving us, always there to talk to.  We trust in Him, look to Him, and know that we will never be shaken when we keep Him at the centre of our lives.

So there’s the best, proven part of my survival kit.

Putting Him at the centre of my life.

Not just for January but for the whole year.

And not just for 2013, but for the rest of my life.


What are you taking from January into the rest of this year  - to help and inspire and encourage you?

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Your suggestions for beating those bleak midwinter blues ....

.... were just great! This mini-series on how to alleviate the dreadful January blues has been extremely helpful - to me and, it seems to you lots of you too.  And here we are, almost half way through January already.  How has it been for you?

Many of us can sometimes have those SAD feelings at this time of year: so we've looked at making Resolutions that energise us, living as well as we dare, getting enough sleep (or hibernating!) and realising that lots of hugs and cuddles can have a very salutary effect upon us - as well as being rather fun sometimes. At least three hugs a day!

Then there is the summer to look forward to - planning a trip, and especially, planning a Pilgrimage, to walk the Via Francigena in Tuscany! A vacation with a difference  - led by my husband and me; and already one week is nearly fully booked! Come too?

And the ideas keep coming. Today a friend sent me this great link to the gift of sleep, by Julie Ackerman Link in Daily Bread. Julie writes:

I’m sometimes tempted to believe that the work I do when I’m awake is more important than the work God does while I sleep. But refusing God’s gift of sleep is like telling Him that my work is more important than His. If we do not come apart and rest awhile, we may just plain come apart.

Oh yes.  That's me.

I loved the idea of special things to do at this time of year, from Sarah:

I read on a blog somewhere ideas for establishing routines/traditions that you do ONLY during the dark winter months — enjoying the season for what it is. The two ideas that I can recall at the moment are stringing white twinkle lights on your mantel and turning them on as soon as you get home (or when it turns dark) and routinely dining by candlelight. Very cozy, which sounds like a good theme for January!

We love cozy!  And lovely scents - 

Another beat-the-January-blues idea — buying special hand cream/lotion/soap, scented candles, bath salts, etc., in scents that are pleasing and cozy — and use them only in the winter months (and it so happens that post-Christmas is a good time to get them on sale!). I think this goes along nicely with the “live as well as you dare” theme! 

And Joy (from Words of Joy) wrote about hugging:  I am one of life’s huggers. My friends and family willingly submit to my embraces –others I allow time to get to know me and relax about it first!  Cuddling, hugging and embracing are all symbols of our love and care for others. They enhance life emotionally if not by years. Consider yourself ‘virtually hugged’, Penelope!

And what not to do?

On the list of things NOT to do can you please add: lounging in front of the TV watching indiscrimately any daft old program at the same time as munching on junk food and drinking too much alcohol.. very bad habit to get into but easy to fall into this trap in the Winter evenings..  So one vote for enjoying countryside and writing poetry and a NO vote for tv !

So there's a choice - yours and mine, as Mandy wrote:

It is a conscious choice and when I allow myself time for a hot bubble bath, pjs and bed at a sensible hour with a hot water bottle, it is so much better than when I listen to the lure of social media or reading just a little more. Thanks for the reminder that we only need to be who God calls us to be.

And perhaps the best comment?

I, and two little girls, are available for hugs whenever needed. 

Those two little girls are my granddaughters. They hug the best!

What are you doing to help alleviate the bleak midwinter? I have to admit I'm now cheating - I'm in Florida! 







We all need them.

But I hadn’t realized just how much we long to be hugged, yearn for the warmth of human embrace, until I wrote about hugs a couple of days ago  and received a number of comments and emails in reply.

And then on Friday afternoon, I went to the gym – for the fourth time this week! I’m visiting my daughter in Virginia and she goes regularly – and now her gym has kindly given me a free pass for the duration of my visit.  I’ve got the bug already – pounding away on the treadmill, doing the rolling hills program, trying to keep ready for the 100 miles walk of Pilgrimage in September; weights in hand, ear plugs in, small TV screen on in front of me.  And off I go, oblivious to my surroundings.  I’ve watched chat shows, Wimbledon tennis, the news, depending on the time of day.

On Friday afternoon it was the news. And I was fascinated to see coverage of a HUG-IN.

A sweet looking Indian lady, called Amma (mother) to her followers, had been just a few miles away in Alexandria, VA, all day, just hugging people, one after the other. It’s what she does.

She sits there and hugs anyone and everyone who comes for a hug.                   

People had been waiting for hours in order to get a hug.

“She doesn’t get up, or stretch, or eat. It makes you contemplate your own life and challenges….When she hugs me, I experience a great surge of peace and spirit. I have to go sit down,” said a woman quoted in The Washington Post.

People believe that Mata Amritanandamayi, the hugging saint, transmits power to others through a simple hug.

And in many ways they are right. A hug can relieve stress, prolong life, increase healthy levels in the body

But it seemed so sad that people had travelled and waited in order to be hugged by a stranger. Was it so very different to being hugged by family or friends? Did the effect wear off and if so would they have to follow Amma to her next location for another hug?

And I thought again of the Good Shepherd carrying His lambs close to His Heart. (Isaiah 40:11)

How He wept because the people were tired and confused, like sheep without a Shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

And how He has no hands now but our hands – to hug and hold and help.


Teresa of Avila (1515–1582) wrote:

Christ Has No Body

Christ has no body but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Might you hug someone today with the hug of the Good Shepherd?  Who needs a hug from you? 

Or maybe you need to ask for a hug for yourself?

And send this on to someone so that they will also hug someone else?

UPDATE: hugs for January HERE:







Holley said it yesterday : Three hugs a day makes you live longer.                                                                             

Makes you happier.


Of course,  at any given moment you are 50% of a hug.



My mother was widowed when only 64. And after that, she always said she missed his hugs. No-one hugged her, touched her.


We each need the  

3 HUGS a DAY diet 



We each need to be touched, to feel the warmth of another person's hand or arm around us.


Hugs are healing.  Heart rate slows, blood pressure stabilises, immune system improves.

We know that if newborn babies are deprived of touch, they don't do well even if their other needs are all met.


Virginia Satir, American author and psychotherapist said we need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance, twelve hugs a day for growth.

I look at this photo.  Taken at my mother's funeral.  Two of my grandchildren, her great-grandchildren, caught on camera hugging each other.  Too small to understand what was happening, but maybe aware of sadness all around them. Cousins hugging.

Hugging is such a natural, healing thing.

* * * *

I hesitate to hug. Always have done.

I like my space, shrink from contact.  Immediately following my 90 year old mother's unexpected and brutal death caused by an out-of-control car, people wanted to hug me.  It was kindly meant, I know.  It felt like being rubbed raw.

Hug three times a day?  Eight times? TWELVE times??

And now I read that  hugging increases oxytocin, especially in women, and so can lessen stress because it  decreases the levels of cortisol , the fight or flight hormone.

I need a hug.

Right now.

And so do you.


At the end of a Pilgrimage, when we have all been through so much together - miles and miles, blisters and sisters, views and pews, the agony and the ecstasy -

we hug. No words to express so much; but a hug says it all.

Even for me.






He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart

 Isaiah 40:11 (NIVUK)




Have you hugged anyone today? Been hugged?

Might you try? Might I?

Please hug me if you see me ... I'm learning to hug back!

And if there's someone you want to hug but are not sure ... or they are far away ...

send them this?