Friday, 27 May 2016

A spring clean!

Hello.... is anybody out there?

It feels like I'm shouting into this hole, this abyss where once this blog was filled with the happy chorus of stories, news, laughter, colour and events. Looking back over this blog tears somewhat at the heartstrings. If you'll allow me to get sentimental it feels like an abandoned house, the photos still hang upon the walls, but there's a film of dust over the place. Well, I'm going to have a bit of a spring-clean if you'll allow me to...

But PRAISE THE LORD, although the dust may have settled over the cyber-space world that is this blog the friendships themselves are still alive and beating! God is good!

Allow me to re-introduce what has gone down of late: out of the eight of us, five are graduating this year, two are going on to do masters, one has had a year abroad in the land of Spain, one is on a year out working in a hospital, one is going to be a relay worker, one has plans to move to CANADA, and one is FRICKING ENGAGED!

How has this happened? Good question, reading back through the blog it feels like just yesterday we were all schoolgirls frolicking (or perhaps racing) from class to class constantly surrounded by echoes of carefree giggles of delight. Yet despite the distance, despite the ageing, the responsibilities, the work-stresses and future-anxiety I can still sit here are write that I have 7 of the greatest friendships ever, contained in this old tea-house. Seriously, everytime we have the privilege of meeting up I am astounded by the love and joy that is encompassed in this special group of girls.

Whatever the future holds I am armed with the knowledge that these guys have my back! Thank you Jesus for that. So I am going to try and resurrect this thing, who's with me?!

For now I leave you with some glorious photos:
Laughing is still one of our favourite past-times!

We saw needtobreathe...then met the band!!


Some snaps from our Italian adventure...

The beautiful bride to be... <3

This Easter we had our own revision camp #toocool

Unfortunately Sarah has been missed as
she's been in Spain - but so looking forward
to her return and future adventures!

All my love, dear friends! Abbie

Tuesday, 7 January 2014


You've just met me,
I'm not sure what you're thinking,
But I think I can guess.

I'm a little bit wild,
But relatively organised.
I somehow end up talking a lot,
But I love hearing other people's stories.
I love to be creative,
But I enjoy appreciating what I already have.
I can be giggly and seem immature,
But I've learnt when to be wise and collected.
I can be lazy and pathetic,
But I delight in serving others.
I can be spontaneous and emotional and irrational,
But I'm passionate and I dream big.

I'm confident in who I am,
But I still have fears and worries.
I know I'm not perfect,
But I'm trying to be better.

This is probably more or less who I am now.
But I wasn't always this way.

There was a time when I was very broken.
I'd been hurt and betrayed and abandoned and used.
I'd allowed myself to settle for less than I was worth.
I'd denied myself the right to say 'no'.
I'd made the same mistakes over and over again.
I'd wished the outcome would somehow be different.
I'd hoped that I would be enough.
I'd pushed away those who tried to support me,
But not far enough that they couldn't catch me,
Every time I fell.

However, over time, I was shown that I am loveable.
I was given people who held me and guided me and loved me.
People who could do this, because their strength was not their own.
The one who is love and strength and peace was holding them to hold me.

Through them I learnt that I can be put back together.
I learnt that I can be healed.
I learnt that I am worth more.
I learnt that the scars show where I've become wiser.
I learnt that I can say 'no'.
I learnt that sometimes I just need to be brave and walk away.
I learn that He has made me enough.

He has named me and called me,
He has made me and delights in me,
He has gifted me and equipped me,
He has strengthened me and protected me,
He has chosen me and redeemed me,
And he loves me.

He is more than enough for me,
and with Him,
I am enough.

~ This is for my beautiful friends who time and time again show me who I am, what I am worth and who all the glory goes to. I am so blessed to have seen God use you beautifully to do his work by lavishing his gifts upon you and I am so excited to see you continually working in partnership with Him for the service of His people. This is also for the God who has carried me, healed me, given me dreams and passions and loves me unconditionally even when I'm a complete ninkenpoop. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

A cheeky blog plug, is that okay? And perhaps a hidden treasure...

So...I'm not sure how well this blog post is going to go down following those three amazing, truth-filled, heart-pumping AMEN'S of blog posts which Milla, Meg and Eve have just written. But don't write this off entirely because there is a bit of gold dust at the end.

Yes, ultimately, this may seem shallow. Yes, I will be plugging my new blog Knowing God which I will be hyperlinking about a billion times throughout this post (don't hate me). A brief outline:

It's a hopefully more authentic and focused blog than my last one, with a dedication to sharing the good news of Jesus and all the wonderful discoveries about Him that I just can't keep to myself! (When I read  something new, a book or passage, I just have to share it with someone - it's the way these things tend to go: 'my cup overflows' (psalm 23))

So feel free to look around, have a bit of a poke, an warned though, it's a little dense some of it. To get the gist just scroll through the post and there will be a paragraph written in a bigger font and that will usually sum up that i'm trying to say.

And now for the juicy part. I received this book for Christmas called 'The cost of discipleship' by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and after about an hours reading I'm five pages in and my jaw is on the floor.
Every flipping sentence is pure gold! It's so precious that I just need to share it with you.

His premise is that just because our faith is one of grace (undeserved favour) - as in Jesus took our punishment with his life so no good-work on our behalf could ever get us into heaven, it's only reliance on this sacrifice, belief and trust in Him which can save us - it doesn't mean we carry on in sin and living how we want. He calls this attitude - cheap grace. And it is cheapening grace isn't it? It is not recognising how much it cost God to give up his own son, and how much our lives need to be given up in response to this love. In his own words: 'what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.' (p.5)

He thinks that a faith which says, 'well I don't need to do anything now, I can keep living as sinfully as before, because Jesus has done it all for me and I'm getting to heaven anyway' isn't a real faith at all. His description of real faith, of costly grace, had my mind-blown. I just have to share it:

'Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him...'

'...Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. Such grace is costly because it cost a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: 'ye were brought at a price', and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the incarnation of God.'

Aaaaaaahhhh! Doesn't that make your heart go: 'eeeiiiiiiikk!' So true! SO TRUE!

'God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life.'

Flip me.

Bonhoeffer has a brilliant way of putting things and I'm seriously looking forward to reading the rest of this book, even if it takes me years.

God's Call - the unyielding truth

It seems it has begun, the band wagon has well and truly been jumped upon and the blogging has once again begun. I've got so many thoughts running through my mind about what I could write about yet at the same time I'm totally stuck for words, I don't know where to begin or what to say, so I thought I would follow in Eve's well placed footprints and be totally authentic. 

My first term at university has been one of ups and downs. Looking back it's mainly been down, but despite all that I can say that God is faithful. I've thought to myself many times over the last few months 'what am I doing? I had the best job, I was surrounded by people who loved me, who spoke truth over me, who challenged me, and who encouraged me everyday to press deeper into the things God has for me. Why did I give all that up? What on earth possessed me to go to university?!' The answer is simple, God's call. 

As 2014 has begun, I've sat and dreamed for my year, and I've looked back on the dreams that I had for 2013. One such dream was to follow God's call wherever that may take me. In the midst of the busyness of university I had forgotten this dream for my life. I can sit in a coffee shop writing this post and think back to August and September where I heard God telling me that university was the next step for me, I can see how he provided the last place on a course for me, in the city I had wanted to live in for many years. It was no coincidence I ended up where I did. So why was it so easy to forget that this is God's call on my life for this season? 

Surprisingly the answer is simple, because the enemy wants me to forget. Going to university means entering into a whole new lifestyle yet keeping my identity fixed in and on Jesus. But if I forget that God's the one who called me and placed me there, then my identity slips and suddenly my ability to change and shift atmospheres, to speak wisdom into situations, to carry peace and light into fear and darkness, to declare healing, and to share the Gospel is lost. That's exactly what the enemy wants. 

You might be wondering where this post is going, well it's simply a post to say that I know. 

I know who I am - a daughter of the risen King Jesus
I know where I am placed - in one room, in one flat, in one university, on one course for the glory of God
I know what I carry - the Kingdom of Heaven 
I know what the enemy is doing - distracting me from the truth of my identity and God's plan for me

And it's a post to say that I choose to live in the light of that knowledge, to wake up each day and declare my heavenly daughtership, to reject the lie that I am not where God wants me, that my presence is wasted and that I cannot have an impact on my campus, and to be all that God created me to be for his glory. 

Will you join me? 

25 years.

So on the 7th of January 2014 it will be exactly 25 years since my parents first got married. And they knew each other for seven whole years before that! As children, we panicked a little when we found out that this was a 'big one'- weren't we meant to organise some party or something? Gather together all their friends? How were we going to do that? - it's not like a lot of them would have Facebook...! Mum and Dad, however, made it quite clear they weren't expecting anything massive. It's term time. We have a lot on. We know it's unfeasible. Short notice. Etc. etc. etc. (Our sigh of relief was almost audible...) So instead, I set about making a scrapbook of their 25 years. 
The idea came about after being inspired by Project Life that seems to be taking the blogging-world by storm recently. The premise is, that you make a 'scrapbook' type thing about your life as it trundles on by; but I decided to do one about the past, to celebrate 25 years of marriage and all it holds: jobs, moving house, new friends, four children...

A very nice wedding by the looks of it. 

This is an example of one of the first pages (there are a few that come before, their hitchhike across America, engagement, etc.) Quite obviously, it's their wedding. I had to trawl through old photo albums, inhaling many lungful's of dust as I did so, and take pictures of pictures. (It was the quickest way I could think of to upload them. Probably not the most technical.)

Not to alarm anyone: the 'adoption' thing here is a running joke! (probably not a healthy one, but there you go.)
This one is about Johnny, my youngest brother's, birth. He was so scrawny! (the weight is inaccurate.) There are many more pages that I have made, or am going to make, including; The birth of myself and Gina, Toby, a page on our beloved and stinky dog Archie, life before Johnny, life after Johnny, Living in Woking, moving to Bathford, Cornwall, their honeymoon, engagement, hitchhike etc. etc. etc. It's taking time I can tell you!
But something it did make me realise, is that my parents are quite incredible people.
I look at pictures with smiling faces and see all the memories behind them.
I see the strength in them, the adventure, the maturing of youth to wisdom. The first few pages begin when they are just a little older than myself, and it's quite a shock to see them do what they did and ask myself; would I do that? My mother, for example, decided to vanish off to Africa (I'm not sure how Dad felt about this!) for a few months before they got engaged, and looking at the photos- her meeting people, riding horses, amazing landscapes, it seems like quite a journey. I question my courage when I'm faced with hers. I question how strong I am when I look at how she is.
It was almost like (I'm an English Student, forgive me) when you have to do back-ground reading on a novel to fully understand it better. Oh, Shakespeare wrote it when SHE was Queen, and THAT means THIS. Understanding my parents past has definitely shaken the way I look at them now, in a good way. I challenge you to find out something about your mother and father that you DID NOT know before. I guaruntee it will be worthwhile. 

Mum and Toby. 

Gina and Me.

The Quiet Place.

I'd been avoiding this for days, weeks, months now. The more I put it off, the harder it became until eventually I'd stolen precious minutes to make it happen.

I wanted to want this, but ultimately guilt had driven me here. I wanted to be giddy with expectation, but really it was the nerves that were shaking me. I wanted to be hungry and thirsty for more, but honestly I was just exhausted.

Sat on the bed, I pull out my bible. Hunch my shoulders low and close my eyes tight. Prepare to release.


'Dear Lord.'


I have everything to say and yet nothing trickles out. I can normally talk for England so why was nothing happening now? The silence wraps itself dizzyingly around me and the more I desperately try and reach out for something to say, the more it constricts my every failing word. I try to relax. I wiggle my toes, shake my head and resume my previous posture. Take two.

'Dear Lord. Hi.'

The additional word was definitely heading more for a tangent than the intended path. Alas, I was not to be stopped.

'Sorry I haven't been around for while. Things have been a bit busy. You see I've been- well, you know about that.'

I babble on for a bit, not making much sense, but that's no change from usual and at least I'm saying something. Noise is better than silence. Right? Then it begins to dawn on me. I'm addressing someone who knows me so ridiculously intimately and yet I still feel as if we are only slightly more acquainted than strangers. I know all about Him. But I don't know him. Not like I know my friends or my parents or the people on my course or even the people that serve me dinner in the dining hall.

At this point I'm silenced. Do I cry? Do I scream? Do I laugh? Do I sing? Nothing seems quite right.

Here is the maker of the universe and I'm giving him the summary of a story he already knows. I'm making up excuses for circumstances he knows all about. I'm acting as if we wasn't there all along. Every second.

He never left.

All that that time I spent thinking I should probably make my way back to him - the great prodigal return - yet the truth is, he was always there. He's no stranger to me. He's everything I've felt and touched and breathed and moved and lived and loved. He wasn't absent from those moments of joy, he made them. He wasn't oblivious to the hurts and the wounds, he felt them. He wasn't unaware of the sins and shame, he paid the price for them.

He's not the one I'm meeting for a chat. The one I've scheduled into my diary. The one I feel obliged to make an effort with. He's the very skin on my bones. The beat in my heart. The thoughts in my mind. The life in every cell of me.

I am only me because of Him. The closer I am to Him, the closer I am to me.

And so once again The Quiet Place begins to become my refuge. That place where it's just me and Him. Where I admit where it aches, hand over my dreams, commit others and listen attentively to what he has to say.

For every sin in the noisy places, there will be rebuke and forgiveness in The Quiet Place.
For every wound in the noisy places, there will be healing in The Quiet Place.
For every chaos in the noisy places, there will be peace in The Quiet Place.
For every sorrow in the noisy places, there will be joy and strength in the Quiet place.
For every adventure in the noisy places, there will be training in The Quiet Place.

That place is precious and beautiful and irreplaceable.

Now what else would I possibly rather be doing?

Friday, 3 January 2014

The throwing down of the gauntlet

So, our devoted and probably non-existant followers... we have sad news. The founders of the tea-house have been blown apart, scattered over the country, forced apart by the ever-moving tides of fate.
(Too hyperbolic?)

2013 was our first year where we didn't spend every waking moment with each other...and it. was. HORRIFIC. No more laughing literally every second, no more deep bible-chats, no more going to the loo together, no more knowing exactly what item of clothing everyone's all over. Finished. Kaput.

But wait! Don't quite give up on life just yet, all is not lost. That was one brilliant chapter of our lives, (and it was brilliant!) but 2013 wasn't a complete waste of time. It was, and I'm speaking on behalf of everyone here (I hope not incorrectly!), one of the years where we grew the most, faced the most challenges and survived, gained experience and had a heck of a lot of fun!

There was the five adventurers who 'found themselves' in Africa
The one who let her creative flair go wild in Falmouth
The one who stayed true to her mission-oriented heart and designed graphically 
And the one who did just about everything, including taking to the seas! 

We all made new friends, went to new places, stepped over our the foreboding walls of our comfort zones again and again and again...dreams were fulfilled, passions were kindled and throughout it all we remained friends joined by the invisible golden threads which will forever link such devoted daughters of God.

This blog was created with the initial purpose of keeping us together when such separations eventually happened...and, well, there's been some success...okay, I'll be honest, it could be better.

That's why I'm writing this! 

This blog is the call to arms for all my sisters, it's the throwing down of the gauntlet so-to-speak, the metaphorical kick-up-the-bum. (I had such a cheesy line I was going to use here...I might just say it, just to make you cringe: 'who's going to answer, girls?' Doesn't that make you GAG!?) 

Be that as it may, we're all at University now, the gap year's been and gone, and despite this continued distance, lets use this space to bring each other closer together. Let's post our experiences, our pictures, our feelings, our thoughts, our memories, our news...

To sum up, I love you all so much. Have a brilliant 2014.

STILL cracks me up.
P.S...How awkward will this post be if no one posts afterwards!?

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Croatia Photoreel

Every member of The Tea House went on a trip to Croatia last summer. I'm not sure if it's evident enough from the photos above- but it was one of the best holidays I have ever been on. It was a while some of the fine details are a blur, but a general feeling of happiness and freedom still colours the memories. I remember that in our brief six days there we; climbed a mountain (not realising it was snake infested until halfway up!), went on a boat trip, started a conga in the street with strangers, prayed over the city, went swimming, went skinny dipping in the dark (!), ate the biggest pizza known to man, commandeered a plontoon, did bible studies daily, fought wasps over lunch, prayed for each other individually. It was like our final 'hurrah'. The last goodbye before we split up and went to different Universities. And I can tell you it was a £200 well spent. The prayer, especially, and the christian fellowship was priceless- I entered uni knowing God was behind me, before me, beside me, his plan was in action and his will being done- a knowledge that my friends were integral to making clear to me in Croatia. Thank you friends. Thank you Croatia. Thank you God- that holiday was a gift like no other.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Tanzania tales...Lameck

I remember the first time I met Lameck. We were visiting a lady called Mkame who was ill and needed the bottles of water and rice we had come to give her. It was the first time I had been along that well trodden path, and woven between those houses that would become so familiar to me.

As we walked, children seemed to appear from no where. Popping up out of the long grass and flocking towards us, reaching for our hands and peering up at us with those large questioning eyes. Lameck was one of them. He came straight towards me, and I remember thinking that his long pointy face seemed too small for his bulging eyes, his wrists too thin for his hands. He didn't smile, just took my hand and answered my stumbling swahili queries with a small voice and simple 'eeehh' (meaning 'yes'). 

I can't remember what happened after that moment. But we often came back to visit that place to check on Mkame, and I began to recognise that 'lameck' kid who I'd seen before.

Halfway through the trip we decided to build Mkame a toilet. It meant that we transferred most of our energy and time to that small little cluster of houses. We would pull up every day in our truck and the children would swarm towards us, grabbing our bags and tools - eager to help us in our work. We would traipse along that small path together and arrive at the worksite.

I have several stand out memories of this quiet, thin and unassuming little boy. The day we first started building the toilet, his gaze fell upon the box of gloves we'd brought with us. Him and lots of of other curious children seized them and wasted no time in donning them with delighted grins.

We soon discovered that Lameck had one brother (Charles) and a sister (Eppi). And that he and his brother had sickle cell anemia. It's a horrible disease, one only found in black africans, where your red blood cells assume an abnormal shape. If he had been a child in the UK it could have been managed by dietary control and his life expectancy would have been fourty or almost fifty years longer. As it was, he lived purely off cassava and he wasn't expected to live to twenty.

As a team we strived to help Lameck and Charles as much as we possibly could. I remember taking him for a blood test at the local health centre (the coptic). I remember him sat on my lap and looking at me with a strange smile on his face as the needle went into his arm. I think ashamedly back to my own blood-test experiences and my face burns - I can barely stand the experience, but these two boys ages 5 and 7, didn't seem bothered at all.

We fought the government hospital, begging them to give the two boys a blood transfusion but they refused. We went to the bishop of the area and he told us that we would have to take responsibility for the boys ourselves, which could lead to horrible consequences if anything went wrong. We were stuck.

Then Lameck had what's called as a 'sickle cell crisis'. I wasn't there, but apparently it was awful, he had been in so much pain he was barely conscious. The team rushed him to hospital and the government eventually gave in and allowed him to have a blood transfusion. We had spent that night praying that he would survive. 

The relief we had felt the next time we saw him had been almost tangible! He was fine! We rounded the corner of their small village with our hearts in our mouths and came across him and his brother making flags from bamboo and cloth. 

Lameck and Charles with their flags!

I have many other memories of Lameck - him giving Gaby and I two segments of orange and laughing as we spat them out. Him giving Abbie and me two eggs as a thank you for our help - something that must have been so precious to them. Him asking 'picture?' and 'puto'? (balloon) almost constantly.

A week ago we were told that Lameck had passed away.

 It doesn't seem quite real that a boy who is so alive in my memory can be gone. He is still there in my head, walking along that grassy path towards me, him with the gloves on, and abbie's sunglasses oversized on his head. I don't think I realised how attached I had become to that little boy who seemed to need us so much. He lived such a strange and different life to me, so poverty stricken, how is it fair that just because he lives in a rural corner of Tanzania that he doesn't even reach the age of 8? 

I know that God put us in the last few months of Lameck's life for a reason. We enabled him to have a blood transfusion, to enjoy living, to play games with him...So this is a blog post in memory of brave, serious, little Lameck - someone who brought home the impact of poverty with sickening reality.

There are so many other children out there who are just as helpless as Lameck, so so many who suffer from poverty and illness. It just so happens that his life and mine brushed each other for a while.

Lameck and Charles and me.