Category Archives: Family

one week down…


Welcome to Frances Street–this is our front door entryway.


Which contains the laundry facilities. Talk about accountability on not letting my laundry pile up…


Immediately off the entryway, across from the laundry is a small toilet (half-bath). Nice to have one of these for company and small potty-training boys who don’t make it up the stairs as quickly.=)


The entryway, which obviously needs some organization. I’m learning that the answer to many of my problems in life right now is “ikea.” The house is built into a hill so so it’s two levels but the levels are split to go with the grade. So we have several little tiny flights of stairs.


Just looking back into the entryway towards the front door. You can see the doorway into our  “lounge” there.


The “lounge” (living room). As we’re on the top of the hill, we have quite a nice view of the town.


Walk up the stairs, enter the kitchen and you meet this beauty, my #1 favorite thing about my new house. It has a “fan-assisted gas cooker” (still figuring that one out, but seems to do things a bit faster and hotter), a regular coil-heat oven, a grill (broiler) and EIGHT hobs (burners)!! As pastor Mark said, I have no excuse not to be hospitable! When I got my new food processor a few years ago with the shredding blade, I saw it as a challenge to create as many shredded foods as possible. This is my new one–at some point I will be using all eight hobs at once…


Turn to the right and you see the dining area and the lovely pre-existing hanging system which was put to immediate use.


Dining area overlooking the back garden. All the furniture was donated or lent by Newtown members for us to use as we settle in.


My #2 favorite feature of the house: the back garden. Can’t wait to eat out on the patio in the summer and try not to kill all these plants!


Exit the kitchen and you are on the stairs again.


At the top of the stairs is the main bath. Does the job. We’re not so adept yet at using the “half-sail” shower guard/door thingy–water everywhere every time yeesh. Looking for a shower curtain like we’re used to…


Another new favorite is the towel rack directly above the radiator. Brilliant!


Also at the top of the stairs, to the right of the bath, is the master bedroom. Can’t believe I’m putting this up in its current state, but there you have it… What else do you expect with no dresser yet…!?


Go up another tiny flight of stairs and you have this little room which will eventually quit being the “worst clothing organization system ever” and magically transform into a lovely guest room. I’m still waiting on my elf. Or, rather, Ikea.


The apparent star of this slideshow… And a victim of the aforementioned awful clothing organization system. Went to church in his 2-year-old brother’s shirt without any responsible adult noticing until afterwards. Also to the right of where Clive’s standing is the boys’ room. There was a nap in progress when I took these, so no pictures of it but let’s just say that it’s also an Ikea project waiting to happen. Beds to sleep on at least, but they’re certainly having fun with a week off of cleaning their room…

Here’s some of the main events of the last week:

Wednesday, February 13

We landed at the airport, had no trouble at the immigration services, and managed to navigate five trolleys piled with luggage, two children and a stroller from baggage, through customs to the exit where five friendly faces awaited us. They lugged our things out and drove us to our new home and left us to rest. Job and I, who had not slept much on the plane, napped for a few hours while David and Clive started the unpacking. The church had outfitted the house with beds, linens and furniture on loan as well as a full pantry and fridge. The presence of three different varieties of cheese made me a happy new European! Later in the afternoon Clive the younger got to meet Clive the elder for the first time. That evening we walked to Pastor Mark’s home for dinner where his daughters Hannah and Beth elicited the first smiles of the day from Job with their hamster. We also got to use the telephone there and call our parents. We put the boys down at 10 and we got down soon afterwards and didn’t wake up till noon the next day—that’s 14 hours of sleep!!


We woke up late and barely managed a meal and getting dressed before the shops closed around 5. But we made a quick stop in the hardware store for a few items and a few purchases at the toy shop. When we arrived home everyone exited the vehicle to allow David full concentration as he parallel parked our borrowed vehicle. You’re looking over the opposite shoulder, opposite hand on the steering wheel and opposite hand on the gear shift and on a steep hill…. So yeah we stood on the pavement and waited. Then we heard giggling behind us and turned around to see one of the church families who had stopped by with a welcome gift and got some extra entertainment thrown in. They graciously gave us the hyacinth and headed out so David could take the slightly larger parking spot they had used!=) Another highlight of the day was having Clive the Elder show us how to turn the hot water on. Here’s how to cure jetlag: take your first shower of two days in ice cold water on a brisk Chesham February morning. That item quickly moved to the top of the to-do list!


My first run in Chesham. To come to Chesham is to immediately enroll in a new fitness program: “calves of steel.” No matter which direction you head you eventually will hit a steep hill since the town is in a valley. We’re at the top of a hill and between walking to church, school and high street I’m beginning to see how the hobbits can take in second breakfast, elevenses and tea. Although to be fair being chased by Gollum through mountain passes probably burns a few more calories… We made it to Clive’s new school that morning to buy his uniform pieces and also got a lot of cleaning done, more sorting of the stuff, and found out our credit card had been put on hold for security reasons which put put a jam on getting a few things done (grr…. Should have thought to tell them ahead of time we’d be using it internationally…).


David’s first run–his knees ages in ten years in that half hour I think. Allan, one of the deacons, came over and apprised us of the internet/phone/cable/banking situations. Afterwards, my very brave husband drove me to a somewhat nearby town to view a couch I had seen on ebay. Unfortunately, it smelled like cigarette smoke, so no go… That evening we had our first fish and chips from the local chip shop. Have to say it was excellent, even for myself who doesn’t normally go for fish.


First day at our new church.  I’m quickly learning to have Clive use the toilet before we leave the house as a matter of course… running back up that hill at top speed is no fun. We also had a small chat with our new neighbors and are very excited to find out that they have two boys, one just younger than Clive and one just older than Job. So not only are they sympathetic to the bits of noise they’ll hear from our shared wall, but we have potential playmates!

To be honest, there have been some rough moments this past week: impatience with tired, whiney children, feeling overwhelmed by a to-do list that stretches for months and made more overwhelming by the different ways of getting those things done, and just plain irritability among us all in the midst of our suddenly more chaotic existence. But there have been some bits of order and beauty as well like realizing the care of Christ’s boy for us on both sides of the ocean. In many ways, this time of transition reminds me of the time following the birth of my first child: it’s entirely overwhelming and you feel so disoriented but in that time you find that God provides people who simply carry you along supporting and caring for you till you can find your feet again. And we’ve enjoyed seeing again the people who’ve been in our prayers for the past months, the blessing of new friends and discovering that no matter how crazy life gets I can still share a laugh with my husband about it. Sometimes, due to exhaustion, more laughter than would seem appropriate to anyone else. And that after a pretty icky week, going to church is refreshing and fortifying as it should be. Above all, that Christ is the same yesterday, today, forever and anywhere.



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Clive is in Kindergarten (aka it’s the end of the world as we know it)

 When the rain is blowin’ in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love. 

When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love. 

I know you haven’t made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I’ve known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong.

 I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawlin’ down the avenue
No, there’s nothin’ that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love. 

Though storms are raging on the rollin’ sea
And on the highway of regrets
Though winds of change are throwing wild and free
You ain’t seen nothin’ like me yet. 

I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the Earth for you
To make you feel my love. 

(“Make You Feel My Love,” Bob Dylan)

Two persistent thoughts on this:
First, I wish I could make everything perfect for him. I wanted the best, most classic wooden pencils and the pinkest Pink Pearl. I want a kindergarten teacher with a PhD. I want everyone to recognize what a delightful, hilarious, intelligent, and passionate little boy he is. I never want him to be picked on, ignored or have a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day. And so the night before his first day when the pencils and eraser disappeared and the neighbor talked about sketchy bus schedules I was in a bit of a panic. I laid in bed with David and cried “I just want everything to be perfect for him” and the Holy Spirit turned my own words on me like a tiny little stinger that kept on pricking. Really, why would I want this? Well, because this is what we all want, were born wanting. But, having been taught the Bible and the life of Christ as I have I should have known better. My foolishness here is so clear. 1) As if I could provide this. 2) Feeling the drag of this world’s fall from perfection is exactly what will show him his need of a Savior. 3) If there is any tiny seed of trust in his heart then the Spirit will use the blaze of hardship to sprout it. The embryonic theodicy conversations we’re having about lightning and thunder and why God doesn’t make it stop as soon as we pray are terrifying. Terrifying because he’s meeting a God that even his parents can’t explain and that doesn’t always give all the answers. The choice to trust or reject has become clear. And rather than wanting for him a life with no questions, I must want for him the faith of One who could cry out ‘My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” and yet trust. If I am in tears over a Pink Pearl eraser can you imagine the torrent of emotion that flooded the Father when his Son called to him. Dying. Talk about wanting perfection. But in this world there is only life on the other side of death.

The above Dylan song embodies the type of no-holes-barred love I think a parent feels. Every time I hear it I get sniffly and teary-eyed (which why I keep meaning to take it off my work playlist…). There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do to make you feel my love. But while I never want my boys to doubt my love for them, my love can’t meet their deepest needs. So playing mother bear with God’s sovereignty should be where I draw the line. There will be some horrible, terrible, no good, very bad days but I’m begging the Spirit to meet Clive there and bring him the Son of a Father whose love will someday make all things right again.

Second, it’s just plain weird that he has this little independent life. He gets on the bus and for the next 3 ½ hours innumerable things happen to him minute by minute that I’m lucky to get a minimal summary of later. Up until this point there was very little that happened in his life that I wasn’t completely apprised of, if not experiencing it right alongside him. There was very little I had to inquire about let alone wonder about. Lauren Winner wrote that the only times in life when two individuals are so intertwined they are indistinguishable is intercourse and pregnancy. But even when I was pregnant I remember realizing the independence of this entirely other person. I couldn’t make him stop kicking me. Up until that moment he was this opinionless, will-less amoeba, but he insisted upon kicking at especially inconvenient times and in especially painful places and there was nothing I could do to make him stop. And so he made his personhood known. There’s this illusion in motherhood that our child’s life is the tiny universe over which we are god. It’s an easy trap to fall into and I think it happens like this: helpless tiny bag of bones comes home from hospital and depends on you for survival. You do the only obvious decent thing and help it survive only to realize that it will take nearly everything you have and yet you keep on giving and giving and giving. Then suddenly one day they don’t need you anymore and all the routines of care and feelings of significance that have filled your life go running away with them. Of course it doesn’t have to happen like that and there a multitude of varieties on this theme, but there are enough moping, controlling and bored older women to prove it a common pattern. We insist that our kids stay by our side or we emotionally manipulate them into guilt for not doing so or we fall for the lie that motherhood is our only meaning and occupation in life. What we need is a view of our lives as image-bearers that fits before kids, with kids, without kids, after kids and for all eternity. The picture of ourselves as the sole responsible, omniscient and omnipotent party over the lives of our children is not going to work. Because we don’t fit any of those categories. We’re not the only: God clearly designed for fathers to be part of this process from the very, ahem, beginning. And Hillary may have thought it takes a village but the believer should think it takes a body. There’s a balance of gifts and diversity within the church that is a protection for ourselves from myopic pride and its destruction upon our children. Let the church have her wise way. It’s not perfect, but you are a part of its imperfect glory. And let God have his way. We don’t fit any of the above categories, but he is the very definition. There is story upon story in the Scriptures of idiot parents and the God who rescued their children. This of course does nothing to take away the duties incumbent upon us as parents but there is a sort of limitlessness to the job here that requires fine-tuned lowliness. The right type of parenting will (as Charles Anderson wrote of busyness) say, “I can’t do much but I am motivated to do as much as I can because God deserves whatever I have.” The wrong type of parenting is a refusal to recognize either our responsibilities or our limits. It says, “If I just work a little harder, buy a few more things, read them a few more books, explain this to them, get them to eat healthier food, be more consistent in my training, take this educational path, etc., etc., then they will have a healthy, happy, successful life.” If only. It’s a tricky thing to draw the boundaries here because it is true that our influence and obligation is huge—how can you give too much to someone whose entire existence you shape from the first breath? But Satan knows to take this gift and use it to feed our security and sense of importance and we dance most ungracefully towards justification by works rather than faith. Precisely because it is so huge we must hold the reins tightly on our self-sufficiency. When little eyes look up to you, point them beyond yourself to their Maker.

I was reading Jonah this week and found it unexpectedly fitting. Here is a man just ripped that God’s will was done and not his. Jonah would rather die than lose his grip on his own self-righteousness and perceived injustices in life. God pointedly asks him twice, “As you right to be so angry?” Jonah thought he knew better than God, but as God reminded him, he had created everything that Jonah was so self-righteous about. Sometimes we get in such a self-righteous hot bother we completely miss that we are trying to override the Creator himself, the One who loves our children more than we ever can.


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June/July Update

Here is our latest update about going to England.

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i don’t advise the yelling

(post from August 2010)

That we’ve already let our son fall prey to television’s deception is evident because he lives under this misconception: every construction project begins with a demolition. See, he watches “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” on a fairly regular basis and this is the order of events: an old, broken house is torn down (or blown up or shattered merely by Ty Pennington’s habitual yelling), then a new one is built. So it seems an incontestable truth to Clive that every new building being built was preceded by an old, broken one that was demo’d.

I thought of this today when reading Phil 3. This passage (verses 3-11) is one of my all-time favorites and I re-visit it often to do battle with my self-sufficiency and pride. Several years ago I began to see Paul’s thinking in these words from a slightly different angle. Paul doesn’t just say that he won’t brag about his qualifications or achievements or rely on them to gain favor with God, but that it is only to the extent that he discards his confidence in himself that he is exercising faith in Christ. In other words, it’s a simple choice between living based on Christ’s merits or my own. Visually, I imagine it as a balance scale that can only tip one way or the other and my ability to live in the reality of Christ’s accomplishment for me on the one side will weigh heavier as the Spirit chips away at my “confidence in the flesh” on the other side. Or emptying out to be filled. We will not be found “in Christ” as long as we are primarily allowing ourselves to exist as ourselves, standing on our virtues rather than His. I’m convinced (by Scripture and experience) that we’re born living for ourselves and our own glory and that a lifestyle of glorifying Christ is only built by on the wreckage of self-glory. I am constantly glorifying myself and the only way to glorify Christ is for the Spirit to reveal how I’m using my thoughts, words, actions, responses, etc. to do this and then where that lifestyle can be torn down and a new way of living (faith) constructed. Unlike the order of events on Extreme Makeover, though, the old, broken woman I am takes a lifetime (and a death) to demo, so rather than a deconstruction then a construction, both are constantly going on.

The only way to life is through death, the deconstruction of confidence in ourselves for the construction of faith in Christ. Being conformed to his death in order that I might attain to the resurrection… (Phil 3.11) I would rather boast in my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Cor 12.9) For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you. (2 Cor 13.4) In his book Jesus and the Spirit, Dunn says that the new birth begins the forces of life working in you so that both death and life are always present. If you do not believe in Christ, death has the last word. If you believe in Christ, life begins to combat the forces of death in you, gradually overtaking them until it conquers death, creating the life of resurrection even out of the experience of death (p. 337-338). So we are always in the midst of demolition and new construction, death and life.

When we first believed in Christ and accepted salvation, part of the statement we’re making is that we cannot be right with God on our own—therefore, we need a righteous Savior who will stand in our stead. We must continue participating in the Gospel by continuing to grow in this truth, understanding it more deeply and applying it more thoroughly to our lives. To be a Christian is to understand that I cannot solve my own problems, that I don’t have the answers to life, that I cannot get what I need on my own, that I don’t make the right choices, that I can’t work hard enough or do anything well enough to gain God’s approval, that even the best of the best by the world’s standards cannot stand before God. Only Jesus can does. But, in the world and flesh, I still live as though it matters what others think of me, that it matters how much I get done and how well I get it done, that what is important in life is what I want, dream about, plan, and work for rather than what Christ has done and how God is forming me after His likeness. It’s usually obvious who the main character in a story or book is, right? Because the plot and everything that we as the audience know in the story revolves around that person or group of people. Well, I still live life as thought I’m the main character. Time for a rewrite.

And now for some massively postmodern reader-based hermeneutics on U2 (“Walk On”):

You’ve got to leave it behind.

All that you fashion
All that you make
All that you build
All that you break
All that you measure
All that you steal
All this you can leave behind.
All that you reason
All that you sense
All that you speak
All you dress up
All that you scheme… 

The only baggage you can bring is what you can’t leave behind. Love is not the easy thing. Walk on. Press on to lay hold of that for which Christ laid hold of us. The new is only built on the ruins of the old.

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May Update

Our latest update letter

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April Update

Here is are family update:

After 5 minutes in the car leaving NYC this month, Clive was out cold–he wore himself out that weekend.

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March Update

Here is are family update:

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