There are certain verses in scripture, which, although small, carry such weighty truth! Surely this verse in Psalm 36 is one of them!
‘How precious is Your steadfast love, O God!’ exclaims David, the Psalmist.
God’s love is precious! It’s not something to be taken lightly or taken for granted. Precious denotes something of great value, great worth – something to be treasured and cherished.
Note how the adjective ‘steadfast’ is inserted here before the word love. This is in order to convey something about the quality of God’s love.
Love is a wonderful thing! Even humans, filled with flaws and imperfections are capable of loving one another deeply. Human beings occasionally do unselfish and heroic things for others. We hear of marriages that last some sixty plus years or more!
But even the best marriages and earthly relationships have moments of failure and disappointment. As much as we love one another, we are apt to moments of blind selfishness.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning! Great is Your faithfulness!
God’s love is consistently constant! Or constantly consistent! Whichever way you want to put it! It NEVER ceases. Never fails. Never runs out.
It’s as certain as the sunrise! As it has always been, so shall it always be! Complete, perfect, limitless, measureless, unfathomable!
I am so grateful today for the precious steadfast love of my heavenly Father!
As part of the Jubilee Celebrations this weekend, we spent a glorious day at Hever Castle!
kent, the garden of england
Hever Castle is situated in the English County of Kent, near Edenbridge, around 30 miles South-East of London. Kent itself, is a beautifully verdant County, often nick-named ‘The Garden of England.’ When driving through the pleasant leafy lanes and pretty villages, it’s not hard to see why. Kent is home to acres and acres of ancient woodland and is choc-full of beautiful gardens, both public and private. It’s generously peppered with historic places of interest to visit, such as Chartwell (home of Wiston Churchill), Sissinghurst and Canterbury Cathedral originally founded in the year 597!
Hever Castle may not be quite as old as that, but its history does span back some 700 years! Built in 1270, it was originally a medieval defensive castle with gatehouse and walled bailey (a courtyard enclosed by a Curtain Wall). During the 15th and 16th Centuries, it became the home of the Boleyn’s, one of the most powerful families in the country.
Hever was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the tragically ill-fated second wife of King Henry VIII. Anne Boleyn, Queen for 1000 days, was the mother of Elizabeth I, and played a huge role in England’s departure from Catholicism and the start of the Reformation.
As the centuries passed, the Castle gradually fell into decline. In 1903, it was bought by William Waldorf Aster, a wealthy American man with a passion for History. He poured much money and time into restoring the castle and its extensive grounds, commissioning a Tudor Village, and creating the huge lake that was dug out by hand!
Today, the castle is still privately owned, but has become a much-loved place for the public to visit, attracting visitors from all over the world, all year round.There is always something interesting going on at Hever, including jousting, open air theatre showings, concerts, fireworks displays and all sorts of other events. You can even get married at Hever! Can you imagine?
Without further ado, I really hope you enjoy some of the photos from our visit. Apparently, we didn’t manage to see everything – which is always the perfect excuse to go back!
Some of the Queen’s Corgi’s were missing around the castle grounds during our visit!
On 6th February, 1952, a 25-year-old woman named Elizabeth Windsor, received the terrible news that her Father, King George VI had died.
In mourning, she immediately flew home from Kenya, knowing that as the eldest of two sisters, she would now be required to dedicate her entire life to the service of her country and her people.
On 2nd June, 1953, people all over the UK crowded around whatever television set they could find, to watch the BBC Broadcast of the Coronation. In fact, more TV sets were bought in the two months prior to the Coronation than in any other period of time since!
Amidst the earthly wealth of glittering crowns and golden carriages, a solemn promise was about to be made:
I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong. But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know your support will be unfailingly given.
God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.
A HIGHER KING
The Queen fully understood the significance of the role she was taking on and that ultimately, she served a Higher King – Jesus Christ – her Lord and Saviour.
Many of the rituals, symbols and artefacts that were used during the ceremony carried a far deeper meaning than one might first detect.
A golden orb, originally made for the Coronation of King Charles II in 1661, encrusted with over six hundred jewels was given to the Queen. On top of the Orb was a cross, symbolising the rule of Jesus Christ over the earth.
A single diamond, the magnificent ‘Star of Africa’ mounted in one of the royal scepters, is believed to have carried a value of £400 million. But when the Moderator of the Church of Scotland stepped forward to present the Queen with a Coronation gift, he described it as: ‘the most valuable thing this world affords’. It was a bible.
Sixty-one years later, during her Christmas Day broadcast, the ongoing reliance and inspiration drawn from the Queen’s Christian faith remained clearly evident:
I hope that like me you will be comforted by the example of Jesus of Nazareth, who often in circumstances of great adversity, managed to live an outgoing, unselfish and sacrificial life.
Countless millions of people around the world continue to celebrate His birthday at Christmas, inspired by His teaching.
He makes it clear that genuine human happiness and satisfaction lie more in giving than receiving; more in serving than being served.
We can surely be grateful that two-thousand years after the birth of Jesus, so many of us are able to draw inspiration from His life and message, and to find in Him a source of strength and courage.
Words taken from the Queen’s Christmas Broadcast, 2008
Here in the UK, from 2nd – 5th June, people all over the UK are enjoying a rare four-day weekend in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. No other monarch in UK history has ever reached the milestone of reigning for 70 years!
Red, white and blue bunting festoons our streets and shop window displays. Lanterns are being lit all over the country and street parties are taking place.
Over the next few days, I hope to post some photos of the celebrations!
It’s a joy to join in the wonderful Jubilee Celebrations of a Queen who has so honourably and openly held fast to her faith, often during seasons of great difficulty and testing.
I hope you will enjoy some of the photos and images of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Queen Elizabeth, thank you for serving us so well!
When my husband announced last month, that we were going to the Cotswolds, images of Lilliput Lane style cottages, trickling rivers and stone bridges instantly sprang to mind.
Turned out I was right about those things. But as the trip loomed, and we began planning our route, I soon realised that my knowledge of the area was extremely limited.
I had no idea that the Cotswolds was such a vast area, spanning almost 800 square miles, and five different English Counties – namely: Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire!
Lechlade on Thames
I had no idea either that the River Thames flowed as far away from London as Gloucestershire – and that the village we would be staying in, Lechlade on Thames, was situated on the highest navigational point along the River.
Lechlade is a lovely little town with a friendly feel. It’s full of charming shops, inviting looking pubs and restaurants, and its fair share of stone cottages!
It’s a wonderful place for walkers – St John’s Lock is situated nearby, and we spent a lovely morning ambling along the canal path.
The County of Gloucestershire has so much to offer – we so enjoyed driving past fields of green, and plenty of wide-open space – a welcome change from the London suburb we live in. The Spring flowers were out in full force, and many of the Cotswold villages looked even more beautiful with an abundance of daffodils and tulips.
There are also plenty of towns and cities to explore, including Gloucester, Cheltenham and Cirencester – a handsome and historic Market Town. It was such a wonderful place to browse, with interesting, high-end shops, selling anything from household furnishings to artisan pastries.
Our trip to the Cotswolds would not have been complete without a trip to at least one of the quintessential villages that make this area so famous.
Bibury is arguably the most photographed village in the Cotswolds.
As soon as we got out of the car, it wasn’t difficult to see why.
It’s famous for Arlington Row, an exceptionally old row of weaver’s cottages dating back to the 14th Century.
It’s hard to fully describe or photograph the curved sweep of stone cottages, with the gurgling River Coln which winds its way past them. Pictures really do not do this place justice. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, peaceful and so rich in history – it’s hard not to imagine the generations of people who may have lived in these cottages.
We left the Cotswolds feeling revitalised and rested and as though our senses had been soothed by all the beautiful scenery. We also had the strong feeling that we had only just scratched the surface of all the wonderful places to explore! Not a bad place to end a trip I suppose…
Swifts are flying,
Speeding through the skies,
With skills that mesmerize!
What a dizzying display,
Get your tickets here today!
My neighbour Lyn, has green-fingers. Well, not literally, but you know what I mean. I’m pretty sure Lyn could grow flowers on the moon.
Our front drive-way is not a pretty sight. It’s one of those DIY jobs that we haven’t got round to yet. It consists of a dull, grey square of uninspiring, dirty concrete and so although I enjoy tending to our back garden, I’ve never felt inspired to do anything much with the front.
This spring, Lyn started planting out some flowers that she’d grown from seed along our shared front path (as seen on the right in the picture below). Little by little, the results of all her hard work have been unfolding before our eyes.
As spring has turned to summer, I’ve seen Lyn tweaking things from time to time, filling in gaps with new seedlings, dead-heading and generally taking care of our little strip of blooms. And they have just got better and better.
Speaking to Lyn this morning, I complimented her on her handiwork. “Well, we’ve all got a knack for something!” she replied, “I’m not much good with computers but I can do flowers.”
What do you have a knack for?
What have you got a knack for? Whether it’s writing, painting, organising, making clothes, singing, cooking up a storm, or whatever else , what I’ve learned from Lyn is that the things ‘we have a knack for’ are very often gifts which have been given to us to bless others with.
Lyn’s efforts have certainly blessed us. Now our dull, concrete driveway is alive with vibrant colour!
She also blesses us regularly with home-grown produce, fresh from her garden. Tomatoes, courgettes, chilli peppers, celery, salad leaves – it’s inspiring!
input = OUTPUT
I’ve also learned that the more practice, time and effort we put into something – the better the results will be. No surprises here. But when the results are as visible as these blooms, they serve as a great reminder! What started as a enjoyable hobby for Lyn has blossomed into a real skill.
I hope this post inspires you today to practice your skill. To not give up on that hobby you enjoy. Over time, you will definitely see results. And you never know, you might bless somebody else along the way!
I'm grateful for this winter walk,
When side by side, we stroll and talk,
When all the world is gripped with fear,
And bad report is everywhere,
To see that earth and sky still meet,
And feel the ground beneath my feet.
I'm grateful for this memory,
Of city-scape, and take-out tea,
I'm grateful for this outdoor space,
The cheery smile upon your face,
I'm grateful that you're here with me,
For momentary normalcy.
I'm grateful for this chance to be
Outside, with you, alive and free!
When all the world must lock away,
I'm grateful for this winter day,
For every blade of grass that's planted
For things I often take for granted.
I'm grateful for each leafless tree,
So stark and lifeless though they be,
Reminding me that seasons wane,
That winter shall not long remain,
That underneath this hard, hard ground,
A thousand buds of spring abound.
Our eldest daughter Lydia, recently completed an A Level in Art. She did brilliantly well, and we were all extremely proud of her achievements. However, in order to complete her studies, she had to put in such an inordinate amount of time and effort, that she hasn’t picked up a paintbrush since. Isn’t is funny how the pressure of performance can zap our child-like enjoyment of creative pursuits?
A few weeks ago, on a lazy Saturday morning, Emily, our youngest, concocted a brilliant eight-year-old plan. “Mummy, let’s have an art day!” she said.
Even though inwardly, I had a mental to-do list as long as my right arm, and even though I suspected she was asking the wrong person, she looked so starry-eyed with excitement, that it was hard to refuse her enthusiasm. Lydia kindly offered us the use of her watercolour paper and paints, and so we set up a work space on the kitchen table, filled jars of water, and put on some relaxing music.
When was the last time you dropped your to-do list and did something just for fun? It can be hard to carve out time for leisurely pursuits. Life is hectic – a constant whirlwind of rushing here and there. We have many urgent and important things to do. We often feel guilty for pressing the pause button, and for taking time out to do something recreational. But God created us with an inbuilt need to occasionally stop and do something which replenishes energy and lifts the spirits. There’s definitely some truth in the old adage: all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Emily instinctively knows this. She spends most of her time playing! But as we grow up, we forget to do things just for fun. We forget how valuable it can be to kick through the leaves with the wind in our hair. We are all unique, and so what we find relaxing will differ. But whether it’s gardening, or baking or reading, or taking a walk in the woods, we all need times where we cease from our toil and do something which quite simply brings us joy.
Go on, try something new!
Watercolour is one of those creative pursuits that I have always admired, but have never been brave enough to try. After all, it’s a notoriously difficult medium to work with. Mistakes can be difficult to rectify, especially if the colours should bleed or run in an undesirable way. Plus, it takes a great deal of practice to learn the various techniques required: how much water to apply, how to mix colours, how to use the brush to achieve different effects.
And yet, there’s a fluidity and freedom in a watercolour painting that is so soft and appealing to the eye. Whenever you watch a watercolour artist at work, it always looks so effortless!
Luckily for Emily and I, we didn’t have to search too far to find a wealth of information for beginners on the Internet, including a whole host of inspiring video tutorials to help get us started. We decided to start with some simple Christmas cards featuring snowy scenes and simple winter greenery.
And as the early autumn sunlight streamed through the kitchen windows, we spent a glorious few hours absorbed in our newfound pursuit. I hadn’t picked up a paintbrush since I was a child. I had forgotten how much fun it can be!
But, I couldn’t help but notice some fundamental differences in our approach.
Emily was free – watching the tutorials, and then doing her own thing. Dipping her brush into the paint, and confidently applying it, without any reservation or rigidity. There seemed to be no caution in her young mind. She was lost in the moment, relishing the experience of expressive creativity. She created piece after piece in quick succession.
I tried my hand at a bunch of mistletoe. The tutorial looked easy enough. After several attempts, and wasted pieces of watercolour paper, I gave up. You see, I wanted to achieve perfection. But sadly, my efforts did not match up to the one on the video tutorial. And so I decided to try a wreath instead. Thankfully, this went a little better and inspired me to keep going.
The perfection perception
As adults, we can become so afraid to try something new, in case we fail. Our performance- mentality prevents us from just enjoying the moment. We live in an age where we are bombarded with airbrushed images of unachievable perfection. And it’s not just celebrities any more. There are dozens of very ordinary self-made Instagram celebrities who appear to have it all together. Their houses are like something out of Homes and Gardens Magazine, styled to make your mouth drop. Not a dirty cup, or an odd sock, or a pile of unfiled papers in sight. Their lives are also perfect – we know this because they video their every move. They post vlogs of their perfectly executed marriage proposals, or Christmas dinners, or gender reveal moments. Our children watch this stuff all the time. I keep reminding my teenage daughters that nobody’s life is perfect. We don’t see the time the pastry went spectacularly wrong, or the dog ran through the house with muddy paws. We don’t see the time they had a blazing row on the way to church. Life is messy. Mistakes happen. But God’s grace is abundant, and love covers a multitude of sins.
2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:2-4 (ESV)
The story of salvation goes totally against the grain. God gives us Christ’s righteousness as a free gift! My attempts at perfection, fall hopelessly short. And so God, sent His one and only son, into a world full of sin and darkness, to live a sinless life, and to take my filthy rags upon himself on the cross. And in exchange, He gave me a robe of righteousness to wear. All I have to do is humble myself, stop striving, and receive it as a free gift. I am justified by faith alone. What a profound and incredible truth! We have been given a gospel of grace. We so often overcomplicate things, and mistakenly believe the lie that it’s all about our performance.
These humble Christmas cards that we’ve created, are a reminder to me, that because of Jesus, we are free indeed– free to rejoice in this good news of great joy!
Today I invite you to celebrate the freedom that has been bought with a price for us. I encourage you to receive it with open arms, like a child receives a Christmas present. I hope today that you manage to find a little space to cease your toil and frantic activity and do something that brings you joy.
And maybe, who knows, you might even be inspired to try something new?
Life is so busy. Things to do. Places to be. People to see. Errands to run. Appointments to keep. Sometimes our to-do lists can get seriously overloaded and the week ahead can start to resemble something akin to a military training schedule – you just grit your teeth and get through it! Take me for instance – here is a list of some of the ‘appointments’ that have been in the Jelf family diary over the last two weeks: (I bet some of you can out-“do” me!?):
One doctors appointment
One infant vaccination appointment
One birthday party
Two grocery shops
One appointment with the school nurse
One hospital appointment
One lunch date with friends
Two Dinner dates at our house
Two Toddler Group outings
Two Youth Group outings
One Swimming trip
One Ice-skating trip
One Home-schooling Group Meeting
One parent’s evening
One Prayer Meeting
One Ladies Bible Study Group
Sometimes I think I should just sell the house and live in the car. Sound familiar? Phew! It’s enough to make you dizzy, isn’t it?! This week, my husband and I actually had to schedule in time to talk to one another! I kid you not! So much to do…so little time. It can be hard to find time for each other. It can be hard to find time for ourselves. It can be harder still to find time for God.
This morning I was reading Psalm 27, written by David, who was affectionately known as a ‘man after God’s own heart’. It says:
“One thing I have asked of the Lord, that shall I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.”
David must have had a few appointments. After all, he was the King! He must have had a few things on his to-do list. He probably DID have a military training schedule to attend to! But his single wish, his heart’s desire was to pursue a relationship with God. There was one place he wanted to be more than any other….in the presence of God. One thing he wanted to do more than any other…to behold the beauty of the Lord – to catch a glimpse of His glory! Later in the Psalms David writes “Better is one day in Your House, than thousands elsewhere“. David yearned for the presence of God as one would thirst for water in a dry and parched land. Only one thing could truly satisfy.
As I was reading the Psalm, I felt the Lord remind me of the well known story of Martha and Mary. Martha and Mary were two ordinary women, who lived in an ordinary village. On one particular day however, they had a far from ordinary appointment in their diary! You see, Jesus was coming over to their house for dinner! When Jesus arrived, Mary went and sat at His feet, listening to his teaching. But poor old Martha. No. The story tells us that “Martha was distracted with much serving”. She was probably rushing around trying to make sure everything was tidy, and working hard to put on a good spread. And perhaps that would have been just fine with Jesus, if she had done it with a cheerful heart. But….it wasn’t long before Martha got a bee in her bonnet. She went up to Jesus and said “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me!” I can just see her, hand on hip, foot tapping, finger wagging. Sadly, I can see me too.
And then came Jesus’ response. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thingis necessary.”
There are so many things that can crowd in on us – crowding God out. So many things shouting for our attention. Appointments. Chock-a-block-diaries. Schedules. Plans. It’s so easy to become distracted. Jesus’ words are still so apt today. We can be anxious and troubled about so many things, when only one thing is necessary – a heart like Mary’s that chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and a heart like David’s that couldn’t think of anywhere on earth he’d rather be than in the courts of the King.
I know what you’re thinking. Wait a minute. We can’t just all sit around reading the bible all day. Who would wash the socks? Who would feed the children? Not to mention the cat? Who would do the shopping and the school run? Martha had a point. I mean, someone had to cook Jesus’ dinner. But what I’m learning is, it’s a heart thing. Jesus wants us all to have a ‘one thing’ mentality, even during our crazy, hectic, full-on days! It’s not about whether we’re busy or not – it’s about where our treasure is. Our hearts desire should be firstly for Him. Doesn’t God command us to love Him with all our heart and soul and mind? Of course we have jobs to do. Of course we need to pay the bills and tend to crying babies and mop dirty, sticky floors. But I think it’s all about learning to love Him as we do. It’s about worshipping Him in the car as we drive from A to B, It’s about meditating on His goodness as we walk along the road to the shops. It’s about thanking Him for His provision as we cook and eat dinner. It’s about thanking Him morning by morning that His one single agenda was to come into our crazy, hectic world and to demonstrate His great love, by laying down His life, so that we could enjoy a relationship with Him for the rest of our days.
I have absolutely no idea why the King of glory would want a relationship with someone like me! But He does. He is so worthy of our devotion. Let our prayer be like that of David: “Lord give me an undivided heart” – one that longs for you more than any other thing on earth.