Posted in Uncategorized

Social Media, Lent and Literary Citizenship {Velvet Ashes}

How fun to be reminded of my own thoughts from almost a year ago in a post by Melanie Weldon-Soiset over on Velvet Ashes, offering a very interesting perspective on social media!


“In hindsight, I see how my ad-posting friend was practicing a certain form of citizenship. God taught me new delights and duties of denizenship after my five years in China. Many Christians, including Amy Young here on Velvet Ashes, have also explored what it means to be a good citizen. What should our proper posture be to citizenship in God’s Kingdom, and to the countries of our passports, postal addresses, and passions? As Bayta Schwarz observed after she took part in a volunteer day planting flowers in a local park, “beyond passports and visas, I realized I started to feel like a citizen of this place when I began to be invested beyond my little niche.’ 

Read the whole post here.

Posted in Spirituality


Seeing through the eyes of a child, I notice again the beauty of the world You created, Lord.

They touch a bush – and the leaves start to dance! What fun!

Everything is new and fresh – a whole world out there waiting to be discovered.

So much wonder!
So much excitement!

My eyes, Lord, are so used to it all. They see but don’t notice.

Oblivious to the beauty, the wonder of the small and ordinary.

Oh the joy and pride you must feel at a small child discovering this world you created. Your world, made for us, given to us.

Even now, even after the Fall, there is so much beauty! You were so extravagantly generous in creating. What an amazing reflection of your character!

I praise you for the gift of little kids in my life. For their joy at living and exploring, their wonder at the miracle of it all.

Help my eyes and heart to see the way they do!


Posted in Spirituality, The Grove Velvet Ashes

Let Us Go

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  (Luke 2:15 + 16)

Sometimes I wonder what became of the shepherds after this event. What were they thinking during those 30ish years that Jesus was not in the public eye? Did they talk to each other about the experience, wondering if it was even real?

And later, did they go to hear him teach? Did they come to him with their needs, with sick family members?

Were they there at his crucifixion? Did they see him after his resurrection?

Did any of them join his first band of followers?

We don’t know. Maybe some of them did. I hope so!

“Let us go!” would have looked so different in those seasons. No angels telling them where to go. Maybe no community to share the experience with, giving each other courage.

Instead the distractions of everyday life. The worries, the fears, the busyness. But also the memory of what happened. The longing to see him again. Wondering what it meant that he was the Saviour, the Messiah, as the angel had said.

What about you? What about me? What season are we in? What does “Let us go!” look like right now?

Sometimes it’s so full of excitement, of wonder. Other times it’s sheer discipline. Sometimes it feels like I’m clinging on for dear life (only to discover it’s Him holding me, not the other way around).

In some seasons, it takes a lot of courage. Going into a new place, a new culture, a new language. Being away from those I’m used to journeying with. Or realising He is calling me to new ways of coming to Him.

I wonder what happened to those shepherds. I wonder if any of them followed him. I hope so!

In the midst of challenges, of busyness, of questions, of great joy – let us go! Alone and in community – let us go! Today. This Christmas. Whatever that might look like for each of us right now.


This post has been linked to Velvet Ashes, an encouraging site for women serving cross-culturally.

Posted in Uncategorized

Books of 2018

In no particular order, here are some of the books I enjoyed in 2018. Have you read any of them? What did you think?

This year, I read along with quite a few of the Velvet Ashes Book Club picks, and those are marked VA.


THE PIANO TUNER by Daniel Mason


If you enjoy being transported into a totally different world (in this case, Burma in 1886), I highly recommend this book! You’ll enjoy this tale of West meeting East, of discovery and misunderstanding, of pain and joy. (VA)


LITURGY OF THE ORDINARY by Tish Harrison Warren


What a unique and intriguing way to look at life and its rhythms, and how they mirror (and remind us of) sacred rhythms! (VA)


WALK TWO MOONS by Sharon Creech


I don’t often read Young Adult literature and was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book! “Walk Two Moons” is a clever, beautiful, moving story of loss, of love, of starting again – and of the emotions that go with all of those. It is so well told and completely drew me in. (VA)


ARRIVING WELL by Cate Brubaker, Doreen Cumberford, Helen Watts


Five personal stories of re-entry, of building a new life after living abroad. Each one unique, yet with each one, I found myself laughing out loud, and tearing up, at different points. If you’ve experienced re-entry, here are some good people for you to hang out with.




I was worried this might be too much like “A Man Called Ove” but ended up falling in love with it pretty quickly! I enjoyed the layers, the way different stories are woven together, and how with each character, we find out more of who they are, and what has shaped them, as the story progresses. Highly recommend it! (VA)

(NB: for some reason, in the US this booked is called “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry”)




One of the most help, practical, yet insightful books about cultures and how they operate, I’ve come across so far! I learned so much and enjoyed the positive approach towards differences!


I am also working my way through the “Anne” series by L.M. Montgomery, and the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. I’m enjoying them both immensely, different though they are!


Over to you – what should I be reading in 2019?

Posted in Uncategorized


A quiet moment at the end of the day. Sitting in my almost dark living room, by the light of the tree. Disconnected from the world, it’s a moment of stillness, a moment to just be. Not even reflecting, just being still, giving myself a moment to arrive in the here and now.

Not reading the latest news, whether global or from friends and family. Not distracting myself. Just enjoying the beauty of the tree, of the lights. Getting caught up in the wonder of the season.

The stillness of this moment brings peace into all that’s happened today. Fun times with friends. Stressful times on public transport. Information coming at me from everywhere. Cares and concerns that weigh on my heart and soul.

Stillness. A gift I don’t give myself often enough.


Linking to Five Minute Friday – Still


Posted in Spirituality

The Day Contentment Died

Fear. A new sensation. They had never felt this way before.

They heard wolves howling in the distance and instinctively knew they were in danger. They found a cave to hide in and waited for morning.
What a different place their world had been just a few short hours previously.
It seemed to make so much sense at the time. Just one bite of the apple and they would be like God. Turns out it was all a lie. That apple had been pure poison, destroying everything they had ever known.
Purity turned to shame.
Trust to blame.
Fellowship to hiding.
The Lord had come walking in the garden, like He did every day. But they could not face standing before Him. They were naked and ashamed, and so they hid.
Their relationship with each other – destroyed.
Their relationship with God – destroyed.
Their relationship with the rest of creation – destroyed.
Their world had been so full of treasure. Every day was full of joy and new discoveries.
And now? Now it was dark, threatening, uncertain.
Yet in the midst of it all, in the midst of darkness and fear, there was a still, small voice telling them there would be new treasures to discover.
Treasures of grace and mercy, of forgiveness. They had a first taste of that when the Lord, full of compassion, made them clothes. Nakedness and shame covered.
He made a promise that one day the power of the snake, the power of lies and deceit, would be broken.
They’d had a first taste but there would be so much more to come.
The poison powerful, invading everything.
Yet the treasure of God’s love more powerful still.
(This text came out of a writing challenge I did with some friends. Three images from Story Cubes, some connection to faith and 20 minutes.)
Thinking about contentment this week, I came back to this story. That day, contentment as Adam & Eve had known it, died. I don’t think contentment was ever straightforward. It was always a choice. When it took a while for a “suitable companion” to be found. When the snake suggested they were lacking and offered more.
Yet there was a purity and an innocence that died that day. Poison invaded the world. New treasures of grace and forgiveness were born. That’s the tension we live in, I live in.
I can celebrate Communion and marvel again at the miracle of a God who loves so deeply and gives so abundantly. Then I step out of church and contentment goes out the window because I have to wait a whole 6 minutes for my train. (I mean, what is the world coming to? Really not acceptable! Yup, I’m absolutely a spoiled Berliner!)
The tension of “holy discontent” because this world is so far from what it was meant to be. And “not so holy” discontent because things don’t work out exactly the way I would like them to.
“Do this in remembrance of me”. Oh how my heart needs to be reminded of love, of forgiveness, of hope. One day, the tension will be no more. In the meantime, I am thankful for the treasures to be found in the midst of the tension.
This post has been linked to Velvet Ashes, an encouraging site for women serving cross-culturally.
Posted in cross-cultural

Ebb and Flow

I love being down by the river. It’s exhilarating and calming in equal measure. The constant movement of boats – small ones shuttling people around the port, and huge ones taking containers and goods to the far corners of the earth. The lapping of the waves against the shore. Those predictable patterns of the tide coming in and going out, coming in and going out.

The piers in the picture above float.  So when the tide is high, the bridges only have a gentle incline and it’s an easy stroll back to the shore. When the tide is really low, however, they can be pretty steep. Ever changing yet familiar at the same time.

Life so often is like that river. There is crazy rushing around, and there are bigger changes. Just like the tide, there are some familiar patterns anchoring it all. The seasons. The different festivals and holidays we celebrate. The school year.

The beauty of having been around in a place, in a ministry, for a while, is being able to see some of those patterns of ebb and flow. No, the craziness of September and October will not last forever. There will be a different season, when things are slower, maybe even too slow. When the novelty and the excitement wear off, and it can feel like there is not enough water for our (metaphorical) boats to keep moving. Then the tide will come in again. Relationships have grown, we are able to understand more. There is a familiarity that helps us look beyond ourselves.  Summer comes around and with it a feeling that the tide is going out. It’s a season of good-byes, as friends, team mates, students, leave. By the end of it, we’re exhausted and ready for a time of quiet and of restoration. Before the tide comes in again and brings with it new team mates, new students, new ideas and ways of doing things.

And so the cycle begins again. Ever changing and yet strangely familiar.

At times, the unusual, the unexpected hits. Sometimes the tide is way too high, nearly flooding the bridge. Business as usual can not continue, our focus needs to be on the crisis, the stressful situation or relationship.


But there is also the beauty of patterns among the many shifts and changes of life.


This post has been linked to Velvet Ashes, an encouraging site for women serving cross-culturally.