On Sunday a sweet friend walked up to me and asked if there was anywhere I’d like to go before flying back to the States. Up until that moment I’d forgotten I’d prayed and asked for an opportunity to visit the Angel of the North, the world’s largest angel statue that’s watched over the Northeast since it’s erection in the late 1990s. This past April, we passed the angel frequently en route from Newcastle to Sunderland. It seemed important for my heart’s journey to visit it before traveling home. I will miss its bold, declarative presence on the horizon.
Béla Fleck introduced me to the concept of “throw down your heart“. The idea is that you are about to embark on a journey from which you will never return, so as a last act of love for the land and life you’ve known, you throw down your heart, you leave part of yourself there, you are never the same again. About six weeks ago I threw down my heart on Roker Beach in Sunderland, an echo of a similar experience in April on Lindisfarne. Today, a few days before flying home, I returned to pick up my heart again in preparation to come home whole.
The back hall of the House of Prayer needed a quilt. It was a joy of a journey conceiving, cutting, sewing, and sourcing materials for it. The top is made predominantly of Moda Bella Solid in silver and features a bit of my favorite Sunkissed by Sweetwater print. I brought all the fabric for the top from home, and the back is a 100% cotton sheet picked up from TK Maxx. The batting – or “wadding” – is a woven cotton from Dunelm Mill. I figured the weave would negate the need for dense quilting, and sure enough, it was fine. I self-bound by tucking and turning under the excess backing, threw it in the wash, and let it dry over the radiator. The quilt gets a lot of use as folks curl up on couches or snuggle close to the radiator. I’m so thankful for the ability to share my heart with my beloved HOP through my favorite art form!
Last Saturday we rallied the troops (ie 10 interns, 3 staff members), piled into a minibus and minivan, and roadtripped to Manchester. We’d agreed to partner with Prayer Storm, a group that brings together believers every quarter for corporate worship and intercession. The event stretched from noon until 7 pm. Pastors Ken and Lois were asked to lead towards the end of the evening, specifically encouraging those who feel called to a life of intercession to take action.
When we arrived, I did a quick survey of the auditorium. Some gatherings like this are open to artists, but I didn’t see any. Thankfully, as part of the HOP team, we had access to event staff, and one of them was able to secure permission for me.
Throughout the event, we worshipped and prayed. I found myself at the front when one speaker called for dancers. Two other interns joined me, as well as the Prayer Storm dance team.
Later in the afternoon, I pulled out my watercolors. When curious children drew close, I handed them paper and brushes. Soon we had taken over the space at the foot of the cameraman. My prayer is that these young ones walked away with an understanding that visual art is a powerful form of communication, and as prayer is simply communicating with God, that creating art is a legitimate form of prayer.
Below are photos from the event, including stills from videos and screenshots from friends’ Instagram feeds.
Life is full of the unexpected, no? For example, having spent a day in bed with a migraine, the last thing I expected was a text message asking if I could keep the pastors’ cats for the weekend. My roommate was against it – but I contrived to keep them in my room and out of her way. For the first few days they were sweet and lovely, but then I think they got bored with the small space and lack of children…
… And they got bold.
Their antics kept me up all night. In the morning, I broke down in exhaustion and frustration at myself (for having so little patience at 3 a.m. with gnawing and knocking things over). It was traumatic watching myself react so angrily to my favorite animals. I was thankful to see them go – but mostly because that meant I could sleep!
Sweet kitties, though. Not their fault they were bored – and they certainly helped keep my life interesting!
Recipe lifted from Heavenly Recipes: the 90th Anniversary Celebration Cookbook, First Baptist Church, Kingsport, 1985
2 cups milk (480ml)
1/2 cup shortening (113g suet)
1/2 cup sugar (85g)
1 package dry yeast (I’ve found this to be comparable between the US and the UK)
About 5 cups flour (625g)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
In a saucepan heat together milk, shortening, and sugar until shortening melts. Pour into a large bowl and cool until lukewarm. Add yeast and 3 cups (375g) flour and beat with a mixer until just combined. Set aside to rise until double, 45-60 minutes. Stir down.
Add salt, soda, and baking powder, stirring well. Add more flour, about 2 cups (250g) a little at a time (the less the better). Turn out onto floured board or floured waxed paper and knead only slightly, until dough is a smooth ball. Put into a greased bowl and turn dough over to be greased on all sides. Cover with wet dish towel and store in refrigerator. (Best if used in 3-4 days.)
Roll dough as desired and bake at 425*F / 220*C / gas mark 7, until lightly browned, 7-10 minutes. Top tip: do not attempt to bake rolls “Sister Schubert style” as rolls will not properly bake. Instead, space rolls on baking sheet as you would cookies.
Rolls may be formed, cut, and frozen for up to a week.
Makes about 30 individual rolls.
Recipe adapted from Heavenly Recipes: the 90th Anniversary Celebration Cookbook, First Baptist Church, Kingsport, 1985
4 cups mashed sweet potatoes (about 5 medium-sized)
Scant cup granulated sugar (about 150g)
2 beaten eggs**
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk (120ml)
1/2 cup butter (115g)
1/3 cup rice flour (80ml)
1/3 cup melted butter (75g)
1 cup brown sugar (170g)
1 cup chopped nuts (100g)
About 1/2 cup flaked coconut (50g)
About 2 tablespoons cinnamon (6 teaspoons or 30g)
Blend or mash potatoes, sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk and butter together, depending on preferred consistency. Put into casserole / baking dish (1.5 quart / 1.4 litre). Mix topping ingredients and crumble over casserole. Bake at 350* F / 180* C / gas mark 4 for 30 minutes.
Optional: slice oranges in half, use fruit in cranberry salad, then clean out pith and fill shells with potato mixture. Top with marshmallows or topping.
**Eggs can be omitted.
Six Americans couldn’t do without a Thanksgiving meal. One of us will be in London for the actual day, so we celebrated early. We normally have all the interns together for a meal on Wednesday nights. This seemed like a logical time for it. We then whittled down the guest list to about 30 people, planned our menu and divided the work. I took the lion’s share as most of the recipes came from my family cookbook.
A few folks had allergies, so we had a whole section of foods dedicated to them. This presented a little bit of a challenge, but as we were making things from scratch anyway, it didn’t add much to our time.
It was all hands on deck when everything was finally ready. It was sleeting as the turkey breasts and casseroles were carried from our flats to the HOP. Thankfully dessert was ready ahead of time, and we weren’t too late getting started.
The sweetest thing about sharing Thanksgiving with our Sunderland family was realizing how few British understood the roots of our American holiday. Most seemed to believe it was a celebration of independence. They were surprised to learn about how the Native Americans succored the pitiful Pilgrims through the winter. Many of us natives of America here can trace our ancestry to various American Indian tribes. In a way, we enacted the reverse of the original holiday – now Americans finding home and refuge in a foreign land.
Recently the HOP has met a few challenges, and celebrating Thanksgiving when we did served as a precious reminder of loving one another through rough times. We need each other as no individual has the full picture. We are two cultures coming together to celebrate the goodness of God and thank Him for His bountiful blessings in bringing us together in this time and season.
They raised their glasses to me as the head chef – and I dedicated it all back to my grandmother. Happy Thanksgiving to all my precious family. I love you, miss you, and look forward to when I’ll see you again.
Oh – and keep watching this blog as by popular request I’ll be posting a few recipes!
Folks from Catch The Fire London came up this past week for an International Leaders School of Ministry. I took the opportunity during worship to paint. I also had some of my original watercolor paintings for sale, as well as sets of notecards I had printed of a few of my favorite paintings. For legal reasons, I donated these to the HOP. That way, all proceeds can go straight into the interns’ funds and distributed amongst the dozen of us.
The conference itself was intense for a lot of reasons. As an intern, I found myself serving lots of coffee and tea and keeping the toilets stocked with paper products. But I also has some profound experiences with God, identifying and unlearning things I’ve believed about Him and working through misperceptions based in a hurting heart. I love forgiveness. It’s totally worth letting go of the need to be right or denial of mistakes. And the freedom of owning and admitting those mistakes is amazing – like letting go of a tractor tire’s weight of shame. The power of sin is in shame and hiding. Admitting to the shameful behavior completely obliterates that power. Freedom like that is addictive! It’s the difference between state park air and stuffy office air, or sunlight and halogen. So good!
Of course, having world revival leaders pray for you personally is always a blast. John Arnott of the so-called “Toronto Blessing” is one of the gentlest, kindest people I’ve encountered. He reminds me of a hickory fire in the fireplace – warm with that something extra in the smoke that fills the house with richness and heat. He and his wife Carol are close friends of the Gotts, under whom I’m honored to serve in the HOP, and also mentored the pastors and leaders of the ministry school I completed last year. What a difference a few months has made! The Arnotts taught at my school the week before my initial trip to Sunderland. To see them again reflects the magnitude of the changes in my life, as well as the rapid succession in them, in just 8 months’ time. I hope to have time to reflect more on the course of my life. I get the feeling that rapid change is the new norm – from glory to glory to glory!
After an intense week at the HOP, some friends and I decided to have a “fusion dinner” and visit Durham to see the Lumiere light display. I found okra at an African shop in Sunderland and fried it up with rice flour – which received high praise from Southern Americans and Northern English alike. Sweet potato casserole and biscuits were also a hit, and English pork with pavlova for “pudding” made the perfect compliments. Thankfully, a 30-minute drive to the Durham park-and-ride, followed by a few minutes on the top floor of a double-decker bus, gave us time for our stuffed bellies to settle before navigating the crowds to the light exhibits. We queued, we watched, we laughed, took secret passageways and ran into friends. Then we dubbed it “Silly Saturday” and hoped the pictures would turn out!