Borrowed

You’ve probably noticed (I may have mentioned it once or twice!) that I’m getting married very soon. As the preparations for our wedding day reach their final stages, I was just thinking about my something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. I guess it’s a silly tradition that doesn’t really mean much, but i want to go along with it anyway, because it’s something quite fun.

Now, I’ve got my something old (my engagement ring, that belonged to Stuart’s grandmother), my something new (my wedding dress) and my something blue (I plan to paint one of my pinkie toenails blue — they won’t show!) but I was stuck for my something borrowed.

And then it struck me exactly what my something borrowed is — Stuart. He doesn’t belong to me, he is entirely God’s. God made him, knit him together in his mother’s womb, and planned his whole life before he was even born. I am so blessed that God has planned for my life and Stuart’s to be joined, but I know that it is only temporary.

As Christians, our permanent residence is in heaven, with God. We are only on this earth for a short while (we don’t know how short it may be), and one day God will call us back to himself, when we die or when Jesus returns to judge the earth, whichever comes first. That’s when the real joy comes in.

But, for now, I am borrowing Stuart as my husband, and I am very excited to do so! I shall do my best to be a good wife to him, though I know I will often fail at this (it’s OK — he knows this too!), and I know that I do not have to fulfil all of his needs — that is God’s role, and rightly so. I am free to enjoy him, and he me, without having the pressure of having to be each other’s everything.

Resolution

Every year, on 1st January, I set myself some resolutions. Sometimes they’re specific: lose a stone. Sometimes they’re more general: be less selfish. Always, always, though, the resolutions are not kept. Or, at least, not kept consistently. Today I determined that I would write something creative, not for work, every day. And also that I would write a novel this year. But then I remembered that I have made these resolutions before. Yes, I have probably written something creative most days, and yes I have written novels before (terrible ones – as a teenager), but they’re never the product of anything forced. They usually just happen. Of course, if you want to BE a writer, and be paid for it, as I am blessed enough to be able to do at the moment (in a roundabout sort of way, that involves a lot of answering telephones, addressing envelopes, and general admin, too!), you cannot rely on creativity just happening.

So, what is the answer? Force myself to write something every day in the hopes that a best-selling novel comes out of it? Make myself write even when I don’t want to, because it’s good discipline? Maybe, but I’m not sure it would make me terribly happy. And what about other resolutions? I know that I need to be less selfish. I need value comfort less. I certainly need to lose some weight. I need to eat healthier. I need to take my spiritual life more seriously. I need to read my Bible more and trashy novels less. I could resolve to do all of these things, and more. But does it matter? Well, yes it does matter. It is good for us to take care of ourselves, both spiritually and physically. We should strive to live good lives. We should strive, in fact, to live a perfect life. But we can’t do it. Anybody who has ever made a New Year’s resolution will know how easy it is to fall short of our own standards, let alone God’s perfect standards.

But God doesn’t expect us to. Jesus died on the cross as a substitute for our sins. He died for our sins so that we don’t have to. If we accept this, when our Heavenly Father looks on us he will see Jesus’ perfection, not our sins, and so whenever we fall short, we can be forgiven. This isn’t a light thing; it is impossible to forgive our sin without death–in fact, our sin was so big that God had to become a human himself and die for our sin. But, he did it. And because of this amazing grace we are forgiven and can live freely.

So, instead of making fifty resolutions this year. each day I will strive to live by God’s grace. John Piper, a pastor and preacher I greatly admire, says that he gets saved every day. So, all I will do this year is to daily accept Christ as my saviour and strive to live for him. Anything else I do does not matter. Whatever else comes out of 2013 will be a bonus.

Juxtaposition

I just walked past a young couple who were hugging. The girl looked pretty sad. They were standing next to an ATM, so I thought that they must be having money problems, and I really felt for them.

But then I started thinking that if they weren’t standing next to an ATM I wouldn’t have thought that at all. And, in fact, the hug could have been about anything, and maybe she wasn’t even sad at all. I thought this was a very good example juxtaposition, though, how placing things next to each other determines our reaction to them.

I moved this little scene around in my head and thought about what my assumptions of the situation would have been if the couple were standing outside:

* A doctor’s surgery

* A nightclub

* A phone box

* A nursing home

Train

I knit standing up because I can’t spare any time not knitting in the run up to Christmas. I’ve trodden in chewing gum and rejoice in the fact that it wills tick me to the floor so that I don’t fall over. I definitely don’t think about the fact that very recently it was rolling around inside of a stranger’s mouth. The kind of stranger who spits their gum out on the floor. And now it’s stuck to my new boots. The ones I bought second hand. And scrapped some jewellery to buy. I get a seat at last and increase my knitting pace. I put my headphones in and listen to Taylor Swift. Someone near me is singing along to her iPod. On the train. In public. I wish I could do that.

Testimony

Hello! It’s been a while, I know! Sorry about that (but, then, who knows, maybe you’re pleased that I’ve been silent in the blogosphere). I thought I would do a post (a copy and paste jobby actually) about how I became a Christian. I was asked to give a short talk at church on Sunday about how I became a Christian (the jargon word for this is testimony, hence my title [and darn my penchant for one-word titles!]). Anyway, here is what I said:

I became a Christian when I was 16. Let me just paint a picture for you of what I was like at 16. I was a straight A student, I loved getting essays back from teachers, as it was proof to myself and to others that I was doing very well. I didn't have many friends, but that meant that I had extra time for reading and studying. I was doing well. I wasn't very happy, but at least I was successful. I didn't drink, I didn't smoke, I didn't do drugs, I didn't even to listen to loud music. I was a good person. In fact, I was a very good person and I took pride in that. 

One Saturday night some girls in my class threw a party, and I was invited! I was SO looking forward to it, and got all dressed up. I had a horrible cold, though, and had been downing Lemsips all day. My mum warned me that if I drank alcohol on top of that it would make me feel pretty ill. So I went to the party and didn't drink anything. Everyone around me, however, certainly did. I watched as they got drunker and drunker, began kissing everyone, regardless of who they were, or their gender! I watched as they began throwing up left, right and centre. And I phoned my Dad to come pick me up. 

Over the next few days this preyed on my mind. I thought, no, this can't be what life's about. And, to be honest, I thought I was so much better than all my peers, I was much more sensible. So, I thought, what next? Where do people go who want to stay sober, read books and not go to parties? So, I thought- CHURCH! 

A few days later, my mum and I were driving past this church and I just said to her, "mum, I'd like to start going to church." She replied, "wow, I was just thinking the exact same thing!" God was clearly working in her life, in different ways, to bring us both to the same point. I'm sure you can ask her about that. 

So, the next Sunday we showed up at church, this one, and we liked it. I didn't really understand everything that was going on, at first, but we kept coming back, because the people were so friendly to us. And they served very good coffee... Oh no, it must have just been the people! 

As the weeks went by and the Bible was read and taught, I began to learn about Jesus. I went and bought myself a Bible and God, slowly, showed me what he was like. I learned that God is the creator of the world, that he made everything out of nothing, just out of love. He made us, man and woman, to be like him. But we disobeyed God, we wanted to live for ourselves instead of for him. So we earned ourselves death. We chose to ignore God and so we had separated ourselves from him. 

You see, God is so perfect that he cannot have anything evil near him, and we had become evil by disobeying the source of all good, out of selfishness. And so, we deserve hell. I realised that in fact, I was NOT a good person, not at all. I was living my life entirely ignoring this wonderful, loving God, who wants nothing more than a relationship with me. I realised that I was heading straight for hell, and I could take my string of A*s with me. 

But, that isn't where the story ends. God, in his absolute loving mercy, had the grace to show this to me, he drew me towards him like any loving parent wrapping their child in their arms. What he did was, God became a human, Jesus, just as fragile as any human being, and lived a life on earth. For 33 years Jesus ate, slept, cried, laughed, learned just like any of us. But unlike any one of us, he lived the perfect life. Jesus never once disobeyed God, his father's wishes, for he and God the Father were one, Jesus is God. 

And, at the age of 33, Jesus died. He was crucified, he gave himself up for torture and death, even though he was perfect in every way. He did not deserve one beating, and yet he willingly let the guards hammer nails through his hands and feet. Why did he do this? So that we don't have to. God endured the death that we deserved, on our behalf. 

Now, if we look to Jesus on the cross and say 'I'll have that!' God willingly, lovingly accepts that as our death. He swaps all our wrongdoings and selfishness for Jesus' perfection, and he welcomes us lovingly into his arms, and we can live forever with him and heaven. 

Over a series of weeks, I came to know that this was true. I read it in the Bible, I heard it preached, and it resonated with everything I knew in the world. It made sense. And so I said yes to Jesus! I came into a relationship with God and I now know that I have a place in heaven, where eternal life will be one long, joyful party! In heaven there will be no more crying or death or pain or sorrow, this is what God promises us. 

I still get things wrong, in fact, the more I get to know God, the worse I realise I am. But that makes me realise what a huge gift it was for Jesus to die for us. The worse I realise I am, the better I realise who God is, and that brings so much joy!

Julia Child

Today is (or would be) Julia Child’s 100th birthday, so here is a blog to commemorate her. I have to admit, almost everything I know about the lady I learned from the film Julie and Julia, however that is a very good friend, and I do recommend you watch it if you are at all into either food or blogging. I, as I’m sure you know by now, am into both, so it was a delight to watch.

Julia Child is widely thought to be the ‘inventor’ of home cooking. She first opened up the world of fine cuisine (specifically French) and taught the average housewife how to make it for herself. Of course, at the time she was aiming her books (and later TV shows) at women, but they are certainly not alienating to men. In fact, my fiance is baking her chocolate and almond cake as I write this. Sadly he is in Southport and I am in Hastings, so I do not get to sample said glorious cake, but at least I get to marry him soon!

I was intending to do some baking in her honour, however I don’t have time this evening (ahem, translate ‘don’t have time’ to ‘can’t be bothered’). Some housewife I am. But then, I am not a wife (yet), and I do work full time, with over an hour’s commute each way, so maybe I can be forgiven. And I don’t have to justify myself to YOU blank WordPress page! I’m sure that come the weekend I can whip up a baked delight, all in an immaculate pinny, perfect curls in my hair and a ribbon to top it all off. In reality, I do wish I was a ’50s housewife.

Nevertheless, here is a visual sample of some baking of mine from the not-too-distant past. This is a Mondrian cake my fiance and I made (back when he was just my boyfriend!) I hope you enjoy the visual feast!

Planning

Well, I’ve been engaged for a month now and starting to throw myself into planning for the wedding! We’re still at the ideas stage at the moment, as we haven’t set a date just yet, but oh boy am I loving the ideas! Bridal magazines and useful websites abound, and I’m filling up a scrap book of wonderful things.

Yes, I’m getting carried away, yes my wedding scrap book looks like a Disney film, but that’s the point of it. When you come up with any good idea, I think it’s important to let your creativity spill all over the place, and then reign it in to something useable. That’s the stage my brain is at with our wedding planning at the moment. The erratic, over the top, completely irrational stage. And that’s a good thing. Or that’s what I’m telling my H2B (husband to be) anyway.

This is, naturally, a humungous amount of fun. I am trying not to go completely bridezilla though. Our budget isn’t huge, and I really want to do a lot of the things myself, which means… getting crafty! Oh yes, think knitted wedding dresses, crocheted top hats and hand-sewn flowers! No, not quite! But I do want to put our personal touches on everything and make everything completely unique. So… watch this space! I’m sure I’ll be blogging lots about our plans over the following months.

I’ve also become completely obsessed with the website http://www.ukbride.co.uk

http://www.ukbride.co.uk/forum is the place to go to get stuck in–do go there if you happen to be a UK bride!

Also… here’s a picture of my engagement ring!

Engaged

I realise that I have been neglecting my website since I have been working full time, but I have resolved to do so no longer. I am still Editorial Assistant on Knitting magazine, but I am also now Assistant Editor on Making Jewellery magazine, making me a very busy girl! My latest, and most exciting, news, however, is that of my engagement! Yes, Mr. Stuart Peter Holloway asked me to marry him, and I said yes. So I thought I would share with you all how it happened.

It was Sunday 15th July and Stuart and I had just been out for a carvery with my parents, which, by itself, means it was a very good day. Stuart and I decided to go for a walk over the South Downs, where the Long Man of Wilmington is (sounds weirder than it is–you can look it up on a search engine of your choice). So we donned our walking boots and rain coats, of course, and walked all the way to the top.

By the time we got to the top of the hill the sun was starting to show itself and we had the most beautiful view of what seemed like the whole of Sussex. We spent some time admiring the view, holding hands in the wind and generally enjoying the fresh air and being lovey-dovey. We decided to start our descent when Stuart said, ‘Before we go, can I ask you a question?’

I, of course, said yes, and started to get a weeny bit excited. Maybe it was the smile playing on his lips. He got down on one knee, in the mud, and said ‘You know how much I love you?’ To which, again, I said yes. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a tiny box and opened it to display his grandmother’s engagement ring, in its three diamond, sparkling glory. ‘Will you marry me?’ he asked. I said my third ‘yes’ and that is how it happened!

Macaroons

The macaroon is a delicate mistress. She is the princess of baked treats: high maintenance, hard to please, demanding, but oh so beautiful. I am of course talking about French macaroons; the English macaroon has tainted herself with coconut. I have yet to perfect a macaroon but today I will attempt to whip up a batch. Armed with sugar thermometer, food processor and electric whisk I will not let her defeat me. I shall master her. And a light, chewy, sugary feast will be my reward (and the reward of those who happen to work in the same office as me!).

So, before I start, here is what I am aiming for, something along these lines:

Off I go!

So I made a start with the following toolkit (plus more that I realised I needed as I went along) :

I used a recipe that was new to me, from a book dedicated to baking macaroons, and I was feeling hopeful and excited to use a sugar thermometer. However, I discovered that I needed 200g of ground almonds, and I only had 150g. Plus, once I’d mixed the ground almonds and icing sugar together, the resulting mixture wouldn’t go through the sieve. It all started to seem like a terrible disaster when it looked like this:

Nevertheless, I kept going, fearlessly pressing on. In fact, I broke the biggest rule of macaroon making: I overwhisked. Once I’d combined the eggy syrupy mousse to the almond ‘paste’ I couldn’t get the lumps out. So I had to beat the stubborn things with the electric whisk. It was bold, it was daring, it was quite possibly very stupid. But we’ll see. At present the little delights look like this:

They are ‘drying’ before I put them in the oven. Of course, there was another disaster, in that I could only fined two baking trays so approximately half the mix is still sitting in the kitchen in a sandwich bag, longing to be piped. In an hour or so I can intrepidly open the oven to discover their fate…

I realised that it’s over a week later now and I still hadn’t put up the picture of the finished result! Well… they were a failure, but not a spectacular one. They were definitely edible (although I filled half of them with lemon marmalade, which I wouldn’t recommend!) but I was too embarrassed to take them into work, so we had cakeless Friday.

Anyway, here is the end result. But I shall not give up! (maybe…)

Beauty

Stuart, my boyfriend, has been blogging about beauty for a few weeks, and can be found at http://www.hunterofbeauty.co.uk
I thought it was time that I jumped on the band wagon and did a post about beauty myself, so here goes.

I’m asking myself the question, what do I find the most beautiful? I really like the colour pink. I like things that sparkle. I like things that appeal to more than one of my senses, but not too many of them lest I become overwhelmed. The perfect thing is probably a beautiful pink cake. It would appeal to my sense of sight, smell and taste. I think three is the optimum number of senses. A gorgeous book, too, I find oh so appealing. It would appeal to my sense of sight because of a wonderfully designed cover. My sense of touch, because I love the way books feel, especially books that are matte but have a shiny finish on certain details. It would appeal to my sense of smell because the books are just my favourite smell.

But a book would also appeal to my sense of imagination. Now, this isn’t traditionally considered one of our five senses. If people say that they have a sixth sense we tend to think of mediums and silk scarves, silver coins etc. But perhaps imagination is this sixth sense, for something can spark it off, be it a painting, a written phrase, or a scene from day-to-day life. I think it is this sixth sense that is the heart of beauty. I don’t think anything can be truly beautiful unless it forces something into your imagination, it makes you think, it stirs up something inside of you. Without touching your imagination, a pleasant thing is transitory. But if it captures your imagination, who knows where that trail will lead. It becomes a part of you.

If you’re interested in seeing some of the things that I find beautiful, follow me on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/undivided89