embrace the future – a talk from February 2021

Dear friends

At church we have a lay ministry and talks and topics for the main sacrament meeting are assigned to members of the congregation, so we never know what to expect each week! Towards the end of last year I was given an assignment to speak in February. It’s taken a while to type up – it was originally hand written – but here it is. I hope you enjoy it!

The topic I was given to talk on is ‘embracing the future with faith.’  The object of this phrase is the future – the definition of future is a period of time following the moment of speaking or writing, or time regarded as still to come.  The thing in this definition is ‘time’. We, humans, have a very linear view of time: it’s either behind or in front of us.  In fact, President Henry B. Eyring once explained that:

“The Lord has given us the gift or inheritance of time.  He invites and encourages us to spend it wisely.  It’s worth investing wisely, not only because we have a lifetime ahead of us but also because we have eternity to come.” Liahona, August 1989 (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/1989/08/time-an-inheritance-from-god?lang=eng).

We know from the scriptures that in the presence of God (D&C 130 v7) – “all things for their glory are manifest, past, present and future, and are continually before the Lord.”  I learn from this, that our Heavenly Father sees ‘time’ or experiences time similar to how we currently experience space, or our physical world, in 3D, in 3 dimensions.  He has the whole view, He has a different perspective.  So, we don’t see things before they happen, not typically, but Father sees all things.  We can learn to trust that.  We can learn to trust Father, and that’s where faith comes in.  

President Russell M. Nelson has said “our faith increases every time we exercise our faith in Him” (General Conference, October 2020).  In our everyday lives, we actually exercise a fair amount of faith, or trust in things we don’t or can’t see.  For example, we flick a switch, knowing a light will turn on or off; we answer a phone, knowing there’s a message at the other end, even if it’s a cold call!; we use a key to open or lock things, but we can not see the mechanism.  However, if these actions don’t produce the results expected, we know something is wrong and we ask for help.  We also exercise faith or trust in other ways – I eat food, knowing it will nourish me; I have a fair idea of what foods to eat and in what proportions; I try to exercise regularly and look after my body – I don’t see an immediate change but I trust that it’s benefitting my physical health. And I will keep trying to do the right thing and not be excessive with chocolate and cakes!

Having faith or trust in Father and our Lord is similar.  The Bible Dictionary (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bd/faith?lang=eng) states that: To have faith is to have confidence in something or someone….” and our faith “must be centered in Jesus Christ in order to produce salvation.” And that is what we are concerned with here.  So that we can place our confidence in the Lord, He has revealed Himself and His perfect character.  President George Q Cannon taught back in 1891: “No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, [God] will never desert us.  He never has, and He never will.  He cannot do it.  It is not His character [to do so]… He will [always] stand by us” (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2016/04/tomorrow-the-lord-will-do-wonders-among-you?lang=eng).  I am very grateful to personally know that those words are true.   

In April 2011 General Conference, President Nelson gave a talk titled ‘Face the Future with Faith’ where he spoke of combating fears by strengthening our faith.  He explained that faith is strengthened through prayer and spoke of the Prophet Joseph Smith during the horrible, awful days in Liberty jail and Joseph’s intense & impassioned prayers.  President Nelson stated: “The Lord responded by changing the Prophet’s perspective.  He said, ‘know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good’ (D&C 122 v7). If we pray with an eternal perspective, we need not wonder if our most tearful and heartfelt pleadings are heard.” 

So too can our perspective change – we do know enough.  I’d like to share a couple of examples of individuals whose perspective and thoughts on the future changed and helped them overcome difficulties; both physical examples but we can apply them to all types of challenges; you may recognise their experiences from the news.  

Back in April 2003, Aron Ralston, a single man aged 27, was climbing alone in a canyon and as he was descending a boulder became dislodged and crushed his right hand against the canyon wall.  He had not told anyone of his plans and had no way to call for help.  After 3 days of trying to lift or break up the boulder, he was prepared to amputate his arm but had no tools to cut through bone.  By day 5 he had run out of food and water and did not expect to survive the night, but that night he had a vision of a small boy.  In his words: “I see myself in this out of body experience playing with him with a handless right arm.  I see myself scoop him up and there’s this look in his eyes, ‘Daddy, can we play now?’ That look tells me this is my son, this is in the future, I’m gonna have this experience some day.  Now it’s like, I am going to get through this night.”  The next morning, Ralston realised he could fling himself against the boulder to break his own bones.  It took him an hour or so to stab through his flesh and then a 5 mile hike before he met people and was rescued (https://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/dec/15/story-danny-boyles-127-hours).  Speaking of this incident, Dallin H Oaks (General Conference, April 2011) said, “What an example of the power of an overwhelming desire! When we have a vision of what we can become, our desire and our power to act increase enormously.” (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2011/04/desire?lang=eng).  We do know enough of what we can become.  

Last year, as we all know, a pandemic struck the world, reaching the UK about a year ago.  Robin Hanbury-Tenison, a veteran explorer of 84 years old, was one of the first people in the south west of England to become seriously ill, in early March, a couple of days after returning from France.  Robin spent 5 weeks in a coma in a Plymouth hospital and, with less than 5% chance of survival, his family were told to prepare for the worse.  In his words: “I was on a ventilator, experienced multiple organ failure, dialysis, a tracheotomy and severe sedation delirium. When all hope was lost, when family and friends feared the worst, I had a breakthrough moment. Taken by the nurses, my guardian angels, to [the hospital’s] rehabilitation garden, I felt the warmth of the sun on my face and I knew that I would live” (https://www.royalcornwall.nhs.uk/covid-survivors-cornish-climb-for-critical-care-garden/). Robin lived and after several months of rehabilitation went on to climb the highest peak on Bodmin Moor.  We can feel the warmth from the Lord in our lives – we can go forward.  

A change of perspective, seeing something different, made all the difference to the future of these two men, for them and their families, when nearly all hope was lost.  

Elder Holland, gave a memorable General Conference talk in April 2016 concerning how we face tomorrow, displaying a picture of children, representing us, running away from a dinosaur, representing tomorrow (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2016/04/tomorrow-the-lord-will-do-wonders-among-you?lang=eng).  He said: “If gospel standards seem high and personal improvement needed in days ahead seems out of reach, remember Joshua’s encouragement to his people when they faced a daunting future, “sanctify yourselves,” Joshua said “for the Lord will do wonders among you.” (Joshua 3 v5)… It is the promise of Him who performs those wonders, who is Himself, ‘Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God… The Prince of Peace.’”

As we strive to live close to the Lord, the Holy Ghost will give us promptings & guidance, personal inspiration & revelation, including what the future may bring – finding a job, changing job, moving house, studying, where to live, serving in a calling, or even being asked to give a talk.  These are some promptings that I have felt and they have brought comfort and peace during times of change.  

So, we are to embrace the future.  The definition of embrace, to accept something enthusiastically, to welcome with open arms, to hold, hug, accept completely; to take up especially readily or gladly; from the French to clasp in the arms, to cherish, to love.  To me, it’s not a passive action, you do something, you step forward, you reach out your arms, you reach around another person, you tighten your grip, you hold.  

There are so many examples from scripture of individuals embracing the future with faith in the Lord.  I’ve already mentioned Joshua, but specifically as he led the priests and the army of Israel to walk around Jericho over 7 days; before that Moses, leading the Israelites out of Egypt, returning to Pharaoh, probably over months, plague after plague; Elijah and the priests of Baal, he told them to poor water all over the wood before asking the Lord to set it alight; Esther and her people fasting before she went to see the king, to save the people of Israel; Mary, the mother of Jesus, saying ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord’ to the angel Gabriel on being told she would be Jesus’ mother.  

And now we are here, 2021.  President Nelson (October 2020) said:

“The Lord placed you here now because He knew you had the capacity to negotiate the complexities of the latter part of these latter days. …

I am not saying that the days ahead will be easy, but I promise you that the future will be glorious for those who are prepared and who continue to prepare to be instruments in the Lord’s hands.

…let us not just endure this current season. Let us embrace the future with faith!” 

And you may be thinking, that’s great but how do I start? What should I do, now, today? We have been given a simple direction on this.  President Dallin H Oaks, in General Conference April 2019 directed us:

“The restored gospel of Jesus Christ encourages us to think about the future. It explains the purpose of mortal life and the reality of the life to follow. …

Our present and our future will be happier if we are always conscious of the future. As we make current decisions, we should always be asking, “Where will this lead?”  …  Take the long view. What is the effect on our future of the decisions we make in the present? … We make better choices and decisions if we look at the alternatives and ponder where they will lead.” (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2019/04/35oaks?lang=eng)

This is a principle that I have applied for some time, with regards to choices in my life and deciding if something is right or wrong.  I also apply it by multiplying up – if everyone were doing or acting or behaving the way I was, would my home, town, country be a better place?  When you think like that and change your perspective, the so-called grey areas quickly fall away.  

So, to embrace the future, to start changing our perspective, starts today, starts with a simple question, where will this lead?  President Oaks did give a warning alongside that counsel, which is equally important:

“…each of us is a child of God with a potential destiny of eternal life. Every other label, even including occupation, race, physical characteristics, or honors, is temporary or trivial in eternal terms. Don’t choose to label yourselves or think of yourselves in terms that put a limit on a goal for which you might strive.”

Briefly I’d like to share an example from my own life.  Back in 1993 I was finishing my 6th year studying architecture; I was also preparing to serve as a full time missionary with a date to report to the training centre that summer.  However, that May, I failed the practical component of my studies.  Amidst the tears and anguish, I made the decision to re-submit my work in September.  That summer I still went to the temple to receive my endowment – the temple is a great place to change your perspective for an eternal view – I got a job, working night shifts in a care home to save money and I spent my days studying and drawing.  I re-submitted, passed and then worked and continued to save more money.  I was eventually re-assigned and was set apart in December .  As I was set apart, I had the distinct impression that it would be longer than 18 months before I would actually practice architecture.  It was.  It was 14 years later, 2007 before I returned to the architectural profession.  And that was 14 years ago now.  I was taught to have a long view!  I am so very grateful to Father, who is not limited by time.  I can always turn to Him and He will help me keep an eternal perspective and I know He’ll do the same for you.  I have learnt for myself that developing eternal characteristics and being His instrument is far more important than those attributes which are part of this world.  

I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s kingdom on earth; I know the Book of Mormon is our latter-day survival guide; and I am grateful for the holy priesthood and that the Lord’s covenants and ordinances help us face the future with faith (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2011/04/face-the-future-with-faith?lang=eng).  

To quote Elder Jeffrey R Holland (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2016/04/tomorrow-the-lord-will-do-wonders-among-you?lang=eng):

“Keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever.”

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.  

here we go again…

Dear friends

Last week, national lockdown 3.0 began. With over 80,000 people in the UK who have died from the virus we simply don’t know how tough things will get before things improve. Generally people are compliant with the rules; we’ve been told there may be more enforcement; and we’re grateful that the more vulnerable after being vaccinated. My own mother, who’s in her mid 80’s, received her first vaccination injection last week.

Last week, the children began home school again. It’s much more organised than lockdown 1.0 (schools were open during lockdown 2.0) and they seem to be getting on with the work. My Lenovo Chromebook is getting a daily workout with home studying!

Last week, some of the news was showing empty shop shelves in Northern Ireland. Not because of the pandemic, it’s because of Brexit. Those more cynical UK citizens might be saying the pandemic is convenient to keep Brexit/ EU/ border control issues out of the news. There’s definitely not been as much coverage as I thought there would be… but it’s there! Last week’s news was taken over by events at the Capitol Building in Washington DC, USA, last week.

And last week was back to work – I’m so glad I avoided starting on Monday – it made for a shorter first week back. It’s amazing how lazy I can become… so quickly. It’s a good thing I need to earn a living!

2020 happenings – part 4 of 4

Dear friends

And we’re almost finished… this is the last part! I don’t usually write this way but at least you’re up to date and ready for 2021 – which our children are saying will actually be 2020 2.0! What optimism!

10. Sewing machine Some weeks into England’s national lockdown it became mandatory to wear a face covering on public transport and in shops. Finally, a renewed use for the machine which we received many years back from a couple moving back to the USA. I found an online pattern and began making them for our family. The hardest thing was getting the elastic for the ears correct – we have small ears! After the first batch, which was made from scraps of fabric I’ve acquired over the years, and when non-essential shops re-opened I bought black cotton fabric to ensure the children had plain ones for returning to school in September. I thought at the start of the pandemic that everyone would be wearing home-made face coverings. The amount of disposable ones littering the streets, not to mention the creation of more plastic waste, is so sad.

11. Writing DM This is a work task which I started in earnest in January 2020. It was to write a Designers’ Manual (DM) to inform the delivery of new council homes for our city. I worked largely independently with my line manager reviewing, in fact he shared an example from a city council (in another country) he used to work for. However it was not a simple task to transform it to our city, particularly with legislation and our drivers, notably the green city agenda. The final document, ratified in July 2020, is over 100 pages and it will be reviewed annually. It’s not perfect but a great start at setting out where we need to be to address the needs of our vulnerable residents and the climate emergency.

12. Braces I’m talking about braces to teeth. Son2 was referred early in 2020 to the orthodontist by the dentist for to a missing adult tooth and all of teeth being out of line. Finally he received an appointment in September, he’s a young teenager so several of his school friends are wearing braces. I’ve always been very conscious of my top teeth being out in front and made some enquiries about a private (non-NHS) assessment. Several weeks later and I have Clarity braces or retainer fitted to my top teeth, at age 51! And it’s probably another 16 months more!! I never went to the dentist often as a child, I remember going around age 15 or 16 asking about braces and the dentist said that I didn’t need them. It’s expensive privately; I did think about it and even the orthodontist spoke with me about it – it being cosmetic surgery, why I wanted it etc. For me, it’s something that will help me feel more comfortable and confident in myself. And it has been painful and uncomfortable, mouthwash is sooooo soothing!

13. BHM Black History Month In September my local RIBA chapter invited me to be part of a national RIBA Instagram campaign for BHM October 2020 being organised by RIBA London with Paradigm Network. They asked for minority ethnic architects to share a book that had inspired them. When I first responded, I wrote to our local chapter person in a ‘by the way’ manner that actually I had been more inspired by one of my Mum’s records ‘Young, Gifted and Black’ than any book, but I suggested a book, Brian Lanker ‘I Dream A World’ Portraits of Black Women who changed America. (It’s out of print now but a fantastic book if you can find a copy). So then, RIBA London contact me and ask me to be on the panel of a lunchtime book club, by RIBA Bookshop, to speak about ‘Young Gifted and Black’. No problem but then I was shocked to see myself on the front page of RIBA Bookshop advertising the event https://images.app.goo.gl/adxbFKAfaitRe5zD7!!! It was really great and humbling as I heard of male black architects being stopped and searched in London almost routinely. For the first time in my professional career, I shared a particularly painful and shocking incident when I was working one summer for an architectural firm. One of the architect’s after looking out the window at some birds, turned back and looked straight at me and said (chuckling), “big, black, bird.” There has been much awareness raised in the last year to the ongoing racism and injustices faced by people of races other than caucasian, white. Like you, we’ve had many discussions in our home about this. And it was around this time that President Dallin H Oaks, a latter day Apostle of Jesus Christ stated:

Of course Black lives matter. That is an eternal truth all reasonable people should support.”

2020 happenings – part 3 of 4

Dear friends
Here we go, part 3!

7. No Books I’m definitely embarrassed to reveal but I didn’t read any books in full during 2020! Daur1 gave me a book last Christmas, I think, Four Walls and a Roof by Reinier de Graaf and I’ve read just 35 pages! It’s ridiculous I know given the additional time at home I’ve had! So I definitely need to change that in 2021 and read some books. I confess, during this same period I have taken full advantage of our family’s streaming subscriptions: X-Files seasons 1 to 9 on Prime (I found it too strange with older Mulder & Scully from season 10 but might still watch them); the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, in order, as found in Disney+; Pirates of the Caribbean 1, 2 and 3 (Disney+); House, seasons 1 to 8 (Prime – I’ve almost finished season 8 but got sidetracked by seasons 1 and 2 of Homeland on Netflix); Mission Impossible 4, 5 and 6 (combination of Netflix and Prime). I did buy myself a Lenovo Chromebook C340 – it’s 11 inch touchscreen, converts from a laptop to a tablet with a fold, I love it! Son2 started using my Samsung tablet for home lessons when schools closed so I needed something for myself. It doesn’t have a huge memory but it’s fine for my needs and means that finally I have a larger screen for writing!

8. Indexing This is all about family history. As you may, or may not know, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which I’m a member, has a huge family history library (familysearch.org) One of it’s activities it’s to transcribe older written records into digital searchable data. Indexing is that transcribing process which anyone can volunteer to do. When lockdown started, with the extra time available on Sundays I decided to give to indexing. I felt this was something I could do to serve others. When I started, around April/ May 2020, I found there were a couple of Caribbean records needing transcribing and they became my focus, since that is my immediate heritage. I set myself an annual goal which I surpassed by a few hundred entries. So for 2021 I’m going to keep going and double my goal.

9. 156 Applicants That was how many applications we received for an architectural assistant post job vacancy within our team advertised in November 2020. We took 52 candidates each and three of us – the other senior architect, our manager et moi – shortlisted them down over a couple of days to seven for interview. I am going to do an actual post about this because it’s really important – you’ve got to know how to write a job application so you don’t annoy those that are shortlisting and so you get an interview. We read a lot of irrelevant, uninspiring, unprofessional nonsense!! It wasn’t difficult to get from 156 to less than 10!! Think about that!

2020 happenings – part 2 of 4

Dear friends

OK – we continue! I should say, these aren’t in any particular order, maybe subconsciously it’s in the order of the biggest impact on me but I’m not a psychologist. Mmmmm… but that would make an interesting experiment, what is the priority when we recall past events…

4. CONDENSED MILK During lockdown 1.0 I was released from serving in Pimary (with the children) at church and called to serve in Relief Society, the women’s organisation. And we have had Zoom Relief Society lessons and activities. One of these was on food storage and it seemed to me that each of my sisters had a little store of condensed milk plus a couple of treat recipes in hand. I set about to add condensed milk to our store cupboard and bought a couple of cans. The thing about food storage is that it needs to be things that you actually use. So the cans have have been in our cupboard for a few months and over Christmas I decided I would do something with them. One sister shared a two ingredient coconut balls/ truffles recipe – I tried that 2 days ago and discovered 1. Son2 loves condensed milk from the can but 2. Son2 and Daur2 really don’t like coconut and 3. Condensed milk must still contain lactose because some unpleasant effects on me! That tried, Son2 and Daur2 made chocolate fudge with the second can, lots of dark chocolate and a dash of vanilla essence – very tasty, like chocolate ice cream. Definitely worth trying but, come the revolution, I think there are other things I’d prefer in our store cupboard!

5. CHICKENS For a few years my dear husband has mentioned how he’d love to have chickens. This became a reality for our family this year. As lockdown began and with the furlough scheme in place – basically my husband got paid 80% of his earnings by not going to work – the dream became a reality as over the easter break we constructed a chicken coop and pen. In early May my husband received the call from Longdown Farm that four Warrens were ready for collection, they were about 16 weeks old and would start laying eggs in the next few weeks. My dear husband and children returned home with five chickens! Now I am not an animal lover, I wouldn’t harm animals, but I am not comfortable around them so this was a huge change for me. Son2 loves them – I have since learned that my father’s maternal grandfather was known for being very good with animals and looking after them back in St Vincent so maybe Son2 has that characteristic. Either way, it’s been a big change for us all. And then, at the end of July, as we began to feel comfortable that 5 was really enough, dear husband received a call that the seven – yes SEVEN – other chickens that he’s ordered we were ready for collection. And so in a few days, pen 2 was erected, coop 2 was already constructed as an outdoor coop, and 1 warren + 4 bluebells + 2 black chickens (we think they are australops but we’re not sure) joined our garden (which did have grass!). So we have 12 chickens, 2 flocks, keeping us busy; we’ve clipped wings, scooped poo, cleaned coops, scooped poo, purchased another composter, scooped poo, woken with the sun (we were so happy at the shorter days as the winter solstice arrived), scooped poo, and of course, collected (and sold and eaten) lots of eggs. My husband reminds us, this is our food storage and we did have a fantastic tomato harvest this summer! So, come the revolution, omelettes round at ours!

6. SAVINGS I feel this blogpost has a particular theme, not intentional, about storage and preparation, always important. So, financial savings is an area that I wanted to improve. Although we don’t live beyond our means, we also don’t have any substantial savings, apart from pensions and the house. So I, personally, wanted to save, properly, no dipping into, a financial reserve, somewhere. This is where I discovered a great investing app, early this year, MoneyBox. Initially I set it to save £3 per week – I knew I wouldn’t really notice that, with a payday boost of £25. I chose the medium risk investment option. And then the pandemic and markets crashing. However, I decided this was a good time to increase investing and put up my weekly savings to £5 and changed my investment options to adventurous. I stopped looking at it on a daily basis. And recently I decided to remove the payday boost – which I kept forgetting and it came as a shock a week after payday – and put up my weekly savings to £10 per week, which was essentially the same total amount per month. At the end of 2020 my investments have increased by about 5%, loads better than any regular savings account. We have a very low interest rate in the UK which is great for the mortgage repayments but not for savings. This is a long term thing, and I know there will be losses as well as gains but I’m in it for the long term and happy with my choice. It was easy to set up, easy to use, the hardest thing is I never quite know when money is going to be transferred from my main account into MoneyBox but that’s been okay since I don’t do that much shopping anymore.

More happenings this past year to come soon – it’s almost time to lock up the chickens!!

2020 happenings – part 1 of 4

Dear friends

I do hope you are keeping well! Lists are great, aren’t they? At this time of the year many of us can not help but reflect. We are poised to never use these four digits to denote a year, though maybe a decade, the 2020’s.

Formal new years resolutions are not really my thing but I do like to reflect on the previous year and see where improvements can be made – I guess that it a resolution by a different name. However, I don’t beat myself up for not achieving something.

So here’s my 2020 happenings – and I’m not being paid to advertise but I will be sharing some great products/ places/ business/ apps that I’ve come across. To be honest, each of these could be a blog in itself – I already have 26 draft blogs!! – so I’m going to have to keep this very factual and lose some of the fun details so as to not lose your interest! It’s also going to have to be published in parts since I keep thinking of things to add!!

  1. DRIVING On one day in April 2020, middle of UK lockdown 1.0, I drove approximately 550 miles between 0630h and 2200h. The round trip was Southampton to Heathrow (70 miles) to Manchester (195 miles) to Central London (205 miles) to Southampton (80 miles). The reason was to pick up Son1 who was re-patriated from his assignment in Vanuatu Port Vila Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and take him to his university town home. Heathrow Terminal 5 was very surreal in the middle of lockdown. It was a bittersweet occasion for us all – there had been no confirmed covid-19 cases in Vanuatu but he was still repatriated, although the only missionary returning to Europe (which was in full lockdown), along with those traveling back to the Americas or Asia, via Brisbane and Los Angeles – it was a very long 24 hours for him! He opted to be re-assigned for his concluding 3 months and served in the Birmingham England Mission until being released from full time missionary service in August 2020. Son1 was blessed and was offered a job within one week of finishing and is now studying and working in Manchester.
  2. EXERCISE Since last year I had joined a university gym close to work and was in the routine of attending at lunchtimes or after work. I had created my own rowing-weights-elliptical routine and was feeling the benefits as lockdown 1.0 started on 22 March. Within a few weeks I realised I needed to have some exercise back into my new working from home routine. So, I downloaded the BBC Couch to 5k app, chose former Olympian Michael Johnson as my trainer and began in the back garden. I reached week 9 as chickens began taking over the garden and the grass was disappearing. So as we entered autumn and I was not going to return to the gym. So I researched and I discovered a great YouTube channel Fabulous50s. Discovering how to create a playlist, I’ve added a 5 minute stretch, a 15 min cardio walk, and a 30 min cardio walk – it’s interval training (30 sec exercise + 30 sec walk or jog or dance) and so great; I love them! My aim is to keep my heart in good condition and I added the 30 min routine so I can build up to at least 150 minutes exercise per week. This has kept me going through lockdown 2.0 and I hope continue to do so as our area is in tier 4 restrictions, basically lockdown 3.0.
  3. CHURCH On Sunday 15 March 2020 we were due to attend stake conference (a large regional church meeting held twice yearly) but a couple of days before that all church meetings, worldwide, were suspended due to the pandemic; all members were encouraged to have home church, having the sacrament at home if there were a priesthood holder to administer it. It was September before sacrament meetings began again in our local unit, broadcast to those not attending in person. I have no doubt this is a huge weight on our bishop, our local congregational leader, who is always in attendance; he must feel he has no choice while the rest of us do make a choice, in person or at home. The wonderful, great thing is that the Lord had been preparing us with lessons etc. being home centred – church supported through the ‘Come Follow Me’ program of scripture study. 2020 was the Book of Mormon and it has been great to do this with our younger two children and to hear their thoughts on spiritual matters.

And here’s what else is coming up over the coming days before 2021:

  1. condensed milk
  2. chickens
  3. savings
  4. no books
  5. indexing
  6. 156 applicants
  7. sewing
  8. writing DM
  9. braces
  10. BHM

Mayflower 400

Dear friends

Growing up in Southampton means that you know about at least two famous historical ships – the Titanic and the Mayflower. And this year is 400 years since the Mayflower sailed from this port town.

The thing that impressed me most about hearing the story of the Mayflower is that it’s about a group of people that fled religious persecution. It’s essentially the story of a group of people who wanted to live and worship differently than the dominant religion at the time and were being persecuted for that. They gathered together, got a ship (the Speedwell), and sailed from Holland to Southampton where they met the Mayflower ship, which had set out from Rotherhithe, London. The Mayflower was carrying 102 passengers who wanted to build a new life, in peace, across the Atlantic Sea. Half of those passengers died within the first year in their new home (mainly from disease having arrived in November 1620). But essentially they were colonisers, settling where other people already lived. That always seems to end in pain for those who lose their land for no other reason than someone else wants to live there! This website gives a great in sight into the full story of the event and it’s position in terms of native Americans and the colonisers: https://www.mayflower400uk.org/education/the-mayflower-story/.

So, these past several months one of my work projects has been conservation work to the Pilgrim Father’s Memorial (aka Mayflower Memorial) here in my hometown, originally constructed 1913. As it is literally a 5 minute walk from my former primary school, I can’t tell you how many times, over 40 years ago, I saw the memorial and heard the story of the Pilgrim Fathers.

The commemoration weekend here is in 2 weeks – 15 August 2020. Despite knowing about the commemoration date for the last, well, hundreds of years, the Culture team were a little slow to get going on the conservation work and had to be rescued (financially) by the Property team. An exemption request submitted to Procurement was eventually approved and a specialist main contractor was appointed in February. However with stone to be sourced and carved, completion of the works for the commemoration weekend was always ambitious. And then, the pandemic was declared!

The first half of the contract took place in the stonemasons yard with lots of photographs being sent showing the stonework progression. I really wanted to go to the mason’s yard so was rather disappointed that the pandemic meant this was too high a risk to take, especially with 5 of us at home, since the yard was in another town.

However, with site works commencing in May, I was finally able to visit site and hold external site meetings, rather than conference calls. And this past week, with copper Mayflower ship back atop facing West, the upper layer of scaffolding came down to reveal the refreshed mosaic dome, renewed stone work and, at night, a beacon light shining out from it’s quirky Art Nouveau/ Arts & Crafts style fire basket metalwork. The memorial isn’t the tallest of columns, about 15 metres or 50 foot. And it’s location means that most people in town probably will never see it, unless they make an effort.

But it is a story, an event that happened, 400 years ago and, like with any real event, it shouldn’t be forgotten.

I am descended from people who, not wilfully, were transported across the Atlantic Sea from the African continent to work and effectively colonise islands of the sea. Many of them died within months of arrival, from disease, from hard labour, from abuse, from broken hearts. Though there is no specific monument with their specific name that I can definitely say they are my descendants, I still feel proud that somewhere in my family history, I am descended from survivors.

“Though today’s restrictions relate to a virulent virus,…

“… life’s personal trials stretch far beyond this pandemic. Future trials could result from an accident, a natural disaster, or an unexpected personal heartache.

“How can we endure such trials? The Lord has told us that “if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.”

“Of course, we can store our own reserves of food, water, and savings. But equally crucial is our need to fill our personal spiritual storehouses with faith, truth, and testimony.”

Russell M Nelson, Prophet and Apostle, April 2020 General Conference

it’s never too late to…

Dear friends

I actually started writing this post more than a year ago! And I know it’s almost been as long since my last one but it really is never too late! And that applies even in the changing world that we’re now experiencing.

So, last year, I learnt that it’s never too late to… use a pumice stone.

As my 50th birthday approached last year, I really felt I ought to embrace it. I’m not seen as immature; I have life and professional experiences and, at church, I’m probably observed as a ‘seasoned’ member. Don’t you love that adjective – seasoned, well flavoured, marinated!

Anyway, my feet; they’re wider and longer than the average woman; shoe shopping has always caused me great anxiety. I have flat feet, my arches fell during my university days – with great pain – which probably contributed to developing a painful bunion during pregnancy with child 4, eventually leading to a bunionectomy (is that the word?) and six weeks on crutches with a toddler 😲.

My feet became neglected and my hidden secret. I hid them in shoes, behind socks and tights; and in the summer I hid them behind chunky man-sandles which are very comfortable but don’t look great with Sunday dress!

So as my 50th birthday approached, this was part of me that I knew I had to do something about. I thought about a pedicure but there’s no way I could let anyway see, let alone handle, my feet – such was my complex. Then as I was browsing through Primark, looking for chinos and treats to post to Son 1 (he was at the time serving as a missionary in Vanuatu), I found in the men’s toiletries section a pumice stone, only 75 pence!! And I knew this was for me 🙂

Back home I watched a few YouTube videos on technique and my feet rejuvenation journey began. It didn’t end with the pumice stone. A few weeks later, browsing in a shop, I spotted a pair of white, strapless, sandles, wide fit, size 8, knocked down in price! They fit; they were mine; I wore them to church with everything, even on the cooler summer days!

It’s a small thing, I know, and it probably sounds quite silly – I’m a 50 year old woman and I had neglected, ignored my feet. But I can tell you that the while experience made a big difference to me, and the relationship I have with my physical self.

That 75p pumice stone is a small thing but represents that I can change, and improve. And same principle can be applied to anything and anyone. Maybe your pumice stone is a book, a kind act, giving up something, or doing something different. It might involve walking towards someone.

Either way, it’s going to take some action on your part, on my part. And some belief that the action is going to bring about a change. Simply remember, it’s never too late.

chance meetings

Dear friends

If you’re part of any type of community, you will know the phrase, it’s a small world. That’s true but it doesn’t always feel like a small world when you live in big cities, visit new cities or when you’re taking a break.

Not long after I moved to London, 1996, big metropolitan city, home to approximately 6.5 million individuals, I was in an area of London, I think heading to an exhibition and coming out of Angel tube station during rush hour. And who do I pass entering the tube station, my little brother. Yes, I knew he was one of those 6.5 million people but he lived the other side of London, and had been in London for a few years. He was just as shocked and let out a jovial laugh of shock as we hugged and he explained he couldn’t really stop because he was on his way somewhere!!!

Same year, still in London, leaving another tube station (St James Park), middle of the day and I hear someone call my name. This time a lady who I really did not recognise. But she knew my name and then told me she hasn’t seen me since I was about 14 years old. We used to attend Sunday school together at the New Testament Church of God! As she told me her name, I was still in shock that she recognised me, then in my late 20s but I could barely recognise her. Clearly I hadn’t changed that much! We politely asked for each others parents, wished each other well and continued on our independent journeys.

Later that year, 1996, I travelled to Canada and USA on holiday, and I was in Salt Lake City, Utah, casually wandering through a shopping mall on my own. Across the atrium I see another black person, possibly the only black person that I saw in Salt Lake at that time :), so imagine my shock as he called my name! As I approached I recognise him from the stake (area of the church) in London – he had moved to live, or study, in Utah. We arranged to meet up later that day and that was the last I heard of him. I was already engaged, I think he was too as I recall. Remember, back then the Internet was rare, expensive, and the term social media had yet to be coined!

A couple weeks ago our family went to the London Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. These are sacred places and this temple serves the southern half of the UK. We decided stay overnight so it wasn’t so rushed even though we are only a couple of hours drive from it. Saturday afternoon we prepare to head back home. Daur2 and I quickly head towards the accommodation for… something… (I forget what) and see two men; the tall black man recognises me, calls my name, and, lo and behold, it’s the same friend from Utah, now living back in England, in the Midlands, 200 miles from us! It has been nearly 23 years!!

Before we make it into the building we meet two more people that know me – well, one knows my husband – by which time Daur2 states: “You and Dad know ALOT of people!!” I don’t think we do, but that day, there certainly were lots of chance meetings. And it is more lovely to meet old friends at the Lord’s house and knowing that in our own party of the Lord’s vineyard we are each individually trying to remain true to the Lord.