Thank you so much for visiting this site. I’m currently in the process of setting up an author website that is more visible to agents and publishers.
This site will remain in situ, and all past material will remain in place, but if you’d like to receive future posts, plus updates on my writing adventures, please head over to https://www.angelajelf.com/
Oh and by the way – two days ago, we got a puppy! Seeing as I need a picture to jazz up this post – meet Amber, the Fox Red Lab
Recently, my next-door neighbour gave me a bowl of cherry plums that she’d foraged for.
Because some of the plums were a bit tart, I decided the best use for them would be to stew them with some lucsious blackberries and make a Crumble. Ooh these colours! Aren’t they glorious together? It never ceases to amaze me that God gave us such an amazing variety of beautiful things to eat.
To approx 450g fruit, I added 80g golden caster sugar and half teaspoon of cinnamon – I also added a splash of water to help them stew down. I gently simmered this mixture on the hob for about 15-20 mins (If the mixture gets too watery, tip some of the liquid out – you want this to reduce to a thick fruity compote).
The smell of the cinnamon and fruit was mouth-watering – made me think of those autumnal days that will soon be upon us…
I was pleased with the taste, but decided that the compote wouldn’t be quite enough for my hungry brood. Time to improvise!
I had some pears in the fruit bowl, and so I decided to cook these too. To do this, I simply melted two tablespoons of butter with a generous sprinkling of golden caster sugar. Then in went the pear slices with another sprinkle of cinnamon.
After 10 mins or so, the sugar and butter caramalised to form the most delicious syrup I’ve ever tasted. What is it about butter, that makes everything taste better? Absolutely sublime.
Now I have to tell you – these syrupy pears, served warm, with a dollop of ice-cream would make a scrumptious dessert all on their own! And all made from just three ingredients! What could be easier? So if you can’t be bothered to make the crumble, please, promise me you’ll at least try these pears.. Rich, buttery, sweet – total knockout!
I added the pears to my plum and blackberry compote.
To make the crumble topping, I placed 4oz pl. flour in a bowl and rubbed in 2oz of butter using my fingertips, until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs.
I stirred in a few tablespoons of demerara or golden caster sugar – et voila!
I then baked the crumble at 180 degrees for around 25 mins and served warm with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream.
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.
One of the great things about living in South East London, is having a myriad of different grocery shops to chose from, all within walking distance.
On route to my most regular choice of shop, I have the pleasure of walking through a small public garden – a lovely hidden gem, nestled in the middle of concrete pavements and busy traffic. I also walk through a couple of quiet, residential roads, with some pretty front gardens, which seem to be particularly abundant with colour this year.
One of them, in particular, always catches my eye! Standing proudly at the entrance to the property, is this wheelbarrow:
a barrow-full of surprises
Over the past few weeks I’ve watched the blooms inside this quirky container bud and flourish into an eye-catching display. Who knew a battered old wheelbarrow could become a thing of beauty? God’s glory can show up in some surprising places!
It inspired me, to scribble down these words in my notebook this morning:
Your new life within me,
Like blooms in a barrow,
Beauty for ashes,
And joy for my sorrow.
The bible, from beginning to end, is a story of redemption – God delights in choosing the broken, the worthless, the foolish things of this world, in order to display His glory.
2 Corinthians 4:7 puts it this way:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
If you look closely at the wheelbarrow, you’d notice signs of its previous existence – the deeply ingrained scuffs and scratches, the splatters of cement or paint. It’s not perfect, but that doesn’t make it any less lovely. What once was filled with rubbish, weighed down by its heavy load, is now brimming over with joyful beauty and vibrant colour. What a picture of God’s gracious handiwork in our lives!
THE GREAT EXCHANGE
Our wonderful God is the great exchanger:
Beauty for ashes
the oil of joy for mourning
a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness
a robe of righteousness instead of filthy rags
glory instead of shame
perfect love instead of fear
The list just goes on and on. If you’re feeling worthless today, broken or weighed down with sin, then I have good news for you – you’re just the sort of person Jesus came to rescue! He doesn’t wait for you to ‘fix up’ before He adopts you into His family. The only thing you really need to be, is empty. Empty and willing to let a wise and loving Father transform your life into a testimony of redemption, all for His glory! Just like blooms in a barrow.
The old repro book-case in our lounge was incredibly useful. But, let’s be frank about this, it was a complete eye-sore! Its conker-colour veneer was a total anomaly, when compared with the contemporary soft whites and greys that we’d chosen for the rest of the room. Yep, that old book-case stuck out like a sore thumb!
It was one of those pieces I’d inherited from my dad, with the full intention of upcycling. Full of enthusiasm, I’d watched a ton of Annie Sloan videos, and even ordered a tin of Chalk Paint in a shade called ‘Old White.’ But sadly, I never seemed to find the time, or the energy required to remove the vast stock-pile of books from the shelves, set up a dust sheet out on the lawn, lug the great unit outside, and devote a day to painting.
And so the Annie Sloan chalk paint found its way into the dark depths of our under-stairs cupboard, where it lay forgotten for well over a year. The bookcase was doomed to be unceremoniously ‘dumped’ at the next available opportunity.
Imagine my delight, when my husband, eager for a ‘lock-down project’ to embark on, declared, one sunny afternoon: “I’m going to paint that bookcase for you tomorrow!”
Imagine my sheer surprise when my two teenage daughters, who would normally embrace ‘family projects’ with as much gusto as a cat being given a bath, piped up: “We’ll help!”
On the very next day, my dream-décor-team, got to work! Many hands make light work, and so, my painting services were not required. I was more than happy to sit and watch, and occasionally supply cups of tea, glasses of juice and sandwiches for these enthusiastic workers.
After several hours of painting, chit-chatting and listening to music, the sad old piece had been lavished with two coats of paint and was left drying in the spring sunshine. It was a real team effort – even our youngest daughter had a go at polishing up the brass drawer-furniture.
When the whole process was finished, the transformation was really quite startling! That tired old bookcase, destined only for the tip, was now absolutely splendid!
The transformation was so utterly satisfying to behold. We all stood back and marvelled. Surely, it wasn’t the same book-case?
Turns out, all it had needed was a little TLC! Hey, don’t we all?
Well, you know, that old book-case got me to thinking…
Firstly, I’m so grateful that we have a God, who chose an old wreck like me, took off my filthy rags and clothed me with robes of righteousness! He redeemed my life from the pit, and crowned me with His love and compassion. I’m so grateful.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Witnessing my family working together as a team like that, was extremely heart-warming. I’m being honest here, the teenage years can be tough – for kids and parents alike! We’ve had some difficult days these past few years. Some hurtful words have been spoken. Some gut-wrenching tears have been cried. Wrong choices have hurt us all. The busy, fast pace of our lives has often caused a disconnect.
But I’m so confident, that in the midst of this Corona Virus crisis, our Redeeming God is wanting to bring about some amazing works of restoration and transformation within families! We have a God who’s in the business of doing more than we can ask or even imagine, don’t we? (Ephesians 3:20).
Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. He loves to restore. He loves to renew. He loves to redeem. It’s what He came to do!
I believe Jesus is just waiting to be invited in – into our homes, into our lives, into our families. He wants to transform every room of the house! Every sad, flagging marriage, every broken down, ready-for-the-tip relationship, our God is able to refresh, to renew and to restore! Confess your need today, ask for forgiveness if necessary, ask for help – and be expectant – God is full of lovingkindness and abundant grace. In this season, I truly, truly believe, He is pouring out His grace over families, to renew and to restore!
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert