Friday, 3 July 2015

Fun in London {the joy of encouraging friendship}

I just logged on to Blogger to write a new post, and was reminded of the topic of a recent post - singing God's praises.  Admittedly, I have had lots of occasions in the last two weeks when singing praise was easy. Days of blessing and encouragement - joy and laughter.  In the middle of it all, we have had a trauma, where I had to FIND things to praise for. It wasn't too hard, but they weren't the things that were at the front of my mind.

I have so much to share about, and I don't quite know how to divide it all up! Fitting it all in one post may be overwhelming for YOU, the reader! So, I will split it up, and start at the start.

Two weeks ago, I hammered out my  blog post in record time. They were thoughts I had wanted to share, but my time was short.  Why?  because I was heading off for a day trip to London! I LOVE London. I love that it is jam packed full of history, waiting for me to learn about.  I love the architecture. I love the interesting places. I love the feeling of jumping betweens the centuries, as you go from place to place. Brand spanking new sky scrapers shadowing the ancient and mysterious.


The thing is, it wasn't the city that was calling my name that day.


It was a PERSON!

Someone whom I had I never met.  Never ever.

It was another one of these *whispers* INTERNET acquaintances.


The good news is that we have a mutual friend, who was able to confirm we were both safe and reliable!

Melissa is Heidi St John's "virtual assistant".  (That means she assists from a distance, not that she's a computerised character - meeting THAT would be just plain WEIRD!) I had the joy of meeting Heidi, and some of her family, THREE years ago (where does time GO?), and had been in touch with Melissa when working with Heidi on the blog hop a couple of years ago.

Melissa came over to the UK on a Church missions/choir trip, to Exmouth, in Devon. When she knew I lived near London, she asked if we could meet up.

Now, I don't go out much.  I am the joyful mother of my children, and I firmly see it as MY job to care for the children full time.  Robert works outside the home, and has enough to do without me constantly asking to do this, that and the other. So, when I ask to do something it's not the norm, and I massively appreciate him saying "yes". Which he did! (I read a blog post recently which suggested you shouldn't need to thank your husband when he looks after the children, because it's his job, too, but I disagree. Something as big as this is NOT his job, and I thanked him immensely! - I digress!)

I was so excited about not only going to London, but meeting Melissa. I know you don't fully know what someone is like from the Internet, but having met Heidi, I was confident we would get along. Which we DID!

Melissa, not being familiar with London, left most of the planning up to me, but told me what she wanted to see. She requested Westminster Abbey, which I hadn't visited, and to eat somewhere that was an "experience".  So, I got planning.  I like doing that kind of thing. I got us tickets for the open topped bus tour. If you are ever in London, it's a GREAT way to see a lot of the city.  There is a live guide (a dead one would be gross, I know....) - as opposed to a recorded tour - and you can hop on and off where you want. You also get a river trip. I got mine with Tesco vouchers, which made it FREEE-EEEEE. (We all love free, right?) I researched the Abbey (note to self - next time book your ticket online and avoid the 30+ minute wait....), and then thought about eating out. I asked around and found something that was an "experience".  A restaurant on a river boat! Eat dinner, and see London where you sit. You don't get to do that just anywhere.

Having arranged where to meet, and the agenda for the day, the day dawned bright! The sun was shining, and it looked like a great day to tour London. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, Melissa and I found each other! It was a joy to finally meet, and we got chatting straight off. I know.  Strange.  ME, chatting.  I know.

Melissa's first port of call was Buck Pal.  Otherwise known as Buckingham Palace, of course. We were on our way to see the changing of the guard.  Now, anywhere else, a guard change would be some guys marching up, changing places, and marching away.  Not in the UK. Ooooooooh no.




A lot of marching up and down a  courtyard by two very hot looking standard bearers, whilst two military bands from two different regiments play a lot of music.

It was busy, and getting to the front of the fence was a challenge, but we got there. It certainly gave Melissa a snapshot of the full glory of our military in full dress. And, you've gotta love a military

Our initial view, from the wrong side of the street!

The new "guard" arriving, with their band.  This is the RAF.

These are the Household Cavalry.  They are based down at Horse Guards, at the bottom of The Mall. 

These are the two guards, marching up and down.  One from the regiment ending their guard duty, and the other from the one coming on duty.  They marched backwards and forwards in diagonals, across the front of Buckingham Palace. I am sure there was some kind of order to it, but it looked random to us! 

These bad boys were coming OFF duty.  If there is something that is iconically British, it's THESE guys! They are wearing Bearskin Caps. Yes, made from bearskin. Here's a snippet from Wikipedia....

"The standard bearskin of the British Foot Guards is 18 inches tall, weighs 1.5 pounds and is made from the fur of the Canadian black bear.[6] However, an officer's bearskin is made from the fur of the Canadian brown bear as the female brown bear has thicker, fuller fur and is dyed black. An entire skin is used for each hat.[7] The British Army purchase the hats, which are known as caps, from a British hatmaker which sources its pelts from an international auction. The hatmakers purchase between 50 and 100 black bear skins each year at a cost of about £650 each.[8] If properly maintained, the caps last for decades."

They are Foot Guards from the Grenadier Guards regiment. You can identify which regiment by plumes on the Bearskin, positioning of buttons, and the badge on their collar.  In case you wondered, I am no expert. I googled it.... and found this site useful. 

This is the bands playing in front of Buckingham Palace.  We couldn't see the Grenadier Guards so well, but the RAF band was at our end. 

This is the Grenadier Guards departing. The barracks fro all these regiments is just around the corner, at Wellington Barracks. Not too far to go back "Home".  I'm pretty certain that the tour guide mentioned that all these chaps have to have served on active duty for a certain length of time, before getting to the stage of home guard duty. These are all seasoned military. 

There was a slight problem with the day, which I discovered at this point. I had my phone. I had my camera. I made a foolish assumption.  That I had brought  a spare battery that was actually charged. Nuh-uh. *face palm*  So, from this point onwards I have very few photos. Also having a phone that wasn't so full of other junk that it has SPACE to add more photos, would also have been good.  Note to self....

I did get a few snaps on my phone, outside Buckingham palace, and on the bus.

This is the Victoria Monument. I wrote a blog post about it, several years ago, which you can read here. It tells you more about it. 

This is Nelson's Column - immortalising the great military genius, who won a great victory 200 years ago, at the Battle of Waterloo. He was a pretty 'armless guy..... boom boom. Read more about him here

From there we walked down The Mall - the long road that connects Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square - to get on the bus.  It's a lovely tree-lined street.  I like it a lot.  The us then brought us around some famous landmarks until we got to Westminster.  We hopped off and went to the Abbey.

This was interesting to me, on many points.

I LOVE the history.  The poor lady verger showing us around found out quite quickly that I was, erm, enthusiastic about the history.  I hope I didn't embarrass Melissa too much. There are many kings and queens buried there.  It's full to capacity now, so monarchs will no longer be interred there. I believe The Queen Mother is buried in Windsor.  Knowing our current Monarch's love for Windsor, I imagine she, too, will be buried there, when the time comes.

The interesting points?

Well, the history, of course.  Buried there, and remembered there, are MANY well known Brits.  You aren't allowed to take ANY photos in there, so I can't show you. There are poets, in "Poets Corner", including authors, too. Musicians and composers - Handel has a fairly prominent spot. Then, there are scientists and explorers.  David Livingstone is there. Well, all but his heart, which remained in Africa where his "heart" was. This is one of the interesting points. The C of E verger, when I vented my interest in Livingstone, said something along these lines. "Of course, the work of David Livingstone as one who helped abolish the slave trade, is far more significant than anything else he did - he only had one convert as a missionary, and they changed their mind later".

You WHAT???


Melissa and I exchanged a look over that one.

A wry, shocked look.

That man laid the way for MANY missionaries to forge into countries where the people did not know the Saviour.  He did GROUND-BREAKING work. Yes, his work in abolishing the slave trade was brilliant.  To ease the suffering of this world is wonderful.  Eternal salvation? No comparison.


We moved on.

More incredible building work and detail.  Truly stunning. Until we got to two more parts that had me rolling my eyes, I'm afraid. "Saint Edward's" tomb.  So revered than he was canonised. Who are WE, as mortals, all sinners before God, to elevate ANYONE to "sainthood"?? We are all equally sinners, and none of us can do anything to merit a higher place in life. We can only claim Christ's shed blood, and atoning sacrifice, to lift us from death and judgement. We will never be anything of ourselves, and anything others see in us is Christ alone, and doesn't deserve the "sainthood" awarded by men.  Sorry.  Rant.  The Bible is very clear on this, and it drives me a little scatty.  Moving on further brought us to the Lady Chapel.  In memory of queens?? No.  "Our Holy Lady, the Mother of Christ". As much as she was chosen by God to bear Christ, the whole point WAS that she was just a woman, like any other woman. Privileged? Yes. Undeniably.  Requiring special titles and reverence, above any others, to be worshipped and given Sainthood? NO!

The other thing that had me eye rolling was the Verger's obvious dislike for the Reformation, and Oliver Cromwell. They had "destroyed" parts of the beautiful abbey.

Boo hoo.



A testament to the creative minds that God has created mankind with. Genius of its day, in the way it was built. Skilled craftsmen put it together. But, it's NOT the Church. It's not the building that matters.

It was definitely worth the visit, although fairly pricey. Especially if you love history and architecture. and fascinating facts.

Next, we hopped back on the bus to see more of London. On the way round we THINK we saw the cavalcade of cars for Michelle Obama.


We love her.... honest.

We got off the bus at the  Tower of London. (That's a place I want to visit!)  We then got on the river cruise back up to Westminster. It interesting to see the city from the perspective of the river. Once again we had a live commentary, which was interesting.

When we reached Westminster we had a few minutes to spare, so we went and had a wee look down Downing Street. The PM wasn't at home, and as Melissa very politely observed, you can't see much anyway. Our PM's residence is slightly less salubrious than the American head of state. Not very British, really. Hey ho.

We then headed out for dinner.  Now, Melissa wanted an "experience".  When I stepped on the boat and sat down, I thought it was going to be a VERY interesting experience. I forgot I get travel sick on boats, and that boat was bobbing up and down on the River Thames!!! I had a slightly panicked moment, where I thought I was going to have to run off the boat and go to McDs instead. But, I got used to it, thankfully, and despite the odd moment where it got a bit "bobby" again, I survived!

The dinner was lovely, but that wasn't the highlight.

This was THE best part of the day. I got to have a lovely chat with Melissa, who encouraged me beyond measure, as we chatted about parenting, relationships and home schooling.  The Lord had appointed our meeting, in His own perfect way, at a time I needed it most. It was uplifting and I appreciated it SO much. Chatting with a fellow sister in Christ, and gaining the wisdom and perspective of another, was just priceless. It filled my heart and soul with renewed enthusiasm, and a sense of "things can be ok". She challenged me to think outside the box, and to be brave enough to do things differently to what I was used to. I'm not even sure she fully realised how much the whole day was a balm to my soul. I told her it was a blessing, but, really, it was a deep, full and satisfying blessing.

It was ALL of God.

HE is the great Master Planner of our lives.

He equally allows struggles and trials, but when He brings blessings? - it's like a cool drink of water in a desert.

That whole day was incredible, and in God's perfect timing. He blessed me with a day that is one of my perfect sorts. Fascinating things to see, and fabulous company. For me, it can hardly get better.

Hang on.  It could.  I forgot to mention my fun trip there...

I went on the train, and brought a book with me. I don't often get the chance to read in peace, these days. So, a train journey seemed ideal. I brought a book with me that I have "started" I don't know how many times.  I WILL finish it.  IN the mean time, it's blessing my heart every time I dig into it. It's also incredibly amusing.  It's called "Unglued", and it's written by Lysa Terkeurst. Lysa writes in a way that is so REAL! You can totally relate to what she is writing about, especially, in this instance, if you are an emotional being. I had several "laugh out loud" moments, and this one really tickled me.....

"That's what makes raw emotions so complicated.  They come from nowhere and run us slap-over.  Which is why it's so important to prepare in advance for what will surely happen during your next trip to Target - or while attending the unpredictable family reunion, driving unruly kids in the car pool, or dealing with difficult people at the office. Or when, at the next Bible study meeting, you happen to sit by the woman with the special ministry of discouragement".

I pretty much spat my mint tea out at that quote!

Boy, have I met those kind of folks in my lifetime. The special ministry of discouragement!!!

We should ALL be encouragers.  It's not some special spiritual gift.  It's what EVERY Christian should try to be.

That's what made my day so special.  Melissa encouraged me.  She built me up, and helped me to see how, by God's grace and guidance, I could do the job of parenting and wifehood that He has called me to do.

(It's a bit of a dimly lit picture, but we were trying to get the London Eye in the background!)

I wonder who you will come into contact with today, or in the next week?  Are you exercising the spiritual muscle of encouragement.  You will bless others richly, if you work at being an encourager.

I had such a precious day, and I am so thankful to God for the friendship I have forged, through God's intricate plan, of seemingly random connections, for HIS glory! I love that we are all part of God's body, and even though we don't live near each other physically, we are joined together. We can build each other up, and encourage one another, through our mutual love for the Saviour, FROM the Saviour. So, so precious.

Thank you to Heidi for the first connection.  Thank you to Melissa for being brave enough to meet the random, unknown Scot.  Thank you to God for His goodness.

1 comment :

  1. That sounds like a fun day out. I am glad that you were able to connect and experience London together.