After I wrote my post about losing my mum when I was 14, my friend asked me how I had managed to continue to be faithful to God in the face of such a loss? How do I reconcile faith in a loving God and suffering? I promised her I would write up my answer, but that, as it may benefit others, I would blog my answer.

I need to unravel a bit to help to explain my answer. As a 12 year old, with a mum recently diagnosed with cancer, I vividly recall sitting in school assembly as prayers were being said. I specifically chose not to partake in those prayers because I felt it would be hypocritical, as I had no belief in God. I believed in caring for the earth, for caring for animals and other people, I believed in caring for the created but not worshipping the one who created all these things. I had never understood that Jesus loved me and wanted to live in a relationship with me, despite going to Sunday school from time to time and singing occasionally in the church choir. Having a relationship is not just about knowing who someone is, but it is spending time with them and feeling their love for you and offering your love in return. I just hadn’t realised my need for that love yet.

For over 2 years I watched Mum slowly deteriorate from an active English teacher to a woman bound to her bed by the illness that consumed her. During this time our vicar would come along and pray with Mum. Did Mum have faith? I think so, but it was a quiet faith.

The day Mum passed I was on a school trip. I was off in Dovedale, climbing over the stepping stones, not realising that I was about to be stepping into a new and painful season of life. When I returned to school, our vicar was there to collect me, along with my sister. She broke the news, that Mum had passed a couple of hours before. I laughed. I felt so bad, not about Mum dying, but my inappropriate laughter. I didn’t understand my response and yet of course I was in shock, but a 14 year old is not equipped to understand the nuances of grief. I had laughed and I felt like a fraud, why couldn’t I cry like a normal person? I had no idea at the time, or for many years later, that grief doesn’t look like it does in films, grief is personal and there is no one right way to grieve.

We got home and the police were there because her death was unexpected (she was never officially terminal) and the house was full of family friends. There were many cups of coffee and tea to prepare and the fridge was lacking in milk. I saw my opportunity to do something, and as a ‘doer’ I jumped at the chance to cycle 3 miles to the nearest shop. I’d never done it before, but my new life of responsibility began at that moment.

Her funeral came and went, but still no tears fell. I stored them deep inside where they leaked out within a few months, in eating disorders. For 7 years I coped with the internal pain through using food as a means for comfort and a way of purging the pain inside. It was only when I met Phil that I finally I started to feel safe enough to let go. I recollect one weekend, at about 21, when I cried all weekend as I became aware of what I’d lost, finally my grieving had begun. I never cried with my family because they were each carrying their own grief and they didn’t need mine as well. I just got on with life, but underneath I was broken.

In the initial few months after Mum’s death I turned to boys for attention and discovered the short term satisfaction of teenage lusts and parties. It wasn’t long before I was heading for self destruction. On a school art trip to Paris, my teacher found me on the balcony, leaning over. I wasn’t trying to end it all, but I had no sense of self preservation, I was rapidly careering towards a very dark place.

Coming home I think I knew I was searching, but it took a conversation with my sister to show me the place I should be looking. One afternoon my sister, who is 6 years older than me, and I were discussing Mum’s death and she explained what had happened that day.

Mum was lying in bed, talking with our cleaning lady and told her that the room was getting lighter and there was someone coming to get her. I think our cleaner knew that the end was near and so she ran to get the vicar from 2 doors down and he sat with Mum until she passed away within the hour.

So someone came to get Mum? The room got lighter? Who and why? Questions raced round my head for some time as I dwelt on the situation that had unfolded that day. The answer came one day soon after, when my eyes fell upon a booklet that my sister had brought home from university. It explained that Jesus had died for my sins and that by believing in him I could have peace today and for eternity. As I read the words I knew I had the answer I had been searching for. At that moment I prayed to God, declaring my belief in Jesus as my Saviour and asking for forgiveness for all that I had done wrong. That was the end of one chapter and the beginning of a very beautiful story. It is a story of beauty from ashes, the story of my life, given to my Saviour and the wonderful way he has transformed every single part of it.

That was the end of my desperate searching for attention from boys. I remember saying to a boy I met at a party the following week, that I wouldn’t kiss him, as was expected, because I was a Christian now and I didn’t think that kissing random boys was appropriate for me now!

A few days later I popped round to see our vicar to ask him if I could be confirmed. He was rather surprised to see a teenager on his doorstep asking such a question, as he was a vicar of a small village church with no youth! This always reminds me that God doesn’t need great youth programmes, although these are important, to reach the hearts of young people, his Holy Spirit is more powerful than anything we can ever say or do.

Since then I’ve never looked back. I wobbled off the narrow path for a short while just before I met Phil, who was also wobbling a bit, but together we came back to our faith with renewed strength to follow Jesus.

So my answer to the question, how can a loving God take away the mother of a young teenage girl and leave her broken? God loves me and wants to spend eternity with me. He used an awful situation to draw me to him and away from a life headed towards self-destruction. Without my Mum’s death I might never have come to know Jesus, who has given me a life of joy, not always an easy life, but one in which I am secure in his love for me and full of his joy. My Mum’s death was a tragedy, but through it God has helped me to find life, life in all its fullness.

Our new addition arrived just over a week ago, to much excitement from us all, well nearly all, let me be honest, tractors aren’t really my thing! I’m not here to ruin Phil’s fun though, I truly understand his desire for our new red friend, I just don’t have any strong desires to get behind the wheel.

It’s a 1970s International 574. Now that means nothing to me, but apparently it might appeal to those who like really old tractors. I like to think of our new addition as vintage, it adds a certain amount of romanticism to my dream of farm life. For now Little Red is sitting in our courtyard waiting for a front loader to be fitted.

There are so many words that I use nowadays that never occurred in our pre smallholding vocabulary. Front loader, silage, portable milker, heat pump and plant room (for the ground source heating) are all up there on new terminology I have learnt this year.

It really has been an extraordinarily steep learning curve, and it keeps going! We certainly haven’t reached the top, as we have much more to undertake over the next year. We have lots of building work due to commence in June, a new bathroom to be fitted next week, loads more veg to plant out this year and try to keep alive and tonight Christopher asked me when we were planning on getting some lambs. Life round here is certainly never dull!

When my head stops spinning for a moment, and I reflect on what we are doing, I just stand amazed and thank God for all he has done. Phil had never milked a cow before last year, or driven a tractor, he’d never helped out an egg bound chicken or tried to work out when a pig was ready to be put with a boar for some ‘action’ (we’re hoping for piglets this year). I’d never planted much veg or taken care of chickens, or worked out what to do with parts of a pig I’d never seen in the supermarket!

We are loving the challenge and we are all learning as we go along. We are very thankful that God is by our side helping us at every turn. Nothing here is done without prayer and faith because without those two ingredients we would have a recipe for disaster. With God we can do all that he calls us to, if we call on him. And we really need his help, often hourly, as there is always a new challenge to face, and so we go to the One with all the answers and he grants us the wisdom to move forward.

Phil and I are also a team. We are completely different to one another. We have the same life goals, but totally different skills to bring those goals about. Without that team we couldn’t begin to do what we do here. We’ve learnt a lot about each other over the last couple of years, but most of all we’ve learnt to appreciate our differences. Marriage is Oneness and moving here has helped us to understand that more than ever.

This was supposed to be about tractors, but due to my lack of tractor knowledge it wafted into what I know best, God, marriage and teamwork. I guess we write about that which we understand. If you are really into tractors and want to know more about them, do leave a comment and I’ll get Phil to respond.

Blessings to you all

I’ve clocked up many hours of breastfeeding over the years. Each child has given me a story to share, some more eventful than others!

All the children have received breastmilk up to at least a year and some longer, Katie is currently holding on to be my latest weaned, at 2, before her all my babies have weaned by 18 months. I’ve let them take the lead to some extent, but breastfeeding is always a dance and sometimes I have chosen to move them along, listening to their cues and needs and also considering the needs of myself and the whole family. None of them have ever struggled to wean, I have done it slowly and the last feed to go has always been bedtime.

I have had my fair share of challenges from mastitis, oral thrush for the baby, 100% tongue tie, blocked ducts, nipple blisters which needed popping with a needle (ouch!), babies who latched on easily, some who took a while and one with an oral delay which meant eye watering feeds until their muscle development improved.

Katie presented me with one of my most challenging starts to breastfeeding. Many people think that by baby number nine breastfeeding will be a breeze. In reality each baby is an individual and comes with their own set of challenges. Katie was born with 100% tongue tie and was slow to gain weight. By two weeks she had just regained her birth weight, but by then she also had oral thrush, so we treated that, which took 3 weeks of trying a couple of treatments. All this time my nipples were very painful and I had already had mastitis twice. If I had been a first time mother I almost certainly would have given up, but knowing where we would hopefully get to in a few months, I persevered. She was starting to gain weight and so I was unsure whether or not to get her tongue tie clipped. Once the thrush had cleared up though and feeding still caused my toes to curl up and I started brewing once again with mastitis, I knew the only solution was to get her tongue tie clipped. The waiting time on the NHS was simply too long, by then she would have had to go onto bottles, but thankfully we found a private clinic which could do the procedure within the week. It was the best decision we could have made. I don’t think Katie initially agreed with me though, as it took her several hours to persuade her to feed again, but once she realised that the milk came more efficiently she was away!

I think one of the reasons I have fed Katie for a bit longer than the others has been to do with the rough start we had. So many tears were shed during those first few weeks and now I just delight in each feed we share. She mostly only feeds now a couple of times a day, and our days as a feeding team are nearly over. With this in mind I asked Phil to snap a couple of photos of Katie feeding, to remind me of these precious days.


Breastfeeding is such a gift,
As milk flows down my spirits lift.
As oxytocin starts to flow,
My stress and worries seem to go.

Don’t be deceived, I cannot lie,
Breastfeeding can make you cry.
With tongue tie, thrush and blisters sore,
My breasts have often felt quite raw.

Just hold on when the days are tough,
Times ahead won’t be so rough.
Days and weeks and months ahead,
I promise each feed you won’t dread.

The days are long, but months go fast,
Baby days can never last,
Keep on going, just one more feed,
Strength for today is all you need.

I’m with you as you fight on through,
With gritted teeth and nipples chewed.
I know your toes are curling up,
As your baby starts to sup.

If I could go back to the start,
And whisper words into my heart,
I’d tell me, “keep on going mum”,
You won’t regret this when you’re done.

Every feed helps make them strong,
When germs and illness come along,
You’re building up a life times health,
A gift to give beyond all wealth.

So much washing! After grumbling to myself about the amount of washing and clothes in our home, I realised that before the Fall there were no clothes and therefore no washing! Wouldn’t that be bliss! Since we no longer live in Eden ‘pre Fall’ and we are not yet in Heaven, we live in this in between stage with all the mess that brings. Jesus is with us though, in our daily challenges, by His Holy Sprit, helping us, but the tasks of each day still remain. He uses these tasks to draw us to Him. Each job can be looked on as a burden or an offering. I find that by turning my thinking round each job takes on a new dimension. Are these tasks just tasks or can they be a route to developing a closer walk with God?

I believe that everything can draw us to God. As I put away clothes I can pray for the person whose clothes I am folding, as I prepare a meal I can thank God for the food and pray for the blessing of rich conversation around the meal table, as I wipe up the messes I can be thankful for a home where the messes are made and for each little one who is still learning how to be tidy.

I’m certainly still learning and I’m so grateful that God hasn’t given up on me, despite my messy nature! Maybe one day I’ll learn to be tidy, but until then I’ll try to give thanks for everything.

‘give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:18


Every day’s wash day in this place,
If it were a contest, I’d have lost the race.
I turn my back, and the wash pile grows,
How it does it, nobody knows.

The mounting pile is becoming a habit,
It seems to breed much faster than rabbits,
It grows under the beds and on the floors,
Stuffed into cupboards behind the doors.

So I dwelt on the clothes in the wee small hours,
As my face looked grim and my temper sour,
Each pile of clothes had a story to share,
Of a Mum whose shoulders the weight couldn’t bear.

I thought, ‘this great pile, I can’t conquer it all,’
Then God spoke to my heart, told me of the Fall.
Now I know where it comes from, it’s because of the tree,
It was written in Scripture in Genesis 3.

In Luke 24 we see that reversed,
As Jesus has risen we’re not under the curse,
But until his return we need help with these tasks,
But he’ll carry and help us, we just need to ask.

Since doing the TV programme ‘A Country Life for Half the Price’, many people have enquired as to why I wear a headscarf. I have been reticent about sharing my reasons, but prayerfully decided to be brave and share my testimony about it. I don’t ever want to appear legalistic or in anyway suggest others should follow suit, this is just my personal conviction.

I wrote down the testimony for some friends in a prayer group a year after I started covering (I started wearing a headscarf in 2016) and I want to share it as I wrote it down then, because it is then a fresh testimony of God’s kindness.

I have a testimony to share about fear, God’s protection and wifely submission. It is very personal and is not intended to be a rule for all, but God spoke to my heart and my obedience to him has resulted in multiple blessings.

Thanks be to God for he has rescued me from two years of debilitating postnatal anxiety. I have been free for over a year now and he has transformed my daily life. A small step of obedience on my part has allowed God to do an extraordinary work in my life. God has led me to write this testimony and I hope it is an encouragement to you all that we have a God who can rescue us from our everyday trials.

About four days after the birth of my sixth child I started to get the baby blues, but rather than crying constantly, fear gripped my stomach and I could not look at my daughter without thinking there was something wrong with her. Over the weeks this fear was added to by a fear that I might have cancer, first bowel cancer, which my mother died of, and secondly skin cancer, which two of my friends had had post birth. The fear got worse and worse, I could not be alone in a bathroom without looking in mirrors and seeing things other people wouldn’t notice, reading into every bodily ailment the most life threatening possibilities. My mother died at 47 and she had spent many years ignoring her symptoms and I lived in fear that my responsibility as a mother was to get every symptom checked in case I was not doing my bit, I wanted to stay alive to raise my children.

During my next pregnancy I feared toxins, bleach fumes, eating the wrong foods, basically I felt so responsible for the life inside me that if I had not done everything right then it would be my fault if something went wrong. The worse point of this fear trap finally came one night when my husband was away on business, I was trapped, whatever I did had risks, I could not look at myself, I felt knots in my stomach all the time and I began to panic and I cried out to The Lord, SAVE ME, please deliver me from all my fears.

As I waited on The Lord a picture came into my head of the Amish women and I pondered their perceived serenity, surely they would not be so self focused and fear driven? I am sure many are, but this was God’s way of teaching me. I felt led at that moment to cover my head as they do, why, I did not yet know, but in obedience I put on a headscarf and continued to pray. Within 24 hours my fears left and over a year later they have not returned, praise God for His mighty deliverance.

Over the next few days I read my Bible trying to understand the importance of this symbol and God showed me many things. In Corinthians 11:10 Paul tells us that we ought to cover our heads because of the angels. I felt God telling me that this was the key for me, these angels were needed to protect me, to close the lions’ mouths shouting fears into my head. The symbol of blood around the doorway was used to tell the angel of death where to go and where to leave alone, I was being tormented and I needed protection, this head covering was my protection, it was the blood around the doorway of my mind. Samson was given his hair as his protection, Rahab had the red cord, and this was mine. Earthly symbols are important to God, baptism and communion as examples.

About a week later the fear was still gone and I wondered if I was being silly, had I made this all up? I would never sustain headcovering if I wasn’t convinced it was God led. God convinced me by leading me to a verse in Hosea 8:12, ‘though I wrote for him ten thousand precepts of My law, they are regarded as a strange thing.’ I know we are no longer under the law, but this confirmed his desire for me to practice this, ‘strange thing.’

So now, I wear a bandana and most people probably think it’s just a fashion acccesory, but God knows and the angels know that it is an outward symbol of my submission to my husband and therefore it is symbollic of God’s protection over me under the authority of my husband, who loves me and is far more rational about fears than I am. I spoke to my husband about this matter and he has really taken on his responsibility to protect me, particularly in the area of fear and worry. Now I will share with him my worry before it takes its grip on me and we pray about it together, I trust that this God’s way of protecting me.

I am so thankful to God and although I am slightly nervous sharing this testimony, in obedience I share and I trust that God will use it for his purposes.

I have felt extreme fear just once since I started covering. A few months after writing up my testimony I became very ill and while I was in hospital, suffering from quinsy, I was in ‘bed mode’ and I didn’t wear a headcovering. I really feel like it left me open to spiritual attack, especially as my husband wasn’t with me. The overwhelming fear I experienced there was so extreme it felt supernatural. I cannot rationally explain the extreme nature of the fear, yes I had unpleasant procedures, but I have birthed 7 children without pain relief, fear simply took over. I feel like the devil saw a window of opportunity and, like Job, God permitted the devil to do what he did. This has reminded me again, that for me, headcovering is God’s will for me. I know of course that God allowed this for my good and maybe to help me understand his will for me.

Through all this, God has taught me so much about fear. It is the Devil’s way of preventing us carrying out the will of God. I pray I will never be captive to fear again and that, as God’s people, we will not be controlled by the Devil, through fear.

This is an update 6 years on.
I still wear a headcovering and I am convinced that it is the Lord’s will for me. My fears have never returned, if I slightly fear now I take it to my husband and we pray together and through prayer God delivers me, it no longer grips me. It has also given me opportunities to evangelise, as people ask me about it. The greatest benefit that I did not anticipate is the way in which it has transformed our marriage. We have always been close, but we now experience a oneness in our spirit which we never did before. My husband’s faith has grown immensely and I have seen him step more into the role of the family’s leader in the area of our faith. He knows I respect him and my headcovering is a daily reminder of this. He knows I need him and this makes him feel valued in our marriage.

One other thing I could never have imagined six years ago was that we would do a TV programme. The most asked questions have always been about our faith, and yet it was only briefly mentioned 3 times in the whole programme. I did wear my headcovering though throughout. It is an outward symbol of our faith and although most Christian women don’t wear one, maybe God wanted to make our faith really visible! It certainly caused waves when one newspaper interviewing us following the programme asked me to remove it for a photo, because they didn’t want people to think we had moved for ‘religious reasons’! I explained that I wouldn’t take it off as it would be disingenuous and that the people reading the article would then watch the programme and think it very strange that I was uncovered in the photograph. Anyway, they clearly thought it symbolised my faith. Just to think that six years ago God had all this planned out, isn’t he so amazing!

I hope this helps to explain my reasons for headcovering. Please feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments. If you feel led to, please do share the post with friends or on social media. Let’s tell the world what an awesome God we serve! May God bless each and everyone of you.

This year we are working in earnest to establish a hearty vegetable garden. Last year was our first year here and although we had a good first harvest, we were never going to sustain ourselves on the amount we grew. For example, we grew 40 corn on the cobs, but that lasted us 4 meals! We had orchards fruits, leeks, carrots, peas, courgettes and lots of tomatoes. I must also make mention of the few radishes we grew. I was heartily disappointed when I pulled up my first radish, somehow I imagined they would come up as a bunch! I now feel incredibly stupid admitting this, but really that is how ignorant we were when we started this. So if we can grow food, anyone can! This year we are endeavouring to go up a gear.

We see complete self sufficiency as a far off potential, not a near reality. We are currently about 30% self sufficient, due, in the most part, to our 10 litres of milk a day from the cow, 40 eggs a week from the chickens and a regular supply of pork, bacon, gammon and sausages from the pigs. Next on the list is veg.

Over the winter we weeded the beds, put rotted cow manure on them and covered them in sheeting, hoping they would be ready for planting out in May, once the risk of frost is gone. We managed to grow lots of chard throughout the winter, in the greenhouse, and our cabbages got a head start in the cold frame.

Once March arrived we got going on sowing the seeds. We’ve has a go at pumpkin, sweetcorn, sprouts, carrots, squash, onions, peas, mange tout, peppers, chillies, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, leeks and purple sprouting. So far we have a lot of seedlings but have also had some hard lessons learnt.

After diligently caring for our baby tomato plants for about 6 weeks, we were thrilled to watch them develop their true leaves and I was very excited to think we were ahead of the game and might get an early crop. Then disaster struck. I cannot say for sure what happened, maybe slugs, but one morning I went out to greet my baby plants and I discovered, much to my distress, that my tomatoes were no more! All the leaves had gone, every last one with true leaves on. The tiniest S seedlings had been totally ignored. I genuinely felt sad for a little while, but then quickly decided on plan B. I brought into our bedroom all the tomato plants that were still growing and put them on a bin liner and then a towel, on my window ledge.

I’m actually really enjoying having them inside as we can watch their progress more diligently. Every evening the children and I marvel at their daily progress as new leaves form, and hope once again is renewed, that tomatoes might well come this side of summer.

The other plants are thriving and only require watering once every day or two.

The next step is to plan where to put everything. I tend to be very haphazard, partly by personality and partly because I’m very busy and often multitasking; this means that I have basically just planted seeds and waited to see what would grow, before deciding where to put them. Thankfully I have an organised friend who is helping me to measure and plan where to plant everything, as that is certainly not my strength.

We’ll see what happens over the next few months, we’ll water them and do our best, but I’ll say and prayer and trust God to do the rest.


What a day to celebrate! Jesus is risen! We celebrated this joyful day in the best possible way. After many months of at home services, with Jonathan on piano, Madeleine on the power point and Phil leading the service and doing the sermon, today we went back to our local church.

Although our church has been open for many months we have preferred, because of the masks and no singing rules, to worship at home. Today though our church opened up the back garden and we all sang together mask free, what a joy!

As I walked through the alley way to church, I felt that familiar comfort return and a deep peace descended on me. A whole year without church and yet God has carried us. Our faith has grown, as we have pushed our roots deep, searching for the water of life. It has been an extraordinary year, a year filled for many with emotional pain, but in that pain we have met with Jesus. When so many of the treasures of this world that we once held dear, have been removed, we have discovered that nothing really matters except Christ.

We returned to church today reminded that nothing can separate from the love of God, and certainly not a pandemic or a lockdown.

We sang with all our hearts. With the social distancing I could still hear my voice quite loudly, as it wasn’t drowned out by others near by! I must confess that I don’t sing well, it’s just not my gift, but God doesn’t mind that and so I just go for it, much to the embarrassment of my teenagers!

What’s it like going back to church after a year away, having been every Sunday for nearly 30 years? It’s like a hot bath after a long and tiring walk, a feast after a famine, a hug after being alone, it felt like home. Home for us pilgrims is Heaven but for those moments when we worship here on earth, the angels join in, and we are witnessing a small glimpse of the joy of our eternal home. One day we will worship God in Heaven, and I will sing in tune and not embarrass my teenagers! Until that day God has given us our church families to be his body here on earth.

When that body is separated it hurts each part, but it has not been broken; for it is not knit together by any thread of human love, but it is bound by God, for we are his body. Today that body was once again released to praise his glorious name, with freedom we lifted our voices in thanksgiving. What a gift for Easter Sunday! Thank you Jesus for your love, for your sacrifice and for today giving us the sunshine to enable us to praise you together.

Happy Easter to you all. May our Heavenly Father fill you with his joy and peace.