Castles and Chapels and Sheep! O My!

The National Trust and English Heritage are associations that preserve and protect historic buildings, coastline and countryside. Various membership options are available for each, with discounted rates offered for students and seniors. When you arrive in a country with only the luggage you can carry, joining either wasn’t our first priority. Certainly re-establishing our lives and buying the basics like mattresses, sheets, and towels took precedence, but after an incredibly cold winter, yielding a self-induced state of hibernation…we seriously needed to get out of the house. Stephen opted to join English Heritage, which gives you unlimited access to over 400 historic places…including Harrison’s favorite…Stonehenge.

If it were up to me, I would head out for adventures the moment Stephen walked in the door each evening and would rise before the crack of dawn on the weekends. My family is a little less enthusiastic in regards to sightseeing, but thankfully, they indulge me. 

With a country teeming with quaint villages, seaside towns and historical buildings, there are a million things to see and do. If last year is any indication, we’ve got less than 6 months before the dreaded game of hide-and-seek with the sun kicks off again, so we’ve set about learning more about this new place we call home.

Witley Court and Gardens

Our first adventure, after joining English Heritage, was to Witley Court and Gardens. I’ve never much cared for traditional walking tours. While others jockey for position at the front of the pack, I seem to find myself at the back of the herd just out of earshot. I can see their mouths moving but miss all the interesting tidbits. However, at some of the popular sites within English Heritage, audio tours are available, which allow you to stroll around at your own pace so you never miss a thing.

Stephen seems to have a penchant for panoramic photos. He gives no warning, he just starts shooting. As he pans, we suddenly realize we’re about to be unexpectedly immortalized so bodies begin to plummet. It has to look crazy. The British are sitting peacefully on their picnic blankets looking ever so quaint, while the American’s are dive bombing.

A short walk from Witley Court, the Parish Church was built between 1732 and 1735 by the Foley family and contains an organ that was originally built for the composer G.F. Handel.

It would appear the church door was built to accommodate Goliath...or...the Jolly Green Giant.

Stafford Castle

Stafford Castle was constructed in the late 11th century and is considered to be one of the best surviving examples of Norman earthworks in the country.

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Matthew loves the public footpaths because there is an adventure around every corner. The path from the castle to the church involves a quick detour over the local golf course, passing through the kissing gates, and wandering down a narrow lane before arriving at the church gate. 

Castle Church

Shrewsbury

Currently voted the 8th happiest place to live in the UK, it's a lovely town with charming alleyways everywhere you look.

Matthew and I even found the perfect size door for us at a local art gallery.

Shoe shopping for a teenage boy turned out to be a bit more time consuming than we had planned so we popped in for a Thai lunch on the river while overlooking a local cricket match.  

With matches typically being played over three to five days with at least 6 hours of cricket being played each day, it appears that some of the friends and family opted to tan rather than cheer on their loved ones.

In a town steeped in history, it’s easy to find quaint things around every corner...even a vintage bus.

Langley Chapel

Easily my favorite chapel so far. Tucked away in the countryside, the skeleton key hangs from a spool for you to unlock when you arrive. 

The interior of the chapel shows how Anglican churches were arranged in the early seventeenth century, with box pews, a desk for musicians at the back and bench seats around the communion table for use during the sacrament.

The sheep in the neighboring field welcome you as you pull up to the chapel, which was last roofed in 1601.

It’s interesting how intrigued my kiddos are by spiders outside. However, let them cross the threshold of our house, and it's an entirely different matter!

Stokesay Castle was constructed at the end of the 13th century by Laurence of Ludlow, who at the time was one of the richest men in England. With a Great Hall that has been unchanged for over 700 years and towers to climb, it's a great way to experience what medieval life was like. You can even give archery a go!

U.K. Fun Facts

(Well, fun facts for this American crew who are new to this beautiful land)

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  • The UK is smaller than the U.S. state of Oregon
  • The UK has almost 3 times the population of Australia
  • There are more chickens than humans in the UK (not sure where they are hiding…I’ve only seen about 10
  • There is only a 34 kilometre (21 mile) gap between England and France
  • Nowhere is more than 75 miles from the sea (for my beloved American buddies that, sadly, does NOT mean that you are never more than an hour and fifteen minutes from the sea - The quaint, narrow lanes lined with hedgerows are great for a beautiful scenic drive…but not for expeditious travel)
  • In the UK, accents change noticeably about every 25 miles (40km)
  • My personal favorite…The British Navy uses Britney Spears' songs to scare off Somali pirates (I would love to meet the person who first imagined this would be effective - Nothing against Britney Spears…or her songs…but I’m totally intrigued by the creativity)
  • Klingon was the chosen language for the Welsh government in its response to queries about UFO sightings at Cardiff Airport (totally not kidding - Hahaha!) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-33479808
  • In the U.K., it is legal for kids over 5 years old to drink alcohol at home or on other private premises
  • Nigeria has more English speakers than the United Kingdom
  • The emergency number is 999…instead of 911, which is used in America
  • Mother’s Day is celebrated on different days in the US and the UK
  • There are no electrical sockets in the bathrooms (not so grand for a girl who needs a hairdryer like a fish needs water)
  • Light switches are reversed to that of the US (up is off, down is on)
  • Watching or recording television on any device is not allowed unless you’ve paid the annual TV license fee (which is in addition to a cable fee if you choose to have it)
  • A council tax is paid monthly which covers things such as planning, transport, highways, police, fire, libraries, leisure and recreation, rubbish collection and disposal
  • Water bills are paid once every six months
  • They have a unique way of combatting obesity on this little island - Everything is tiny…from the refrigerators and cars to the parking spaces and showers (If your tummy needs to be tamed, car parks and showers may not be your favorite places)
  • Bathroom stalls (compared to its US counterparts) are awesome (The walls typically reach from the ceiling to floor and there are no gaping cracks in the stall doors)
  • What American’s think of as private schools are referred to as public schools here, and what American’s call public schools are considered private
  • Instead of elementary, middle and high schools, England has primary and secondary schools (A kiddo in the 5th grade in the United States would be in year 6 in England with Year 1 in England being comparable to kindergarten in the US)
  • The floor at street level is considered the ground floor, where the floor above it is considered the 1st floor

Geography 101

The British Isles vs. The United Kingdom vs. Great Britain

Decades ago, when I first traveled to England, I incorrectly assumed that Great Britain and The United Kingdom were one in the same. That admission might be positively horrifying for all Geography gurus out there, but surely I am not the only one that doodled through History class. If Geography wasn’t your forte as well, I’ve created a few illustrations to quickly bring you up to speed.

The Great British Venn Diagram Smart.png

England

In England, there are 9 regions and 48 counties – aptly, we live in Staffordshire.

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The Union Jack Flag

Did you know that the Union Jack is actually a combination of 3 flags?

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First Dip into the Pool...

When I was 16, I traveled to Great Britain for several weeks with three friends. Not something you would EVER suspect if you knew my mom. She was as protective as she was giving and the thought of letting her only child travel to another country, without adult supervision, was highly unlikely.

Initially, when I asked if I could go on this trip, she said something to the effect of, “Yes, if you’re able to pull it all together.” The World Wide Web had not yet been made available to the public and she knew that 4 teenagers, stood no chance of planning such a trip. Not only were there flights to consider, but youth hostels to be booked and transportation to be orchestrated in between. Given my massive aversion to phones, I imagine she was feeling pretty confident that we’d remain stateside.

Much to her dismay, the arrangements were made, in record time - entirely due to Celeste’s and Heather’s amazing mom, whose organizational skills far exceeded my own. My dad reasoned that after giving one answer it would be unfair to do a swift about-face.

In what was to become known as ‘The greatest miracle of the 80’s,’ my mom consented and 4 kids crossed the pond a few months later.

It was a life altering trip, as one might expect. It shaped how I would later see the world and others in it. Somehow the world becomes smaller when you travel, just the opposite of what I had anticipated. It was no longer ‘them’ – people from other countries and ‘us’ – people from America, but ‘we’ – all of us. Their struggles and concerns became mine and my heart overflowed with love for everyone, not just those with similar backgrounds to my own.

During the trip, I kept a journal of sorts. There were unforgettable moments hourly and I wanted a way to ensure I would never forget this amazing adventure. In packing for our move to England last year, I came across the journal and opened it with great anticipation.

There are times in life where you look back at something you did or said and are utterly amazed. You stand in awe of your brilliance, in total disbelief that such wisdom came from you.

Unfortunately, that was not the case. It was positively horrifying. As I read, there was no escaping my immaturity or my inability to write sentences that even held my own interest. What it did possess was a surprising amount of details that I had completed forgotten…or had remembered entirely incorrectly.

It’s one thing to write in a journal that remains hidden away in a box, but entirely another to put your thoughts and experiences on the internet for all to see. The idea of putting so much out there seems a bit like going to the pool for the first time after having a baby. All your bits and pieces are out there on display for everyone to see but they aren’t exactly where you would want them. You’re a work in progress and you’re beyond grateful for where you are…even if you still have further to go. At the end of the day, no matter what you look like, you’re still glad you went (or in this case…wrote) - for the memories, and to celebrate the journey.

We’ve been here a short time, but already so many details are being forgotten. Before others slip away, I’ve decided to give these fingers a bit of exercise.

Cheers!

Kimberly

Coming to life...

Spring is here and it's been one of the longest, darkest and coldest winters I've ever experienced. I'm sure some Americans, in and around Seattle, have experienced some pretty dark and cold winters, but for a southern boy raised in North Carolina who lived in sunny Colorado Springs for the past 6 years, winter in England was an experience I prayed against daily. :)

I spoke warmth and sunshine often. The Lord says ask and it shall be given unto you. Seek and you will find. Well, that might have been the Holy Spirit He was talking about there, but God did give us authority over this world and He does say, speak to the mountain. So I did. I even started wishing the magnetic poles would shift to bring Great Britain into a more southern climate... but I didn't speak that. The Bible says not to ask to receive on your own lusts. I wouldn't be much of a loving minister if I spoke into existence magnetic pole shifts that most likely would cause earthquakes and devastate crops and who knows what else. But I did slightly hope for it. I repent, LOL.

I tell you God has a sense of humor. My birthday arrived almost 6 months to the day we landed and on my birthday, the sun shone from sun up to sun down. I did not see a shadow of a cloud all day. That was the first (and only) day that's occurred since we arrived. God loves me. He loves you too. Do you know that? Have you felt His love for you lately?

I have struggled these past 6 months to feel God's love for me. He never stopped loving me. I know that. It was me, who had trouble because of what I was looking at and thinking on. In addition to the bleak winter, we have struggled financially; the temperature in our home rarely exceeds 60°F; I miss my precious daughter who stayed in Colorado Springs; I miss my parents, brothers, sisters and friends; the food here is nothing like what I am accustomed to; shopping is not the same. It's a foreign world and my mind was stayed on foreign things; not on Christ Jesus.

We've all heard it, at least those in the Christian circles I've been around. The "battlefield of the mind". No matter how bad or good your life can look to others, there is a battlefield of your thoughts going on. Some would say the poorer and more difficult your circumstances, the harder it is to fight the thoughts of the mind and get them in alignment with what God would say. What hope would say. What faith would say. Having recently read an interview with the comedian Jim Carrey, I can guarantee you, the battlefield of the mind is not limited to the poor and destitute. Jim Carrey is listening to thoughts from satan that are darker than most people ever deal with. You know, we don't ever have to experience anxiety, fear or darkness. Jim can be set free today if He would only think on certain things.

Most all of Jesus' Disciples died an unpleasant death but they finished their course and had joy in it all. John, who lived to an old age, had a revelation of God's love for him so much that no matter what people did to his body, there was no ill affect. I want to be like that. You do not have to be swayed by emotions based upon you situation. It seems to me, the best state to be in is to know how much God loves you. There is a place we can be in where all our emotions and desires are of Him and from Him. In that secret place... in that abiding place, there is neither fear nor anxiety. There is only power, love and a sound mind. Your emotions and desires run off the fuel of your thoughts. There are only 2 types of thought fuels out there... thoughts of the world and thoughts of the Spirit. Both produces their own desires and emotions. One leads to death and the other to eternal life.

I've known for a long time how important abiding in Him is. If I could say there was one thing the Lord would have me focus on, as I minister to others, is to teach on this. From my perspective, abiding in a loving relationship with Him, produces all the fruits of the vine. Christians need to know how to live under the wings of our Father. People all over the world need to feel the essence of God's peace when one of His children walks into the room. When darkness falls on a place, the light of God in and through us should shine so brightly that it does what light does, casts out darkness. Darkness has no strength against light. It cannot resist light in any way. It simply vanishes.

As I continue to share online, in Churches and in life, wherever I go, don't be surprised to hear some facet of abiding in Him and walking in the Spirit come out of what I share. It's what I have been called to do as a Christian; it is what gives me life; and it is what allows me to walk in the shadow of death and fear no evil. If you yearn to enjoy life, live in love and peace, and be a strength to those around you, you too will seek the secret place of the most High and laugh with our Father at the plans of the enemy.

"But they that hope in the Lord shall change their strength to endure for the better; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." - Isaiah 40:31

God Bless!

Stephen

Off to greener pastures... for us.

I know this is late in coming, but we are leaving tomorrow! We have our visas. We have our plane tickets. And Kim is scrambling to pack away the last contents for our flight. Let me just say, if you think you moved and haven't moved to another country.... Oh my!

I don't think I have ever been so busy in my life. Bank accounts, Ministry accounts, cleaning out your office... your house. PACKING! Giving away things you had most of your life. This must be like what the Disciples felt like when He said, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one." That's about what we are taking.

All along this journey God just keeps providing. Since we are leaving so soon and still have things to do, I wanted to at least make an entry to let you all know, thank you! Thank you for reading this. Thank you for those of you who are my friends... my family, for your support. Thank you for your prayers as we moved into this and as we go. In a short bit I will be having my send off with Andrew Wommack Ministries. What an honor it has been to serve at this Ministry and Charis Bible College in Colorado! To go through the college and meet life time friends that are already all over the world as we go to join them within our own calling. It is bittersweet.

It's bitter to leave this wonderful place and all the friends we've made here over the past 6 years. It's bitter to leave our 19 year old daughter here as she blooms into adulthood and follows God's path for her own life.

But it is sweet to move into God's next calling on on our lives and join our hearts with Andrew Wommack Ministries in the UK. We are so thankful we get to continue serving this wonderful ministry in the country God has called us to and we can't wait to make new friends as we look to work together with the UK and all of Europe to see God's glory be fulfilled in all the earth.

Remember, we are only a phone call away so keep in touch! Greener pictures coming soon! And maybe a few sheep.

Blessings,

Stephen