26 April, 2016

84, Charing Cross Road & The Duchess of Bloomsbury - A Letter

Dear Helene,

It’s not proper for me to call you by your first name, without even a ‘miss’ or ‘ms’, but as I know you’re not fond of that degree of properness, I hope you’ll excuse me.

I found a copy of your delightfully charming book, 84, Charing Cross Road, as I was browsing at an op shop, and I immediately purchased it. I’d acquired a copy of it from the library some time before, and it was hard to give back, a feeling I think you know. So it was exciting to find a copy I could keep in good conscience, and how fitting that I got it second-hand for a cheap price, being the poor student that I am! It was only when I got the book home, that I realized that it also included the sequel to 84, Charing Cross Road, namely The Duchess of Bloomsbury. I’d definitely scored!

Helene, you finally made it to London!  I’m glad you got there, although it was disappointing to read your description of the empty desolate bookstore. It would’ve been such a fitting ending to have you arrive at the store you’d so long imagined, and see the shelves that housed the books, the hands that packaged your parcels; to see in it action, a word which must be one of your favourites, it fits you so well. Nevertheless, it was good to read that you finally made it to London, saw the places you wanted to see, experienced the city, met friends, and were treated as royalty. Tell me, what does it feel like to be famous? 

Your descriptions of London, the surrounding places and countryside, deepened my desire to experience it for myself one day. Perhaps I’ll have to wait until I write a book and get famous. And your reaction to making it to London: it was like you had come home, and every page, I expected to read that you’d decided to make your stay there permanent. But then you were always comparing it to your New York home. Which one felt more like home? Did you ever miss London, or go back?

I’ve now read 84, Charing Cross Road twice, and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street  once, and I can envisage myself reading them again – perhaps curled up with a blanket with a holey woollen jumper and unfashionable slacks (yes, I wear them too), dreaming of books and knowledge, and faraway places. It’s such an uncharacteristic non-fiction story, and tells so much about you all simply through your correspondence. 

You’re unconventional, and perhaps a little explosive and self-willed at times, which a little less gin may have helped. But I have to say, Helene, the world, especially our modern age, needs more people like you. We need people who put their all into everything, who take opportunities to put a smile on someone else’s face, and who thoughtfully provide for other’s needs –from pork to pantyhose. And we could use a little more written correspondence and appreciation for quality literature too. 

Thank you for entertaining and inspiring me. All the best always,


So, have you read 84, Charing Cross Road or The Duchess Bloomsbury? Do you enjoy epistolary books? What have you been reading lately?

17 April, 2016


For the last week I’ve been challenging myself to actively join in the #growingtolive movement, every day. Each day I wrote down what I’d done to make that day a growing experience, and a few of my thoughts on what I'd done and learned.

Here’s how it started:

We’d gone for a walk that afternoon, and as we were discussing some Bible verses, something prompted me to launch into a passionate rant on making the most of what I called some of our most capable years: 18-25. I said the expectations society puts on them were crazy. Those years were meant to be a training time, a preparation for greater responsibilities. I said it was a time to learn, and a time to give, because that’s the age when you have the most heart to put into things, so put it into something that matters. It wasn’t until I’d finished spewing my opinions that I realized: Oh, hello; I’m talking about myself. I’m that age. What am I doing? How am I making the most of these years?

The same night, I was browsing a few blogs, and came upon Miss Aaliyah’s latest update of the #growingtolivemovement. I was sitting there contemplating how I could take part in it, when I realized these two topics were linked. The moral to my rant earlier was that we need to make the most of these (and all) years of our life. The #growingtolive movement is about making every day count, and using each day to grow – growing to live, and living to grow. (Well, that’s my personal interpretation of it, anyway.)

I decided to challenge myself to a week of growing to live. I purposed to do something every day, mostly something creative, to break the ordinariness of each day, and just grow and enjoy life. I also planned to look into what God says about creativity, and growth.

Day One
I wanted to do something, a creative project, something to stretch myself, and give. But the day got later, I got tireder, there were things I had to do, and the creative extra didn’t happen. But I was thinking – the challenge is about living and growing. Looking back in days to come, what will really matter? I decided that taking my brother to work, taking my mum for an appointment, helping the ladies at the show hang the quilts and needlecraft display, playing scrabble with my brother and sister, and doing music practice was more about growing and living than I could’ve expected. I think the being creative is only a growing experience if other responsibilities are fulfilled, and doing things to stretch ourselves is only living if it’s not taking away from time we should be spending with family. In the end though, I did express myself creatively – I wrote a (very rough) draft for an article.

Day Two
Today I was determined to do something new and creative, something untried. My sister and I went to get the mail, and on the way back I picked a leaf; the biggest, most perfect leaf I could find. Somewhere in the recesses of my memory I thought it was possible to artificially skeletonize leaves. I looked it up, and got a general idea, but I never bothered to look at the details (note to self: it would’ve helped if you did). I picked some more leaves and put them all in a pot with water and bi carb soda and left it boiling for a while – autumn soup as the siblings dubbed it. The autumn soup bubbled away until I inspected a leaf and thought I’d already overdone it. The idea was to get a toothbrush and rub at the leaves, and the green bits would fall off and lovely skeletons would remain. Mostly what happened is I rubbed too rigorously and destroyed the leaf, or I rubbed and barely got anywhere. It really didn’t work, but I still learned something, and I kind of got one half a leaf skeleton. Not to be deterred, I put the water off the leaves into a dish, and soaked some paper in it to dye it, and use it for stationery. That did work. 

Then, if we’re counting creativity, I made some muffins as well. And they were, I mean are, gluten-free, and contain beans. And if that turned you off, they are soft and spongy, and taste nice too.

Probably what I would consider most enriched my day, was taking photos of the stars and moon tonight. I went out and noticed how bright the stars were, and the moon looked pretty – there was only a sliver of it - so I took some photos. Not that photos can ever reflect what it's like to stand under a cloudless sky overflowing with stars.

I’m still thinking: what really turns a day into really good for me? What makes me feel really alive? Creative pursuits are good, and completing a project is a good feeling, but I don’t think that’s a growing to live feeling for me. I want more. What makes me feel alive is giving, talking about God, stretching my imagination in that line. And learning, learning about God, and fascinating facts about life and what makes things happen, and people think the way they do, and why, and how, and how it all links with God and the way He made us. Perhaps this exercise is more about finding what I really enjoy in life. 

Day Three
Today I enhanced my normal day experiences by doing violin practice outside. It was slightly annoying with the sun reflecting off the white pages, and the wind playing with them at times. But it was good; I might do it again. It just makes life more interesting, to borrow a phrase from my younger self. :)

I also managed to take a lot of photos, and I think what my sister and I made for lunch ought to count as well. We had crunchy baked potatoes, onion and zucchini with lentils in gravy, and homemade pita-style garlic and basil bread. It tasted good. 

Tonight, after working out some details while in the shower, I made a little card. It already had a picture on it, and I cut out some words and letters from a magazine and a piece of yellow vellum, and arranged them on the picture. It reads, “Every time I think of you I feel blessed.” 

Day Four
I was in the middle of further investigating our being made in God’s creative image this morning, when plans changed. So, my growing to live, living not just existing, doing what makes my heart sing experiences today would be: watching people at the mall, talking to a friend on the phone, and brainstorming a new idea. 

Day Five
Today it was: going to town, driving with the windows down, doing the groceries, and browsing at the library. It’s weird because I didn’t want to do the shopping, but when I did, I may have even enjoyed it. Seeing and spending time with my grandparents and my music teacher also made the day brighter. 

Day Six
I cooked something for tomorrow’s breakfast – cooked apple, and blackberries, with a meant-to-be-cake-like topping that will hopefully taste delicious - I think that counts.
I also went and took some photos of the sunrise this morning – it was really colourful, and there was fog, which always makes things better.  And I read a book, which shouldn’t count because it took me from things I should’ve been doing, but it’s been so long since I’ve just sat and read a book, and gotten into a story. It was just nice. 

Day Seven
Today’s living experience was a sweet one. :) A friend came over, and she had a few-day-old lamb with her. I could hear him baa-ing, and I peeked out the back door to see if I could see him, but no, I couldn’t. All of a sudden his head and neck appeared from the side of the house, and he looked at me and baa-ed – his questioning pitiful baa. I guess that was the end of me. :) Later in the afternoon, I fed him, and then just sat/lay there and talked to him, ruffled him up, and rubbed him. He started to walk away once, but then he turned around, tossed his head, and came running back to me, sliding stop and all. Then he curled up next to my legs, and went to sleep. It started to rain a little so I picked him up and took him to the veranda, and watched him investigate everything. I always thought I had no motherly instincts, but I seemed to have proved that my affection for baby sheep is pretty strong. I forgot to mention that he had a brown nose, and brown spots on his legs, which were too large for him, making him adorably clumsy. :)

So that’s a brief summary of my week of growing to live! (I know you’re doubting the brief bit, but the original document was over three thousand words, so be thankful. :)) I’m glad I did it, because I think I did learn some things, and try a few things I wouldn't normally take time to do. I also spent a lot of time thinking about the spiritual side to this, and hopefully I’ll share some of those thoughts in coming posts. I’m still kind of reeling thinking about the wonderful way God made us, and that all He wants to do is adopt us back into His family.

A special thanks to Aaliyah for beginning this #growingtolive movement, and if you haven’t seen her introductory post, go and read it here! What do you think about the growing to live idea? How do you make each day a growing experience? What makes you feel alive? And, what’s your favourite baby animal? :)

P.s A totally unrelated fact, but the talented and inspiring Janie just hosted me on her blog. You can read my guest post here, if you want to, and she also interviewed me here. While you're there, make sure you read some of her writing too - it's always an encouragement and blessing to me. :)

05 April, 2016

How to Say 'I Love You' - Guest Post

I’ve been following Janie’s blog for a while now, and always enjoy reading her posts, so it was exciting when she contacted me about swapping guest posts. And after reading through what she wrote for this post, I realized just how privileged I am to have her words grace this blog. I hope you're blessed and challenged by them too, and Janie, thank you so much for suggesting this idea, and for sharing such a powerful post!


Lately, I have been asking God to show me how to love others well. He answers with a vision of the cross. There is blood and agony, nails and thorns and mockery. There is a deep darkness of my sin laid upon the only sinless person to walk this earth.

This is how you know what love is; that Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that love and humility and sacrifice are inseparably intertwined. This is how God chose to reach out to us: Through a baby born in a stable. Through a life of frequent rejection. Through betrayal. Through an unjust trial and the degradation of a criminal's death.

This, then, is how I am to love.

I am to step through the door that Christ opened on the cross; that door into the Holy Place where I may begin to see others with God's eyes and feel for them what He feels. Where the love of Christ compels me. Where I no longer live for myself, but for the One who died for me and was raised again. Where I, who have been rescued from a life of selfish meaninglessness, am free to let offences and disagreements be expiated by that supreme sacrifice on the cross.

Where I can rejoice in affliction.
Where it is my delight to lay down my own will.
Where humility is glory and service is leadership.

God, in Jesus, is the embodiment of the most perfect of all loves.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

How do I love others well?

By laying down my life for those around me at every opportunity.

By thinking kindly, speaking graciously, responding patiently and acting unselfishly. By putting down offences and grudges and pride as soon as I find myself carrying them. By recognizing the image of God in all those around me and granting it the respect and consideration it deserves.

By coming, again and again, to the foot of the cross and allowing the fullness of true love to wash over me and permeate my entire being. By being firm in the knowledge that, no matter how difficult the situation, I have the power to love because He loved me first, and that love never fails.


Caileigh Jane (Janie to most of her friends) has been described as an 80 year-old woman trapped in a 23 year-old body. She may have gotten a little too excited when she started discovering gray hairs. She loves to bake, do all manner of arts and crafts, and make sure that everyone around her is well-fed and comfortable. She loves bright colors. She loves the outdoors. She loves writing. She especially loves spending quality time with other people in order to encourage, uplift, and draw them closer to her greatest love of all: Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God. On any given day, you might find her doing administrative work, reading books to kids in a silly accent, serving at a church, laughing about life's ups and downs with her friends, or navigating through crowded marketplaces and public transportation with her faulty Portuguese grammar. She blogs about her walk with God, her life in Mozambique, and occasionally her recipes at The Chronicles of Janie.