So, a new year and and a new idea (well magpied from a friend)…
What’s that I hear you ask?
Well to be honest (and I always am), I’d never heard of it either, but when I found out what it was I suggested the idea to The Lovely Mr B and he was all for it, so let me explain…
You go on a date with your other half and you go through the letters of the alphabet to theme the date. You can do anything really and it gives massive scope for creativity to be unleashed.
So, The Lovely Mr B and I decided, as we have been married 20 years (I KNOW WE DON’T LOOK OLD ENOUGH!!!!!!!) in 2018, we would celebrate our marriage.
Also, we want to spend 2018 generally just celebrating life in all it’s fullness, after an extremely hard 2017, and Mr B’s courageous cancer battle.
2018 is going to be a wonderful year of celebrating and what better way to do that than…alphabet dating, lol!!!
We thought we would take alternate turns to plan the date day/evening/weekend (keeping our options open you see), and then the other one would blog about how we chose to celebrate.
This means we get to blog together, up to this point I have blogged on my own, which I am really looking forward to very much and we will hopefully show what being married for twenty years can look like; having fun together and enjoying life with your best bud! We are unapologetically happily married and enjoy spending time together. That doesn’t mean things are always perfect but we have our marriage as a high priority and want to ensure we treasure what God has given us in each other.
This is a scripture we try and live by, however difficult it may be at times:
Col 13-14 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
So, we are taking you on the journey with us and one of us will post once a fortnight with pics and highlights, that we hope will inspire you and generally encourage you to enjoy every moment of this life we get the good fortune to live.
We will also post on Insta with the #Brownsalphabetdating2018
Now off to think of a good idea for A…
WATCH THIS SPACE!!!!
I also want to encourage you to try this idea within your family or even with your bestie! I don’t think it has to be contained to dating your other half, but why not try it with your kids and let them decide the theme for your time together or even as a family, putting a special time aside to do this. It doesn’t have to be every week, it could just be once a month, but the fun is trying to plan it by using the letter of the alphabet to theme it. Get creative and share with me what you are doing on here or over on my Insta.
Happy Alphabet fun!!
So, after six of the toughest months of or lives, it’s time for me and Mrs Brown to get back to having some fun!
I have to confess when she first mentioned the concept of Alphabet Dating I was excited, but it seemed a long way off. Well not any more!!!
We started yesterday and really there was only one choice for the letter A…..
We think it’s the best cafe in South London and a regular haunt of the Browns, before cancer reared its ugly head. It’s where we would head most weekends to spend some quality time over a cup of coffee, wonderful food and of course cake!!
When I took ill the staff who I look on as real friends, yes we went there quite a lot, were incredibly supportive and genuinely encouraging. So, it was great to see the big smiles when we arrived today. You see for me this is so much more than putting behind me the bad things, the months of constant pain and nausea, the weight loss, the feeling awful. I’d say hair loss but who am I trying to kid, I’ve been bald for years.
This is about celebrating the good things that kept me going and for which I’m so grateful. Friends, family, my wonderful kids all who have been cheering me on, the wonderful Mrs Brown who has been a rock, and whose self sacrifice and support has picked me up in the darkest of dark times. Her life, even more than mine has been on hold, waiting for this to be over and although it’s been and still is in some ways a struggle we are nearly there and her patience will hopefully be rewarded as I return to more like my old self (on the presumption that’s a good thing!)
Last, but not least we will be celebrating our faith, faith in our Father in heaven who has shown us He loves us more than we could ever have imagined and who has walked with us through the dark tunnel of serious illness. Let me be clear, at certain times even all the support in the world would not have been enough to keep me going and only God’s miraculous intervention was sufficient.
This piece is way too short to go into specifics but stay tuned!!! Our story has been punctuated with illustrations of God’s goodness, and his sustenance of us in the most fantastic way. So, as a start to a season of alphabet dating where we hope to celebrate what we mean to each other, we have just gone back to what we love, nothing spectacular, just a cup of coffee and time spent together chatting, reflecting and looking forward.
To paraphrase the Fast Show…
“Ain’t marriage brilliant.”
Follow us on #Brownsalphabetdating2018 on Insta
D is for…
This year Mother’s Day 2018 has coincided with the second letter of our Alphabet Dating 2018.
So, it could have been bungee jumping, bongo drum lessons, boxing match, body boarding or even bell ringing. But we have chosen somewhere not far from home and nothing too strenuous at this point as The Lovely Mr B is still getting his strength back, so….
B is for Beckenham Place Park.
This park used to be a municipal golf course but has been turned into a park again for everyone to enjoy. It is absolutely huge and quite hilly in places. We love this park in all seasons and today was no exception. It was mild enough to not wear a coat and there are signs of spring everywhere you look.
This for us could not be more timely as we celebrate a date together and can finally start to enjoy going out together again after what feels like our winter season, that is now coming to an end. If you are a regular reader of my blog (thank you), you will know we have been in a cancer battle these last 8 months as Mr B has fought valiantly to regain his health.
As we come to the results of his treatment on Wednesday we are feeling confident in there being an all clear outcome and we wait to celebrate knowing that God has got us through, every step of the way.
As we walked around the park there were crocus that were waiting to bloom everywhere and daffodils waiting to open. Blossom was opening on trees and there was a sense of expectation in the air that spring was almost here.
A few highlights…
Finding that the big house on the park grounds, Beckenham Place Mansion, that holds lots of art and craft workshops, cafe, yoga and Pilates and a visitors centre amongst other things has now got a vinyl’s store-YES, they are selling vinyl at the park!!!!
The Lovely Mr B was in heaven!!! Cigarette Records has been open a month and selling used vinyls for a great price and is open every day except Tuesday. We got to chat to the owner-Owen and Mr B managed to snag a record he loves.
It’s so good to see the way that this Georgian mansion is slowly being restored and brought back to life. It has been bought by the people who own the Bussey Building in Peckham.
These signs of spring and the renovation and restoration of the buildings on this park are for us a prophetic reminder that our spring season is upon us where new life will appear and come into bloom. For all those times in the last 8 months where we felt buried it was a reminder that God was planting us the whole time and preparing us for what is to come next, how exciting!
We are entering a season of restoration and things being bought back to their former glory and even more than that being used in a creative and vibrant way. These once beautiful buildings will be once again used for their intended purpose and as I looked around I felt excited as I could see so much potential in the mansion house and how it could be the most glorious wedding venue amongst other things. This park would be a landmark destination for the future and it made me think about how God sees us.
He looks at us in this moment of time and is excited that we are being fully restored to be used for our intended purpose, one that will bring Him such glory. The former things will be made more beautiful and they will carry such a rich history that will be something that points to the master craftsmen. People will marvel at how He has taken what was broken and made it into something stunning.
Isa 42:9 See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.”
If you have never been to Beckenham Place Park we highly recommend a visit.
D is for…
C is for….
Shortly after I received the diagnosis that I had cancer, Mrs B and I made a conscious decision to stay upbeat and positive. At the time, it seemed like the only response if this sorry scenario was to have a favourable outcome.
Every day I made a conscious choice to focus on the positives, even when my physical body was a mess, there was always something to celebrate. The infections I warded off, the gifts, the words of encouragement, the great friends and family I was surrounded by and above all the love of a God who sustained me through every horrible, painful minute.
Mrs B planned from early on how we would celebrate the end of my treatment and what she at least saw as the inevitable news that I was cancer free. We booked a hotel for the Friday after I was due to receive my results and added tickets to see ‘The Girl from the North Country‘, the Bob Dylan musical.
Now, if I’m honest that trip to the theatre and the ensuing celebrations seemed miles off and some days seemed like it would never come. Don’t get me wrong I never doubted I would come through this ordeal, I just wasn’t sure what that would look like. What I did know, is that full healing or not I would celebrate, especially the God who loved me. You see, as my physical body deteriorated, miraculously my faith increased and that increase in faith was not dependent on any particular outcome. Surely that’s a cause for celebration?
So, the day finally came and with the news that the treatment had worked, that theatre trip took on a whole new significance. It was no longer something in the distance to look forward to and sustain me, it was now a marker to signify a whole fresh start, a new chapter in the life of ‘Team Brown’ and a massive Alphabet Dating…
C FOR CELEBRATION!
So, back to Dylan and anyone who knows me knows the love I hold for the man and his music and the fact that the show contains several of his Christian songs, was to me especially significant. The night itself was magical, the first night in a long time I was able to forget being ill and celebrate where God had brought me. It was the end of an awful period in my life and I was able to celebrate with the woman who I love and cherish and who has shared every painful step. The woman with whom I am now looking forward to sharing the next chapter.
As Bob so aptly put it, “There’s been a slow train coming”.
Well all I can say is, It’s pulled into the station and we’re heading wherever it takes us next.
Brown’s Alphabet Dating
C is for…Celebration
D is for…
We woke up to a pretty rubbish weather day that was sandwiched between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. How appropriate!! Waiting on the son to break through you might say!!
I had the idea of heading to Dulwich Park when I woke up during the night on Friday, but looking out of the window it didn’t look very promising…
However, in earnest we set off to Dulwich with the hope that the weather would perk up.
Dulwich Park had for us been a place we visited a lot whilst the kids were growing up, we would head there most weekends to play frisbee, use the play area or to get an ice cream, after the kids had run around it.
I don’t think as we set off that we realised it would be such a lovely timely reminder for us again of how blessed we have been. Our kids (four between us) are now all grown up, with the youngest being in his first year at university already!!! It really does go fast, people always say that, but you don’t really understand that until the time has passed.
As we arrived in Dulwich, the rain that had started on the way turned lighter and we managed to head into the park without a brolly, although the sky was still pretty dark. I think we had forgotten what a beautiful park it was, and the size of it. It was practically deserted and so quiet (probably because of the weather), just gorgeous.
We walked round for a bit and decided to head to the cafe to get some lunch. That’s when we realised, as we rounded the corner, that this was where all the people were!!!!!
If you have never been, the cafe in the park (The Clock Cafe) is actually more than just a park cafe, it has a wood fired pizza oven for goodness sake!!! The food is delicious and has loads of healthy options, which we obviously didn’t go for. We love a bit of coffee and cake and these didn’t let us down!!!! To be honest I’m surprised I managed to even get a shot of one of them before they disappeared!!
We sat in the cafe and reminisced about all the times we came here with the kids and generally talking about the kids and how proud we are of who they are growing up to be. Each of them unique and very different, but all of them delightful and as a ‘blended family’ (I think that’s the latest expression of families brought together by remarriage), very connected.
We also reflected on where we had come as a couple from the last time we had been there together, we think about 12 years! What a journey God has brought us on. When we used to go there as a family we weren’t walking with God and now 12 years later we have been led by God through the toughest 8 months of our married lives. We reflected on how we would have been able to walk this journey through without God’s promise of healing and His faithfulness to bring to completion that healing and restoration in The Lovely Mr B’s body.
We noticed the little things in the park and that it was just coming to life with buds forming on trees and plants, all ripe and waiting for the right conditions to bloom. This again is not lost on us as we know God’s perfect timing in our lives in this new season He is bringing us into, as we experience new life and life in abundance.
This park has a lot of history and The Queen used to come and do a yearly walk around the Azaleas when they came into bloom. We spotted a mural by the artist Stik, who is famous for creating street art using stick figures, we have admired his work on the streets of East London many times, in one of our favourite parts of London.
As a modern art lover I also loved the sculptures they have that are called ‘Three Perpetual Chords’ by Conrad Shawcross (2015) and are inspired by the mathematical patterns found in music. They are visual descriptions of musical chords and made from cast iron. Over time they are supposed to change colour from deep-red, blue-black to brown depending on the conditions and the time of the year. These were commissioned as a legacy to the sculpture ‘Three Forms Divided Circle’ by Barbara Hepworth, which was sadly stolen from the park in 2011 (for scrap metal, believe it or not).
As I reflected on the sculptures I could see how we, like the sculptures, although cast not from iron but flesh and blood (by the ultimate sculptor), can get ‘weathered’ during different times of our lives, depending on what that season looks like or even the time of the year and what that brings up for us. But, we are still a thing of beauty whatever the season and whatever the colour that we are currently representing. When we are kids of the King we are by our very nature ‘beautiful creations’ who can bring glory to the creator, as He crafts us to be more and more like His son, Jesus.
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.
So, as we emerged from the cafe the sun had broken through the clouds, the rain had cleared and we were able to walk round the park and enjoy it in its full splendour.
On the way back to the car we bumped into an old friend who we hadn’t seen in about 7 years, that I used to work with, and we were able to catch up on life. I was amazed when she thanked us for sharing our story and she was amazed at how well Tim was looking so soon after treatment had stopped. Yet another reminder of God’s absolute goodness in our lives and through our lives.
Our Spring is coming!
As the recovery continues apace, the alphabet dates are coming thick and fast. We’re onto E and my turn to choose…
My first selection of Eltham Palace went down like the proverbial lead balloon with Mrs B, reluctant to pay £15 each to visit a tarted up Tudor mansion! After a hasty rethink we settled on…
E is for…exhibition.
But, again our plans were thwarted! We intended to visit the last day of the Wes Anderson exhibition, but a combination of dreadful weather and the three words guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of every Londoner, ‘Replacement Bus Service’ put paid to that.
A days delay and we were off to Greenwich for the afternoon.
Lunch at ‘Sticks n Sushi’ followed by the Great British Seaside photography exhibition at the National Maritime Museum. Lunch was superb, my first time at Sticks n Sushi and it was really excellent, I can recommend it to any sushi lovers out there.
The National Maritime Museum is a truly beautiful building and one which while on our doorstep, Mrs B and I had never set foot in. Even better it’s free, though you do have to pay for the exhibition itself, it is well worth a visit.
For movie fans out there, a little trivia for you, the beautiful buildings of the Naval College and the area outside the Maritime Museum were used for the filming the barricades scenes for the 2012 movie Les Miserables.
Four British photographers: Tony Ray-Jones, David Hurn, Simon Roberts and Martin Parr exhibit a series of excellent photos of the British seaside culture from the 50’s to the present day. All the classics are there; donkeys, pies, Punch and Judy, deckchairs, fish and chips and unfortunately topless photos of guys with enormous beer bellies.
The photos really do capture the essence of the British seaside, family fun with an undercurrent of decay and seediness that is difficult to get across other than visually. What was great was the sheer joy on everyone’s faces, all generations, not just the kids. Most surprisingly of all, of the hundreds of people captured in the most up to date photos, we only saw one mobile phone! A lesson to us all, head to the seaside and leave the phone in the car!!
F is for….FREE!
Come on, hands up, be honest, who doesn’t love free stuff!!!
Today the Lovely Mr B and I decided we would spend some time somewhere that wouldn’t cost us anything. Now you might think this would be a challenge in an expensive city like London, but you would be surprised…
So, after church we headed straight to one of our local parks-Manor House Gardens in Hither Green, South London. It was a total bonus too that the weather in London last Sunday when we headed out was scorchio!!
We are so fortunate in the South of London as we have so much green space and this is a beautiful park with a small lake in it, a library, and a cafe. I took my camera along with us, so I could continue to nurture my photography skills, and the park was full of opportunities for some great shots with the sun beating down on us.
Manor House Gardens
We spent the time chatting and reflecting on what God is doing in our lives at the moment and all the progress Tim is making in getting back to full health. We also spent time talking about what we are grateful for and what next.
We ate delicious ice cream from the cafe in the park-‘Pistachios’, and bumped into a lovely friend and sat and chatted with her as we ate our ice-cream.
There is so much to do in London and we are grateful for a vibrant, exciting capital city to live in. However, it can be expensive and overpriced but, there are also loads of free things to do if you look carefully. Most, if not all the museums are free entry, unless you want to go into a specific exhibition. There are so many parks and gardens to wander round, big and small. There are guided walks you can go on, you can download a walk on-line and follow it without needing a guide. We particularly love the East End and one of our favourite places to visit is Brick Lane, which is a vibrant, diverse, cultural melting pot, and if you love street art this is the place to visit as the art changes all the time.
With a little planning you can have a great day out without spending a lot and it’s worth taking advantage of what you have on your own doorstep.
Thankfully The Lovely Mr B and I both enjoy walking and being in nature, which helps us to relax and prepare us for the week ahead.
As we progress with our Alphabet Dating, we have begun to notice that we end up talking about all the things we are grateful for.
Gratitude is key to a joy-filled life.
When you are grateful for the small things around you on a regular basis you realise how fortunate you are in life. Those small things add up and make you feel rich.
When you have walked through a difficult season and your world has been rocked you realise more profoundly than ever what really matters in life and you get grateful. You go from looking out for the extraordinary to noticing the beauty in the ordinary. That is where we are at the moment and I don’t want it to change, so we are going to be intentional about making gratitude a lifestyle choice and tell God every day what we are grateful for.
One of the scriptures over our life in this last season has been,
Neh 8:10 The Joy of the lord is your strength.
We have noticed that this painful, difficult season has been one marked with joy, although I’m not going to lie there has been suffering too, but the joy of the Lord has been our strength.
There is a connection-
Gratitude and Thanksgiving = JOY.
I was reminded as I was writing this that we have so much to be grateful for, things we really haven’t earned, but have received by grace (we’ve done nothing to deserve them) and yet God provides so freely towards us, completely open handed and abundant in his giving.
What should our response be, apart from gratitude and thanksgiving?
That we should also give freely with whatever we have. That might be a smile, a hug, a meal, wise advice, offering to pray, babysitting or a million other small things we can easily do every day and they often don’t cost us a thing.
Kingdom principles for a kingdom lifestyle.
Matt 10:8 Freely you received, so freely give.
The Lovely Mr B-The Joy Boy!
Until next time