Live in Aberdeen, Scotland for 3 years
Ben, Leah, Elisha & Genevieve
Higher education, family bonding, adventure and the glory of God
Sewing, baking, polishing the silver, playing bridge and going to the shop. I have precious and sweet memories with my grandmother, Nana. She passed on recently and although we grieve for her here, we have such great memories of what has gone before and such great hope for the future. We are not as those who grieve without hope.
Mixed in among her recipes were Bible verses & prayers.
Mixed in among her sewing box were Bible verses & prayers.
Of course, in her Bible studying books, there were recipes mixed in, too :)
I am confident, by what I knew of her when I was a child, and what I saw of the remnants of her life that were dispersed among the family when she moved to the nursing home, that her heart was regularly refreshed by the Word. My memories of her are filled with generous service - to us, to the church, and to others. She was always busy taking care of people and making sure we had what we needed. A life like that, of her length, cannot be sustained on bread alone. Her life, it is evident, was sustained by prayer.
Her husband had passed on about 2 and a half years ago - they had been married for nearly 70 years. For years she had been unable to understand and remember what was happening around her. It is heartening to know that she is safe now and fully aware of what she seems to always have desired: the presence of God.
I wish that I, as an adult, had the opportunity to really know her. But I am thankful for the memories, the things I learned from her at a young age. I will never forget the experience of a peaceful, productive, and God-honoring home that I can feel in my bones after tasting it from Nana's hands.
Soon after Ben & I were married, we visited the church that he grew up in. I remember him preaching there and, like a good southern U.S. church, the preacher & wife stand at the back to shake hands with the congregants as they leave. We, young and newlywed, received a lot of advice while we stood there shaking hands, but there was basically one message... "It will be an adventure."
It has been. There have been moves, college & seminary degrees, children, trips. There have been adventures like washing machine floods, bathroom pipe leaks, car wrecks and surgeries. There have been adventures like after dinner walks listening to crickets and the wind in the trees, or taking a moonlit stroll on the beach with our kids.
The biggest adventure we've had has been moving to Aberdeen and now, 19 months in, we're planning the end of this 2 year adventure. It has been a time of growth for our family in many ways. We have grown together in our marriage - finally having lots of time to spend together after many years of few. We shed many of our possessions and talked a lot about what was really important to us. We have lived much closer together in our smaller, rented, dwellings. We have been challenged and blessed in many ways together. We have had the opportunity to give of ourselves to the local church, to people in need, and to make new friends. There has been much good in our time here.
Ben has worked very hard and is at a point where we can move to a more affordable location until he is able to complete the writing. He has been accepted as a Resident Scholar at the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical & Cultural Research. We are blessed that such an ideal situation has been offered to him and we look forward to the next adventure!
It is, of course, with sadness that we think about saying goodbye to the friends and experiences that we've been enjoying - but now is not yet the time for goodbyes. Now is the time for thanksgiving - for the chance to live together, love together, and venture through this world together - whatever that may be, and to be content in all things.
Just to help us remember that we are not alone in our traipsing about the world in hopes of accomplishing what God has for us:
He [Paul] lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. (Acts 28:30-31)
We have a gorgeous route that we walk from our house to the library in Bridge of Don - it's peaceful, tree-lined, short, and there are some really pretty gardens along the way.
Our favourite stop is about half way - where there is a little joiner's shop. They make sheds and they're working outside every time we walk past. There's always an older man with a younger man that looks exactly like him helping out sometimes.
It's one of those falling-down crumbly places with letters and numbers missing off of the sign that would look like it had been empty 50 years if there wasn't anyone there. But there is. And he's working all the time. He's got a regular, steady job and you can hear the echoes of his hammering and sawing through the river valley all day long.
We always stop for at least a minute to watch him measure or cut some wood, or maybe to do a bit of roofing. This time we noticed him throwing some wood scraps into a large pile of scraps so we asked if he would be using them or just throwing them out. Not only did he get us a bag to take scraps home in, he also offered to let us take scraps of wood anytime we want to!
EQ was so excited to bring the wood home and make something, he could hardly contain himself and he's been playing with wooden scraps as happily as if I had purchased them at his favourite toy store!
I knew he'd want to build something and I scrounged around until I found some nails and a hammer. We really needed some sandpaper, though. DIY supplies aren't as conveniently located here in Aberdeen, I knew we'd have to go into town to get sandpaper. Surprisingly (providentially?), while the children were napping, a neighbour stopped by to drop something off and (after running back to his house) delivered sandpaper to ours. What a blessing!
EQ's excitement was so contagious upon waking that he recruited his dad to building activities that evening.
I took the Vieve to put her to bed and looked out the back window to see this:
That was followed by this:
and some of this:
and then we had this:
EQ's first birdhouse! Way to go little guy!
Of course, with all of this craftiness going on outside and the Vieve in bed for the night I got a little inspiration from pinterest and turned these & some junk mail catalogues:
Which, to my surprise, has received hours & hours of playtime.
In planning our move away from Aberdeen, these are timely reminders that our stuff is so unnecessary to our contentment. A little bit of scrap and bit of creativity goes a long way!
This is an unabashed promotion of a CD that has just recently come out. It's called Children of the Free. You can click the link on the title to be taken to the website that has the cd for sale or download.
North Wake is a vital part of our life - we started attending soon after we were married in Autumn of 2002 - and from then until we moved to Aberdeen in 2010, the body there was a significant part of our lives. It was the first time, for either of us, that we didn't just "go to church". We knew that we "were" the church. We were encouraged to use our gifts in any way that we could, having opportunities - even from the first - to work with the youth, arranging conferences, leading music, and just spending time with them. I still remember pastor Larry saying to us that he was so thankful everytime God sent more people to love on his children. To be genuinely welcomed into the fellowship on every level is something that still touches my heart. Later, Daniel allowed me to pursue my writing by sharing it with the body. Ben was teaching classes. I was catering breakfast for women's day. We had so much freedom to love. And in many ways - we received love. Remember this? Our marriage was strengthened. Our hearts were the subject of constant prayer. Our children were treasured. Ben was able to organize the body in it's love for the poor and needy.
During our time there, his musical flexibility was stretched and he was able to do all sorts of ministry through his musical gifts. But the music is important to us, because it really is amazing the kind of musical talent that we have seen. The weekly music was always so beautiful - Daniel takes his position seriously - not as a performer, but as a sort of gatherer - to help us all join together as a group. Wisely choosing songs that we can all proclaim together - songs that are full of truth and point us all together to the Lord. Helping to usher us into His presence together. I miss North Wake - but many of my relationships with the body there are able to continue in some form.
It's the music, the corporate "togetherness", and, of course, his benediction that I really miss.
So, order or download the CD. Today! (My favorite is #14 - miss you, Trent!)
And, if, for any reason, you are looking for a church family in Wake Forest, NC - please get to know these folk. You will see God at work here - I promise!
Here's the write up from the website:
We are blest to have so many gifted musicians and songwriters in our church. For years we’ve been introducing these songs to the body of North Wake, some of them were written to be used more as a commentary to the church and some of them were written for the corporate singing of the church, but all of the songs were written for the edification and building up of the church and I love that about our people! I think none have said it so poetically or poignantly than Charles Wesley when he wrote:
"If well I know the tuneful art
To captivate a human heart
the glory, Lord, be thine.
A servant of thy blessed will,
I here devote my utmost skill
to sound the praise divine.
Thine own musician, Lord, inspire,
And let my consecrated lyre
Repeat the Psalmist's part.
His Son and Thine reveal in me,
And fill with sacred melody
The fibres of my heart."
Children of the Free is the manifestation of the sacred melody of God filling the fibres of the heart of North Wake. We pray it encourages you and glorifies Christ.
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm or your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
I cannot, now, imagine life (as it was before) without the camera lens. Ben bought me a camera for Mothering Sunday last year. Since then, I have been taking photos of everything and everyone. Many young mothers have discovered the joy of sharing their photos - whether for monetary gain or not - and have dived into the world of photography. Many ex-pats, enthralled with their adventures, have tried their hand at it as well. So it's only common for me, as a young mother & ex-pat, to pick up the machine & start clicking away.
It has been an unexpected pleasure. Instead of wandering through the city unaware, it has been a reminder to consciously look for the beauty around me. Instead of feeling frustrated when the children are being especially, erm..., "creative" I just grab the camera and the moment is transformed, in my mind anyway, to a "memory". The camera has been a tool to totally change my own vision. It's more akin to glasses for my mind than anything else I can think of.
I know many people have had this experience - of the camera (or music, or art, or something else) being a window to another world - one of beauty and innocence. I am blessed to have it delivered to me by my loving husband, who may have thought he was just buying me a camera! While I don't think I can hold Eternity - I have definitely glimpsed a world of beauty I would have missed if I had not been looking through a second, mechanical, lens.
I have also had the opportunity to try to share this with others - to help see the worlds of beauty in their own grains of sand, and the heaven in the flowers around them - and to hold a moment in their hands - to freeze a moment and keep it before them. I will be starting a photography blog which I hope will give you a glimpse of the beauty I am seeing - the worlds in the sand and the heavens in the flowers and will share the moments that are being held in other people's palms.
The Vieve had a Hello Kitty birthday party last week. We are still on Hello Kitty overload.
I was just thinking about it tonight as I put her in her cot. "More kitty. more kitty. more kitty." is what she's still saying now instead of going to sleep. She has her kitty hair brush, her 2 stuffed kitties, her kittie tiny tin box, and she wanted her kitty pajamas (that she wears every night), swimsuit, bag, guitar & whatever else she could see in her room.
She has a keen eye for the Hello Kitty face - espying it no matter how big or small: balloon, t-shirt, sandals, poster, wherever it is - she will see it. And for a girl that doesn't get too happy about much that little toddler squeal: "kitty cat! kitty cat!" just melts my heart. Every time.
As I was decorating for the party, Ben was asking me why I was doing all of that for a 2 year old party and all I could say was that she would love it. I knew that she would smile and squeal through the whole party and as she is pleased and thrilled, my heart swells with joy. I have a glimpse of God's delight in giving us the desires of our heart.
I know, with fresh insight, what He means when He says "Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matt. 7:9-12) And I am reminded that this is the kind of love we are to have for all people - this sort of willing sacrifice of time, of energy, of our normal schedule just to bring love to others. To be satisfied in Christ and to give of ourselves the way He gave of Himself.
And yes, that can mean spending hours preparing a Hello Kitty party for a 2 year old but I'm reminded it also means so much more...
We're in the midst of celebrating 2 years of the Vieve's life with us. To tell you the truth, I honestly thought we would have all boys and it took me a while to get used to the idea of having a girl. I was also afraid of dealing with the issues that my parents had to deal with because of me - which basically consisted of boy problems, boy problems & more boys.
Of course, God knows better than me and thankfully does not act according to what I plan for myself! He is gracious and generous. He makes the barren woman abide in the house As a joyful mother of children. Praise the LORD! (Ps 113:9).
And Genevieve has stolen my heart. I cannot imagine life without her hugs, smirking stare, or whiny cry of "mummy!". She has come from God's hands and I can do nothing more than praise Him because she is fearfully & wonderfully made.
Her favorites these days:
Color: pink and blue
Animal: Kitty Cat (but also anything in the cat family) and also SeaGulls (whose sounds she can imitate perfectly)
Book: Hugs by Jez Alborough (which she can "read" to us)
Toy: Hello Kitty(s)
Words: Kitty Cat, Mummy, Hug, No Way, Elisha
Foods: Fish, Goat Cheese, raspberries and blueberries
Our health visitor called this week to check on "the little dears." Is that amazing or what? It was a reminder that the Vieve's 2nd birthday was this week and she had a couple of appointment times available. She was calling to find out if one of them was good for us.
Today, we walked the 20 minute walk to our little clinic and before we had time to get our rain jackets off & to get the Vieve out of the stroller, the health visitor was there to welcome us in.
The Vieve is really growing! In Scotland, all the kids are given a little book that you take to each appointment. All of their records are inside it and the doctors keep a copy of your papers - but you have the original records for your child. The health visitor marked her height/weight in the book and then listened - making notes - while I told her what the Vieve's development is like - her words, her body, her eating & sleeping.
Before we left, the health visitor gave the Vieve her 2 year Toddler bag from the Scottish Book Trust which has a couple of age-appropriate books, a little coloring book & crayons.
The pro-activeness of our H.V, Sheena, is truly a blessing. Everytime she calls I am blessed by her care over us. She's got our information sitting somewhere & just checks it over to make sure that EQ's got his eye test, since he's home-schooled and won't receive it in school, that the Vieve's got her check up, that we know of all the resources available to us, that there's an open clinic on Wednesdays... It's amazing to know that kind of care and to be sure that it is only a glimpse of God's care for us - His watch on our hearts and the simple & kind reminders that He sends us to make sure we are living the life He has for us. A friend's hug to remind us that we are loved. Handed-down clothes so that the newest growth doesn't cost too much money. An "accidental" stumble onto a quote or sermon that pierces my heart. He is vigilant and compassionate. We are His little dears.
Sometimes I can see & hear God in the little things like this. Other times, this world just disappears from my view - my vision slips from the eternal & significant and rests on the temporal. With my vision there, I am wearied and burdened. Almost an hour after we were home from her visit, my words were harsh and brief. I retreat into myself as someone who has become suddenly blinded - afraid of interaction and in fear of myself - my mercilessness, anger, dishonesty, laziness. I am stumbling and unloving. My vision is truly gone and I'm not seeing Him in anything.
What is that darkness? Is it hatred? (I John 2) John 3:20 says, "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." Is it that my love for Him has been usurped by a love of evil, a shameful fear?
Here I am again
I find my strength in drawing near
You have heard the desperate cry in me
And as I wait on You my God
I'll know the voice of truth
In quietness I am in awe
And as I worship You my Lord
I understand the cross
The sacrifice of God
Here is my prayer: "lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death" (Psalm 13:3) and be the lifter of my head (Ps. 3:3) so that my darkness will vanish in You, who covers Himself with light as with a garment (Ps. 104:2)
Every year when we get to Ben's birthday, it's always a reminder that spring is out and summer is in - the spring flies by so quickly, it seems. Everyone is looking forward to summer plans and just preparing. Preparing their gardens. Preparing for the end of the school year. Preparing for summer vacations. Preparing for all sorts of projects and parties and just looking forward to summer.
This year, Ben turned 32. We celebrated with friends, Mexican food, and a glow-stick hoop. Perfect.
We know that unless something totally unexpected comes along, we won't be in Scotland by this time next year. We are preparing, too. Preparing to experience what we can and love on the people we can as much as we can so that we won't look back at this time with regret. It's one of the blessings of Ben still being in school - we still view our life in school-year terms, in degree chapters. Our life isn't yet a vast unending sea of "career" stretching out into the unknown. But this may be the last predictable "chapter". We have no idea what's ahead. So that's why we've been doing a bit of this:
a little of this:
a little of this:
We even tried to take naps on the beach so we could soak in the sun. It didn't really work out but we had some really nice cuddle time and then stumbled up the street to our house and fell asleep for hours ~
I'm reminded that this is our purpose in life - to be loved and to love. To soak in His light and share it with others - to wear ourselves out with this until we stumble into our perfect rest. It is a challenge and I don't want to look back with regret. I am thankful for the reminders of His purpose for us ~ for the kind & gentle ways that God guides my heart and that no matter what we know of the future, we can be ready and hopeful for the future.
Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”
If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS,
AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF, BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.”
(1 Peter 1:13 - 25)
It's been 5 years since a life-changing car wreck in my life. Chatting with friends about it last night, I was reminded of how many parts of the story are so beautiful. And I realized that what God does in our inward man transcends our outward man in miraculous & difficult to verbalize ways. He makes this true in my life: (Isaiah 61:3)
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting,
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.
Surely I have a garland of beauty to wear and it is His doing.
He establishes my going forth and deserves the praise every step of the way.
The basic story is this:
I had left work to drop off some newsletters at the other office, needed to stop at the store and then get home quickly for a blood test for my life insurance policy. I wasn't feeling that great when I left the store but I knew I needed to be home and thought I could make it there. EQ was with me (he was 4 months old and still rear-facing in his car seat). I was driving an old station wagon that had been given to me by a family from Bay Leaf Baptist Church the year before so that I could get to/from work. In the past, when I had felt ill like this, sometimes the feeling of weakness/light headedness would pass. But sometimes, I would fall on the ground. (Syncope, they call it.) This time, while driving my car about 50 mph down Capital Boulevard in Raleigh (a 4-lane, heavily trafficked road), I lost the ability to respond. My foot was on the accelerator and I couldn't move anything.
My mind was thinking "this is it. it's over." And I was actually okay with that. God has filled my life with so much to be thankful for and I trust that when it is my time to go - that my time here will be finished. Whenever that is - it would be foolish to fight it or fear it - I truly want to do the work here for me - but I want to rest in His arms as well. I look forward with hope & anticipation - to the end of war in my inward being - to perfect peace and rest - and to the end of injustice and evil in the world. I had often thought I would die young so my thought at that time was basically a resignation to what looked like the end of living in this world.
The huge flat-bed truck loaded with bricks in front of me stopped for a red light. I drove into the back of it.
I can still remember the crunch. And the odor of the crushed metal.
I heard EQ making noises from the backseat - craning his little neck to see my face - to be reassured that everything was okay. Unable to smile at him convincingly. Unable to speak without a tremor in my voice; poor EQ started to cry.
The engine had dropped down and been pushed toward me in a way that my right foot (which was still on the accelerator pedal) had been flipped out & pushed up about half the length of my leg - My talus bone had split in two, I could see the end of my leg bone in the floorboard and my toes somewhere near my knee. I didn't look at that again.
The top of my leg had also been pushed back into my pelvic bone. I couldn't really feel that as yet because my position in the car was putting a helpful pressure on it. I just couldn't move.
The first responder went to high school with Ben. Someone took my little EQ out of the car. Bio-bag on the seat for my foot. Traffic was backing up behind me. There was a spider on the windshield. Still can't move. Really thirsty now. 1 hour has passed. No water until we get to the hospital. Finally they get me out. See Ben's face. My foot's still partially attached. They want to cut my clothes off so they can see my hip. Lots of doctors. EQ's okay. He has to have formula now. Ben's got him. What are these doctors names? Lots of visitors. Water. Bright room - do I have any allergies?
For the next few days I had this uncontrollable desire to know the names of the doctors & nurses which has everafter seemed ridiculous because there were so many and I am terrible with names.
I don't remember any of them.
But I do remember the nurse who washed my hair in the sink. I remember the one who comforted me when - on the way to a ct scan - the elevator movement felt like an earthquake. I remember faces of sweet friends hovering near mine, holding my hand and praying for me.
What I remember from all of this experience was actually peace and love. Humble serving and patient waiting. Quiet contentment was the constant prayer of my heart as I received the love and care of so many. And my heart was blessed. I was blessed going in and blessed coming out. I was blessed lying down and blessed sitting up.
(6 or 8 weeks after the accident, after the initial plaster cast came off)
From there until 2008 was a long and trying time made more beautiful by the service of family - old and new - biological and spiritual - who cared for us all. Food was delivered. EQ was hugged and fed and driven back and forth to see me. House was cleaned. Money was donated. Flowers were brought to my room and house. Uplifting music was sent to me since the medication made it difficult to read. Drinks and food were carried for me. Prayers were prayed. Cards were sent. EQ was taken to his normal baby well-checks. Mother's Day was celebrated. Rides were given to physical therapy - 5 times a week, then 3, then 1. Rides given to more and more doctor appointments while we prepared for some new technology - a total ankle replacement. Hugs. Lots of hugs.
Here's what I've got now:
But here's what else I've got:
A constant reminder of my need for God. Evidence of His healing and provision - beautiful scars. A memorial to His providence and faithfulness. An extended family. A testimony - a chance to glorify God. And lots of hugs.
And because He is so merciful to me... I've also got a healthy boy, no more fainting & a working foot. But somehow, these don't seem as significant to me. I realize that whether there's health or illness, richness or need, pain or pleasure, God is good and what He does is good. He is kind to us and so sweetly close in times of trouble that you can remember His fragrance everafter.
I hope I've communicated it as clearly as it is in my heart - that in His lovingkindness He held us tight to Him during that time. And whatever we find in His embrace is nothing less than good.
So it's been about 5 years. An incident of this nature cannot pass by without changing your life, you know? It's hard to know all of the ways God has used this to change me, Ben, those closest around us during that time, and even those who hear the story now. But we don't really need to know, do we? It is enough to live and sing His praise. What else can a tree do but lift it's arms heavenward? My continued witness & prayer is with the Psalmist in 119:68 - You are good and do good; Teach me Your statutes.
1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.
4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.
5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.
11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
I was compelled to read a fascinating biography about the life of Robert Murry M'Cheyne. I felt, when reading the first half, as if I was meeting a brother. His longing for God is so strong and pure, it was convicting at many turns.
Regarding 'speaking the truth in love' he says this: (p53)
It is not saying hard things that pierces the consciences of our people; it is the voice of Divine love heard amid the thunder. The sharpest point of the two-edged sword is not death but life; and against self-righteous souls this latter ought to be more used than the former.
Now, if that isn't applicable to disciplining your children, holding friends "accountable" or any other relationship we have... I don't know what is!
Also, because he dealt with physical suffering his entire life, there are some beautiful insights into suffering and how God brings glory through our lives and also about the fleeting nature of our lives and the eternal purposes of our mortal lives.
He tenderly binds up the broken in heart,
The soul bowed down he will raise;
For mourning the ointment of joy will impart,
For heaviness, garments of praise.
Ah, come, then, and sing to the praise of our God,
Who giveth and taketh away;
Who first by his kindness, and then by his rod,
Would teach us, poor sinners, to pray.
For in the assembly of Jesus' first-born,
Who anthems of gratitude raise;
Each heart has by great tribulation been torn,
Each voice turned from wailing to praise.
I also really liked this quote about his debating whether or not to keep a personal journal which I have felt about journaling but never put quite so eloquently:
Resumed my diary, long broken off; not because I do not feel the disadvantages of it - making you assume feelings and express rather what you wish to be rather than what you are - but because the advantages seem greater. It ensures sober reflection on the events of the day as seen in God's eye.
And about moving to a new location with a new job: "the place where the Saviour sees meet to place me, must ever be the best place for me."
I admit that I got a little disinterested for a while in the pages of his "Mission to Palestine and the Jews". But there were still nuggets of truth. He sought God daily and whether you agree with all of his theology or not, surely, you will sense a brother (or father?) in the faith when you read his words and the story of his life.
Towards the end of his life, he wrote a last tract about the life of a little boy that came to faith and then died at a young age. It's entitled Another Lily Gathered. You can read the whole story here. But here's part of the conclusion...
Parents also may learn from this to seek the salvation of their children. Alas! most parents in our day are like the cruel ostrich in the wilderness, “which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in the dust; and forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them; she is hardened against her young ones as though they were not hers” (Job xxxix. 14–16). How many of you hold up your children before God and the congregation, and solemnly vow to bring them up for God, to pray for them and in your family with them, and then return to your house with the guilt of perjury upon your soul! Alas, are not the family altars of Scotland for the most part broken down, and lying desolate? Is not family government in most of your houses an empty name? Do not family quarrels, and unholy companies, and profane jests, and sordid worldliness, prevail in most of your tabernacles? What can you expect but that your children shall grow up in your image, formalists, sacrament-breakers, loose livers, fierce, incontinent, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God? Oh that God would touch your hearts by such a tale as this, that you may repent and turn to the Lord, and yearn over your children in the bowels of Jesus Christ! Would you not love to see them fall asleep in Jesus? Would you not love to meet them at the right hand of the Judge? Seek their conversion now, if you would meet them in glory hereafter. How will you bear to hear their young voices in the judgment, saying, “This father never prayed for me; this mother never warned me to flee from the wrath to come”?
I will arise and seek my God,
And, bowed down beneath my load,
Lay all my sins before him;
Then he will wash my soul from sin,
And put a new heart me within,
And teach me to adore him.
O ye that fain would find the joy -
The only one that wants alloy -
Which never is deceiving;
Come to the Well of Lfe with me,
And drink, as it is proffered, free,
The gospel draught receiving.
I come to Christ because I know
The very worst are called to go;
And when in faith I find him,
I'll walk in him, and lean on him,
Because I cannot move a limb
Until he say, "Unbind him."
These are just a few excerpts from the personal diary of Robert Murray M'Cheyne - a Scottish minister, found in my new book: "The Life of Robert Murray M'Cheyne." I'm pretty excited about this book and I'm sure I'll have more to share. In the meantime, if you want to find out more about who he was - you can look here.
She's 87 and playing ball with her great granddaughter at a July 4 cookout. She's got this gorgeous look of sweet humility on her wrinkled face when she is surprised at her 90th birthday party. She sits - in pain & discomfort - but with a smile always ready at her son's retirement...
But most of my memories of this amazing lady have her shuffling around her tiny home - making biscuits, hugging family, sorting people out and, most vividly, sitting on the couch knitting and chatting.
She's made of a different sort of stuff than the rest of us, that Grandma.
She's perfect hugging size and feel. She's patient and forgiving - overlooking wrongdoings and wanting to share her home with everyone in her heart. So common is it to think that in order to share, we must have plenty to go around comfortably. But that tiny house is full to overflowing with love and memories. She birthed all of her children in that house. Before there was running water in it. Once before the doctor even made it across town!
Of course, I wasn't there for most of the memories made - I came late into her story but I loved it. I love her. I wanted to soak up all she had to teach and share. She taught me to make biscuits but I'm convinced it's the 80 years of practice and not the recipe that make them so delightful. She taught me to knit - but I've not got the time right now. She shared so many stories with me and I wish I had a better trap up there inside my skull. So many of the memories she poured out to me have just slipped away - they're so much more difficult to hold on to when they're not your own.
But we made our own memories and these I will treasure my whole life.
(Elisha & his Gigi, 2006)
I love you, Grandma. I love your gentle spirit. Your love of family. I love the way you used your gifts so faithfully for others. And most of all, I love your quiet contentment. You didn't spend your life striving after the world but in simple service and love and that, I know, is so rare. It is beautiful to me and I will miss your beauty in this world.
(Genevieve & her Gigi, 2010)
I found this gorgeous old book at a charity shop for 20p (less than 50cents). It is by A.A. Milne and it's called "Not That it Matters."
It feels like a book of silly blog posts and, even though it was written 100 years ago, it feels so fresh and fun...
My favorite chapter is the one on daffodils -
"I... affirm that the daffodil is, and always has been, my favourite flower. Many people will put their money on the rose, but it impossible that the rose can give them the pleasure which the daffodil give them, just as it is impossible that a thousand pounds can give Rockefeller the pleasure which it gives you or me. For the daffodil comes, not only before the swallow comes - which is a matter of indifference, as nobody thinks any the worse of the swallow in consequence - but before all the many flowers of summer; it comes on the heels of a flowerless winter. Whereby it is as superior to the rose as an oasis in the Sahara is to champagne at a wedding.
Yes, a favourite flower must be a spring flower - there is no doubt about that..."
"Other flowers must have foliage to set them off, but daffodils can stand by themselves in a bowl, and their green and yellow dress brings all spring into the room. A house with daffodils in it is a house lit up, whether or no the sun be shining outside. Daffodils in a green bowl - and let it snow if it will."
(A kind of response to this: http://raisinghomemakers.com/2011/while-it-is-yet-night/)
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
God does not simply demand from us.
He is not an almighty puppet-master pulling strings to demand performance after performance. Our exhaustion, as well as our hunger (which we do not usually allow ourselves to feel), and our emotional needs, are all designed to show us how to trust God. If we do not exhaust our bodies out in a way that glorifies God, we cannot know the rest He gives - it's sweetness and peace. If we satiate our hunger with things that do not glorify God, we will never know the hunger that can be filled in and through Him alone (whole foods, fasting), and if we do not pour our hearts out for others and share in the suffering of our brothers & sisters in prison, in persecution, and in poverty, how will we ever know the fulness of God's consuming love? "For, after all, what is the body but the garment which the spirit shapes to its uses?" (Charlotte Mason, book 2 p.133)
Neither is God's desire for us simple exhaustion, hunger, or sadness... despondent emptiness.
He wants all of our lives because He wants to do something greater. He can use all of you to bring Himself glory. He can use your eating, your sleeping, your heart... He has required all of these. The only thing worthy of Him, the only thing natural in view of His great mercy is a living sacrifice.
In your conviction, do not be condemned. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Be loved because God disciplines those He loves even as a father reproves the son in whom he delights, and He will not leave you - love is faithful. He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power.
What He needs and expects is not a performance, not a dejected trampled spirit, but a life of love. Love in all things and for all people. A life of faith. "Faith is, then, the simple trust of person in person." (C. Mason, book 2 p. 135)
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for
“All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
All week, I've been watching the Vieve try to lift her tiny pudgy feet off of the ground. She wants to jump. She wants to bounce - and be as high as her brother. She has a little routine where she hops on one foot, then the other, then the first again, each time bouncing closer and closer to her toes until finally they both lift off the ground at the same time for just a second. But she knows it. She knows she can do it.
Then she looks at me.
I'm clapping and cheering. I'm so glad she is learning. Something so simple, but that desire to learn stuns me. That internal drive motivating her to make an effort is miraculous and I am so thankful she was born. I love to watch learning in every form.
She wants me to jump, I can tell by her watching. She looks at my feet and she's waiting for me. But I can't anymore. My body isn't as young and is not whole. It has limitations that I live with. I long to jump - to run and climb with EQ, but especially to just jump, just once with the Vieve to show her I know what it's like.
What does she need from me? I feel my inadequacies strongly just now.
Must she only do things that I have done? Am I glimpsing already that I'll need to let her go? And I pray that her growing and learning will continue and that I'll remember that she doesn't need me to "teach" her so much as encourage her and love her.
And I trust that she is already her "own person" and not a baby in so many ways.
That she, and I, are held safely in His hand and will. And I hope for her spirit to be renewed and the cravings of her little soul to be satisfied, not in personal achievement, but in the arms of her Father.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
And I pray for the temporal to point me to the eternal - more and more. And for my hope in the future to eclipse any small afflictions that come my way.
From "The Red Shoes" movie, based on Hans Christian Anderson story
"That's why it is worth remember that it is much more disheartening to have to steal than to be stolen from."
Having missed out on Dr. Seuss' birthday last week by way of pure, unadulterated neglect, I felt a bit of a homeschool teacher failure. I'm kidding, of course, but it did alert me to another seasonal opportunity on the horizon that I probably would have missed.
International Pancake Day!
It could also be called Shrove Tuesday and in so doing, introduce a host of theological issues. I did not encourage my children to stuff their faces with sugar & fat in anticipation of 40 days of self-denial. We did, however, discuss the fact that in the past people would have needed to eat the rest of their lard before Lent and that's why they had a last feast, a day of pancakes, before the season of Lent. The book we read helped explain this concept.
Interestingly, a family that moved to Moscow this year said that you can't even buy meat or dairy where they live. Evidently, everyone is Russian Orthodox & they don't eat it. The grocery stores don't even carry it for 6 weeks. So, our friends, by way of default will probably be vegan for 6 weeks as well!
We read a beautiful book called "Pancakes, Pancakes" by Eric Carle that has a little boy following his mother's instructions to make a big pancake that he wants to eat.
This is a little known book by Eric Carle (The Hungry Caterpillar author) - but it is, quite possibly, my favorite. It is beautifully illustrated in Eric Carle style.
Here is the synopsis from his website: Jack wants some pancakes, but first he must gather eggs from the chickens, wheat from the farmer, flour from the miller, milk from the cow, etc. His mother shows him how to cook and flip them, and hungry Jack knows what to do with them next.
The pictures are magical and the food in the cellar is labeled in German.
I love that the mother puts little Jack to work and that he works with joy to accomplish his task - keeping his eyes on his goal even though it takes all day to make his pancake. I pray to work my tasks with such determination, perseverence & joy.
After our book time, we made pancakes...
and we knew just what to do with them too!
The poor little Vieve is a little under the weather this week, but it didn't stop her from enjoying a bit of pancake as well.
I am excited about this!
I've had EQ's handwriting turned into a font for free! How fun!!
I'm looking forward to using it for thank you notes and for printing things for his little scrapbook.
Once you've got the .ttf file, you'll just want to save it in your "fonts" folder.
I really wish I had done this before he started his reading process - his letters looked really different just a few months ago. But it's good to have now, anyway. And the template is so little, I'm not sure he could have written the letters in the proper space at that time anyway.
I want to get my mom & dad's to have for keepsakes too - good thing they're coming to visit next week! I can't wait!
There are other services that might do this a little better, giving you a chance to straighten or edit your letters after uploading and they only cost around 9 or 10 $ - if you're interested, here's the one I found with the best reviews. http://www.yourfonts.com/
In other news...
the Vieve has been going to the Bookbug Rhymetime (accurately but less excitingly described as story & nursery rhyme time) at the library on Thursdays. Here's her favorite rhyme:
Round and round the garden (trace your finger round the baby's palm)
like a teddy bear
one step, two steps, (one step with your fingers to tickle inside elbow, two steps to tickle around armpit)
tickle you under there! (tickle under the chin)
I was sad to miss Shunna's first year birthday bash - but we just dropped by the park today after the church service (with his parents, of course) and took a few pictures to celebrate this little boy's life! We arrived in Aberdeen about the same time he did, so it's fun to see how much growing can happen in such little time. It's easy to think of the time and how it has flown by so quickly - but look at what he has done with it!!
Father, increase my faith!
Here is a slideshow of all of the pictures I took - and some by Elisha.
Here are a few of my favorites - as always, any photographic suggestions or advice is greatly appreciated!
okay. that's my kid. he came with us to help make Shunna smile :)
this is daddy about to let go...
and here's what happened when he did:
This next one is my personal favorite:
A friend from our church back in the States asked me to share something with you. I *might* get a little gift in return :)
I've been thinking a lot, though, about adoption lately. It is such a beautiful picture of God's great love for us. We have some friends that are adopting. 2 separate families. Also, a friend from high school & her husband just picked up their little girl from China last week.
The first family is trying to adopt from Haiti. Here's their blog in case you're interested in their story. We know this family very well and are so touched by their desire to love the world. Actually, I am surprised that they are only adopting 2 little kids... With the gracious heart that God has given them, it could be 5 or 10. Maybe it will be one day!
They are jumping hurdle after hurdle while waiting patiently for God to make a way for these 2 little children to be able to come home and be loved on by their family.
The second family will be home by the first week of March with their little 8 month old from Ethiopia. They have been posting and posting about their impatience to have their loved one with them. It is breaking their hearts for him to be away from them and also changing their perspective. I loved her post about weekends & holidays. She says: "Weekends and Holidays are two things that TOTALLY lose their appeal when you're in the adoption process. Nothing can happen on weekends and holidays. No files can be reviewed, no appointments can be made, no phone calls are received..." When you can't be with the one you love, everything else pales in comparison. The things that normally bring you joy are worthless in light of the greater joy of fellowship with your loved ones.
And I can only think of these 4 little children - 2 of which are too young to even know what love has been waiting for them on the other side of the world - and the blessings that lie in store for them. I know that adoptive parents don't want to be viewed as some type of "savior" for their children - but there is no mistaking the great blessings of grace & love that God will pour out on these children through their parents obedience. Blessings which are also poured out through biological parents in a way that often seems less willful or selective than adoption. In some cases this may be true. But in the majority of cases biological parents have, at some point, made a choice to open their lives to children. Many do this when they get married by choosing not to partake in contraceptives or other planning methods. Many do this by "planning" to have children.
And for others, while the child is still being formed, they choose not to abort. For others, after the child is born they choose to put the child up for adoption or to make life changes to enable their child the best that they can give them. There are so many moments along the way when a prospective parent can choose to withold that grace or love and, without a doubt, it is as great a miracle as birth itself that we - sinful, selfish and flawed as we are - are capable of loving someone so small and vulnerable - of being given the blessing to carry and nourish, to touch and see the very goodness of God.
This brings me to the jewelry...
A friend from North Carolina has this amazing heart for orphans as well. He & his wife are not filling their home with them, though. They are doing some amazing work serving them, visiting them, and also making it possible for many women to have a trade making jewelry which will hopefully enable them to provide (or help provide) for their families. In addition, half of the proceeds from the sale of their jewelry is returned to social needs including orphanages & widow or single mother ministries. They are not simply sending money but actually serving and visiting these children and families as well.
"Chunky Junk is a subsidiary of Lovoso [Love orphans, Visit orphans, Serve orphans], which specializes in hand-made jewelry from Dehli, India. We partner with a group of ladies there, buying their beautiful jewelry and selling them here in the United States. All of our jewelry is bought using fair trade business practices."
I love my jewelry from Chunky Junk and know that you will too - but not as much as I love being able to help people by purchasing jewelry - and definitely not as much as God loves the world. When I wear my jewelry it is a gorgeous reminder of the choice we all have to share in God's heart - to choose love. It might rock our world a little but it is so worth it!
I have to say that one of the things I love best (in the top 10, anyway) about living in the U.K. is the regularity of tea. I love how people incorporate it into everyday life. While coffee is standard in the U.S. - I am not a coffee drinker and I find myself sorely discriminated against. You would think that hot water, a tea bag, a packet of sugar and a bit of milk wouldn't be too hard to come by, but it is surprisingly rare to be offered or troublesome to make. Here, the dedication is striking! I have seen people carrying their own collapsable cups so as not to miss any opportunity for a cuppa should it present itself.
Standard kitchen appliances in the U.K. include a water kettle. I have not yet been in a home without one. Every event includes tea and I'm sorry to say that the poor coffee lovers are truly discriminated against - being served instant coffee left and right and often in a tea cup.
In honor of my favorite drink here are two similar crafts that I made this week and thought you might enjoy.
The first was for my daughter's new tea set which I scored at a charity shop for £1!
I thought the tea set was adorable and just lacking one thing: the tea bags. So I scrounged through my scraps of fabric and made her 2.
Here are my supplies all ready to go:
In the next photo you can sea me sewing the tea bag which is basically an almost empty beanbag with some ribbon sticking out. At the other end of the ribbon, I sewed on the other, smaller, piece of fabric which had been folded twice to make a small square.
And here is the finished project:
Tea for two, anyone?
And here's the second project:
It's a little Valentine's Day gift for some other moms.
I started with real teabags and just taped on some little red paper hearts and wrote corresponding sentiments on the tags. For example, on the cinnamon tea I wrote "U R Hot" and for the Chamomile, "U R Pretty".
Then I sewed little fake tea bags using a pretty contrasting thread color.
I placed the real tea bags into the fake tea bags and then sewed up the remaining edge - inserting a piece of red twine. Then, on the other end of the twine, I made my tea bag label (T for you <3 from me) and attached it with a glue stick:
Happy Crafting! Don't forget your cup of tea while you're working...
If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty. -Japanese Proverb
Having just arrived in Aberdeen from the United States in February 2010, we've barely been here a year. Our first Sunday in Scotland found us worshipping together with the body at Gerrard Street and we were blessed. We clearly saw God's answer to our prayers for finding a family to worship with. We had prayed to find a church where the true Word was proclaimed and there was evidence of it's power in the lives of those we met.
Throughout the last year, we have been the recipient of much love, consideration, affection, acts of service, and even material blessings like clothes for our children and furniture for our home. Paul says in 2 Corinthians that God is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. We have seen His hand at work and have been blessed to feel His body at work. We have known His mercy anew through teaching, prayer, and singing. And have felt His comfort again through fellowship, friendship, gifts and acts of service - car rides to doctors, babysitting, gifts delivered to our door, and groceries delivered.
We pray for the opportunity to bless and encourage others, passing on what we have experienced from Gerrard Street, to the glory of His name. "Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life." (2 Corinthians 2.14-16)
We are thankful for the work of God in this place: that the knowledge of God, the fragrance of Life, is found here in Gerrard Street and that God is so good to hear our prayers and to allow us to fellowship here this past year. Brothers & sisters: keep trusting Him, loving others & growing in the faith "and God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written, 'He scattered abroad, He gave to the poor, His righteousness endures forever." (2 Cor. 9.8-9)
Since we moved into this flat with the gorgeous view over the water and into the city, I've longed for a comfortable reading chair. But, since we don't know how long we're going to live here, I didn't want to invest a lot (read: less than £25). So, we moved in here in July and it's now January and I have just now got my chair. I've missed out on a few months of enjoying it, but I think it was worth it.
Here's what I came up with...
First: the chair as it began... I found it for £4!! (about 6$).
I really did like it but it had a kind of "old dingy library" feel to it. I was hoping for something a little more refreshing...
the old fabric up close:
I found a large fabric remnant (at Remnant Kings near Bon Accord, in case you're interested) for £2.20. I really love it. But I was afraid that it wasn't going to be quite big enough. There's no way to measure, really, is there?
Taking the chair cushion off of the chair:
So, I took this brown fabric you see in the picture below and made a pattern, then laid those pieces out on my nice fabric, then I was able to move them around until I liked the placement of the flowers and also to save the most fabric to use for other projects.
side note: I liked this fabric, too, but it was really really cheap. I had used the other curtain in this pair for a nursing cover and other baby gifts and it was the only large piece of fabric I had. I am saving the large pieces for other projects. It was too rough and loosely woven to make a good chair fabric, though.
Making a pattern:
And here is the cushion getting covered:
I pinned everything on inside out to sew where it needed to be sewn and then (after sewing the seams) just flipped it inside out & stapled it on the bottom.
Taking the staples out of the burlap on the bottom of the chair was the most arduous part. It really was a simple, yet time consuming, project.
After it was all sewn & stapled on - I reattached the cushion and then the legs of the chair. And I made a little pillow cover for a previously unappreciated decorative cushion and...
Some things I would have done differently - I was imagining that blue flower on the front of the seat cushion actually being on the back side of the seat cushion. I would have placed it differently and been more careful about a straight seam on that part if I would have realized it was the front of the cushion. Also, I would have trimmed my seams more carefully and double checked to be sure they were laying the right direction before tightening & stapling the cover.
But, all in all, I'm pretty happy with it. Especially considering that the total monetary investment (not including the staple gun which was £10) is only £6.20 - that's about 8 dollars.
What do you think?
Sunrise today: 8:48 am
Sunset today: 3:32 pm
That is a short day. 6 hrs, 43 minutes and 50 seconds exactly - IF you could see the sun. We have needed our lights on all day to be able to see around the house. It is dark here. All day. I looked at a satellite picture of our area and this is what it looks like:
I'm not kidding. That is from the weather website. It looks like a swirling pot of dirty marshmallows. That's what it looks like from the ground as well - studded with seagulls gliding in the wind. Something like this thought ran through my head: We only get a few hours of sunlight anyway, it's not fair that we didn't get any today!
I felt cheated.
But "cheated" implies some sort of right - something that should be and a wrong that has been done against that right-ness. So before my self-pity could stop me, my mind was rolling along and rolled right into this thought: We do not deserve the light. Just because we are used to it and like it does not mean it will always be there. Because it is good I instinctively feel that it is all of good.
But what of the fog - is it not good as well? Soft & strong - powerful and blinding. A cottony grey ceiling of might, a reaching down of the heavens so thick around us that we've crafted our own instrument to to keep us safe while in it's presence - to warn us of each other when the light is obscured. It is a great leveller of creation, a convictor, a swirling presence of burden - and when it lifts, our 6 hour days will feel like 8 or 10. When it lifts, the light will bless us again. I know I do not deserve the light.
I will feel my way through the tenebrous day and through the darkened night and when it lifts there will be clarity and light. Although we'll need no warning instruments and no weighty clouds descending, we'll have the light for what it is. Radiance and luminosity. And the fog, not a cheater but a teacher.
EQ's request for celebrating his 5th birthday was a costume party! We weren't sure if it was going to happen or not because the snow here was off and on - at the last minute, we decided to go for it and almost everyone was able to make it! He has such a love for his friends, it blessed his heart to have a full house celebrating with him!
We played a fun game of charades with the kids, then had a "cupcake costume contest" where the kids decorated their cupcakes in costumes. EQ wanted pumpkin pie instead of a cake - then the kids played and EQ opened his presents.
It was a wonderful day and a lot of fun on a snowy weekend!
I can't believe he is 5 already. He is such an amazing kid. I am so thankful for him and the joy and trials he brings me. I can't wait to see what his future holds and I continue to pray that God will continue to draw him to Himself - to renew his heart and create a new life in him. I am thankful for the Christmas season and the opportunity it presents to talk about the love of God and His gift to us.
On his birthday, we lunched together at Subway (his choice), then shopped at a used bookstore (his choice, again! That's our boy!), then we went bowling, just him & I, then walked to his kickboxing class. The sun sets here around 4pm in the winter, and his birthday was the night of the lunar eclipse. The moon was especially beautiful rising over the snowy beach - so I got a few pictures of that as well.
by John Betjeman
The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.
The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day.
Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.
And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.
And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.
And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?
And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,
No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.
Just a little update on the advent celebration this year - it is going really well!
EQ is really enjoying finding and opening the packet each day. He's got an expectation that is contagious. Every day he says "When I say '3' you say it with me! 1, 2, 3" He opens the packet on the count of 3 and loves when we join in screaming. Then he says "I hope it's a song." Some of the songs we have learned so far have been: O Come All Ye Faithful, Angels From the Realms of Glory, Joy to the World, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. If you haven't slowly read the words from these traditional songs lately, just slow down and do it - they are rich in meaning and beauty. I love Christmas music and many of these songs bring back sweet memories for me - but this year, they have brought me to tears in many cases. Just slowing down and thinking about the words has been really touching.
Just think about this verse for Angels from the realms of glory:
Though an infant now we view him,
he shall fill his Father's throne,
gather all the nations to him;
every knee shall then bow down:
come and worship,
worship Christ, the new-born King.
This came the day after we read Isaiah 11: (NIV Reader's Version)
1 Jesse's family is like a tree that has been cut down.
A new little tree will grow from its stump.
From its roots a Branch will grow and produce fruit.
2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on that Branch.
He will help him to be wise and understanding.
He will help him make wise plans and carry them out.
He will help him know the Lord and have respect for him.
3 The Branch will take delight in respecting the Lord.
He will not judge things only by the way they look.
He won't make decisions based simply on what people say.
4 He will always do what is right
when he judges those who are in need.
He'll be completely fair
when he makes decisions about poor people.
When he commands that people be punished,
it will happen.
When he orders that evil people be put to death,
it will take place.
5 He will put godliness on as if it were his belt.
He'll wear faithfulness around his waist.
6 Wolves will live with lambs.
Leopards will lie down with goats.
Calves and lions will eat together.
And little children will lead them around.
7 Cows will eat with bears.
Their little ones will lie down together.
And lions will eat straw like oxen.
8 A baby will play near a hole where cobras live.
A young child will put his hand into a nest
where poisonous snakes live.
9 None of those animals will harm or destroy anything or anyone
on my holy mountain of Zion.
The oceans are full of water.
In the same way, the earth will be filled
with the knowledge of the Lord.
10 At that time the man who is called the Root from Jesse's family line will be like a banner that brings nations together. They will come to him.
And the place where he rules will be glorious.
I wish I could tell you some of the things that EQ has been talking about since this - but I'm not good at remembering exact words. It is amazing to see God stir his heart to truth and to see his desire for peace on earth. He is amazed that God could ever make a world where there is ONE banner uniting all nations, where poor people are treated fairly, and where children and poisonous snakes live together.
In his little life he has had an inexplicable fear of cougars. (Chalk it up to a scary Davey & Goliath podcast) When I read verse 6 to EQ - his little eyes lit up, his whole body sat up straighter, he started wiggling, I could tell he had something to say - so before we moved on to the next bit, I let him share and, when he had a chance to talk, his excitement gushed out. Something like this: "Children can walk around with leopards? Cougars too? Why aren't they eating each other. I don't know. I might not be able to do that..." As he talked, his fears crept in and his experience tempered his hope. It was a clear moment of insight for me and I am grateful. I was able to explain that even though we've never seen anything like that - all of our experience tells us otherwise - that is what God is saying. He is promising peace on earth. True peace - for everyone and everything! And it (kind of) started with Jesus coming to earth! I spoke to him of trusting what God says instead of what we think, I spoke of hope for future rest, of the curse of sin on the earth, of the love of God and His compassion for us and all creation, and Jesus' humility in coming to earth to redeem the world.
I cannot believe an almost 5 year old can handle these things. He has a natural, God-given, understanding of these things. They just seem to make sense to him in a way that adults struggle with and while explaining these truths to him, I am reminded of what it is like to come to Christmas with child-like faith. I had forgotten what it was like to be overwhelmed with joy at the hope of peace. I had forgotten what it was like to really expect something of God and to want everyone to join in the surprise of learning a new truth. I have remembered the wondrous aspect of His great love for us.
Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
We took a day trip with our friends. Yes, we were those crazy Americans who were trying to do touristy things on a snow day. We enjoyed a beautiful day! Here is the slideshow.
I'm kind of excited about this advent calendar idea!!
I'm going to share it with you because you are a loyal, faithful, sweet blog reader...
This solves so many things I wanted to accomplish -
First the goals:
Second, the history: The last few years, I made an advent calendar that looked kind of like this-
which I really liked. There are a couple of drawbacks, though.
At the beginning of the month, the calendar looks nice, but as the month progresses and the child puts each ornament on the tree, the calendar starts looking pretty shabby. Also, I put significant ornaments on certain days to spur discussion, but I think at 5 years old, this would be a fun and creative way to include something of more depth. In addition to these, also, it's really not all that exciting to put one ornament on the tree. Really. I mean, for 25 days in a row, he's supposed to get excited about finding the perfect spot for a little bauble? Maybe if your kid was really into shiny things it would be more exciting, but it kind of lost it's appeal about half way through the advent.
here's our new idea:
First, I printed 25 short inserts on plain paper - things like
Then I folded them and sewed them into little craft paper packets (this will match our gold/brown/green Christmas tree theme).
I will write numbers 1 - 25 on them and then EQ will decorate them with supplies that I have purchased.
Then, I'll hang them on the tree.
Each day, he can search & find the proper day, open it and then we'll either sing, pray, read, talk, look at a map, or any combination of these :)
Hopefully, they'll look nice on the tree but not be too noticeable when they're gone, as well.
I'm really counting on this working out to accomplish all of our goals and, I hope, prompt some great Christmas discussions and fuel our anticipation of Christ's advent - I hope you enjoy the idea!
I know he wasn't talking about my little tree packet calendar ~but~
Memory Awakens Hope. . . . . . . . . Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Seek That Which Is Above,1986
"Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.…
It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope."
Praying that things like this will help my children's hearts open to discern the star of hope...
I figure if I'm going to spend 30 bucks on a costume, it better be good because, you know, I'm not the kind of person to spend 130 dollars on a pair of jeans. I buy used, clearance, and gladly receive hand me downs. for me. So when it comes to kids costumes, I go for something that I can get long term use out of and the walmart costumes just don't convince me.
So, in the middle of our long vacation to the states, I found myself at my mom & dad's house for a week. It was a busy week and I didn't want to spend it all on the costumes but I knew my mom had a lot of the crafty resources I would need: a place to work, hot glue gun, sewing machine, and other little things. Little did I know she had been stockpiling all kinds of assorted odds and ends, including an old black leather hood to a jacket that had been destroyed.
While the kids were doing this:
I got working on their halloween costumes.
Elisha started with a Darth Vader mask and cape set, and a light saber from Target. We could easily have just put him in all black and he would have been fine.
I just wanted to add a little more authenticity to it. So I used an old coat liner to make a vest, an old thin plastic cutting board covered in black for his shoulders, the leather my mom had for wrist cuffs, and some black fabric for boots. She also had a little canvas belt that I used.
The finished product:
and yes, that is an old computer motherboard attached to his shirt and belt.
Another help from my mom - well, actually from my dad who works at a school and called the IT guy for his assistance :)
Princess Leia was much easier. I found an old work-out shirt, which had a great flowing effect to it and just sewed up the arm and down the sides to make it more bell shaped. After taking it up 2 inches at the bottom and inserting some elastic into the neckline, it was ready to go. Mom also already had the silver fabric which I sewed over an old belt and knotted around her waist.
The "hair" was a great idea, if I don't say so myself! We found this little crocheted hat at the store for about 4 dollars. Then I bought yarn about the same color.
I threaded long pieces into each side to make it look like I had parted it and combed it. After braiding, and rolling it up into a bun my mom stitched it into place with more of the same yarn.
Simple, easy, and so cute!
It's hot here. Having lived in North Carolina for about 15 years, I remember that summers are hot. And this one was exceptionally hot. However, having left for colder weather during the North Carolina winter, it had been approximately 11 months since I was last hot. That is a long time to not have that feeling. It is amazing how shocking it is to your system...
On a more pleasant note, however, we got into North Carolina just fine and are really enjoying our time with Ben's parents. We also had a WONDERFUL weekend worshipping with our old church family, eating at Lily's, and seeing so many amazing friends.
Ben and EQ had a guys' night one night and that left the Vieve & me free for a girls' night which turned out just perfect. I am always uplifted when spending time with women like:
Giselle - who trusts God, loves Him in many ways, and adores her husband
Heather - who is a smart and witty woman, loyal to those things she chooses, and so peaceful
Ashley - who is devoted to making her home a place of generosity, beauty, growth, and love for her family, the church and the lost
Stephanie J - who is generous, teaches without knowing it, constantly (loving) learning, and loves sharing the love and joy of God.
There are others I spent time with and I have some great pictures from our first 2 weeks in the states - but I haven't got them uploaded yet. I will soon - I promise - and will keep you posted on all the activity :)
After lots of praying and searching, God granted us an affordable and beautiful place to live here in Aberdeen. We moved into our new place in July and we are really enjoying it. When we moved in, Elisha said (a few times) "This feels like North Carolina" which I took to mean - "This feels like home." Which is just the way I felt. From the moment we moved in, even without a bed, couch or vacuum stripes on the carpet, we felt more settled than we had in our first 5 months in Aberdeen in our flat.
We are enjoying the following:
And, just in case you thought I was just rubbing all of this in, I want you to know that we are grateful to God - every day - for His bountiful provisions.
Now, last weekend we had some friends over for lunch and one of them and I were just talking about generosity and it reminded me of something I had read a few years ago...
Luke chapter 3:11
He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
and then there's the quote... (from St. Basil - from his homily on Luke)
Naked did you not drop from the womb? Shall you not return again naked to the earth? Where have the things you now possess come from? If you say they just spontaneously appeared, then you are an atheist, not acknowledging the Creator, nor showing any gratitude towards the one who gave them. But if you say that they are from God, declare to us the reason why you received them. Is God unjust, who divided to us the things of this life unequally? Why are you wealthy while that other man is poor? Is it, perhaps, in order that you may receive wages for kindheartedness and faithful stewardship, and in order that he may be honored with great prizes for his endurance? But, as for you, when you hoard all these things in the insatiable bosom of greed, do you suppose you do no wrong in cheating so many people? Who is a man of greed? Someone who does not rest content with what is sufficient. Who is a cheater? Someone who takes away what belongs to others. And are you not a man of greed? are you not a cheater? taking those things which you received for the sake of stewardship, and making them your very own? Now, someone who takes a man who is clothed and renders him naked would be termed a robber; but when someone fails to clothe the naked, while he is able to do this, is such a man deserving of any other appellation? The bread which you hold back belongs to the hungry; the coat, which you guard in your locked storage-chests, belongs to the naked; the footwear mouldering in your closet belongs to those without shoes. The silver that you keep hidden in a safe place belongs to the one in need. Thus, however many are those whom you could have provided for, so many are those whom you wrong.
We were exceedingly grateful to be able to use our house to bless others with food and conversation and to offer housing for a week to a girl that just moved here from Poland, and we look forward to using it for our student group and starting a community group that meets here. We both pray that we will continue to hold everything around us less tightly.
We're getting ready for (our 7 week) vacation and this old house is going to be just about as busy as we are - it is great to know that the things God has blessed us with can be a further blessing to people here while we are in another country. It's good to have the opportunity to turn these blessings back to praise. I am really excited about it - and glad we have a comfy cosy place to come back to after our trip. Whose house is this? our Father's.
For the back of my duvet dress, I repurposed the snaps to form the back of the bodice. After doing this, however, I realized that I still needed a little more wiggle room - literally. I couldn't get in the dress unless I added a zipper or button below the snaps. (You can see the biggest problem with this dress... the bunched up part around the top of the zipper - I didn't get it *quite* straight. But I will be wearing this dress with a cardigan almost always - so it shouldn't be visible when I wear it.)
So... after realizing that my machine doesn't have a button holer, I was on the search for a zipper. I happened across a 50p skirt at a charity shop that was the right color, so I bought it intending to just cut the zipper out and that's it...
But - the little apron was calling to me and she didn't want to be thrown away so here...
is what she became.
She was very pleased - and so was a friend that just moved here and wanted an apron
I'm on my way to another floral dress...
you may recall a certain vintage floral dress that I wore very often for the last couple of years...
well, due to the top not looking nice with a sweater over it, it was left behind when we moved to cooler lands. However, a sweet little sewing machine has moved in here and she kept whispering to me that she would like to make a new dress - this one should be cardigan compatable, but in the same kind of style.
Last week, I chanced upon this beautiful fabric:
(which I can only imagine would have been a very trendy duvet about 30 years ago...)
and I'm currently in the process of making it into a dress that I hope - drawing on the green, burnt orange, and beige parts, will be wearable into fall with a nice cardigan...
more pictures to follow - it should be done this week.
If you know me at all, you know my least favorite chore is the dishes. I have decided that it is the combination of wet (or sweaty inside disgusting gloves) hands, splashing nasty water on my legs, and the endless monotony. It seems as though just as soon as you finish washing dishes, someone will find a glass in another room, or a spoon in the bottom of the diaper bag. Or - worst of all - "someone" will decide that it's time for the whole family to have dessert and then the whole sink is full again.
When we moved here, our kitchen had a dishwasher. A small dishwasher, but a dishwasher nonetheless. I still had to wash pots/pans and plates because they were too big for the dishwasher, but at least I could shove our cutlery & glasses in there. Ice cream bowls and food prep dishes usually fit as well. It was nice and although I was doing the dishes more frequently, it wasn't quite overwhelming.
Fast forward a few months to our new place (which, by the way, I love). No dishwasher. This bit of information, I do not love. Seriously. No dishwasher? Okay. So, I sucked it up and tried my best to stay on top of the dirty dish pile beast. The first few days I was doing all right. A few setbacks, but, all in all, it seemed like I could live with it. Then, we had a large, messy meal. Followed by dessert. Which went on top of the few dishes from lunch that hadn't been washed. And I was tired. So, no washing up. Breakfast was determined by what we could eat with the dishes we had clean. Lunch? sandwiches. Dinner? wash a few forks and make it work.
Then, stand back and look at the dishes. Yikes. What to do now?
I was so overwhelmed, I went to bed early.
This morning, I dreaded getting up. I didn't want to eat breakfast because I knew I had piles of dishes to do first.
When I finally crept down the stairs I found a sparkling clean kitchen. What? It was my sweet husband - last night while I was sinking into dirty dish despair.
So, fresh start today and we're good to go again.
But I found this cute poem and it needs to be hanging above the sink. I'll see what I can do about that. In the meantime, I am praising God for a servant husband who jumps in when there is mess to be handled and loves me so well by not even saying a thing about it.
Thank God for dirty dishes,
They have a tale to tell.
While other folks go hungry,
We’re eating very well.
With home and health and happiness,
We surely shouldn’t fuss.
For by this stack of evidence,
God’s been good to us.
Last week on the bus, EQ had been acting up. He was tired and impatient. I had told him we would go to the park, but first, I dragged him around running errands, then it was time for lunch. By the time we were headed to the park, he was tired and at the bottom of his barrel of self-control. A sweet young lady in a nearby seat offered him some bread (which I am pretty sure he asked for when I wasn't looking because he was hungry. He had not eaten the meal I got him for lunch.) I told her thanks for offering, but no - he couldn't eat it. He had not eaten his lunch. I could tell she was disapproving of the consequences I had chosen - or something - by the way she was looking and responding to my comments of thankfulness and goodbye smile as we prepared to get off of the bus.
She followed us off of the bus. With the bread. Strange, yes. But, I took it when she re-offered it and told her that it was thoughtful of her to share. Thank you. Then, she proceeded to inform me that "children often act negative because they are trying to tell you something." I kind of laughed this off saying, "yes. He's telling me he's hungry and tired. Thanks, again." I think I made her angry - EQ was already running to the park. By himself (disobeying strict instructions to walk with me). And I had to kind of cut her off as I walked away to catch up with him. I heard her say something like "He's trying to tell you more than that...".
I've been thinking about this.
It didn't upset me that a stranger was giving me parenting instructions on the sidewalk. In fact, it definitely helped me refocus and prayerfully (re)commit my parenting to the guidance of our Father.
It made me think, though - as I said - and here's what I've got so far...
1. Disobedience isn't well defined as "negative". Sure, it's negative. But I wouldn't use negativity as a synonym for sin: disobedience, rebellion, ugliness. These I would accept. But to describe his actions as "negative" seem to work for me. Wikipedia describes the word negative as: A finnish rock band founded at the end of 1997. Just kidding ;) (I mean, it really does - but don't worry - I've found a more accurate definition...)
It seems like the definitions have more to do with the actual communication - it is denial, it is refusal, and so on. It is not a matter of the heart. And while disobedience isn't necessarily a word that clues me in to the motives of the heart either, it's more accurate description of the action makes it a worthy substitute in my mind.
In summary - to describe his actions as "negative" makes me think that they are not the overflow of his heart. It also seems to mean that they could be changed without a change of heart. This seemed to be undergirded by the context of the conversation.
2. Is it safe to assume that all (or most) sin is an effort to reach out? When my children sin, are they trying to communicate? When Genevieve is tired, she will sometimes do something wrong, wait for me to say "no" and then, when that happens, she cries and tries to get me to hold her. I've heard many stories (and seen first hand) about the older sibling doing foolish, and often sinful, things in order to get a response and attention from their parents. I do believe that my children (both of them!) are manipulative enough to sin in order to get attention or affection. But there are times when they are sinning simply because they are sinful. They want a toy so they grab it from another child. This greediness wants no communication. This greedy heart just wants what it wants.
When EQ was on the bus and kept touching the pretty girl next to him (after repeated instructions to keep his hands to himself) I believe he was simply rebelling against my instruction because he wanted to be close to her. I guess this is, in some sense, a communication to me. But, really, I just see it as sin. He wants what he wants more than he wants what he KNOWS God wants from him. At that moment, when he considered the instructions and chose to do otherwise, he was not seeking communication. He was seeking self-gratification. He was self-seeking and rebellious.
There is no amount of understanding from me that will change his heart. There is, in fact, nothing in the world that I can do - alone - that will create life in his dead heart. I admit that I do not understand his motives as much as I would like. There is mystery in the heart of man. But I trust that God knows. And that He has the power to change EQ's (& the Vieve's) heart. I was convicted that I have fallen slack in my praying for them and I have sought to remedy that this week.
Maybe he is trying to tell me something when he sins. Maybe I do need to listen to his heart more. But I KNOW I need to pray more. God knows the secrets of the heart (Ps. 44:21), and before EQ even speaks, God knows him and what he will say (Psalm 139). I know that God can change his heart.
Well. This post is long but here's a little more:
Today at the library, I was looking through the parent section at books about potty-training, and recipes for little ones. There was a (really big) book called something like "The case against spanking." It was such a big book I honestly thought to myself: "How could the case be that long?" So, I decided to give it a little look-see.
What I looked at actually wasn't too bad.
It is full of information that flies in the face of the world-view presented in the Bible. Information that leads us to believe that people are essentially good. That children can achieve self-control apart from the Spirit of God. That we can overcome anger using psychological techniques.
But, it is also full of stories that point out the common failures of spanking techniques or situations. Some of which I have seen or done. It also highlights the importance of respecting our children which I agree with wholeheartedly. (In a topic for another day - I believe that spanking can -and should only - be done respectfully). And offers practical advice for helping children make wise decisions. We do not spank (as he seemed to assume all people do) for poor performance, or because EQ has done something that frustrates me. We spank for clear acts of defiance. For disobedience, disrespect, and dishonesty.
So, I have lots more to think about. And lots to continue to pray about and learn. My heart is at peace because I know that God not only knows the thoughts of EQ & Genevieve, but mine as well. And I know that the Spirit of Truth will continue to lead and guide us as we seek Him...
(John 14:26 & 27) But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Also, just in case you were wondering, we took the bread to the water's edge and fed the ducks (The Vieve Duck too) with it. We were all happy with that.
make lots of plans.
change them all.
have some sweet friends over on Friday - tea & cakes, kiddie play time, and nice conversation!
get registered with new GP and have a standard check up.
attend church and meet a really sweet Polish girl that just moved to Aberdeen (Katarazina) who spends the whole day with us, shopping & cooking dinner.
last minute grocery shop because I forgot to take my list with me on Sunday.
Pick up some germs along the way - medicate my baby and wash EQ's hands every hour.
Toss in a little laundry, exercise, walks to the beach, reading, blogging, skyping with mom, & house-cleaning and there, my exiguous readers, you have the makings of our week.
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Well... we made it past this:
And now we find ourselves celebrating 8 years of sweet married life.
I could not have imagined the life that lay ahead of us - but God did. And He is so good to have brought us the trials, the joys, the pleasures, and the adventures that He has - and to prepare and teach and guide us through all - to bring us, together, to today.
This is what our day looked like - (Aug 4., 2002 ~ pre digital cameras)
married ~ received ~ danced ~ rejoiced ~
leaving to begin our grand adventure ~
I've heard that practice can make perfect. This is the first time that I have gone out with the intention of taking photos of someone else - just to document the event. I couldn't sleep last night. I spent a few hours over the last week looking at other people's poses online - but Sally was a doll.
She came out early, before her full day of church holiday club, and traipsed about on the beach with me. barefooted. in the rain. 7 months pregnant. and on top of all of that - she smiled and laughed and did just about everything I could think of her to do to get a good photo.
I think we got a few - which makes me happy - that I didn't drag her out there for *nothing*. See what you think ~
(and, if you happen to be a great photographer - of whom, I am blessed to call MANY friend - any helpful hints or criticisms are REALLY appreciated!!!!)
and, if you want to see all of them - you can go here.
Well, I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later. With all of our public transportation and children's play spaces. We've got lice. Well, more accurately, we did have them. They are dead now. All of them. We are still in a defensive quarantine. Combing vehemently and washing our pillows, sheets, scarves, hoodies and such daily in 90degree water (that's almost 200degrees for you in farenheit land).
All of this being clean at home, though, prompted some baking. I ventured my first cookies in my new oven and am *in love*. In the future, I will probably ALWAYS desire this little double oven. It is just amazing. Also, I ventured a loaf of handmade bread. I have done this before with meager results. This time, however, i encountered success.
And, by success, I mean delicious, mouth-watering whole wheat seed & nut bread. So yummy. Of course, everything's better with nutella on it and that's what I had for breakfast.
In addition, the light in our back yard (which is not, in fact, a yard - but rather, a concrete field,) is amazing at sunset and just before. Which is when I happened to look out the window and realize that washing clothes all day means some very pretty views at night -
In other news...
My computer mouse is broken. That might be from the chewing. Yes, I have caught both of my children chewing the wire on numerous occasions. Is that weird or what?
I am thankful for blogs in which I discovered that some of our acquaintances (M & J and little boy) from NC (who left to be missionaries before we moved) are having a rough time. I am reminded to pray and also to be thankful for the comforts and resources that we do have. She is probably 6 or 7 months pregnant and they are about to move house into an apartment they have never seen before in a new city. Also, where they are living they do not have air conditioning and the temps are regularly 108 (40 for those of you in celsius land). And, their power occasionally goes out for days at a time. They could definitely use your prayers.
And, just in case you are trying to get something dry cleaned in Aberdeen that doesn't have a care tag in it, save yourself the trouble. You can't. I spent a few hours yesterday discovering that handy bit of information.
1. Have a cloudy, rainy morning so that everyone sleeps in (until 8:30!)
2. remember how you solved a problem in your dream. (true story. I dreamed a solution to the kids' closet problem. it worked)
3. do chores without too much stress and remember to keep music playing to keep everyone upbeat
4. have the rain stop in time to travel into town for a free fiddle concert at St. Andrew's Cathedral (forgetting the camera is not one of the steps to follow... neither is wandering around town looking for a toilet for a toddler...)
5. have gorgeous lighting and crashing waves at the beach upon return home and take advantage of them by walking barefooted on the beach for an hour (or more)
6. blog instead of fix dinner~
more pictures of the beach here...
Good morning, little one. We are celebrating your life today. It is miraculous.
You are challenging and exciting. Affectionate and courageous. Attentive and mysterious. I look forward to the years ahead of knowing you better, of watching you grow, of loving you, and receiving your love.
We wanted to enjoy the gorgeous weather today but found ourselves in town... We bought some lunch at the store and found a place to eat...
This is where we found to eat - on the benches here at St. Nicholas Kirkyard:
this is who joined us:
This was the view:
I loved the lonely rose bush:
and this tombstone that is carved out of granite:
What a nice luncheon we had!
I was just amazed when we began signing with EQ. Once he got it - he really got it! He could tell us all kinds of things and communicated ALL DAY. It was amazing to me - really beautiful and shocking how much he had to communicate. I don't even understand how a kid that young can think of that much stuff to talk about and to figure out how to communicate it as best as he can with his limited vocabulary. Amazing.
Genevieve, on the other hand, has about 5 signs and just mixes them all together until you guess what she wants. This could be due to her mother's lack of focus during signing teaching moments - but I'm choosing to believe that it is a personality difference. She doesn't really care if you understand her as long as you pay attention to her. She also knows that with her ear-ringing scream, she can frustrate you enough that you will not give up. I think she likes screaming. It's like singing - which she also does - only louder.
However, the only reason I am posting this for all the world to read is because we have had a big victory this week in the communication department. It would be nice if it was about meal time or being sleepy, but no, it's only about animal identification. It's a step in the right direction, though, and I would be foolish not to applaud it.
Until this week all animals, flowers, trees, and pretty much anything living except people, warranted the sign for "doggy" (I teach a modified "doggy" sign which is just an exaggerated panting - if your infant can do the real dog one which includes snapping - WHY are you signing?? Seriously. Just say dog.).
Anyway - we bought a cow hand puppet this week and now she knows the cow sound. I think that this helped her mentally understand that different sounds go with different animals and now... flowers warrant the flower sign (sniffing) and dogs the dog sign (panting) and when we saw ducks today - she DIDN'T make the dog sign!! (She's still working on the duck sign, but I could tell she tried!) I'm so proud of her!
I hope she will continue to make an effort to communicate in any way except screaming. It will be so much better for everyone -
What a wonderful day :) I am so thankful for Ben and the love he has for us. I am thankful for his desire for me to grow in the gifts and talents he sees in me. I am thankful for his encouragement to be a good mother. I am thankful that he loves Elisha and encourages his creativity and feats of valor. I am thankful that he loves on Genevieve and hugs her when I run out of hugs. I am thankful that he is teaching both of them, in little ways, the love of the Heavenly Father and His goodness towards us.
We started the day by taking the bus to church - I took a few pictures while we were waiting for the bus outside of our flat...
After church we went out to Hazlehead Park to enjoy the Aberdeen Highland Games. They were surprisingly well done. We weren't sure what to expect, or how kid friendly they would be. But the park was gorgeous, there were plenty of things for the kids, drinking allowed only in the (huge) pub tent, and no smoking. It was really a wonderful afternoon. There was a bit of drizzle later in the afternoon, but nothing we haven't learned to handle.
We saw a Punch and Judy puppet show, had some lunch, watched a track event, lots of throwing of heavy things, including logs, and large sticks with heavy metal balls atop them (the band leader's baton?). The top winners of each main competition won £220 and 9 bottles of whisky. We also watched pipe bands and lots of dancing. We ran into some friends there, which was nice, and really just had a great afternoon.
You can view the pictures here.
Our neighbors across the hall have a healthy baby boy :) About a week after he was born, they had a little "name day" celebration with a few of their closest family members. I've never heard of this practice, but it seems to stem from the fact that in Scotland - or at least in Aberdeen - the nurses will not tell you whether you are having a boy or a girl. They are not allowed to. At first, we thought this strange and were told that there is selective abortions with many people not wanting to have baby girls. Thus, after the baby is born, they might celebrate with a little "naming day" with family. It sounds sweet!
(EQ as a baby)
Recently, I ran across this article which is haunting and chilling. It basically says this:
In many nations of the world, there is an all-out war on baby girls. In 1990, economist Amartya Sen estimated that 100 million baby girls were missing — sacrificed by parents who desired a son. Two decades later, multiple millions of missing baby girls must be added to that total, victims of abortion, infanticide, or fatal neglect.
As the highest percentages of expats in Scotland are from South Asia and China (which is where this is taking place most significantly) - it makes sense why Aberdeen has taken this step to protect the unborn child (that's what we were told). Online, the only information I can find says that they do this because of a lawsuit after someone was told the wrong information. Whatever the origin, if it is helping to make gendercide less of a threat in Aberdeen - I'm thankful.
I look forward to the day when new life is treasured no matter what and the blessings of God are greated with joy even if they conflict with our own desires.
(the vieve as a baby)
No matter what we "wanted" we are so thankful for God giving us His good gift - and gracing our home with two little souls to treasure. We pray that our home will be a place where these 2 and more will grow in the grace and knowledge of our great savior.
There's been a lot going on lately. We've had our regularly scheduled week - including playgroup, futball practice, Bible Study on Fridays and meeting with our church on Sundays. We've also been house-hunting, including searching online, making a few (million) phonecalls and viewing homes. In addition, we've been finalizing our flight plans for our fall vacation to the U.S., trying to bring a little realism into our summer plans, and trying to spend time and develop friendships here in Aberdeen. We've also been sleeping a little bit and we've had a few trips to the doctor with the Vieve's killer diaper rash.
I think that Ben & I both have had a few mental battles with homesickness lately as well. We lived in Wake Forest for 10 and a half or 11 years. That's a long time. Also, we loved it. We loved the weather. We loved the family-friendly activities. We loved the traffic on Capital. Just kidding :) We really loved Wake Forest and feel like we even kind of *fit in* there. That's saying a lot. We know we're a bit weird. It's easy to look back with rose tinted glasses and forget that everything wasn't perfect. God definitely blessed our time there and we don't want to stop being thankful for the years that we spent as a part of North Wake Church and the other friendships that we had (and have). But, we know as well as anyone can know that He has us here. He has the times and places picked out for us. We're just following along in the path He has laid out.
We know He will meet us here and walk us through the next few years. And this post will probably be the same a couple of months after we leave Aberdeen. That's part of loving, I guess, part of caring - the vulnerability that you open yourself up to when you open your heart to others.
I think it's also a bit of selfishness... It's easy to want to go where we feel loved and appreciated and where it is comfortable. It is difficult to trust that God has us here for a reason and to, daily, lay my burdens at His feet and serve my husband, my children, and my new friends and church as best I can. No matter where I am or for how long I know God has a purpose for my time there. If He didn't, I know I would be really at HOME with Him and just resting. I look forward to that day, and in the meantime pray that my heart would be refined and purified and that much good will come out to bless those around me in our new home.
I'm a little homesick, that's for sure. But, I will press on by His grace~
Ben's turning 31 today.
It began with his guys' night last night and is just beginning...
Rich Mullins, in speking to a young audience said this:
"Bear in mind, children, that they listen to you because you are kids—not because you are right. That's how our Father listens to us ... We never understand what we're praying, and God, in His mercy, does not answer our prayers according to our understanding, but according to His wisdom."
just a little bragging about our baby girl who is almost 11 months old!
She's walking... 5 or 6 wobbly but intentional steps at a time
She's talking... "I-I-Ah" which, roughly translated, means, Elisha! Come here now! and "Book" of which her two favorites are: Boris, le gentil ourson which makes her laugh when I read it in french and (2) the catalog from the cashmere mill in which she points - clearly with her wee little pointer finger - to the items that she likes including: grey wide leg trousers on sale for £75 and the purple scarf
She's playing... peek-a-boo and hiding - so silly.
She's growing... have no idea how big but she's slowly moving on up into her 12 month clothes (although still in some of the 6 - 9 pants - both my babies had little hips and skinny legs)
She's making friends... waving "hi" and saying "hiya", waving bye (but not saying it yet) and kissing family and stuffed animals.
The country has a government sponsored reading awareness program called "Bookstart." Our first exposure was when EQ got to get stickers on a card every time he visits the library. After 4 stickers he gets to select a special certificate with his name on it! (he's already got his first and if we can just remember to take that card with us, he'll have his second in another week!)
More exciting, though, was when we were leaving our first doctor's appointment and the nurse gave us a bag full of books! Every child, at certain developmental milestones, gets a small selection of books. How fun! The vieve's included about 4 board books and a separate book for me that gives activity and game ideas, including nursery rhymes with actions for little ones.
Elisha received the one for his last milestone but they are really too young for him. He likes the bag that they came in, though, and it sure made getting a shot so much easier!
What a great idea!
Got the word today that our landlord wants to move back into his property a.s.a.p. Thankfully we have a property management company that we're using and therefore are entitled to spend the rest of our 6 months in this flat. However, we're on the lookout for a great flat and trying to think about how to juggle our fall plans to the u.s.
I can't believe we're already looking for another place to live - but I know God will provide what we need just when we need it.
Please join us in prayer for this decision!
Okay - this is a little controversial, I suppose... Ben & I don't really even see eye to eye on this and I've not yet heard two people express their beliefs in the same way - but I'd like your thoughts (if you're out there... hello?... is this thing on?)
premise 1: kids are sinners
premise 2: God has not promised to hear or answer the prayers of the unregenerate
toss in a little "blessings to children of faithful parents," "Jesus taught the disciples before they were presumably regenerated," and sprinkle a little "common grace."
One massive headache.
My conviction/opinion/whathaveyou has been that I should encourage my children to be vocal about their thanksgiving to God (to cultivate gratefulness), be respectful during prayer times, and voice concerns to me (or Ben, or teachers) so that we can pray for them. I have not been encouraging EQ to pray (outside of offerings of thanksgiving) or "teaching" him to voice his requests to God.
My concerns have been that (1) he would approach a powerful and holy God with the selfishness that is natural in the unregenerate. This would, I think could produce a few things
a) ingrane in his mind the habits of selfish wishing instead of intercessory petitions
b) the belief that our prayers can reliably be brought before a holy God without the intercession of Christ on our behalf
c) low expectations of God through prayer or
d) unrealistic expectations of the outcome of prayer
and that (2) he would confuse the reality of God at work in the world with a genie-like power that can be opened/accessed by anyone lucky enough to know the magic words
or that (3) we would encourage him to develop spiritual disciplines apart from the spirit which is just.plain.frustrating. It's difficult enough living IN the Spirit to mortify the desires of the flesh and walk in faith. Imagine trying to cultivate the disciplines WITHOUT the Spirit!!
or that (3) he would grow up not knowing how to pray and, thus, live a life doomed to prayer failure.
During a wonderful talk with a new friend this morning, I think that the biggest flaw I discovered is my OWN low expectations for prayer and of God.
If I am afraid that EQ will confuse the seeming granting of his wishes with the power of God, what on earth am I teaching him about God's power??
If I am refusing to teach him how to pray because I know that He is unregenerate, then have I no faith in God's blessings of the household of faith?
Questions to think on - for sure. When I pray, especially with and for my children, my prayers should be so bold that there is no mistaking when God is at work.
Which brings us back to EQ's little Sunday School lesson last week :)
It was one of my favorites.
When I picked EQ up on Sunday, I walked into a classroom of screaming children with horns surrounding a cardboard brick tower. "Who knocked the wall down?" "GOD!" Amazing. Only God could do it, the kids learned, and He did it. EQ has a part of the wall with a prayer request on it - something only God can do.
What does he want to trust God for? "Writing new words." What a budding academic. That's my boy! (picture here)
I'll pray that for him until he can commune with God personally, I pray for that day and long for it with the deepest parts of my heart.
We've been to the Vue cinema for movies that cost 95p on Saturdays twice.
Our plan is to have a family breakfast at Books & Beans and then catch the kid's flick - what a cheap and fun morning! The Saturday morning movies have never been crowded and are kid friendly. Also, they're only 95p per person over 2years old! Also (in case you didn't think it could get better) they give you a coupon (£1.50) off of your next movie ticket so that, if you use it, you are effectually seeing the kid's movie for free!
They also have £1 movies at the cineworld at the beach (and burger king at the beach has free refills) - so this would be nice as well. We haven't tried cineworld yet (and cineworld at union square only does it on sundays).
*edit* the Cineworld at the beach is CROWDED! My guess is because it is so much easier to get to with a car*
Coming up at the Vue this weekend is:
Percy Jackson & the Lightning thief Saturday at 11am
When 12-year-old New Yorker Percy Jackson discovers he is the descendant of a Greek god, he sets out on a cross-country adventure to settle an ongoing feud between the 'Big Three' - Zeus, Hades and Poseidon - and unravel a mystery more powerful than the gods themselves.
and the next weekend (May 8th) at 11am is G-Force
Disney adventure using a mixture of live action and CGI animation to tell the story of a team of secret agent guinea pigs who have been trained in espionage techniques and are armed with the latest high-tech spy equipment in order to take on a covert mission for the US government. The team, known by code-name 'G-Force', includes ambitious squad leader Darwin, fearless weapons expert Blaster and lithe martial arts genius Juarez. Also along for the ride is Darwin's housefly sidekick Mooch and computer whiz Speckles, a star-nosed mole. Can the gang prevent evil billionaire Leonard Saber from taking over the world with a dastardly plan involving household appliances?
At cineworld this weekend it's:
Astro Boy at 10am
A young robot boy with incredible powers battles monstrous foes in futuristic Metro City.
Ponyo at 10am (I recommend this movie!)
A magical animated fantasy adventure based on the cherished Hans Christian Andersen tale of 'The Little Mermaid'
Where the Wild Things are at 10am
One of the best-loved children's books of all time is finally adapted for the big screen.
Recently we joined some new friends at their house for game and pizza night - it was a great chance to meet some new folks and we had such a nice time talking and playing. We are both so thankful for the people that we have met and the way God has blessed us with sweet fellowship in so many different directions!
While we were there, there was a bit of discussion about homeschooling. The wife of the couple will be homeschooling their children and is genuinely passionate about it. It was good to be reminded of the joy that we can have in educating our children. I think that the closer it has gotten to actually needing to happen, the more my joy has waned when, in actuality, it should be growing. Needless to say, I was encouraged. I was reminded of the joy of teaching my own son the things he will need for life.
I ended up staying up late reading some of the Charlotte Mason book online (which is the method we have chosen) and this morning (while enthusiasm was at it's peak) we jumped right in to reading. By the end of this week Elisha will be a few steps closer to reading. Per the method I have chosen, he has begun with an easy poem (Rain by R. L. Stevenson) and should be able to read it by the end of the week.
Thank You, Lord, for the ability to learn, for fellowship and for encouragement in unexpected places.
The rain is falling all around,
It falls on field and tree.
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.
Recently EQ, the Vieve and I took a walk to our favorite joint for lunch (woohoo Books & Beans on Belmont!!)
On the way we always pass by a homeless man who sits bundled against the cold with his dirty hat on the sidewalk, presumably for spare change. I've never heard him talk. I've never seen him in different clothes. I've never seen that stoop without him there.
He moves his hat for older people or strollers to pass by unimpeded. He nods graciously and makes eye contact. I've never seen him smoking, chatting, drinking, or doing anything besides sitting politely with his hat on the sidewalk.
This particular day I noticed that EQ particularly noticed him. My immediate thoughts were something like: "I'd like EQ to learn kindness - I wonder if Dirty Hat Man's hungry?" So I asked and he nodded. EQ and I continued to lunch and he reminded me
over and over again not to forget the extra sandwich before he politely ordered at the counter: "We'd like three sandwiches please. Three." Mr. Books & Beans himself offered the suggestion of coronation chicken which, evidently, is one of the most popular sandwich options.
We ate our lunch without much thought about Dirty Hat Man and then got ready to leave. At this point EQ remembered the sandwich and asked Mr. Books & Beans for a napkin as well. That was nice.
We dropped off the sandwich and nodded goodbye to Dirty Hat Man in the rain without much thought and continued on our day.
The next morning, when I was having my quiet time, it dawned on me that I had *not once* thought about doing this for the Lord. My desire, in fact, the only thought in my mind was to teach EQ to be kind. Is it possible to make Christian character an idol? I suppose so. Is it possible to seek the glory of your children over the glory of God? I suppose so. Is it possible to be generous without purity of heart? I suppose it is. Underneath the desire to teach kindness is, I believe, a God-honoring truth. But my thoughts proved to me that I have taken my mind off of the Giver and cared more for the gift. My desire for EQ to be kind, I was convicted, was much more for my own pride than for the God's name to be exalted in this situation.
I wanted to crown myself with the crown of "she has a kind boy."
Next week's special? A little coronation chicken from the Giver, through us, for the Giver and to the Giver.
I have struggled with weariness at different times in my life. While I was typing Criswell's last sermon, there were some really good points that I thought I would share. He notes that David had this feeling of aloneness or emptiness or weariness, and Job as well. In Job's case, God responds by clearly stating, among other things, that God is in control of the whole world. I have thought about this often when undergoing difficulty, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
The monologue of God to Job is the longest monologue from God in the entire Bible. Although length does not always indicate importance, I do find it telling that God Himself has so much to say about Himself and about what He has done. Job is so concerned with his own suffering but God is concerned with His glory. Job is weary. God is mighty. Job is confused and misguided. God is decisive and does not need our input. God's power is convicting, fearful, overwhelming. But in the midst of weariness, in those times of emptiness, when we feel we are sinking, God's power is a Rock to cling to. He is strong. He is mighty. He is powerful. He has done great things and will do them again.
Job 42:10 says " The Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends..." Criswell points out in his sermon that praying for others is yet another way of freeing us from our weariness. He has given us the ministry of intercession.
Praise and thankfulness for what God has done and prayers for others will take the focus off of our weary hearts, fill them with gratefulness, and give them purpose as we make intercession. Although I have heard these all before, it is good to be reminded. It is good to know that there is freedom from the fruitless thinking that overwhelms me to emptiness - I need not be captive to it. God is more powerful - and He has called us as a priesthood - there is work to be done before His throne.
I can go in emptiness and find purpose and filling there.
I can go in weariness and find strength for the day.
I can go in fruitless thinking and be renewed in the spirit of my mind.
And God, in His graciousness, reminds me by the world all around me that He is working. He has done great deeds. He will continue.
Proverbs 12:25 anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down but a good word makes him glad.
(from Dr. Criswell's sermon I'm transcribing...)
Emptiness can become boredom. Then it becomes futility and, finally, despair. An individual cannot live in a condition of emptiness for long. That’s why the Psalmist cried (ps 102), saying, “I am like a pelican of the wilderness. I am like an owl of the desert. I am like a sparrow alone upon the housetop.” And Job cried (chpt.10), "I am weary of my life. I will repeat my complaint. I am weary of my life.”
brie, cranberry, prosciutto & turkey sandwiches
the fact that brie, nutella, & milk are CHEAP
2nd try with the leeks:
dice them up really small and saute them in butter, then mix them into a chicken pot pie.
can't taste them at all!
We (a 30-something couple with 2 children ages 4 and 9 months) visited Nairn this week. We had a wonderful time.
As with anything in this area, the weather makes a huge difference and we were blessed with gorgeous weather - so keep that in mind. Nairn is unusually pet friendly and bicycle friendly.
When planning this trip, I had difficulty finding information on Nairn. It seems that the golfers golf and that's about it. However, Nairn turned out to be quite a nice little coastal town. We stayed in the Newton Hotel (part of the Oxford chain) and it was just wonderful. The opinions on the ratings of this hotel are spot on. Some of the carpet is worn and some of the details should be paid attention to, but the overwhelming impression is amazing. Location is great - within walking distance from the train and bus. The staff is quite helpful. The food is fine. Dinner is a bit over-priced, though. Also, they let us check in early (it was on a Monday, though) and they held our luggage for us after check out until our train left that evening!
There's a nice walk down to the seashore but no one told us that this walk would lead us to a rocky seashore with no sand. That was dissapointing for our 4 year old. So, we walked back to the hotel and just played in the woods. The Newton is surrounded by a great amount of wooded land that is wonderful for children to explore in. It's not too overgrown or thick - great for childhood fun.
First night's dinner was at the bandstand restaurant. This was delicious and quite reasonably priced with a wall of windows which we sat in front of and watched the setting sun while we dined. Kid friendly with a separate pub. HIGHLY recommended.
From our Nairn base we took the bus to/from Elgin one day. That was about £18 (£9 ea adult). Elgin offers quite enough for a full day or two of exploring. We took in the Johnston cashmere mill which offers free hourly tours of the mill, the cathedral, the biblical gardens (I wouldn't go out of your way for this), the family heritage centre, and the high street. Ask for a building guide at the visitor's centre - it has a walking path with information about the buildings that we found very helpful. The tour at Johnston's Cashmere mill was an amazing find! We also had lunch there and ogled over all of the knitwear. Come prepared to drop some £, though, if you're buying anything. I had my eye on a robe for £595.00. Lunch is reasonably priced (inside and outside seating with a kid's menu) and they have a small garden.
Dinner at the Newton Hotel was a bit of a let-down. The restaurant is impressive but the menu is not. There is no a la cart option - you're locked in to a pricey 2 or 3 course dinner. The service was slow (difficult with children) and we needed a more filling dinner after our active day of walking. In the information that we saw, it seems as if they can find a babysitter for you and this may be the way to go if you are sure you'd like to dine in the hotel. Otherwise, it would be worth it to get a taxi to a more kid-friendly (and pocket-book friendly) place for the evening. I think we dropped about £50 on a dinner that we didn't even like and our son was so wound up from trying to be quiet. We should have paid a taxi £7 or 8 round trip into town for a pizza and saved ourselves the difference.
Inverness was our 2nd day's trip. We took the train because it was cheaper - a same-day return trip was £5.40per adult. We were planning to go down to LochNess and Urquhart with Jacobite tours but missed the bus because we got sidetracked in Leakey's 2ndhand bookshop which is not particularly child-friendly, but very captivating. We also spent quite some time walking around the town. I recommend the route from the visitor's center up to the castle (which is now the sherriff's building) down the hill to the WWI and WWII monument, across the river, past the cathedral, back up to the Fraser kilt store (which is a visitor's centre with a special visitor's centre upstairs), and then back across the river into the shopping area around high street.
We had early dinner at Cafe One and it was delicious! The early dinner menu was reasonably priced, service was great, they accomodated us quite well and they have a fine selection of wines and beers. The kids menu includes a real steak and frites dinner for £5. Great!
Our last day we were trying to decide between squeezing loch ness and urquhart castle in before our 6:30pm train back or a leisurely day in Nairn. I am so glad that we chose Nairn! After a Scottish breakfast (potato scone, baked beans, rashers, eggs, tea, toast & jam) at the hotel (included in the price!) we walked downtown and rented bicycles from Bike Bug. £10 ea. with helmets and a trailer/chariot for the kids for the day (it was after 10am). We had such a wonderful time bicycling down to the harbor and then following the bicycle path out of town, then following the main road up to Cawdor. We rode around Cawdor village, then tried to find the castle. Unfortunately, it wasn't open yet (we were there in mid-april.) We were hoping to at least see the gardens, but were informed that the entire area was closed. We stopped at a really cute store called VillageGreen and poked around and treated ourselves to ginger cake and fresh fruit tart. This little coffeeshop was particularly child-friendly, with an entire basket of toys and nice ladies working. This shop also has indoor and outdoor seating.
After refreshing ourselves, we decided to ride back to another place that we had seen - Hillhouse Farm - to get some lunch. So, back we went, taking our time and enjoying the spectacular view. You do NOT want to take the riverside pathway - we met some other folks on bicylces that said it was a nightmare. It is not designed for bicycling, even the walking is a bit tough. It's more of a hike. The road was sufficently wide the whole way from Nairn to Cawdor and the drivers seemed to expect bicyclers on the road. We felt perfectly comfortable with the kids on the road.
Hillhouse Farms has a great little shop with fresh produce, other goodies and gifts. It also is a nice place to stop for a bite to eat, with easily accessible toilets, and high chairs and toys for children. One wall of the cafe is windows through which you have a beautiful view of the country. Unfortunately, again, we arrived at 3:15 and they stop serving lunch at 3. The wait-staff was willing to serve us but the kitchen staff had already cleaned up. They were kind and the whole place had such a nice atmosphere - we'd like to try again sometime. So, we strapped on our helmets and hit the road to Nairn.
By the time we returned, it was difficult to find anyone serving anything. So, if you find yourself in this predicament - just remember that the delis with the black signs (asher's, I think) are the only ones serving any food after 4. They're open until 5 or 5:30. We got some pancakes, bacon, a scotch pie, a steak pie, and some drinks for about £9. And the waitress gave my son a kiss :) So this was definitely his favorite place.
We returned to the Newton lounge and had a few well-deserved drinks while we waited for our train. Then we walked to the train station talking about our return trip the whole time. We love Nairn and hope you get a chance to visit!
I'm trying to decide what to do with this blog. I feel like there is something innately wrong with basically keeping a public diary, or log of our events, with the hopes that someone, someday, might read it. If you do read this and have any input - it is appreciated.
I am considering focusing on encouraging mothers - with quotes and stories of experiences that are directly related to loving our families well.
I am also considering focusing on our food adventures here - we're trying new things and are using mostly whole foods for cooking so that these foods could be eaten by almost anyone anywhere around the world.
I am also considering focusing on the kids - their learning, growth, silly sayings and adventures. This would be more humorous and it would also hopefully be helpful to those that are raising up children as well.
other ideas or opinions are gladly appreciated...
Today was a nice day - especially since the skies cleared up and we saw some blue up there and felt the sun shining again. On days like today, it's really beautiful here. We headed across the street to get a little exercise together as a family. Elisha, Ben & I had fun kicking the soccer ball around and Genevieve experienced bubbles for the first time. It was a pleasant afternoon.
Ben's mother had mailed me my cookbook, but this week was the first time I had cooked out of it again. Familiar food goes a long way in making this feel like home. Baked pasta with eggplant and parmesan, with a side of lemon pepper zucchini. (Here in Scotland this would be called pasta with aubergines and parmesan, with a side of lemon pepper courgettes.)
Now we're about to cuddle on the couch and watch the Bee Movie! What a nice day! Thank You, God!
I'm hooked on beetroot. It was on sale again and I bought a few packages. I love beets and potatoes - it makes the potatoes just that much softer and creamier - you still need to add butter and a bit of milk or sour cream, but not half as much - plus you get the added nutrients of beets AND the fun color!
Next up: find another beet recipe that looks good...
I am posting pictures from easter weekend - we went to a nice (indoor) easter egg hunt saturday morning with other (mainly American) folks from the university - it was fun and Elisha found a huge egg that he was VERY excited about!
Last night our church had a Good Friday service. It was touching and beautiful.
When asked what he learned during the service, Elisha said, "You can raise your hands at church." Not quite what I had in mind, but okay. Also, though, he learned a new word: crucified. Harsh but beautiful. Thank You, God, for the opportunity to teach my son about You and Your love!
Today we spent a day catching up on chores and rest. Poor Genevieve has a bad rash (in the loud words of a cute little 3 year old at soccer practice last week - "Mummy, my bum is sore!"). Elisha is recovering but seems pretty tired from our vacation last week. Ben had lots of work to do and I just looked at all the chores to do and thought about how I should do them ;) Actually, I did do some work, but really wanted to rest up and plan our upcoming week.
Things here seem to really shut down around Easter in a way they don't in the states - Elisha's soccer practice is cancelled for 2 weeks (and then he'll be starting on a new team) - and our weekly women's Bible study is cancelled for 2 weeks as well. We're considering another weekend trip - but I've got to plan the next couple of weeks. Ben will have a bit of time off from school, too.
Tonight I fixed (from allrecipes.com) creamy potato, bacon and leek soup. It wasn't too bad. But the leeks were our least favorite part of the soup. I'll have to try another recipe with the remaining leeks. It made enough to freeze for another meal, though, so that's always nice.
Ideas for eating leeks? I'm open...
Ben is renting a car - our first time driving over here - and we're headed to Edinburgh today! We're excited to do a bit of vacationing and we'll be able to meet up with Elijah & Stephanie who have already gone ahead. I'll let you know how it goes! Please pray that the kids sleep on the way there and back so that Ben can focus on the driving!
I've bought him a snickers bar to help him relax. :)
We are having a great time "visiting" Aberdeen with Elijah & Stephanie & baby Moses who have come to visit. We've tried new restaurants and took a rainy day visit to Dunnottar Castle which was a 15 minute train ride out of town.
Today is our last day in town before Elijah & Steph head to Edinburgh. We're planning on meeting them there on Thursday for the weekend. (We're driving!) This will be Ben's first time behind the wheel - so you can definitely pray for his attention and focus on the way there!
Keep watching and you'll see pictures of our time together taken with our new camera!
Everyone told us, before we moved here, that the food would be horrible. Evidently, Scotland is known world-wide for it's horrible food. Actually, we were not too disgusted with most of it :) You can tell by looking what foods should be avoided. The biggest surprise is the widespread availability of Indian food. There are a lot of curry dishes and also a lot of Thai food. It's a little surprising. However, since we don't eat a lot of meat, and especially nt red meat, and since Elisha & I have very bland palates... it has been quite difficult to figure out what to eat.
Last month we spent WAY too much money on food. So, my goal for this month is to try new and cheaper foods. The grocery store that's just by our flat has pretty good deals on produce regularly, you just never know what you're going to get. Today was the first time I've ever purchased leeks and also beets. I didn't know what to do with them until I got home and looked at allrecipes. And, with the beets, I had to search further. much further. until i found recipes that looked edible. Well, I have 2 plans for the leeks:
1. roasted with butter
2. potato, bacon & leek soup
I'll let you know how they turn out.
However, with the beets, I wanted to rush right in before I got grossed out by the maroon vacuum-wrapped gelatinous balls. So, tonight we had mashed potatoes & beets (with sugar snap peas and grilled chicken) followed by a beetroot cake with a nutella/cream cheese frosting. Both were surprisingly delicious and uneventful except for their color. They were cheap, easy to make, delicious, and (except for the frosting...) pretty good for us. Score. That will be a repeat. All the beets used for the cake (with an extra cake in the freezer for next week), and the creamy mash for tonight, plus remainder jarred for baby food, cost us only 30p - that's about 50 cents. Sugar snap peas: 50p (75cents) and the chicken was our splurge at about 2pounds for the amount we ate tonight. Add a little extra for the flour, eggs and seasonings and our whole meal still came in under 4£ probably. That's pretty exciting in my book!
Now, we just need to work on the meat... A friend suggested roasting a whole chicken because they are cheaper per pound. I did that once. We ate the WHOLE chicken. That is NOT cheaper. Oops!
Ideas? (beans are not easy to find...)
Well, in Scotland, tomorrow is Mother's Day. I think we're planning on eating out. Now, if I can just get over this sickness I'm battling, it will be a nice time!
Today we all went into town and spent a few hours playing with toys at a science themed playroom set up just for kids for Science Week here in Aberdeen. Ben and Elisha had fun building aliens out of KNex and balloon air powered race cars out of scraps. They did a good job and we followed it up by lunch. Ben went to study and I took the kids to a free Scotland music concert. Elisha got his face painted like Spiderman and little Genevieve LOVED the music!! I think I have a budding musician on my hands...
All in all, this weekend has been lots of fun and I'm just looking forward to feeling better soon so I can enjoy this coming week which includes, among other things, a visit from my brother & his wife and little baby. :)
Life has been a little crazy over the last month. There have been so many changes. Our rhythm has changed and our location has changed. Things I had been putting off since before the Christmas holidays have been demanding my attention and I lose about 2 hours a week getting lost in our new city.
It has been good, though, generally speaking. A little crazy but fun and exciting. The newness is just starting to wear off and guess what I've discovered underneath my *new improved super-mommy and outgoing friend-making machine*? The same old ugly sin... lurking and festering.
So, tomorrow is a new day, right?
Tomorrow is a busy day - but behind and throughout all of the fun we're going to have (playdate and then a trip to a castle with Veronica & John) - will be my soul clinging to the Spirit - pleading for grace and praying that I won't get stuck in the mire, but, indeed be lifted up on a rock.
My prayer for tomorrow: Be to me a Rock of habitation to which I continually come... (prayed by others before me, found somewhere in the Psalms)
Sunday afternoon we enjoyed a great meal with our church for new and newish visitors to Gerrard Street Baptist - it was a great time to meet a few more folks - also, we're always up for a free lunch! ;)
Also, we've been able to go to a playgroup on Tuesdays and a Bible study with child care on Fridays - all of these things have been such a blessing and Elisha has met lots of friends, Genevieve has met lots of admirers and I am meeting some other ladies. It's always hard, when you move, to make new friends, but I truly believe that God has answered prayers and paved the way for us here, in friendships, in our church life, and in other kids for elisha to play with. What a gracious God! Today, I am meeting with a friend (Veronica) who has a daughter my age that lives in North Carolina. We're going to have some nice chatting time while elisha plays at a park. I am also looking forward to hanging out with Claire (about my age, met at church) after Elisha's soccer practice.
Just praising God a bit today for His kindness to me and our family.
We have decided to do a sort of homeschool preschool with Elisha instead of sending him to nursery here. As part of the program that we've planned, he'll be going to footstars once a week. Today was his first practice. It was so cute and they did a great job! The class was for children ages 3 - 5, there were about 20 children in his class. He kicked, dribbled, threw, hit the ball with his head, and did warm ups and cool downs. We had a great time and he did a really great job listening to the coach. I am so proud of him. Genevieve sat in her stroller and screamed at the kids and balls. It was kind of crazy - we may have to find a time when ben can take elisha or stay with genevieve. But, overall, it was great.
Now to find some new shoes for elisha...
Well, among the differences that we are getting used to here are the slight differences in dialect and the cold weather. But, overall it has been a fairly smooth transition and we like our life here so far. Among my favorite (food related) things: I have found a brand of food that is really cheap and carried at the Lidl grocery store (kind of like Aldi) it's called Fresh Meadow and EVERYTHING they make is SOOO good!! We've had their houmus, yogurt, cheese, and if I see anything made by them - I will buy it! (I think it might be Lidl's organic line) I cannot even describe how delicious their yogurt is and I have never been a yogurt kind of girl. The peach/passion fruit flavor is the perfect blend of tart and sweet with little chunks of fresh fruit mixed in to the perfectly blended yogurt. I know this is a little silly, but in a country not known for it's food, I was prepared to rough it for a few years. What a pleasant surprise to find delicious affordable brands!
On another note, "pants" means underwear and "trousers" means pants. So Elisha thinks that it's the funniest thing to say "my pants are dirty" and for people to think he means his underwear is dirty. He's so silly and just the perfect age to get a kick out of little things like that.
Also, we planned our Fall travel back to the states today - we look forward to seeing those of you that we can in October!
like: new computer
being able to skype with people (and a fun chat with Carolina this morning!)
walking less than 5 minutes to the grocery store
genevieve eating paper
missing the Bible study and playtimes for the kiddos this morning
not having change for the bus fare
peas smashed into my clothes
4 year old meltdowns
this morning's baby-food concoction that made my baby girl so happy:
a smashed up banana mixed with carrot juice and powdered rice cereal.
Maybe the reason she cried so much yesterday is because she was hungry.
Yesterday our house closed!! We are free from home ownership. It is a miracle of God's grace that we were able to sell & close on our house before leaving.
Right now we are in Statesville. Elisha went out this morning to make a snow angel - there are about 5 inches of snow on the ground and it's still coming down in a mix of snow, rain and sleet. We're hoping our flight won't be delayed. Snow is also expected in Chicago - where our flight connects - on Tuesday. In the meantime, we're enjoying rest and family and tomorrow is the big re-pack all of our suitcases day and then just one more day until we leave. We're counting down the days and counting all of God's blessings.
Ben is finishing up our home stuff - it got appraised already and we are on track to close before we leave the country. Isn't that amazing? Isn't God's timing perfect? We're still praying to get all of the paper finalized about our flat in Aberdeen - and we may need to stay in a hotel a couple nights when we first arrive.
On Monday, Ben's supposed to sell the van and join me and the kiddos in Statesville. I am looking forward to getting back together as a family. Elisha is spending tonight with his aunt Christy, uncle Shannon & his cousins. He was excited about going but then I got a phone call that he was sad and wanted to go back to the other house. I'm not good at deciphering subtle hints, but I think I understand that my little boy is a little insecure right now.
Please pray that I will have the love and compassion in my heart to handle him well, to teach him about God's faithfulness and to help him know that God is watching out and wants the best for him no matter where he goes or what happens.
Resting at Ben's parents' house is nice and I look forward to the next week and a half before we leave knowing that it will be full of good memories and I'll be able to get everything done to prepare for the move. Thankfully, I think that the most difficult part is behind us.