4/18/2016

Sharing Joys .... and Sorrows



I read a holiday post from a friend from Lewis on FB last week. He, his wife, and his parents have spent a week in Ontario, and this part in particular brought back memories of experiences I could relate to: 

From Ian MacRae's post:

"This trip was great for us, but it was primarily for my folks' sake - they probably wouldn't have done a trip like this on their own. But you know the feeling when you know a sight is sensational or food is delicious and you watch someone experience it for themselves? It's pure pleasure, and that's what it was like to see Da and Ma when they saw the Niagara Falls or reached the top of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial or bit into a Boston Kreme from Dunkin' Donuts!"


You see, in 2001 I'd been to Niagara with my mum and had experienced the awe and wonder that comes from seeing the Niagara Falls. But a number of years later, we were going to be in the same place as a family. The Builder, myself, DR, Catherine, Katie, and Calum were going to where only I had been ... 

I had made all the bookings, and done all the planning, and it was with some anticipation I waited for their reaction when they would see the Niagara Falls for the first time. 

We drove into Niagara via 'the back roads', and so saw nothing of the Falls. We walked into the hotel, into the elevator and onto the 29th floor. I stood back and allowed all of them to go into the suite which had promised 'floor to ceiling, wall to wall windows, ensuring a great view of the Falls'. 

Would that be the case? And even if it was true, would the rest of my family feel as I'd felt when I first saw them? I stood back and waited ..... until I heard the collective gasp of

"Oh.... w-o-w", 

followed by more gasps as more and more of the sight was more fully realised.

Ian's post reminded me of this and it got me thinking of how our joys are increased by sharing them with others. (Kids, this is why I (rather frequently) called you to see the beauty and wonder of yet another sunset when we were living in Ness. How could I not share the joy?)

What a gift God gave us when He gave us the ability to communicate with others. What a blessing He gave us when He gave us family and friends and loved ones with whom to speak. Sharing experiences brings greater joy than living through the experiences on our own. I would have loved the Niagara Falls on my own, but I know for certain that having my family to share the wonder and fun and joy added immeasurably to my own experience.

And don't we love to share with others, too, of our spiritual experiences? Malachi 3 tells us that those 'who loved the Lord spoke often one to another'. What a blessing it is to say to others, 'Come hear what the Lord has done for my soul'! 

This morning, I was reading in Luke 1, where Elizabeth, who is pregnant with her son, John the Baptist, and Mary, who is carrying our Lord, meet up and spend three months together. What joy there was in their first meeting! Indeed, even John who was in Elizabeth's womb 'leaped for joy'! What blessed conversations they must have had over these three months; how much they would have shared of their own pregnancies - both miraculous in their own ways; how many words would have poured out of them of God's gracious dealings with them. And what joy to share them with each other!

God also gave us each other to share our griefs. If our joys increase by sharing, surely our sorrows and our griefs are decreased by sharing them.What a blessed relief it can be to share our sorrows, especially with others who truly understand, or with those who have empathy even if they've never been through the same kind of grief. 

Our blessed Lord experienced both joy and sorrow. We are told that 'for the joy set before Him', He went to Cross, and endured the horror and suffering of Calvary. The joy of redeeming His bride, along with His love for His Father, carried Him to Calvary's death.

We also know that our Saviour was 'a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief'. How much grief He suffered for His thirty-three years in this world. 

And so, with our joys and with our sorrows, whilst having the blessing of family, friends, and yes, even Facebook acquaintances with whom to share them, we are most especially blessed that we can take them all to our Friend who 'sticks closer than any brother' (Prov 18:24). He will increase our joy as we pour out our hearts to him. He will decrease our sorrow as we do the same. And He has empathy like no other, because ...

"we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15,16)

And so, let us be good sharers, and good listeners when others wish to share, and let us never be slow to share the best news ever told! Let's often say, 'Come, hear, I'll tell what God has done for my soul'. Let's Gossip the Gospel!

3/25/2016

Storm Katie Arriving? We've our very own ...



Apparently Storm Katie is about to hit the UK. The Met Office are telling us that England and Wales are going to be affected by winds of around 60mph.

I have two things to say:

1. Winds of 60 mph are not a storm. They are but a gentle breeze - the kind of breeze us Nisich (folks from Ness) wouldn't even notice except to say, 'Oh, what a great day for the washing'.





But more importantly ...

2. Did no one tell the Met Office that Storm Katie arrived exactly 19 years ago?

Yes, 19 years ago, God gifted us our second daughter. You can go to this blog post to see a whole lot of Katie :) . For today, we'll concentrate only on the past year.

This was Katie last year, celebrating her 18th birthday ...



And in the year since that evening, so much has happened.

She visited Paris, and was enthralled by the Eiffel Tower and the rest of the city;




She spent a week in Italy (yes, Italy!), and delighted in its ancient history, its food, and its sunshine.




(We're not jealous, are we?)


She then left her room in the home she'd known since she was six years of age:




She voted for the first time, 




And chose the Atlantic for her Ice Bucket Challenge dip.




And of course...





She was bridesmaid to her dearest (okay, she's her only) sister.

Aye, it's been something of a full year, my darling, and now we thank God for His blessings of another year, and wish you a very happy and blessed year for this coming one.



(with one of her birthday presents: Highland Cow, by Tamsin Thomson Art)



And getting ready to blow out her candle, kindly supplied by the staff at Pittodrie House Hotel!

 You are such a gift to us. A precious gift from God, and I hope you know just how much you are loved by us.




3/24/2016

Giving Thanks Again. And Again. And Again....


I often feel that I have so much for which to be thankful I barely know where to begin. And when I do begin, I feel I'm saying the same thing as I've said a hundred times before. I almost feel like God is worthy of thanksgiving that is SO much more glorious than the same-old same-old words I repeat.

Does this ring true for you? Are you nodding and thinking, Yes! I feel like that too!

I was so glad to read something this morning that encouraged me and delighted my soul at the same time, and so I wanted to tell y'all about it.

We were reading 2 Samuel 22, where David's song of praise is recorded for us. In this wonderful song, David recognizes that he owes everything to God's wonderful mercy and His faithfulness. To Him is ALL the glory! He composes, by the Holy Spirit's leading, this outburst of praise and thanksgiving, but it's the note at the end of the chapter in RHB's Study Bible that really warmed my heart.


"David is careful to give the Lord the thanks and praise He deserves. Similarly, we should be conscious of, and sensitive to, all that God does for us in preserving, protecting, and providentially meeting our every need. Like David, we should lift our hearts  and voices in praise and thanksgiving. 


Now, listen to this next bit:


"God does not grow weary of the praise of His people, even when they are praising Him for the same things over and over again."


Oh, that is so precious! Do you, like me, feel like today's thanksgivings are so like yesterday's were? So often I feel like a broken record, repeating my thanks for repeated blessings. But ...

God does not grow weary of the praise of His people!

The comment goes on:


"That David's song in this chapter is virtually the same as Psalm 18 directs us never to forget the Lord's benefits to us and never to cease praising Him for them. It is quite acceptable to repeat; God is not looking for originality so much as He desires genuineness and sincerity."


I found this so encouraging, and like all the wonderful encouragements of Scripture, it speaks more of who and what GOD is, rather than anything good in us. All His kindnesses to us speak of His goodness. His daily mercies to us speak of His faithfulness. And His delight in hearing our praises - even our poor, oft-repeated, poorly worded praises - speaks of His nature of love rather than anything lovely in our worship.

And so I am encouraged to repeat my prayers of thankfulness. Yes, even the same faltering, repetitions, because HE delights to hear the voice of His child. 

Yet another reason for never-ending thankfulness.











3/02/2016

Spring ... To Stay or Not to Stay?



I woke this morning around five o’clock, and at six o’clock, I opened the bedroom blind and the window to let both the stunning morning colours pour in to the room and also the sweet birdsong. Both were beautiful. Both gave me that real oomph feeling that is often nowhere in sight in the mornings. And both meant one thing: Spring has sprung!

During the morning, as I was texting my mum, I grabbed a quick photo with my mobile to prove to Mum that, honestly, the day actually was as good as I was saying. 



The weather here is so amazing - to me - that we have a bit of a daily joke going. Mum phones or texts and inevitably comments on their weather. I answer with my usual speil, telling of yet another stunning day, with not so much as a breeze etc etc. Mum reckons I simply press Play on a recording!

Hence my taking of this photo and sending it in a text to Mum!


However, only an hour later, this was the photo I took with my phone.




What a difference an hour or so can make!



I couldn’t resist handing over my camera to Calum, who was heading out with the Builder, and he took some photos around the estate. 









It's just as well there was no wedding on at the hotel today. The scenery would have been stunning (as has often been the case over this past winter), but the guests may have had some difficulty making their way along the country roads.










Seems like if Spring sprung, it sprung a long way off again. But personally, I have no qualms with the snow giving us a few more glimpses of its quiet beauty.





2/09/2016

Change ... Friend? or Foe?





Sometimes change is good. We often hear expressions like, 'A change is as good as a rest', or 'The change will do you good'.

But what about when Change comes uninvited. Maybe not unexpected, but still uninvited.

That's what happens to us parents at this stage of our lives. Change arrives. It may knock politely, it may hang around outside for a while, warning you of its proximity. It may come with the sweetest smile on its face. But it comes, and nothing can hold it back.

The past year has seen so many changes in our lives. None of them have been tragic. None of them have caused sorrow and grief - unlike the case for so many people, some of whom are known to me and very dear to me. None of the changes have broken my heart, and yet ... there's a 'but still....'.

One of the changes for us was our selling of our house. I know a house is simply bricks and mortar, but a home isn't. And the house in which we'd lived for the past dozen years was more than four walls and furniture. 

It was home. 

It was where our older children became teenagers and lived all their teen lives; it was where the Wee Guy went from being a toddler to being the Wee Guy, and even where he ceased to be the Wee Guy and became Calum Stewart. It was where we lived and loved and laughed. A lot.

This was where dozens of friends and relatives came and visited and holidayed with us. 




Some came from as far away as America's West Coast, 




while others came for more regular family gatherings from just 'up the road'.




Rows of colourful wellies on a bonfire night. Their being lined up here is evidence that the bonfire is now beginning to recede, the fireworks display is over, and we are all inside having our fill of food and chat.


It's where countless cups of tea were made and enjoyed with countless cakes and biscuits, along with countless 'blethers'. How many new recipes were tried out in our kitchen, giving even more excuse for the kettle to go on so we could have 'just a wee taste' of this new creation?






We will have no more Bonfire Nights on cold November evenings. No more Boxing Day get-togethers, eating left-overs from the previous day, along with endless supplies of chocolate.

And no more homeschool get-togethers either.



Friends and their children celebrating Independence Day with us for one of our homeschool days



Whether for our 4th of July celebrations, or our Thanksgiving Days, or for no-particular-reason days, we had some wonderful times with the other homeschooling families on the island. That was then ...



...these are some of the things that made our house Home.






Although, even more than all these great times, it was the people in these photos that made our house Home. 

See, we left our home last year, and moved to another house. Yes, another home. The Builder began in a new place of work, changing much of what he'd known for the previous decade - decades! 

But a change of place of abode, and a change of employment has been nothing to us in comparison with us not being a complete family any more. No - let me correct myself. We are a complete family: we simply don't live under the same roof now. 

And that has been the change I've found hardest. As I said at the beginning of the post, it is not a tragedy; it is not a cause for grieving. But Change has come, opened the doors, taken what it had to, and left a draughty feel to the house. It will simply take some time for the dust to settle, and the place to warm up again because I have been a Mum for all the life I can remember, and being Mum is almost all I can be. The Builder has been Dad for all the life he can remember (isn't it funny how life before kids almost passes into non-existence?), and it's tough getting used to not seeing each one of our children every single day. It takes some getting used to. We were so accustomed to knowing everything they wore, everything they ate, and everywhere they were. 

Every day. 

Change has changed everything. 

I am just so thankful that whilst the family under my roof was halved in one swoop, we are blessed to have two of our kids still with us. Oh yes, all being well (yes, I said, 'well', and meant it), Change will come in the years to come and some day it'll be the Builder and I, and all the kids will have flown the nest. 

C' est la vie.

And, truthfully, despite the pangs in my heart, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I have every reason to be thankful: Catherine is married to the man she loves. She loves him; he loves her; they both love the Lord.... What more could I wish for? Truthfully, nothing.

DR is studying, and working, and enjoying life living with my sister and her family. Now she gets to do his laundry, pick up after him, and listen to him wax lyrical on subjects ranging from politics to history to politics to coffee flavours to politics to sport. 


And I still have this one ...




I still have both of these!




And I get to have everyone at Christmas!


I don't write all this to gain your sympathy - I have no reason to need sympathy! But this is where I am right now, and this is where my heart is. I'll always, from now on, have more of an idea of what parents feel like when a daughter gets married, or when a son leaves home. I'll know better, because I'm living there right now. 

Change may be good. Our changes are good. But when we've been used only to the slight alterations that come when toddlers become children, and children become teenagers, and homeschooled kids become students, or workers, then this kind of change feels a bit seismic. 

I'm going to finish now with two or three sentences.

1. I am not complaining about any of these changes: I have nothing to complain about, and each change is a cause for joy. I honestly do know that, and feel it.

2. I'm glad that the Builder is staying. I'm glad that marriage is permanent, and that he won't be 'moving on'. :)

3. I'm even more glad that there is One who never changes, who will never leave us nor forsake us, and in Whose company I will yet be - not for a while, but for all Eternity.

Now, that will be a change for the better! 


1/21/2016

Sheep, Me, and a Good Shepherd


The week before last, many of my Bible readings were from parts of the Bible relating to our Lord as the Shepherd of His people.

You know, like many of you, Psalm 23 was the first part of Scripture I ever learnt, and the words are more familiar to me than any other words in the Bible - indeed from any piece of literature. But when I read and meditated on the Psalm last week, it was as though I was reading parts of it for the very first time. After 45 years of knowing the Psalm, and after 30 years of knowing the Shepherd, His Word is still new and living! In fact, I was thinking that if I have a 'death bed', I suspect this Psalm may be my meditations even then :)

One thing that struck me was the One who is my Shepherd. The LORD! The One who is my Shepherd is Mighty to save; He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe; He is Altogether Wonderful. He is all these things, and He is my Shepherd.

Mine! He is mine, and I am His! 

This is beyond-words amazing. Truly, it would never have entered into the heart of man what God had prepared for His people.... to belong to such a Shepherd. Don't our hearts just want to sing aloud! 

The following day's reading was from Isaiah 40 (and by the way, please go and read this chapter. If you read no other words today, read Isaiah 40, and tell me if you're not moved by it.). Verse 11 says this: 

"He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young."

This blew me away. The mighty arms that 'hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand' (v13); the One who cannot be likened to any other, for He is 'the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth'... He 'faints not neither is weary, there is no searching of His understanding' (v.28). He is ALL this, and yet, these very arms gathers His lambs and carries them in His bosom. He gently leads ....'.

Who would want a god who was ALL mighty, but who had no care for His lambs? Or who would want a god who cared for his lambs, but didn't have the power to actually do anything for them?!

Our Lord cares and leads and holds and guides. No wonder Isaiah wrote, "He is altogether Wonderful"!


When I took a wee wander outside the other day, I was reminded of this again. There were some sheep in the field just in front of the cottage, and I casually and quietly wandered over to them, as unobtrusively and as unthreateningly as possible.




They looked anxiously, 




waited ...




and then, almost inevitably, turned their backs and ran off.


I meant them no harm. But the point is they do not know me. I am a total stranger to them; they have no relationship with me; and I have never been anything more to them than a passer-by with no real care for their well-being.


This used to happen to me at home too, with Big Brother's sheep.

On the other hand, the Builder's youngest sister had a totally different reaction from them.




See how they follow her.




And look at them here! The follow her and want her to stay!


In the photo below, they turn off the road and head into the field following Big Brother.




See them? They need no persuasion. They follow their shepherd.


Big Brother, and my sister-in-law in the previous photos were trusted by the sheep. The flock knew them, and because they knew them, they followed them, they surrounded them, they ate out of their hands.

Before I knew the Shepherd, before I was one of His flock, I ran too. Like Adam, I would have hidden myself, if only I could. But now, I know His voice. He is mine, and I am His, and it is my delight to follow Him, to feed from Him, and to hear His voice. How could it not be my delight? He is, after all, the most delight-FUL Shepherd.



1/15/2016

Snow and Sunshine




I promised you I'd give you even more of a glimpse of the area around where we live. Remember last week's rain? Well, even as the waters were barely receding in Inverurie and some of the surrounding villages, this is what we woke up to on Friday morning.




Tell me I'm not the only fully grown adult who gets this excited with snow. 

Oh, and I use 'fully grown' in the most basic sense of adulthood. Obviously I wasn't referring to physical stature, eh? Well, adult I may be, but the sight of crisp snow makes me act like the age my height would normally be.

Around 11. Ish.



Not only does it incite a childlike excitement, but it also gives me energy - the kind of energy that takes me outside. And because I was outside, and because I'm a blogger (just), and because the Builder gave me a new camera for Christmas, I took some photos of the estate and the surrounding area just for y'all.

Can you see the hotel in between the trees in the photo above? One day, I shall tell y'all all about the hotel. This building began life in the 1400s. Yes, you read that correctly! Most of it was destroyed by fire in the 16th century, but a fair bit of what's now this hotel was built in the 1560s.

How amazing is that?!

Americans, you folks are just babies!

*      *      *

The estate on which the Builder now works, and on which we live is nestled on the northern side of Bennachie. This gives us a fair bit of snow when the surrounding area may have none, and it also affords great shelter from any winds that may have come as far as the eastern side of the country. Normally the West keeps all the gales to itself. I know this, because I lived through them. Often.


After my walk around parts of the estate, Katie and I took a wee spin. We went to Inverurie, and the photos of some of the flooding are in my previous post. But en route to Inverurie - a drive of about 5 miles - I asked Katie to stop the car once or twice, so I could capture some of the beauty around us.




Here's Bennachie's Mither Tap with a covering of snow. We haven't walked to the top yet, but all being well, it's certainly close to the top of our Things-to-Do list for this year. Remember in this post, Calum, Katie, and I walked up to one of the Bennachie ridges, and the views of the surrounding countryside were stunning. I can only imagine what it'll be like when we climb the Mither Tap.





Around another corner, and Katie was ordered to stop the car again. It's just as well she's as patient as she is, but how could I not capture some of these scenes!




Is this not perfect winter's scenery?

Can you find the house on the far left of the photo below?  



Can you imagine the sheer beauty that the views from this house give all year round! Were I to live there, I can't imagine any work being done. I can picture, and hear, the scene:

Me: Oh, guys, come and see this!
Kids: Mum, we've seen it. It's the same as it was when you called us to the window  yesterday.
Me: Oh, but it's not. It's different today. The colours. Oh come and have a look.
Kids: Yes, mum .... Yep, I see it. Yes, it's different. Whatever you say, Mum....








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