A Graduation and the Costa del Sol.... All in a Day's Work

Last Saturday - or was it the Saturday before? My days are all rather topsy-turvy right now - we began our day in London...

DR arrived off the train from Cambridge, where he'd spent a week at the Wilberforce Academy. A quick change later, and he appeared resplendent in his Morrison tartan kilt. 

It was the date for his graduation, and we were all - minus Catherine and John - there to join him in his celebration. It's not often we have everyone all spruced up, so I may as well show y'all some photos of us at our best :)

The graduation was held in the Barbican centre, so all the outside photos have a whole lot of concrete as the backdrop.

Anyway, we weren't there to view the architecture, but to celebrate ...

Calum enjoyed the day so much, and delighted in being able to share in DR's joy.

I love this photo of DR with the Builder,

and then the obligatory one with both parents.

Five years of studying, DR, all seemed very worthwhile all of a sudden! Indeed, according to yourself, the studies still ahead of you are now something to look forward to. It's amazing how success spurs us on to wish to learn more. 

Well, we may have begun our day in London, but we ended the day on the gorgeously warm Costa del Sol, and spent the next week resting, relaxing, and eating in warmth. 

Gorgeous, delightful, delicious warmth. 

Instead of my blethering on about DR's story, I think I'll give him a blog post soon where he can tell his own story. He, somewhat like me, loves to talk ;) 

More of the Costa photos will follow too. I wish to re-live the holiday, so you guys will just have to come along with me. Deal?


Catherine: Loved, Loved, and Loved Again

On our recent trip to Northern Ireland, I was struck by something ... that something kind of has to do with Catherine but really, it has to do with something much greater.

You see, when we arrived at the airport, and these two fellows saw Catherine, they almost devoured her with their love. (Calum is sandwiched in between the Builder and Catherine in this photo!)

The photo captures something of the love by which Catherine was surrounded the whole time we were there.

She loves the Builder, and it shows.

He loves Catherine, and it shows.

Wouldn't y'all say?

There's her father, and her brother ...

...and her husband.

Everywhere, she was enveloped with the love of these three men folk in her life, and I couldn't but think of the beauty of the relationships God has given us in this world. A Father to protect her and care for her and love her unconditionally and lavish all good gifts on her. A brother to come alongside her and adore her. A husband who will love with an incomparable love.

All three of these precious relationships are pictures of the infinitely more precious relationships we can have in Christ.

When we are in Christ, we can say the words, 'Our Father in heaven', and know that our God truly is our Father. How unspeakably precious to have the Lord of Heaven and earth, the One who rules and over rules, who loves us and is able to supply all our needs in Christ Jesus ... as our Father! What a privilege and a joy to be a child of this Father! Much as Catherine delights in being the daughter of the Builder, that pales into insignificance compared with her being a daughter of our Heavenly Father.

"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God" 1 John 3:1

 Our Saviour also calls His people His brothers, and after He rose from the dead, He told the women at the graveside: "Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me." (Matthew 28:10)

The disciples had forsaken Him in His time of greatest need, yet He calls them His brothers. What an infinitely kind and loving older brother we have in Christ. Catherine delights in the love of her brothers, but how much more can we delight in the love of our older Brother.

And then, there's Christ as our Husband. 

There is no relationship on earth to compare with marriage, and no relationship at all - on earth or in heaven - to compare with our being the bride of Christ. We adore Him, we see glimpses of His beauty and we are overcome with love. We can absolutely say: "His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend" (Song of Solomon 5:16).

But most amazing of all is that Christ looks at us - at His bride, presented to Him in eternity, before the world was ever created - and He delights in us! What love He has to look on us sinners and, instead of ugliness, He sees us through the eyes of His eternal and infinite love and He delights in us. He adores us! 

Our Father. Our Brother. Our Husband.

Catherine is hugely blessed to have these three relationships here on earth. But her greatest blessing by far is that she has these three relationships with the Lord our God. 

The first three relationships, good as they are, are imperfect. But our relationships with our Lord are perfect, because they are covenantal, and are of Him. 

The first three relationships will all come to an end. But our spiritual relationships will never end. Indeed, they will come to their greatest fruition when all the others are ended, and when we behold the face of our Beloved, when we sees Him face to face, and we shall "know even as also I am known" (1 Corinthians 13:12)

What a thought!


A New Morning Walk

Those of you with good memories and who used to read the blog when we lived in treeless-looking-onto-the-Atlantic Ness may remember a post from way back showing photos of my early morning walk. The post can be seen here, but I'll post a photo from that post - just one - to give you some idea of the contrast between the beauty that surrounded me then and the beauty that surrounds me now.

What do you see? Well, there's a whole lot of sky; a whole lot of flat land; and not a tree in sight. 

But that was then, and this is now:

See how different my surrounding countryside is! Amazingly fertile farmland in the distance, some very green grass on which cows were grazing last week, and trees.

If you join me on my walk, you'll see there are lots and lots of trees.

Here I am heading down the hillside, and facing East. To a great extent, the direction matters not, because the sky is hidden by trees. The surrounding countryside is hidden by trees.

Have I mentioned trees? Yes, I've now walked East, North, and am now heading West. As I said ... the direction matters little: we have trees.

But just as I begin to think there is nothing left in the world but trees. Just as I begin to feel I need to breathe, I get a glimpse of the stunningly open farmland beyond the forest.

And I feel like I can breathe. And I am aware of  a spontaneous smile on my face.

And sky! Blue, open, spacious, wide sky. 

I could almost dance! 

I look behind me at the trees, 

and look again to the north-west. I savour every open mile to which my eyes can stretch. I drink it in because I know that very soon,

instead of open spaces, instead of farmed fields, and hints of distant mountains ...

instead of the glorious patchwork of growth, of planting, and of harvest ...

I will soon be walking under an umbrella of trees.

The sun is hidden, the views have gone,

and all I have is greenery and shadows.

If anything shows how much of a Niseach I am at heart, it's my reaction to all the trees that surround us here. Now, don't get me wrong - I love trees ... when they're at a distance. But I can't get my head around why people choose to live in houses surrounded by beautiful countryside which is hidden from view by trees!

I'm quite sure when the good ol' folks planted all these trees long, long ago, they did not mean for us all to spend our lives hidden away, out of sight of the beauty. I'm sure they'd tell us, if they could, to cut them down. Loads of them ... just chop them down, folks!

You see, I'm from Lewis - specifically from Ness, and we don't really do trees there. We like to look out our windows and see. Far. 

Remember when I used to look out our windows and see the crofts, the machair, and then the Atlantic all the way to the horizon. I was used to space.

And much as I love - and I really do love - the scenery around here, I have decided that if and when we end up building a home out here, my first criteria will be that our plot is not surrounded by trees. 

And just before we leave this post, and head back to our daily work, just one more glimpse at another scene I captured on that morning walk all that time ago:

How's that for eye-candy, eh?


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!


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.


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.


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.

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