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.


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!

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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....


Weather Update

Since moving to Aberdeenshire, my mum and I tend to text each other daily with a local weather report. I have to be honest, most of the conversations go something like this:

Mum: What's your weather like today? Very windy here, and wet.

Me: Lovely here. No rain, and we never have wind!

Mum: I don't think I believe you. You still live in Scotland, don't you? 

Me: Not sure. They claim it's Scotland, but feels like a million miles away ;)

And so goes our daily weather-related chat. But in the past week or so, the weather around Aberdeenshire has been wet. Exceptionally wet. We are very, very fortunate to live high up, close to Bennachie, but some folks in the nearby Inverurie and Kintore have had a really rough time, with flooded houses and businesses.

The road leading up to the cottage in which we're living had fast-flowing streams rushing down it. The water washed away the surface (small) stones, and most of it now is down to the hard rock. It's like the surface of the moon in parts! 

Fortunately, the Builder was able to make drains and flow water away from the hotel. Yes, there was a lot of surface water in the surrounding area, but at least the buildings were safe.

I took this on the drive in to Inverurie, which is about five miles from where we are. This was Thursday, and the rain was still lashing down at this point. The water you see in these fields isn't a river or a loch - it's simply flooded fields! Thankfully, all the farmer's homes and their livestock were, as far as I could tell, safe from the flooding.

And this was when I was driving home. It was 3:10pm, but was dark enough to make it seem like early evening.

I know we get dark early here in the North of Scotland, but on that day last week, it really did feel like it stayed at early dawn light until it was time for dusk light.

BUT ... what a difference a day makes! 

Katie and I nipped in to Inverurie on the following day. The waters were still high, but the sky was blue and there was hope that the waters would keep receding.

The River Don has burst its banks, hence this riverside bench looking rather lonely and forlorn. And wet.

Hopefully, it will not be too long until it's once again being used by sitters, enjoying the peace that comes from sitting by a gently flowing river.

On the other bank, I noticed this sign:

Not being familiar with this part of Inverurie, I asked a man standing alongside me if this was indeed a playing field. 'Yes', he answered. 'It's our football park!'

As I headed back to the car, in which sat the ever-patient Katie (ahem), I snapped this scene. It's funny how water draws us, even when the water is where it shouldn't be.

Thankfully, despite the rainfall and the flooding in places, there was no loss of life. That is the most important thing of all.

Just before I close this post, I'm going to show you a couple of photos of the estate, just so you can see the difference between 'us and them'. These photos were taken on the same day as the last ones (above).

It's so beautiful around here, and we seem to get the best of all the weather. Less rain than others. Definitely less flooding. Barely any wind. Snow, when no one else has it! 

I'll tell y'all what: I'll make another blog post tomorrow, showing y'all some of the photos I took around the estate last Friday. Some things are too lovely to keep hidden, eh?


Aberdeen, Inverurie, and a Delightful 'Find'

As y'all may know, Mum and Dad have been out in Aberdeenshire with us for this week. It's been so good having them here, and so good for them, too, to see where we are living, to realise it really isn't so far away after all, and to simply chill out with us for a few days.

Inverurie is a lovely wee town for browsing. (We actually spent today shopping in Aberdeen, and even my Mum had had enough after about four hours.)

My Mum 'having had enough' of shopping is practically unheard of. She is a kind of shop-or-browse-until-you-drop kinda gal. I am not. I simply don't get the pleasure in going around shops, whether to browse or to buy. If I need something, I would love to have someone find it for me and it arrive on my doorstep without my ever needing to walk through shop door. And as for browsing .... gimme strength, folks, do people actually do that for fun??

Anyway, back to Inverurie. A girl at Katie's work had recommended a wee cafe, called The Dormouse & Teacup. Four days ago, on our first trip into Inverurie, we asked for directions to this establishment, and within seconds of stepping in the door, we were smitten!

Our tea was served from this pot and into this cup and saucer. How could we not be smitten?!

On that first day, Mum had a pancake (even the strawberry jam is home made), followed by a Raspberry and Coconut sponge. Along with my cuppa, I had Lemon, Lime and Coconut sponge. And my Dad had a Victoria Sponge. 

All were home made and were absolutely delicious. Dad's cappuccino and Calum Stewart's Latte were also spot on. But even better than the yummy baking was the fabulous staff. They were so lovely and made what would have been a pleasant enough afternoon cuppa into something much more.

The following day, when we visited again for our afternoon cuppa-and-cake, we met not only Lucy, who runs the cutely named establishment, but also her husband. Seeing I had Calum Stewart's mobile in my hand, and I'd already spent at least three minutes getting a selfie of myself, Mum, and Dad, I asked Lucy and her husband to join me for another selfie.

(CS reckons I took about seven minutes attempting my first selfie, but we reckon he's prone to exaggeration.)

Here's Lucy and her hubby. If you're ever in Inverurie, drop in. The Dormouse & Teacup opened about a year ago, after they'd come up with the idea whilst on a date night, and spent almost a year planning and preparing for the actual opening. I do love hearing of business enterprises that have been thought up, been planned, and are now being successfully run by folks who love what they do.

Below is the first selfie I took. This, just to prove to y'all that I did it. Successfully.

We had such a laugh that day. It was my birthday and somehow that was mentioned in one of our blethers with Lucy and the waitress. It was said that I was in my 50th year, and so the dear ladies there secretly piped melted chocolate on a place and stuck a candle in a gorgeous salted caramel macaroon!

I'm aware that a picture speaks a thousand words, so I want to tell y'all very loudly that I was forty-nine this week, not fifty. And yet, I'm pretty sure that if I'm around for my 50th next year, some of you will be saying, "I'm sure I remember her being 50 last year".  Aye, you will.... you just wait and see.

Well, poor Lucy was so embarrassed that she'd got my age wrong, but I assured her that her guess work was pretty good and that I wasn't in the slightest offended that she reckoned I looked fifty.

Nope, not in the slightest.

And to prove it, I even came back with Mum and Dad the following day! This time we came for lunch, and even though I don't have photos of the food (I know - unforgivable, considering I blog), I have to tell you that Dad's Warm Smoked Salmon Salad was out of this world. Its presentation, which we all saw, and its taste, for which only Dad can vouch (yeah, I know, he didn't even offer me a taste. Disgraceful.) were equally delightful. My Sweet Potato and Roasted Pepper Soup was everything a soup ought to be. 
Tasty. Warming. Perfect.

And so, will we be returning for more lunches, more teas and cakes, and undoubtedly more chat and laughter. Having had a taste of Aberdeen, I am delighted to hear Mum sing the praises of Inverurie as 'where I want to shop from now on'. When it comes to shopping, small towns are so much more enjoyable than cities. I like the pace at which they go. I like the smaller shops, in which staff often have a vested interest in the success of the business. I do love finding - and will have to spend some proper time looking for - a local greengrocer, baker, and butcher ... even though I do have to admit to having had my folks bring out white pudding and beef sausages from my favourite Stornoway butcher. I do love 'Willie MacLeod's sausages', and in all our years in Glasgow before moving back home, I never bought a sausage in the city. Every time we came home, or when anyone was coming to visit us in Glasgow, our freezer would end up loaded with these Stornoway sausages. It would seem that tradition is going to carry on now that we've moved away from home again.

Still, Inverurie has an interesting array of shops, and as far as shopping can be enjoyable, this is my kind of browsing.

Aren't we so blessed to have such opportunities for fun, laughter, and enjoyment in our lives. What gifts these things are from God. When we hear of such devastation and such evil taking place in other nations and cities, we can only praise God in the words of the Psalmist: "Unto me the lines have fallen in very pleasant places."

Certainly, I can say these words, and I'm sure so many of you can too. As we approach this season of Thanksgiving, I do wish I could truly say that I was as thankful over this past year as I ought to have been. So many big things for which to give thanks. And so many 'little' things too. 


Another Family Wedding

 The Builder's Baby Brother got married last week. 

It was such a joyful event for our families. 

And aren't they simply the handsomest couple you've ever seen? 

(Doesn't that sound sufficiently Mrs Bennett-esque. It's really quite an achievement when one begins to sound like Mrs B without even trying. Or maybe a worry, rather than achievement.)

Either way, they are a wonderful looking pair. 

Just as all the guests were lining up for a group photo, I was able to sneak this photo of the bride's hair. Isn't it gorgeous :)

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Instead of a traditional wedding cake, they had this impressive stack of macaroons.

Ohhhhh. Yum.

Raspberry macaroons, pistachio, salted caramel, chocolate orange .... the list goes on and on. 

So did our eating of them.

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The wedding also gave us the opportunity to get a photo of ALL the cousins.

Don't they look fab?!

Although, I have to be honest .... it took some work to get them all looking so, erm, presentable.

First we had this ...

and then we had this ...

C'mon, folks, third time lucky, eh?

Maybe not. As I say, it took a while, but eventually we were able to get them all looking reasonable.

More than reasonable, wouldn't y'all say. These guys are such a wonderful bunch of kids. It's so hard for us to have taken our Wee Guy - sorry, Calum Stewart (I'm still not used to calling him by his name!) so far away from them. I'm concerned he'll end up needing therapy as the years go on. Or even worse, that he'll be putting us in an old folks' home when we're old as a punishment. 

Oh well, we'll always have DR, Catherine, and Katie to look after us. Isn't that right, kiddos?

And talking of kiddos...

My boys were there ...

And my girls were there ...

and our new kiddo too. Everyone was there, and so I was in my happy place.

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After the speeches, and the meal, everyone gathered for some music and dance.

Here are the Bride and Groom taking part in one of the the Eightsome reels. Not many folks could dance a Scottish Strip the Willow that elegantly in such a dress. 

Of course, I would be just as elegant. But I know y'all know that anyway. 

Yeah. Right.

Another Strip the Willow. Such fun!

And here are Stewart and Marie, this time taking part in a Virginian Barn Dance. 

With a name like that, who could not love it!

What blessings we have in our lives! Marriage is such a God-given blessing, and families are such a God-given blessing. Last Friday we were able to be part of both these wonderful gifts our loving Creator has given us. We thank Him for marriage and for families; for siblings and for nieces and nephews; and for times of joy, when we rejoice with them who do rejoice (Romans 12:15).


A Saturday Afternoon of Baking and of Trees

Now, just because space is limited in my new kitchen compared with my old kitchen, that is no excuse not to have baking in for the Builder. In fact, no excuse is any excuse for not having baking in, isn't that right?

Yup, it is. And anyone who looks that good in a kilt can make any demands of me. 

Apologies. I digress. We were baking, weren't we?

Space is limited, and I had a bit of, erm, fun finding a place in which to put the bowl and the waiting cake tins. Having this kind of kitchen space takes me back to when we were first married and living in Glasgow. 

In Ness, I used to take all the ingredients for a recipe out and have them all to hand beside me. You all remember the island in my kitchen, right? Now, I take each ingredient out of the cupboard and jolly well get it back in there before taking the next ingredient out! 

Lemon loaves never go wrong, and the recipe I use is an old favourite from the Free Church cookbook. I blogged the recipe here.

I also made The Pioneer  Woman's Pumpkin Sheet cake. I love this sheet cake, topped with cream cheese icing. The recipes are found here, on PW's wonderful site.

If you make this sheet cake, please make sure you top it with the cream cheese icing. It's seriously, deliciously moreish.

In between loaves being in the oven and sheet cakes cooling down, I took my camera outside to snap a couple of shots of the beautiful trees in front of the cottage.

Did I already mention we have trees here in this neck of the woods?

Lots and lots of trees.

Right now, they are full of the variety that Autumn gives.

In fact, because they are so lovely and because they change almost every day, and because the lower Autumnal sunlight adds warmth to their beauty, I am almost inclined to forgive them for blocking so much of the spectacular countryside from my view.

I cropped this photo, just so you'd get a glimpse of what's hidden behind the trees. You see now why it's hard to love them being there ....

But now you see why they're so easy to forgive. They are a delight.

And now back in for a cuppa and some of the lemon loaf. As you can see, I need to be quick, given that the Builder and the Wee Guy were nibbling whilst I was snapping.

'If you snooze you lose', is their motto.

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