Some of the Psalms Mum Loved

"The Lord will give His people strength,
and with peace bless them all."
                                                                           Psalm 29:11 (Scottish Metrical Psalms)

These words came with such force to Mum in December '16, when she was down in a Glasgow hospital having some tests done. Mum had had some rather unpleasant tests and was, without doubt, anxious about their results. Indeed, the result of these test was what gave us all the news in that first week of January this year that she had terminal cancer.

However, during that day or two in Glasgow, the Lord spoke these words into her heart. She wasn't even aware she knew a Psalm with these words, and to begin with, she had no idea where the words were to be found. 

But she soon found them....

...and circled them in her Bible.

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Mum read from this Bible every day, and the Psalms (as you can see!) were frequently visited.


See all the notations at the end of each Psalm? As she systematically read through the metrical Psalms, she drew a wee tick - or number, or line, or circle, or stroke! As you can see, Mum was pretty much running out of marks to use, so frequent was her readings of these wonderful words from God's Word.

Here were some of her favourites:

These words: 
"And by my God assisting me,
I overleap a wall"
                                                       (Psalm 18:29b)

were made very precious to Mum both before she first sat at the Lord's Table for the first time, and then before an operation she was having in 1987.

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Now, do you remember me posting in the past about my Mum's auntie Catriona? Read here to get a fuller story of her emigration, and her eventual passing in BC, Canada. Well, these verses were made very precious to Auntie Catriona in her loneliness and her heartache.

"Teirgidh iadsan 's thèid iad às
ach mairidh tusa, Dhè:
Seadh teirgidh iadsan 's gabhaidh seach
mar eudach sean gu lèir.
Feuch caochlaidh tu mar thrusgan iad,
is caochl'ear iad gun cheist'.
Tha thus' a mhàin gun chaochladh ort,
's do bhliadhnaidh buan am feast'.
                                                                                     (Psalm 102:2627, Gaelic)

Mum has these circled in her Bible too, with a reference to Auntie Catriona. It's quite a thought that they are now together.

Quite a thought, indeed.

*      *      *

One more:

Since Mum became ill, these words at the beginning of Psalm 77 became a constant favourite too. She asked me to read them to her time and time again over these past months. She would say, 'Read them in Gaelic. They have so much more power'.

"Dh'èigh mi ri Dia gu h-àrd le 'm ghuth,
dh'èigh mi le m'ghuth gu h-àrd;
Is thug e, 'nuair a ghlaodh mi ris,
sàr-èisdeachd dhomh gun dàil."

She would say to me, 'Oh, Anne, 'dh'èigh mi ... dh'èigh mi gu h-àrd. Agus dh'èist e.....gun dàil'

*      *      *

On the night Mum passed away, as we left Bethesda Hospice in the early hours of the morning, these were the words that hit me so strongly:

 The storm is changed into a calm
at His command and will;
So that the waves, which raged before,
now quiet are and still.
Then are they glad, because at rest
and quiet now they be:
So to the haven He them brings,
which they desired to see.
                                                                Psalm 107:29, 30

When I looked through Mum's bible, she had already circled these words. They'd obviously meant something to her (at different times - notice the different pens used), and now they'd spoken to me about Mum.

God's Word is so precious, and surely the Psalms are truly an 'anatomy of the soul', as John Calvin called them. How many souls - in times of great joy and in times of great sorrow; in times of thanksgiving, and in times of pleading  - resort to the Psalms and find comfort there?

We are still in times of sorrow, of grieving, of pleading, and yes of thanksgiving too. Whilst Mum has few of these emotions now, we still crave comfort and encouragement from the Psalms she knew and loved so well.


Illness and Death Beautiful?

You know, over the past seven months, since my Mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer, we have had many good moments. In the days since Mum passed away, we have relived many of them, delighting in her assurance of her being the Lord’s and the eternal security that was absolutely sure and certain because of the unchangeable, irrevocable, sure and steadfast covenant made in all eternity within the Trinity.

I may talk about some of these ‘beautiful moments’ at some stage, but first some reality.

Death is not beautiful. Terminal illness is not lovely.
There is simply nothing romantic about God’s beautiful creation being ravaged by the effects of the Fall and of sin. 

Put simply, it is ugly.

There. I’ve said it.

I have read many accounts of the deathbeds of believers and stories are told of the sick relative almost smiling their way into Heaven; of loved ones falling peacefully into the arms of Jesus; and of angels singing as the soul of the believer was carried from the scene of time into the eternal realms.

Well, I am not doubting any accounts I’ve read. I know for a fact that God has granted to many families times of delighting in Him as loved ones were ushered to their Heavenly Home. But I want to tell ‘our story’ if for no other reason than to encourage other families of believers who don’t have such lovely experiences. I don’t want families to wonder whether something was ‘wrong’ with the faith of a believing family member whose experience was much more down to earth, much more gritty, and much less dreamy.

Since Mum was diagnosed with untreatable cancer at the beginning of January this year, she had struggles. Whilst it was the case that her soul rested in the finished work of Christ, whilst she never had any complaints of ‘why me?’ (far from it), and whilst she found countless reasons for giving thanks to her Father in Heaven, yet she could not lift her mind out of the valley into which it went when she received the news.

She did not like having cancer.

Yes, she was thankful. She had assurance of her salvation. She was surrounded by her loving husband and family. But she was sad.

She looked on in awe at others who had cancer but were upbeat and managed to keep living life to the full. She simply couldn’t do it. Although she knew she was going to be in Heaven, and although every believer looks forward to a time when there is going to be no sin in their experience, yet it’s almost as though she was grieving what she was going to lose out on. I don’t know if that’s an accurate reflection of what was going on in her mind, but is it not human (though less spiritual that the way we ought to be) to grieve over what we will not see? She was not going to see her first great-grandchild, due in just six weeks’ time. She was not going to see her eldest grandson marrying, or the younger grandchildren choose career paths. These are very temporal occurrences, and very human ways of looking at things, but until the believer is glorified and made sinless, do we not have a tendency to be temporal and human in our outlook?

As I hinted, this is not a picture-perfect look at how the believer ought to be in their final months. This is simply a look at what our reality was.

In the first few months of the year, she had her greatest temporal delights in being surrounded by her family, and her greatest spiritual delights in listening to sermons, in their daily family worship times with only herself and Dad, and in the prayers of the Lord’s people who came to visit.
These three things were a blessing and a delight to her soul.

As time went on and her body weakened, she struggled to listen to sermons. She was unable to concentrate on anything that lasted the length of a sermon, and so her daily times of listening to sermons with Dad became less frequent.

She still loved her and Dad’s private family worship times and would say, ‘Dad prays so beautifully’. These daily times were her greatest delight. But towards the end of the six months, she needed all prayers to be short. Maybe some people feel this was unspiritual, but isn’t it amazing how we expect more from others than we do from ourselves. After all, I know when I’m unwell – even with a flu type virus or with a migraine – I struggle with too much noise, I can barely make conversation, and my concentration on spiritual things is next to zilch. If this is excusable with a virus, what on earth do we expect when a person’s body is being decimated by cancer?!

Our old minister used to warn his congregation that now is the time to seek the Lord. Whilst God’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save even to our last breath, he always warned us that a time of illness is not the time to begin seeking the Lord …. that our every faculty would be so taken up by our illness that we would simply not have the capacity to think clearly or concentrate fully on other matters. Oh how true! Even when, for decades of our lives, communing with God in prayer has been the most natural way to begin the day, to end the day, and to spend many a spell during a day, I can say with all certainty that a time of serious illness diminishes our capacity for all these things.

So if you are not in Christ, I can’t emphasise it enough: Seek Christ NOW.

Because, honestly, a time of illness will take up all your thoughts, and matters of the soul will simply not be your priority.

And so it was with Mum. As her body weakened, and tiredness was a constant factor in her daily life, she wanted everything to be short: short visits, short prayers, short conversations. Along with a number of other things I’ve learnt by going through this experience, I would know now to keep visits very short with anyone who is very ill. In fact, I will write a post later on ‘What I’ve Learnt … ‘, because yes, as a family we learnt a lot that I hope I’ll have the grace to put into practice in the future.

On Mum’s last day here on earth, and as she told me very matter-of-factly that ‘this is the end, Anne’, we spoke of how illness had so taken up our thoughts over the past weeks and months, that we’d barely talked about Heaven. Again, this was our experience. It wasn’t romantic, but it was a stark reminder of what the Fall has brought into the world, of what sin has done, and of the reality of what physical illness does.
Our constant comfort was not in how we were feeling – after all:
 ‘feelings come and feelings go, 
and feelings are deceiving….’ 
Rather, our absolute comfort was in the unbreakable, unalterable covenant made in all eternity, in which Mum was. This is our assurance. This is our comfort. This is where we all need to be. And this is where our comfort was in all the months that illness took away, bit by bit, the Mum we had been used to all our lives, and this is where our comfort is now that that battle is over.

I’d never before been in the position of seeing illness and death close up. Having seen it, I hate sin and its effects all the more; and I love and wonder all the more at the Saviour who has overcome death, who brings beauty out of the ashes of death, and who is the resurrection and the life. In death, as in life, HE is everything.

Mum and Dad, taken at Catherine's wedding almost two years ago.


Storm by Day, Peace by Night

The storm is changed into a calm
At His command and will;
So that the waves, which raged before,
Now quiet are and still.

Then are they glad, because at rest
And quiet now they be:
So to the haven He them brings,
Which they desired to see.

*      *      *

At midnight, last Saturday night, just as we were entering the Lord's Day, my Mum entered her everlasting Day of Rest. By the time our precious Lord's Day began, she was in the presence of our beloved Saviour.

I will write more later, but I quote these verses of Psalm 1O7 because they spoke to me so strongly as I left Bethesda Hospice at one in the morning. The weather all day Saturday had been wet and wild. It was more like a day in February than a day in July, and the wind and rain battered the windows in Mum's hospice room all day. I am not aware of when the weather changed, but when the Builder and I walked out of Bethesda in the small hours of the night, the peace and calm and beautiful moonshine struck me. All was quiet.

There was peace and beauty outside. There was unimaginable peace and beauty for Mum in her new Home. 

The weather itself seemed to reflect the circumstances of Mum's day and night.


More Mobile Phone Photos

I know y'all are desperate to see more of my mobile photos, so here are some of the latest ...

What can I say? She has taken over my camera.

And my house. And my thoughts. And our family. Frankly, I have no recollection of life pre-Niseach.

*      *      *

Now, there's a bit of a story behind the following photos. My mum was getting rid of some sandals. Perfectly good sandals, I might add.

But when I showed them to my younger sister (the fashion-concious-fashion-savvy one in the family), she almost choked on her Latte. 

That's what fashion-concious-fashion-savvy people drink, you know.

She completely and utterly, and with all seriousness, banned me from even thinking about wearing them.

Now, I do apologise for asking the Homeschool on the Croft FB readers before I asked my loyal blog readers, but when I asked on Facebook, the comments came flowing in thick and fast.

In fact, I have never had as many comments - ever.

One hundred and two, to be precise.

And it has to be said that most folks agreed with my fashion-savvy sister.

What do y'all think? I honestly (totally honestly) have no idea what's wrong with them. 

No. idea.

*      *      *

I was making lunch for Mum and Dad yesterday, and when my folks have fish, they must have fish knives and forks. It struck me that this strand of etiquette may be dying out, but I may be wrong. Personally, I like to use fish knives for my fish dishes, but I have been known to be a Philistine and use ordinary cutlery for such a meal. 

Is this forgivable? Indeed, is it so totally forgivable that the question doesn't even seem pertinent to you? 

I kinda need to know whether I'm hanging on for dear life to an outdated (like, apparently, the sandals) practice, or should I keep up the fish-knives-for-fish habit?

(Oh, as an aside, the tray cloth in the photo was embroidered by my mum when she was at school. She was 12 at the time, so that tray cloth is around 67 years old. Cool, eh?)

*      *      *

I'm staying at my sister's home right now (yes, *sigh*, the fashionable one), and when I came out of the bathroom yesterday morning, this is what awaited me.

No, I wasn't in the bathroom for long. 

Yes, she was missing me.

And this wee face is what was staring at me as a dried my hair at a downstairs mirror.

Tell me: is she not the sweetest wee face y'all have seen today?


Niseach's First Wash, Cut, and Blowdry

Apparently, I was looking a wee bit shabby - or maybe it was 'shaggy' they said - and so it was time for a haircut.

Quite honestly, I was happy with the look, and given that I'm always hearing people waxing lyrical on the loveliness of shabby chic, I couldn't see any reason for me to endure the pains of a three-hour long grooming session.

But hey, who am I to decide on these things?

One final run-around in freedom, and off to the groomer's van it was.

Actually, I fell for the groomer. She was lovely and I could tell she thought I was lovely too. Frankly, how could she think otherwise, eh?

I got a thorough brushing, and then it was into the bath. I absolutely love being in the bath at home, but oh boy, this one was even better fun. It was deep, so my shaking only half-soaked my groomer. When I do that at home, Mammy get totally drenched. Such fun!

Seriously, what it this all about? I was so glad I couldn't see myself in the mirror at this stage: seeing Mum's photos after the event was bad enough. I think this...... thing .... was placed on my head so the sound of the crazy blower wouldn't frighten me too much. That blower was just a short mini-dry before the b-i-g  
l-o-n-g drying event took place.

As I said, I hadn't seen myself, so quite happily posed for the camera. Mammy says that ignorance is bliss, and though I'm not so sure about that, it certainly meant I smiled for the camera rather than hiding my face in shame.

Then came the drying and brushing. Wow, this took ages. Like, forever. (Don't tell Mum I said 'Like, forever', because there will be no doggy treats for me for the rest of the day. Well, or until I give her My Look. Works every time. Every. Single. Time.)

I tried to be as good as gold, and patiently stood for Lauren. She was amazed how good I was considering this was my first grooming.

I told her: 'I aim to please'.

 She liked that.

Finally, with 5 minutes to go, Daddy arrived. That meant Mum could go outside and take a photo from outside of Lauren's van. 

Three hours, but oh boy, did it feel good afterwards! I'm so glad they gave me this haircut before the really warm weather comes. 

I mean .... really warm weather is gonna come, right?

And here's the New Me. You like?


Guest Post ... from Niseach

I'm going to give you a glimpse into a couple of days in my life this past week ....

I woke up on Thursday morning to this.

And I thought Christmas had come early this year.

I could hardly believe it, because this white stuff had been on the ground a wee while back, but Calum was telling me that winter was pretty much gone, and now that the days are getting longer, we will soon be able to spend pretty much all day outside playing football.

Well, I love playing in the snow, except for one thing: it goes into clumps on my fur and when I try to take the clumps off, I hurt myself. The amazing thing is that when I come inside, and mammy wraps a towel around me, these clumps of snow all go and I'm just a wee bit wet.

I can't wait until mum begins homeschooling me and I'll get to learn why all this stuff happens.

Once I've been dried off a wee bit, I curl up in my corner for a snooze. Mammy always makes sure I'm cozy, and I don't push the blanket off me because I know she likes me to look cozy.

(Calum is teaching me how to make Mum feel good when she wraps us up and gives us loads to eat. Calum is a real pro at this making-Mum-feel-good stuff.)

He's also a real pro at going outside for a kick-about without me. 

When he does that, I jump up onto the window sill and put on my cutest, poutiest face.

And I wait for him to pity me enough to let me out to play ball with him.

I wait, and wait ...

And then I realise that he prefers playing football without me.

I'd almost fall out with him except for this ....

He takes me to the top of the world ...

I mean the actual top of the world ...

Or maybe it was another world altogether. Wherever it was, it was the best walk I've ever had.

Hope y'all enjoyed that wee insight into my life here in Aberdeenshire. Mum and Calum are always talking about how beautiful it all is. I'm sure it is, but I'm just happy being with them. 


Language ...

I posted this picture on my Facebook page the other day, asking those reading to choose one of these pills.

I chose the red one because even though it's been a life long dream of mine to play the piano, to be able to communicate with anyone, anywhere in the world, in their own language would be one of the most incredible experiences we could have, don't you think?

One of the Facebook commenters said: 

"I'd choose the red pill, and then I'd sit in cafes all over the world, listening to the conversations going on all around me."

Wouldn't that be amazing!

It reminded me of when I worked in the Barber shop in Stornoway. When I'd be cutting someone's hair and making the usual barber-customer conversation, I always remember how different that conversation felt if I was able to ascertain that the customer had Gaelic, and we would then blether in our native tongue. There is an immediate bond between people who speak the same language because language is more than letters making up words.

It's more than a collection of words. In the world I inhabit, everyone speaks English and understands English, but only some were Gaelic speakers. There was intimacy and a bond that comes only between people who speak the same language, and I think if that language is what may be termed a 'minority language', then finding others to speak with in this tongue becomes even more precious.

When I was thinking of this the other day, my mind was taken to thoughts of what Heaven would be like. There will be no language barrier there! And, much as Gaelic speaks to my heart, I am pretty sure the language of Heaven will not be my beloved mother tongue! Every member of Christ's family will communicate with each other and the bonds will be unspeakably stronger than those bonds I used to feel with the customers in the Barber Shop. The language of Heaven will be a language with which we will all be able to communicate our love to the Saviour without stumbling and flailing over insufficient words. We will be able to speak of God's amazing glory in more meaningful terms than the weak expressions we can muster right now. Don't y'all look forward to this! 

Right now, I am so often frustrated when all I can say is 'Oh, it's amazing' in countless situations. I see a photo like this ...

Volcano Hummingbird (Selasphorus flammula) in Panama by Miguel "Siu" on flickr

 ...and I wonder at the immensity of the Creator's detail and beauty, and my soul sings, my heart pounds in praise, yet all I can muster is, 'Oh, that's amazing!'. 

Ah, but in Heaven, I will be able to express how I feel. And not only will my language be appropriate, how I feel will also be absolutely spot on. There will be no sin, no lack of appreciation, no deadness of soul to dull the praise for my Saviour, my Creator, my Lord.

I am frustrated with my insufficient language too when I think of God's amazing (yes, there's that over-used and yet lacking word again) works of Providence, which has caused me to have a life that most certainly fits these words in Psalm 16:

You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance. (Psalm 16: 5, 6)

What a pleasant and privileged childhood and adulthood He has given me, and when I think about my lot, I am overwhelmed, yet have insufficient words to express the thanks I feel. 

Ah, but in Heaven, we will all have the language to express our thanks perfectly!

And then, I think of God's amazing (yup, it appears again) salvation. All that was done within the Trinity before the world was ever created; and all the blood that was shed in the Old Testament sacrifices, so beautifully yet so insufficiently speaking of that great sacrifice on Calvary. All that Christ has done to secure salvation, and then to have that salvation gifted to me. Me! My heart sings, my breath is almost taken away, and there are simply no words to express my gratitude and my astonishment at what God has done.

Ah, but in Heaven! No language barrier. No fumbling for words in English - or in Gaelic. No frustration at not being able to say what I want to say. Not even a desire to have every earthly language! Because there, the language of Heaven will mean perfect communication, and perfect understanding between every single person there.

In Heaven, our words will be wonderful; but The Word - that Word that was 'made flesh and dwelt among us' (John 1:14) .... He will be 'altogether wonderful'! When I think about these things, I sometimes feel like I can't wait!

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