An Extended Season, Giving Extended Beauty

Winter in Aberdeenshire is simply stunning.

These photos were taken in December of last year.

The Mither Tap, as seen from Pittodrie Estate, is stunning at any time of the year, but the low winter sun adds to the already beautiful scene.

This was taken at lunchtime on December 14th, so you can see that the sun doesn't rise too highly in our sky during the winter months.

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Niseach loves the snow. 

But when you throw a snowball and she excitedly runs for this ball, only for it to disappear, she appears somewhat perplexed at its disappearance.

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This week, just as many were expecting Spring to, well, spring, our winter was extended. This past week has seen the weather pattern named The Beast from the East arrive in the UK. England ground to a halt - little pets - while here in the North, we simply savoured the beauty once again.

I took these photos yesterday from our front door. No, I wasn't venturing any further right then, though I thoroughly enjoyed a walk later in the day.

It was so peaceful and serene after the snow shower .....

...until Niseach arrived on the scene.

'Peaceful and serene' are not words that readily come to mind where Niseach is concerned.

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Robins are always a delight, and we scattered seed here in our window basket to encourage this lovely fella to come visit often. He did, and we loved to see him every time.

(btw, the 'artwork' on the window panes is not grime or dirt, nor is it due to a lack of cleaning. This window sill is Niseach's favourite afternoon seat, and so the artwork is solely her doing. I knew y'all wanted to know that.)

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The following two photos were taken today, March 2nd.

I guess the extended winter reminds us that there are times in our lives when we expect certain seasons of our lives to pass, but God has different plans.

Maybe we expected to be out of Winter and into Spring already, but God has extended our Winter season for another while.

He will move us into another season in His time. His timing is always perfect. And there is always beauty to be found just where He has placed us.

At times like these, all we can do is 

'wait on the Lord, be of good courage (Psalm 27:14), 

'be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10), and

'rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him' (Psalm 37:7)

The next season will come. Meanwhile, it is our delight to love Him, trust Him, rejoice in Him, and rest .... 

"Come unto Me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

One day, all our earthly seasons will have passed, and if we are in Christ, we will be called Home to our eternal rest. There will be no spiritual winters in our eternal Home!


Review of 2017, and a Happy New Year to Y'all

Well, 2017 was quite the year. 

Just four days into the new year, Mum was diagnosed with cancer, and for most of the year, this has been our constant theme.

In January, we all got together for Mum's birthday. It was only two weeks after Mum's terminal cancer diagnosis had been confirmed, and so was definitely a day of strong emotions.

How do you celebrate a birthday when you know it's going to be the person's last birthday? 

Well, you count your blessings. The greatest blessing of all was that we all knew that though Mum's life here on earth was coming to an end, she was going Home, where she is now experiencing life as we can only begin to imagine.

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In February, Calum Stewart took Niseach to the top of the Mither Tap (seen in the background of this photo). When they came home, she told me that in her five months of life, it was the best fun she'd ever had.

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In March, we took a gorgeous trip along the North-east coast, and I discovered that the East is almost as bonny as the West.


lighthouses ...

amazing ruins, 

and gorgeous sunsets.

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Most of the first half of the year was taken up with trips to and from Lewis, and coming off the ferry one evening, I noticed this sign.

Clearly, no one had told the sign maker about Ness, the real capital of the Hebrides.

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If I wasn't travelling home, I could often be found like this ...

I do believe I spent a good deal of time admiring this little bundle, a bundle which has made such a difference to my life since she became part of our family.

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In May, Catherine was able to come to visit us in Lewis, and on one of our days together, we took a wee trip to Harris. Niseach absolutely loved it, and smiled the whole day.

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The MV Loch Seaforth coming in to Ullapool. This was when I headed home again for the first time after Mum's passing. All was calm and beautiful on the outside. In my heart, things were somewhat different.

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I took this photo sometime during August. This was during my Quiet Time. 

Yes, I have a rather needy baby.

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Towards the end of August, almost as a smacking reminder that 'life goes on', I travelled to Northern Ireland in preparation for the birth of our first grandchild.

Some of Catherine's church friends had organised a surprise baby shower, and safe to say, we laughed a lot that day. They're a crazy bunch over the Irish Sea!

Whilst we waited for baby to arrive, Catherine and I (okay, I) decided her garden needed some TLC. She and I went for a wander in a Garden Centre and filled a trolley. She made clear she thought I was off my trolley.

And then, on the fourth of September, Caleb Finlay James was born to Catherine and John.

I already posted all about his arrival here, but I can't resist posting a few photos from that amazing day,

A couple of months on, and here he is ....

The wonder of modern technology has never been so precious to us! Having daily photos and videos and regular Facetime fun times is such a blessing and joy to us all. 

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And, finally, on Boxing Day, the day after spending Christmas with a very noticeably 'empty chair', we had the delightful news of DR and Diana's engagement.

And so, 2017 has closed its doors. It was a year in which I had more times of trial than in any previous year of my life, and it was also a year in which we had unspeakable blessings. Through it all, God has taught, and continues to teach me, that HE is my Rock; that He is unmovable, unchangeable, and that HE must be my all in all.

In good times and in bad, He is the sovereign God, in control of every jot and tittle of our providence. I am learning to rest in this.

And now, as the first day of this new year draws to a close, I would wish every one of you a Happy New Year. Lest any of you be in doubt, the happiness I wish for you is, without doubt, the happiness that's to be found in Christ. Because after all, what will it profit any of us were we to gain the whole world and lose our soul.

That would be the most unimaginable horror rather than happiness.

Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places.



Last Friday was utterly traumatic for me.

I had to leave this little lady ...

and this scenery...

and head into the city.

Into the shops. You see, shops and I don't really get on that well. Maybe our problem is that we see so little of each other. I don't come visit often, so shops just don't have the opportunity to befriend me.

Anyway .... minutes after arriving, I saw this sign:

I thought all was well with the world until I discovered that Debenham's Personal Shopper wasn't willing to go traipsing through Aberdeen's streets to do all my shopping. Pfft, what's all that about? I didn't need anything in Debenhams, so the Personal Shopper idea was dead and buried.

Unbeknown to me, though, Debenhams have installed a Costa Coffee shop on their ground floor and so I decided this was going to be the best use of my time. Costa's latte and their Bakewell tart are simply delicious.

Having enjoyed my sit down, my coffee, and my tart, I really couldn't face much shopping. I went to one store - The White Company - bought what I needed and headed back to the car.

No kidding, that was enough for me. I looked at my list, proudly drew a line through one item, and headed home.

After all, how could I stay away any longer from .....


Okay, so maybe y'all don't need to answer that last question.


Babies and Culture

We want to introduce Caleb at the earliest age to cultural diversity, so we made sure over the past few days that ..

...he got to watch Match of the Day,

he watched/slept through the Last Night of the Proms,

and lastly, but certainly not least, he sat through a marathon session of Pride and Prejudice with his Mammy and Granny.

He told us, in no uncertain terms, that Pride and Prejudice was his favourite, but that we weren't to tell Uncle Calum. 

He also promised me that next year, he would stay awake for at least part of the Last Night of the Proms.

And he vowed that he wouldn't become football obsessed like his uncle. 

All the opinions and words here are his own, and are in no way influenced by Granny. 


Labour Day .... UK Style

Apparently, in the USofA, last Monday was Labour Day (though undoubtedly, it's written Labor Day). Well, I must tell you all that last Monday was most definitely a Labour Day for us here, and by mid afternoon, that labouring had given Catherine and John their first child, and given the Builder and I our first grandchild.

Here's Caleb Finlay James a minute or two after his birth with his already doting daddy.

To say we are all in awe and in love would be understatements.

Here he is wrapped in a blanket that my Mum had knitted. When Catherine was up in Lewis back in January, Mum gave her a blue blanket and a pink one she'd already made. She pretty much knew she would not be here to see her first great-grandchild, but she wanted Catherine to have these blankets. While the blanket is most certainly not as precious as the bundle inside, it is still very precious to Catherine.

Here's our new bundle in the cradle he got from his great auntie Marina. (Emphasis on great as in old. Not as in fab. Noooo, no no, she is our old great auntie. That sounds way older than Granny!)

Uncle Calum made sure to introduce him at the first opportunity to a football and all matters football related.

Those of us who know Calum know that he talks of football matters a lot. I mean incessantly. Caleb gave a perfect demonstration of how we all tend to feel when Calum Stewart is on his 375th footballing fact of the day.

Apologies, son, but this is how it feels to us too. Caleb is speaking for us all ...

No doubt, I shall be inundating y'all with photos of our new gift in future posts. For now, I shall leave you with this thought: 

In July this year, I sat right beside my Mum's bedside as she drew her last breath and passed from this life into eternity.

Just a couple of months later, I sat right beside Catherine's bedside as my grandchild drew his first breath is this world.

Death and life. Life and death. Nothing is meaningless in God's world.


Life Goes On ...

And so the weeks pass, and life goes on. 

I have come to the conclusion that every one who is grieving, or lonely, or sad ought to have a Niseach in their lives.

I do realise not everyone can have a dog, but neither am I being facetious. I'm not sure there can be better therapy than having a loving dog as company, and Niseach is as sweet and loving and, erm, needy, as any canine friend could be.

I wuv her. She is the perfect therapy for sadness.

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Dad came out to Aberdeenshire for a few days last month with Marina (my sister) and the family. We visited Barra Berries and enjoyed some fun ...

....and some fruity ice-cream.

It was so good having Dad out and having Marina and the troops here. I miss having them nearby, and feel terribly being away, especially from Dad, these days. 

I keep telling myself that God has a reason for everything in our providence, and our being on the mainland at this time is in God's plan, and is for a reason. It's very possible that only Eternity will reveal the reasons. I leave it at that.

While the folks were here, we went in to Aberdeen - to the shops - one day. I was heading towards the lift in Debenhams, returning to the car and minding my own business, when I saw these ...

You like? Yes, I do too.

But that's not why I'm showing you this photo. These boots were for sale in Debenhams, and the photo below was taken that same minute and shows MY BOOTS.

Well, I'd like to see what Marina has to say about this, I thought! My boots, which are about ** years of age (I daren't let her know) are practically identical to the ones for sale in August 2017 in Debenhams.

Hah! Put that in your pipe and smoke it, I told her! Seems I'm the one ahead in the fashion game after all.

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While we were up in Lewis, Diana, DR's girlfriend, arrived at Marina's house with this...

Now, those of you who know me know that there aren't many ways into my heart, but the ways there are all involve food.

Or dogs.

But food is good, and Hummingbird's Cookies and Cream Layer Cake is a definite way into my heart.

Oh boy, it was good.

Overall, I've found Hummingbird cakes to be spot on every time I've made them. And this one most certainly didn't disappoint.

That same weekend, Diana and DR climbed the Clisham (remind me to tell you about the wellies story - in another post), and took some stunning photos. Here's one of them.

Harris landscape is so different to Lewis - Lewis is flat, Harris most certainly is not! 

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Almost all the time, Calum Stewart reminds me of DR. At other times, I actually think he is DR.  As I sat in DR's flat this particular Sunday afternoon, I kept having to remind myself that this was Calum and not his older brother! They are so alike in so  many different ways. I can assure you, this Mum is not complaining. Not one little bit.

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I've written almost a whole post and haven't mentioned the Builder yet. Thankfully, my blog post is not an indication of his importance in my life.... honestly.

A wee story: a year or so ago, we were in Northern Ireland, and the Builder met this fellow for the first time. This fellow - we'll call him Thomas (because that's his name) - hugged him as they were parting. 

Thomas was then mortified that he had hugged the Builder - a man he barely knew!

We've had such a laugh at Thomas's mortification, but the Builder assured him that there aren't too many guys by whom he'd be happy to be hugged, but Thomas was definitely one of the few!

Friends are such a blessing, and friends with whom we have precious fellowship in Christ is a special kind of blessing. The Builder loves these guys so much.

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Calum Stewart and I left the mainland last week to come to Northern Ireland, and I couldn't help but notice this on the side of our aeroplane.

"Faster than road or rail"

Erm ... I should smile and say so. 

This ve-hi-cle had better chug along more rapidly than any car or any train on road or track. 

Our reason, of course, for going to Northern Ireland was to see this lady. All being well, the Builder will join us when she finally pops, and our first grandchild is born.

Yes, I said grandchild.

Yes, I squealed. Frankly, I can not wait!

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And so, as you see, life goes on. We have so many good things in life - things to be enjoyed, but from now on, they will be lived without Mum. 

Mum will not enjoy cake with us any more (she loved food rather like I love food); she will not have fun times in ice-cream shops with the grandchildren any more; she will not be with us in the shops again (she loved shopping - like Marina. Unlike me.) But of course, Mum has enjoyment right now like she never, ever got to experience here on earth. As the catechism she quoted so frequently during her illness says:

'The souls of believers are, at their death, made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.'

Her body rests in the grave - a place Christ sanctified by resting there Himself, but her soul is in the presence of Christ right now. I want to spend more time thinking about this, but I have to confess that these past weeks have seen me spend much more time in sadness that I can't tell her about what Calum said, or what Marina and I ate for lunch, or the new shoes I bought (that even Marina approved of...:) ), or the fact that I was able to get all three washings dry outside, or what I'm making for dinner that evening. You see, there wasn't an aspect of our lives that we didn't blether to Mum about (Marina will say the same thing), and so there's not one thing I do or say or see or eat or read or hear that I don't think, 'Oh, wait till I tell .... '. 

Soon, all being well, Dad's first great-granchild will be born. And so our lives go on. One generation passes away; another is born. Soon it will be myself, and my body will rest, awaiting Christ's return. Family will grieve, and life will go on. How true the little verse that says:

Only one life, 
't will soon be past
Only what's done 
for Christ will last.

We'd do well to live with this in mind.

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