The Best Laid Plans .... an' all that

Last Saturday evening, I posted this photo

on my Homeschool on the Croft Facebook page, and on Instagram, with the following caption:

This is my Sunday morning. So many people want to misunderstand what it means to 'keep the Lord's Day holy'. Some seem to think it's a list of do-and-don't rules, but to those of us who love the Lord and, by extension, love His day, this is not remotely how we think. Rather, we have the privilege and gift of being able to set aside our week's duties, and switch off from the chores of the week. For this reason, I love to have the house tidy on a Saturday night, as much of tomorrow's dinner prepared, and be able to settle immediately after I get up in the morning with my cuppa and God's Word. I am going slowly through this book too - The Heart of Christ, by Thomas Goodwin. The book was a gift from DR last Christmas, and I'm only now getting into it, and loving the precious thoughts between the covers.

As I posted it, I wanted to add a few words to mothers of young children who are likely to read the caption above and, with a frustrated sigh, moan: "If only!"

'If only,' they'd say. 

'If only I could have the freedom on Saturday to get my whole house clean, but instead of a clean house on Saturday evening, mine looks like a bomb site!'

'If only I'd been able to peel all tomorrow's vegetables on Saturday, ready in their pans to be cooked after church on Sunday.'

'If only I'd have a full night's sleep, and waken fresh and ready to read God's Word and a good book.'

'If only when I get up on Sunday morning, I'd have time alone to read and meditate on the precious truths in this book.'

To them, I'd say:

'Mums, this is a season in your life where a tidy-house-Saturday is not only impossible, it's actually not desirable. Your house is your home, your children's home, and because it is, their stuff is going to be here, there, and everywhere. One more word: don't wish these days away. I can assure you, they'll pass quickly enough.

'And mums, I know that normally it's easy for me to have plenty time in peace and quiet on a Sunday morning to read, but it was not always like this. Far from it! This is my stage of life. And just remember - time and peace come at the cost of an emptying house. Let me tell you, it ain't all it's cracked up to be! 

'And one more thing, Mums: your vocation right now, being mum to your children, being chief cleaner-clearer-nappy-changer-food-maker-tidy-upper-listening-ear and everything in between - this is your God-given privileged vocation right now. I love this quote:

Truly, Mums, you are NOT failing if being at home with your children is your lot instead of being able to take them all to church. You are NOT failing if you're not able to be at midweek meetings because your children's routine bedtime comes before the meeting begins, far less, ends! Honestly, your 'job' is one of inestimable privilege.'

*      *      *

And so, having said all that, I want to now tell you last Sunday panned out in reality. Read on...

At 2am, Calum had to get up with Niseach to let her out. She was desperate for the toilet, and let's just say her poo was not, erm, 'normal'. 

At 7 am, I woke with Niseach crying, again needing out. Things were bad. I shall leave it at that. I can assure you, you don't want the details.

I showered her rear end.

She then needed out again.

I had to shower her again.

I was concerned that she was going to be left on her own for an hour-and-a-half if we left her to go to church, but I was convinced that 'she'll be fine, Mum'.

She wasn't. 

I can't describe (and wouldn't, even if I could) the smell that met us when we returned from church. Calum escaped and took Niseach out, and I began cleaning. Cleaning, and lighting candles, and spraying. I was so desperate to sort the smell out that I took my duster and sprayed Pledge on all the living room furniture. Lemon Flash for all the floors.... And so it went on. 

I eventually began making dinner, didn't get out in the evening because I couldn't risk leaving Niseach on her own again, and all this time .....

....these lay almost untouched. 

So you see - the best laid plans of mice and men ....an' all that. It happens to us all! 


July's Trip to Lewis II

Before the photos, I want to have another wee look at Psalm 105. This is what I posted in yesterday's post:

1.O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon His name: make known His deeds among the people.
Sing unto Him, sing psalms unto Him: talk ye of all His wondrous works.
Glory ye in His holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.
Seek the Lord, and His strength: seek His face evermore.
Remember His marvellous works that He hath done; His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth;
O ye seed of Abraham His servant, ye children of Jacob His chosen.
He is the Lord our God: His judgments are in all the earth.

He hath remembered His covenant for ever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations.

What I noticed was the number of times the psalmist mentions 'Him', 'His', and 'He'.

You see it? It's all about HIM! And when we take our eyes off ourselves, and look firmly to Him, then we see with the proper perspective. Instead of seeing all of life through the lense of our trials - as we're prone to do, rather we see the whole of life through Him. And when we do that, our blessings are easy to find, and a joy to behold.

Our trip home to Lewis had another blessing other than the beaches, the weather, and time with Caleb. We also got to spend time with DR and his fiance, Diana. Soon, it'll be their own wedding, but last week, they were attending the wedding of friends, so I took the opportunity to grab some photos in Marina's garden between the marriage service and the reception.

Because her future mother-in-law was right there, Diana did the decent thing and told DR he was holding her much too close.

Yeah, she looks like she really doesn't like that, DR. 


Decorum was restored ....

And I couldn't but think how lovely it is that DR chose someone just like his Mum to be his wife. You know, tall and slender and elegant. Yup, just like me.

Just what you all were thinking too, right?

Yes, thought so.

It wasn't long before their attention was taken elsewhere. What on earth could be more worthy of their attention than me??

Ah, it's the wee fella. I can easily live with coming second to him...

It really is such a joy to me to see DR at this stage of life. The first stage of his studying is complete, and the second part is beginning; he has employment, as well as his 'other job' with the Fire Service; he has a home; and he has Christ above everything. These are wonderful blessings and enough for a lifetime of praise and thanksgiving, but it truly makes this Mum's heart glad to see him engaged and soon to be married to a girl who so clearly loves him, and is adored in return. 

Marriage is such a wonderful gift, and the most beautiful picture of Christ and His church. We will see so much more fully its meaning in Eternity, but even what we do see here - through a glass darkly, admittedly - makes our heart soar in thanksgiving to God for such a blessing. 

And so, in the sentiments of the Psalm (above), I will give thanks to the Lord, I will speak of His wonderful deeds; I will remember His marvellous works, and my heart will rejoice in seeking Him.

He is worth talking about! In fact, I'm going to copy out the Psalm again, and highlight these divine pronouns, just to draw our attention, once again, to Him!

1.O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon His name: make known His deeds among the people.
Sing unto Him, sing psalms unto Him: talk ye of all His wondrous works.
Glory ye in His holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.
Seek the Lord, and His strength: seek His face evermore.
Remember His marvellous works that He hath done; His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth;
O ye seed of Abraham His servant, ye children of Jacob His chosen.
He is the Lord our God: His judgments are in all the earth.

He hath remembered His covenant for ever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations.


July's Trip to Lewis

You know, sometimes when we go through a time of trial, our trial becomes so all-consuming that all our blessings are seen through the light - or darkness, rather - of that trial. And so, instead of counting our many blessings, which are greater than we can articulate and more numerous than we can count, we mope and weigh down our heart with our woes and our afflictions.

I was reading Psalm 105 yesterday, and these words sprung off the page and into (I hope) my heart:

1.O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon His name: make known His deeds among the people.
Sing unto Him, sing psalms unto Him: talk ye of all His wondrous works.
Glory ye in His holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.
Seek the Lord, and His strength: seek His face evermore.
Remember His marvellous works that He hath done; His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth;
O ye seed of Abraham His servant, ye children of Jacob His chosen.
He is the Lord our God: His judgments are in all the earth.
He hath remembered His covenant for ever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations.

With this in mind, I am going to write a couple of blog posts about our recent trip home. 

Home is the Isle of Lewis. Obviously.

The posts will be weighed in favour of photos rather than of words, and when you see the photos, you'll understand why:

Catherine, Caleb, and I took a trip to Harris along with my sister, Marina, and my niece, Iona.

To say we were almost bowled over by the beauty of God's creation around us is an understatement. Here, Catherine and Caleb and looking out on Loch Seaforth, enjoying the peace and tranquility it affords.

Erm, hang on. Did I say peace and tranquility? And did you actually believe me, considering I'd already told you my sister was with us.

Really, shame on your naivety.

I call it 'youngest child syndrome', and many of you not-youngest-siblings will agree that the condition is widespread and is utterly non-treatable.

This wee fella. What can I say? Other than that I love him so very, very much.

Honestly, almost around every corner, we ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the beauty before us. The weather was gorgeous - about 25C (77F), with a gentle breeze to keep away midges and, as you see, stunningly blue skies. In other words: perfection.

There is no doubt that our wonderful Creator, who showered such delights on us, is a God of design and beauty and kindness. What therapy for mind and soul these views are!

We stopped off at Horgabost, had our picnic lunch on the machair, and then enjoyed a couple of hours on the sands.

As you see, even on the most perfect of days, our island beaches have plenty space for all visitors. Crowded beaches are not something we know anything of in Lewis or Harris!

Caleb was flying high, enjoying the attention, undoubtedly, more than the scenery. 

And surrounded by all of us, attention was most certainly not in short supply.

How could it be, when he is such an adorable bundle of utter joy?!

Did I mention joy? Yes, I have so many blessings to bring joy to my heart, and of temporal blessings, this wee guy is most certainly a big part of that.

"And no matter what kind of face you put on, young man, Granny is still going to smother you in love and hugs and kisses."

Aye, probably even when you're a teenager. Now, wont that be fun!


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.

*      *      *

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.

*      *      *

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.

*      *      *

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.)

*      *      *

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.

*      *      *

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.

*      *      *

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.

*      *      *

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.

*      *      *

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.

*      *      *

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.

*      *      *

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.

*      *      *

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

Yes, I have a rather needy baby.

*      *      *

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. 

*      *      *

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.

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