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.

*      *      *

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.

*      *      *

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! 

*      *      *

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.

*      *      *

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.

*      *      *

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!

*      *      *

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.


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.

*      *      *

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.

*      *      *

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.

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