December 31, 2006
Happy New Year 2007: Light, Kindness, Humbleness, Trembling and the Water of Life
We spent a wonderful two weeks at my mom's house in Virginia, having adjusted to the difficult and radical change of plans due to the Denver blizzard and other airline problems (meaning no mountains, no snow, no skiing, and no paternal grandparent face-to-face contact at all, including missing Christmas with them for the second year in a row). We made do with a lot of phone calls, some rapid package remailing, and hope for future visits to come. And we enjoyed the extra time with the maternal grandparents, playing cards, watching movies, taking walks, and exchanging a lot of hugs.
Since we got home yesterday to England, we've been trying to adjust to the local time zone. Didn't do so well the first day: took a five-hour nap yesterday (too long), and then was up for about that amount of time in the middle of the night from 10:30-3:30. Well, for New Year's Eve Day we got up at 8am and have all been awake all day long, with no plans to go to bed anytime soon, so this should cure us.
My parting favorite verses for 2006:
The Lord will be your everlasting light. 60:19
I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord...yes, the many good things He has done... 63:7
This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My word. 66:2
They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death...12:11
The Lamb will overcome them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings 17:14
Whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.22:17
Happy New Year 2007 to you all.
December 23, 2006
Weird and Wacky Holiday
Right now we had planned and hoped to be in Snowmass, Colorado with David's parents, and that my parents would be on their way to join us in the snowy Rocky Mountains to ski and celebrate Christmas together. David is an only child, and it's clearly his parents' turn to have us with them over the holidays. Last year my parents were with us in France at our new home there.
However, due to days of heavy fog in London and the huge incapacitating blizzard in Denver, Colorado, my whole family is now in Virginia at my parents' house, and David's parents are all on their own in Snowmass, with six fewer house guests and Christmas celebrants than expected. All the gifts had been sent out there, so we have next to none here with us, except we did have a few that are for David's parents. So last night, realizing this mountain holiday was not going to happen this year, due to our cancelled flights and the thousands of other stranded passengers muddling up the Denver airport, we rapidly bundled up some gifts here to mail UPS out to Colorado, and David's mom had to open all the packages out there to sort out what was for them (not even wrapped) and what needed to be mailed back out here. The packages will cross in the mail to say hello to each other, and end up with the correct people around the 29th of December.
I have been very sad for David's parents. I cried over the phone with his mom as I had 10 minutes personally to make the decision not to get on the first of three plane flights on my own with the kids that would likely have gotten the three of us stuck in Charlotte or Denver without David or anyone else. I couldn't confer with David, as he was on his way from London to Aspen via Chicago, and he already knew his last flight was likewise cancelled. In the end, the kids and I stayed at my mom's, and David was rerouted to join us here.
We are very blessed to have a cushy, loving, gourmet place to stay here at my mom's, with family and a decorated Christmas tree - it wasn't our plan, and we won't be with David's parents as we wished, and we won't have the gifts available on Christmas Day, but we're safe, we're humbled, we're thankful for all the years in the past that this sort of thing has actually worked. And my husband is here, after a 44-hour debacle. I know we will have a lovely time. Lord, bless and help and encourage and grant peace, hope, and joy to David's parents with this huge change of plans.
December 14, 2006
Pumpkin Pecan Bread and Oatmeal M&M Bars
Made two loaves of the former and one pan of the latter this morning. I always love it when my son steps into the house after school and is able to say, "Yum, smells good in here!" It warms a mother's heart. Half of the Oatmeal M&M bars (which look festive thanks to Amy's red and green M&Ms) are slotted for Jason's advisory class party tomorrow, and one loaf of the pumpkin pecan bread is to remind my husband of his wife's care while we are separated for a whole long week (notice there is a 0% chocolate content).
The closer I get to this trip the more I question my sanity in planning a voyage where I will intentionally be putting many miles between myself and my better half and only getting to see him 7 days later. I like him (a very serious amount); what was I thinking? Ah well, the children will be on holiday and he won't be yet, and we have such a limited time during which we can see the dear, close relatives that grandparents are. I guess that's what I was thinking. I shall have to send my husband love notes. Starting with a loaf of pumpkin bread all for him.
Memory, Himself, and Sunsets (Favorite Verses)
More favorites from my regular Bible reading (getting close to the end of the entire-thing project for 2006, and still loving it):
I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands... 49:15-16 (sounds romantic, until you remember how deeply we were etched in there with big, hard nails; it's sheer sacrifice)
I will contend with those who contend with you.
49:25 (you don't have any need to take revenge)
Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the Name of the Lord and rely on his God.
50:10 (a good one for bedtime, or alternately, daytime nightmares like the cancer some friends are facing)
I, even I, am He who comforts you.
51:12 (THINK ABOUT IT! GOD HIMSELF! You can't get higher or better than that. It's not a proxy, a substitute, a stand-in, or an emissary, but He Himself, the Ultimate One.)
The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him.
53:6 (He undeservingly got Punishment; we undeservingly get Peace. Hard to fathom this kind of love. Yet there it is.)
Whoever touches you touches the apple of His eye...
I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.
3:9 (that's one big job)
In your hearts do not think evil of each other.
7:10 (yeah, not even inside the "privacy" of your own hearts)
Finally, Malachi 1:11
My Name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun.
(I just like the phraseology. Here I am "among the nations" -- France last year, England this year, plus our international school is chock full of the world's nationalities -- and as far as I look from dawn to dusk, in any direction, God is great.)
December 13, 2006
Book and Nap
Melene wrote yesterday about the simple pleasure of sitting down on the couch and reading a magazine, whilst NOT doing anything else. She also mentioned, "When I sit down and read a magazine, in the back of my head I'm thinking, what SHOULD I be doing right now?"
That fit in perfectly with my day today. Melene, I'm with you on the need to do things like that in December. Know what I did today? I got back into bed after the kids were at school and read a book. I furthermore took a 30 minute rest with my eyes shut, lying down. Whilst NOT doing anything else (well, maybe thinking idly about the book).
After working on receiving my UK driving license for 12 weeks, processing 147 Christmas cards or so, ferrying my son to 22 play rehearsals, and taking care of a sick child for two days, and with a two-week transatlantic trip coming up, I was just ready for a preventative rest. I guess you could say I was working hard on not getting my daughter's cold to battle with on the airplane. Why not rest BEFORE getting the illness (and not get it) rather than get it and then have to rest while ill?
Not to mention I have a LOT of fun reading to catch up on. There are 13 thick novels on my bedside that one, two, or even all three other members of my family have read and I haven't. I want to join the party. So I'm on page 174 of Eragon (which I want to finish before seeing the movie). David, Jason and Emily have all read and enjoyed it (and both kids have already finished the sequel, Eldest). Good thing we're headed to the mountains for Christmas - usually the only place I ever read. When I'm not playing games or skiing or sleeping or taking a steam shower. Ahh, the holidays.
Anyway, thanks, Melene, for giving me the courage to own up to the fact that I did something purely relaxing today. Why is it we have to screw up our courage to admit that sort of thing?
December 07, 2006
Okay, this is not Christmassy. But it's PRE-Christmassy - these leaves, which I always thought looked like a big nectarine or peach encompassing the tree, have all fallen now and cover the ground under the trees. This isn't our house, but it's on our street.
Thanks for the pretty gingerbread cookies, Amy! I have another plate I'm bringing to the play tonight, and the kids and I had two each already as well. Crunchy spice cookies (ginger, cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar, honey...). Wish I could let you pick a few off this tray.
As for the Advent Wreath and Manger Scene - those are my favorite part of December. Our family gathers around them at least once a week to spend time together with candles lit, singing Christmas carols, reading scripture, praying, and thinking about what happened on the first Christmas, what a world-changing event that was. What a heart-changing, life-changing moment. God cares about you and me. Super-deeply.
God Bless Amy
You may have read last week about my wistfulness that they do not sell red & green Christmas baking decorations here (only hard silver balls), nor Hershey's kisses to grace the top of peanut butter cookies.
Well, David's cousin Amy in Georgia not only read my comments on November 28th, but she proceeded to venture out to the store, buy us red & green sprinkling sugar, two packages of red & green M&Ms, and a pack of red & green foil-wrapped Hershey's kisses, box them all up with a beautiful peace-giving Christmas card, and mail it to us across the ocean. We had this fabulous, generous, and thoughtful surprise in our hands by December 4th.
God Bless Amy!!! You are so very SWEET ;-)
Planning to use some of the goodies today.
Successful Haggai Driving Test
Honor and Glory be to the God of the Universe: He blessed me with a PASS on my 2nd UK practical driving test this morning. I am exceedingly grateful. I have quite a few thoughts on this:
THE HAGGAI TEST ROUTE
May I recommend that anyone seeking some reassurance before taking such a test peruse the book of Haggai in the Bible. It "happened" that that was my assigned reading in my regular "read the Bible in a year" schedule for today, and I thought to myself, "Ugh [sorry, God], I just can't stomach a minor prophet this morning before my test. I need to read something firmly and clearly encouraging and easy to grasp." But then I just glanced down the page at what I had underlined the last time I read this book, and I was hooked. Here are the excerpts that buoyed me right before entering the test centre this morning:
Give careful thought to your ways.
"Give careful thought to your ways...so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored," says the LORD.
"I am with you," declares the LORD. So the LORD stirred up the spirit of...[Katherine]
"But now be strong...and work. For I am with you," declares the LORD Almighty..."And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear."
"In this place I will grant peace," declares the LORD Almighty.
Now give careful thought... give careful thought... Give careful thought.
From this day on I will bless you.
"For I have chosen you," declares the LORD Almighty.
Excerpts from Haggai, the Driving License Book of the Universe
(Haggai 1:5, 7, 8, 13; 2:4, 5, 9, 15, 18, 19, 23)
I felt so sustained. It was the perfect mixture of wise admonishment and strengthening promises and cherishing love. I felt that even if I didn't pass, it was okay because God had chosen me, even if the DSA didn't. And He'd give me peace. The promise to bless would be in whatever way God chose.
JUST LIKE GIDEON
I almost felt like Gideon this morning, when God made 31,700 of his 32,000 men go home and God brought about the victory with only 300 men, just to show it was only His grace and power that made things happen. Last time I took the test, I had just finished 18 hours of driving lessons, was well-rested, it was a sunny day, I was healthy, and it wasn't Christmas season or near the end of school. I failed. This time, I hadn't practiced anything in 2 weeks, was tired, it was drizzling in the morning, I wasn't feeling too well for monthly reasons, and the holiday pressure is on. God brought about a pass, showing again that He doesn't need any sort of perfect conditions in order to accomplish His purposes.
GOD'S PATTERN FOR US THIS YEAR: SECOND TIME AROUND
My mom pointed something out to me two weeks ago:
I have been thinking about your UK experiences with authorities, and it occurs to me that they do not want to give you what you need the first go for anything! Think about it! The work permit, for starters, your address, your phone number even. And then there's the house...even turned down for that the first time! This must be the country of second chances. AND YET, you did get the work permit the second time, and your first choice house the second time, and even the kids' school was not what you thought you were going to do the first time!
I feel certain you will be getting your licence in the standard UK manner, the second time around. Remember your trip to France? You were all set to fly to Switzerland, but the second venture by train was the winner! It is amazing when you add them all up, how many instances you thought you had done everything necessary and correctly, and yet, it did not work the first time.
She was right again. Mothers can do that a lot. :-)
NITTY-GRITTY DETAILS FOR THE CURIOUS
- BUMPS IN THE ROAD, WHAT NEXT? Before I even took my test today, there were warnings that I might not even be allowed to. The examiner (a different one from last time) wanted me to sign the statement saying I'd been living in the country 185 days of the last 12 months. When I told him I'd have to cross that bit out before signing the paper since I'd only been here since July, he told me I couldn't take the test then. I brought up the fact I'd already taken a test and the other fellow had told me to cross it out, and so this new examiner went upstairs to ask his supervisor. I sat in the waiting room a bit amused by this curious turn of events. He eventually came back down and said that his objection was only for holders of other European licenses, not U.S. ones. He also said that normally American drivers are only taking their test after the regularly mentioned 6 months in the country, or, more often, after the whole year is up, so that's why he hadn't encountered this situation before.
- MANOEUVRES: On my first test, I was asked to do the turn in the road and the parallel park. I got one minor mark for not quite enough observations on the parallel park. This time I was asked to do the other two manoeuvres: the reverse around a corner and the bay park (since we were the last test to leave the parking area, due to the residence complications). I got one minor mark for pulling forward to straighten before completing the bay park - this puzzled me greatly since my instructors had specifically told me to pull forward and then back again to straighten, even if I was already perfectly positioned. Something's weird about that. At least it wasn't a failing error!
- MY RESULTS: I passed the test with three minor marks off. You are allowed up to 15 before the minors would total to a fail at 16 points off. The three issues were that bay park thing I already mentioned, one instance of signaling before checking my mirrors instead of vice versa, and finally one mark off for "undue hesitation" in the "progress" category (I missed an opportunity to go at a roundabout when other cars were going straight and taking the exit before the one I was coming out of). But I REALLY don't mind these marks off - it's the pass that counts. People sometimes talk about "going for a clean sheet," meaning no minor marks off at all (happens to one in a thousand or something like that), but I think that's distracting from the goal - what you really need is a big fat juicy pass; the minors are the side dish to go with it.
- CLEARING UP THE U.S. LICENSE VALIDITY FIASCO: After I had safely received my test pass certificate, I broached the subject of what I had been told at the previous test, about not being able to use my U.S. license any more after a fail. This examiner explained that the DVLA says one thing (license remains valid) and the POLICE say the opposite. I see the complication! He also pointed out that they've been discussing the matter at the office and they are now aware of what the DVLA says, which I think will be the rule, since they are the licensing agency. Good.
- TIMING: It will be another 4 weeks or so until I actually get my full UK license. They took away my provisional one and will process it for me via the DVLA in Swansea (Wales), who will mail me the real thing eventually. Given that I first applied for the provisional license on September 15th, if I receive the full license 4 weeks from today, that will have taken 16 weeks all together for the whole process. Boy am I glad I started when I did and that that's all over with. What an enormous relief. Done with seven months to spare. :-) I have a personally very small margin for myself in dealing with authorities. They make me sweat. Also I'm really thankful I passed the test before going back to the U.S. for the holidays and switching sides of the road again. I didn't want to get confused all over again twice and THEN be tested.
- USEFULNESS: Not only will I be legal to drive in the UK for the rest of my life, but I could also exchange this British license for one from a different European country should we move to one at some point in the future (like, just say, Switzerland or France...my husband is rolling his eyes at this point; I love you, David - did you catch this hidden message in the middle of all this rambling?), without having to take a practical test (as I understand it at this point). As for the usefulness of the two tests themselves: I can now identify with all you UK driving test takers, pass or fail! I've experienced both! Handy, that.
- WEATHER: So far today on test day #2, here's what the weather has given us in Berkshire and Surrey:
* Drizzly, with wet roads
* Cloudy, a break in the rain during my test (thank You!)
* Bright and sunny, could have used sunglasses but I was in the middle of my test and decided not to be distracted by looking for them
* DARK clouds right after the test was over
* Downpour of rain
* HAIL on my car in the middle of a major roundabout (first time I've seen hail in the UK)
* Very windy
* Lightning, thunder
* Sunny again, breezy
And on this VICTORIOUS day, I thank God for His kindness and I celebrate my son, whose middle school play opens tonight...How to Eat Like a Child. Go for it, Jason! We love you no matter what! It'll be a thrill to see you up on stage. Now off to bake some spice cookies to bring to the performance.
December 01, 2006
Ah, Food Coloring
I made some Christmas Thumbprint Cookies this week. The kind you bake most of the way, and then stick your thumb into to make a depression to receive a pecan, some jam, or an M&M. I colored them green with food coloring, but since I used whole wheat flour (as I always do, for nutrition), they are a bit dubiously brownish-green. Then I rolled them in colored sugar (some yellow, some red, some blue, some white). Sick to your stomach yet?
Anyway, my kids seem to like them. My daughter was sharing some with a friend yesterday, and the friend took a peek and asked suspiciously, "Are there vegetables in there?" When she heard a negative answer, she pressed, "Are there fruits?" My daughter replied it was just food coloring, and the friend gave a contented sigh and dug in. After her first bite, she exclaimed, "Ah, food coloring!"
Breakfast By Candlelight
Really, this morning it was still pitch black at breakfast time (7:15am), and we lit some lovely white chocolate scented tea lights in red glass holders decorated with a pine tree and moose motif... and then we drove to school with our headlights on the whole way (and the way back).
Only three weeks left of the days getting darker and darker. And about the same amount of time looking forward the Light that came into the world to illuminate and clean our dark hearts and give us Hope.