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June 28, 2007

Summer?

Redrosebud_2Well, the kids are off school for the summer (since last Friday at noon), and it's been wonderful: bike rides, board games, card games, baking with helpers, movies, and occasionally eating breakfast or lunch out.

However, it has not been summer. Today I've been wearing jeans with a turtleneck and a sweater over it all day long (when I wasn't also wearing an extra layer of a lined raincoat zipped all the way up). I am still freezing. Actually right now I am tucked up in bed fully clothed, with a sheet and three layers of blankets over me, plus the laptop warming my lap a little more, and my hands are still chilled.

It's been mostly rainy or overcast since we can remember (although we had a few glimpses of the sun today now and then, so we know it is still there), and should remain so for at least the next five days.

So we thought we'd take advantage of this and go even farther north to how much less like summer it can get in Scotland. It's supposed to be around 43-63 degrees F up there (6-17 C). The high is only a couple of degrees different from here. Overnight train will be our method of transport - it'll be the kids' first time for both the new territory and the train bunks.

Still, despite the unseasonable weather here, I am really appreciating relaxing with the kids and not driving back and forth to school on a strict schedule.

Off to make a warming and hearty spaghetti bolognese for dinner...and maybe we'll get to summer salads sometime later.

Tightly wrapped rosebud from my back yard

June 28, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 24, 2007

Royal Ascot

FrontescortqueenQueenscarriageToday was the last day of Royal Ascot Week. We live 10 minutes from the Ascot Racecourse, in Ascot, Berkshire, UK. We did actually go inside the racecourse facilities once last October on Family Day. But you wouldn't catch us trying to attend during Royal Ascot Week, despite the fact that it is "the world’s most famous race meeting, steeped in history dating back to 1711." Here's why:

1. Over 300,000 people attend. This means prodigious amounts of traffic, huge parking issues, and all the other problems associated with crowds.

2. "Press coverage of the attendees and what they are wearing often exceeds coverage of the actual racing" combined with the fact that "many of the visitors know nothing about racing, and are there purely for the social side and to drink large quantities of champagne." We witnessed the effects of this when we had to drive down the Ascot High Street (equivalent of Main Street) for an unrelated reason yesterday: mass drunkenness of extremely dressed-up people. Very fancy hats, high heels, suits...staggering down the street, weaving back and forth, walking in front of cars, grabbing people, taking heels off and walking barefoot... Not too surprising when you realize that 40,000 bottles of champagne were imbibed just on the first day (out of 5). Quite scary, really. We were wide-eyed at the incongruousness of the well-to-do attire of such a mass of intoxicated persons in a normally upper-class, dignified area. Not really our idea of fun.

QueenelizabethiiascotcarriageBut there was one exciting and very fun aspect to Royal Ascot Week for us: yesterday Jason and I got to see the Queen of England herself pass by not five feet from us in her horse-drawn carriage (with nothing between us and her open window) and she waved to us! A friend of ours lives in Ascot and invited us to park in her driveway and stand along the road the Queen takes to process towards the racecourse. Every day this week at about 2pm Queen Elizabeth II rode along specific quiet roads lined with a few locals, in her big processional of motorcycle police officers (one of them waved back to Jason as well), secret servicemen in a car, escorts on horseback, several horse-drawn carriages worth of royal relatives, a whole bunch more fancy cars with chauffeurs, some spare cars, an ambulance, and some more horses. We couldn't believe how courageous she is to do this, since there are no security checks for any of the people lining the roads to catch a glimpse (we could have been carrying anything), and there are no fences (we could easily have run up to her carriage and touched her hand if we'd been stupid and disrespectful enough).

It really was quite thrilling to be so close to the Queen, even if only for a second as she went by, and to feel she really waved right at us. Of course, it could have been to the cute little two-year-old girl next to us.

June 24, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 22, 2007

Chopin Nocturnes

SunsetinspainThat's what we're listening to right now, at 11:08pm, before going to bed (very soon!). Calming, soothing, and classy. Today was the last full day of school, and it included a Middle School award ceremony. We were excited to receive a brief email yesterday intimating that I might want to be present to witness said ceremony as Jason would be getting something. Well, I was tickled pink that he ended up going up on stage four times to receive various awards. Three were ones shared with many others in his grade, but one was only given to two people (a special Effort Award based on teacher nominations). Way to go, Jason! Dad and I are so glad we're your parents and can see you work hard and flourish.

I picked a bunch of daisies from our back lawn this afternoon (during a refreshing hour-long phone conversation with my mom) and placed them in a periwinkle vase on the kitchen counter. They witnessed Emily doing almost all of the assembling of a pumpkin pie, while I went out to actually purchase some cans of pumpkin (without which we would certainly have had to change the name of the pie). I couldn't believe we didn't have any. I don't know how that happened. We typically keep it in stock; I was so happy they sell it here in England (as opposed to France). Anyway, the pie turned out very nicely. Good work, Emily!

Tomorrow the kids get out for the summer at noon. One entire school year completed in our latest country of residence. It seems impossible that we've already made it through. Thank you, God.

Two passages I'd like to learn to live out in daily practice:

Godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Tim 6:6)

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances...
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation...
I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:11-13


(The sunset photo is from David's and my marital getaway trip to Spain in early May, near Málaga; that was the view from our room. Accommodation courtesy of David's mom, childcare courtesy of my mom - two lovely, supportive ladies who remember what it's like to be full-time parents and spouses at the same time and understand the value of getting away as a couple as often as possible.)

June 22, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 20, 2007

Flower-Planting, Welcoming Buddy, Meals

Pink and purple petunias, deep blue lobelia, purple alyssum, pink and purple verbena, purple osteospermum (previously known to me as African Queen), and ageratum. All my favorite colors, with the exception of a couple of whites and yellows that were mixed into the multi-packs.

These are the 6 varieties of flowers I planted today to fill out and spruce up my rock garden. I planted about 60 tiny little plants, mostly blooming already. I especially picked them to be blooming already because I am only here another month before leaving for a month's holiday, and I want to enjoy them now. I find it so much more encouraging to stand back from three hours' gardening and see a colorful show than just some little green stubs.

Today I received the name of the new family I am supposed to be the "Welcoming Buddy" for at our new school for the coming year...and contacted the mom to find out that they've been living in England already for eight years - I should be the one asking her the questions! Well, at least maybe I can help with some directly school-related issues. They will have an 8th-grade boy in September, and so will we, so that works out well. I look forward to meeting them.

This week I made Chocolate Chip Pecan Zucchini Bread, and it was a hit. Come to think of it, dinners this week have gone over well, too: crêpes (main course and dessert); Scallops Elegante with rice; and creamy ham and potato gratin, with salad.

Even though I am personally so not a mega-church kind of gal, I enjoy several mega-church bloggers (I also enjoy house church bloggers - I am eclectic in my tastes). Another encouraging quote from Charlotte, NC pastor Steven Furtick:

The best is always forthcoming as I follow Christ in faith.

If you are stuck in a portal of uncertainty right now, be encouraged.
God’s calling on your life has not diminished.
Jesus has gone before you and prepared a future of blessing and impact.

June 20, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 19, 2007

I miss Rocking Christian Radio in my Car

In California, I used to listen to K-Love Radio all the time in my car (when I wasn't listening to KDFC classical music or the occasional CD). In France last year it was Radio Classique as there were no contemporary Christian music stations. Those are the two kinds of music I find the most encouraging and uplifting. I do like good smooth jazz, too, and '80s pop music for nostalgic value.

Here in the U.K., I again listen mostly to Classic FM for the same reasons. Occasionally, though, I'll switch to the AM side to hear a few words on the TWO FRENCH stations I can get here in England: RTL and France Inter. We're not even near the coast of the English Channel, so I find it amazing that we can receive these broadcasts. We found that when we drove to France we were likewise able to receive some U.K. stations. It reinforces how narrow the English Channel is, I guess.

I enjoy listening to the French for a few minutes at a time because it's good for maintaining my slang and accent, vocabulary reinforcement, speedy comprehension, but honestly it's truly utterly boring talk radio most of the time (to me). I have to switch it off pretty soon. I do like that it gets me talking to myself in French for a few minutes afterwards.

Lately I've been noticing my lack of knowing what new Christian songs have come out in the past two years, what new bands have been surfacing...and lack of being encouraged in worship during the week. Yesterday I turned on some Christian upbeat worship songs on our stereo as I tidied up the house and did dishes and laundry, and was totally uplifted and caused to think deep thoughts about God. Some favorite lyrics from that session:

Newsboys: In Christ Alone

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

Newsboys: Lord (I don't know)

Lord, I don't know where all this is going
Or how it all works out
Lead me to peace that is past understanding
A peace beyond all doubt

Oh, Lord, you are the author
Redeeming what's been done
You hold us in the present
And all that is to come

This so expresses my feelings this week that I don't know what God is doing with us here in England. I don't know how long we'll be here. I don't really know why we are here. Maybe we'll be here for 15 more years - what would that look like? I feel like I'd better start blooming where I'm planted. Not that I haven't somewhat. I've been involved in leadership of our moms' prayer group, I've organized two romantic period dances (one for couples and one for families), I've volunteered for a month at a hospital, I've been learning much about how to play bridge, I've gone through the driver's license process, I've planted flowers, made friends in the neighbourhood, etc. But I haven't settled my heart here. This has much to do with God not giving us peace and unity about a church home, still, after 11 months here. Not for lack of trying on our parts! Maybe God is doing something special with us that we will understand later. For now, it's a big mystery to me.

I listened to K-Love online today for the first time in quite a while: I cringed at some plasticky voices...yikes. But I let that pass to enjoy some great music nonetheless. It was comforting to hear some of the same good old songs I know (makes me feel not TOO out of date), along with some good new ones.

I have to run to catch the train to see my beloved, and this is clearly no longer a post about radio stations. So I'll close with another lyrical quote, this time from Matt Redman: You are Worthy (frequently makes me want to cry in passion at the utter worthiness of God):

Worthy, You are worthy
Much more worthy than I know
I cannot imagine
Just how glorious You are
And I cannot begin to tell
How deep a love You bring
O Lord my ears have heard of You
But now my eyes have seen

You're worthy
You're worthy
You're worthy
You're worthy to be praised
Forever and a day

Glory, I give glory
To the One who saved my soul
You found me and You freed me
From the shame that was my own
And I cannot begin to tell
How merciful You've been
O Lord, my ears had heard of You
But now my eyes have seen

June 19, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Cats, Geeks, Silence, Tears and Helpless Love

Coolest half-upside-down cat photo.

Coolest way to put the "Geek Gospel."

Tears rolled down from both eyes to my chin and onto my shirt when I watched this 5-minute "Remember Me" video made by a high-school student in support of military people.

Hope from Here at the Mission:

...we talked about how God came for us when we least deserved it, and how he just keeps coming for us, and he never leaves us and he never forgets where we are, and he never has something more important to do or someone he likes better. We talked about how our story isn't one of salvation lost and salvation found, it's a story of God being with us through all the uncertainty of life, through the rebellion and doubt and fear and outright panic, because he knows who He is, and He knows who we are, and He can't help but love us anyway.
When God goes silent, by Steven Furtick (a pastor in North Carolina):
One of my mentors told me that the reason God seems strangely silent at the times when we need Him the most is that the teacher is always quiet during the test.
Here are some steps to take when God goes silent:
1. Keep doing the last thing He told you to do.
2. Examine whether there’s any sin/pride in your heart that would prohibit you from clearly hearing His voice. If so, come clean and move forward.
3. Read the simple stuff in the Bible and obey it. You can’t go wrong there. Maybe God isn’t showing you His concealed will because you won’t even obey His revealed will.
4. Be very excited. I’ve learned that when I can’t hear my 22 month old son upstairs, it’s because he’s up to something. It’s usually not good. If God isn’t making much noise in your life right now, it might be because He’s up to something. Something good.
5. Always remember in the darkness what God told you in the light. If God promised, He will deliver.

June 19, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

In a Reverie

YellowtreesunningdaleI've been reading through my husband's emails to me, sent in the early '90s when we were getting to know each other, dating, and starting to think about the possibility of getting married and how nice that would be. It's been a romantic and lovely trip. I printed out all his emails back then because I was receiving them at the college computer centre, not having my own connection to the internet in my dorm room at the beginning of our courtship. Now I'm glad I did all that printing out, because it's fun to read them on old paper with holes down the sides like they used to have. Makes it seem more authentically 17-years-old than if I read them on a screen.

In the past week or so I've forsaken reading blogs, obviously doing any blogging myself, and even have lost much interest in email. The school year is coming solidly to a close (3.5 days left), my regular activities have shut down, and people are turning their focus towards summer travel and a good rest from routine. I'm in a strange floundering state of searching for purpose and fulfillment. For some reason I decided to use some of my extra free time to embark on this exciting sedentary time travel through my husband's prolific letters and my accompanying journal, to relive those thrilling days of discovering each other and exploring how to have a Christ-centred romantic relationship with a view to eventually uniting permanently. It makes me feel all the more fortunate to have actually landed such a catch. We've been married over 14 years now and he keeps pleasantly surprising me with new sayings I've never heard before. He keeps wrapping his arms around my waist at the kitchen sink.

The reason I am posting today after this 12-day break is that he more or less said that he misses reading my entries! That was incentive enough for me. And touching to hear.

And today I get to go have lunch with him in London at his office. I am super-blessed.

(Yellow-blossomed tree is from 30 May, at end of our driveway)

June 19, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 07, 2007

Spellbound at Sports Day

Yesterday the school sent an email to parents saying they could come at 12:40pm today to watch the upper school sports day if they wanted. I thought to myself, that's not a lot of advance notice; it doesn't sound too important. Still, this is our first year at this school, so I shouldn't miss this opportunity to check out another kind of school event to see how they handle it. At least I'll know for next year.

The day was chilly and cloudy, but no rain - absolutely perfect for sports. The kids didn't get too hot or suffer any sunburn, but the ground wasn't slippery or soggy. I am SO glad I drove over there and brought my new little tripod camping stool and camera. I wouldn't have missed it for the world, and will go every year I can.

I got to follow my son's group around the school playing fields and watch his white-shirted team compete against a different blue-shirted team at every event. The white teams moved clockwise around the field, whilst the blues did the opposite. The unique thing about the set-up was that each team was made up of a mixture of 6th to 12th graders, with some from each grade! So the older kids gave the younger kids tips on how to do better, and they all encouraged each other. There was a great team spirit. And as a whole, the nine white teams were competing against the nine blue teams to get the most points when all the events were added together. It was a good mix of boys and girls, heights and sizes, and athletic skills as well as ages on each team.

The nine events were:

- Ultimate Frisbee
- Long Jump
- Four-Square Volleyball (this was totally new to me, very cool)
- Hurdles and short relay sprints (the hurdles, if knocked over, had to be replaced before one's time was recorded)
- Soccer ("football" here)
- Javelin throw
- Capture the Flag (with plastic hockey sticks as flags)
- 200m relay race
- Tug of War
JlongjumpJfoursquarevolleyballJsoccer2Jjavelin_2
JcapturetheflagJtugofwar3_2
The 2.5 hours flew by and I was enthralled and spellbound. Fun boppy music blared from the speakers. I chatted with a few other moms who were there (and some staff who openly envied my portable stool), but mostly I didn't want to miss a moment of my son's first chance to participate in his new school's big all-inclusive sports event of the year. I was proud to see him do his best and be a good teammate. I love you, Jason! (P.S. Congratulations on the white teams even winning the day by one point!)

June 7, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 04, 2007

Earthquake Dream, Broken Barriers and Husband's Victory

Clematis(Clematis by our front door, unrelated to the post)

We got home late last night from New Jersey, having collected the kids from two different friends' homes on our way back from the airport. They were in one piece (each), give or take a sunburn, some mosquito bites, and a rash.

I, however, came home with a sore throat, perhaps kick-started by the severe contrast between the U.S. air conditioning and the New Jersey humid heat. While sleeping in a bit this morning to try to heal up from that (David took the kids to school), I thought I felt a gentle earthquake rocking the room. I looked at the clock and noted the time, hoping to find confirmation somewhere. Apparently it was a dream.

The automatic railway barriers that stop traffic on the main road near our house broke down this morning. They were blocking road traffic for quite some time. Four police officers and two railway workers were standing around trying to figure out what to do. I had to park my car on our side of the tracks and use the footbridge over the tracks to get to the grocery store on the other side. This limited my shopping potential somewhat.

The victory of the morning is that David, having stacked all the odds against himself, passed his UK Driving License Practical Test this morning on his FIRST TRY! He took a quarter of the lessons I took, didn't watch the informative DVD about the test, let two weeks pass between his last lesson and the test, and arranged for some jet lag and travel weariness from a transatlantic flight the day before, just to make it that much more challenging. And passed beautifully (where I failed the first time, without any of those reasons to blame). I did pray for him to pass, of course, but I wasn't all that expectant. Congratulations again, my dear one. You are the soul of poise and confidence. And thank You, God, that You answered our prayers and showed favor, and we are now both good to go until we're 70 years old on the English roads.

June 4, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 02, 2007

Airline Security Measures

Can you tell I've had some time to sit down and write a few words? I'm on my fifth post in one sitting, after nine days away from the blog. This is only because I'm in an airplane seat and can't go anywhere, and there's no telephone, no internet connection, no washing machine, no sink, no oven, no errands I can run, no mailman delivering things, no desk full of papers to process, and no meetings to attend.

Plus, the in-flight entertainment system is on the blink and they are rebooting it for the 2nd time, so I'm really glad I didn't try to watch a movie (yet).

My beloved is sitting next to me watching a work-related video on his cell phone. My children are packed off to friends' houses for the weekend, and I'm accompanying my dear one to his 20th high school reunion in New Jersey. Call us crazy, but we've gone on a transatlantic trip for 2 nights. It's fun already, look at this, I have time to blog!

I wanted to chronicle the amazing 9 steps of security we had to navigate at London's Heathrow airport in order to get on this airplane.

1. Standing in line for baggage check desk access: a man asked to see our passports and tickets.

2. At check-in desk: passports and tickets again, and weighing in of not only our suitcase, but each carry-on. Have you experienced this before? I cannot recall EVER ANYWHERE having my carry-on bag weighed. Not only were our carry-ons weighed, but one was too heavy. Each one could not be more than 6 kg (13 lbs). So we had to redistribute items between carry-on bags (one per person of course), and even pack some things we'd intended to take on the plane with us. Good thing we had room in the suitcase. Only then did the agent place a label on our bags saying they had been approved as cabin luggage! the dumb thing about that is that we could have bought anything we wanted in the airport later and raised the weight, and also there was nothing to prevent us from redistributing the weight afterwards (highly desirable since one bag was wheeled, and the other a shoulder bag).

3. Before security: passport check again.

4. At security: X-ray carry-ons, laptops and liquids out, metal detector.

5. Security stage 2: shoes off to be scanned.

6. Before entering the hallway to the gate area: passport and boarding card checked again, flight number circled.

7. At entry desk to the gate lounge: boarding card given in, stub given back.

8. Inside lounge: carry-ons hand-searched, body search, shoes removed again and visually inspected.

9. As boarding aircraft: Boarding stub checked again.

That's 5 checks of the ticket, 4 checks of the passport, 3 checks of the luggage, 2 checks each of the shoes and body, and one partridge in a pear tree.

But this is how I feel being away with my love alone:
Pinkblossomheart
petals gathered on our street in England

Well, I ran out of laptop power at that point on the flight...and now we are safely in New Jersey, in a hotel with complimentary wireless internet in the rooms - got to love that. It took us 2 hours and 40 minutes to get here from JFK airport in New York (2 hours just to get out of the city at 5pm on a Friday night, and 40 minutes of driving in NJ!). Got to go to bed now to be bright and bushy-tailed for the main day of the reunion tomorrow.

June 2, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack