Saturday, December 27, 2014

Our First Christmas in Boroughbridge

If you're like me, you usually have to stop and think for a minute to remember what you did yesterday, let alone two days ago.  Even on such a special day as Christmas, each day seems filled with so many little responsibilities and thoughts and emotions that it is hard for my mind to hold on to them all.  Does this mean I am growing older? 

But with a little effort I can remember our Christmas day.  It started out with sleeping in, which I'm sure has never happened before in the history of Christmas.  It's really nearly 8:30 before the sun is up good and bright, and it has helped both me and the kids to sleep a little later on occasion.  Ella was up reading a new book left at the end of her bed in the night (a tradition passed down from KJ's family).  James had his stocking hanging on her fireplace, so in an amazing show of her attention to rule-keeping, she refrained from looking in her stocking until James got up (They had this planned the night before.). 

After KJ accidentally filled the living room with smoke starting the morning fire, the kids came down and tore into presents.
After present-opening, it was a pretty low-key day; I didn't even pick my camera up again.  We had a late breakfast, the kids ran around playing with new toys and reading new books.  We talked with family via Facetime (Oh, wonderful and free invention!).  The kids put together new LEGO, and KJ got our television hooked up, enabling us to watch the Queen's Christmas speech as well as the Christmas episode of Dr. Who in its natural environment, which was fun. 

It was quiet and peaceful.  And as James explained, "God gave us the best present, Jesus, so Santa Claus gives us presents, too."  We taught him one of those things.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmasy Things

I know everyone always says things like this, but truly, I can't believe it's nearly Christmas.  I feel like my kids have been more anxious for its arrival this year than any other.  Perhaps it is because we're saving all presents that have been shipped over for Christmas morning?  All month long James has asked to know the number on the calendar, and the anticipation from all the steady stream of Amazon packages arriving at our front door is driving him a bit mad.

I thought I'd share a few of the Christmasy things we've done this month, like visit Fountains Abbey to hear some caroling, though mostly we let the kids climb around on the ruins underneath the lights.

It's been on my radar to attempt a family Christmas picture, but it just hasn't come together yet.  Either it was rainy, or really windy, or it got dark.  Those three conditions might describe a Yorkshire winter, except to be fair, the weather hasn't been that bad. 
I am still hopeful a family picture will happen in some form or fashion, but until then, Ella and James were looking festive a couple of weeks ago, so I decided to take a few pictures of them.  Everyone knows it is hard work to get a good picture of your kids, but much to my surprise, this was the first shot taken.

I have no idea what put them in such a cooperative frame of mind, but aren't they darling?  Then we got out the Naughty and Nice towels, which are one of my favorite Dirty Santa acquisitions.
This is James' naughty growling face.

I don't think Ella was too happy being the naughty one.
It didn't last too long as James was happy to take up the mantle of naughtiness and attack his sister.

They ended as friends.

I am pretty grateful for these two growing-up babes.

The above is my favorite picture from our Christmas Carol service.  How cute are those three little guys with their song sheets?

We had our first Christmas crackers last week.  We're enjoying English Christmas traditions.

I love how James is getting ready for his Christmas dinner.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Franco Fridays: Teaching Day + Musique

Since we're starting to get a little more settled I thought it would be a good day to bring back Franco Fridays and keep on sharing about our mission trip in June.  Our Saturday plan included a day of Bible teaching for adults and teaching, crafts, and games for kids at Emmanuel International Church.  KJ taught through the book of Haggai.

I won't post any pictures of the kids since I don't have permission to do that, but our group did a fantastic job with them, and I think they had a fun time.  I spent my time cooking and shredding chicken and making banana pudding for the meal we were serving the next day.  We had to bring a few important ingredients from home.  There are no Nilla Wafers in Paris.

As Audrey Hepburn said, "Paris is always a good idea," and we were fortunate to be there during Fete de la Musique. Several members of EIC are involved in a Gospel choir and were singing in Rueil Malmaison that afternoon, so during our lunch break from the Bible study we walked down to the square to hear them sing.  The gospel choir has been a real avenue of ministry since a lot of people there really enjoy singing gospel music even though they are not Christians and may not even be fluent in English.

Here's a little taste of their performance.

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That evening we walked to dinner, and there was still live music being played and all kinds of booths sat up to buy things.  After our dinner crepes, followed by dessert crepes, we walked back out into the still bright streets and thought we heard a familiar guitar intro.  We couldn't believe it when our ears didn't deceive us.  Everyone recognizes how sweet a home Alabama is.

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I wish we'd kept filming all the way until the end of the performance because the best part came when everyone cheered and clapped and the lead singer said, "Merci."  Cultures colliding.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Late-Night Christmas Shopping

On the first Wednesday of December we all went out to an annual tradition in Boroughbridge, late-night Christmas shopping.  The streets were full, and the shops were open past their normal closing time, open until about 7:30!

Father Christmas was there.

Ella did not want her picture taken with him, thank you very much.  She's never been too excited about people in costume.  After a pre-bed conversation with James last night about why Santa had to work all year round making toys, I'm getting the feeling that James is believing in Santa more this year.  And by conversation, I mean more of a monologue by James.

There were friends.

And there were treats for 50 pence.

There were magical shop windows.

There was a big Christmas tree.

And the crowning jewel of the evening?  CHESTNUTS ROASTING OVER AN OPEN FIRE.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuscaloosa Tuesdays: Rainey Ranch

Since everything is better when it's alliterated, Tuesdays seemed like a good day to document pictures from several gatherings we had with friends and family before leaving home.  It's a bit encouraging to hear myself call Tuscaloosa home.  It didn't always feel like home, and I'm not really sure when it started to feel that way, but it reminds me of the cumulative effect of time and memories, outings and people, and how they all add up to make a place feel like home. 

I've already had two moments where my subconscious called Boroughbridge home.  Once, when we'd been here only 3 1/2 weeks, and I undertook my first solo driving mission to the IKEA in Leeds.  Because IKEA is like a black hole where time stands still, it was late and dark by the time I left, and I found myself feeling tense and nervous driving in the dark, and when I made it back to the sign directing me into Boroughbridge, I breathed a big sigh of relief, and said, "I'm so glad to be home."  And then I smiled that I was already thinking like that.

At the beginning of October, sweet church members who have a really wonderful place invited us over to enjoy the animals and each other.  When I first started pulling up pictures it all felt really bittersweet and far away, and I wasn't sure if I could handle writing about it this morning.

It made me think about how short seasons of life are, about memories with my own family growing up, and then I felt shocked to realize KJ and I were TEN YEARS into our own family.  Life is really short, y'all.  (Side bar:  I'm very conscious now of how often I use the word, y'all.)

Sometimes thoughts on the brevity of life make me feel sad, but this morning those thoughts ended up making me feel hopeful because if this life really is a vapor (and it is), then there's absolutely nothing else I'd rather be doing than following where Jesus leads us, because my heart really believes Him when He says, "Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life."  And the blessed truth is that our families are the ones who passed this gospel of Jesus to us, and we know that all the time we give up here, we get back with them forever and forever and forever.  These truths buoy up my heart.  Feel free to remind me of them when my heart flags.

So now looking at these pictures I can just feel a lot of thanksgiving.