Thursday, February 26, 2015

Random Pictures and the Slow Reveal

I don't really have anything specific to share; it's just been over a week since I blogged, and I had some random pictures from the month of February that might otherwise languish in a desktop folder.

This was taken on a Sunday afternoon walk to the playground with people in our church.  One of the things I looked forward to about moving to England was a life lived more outdoors.  I haven't been disappointed.

This particular playground adjoins a soccer field.  This shot of James on the slide was taken before I was hit, not once, but twice, by a wayward kick of the ball.  Once in the calf (ouch) and then once in the head (hello stars).

Walking back.

These next few pictures were taken on a lunchtime walk at Fountains Abbey with a friend who used to work there.  When we'd gone with the kids in the past we had not explored anywhere other than around the Abbey (which is pretty immense).  Tamsin gave me a flying tour on her lunchbreak, and I was astounded about how much more there was to see and enjoy here.  We've been back with the kids since this day, and we still haven't seen it all.  I plan to take our first guests here one day next week.

And this is the "slow reveal" I mentioned in a previous blog post.

I didn't have my best lenses with me, so those aren't the best quality pictures, but it was a nice view all the same.

It was a still day with perfect reflections in the water.  One of the interesting things my friend and I talked about as we walked is how some of the people who planned out all of these landscapes, water gardens, planting of trees, etc. never saw the finished product.  So much thought, care, work, and imagination went into these designs that took years to reach full fruition.

It's not unlike the life of faith we're told about in Hebrews 11, is it?  By faith, these men and women believed God and followed where He led, but they didn't all see the end result of their faith in this life.  "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth...If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city." 

We won't see here the full glory of all God's work in our lives, but this encourages me to keep working, and planning, and dreaming because there's a beautiful new landscape being built, and maybe (if this doesn't sound too corny) it will be made all the better for the slow reveal.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Day Out

Last Saturday both KJ and I had the desire to go out and see something and to spend the day outside.  We want to be intentional about doing and seeing things because there is so much to do and see when everything is new to you; you don't have to drive very far at all.  I think it was less than a 30-minute drive to Beningbrough Hall, which we chose for its proximity and the fact that we could enjoy walking around out of doors and still have access to a bathroom.  (It actually took me several seconds to write that sentence because I had to think through about 4 options for saying we wanted to be close to a toilet.  Our vocabulary is changing.)

We knew we'd be spending most of the time out of doors because the main floor of the house is still closed for the winter.  The top floor has portraits from the National Gallery that we were able to walk through and see, which ended up being surprisingly fun for the kids.  There were computer stations where you could have your picture taken and put into a painting.  It resulted in some very humorous portraits like this one.

Your portrait would appear on the wall for 90 seconds, but they also e-mailed us the files, so those are fun memories. We also saw lots of busts, and they had another station where kids could sit for their portrait and use different backgrounds and props.  Ella and James stayed in that room for a long time.

The gardens were, of course, winter bare, but it was actually a nice time to visit because it was fun to spot the green shoots coming up out of the ground.  Having read The Secret Garden with Ella earlier this school year it was especially fun to see a garden starting to come back to life.

Ella is a girl after her father's heart and loves a good map.  No walking aimlessly for these two.  We must visit each point in the correct order!

We had been told by many people that becoming members of the National Trust would be well worth it, and it definitely is.  Becoming members for the year gives us access all year long to so many beautiful places.

It was a really beautiful day, and you could feel in the air that Spring is coming, but at some point I laughed to myself because, Spring was coming, and I knew it because I didn't have to keep my coat zipped up all day, and I didn't have to wear a hat.  But wearing a coat and gloves was still required for maximum comfort.

One of the outbuildings was used as a laundry during the Victorian era.  I thought the wooden sinks were beautiful, but I'm so glad I don't have to spend as much time and effort on my laundry today!

There was a great playground at the edge of the property, which the kids enjoyed.  And I took some time to photograph the snowdrops, which were in abundance.

From the playground you could walk across a field to a public footpath beside the River Ouse.  The English just do landscapes right.  And muddy fields.  They do muddy fields really well.

I do find choosing the right footwear difficult at times.  What shoes are appropriate for walking on beautiful hardwood floors as well as tramping through muddy fields and keeping your feet warm?  It's a challenge.

Ella and James have been learning some French at school, and since French is obviously the language of fencing, they fought in the field, shouting nonsensical French words at one another:  "Bonjour!  Rouge!  Ce Va!"

I was walking with a friend last week, and she used the phrase, "the slow reveal" to describe the continuing unfolding of landscape design as we walked.  I don't know if thought was given to making this public footpath a slow reveal, but as we walked on the path by the river, enjoying the sight of the fishermen and sheep grazing in the field, we rounded a curve, and I was a little bowled over by the sight of the village and the church spire.  Could the scene be any more idyllic?

And just to make it a dash more English, we'll throw in a man training his dog in the fields in front of the house.

Coming home we had to stop at a toll bridge where we met an older gentleman who had bicycled across the United States from Seattle to Maine and then from New Orleans to Canada.  I was so impressed by that that I kind of wanted to make it a new life goal. 

It was a refreshing day out together.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tuscaloosa Tuesdays: A Year Ago

One year ago today we left Tuscaloosa and flew into Manchester, met Del and Laura and many others face-to-face for the first time, and spent our first night in Boroughbridge.

2014 was such a year of waiting and praying and waiting and praying some more, but even so, a lot can happen in a year.  We're really thankful that all the waiting and praying led us here.

I accidentally read the wrong day's reading in a daily book of prayers I read, but as usually happens, it was a timely reminder for my heart today looking forward to the year ahead, just as it was a good word for me this time last year as we waited and prayed and kept walking forward by faith.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
- Proverbs 3:5-6 -
It is comforting to look back and see how He has made our paths straight, and to remember He will keep on doing so.  

Friday, February 6, 2015

Franco Fridays: Punjabi Church Service

Our group was really thankful for the opportunity to visit with the Punjabi Church in Paris on the Sunday we were there.  KJ and I had met them in 2013, and it was a great joy to see how God had increased their number and added families, women, children, and teenagers.  In the time since we had visited last they had also found a new meeting place.  A French church who meet in the mornings has given them access to their building on Sunday afternoon into the evening.

I can't remember now exactly what was said here, but I think I remember KJ using some American turn of phrase or idiom that had Anjlo unsure about how to translate.  It was a sweet moment when two brothers laughed over something lost in translation.

I stole one of KJ's phone shots from the front.  I didn't take many pictures but a little video of their wonderful music.  We love these dear brothers and sisters.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tuscaloosa Tuesdays: Last Wednesday Night Bible Study

I still have a handful of pictures from Tuscaloosa before we moved.  Last things.  It kind of hurts my heart to think about the last days.  Life there was really good, and life here is really good, but the part in the middle is a little hard to think about, because good-byes are never easy.

I'm not really sure if Hillary will appreciate this shot of her, but it has to be remembered how she left her husband for several days to come stay with us, sleep a few last nights on the couch where she and David watched movie after movie while falling in love, and go through each and every toy the kids owned asking, "Is this going or staying?"  She is a GEM.

This was KJ's last Wednesday night to teach these guys and gals, and it was the first Wednesday night of the combining of two college ministries into one body.  It was bittersweet and also exciting.

When we came to Tuscaloosa "college minister" was not on KJ's new job description.  But when circumstances put him in the position to teach every Wednesday night, God was so kind, because the students he brought into our lives still make our hearts burst with joy.  There was a time where the Wednesday night Bible Study consisted of KJ and one lone college guy eating burgers at Wendy's and talking about a passage of Scripture. And then out of that time came a season of 40 or more gathered in a room every Wednesday.  They are such a blessing to us. 

And because of them I think one of my biggest take-aways from ministry in Tuscaloosa is that you never know what ministry among which people will be the place that bears fruit.  These guys were our unexpected blessing, full of fervor and passion for Jesus, full of laughter and love for one another, and they were free babysitters, the best free babysitters ever.  Our kids would plead for us to go on date nights so they might have the pleasure of their company.

I think he was probably saying something like, "I'm glad to be with you the end of all things."  Because it wouldn't be a Wednesday night Bible study without a few choice Lord of the Rings quotes.