In the company of Scrooge

It’s Christmas-time. Shop windows have all sorts of wonderful Christmas displays, and tomorrow night will be the lighting ceremony that will light up the streets with Christmas lights. Christmas can be so magical here and I love it.

Only this year, I feel like I don’t have time for Christmas. I have a Deadline and ever since my mental breakdown a few years ago it seems like my instinctive reaction to stress is to shut down. No good. It’s also Winter, which is Dark, and I just want to hibernate. It’s very difficult for me to wake up before the sun wakes up. This is my fifth winter in Scotland and that’s just a fact of life. So I’m coming into the office later than I’d like, trying to work and sometimes working, all the while wishing I could be home putting up my Christmas tree, baking cranberry orange bread, cutting snowflakes out of paper, watching Love Actually and White Christmas with huge mugs of hot chocolate and bundled up in blankets. But the Chapter Must Be Done before I get on a plane to Americaland on the 19th.

At the same time, I’ve been wondering: is it even worth decorating my house for Christmas if it’s just going to come down on the 18th? Depending on when I’d find time to put up Ebenezer the Tree and the rest of the decorations, I’ll only be able to enjoy it for a week. Is that worth the effort?

It’s enough to make me wish I were staying here again for Christmas, like I have the last two years. Don’t get me wrong, I am looking forward to seeing family and friends when I’m back in the States. I’d just like to be able to relax and celebrate Christmas with my own church and in my own home.

And now my lunch break is over, which means it’s back to work.

Days of Rest

For the first time in a month of Sundays, I took Sunday off. I didn’t have to serve at church, I didn’t have to work at MUSA, so I went to neither. Instead, I went to F.’s where we had an amazing breakfast, followed by going to the later service at his church.

Since it had stopped raining after lunch, we cycled to Craigtoun. I don’t know really if it’s another town or village, but there’s a park next to the Duke’s Golf Course, where we wandered around. The park is pretty much abandoned in winter, left to grow wild. We pretty much had it to ourselves, just wandering the different paths, discovering crumbling, dishevelled gardens and walking around the imitation Dutch village.


(Click photos to enlarge.)

Then, because it gets dark at 4pm these days, we made our way back home, where I read a book and F. made dinner. It was a very good day. Upon F.’s insistence that I take today, Monday, off as usual as well, to ‘have a two-day weekend like everyone else’, I did. I slept in until noon, ate a leisurely breakfast/lunch, and spent the afternoon reading. I feel like I am well positioned now to go speak at PGCF on the topic of “Reflecting faith in practice: Balance, work, and leisure”.

Thankful

Give thanks to the Lord.
It is meet and right so to do.

I am thankful for the rain, even when it is cold and windy, for with rain God nourishes the earth. I am thankful for winter, even with its long dark nights, because then I can see the stars. I am thankful for Scotland, this country where I have made my home. I am thankful for technology — for computers, Skype, satellites and international phone plans — that allows me to keep in touch with my friends and my family across the globe. I am thankful for the ability to read and write and understand language. I am thankful for books, old ones and new ones, fiction and non-fiction. I am thankful for music, of many kinds, music to sing, music to listen to in a candlelit chapel and to dance to in a kitchen. I am thankful for my family, for how much they love me. I am thankful for my friends and the adventures and stories we have. I am thankful for F., for the blessing he is to me and the friendship we have. I am thankful for my church, for the mystery of worship, for a prayerful congregation, for a church willing to grow. I am thankful for the privilege to pursue my dreams, to live the life of a scholar and a life of the mind. I am thankful for good health, for the ability to walk and hike and swim and cycle. I am thankful for the kindness of strangers who will let me into their home for Thanksgiving dinner. I am thankful for so many things.

It is right to give Him thanks and praise.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sundry

The Thesis Gods can be rather vengeful. I took a break this afternoon to watch a beautiful, lingering sunset (because the sun sets at 4pm these days). A rainbow glowed over the sea. The clouds shone gold and peach and pink against the brilliant sky. The sea, illuminated, reflected the sky in the still rock pools and crashed against the rocks, the foam catching the sun. But the Thesis Gods did not approve: I slipped and fell on the rocks myself. My reward for experiencing this beauty is to have a few bruises, muddy knees, and a sore pride. But the chapter is being written. My last, final, chapter of my thesis is due in December and It. Will. Be. Done. Even if I take a break to watch the sea and the sky that seemed to come out of a dream.

I just read Anne Lammott’s essay ‘The Prayer of an Unconventional Family’ on the New York Times. Such a literary upbringing and family sounds wonderful; how much more so if the family is also Christian. The best of both scenarios…

Is it only Tuesday? I’ve been forgetting which day of the week it is all week. I really want to have and evening in, to knit and read my book, but won’t have one until Saturday. It’s that time of year.

Ben Cleuch

This past week F. and I took Wednesday off instead of the usual Monday. Taking a 7am bus, we went to Tillicoultry to go hillwalking in the Ochils of Clackmannanshire. It was a misty, drizzly, windy day. We climbed The Law (638m) and Ben Cleuch (721m) whilst walking the Ben Cleuch Circular. As we walked through the glen and climbed up the hills, we saw the clouds drift between the hills, quickly obscuring the town from view. We met only three other people the whole day. We really had escaped civilization.

I borrowed hillwalking gear from my friend Joanna, and so hiked with walking sticks for the first time. We used all the light available to us on these short winter days, so we were out hiking for 8 hours. I’m very proud of myself for keeping up: it was only seven years ago I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. None of my joints were sore afterward (though quite a few muscles were). I’m so glad to learn that I can do this: be outdoors and enjoy myself without worrying about my arthritis.

Here are a few pictures, and they are evidence enough of what a beautiful, stunning place Scotland is.

 

It was a long, wonderful day.

Favourite things

Playing with trains:

Thursdays after work I walk home with Rebecca, where I get to spend the evening with Rebecca and the boys. I love the chance to be an aunty, to help with dinner and bedtime, to then just hang out with Rebecca and Phil and talk about medieval things or cookbooks or anything. This is definitely one of my favourite things and they are some of my favourite people.

We will remember them

I hate war.

But I grew up in a military city, raised by military brats, I have had family members serve in the army and air force, I have enough friends serving in all branches of the military to know that Remembrance Sunday and Veterans’ Day are not about glorifying war, but remembering the fallen. Every soldier is a son or daughter, brother or sister, mother or father, friend to someone who loves them and misses them. On this day we wear red poppies to mourn with those who mourn for those who have served, for those who have shown that “greater love hath no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Before the Silence in the remembrance ceremony, the priest of my church reads the names of those from our church who died in the two world wars. Did those young men know that their names would be read year after year, decade after decade? They couldn’t have. This is their immortality on earth; their names are remembered by those who never knew them, who never saw their face. But some of our congregation remember. Jimmy, fellow server, Navy veteran from the second world war, carried the wreath of poppies to the church’s war memorial in the courtyard. He looked splendid with his row of medals.

We will remember them.

Be still…

Last week was a long week. It’s been a long few weeks, actually. In one way or another I’ve been constantly going. On Monday, my day off, even though I was at home I was always moving — laundry, tidying the kitchen, the lounge, my bedroom, cooking — eventually I just sat down. I almost picked up my knitting, but didn’t. I just needed to be still. It lasted about twenty minutes, before I had to get up to start dinner so we could eat it before setting up for PGCF.

So last night, after skyping with Ros, packing away Halloween and setting the lounge back to rights with Elena, and eating dinner, I just sat. Elena had gone out for the rest of the evening; I had the house to myself. A mug of pumpkin chai latte, a slice of coffee and walnut cake, the lights turned down low. I held a book but didn’t open it. I sat, treasuring the silence, letting it stretch with the ticking of the clock.

I enjoy doing everything it is that makes me busy; it is not that I want to do less. Instead, I will treasure the silences when I have them.

Favourite things

My church:

I love the services, its people, the clergy and servers, the buildings. All Saints is wonderful. I am so blessed to be a part of the ministry of this church.

on neglectfulness

Dear Blog,

I’m sorry I’ve been neglecting you. I thought about posting yesterday about Obama’s re-election — observations on how my family and my friends in America are all Republican, but I am not (nor are most ex-pats I know!), and the irony that I celebrated Obama’s victory with my German boyfriend — but I didn’t. Because I was at work all day, and I feel guilty about posting at work. And then there was rehearsal and Evensong, followed by a long but productive PGCF committee meeting, and I didn’t get to bed until long after I normally would have turned into a pumpkin. And that’s with Wednesdays being my usual evening ‘home’.

It isn’t that I don’t have things to post about. I just don’t have time. It’s not you, Blog, it’s me.

But I have started reading fiction again, in snippets, a chapter before bed even if it’s after the Pumpkin Hour. Reading Patricia A. McKillip is a breath of fresh air in all the busyness.

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll remember Friday’s Favourite Things. Until then,

Your busy, scatterbrained author,

Chera