Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Believing in the power of God

We went to the last playgroup meeting of the year today. There was a party atmosphere with candles and food and decorations, and everyone chatted about their holiday plans. It is hard to be away from home at this time of year. It is easy to start feeling sorry for myself. I try to fight it, but sometimes I feel so overwhelmed by life. I know that until I die, there will be imperfections in me and my house and my husband and son and in my life. So it is really pointless to be overly troubled by our (lack of) money in the bank, or what clothes I'm wearing, or what toys and activities are available to Iain, or how long it is going to take us to repay our student loans, or when and where Brian will get a full time job. But it is a struggle. That eternal perspective is so easy to lose.

And it is easy to feel that God doesn't understand or that he is unkind. But as I listened to the Christmas story being told to the children this morning, the true degradation of Joseph and Mary's situation struck me. What kind of a provider was Joseph in that situation? How must have Mary felt when she had to birth her child into dark and damp and muck? All the children's stories and nativity sets have bright clean stables with adoring animals surrounding the family. I haven't known the ignominy of sleeping in a barn because I have nowhere else to go, let alone giving birth in one. And that is the situation that God choose to make his advent in. How can I complain when he has generously given me more than he gave his only begotten son?

It is such a comfort to think about the humiliation of Christ and the glorious results that came from it. If God can plan such a wonderful and awesome thing as the savior of the world being born into a stable, then I can be confident that he has his plan for me well in hand too, no matter what it seems like to me at the time.

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1 Cor. 1:18

Monday, December 10, 2007

"Christmas wraths"

We drove past a sign the other day advertising the selling of "Christmas wraths." It's nice to know that some people still celebrate the holidays right.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Iain's First Christmas Cookies

Iain and I baked Christmas cookies together today and we both had lots of fun. It was strange being the mom instead of the kid, but I really enjoyed the time with my son. He's one of the best gifts I've ever gotten. Anyway, here are a few pictures I snapped and a video so that everyone can share in the fun.

The first thing he did with the dough was to pop it in his mouth. Mmm. Baking is tasty!







video

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Christmastime is here!

We're enjoying the season here in the Douglas house. Here are a few recent photos. The first one is Brian in his awesome new hat. Does anybody know what these kind of hats are called?

And Iain enjoying the great outdoors. He insisted on wearing his Santa hat outside-- what a cutie!
Decorating our flat. We put on Christmas music and got out the tree and lights. We made snowflakes too.
And some recent Christmas themed pics that Mama took.





Friday, November 23, 2007

The God of Promise and Fulfillment

“Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign: Behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son and she will call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

“The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you shall name Him Jesus’….Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be since I am a virgin?’” Luke 1:30 & 34


“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel…” Micah 5:2

“Joseph also went from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem… in order to register along with Mary…. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.” Luke 2:4-6


"Thus says the LORD, ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” Jeremiah 31:15

“Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.” Matthew 2:16

…Out of Egypt I called My son.” Hosea 11:1

“…Behold an angel of the LORD appeared to Joseph in a dream and said ‘Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Eygpt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.’” Matthew 2:13


“The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD…." Isaiah 61:1-2

“ Jesus returned to Galilee… and He began teaching in their synagogues… the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD’ And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” Luke 4:16-21


“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you: He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah 9:9

“They brought the colt to Jesus and put their coats on it; and He sat on it.” Mark 11:7


“Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” Psalm 41:11

"Truly, truly I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.’ .…‘Lord, who is it?’ Then Jesus answered, ‘That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him’. So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.” John 13:21-26


“I gave My back to those who strike Me, and My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting. ” Isaiah 50:6

“Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said ‘Prophesy to us, you Christ who is the one who hit you?’” Matthew 26:67


“You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; You have received gifts among men, even among the rebellious also, that the LORD God may dwell there.” Psalm 68:18

“And after He said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” Acts 1:9

"Therefore it says ‘When He ascended on high, He led captive a Host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.’” Ephesians 4:8


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Christmas: Headache and Hassle, or Heavenly Hope?

The below article by Jordan was published in the 12 December edition of Christian Renewal magazine.

================================

I love Christmas. Ok, ok, maybe you think I've been watching too much television or that the incessant holiday zeal of the profiteering marketers has gotten to me, but I like Christmas because it reminds me of biblical truth. Which is really sort of the point, isn’t it?

Do you remember the excitement you felt about Christmas as a kid? It was, as one classic holiday movie puts it, the event around which the entire “kid year” revolved.

As a child I devised all kinds of ways to count down the days to Christmas. One year, I had a Santa Claus calendar where you could glue a cotton ball to Santa's beard for every day that passed; by Christmas Day, Santa had a full beard. Another year I made paper chains and I tore off a link for every day that passed. And of course, there was always the verbal count. I drove my mother crazy with that one. Every morning I would triumphantly announce the number of days remaining until the holiday, and my poor mother would groan and shake her head, thinking of all that was still to be done.

I still love Christmas. The sights, the sounds, the traditions, the time spent treasuring family relations and meditating on the mystery of the incarnation of our Lord – it is a wonderful time of year. I always think it is a shame when we allow the commercialization of the holidays to steal our joy. We should enjoy going to a production of The Nutcracker, gazing at a beautifully lit Christmas tree in the dark, or admiring a lovely table setting and centerpiece. We can thank God for the beauty and creativity that still exist in this world, despite the sin that has tainted it.

As Christians our lives are a bit like Christmastime. It is a season of fervent anticipation of coming glory. It has an "already and not yet" quality to it. Trees are up, lights sparkle, it is Christmastime, but not yet Christmas. In the same way, Christians live in anticipation of future joy, yet we are already partakers in that joy.

But the glitter and glamour of the season is only a dim picture of what our heavenly home will be like. Unlike Christmas day, which flies so quickly away leaving behind it tired and disappointed people, there will be no end to the beauty and celebration when we are received into our future glory. There will be nothing missing and nothing broken, no disappointments, guilt, or rejection. There is no Island of Misfit Toys in heaven, because we will all be made perfect and whole, with nothing disjointed or crooked in us.

How strange and wondrous it is that in order for us to take part in the glory and joy of heaven, Christ had to endure humiliation and suffering. He is the one who felt our brokenness and rejection fully, yet we are the ones treated as perfect and beloved children of the King. We get what Christ deserves and Christ got what we deserved, and He did this out of love for His Father and love for His bride, the church.

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Is 53:4-5).

The punishment that brought us peace – what an incomprehensibly beautiful phrase. The irony and counterpoint give the mind much to meditate on, the sheer selflessness of that kind of love brings tears to the eye. How often I forget the beauty of my salvation.

I wish that I had more of my childish eagerness back, only for the coming of the Lord. I am waiting for the penultimate event of all time. For utopia! For rest! To see the Savior's face! And how much greater will He be than any shadowy holiday, for “he will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4).

My prayer is that I will meditate more and more on the joy of my salvation, and that the celebration of Christmas would not be a distraction from that, but would provide new depth to those thoughts. May Christ’s bride have a daily consciousness of her coming joy and glory. Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas and a season of anticipation that lasts far past December 25th.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Read me this story, Mama!

We thought this was funny and decided to pass it along:

Just a minute ago, Iain handed Mama a new story, one he had never read before, and asked her to please read him this one!


In case you can't tell, it's a map of Glasgow. :-)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Another season, but God's provision continues

Brian here again: For the first time since last winter, the outside temperature will drop below freezing tonight. The weekend saw a notable drop in temperature, and today it was very chilly despite the fact that the sun was out (which is always a noteworthy event in England). So perhaps we're getting the first of our truly winter weather. I have a feeling that this will be a colder winter than last year - we'll see. It's nights like this that make you very happy to have such a snug, warm flat.

In other news, we are very happy about our new couch!


Thanks to the flash, the photo doesn't really do it justice. It's actually more tan than golden. The below photo is a little more accurate.

No, it's not what some people would call special, but it is truly a gift from God. Jordan and I have been wishing for a couch since we got here. We're used to snuggling up together and reading or watching a film, but to this point all we'd had to sit on were the two beauties in this photo from last Christmas-time:


They were fine - more comfortable than they look, really - but we wished for a couch. The problem is that the furniture market is pricey here. Even beat-up stuff is nearly always well above our price range. So we made due with the chairs until now, except for an interlude of a couple weeks in which we tried the "couch" that the university offered us. It definitely would've been more appropriate in a doctor's office and didn't make for good snuggling, reading, or movie watching. Here's another photo of our new seat:


It's a bit narrow as couches go, but if it was any bigger it wouldn't fit in here well, so it's just perfect by our standards. Much thanks to Anthony for helping me move it - I'm sure we got a few odd stares as we drove it home, with the majority of it hanging out the back of our tiny Citroen AX.

The best thing about the couch is that it was free! Someone wanted to get rid of it and had offered it to some shops around town, but for whatever reason no one wanted it. So they posted it online and we got it. Having seen far, far worse specimens in shops for £50 and more, I can only conclude that God caused others to turn it down just to give us a gracious gift.

What's more, this is the second time in as many days that we have received something very valuable for absolutely nothing. Just yesterday, one of our friends gave us a brand new winter coat for Iain, and it is just the right size for when he outgrows his current coat in about a month. It was an incredible, thoughtful, loving gift.

These past few months have been very trying financially - we have had to pray many times lately to ask for greater faith in God's promises. But over and over again, God has sent things like this our way.

Another example that comes to mind is our car. We never thought we'd be able to afford to buy a car here, but we did in early July for the incredible sum of £100. Here's what it looked like just after we'd bought it:


I should take some updated photos now that I've fixed it up a bit. Just for comparison: I sold my bike a couple weeks ago for that exact same amount.


What an incredible gift to have a car for such a price! We've put some more money into it for some repairs, but I've done almost all the labor myself (including patching it together at times using such ordinary household items as extension cords and rubber door stops). And because of the repairs we should actually be able to sell it for more than we paid for it.

All these things remind us: we might not know for sure where we will be in a year, but today we have every single thing we need and much more. Thanks be to God that although we often forget him, he never forgets us.

I'll try to remember to post some photos of Iain in his new coat.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The God Who Hears

Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down,
That the mountains might quake at Your presence--
As fire kindles the brushwood, as fire causes water to boil--
To make Your name known to Your adversaries,
That the nations may tremble at Your presence!
When You did awesome things which we did not expect,
You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence.
For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear,
Nor has the eye seen a God besides You,
Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him. Is. 64:1-4

What a blessing to "come across" this passage today. I've been struggling with depression this week. Feelings of uncertainty, failure, despair, and regret have fought for air time in my head. Longing for a home full of children to care for, longing for the stability of a home of my own, missing the old familiarity of my own country, looking at a grim financial situation day in and day out, wondering if the daily grind is worth it and if anything meaningful is being accomplished in one's life. Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down! Are you there, God? Do you act for your people?

How sad that I, the author of this blog, can ask that. But I do. How quickly I forget past mercies. I'm glad to have this blog to remind me of things the Lord has done, small and great.

I haven't written much about the struggles I've had with homesickness and depression here. Partly because when I feel that way I don't feel like doing anything, including writing. Partly because this blog has become so very public and I'm not sure that I want that part of myself so exposed and bare. But I'm sad to think of losing the record my inner life this past year. How quickly I forget what I've thought and felt and what the answers from the Lord have been.

But I wanted to remember this apt word from him today, spoken into the midst of a troubled and sickly week. On this day when we are going to an informational meeting about adoption which just "happens" to be on campus, these are the words of the Lord to me. When the pain of knowing that all we can do is gather information because we are not and likely will not be in a place to think about adopting again for many long years, this is what he reminds me.

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him. I Cor. 2:9

Thank you Lord, for having a plan. Thank you for promising to execute according to your will and wisdom. Thank you for reminding me that I am in your hands, that you remember my physical needs and my spiritual needs. Thank you for being so trustworthy. Amen.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

New words

Iain has been slowly building his vocabulary lately. Before it consisted of only five words: Mama, Papa, Dada, this, and yeah, with a couple other noises that served as universal nouns. But just this past week or so, he's been showing more of an interest in talking and has a few times, without prompting, broken out a word that we didn't know he knew.

A few times now he has said "shuh" (shoe). He's really funny about shoes, actually, as he loves every pair he owns, very much enjoys having them on his feet, and will bring you his outside shoes whenever he wants to go outside.

Yesterday he said "ball", and tonight he said "Hush!" at the appropriate point in his favorite story, Goodnight Moon. We always clap and cheer when he says a new word, which of course he loves.

We always pray at the end of family worship before Iain goes to bed, and we make a big point of saying "Amen" at the end. He's picked up on that and has said it several times over the past couple days. Here's a video of him showing off his new vocabulary:

video

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bonfire Night

Last night Brian and I went to the nearby town of Lewes to watch the 5th of November celebrations. In 1605, Guy Fawkes and a group of co-conspirators plotted to assassinate James I and other members of the royal family by blowing up the Houses of Parliment during the State Opening on November 5th. This became known as the Gunpowder Plot and it came very near to suceeding. The plotters were Catholics hoping to gain control of the government and bring Britain back to the Roman Catholic church, or at least to allow greater freedom of belief and worship for British Catholics. The conspirators warned several Catholic Members of Parliment to stay away from the opening ceremonies, and word leaked out that something was afoot. Inquiries were made and on November 4th Guy Fawkes was caught in the cellar of the House of Lords with 36 barrels of gunpowder and matches.

Though originally an anti-Catholic celebration, Bonfire Night is now just a chance to set off some fireworks and perhaps burn your favourite villian in effigy.

Lewes has one of the most famous Bonfire Night celebrations in the whole of the UK, and since we live less than 10 minutes away, we really wanted to go. It is not a baby friendly event (as you will soon see) so a friend of ours kindly watched Iain for us.

Walking along the street before the main procession, we ran into this group.

There are 6 Bonfire Societies in Lewes, all with their own costumes, traditions, effigies, torches, and bonfires. They all come together to form a main procession and then each head off to let off fireworks at their bonfire site. The festivities last for hours and the societies prepare for them all year long.

The main procession on the high street.




Brian by the light of the road flares some of them were carrying. Yes, road flares! Along with the torches and flares, many of the Bonfire Boys let off firecrackers in the street.


When the torches burned too low, the Bonfire Boys simply dropped them in the street. These guys came through and picked them up. Until then, everyone just had to step around them. We had one dropped right in front of us as we watched the parade.






Here's a fun video of the insanity that is Bonfire Night in Lewes.

video
After watching the procession for a while, we headed off to the first bonfire site. They had the largest fire I have ever seen. It was at least 2 stories tall and the heat was so intense that you couldn't stand to be within 20 feet of it.

The embers were so pretty floating off into the cold November sky.

Next to the bonfire were the fireworks displays. I've never been so close to the display. Guy Fawkes was there, and the Pope, and the Beatles. The Beatles didn't get burnt because theirs was a tribute effigy to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Sgt. Pepper album.


We had a really great time. It was so very different from anything we'd been to before. It felt very rebellious and reckless, but there were lots of police and safety officers there, and it all seemed to go very well.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Remember, remember . . .

Since tomorrow is the 5th of November (we'll be going to the Lewes bonfire night, which is the undisputed best in the world!), I thought you might enjoy these two clips. Watch this one:



And then watch this one:

Monday, October 29, 2007

L'abri

We had the chance to visit the English branch of L'abri this past weekend. L'abri is French for "the shelter" and it is basically a ministry for people to come and live in a home environment while studying and asking questions. It was started by the Schaeffer family in the 1940's and the fist L'abri house was in Switzerland. Now they have them in multiple countries. Having always been enormous fans of Francis and Edith Schaeffer, it was a real treat to actually get to go there. I love Edith's book, the Hidden Art of Homemaking, and it encourages me to take a real pride and joy in my work around the home. But it also sets the bar awfully high, and can leave me feeling discouraged when I don't measure up. Brian and I have been reading her book L'abri since recently and it is such an encouragement. It tells the story of how L'abri got started and the hard times they had and the amazing ways that God provided. It has helped me so much to see their struggles and the Lord's care and provision for them. It is so easy to look back on the finished work and be intimidated, but this book is a real testimony to God-- it was all his doing. I'm clinging to the hope that He fully work out his plans in my life as well.




My Beautiful Boy



Sing to the LORD, you saints of his;
praise his holy name.

For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Psalm 30:4-5

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Today is . . .

. . . one of my favorite days of the year: St Crispin's Day!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cutest Punkin in the Patch!

It was such a beautiful day outside that I grabbed Iain and our pumpkins for some photos. We've all been sick this week, and he wasn't in the mood for pictures. Even though I didn't get any smiles, he is still the pick of the patch!



Oh boy, a stick! Now we're talking, Mama!


See, Mama? This is how you play with pumpkins!

And then, after we put the sticks down and came inside. What a beautiful boy he is, even when he is sad. He is out having adventures with Papa right now!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Flashback to Summer

Even though it wasn't as warm and sunny as we hoped, we throughly enjoyed our first summer in the UK. We ate loads of grilled sausages, took walks, sat outside, discovered new places, enjoyed summer fruit, played Poohsticks, learned to spot stinging nettles, and spent time with friends. It was great.

Our church had a campout in August. This trip was our introduction to Ashdown Forest, which you've seen from other posts how much we continue to enjoy it. Katy and Chris kindly loaned us a tent and an air mattress. They provided tents for many other people too. Here is Iain enjoying the air mattress. (Uh oh, Bethel, you are going to see what a spoiled camper I was!)


Brian and Anthony helping to put up some of the other tents.
A beautiful sunset on that first night.


We had a brilliantly read Pooh story by Chris that night. He does beautiful voices! This was (gasp) our first introduction to a non-Disney Pooh, and we really enjoyed the adult perspective on childhood. Very humorous.

We all slept until about 1am, then Iain woke up crying and wouldn't go back to sleep. I guess sleepin with Mama and Papa wasn't as easy as we thought it would be. After listening to him wail for about a half hour, we decided to head home so we and our neighbors could sleep. We drove back to the campsite the next morning.

The next day we went on an Expotition to the nearby Bluebell Railway, which is a restored line for steam engines. We hung about on the platform train spotting and took in a Punch and Judy show. (I never want to hear a complaint about modern cartoon violence again!) Again, Punch and Judy are nearly as much for the adults as the children.



After that, Brian and I drove around the forest, stopping in Pooh Corner (a touristy shop) and heading down to Pooh Bridge to play Poohsticks! We will always remember this summer and Ashdown whenever we play Poohsticks and it is fun and simple, so I know we will take it with us when we go.

Iain is ready for adventures!


Pooh Bridge.



A friendly game of cricket.


This is from another time at Ashdown this summer. We had a nice long walk.


Another new place we discovered this summer, Devil's Dyke. I love it up there.




And lastly, what happens when your baby eats summer sausage and puts his fingers in his hair: the world's strongest hair gel. Ewwww. No wonder the pioneers used to use bear grease to style their hair. It works!