Friends, take a seat and rest. That is what I intend to do as I reflect on this past year. A year that has pushed me out of my comfort zone and into a place where I can hopefully grow and blossom in ways that I can't even imagine. I am still waiting for the latter part of that to happen...I will try to be patient. There is no resolution this year. I want to choose joy in 2007. And that will only happen if I choose it each day. I am tired of experiencing loss and being frustrated. I want to finally grab a hold of the blessings God is intending for me here so far from home. Why is it so hard to do that?
This blog has been such a blessing for me these past few months. I look back on my posts and I cannot believe how much time has passed since I posted for the first time. Each and every picture is a piece of me. Sharing my world here with you through my camera lens has given me real bliss (and it's cheaper than a therapist). :)
Thanks for all your comments. Please...if you visit, share a thought with me. I know you all are out there but I am not hearing from some of you! Happy New Year!
Photo taken at Kensington Palace, London, UK 2006
That is what I am praying for these days...
Here we go! After 8 months of reflection and prayer, we have decided to bring our kids home to homeschool them. Circumstances here have kept this issue in the forefront for us and have only intensified over time. We have homeschooled before when our family has been in transition but now we finally feel settled enough to bring them back here. Enrolling them in school when we arrived was an absolute neccessity, vital for their adjustment here and gave them a much needed routine. We are grateful for that time. And while it wasn't an easy decision to make, we are excited that we will be serving our kids in the area where they are needing it the most right now. I am a bit nervous but know that with the prayer and support we have from friends and family that God will bless this adventure for His glory. Already we are receiving some confirmations of our decision which is a huge joy for us both. Thank you to those who have prayed and counseled us.
Photo inspired by Alex Shrout
I love to see the buildings in the city lit up at night. They are beautiful. Here is the London Eye with the sapphire blue lights that illuminate it at night. I just love the way it looks whether I am standing across the River Thames from it or right underneath.
Ever looked up while standing directly under a tree? I think that winter is the best time to do that. Every tree is different and you can really get some wonderful views of the bark, the branches and the trunk with the winter sky behind them. This tree is in Green Park in the city. It is so interesting to look at...the shadings, the foliage that still remains through the winter along with the unique bark. So simple and so interesting at the same time. My kind of photo.
It is never too late to do some window shopping and that is exactly what Jack was doing on Christmas Eve. He was fascinated by the things he saw in the window at the antique shop on our street. I love that he stops to appreciate the old and the new. If it were open, I know that I could have gone in with him and spent an hour just admiring all the pieces. He would have so much to say about these small treasures.
It is a good thing to remember exactly why we are celebrating Christmas. We are still in the process of finding a church home here in London and on Christmas Eve we attended a small church in our neighborhood. We heard the nativity story that night. All the children of the church came dressed up as angels, shepards or kings and acted out the story. It was another sweet and gentle reminder of how our Lord loves us. The gift of His son to this world was the most precious gift of all.
Friends and Family...and whoever else drops in...
My apologies for not having posts yesterday or today. I am enjoying some downtime with my family while taking in our first Christmas here in the UK together. I will be back up tomorrow with a few pics for you! Hope that you all are having a blessed day!
Love and joy,
Sam (the one in England)
Yes, even Santa gets urgent mail. Every now and then revisions must be made. On this eve of Christmas Eve, Sam told me that he had mail of the utmost importance....changes in his Christmas list. So he wrote it all down (and added pictures), addressed it and when we were on our way into the city to look at Christmas lights...he put it in the post (that is what they call the mail here). I wouldn't normally perpetuate this scenario to this degree but it really was cute...and I got a great photo. You can't tell from the pic but Sam is up on his tiptoes to get that letter in the box...so sweet. He actually mailed two letters for good measure. Where do kids get this stuff? This was taken on the High Street in our neighborhood just before getting on the bus.
At 8 am this morning, the train carrying my sister and niece pulled out of Victoria Station in Central London heading toward the airport. It was a solemn morning that snuck up on me. This will be my first Christmas outside of the US ever and so being away from all of my extended family will be difficult. One thing that we have been told about a life of outreach is that your relationships can end up looking like a revolving door. Today that is exactly what it felt like. Even though this trip was a short one, I wouldn't have traded it for anything. It was great to reconnect with my sister, hang out together and show her a bit of our life here. I snapped this photo as the train was pulling away from us (in between tears). Of course it left right on time! :(
This was a sight for sore eyes! No, not the hot Starbucks...my sister, in London, visiting me. I snapped this while we were out touring the city. We are doing the "Unofficial" London Starbucks crawl.....not really, although we have hit many of them. She drinks coffee. I sip on a hot chocolate. I am so grateful for her and all that she brings into my life. We became friends about 14 years ago and each and every year since has proven sweeter than the last. This time here with her has really given my soul some much needed comfort. And we are NEVER short on laughter when we are together. My heart is already aching at the thought of saying another goodbye to you. There really is nothing like a big sister....
Sadie and I had a mother/daughter day in Paris today with my sister and my niece. They had not been to the city before and the four of us had such a special time hanging out together. I am extremely tired as I sit down in my big, comfy chair to update my blog. We are amazed at how much we saw today. We left our home on the Hill at 4:30 am to catch the 5:34 am train to Paris on Eurostar. We arrived home tonight at 10 pm...LONG DAY! That is right...our whirlwind tour was a day! I snapped this pic as we were walking under the road to see the Arc de Triomphe (which is at the end of the Champs-Elysees). Paris was quite crowded this week before Christmas so when I realized we were alone in the underground tunnel I took this. I like that the natural light is pouring in from the street level on the stairs.
One of my favorite things about London (OK, I have a lot of favorites) will always be the flower stands from street to street. In this country where it is cold for most of the year, it always brings me joy to see flowers in bloom. With the weather what it is...I am sure that makes them even more vibrant and attractive for me to gaze upon. As we were walking in the city again today, we noticed a stand overflowing with flowers just off Oxford Street. It was beautiful and I could have stood there for an hour taking in the colors and the smells. I just love these calla lillies. I like the very smooth petals and the way they hang so pretty when they are all bunched together...perfect. There is just something blissful about flowers...
Today we were in the city sightseeing. It was crisp and cold but a beautiful day to be outside. We walked through Green Park next to Buckingham Palace just before dusk. As we did, the boys pulled out the American football from Johns backpack and started passing with eachother. Jack and Sam are eighteen short months apart in age. In case you dont know, that means that they are the best friends one second and then enemies the next! Some days (OK, most days...) there are battle lines drawn in our home between them. You can imagine how happy I was when I looked over and saw them having fun together. It was a good moment and they had several of those today. Yes...today was a good day.
I have to say, I love this sign. When I am under it I am very excited! It means I am waiting for visitors. My sister and my niece landed here in London at 8:55 this morning. I snapped this while I was waiting for them at Gatwick Airport. I am hoping to share just a bit of my world here with them. I think that airports are fascinating. The hustle and bustle...the people coming and going from all over the world. I could people watch there all day long...no kidding. There has to be some study on human behavior set in an airport...
I wasn't looking forward to today. I was to be home all day cleaning for my sister and niece who are visiting from the States. I am a big procrastinator when it comes to cleaning. You know I can't be like a sane person and do a little each day...I work better under pressure! My husband disappears on these days with "important things to do"...hahaha. It took me all day and it is finally finished. I took this photo this morning before the smell of bleach and laundry was in the air. It was just breathtaking. Now that I am finally sitting down (it is midnight here), it was nice to look at this sunrise all over again. The image seems to reflect exactly what I was seeing. I hope that you can sense the vivid colors and the warmth.
This is the view of our small neighborhood from the foot of "the Hill"...Harrow-on-the-Hill to be exact. I like this view of all the homes lined up and at the top is the steeple of the Church of St. Marys. I have posted about that before. For more info on
St. Marys check out my post called "Quiet Retreat" from September 21, 2006. The skies are grey all winter here but no matter what time of the year it is...that beautiful green grass is a constant. It is the direct result of the downpours that we get...often! While I have been showing you all close ups of my life here, I though you all might like to see the bigger picture.
We packed a 20 foot container to go across the Atlantic to London last year. Due to space where we were moving (or should I say lack of it), I did not bring our ornaments for Christmas. That was a mistake. I truly underestimated how important it would be for me to have our familiar trimmings as we decorated for the holidays in our new home. Despite feeling a bit lost in the holiday shuffle, we bought our tree last week and that night John put on those little white lights. I have to say that it is one of the prettiest trees we have had since we have been married. Pondering how to do ornaments since ours were all left at home was quite hard. After being inspired by a friend here, I decided to do things different this year. We purchased some Christmas movies and the kids and I sat for a few hours and made popcorn and cranberry garland for our tree. It was a real sweet time with my children doing something none of us had ever done before. A new tradition. A new memory. Later I snapped this pic of my son Jack. He single-handedly decorated our tree with a few ornaments that have been given to us by friends here...and he did a great job. I haven't moved one of them! Thanks Jack for picking up my slack...I can tell you that your excitement is contagious!
Yes, that is right...afternoon. I took took this picture at 3:45 pm outside our back door. The blues is this are breathtaking to me. Can you feel the cold air? I can. Come January here it will be pitch black by 3:30 and not light again until 9:00 am.
In another attempt to share my world, I took this photograph as I walked by one of our neighbors homes. I really am fond of lanterns. My grandfather on my dads side had a lighting business in Raleigh for years. Passed to me by family, I have two unique iron lanterns from his business that I cherish. They are outdoor lanterns that I have used inside for years. They did not make the trip across the Atlantic but are waiting for me when I get home. I was reminded of them when I saw these hanging. The different colors of glass and the iron have so much character. I wonder if there are stories behind this lamp like the one I have of my grandfather.
always get me down. The morning started off not so well. My transition here has had its ups and downs. I have been realizing that I am still in the battle of surrendering to Christ...letting go of fears and control has been tough. Some days are better than others...it is a daily struggle. My husband and I met with some good friends of ours this morning and I felt very encouraged by fellowship and the scriptures we read together. I feel very loved by the community of believers here and I am so grateful in the Lords provision for me in these precious friendships. After lunch, John and I headed back home and I took this picture on the rainy High Street in our neighborhood. It is a shot of the Harrow School on the Hill. I love the old buildings and I never tire of looking at them and imagining it in another time...
In my project to bring you scenes from my daily surroundings, I snapped a pic of one of the entrances to a home near us. I enjoy the way people cut and shape their shrubbery here whether it is in the garden, the park or over a doorway. They are meticulously manicured with loving care on the little patch of land that they call home. You can find some pretty amazing gardens as you stroll the narrow streets. There is quite a picturesque feel in our neighborhood. From the old homes to the rod iron signs hanging on storefronts that make noises in the wind. These cozy welcomings only add to the feel of the area. Look for more tomorrow.
Another day, another trip up and down familiar streets. Most of the pictures I snap are of my small little world here. I pass by this door quite a bit. Everytime it looks so inviting. I decided get a photo of the door knocker this afternoon. Maybe one day I will meet who is there...there is always tomorrow!
One of the first things that I noticed when we moved here was the rooftops. The area where we live is quite old and the chimneys and roofs are reminicent of the Mary Poppins movie. There are very different from what you would see in America. I snapped this of a chimney that I see often from our home. Just liked the way it looked.
I am so thankful. God has put several wonderful women in my life....and each one of you know who you are! One of the hardest things about leaving to come here was dreading the physical and emotional separation from women that bring true joy to my life on a daily basis. Some of the women I had known for years, some for months. Strange how God put those friends in my life even just before I was leaving. I can't tell them everyday but not a day goes by that I am not thankful for you my friends.
I went to a lunch today for my friend Josephine. We met just 15 short months ago in the States and are living 45 minutes away from eachother here. Our paths have crossed by the grace of God and she has taken care of me here. I can be myself and she loves me anyway...while at the same time, pointing me to the cross. She celebrates her birthday today (I will be nice and not give out numbers...besides she would kill me!).
Today I decided to post my favorite pic of her. It was taken last May in Greece on a retreat that our families attended together. She looks joyful. When I see this I think of all the times we have enjoyed together. I can't remember what she was laughing about here but I can guarantee you one thing...my stomach was probably hurting due to laughter. What a blessing she is to me! Thank you Lord for providing for me through my friends...
Today was a big day for us here...so y'all get two pics...enjoy!
Another year is gone. Hard to believe that my baby is seven. Time flies. Where did it go? As I do with each of my children on their birthdays, we took out Sam's baby album and looked through it together throughout the day. It really is so special every year to do that with them. I love the fact that he doesn't want to grow up. It makes me smile when he curls up tight in a ball to try to show me that he can fit in my tummy still. Those are among the thousands of moments that I will treasure of Sam. And everyday I am excited to make new ones with him. He is such a blessing and joy! Happy Birthday Sam!
Tonight we had a multi-cultural Christmas worship service. Alot of our South Asian friends and their families were there to take part in the celebration. The backdrop was so vibrant and colorful with the fabrics and the many women in their sarees. It was a festive evening of fellowship, dancing and of course...flavorful fare. The kids acted out the story of the nativity which was a much needed and wonderful reminder of the true meaning of this season. These are traditional Indian votives. They are beautiful all lit up and so I had to share a picture of them with you.
It was a perfect day to see a movie. It was rainy here all day (surprise, surprise) and now that it is December, it gets completely dark by 4:15 in the afternoon...nice, huh? We are celebrating a birthday of one of our children tomorrow who turns the big 7! He is so excited he can't stand it! So tonight we gathered up another family and went to see a movie. I snapped this as we were walking back to the car in the "car park"...for the people Stateside...that is a parking garage. I still have this thing for lines. I liked the way this looked...all the light cans lined up against some of the cement lines of the structure going in the opposite direction. And where the light and shadows fall make this a pretty interesting photo.