This is the hat in the Gathering issue of Taproot magazine. Lovely pattern, knitted in King Cole merino Aran, scarlet and white. Knitted for the beautiful Breagha, who is on a wee holiday at the croft with her Mum and Dad. Notes are on my Ravelry page.
A friend and I have taken up running - well - ok, brisk walking with some bouts of gentle jogging. This is our route. No-one but the sheep and God to see us. Its good to have company - someone to encourage me - to say "we can do this". It is hard, some days to be motivated, especially when the weather is wild. As we start off, we wonder how we are going to get through our program - the end seems such a long way away. But we step out, and soon we are well into our stride, and surprised at how quickly the time has gone. I am really enjoying it, and I come home feeling lighter and full of energy.
I feel the same about these Sunday Reflection posts - your supportive wisdom and prayers, fill me with encouragement, thank you all.
Today at church, we were blessed with the preaching of a young man of 21. (I can hear your sighs of relief.) He has visited us before, and we have always been struck at the maturity and wisdom of his words. The Holy Spirit is truly with him. Today, he led us through the parting of the Red Sea, and all the fear and trauma involved in that story. The Lord will fight for you; You only need to be still.(Ex 14:14). The Israelites were terrified, trapped - hemmed in on all sides, no idea where to go next. Suddenly their past lives as Egyptian slaves seemed preferable to them - they forgot all the miracles that had happened previously, in their fear of the moment. But they only had to look up - to the pillar of cloud and fire, and God would lead them to the land that was promised - and He did. So, often in the storms of life - we focus on our own human problems and we forget to look up. Yet, if we remember to do this - to look up, and watch and wait - God will take control and deliver us. Its not at all easy - we remember how simple life was in Egypt - and even walking through the path that God has opened for us requires a huge act of faith. But He has given us the hand of Jesus to cling on to, and He is only a prayer away.
Writing this tonight was a bit like my running sessions. I sat in front of a blank screen, wondering how I was going to even start. What could I write that would be in the least meaningful - how can I keep this series going, week after week? So I decided to look at my Bible app for inspiration. Today's verse is from James 1: 5 If any of you lack wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all, without finding fault, and it will be given to you. At first reading, it appears to be exactly what I needed - of course - I needed to ask God for inspiration! After all, this is meant to be about Him and His glory. If I don't ask God what he wants to write about, and truly listen, then what is the point? Indeed - I only needed to look up, and he led me through to the end.
Wishing you all God's blessings on the week ahead xx
I love this poem/song written by Robert Burns in 1791 - at a time when he lived in the same town as my husband's 6 X Great-Grandparents. It refers back almost a hundred years previously to the Act of Union (1707) when the members of the Parliament of Scotland effectively voted themselves out of existence, bought, as is suggested by the poem with "English gold". The Scottish people of the time, were most unhappy with this decision, and there were protests petitions and riots - copies of the treaty were torn up in public, but to no avail. Burns' poem encapsulates the feeling in the country about this, and quite likely his own too.
Now - in September, we in Scotland have a chance to vote on whether we want to leave this Union and become an independent country. I will be voting Yes, as I really believe that having our own government, elected by the people of Scotland, will benefit everyone living here. We have the chance now to build a fairer and more forward looking society - free from nuclear weapons, and from the imposition of policies, which damage our society and that we have not voted for. It is so exciting and I hope that on September 18th, we will all take a deep breath - Vote Yes - and jump in to the opportunities this change will bring.
The singer here is Pat Kane. He has such a wonderful voice and I love this version of what is an incredibly hard tune to get right. He does.
I mentioned in a previous post that I was planning to refresh my little laying flock, and indeed I did. A trip to the North of the island saw us return with three young Rhode Island Red hens. They are finding their way around and are almost settled in with the rest of the girls. Two of them are laying already, which is very welcome.
There has been trouble with the cockerels, though. After two years of relatively peaceful toleration, Elvis has decided that Cliff is out. It happened very suddenly - just yesterday, I found Cliff hiding over in the croft, looking very agitated and dazed. If Elvis catches sight of him, he goes tearing after poor Cliff, who flies off in fright. I haven't been able to catch him, but he looks quite battered and I think he might have lost an eye. If that is the case, it might have to be the end for him, as his life will be made miserable now that Elvis sees him as a rival, and a one-eyed cockerel would struggle to keep a flock safe from predators. Poor Cliff, he certainly cuts a fairly pathetic figure picking his way through the mud there. Mind you, he was looking a bit better today, and still crowing loudly and defiantly. We'll see what happens in due course, but at least it means that Spring is on the way!
Its been a good week - calm and pleasant for the most part. A busy one too, as I wrote a few days ago. So many opportunities to see the beauty of creation around us - to find God in our day to day lives. None more so than here, on this blog. I am so thankful for the kind and wise comments from last week's post. They truly helped me to calm my thoughts, and find some perspective on the words that I was struggling with. I mentioned the fact that our congregation is without a pastor at the moment, and how that impacts on my own understanding of some of the sermons we hear, week on week, and posting here, and reading the responses has made a difference.
I am very prone to agonising over issues - like a dog with a bone, I keep going back to situations in my mind and worrying over them - in a sense, reliving them. Time and time again, I replay conversations, things read or listened to, over and over in my head. Now - reflection is good, but obsession is not, and each time I do this - I am still stuck in the situation. It's like that comedy film - Groundhog Day - remember that?
All week, I have prayed, read, talked about and fretted about the ideas and challenges that I found in last weeks sermon delivery. "It's not right. We have no spiritual backup to help us understand. Is this really the message God wants us to hear? What is the message anyway? Speak to me!" But, by the end of the week,though I had worked off most of my angst, and so, this morning, we set off for church.
The preacher was one we had had several times before, and I am ashamed to say that, as far as I was concerned, he had form. The reading was announced - Genesis 19 - the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah - Groundhog Day. The sermon began and for the rest of the service, I felt harangued and blasted, as we were urged to "Run! Run from the wrath of God!". Don't get me wrong - it was a clever sermon - very well delivered, and this man puts himself out there, preaching the Word, which is more than I have ever done. It is also a wonderful piece of scripture to get your teeth into - google it and there are any number of interesting pieces that are written about the tragedy of Lot's wife. But, today's message was full of our sin, God's anger, and how we are all doomed. Not much mention of love or grace, or forgiveness, and so again - I am left feeling hopeless - almost feeling I am a fake Christian. Maybe I am and this is the message God is sending me. Am I Lot's wife because I am looking forward to a family holiday, and planning what seeds I will sow in Spring? How can I be truly saved if I entertain such worldly thoughts?
My poor husband listened patiently while I "reflected" out loud all afternoon. He suggested that I take some things too literally, and this was a case in point. And he is right. We have to live in the world, and are part of the world, and that God created the world - it is not all bad, and a lot of it is good. We must live our lives as the best Christians we can be - loving God and our neighbour. Yes, plant seeds - plant trees even - go and visit family, just don't leave God out of your plans!
I wondered if I was someone hovering on the brink of Christianity today - how would hearing this have affected me? I might have been scared witless and slunk off, thinking it was all to much to deal with - to difficult to be acceptable. I really don't believe it is helpful to preach in such a hectoring way. Our congregations is much reduced during our time of vacancy, and most of us still attending are believers, and I think we need to be encouraged and uplifted. I came to faith through a Loving God and the Compassion of Jesus. Yes, I have been challenged many times, by the Word of God but not brow beaten and humiliated. Jesus endured all that through His Love for us, so we would not have to. Yet - if I felt uncomfortable today, well, it wasn't exactly comfortable up there on that cross, where he felt the wrath of God on my behalf.
I still have many questions to resolve with this "fire and brimstone" issue that I seem to be stuck on at the moment, but I'll keep looking and listening for the answers, and I will stop obsessing over it. Already, writing this out has clarified a few points for me, and I feel a sense of peace - thank You God. And thank you for reading - I wish you God's blessing on your week ahead.
One of the first crofting tasks of the year is to collect the seaweed that has been washed up by the Winter storms and tides. There is certainly plenty on our shore after the wild seas we have seen recently. It has been a joy this week, to have a wee run of settled weather and to be able to get on with some long overdue outside work.
We headed off to the shore, and backed our old trailer down the slipway. Then it was straight to work - hauling up forkfuls of the tangled slippery seaweed. Filling and emptying 4 trailers full of bladderwrack is quite the workout, I can tell you! I am still feeling the effects a few days later.
The shore was so thick with seaweed, that our harvest made little impression on the amount. Some local people still collect some for their gardens, but in the past, collecting seaweed would have been a community event. In living memory, everyone grew corn (oats and barley) on their croft. I have heard about boats piled high with seaweed, the rower barely visible, as they gathered as much of this valuable crop as they could; of women carrying their bounty home in large baskets (creels) on their backs. Then it would be combined with manure and the soil from cleaning out the ditches, before it was ploughed into the land.
We stacked ours up in a corner of the vegetable plot, next to the manure pile, and they will be mixed together and spread it onto the raised beds. Hopefully this will be a recipe for some fantastic crops in the Summer.
Our garden robin is certainly interested in the contents of the seaweed pile - lots of interesting bugs to keep him going!
After what seemed a long while of relative inactivity, it was so good to get outside, tasting the tang of salt in the air, feeling the sunlight on our faces - still weak, but holding the sure promise of Spring, and shaking off that post holiday lethargy with some hard physical work. I am glad to have started off the new year like this - connecting to the seasons and place - feeling the rhythm of the crofting year beginning. It is a dance where the steps are becoming a bit more familiar. We recognise the tune and remember how to move with it - and hopefully the stiffness will soon wear off.
We are well past the shortest day now, and the days are noticeably longer. A whole 50 minutes longer today! The biggest difference is in the time of the sunset, which is happening around 4.10 pm this week. This means that the evenings are still light at around 5 o'clock. Sunrise is a bit slower to catch up - this morning it rose at around 9 am, 12 minutes earlier than on the solstice.
I'm not sure if taking the photos around the house gives the best idea of the sun's journey, to be honest - you need to know the landmarks, like the telegraph pole and the white house, in the sunrise pictures, and the position of the houses across the street at sunset. Hopefully it gives a little insight - I will finish this series in May, when the sun will be well round to the North again, and start a new year, from a different location in June.
I am still feeling the excitement and wonder of my Advent Journey, and was reminded by today's Church sermon not to tuck the Baby back into the Manger for a few months, then nail Him up on the Cross at Easter. So, with that in mind, I hope to continue my spiritual walk here. Each Sunday, all being well, I will reflect on some aspect of my faith. It most likely will be prompted by the message I hear from the pulpit, but God speaks to us in many ways, so it will be interesting to see where I go with it. I feel the need to do this as a way of understanding what these sermons mean for me and my personal journey. The Church I attend has been without a Minister for well over a year now, and we have had many visiting speakers over the months - some have been ordained clergy, and others are lay preachers. The variety of subject and delivery style of the sermons has been interesting and refreshing, and I have learned many things, but, after the service, the preacher usually has to rush off - often not staying for the after church fellowship. I am missing a way of consolidating what I have received.
Today, we heard from Luke 2. 22-40, where Mary and Joseph take the infant Jesus to the temple to be consecrated to The Lord. There they meet Simeon, who had been promised by God that he would not die until he had seen the Saviour, and also, Anna, the Prophetess. The sermon focussed mostly on the obedience of Mary and Joseph in obeying the Law, and the faith of Simeon, who was ready to die after he had seen the promised Redeemer. "Let me ask you", thundered the preacher, as he reached the end of his message, "Are you ready to die? I am... and some of you sitting here will die this year. Are you ready?"
I struggle with sermons like that. Now - I don't mind being challenged, and I think that we do need to wrestle with difficult concepts, but, as part of a dwindling and struggling congregation, with no consistent Pastoral care, I felt my heart sink. I also felt guilty, because - actually, I am not ready to die just yet. I know it will be up to God when it happens, but I am not looking for it right now. And - Simeon was an old man and had lived a good and devout and long life, so he had probably accomplished many things before he saw Jesus. But, with no Minister to follow these thoughts up with, I was left floundering. Luckily I have a wise husband, and between us, over lunch, we made what we could out of this message.
There is another part to this story too, which was not really addressed, but that was the story of the elderly Anna. She is described as a Prophetess, who had lived in the Temple, praying and fasting since her widowhood. She came up to the Holy Family as Simeon took the Child in his arms, and she too, recognised him as the Saviour. Anna wasn't ready to die, though. Nope - she had work to do and went straight out and began telling others that the Redeemer had come - the first person to publicly proclaim that the Kingdom was at hand.
We don't know how out lives will pan out - only God does. His plans for Simeon and Anna, while they may have looked similar for decades, over their lives, differed in the end. In witnessing for Jesus, Anna was preparing those who heard, for Life, and I am ready for that.
After what was possibly the wettest, stormiest month ever, in these Isles, it was so good to see blue skies today. We seized the moment, as you must here, and spent a good few hours outside catching up on some work - and some sunlight. We were lucky not to sustain any damage to our property, in the gales, but there was a fair bit of debris lying around, so it was mostly clearing up, and sorting out the recycling.
The livestock were enjoying the fine day too - and it was a relief to see them with dry coats for a change. All the cattle and ewes are in the field outside the house just now, and it is very handy for feeding, and keeping an eye on them. The down-side is that they expect food every single time we appear outside the house: then there is a veritable stampede of cows and sheep following us up and down, trying to attract our attention in the most unsubtle of ways. I swear they can actually tell when we begin to put our coats and boots on inside the house. Och, all right - it's not really a down-side...
The hens haven't been laying during these dark and miserable days, so it was good to see them basking in the already strengthening sun. Some of these girls are getting on a bit for laying now, so I am hoping to refresh my stock soon. The surprise chicks that hatched just before our holiday, sadly, were not there when we returned. We'll never know what happened to them, but I suspect it would have been the crows. Hopefully now she has hatched a brood, the mother will have another go in the Spring.
The garden has survived the onslaught of the gales reasonably well, although parts of it are a bit waterlogged. There are some pretty seedheads still attached, and some very early and welcome signs of new growth.
We have had a good supply of vegetables from the beds all Winter. I like to ensure we have plenty of fresh leafy greens on hand. The chard has been a star - especially the yellow variety. It is getting a bit bedraggled now, so I have been cutting it fairly drastically, as I harvest. I am confident it will come up again and by the time I have picked all the current plants, new leaves should be coming up, and keep us going in the hungry gap. The kales have been great too - and that straggly looking broccoli that I left in has actually done well - giving us two or three servings of small side shoots over the Winter. I have a good crop of January King cabbages, growing away nicely under their mesh cover, and carrots and beetroot are still happy in the ground. The leeks have been casualties though - scorched and de-flagged by those cruel winds. I will definitely add some enviromesh covering over next year's leek bed, as it really makes a difference.
So, there we are - still standing, still harvesting and still planning. Another nice day is forecast for tomorrow, so I hope to get out into the polytunnel (also still standing - phew!), and start work on the new raised beds that I want to put there. Then there is the seaweed collecting, the manure spreading, the propagator to be filled.... The Crofting year begins again!
A couple of weeks before Christmas, I decided to renovate an old corner cupboard that I had bought in the Summer. I saw it in our local and very wonderful charity shop in Stornoway, and although it wasn't quite what I was looking for, I could instantly visualise it, painted ivory and bedecked with pretty bits and pieces, sitting in the kitchen corner. It was delivered when I was in the middle of some chaos or other, so was promptly shoved into place, where it sat, brooding darkly, waiting for me to give it the promised makeover. But the weeks and months passed - it became part of the furniture - vases and ornaments and books were placed on its shelves, items in the cupboard, and we became accustomed to the mediocrity. In fact, I even began to tell myself that it looked ok! But, no - when I came to decorate the house for Christmas, I knew I had to tackle it.
And - like all those jobs that we keep putting off, the work itself only took a couple of hours over a weekend. I am so pleased with the result. It is exactly how I pictured it - ermm... all those months ago
A visit to the same shop, a couple of months earlier, had me bearing home this Lloyd Loom chair in triumph. Just what I had been looking for to go in James's room. Not at all the right colour, but I could easily fix that. Hmmm - well, it turned out to be much trickier than I thought. I used enamel spray paint, which, in hindsight, was not the best thing to do, but once I had started, I really had to finish. Except that I didn't finish. The Summer holidays were closing in, and the house was going to be full of visiting family and friends - not the best time for furniture renovation. So - up into the attic it went, forgotten, until late Autumn, when the memory of it started to rise to the surface of my chaotic mind. Five cans of enamel later, I finished the painting, although it is still very patchy. I just felt I had to stop sometime! I recovered the seat with some gorgeous fabric from an old curtain, and I was really happy with how that turned out. Anyway, the chair is now in the boy's bedroom, where it makes a comfy reading spot by the window. Maybe a wee quilt or blanket will eventually hide those paint streaks.
Meanwhile, I am just going to sit and admire this corner view for a while.