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  • Another Year Already!

    As is my usual practice, I have taken off the Sunday that follows the Christmas celebrations, and this morning had a very long lie-in (at least by my standards) with the kitties for company (hence the photo).

    It's a well known truth that, the older we get, the faster times passes, not least as each year is a smaller proportion of our lives than the one before.  This year seems to have flown by especially quickly, at least for me, being full of good things (and a few sad ones) along the way.

    December 31st is always going to be significant in my personal calendar, as in 2010 it was the day of my final dose of chemo.  It felt a huge achievement to have completed it without any delays, and I was, I think, justifiably pleased with how I'd travelled up 'Mount Chemo'.  There is always a little pause to remember that moment, the friends who met me with congratulatory flags, and all that has been part of that ongoing story.  If remembering absent friends is part of New Year, I have way too many of them who I met on this unchosen journey, and whose memory I cherish.  Seven years later, I am well, healthy and happy, at the end of what has been, for me at least, a good year.

    Some highlights...

    Seven weddings - each very different, as was my 'role' on each occasion.  Beginning in March with my bc friend E in a gorgeous country house, then in May conducting the ceremony for J&C in the University of Glasgow chapel before attending my Godson A's marriage to A in the Lakes.  Next it was to St Marys' Cathedral, Glasgow to share in celebrating with P&R in June, before a trip to Cambridge for that of my niece, A to Y.  September and another country house, where I was the 'legal bit' to enable a minister form Derby to lead the service for A&A.  Finally in October a very long-standing friend, S, married G in a simple civil ceremony where I was invited to be a witness.  Lots of happy memories of special days, and hoping that all will discover deeper love and lasting contentment in the future.

    Church-wise, it has been a good, if at times challenging, year.  I've been so proud of how everyone has adapted to meeting in the hotel, with the periodic room changes and even venue changes, and all that has brought with it.  It has been lovely welcome several new folk into covenanted membership, especially as two are in their twenties; and lovely too, to have more to look forward to.

    I've really got a lot out of leading worship this year, especially since the beginning of the summer, when in response to feedback at our spring Away Day we have tried to be more clearly focused in our themes. 

    The Heroes of Faith series was very well received, as was the spin-off evening service on Mental Health. 

    'Animal, vegetable and mineral' as an umbrella to look at creation allowed us to explore evolution, the importance of every plant and the wonder that we are stardust.  This led nicely into a month-long harvest focus culminating in our autumn Away Day to Glasgow Science Centre.  Exploring homelessness in November was salutary, and also saw very generous giving to our annual appeal for Glasgow City Mission. 

    After a very intellectually stimulating autumn, it was fun to spend Advent thinking about angels.  The stories people shared of their angel encounters were humbling; the joy of sharing knitted angels was palpable; the traditional lessons and carols beautiful (I'm allowed to say that cos it mostly came out of a book).

    Leading a joint service on Christmas Day had me quite nervous... so many things that I could foul up.  In the end it was a joyful and joyous hour of songs, stories and smiles.  Using the analogy of a family Christmas dinner where we try to accommodate everyone's preferences, needs and foibles, allowed me to realise that what could have felt like 'a lowest common denominator muddle' could in fact be wonderful, slightly chaotic celebration of Communion - and it was.  Everything from the toddler who grabbed the bread roll (to the horror of her mother) to the two adults who asked for a blessing, via the chancel crossing to reach the preferred 'wine' station, all was full of gentleness and love - a very wonderful privilege.

    There is so much else I could write about - church-wise, family-wise, cat-wise or even me-wise - which is surely a sign of how blessed I am.  This time last year I was a tired, grumpy and, to a degree disillusioned, Menospausal Monster; this year I am still tired, but am content, settled, encouraged and looking forward to what lies ahead.

    So, if you have survived this far, thank you much for reading, not just this, but other stuff I've shared this year.  And let me wish you, and all those you love, a happy, healthy and hope-filled 2018.

  • And just because...

    ... I love cranes, and this one looks especially beautiful against a clear blue, winter sky!

  • Just Chillin'

    After all the busyness of Advent and Christmas, it's lovely to take some time out to relax, unwind and enjoy some 'me time'.

    This morning I did some necessary Admin (my Tax return) and then, seeing it was an absolutely glorious day, pulled on my hat, coat and gloves and set off on one of my favourite walks - along the Clyde to Glasgow Green and then back through town.  It's roughly nine miles, so makes for a respectable amount of exercise!

    I had a lovely time, blew away a lot of cobwebs, was warmed by some piping hot soup, and enjoyed the beauty of a clear, dry winter's day.

    This evening I'll watch the final installment of the new version of 'Little Women' (not as magical as I remember it from 40-odd years ago!) and some festive editions of quiz programmes, cuddle with the kitties, and quite possibly read a bit too.

    Been a lovely day, and I feel very blessed.

  • Gifts beyond Price

    When I finally dragged myself from my post-Christmas slumbers, I opened the gifts I'd been given (I now realise that one is missing from the photo but I'll include it).  Each is, in it's unique way, beyond price, and utterly perfect.

    The jigsaw - something not available in the shops, a photo of my sister's children having fun together.  I will enjoy a quiet afternoon or evening making it, and thinking about my family, both those in the picture and those elsewhere.

    A tray cloth (not in the photo) from a very, very elderly lady who has lived well and loved much.  Always trying to make more of a lady of me, I suspect, as previous gifts have included lacy edged cloths and beaded coasters. When I use it, I will remember her, and other older women (and men) who, in my years in ministry, have blessed me with their love, prayers and even their challenges!!

    Two boxes of Turkish Delight, one from my sister, one from a dear friend and chemo-buddy who faces endless challenges with resilience, humour and grace.  Turkish Delight is probably the Marmite of sweets, and I love it.  These two boxes will last me for absolutely ages, - will remind me of the importance of family and friends and that silver linings may be found, even in adversity.

    An M&S gift card from my Mum.  Last year I did my Mum's Christmas shopping; this year I ensured funds were there for someone at the care home to do it with/for her. At a future date, I will visit one of the larger stores, treat myself, and think of my Mum whose love and selflessness have so shaped my life.

    An Oxfam Gift of education for a girl - perfect! A gift from special friends whose support and encouragement (as well as forbearance at times) I greatly appreciate.  The gift of giving is so important, and I could not be happier with their choice.  My parents' valuing of education, often sacrificial, enabled me to flourish - to be associated with offering this gift to another girl is absolutely brilliant.

    I love all my gifts, and more I love the givers.  I am truly blessed to need nothing, and to want nothing.  Maybe this all sounds a little bit 'Pollyanna' but it's true.  When in 2010 I feared I might be facing my final Christmas, something inside me changed for good, and for the good - life is the greatest gift at Christmas.  Life full of love, enriched by laughter, underpinned by hope... these cannot be bought, are beyond price; these really are mine again this year.

  • A Very Blessed Christmas

    Origami boats, flowers, birds and hearts, all crafted from golden napkins by two Japanese girls who came to yesterday's Christmas Day lunch, and shared them with children from Mongolia and Iran.  This sums up and symbolises what an amazing day we shared.

    When I prepared for the service, I had guessed that 50 of everything would be plenty... oh me of little faith, over a hundred people, from four local churches supplemented by oodles of visitors, came together to celebrate Christmas surrounded by beautiful stained glass in splendid architecture. We successfully negotiated our different traditions and expectations and had a lovely warm, friendly time together.

    Moving to the hall, about forty or so folk (I didn't count so I don't know exactly how many) enjoyed a three course lunch, sang carols, renewed old friendships and made new ones.  Students, refugees, people who would otherwise be alone, retired academics, missionaries and people with vulnerabilities gathered together in a room where the air rang with laughter, and the love was palpable.  This is Christmas.  This is a foretaste of heaven.

    After that, in true Vicar of Dibley fashion, I was welcomed into a home for a second Christmas Dinner.  A small gathering who shared conversation and quizzes (and another three courses dinner!) in a convivial and relaxed atmosphere.

    Arriving home at about 10:30, I had no energy left to unwrap parcels, so went to bed, tired and happy, knowing that I had already had the best gift I could dream of.