Monday, December 29, 2008

i'm at home for Christmas...

Merry Christmas everybody! Sorry for not posting for a while...I'm really enjoying some down time with my family and have many glimpses to share with you, but can't upload pictures from my camera. So, have a read on the other blog links here, and I'll be back in the new year with pictures and glimpses galore!


Saturday, December 20, 2008

now that's funny

-Finishing up some Christmas shopping and running into some Fitzroy young people who were hanging out in town.

-Going with some (other) Fitzroy young people to see Twilight, a movie I've been excited to see. I've read the books and really loved them, but my friends who would have gone with me to see it (namely Jessi and Melissa) are in the States, so I went with a bunch of girls from church. It was almost as good as the book.

-Making it a day-o-cinema and going with Sarah to see three Charlie Chaplin films at the Waterfront accompanied by the Ulster Orchestra (on complimentary tickets from a church member who's in the orchestra!). We saw The Fireman, The Immigrant and The Adventurer. There is something so purely comical and delightful about Charlie Chaplin films, especially when watched with a live orchestra. It was touching to have a grandfather in front of us smiling as his two grandsons laughed out loud.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

worth quoting

-After working two thirteen-hour days, I received a text last night saying, "I think you should not bother coming in the morning to church house. Take it off and relax. If u want to of course!" I wanted to catch up on sleep, and I did. It was a fantastically lazy, double-coffee morning.

-Passing two women in the park and hearing one say to the other, "It's the dogs who are the sensible ones, not the people." I have no idea what she was talking about, but it made me smile.

-Two men attempting to put up a new sign for a hairdresser shop stopped me and one asked about the dent in the new painted metal sign. He jokingly said that it was the product of his co-worker's bad driving. "Would you notice it?" he asked with hopeful anticipation. I told him that you could barely see the little dent and it would be even less obvious once it was hung above the shop. Satisfied, he said, "yeah, and the rain makes it all blend together."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

life is like...

-Being given a lovely box of chocolates by some of the youth. I was delighted to lift the tray and realize that there was another layer of chocolates underneath!

-Walking around the Continental Market and looking at all of the different things from around the world with old red-brick Belfast city centre buildings in the background. I met my friend Neil there for lunch, and we hung out in a huge wigwam/tepee that was warm and cozy.

-Showing the Love Came Down video as part of our Religious Education lesson with primary students and watching one girl laugh and smile at it's quirky message.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

brown, black and blue

-Getting a new scarf that's brown and black houndstooth (which they apparently call "dogstooth" here), so I can wear it with anything. It's so funny how many things are just slightly different...for example, the hokey pokey is the hokey cokey here.

-Going for tapas with friends and enjoying the all-you-can-eat Spanish food for a tenner, as well as great conversation and entirely too much laughter. After a couple of the guys ordered a third round of tapas, the cook was getting a little annoyed. I jokingly told the server to apologize to him for us and "tell him to make something for himself as well." She just exploded into laughter, which was much more funny than my little joke, and her peals of laughter kept us in stitches. There were also wine bottles with candles on our table, and when the candle melted away from one, we saw that there was still a tiny blue flame burning. Tom said, "Whitney, is that a glimpse of grace?" and so it became one.

-Amy saying at dinner, "Whitney, what if you went home for Christmas and didn't come back?" My heart immediately sunk at the idea of not coming back, and realizing how much this place means to me, I replied, "oh no, of course I'm coming back!" She said they would all be waiting on me here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

looking foward

-Receiving my Rachael Ray magazine in the mail! My Grandmother was so good to have it sent all the way over here, and it's such a taste of home. I'm all ready putting it to good use: tonight, I'm making roasted cauliflower pasta with sage butter. Mmm!

-One of the young people seeing a video of Neil's baby girl and saying, "How cool would it be to have Neil for a Dad?"

-Jessi emailing a glimpse for me to post:
"The true anticipation of a phone call! With the internet becoming what it is during my lifetime I sometimes forget how wonderful a phone call from a friend can be. My dearest friend Whitney is across the pond and because of the time change and busy schedules its often really hard to figure out the perfect time to call. She will be in her native land of Texas in just a few short weeks [only 9 days now!] and I cannot wait to be able to chat with her and hear her voice! We have so much catching up to do and its fun to realize how much I am looking forward to that call!"
Me too, Jessi!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

and we're off again...

Ready to go for another walk with me? This time, you'll need to bundle up, because we're off the the Ulster Folk Museum, where everything is done just like early 20th century Northern Ireland. All of the buildings have been transported from their original historical locations. There's no heating except for coal and peat fires in most of the homes and churches. Roberta, Heather, Chris and I went to meditate and read the Bible there and enjoy a morning away from our hectic lives to reflect. So, grab a scarf, a flask of tea and come along!

-View from the window of one of the old row-houses.

-The entrance to one of the churches, which was transported here. You're looking straight up over the doorway to the sky.

-Here's the friendly donkey who tried to eat my glove!

-Here's the doorway that looks like the cover of many Christmas cards, and the candle burning inside.
-Brr! I told you it was cold. It's freezing (literally). Don't worry, we'll get to a fire and some tea soon.

-Isn't it just beautiful?

-Advent candles burning warmly in the cold wintery room.

-Merry Christmas! Now go and get yourself a cup of tea or coffee and a scone and warm up! It did the trick for me. Thanks for coming with me. :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

withering heights

-At the end of a night helping out at Common Grounds, I was given the tips from the night (because apparently volunteers get to keep the tips). It was after ten-thirty, so I needed to get a taxi home--a little cost I don't mind contributing to the fair-trade, non-profit coffee shop cause. However, my tips covered my taxi and left me with a whopping two pence to spare!

-The first sip of a corona that instantly took me back to a warm summer Texas day in my backyard at home.

-Discovering that Bible Works--the amazing Hebrew/Greek translation program I have on my computer--has classic commentaries and even the Westminster Confession on it. When researching commentaries on Ruth, Matthew Henry's made me laugh out loud when he discussed Boaz's readiness to marry Ruth: "But why was Boaz so hasty, why so fond of the match? Ruth was not rich, but lived upon alms; not honourable, but a poor stranger. She was never said to be beautiful; if ever she had been so, we may suppose that weeping, and travelling, and gleaning, had withered her lilies and roses." I hope I'm never described as having "withered my lilies and roses!" Ha!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

love came down

-The chronically abrupt and cold sandwich maker in the Spar shop was replaced with a friendly person today, who actually smiled at me. Usually, the people working there just bark "what's yours?" to take your order, making sure you know they're annoyed at having to. It was such a nice change.

-Looking out of the window to see the lacy black branches of a bare winter tree stretch in fine lines and curls against a pink and blue sunset.

-Looking for resources for kids music for our upcoming family service and discovering a whimsical music video, "Love Came Down at Christmas" by Jars of Clay. It really gets the central message of Christmas across with a lot of imagination and fun.

Monday, December 08, 2008

what goes around comes around

-Going to the Clonard Monastery Carol Service. Fitzroy was given a warm welcome (which goes to show the great reconciliation efforts both churches have made) and the choirs were absolutely breathtaking. It felt like such a holy place, where I could sit and ponder, celebrate Advent, pray and sing.

-Getting off the bus at the city centre to meet a friend and seeing a woman my age get off as well. As I waited at the city hall, she waited, and then her Mom (I assume) came to meet her. My friend's bus was late so I went on to the Italian coffee shop we were meeting in. While enjoying my oh-so-authentic cappuccino and apricot croissant, I looked up just in time to see that same mother and daughter leave the coffee shop. Coincidences like that are so amusing.

-Discovering Darby O'Gill and the Little People in a charity shop for 50p. I grew up watching this Disney classic with its stereotypical whimsy about Irish leprechauns and so much enjoyed seeing it again, and in Ireland! All day I've been singing, "oh, he is my dear, my darling one, my smiling and beguiling one. I love the ground he walks upon, my darling Irish boy..."

Sunday, December 07, 2008

memory, move, magic

-Drinking coffee in the morning out of my new cup and saucer and enjoying the familiar clink that reminds me so much of home. I think the noise of a cup meeting a saucer might just be my earliest memory--it certainly was the first thing I heard in the morning for years and years. I remember the grown-up luxury of getting to drink my own wee cup of coffee (properly doctored with lots of milk and sugar, of course) in my Grandparents' bed as a child.
-Being given a lovely little white sofa by a family in the church who are moving to Scotland. Ours was in desperate shape, and they were desperate to be rid of theirs so they could move. So, a win-win situation it was! I've brightened it up a bit with some pillows and a blanket, and really love it. I fell asleep watching a movie on it last night, which is a sign of true sofa love.

-(An aptly prophesied glimpse by Tom...) While driving home from Sunday lunch, Tom, Pete and I noticed smoke coming up in great plumes from behind some buildings. Alarm turned to awe as we realized that it was actually an old-fashioned steam train emitting hot steam that billowed grey-white against the cold winter sky. I don't think I've ever seen a steam train in real life, so it was as bewildering as seeing a unicorn or leprechaun (which I'm still looking for, by the way).

Thursday, December 04, 2008

eggaroos, a tale or two, and hot brew

-Going to the grocery store and trying to decide what to get and make for dinner. All of a sudden, the memory of scrambled eggs with cream cheese and herbs from a diner in Decatur flooded into my memory and I craved it. Inspired by the memory, I made scrambled eggs with creamy Philadelphia and fresh basil for dinner. It was delicious--and tasted just like Georgia.

-At staff meeting this morning, Denis talked about leadership by telling a story from when he was the head of his traveling choir a long time ago. While making their way through a German airport after getting off of a place, one of the choir members came to him and said, "Where is the bathroom?" Denis told him to read the signs, and made the point that, when in a leadership role, people expect you to know everything. We all laughed. At lunch later, I made a point of asking Denis where the bathroom was and we all laughed again at his story.

-My housemates know that I like whole milk and have just quietly (and kindly) adopted the practice of buying it instead of skim. Mixed with my dark chocolate Cadbury's cocoa powder, it makes the richest hot chocolate.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


-Going to see Duke Special, a favorite Belfast musician of mine, play at St. George's Market. It was certainly a quirky evening, but fun and entertaining too. His voice has even improved in the past few years, and he sounds as great as ever with his rich, Rufus Wainwright-style voice.
-Finding out that one of the children I teach in Religious Education classes is from Mexico. His face lit up when I mentioned that I had been there, and that my family loves having tamales for dinner on Christmas Eve. He said, "ooh, yes, I love tamales...and tacos and enchiladas..."
-Going Christmas shopping and finding things that I think my family will really like.

Monday, December 01, 2008

sunday happy sunday

-Being invited to the church welcome lunch at the Williamson's (we have them once every month), and sitting around a table with Northern Irish folks, a Columbian woman, a Mexican woman and a Rwandan man. The man from Rwanda began talking about his PhD work studying conflicts and reconciliation, South Africa and Northern Ireland in particular. It sparked a great conversation on the road to peace for both places, and how humor has played such a role in healing here. I learned a great deal.

-Arriving at the Blake's house for our Lord of the Rings fest and being greeted by the always friendly Goldie (the dog) and being handed a fleecy blanket and given a space on the couch. Curled up in front of a coal fire (which kept reminding me of Harry Potter--thought Sirius Black might just poke his head up in it), warm and welcomed, watching one of my favorite movies was just the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

-Leading the evening service and feeling really comfortable. We had a great turn out, and met in a smaller room of the church, which gave the whole service an intimate, friendly feel. I was really relaxed during my sermon, and even brought out some of my natural nerdiness, and people really responded to it. It's a great thing to feel like you can get a message across while being completely yourself.