Wednesday, December 30, 2009

12 days of Christmas

Oh, I'm having fun at home.
There's playing with Natalie, aka, "Bigfoot"...
There's that constant happy smile on Gianna's face...
There's the serenity of precious sleeping children...
There's cuddles and little hands holding mine... There's a welcome mat ready for wherever my feet take me next...
There's hysterical playing in the amazing circus tent Natalie got for Christmas...

Did I mention the cuddles?
There's Natalie glamming it up with the jewelry I gave her that's just like some I had as a child...
There's those amazing, fiery Texas sunsets...
There's the

And there's so much more: reading my book with fresh coffee and Hayden (the dog) cuddled up next to me, rainy days spent by a roaring fire, a wee bit of sermonating, visiting grandmothers (who are now great-grandmothers), rocking Natalie to sleep as she asks me what every single object in the room is (including my eyes), having a good long conversation with my dear friend Rob and feeling glad I'm in Texas at this particular time, going to a movie with my sista and spending some time just be-ing.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

i'll be home for Christmas

I'm home! Family, coffee, golden light, red flannel pj's, all being in the kitchen baking cookies, making hot sauce and venison chili, festive decorations abounding, seeing Avatar in 3d (the most amazing & timely movie I've seen in a long time), those deep conversations on the couch and, did I mention coffee? Wonderful.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

cup overflowing

I'm headed to Texas tomorrow for Christmas with my family and my FPC Bryan family and am so excited! Grace has abounded these days, and I've been so busy with it all, I haven't had time to record it. There was a night out with my dance girls where we ended up hearing live country (using that term loosely) music while I taught them to two-step and pretzel, there was a meeting with two of my good friends (who didn't previously know each other) of course at st. george's market, there was the always friendly and not-a-little-bit-sassy woman at the clothing stall who gave me a beautiful tapestry bracelet for free as a Christmas gift since I'm such a "regular", there were gatherings around soup and german bread, there were poignant, thoughtful prayers in worship led by 10-year-olds, there was fragrant, hot mulled wine in irish pottery goblets, there were christmas presents exchanged in living rooms and through letter boxes and there was fresh snow and a silver sliver of moon and a cozy warm bed. See what I mean?
Wishing you all a grace-full Christmas,

Thursday, December 17, 2009

good morning, sunshine.

-Waking up to see fluffy cotton-candy-pink clouds against a vibrant blue sky as the day began with a beautiful flourish.

-Going to see The Nativity, a funny and surprisingly heart-warming movie, with Ruth and enjoying coming into a warm theater, sitting in a comfy seat, taking off layers and munching on salty popcorn and sweet coke. I love going to the movies. :)

-Having communion with other Presbyterian Church in Ireland youth workers to prepare for the inbreaking of God into the world that is Christmas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


-Standing outside the church and seeing, shockingly with only a handful of stars in the sky, a shooting star. I yelped and hopped a little, pointing to the sky. A few seconds later, Chris did the same because he saw one too. What are the chances?

-A perfect iPod shuffle on my walk to work. First, songs from The Mission* by Ennio Morricone, which are heartbreakingly beautiful. Then, Viva la Vida by Coldplay came on, with a line about "missionaries in a foreign field" that always made me smile. Finally, a song by Duke Special, my favorite Belfast musician came on.

-Coming home at 8:30 absolutely exhausted ("knackered" as they'd say here) and starving from Christmas shopping. I was craving spaghetti and find cooking so therapeutic, so as I cooked onions, bacon, garlic and mushrooms mingled with wine, tomatoes and basil, I relaxed. Sitting down with a big bowl of fragrant, delicious spaghetti was wonderful.
*If you haven't seen The Mission, you really should. It's a haunting story of colonial mission in Paraguay and portrays the terrible things people have done in the name of God and mission, like slavery and genocide. But, it also portrays the power of redemption and the human spirit. The soundtrack is by Ennio Morricone and makes the film what it is.

Monday, December 14, 2009

timely tune

-Opening a very old book of poetry and hymns by Frances Havergil I have on my bookshelf and landing upon this hymn. What a timely tune. I also notices that Frances had certain parts in italics (I have them in bold): the words as, when and where. These words are very significant to me right now.
Lord, speak to me that I may speak
In living echoes of Thy tone;
As Thou has sought, so let me seek
Thine erring children lost and lone.
O lead me, Lord, that I may lead
The wandering and the wavering feet;
O feed me, Lord, that I may feed
Thy hungering ones with manna sweet.
O strengthen me, that while I stand
Firm on the rock, and strong in Thee,
I may stretch out a loving hand
To wrestlers with the troubled sea.
O teach me, Lord, that I may teach
The precious things Thou dost impart;
And wing my words, that they may reach
The hidden depths of many a heart.
O give Thine own sweet rest to me,
That I may speak with soothing power
A word in season, as from Thee,
To weary ones in needful hour.
O fill me with Thy fullness, Lord,
Until my very heart overflow
In kindling thought and glowing word,
Thy love to tell,
Thy praise to show.
O use me, Lord, use even me,
Just as Thou wilt, and when, and where,
Until Thy blessèd face I see,
Thy rest, Thy joy, Thy glory share.
-Being given not only delicious Peruvian coffee beans by Richard from church, but also a grinder to grind them with as well. There's just nothing like a freshly ground, french pressed cup of coffee.

-Lighting a candle to pray for a family who lost a dearly loved one yesterday.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

niceties from neils

-Neil bringing me wonderful gifts: his extended versions of Lord of the Rings and a Mumford & Sons cd. Another shout out to ya, buddy! Thanks! :)

-A kind email from another Neil saying he was glad God called me to Fitzroy. What a wonderful thing to say.

-Engaging in my one of my favorite Saturday activities: cooking. I made a yummy pot of beans and jalapeno-cheddar cornbread muffins, and then later, festive Christmas cookies.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

what goes around swirls around

-Going to see my friend Geoff launch his debut album, Ten Year Road, that chronicles his life during the last ten years. The highlight of the decade for him must be meeting his fiance Camel (fascinating name, huh?), because she sang with him on stage in her retro bright red dress, tights and shoes with a shy smile on her face. Their affection for each other was palpable and you could tell by their words and body language that they are both head over heels in love. It really was infectious--Geoff's songs were heartfelt, whimsical and soothing and his ukelele (yep!) playing was brilliant, but the star of the night was their relationship, without a doubt.

-The swirly handle of the church gate.

-Dancing with my carnival girls and looking over to see Denise dancing to the drum beats with a big smile on her face. We both agreed that meeting together to dance is essential to our wellbeing, especially on these cold, dark nights.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

now that's festive

-A couple of weeks ago, there was news of a bit of trouble in the city centre of Belfast during the Christmas Tree Lighting, where teenagers from Protestant & Catholic communities threw things at each other and generally caused a mess. This type of activity very rarely happens in the centre of Belfast--it's usually confined to "flashpoint areas," where two different, usually poorer communities are next to each other. It made me really angry that this had happened, and so in religious education with primary students that week, I talked all about peace. I explained that every place has a history of people being divided, and how in my country this was often in the form of racism. I said that the most important lesson they could ever learn in religious education was that God loves everyone, and wants everyone to love everyone else. I had them draw or write ways they could show God's love to people who are different than them, and they came up with some inspiring and courageous ideas. I have many of them taped up behind my desk at work, and they remind me of the power of children to shape a new reality in this place and beyond. Looking at them today brought me joy and hope and peace.

-A cozy night in spent drinking hot chocolate and painting my nails Christmas red while watching The Holiday. So festive and relaxing.

-Seeing a "Laura Ashley" store sign and thinking of my sista and getting excited because I'll see her in less than two weeks!

Monday, December 07, 2009

drifting together

-A child turning a snowglobe over and staring with awe at its simple wonder.

-The little old man next to me in the Linenhall Library. I was there reading in the utter quiet and could hear his rhythmic deep breathing as he drifted in and out of sleep in his chair. I think he was as content as I was.

-Coming to a brief stop on the bus and looking up to see a man typing diligently through his office window, which was decorated with cheery, blinking Christmas lights. Sometimes I like to imagine what total strangers' lives are like (ala Amelie) and so as we drove on, I felt somehow connected to this person I don't know and will probably never meet.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

walk on

-Getting a hilarious, very Belfast t-shirt from Tee & Toast, the quirky designer at St. George's Market. When I came to pick it up today in the middle of a crazed Christmas market, she held up the bag eagerly and said, "Oh here, Whitney!" It's of the famous Belfast landmarks the shipyard cranes lovingly called "Samson" and "Goliath," but with a bit of a rock-n-roll edge. She recommending making one for me in red, which I just love. A hug, encouraging words and a smile also came along with it, and were very welcome additions.

-Going Christmas shopping with Andrea and finding things that (hopefully) really suit loved ones.

-Singing "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" at the evening service and feeling an inexplicable but tangible closeness to my Granddaddy.

Friday, December 04, 2009

heaven is a chocolate biscuit

-Going into the church during Nightreach to find some bags of clothes for Roma families and walking back out to see a crowd of community wardens (who passed word via their radios that there were bacon sandwiches to be found and all came) and Roma women all huddled together against the middle-of-the-night cold being served warm soup, sandwiches and biscuits. Something about the image of it all made me pause for half a second and smile before returning to the table.

-Being on the phone with my mom at the exact moment that it started snowing in Texas. She suddenly drew in a breath and said, "Oh, wow. It's snowing!"

-My first day off in ten days made perfect by a good sleep-in after Nightreach, red flannel pj's, old Friends episodes, a warm cuppa tea and dark chocolate digestive biscuits. Heavenly.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

song and dance

-The fun of decorating for Christmas. There was a slight argument and need for reconciliation over the fact that Jonee thinks Christmas trees should always have tinsel (which I don't) and I think they should always have white lights (he prefers colored). We met in the middle and have a lovely little white-lit, tinsel-adorned tree. Jonee's silly musical encouragement (in one fantastic outfit, I might add) in the background also added a lot.

-Dance class where there were only a handful of us, providing ample space and lively conversation.

-Wearing comfy brown leggings.

Monday, November 30, 2009

oh, i see

-Walking through the park this morning and having a moment of being completely blinded by the sun, so much so that the person who walked by me just looked like a glowing outline. As I felt the warm sun shine through huge pine trees, I felt a deep sense of pure love. It was one of those fleeting moments of sheer clarity when I realized how very much God is looking after me and all I do.

-Being in a room full of Fitzroy youthy-types and thinking about how much they all mean to me, and how intertwined our lives have become. I think back of other churches I've worked in or attended and I also feel this connection with them, even though I'm not physically there. This is something that I think is unique about the church, and probably part of why I'm drawn to it.

-Coming home to warmth.

-Making up a new word for Advent: that I'm adventurous. What a nerd I am.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


-Tonight, Andrea, Tilmann, Catherine and I met up at the Christmas Continental Market at the city hall. Bundled up to ward off the cold weather, we meandered through stalls from several countries (Poland, Spain, Germany, France, India, and oh yes, the U.S. to name a few) amid a crowd of other festively-minded folks. I had a steaming bowl of fragrant chicken & chorizo paella, followed by mulled wine from a local winery and amazing chocolate churros that we all shared as our fingers got gooey and we laughed at the fun of it. Oh, heaven. Thanksgiving all over again. We walked, snapped pictures, ATE, laughed, made up twisted versions of Christmas songs ("Frosty the Snowman...roasting on an open fire..."), and I even bought an adorable little Christmas tree for a tenner that Tilmann graciously lugged around. That provided for even more silly antics, and we may have invented not only bizarre Christmas songs but a new winter olympic sport called "Christmas tree jousting." Then, we (and "we" includes the tree) came back to my house to watch friends and then sung Swell Season, U2 and, sigh, even Ricky Martin songs with Jonee. It was such a great night...full of grace, friendship and food. What more could you need?

Friday, November 27, 2009


-Successfully cooking my first entire Thanksgiving dinner at Andrea and Tilmann's, taking one bite and sighing with joy that it tasted just like home. I made turkey, ham, cornbread dressing, cinnamon-roasted butternut squash and broccolini with pancetta and chestnuts. Yum! It's a wonderful thing to have people to cook for, and we all had a great time. A skype video call with my family was especially fun: they saw my friends, we got to catch up and my friends even hummed the national anthem in the background to be silly. It was great. (I'll try to get some pictures up soon.)

-Walking through the park on a sunny, chilly day and enjoying the bright blue sky, crisp air and music pumping through my iPod.

-A very relevant lectionary reading today.

Also, I intended to include a little Thanksgiving prayer yesterday, so I'll give it to you today. It's from the Iona community.

O God, for your love for us, warm and brooding,
which has brought us to birth and opened our eyes
to the wonder and beauty of creation,
For your love for us, wild and freeing,
which has awakened us to the energy of creation:
to the sap that flows,
the blood that pulses,
the heart that sings.
For your love for us, compassionate and patient,
which has carried us through our pain,
wept beside us in our sin,
and waited with us in our confusion,
For your love for us, strong and challenging,
which has called us to risk for you,
asked for the best in us,
and shown us how to serve.
O God we come to celebrate
that your Holy Spirit is present deep within us,
and at the heart of all life.
Forgive us when we forget your gift of love
made known to us in Jesus,
and draw us into your presence.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

give thanks with a grateful heart

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! It's a lovely, cold, sunny day in Belfast and I'm doing a bit of work before attempting to pull off a big Thanksgiving meal for some friends. I'm looking foward to yummy comfort food, great company and a good skype call with all my family back home. There's lots to be thankful for. I'll try to get some pictures of all the festivities up soon.

Monday, November 23, 2009

wee favorites

-Going to Belfast's oldest coffee shop for a late breakfast and enjoying the close-knit community inside, with people clanking plates and forks and sending greetings across the table. The highlight was when an older woman held up her LIGHT UP purse for all to see: it was covered with a Christmassy snowman motif that blinked brightly. She giggled, we all nodded approval and she said excitedly, "Everyone loves it!"

-The proliferation of the word "wee." I came in to the coffee shop, was asked to take a "wee" seat, was handed a "wee" menu and then a woman came to take my "wee" order. I ordered a mini fry, which I was surprised wasn't called "wee" as well.

-Going to Sawyer's, the fun international food shop. I was looking for cornbread mix or something similar, but sadly their wee American section consisted of just peanut butter and Lucky Charms. I did, however, spy an A&W rootbeer in the fridge. My sister and I used to think A&W stood for "Ashley & Whitney, " and it was always a favorite. One sip, and I was a kid at home again.