In Edinburgh Again

We’ve just been in Edinburgh since Thursday morning but in some ways it feels like we’ve been here for a week. The wedding went off with just one hitch — the one that was supposed to happen, Alan + Agnes got hitched! We made it to the rehearsal at lunch time on Thursday by the skin of our teeth (thank you, Edinburgh Council, for roadworks and diversions in every direction!) And then the big day was here in no time!

Agnes looked absolutely amazing. Alan looked like he couldn’t been happier. The bridesmaids were in a mix of “summer fruits” colours that were just beautiful together, the groomsmen were in a mix of kilts and suits that will make for some interesting photos. The Bear donned a kilt and sported it very very well, and he proclaimed Sophie, the flower girl, his new best friend at bath time this evening. {She was (and is) ADORABLE!!!} They weren’t really supposed to come on stage during the ceremony, but they did, and it worked out okay.

I am sitting beside the Hubs as I type this, looking over his shoulder at some of the absolutely stunning photos he captured of the day. Which brings to mind one very important thing I don’t want to forget to say — thank you SO much, to many of you, for saying a prayer that it wouldn’t be raining and we could get some nice outdoor photos on Alan + Agnes’s wedding day.

HH had the chance to get all the family shots outside the venue, another set of photos with the bridesmaids and groomsmen at a little pond near Arthur’s Seat {a big pretty hill in Edinburgh} and then a heap of gorgeous (from what I’ve caught a glimpse of so far) shots of just the bride and groom in a few different spots near Arthur’s Seat and back by the venue.

And guess what?

As soon as the Hubs loaded the bride and groom into a taxi after the photos at Arthur’s Seat, it started drizzling, and the proper rain held off just long enough to capture those last few shots back at the venue! Agnes put on her wellies {rain boots} for those shots at Arthur’s Seat and I think the photos of the feetsies are going to be adorable!

After the ceremony and that big photo session, we enjoyed a fabulous dinner and some absolutely delightful speeches — and, oh man, I laughed until I cried when Agnes’s Dad shared the story of her finding a dead hedgehog at an early age and insisting on burying it and singing it a striking eulogy which he decided to begin recording around the seventh verse {apparently the sun was going down and the verse count was in the thirties somewhere when they decided it was time to go inside.}

The evening of dancing and ceilidh time kicked off with a magical first dance that I really hope someone posts to youtube soon. {I’ll post the link here if I find out someone does.} Alan + Agnes choreographed an absolutely beautiful, fun, hilarious first dance that was such a delight to watch. Someone handed the Bear a camera and he walked around for half the evening capturing photos of people which, unfortunately, were mostly taken from crotch height.

And thank heavens — a little plea I posted on Facebook scored a babysitter for Tiger Tank, and after help from several friends during the photos, my friend Sara arrived to collect the Tiger, and he strolled to her flat, where he enjoyed yoghurt, a serious poop (so sorry about that, Sara) a good bath, Finding Nemo, and, much to Sara’s dismay, hanging out with her husband, who apparently became the Tiger’s new favourite as soon as he walked in the door after work.

{THANK YOU SO MUCH, SARA! And Scott and Jenna and Nicole and Julia and Ailsa and everybody who hung out with our Tiger at the wedding! You’re an answer to prayer!}

Now that the busy moments surrounding the big event are all done, we can {hopefully} catch up on sleep and recover from jet lag just in time to head back to the Carolinas on Wednesday! We’re looking forward to being back at our old church, seeing so many dear friends, and perhaps enjoying a few more of the special foods and delicacies that we can only enjoy in this neck of the woods. {Can you say “Bacon Roll with Brown Sauce”? I’ve already had two.}

I hope to share some those amazing photos with you soon! In the meantime, with love from Auld Reekie…


Back to Bonnie Scotland {And Gender News}

Just in case I haven’t already mentioned it somewhere ’round these parts where you would have happened to see it, I want to happily announce again (for the first time?) that we are headed to beautiful Scotland on Wednesday the 4th. {And I don’t think I’ve spent a 4th of July in the US since 2005, so it’s a funny thing that we’re leaving on this one and I’ll nay be eating a hotdog and watching fireworks on the long flight from Boston to Amsterdam.}

The Bear will be kilting up to carry a couple of rings down the aisle. I will be squeezing into a lovely purple bridesmaid’s dress — I am as yet undecided as to whether I should remove the attached shoulder pads. Do women wear shoulder pads these days? Feels like a throwback to the Roaring 20s or something. {Would you axe ’em or leave ’em? And will somebody try to get married when I’m not preggers next time? Kidding.} The Hubs will be capturing the event from behind the lens of a camera.

He is practicing with his new flash. Taking pictures of me. Right now. Two-chinner-winners!

But most important, Agnes will be marrying Alan. {Yes, Agnes! Remember Agnes staying with us in South Africa? And her wonderful guest post when she was leaving us? As in, if it wasn’t for Agnes I might’ve had a home birth with Tiger Tank while we were trying to figure out what to do with the Bear at 3 am, Agnes. Yes, that one! Getting mawwied!}

{Um…it might not look like this while we’re there…}

So in a couple days’ time we’ll be in that familiar mode again — travel mode — and between now and then I’ve got to get some laundry done, find some tall socks and a long-sleeved white shirt for the Ring Bear, and pull out some sweaters and rain gear for the trip! {The 5-day forecast says highs will be in the 60s [F] and there’s a rain cloud on the picture for every day… won’t you say a prayer that the sun will shine for Agnes’s wedding on Friday?}

In other news, blame the pregnancy, I absolutely cannot remember whether I told you we had a doctor’s appointment and might find out the gender of the baby Friday. I’m sure you’ll believe me when I tell you if we had found out the gender of the baby I would’ve let you know quick quick. We decided not to be all dramatic and open an envelope together this time — but apparently this little one has a flair for the dramatic and wasn’t cool with being upstaged by parents who just wanted to know without trying to do something to make it extra-special.

He or she decided to straddle his or her umbilical cord, meaning… OUR VIEW WAS BLOCKED! The Ultrasound technician changed angles a couple of times and tried to see what she might see — this was really just supposed to be an ultrasound to confirm my due date, and she was doing us a favour by trying to look for the gender for us — but in the end she just didn’t feel confident that she could say either way. She did seem to allude to thinking that this one was a girl… but we’ll have to wait until August 1st to (hopefully) hear a more definitive conclusion.

If it’s a girl, I would like to ask for a sewing machine for my birthday. And then it’s gonna be on.

I’m gonna go Gussy. Ruffles out the wah-zoo. Whatever the wah-zoo is. There will be ruffles comin’ out that. Oh yeah.

{Have you visited Gussy Sews and seen her cute stuff? Oh man, it is so cute. And she is just so likeable. But auto-correct doesn’t like that word. Is it a word? When autocorrect takes the ‘e’ out that looks like something you’d pronounce lick-a-bull. And I’m sure Gussy is great, but I don’t want to lick her. And I am sure she doesn’t want me to, either.}

Anywhobiddywho, I’m sure I’ll be able to keep you posted on the adventure from the other side of the pond — and I’m very sure I’ll have some pictures to share of the Bear in his kilt! The last time he wore a kilt it looked like this:

Been a while, eh, ye wee crackin’ Scotsman?

That’s it for the news from me guys and gals — except that there was a hectic storm in this neck of the woods on Sunday evening and it’s a mess around here. Please pray for the folks who lost family members or their homes.

 And let me know your thoughts on shoulder pads.


The Time We Didn’t Buy a Flat

The year was 2007. The Hubs and I were not yet ‘the Hubs and I.’ We lived in Edinburgh, Scotland and were preparing for our June wedding in North Carolina. He still came-a-calling to hang out with me in a cute little place off Leith Walk I shared with some lovely girlfriends, the last place that would be “mine” and not “ours.”

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favour and honour;
No good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless. {Ps. 84:11}

In the months between our January engagement and our June wedding, we decided to look for a flat to buy. {Translation: apartment. Just in case.} We’d both been renting in different parts of the city, but liked the idea of settling down, “finding a place of our own.” Hopefully somewhere central so we could have lots of friends over. The housing market was on the up and up — it seemed like a great investment.

Here’s some context.

Quite different from how the property markets work in the US and South Africa, Scotland works on an “offers over” system. This means people might list their two bedroom Edinburgh flat for “offers over £99,000,” and then people will make their best guess at what they’re willing to pay over that amount. You don’t know what anyone else is bidding, so you’re kind of making a blind guess as to what you think other interested buyers might bid. But you’re hoping not to out-bid the others by £10,000 because that would just be a waste, now wouldn’t it?

When property was moving hot and fast in the spring of ’07, £99,000 flats were going for £127,000 and then some.

Which seemed ridonkulous.


We didn’t enter the process lightly — with much prayer and much thought we were cautiously taking steps in this direction, trusting the Lord would light up the path for us. I was full of hope we could buy a place to stop paying someone else’s mortgage and start paying our own.

As HH-to-be and I viewed flat after flat after flat, we became very aware of a couple of things:

1. People were making ridiculous offers. We could not believe how much one bedroom flats were going for in parts of town that I would say could “go either way.” “Hello Hooligans, on the way to the football (US readers: soccer) stadium at the bottom of Easter Road!”

2. We could not make ridiculous offers. We just weren’t going to. We weren’t willing to risk going upside down on a flat that we couldn’t afford. We were going to make a reasonable choice, and stay well inside our budget. And we weren’t going to let even that one awesome flat we viewed in this crazy building that I think was first built as a printing press and the converted change our minds.

Although I personally could’ve been swayed.

3. The old saying that what goes up must come down is still true.

Okay that was three things.

Anyway, we were in the middle of a viewing — I think a second viewing — of a place we were particularly fond of when the penny dropped. Maybe it was a half-penny. Or two pence.

HH-to-be was chatting with the current owner, I was marveling at the classic choice of red and white baroque-patterned wallpaper and how the afternoon sun on an Edinburgh spring day cast a delicate luster over the hardwood floors through a nearby skylight.

It was the first time we were really starting to think … this could be it, praying the Lord would make it clear and hoping hoping hoping … and the owner’s phone rang. With an offer. Easily a couple thousand pounds over what we were willing to pay.

And that was that.

As we walked to the car, HH-to-be spoke some words of wisdom: I think the Lord has made it clear for us. And from that day forward, we looked for places to rent. Well actually we looked for places to let, because that’s what you say when you’re looking for a place in the UK.

And “To Let” signs sit outside buildings all over the city and riding past on the bus I always wished I could get out and spray paint an ‘i’ in the middle. Just for fun.

Once or twice.

We found the first place we called “our place” not long before I was off to the US to prepare for our wedding. We returned as hubs and wife and moved into “our place” where we fed lots of friends from a tiny kitchen (you could literally stand in one spot and reach everything) and watched episodes of Lost from iTunes on my Macbook, propped on an ottoman in front of our tiny couch.

We were there three months before we headed to the States to raise support for HH to be a full time staff member at our church.

We were there three months (in the States) when we discovered the Bear was on his way into the world. Surprise and Merry Christmas, the Lord seemed to say.

We returned from our time in the States, me six months pregnant, and we rented a flat that was everything we hoped for and then some.

And the Bear was perhaps just three months old when we started to realize living life spread across three continents wasn’t going to work. For our family.

The family we didn’t even know was coming when it was spring in Edinburgh and we were looking for flats.

Before his first birthday, two months after our first anniversary, we were on our way to South Africa, with a stop in the States thrown in for good measure.

It was only two brief years after we would’ve bought a lovely flat in Edinburgh.

A new season and a new country were ahead of us.

And I’m not sure how that would’ve been possible — I am very certain it would’ve been messy — if we were servicing a mortgage on a flat in Edinburgh. In a market in a slump. And trying to raise support for life and ministry in South Africa, thousands of miles away.

Sometimes we don’t know what’s good for us. Sometimes unanswered prayer is the greatest gift we can receive.

I look back, thankful, we listened to that still small voice and didn’t push in a direction we weren’t supposed to go.

The Sermon in a Nutshell: Remember God’s goodness today. Remember that He sees the end from the beginning. Even when we’re in the middle, and all we see is red and white wallpaper and hardwood floors.


Same Old Toys, Fresh Dirty Laundry

Back in the days when we called the sweet streets of Edinburgh home, we had this sweet little hand-me-down toy the Bear loved to bounce in. It played happy music and lit up and provided us with a place to put our seven-month-old bundle of squirm so that we could enjoy our breakfast in peace.

Except for one morning when the neighbor from downstairs came up to ask if we were bouncing a ball or something because of the noise. Clever Clogs Hero Hubs promptly invited her in to show her the Bear bouncing in his toy, and she immediately remarked {in a sweet North of England accent, no less} “Well it’s not so bad now that I’ve seen you!”


{Doesn’t the Bear look funny in this picture? Like his head is square or something? I don’t really think it looks like him, but he’s Seven Months and Happy! SpoRadically uSing caPitaLs is fun sOmeTimes.}

When we packed our lives into boxes headed for the southern shores of SA, we passed along the delightful toy (that had been passed along to us) to our dear friends Rob and Alice, who were expecting at the time.

So a wave of old memories crashed on my heart shore when we were staying with our precious friends last month and we plopped a new baby boy down in that same toy.


{Our wee Tank — ten days shy of seven months! His head seems a little less square. Well I’ll be.}

Be still my heart! So full of lovely memories! Like the time the Hubs accidentally broke that microphone because it went Bah-ba-doo-wah! over and over and over again.

While I was hunting down that old photo of the Bear, I came across this one. Which does absolutely make me melt. I think he might have a future as a boy band member. It reminded me of that big lovely kitchen … LOVED it!


{Bear-B-Que Sauce, 8 Months and some change}

And that reminds me of the sweet laundry shots HH grabbed of the Tank just a few days ago!


Seven Monthsies!


Almost eight!


We used fresh laundry for these ones, though. ‘Course.


And that sweetness reminded me of these pictures of the Bear in a Ceres juice box. Which is confusing because we took this in Scotland but Ceres juice comes from the beautiful Ceres valley in South Africa, where they grow lots of fruit. But it was cheaper to buy in the UK (at Costco) than in SA, so we drank more of this wonderful South African juice in Scotland than we did in South Africa.

Globalization, dju confuzzle me suntines.


Six Months’ Worth of Cheeksies!


These captured moments from every day life seemed like just another moment at the time. Another moment trying to find somewhere to put the baby so that I could get something done. Seeing them now, they are precious reminders to me from seasons that feel a million miles away.

I’m so glad we paused to grab the camera, to see, to take off our shoes. There is God-breathed beauty, even in the hum-drum monotony you might feel makes up your life right now.

We just have to {re-}learn how to see.


What I’ve Learned So Far

Our plane touched down nearly a month ago and it is still strange and wonderful and topsy-turvy and weird, all wrapped into one. And that’s somehow a good thing. Like a salad with strong-flavoured greens, sliced strawberries, toasted egg noodles and bacon. Who knows why, it all gets together and it’s good. Splash some olive oil and white wine vinegar on top and invite me over, please. Partay in the mizouth.

Life has had a few new things to teach me in this fortnight and a half. If you’re organizational by nature, you might qualify some lessons as more important than others, but I don’t think it’s necessary to create categories and put these thoughts in boxes. They all have the potential to lead to positive growth, and for that reason, they’re valuable.

Here are a few highlights from the schoolbook of re-entry:

  1. Country music makes me sad. There, I said it. I didn’t realize it until now. I suppose I didn’t listen to it a lot before now, but country has morphed from what it was when I was a kid to almost-rock without some of the pretentiousness and cool, and I like that about it. But it makes me sad. I almost wept as some fella crooned about how I was gonna miss this season when it’s gone, staring at the boys in the backseat, the Bear making his baby brother giggle while we waited for the doors to open at preschool. Seems the sad stuff makes me sad, and the fun and happy stuff makes me sad because it’s usually about misbehaving and I just think all that misbehaving can only lead to bad consequences.
  2. You can’t trust Walmart to have the lowest prices. I depended on Pick n Pay 100% back in SA for all my grocery needs {except diapers} because we got such sweet discounts there through our health insurance. But now I have to shop around. Ouch. #Walmartfail
  3. People assess themselves as lovable or unlovable based on the way they are treated by others. And people are largely able or unable to receive the love of God based on how lovable or unlovable they feel, how deserving or undeserving they might assess themselves to be. So it makes sense on a whole ‘nother level that Jesus consistently instructed us to love one another. Love our neighbour. Love our enemies. Love, love love. Because the ability of many folks to receive God’s love, and the sacrifice of Jesus, can largely depend on their ability to believe that God could be loving, and if He is, He could love them.
  4. The Pirates are not looking to deliver on a promising season this year. Translation: my beloved alma mater’s football team is Trifling. Yep, that’s a capital T. However, they are still worthy of love and I hope they know that.

    {that’s the Bear, but it looks like the Tank, hey?}
  5. I am no longer confident of my ability to use of the English language. I have three and a half sets of English swirling around in my brain. {The half set being reserved for Afrikaans speakers of English in South Africa, who usually have slightly different word choices than the native English speakers. Or maybe it’s for people from Glasgow.} If requested to get a band-aid or a plaster for the Bear’s eina or boo-boo or owie, I might say I’m coming soon, in a wee while, or just now, after I go to the loo or toilet or restroom to fetch it. I struggle to decide which word to use to communicate something with my own mother. What?? I have now decided whichever word comes first is the one that’s coming out of my mouth so if you haven’t a clue what I’m blethering about, nae bother, just ask.

I rather think one especially lovely thing about life is that we get to keep learning. And this season sure has me off to a good start.



Why I Got Out of the Boat

It was seven years ago this week, {October 10th to be exact} the day I’ve held in my heart as the day that I knew I’d heard the Lord irrevocably say “Go.” I was waiting for an answer to a prayer I’d been praying for a long time, and it came in a slightly unexpected way.

Back in 2004, among those long days of summer where darkness barely has a moment to lay across the land, I took a brief trip to Scotland with a team of people that were preparing to plant a church there. I wasn’t planning to help plant a church in Scotland. I’d just been invited by a darling friend who said she’d been praying about the trip and felt the Lord direct her to invite me. I prayed and kind of thought, “well, why not?”

For a week, we walked the streets of Edinburgh, visited Linlithgow, Stirling and the historic fields at Bannockburn (think the major battle in Braveheart) and scouted out the land. We spoke to college students and prayed a lot. I met a friend named Julie who’d come up from London to join the team, and who instantly become very dear to my heart. {She was later a bridesmaid at my wedding.} I decided at the end of the trip to change my flight to spend a couple more days in London with Julie before heading home.


{My first look over Edinburgh from Arthur’s Seat, June 2004}

And then a strange thing happened. The plane took off as we left Edinburgh, London-bound, and I found myself crying. And not like glistening tears, more like borderline ugly cry/hide my face from the passengers sitting beside me as I try to tell the flight attendant, Sure, I’d like some breakfast. Not understanding the meaning of it, I began to pray.

Those prayers over the next few days in London and back in NC eventually resulted in a very specific one, from my heart, but I think originating first in the Lord’s. Remembering him considering getting out of the boat to walk to Jesus, I echoed the words of Peter in a simple prayer:

Lord, if it’s You, bid me come.

{Indirection which may lead to direction: In the story I’m referencing from Matthew 14, the disciples are in a boat, late at night, on a stormy sea, when Jesus comes walking to them on the water. Peter sees Jesus and asks, “Lord, if it’s You, bid me come to You on the water.” Jesus says, “Come” and Peter gets out of the boat and walks on the water to Him. He gets nervous and starts sinking, but that’s a story for another day.}

For four months, alongside the other people I was praying for and things I was praying about, my heart’s cry repeated that simple chorus: Lord, if it’s You, bid me come.

My stirring was so strongly leaning towards certainty that the Lord’s will was for me to return to Scotland, I spoke with a pastor at my church (the church In Greenville where HH and I are now based, coming full circle) and we agreed doing an internship at a different church up in the Triangle (the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel-Hill area of North Carolina) would be a good idea in preparation, since many folks moving to Scotland would be leaving from that church.

Less than two months later, I’d moved home, taken up a job at a pawn shop (because I had to pay bills), and begun an internship at King’s Park International Church. I wasn’t confident that I’d heard the Lord’s call yet, but I kind of felt like the phone was already ringing.

Then one weekend I was back in Greenville for a church service where another dear friend of mine was being prayed over because she was moving to work for a church in New York. There was a guest speaker that Sunday, and his sermon quickly got my attention.

The title of the sermon was “Living on the Water” and some of the key points I made note of that day were:

  • God is calling us today to leave our boats and live on the water with Him. Boats are manmade and though you put your trust, beliefs and traditions in them, God knows how to sink those boats.
  • There is a cost involved in stepping away from our own boat.

The speaker went on to talk about the different types of boats we build, and he spoke specifically about the importance of believing and not doubting, by saying, “Unbelief makes you double-minded. This gets in you and you question everything. ‘I want to be sincere… I want to be sure…’ God wants you to come out of the boat full of what-ifs and trust Him. You will not be the first person God never met at their faith.

I think I added these thoughts in my notes: It was dark and Peter didn’t see a brilliant light and certainty and clearness. Jesus told Him to step out By Faith, Not by Sight.

Do you ever get the feeling that a speaker, though talking to a large crowd, was somehow backstage reading your mail before he got up to speak? There I was.

I got back home to Raleigh that evening and with honest and sincere faith, prayed (among other things) “Lord, forgive me for sitting in the double-minded boat of unbelief. I’ve been afraid to apply Your Word to my life and trust that I hear from You. Instead of beginning to step out and trust You, I’ve made up excuses, opted for easier routes, and even listened to the enemy whispering “Did God really say…”

I also admitted in prayer, “I’ve been afraid to think that the desires of my heart (like going to Scotland) could or would be fulfilled, and I felt like I didn’t deserve it and I wasn’t in the right place.”

{Have you ever been there?}

That night, I was finally certain of the Lord’s calling. Certain He had a big plan, and certain it wouldn’t happen if I didn’t get out of the boat.

I couldn’t sum up the lessons, the adventures, the joy, and even the challenges that have brought me from that day to this one in a hundred nutshell sermons. But if there’s one thing I can communicate about it all right here and now, it’s my certainty that walking on water will only happen if we’re willing to get out of the boat.