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Monday, 31 December 2018

So that was 2018

Pretty good year!  Actually it's a long time since I saw a year which wasn't pretty good but I like to keep counting my blessings.

I started the year by getting a new-to-me car and have been using it to get out as much as I can.  I enjoy regular meets with lots of friends and some of my cousins for lunch or just for coffee .  A meal of soup and bread (or maybe coffee and a toasted teacake) when eaten with a good friend, is always a feast.  

I'be been busier conducting worship than I have been any year since I retired in 2010.  It's unlikely that I will be as busy in 2019 but I've enjoyed the opportunity while it has lasted.  I conducted my first wedding for several years as well as funerals and baptisms and I've been preaching most Sundays.  During the year I've taken services in eighteen different churches.

I've had two short breaks, one in North Yorkshire and one in Wales and I've had lots of days out including time at at Normanby, Elsham and Donna Nook.

I've been cared for by Annie-the Home-Enhancer and Pete-the gardener/handyman as well as by lots of people who help me with various jobs when disability means I need assistance.  

I've knitted, crocheted, sewn, made cards.  I've upcycled and repaired.

And in all this I have known real joy, something much deeper than mere happiness.  I've said it before and I say it now: I am of all women, most richly blessed.

Happy 2019

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Two celebrations, one with elf!

The stable has three last visitors - man. woman child.  The woman looks a bit weary but all the chaps look good for a Christmas party.  The fancy chaps are on their way - there's always someone late for Christmas lunch.  

And here in Lincolnshire there was a celebration at midnight.  For some reason the vicar was an elf.   Have a joyful and blessed Christmas.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Too much work for two shepherds?

Too much work for two shepherds?  That's OK, a third one has arrived to care for the four sheep, one goat and two cows.  Now, I don't know about you but I would have thought that was rather a large workforce for so few animals.  I wonder if the angels on the roof are really time and motion analysts sent to work out what's happening. 

The fancy chaps have decided to go on a journey but their camels are not enthusiastic.  Neither is the pack horse.  Only one camel is on its feet so this journey could take a while.

Personally I'd have taken the camel from near the tree,  It looks a lot keener than any of their animals.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Meanwhile, back at the stable

Mean while, back at the stable in the corner of my sitting room, there has been quite a bit of action  We've now got two angels on the roof, two shepherds, and two cows - not to mention the shooting star which has settled on the roof and the roaring fire to keep everyone comfortable.  

At the same time there's an assembly of three fancy looking coves with three camels and a pack horse.  They're sorting themselves out near a palm tree where there's also an abandoned camel but it's tethered to the tree so it's not our problem.
There seems to be no reason for all this activity - maybe the next few days will help us make sense of it.    

Monday, 17 December 2018

Thousands of Santas

Many years ago I went to a service at Lincoln Cathedral and when I came out the world had been invaded by Santa clones.  They were everywhere.  I soon discovered that it was the Santa Fun Run.

I'd always wanted to go again and today I went to Lincoln Santa Fun Run and Doggie Dash.  This post is rather heavy with photos - not my usual style of blogging - but I wanted to share the fun.  Look at the facebook page here (especially the video) for an idea of just how many Santas ran
A gingerbread man. Christmas tree, Santa Spiderman, snowman and angel

Passing the Strugglers Inn.  Until the mid nineteenth century (when public executions ceased) this was the place to get a good view of a criminal as he struggled on the end of a rope.  It was a much nicer place today

An invalid vehicle adapted to carry Santa

Air Cadets marching

Santa with a touch of the Wild West

It was also a doggie dash!

The route went around the Cathedral Close as it wound through historic Lincoln.

In other news life is getting much busier around the stable.  Three fancy gents are with the livestock and a second angel has landed on the roof.  Next post will include a little photo-journalism from Bethlehem.  

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Closer to home

Last week's nativity set had come from far across the world, maybe from Peru, maybe from Ecuador but this week it is from very close to home, from a charity in my own small town, the Rock Foundation. 

The Rock Foundation provides services for young people and adults with learning disabilities.  They aim to help service users to develop skills and improve their quality of life.  I bought this simple nativity to support their work.

And that's what is what makes this scene special for this week.  We hear a lot of criticism of the commercialism of Christmas but commercialism has never managed to push out the message that Christmas is a special time for remembering those who are in need.  I noticed that the collection bin for items for the foodbank was full when I went to Tesco and was told it had been emptied already that day and that only happens in the run-up to Christmas.  "Caistor cares" is having its extra special tea party this afternoon.  Our local Lions are distributing hampers and they've already taken many older people to the panto.  Many people will have sent donations to charity

My prayers this week are based on words from the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols.
"And because this of all things would rejoice his heart, let us remember, in his name, the poor and helpless, the cold, the hungry, and the oppressed; the sick and them that mourn, the lonely and the unloved, the aged and the little children; all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love."

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Who's a lucky girl? (Me)

I do enjoy comping!  Entering competitions that is.  I do A Very Lot of them which means that sometimes I win.  This week I have won ten cake bars and a £250 Experience Day voucher so that's a treat to enjoy over the next few days and something to look forward to in the New Year.

Things continue to happen in (or near) my Advent stable.  A rather fancy looking gent seems to be organising some livestock.  

Yesterday I had a visitor who used to work in South America and he looked very closely at my South American set which I showed you on Sunday.  He felt that the characters were from further north than Peru, maybe Ecuador.  

Sunday, 9 December 2018

From lands afar

I love nativity sets!  I used to have even more of them than I do now and even now I can display only a few each Christmas.  I haven't had this one out for several years and yet I think it is lovely.

Some time ago when I was blogging about the Christmas story someone commented that the characters I wrote about (angels, Mary, Joseph) were very British.  It wasn't a criticism: my commenter was saying that for her as an American I had brought a new dimension to the story and she was enjoying it.  It's also very true: Jesus was born thousands of years ago in a land thousands of miles from my home but he is born anew every year (every day!) in every land.  In my mind the lamb he is offered is a Lincoln Longwool but it could equally be a Pelibuey from South America.

So here is one of my nativity sets, this time from South America, Peru I think, and it is so different from all the others that I have.  These are definitely peasant figures from a country other than my own

And it's there to remind me not just of South America but of lands throughout the world where Christ's message of peace is heard and where there is need for it to be heard.  May Christ be born anew in every waiting heart, wherever that heart beats.
I'm joining in with Pause in Advent hosted by Tracing Rainbows.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Weird knitting

Thank you for all the comments on my last post.  I haven't replied to any of them as anything I could say would risk being very trite and it seemed more respectful just to let them stand.  Thank you again.

Things have been happening in the stable since your last visit which was three days ago.  The herdsman has acquired another sheep and a cow.  That seems quite reasonable for a stable.  What is a little strange is the angel perched on the roof blowing a trumpet.  All that noise cannot be making the herdsman's job any easier.  

A couple of weeks ago Jane called and rather liked the  scarf I had knitted for someone else.  As I couldn't think what to buy for Jane that solved one problem but created another.  Anyway, I got some more yarn.  It's weird to knit.  It's a flat, thick yarn when it comes off the ball but has to be teased out for knitting.  It creates a frilly effect when knitted up.  Interesting but I'm finding it a little tedious as I can't get any sort of rhythm going.  

Thursday, 6 December 2018

The Right Words

You will have gathered that I love the lead-up to Christmas.  I enjoy making things for my friends, meeting up with them, even writing cards (but the last seems to take a very long time).

December is not a time of unmixed joy.  On 6th December 1995 my Father died.  On 5th December 2006 my Mother died.  And on 30th December 2010 my only sister died.  I have known what it is to wait and watch and weep with the dying when festivities are going on around.  And I have known what it is to long to be left alone when the world seems to be full of crowds.

Each December I meet professionally with families who are bereaved.  Christmas will never be quite the same again for them.  In a year or two Christmas will again be joyful in a different way but that first year it's just a time to be endured as best as possible.  Cards come through the door wishing "Merry Christmas" and the world is filled with festivity but all you want to do is crawl under a duvet.

Today I am meeting up with a friend who knew all my family - we've known each other nearly fifty years.  I know she will remember and mention my parents gently and sensitively.  We will laugh at memories of them just as we will laugh at the doings of my friend's grandchildren.  We are each enriched by our families, both past and present.

This is not intended to be a maudlin post but rather to say that few people can think of "the right words" to say to someone who is sad at this time.  The reason for that is simple: there are no "right words".  That doesn't mean that the other person is unfeeling or uncaring, just that they too are human.

I've thought long and hard as to whether to hit the publish button for this post because I know that these aren't the right words either.  However, I want to reach out to anyone who is sad - those who wait or weep or watch - and these words are all I have.

God bless.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

An extra present

Since retirement, like most of my friends I have scaled back on the cost of the presents I give.  Many gifts are now home-made and I am happy that many of the gifts I receive are edible or maybe pots of bulbs to bring colour to my house.

This year, however, I've given each of my friends a small extra present.  A loo roll.  With this message attached.  

It is possible that you are wondering why I have given you a loo roll for Christmas.  It is even possible that you regard this gift as the final proof that I have lost my marbles.  You may be right.

However, this paper has been made by a company called “Who gives a crap?” which gives half of its profits to sanitation projects in the Third World.  This means that each time you use this paper for your comfort you are not only saving the world’s natural resources, you are helping to save precious human lives.

So do enjoy my gift.  And leave me to worry about my marbles.

In my sitting room a cow has now arrived at the stable.  The shepherd must now be reckoned to be a herdsman.  He has a choice between lamb chops and rump steak.  If he chooses either I will barbecue him.  He has been warned.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Advent Calendars

I don't remember Advent calendars being around when I was a little girl and I feel that I was deprived.  However, I make up for it now.  

I have my lovely stable with its tiny figures.  Today a shepherd has turned up to keep that solitary sheep in order.  I don't think he will be overworked but I hope that the sight of one sheep and a large fire doesn't fill his mind with thoughts of barbecues.  

There is an on-line Advent calendar which I check in to every year.  It's The Norad Santa Tracker.  Click on the link and it will take you there.  Norad  (The North American Aerospace Defense Command) exists mainly to provide aerospace monitoring of aircraft, missiles and space vehicles so tracking Santa is well within its remit.  Santa's mission is, of course, considered not to be hostile and Norad will offer any necessary assistance should he find himself in difficulties.  They have been tracking Santa every year since 1955 so their archive of information is extensive.  By Christmas Eve the team will be on full alert and minute by minute reporting of Santa's journey will be available.  In the meantime games, music, movies etc are available.  Do visit!

Monday, 3 December 2018

A Very Old Fashioned Present

Not long ago a friend mentioned that she wished she could buy some old fashioned padded hangers.  Years ago everyone had them in their wardrobes.  They protect clothes from getting hanger marks and the clothes don't seem to slip off so easily.

Well I don't need to have that sort of hint dropped more than once so I've been a busy girl.  I'd got some fleece trimmings and the scrap fabric after making a skirt so I bought some plain beech hangers (surprisingly hard to find these days) and combined the three.  They looked a bit plain so I dived into the stash again and found some pink gingham and I bought some broderie anglaise trim and made lavender bags.  Et voila!

In other news I have been opening the doors on my  Advent stable.  Yesterday I found a sheep.  Today revealed a very cosy fire.  Better keep the two apart.

Sunday, 2 December 2018


When I brought out my Advent calendar/stable yesterday, I also put out this figurine.  It's just a pregnant woman.  Any pregnant woman.  She's faceless but in her there is a sense of waiting, of anticipation.  She is Everywoman.  She comes out every Advent, the season which starts today (even though most Advent calendars started yesterday).  

On Friday I had lunch with a friend and as soon as we had ordered food she took out her phone and showed me photographs of her first grandchild, born last week.  Her heart was filled with love and pride.  This baby has been born from and into love.  Nuala will grow up secure and loved.

How did Mary feel? I really don't know. That's partly because I have never had children but it's also because her's was a unique pregnancy.  I think it may have been quite a lonely pregnancy too.  Eventually Joseph had his dream and so understood something of God's plan but Mary had disgraced herself in the eyes of most people around her.  Unwed and expectant, not a good combination in those days.  We call the coming of Jesus "good news" but I doubt if it was met with unmixed joy in that family.

Still today not all births in our world are anticipated with unmixed joy.  Sometimes there are just too many mouths to feed already.  Sometimes there is a high risk of birth defect or stillbirth.  Even today some pregnancies are hidden for shame.  Some women just don't want to be mothers.

My prayers this week are for all families in which a child will soon be born.  May they all know joy and wonder and love through their children.

I'm joining in with "Pause in Advent" hosted by Tracing Rainbows.  

Saturday, 1 December 2018


December!  No contest over the most important thing about December in this household - as in many others.  Christmas!

I've done quite a lot of my preparation already, in fact although I'm not quite as well organised as I would have been if I were still working regularly, I think this will be my best prepared Christmas since I retired.

My sermons are written in outline, the cards will be in the post by Monday (today if the weather is good enough for me to get to the postbox), most presents are bought or nearly made, I've got coffee or lunch dates arranged with most of my friends, and I'm hoping to enjoy this month at least as much as I enjoyed November.

And today I have set up by very special Advent calendar.  I've had it for many years (and it's been on my blogs several times) but each year I enjoy it anew.  There are twenty four doors (the remaining twelve are on the other side) and behind each is a precious nativity figure: precious because they are well-used and joyfully anticipated, not because of intrinsic value.  Today I found a star which I have fixed to the front of the stable.

May you too have a joyful and blessed Advent.