25 February 2010

The Season of Waiting

I dare say that this year "Winter" should be renamed "Waiting." Maybe every year it should. And while I'm speaking more from personal waiting (on jobs, children, a place to put down roots, etc), I was thinking this week about how each winter is really a season of waiting - and more so than the other 3 seasons. Each winter (as it grows longer and longer with each passing week and month!) we yearn - we WAIT - for the newness of spring and it's life-giving sprouts, buds, warmth.

Similarly, Mark and I find ourselves looking forward to the next season of our lives as his studies here will (at least in some form) come to an end in a few months. We look forward to what new things lie ahead, what new joys there might be. But, at the same time, we WAIT.

Like all periods of waiting I find myself driven closer to our Father, totally dependent on Him and His plans and timing - daily needing to offer to Him my plans and what I want. These past 6 months or so (or maybe even longer!) I have repeatedly cried out for His help as I WAIT. I've learned I'm not very patient in the WAIT. I want things NOW and in MY time. Repeatedly God has said WAIT.

I've been participating the past month in a ladies small group with some friends here. We've been going through the book "A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World" by Paul E. Miller. It has been a refreshing look at how to pray, why we pray, when to pray, etc. And while (like most Christian-living type books) there are things I don't agree with that are said, there are many ideas Miller presents that have just made sense. I have repeatedly been challenged to review my beliefs on prayer, as well as my practices. If you feel your prayer life needs a jump start or tune-up, this may just be the book for you!

As I was reading one of the chapters this week, there was some Scripture quoted from Psalm:

"O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek You;
   my soul thirsts for You;
   my flesh faints for You,
   as in a dry and weary land where there is no water." (Psalm 63:1)

In the midst of my own personal "dry and weary land" (known as "the land of waiting") I was convicted that in my heart (and subsequently in my prayers) I have rewritten the verse along these lines:

"O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek Your plans;
  my soul thirsts for Your answers;
  my flesh faints for You to do things my way...."

This wasn't the first time in this season of waiting that God has challenged me about what I am truly seeking after each day. Do I seek HIM or do I just seek what things He can give me? There is a huge, but sometimes subtle, difference. Not to say that we can't seek His wisdom, or pray for our heart's desires, or ask things from Him (because He tells us to do all those things in Scripture!), but rather to make the distinction of what my heart longs after MOST. I have come to see that often I am just praying and seeking for results from God rather than desiring most to know and love Him - which is more what prayer is about - cultivating a relationship with God my Father.

So as our season of waiting goes on and on (just as the winter rages on!), I am striving to seek God Himself, hopeful that when He chooses for this season to be over I will know Him more intimately, and also take great delight in the paths He will lead us down - just as I am joyful each year when spring arrives and refreshes my soul.

19 February 2010

Of Sun, Snow and Randomness

The closer we get to a probable departure for returning permanently to the U.S. the more I see things around me I will miss here. So in an effort to never forget, I'm trying to capture them on the camera (how else?!). Here's a first photo installment of something I love and will miss when we are gone:

Dark skies, with a sunrise peaking through lighting up the granite and chimneys to an amazing golden color and a seagull quietly taking it all in too. (I didn't even edit it so you can see it just as I did!)
Doesn't it just take your breath away?! It actually didn't last long. Those mean clouds swallowed up my sun, but at least for a few moments (and now forever) I was able to enjoy the brilliance of an Aberdeen morning as the sun made its journey upwards.

Sometimes when you can't beat the snow (and this winter it doesn't seem we can), you just have to put on your wellies, grab your camera and go join it. As I was walking in the door after work (when we got 1-2 inches of snow in the span of an hour!) I saw (heard?) the bright red berries begging to be photographed in the snow. I particularly liked how our neighbor's bright red door added extra cheer.

Yesterday I had company from my high view of the world. It was a bit odd to look out and see 4 men at eye level with me. At least, though, our eyes didn't meet and I don't think they noticed my ninja photography skills. I give you, the ladder people....

My personal fav is the man chatting it up whilst hanging out the open window. These slaters (roofers who "roof" using slates), were putting in new skylights to the building across the street. I really wish they'd hurry up and finish their renovations. But, it seems they will be with us for some time still. The other part of the building they were working on last summer/fall has finally been occupied by at least a few people. They probably think I'm stalking them because their flats are the only thing I have to watch while doing dishes so I stare endlessly out our kitchen window (that has no blinds). We are I am in the process of giving them names (which aren't politically correct, so I won't share them), figuring out their lives, and how they spend their time. I told you I wasn't stalking them. What can I say, dishes are boring!

14 February 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Mark and I don't go all out in our Valentine's Day celebrations, but we often do exchange cards and sometimes we get each other little gifts or I receive flowers.

This year I decided to make Mark a card (in red and black Georgia Bulldog colors, of course!) and use the 3 pounds or so I would have spent to buy him a small gift. (Which ended up being a used box set of 80's hits someone at the University was selling crazy cheap. Too bad a lot of them are British 80's hits so he probably won't recognize some of them. Never thought of that when I bought it! Nonetheless, his ipod will be grateful for some new tunes, I'm sure! Oh, and he got some Toblerone chocolate. I do usually try to buy him chocolate. He ate some for breakfast. That's my Mark!)

He got me a breath of spring in the form of 8 delightful yellow tulips. I've been loving them! Of course I've also been putting them to use as photography subjects. Here are few shots that I liked.

Mark also treated me to lunch out after church at the Handmade Burger Co. at Aberdeen's "new" mall, Union Square. I say "new" because it opened in Oct or Nov but we have just now gotten around to going after some other friends raved about the burgers at the above mentioned restaurant.  If you are in Aberdeen and are looking for a cheap place to eat for a date night, consider taking advantage of this 2 for 1 burger deal that (although the coupon still says until 12 Feb) is good until 28 Feb now. We were able to get two large burgers (one hamburger, one chicken) with an side order of "chips" and pay for 2 hours of parking for just over 10 pounds. Not too bad :) I just wish I got to taste these good burgers but unfortunately they aren't as 100% beef as they claim since they contaminate them with Worcestershire Sauce. I was just grateful I found that out prior to ordering and that they had uncontaminated chicken breast sandwiches as another option.

Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope you have a splendid Valentine's Day and can take a moment to reflect on The Greatest Lover, God our Father and Christ His Son who demonstrated His love for us by dying on the cross. Oh, to love with that kind of love!

10 February 2010

Glimmer of Hope

Yesterday I awoke very groggy and as I stumbled into the living room, out of the corner of my eye, I saw this: 

I had to do a double take to see if I was dreaming. Nothing like the first bud of spring to bring a HUGE smile to my face. The sun all day yesterday and today has helped as well. I have been praising the Lord that the seasons do change and am ever so grateful that spring is slowly approaching. 

07 February 2010

The Duck Finale

Since many of you have been left wondering about The DUCK, I thought I better give an update. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about  read the previous post "The Duck" to get caught up to speed.)

I was so grateful that we did have friends who offered on Saturday morning to take the duck off of our hands. But before we actually had time to drive it their house, our neighbor buzzed again at our door. This time Mark answered it and Jim (our neighbor) asked Mark, "How did you get on with the duck?" Mark tried to stall by saying nothing just yet since I wasn't feeling too great and he was too busy. Both of which were true, but he also didn't want to let on that the duck was soon being transported to a new home.

In the meantime I started feeling better and was about to put some make-up on so I could take a few photos with my duck :) But the buzzer buzzed again - Guess who?! This time I answered. It was Jim now saying he had plucked and gutted a different duck, so if I'd just bring down the first duck we could swap. I told him I'd be right down, asked Mark to grab the camera, took 2 shots (sans make-up!) and hurried downstairs to receive the new duck.

Jim holds out the new duck by its feet. The head and wings are gone, along with the insides and feathers. He starts telling me how to roast it (in a very thick Scottish accent) and then says, "Do you want me to chop the feet off." Yes, please! So he goes back in the house and I hear a chop as the axe falls. He comes back out and proceeds to hand me the fresh duck with drops of blood occasionally falling. Fabulous.

I say thanks for the gift and his hard work and head for our outside door. As I'm opening said door, a nice drop of blood falls on my jeans. I decide I better make a mad dash up the two flights of stairs to our flat. I run into the kitchen exclaiming, "It's dripping blood!" and plop it onto a plastic bag on the counter. Mark is in awe he didn't give me anything to carry it upstairs in.

Shortly thereafter I set to work on preparing it for roasting, but only after contacting Joe and Katrina I was going to have to renege on my offer. I definitely couldn't let Jim down now by not tasting the thing! I roast whole chickens all the time so basically just did the same thing I usually do for those. In the end I think it got a little over cooked, but still edible. When I went to take the meat off the bones, I couldn't believe how little meat there actually was. It was maybe two very small chicken breasts worth (except they looked more like roast beef, than chicken). All that work (which then I was very glad I had not done!) and so little return. Not something worth repeating any time soon.

We didn't even get to eat it for dinner since we were going to a friend's house to eat. But Mark ate some tonight with Mango Chili Chutney on top and said it was rather delish. I had one small bite yesterday after it was done roasting and haven't yet decided if the little bit that is leftover will be my lunch or dinner tomorrow. Somehow, I'm just a little put off of duck at the moment. Can you blame me?!

I am so glad the duck drama is OVER! What a weekend!

05 February 2010

The Duck

For anyone who might have missed the note I posted on my Facebook page entitled "Does Anyone Want my Duck?" Here it is again, with photos:

So our downstairs neighbor just rang our buzzer (while I'm talking to the bank) and says "do you want a duck?" HUH? Not an every day question you ask your neighbor. I say I'm not sure. My head is racing. "A duck?" I think. A waddling, live one?

He says, we'll it's an organic duck thought you might like it. I can tell he's a bit hurt. I'm confused. I say "well, I guess so." Then he leaves and I finish the phone call.

I decide I better go make amends and figure I can figure out how to cook a duck. Mind you, I'm thinking of a duck from the store.

Oh no. He comes out with a dead duck, feathers, head, wings, feet. He shot it yesterday. Seriously? So then I am standing there telling him I'm really not sure what to do with it (trying to graciously decline this gift). He tells me it is easy, just pluck, cut open and take out the innards. Great. This is just getting better.

"Makes a tasty dish, like." Exact words.

So, like a good neighbor I grab the thing by it's broken and wobbly neck and carry it up to my flat where I say outloud, "what the stink am I supposed to do with this?"

I plop it on the counter. Then think better of it. It probably needs to be refrigerated. So I put it in two grocery bags, sanitize the counter and laugh at all that just transpired.

I really have no idea what to do with the thing. And not only that, I'm not sure I have the stomach to do anything with it.

Please, does anyone (in Aberdeen) want my duck?

Here are some additional thoughts:

--I purposely kept his eyes away from the camera so as not to scare my readers/viewers. 

--He was (is!) so soft! If I wasn't grossed out by him, I might have put my head on him, or stroked him the way I used to stroke my cats when I needed comfort.

--Mark just might get to use some of the feathers for his fly-tying.

--Mark is incredibly adamant I got myself into this mess and I have to get myself out -- without his help! (He self-admittedly is not one big on giving sympathy/empathy.)

--I wish my Grandma lived down the road. Not only would she know what to do, she would show me gladly and willingly! (Grandma, you might be getting a phone call!)

--I am seriously contemplating attempting to do something with this creature that is hanging out in my fridge.

--Tomorrow I will try to take a portrait of me and The Duck. I need that for posterities sake. And my readers need it for hilarities sake.

--I really wish you could see/meet our very Scottish bachelor neighbor (probably in his late 50's, early 60's). He really is kind and he seems to have taken to us. We've helped him out a couple times so I guess that's why he thought to give this to us. I've just never been offered such an unusual gift before. But the great this is, he thought nothing of it being weird.

--Sadly, no one has taken up my offer of a free duck.

--If nothing else, I have a fabulous memory of this day. And probably some of you do too now!

04 February 2010

Reverse Parking

Can you believe I reverse parked into my parking spot yesterday and today?!  Not something I really do -- ever -- so two days in a row is something to blog about. For those of you unfamiliar with the term "reverse parking" it is the same as saying "backing in." Reverse parking is rather big around here. When we were taking our driving exams here 1.5 years ago we opted out of taking it at the exam center where they make you reverse park as one of the things they test on. (Seems slightly odd that they wouldn't have this at our test center, but we were told they didn't have a good "car park" in the area where the test could be performed. Worked for me!)

At first I couldn't figure out why the Scots/Brits back into spots soooo much more than Americans. I thought maybe it was the small cars versus large SUV's and vans. Maybe they like being ready for a speedy get-away. Maybe it's easier? No, couldn't be easier, especially not into the tiny spots they allow for you to park in.

But one day I discovered it is more of safety issue. The Scots are big on Health and Safety. (Just read about one of our fellow American's recent experiences on the matter.) One of my co-workers said she previously worked at a place where you were forced to reverse park due to the safety matters. I had to think about this one. Is it really safer to back into a spot than back out of it? After pondering this for a very long time, I have concluded that maybe it is. When you back into a spot, there shouldn't be anyone walking behind you. But when you back out of a spot, there might be someone walking there. Maybe they are onto something.

In any case, the thought of backing into a small space has daunted me for years now. I have thought of it more from a safety issue of the two cars I'm trying to fit between (and my own!). I most often look for what Mark has termed "a through and through." You know, the double open spot where you drive through the first spot, to get to the second spot so it looks like you backed in, but you didn't? THOSE are my FAVORITE! 

But recently I have been studying the technique of reverse parking while watching others as I wait for them to finish so I can drive by. That, coupled with the few things I remember our instructor said about reverse parking, and I had this uncanny desire to try it for myself yesterday when arriving to work. It helped that there were not many other cars around, so I only had to fit next to one car and not in between two. I successfully reverse parked "in one go!" Because it went so well, I thought today I'd try again. I parked in a different location today and it was slightly more challenging, I had someone waiting on me (I definitely hate others watching! same with parallel parking), and it took two tries, but I didn't hit the car next to me and it still wasn't a half bad attempt.

Who knows, this just may become a new habit! Not bad for a (formerly) blond, female American (all of which are 3 strikes against me for being a reverse parker)!!