Kelp, causeways and inspiring young people.

Uist reflections!

I love travelling- it broadens my mind, and is a brilliant way to learn. It is great to be up here in Uist, and to spend time just being. It seems to be a land of picturesque stone causeways connecting different islands, and amazing colours and intricate patterns of kelp on the beaches.

Swirls of colours!

The landscape is stunning, even in the mist and dreich, grey skies. There are machairs full of wild flowers, beaches of white sand and kelp, and wildlife galore. Today I saw a majestic white tailed eagle, otters and red deer, and seals lazing on rocks, and they were all amazing.

I have learned much of the history of the place, from archaeological finds ( Kilphedar Kate) to stories about crofting and the clearances. The uses for kelp, eg dried out and used for bedding, are so varied. Such a hard life, making a living from the landscape, land or sea.

Something quite unexpected has been arriving during a Gaelic summer school, – Ceolas. Listening to traditional Gaelic tunes and songs has been very moving, even though I haven’t always known what they are about! Such a rich heritage, snd so encouraging to see so many young people involved.

One of the things I have so appreciated is listening to young people. The young people coming to Ceolas, full of enthusiasm and talent, eager to learn. And other young people who just love the animals and landscape here, and are brilliant advocates to help others appreciate Uist. There has been a lyrical kindness in so many people’ s souls, it has been a pleasure to be here.

I also really appreciated Andrew my son and Lauren, who came to get me when my car broke down on the way to Mallaig. I then set off in a different car, which unbelievably even for me, also broke down ( just for the record it was nothing to do with my driving). And then he and Lauren drove me to Mallaig in the middle of the night- so I wouldn’t miss my ferry. A very stressful start, but he was a superhero!

For all those amazing young people who quietly help others out, and try to make the world a better place- a blessing from Numbers 6:

The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Gracious God, sometimes we listen to the tv and our spirits are heavy because of all the difficult and negative news. Lord Jesus, enlarge our vision, and remind us of all the good in the world, the richness of different cultures, the wild beauty of island landscapes, the generosity and kindness of many, especially our young people. Holy spirit, may we appreciate them, and encourage them, and pray for them in the midst of the pressures of the world. Thankyou for all the ways You inspire us each day, Amen.

Putting up the Christmas tree – special memories!

This is a photo from about 14 years ago. The memories are lovely, because everyone loved putting up the Christmas tree- as you can see! We put on Christmas music, found the decorations in the loft, brought everything downstairs and started. Many decorations were made by Andrew, or chosen on a special occasion. There was tinsel everywhere, and the result wasn’t always the neatest. As a family it was a fun activity to do together, with food and drink and even some dancing!

I so miss this. Today we bring the box down from the loft, and wonder who has time to untangle the lights, or get new ones. It has become a bit of a chore. There are so many fewer presents, as people are no longer here. It feels as if it has lost its sparkle.

If we have a Christmas with family all around, it is good to give thanks, and to enjoy all the people interactions, all the bustle and noise. If there are small children involved, then appreciate their wonder and even their tantrums!

Quieter Christmases are just different. There is more space to read, and walk and enjoy music. The Christmas tree eventually goes up, although there is a hint of sadness in its branches.

I remember the verse ‘ Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:18

There is something about giving thanks when it is busy, there are toys, and visits and laughter and chaos. Yet also giving thanks when Christmas involves fewer people, and less variety and voices. The challenge is to create new rituals and traditions, to form new communities and to find peace.

Gracious God, before Your face, generations rise and pass away. Thankyou for Christmas, and all the ways that we celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ into this world, the Babe of Bethlehem. We give thanks for the wonder and joy of children, and that they bring this dimension into the day. And we give thanks even when the place settings are empty, and a number of years have gone by. We remember with deep thanksgiving, and we treasure what we have. Holy spirit touch the lives of all for whom this Christmas is tough, and the loss of a loved one so raw. May we all find comfort, and in time courage to create new traditions, for the sake of our Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

” a million thankyous”

On behalf of Andrew and myself, I want to thank everyone so much who attended, and showed an interest in our booklaunch ” Love Song for a wounded warrior“. We are so greatly humbled by your prayers and good wishes and comments, and are very moved by the support of so many.

The idea of this book was to honour the memory of my late husband Colin, who wanted his memories and recollections of his time in military service, especially northern Ireland, to be published. Last night at the booklaunch, I read out one of his poems, and I was so heartened by people really listening to what it was about, and relating to the horror of war. Just in that one part of the meeting alone, it fulfilled so much of what we hoped for.

We were also grateful for the words of Shirley from Epilepsy Connections, who spoke so caringly, and with such insight as to the situation of so many people with epilepsy in Scotland, and the struggles they face. And to have Allana with us was so lovely, from the Coming Home centre, who has such a passion to support veterans and their families on their return to civilian life. The work of these two charities is inspirational and they go the extra mile to help others.

We were delighted that the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Rev Dr Martin Fair could come along, and for his words of encouragement and grace. We also heard the words of Rev Jock Stein, who edited and published the book, and who was such a brilliant support in bringing the book to this point.

Andrew speaking about the way his dad’s disability affected him, gave very real insight into the difficulties that can be faced by children of veterans. After a time of questions and answers, the meeting came to a close, but it was such a wonderful time to hear people acknowledge Colin’s story, and both he and his parents would have been so pleased.

” In my end is my beginning”

The Four Quartets – TS Eliot

I was thinking of these words – how God can bring something good, even out of the most dark and difficult of circumstances, and praying that our of this book, might come fundraising, and also conversation about how to better care for people who are veterans, people with epilepsy and brain damage. The conversation seems to have started already, and I hope that out of Colin’s life and death, God can bring something with will bless and help others.

An enormous thank you all, for participating in this process with me, whether near or far. Our society is under such pressure just now, but anything that can help us to think about how we can support people with complex needs and difficult behaviours, is surely central to that question about what it means to love and care for some of the most vulnerable in our society. I will keep blogging, because somehow I always seem to have something to say! But just now, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Dear God, we give thanks for Your faithfulness in difficult days,

For the support of friends and family, for moments of connection and care,

That out of despair and pain, can come possibilities of new beginnings.

Lord Jesus, bless all those today, who are veterans or veterans’ families,

Who are carers for people with epilepsy or disabilities,

Grant them the right support, respite, wise guidance, humour and love

In the midst of the challenges of every day life,

And guide and sustain all those who seek to support them, Amen