Monday, December 26, 2011

resisting the post-christmas rush

The world went fairly still yesterday. Apart from my friends who work in health services, most people and their families were fortunate to have a complete day of work off which didn't come out of their annual leave. From our perspective: from a flat that looks out onto a busy road, that was literally the case. Yesterday I barely heard a car; this morning I was woken up by a persistent car horn. The traffic has most definitely resumed. My email inbox has received a flurry of "Boxing Day Deals" and I know some high street shops will have had people queueing outside eager to get in there and get their bargains.The TV certainly didn't stop over Christmas, it's a hive of Christmas specials and films and advice on how to cook the best roast dinner. The temptation is certainly there to leap back in, to embrace the hectic and the crazy and the mindless and the empty rush that precedes and follows the 25th December. But I'm actively resisting today.

Christmas is such a stress fest for so many people, some out of choice, some not. I consider myself fortunate in that regard and particularly pity those who work in retail. We went on a ridiculously late food shop the other night in prep for Christmas dinner just for a laugh and got chatting to the cashier who was definitely feeling the pressure of work and having to balance this with Christmas shopping and caring for and cooking Christmas dinner for her ageing dad. I find it sad that Christmas has been turned into this: a bunch of boxes you have to tick, expectations you have to meet. As you will be aware if you've read any of my previous Christmas posts, I do love all the trappings and the tinsel and the carols and the mince pies and the excuse to cook and eat yum food and see family. But all this rush and stress that comes along with it for some people, just for one day.,, just seems ridiculous.

I am so aware right now as I listen to the traffic this Boxing Day morning, that in our culture, we need rest, we need space, we need to "Be still and know God", we need to know that these words you see on Christmas cards "hope, joy peace, love" aren't merely platitudes but are fully available and there for the taking, in and because of that Godwhobecameaman baby in the story. Come in God, interrupt our busy lives and open our eyes to the reality of you.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

being grateful

The last few days have been pretty wet and dreary here in Glasgow (though perhaps a good op to capture some good rain photos - see previous blog post) and I have been racked with tiredness, but my days have been pretty full and I'm lifting my eyes up and remembering the beauty and the goodness I have experienced over the last wee while.

I got one of those once in a lifetime chances to play in the band in a minority languages competition described rather favourably here. It's a long time since I've seen such incredible views on a flight and every single one of our four flights had them, one breath-taking sunrise, plains-worth of clouds from a top-down view, two lots of spectacular mountains! Udine itself was a medium-sized, quirky, Italian town nearer to Slovenia than Venice, friendly (sometimes too friendly) locals, delicious hams and wines, some pretty architecture - and we had a lot of fun there!

In Udine and in other places there has been much good music, both getting to play, getting to listen to and getting to dance to enjoyed. Genres to dance to have included some crazy drums at a jungle-stylee worship night, and Austrian Croat reggaerockrap.

After about 6 weeks without it, thanks to a belated visit to the doctor's, I have finally regained my sense of smell. I am soooo appreciating this right now. I had been drinking mostly hot ribena because tea smelt of nothing and tasted bland (heart-breaking when you have a large and eclectic tea collection) I hadn't realised how much the lack of smell was affecting my taste-buds (there's a thought in that!), I've been bowled over by just about everything I've been eating - and I'd like to keep that level of appreciation up!

I also am very grateful for the variety of good times spent with good friends. I love every moment I get to spend my with my Chinese mums esol class:- I always come out of there with a massive smile on my face! I am feeling very appreciative of my roomie right now having spent most of the last 2 weeks without him.

I am also especially grateful to have a God who doesn't give up on me and who is always always always faithful and loving - flipping amaaaazing!

Friday, September 30, 2011

beautiful things

Ever seen the first sequence in the film Amelie? I think it's one of my favourite parts of the film. I love the way they describe the characters by their little quirks and favourite past-times. Recently (by doing them) I've remembered how good doing some of my favourite things are incredibly refreshing. I was quite good at incorporating them into life as a student: it involved a lot of spontaneity and creativity and having people round as often as possible and appreciating beautiful things and going to the park a lot!
This working thing and trying to balance a timetable with an uber-busy husband makes it a bit more difficult. But I think it's just a mentality thing, I think I'd just forgotten that life wasn't all about being busy. I made myself a list of things (mostly creative) that I want to do on a regular basis/over the next few months. It includes going to a gig (not just one I'm playing at) at least once a month, perfecting a beautiful piece of classical music on both cello and piano as well as having fun with the band, having people round a lot, painting, learning to sew better, taking pictures on the theme of "rain" (thought it might be help me to appreciate Glasgow rain better, finish putting together our wedding photo albums (yes a year and a half later and we still haven't finished it!) So far I've managed to sew a book cover (a big achievement for me!) and take some rain photos.
Making beautiful things helps me to better appreciate the God-made beauty around me, in the things that he made directly like the rain, but also the beauty that flows out of the creativity he put in people.  (plus it will help me to watch less iplayer). I want to live life fully with wide-open eyes and an open heart.

On the subject of "Beautiful Things", here's a beautiful version of a song with that very name.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

pure dead brilliant

I have to admit, I am very easily influenced when it comes to accents and slang. My accent changes a lot depending on who I'm talking to. But I have found that a year and a half of working in Maryhill is more than enough time for the teenage lingo there to infiltrate my every day vocab and not just when I'm at work.

I have been inadvertently using: 
- The classic adverbs "pure" and "dead", as illustrated below in Prestwick Airport's slogan "Pure dead Brilliant".

- "actual" used instead of "really" e.g. instead of "Are you really!?" in Maryhill you will hear "Areyeakchul?!"
- "stay" where the vowel is /aɪ/ as in the vowel in "bye"

I have yet to pick up such beauties as:
- the past tense of jump "jamp"
- "am ar" = I am

You've gotta love the peculiarities that sprout from the English language!

Friday, August 12, 2011

highway code

I had a few moments of pure panic yesterday, as Mark and I compared notes on the next few months and all the stuff that we knew was coming up/commitments and stuff we both did, and realised that the next 4 months are going to be more than a little bit hectic for both of us! I've said this before: I have no issues with the present, but do sometimes struggle to look the future full in the face without a squirmy "ahhowamIgoingtohandlethis" feeling in my stomach. So I wrote this:

See that distance,

That hypothetical, distant, not so distant

horizon of days, months, seconds, hours.

Minutes merge into one colossal cloud,

Potential struggles, breaks, ups, downs, probable mistakes;

looming over, crawling skin, twisting heart strings…


Catch your breath.

Cast fear aside. That’s it.


And take another look.

See the hands that hold, adventure ahead.

Listen to love.

Walk today.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I didn't know whether to cheer really loudly or cry (ok admittedly I burst into tears) when I watched a tutsi woman at 46:33 during this documentary - - say that God helped her to forgive the people who murdered all 12 members of her family, and see how her and the perpetrators live side by side, even look after each others' children! Sounds like a weird thing to celebrate, but I was so moved by it - forgiveness is so powerful, so free-ing, full reconciliation even more so. And it was Jesus' sacrifice that made it so! Yesss for forgiveness! Hooooooray for God!!

Friday, July 22, 2011

A good walk to do.

The Fife Coastal Path - who would have thought. The East Coast, tamer than the West but rather pretty. We started at my parents, conveniently located a couple of miles away from the start from the path.

It's signposted by this.

(nice colourful logo don't you think?)

The route from North Queensferry to Aberdour, starts in some nice woods. There were lots of dog walkers and I mean LOTS of dog walkers. Beware of over-enthusiastic wet dogs. We got clambered over twice.

Do this bit in the spring.

Then you hit the weirdest part of the route. As the woods open out and you can see the coast curve inwards, you pass a quarry on your left and a rubbish dump on your right. (Yes we are weird enough to have photographed it!)

Then you pass through the town of Dalkeith and as you come out and hit the coastline again, there are some rocks (if you're quiet enough you may come across an unsuspecting merman), and an industrial relic/musical instrument.

Then some more woods, beautiful views...
...blossoms, followed by a walk around a "dangerous" radioactive part of the firth, then finally long straight roman-road-esque paths lined with daffodils and more dogs of course (I banned Mark from the camera at this point as I was despairing that we would actually finish the walk what with the amount of times we stopped to take photos).

And finally Aberdour...

A good walk all in all.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

financial security pffft!

Friday last week was quite a momentous day in the life of the Spybeys. Mark got his exam results; the verdict of which would have had ramifications on his job, our financial security, our lives, (also its the last day of my current job-share partner. I've only ever shared the job with her so twill be really very different without her - but that's an aside).

The last couple of months, pretty much since Mark told me a couple of weeks before his resit that he thought he would probably pass it 3rd time round (this was just before his second attempt!) I decided that I could live without the old financial security. I think in theory I could always say that but faced with prospect of insecurity I realised it was true. It was quite free-ing really. I realise I had absolutely no worries about having enough money because God has provided for me time and time again.
Like when my dad lost his job of 24 years when I was 16, when I spent summers unemployed until I got to the last few pounds and then got a temp job just when I needed it the most, getting a job in the tearoom when Mark and I got married and the two of us surviving on his earnings was going to be a stretch. I wasn't desperately in need any of those times. (when are we ever in our comfortable western society?) But still God was gracious enough to provide for us nonetheless.

Is this what it means to know the secret of being content...?

As it happens he did pass (!! - that was a total miracle just so you know, since he thought that exam had gone worse than his first attempt), but I'm not going to let the secret of being content slip through my fingers. Knowing Jesus, being loved by him, living life with him and all the adventures that throws up:- that's good enough for me!

Monday, June 06, 2011

A pretty place to visit

If you'd like to visit the Isle of Mull, some advice for you:

- Mull is an island but it's still quite big. Booking one B&B on the south west of the island and another on the north when you're on bikes and not super-strong cyclists, is not a good idea. (thank goodness for googlemaps, it saved us just in time!)

- Mull is pretty but very hilly. Therefore, cycling long distances having not cycled for a while can be very painful especially when cycling against the wind.

- Don't trust the weather forecast. Fortunately we had it the right way round. Tis always nice when the weather forecast says nothing but "thundery showers" the day before you leave and you are pleasantly surprised whenever there's a patch of blue sky and even more delighted when there's nearly a whole day and a bit of sunshine (not to dissimilar to daily life in Glasgow really!)

- Try the cheese. It's yuuum!

Friday, June 03, 2011

I was tidying our room the other day and I found these (two of four, I don't know what happened to the other two) ...

In case you were wondering, yes both these cards are for me, and no I am neither a nephew nor a gran.

From some of my Chinese elt students of very low-level English. I love them :)

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Being married to a man who loves to talk about future plans, dreams and loves idea-ising, I have quickly discovered that I am very much a woman of the present. I can barely face thinking about tomorrow without feeling my stomach churning, let alone next year, let alone 5 years down the line. In one sense, this living in the present thing seems to work well for me. Not only can I justify it with bible verses pretty well but I certainly live a pretty full busy mostly happy life.

But you have to talk about the future sometimes. And my fear of this has at times bordered on the ridiculous. To the point of not wanting to talk about a coming year when Mark needed to book holidays in advance. I am getting better at this kind of thing.

But the deep-rooted fear is still there and it's fear of failure. I'm afraid of making "the wrong plans", afraid of messing up. My head can barely cope with the idea of me being older and doing "scarier" things that "older" people (and people my own age) do! Mainly because I'm convinced that the me I know now, wouldn't be able to cope in those situations.

Why am I bringing this up today of all days...? What has this got to do with Easter Sunday?

"Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know he holds the future.
And life is worth the living.
Just because He lives."

I've had those old hymn lyrics in my head all day.

It's not just because "He lives", it's that he died and rose again - that's a big deal! But what does Jesus rising from the dead have to do with my future and life in this world? At least some people probably know that generally Christians say that they don't have to fear death because they know that by dying on the cross, Jesus simultaneously defeated death and took the punishment meant for us so that we can have eternal life - life beyond physical death (heaven and all that). But it's more than just that.

Jesus died and rose and because of this: I am completely set free from sin and guilty and shame - that doesn't mean past sin is forgiven. It includes present and future. And it means that he's gradually changing my default setting which had once been set to messing up to living a life of grace and hope and joy and love (I like this new life very much!).

And... I get to be in relationship with GOD. I can talk to him, hear him, know that He is always with me. This is BIG! He has enormous love and grace and patience for my weaknesses AND he knows and "holds the future" AND he helps me through it; leads me by the hand through thick and thin. (AND AND AND...)

I can trust him absolutely. I have trusted him thus far, and yes bad things have happened, tough things that at the time I haven't been able to understand, some of which I still don't understand. But even when I've felt I couldn't cope, I have got through because he's helped me. I look back now and think, min a few years ago I never would have imagined being capable of doing all the things I do day to day now.

Jesus died and rose again. YAAAAASSSSSSSS!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

experimenting with a new look

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

a spot of creative insanity

Did a lot of praying last week with our church. 24 hours for 7 days = 168 hours. The concept, championed by these people, involves a bunch of people who love Jesus and believe he hears and answers us, getting a room and filling it with lots of creative things to help pray, and fill up every hour of however many days of time speaking to and listening to God. "Why do it?!" you may ask, which is a reasonable question. It does sound rather insane, and it is a little insane, especially when you're getting up to go to the prayer room at 2am. But it's because we care and because (even more so) we believe that God cares. He cares enough to hear, he cares enough to answer, he cares enough to fix broken hearts and lives... The challenge then is not to stop crying out to him in hope and love and faith once the week is over.
And... I love it! I love the combination of the creative and crazy determination. I love the sense of togetherness it induces. Passing on the proverbial baton from person to person, filling up all the hours together as a church, seeing the hearts and passionate prayers painted and post-it-noted up all over the walls. It's about fighting a battle together. And it's beautiful!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An urban afternoon out

Trawling the old blog posts which I wrote and never posted I found this - written in draft back in October. Sadly Mark didn't pass that exam, so we will have to repeat the trip after he sits it again (in May)!

Picture the scene. It's the day after Mark has his last accountancy exam. He's off work. I'm off work. We have planned for a wee trip to a beautiful loch, or some nice hill somewhere for some fresh air, a good climb, purty scenery. Instead we unintentionally catch up on some much needed zzzzs, surfacing around midday. We still wanted to go somewhere new but didn't really have time to go far as I was meant to be playing a gig that night. So we hop on a train for 10 minutes and arrive at the other end of town - the East End (dumdumDUM)!

It's not somewhere either of us have spent a lot of time. Although at one point I was going through to Parkhead roughly once a week to visit, get fed by and tutor an asylum seeker friend in everything from languages to computer programming. But it turns out the East End is a pretty interesting place, completely different vibe to the west end for sure, but also the south side or in the north where I work. We didn't quite follow this walk but we were inspired by it. Although I have to say, labelling Belgrove (allegedly one of the most unpleasant hostels you could end up in, in Glasgow) as "fabulous" and "Art Deco" did in my mind take it a little too far.
So we wandered about, saw the interesting clock tower and some of the derelict factories, noticed hidden studios and other gems, passed Celtic Park, had a nice wee chat with a lady in a burger van, had a couple of rolls and sausage, Mark had some Irn Bru. Well, when I say "had" I mean, walked down the street swigging his can with great show and pride (I tell you, the boy is just desperate to be Scottish!) Talking of Irn Bru, I have never in my life seen so many deals on Irn Bru cans in shop windows. Even the local fruit and veg shop brandished a hand-written sign - "4 Irn Bru cans for £1.10"! Had a very cheap tea in a huge mug. There are few things that irritate me more than food made to look "exquisite" which leaves your stomach making noises like an aggravated elephant, this includes tiny teacups of tea. Wandered through the Forge Shopping Centre - big place, easy to get lost - and caught the bus home just before it started to chuck it down with rain.

So yes - East End of Glasgow - great place. Despite the rep, it's still well worth a visit!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

patter at the concert halls

I don't like working evenings or weekends, it may be a hassle to work around my daily routine, I occasionally enjoy the music and sometimes have to deal with some lunatic drunks but I kept my concert halls job on for one good reason - I love the variety of people I meet and get to work with.

The other day (while Mark was away in Dumfries and I was missing him a lot) I was very humbled when I chatted to a girl whose cohabiting boyfriend had moved away for a job as he wasn't able to find work locally when he graduated. They'd had to move out of their flat which they had furnished themselves and had to put all their furniture into storage because she couldn't afford to pay the rent herself. And I thought I had it hard!

This evening I learnt that Polish hairdressers who work in the East End often end up changing their names so people will actually let them cut their hair otherwise they think they won't understand them. Fact. From an East End man who knows a lot of Polish hairdresser students.

Love the people and love their patter :)

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Glasgow rain

We are a nation of moaners, of that I am absolutely certain. And whether I like it or not, if I'm completely honest I definitely succumb more often than not - either it's the weather, public transport being late, having the cold for the nth time, Mark's work sending him away on an occasional basis, or something a bit more serious - it's so easy to grumble. Opposite of moaning - being grateful I think. IT says in the bible - give thanks in all circumstances - now that's pretty hard! Easy when it's glowing sun and golden halo-ed trees all around me but when I'm walking down the street with ice cold rain and wind battering my face (like I will be in about 5 minutes time) it's another matter. Totally dampens my mood. But why does my mood have to be subject to the weather. And then the reverse can also the case, hard to be grateful when I'm uber comfortable, things are going easy and well... how do we get the balance?! I think give thanks in all circumstances means finding beauty in the ice cold rain, not ignoring the bad but seeing the good alongside it.

My decision for this afternoon - find beauty in the rain and insane wind on my way to college..

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lost and Found

I was so excited about this I had to blog about it!

This ring had been lost for over 3 months

Thought it was lost in the flat, raked the place and couldn't find it. We'd almost given up hope that we'd ever find it, thinking it might have slipped through our big creaky old floorboards, which our landlady probably wouldn't let us pull apart to look underneath.
But last week, in Dumfries of all places, it has been FOUND!

It had been in Mark's work bag - he'd been unassumingly carting it about with him the whole time!

Made me want to have a "Found the ring party" which reminded me of this wee story. A person is definitely more exciting than a ring and God loves people a loooot more than I love my husband's wedding ring - woooft!

Also on the subject of lost and found:

The result of a three week long Christmas holiday beard growing experiment.
Where is yonder missing patch of beard?!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Narnia - a third post for a third film.

On special request from this lad : a post about the new Narnia film. Apparently since I blogged on all the other ones, I have to blog about this one too.

I have to say, I did enjoy it. Not aaas much as the other two. Unlike with some other book-films e.g. Harry Potter, I have been considerably more forgiving about the fact that they haven't exactly stuck to the book. Though... green mist!? To be fair, Voyage of the Dawn-Treader would be quite random if they hadn't tied it together with the green mist, get those swords on the stone table before it's too late thing.

And of bloggable material - I loved the way they portrayed the friendship between Reepicheep and Eustace. I loved how though Eustace dislikes Reepicheep from the start and Reep knows it, he's patient from the outset. And then when Eustace becomes a dragon, Reep's the only one that really gives Eustace time and makes much of an effort with him. I guess "grace" sums up the way he is with Eustace. I think that is what helps to transform Eustace's character. Apart from the fact that he's a dragon of course. Reepicheep is modelling (oh dear esol teacher speak!) what a real friendship is. It's probably the first Eustace ever has. Reep is with Eustace the way God is with us and the way I want to be with people I find difficult or who dislike me. Now that's loving your enemies. Now that's a slice of the beauty of life :)