Monday, 30 September 2013

Our last day

Tomorrow evening 8pm we fly out. Some 26 hours of flying, 5hrs in Singapore and 2 hours of driving later, we will be on the doorstep of home, eagerly awaiting two little men's arms and cuddles and excited voices. And this time here will feel like a dream, for both Sam and I. What a precious amazing time it's been. Today I raced out early again to frinton village to find a few things I really wanted to bring home, and most importantly visit Bambi, the sweet shop. The owner has been there forever, so I took a photo of the kids with him, and picked up the rhubarb and custard sweets which I plan to sell to high price to my uk friends back home ;) We drove on to beach hut 365 to catch up albeit briefly with Sarah Johnstone. Loved actually being inside a beach hut, and was so lovely to meet her. She brought a photo album of memory lane, which I loved as much as Sam. Some of the photos I've seen before, but when you can place them in a setting you've seen, and smelt the smells, it's like it becomes real. Sometimes I realise how much I've adopted the English culture and how much Sam has adopted mine. Strangely, I feel at times more home here. Subtle differences but I wonder at times how much my European .. English/ Estonian ancestory impacts my innate sense of cultural norm, or how much being married to Sam has shaped it. Sam on the other hand fairly grieved the America cup loss and followed it faithfully while here, the impact of it causing him to realise how very Kiwi he is. We drove straight to Nans house so Sam could have one final look through, probably the last time ever. Took video and photos and then drove to kings cliff for Nans official birthday lunch. It was a small affair and lovely. Sam had time to sit and talk to nan to try and dig into her memories and make some connections between the stranger he seems to her now, and the little lad she knew. All conversations start with "it's Sam, Derek's son" and slowly work backwards. Some moments were hilarious such as when Sam said "do you remember i used to mow your lawn every Saturday and she gave him this delighted look like 'how very nice of you young man, whoever you are, to do that'. Eventually she remembered Sam as a little baby with his twin sister Becky in the pram. But beyond that, the memories are locked away. I was glad to be behind the camera, blinking back my tears. Dear Nan, thank you for the love and prayers you poured into Sam, the currant cookies and soup and meals you fed him, the way you encouraged him. I remember you telling me how you would read my letters about being married to Sam and you loved how much you could see I adored being married to him. Nan, Sam is a treasure and you are a Godly jewel in his genealogy. God has blessed you with long life, and although your memory now fails, we remember for you the precious sweetness of your life. Old age has stripped from you the ability to recall facts and faces, strength in your body and weight from your bones, but dear lady, you are beautiful. Elegant. Graceful. What is left of you remains the loveliness God has shaped. I love you Nan. Happy 100th birthday!! Sam kissed her goodbye and stood for a moment at the door beholding her, knowing this will be the last time he will see her. It was hard but with her failing memory, it felt like goodbye had happened already.. And what we werevsaying goodbye to was a beautiful fading shell. Went straight to Dan and Clare's which is like stepping into 'home'. We all went to the local pub for tea where Sam caught up also with his friends Ben and johnny. Sams out hanging with Dan while I pack up and the kids sleep. God, thank you for this incredible incredible trip.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

These are a few of my favourite things..

It's 10:40pm here. We've not long been home. Sam was climbing into bed and then decided he was missing his best mate Dan, and why not drive over and keep him awake and laugh together, just because he can. I love that he has a best buddy who is someone so, well, solid. Dan is constant, loyal, gentle and funny. I wish we lived closer!! We started today at Frinton Free church, where the Cahill family used to attend. I was attending with an element of quiet anticipation, mostly because I knew Jesus wanted to minister to me. The message was on 2 Samuel 13 and I have to admit to being extremely curious to how god had anything in this or me...but he did... I guess I could define it as stained honour versus un stained virtue. God may allow us to walk through times of humility which like Tamar, are life altering and even painfully disgraceful. Though our reputation and honour may be tarnished, our righteousness and virtue before Him is a robe which we are bestowed. He carries in his heart the things we walk through and brings healing. Amy sat like a wee angel beside us while Tim went upstairs to join in Sunday school. I think he has enjoyed having play mates this past week. After church we grabbed a bite at the frinton garden cafe, I ordered a ploughmans lunch so now just need to hunt out a Devonshire tea and a Stilton Cornish pastie, the first I've never tried (clotted cream still awaits my inspection) and the latter I haven't devoured in 11 years. More important than the food was spending time with uncle Ian and aunty beryl, uncle John and aunty val. Will miss their laughter and hugs and wit. Said goodbye to them, then drove to Chelmsford to spend the evening with Sams cousin Phil and wife, Alison and their kids, Hannah and Jack. Alison cooked us a beautiful roast dinner which was so yummy and appreciated. This was followed by bread and butter pudding and treacle tart, custard and cream. I have a new found addiction to Alison's bread and butter pudding. It was perfect. Our kids all ran around in the backyard together happily while we chatted. Phil pulled out a photo album of some photos of young Sam that included one of a Charlie Cahill set in a frame from Poplar. This excited me no end as one of Sams grand fathers was mayor of poplar. I couldn't remember who or which and wished I had my dear friend and ancestory research expert Victoria with me, who helped me find all these facts in the first place! But at least I know that photos are in the family for the book one day I intend to write. To look at, Sam and Phil bear resemblance, and they are even more alike in their personalities. Sam has always talked well of his cousin Phil and I loved seeing why. Alison and Phil met as childhood sweethearts and had dated since they were 14. Such longevity is hard to find and a treasure. Alison is a warm hospitable lady who is also a Sargeant/ trained inspector. Amazing woman. Alison put together a parcel of my favourite and memorable treats... Chocolate, crisps, bassetts jelly babies, cherry drops for Sam, quality street, and even pain au chocolat to bake up for breakfast. I was so moved by her thoughtfulness. I went home with an ache in my chest. People are precious. Sams family is lovely. I will miss having them near.

Hello prince William

Spent some time yesterday walking into frinton village to do some wandering around the second hand stores there. I only had about half an hour, but found a nice jumper and shirt for 3P ach. Thrifting here would be fun. There are at least 4 second hand stores in a 10m square radius and everything is cheap, like hunting for treasure. Sam picked me up and we went and spent a bit more time sea glass hunting. Beautiful weather, in fact, haven't had a single day of rain. Came home and got dressed up to head to Nans 100th party in Clacton. Nans home is right next to the church where the party was being held, so I got to see where Sam spent so much time. Nan looked beautiful. So elegant and gracious. She couldn't remember Sam. But Sam expected that. We wheeled her over to her party, where a large gathering of people came together to celebrate her. A woman who has lived through 2 world wars, her grandmother alive during napoleons time. Her lifetime spans no power and cars, to today. Locked inside her mind are moments in time that would blow our minds. She can't define time so often starts talking as if back then is now.. I watched her with wonder. Now a dear old lady who in some ways is like a small child. Unable to really grasp what all the fuss was about, who had to be quietly told to look up and thank everyone for coming, who smiled and acknowledged us strangers with little awareness of the significance of the occasion... Except that all her years enabled her to carry it off with grace and poise. All the great grandchildren present lined up and walked forward to her in procession to present her with her letter from the queen. It was so moving. We spent the time eating and catching up with family and friends of old, who welcomed me as if I'd always been there. I lost count of the number of times people told us how they did a double take because Sam looks like prince William. That had cracked me up when we visited Buckingham palace. I was taking a photo of Sam outside the gates and noticed a couple of girls stop and stare at him for a moment, trying to figure if it was William. After the party we headed to a restaurant in Weeley to have dinner with family. Sams uncle Ian is so like Sam and when the two of them get together they are an absolute witty crack up. The word play and joking is so funny, very English, a different humour from kiwis. My cheeks hurt from laughing. Will miss being in Sams family immensely. Today were off to church and then to frinton nursery for lunch and then to cousin phil and Alison's place for dinner. I can't wait!

Friday, 27 September 2013

Sand glass

What a fantastic day! We began in Colchester where we found the high street and hit Next for Sam, Tim and Amy. I found a pretty cardi in river island and looked around New Look. Sam showed me around a few of the womans shops, but a wave of reason hit me that I was shopping with no need in mind. So we moved on.
Drove to the secondary school Sam attended in Colchester, which actually doesn't exist anymore.. Now it's a mansion. The old classroom is still there, painted to look like a barn. All I can say is that his school was set in the most enviable quintessential lane. A pond and a meadow in the playground. It's all still there behind a now coded gate and in the old field nw stands a monumental home. Beautiful.
Watching Sams eyes fade off to memories of his childhood melts me. He gets this happy distant look, a youthful twinkle. My heart burns with a longing to cup little Samuels face in my hands and tell him how fantastic he is. Instead I settle to place my hand on grown up Samuels fore arm and tell him how handsome he is. My prince. And I mean it.
Drive home. Took a brief siesta then we headed to frinton seaside. I'd been waiting to walk this with Sam and I wasn't disappointed. The sand is the feel and colour of brown sugar, and instead of shells, it's scattered with pebbles that look like chunks of toffee and caramel. The water has the same hue and the small waves glowed gold. The shores are lined with beach huts. As we walked, I collected sand glass, popping out at me like jewels. The family caught on so we all hunted it out so I can make a piece if art when we get home. As we walked, I quietly talked to Jesus and expressed my gratitude for being here, and like these glass treasures, that He would mark the time here with His presence. He already has but I don't want to miss a moment.
Drove on to Walton and walked the pier where Sam used to fish. Visited his old fishing shop which is still there. Sam has gone to see dan ths evening which gave me a chance t catch up on washing. I even had time to iron! Tomorrow is Nans 100th!!!!!!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Frinton I love you

We spent our last half day in London yesterday at Madame Tussaud's which was okay, Tim found the ride through the centuries and learning about the Black Plague and London fire fascinating. I can't wait to do some homeschooling projects with him on these historical events. We came back to the travelodge and tidied our things and headed via taxi to Picadilly station. Managed with some effort to navigate through the people and maze, with once again, more bags than arms, and no luggage trolleys. Got on the train and headed to heathrow. From there got a hoppa bus to the car hire. In NZ, these events take an hour... It took us 4! Our car hire turned out to be a nice new Peugeot, spacious and smooth. Felt so good to have our own transport again. Sam navigated rush our traffic through heathrow junctions (legend) and we arrived in Cambridge about 7:30pm. We stayed at rectory farm on his aunty and uncles property which is soooo beautiful. Walking into and finding all his family seated and welcoming of us was amazing. I loved seeing them interact and laugh and chat together.. They are all so warm and affectionate.. I love all the kisses and cuddles European culture freely gives. I beamed.. And at times swallowed the lump in my throat that I am here. They set us up in a beautiful room and we slept well. After breakfast today, a quick pool dip, walking around and breathing in fresh air.. then farewells, we drove to waitrose, which was pretty fun!! Found a pile of goodies to stuff into our luggage, books and pretty cake decorations that we can't readily get in NZ, treats and washing liquid, vanish stick etc. From there drove to (drum roll) FRINTON. Watching Sams face come alive as he drove around and memories came flooding back was priceless. When he got to his home church, and pointed out the spot where he used to hang out, tears rolled down my cheeks. To think, that all those years ago that I had been praying for the man who would be my husband and he was on the other side of the world in a pretty seaside town, his family preparing to emigrate to NZ, and thus my husband and I would meet. I thanked god again to be here. We drove past his school where he was head prefect, St. Philamenas, and decided to drop in and see if they would let us see Sams main classroom. We were greeted by the principal who showed us around everywhere. It's such a lovely little school with a godly vision, the kids were respectful and well behaved and I could deeper appreciate Sams fondness of his time there. They asked me about home schooling and gave me some free spare resources to use and I left more inspired than ever at the direction I want to take our kids in their learning. Arrived at our home for the next 5 days, 44 upper fourth ave which just happens, by sheer fluke (Gods care of details) to look into the back yard of the home around the corner, where Sam grew up in!!! Its a 2 level home with a white and pastel blue coastal theme. Love it. Had dinner at Sams best friends house, Dan and Clare. Sam just laughs and grins constantly when walking about them and being with them. A ton of happy and hilarious memories in their time and seeing the cheeky smirk creep over Sams face makes me laugh. Off to bed, tomorrow headed to Colchester to get Sam a shirt and Tim some pants, walk the village, comb the beach for sand glass, photograph the beach huts and hunt through the many antique stores here. Can't wait.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Twinkle toes

Yesterday was epic,.. We just happened to time the day perfectly on many accounts, thank you God for melting me with your love and favour in the little things. We started at Big Ben just in time for the bell to peel out. Tim beamed. It was awesome. We wandered along past the incredible monuments, and arrived at the secured gate of the prime ministers residence, 10 Downing st, just as they opened the gate. That meant we got a view past the armed police right to the front door. Awesome. Then we walked to the horse guards right in time for e changing of the guards. We were so close we could have touched them... Almost did because they started marching towards us with not a word. So much pomp and tradition. I love it. We grabbed a coffee in this awesome little book shop, then walked onto NEXT. Shopped there with semi restraint, found a new top, pants and beautiful accessories. From there we went to Covent Garden and found Skechers. In NZ before we went, Amy discovered with delight Twinkle Toes shoes.. At $90. Ouch. But guess what they had in Skechers... on Tuesdays they have 20 percent off kids shoes, which happened to coincide with our visit. Amy walked in and clealy wasn't leaving without a pair... The rest of the day she spent stamping her feet to watch the lights twinkle. Cute. From there we wandered down to the main markets just as this young opera singer hapenned to be belting out a song. She was incredible. Took a tube to harrods blew my mind at the Christmas displays and food... But most importantly, found for Tim, toy kingdom. Flag the kids, this was my heaven. All the best toys you can imagine on one floor. Tim had some spending money so was majorly excited. We found schleich, half the price of NZ so bought all the new dinosaurs with moving mouths and the smaller ones the boys don't yet have. Can't wait o surprise them when we get home. Tim found Corgo model planes and bought a few of those. I grabbed a box of uk play food for Amy, sort of a memoir to our trip. And a couple of toys for my boys at home who I miss beyond words. On the way out a lady sprayed Sam with a new cologne called Acqua Di Parma. Swoon. I loooooved it. Thankfully Sam did too because I'm so buying him that for his Christmas present. Grabbed some dinner back at travelodge then raced to marks and Spencer's kids to grab a couple of things, including a DIY Emily brown bag. Adorable. Took a bus for a tour of London city but it headed out of the city, and towards South London. We climbed off nonchalantly at a stop and Sam and I pretended to know exactly here we were down these dark streets, clearly in a not so safe area. Ha. Sam and I grinned to each other and were about to admit defeat and grab a taxi, but found a tube and mad our way back to moor gate. Grabbed some treats from Tesco. Slept. Amy wanted to sleep ith her tinkle toes on. When i said she couldnt, she tried to tuck them in beside her, finally managed to convince her they could stay on the bedside unit. cuuuuute. Today were off to Madame Tussaud's and then driving to Cambridge.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Buckingham palace

Started our day yesterday with buffet breakfast. I found little packages of marmite so was super excited... And then upon opening it, declared out loud "for crying out loud you Brits!!" .. Here, it's runny and the colour of caramel and tastes like, we'll, Bovril. Apart from that epic spread failure, yummy breakfast. We headed on the double decker bus to the London tower on the top level. So fun to be up there with mum and dad telling us the historical significance of the buildings. We git off the bus and walked along the waters edge to the tower which i loved. The english grey skies, the gherkin tower, the old monuments which tie through history... Wow. Tower of London was amazing. The ravens, the wire menagerie of animals that lived there.. Including a polar bear!, and the Crown Jewels which still blows my mind. Tim got really upset when we walked through the torture tower, I whisked him out of there but it had reduced him to tears that torture had ever existed. My heart broke with his, and after praying, I talked to him about not loving our lives unto death, standing for a greater cause, and the dispensation of grace God gives us when we need it. He perked up after that and we moved on. Sweet soft hearted boy. From the tower we took the tube to Greenwich to the planetarium and the meridian line. We went to one of the stars and planet shows which was on for school kids. It was an okay show, but I loved most hearing all their little accents piping up with comments and answers and the wee personalities coming out. Then we stood on the meridian line which is the worlds longitudinal 0, where distance and time is measured globally. You put one foot on with side which means your standing in both the east and west hemisphere, and in time, yesterday and today, pretty cool! Headed back to travelodge via marks and Spencer's food store. Oh man... No words, could pretty much live in that store for a few hours. We made our way to the tube and by then it was 4. Sam and I had a Buckingham palace tour anout 5.30. We were tight on time majorly. Left the kids with mum and dad and ran out of the station back to our room, barefoot. Threw on some glam clothes and headed via taxi to the palace. The tour was Unforgettable! We were part of a group of 20 and walked through 19 state rooms slowly, with a guide explaining to us everything. She had worked at the palace for 3 years, so it was awesome to ask her so many questions. We stood on the spot where the William and Kate cut their wedding cake, where Michelle Obama famously hugged the untouchable queen, where the queen herself delivers her Christmas broadcast, where banquets are held. We finished with champagne and the royal store, which was gorgeous. When we were ready to leave we were driven on a buggy out through the main front gates. It was incredible. Took the tube back and Sam and I relived the highlights, pinching ourselves. I crawled into bed an vaguely recall Sam coming in sometime later with a disbelief of America cup results. Being here I realise how kiwi my hubby now is.. He has a kiwi accent and hasn't dropped back to an English one, even in his home country. One more day here and then off to Cambridge to see family. Looking forward to it.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Paris to London

We got up early in Paris yesterday, ate our final pain au chocolat for breakfast, oh man, am I going to miss those. Louise drove us to Gare du Nord to embark Eurostar but en route drove us all around Paris. Showed us the opera de paris, montmarte, arc de triomphe etc. So awe inspiring. Made it through customs and dragging our bags through the train station and arrivedin London midday. Grabbed a taxi to travelodge and wandered out for lunch to pret a manger kings cross, famous for its healthy food, and more famous because duchess Kate has been spotted eating there. We consumed a healthy lunch, except for Amy, who discovered their hand cooked sea salt and cider vinegar crisps. Lost our bags to her. Can't blame her, they were so good. Wandered back to travelodge via Tesco. Grabbed some English cadburys to consume in our room, Sam found bassetts jelly babies. Candy tastes infinitely better in Europe. It's also cheap, a tin of quality street costs 4p here!! InNz you pay $25. Guess what my suitcase will be full of coming home :) Noticed immediately how everyone eats on the go here. Streets are covered in litter and people don't look nearly so healthy. Ahh the French have converted me. We relaxed in our room for a few divine hours watching English tv, and then mum and dad Cahill arrived. Our rooms had been mixed up, so we had to swap over. Bit of a mission but they gave us all complimentary buffet breakfast which seemed worth the trouble. Travelodge has an adjoining restaurant where we ate dinner. I had a steak and ale pie, with mash and peas. I think I'm addicted already. The water though, ugh.. in Paris, all Amy wanted to drink was their bottled water. Here, the tap water tastes awful!! Made our way back to our room and crashed into bed exhausted. Slept till 5am and now ready for a full day of London sights.. Big Ben, planetarium, London eye and in the evening Sam and I have a champagne tour of Buckingham Palace.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

To market to market

So for our final day is Paris, we decided to stay local. I had intended for us to do montmarte and Sacre Ceour, along with rising early to get up the Eiffel Tower.... as it seemed mandatory for Tim to at least do those things. However when I put it to him, he replied "I will do them when I come next time". I half entered into a lecture about when next time would be, and then realised he was right. He will probably be back here sooner than I.
What he really wanted was to stay away from the metro and enjoy being here at Stephane and Louise place. Awesome decision.
Aunty Louise drove us first to a dairy farm Ferme de Coubertin, which supplies raw milk and yoghurt. They drink mostly long life here, except for those who use the local fresh supplier. From there we headed to the market. That was hands down the best experience yet! Sam and I loooooved it.
Basically it's loads of deli style stalls, food set behind glass, of everything imaginable. This is where most do their weekly shopping. There are lots of similar stalls so you get the joy of being picky. The fish stall, did every seafood you could think of, crabs, lobster, flounder, tuna, mackerel, trout, shrimp,  snails and so on. Everything is fresh, brought in from yesterday's catch, the crabs and lobsters still alive, so walking past the fish market was akin to stepping into the fresh seaside, no retracting odours. The meat options are mind blowing. Not a single inch of any animal is wasted, you can buy the heart, kidneys, liver, thyroid, tail and everything is presented as wholesomely edible. Thus, you get a meal creativity which is far from the limitations of supermarket mentality. The chickens still have their heads and feet attached, and are a yellow sort of colour, so apparently more healthy than the anaemic white versions common in NZ. The cheese stall has probably 100 different  choices, and they slice off what you need, as opposed to the valumetric plastic wrapped chunks. The fruit and veges available are seasonal and loaded with flavour. At any stall you purchase from, you are asked when you plan to eat what you are buying. The reason being that they will choose what will be best for when you want to eat it. When we bought quartre figs, and told them we were eating them that day, he made sure to choose us ripe ones. Then there are stalls of deli,s, precooked meal stands, crepes, bread, flowers, linen and so on.
The whole process is not a hurried mad affair, there is a serious and slow attendance to the process. You don't get shoving and screaming kids, stall owners are eager to engage with children and encourage them learning, trying and enjoying food. When Amy chose a bunch of cherry tomatoes to snack on, her purchase and chewing was met with nods of approval and joy. The food isn't any cheaper than NZ really, except that the French do not scrimp on food. They're not wasteful or excessive, but eating well would be their greatest priority.
Cereals, cleaning products and other items are obviously bought from the grocery store

We left the markets beaming and came home to eat lunch of couscous, mdeterranean chicken stew and wine in the hot sun, on the deck. And bask in the quiet. It's so apparent here in France, and particularly in chèvreuse how much less noise there is to contend with. Shops aren't blaring music, your neighbours aren't cranking up their stereos, and thus, you find yourself naturally slowing down. After a siesta Louise drove us to de la Madeleine chateaux ruins which is idyllic. The view is incredible and I wish I could capture the feel of the place and bring it home. We then briefly stopped in to see the church of St Matin in chèvreuse, which happened to have a wedding on. We got to see inside before the guests came in. The church was constructed in 1609 and has a warm rustic lime and sandstone feel, ornate with stained glass windows. It's one of the prettiest I've ever seen. The bride arrived so we sat and watched the wedding guests and bride mingle, getting a feel for culture and admiring how the woman all wore dresses, and some men wore hats. We then drove to the chateau de dampierre and climbed the hill to stare over its magnificence. The whole trip Sam and I had our heads out the window, , trying to capture the sights and smells. We arrived home for dinner, a planned affair to celebrate our market choices. We had salami and pâté en croute for our appertif followed by dinner of baked potatoes, courgettes and barecued horse meat kebabs. That was followed by Camembert and epoisses cheese, grapes and figs. Bats flew around us while we ate and we admired the little mole hills in the backyard. I crashed into bed while Sam tried to capture the hopefully last race of the Americas cup, which was postponed... So we will have to find ourselves a kiwi pub in UK tomorrow and watch it with fellow loyal folks. In the morning we head on the Eurostar to London. Can't wait to watch Sam come alive in his home country.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Paris and police

So, in the land of the ambitious, we intended to have half of Paris under our belt today. Ha.
Stephane drove us in through the 10km tunnel and past water towers and flat land, and dropped us off at Le Grande Arche and we made our way by metro to Trocadero. The view of the Eiffel Tower there is amazing. We wandered through Trocadero to admire the buildings and people. I love how the french dress, the woman are tidy, elegant and modest. Lots of scarves. We tried to find a unique French place to eat lunch which was pointless really as everything is geared for tourists. Settled instead on Starbucks which was perfect. Took our time eating. I love that its expected you won't race through your meal, you aren't made to feel hurried. We wandered some more and passed gorgeous parks  and quaint shops. Everything is so expensive! Eventually we conceded we were lost and grabbed the metro back to start point to wander down to Eiffel Tower. We passed a carrousel en route which was like something out of a book. Beautifully painted and ornate. Of course Amy wanted to go on it and beamed the entire time. At the foot of the Eiffel Tower we grabbed a cruise around Paris along the seine. That was such a highlight for me. Loved seeing it all... Notre Dame, the bridge of locks, the musee, the st Germanise des pres, you really get how incredible the history is. My favourite part was learning how Choltitz was ordered to bomb the entire city in hitlers orders, but risked his life to save Paris. This same man had bomded Rotterdam before they had surrendered. Incredible decision of courage.
From there we took a look at the line to get up the Eiffel and decided we didn't feel like cueing for 2 hours with 2 tired kids. We took a bus ride around the city on some rattly tourism bus and got off as soon as we could at the lock bridge. Grabbed ice cream (which of course meant sit down and eat slowly) and then walked to Notre Dame. The stained glass windows are just beyond capturing. Everywhere were signs asking for silence along with hundreds of prayer candles. To a 3 year old, that equals a celebration so Amy sung happy birthday as i walked her in her pram. People giggled while i pushed her around. The bells peeled out while we were there. Decided to head home. Made our way through the metro maze where armed police and soldiers were smothering, I guess looking for someone. Got the distinct impression whoever they were looking for was someone pretty bad, to require that band of force. Every metro stop in the city was covered, the escalators turned off. I hope (he) didn't decide the metro would be an easy escape. Eventually made it to st remy les chèvreuse swapping trains at bourg la reine, which I'm mastering saying and feeling so French to pronounce. Came home and crashed into bed. Wake up at 11pm and ate spaghetti bolognaise that Louise made and chatted with her and Stephane. They are such a hospitable, so warm and friendly. Love staying here. Slept till 7am and now ready for our final full day here.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Bonjour paris

Headed off to santosa island to universal studios. It was soooo hit and humid.  Even the locals were cooling themselves down with cold bottles. Transformers ride was incredible. Absolutely worth going just for that alone. We headed back to airport around 4pm drained and en route last Amy's shoe. It was her only pair brought with us for the plane journey. And then sams backpack ripped at the seam.We prayed and stopped at the mall to look for new shoes and bag, but didn't feel to buy anything.
One of the first shops I'd gone into the day before,in the transit shops, was this gorgeous shop called accessorise which the cutest wee glittery girls shoes for $44. I loved them but couldn't justify the cost. As we sat down to eat dinner in the transit area, still shoeless and bag less, I was prompted about a $40 airport shops voucher we could pick up. I decided that would at least cover the shoes! When Sam and I went to get the vouchers, it turned out we qualified for $160 worth of vouchers!!
That covered the shoes, bag and Sam got me new perfume. God really does work all things for good.

Flew to Paris on the airbus. Amy slept the whole 13 hour journey. Got our luggage and headed to train to get rer b to st remy les chèvreux. No words. We had 11 luggage items including a car seat and  had to hand carry the lot through the doors in the few seconds you get, not to mention the locals pushing through the doors. And then had to switch trains twice. We made it. Drained. Louise picked us up and drove us around her village then dropped us home as she headed off to work. Sam crashed into bed while I took kids back no village for walk, admired little French shoes, stopped at a daycare to admire how French kids really do eat just like the book French Kids Eat Everything says, bought un pain and bome de chocolate from boulangre, breathed in the smells, sights, homes, front doors, greenery and then walked home resisting the urge to devour items en route. The french dont eat walking around. No wonder theyre slim. Came back and ate said bread, with lashings of butter and fresh tomato, all while overlooking the commune. Divine. Sam was still asleep so i put on the cartoons till Tim said he'd rather watch paint dry in English than listen to another French tv episode. Classic.  It was now 3pm. We couldnt wake Sam. The kids and I just sort of crashed at this point. We all woke up at 8pm to Louise home and giggling at her comatose guests. She fed us a mouth watering meal, tagliatelle, veal with white wine sauce, bread and pâtés and sweet melon. Dessert was mars bars ice cream bars, which I declined for certainty that I would become addicted and experience withdrawals in NZ where I'd be forced to create my own, as they don't exist in NZ, and then would likely be a Jenny Craig canditate. Just sayin. There was coffee eclairs, and chocolate mousse cake, almond custard cake and well, it just felt like half the patisserie on offer, but I was exhausted. Excused myself and crashed onto couch with Amy where we both fell asleep. Sam kindly out us to bed. Woke up at 4am. It's a new day! Today were off to Paris city to see sights. Louise is going to meet up with us after work and we will go out to dinner in Paris then onto La Grande Arche or a fireworks display. Can't wait. Personal missions today are to buy large amounts of French cheese, devour it guilt free as its crazy cheap here, find the thin chocolate biscuits that Tim loves and stuff those in my luggage as Louise said they do clear customs, visit Eiffel Tower and montmarte, find some antique stores, and some French kids clothing. What a dream to be here!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Long awaited

I've prayed for this trip for ten years. I can't put into words what it means to do this with Sam.
We got up yesterday at 5am and drove to Auckland. The day had to, and did, follow in a succinct order which required more of my brain than might have been there. Added to the usual need for travel order was a tricky situation that was uncovered last minute. We had booked the transit hotel in Singapore. However, as we are stopping here for 29 hours, not 24, it's not officially a stopover. That meant we couldn't get our boarding passes at Auckland for Paris, meaning needing to clear immigration at Singapore, meaning heading out of the airport, meaning not being able to stay in the transit hotel as you can't access it without a boarding pass. Super above my head. Anyway, at check in, we explained all this and of course, nothing they could do. But yet I had such a peace. I just smiled and said, that's okay. Couldn't believe I said that. Moments later a head lady appeared and told them to over ride the system and issue our boarding passes for Paris. Kind of unfolded in a blur of heavenly perfection and I just smiled.
Plane trip was good. 11 hours of flying, Amy was awesome. So was Tim. Turbulence, not so. We were stuck in our seat belts a lot of the trip, with the captain coming over the intercom saying something about severe turbulence. Hence Amy couldn't lie down. Hence she didn't sleep so was awake from 5am to 1am NZ time. What a girl.
Tim loved flying. I told him he could buzz the hostesses for snacks anytime he liked. He did so. Juice, chips, ice cream, etc. I made him refrain from telling me all the plane wing happenings. He knows far too much and was itching to launch into a plane crash investigations story in full detail. Ignorance is bliss.
Slept well and now off for breakfast in Singapore, to universal studios, shopping and night safari then flying out tonight at midnight for 13hrs to, drum roll, Paris. Eeeeek. Call me a romantic but I can't wait to kiss Sam at the Eiffel Tower. And pay due respect to the champs elysees :). Xxx

Thursday, 5 September 2013

In the mud...

I love Philippians 2.

. . Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above
yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!

Reading it is like hearing a battle cry in my mind, or maybe a cheer of unity, just before the sports players commence action.
It rings out - SERVE OTHERS! Of course! Of course! My spirit cries. When did I ever think that true Godliness and unity and fulfilment would exist outside of anything less than a willingness to serve, love and put first others around me, as an act of worship to a most worthy God.

Yet in reality, living that out is so much harder than the contrite and sweet acts of deference that I sometimes imagine.

Its easy to lay our lives down, when it is esteemed, when its seen, when its encouraged and understood.
But what about when its not. Or what about when its messy. Painful. Costly. What about when it means our reputation is on the line.

Its been my experience that that kind of humility, is the crawling through the mud kind of stuff.

I love the way my pastor once described it. He was talking about being in combat training, literally crawling in the mud, covered in camouflage, with his appointed companion. The only way through, was together. Crawling through the mud, the one in front would carve a path in the ground with his elbows, while the other follows close behind, taking the flicking of mud from the foot of the one in front, in the face. They had to stick together and come out together, or they didnt pass the test. They encouraged each other on. At times, that meant crawling through the most yucky awkward moments, together!

This illustration has never left my mind. Its paints such a striking image of true Christlike humility.

It will ask of you to be put the welfare of others above your own. It will ask of you the courage to get down into the low places along with them and commit to crawling out with them, knowing full well, that unless you come out together, you dont pass. Philippians 2:5.

JR Miller described.. "There is no surer test of the genuineness of Christian life — than in this matter of serving others. In serving others, we should inquire, "Am I like Jesus — or not?" We are too careful of our dignity. When we see the Son of God washing His disciples' feet — we should be ashamed ever to ask whether anything another may need to have done — is too menial for us to do. A king may do the lowliest kindness to the poorest peasant in his realm — and his honor will only be enhanced by it."

In military, you must be prepared to give your life in defense of others. Such heroism is championed on a large scale. But on a small scale, its often missed. Yet, true serving and heroism begins in the little things. But thats where the training really begins! Check out this code of conduct of the US Military.. this should be our Christian code of conduct for everyday life.. "I am a child of God, and I will never surrender of my own free will to the enemy of my soul.. if we are persecuted for doing right, I will keep faith.. I will never be disloyal.. I will trust in my God". GRIT!

How does that grit look in the everyday?
Its ensuring that your conversation and conduct is honorable, even with those closest to you.
Its committing to the good of the corporate, and being willing to walk away, if your being there, would cause the team to lose their focus on the goal
Its being more interested in the lives of those around you, than in your own personal agenda
Its scrimping on the temporal and being extravagent in investing in the eternal  
Its letting purity and Godliness reign in your life, in the hidden person
Its praying and keeping the Word of God at your side always, ready to meet the enemy

Here now in my life, serving means being willing to cook meal after meal. It means willing to get up at the crack of dawn to exercise so I can be ready and fit to serve. It means choosing to have a good attitude regardless of what battles I might be facing. It means being willing to put aside my own social and creative dreams to invest in the things that matter most. It means being willing to take the lowest position, the lesser place, the muddiest route, if by doing so, I can preserve and encourage someone of lesser strength. It means praying for those around me. It means communicating honestly and lovingly with those around me because Im willng to walk the hard yards with them, rather than pull away.

I love what Eric Ludy says "Let the vulnerable claim your strength!"
Since Jesus Christ owns me, He has a claim on my life, energies, and strength. And thusly, those that have a rightful claim on His mercies, grace, and abundance (the poor, the weak, the orphan, the widow, the imprisoned, the refugee, etc) have a claim on me. I am their servant as an extension of my bonded servitude unto my Creator King.

And there is the greatest key of all; Unto my Creator!

Matthew 25:40

  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me"