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Posts Tagged ‘Happy Little Sigh’

He met the Queen, my husband, John, did. As in Her Majesty, The Queen. Elizabeth II. Mother of Prince Charles. Grandmother to Princes William and Harry. Great-grandmother to the little royals. John grew up in a small fishing community in the Northeast of Scotland, far from the gilded elegance of London. But it’s one of those things, I suppose, that the longer one lives in the United Kingdom, the more likely one is to meet, bump into, or at least see one of them–a member of the royal family.

It’s like being an American in L.A. Sooner or later you’ll recognize someone from the Silver Screen. Two of my siblings lived there, and seemed to post weekly pics of famous people they’d helped in their retail jobs. Jackie Chan, Helena Bonham Carter, and the list goes on. My brother ended up with a part in a YouTube video with Richard Simmons (which thankfully didn’t involve exercise). My sister made a friend who lives in the same gated community as Reese Witherspoon. He let my sister use his house for her birthday party one year (which I got to attend!). We all chuckled at the story of Reese coming to his house trick-or-treating with her kids. He handed out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and in her sweet Southern voice, she replied, “Very funny.” I can just hear it.

There’s something just a bit different, though–a little more magical and surreal–about meeting The Queen and all her family. And stories, both magical and surreal, are what I mean to tell.

Wouldn’t we all have loved to be a university student at St Andrews, where Prince William and Catherine met and fell in love? The daughter of a minister at a church we attended was a student there, and one day got a lovely surprise when Prince William himself opened a door for her. Always the gentleman. Sigh.

And wouldn’t the scenery in the hills of the Scottish highlands have seemed all the more green and glorious had a group of poshly dressed people come along the trail–and one of the them was Prince Charles, who bid you good day? That’s exactly what happened to a woman from our church.

But not all of my stories are of chance encounters.

John met the Queen at 14. He was active in the Boys’ Brigade, a sort of Boy Scouts with Christian roots, and one summer his troop was on parade at Windsor Castle. As the Queen inspected the ranks, she stopped every so often to speak with one of the boys. I like to think it was my husband’s bright crop of ginger hair that caught the Queen’s attention.

“And where have you traveled from?” she asked him, in the way only the Queen could.

He answered, all earnestness and Scottish brogue.

“My,” she smiled, “you have come a long way.”

It wasn’t the lengthiest of interactions, but quite special none-the-less, and a story I surmise we’ll pass down to our grandchildren.

My sister got to see the Queen and Prince Charles. John’s great aunt had secured tickets for the Royal Highland Games (think bagpipes, and kilted men tossing large logs called cabers). The games were held at Balmoral Castle, the Queen’s highland residence, which first belonged to Queen Victoria. John and I had only been married a year, and as he had the day off, I decided to forego Balmoral and stay home with him. Ah, young love. And so I missed my chance to see the Queen, although my sister showed me her photos!

And what of the younger royals? University friends of ours attended a charity event and got near enough to Prince William and Catherine Middleton to snap some close-ups (which they kindly shared with me–hope you like them!).

But my stories don’t end here. Next time–your personal invite inside the gates of Buckingham Palace for The Queen’s Garden Party, and even more up-close and personal stories of the Royal Family.

And if you didn’t catch the story of the weekend I spent in England with some almost royals and totally embarrassed myself, you can find that here.

Avonlea xo

For more breathtaking pics of Great Britain, inspiring quotes from our favourite authors, & peeks into the daily life of a boymum looking for beauty in the everyday things in life, find Avonlea on

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OR for EXCLUSIVE photos, inspirations, & videos, sign up for my MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com 

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Finding beauty in the everyday 

 

 

 

 

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The London days are the worst. That feeling I wake with, or that settles over me in the almost twilight of an afternoon, to be somewhere exotic yet familiar. Buzzing with activity, yet gracefully weathering the passage of time. Somewhere able to give me the rough grittiness of ancient castle stone and surround me with the intoxicating fumes of a double decker bus. Somewhere with all the imagined romance of a Charles Dickens novel, all the contemporary romance of William and Kate. Somewhere that can always give you a hot cup of tea, a good deal on a new pair of shoes, and a crisp set of white sheets at the end of the day. London.

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It’s hard, you know, when you’ve been to a city like that. Especially when you’ve been enough times that you begin to find your favorite haunts, your favorite stops on the tube, but where the scenery is still something like a living painting, dazzling before your eyes.

I get other sorts of days, too. Florence days, where I long for the lazy air of a sun-drenched piazza, pistachio ice cream dripping down the cone and over my hand, though I’m glorying too much in the beauty of it all to notice. Edinburgh days, when I ache for Princes Street, and shortbread, and hearts, dear hearts of friends.

But there is something about the otherworldliness of London that can catch like a gasp in my throat, and I have to breathe it out. Breathe it all out.

Because it took a million miracles to get us here. Here, in this little yellow house in the country in the middle of America. At the edge of the river and the edge of a town founded when America was still quite new. Here, where I wake and breathe in the now of my life.

Most of those miracles passed by unnoticed, like most every moment of an ordinary day.

A few of them seemed more like tragedies than miracles at the time. That house in the city. The break-ins, where they took so much, and yet left so much pain and fear and those awful dreams. The bat in our bedroom. The garbage. And the bugs.

And then there were those events that came about in such strange, unexpected ways that we had to look at each other, my husband and I, and we just knew. This house, which seemed a half-decade or more away, was scrolled past on the computer just for fun one Wednesday night. We didn’t know the thieves were coming that Sunday while we sat learning, praising, smiling in church. That we’d come home to find they’d been in our room—just there beside the bed, rummaging through the drawers and taking that pocket watch I bought him for our first anniversary. And the money and the phones, and worst of all the computers with the pictures of our babies and all those files of my research and words, lost. We didn’t know, and it seemed like the worst thing ever, and we didn’t know why.

Looking back, it seems as strange as ever. But so does this house. Six minutes from my mother, and six years earlier than we thought we’d be here. An empty house. Just waiting.

And then there are our neighbors—kinder, and with more joy and home-baked cookies than we know what to do with, and it feels like they’d been waiting. Just for us.

That night they came for dinner and I heard the story about the truck crash that ripped the top off the trailer like a tin of sardines and yet left their five-year-old son curled up behind the seat fast asleep. That night I felt it heavy upon us. That miracle. That grace.

And I could go on and say more about our baby. Our silky-soft butterball of a baby boy who joined our family in December. I call him Wonderbaby. Did a child ever laugh so much? I prayed over him, prayed over my stomach that God would give me a child of peace. And He did. Wonder.

 

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But I couldn’t see it all so clearly, wouldn’t treasure it so dearly, if I hadn’t first stood drenched, umbrella-less in the torrential rain that lifted us up and floated us here.  Here, to this house and this place in our lives. Here, where our hearts are full of love for our children, and for every hurting person who has known our pain and worse. Here, where we’ve dropped everything else and our arms are empty as we go running through fields in the gleaming sunlight to Him.

These are the days I’ll want back. These days of wonder and want. Of nappies and sticky hands. Of gifted dandelions, and legos, and laundry, endless laundry.  Of never, ever enough sleep, and staggering from bed to lift my smallest one and tuck him close so he can drink.

London can wait. We’ll take them one day, our boys, and show them where the Queen lives, and that roaring T-Rex robot in the V & A. And we’ll have our cream teas, and it will be grand.* But for now, here, where we live and breathe today, I’ll show them the wonder. The miracle of a God who doesn’t stop loving, who doesn’t stop thinking of them as if it’s just them. For every glimpse I’ve gotten, I want them to see more.

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It took a million miracles to get us here. And for all the days we have to come, however many that will be, whether they are London days or laundry days, I want to live them with my eyes open to it all. To every miracle. Every gift.

Avonlea xo

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Finding beauty in the everyday ❤

*This post was originally written in 2013. The very next year, we did go to London, and these photos are from that trip.

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1,500 women gathered in a chapel. Outside, snow flurries danced in the bitter wind. Inside, the warm glow of the chapel’s soaring wood ceiling. Chocolate covered pretzels, and coffee, and light. Smiling faces, and candle-lit carols, and friends. And the speaker had so much to say–so many good things to inspire and help us on. But there was one thing that struck me–sat like a burning weight in the deepest part of me. She spoke of the Armor of God, and of the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (Ephesians 6:17). THIS is how we do battle with all that threatens to undo us. THIS is the weapon we must take into our hands when darkness starts to close in. The Sword of the Spirit–the Word, which is Light, and Love, and Truth. I took up the challenge this morning, and this is the passage to which I was drawn–

Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

This is the picture I’m holding with me as I go through the day–the picture of my Father, who is Ruler of the Universe, yet who has stooped to hold onto my hand.

HOPE

Avonlea xo

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Finding beauty in the everyday ❤

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In honour of my former home,

and on this Monday after the first Advent Sunday,

I bring you a little taste of a Scottish Christmas past . . .

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Heap on more wood!–the wind is chill;

But let it whistle as it will,

We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.

~ Sir Walter Scott

 

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This was the Sunday to light the Advent candle of HOPE.

Hope because of that child.

The One the world heard about,

the One promised,

long, long before He was born.

Wonderful,

Counselor,

The Mighty God,

The Everlasting Father,

The Prince of Peace.

Unto US

He was given!

He was given

unto US!

Hope.

Hope for everyone.

Everyone

who drops whatever else they’re holding onto

to take this gift.

Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7

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It’s not too late to re-focus your Christmas

for yourself

for your family.

Not too late

to bring others

reason to HOPE . . .

 

Avonlea xo

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Finding beauty in the every day ❤ 

 

 

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I threw the phone on the sofa and shook my head. A good ten minutes or more I’d wasted, ogling over photos of other people’s living rooms, and fall outfits, and–for goodness’ sake!–what they had for dinner. That, instead of, well, cleaning my own living room, perhaps. Or cooking something for my family to eat (they do get hungry some–all–of the time).

And I’ve said it before how all of these images–perfectly filtered glimpses of another’s world–can leave me downright flat and dissatisfied with my own world–the life that was given to me.

Ice Cream Party

This week, though, I was struck with a feeling very different. As I scrolled through my Instagram photos–those images I’ve carefully selected and filtered before sharing–I realized that yes, I may have purposefully chosen these particular photos to show the best of my world. But these most splendid photos are glimpses of my wonderfully blessed world! Those awful, funny messes that Littlebear makes for me to clean up. The peeks at Professor and his cello. The glimpses into my writing life. The pirate and viking adventures I watch my wee men get lost in. They are all gifts. And they are mine.

So this week as you pick up your phone and are tempted to start scrolling, go to your own page. Let yourself linger and smile over all that God’s given to you. Don’t focus on what you don’t have, but on what is yours. 

Avonlea xo

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I saw them through the window. It wasn’t my moment, but I froze anyway. Watched. Not that it was deep grief I saw. Nor even great joy. Just a needing of one another. A finding of peace and delight in the one who had, for so many years, been there for you.

And so like there was nothing else in the world more important, there on the driveway, with leaves scattered around, she laid a grey head against his chest. He, still towering above her, wrapped his arms around. And gently, gently, he rocked.

Three years, we came and went as neighbors. And it’s hard to hide from those living so close the truest state of affairs. That is, we could maybe hide a lot of bad, but it would take something a whole lot more to pretend a lot of good. To just sit there on your front porch sipping iced tea with lemon, pretending you both wanted to be there together, if in fact, you did not.

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And it’s not that either one pretended perfection. We heard the stories many times–around a bonfire, our faces lit orange in the night. Or in one of our living rooms, clutching cups of coffee that would keep us up all night. Or on their front porch when they asked us to join them, which they often did.

He would get to telling stories, and she would chip in. And his voice carried, sing-song like, rising here, dipping there, as the story rolled on. So yes, we heard it all. About the early days of their marriage, when he was trucking and she was left alone with her worry, trying to raise their two boys. About his swearing and rough-and-tumble ways before he came to the cross.

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Last month we were invited to help them celebrate their Golden–married fifty years! There in the township hall basement we gathered, their family and those of us blessed enough to be called friends.

I set my boys at a table, with vanilla cake and foamy punch, and circled round the room. Talked to her granddaughters (five of them, and she’s a boymom, too!). Looked at every photo. At her wedding dress displayed in the center of the room. And there, just beside it on the table–the place of honor in the room–the book I’d seen open on his lap, turned to this . . .

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And just below it, this . . .

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They’d neither one claim that every one of those fifty years was an easy one. What they would both make clear is that God stepped into their lives, changed them, and has been leading them ever since.

What they’d tell you, as they’ve told me, is that when you seek to follow the Lord, you may stumble, but you can never be on the wrong path. And that when one person does what’s best for the other, a marriage can survive. If both people do what’s best for the other, the marriage can thrive.

So thankful for their example in my life.

Avonlea xo

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The smell of rain as dusk fell. We bumped along the gravel road, windows down, past the old barn.  From the house, a row of smiles along the porch as they raised their hands farewell.

We’d spent the last of a warm autumn day there.

A birthday celebration.

Pumpkin cake, and coffee, and the smell of cinnamon candles.

Pushing the boys on the tire swing.

Gazing out across corn fields.

Watching a wool blanket on the wash line stir in the breeze.

Ideas flew. Memories, too.

Laughter bouncing over all.

And it breathed peace on me.

The space, and the home, and the people inside.

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Peace, because there, I can just be—unfiltered. Because if things were good, full saturated colors, I could say it. And they’d all say how happy they were for me. And no one would think I was boasting . . . because if things were greyscale bad, I could say that, too. And I would. And all their good and bad, they’d say it to me, too.

Peace, because there, I am enough. Peace, because people like these people would make anyone feel enough—and not just enough, but wanted. Valued as they are.

Yet earlier in the day I saw a friend’s face fall as she shared how her son’s friends had all joined a new soccer league without bothering to tell her. She and her son thought they were “in,” but turns out they were not. And they are new to this place, the family, and it was such a struggle to call a strange place home. And neighbors and schoolmates could have made that all different, but in their busyness, and the fun they were having with each other, they did not.

Oh, how fun it looks at the center of it all. Where things are happening, and people are pretty and smart. Where marriages, and outfits, and landscaping all seem together. Filter-perfect images of a seemingly perfect life. And if you’re perfect enough then they might let you “in,” because being a Christian, or being a human is somehow not enough.

But we see through it, yes, we see it—when eyes glance to the side, looking for someone more important than you to speak with. Someone they could better benefit from. When they glance you up and down and you know you’re not quite right. When the smile is with the mouth but not the heart.

Unfiltered

So they can have “in,” if they want it, for I know what they miss. Judging books by their covers is never wise. And when filter-perfect is all you’ve got, how can you have peace, knowing that if they catch you unfiltered—see you for who you really are—you just might be “out,” too.

Yes, too many of the best friends come with wrinkled skin, or old cars, or hurt. And those who have known hurt, and broken, and ugly, can turn out to be the ones we love the most. They have the strongest arms to lean on. The best wisdom to share. And though beauty or riches may be theirs, they will not point it out to you. Will not flaunt it. Rather, they see it as something to share.

It’s hard for me, too. Proud one that I can be. Ashamed one, fearing in my deepest heart that someone will catch me unfiltered—see a corner of my house, a piece of my wardrobe, a glimpse of my marriage that will reveal me as the flawed person that I am. But though I know I will not click with everyone, let me yet be the one who can live unfiltered enough with my home, and my smile, and my time, that for the length of my interaction with each person, I can make them feel seen. Feel enough. Feel loved.

Dare to live unfiltered. To know and to be known.

Avonlea xo

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