Shavua Tov!

From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid. Give careful thought:  Is there yet any seed left in the barn? Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit.

“‘From this day on I will bless you.’” Haggai 2:18-19 NIV

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As the end of the year draws quickly to a close, we expats across the world have already begun packing our bags to return home for Christmas. Expectations and tensions can run high at this emotionally charged time of year and, as adults, it is difficult to not wish that life could just this once rekindle a child like expectation of the excitement and wonder of Christmas Eve stockings, presents and selection boxes for breakfast. If only everything were as exciting as when we were children and Santa’s letter was sent up the chimney whilst our little legs measled against a roaring fire and our hearts fluttered.

Sometimes, prayers can seem like a will-he/won’t-he-bring-me list to a God who seems as real as Father Christmas. “Has He actually heard this prayer I’ve been groaning for the past ten, twenty, thirty years?” we wonder.

Unfortunately, more often than not, our words and hope just simply run out. We’ve reached the end. Our prayers take too long to get answered and we grow weary, just like the end of the year, when our dinner consists of biscuits and toast and our throats grow raspy.There seems no answer in sight. While our bodies ache for some kind of closure to prayers we have whispered in the dark and cried out in the silent, lonely places only we know, the all powerful God who made us is on silent. We’re left feeling confused, angry, bewildered, exhausted and despondent.

Disappointment and sadness envelop the child like hope and light within and we just give up. We’re left sitting alone in a big, drafty room in a vacant, dark, haunted house.

And then, ever so quickly and subtly, something inside us just switches off because, let’s face it, there really seems to be no response from a Santa like God sitting in a distant, imaginary land full of elves and wooden toys.

In this talk, we hear how any amount of faith, no matter how small it is, is enough. Let me write that again. Any amount of faith, no matter how small it is,  is enough. It is enough. 

A Christmas Prayer List for God for Expats:

1.Help us have faith to just believe that you’re working behind the scenes

2.That you haven’t forgotten us.

3. Please, Lord, send us all true love, peace, happiness and joy this Christmas.

4. For those of us travelling home to family situations, Lord, we beg you for short queues, simple check ins, upgrades, spacious seats, and swift travel. May we all think before we speak to those we haven’t seen in a while, remembering that the power of both life and death lies in our words.

5.  To those of us away from family and friends at Christmas, please send loving, happy people to encourage and nurture us during this reflective time of year.

6. But most of all, help us, Lord, to speak to the mountains in our life with the confidence and hope that only you can miraculously give us.

Thank you, Lord, that you will bring us so much wonderment over this Christmas time to allow us to return in January with so many stories of your goodness and blessings upon us. 

Pax vobiscum.

Food for thought…

Like a fine bottle of French champagne must (hélas) come to an inevitable end, so, too, are we nearing the end of the summer holidays.  As we think about the impending academic year, the following poem by Rudyard Kipling (written in 1895) can provide food for thought both for la rentrée and throughout the year. Growing up, it was pinned to our kitchen wall and used to sit just above my Dad’s head as we tried to eat our family meals in perfect harmony. Enjoy! 

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

Eat, Sleep, Do: Venice

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With so much to see and do, travelling doesn’t give us enough time to write plenteously, but it does give us time for reflection. In a further bid to simplify life, here are 3 things to do in the cities I have visited both this summer and at other times. I hope they help you plan and discover a little bit more of both the world, yourself and mankind. 

Eat, sleep, do: Venice

Sleep at the Santa Magherita Guest House. Why?

  • Clean & Safe
  • Next to a monastery. You will be able to listen to the monks practising their canticles and arias as you lie in bed at night. If you’re lucky, like I was, you might get the sights and sounds of a glorious thunderstorm thrown in for effect. There is a little bridge right next to the guest house which I stood on and watched the lightning as Mozart’s Requiem was rehearsed. Really…
  • Breakfast table right by the front door so you can grab some fruit and biscotti as you run out the door to start your day’s sightseeing.

Eat at the little trattoria behind the Rialto Bridge to the right hand side. I can’t remember the name but I stumbled across it whilst following the signs for the W.C. (it’s across the little piazza where the loo is situated).

Why?

  • It’s quiet and clean.
  • They do a mean pasta carbonara and a perky glass of chilled white wine without the hustle of the crowds and hassle of the pizzeria waiters near to the bridge.
  • I had lunch here with a bunch of locals (which included 4 gondoliers in their stripy tops) and not a tourist in sight. Hurrah!

Do…

  • This is the city to walk in. Take a left, take a right or go straight. Wherever you wander, you will see something beautiful (or find a place to stop and buy some more gelato).
  • Obviously, you’ll want to wander over towards St. Mark’s Basilica but there are so many unique places which will touch your heart and imagination.
  • Hop on a boat and take a cruise on the cheap around the city. Don’t take a taxi boat or a gondola as they are expensive. Take the metro boat for the same views at a cut of the price.