Week before Christmas

It’s a week before Christmas.. well… almost anyways…the volume of people in the shops is a very big clue.. the Christmas music playing in every store… people frantically searching for the perfect presents for cousins once removed, or the distant aunt whom is only thought about cause her Christmas presents already arrived under the tree.

I love Christmas, don’t get me wrong. I love the lights, the thought of peace.. the tranquil spirit shown in every magazine and shop window…

However, as I sit here drinking a cup of tea I can’t help but remember that story about Jesus clearing out the temple because He disagrees with what His Fathers house should look like. Did He know 2000 years ago how commercialised Christmas has become and how the most important element to remember at Christmas is all but forgotten about? Am sure He is sad about that.

Jesus came to this world as a little baby, which we are privileged to remember at Christmas time. He did not stay a baby… he grew up and showed us unselfish love when He died on the cross… which we remember at Easter.

I wonder what would happen if we all slowed down and took the commercial aspects out of this period of the year. Would we truly have that Christmas atmosphere every song sings about?

I hope I will be better about it all this year… yes, am in a shopping mall, but I went to look at the fishes… they remind me about the verse in the Bible were it says ‘don’t worry about tomorrow’… I know those were birds.. but it’s winter, cold and the fishes were available to look at.

Merry ‘Christ’mas!

California

Even though I have travelled quite a bit around America, I had not made it to the west coast.. many colleagues come from there, so many stories have been told… and now I can add my own stories!!

Last weekend I flew to California just for the weekend… not to see the Hollywood glitz and glam.. one of my biggest wishes was to see the Pacific Ocean.. driving on the Pacific highway would be the bonus.

The warm air and beautiful blue sky was in stark contrast to the blackened hills. The recent fire images from the news sprang to mind quickly when you actually drive through these hills.. and see the devastation. A quick reminder that life is temporary and this is not our home. I can’t wait for the permanent home in Heaven!

No beach visit is complete without shells… and even though I was assured that the beaches are mostly bare of shells, I found some!! To be treasured for sure.

The beach visited is often used for shooting movies and tv series.. I did not see any celebrities though and would not even recognise any anyways. I was far more interested in trying to spot marine life! I instantly regretted not taking my camera.. 2 whales were frolicking in the area were the surf was. We could follow them and observe from probably 30 ft away… so cool! A pod of dolphins was seen further in the sea… man! Awesome!!! That’s the only word I have to describe it.

I did not realise I would be so quickly hooked on a place so alien to me.. walking in the sunshine on the beach…. California… I will be back!!!

Christmas Praise

Colossians 3:17 New International Version (NIV)

17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I had heard Jaime Jorge was giving a series of concerts in Minnesota… a quick check on his schedule gave me the idea to drive to Hutchinson MN to listen. It has snowed here, and it’s a little icy out.. but I really wanted to go. I set off early.

I arrived a little early, and waited a little in the car before venturing in the church. I have had the privilege to meet Jaime on a few occasions, and as we happened to walk into the building together we chatted a little.

His concert was centred around Christmas. The most beautiful renditions were played of some of the more well known Christmas carols… even though I loved it, it was not what grabbed me…

He started playing Silent Night… just on the violin, no back up track … and asked us to join in singing in the second verse. Maybe there were about 150 people there… and the beautiful sounds that raised from the audience accompanied by the violin moved me. The sprit of Christmas started for me right there.

Right after he played one of my favourite hymns… I surrender all… and he expressed how easy it is to play the song, but how difficult it is to live that out in life.. to surrender all. I can sympathise with that. I am a control freak, and surrendering is the opposite of control… it’s asking God to be in control. That will be my learning and struggle for eternity!

His witness and stories about his mission ‘healing music’ are worth listening to. You can hear he speaks from a living relationship with God. He lives out the words of Coll 3:17 I quoted above.

If you have an opportunity to hear him… do it! His schedule is on his website. (www.jaimejorge.com)

The long drive was worth it. My Sabbath is blessed already..

Giving Thanks

There are few American celebrations I can identify with… most don’t relate to anything I really know. However, Thanksgiving is something that resonates with me. Remembering why we can be thankful.

In the American history, this signifies hard times and new beginnings. Religious persecution lead to the voyage to America to pursue religious liberty. And after a slow start in Plymouth, the first Thanksgiving was a celebration of the first successful harvest. This gets celebrated every year. It’s a national holiday. In Europe we also celebrate the harvest of the year. It’s celebrated in October and I wonder of the pilgrims took this tradition with them and gave it new meaning.

Thanksgiving.. giving thanks for abundance. Often in the humdrum of life, we don’t stop often enough to say Thanks to Him who provides. We may believe that hard work got us there, and not always see the significance of giving thanks.

Over the past years I have been privileged to be in the US during this holiday. Families and friends come together, spending quality time, remembering why they are thankful. Maybe a round table saying out loud that which they are thankful for.

I wish we would pay more attention to this in Europe. To be thankful is an act of acknowledgment that what we have is not of our own making. And that is always good to be reminded of! God relishes in our giving of thanks to Him.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. Psalm 100:4.

We do not need to minimise the giving of thanks to just the 3rd Thursday in November. We can be thankful every day. Every day is a new gift, a new chance to make choices. But to be especially aware of this act of giving thanks once per year is wonderful.

I will certainly miss it this year, to not be in the US. However, wonderful American friends have invited us to celebrate with them in London. So don’t mind me if I am just a little teary eyed, remembering why I am grateful, and thinking back to last year, visiting Plymouth Rock… there were this remembrance started.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Rock

Cousins

My grandfather used to say ‘the sun does not set over the Knopper family’. The reason was that his kids spread to corners of the earth. One to Australia, one to America… and my dad stayed home in the Netherlands…

The consequence of this was that family reunions were just with very small portions of the family. We grew up without knowing any of the cousins.

There is a picture of 1971 where we were all together… apparently.., I don’t remember it..

A few years ago, my Australian cousin met up with us in Luxembourg.. so nice to meet! A familiarity immediately there.

Last year I met up with my American cousin… same thing… I wrote an earlier blog about that.

As I am regularly in America, I finally was able to arrange to spend some time with my cousin. Catching up on uhm… some 47 years of missing history… he remembers stories about my grandparents from what I don’t remember or was too young for.

A drive into the Smokey Mountains was the setting for all this..

Below a few pictures of that…

I know the sun will continue to shine over the Knopper family and not set.. as cousins have families, equally spread out in their respective countries…

One day we will have that total family reunion…it may have to wait till we are all Home with Jesus though!

This and That

Quite a number of years ago there was a Dutch entry for the European Song Festival… the chorus had the sentence ‘een beetje van dit, een beetje van dat, een beetje zus, een beetje zo’… (English : a little bit of this, a little of that) Not sure why that song popped into my head but I guess it’s like that cause my thoughts are all messy…

My family is currently over the ocean, flying to Tobago to celebrate with the bride and groom there.. a wedding on the beach, how awesome is that! Sad I can’t join them, an experience I have to live through their eyes backed up by photos and FaceTime (what would we do without it).. meanwhile I am busy at work, currently in the US, which feels less like home now I am staying in hotels again..

Am sitting here in the Mall of America, eating an ice cream, listening to all the screaming from the people in the rides in the theme park in it.

Carefree they are, not burdened yet by all we as ‘responsible’ people deal with on a daily basis…

Jesus said ‘be as the kids, as they will inherit the Kingdom’

Maybe that is my topic of today… it does not matter where we all are, as long as we can enjoy and share together.. and be spontaneous and carefree as the kids are…

See, this and that… really nothing much…

Ponderings

The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind in the truest sense of the word…I have been to both the east and the west, and find myself once again in America.

Time sometimes goes so fast, you just want to grab it by the horns and say: ‘hey! Slow down!’

I so wish I could… grab the thing that I love, slow down time and speed it up when the times are a little more complex.

Life is not like that though… you have to take the good with the bad and make the best of it.

For that very reason I decided to tattoo a phrase on my foot to remind me of the most important thing in my life… ‘saved by grace’. He died for me so I can live eternally… I will have all the time in the world then… I can do all the things I long to do but can’t make the time for… hang with friends, work in the garden, knit and crochet, be with my family, enjoy the golden streets and my mansion He is preparing for me… I can’t wait!!!

Fort Snelling

My apartment is now almost empty, just the cleaning left to do. 3 more days and I am moving out. My year in America has come to an end. However, yesterday was my Sabbath day, so no cleaning involved. Instead I visited a local state treasure and historical side. It was open for the weekend, before it opens for the season in 2 weeks.

Fort Snelling is a fort build at the crossing between the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. A strategic point to be able to see what’s coming from both sides. In these days a pretty idillic spot, from days gone by. It was not always perceived like that though, as it’s also an area where the Native Americans were driven from their lands and send to another state. It’s Dakota land, and for some reason it resonates with me.

Maybe it’s because I am adopted and know very little about my birth family and sometimes feel myself like I am driven off my land. Or maybe it’s because I have felt a little lonely this past year, away from my family and friends. Or maybe it’s just the historical movies talking… over the last couple years my family and I have visited various of these historical areas, learning about the Dakota and other tribes ways of lives.

In today’s day and age, where everything is fast, often changing and hard to keep up with, their lives looked to have a simpler purpose. Gather food, gather families and enjoy the spiritual.

Back to Fort Snelling, a kind of open air museum, with few re-enactments scattered through the day. I had visited before, on an equally hot day, but still enjoyed seeing the living quarters, hearing about the story of Scott Dredd and seeing where they were gathering their foods, enjoying their lives. A fort is a military place, so learned that the soldiers came through this place till just after the Second World War. More recent than I would have thought.

Below a few snaps.

Now am looking forward to coming back to England, where the age of my house would be visited like a relic here in the US…

Another Friday Rivercruise

About a year ago, Melody and I took a cruise down a part of the St Croix river, from Taylors Falls. A beautiful trip, I blogged about it previously and posted pictures.

I wanted to recreate that feeling of peace I had then, after busy days of preparing for the movers arrival next Monday. So I booked a river cruise on another part of the St Croix river. This time from Stillwater.

The weather forecast was showing rain, but when I arrived there were very little clouds in the sky and it was beautifully sunny. I could pick my spot as I was early… top deck near the front. I missed my chatterbox daughter… but the instant peace of being on the water was there…

There is nothing more calming to me than the sound of the water, with beautiful birds up in the sky. Especially my favourite in this part of the world… the bald eagle. Such majestic soaring over the waters…

It always reminds me of the sermon Geert preaches often.. the song of Moses in Deuteronomy, where he compares the father Eagle to our Heavenly Father. Soaring, watching, feeding, and there to catch us when we fall. Seeing these eagles puts things in perspective. He is in control…

‘When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with You above the Storm. Father you are King over the flood, I will be still and know You are God…’

Enjoy the weekend, my soul is calm.

Crochet

Yep, my favourite past time… crocheting takes my mind of lots of things. Anyone who knows me knows I can’t sit still.. I need to have something to do, something to not only keep my hands occupied, but something to take my mind of things. So hands race over the wool…

With my soon return to England, a lot of things need to be arranged.. simple things, like changing my phone plan, to more complex things like arranging the movers and applying for customs exemption…. my mind is racing, and so are my hands… I like straight forward patterns for this… something I do not need to keep my mind on… no complex patterns (unlike my daughter Melody does)… just straight forward and fast… counting till 7.

Blanket after blanket, with a scarf or two in between are getting finished… if you happen to receive one from me, yep… crocheted with a busy cluttered mind… if you did not receive one… it’s not personal… my stress period is not over yet… hahaha

“Crocheting keeps me from unraveling”

Am curious to know what your way is of stopping the mind from ‘unraveling’. Everyone copes in their own ways..there are no good or bad ways… but curious I am!

Happy Friday!