December 31, 2006

Tirana new years eve

So its new years eve... It's been an incredible year really – when I think about how different life is now from a year ago, but in all honesty I've not done any reflecting yet on the year gone by as a whole. I'm in a hotel/guesthouse room, in bed (warm and cosy there) in the dark – I've just watched “Casino Royale” on my laptop – and outside I'm seeing and hearing many fireworks go off – they are like gun shots and sparkles in the sky. I'll put the light on soon – but I quite like the atmosphere as it is. I've got music flowing through my headphones. I'm in my own world... It's funny, no one else is here at the guesthouse. I guess no one normally would be over new year! Here in Albania - everyone is with family. No one is alone. Though in Tirana - Albania's capital city - I have seen some poor people who are alone - they are in poverty, or alcoholic, or world weary. I've seen a few people like that today - and havn't known what to do for them... Anyway - I don't feel lonely here, alone in this guesthouse in Tirana's center. I know in truth I'm not alone becuase there are so many people in my life, not to mention God. It's kind of good to be a lone at times. Its good to have some away/alone time in these few days. I need them this time round. I do want that time of good reflection as I step into the year. I hope these few days ahead will have that for me.

I was at church this morning, an Internatinal church. It was a good message and I just wanted to worship God during the time of singing. Soon, I'll get ready and go to a get together this evening with foreign missionaries to celebrate new year.

I think what I care about the most at this time – is my heart of dependancy upon God. The compassion I feel within me – that I believe is from God. The desire for God to lead me in rightous ways – to be changed continually by God – day by day – to live the life that reflects Him. I want to express Gods love to the needy more than ever – and still it seems a step or two away. I have small ways of extending Gods grace and love and mercy and generosity – but they seem so small. A smile, a touch, a word, a gift, a listening heart. How I wait for the day of more expression of Gods love through my life. I long for God to make me holy. I know I love God more as the year passes, and I know I could love him so much more. Though my aspiration may be good - I'm so aware of the simple nature of "me" - the ordinary, the hopeful, the happy, the needy, the sinful, the girl, the grown up child.

I think of my friends too, and my family.
I'm hopeful for all that is ahead, and I'm ready to move forward in hope, in Gods hands and in His love, I'm ready to not look to far behind – committing the past and the future to Jesus – there is nothing more “righteous” as being dependant upon God, knowing his presence, filled with his spirit, walking in step with his desires. God is so good – he is goodness – he is all that is right. God is above all. My eyes are looking to God for this year. He is worthy of every praise and every honour, and every love.

December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Hope it's a wonderful time for you - wherever you are. Hope you will be a real joy to the people around you. Hope we remember Jesus and give special attention to him! How good our Lord is and hope we will be close to him. It's his birthday!!

I am well and enjoying the business of the time. There have been church services for kids and adults, have wrapped about a hundred gift boxes for kids, and have enjoyed being round at people houses. The weather is cold and fresh and snow seems just about in the air. My home is warm and cosy with my new heaters and little christmas tree and sented candles... and well stocked up with chocolates that came as gifts! It's been so good getting post from people and I've had a great Christmas with gifts from friends and family.

Just want to say that all is well and I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

December 03, 2006

Prishtina, Kosova

“lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the one who leads forth their host by number, he calls them all by name, because of the greatness of his might and the strength of his power not one of them is missing.” Isaiah 40:26

High on the Macedonian mountains, in the black of night, while everyone on the bus was sleeping I saw stars. I had never seen them as beautiful before. It was so dark, with the hint of deep blue that comes to the night skies, and the stars were clear and bright, but most spectacular where the number of them. The stars filled the whole sphere dome of the sky. From the horizon and the silhouetted mountains there was no empty space – all was filled were multitudes of stars. I couldn't take it in – I was wide awake, full of anticipation to see them all – but with the radius of my vision I could only see a small part of the sky! When the bus winded down the mountains I could lean so still and comfortable and peaceful by the window – looking up seeing a twirling, clear and bright in the dark night, panorama of the starry hosts! This was the beginning of the two day trip to Kosova.

Every border crossing on both sides (Albania, Macedonia and Kosova) all passports were checked, and Louise and I being the only foreigners we would get out into the cold to explain who we were and show our permits. We drove through the night from 6pm onwards, on a bus full of students going home for the holiday of independence in 1912. Everyone was excited and talking. We made two stops to roadside caf├ęs. In the small hours everyone was asleep. About 5.30am we arrived in misty, cold Prishtina, bargained with a taxi driver to take us to where we were staying for 4 Euro, and went up another hill to our friends home. It's a lovely big home with heating on the floors and lots of English food – like muffins and homemade blackberry jam. I felt right at home! I really enjoyed staying at Justine's house, and hearing some of her life there. After a nap we were recommended to go to the Phoenix for a good English breakfast – its the pub where all the foreigners go – and there are a good number of foreigners in Prishtina because of the peace keeping troops and diplomats etc. Of course my mind thought of the war that Kosovars and Serbians endured just 7 years earlier. There are big UN buildings and still a military presence in Prishtina. I couldn't begin to write about that – cause I don't know enough about it.

We set off, the modern urban architecture was bizarre! It was cool to see it. Only managed to get a couple photos of buildings, it was really misty and cold. There was definitely a lifelessness and residue of the awful things of the past there in the city – and I wont even attempt to comment on that. Found some graffiti, bought a book from the book seller on the street and finally we found the Phoenix, a simple but lively pub. Everyone knows each other, a mixture of foreigners that drink beer. The football and rugby were on, I had a gorgeous steak and onion sandwich and local beer and Lou and I shared our life stories of knowing Jesus with each other which was cool. We wondered back up the misty hill in the dark of the evening having seen all we could see! And finished the day with spaghetti and a film.

After church the next morning Justine took Louise and I and a British couple staying with Justine to the Serbian quarters of Prishtina. There is an area that is Serbian and back roads to travel to that area. The language spoken is different and the houses too. It was interesting. We went to a local restaurant and had pork – which is taboo in the Albanian part of Prishtina. Really tasty meal. Then visited a 15th century Orthodox monastery. I loved seeing the city and land from the landrover and hearing about Kosova. Home for coffee then back to the bus and the 10 hours to Tirana. Again I saw the same stars on the way back, again it lifted my spirit. At about 2am we were all taken off the bus for the second search at the border – all bags taken off, some opened, but nothing found whatever was being looked for... Made friends with a little girl who made up a bed in the seat in front of me. Got back to Tirana at 3.30am ready for sleep. Nice to wonder home to Louise's house in the quiet city that normally is noisy and bustling.

The photos will tell this story better! See 'beths photos' for more.
It was a cool trip.