How majestic is your name in all the earth!: December’s Adventures and Reflections

After a topsy-turvy November, December was abundant with God’s blessings! In December we wrapped up for the year with some great times with our students, then I headed to England to see my grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins for Christmas, then for New Year’s I was invited to join one of my best friends and her parents in Iceland. I came home early in January and was excited to see my friends here (and stop living out of a backpack), especially just before they all headed back to their home countries.

So let’s slow that down so you can get a little bit more detail, starting with December and end of year celebrations. We finished up our International Bible study with the resurrection and thinking about the life and hope we have in Jesus. We had some amazing discussion and it was so encouraging to see how some in the group had become more encouraged and affirmed in their faith, but it was even more wonderful to see those that had initially come scrutinising and with only questions, leave with openness and keenness to better discover the Lord. What a blessing! Surely His Spirit is at work!

John 20:19-23 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

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We ended the year with a Christmas party, bringing together almost all the students we had worked with over the past few months. There were 11 different nationalities present. Talk about the gospel going out to all nations! There were a few tears because we knew we were close to all parting for good, but mostly it was singing Christmas carols in our own languages at the same time and eating international Christmas food. It was such a blessing to be used by God in all of these people’s lives. Almost all of our students have gone home now, some to join Bible studies to keep exploring Christ, some refreshed and with a renewed hope and passion for Jesus, but all grown more than when we first met them. We cannot boast in that work, it is only in God. He was the one to work in them, to change their hearts and minds. And how encouraging is that!? If it was us, then there would be no hope for them, but because it is God at work in them, we can be assured that He will continue the work that He began in them.

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Philippians 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

In late December I packed a small backpack (because I’m stingy and didn’t want to pay for extra luggage) to go to England to visit my family there. Ljubljana airport is so small that you can almost see the departure gates from the check-in desks. Landing in London then, was like eating popping candy when all I’d had for days was water. There were so many people and sounds and colours and voices. But gosh it was good to have it all in English.

My brain tried to double translate everything. It read it, tried to process it in Slovene and then realised it was English and sort of faltered there for a moment before computing that I could actually understand that. England is the closest thing culturally to Australia, so besides that (and the severe temperature difference) it felt a little like coming home. Seeing Nana and Grandpa standing in the train station waiting for me, made it even more so. I never really understood what people meant when they said their grandparents spoilt them (having grown up with them halfway around the globe), but now I definitely know!

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We explored London for a night and a day, and I stayed with my cousin who lives in London. It was beautiful and buzzing, all dressed up for Christmas. The singing window displays twinkled under the vast quantity of fairy lights that decked the streets. Giant angels were suspended up and down Regent Street, giving an inkling of a reminder that 2000 years ago they celebrated the first Christmas.

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Then we went back to Gotham, my grandparent’s village, by train and I got to snuggle down into the bed I had been sleeping in for all the years I had come to England. Waking up and spending time with Nana and Grandpa, let it never be said that grandparents are boring. With all the Christmas preparation that needed doing, and their never ending stream of visitors, I ate and laughed my way through my time with them. I got to spend some quality time with my Aunt and Uncle and cousins as well. We went for walks through the fields and almost slipped over in sheep poo together. We all played cards past my bedtime and watched some very British TV (namely the Bake-off). Despite being away from my parents and siblings for the first time for Christmas, it still felt perfectly Christmassy, complete with a mango (thanks Nana!). On Boxing Day, my family took me to my first pantomime (years ago, they’d tried for the first time but I’d decommissioned a bus by being a tad too ill). It was hilarious! I loved it! There was so much repartee with the audience and the characters, and set was brilliant. Nana and Grandpa and my family couldn’t have made Christmas any better. I am so blessed by my family! Thank you Lord for them!

From England, I flew to Iceland to meet Flick (who you may remember from my travels around Europe in June and July) and her parents. My flight was thoroughly delayed so I spent about 6 hours in the airport and arrived a bit before 2am. Thankfully, Flick and her parents are wonderful, and we’re still waiting there to meet me.

I’ve never seen anything like Iceland. It is literally a Winter Wonderland. It is so breathtakingly beautiful (even with only 4 hours of daylight). I can’t describe how gorgeous it was, with the huge cliffs and mountains covered in snow. The waterfalls tumbling down and their caverns dripped with gleaming icicles. The endless perfection of untouched snow, and the low billows of powder snow as the wind carried it down off the mountains and over the fields. The way the black sand beaches glistened, and beach grass stretched out towards the sun underneath patches of snow. The sheer size of escarpment made me feel so small. It was a photographers paradise and sometimes, it felt as if we could have been taking photos on the moon.

We rode a snow mobile on a glacier and at first, it was beautiful but extremely cold. Then the fog set in. At that point the visibility was almost nil, worsened by the condensation from our breath freezing on impact with our visor. All I could see while driving was the faint red glow of the back of the snow mobile in front. Flick handled that a lot better than I did. I was driving to keep up with the red glow when I felt the snowmobile lurch to right and I was tossed across the snow. I rolled over to see Flick giggling behind me. We both lay in the snow and heavy fog laughing and trying to figure out what actually had just happened and how on earth we were going to find the rest of the tour in the fog. Fortunately, one of the tour leaders appeared a second later and led us sheepishly back to the group. By the end, my fingers were so numb I couldn’t feel whether I was pulling the break or not.  Praise God He kept us safe!

The other highlight from Iceland was on New Year’s Eve. We had done this gorgeous drive seeing waterfalls and the beach and had finally managed to find the one place open outside of Reykjavik for dinner and were heading into the middle of nowhere to hopefully imag5708see the Northern Lights in the darkness. We’d taken bets on when we were going to be able to see them, all thinking we’d have to be out for hours before we even glimpsed them with some colour. We were slowing down to try and figure out where we were on a map, when we realised that there was a huge green-blue streak swirling and slithering across the sky.

Found it! God’s own lights show. I love fireworks (we saw sooo many of those later on that night), but this was amazing. The way they moved and swirled, it’s like they’re literally streaks of colour slithering from one end of the horizon to the other. And sometimes they split so there were multiple streaks, and sometimes it was one bold green twisting line. Sometimes they were so bright it was like someone had tossed fluorescent green paint across the night, and sometimes it was faded like a strip of cloud. Thank you Lord! How beautiful!

Psalm 8:1 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
in the heavens.

When we got back to Reykjavik we had just enough time to drink a cup of tea and Baileys before we wandered down the end of the street to watch the city light up the night with hundreds of fireworks. They’d been going off all week, and we were super keen to see what the Icelandic people would do tonight. Reykjavik doesn’t have an official firework show, but what makes it one of the best places in Europe for fireworks, is that it’s the one time of the year when people are allowed to set them off. So people go crazy. As far as you could see, 360 degrees, there were fireworks. Huge shimmering explosions, and flares that arched and sizzled. Bullet like lights that sped up in a brilliant blue line and faded into the darkness. Spinning sparks that rose higher and higher and whistled and popped as they went. Everywhere. Despite the bitter cold, everyone was out, cheering and drinking and laughing. Families were setting off fireworks all around us. One guy stood too close and dived in a pile of snow as it whizzed by. I’m not sure when it actually ticked over to 2017 because the fireworks started strong at about 11pm and went on past 2:30am when I went to bed.

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Getting to and from Iceland (especially from Ljubljana) does not have a cheap and easy route. So Flick and I had done our research and discovered that the best route home involved a stop in Edinburgh and a stop in London. It was so gorgeous seeing Edinburgh dazzling with lights and still bedecked for Christmas. I don’t know if I’ve been somewhere with so much gorgeous architecture. Prague and Budapest are incredible, but maybe it’s because my church back home is gothic-style, all the gothic churches and halls on every street corner, were just amazing! I loved it! Some of the main entertainment was just being able to sit in the cosy pubs and eat comforting pub food and listen to Scottish accents. We also played hide and seek in a Christmas tree maze and wandered around the castle, oohing and ahhing at the fantastic views and history.

Then in London we stayed with some of Flick’s friends from home who are now paramedics in London. They took us out for a classic Sydney-style brunch with that delicious full-bodied coffee that doesn’t taste like soapy water. Breakfast, I miss you! Then we explored some more of London. It was lovely bumping into a couple of family friends on Regent Street. We went to see Aladdin (and accidentally went for drinks in a gay bar), which had some of the most exquisite costumes and a good little bit of postmodern-esque banter with the audience. Then for a final view and a last hoorah before Flick and I had to say goodbye for 9 months, we went up to the top of the Shard for a cocktail. I do love London (to visit).

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Then I was back in Ljubljana by the 6th of January. I was actually really excited to come home. There were students that I missed and I knew they were almost all back as well, and studying for exams. And most of them were due to leave at the start of February. We only had a few weeks left with our friends. I was also keen to stop living out of a small backpack.

I can’t thank God enough for my December. He is so good! I never would have thought I’d get to spend so much quality time with my British family, or go to Iceland and see the Northern Lights for New Years. And I rejoice that I’m feeling so settled to have been looking forward to coming back. Praise God for His goodness and provision. And let’s pray we keep praising Him throughout 2017, because He is always good!

Psalm 8:Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

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