Monday 31 December 2018

Bon Appetit!

The episode of the Macclesfield Bus Shelter has not been a total disaster. I was able to use the leftover egg yolks to make some surprisingly splendid biscuits. My good friends Jenny and Peter occasionally make a trip over to Normandy and come back with interesting foodstuffs. 

They have discovered a good Biscuit shop, and one local speciality, Palets Normands has become a favourite.
We enjoyed some of these last week at their home - and Jenny said her son Jon found the recipe, so she'd made her own [with leftover egg yolks after icing her cake] 
It does seem that Normandy and Brittany both lay claim to the recipe. Whoever invented them, they are delicious mouthfuls of buttery sweetness. And easy to make in a mini muffin tin. 
Thank you Peter, Jenny and Jon for introducing me to these tasty morsels. 

Sunday 30 December 2018

A Brief Thank You Note...

Thank you everyone who took part in Pause In Advent over the previous four Sundays. There were so many thought provoking, and encouraging posts. I hope people have felt truly blessed, I personally have really appreciated the PIA this year. The Christmas festivities are quickly over - but like the angels, we must continue to share the good news of great joy to all people. 

Saturday 29 December 2018

"Ey Oop Luv, This Icing's A Bit Slippy!"

In 2008 I bought some resin Nativity Figures from the flagship Lakeland store in Windermere to decorate my Christmas cake. At the time I said they would have to be used for many years to justify the expense. This is their 11th outing. Down the years they've appeared on the cakes on various arrangements 
One of my earlier attempts was a copy of a Waitrose cake, where a piece of the cake was sliced off and stood up to make a semicircular stable. The roof was chocolate finger biscuits.
I thought I'd do something similar this year. But I ran out of time. I packed icing sugar, eggs and some Mint Matchmakers along with the marzipanned cake and planned to finish it as soon as I could.
So on the evening of Boxing Day I set to in the kitchen at Cornerstones. I usually use Delia's recipe for Royal Icing, because it works.
Except I beat it all up in my big Kenwood. And that's in Dorset! Try as I might, I couldn't get the icing to go into stiff peaks using a spoon,  or the tiny whisk attachment on my stick blender. It remained resolutely runny. 
So I improvised. I balanced the rack from the grill pan on some baked bean cans, and carefully placed the cake on top. I gently spooned icing on the cake. It moved like a glacier coating the top and sides, with some drippage onto the plate below.
I'd already abandoned any ideas of fancy cutting and shaping. But I did want a stable. However the pack of rectangular biscuits I intended using as a framework were in Dorset with the Kenwood! So I chopped up a chinese takeaway box and used icing to glue the chocolate sticks in place.
I'm not planning on entering the GBBO with this one... 
The family have already decided it looks like the Holy Family are waiting at a bus stop in Macclesfield.
Despite the appearance, the cake tastes fine. 
Jon picked off a chocolate stick to nibble - whereupon Rosie promptly told him off - "that belongs to baby Jesus, Daddy!" 
I shall declare a caption competition - what do you think they are saying to each other, as they stand on the slippery icing? 

Friday 28 December 2018

Tudors In Tombland

Tombland is a beautiful old part of Norwich beside the Cathedral.  The name does not refer to burials- it is simply an old word for an open space. In Saxon times, this was the site of Norwich Market [the Normans moved it to its current location] You can read about this area here.
But Tombland is also the title of the latest CJ Sansom book in his Shardlake series [the 7th]

It is 1549, and lawyer Matthew Shardlake has been sent, by Princess Elizabeth, to find out about a relative, John Boleyn, who has been accused of murder and is languishing in the gaol under Norwich Castle.
With his assistant Nicholas, he travels up to this fair city to attempt to discover the truth.
The locals are very unsettled- land enclosures are making life very difficult for the poor people, and they are resentful of the way the gentry are getting richer whilst they are starving.
Shardlake meets up with his former assistant Barak, and even tracks down the young woman who was previously his maidservant.
His attempts to unravel the murder mystery prove dangerous enough - but then Shardlake and everyone else, gets embroiled in Kett's Rebellion
This genuine attempt to air the grievances of the common people turned into vicious, bloody fighting. Robert Kett and his brother William were both hanged as traitors. 
Sansom is meticulous in his historical accuracy - and cleverly weaves Shardlake into the middle of the Rebellion story I learned at school in Norfolk 50 years ago. He uses the Norfolk accent well - not overdoing it, but with enough dialect words to make it believable.  
I think this may well become one of my favourites in the series. I certainly want to check out a few of the locations I am not so familiar with. Kett was branded a traitor, but is now regarded as the people's hero. The cover of the book shows the panel from the door of Norwich City Hall which depicts Kett with the noose around his neck.
But be warned, it is a Very Long Book. 880 pages! The book was published in mid October, and I pre-ordered from Jarrolds in Norwich so that Bob could have it for his birthday. He was therefore able to read it in our half term break. It has taken me three weeks.
Matthew Shardlake is a man of integrity, and humanity. Mocked for his hunchback, he is acutely aware of what it feels like to be ostracised, and often shows compassion to those in need, even when he sometimes comes off badly himself. 
Many of the issues raised in the book have a contemporary relevance. One morning, the lawyer is walking into the Cathedral and passes a beggar. Nicholas firmly dissuades him from throwing down a coin ["they will all come after us if they think our purses are full"] Matthew hopes somebody else will assist the man. A day or two later the beggar is still in the same spot- but dead from starvation. I read this chapter on the very day when a homeless man died just outside Parliament...
Location, language, plot, relationships, ethical dilemmas - all there in a tale brilliantly told. 
This one is definitely *****
Spoiler alert - despite the high body count, Shardlake survives to the end of the book. Which is good news, as it means Sansom can write some more in the series.

Thursday 27 December 2018

Is There A Doctor In The House?

Somebody in my family is becoming very fond of Dressing Up. This is Story Time at the Tate Modern last week.
I'd already planned to make Rosie a couple of Christmas gifts - but finally got round to completing everything on Saturday. A chef's outfit. I made an apron and chef's hat, and added a mixing bowl and  plastic cutlery. Bob kindly contributed a mini rolling pin, which he had turned on the lathe.
In the autumn, I found a lovely vintage medical kit in a tin. SO cute- all made of wood- a syringe [the plunger is spring loaded] a bottle of iodine, a pill bottle, a thermometer and a string stethoscope.
I found an old bolster case in the stash - lovely quality fabric, fastened with a row of buttons. Using a vintage pj pattern I made a doctor's coat. Being lazy, I cut it so that I could use the button bands and save myself a lot of work!
When I made the king's crown recently, I cut it very carefully, and had a second one all ready to decorate. Rosie's Crown
Finally- and this is not a dressing up item - but just another quick sewing project. I found a Peppa Pig snakes&ladders game going for a song in a CS because the box was really damaged. It is on a large 80x80cm plastic sheet, with big counters and a die. I made a drawstring bag, plus a smaller one to hold the playing pieces.

It took me ages to recreate the label on my embroidery machine! But the  game looks good now and the pieces are contained tidily
I've done lots of sewing for other people's children recently, and loved it- but making something for my own grandchild is really special.
Our journey to Norfolk on Christmas Day was the fastest ever - very little traffic. We arrived at 4pm. Rosie loved her presents - and spent a lot of time making us all better, giving injections, dispensing medicines, and checking our temperatures and heartbeats. 

Wednesday 26 December 2018

Red Box-ing Day

At UCF we always give away the offerings from our Carol Services to charity. One of the three we have chosen this year is the Red Box Project. Until this year, I am not sure I have ever stood up in Church on a Sunday and talked about menstruation. But if Jesus could stop a whole crowd of people, in order to heal a woman with gynae problems [Matthew 9], then I mustn't be coy about the subject. This is a great charity, meeting a real need. Check them out here

The Red Box Project quietly ensures that no young person misses school because they have their period. Working as a nationwide community, The Red Box Project seeks to provide free menstrual products for the young people in our local schools.
Schools with a Red Box find absenteeism drops on average by 30%. It is awful that girls have to miss out on education because they are not properly equipped to cope with their period. 
Just imagine, your Dad's walked out, Mum's on benefits, bringing up 3 children, and you are 14. You are old enough to know she is struggling to pay the rent, and feed the family, and old enough to get 'the curse' every month. But you are not old enough to get a Saturday job in order to be able to fund your own sanpro. You'd rather Mum spent the limited budget on supper for your siblings than on Tampax for you. So a couple of days a month, you just stay at home, near your own bathroom...but your education suffers, and you feel ashamed and embarrassed to explain your absence to your male Form Tutor. 
And there are hundreds of girls facing this sort of dilemma every month. This charity is helping to reduce 'period poverty' and restore their dignity. I am so glad our church is supporting them this Christmas.

Tuesday 25 December 2018

Monday 24 December 2018

Heiligabend Bescherung

To which one feels the answer should be 'Gesundheit!". In fact this German phrase simply means "Christmas Eve Gifts" It is the tradition of opening your Christmas Gifts on the Eve of the day itself. The Queen [who is, after all from German stock] follows this tradition with her family.
Her Majesty arrived in Norfolk on Thursday night. She took the train to Kings Lynn and then travelled the 30 minute car journey out to her country estate. I thoroughly approve of the fact that she always takes a regular commuter train - the Royals have one coach reserved for their entourage, the rest of the train is full of ordinary passengers. 
Do you think HM has a Seniors Railcard? She looks like any great-granny off to spend Christmas with the family, doesn't she? Tomorrow morning she will attend St Mary's Church as is her regular custom. Her Norfolk holiday will extend to early February.
This granny will exchange gifts with her husband tonight - after our Christmas Eve Communion Service. [This year it#'s being held early evening, and will be a quiet, reflective service- particularly for those who are finding Christmas this year difficult for some reason]
Then Christmas Morning Service in our church here in Dorset followed by the long journey to Norfolk [by car] In the late afternoon, we will share a meal with Liz, Jon and Rosie - and exchange family gifts.  We're really looking forward to our week's holiday at Cornerstones. 
I do hope you will be able to be with those you love at some point during this Christmas season. When will you exchange your gifts?

Sunday 23 December 2018

Pause In Advent #4 - And Glory Shone Around

The final of my Advent Pauses. It is the fourth Sunday in Advent - cue all the usual jokes "We call it 'Two Ronnies Sunday' because we light fork 'andles" But this is the Sunday when I really need to pause, somehow.
I'm involved with teaching the children at Church this morning, and then this evening it is the Candlelight Carols, and there's candles, and hot chocolate, and the Christmas Charity Offering and the choir, and, and, and ...[and this year the additional feature of gifts for 'angel-bearers']
And I am not complaining, it is a wonderful time, and the opportunity to share the good news with all the visitors at Church is great. But I recognise that it has been a long and tiring half-term of teaching, and I am utterly exhausted. 
I look at Martha's final picture, the angels coming to the shepherds and I feel uplifted. For a start, this was probably the end of a long and tiring day for the shepherds. Trying patiently to herd their wandering sheep, a life of late bedtimes and early morning starts. Maybe sometimes feeling undervalued. Look at the guy centre back, with tired slumped shoulders, and the one on the left with a furrowed brow. ...and when they least expect it, the sky lights up [seethe strip of red sky on the horizon? hinting at the shepherd's future delight!] And the stars shine, and the angels sing, and their message is earth-shattering, breath-taking, mind-blowing, life-changing...and they go to see the baby for themselves - and then "The shepherds went back, singing praises to God for all they had heard and seen; it had been just as the angel had told them." They returned to their ovine duties with added enthusiasm. God had chosen them to hear this news of love, joy and peace - the Saviour is born.
May there be a moment in this busy Sunday when we too can kneel before the manger and worship the Christchild in awe and wonder, before we return to all the things on our to-do lists.
A Christmas blessing for you all...
May the joy of the angels, 
the eagerness of the shepherds, 
the perseverance of the wise men, 
the obedience of Joseph and Mary 
and the peace of the Christ-child be yours this Christmas;
and the blessing of God Almighty, 
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, 
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

Saturday 22 December 2018

I Wanted To Make History...

..but I ended up making costumes!
I'm not complaining really, I love sewing costumes, especially for children - and I'm glad that schools still act out the Nativity Story at Christmas. It is truly a privilege to be part of that with them. But I have some other sewing tasks I wanted to have completed before Tuesday. Maybe I shall fit them in today. Meanwhile I leave you with a favourite poem by Peter Dixon.

This year...
This year can I be Herod?
This year, can I be him?
A wise man
Or a Joseph?
An inn man
Or a king?

This year...
Can I be famous?
This year, can I be best?
Bear a crown of silver
And wear a golden vest?

This year...
Can I be starlight?
This year, can I stand out?

...feel the swish of curtains
and hear the front row shout
'Hurrah' for good old Ronny
he brings a gift of gold
head afire with tinsel
'The Greatest Story Told...'
'Hurrah for good old Herod!'
and shepherds from afar.

Don't make me a palm tree
And can I be
a Star?

Friday 21 December 2018

Buffet, Blanket Stitch, ZigZag And Angels

What a mixed week it has been thus far. On Monday evening we hosted our annual Christmas Open House at The Manse- and over 30 friends aged 5 months to 90+ dropped in to visit! Thursday we had a Carol Service at or Lunch Club.

 On Tuesday, I realised my blue blanket had a hole in it. [To be honest I think this blanket really belongs to one of the girls, I seem to remember it being bought in their teens when they both had futons.] I dug out my Clare Youngs Scandinavian Needlework book, and made a feature of the hole, by copying one of the flower motifs.
I've been wrapping presents- and this year have tried to use up all the odd half rolls of paper and bits and pieces I have already. I've sewn up lots of gift bags on my machine. I use a wide zigzag stitch [straight stitch is prone to tearing] to make a tube, the fold and flatten the bottom. For odd shaped presents this gives a neater package than trying to secure the paper with yards of sellotape.
If you look closely at the photo [top left] you'll see the sewing machine needle is red. I've put a splash of nail varnish on the shaft to mark this out as my "paper sewing needle". This sort of sewing blunts the point, so it makes sense to keep a special needle for the purpose. [I keep the regular needle tucked in the second spool to remind me to put it back before I pack up the sewing machine]

I've also made gift tags from last year's cards, using my tag punch, which will make a choice of three widths of tag - I get a lot of use from this one.
The cone of red string on the left was purchased in a charity shop in Bexleyheath about 30 years ago for pennies- and I am still using it!

Last week's distribution of angels has been really well received in the community - and we have invited people who found angels to bring them to the Candlelight Carols, where they will receive a little gift.. I've prepared these- putting the contents into an envelope and stapling the top. It didn't take long to decorate the envelopes with inkpads and stamps, and to staple diecut angels to the top. Let us hope lots of people respond.
Just a few more home-made gifts which need finishing off, and a cake to ice. Plus the children's teaching materials to prepare for the next two Sundays. That's all the Christmas jobs I have left [I think] Plus this morning teaching in school, laundry to sort  - and clothes to pack for Norfolk...and that's it.[Other than the usual quotidien activities like meals and blogging] Any jobs I haven't done by Monday evening will just have to wait till next year!

Thursday 20 December 2018

Write Like An Egyptian?

You learn something everyday. I've been working on hieroglyphics with my student. We used a chart similar to this and interpreted messages. 
The CHARTS do have variations - some have two bars to represent "I" and others say the "rope" character is "th" not "ch". Others have a lasso shape for "o" or "u". But we had fun. I said I had two papyrus which my brother bought in Egypt 30 years ago.

Apparently it's a popular tourist purchase - you choose your picture and then they personalise it with a name. Adrian got one for my parents [Hilda and Stan] and one each for Elizabeth and Stephanie. We had them up on the wall for years. Since we moved here, they have been in a box
I got them out to take to school. And only this week did I discover the error - there is no "b" on the Elizabeth papyrus! 
It's probably a little late to ask for a refund. I was in a CS on Saturday and saw one of these travel souvenirs on the shelf. I picked it and started deciphering it. It was painted for "Mabel and Arthur"

This is my friend's gold pendant. I took a photo and my student promptly said "Is she Jodie or Judy?". You hear stories of tourists buying souvenirs and getting home to find the words are completely wrong. It's reassuring that these are pretty accurate. It takes ages to write even simple words. I shall stick to our regular alphabet. I'm in de-Nile. 

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Just What I Kneaded!

I spent much of Saturday pottering in the kitchen. As well as 2 loads of laundry, putting marzipan on the Christmas Cake, and making a ragu for dinner, I tidied up my cookbook stand. I love this sturdy metal stand [birthday gift 2015 from my dear friend Christine] But I confess that I tuck bits of paper behind it, and things really needed sorting out.
I found two £5 tokens I had mislaid, some Tesco vouchers [half expired, half in date] and a number of recipes which I had at one point considered making but not used.
I was pretty ruthless with the recipes- but one caught my eye on the way to the recycling bin. So I dug out my trusty Kenwood Chef [Christmas gift from Bob, 2004] 
I tweaked the original recipe, and I was really pleased with the result - I used half-and-half white flour and chapatti flour
Homemade Bread In The Slow Cooker 
Prep time; 20 mins, Cook time; 2 hours, Total time; 2 hours 20 mins
1 envelope of active yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ cup warm water
1 egg
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
3½ cups plain flour
1 tablespoon butter, melted
IMPORTANT: Do NOT pre-heat your slow cooker.
In a small bowl, combine the yeast, ¼ cup warm water, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Set aside for 10 minutes .
In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg, oil, 1 cup lukewarm water, salt, sugar, and yeast mixture and beat with an electric mixer on low for about 2 minutes making sure to scrape the sides down as you go.
Next, add 3 to 3 ½ cups of flour to the mixture and continue beating with the electric mixer on low until it is well incorporated and gets "gummy". Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and add a little flour at a time while kneading for 5 minutes by hand until the dough becomes smooth and elastic [I did everything in the Kenwood with the dough hook]. The dough will be a little sticky. This is normal. Form into a ball.
Line a 5-quart slow cooker with parchment paper. Place the ball of dough in the centre of the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high heat for 2+ hours. Not slow cookers are the same, so after 1½ hours, check your bread for readiness. The bread will feel firm when you gently press down on the top. If it isn't done, check it every 30 minutes for readiness. 
NOTE: It will not be brown on top. That's normal. Remove when done and brush with melted butter. Let the bread cool completely before slicing. 
I was really pleased with the resulting loaf. But I have realised you should never turn your back on the Chef when it is kneading. I went to sort something on the cooker, and when I turned round, I realised the food mixer was vibrating across the worktop and almost ready to throw itself on the floor! [I did re-stage this shot for the camera]

In terms of a fast, cheap loaf, it is pretty good. The big bag of chapatti flour was reduced - and worked out at 15p/kg. That's less than half of the usual price of plain white flour in most supermarkets. My only change next time would be to reduce the amount of sugar - it was a little too sweet for our taste. 

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Deck The Halls...

"Have you been to Kingston Lacy yet?" asked Jenny at church "Yes!" I assured her, but our conversation was interrupted before I could enthuse any more. Other friends had said that KL was spectacular at Christmas- so much so that there are timed tickets for viewing the house. Late last Monday I booked two [free] tickets for 1pm, and once back from school, Bob and I has a quick sandwich then drove over, arriving at 12.30ish. We looked in the laundry/shop area, and that was very festive.
Then we walked round through the gardens to the Potting Shed Secondhand Bookshop. I bought a book to read on holiday. The snowdrop gardens had amazing illuminations- green 'washes' of light on the tree trunks and hanging gold sparklers that looked almost like spiders' webs. Even in the middle of the day they looked super
It was cold and so we crept into the entrance hall at 12. 50. "We're not busy, you needn't wait" said the kind staff member. So we began our tour. All year, the NT have had a theme focusing on the four great women of the Bankes Family. Mary, who held it together when Cromwell's lot were shelling her previous home [Corfe Castle]  Anne Bankes oversaw the style and decor of the house, and sorted out all the artefacts, art and furniture sent back by William John Bankes [forced to live in exile in Europe after a scandal] Frances Bankes, mother of 6, and eager to promote the Bankes name [ rather ahead of her time, she promoted inoculation as a way of maintaining family health] and Henrietta Bankes, gracious lady of the house, turning KL into a hospital in WW1, and then becoming a renowned society hostess, planning all sorts of fabulous events.
Up the grand staircases, all decorated beautiful with flowers and foiliage
I know I went on about 'reality' last week - but isn't this paper banquet stunning? The guide said that visiting children have been particularly amused by the sprout globes and carrot cones, as well as the turkey. I liked the Dundee Cake myself!

The variety and skill in the construction of the decorations was truly splendid. In the Laundry you could even make your own paper baubles, and in the scullery there were leaflets with instructions for masking paper orchids. My friend Jenny has a stunning collection of real orchids, I am not sure I could make her a paper one quite as beautiful!

Using screen print techniques, some of the portraits and letters of the four women had been reproduced on sumptuous velvet cushions, by a local textile artist. They looked wonderful, glowing in the lights

Yes this was a truly lovely day out.
But on the way home, I remarked to Bob that I keep thinking about these four strong women in the Bankes family.
One acting as Chief Operating Officer
One who is always very good in a crisis
One in charge of Brand Management
And one cheerful little body who is always busy with her projects.
I can think of an modern family with 4 women like that too! [I rearranged the posters so you can match us up!]

Monday 17 December 2018

Frost Report

In my ignorance, I thought there was just 'frost' - I was aware of terms like 'ground frost' and 'hoar frost' and 'window frost', but I didn't realise there are significant differences. You can read the full details at the bottom of this post - or just watch this little clip from the Met Office and stun your friends with your weather knowledge [but be prepared for  their frosty or glazed expressions though]

Ground frost ; A ground frost refers to the formation of ice on the ground, objects or trees, whose surface have a temperature below the freezing point of water. During situations when the ground cools quicker than the air, a ground frost can occur without an air frost. 
Air frost; An air frost occurs when the air temperature falls to or below the freezing point of water. An air frost is usually defined as the air temperature being below freezing point of water at a height of at least one metre above the ground.
Hoar frost; From ‘hoary’, meaning aged and whitened, in reference to the shaggy and feathery coating that hoar frost leaves. It occurs under calm, cloudless skies, when there is little or no wind, and when cold air is trapped under warmer air.
Advection frost; Strong, cold winds prettily rim the edges of objects and plants with tiny spikes of frost, usually pointing in the direction of the wind.
Window frost; Also known poetically as fern frost or ice flowers, this is the frost that creeps across window frames forming swirls, feathers and other patterns, caused by the difference between the very cold air on the outside of the glass and the warmer, moderately moist air on the inside. The growth of the patterns responds to imperfections on the glass surface.
Glaze and rime; Frost is sometimes confused with glaze or rime. Rime is a rough white ice deposit which forms on vertical surfaces exposed to the wind. It is formed by supercooled water droplets of fog freezing on contact with a surface it drifts past. Glaze can only form when supercooled rain or drizzle comes into contact with the ground, or non-supercooled liquid may produce glaze if the ground is well below 0 °C. Glaze is a clear ice deposit that can be mistaken for a wet surface and can be highly dangerous.

Sunday 16 December 2018

Pause In Advent #3 - The Tear In His Eye

The third of our lovely UCF Angel pictures painted by Martha shows the angel coming to Joseph.
Like the other three pictures in this series, I have found that the longer I look at what appears to be a 'simple' piece of art, the more I see within it. Martha has worked hard to include to much of the Biblical narrative.
  • Mary's hand resting upon her swollen belly.  
  • The intertwined wedding rings being supported by the angel as well as the couple.
  • The left arm of the angel raised towards Joseph. That little detail of the tear in Joseph's eye.
In the late great Eugene Peterson's contemporary translation "The Message", he tells this story [Matthew 1:18-24] thus...
The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced. While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term: Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son; They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.
  • Mary is pregnant, but he knows it is not his child. I love the description of this man "chagrined but noble" - yes maybe humiliated, but somehow he maintains his dignity and seeks to prevent his fiancee from disgrace. The angel reassures him that this child is from God.
  • But the angel says "Don't hesitate to marry her" - this sense of Divine support for their union.
  • The angel makes God's commands clear - and Joseph obeys
But the tear in his eye...
  • is it a tear of frustration because his ideal dream of 'a white wedding' [or whatever the contemporary equivalent was back then] has gone out of the window?
  • maybe a tear of remorse that he ever doubted Mary's fidelity?
  • or sorrow, because he realises that this little family will have a hard road to travel?
  • perhaps a tear of relief, that with God's help, everything will somehow come right in the end?
  • possibly even a tear of joy, because at last the longed-for Messiah will be born, and God has chosen him to be part of this amazing event?
I have not asked Martha why she drew the teardrop - it is a challenge to consider all the possiblities. I think art should leave you wondering. In London last month, I visited Tate Modern with my 3 girls, I went into the Crying Room installation. The other occupant, a slightly younger woman, started a conversation about an article she'd read which claimed the chemical makeup of our tears changes, dependent on the situation we are in.
Petersen interprets Psalm 56;8 thus You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.
Like Joseph, I take comfort from the truth that God sees every tear, whether joyful or sorrowful, and He will be with me all the way.