One hundred years ago today, five days before the end of the Great War to end all wars, my Great-Uncle, Private Charles Henry Nicholls died, fighting in France. He was a soldier in the 4th (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers), and took part in the One Hundred Days Offensive, the final campaign of the war before the Armistice on 11th November 1918.
I obviously never knew him, but I honour him now, and all the other men who gave up their lives in the fight for peace.
They hoped then it was the War to end all wars, but many wars have been fought since, and many more lives lost. Will we never learn?
I’m back! I have just spent a lovely fortnight, cruising around the Caribbean, before heading back across the Atlantic via The Azores, to Southampton. The nearer home we got, the cooler the weather, and now I’ve been back a few days, the cold, damp English spring is getting me down. The vegetation and flowers of St Lucia, St Kitts and Antigua were bright and beautiful, so here are a few flower pictures from St Kitts to brighten my day, and hopefully yours too. I’ve looked them up, but I’m not quite sure what some are, can anyone help me?
Oriental Trumpet Lily
It snowed last night, not deep or crisp or even, but definitely snow, sprinkled across the garden like icing sugar. Although it was bright and sunny this morning it snowed some more, soft fat flakes drifting and dropping aimlessly. This afternoon it grew colder, and the snow fell like tiny hard crystals whirling madly in a biting, easterly wind. Some of the longer spikes of grass are still standing tall, but most of the lawn and flowerbeds are covered with a thin lacy blanket of snow. A few small, half-open daffodil buds, have been stopped in their tracks, as winter has returned with a vengeance. Tiny pendulous snowdrops stand straight, while pink and white hellebore flower-heads are heavily laden, bowing down to almost touch the icy cold earth. I’ve defrosted the bird bath three times today, and have been rewarded with the sight of blackbirds and pigeons grabbing a quick drink, and I spotted a wren on the trellis, and a squirrel high up in the oak tree. Despite the bitter cold, there is still life in my garden. We may not have had the snow we were expecting, but there are a few days yet of snow and below zero temperatures forecast, so who knows…..
Today I feel like a tortoise. All I want to do is pull my head in and hibernate. With a nice thick shell, and a bundle of warm hay to snuggle into, I think I’ll feel safe from everyone that wants to have a piece of me.
But no. I must get up and face the day. I cannot remain hidden away, isolated and alone. So as I go out into this new and scary day, I ask God to be my shield and defender. With Him I am safe, and with Him I can face whatever the world throws at me.
I have a number of friends going through tough times, uncertain times and incredibly sad times. And this morning I heard a song in my head, the tune and words singing inside me, so intense that I couldn’t keep them in, and the song just bubbled out. So if you too are going through hard times, uncertain times or sad times, I offer you the words of this song straight from the heart of God. I don’t remember if fully, and you will have to imagine the tune, but it went something like this:
My peace I give you, a peace beyond understanding. I give it to you freely, but you must reach out and take it. Then I will hold you safe despite the all-encompassing confusion and tumult. The world around may still be a furious tempest, but do not be afraid, you can be secure within the calm of the eye of the storm. So just reach out and take my peace, then although the turmoil and whirlwind still rage, you will be kept safe from harm.
The other morning I was on my way upstairs with a cup of tea in one hand and a pile of clothes in the other, when I felt a sudden sharp pricking in my eye. It really hurt, so I blinked hard, but to no avail. I gave my eye a good rub with the back of my hand, careful not to spill the tea; but it didn’t stop pricking. When I reached the top of the stairs, I put the tea and clothes down, switched on the light over my mirror, and had a good look in my eye. Under the bright light, I could see an eyelash, right in the corner, and with the help of a tissue, I carefully removed it. Although the eye lash was gone, my eye kept watering and felt uncomfortable for quite a while; and it reminded me that I had needed to put everything down in order to discover what was wrong, and deal with it. And I thought sometimes we can be like that. We’re holding too much, spinning too many plates, and although something hurts, we often don’t realise what it is until we stop, put everything down and give it the attention it needs. Only then can we try to sort it out.
I stand at the window looking out into a cold and blustery winter afternoon. My mind is still. I wait, expectantly, but for what? I see the wind rifling through the dead leaves in the gutter, worrying at them, tossing them high into the air with abandon, as if by the hand of an exuberant child. The clouds zip by, their shape and colour constantly shifting. Now, as I see the light begin to fail, I wonder at how the days slip by so quickly; we are half way through January, and February is already on the horizon. As the forever changing seasons move inexorably on, I realise that spring is a mere heart-beat away. I marvel at how the sun comes up each morning, although at times it is obscured by cloud; and how the moon waxes and wanes, and the tides ebb and fall. I consider how rain waters the earth, and how the sun warms it and brings forth life. And I have questions about myself; how I can be here by sheer chance, and what is the purpose of my own existence? I weigh-up the possibilities. Is all this intricate detail some great cosmic mistake, a huge coincidence or confluence of separate events? But surely not! Surely there is a creative designer and all-powerful hand behind the astounding complexity I see around me, and in me.
Then, as I wait, I sense a voice in the deep recesses of my mind. “I am here my child. I created all the wonder you see around you, and I created you. I created your inmost being, and I knit you together in your mother’s womb. You are not a mistake, you are my beautiful child. There is a purpose in your existence. Wait and see what wonderful things I will accomplish through you.”