Counting blessings!

Descending this mountain continues…..

Over these past few months I having been continuing to live life! Putting one step in front of the other, taking time to savour the things around me; blessings both large and small.

The little things of life take on a whole new meaning when you’ve faced the prospect of losing them. Yellow headed daffodils, morning dew glinting on the grass, blue tits nesting in our nest boxes, breakfast FaceTime calls with my daughter and granddaughter as we start the day. These little things give me so much joy!

Being able to fly to the USA to see my children and grandchildren continues to be a huge blessing. Having missed seeing them in person for a year, I savour these moments of being together. We’ve danced in the rain, danced in the kitchen and down the street! We’ve baked and eaten birthday cake, read numerous stories, made up adventure stories with various teddies and even built a snowman!

In May I went on a long awaited trip to Mongolia.

I’d been invited to go there three years ago by my dear friend Tseggi. She had come to stay with us in Cambridge whilst studying advanced English for translators. A family bereavement and chemotherapy prevented me from going those first two years. Third time lucky! The plan was that I help train teachers and social workers working with children who had experienced trauma.

It took three different flights to cover over 4000 miles across some of the most stunning landscapes I’ve ever seen – snow capped mountains, inland seas, long silver rivers winding their way through lush farmland, until finally arriving on the high steppe of Mongolia. It was Spring and the brown landscape, stretching as far as the eye could see, was just beginning to emerge from winter. There were still tiny pockets of snow but it was mostly covered in short, brown grass. There were some forested areas too which reminded me of the Alps.

I travelled with a team made up of five people all with different skills needed in different areas. My friend Helen and I, were assigned to work with the team of teachers and social workers who work with children and families. Whilst I focussed on working with trauma in children, Helen’s focus was on the spiritual and emotional well-being of the team themselves. We often forget about this vital component of the work we do as teachers and counsellors, but if we do not stay spiritually and emotionally healthy, then we can so easily experience adverse stress and exhaustion.

It was a joy to spend time with the Genesis team who, between them, have taught over 1000 children in various schools over the last twelve months. Their programme is focussed on ‘character education’, akin to what we know as personal, social and health education. We got to visit two schools, a primary and secondary, spending time in classrooms with the children. They asked about where we lived, our favourite food and football teams! I was proud to be able to give Spurs a mention!! We could see from the displays on their classroom walls that they were learning English and some tried out some phrases on us. These school visits were one of many highlights of this trip!

We also had the privilege of visiting two different families in two different kinds of homes. One was in a town apartment and the other in a traditional round tent called a ger. The latter was owned by a herding family who lived out on the steppe. We drove across miles of bumpy grassland stretching out as far as the eye could see. To our western eyes who are used to roads and maps, we couldn’t see how this family could be found. But Tseggi reassured us that they were in touch with the family by mobile phone and that they were guiding us that way!

Being inside a ger is a treat! It is much larger on the inside than it appears from the outside. Beautifully painted wooden furniture line the walls, a roof opens and closes according to the need for heat and ventilation, a cooking stove sits in the centre and colourful blankets are piled on the beds that double as comfy sofas. Outside we were taken on a tour of the animal stalls, given kid goats to hold and invited to ride their horse. That same day we also got to ride a camel and hold an eagle and a vulture! More highlights for sure!

Back in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, it was back to work! We held a ‘Parenting Teens’ seminar on the Saturday morning for around 100 parents and visited a local church on the Sunday. During our short time there, these wonderful people made a indelible mark on my heart.

On my return from this spectacular land with its mountains and plateaus, I was reminded that I am still descending my own mountain! Back to hospital for my 3 monthly appointments with my oncology team! They are keeping an eye on the cancer markers in my blood. I am so happy to be able to report another two all-clears! Alongside this, the side effects of chemotherapy continue to repair.

These past few months have been ones in which to count my blessings! I’ve completed one year back at work, travelled to far off lands, welcomed new grandchildren, attended my first Big Church Day Out festival, celebrated birthdays and weddings, hosted our women’s conference again, jogged on different beaches, watched the changing of the guard with my grandsons, made quilts, been to Newday youth festival and watched the first performance of my friend’s new stage play………..plus many more! So much to celebrate!

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 118:1

Mongolian countryside

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