Tarland, Chasing Daylight, Before you and With you, Scotland Walks, Aberdeenshire

Before You and With You

January in Aberdeen, Chasing Daylight, Before You and With You

Me: “Who wants a mince pie?”

Ben: “I do!”

Simon: “No, thank you.”

Mary Polly: “Nope.”

Me: “You might want to try them this year. This could be our last Christmas to have mince pies.”

The replies come back all at once:

“Don’t say that!”



It is the question we are asked most often right now.

“What’s next?”

We believe that Taido will finish his writing by the summer, and hopefully soon afterwards, be awarded with the degree for which we came to Scotland.

But beyond that, our future remains largely uncertain.

For the most part, by God’s grace, I have made peace with that uncertainty.

Daily, I come back to my knees about the unknowns and daily, God reminds me that He has our future in His hands.

But something about Christmas is making the end come sharper into focus.

Maybe it’s because we mark time by the holidays. We remember the Christmases past. We think of who was with us and where we were the last time we smelled gingerbread or dissolved the yeast into warm water to make dough.

The memories can make us feel what we lack, instead of what we have.

I am so keenly aware of what is missing that I project even my future lacks onto this year’s experience. (No mince pies next year.)

As Christmas arrives, I cannot ignore that the end of our season in Aberdeen is coming. The calendar on my wall is out of pages to flip. I don’t want to buy a new one because I don’t want to see those unknown months. Those “where-will-we-be-then” months. And I don’t want to write “goodbye” on a little square as if all I will feel about that moment will fit into a calendar space.

People around us know that the end is near. We are part of a community of transient souls who come to this gray city for a few years, occupy rental homes with borrowed dishes and then move on, leaving behind stock-piled American chocolate chips and peanut butter and passing along the few accumulated belongings. Gently used sheets, towels and baking pans are forever being handed from one expat family to the next.

I find myself having to articulate the unknown future more and more as people ask me what is next for our family.

And somehow, saying it out loud makes it feel a bit more scary.

I try to sound excited.

“Who knows where the Lord will lead us?”

Or faithful.

“God has led us here. He will lead us on.”

Or confident.

“We know God has a plan for us, and He will show it to us in His perfect time.”

All of those statements are true. And I mean them when I say them. Really.

But there is also a nagging fear. The noises from the part of my heart that sees lack instead of gift.

In the dark, I question.

I wonder.

Will we be ok?

Will it break me to say goodbye?

Will our children hate us for another transition that strips them of their friends?

Will I ever be warm again? 

Last week was one of those doubting weeks.

And one morning, I found these words staring up at me:

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Deuteronomy 31:8

And then, this, from Jesus Today, by Sarah Young who uses Scripture to write as though Jesus is speaking straight to you:

I myself go before you and will be with you. So do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. I, your loving Savior, am also infinite God! I am omnipresent: present everywhere at once. This makes it possible for Me to go ahead of you – opening up the way – without ever leaving your side.

…encourage yourself with My promise to go before you and be with you – let My perfect love renew your hope.

And so for the days since, I have been doing just that, encouraging myself with God’s promise to go before us and to be with us. Both at once.

The future is as hazy as the Scottish winter sky, fading from black to gray, and then from gray to black again much too soon.

But some days there is a parting of the clouds at just the right time of day and the sky is lit up like fireworks. Shades of pink and orange painting the world outside my kitchen window for just long enough and just often enough to remind me that there is color beyond my grays and blacks.

It is breaking through.

And that’s how God’s reminders are to me. Breaking into my black heart to paint it vibrant with the knowledge that He is always going before me and also, always with me.

The path forward is unknown to me.

But it is not unknown to God. He is already on it.

And He is with me as I walk.

Friend, if I could give you a Christmas gift it would be this same knowledge. This same breaking through of Jesus in the middle of all that is painful and scary and unknown to say: I am going before you and I am with you.

Because His presence is enough. I need it more than I need anything under my tree or anything written on my calendar.

Also, when I am faltering, I need truth spoken to me fast. I have put together what I think of as my emergency playlist on Spotify. It is The Words I Need To Hear. I’m sharing it with you just in case you need to hear them too.

Wishing you so much love and light on your path this Christmas!





  1. This was precious to me to read. Beautifully written!!!

  2. OH, I so agree with precious to me and beautifully written.
    Thank you too, for going where your fears are and not acting like they are not there. Let Him lead in this dance…the new steps are scary, but He’s leading! Your hand in His. Trusting His Word(s) as they are TRUTH.
    Thank you, Alison!

  3. Thanks, Alison. Beautiful words that encourage!

  4. Thank you! Well said! We all reach a similar point in our lives. How courageous and graceful you are meeting this time. Love to your family!

  5. Beautiful! I love you!

  6. Beautiful and encouraging post. Love you guys!

  7. Beautiful, yes, and encouraging – most definitely! I’m sharing this in my Monday “Well, Well, Well” feature tomorrow along with another story about waiting (Elizabeth and Zechariah). Thank you, Alison, for always being transparent about your struggles. It helps the rest of us be honest and real, too.

    Merry Christmas from the other side of the pond, my friend!

  8. this is just what i needed today. i love the way God uses our friends to speak His Word to us, when we need it the most. love you and your beautiful gift of speaking your heart.
    Merry Christmas to you and your precious family, Alison.

  9. well written as from your heart. I know the uncertainty can be uncalming. writing about it and speaking about it helps you face it. know many are with you and wish and pray the best for you and your family. you are truly gifted. God will not lead you to a place He has not already prepared for you. it is so exciting to see where He leads you all. Selfishly we wish it was back to Arkansas but realistically we know His plans are much better than ours but we still wish Arkansas is in His plans. God Bless you all and Merry Christmas!

  10. Three years? Already. Almost. I said I was coming to visit. I really meant it. I want to do it. But… I will welcome you home with open arms and tons of hugs. And I will thank you always for these precious words. Merry Christmas friend.

  11. Alison, your words touched my heart so much! I’m going to memorize the Bible verse so I’ll have it in my heart and mind always. I will keep you and your family in my prayers, and God bless you!

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