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Showing posts from August, 2009

The Cusp

From 11 to 12 is only a year but the transition stands out in my memory. 12 was a no-man's land of limbo.

Children's clothes no longer fit, but adults clothes didn't either. It was 1961-62, and I straddled the land of childhood and adolescence awkwardly, feeling as though I belonged in neither. I was always tall and prone to plumpness. Now I was decidedly chubby and in the morphing from child to young woman there was not a swan in sight.

My curiosity about sexuality was partially satisfied by Mum. She did a good job of explaining what to expect physically so that I wasn't surprised by what was happening, but there was another dimension to sex that I learned about from Dad's hidden Playboy magazines and his bookshelf, which I studied with interest. Still, much of it was a mystery that I was naive, curious and confused about.

Instead of walking through the churchyard with its tall elm trees and along the long, hedge lined black path to the village school, my friends an…

I Give Up!

I give up! My brain is mushier than a bowl of overcooked spaghetti and I am soooo tired I can barely think straight.
I hate not writing but I just can't string two coherent thoughts together tonight.
I started my day with a funeral mass for a collegue in another agency. I was gone for the morning, and then the spaghetti supper was next.
We fed spaghetti, meatballs, sauce and caesar salad to what felt like the 5000. So many contributions from so many people made it an amazing evening, but now I am seriously out of steam and hopelessly tired.
We had fun, we were profoundly moved be the presentation after supper and we raised a heartening amount of money to help people in Armenia and the Ukraine.
God bless the people who said, "Sign me up to help again next year." Next year? First I think I will sink into the gift of Sabbath.

Living Watersheds and Dancing Metaphors

Last week several people commented on my post about Algonquin Park and Niagara Falls with the greeting "Happy ICLW!". I, despite my plea for preservation of beautiful natural wonders, didn't know the meaning of this acronym and dutifully did an internet search about it. It seems to be a toss up between "International Comment Leaving Week" and the "International Center for Living Watersheds". I was intrigued by the latter, knowing The Park to be a watershed, and a living one because it is protected and maintained as a vital and fresh one. I also of course began to see spiritual parallels right away. In my single days in the renewal movement in Toronto I edited a small magazine I called Living Letter loving the apostle Paul's injunction to be ambassadors for Christ in all we do and say. So for me the image of a "living watershed" is similar, except of course it can't be found in scripture.

But the connections with other scriptural image…

Sweet Inspiration

By Susan

We have all been deeply moved by Belinda's chronicling of her family history. It was my Aunt Edith's birthday this past week, and after starting this post, I thought I would do a bit of a series on "Life Changers", people who have inspired me, or affected me deeply in some positive way. Now that I've completed this story, I have a whole new appreciation for how much work Belinda has put into those family histories she has been writing! Thankyou Belinda. You're inspiration, too!

Maybe it was because I was looking at some old family photos the night before. Or maybe I just sensed that "this" was the day. But either way, I woke up on Wednesday morning with thoughts of Aunt Edith dancing in my mind. I was at least five minutes into my memory bank before I realized it was her birthday. I was back amid the brightly patterned quilts and crisp cotton sheets flapping on the line, later to be pressed crisp with a set of flatirons which were left on the…

It's All About Perspective

By Susan

(from the archives)

Boy, can I put my foot in my mouth.I can't tell you how many times I've been corrected, rebuked, reminded, pleaded with, punished, warned, you name it, for the things that have come out of my mouth and for the things that people are justifiably afraid will come out of my mouth.

I have had a deeply seated belief, for a very long time, that I can't say the right thing no matter how hard I try, and that if I do say the right thing, it's only an abherration. The "real me" can't do it, after all.

I was in a meeting last week. I was particularly relaxed and just "being myself". That, for me, is living pretty close to the edge. As much as I was enjoying myself, part of me is always poised for the bomb to drop. Sometimes I recognize it myself as it's rolling off my tongue. Other times, someone points it out to me afterwards, but the fear of 'blowing it' is always there.

Imagine my surprise when someone at the meeting,…

The Power of Nice

My old-faithful Honda conked out last week, right outside my office at the end of a long day when I was leaving late.

I needed to leave in the morning for a meeting some distance away, so I arranged with the dealership to rent a car at a special rate for Honda customers. When I called the rental company, though, I had to jump through hoops to get the rate, including calling Honda again. When I called the car rental company again, I got a different person. I explained the what had happened and he surprised me by saying, "How does $30 a day sound?"

Since that was $5 lower than the price I was expecting, I said I was happy. He said he just wanted to make up for the trouble I'd gone through.

Later on, I thought of how little it took to turn the experience of customer service around. He could have just given me the right price, and the price he offered was only $5 less than that, but the gesture made all the difference.

A few days later, on Friday evening, I dropped by our villag…

Delight

The sound of the front door opening and voices in the hallway heralded visitors. The voices were feminine and cheery and Paul's voice was welcoming as they drew closer to the room at the back of the house, where I was.

To my surprise, there stood Jane and Barb, two friends from our cell group--but this was Tuesday, not Thursday and it looked as though they were on a mission.

We chatted briefly and then Jane said, "We came with a purpose."

"I thought so!" I said, greatly curious about what it might be. Jane was carrying a small zippered portfolio from which she was pulling something out.

"I brought you a gift," she announced; her whole being radiating joy in giving.

"It is one of a kind," and she handed me a letter sized laminated document and a smaller one the size of a recipe card.

I looked at the emblems that were duplicated on the cards and Jane asked me what I thought.

"I like the message," I said, feeling something, I didn't know…

Village

By Belinda

The moving van that carried us with all of our belongings to our new home in the village of Alvechurch, came to a stop at 48 Bear Hill. I was almost 9 and Robert was just 6.

Upstairs there were three bedrooms and a bathroom. The room that was mine had pink wallpaper, covered with tiny rosebuds in a diamond pattern and the windows faced west towards the Lickey Hills and the sunset. My bed had a cast iron frame and bedstead, painted pink, with springs that squeaked with every movement.

Downstairs there was a kitchen and hallway with a red flagstone tiled floor, which either Dad or Mum would sweep and mop every day. The kitchen and living room both had fireplaces in which we burned coal. There was a flat roofed addition to the house on one side. It had a passageway, an outside washroom, a coal bunker and a room that Dad used for his tools and workbench.

The village was drenched in history and we arrived in it at a time in which it still felt like a microcosmic world. Parts of the …

Forty Years

By Belinda



Let the bells ring out again

Bringing loads and loads of cheer

To the celebrating pair

Praying that your love won't wane

But grow deeper year by year

In God's tender love and care

May your future brighter grow

In the joy that both can know

That the Eternal God doth reign

Rev. Ron .F. T. Burston (Paul's dad) August 23rd 1972 (3rd Wedding Anniversary)

Forty years ago today I was a nervous 19 year old, with hands that shook as they held a bouquet of yellow roses.

I have been celebrating, during the weeks leading up to this day, by remembering (and writing of course,) about some parts of our journey.

Our celebration of this milestone anniversary, has been unique to "us." We are very different in personality and what falls within each of our comfort zones. So as the day approached, we talked through how we were going to celebrate.

For me it was important to acknowledge the blessing of being together at all, and then for so long. I didn't need any fanfare or big party…

Set Apart yet Close By

by Meg

Last time it was Niagara Falls; this time Algonquin Park. Another day away, another natural wonder. So many times we've driven through The Park, on the way to somewhere else, intent on making time on the journey, not oblivious to the beauty, but not having or taking the time to experience it.

Finally the day came, a day set apart for the purpose of exploring this amazing place, of finally venturing off the highway and into the wilds on either side. And it was made simpler and more special this first time by our friends...excited explorers who have walked all the trails but one, and many times at that.

Like experiencing The Falls I felt immersed: enveloped by miles of trees and all forms of ground cover, aware of the potential for hours of gazing and drinking in the glory of natural beauty, witness to the wonders of divine creation far surpassing any man-made wizardry.

Returning home sun-kissed and wind-blessed I pondered the difference between The Falls and The Park. Bot…

Update and Thanks

Thank you faithful friends who prayed for William and his mommy and daddy.

I hear that William is doing just fine and his mommy is doing very well too. They are still in separate hospitals, but Heather was getting a pass in order to go to William to breastfeed him, and tomorrow we pray that he can come to her hospital to stay until she is fully recovered.

Last night Susan and I had a quiet moment after cell group, and we read the Daily Light for William's birthday. The morning and evening both were wonderful, speaking of God's faithfulness, and the evening had these words, which were such a comfort:

Evening
If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.—“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”—“When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.”—“The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath a…

In Your Father's Hands

This is a photo of our newest little grandson, William Patrick Douglas Stewart. He had a bit of a rough start. His mom laboured long and hard, but when it was evident he was going into distress, he was finally delivered by emergency c-section. I caught this photo of him through the nursery glass with his father's wedding-ringed hand reaching out to touch him.
Only a few hours old, little William was having trouble breathing, so they sent a team up from Sick Kids to assess him and decide whether he should be transferred to another hospital. Just now I got a text message from Andrew that reads simply...
"We need you to take care of Heather. I'm going to Southlake with William."
I texted back, "I'm on my way."
So little William is to be separated from his mom already, who loves him more than life. How hard that must be for her. But his father will be with him and that will be some comfort to her, I know. As we four grandparents peeped through that nursery wind…

Devoted

By Belinda

This little song that God gave me a while ago, and the scriptures and verse from the hymn, I the Lord of Sea and Sky (one of Mum's favourite hymns,) are precious to me and I pray that they will speak to you as they do to me today:

Leviticus 27:21 (New International Version)
21 When the field is released in the Jubilee, it will become holy, like a field devoted to the LORD;...

I long to be to you, my King
A field devoted to the Lord
For you my soul and spirit sing
For you my heart beats and I cling
To you alone

I long to have my heart ploughed deep
A field devoted to the Lord
The hardened clods of clay that sleep
Awoken, broken, in his keep
For him alone

Belinda, Feb. 2008

2 Chronicles 7:14 (New International Version)
14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

2 Chronicles 16:9 (New International Version)
9 For the eyes of the…

Taking Hills

It's not that my life is a battleground exactly, but I have found myself thinking a lot lately about the "taking of hills," which is military terminology, I think. I've actually found it a helpful mental image, as if ground gained is ground I want to keep and defend.

It might be, for instance, a pound lost in the battle of the bulge. Or it could be substituting a new habit for an unhelpful old one. Whatever small victory I have just won, on my mind's eye I see myself planting a flag on a hill with the a word or number to symbolize it.

My flags are decorated with my own coat of arms, with four quadrants, representing the four most important areas of my life. Distilling the important things down to four, for someone like me, is a very good thing and helps me develop focus. I can approach life like a book-aholic in a book store, intoxicated with the smell and feel of so many books, so many choices, and wanting to fill my shopping cart with far more than I could hope t…

A Vote to be Counted

By Belinda

My friend Irene remembered this post from last October and we laughed about it last week. I hope you enjoy reliving this story about Brenda and "a vote to be counted."

It was cell group night and the big back room hummed with conversation and laughter as we shared a meal.

Around the big, oval table, there were three generations of our family, and friends who had gathered to do a study after supper.

Brenda was still dressed in a suit jacket and skirt as she hadn’t changed since coming home from work. She was animatedly telling a funny story from her day, when we heard the distant chime of the doorbell from the front of the house.

I opened the door to find a canvasser from one of the main political parties, holding a clipboard. A young girl that looked like she might be his daughter was with him. He wanted to verify the people he had on his list as residing in our home and also asked if we planned to vote in the upcoming election.

I quickly confirmed the names, and said t…

The Letter

By Belinda
The dog days of summer are here and it is a sultry, sunny afternoon after church as ten of us tuck in our chairs around our long, sturdy, pine dinner table. Three generations, eating pizza and salad, laughing, talking loudly and simultaneously, and glad in each other's company; celebrating this moment--the now.

Later, in a quieter moment, I show our daughter-in-law Sue, a letter written to Dad in 1956, by a man he met in Germany when he was there ten years earlier with the British Army of the Rhine, Ernst Moller, and we are transported back to an earlier generation of family and an enigmatic glimpse into connections with another time and place. The letter is a treasure.

If you, faithful readers, will forgive me jumping back in time in our journey, I will transcribe the letter for you. I think you will find it interesting:

Ernst Moller,
Hamburg-Bergdorf,
Reinbekerweg 77,
Forsthaus

12th February 1956

My dear Christopher,
I am sure it was one of the greatest and most agreeable surpr…

Secret Admirer

By Belinda A secret admirer--that's what I was when I took the two pictures of a very young Paul. He was just 19 then, and working on a church we were building in Redditch. Note, I only took photos of his back. I was much too shy to boldly take one from the front. And he had no idea how besotted with him I was.
I still love taking photos when he isn't looking, like the one of him above, digging in the garden with our granddaughter Victoria.
43 years have past since the first two photos were taken, but at 62 years old now, Paul spent this morning and several days over the past couple of weeks, working alongside a bunch of men, women and some of the youth at our church; digging, carrying bricks, and laying interlocking stone. They have been building a ramp so that the church will be accessible and a beautiful garden walled garden. Things haven't changed much in 43 years. He works hard and pushes his body beyond exhaustion when he has set his mind to a goal.
I am thankful that …

Explore the Roar

by Meg


We paid our admission to the Maid of the Mist and got into line with hordes of people at Niagara Falls. Complimentary postcards were thrust into our hands: Explore the Roar they said. A proclamation and a challenge. We were in for a little adventure. Since 1846 these little boats had been providing a thrill for those seeking to get a little closer to the greatest source of electrical power in the world. We were in for a roar all right. And a soak, I thought, as we donned our large blue ponchos, ready to look like oversize versions of those bags they put flyers in to throw them into our driveways.


Friendly line-mates compared Niagara thrills with us, agreeing this was the best. "There's a moment", this Kilimanjaro climber excitedly proclaimed, " when it really feels like you are coming into the presence of God". That's it! I thought. That's why we do things like this. We want a memorable experience that takes us closer to the author of natural wonde…

Does It Matter?

by Susan

I approach the restaurant in the gathering dusk, grateful to be grabbing a couple of hours away from our crazy lifestyle while Ron and I calmly, and quietly reconnect. Someone else is doing the cooking and cleaning up the dishes tonight. Hallelujah.

I was careful to notice all kinds of details around me, things I would mostly have normally ignored. How many cigarette butts around the front door? Was all the signage properly lit? Were the windows clean? How long, in seconds, did it take the hostess to seat us? Did the server put down the prescribed napkin on the table and did she tell us her name as she greeted us? Did she mention all of today's specials? How long did it take for our drinks to arrive at the table after ordering? Were they the proper temperature and appealing in their presentation? Were there any lights burnt out in the dining room? Was there any kitchen staff in the dining room? Was it apparent which of the employees was the manager? Was the server wearing t…

Serious Parenting

From Belinda's Archives

I lounged in a comfortable, wing back chair in our big sunny room at the back of the house, chatting with my brother on the phone. As usual, we laughed a lot.

“It’s good to look to a funny side of things if you can,” said Robert. Reflecting on the past, he said,“I always took myself too seriously.”

I’d been sharing a funny conversation that I’d had with some friends the week before. We were talking about how much has changed in one generation, when it comes to bringing up children.We remembered the amount of freedom kids had a few years ago. We would leave the house in the morning and maybe drop back in for lunch; or maybe not. Nobody worried too much. Parents knew that you were with friends and would come home eventually.

Someone said that his mother used to lock him out of the house. As people compared notes, it seemed that this was not an uncommon practice! One person after another said, “Yes, my mother did that too.” Some mothers did it to clean the house; …

The Challenge

By Belinda

Sometimes God speaks on many levels, driving home a message loud and clear. Sunday morning was one of those times.

Before I left for church I read a blog post written by my friend Dave Hingsburger, in which he wrote in frustration about the deification of a soccer player:

What makes him a God?
According to the women interviewed: he's hot.
According to the men interviewed: he's rich.
Yeah, that's what I want in my God. I have need of a cute guy who can kick balls with incredible accuracy when I'm in the depths of despair. Yeah, I really want a God, who looks good in ripped jeans when I'm struggling to make it through my day.
How shallow have we become?


His question, "How shallow have we become?" challenged me. I get so caught up in trivia and forget the truly important.

I was singing on the worship team that morning and got to church early for our practice. Frances, my friend who is also on the team, said she'd been thinking about the Marvin Gaye so…

The Start of a New Chapter

By Belinda

We lived for a year in a room at the back of the Old School House where Dad grew up, in Hagley with my grandmother Lucy, just down the road from the house that had been ours for the previous 3 years.

When we moved to Alvechurch at the end of that year, we left behind the beautiful Clent Hills, through which we often walked with Dad. He had known the hills from boyhood. Sometimes Robert and went into the woods with our friends. Although we were strictly forbidden to go beyond a certain two trees that Mum could see from the window, of course we did. The hills held secret places like the Temple of Theseus, the first accurate copy of a Greek building in England. We just called it "the temple." There was also a "ruined" castle. Although both of these were meant to look ancient, they weren't really, but still, they were 200 years old--not that we knew anything of that at the time.

Once, while in the woods with Robert and some friends, I took off my shoes and …

Snow Day in Summer

By Belinda
It was a strangely hot day, in a summer that has been unusually cool. I wanted to take my golden boy for a walk, but as I left at 7.00 in the evening, Paul warned me not to go as far as usual--there was a severe weather warning in effect.
We set out, walking quickly. I thought that if I could just make it to the park and back, that would be a good run for both of us. I noticed the hush and the heat, and the darkening clouds overhead, but kept going. I had an umbrella in case the rain hit before we got home.
As we approached the park I felt reassured by the row of cars parked along the edge of the green. It meant a soccer game was going on. But as I got closer I realized that no one was on the field and the cars were pulling out, one by one. They were more sensible than I.
I turned around as lightning flashed and thunder rumbled ominously. As we raced for home the first drops fell and I raised my umbrella. Seconds later the rain had progressed from drops to shower, to sheets b…

No Post?!!

Hi Everyone,

Let me first of all assure you that Belinda is okay this time. No emergency surgery or anything like that. It's just that Bond Head, where Belinda lives and writes from, is one of those places that lost its electrical power in the thunderstorm last evening. I just spoke to her. She asked me to let everyone know that all is well. She has a day off today and no doubt her regular "Monday" blog will be up as soon as that power goes back on.

I think it's kind of cool that we've been talking about "sabbath" at our cell group on Thursday nights and comparing it to having a snow day - when everything quiets down and all the activity ceases. Well, it's not a snow day, exactly, (about as far from it as you can get, weather-wise!) but the power is out - no television, no computer, no cooking. It must be summertime's substitute for that snow day.

Happy Sabbath, Belinda!

Susan.

Hope Springs Eternal

Tonight I am feeling very tired, so I am posting one of Susan's posts, from March last year. Enjoy! I did.

by Susan Stewart

The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. Ecclesiastes 1:6

I like surprises. So I don’t usually bother with listening to weather reports. I do enjoy listening to people talk about the weather, though. Especially during our Canadian winters. I almost always chuckle to myself when someone complains about the snow and cold. What do people expect living here in the Great White North?Well, my philosophy is to expect nothing. Not before May 1st, anyway. I don’t look for spring until it is long past due, and you know what? I’m never disappointed. In fact, every upturn in the mercury feels like an unexpected – and undeserved – blessing.

Last night late, as I left my car by the laneway and walked tired up the long sidewalk toward our old farmhouse, I felt a strange and unexpected sensation. Out of the darkne…

Real Wealth

by Meg

I've been hearing, reading, and talking a lot about wealth lately. When I was preparing for my garage sale last week I listened to a CBC program about money and happiness, and the correlation or lack of between the two. A famous Canadian Christian multibillionare said he was no happier or less happy than he was when he began his business, and still lives in the same house he had back then. A saliva test survey discovered that many people who have more money show much more of the stress hormone cortisol in their saliva. They also feel guilty about their wealth. Longstanding Christian friends who visited recently were expressing concern about how the prosperity gospel is creeping into a movement they had formerly respected. Their summation of that gospel was that one gives to get something for oneself, to get more - the actual epitome of a worldly mindset that is against the true giving, freedom from care attitude of Jesus and His followers.

There were a number of years in my y…

There is No Condemnation

by Susan

"Can I have a sleepover?"

Those are words that are sweet to my ears. To me, they mean that one of my grandsons next door knows that his Mommy'sMum's house, just down the laneway, is a welcome place for him, a place he feels safe enough to sleep over at without his parents being in the same house.

I decided a long time ago that I wanted our home to be a "haven" to our grandchildren. I wanted to cultivate a place where each one felt safe to be exactly who God made them to be, where they could be comfortable in their own skin because everyone around them is comfortable with them too. I wanted it to be a place free from criticism, where they always felt like they were understood, or at least a serious attempt was being made to hear and to understand.

I'm not sure I've always succeeded with that ideal, but sometimes I think we've come close. Like this morning...

Mike and Beth (the parents of those boys next door) are borrowing our camper for two …