Saturday, October 31, 2009

November

I sit inside and listen to the boisterous wind out in the dark night, blowing with all its might, buffeting trees and the houses.

Our house is snug, airtight and cosy; it feels more so as I listen to the peaceful ticking of the clock in between the gusts. The wind sounds as though it is racing across the fields to the stand of trees on the top of the hill, and back again.

The crunch of leaves and the scent of their decay, mixing with that of woodsmoke; the vivid, gaudy colours; it is all so beautiful and sad at the same time.

This weekend October ends and November begins. In my loft room this evening I found a lovely little poem from thr Ontario Reader's "Second Book." entitled:
November

The leaves are fading and falling,
The winds are rough and wild,
The birds have ceased their calling;
But let me tell you my child,

Though day by day, as it closes,
Doth darker and colder grow,
The roots of the bright red roses
Will keep alive in the snow.

And when the winter is over
The boughs will get new leaves;
The quail will come back to the clover,
And the swallow back to the eaves.

The robin will wear on his bosom
A vest that is bright and new,
And the loveliest wayside blossoms
Will shine with the sun and dew.

The leaves today are whirling,
The brooks are all dry and dumb;
But let me tell you, my darling,
The spring will be sure to come.

By Alice Cary

Thursday, October 29, 2009

This Good Day

by Susan

It was an incredibly busy day. One need piled on top of another duty plowed into by countless interrruptions which could not be filed this time under "p" for procrastination. It all ended with a satisfying sense of "it is finished", knowing that much was accomplished, even if there was still much more left to come back to tomorrow.

As the flashing red lights of the fire truck faded into the distance (yes, a day like today HAD to be crowned with a false alarm and a visit from our local volunteer fire department!) I closed the door to my office, said goodnight to some of the wonderful people who had seasoned my day, and headed to Jane and Barb's where the cell group had agreed to meet for dinner this week at Jane's kind invitation. That was so that Belinda would be freed up to go to the shower of my newest grandson, William, instead of preparing dinner and leading the cell group as she would normally have done of a Thursday evening.

It was wonderful turn of events... I was the last to arrive at Jane and Barb's. I let myself in the front door and took off my shoes. As they fussed in the kitchen, I saw a strange sight. Belinda sitting on the couch relaxing while dinner was being prepared for her and without her!

We feasted on roast beef with roasted potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, pickled beets and - because it would not be cell group without them - corn and peas and fresh bread, all lovingly prepared by Jane, who presided over the meal from the head of the table while Barb made sure everything was passed, and collected the plates to put into the dishwasher. Dinner conversation was lively and every morsel enjoyed, right down to the lemon (without meringue this time!) pie, which was amazingly yellow due to a secret ingredient of Jane's, and amazingly good.

I mentioned the indoor pool and rec. centre which I had passed along the road on this my first visit to their subdivision and a tour was quickly organized by Jane. We convoyed through their neighbourhood, saw the house which they had bought and fixed up and is now on the market, before thankyou's and goodbyes and Belinda transferred her things from Paul's car to mine so she and I could then drive to the shower together.

I think showers, baby, wedding, whatever, are a most wonderful invention. It was a singularly good feeling to see the collection of womanhood in that room, there to bless this newest addition to the church family and to be part of that shower of love. Caroline, our hostess, moved the coffee table out of the way so the four babies would have more room to play with the moms and grandmothers all surrounding them.

Little William was well-initiated into the community with lots of love and laughter and more great food, not to mention the pile of gifts - thoughtful, practical, a bit of opulence - every category was covered.

We said our goodnights and then I chauffered Belinda home over the hills and dales between Tottenham and Bond Head past darkened fields and ghostly farms. I turned down her offer to see "the room" which her daughter-in-law Sue has been painting, because I knew I would be back in the morning for a meeting of her team at her house and she still had much to do to prepare. As did I!

As I sit here and look back over the day, I realize more than ever that God packed much to be thankful for in the last 18 hours or so. I am glad for the grace with which it was started as I was able to seize some quiet moments with him - turning over the day, and even then knowing it would be impossible to fit all I needed to do into those hours. As I committed my schedule to him, I rested in a confidence born of experience, that he would order my steps and somehow I would have all the time I needed, and just barely, to do all that was essential. And that is exactly what happened.

It was a good day. A very good day.

I wonder what blessing of grace tomorrow will bring?

A Place of Hospitality

Creating a place of hospitality can be such a gift to others. I love doing it, and when I am on the receiving end, I appreciate it so much too. There is much that I could write on this topic, but I am here late again tonight and don't want to face the world looking like a red eyed Hallowe'en monster, so I will just share another little snippet from my loft room.

It is a "rune:" an Anglo Saxon word meaning a poem with a mysterious or magic significance. This rune happens to be a "Rune of Hospitality."

I saw a stranger yestreen,
I put food in the eating place
Drink in the drinking place
Music in the listening place
And, in the sacred name of the Triune,
He blessed myself and my house,
My cattle and my dear ones,
And the lark said in her song,
Often, often, often,
Goes the Christ in teh strangest guise,
Often, often, often,
Goes the Christ in the strangest guise.

Hebrews, Chapter 13:2
Some have entertained angels unawares

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Keeper of the Springs

The mystery of who wrote beautiful the words that I quoted in yesterday's post about letters, is solved.

This evening after supper I went back into the loft room to continue the sorting and sifting, but not very much throwing out I'm afraid. I found one of my most treasured books, Keeper of the Springs, by Ingrid Trobisch with Marlee Alex. The quote is from that book, and is by Katrine Stewart, who is the author's daughter.

The somewhat beaten up, poor book itself was given to me five years ago by Susan, my dear friend, who bought it for the princely sum of something like a dollar, because she believed I fit the author's definition of a "keeper of the springs." I believe that she is right!

Ingrid writes:
The things in my home are not collector's junk, the result of hoarding or cocooning: they are my lifeblood. "Just throw it away" people might say of certain objects, broken and mended. But because these things have been wounded in action, they are precious to me.

Brokenness is a symbol of some new value. A crack or chip or missing piece denotes that someone touched this, someone used it once upon a time. Each patch or dent says, there is a story here, another chapter in the context of our family history.

Ingrid Trobisch is a kindred spirit. My loft room is full of things that remind me of people, some of them people that no one else remembers. It feels like a sacred charge to remember them and keep some token, no matter how small, to represent the fact that they were here once. I cherish their memory and love to bring them to life again in story.

So, in the spirit of doing exactly that, I would like to share a wise and philosphical poem that I love, written by a Jewish man, the father of one of the group of people with disabilities with whom we lived for almost ten years.

This and That

If you have THIS--you can't have THAT
That's how life works with me,
It seems we can't have everything--it was not meant to be,
That we should gather to ourselves the whole of life's delight--
There must be something missing--just to spur us to the fight.
There'll always be a heartache in the triumphs that we gain;
In every thrill of pleasure there's a little stab of pain,
For absent ones, for chances lost, regrets, what might have been,
Some blot upon the landscapes of the fairest scene.
'Tis better so, for only thus we learn Life's deepest truth,
We cannot find fulfilment in the ecstacy of youth.
Having this--don't sigh for that, that's life, and it's God's way,
You can't have both...so take with joy, the blessings of today.

Michael Myers, February 2nd, 1965; age 79

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Letters

Inspired by my daughter-in-law Sue, who was here painting for us on the weekend, I spent time up in our loft room this evening, sorting through the mass of boxes, cards, letters and general mayhem that lurks up there in the dark.

Sue is so focused. She works hard and gets a job finished. Oh, how I admire people like that. I dilly and dally, and stop along the way to read things.

I have been sorting up there for several months now. I wouldn't want you to think I haven't, but really, I feel that I should have a lot more to show for the time I've spent up there.

Sue is coming back next weekend to paint another room, which means I need to empty it of a lot of stuff. There is no putting it off. And some of it will be going upstairs, which means there has to be room up there. So, buoyed by Sue's example, I took myself off to the loft this evening.

A leopard doesn't change its spots, so I think I read every piece of paper that passed through my hands, but I finished carefully archiving decades of letters. What memories they brought back, and what windows they were into a moment in time. I noticed that around the year 2000, the stream of letters began to diminish. Email had become the preferred means of communication. But as I read the letters, I realized that something precious was lost in the transition.

In the front of one of the binders in which I have stored my letters, I typed out a quote but unfortunately omitted the author's name. It so beautifully describes the lost art of letter writing that I saved it and will share it here:

There are many kinds of letters, including the obligatory and those you can't wait to sit down and write. In letters you explore the landscape of your soul and reveal it to a friend. Relating external events is fine and dandy, but is merely the ever-changing framework for another work of art being patiently completed within you. It takes courage and a quiet hour to find accurate words to describe your inner picture.

Allow the outer events of your life to lead you inward. What has caused you joy, pain, or anger? A strong emotion you are willing to explore and articulate will lead you to an inner landscape. Emotions are good signposts along the journey.

Sometimes the letter received from a friend wraps the soul in a warm blanket. Even the envelope is lovingly addressed by hand, the stamp carefully chosen and placed.

It's easy to sift such letters from the daily avalanche of mail and patiently wait for the first uninterrupted moment to open such a treasure. Reading it is like opening a window with a striking view. What a luxury to think a thought and to end with pen and paper!

I will close this post with a poem I found in the loft, written by my dad. I found many poems in up there written by Paul's dad, too. His were inspirational and spiritual. My dad's tended to be whimsical and quirky and often with a bit of Black Country dialect thrown in. Here is one of them:

Now stir yourself, for write you must
Ya brains do now't but gather dust
Your daughter said, "Now Dad just think
Take up your pen and use some ink.

Excuses none, now you've retired
Nothing to do to get you tired
So grab your pen and to me just write
Perhaps, perchance, you'll shed some light."

Christopher L. Cater


I think that blogs have become the modern letter. They lack only the handwritten envelope and carefully chosen stamp but they can be a way of exploring "the landscape of your soul " and revealing it to friends.
Perhaps the art of the letter is not completely lost.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Congratulations are in Order!

One of our faithful readers: Dave Hingsburger, of Rolling Around in My Head is today being inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame in the Builder category for his work in the field of disabilities.

Dave has been a colleague for 25 years. I treasure his friendship and admire him tremendously for the courage, integrity and humility he brings to his work. He has made a difference to more lives than can be imagined and continues to inspire, challenge and teach a whole new generation of staff and families.

Congratulations Dave!

In the Spring of the Year

Our first winter in Canada was an intensely colourful crazy quilt of first experiences.

We spent it waiting for the cold to come, but with our tough British blood, we never did feel as cold as we expected. I mean, we had been sent out into school playing fields in shorts throughout our childhood in the damp, cold winters of England, and were brought up to tough it out when we felt sick--even apologizing to doctors for "bothering" them if we should have need to seek out their services, which we rarely did. I don't think that was necessarily a good thing, but it was the way we were conditioned.

The cold may not have arrived with the intensity we expected, but the snow came early and we slogged through it from our apartment to our places of work, on foot every day--me to the ski and clothing store, Ardills; and Paul to a factory on Edward Street in Aurora.

As Christmas approached we were amazed and impressed by the Christmas lights that Canadians hung on their houses and trees and Paul's dad picked us up in his car sometimes to take us out cruising the neighbourhood to marvel at the fantastic, dazzling displays of blue, pink, white and traditional red and green lights, that shone in the dark night.

Paul's dad discovered Dairy Queen and was in love with their soft icecream. He could never keep a delicious discovery of any sort to himself (this is probably why he was a preacher) and he took to dropping by our apartment on Sunday afternoons with icecream cones.

It was our first Christmas as a married couple and I wondered if we would make it that far at first. I always loved cooking, but had never mastered the art of making gravy. I actually remember one argument when I shouted at Paul that if he wanted gravy he had obviously married the wrong girl; I didn't come with gravy. These things seemed important! We were both getting to know each other as man and wife, and wondering if we had known each other at all before.

As March arrived, we were taken, again by Paul's dad, to Bruce's Mill, to observe the production of maple syrup. This annual Canadian wonder, passed on by the First Nations people to the European settlers, amazed us. We tasted the sweet and distinct flavour of the syrup and I loved it and the maple sugar candy made into the shape of maple leaves.


I had become pregnant right away, before we even arrived in Canada, and to all of the other new experiences, this one was added. I was 19, an ocean away from Mum and missing her sorely, with letters our only contact.

I never did show very much during the pregnancy until the very end, and was able to keep working at the clothing store. My doctor really emphasized not gaining very much weight during pregnancy and I did my best to not gain more than 20lb. Nowadays doctors seem much more relaxed about that, which seems much healthier.

The baby was due in the second week of June, and to my great joy, Mum had booked a flight to Canada to coincide with the baby's due date. She was coming for three months and I looked forward so very much to having her with us.

As it happened, the baby had other ideas, and one Friday night in May, after I had been on the bumpy Aurora town bus, my waters broke in my inlaw's bathroom.

I told Paul I thought I needed to get to the hospital, as I started to have labour pains, so he took me to Newmarket, where they checked me out and decided to keep me in overnight. They told Paul that probably nothing was going on, and that he could go home and call in the morning.

Paul took them at their word, went home, had a good night's sleep, and in the morning he busied himself, painting the trim on his parent's house. Eventually he thought he should call the hospital and see when he could pick me up.

I had been in labour since he left the night before and as soon as he knew that he headed right to the hospital. At 3.00 in the afternoon on May 23rd, I gave birth to a6lb 4oz baby boy. He was very tiny, being early and perhaps because of the doctor's focus on not gaining weight, but the nurses commented on his long feet and said that it looked like he'd be a police officer.

When they laid this tiny human being on my stomach, I was overwhelmed by the strength of the protective maternal instinct that seemed to have arrived along with him. Normally a peaceful person, I knew that I would do serious violence to anyone who tried to harm him.

It was exactly 9 months to the day from our wedding day when he was born. In less than a year I had become a wife, a mother and a landed immigrant. On June 1st, I turned 20.

After just four days in the hospital they gave the tiny, fragile, vulnerable baby, to two total greenhorn parents and let us take him home. Didn't they know that we really, really, knew nothing about being parents?

The first night with him in our apartment, I lay awake listening to make sure he kept breathing. Small baby noises came from across the room, and every time it went quiet, I got up to check that he was okay.

The two of us were now the three of us; Peter, a future Force to be Reckoned With, had arrived.






Sunday, October 25, 2009

If We Don't Show Up...Who Will?

I just watched this video clip on one of my favourite blogs,written by a blog friend, Sharon Olson Olson Family It made me weep and made any challenges I experience seem very, very, small. What a powerful Sunday morning sermon.

A World of Our Own

By Belinda

It was Friday; the last day of a busy work week. I got up early after another late night. I tried to insert contact lenses into my tired eyes, but my eyeballs rebelled and repelled. It felt as though there were little men on my eyeballs throwing the lenses back at me, so I took the hint and put on my black rimmed glasses instead.

I am usually a compulsive listener: to radio, music or books on CD; but on Friday, as I drove in the gray early morning light to meet my friend and colleague, Irene, at a carpool, I chose not to break the peaceful silence inside my car.

The roar of air flowing through the heat vents and the hum of snow tires on pavement were a soothing backdrop to my thoughts. It felt good to bask in silence and allow my mind to rest completely.

It was a chilly, blustery morning, complete with a driving drizzle. I joined the other drivers circling the carpool like sharks in search of prey, but when I realized that Irene was not there yet, I tucked my car into a parking spot and enjoyed a few more quiet moments while I waited.

A tall man in a flapping raincoat, leaned into the wind as he ran towards a waiting bus, clutching a briefcase in one hand and holding his coat closed with the other, his face scrunched against the rain; but I sat warm inside my car...

In no time it was the end of the day, and since Irene was driving, I peered out and drank in the beauty as we sped along the highway towards home.

The day was still stormy and dark, and leaves swirled around the car, plucked from trees by the rollicking wind. I marveled at the loveliness of the colour scheme God chose for the day: gold of every shade, and gray, offset by the black of tree trunks and branches.

The deliciousness of Friday evening lay ahead. For Irene this meant butter chicken and naan bread take-out, from India Gate, and popcorn from Kernels in the mall; then a movie at home with her sister, Ann.

My plans were equally splendid in their laziness and involved leftovers from the night before (a delicious turkey pot pie) and a movie at home with Paul. I fell asleep during the movie, snuggled under a blanket, with my feet up in a wingback chair. Sweet surrender!

On Saturday morning, Peter called and laughed out loud when I read the post to him that I wrote earlier this week, about the conversation we had on getting enough rest: Finding the Balance.

He said that there must be a word for the particular sweetness that comes from returning advice given, but neither of us knew it; perhaps it needs to be invented since he seems bent on practicing it!

"You know what made it even better?" he said, "It was perfectly ripe. It was not so soon after the advice was given that returning it appeared vindictive, or so long after that the irony would be lost!"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," I thought, as he crowed in delight, "Here we go again."

Our Friday evening cocooning made me think of this old but good song by The Seekers.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Change of Season - Change of Pace

by Meg

I returned to Ontario to the signs of late fall and approaching winter. I got my snow tires put on and speculated about the days to come. I don't mind the rain, and the cozy feeling inside the house. It is home. All the time we were away in British Columbia I dreamed of home, our house by the river, our quieter pace. The hustle and bustle of so many places out there was a lot to contend with; I noticed how much it affected our friends. There were precious quiet moments - a walk on the beach, or by a rushing stream with salmon leaping and spawning. And most of our friends have quiet hearts in the midst of hectic lives. As I have, or seek to have.

Yet the addictive tendency to busyness is inside of me despite my quiet home and town. My whirling brain often doesn't allow me to settle at night. My plans for the future collide with each other as each day's demands compete. Reality checks come in various ways.

Such was what happened last week when I wasn't able to post on Saturday. I had been praying about whether or not I should continue to write my posts. Not because I don't love writing. And not because they take a lot of time to write. But they occupy brain space during the week: mulling over what would be relevant to say, wondering about what is really appropriate to share from my own life's experiences, past and present. By the time Friday evening came I had been planning to write and knew basically what I wanted to say. I had had internet access all week at moments in the places we were staying. Friday night's venue had been fine for that before. Then I discovered Thursday night that there was a new password for it. I got that Friday morning and got on fine - I fully expected to be able to get on later when we came home tired from our long day of driving and visiting.

For several hours I battled the system gaining an inch and losing it again, slipping in and out of access to the browser but never getting into this site. What was God saying? Eventually I had to let go, let the dreaded thing happen - I would not be able to fulfill my commitment to a Saturday morning post. By the time I got access in a restaurant mid morning B.C. time on Saturday Belinda had already posted on my behalf.

My reflection upon it all reached the conclusion that I really need that bit of brain space for my main focus. That I need to give up this opportunity to have more available energy and thought for the major plans God is calling me to. I realized, sadly, that it is time to say goodbye for now.

I told Belinda that when my life coaching business website is up and running, sometime in the new year, that I will have a blog on that, an opportunity to reflect in a way that has a devotional flavour and yet fits with the world of Christian life coaching, that world of purpose and passion, focus and faith. I asked if I might have a link to that blog on this site and she said that would be great.

A few days after that decision I saw the leaping, spawning, dying salmon. It was an amazing sight, so unexpected on that last day of our busy "holiday". I have pondered upon it as another sign...these salmon live out their life cycle and make some final courageous leaps upstream before they spawn their eggs and then die. It is as if my decision not to write these posts anymore is like those dying salmon...I have been swimming upstream for a long time, I have made some major leaps to bring about a new phase of my life, I have already deposited my spawn, sown my seeds, laid my eggs for this new season of my life. But if I am to go forward into it, I need to let that old part of me die, as the new part is being prepared for birth, in a new form.

So here I am. I am moving into a new season, changing my pace. I am letting go and moving on. It is bittersweet. This has been a precious time in my life. Writing these posts has been healing and strengthening. Getting feedback on how they have touched others has been affirming and deeply encouraging. But that is not enough to keep me in this "space". I have to embrace new things and to do that I have to let go of some former things. Thank you, dear readers, for sharing this space with me - for reading and commenting, for inviting me into your lives through your time and focus. May the Lord continue to bless us all as we trust Him for future days and ways. Bye for now.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Flexibility

By Susan

She’s a grown woman now with four children of her own, but she still remembers that snowy night when she was four. I remember it too, almost as well as she does...

The snow had started to fall softly around suppertime, just a few flakes here and there. By the time we were getting the children ready for bed a couple of hours later, it was coming down like cotton balls, heavy and wet. It was the perfect kind of snow for making snowmen, but there was only the thinnest layer of white just beginning to hide the dark green grass underneath and not deep enough yet. Maybe by morning...

I threw in a load of wash, picked up the toys, finished up the supper dishes, made lunches, and suddenly it was 10:30 and time for mommy to go to bed, too. I sat by the window in the pressback rocker that had rocked all four of my babies and would rock the ones yet to come, and I watched the snow fall. It’s lure was irresistible and I pulled my sweater tighter around me and stepped outside. I cherished these few moments in the late evening before going to bed each night. It was “my” time, and with the demands of a young and rapidly growing family, there was precious little of it.

The thermometer hovered just around freezing. The sounds of the world were muffled by the big snowflakes falling all around me. We had just bought our first house the previous summer and so we finally had our own yard. I thought about how much fun the children would have when they awakened and what a shame they weren’t awake right now. And never mind the children – this “first snow” was just as exciting and wondrous to me right now as it would be to them when they woke up to find the world transformed. And then, impulsively, I decided to make a memory.

I’m not sure why I chose this child of the four who were securely down for the night, but Christy was turning five that year, and I gathered up her snow things and took them into the room where she was fast asleep with her two sisters. Her older brother was asleep in the room down the hall, and her father in the room next to hers. I whispered and cuddled her awake with a promise of a surprise and helped her put her snow things on over her flannel nightgown before leading her through the darkened, quiet house to the front door.

“Snow!” she cried, her eyes shining in the darkness as I opened the front door.

“Surprise!” I said as quietly as I could in the hush of the night. “Let’s make a snowman!” I scooped up some snow in my hands and packed it into a ball. She stared at me in disbelief for a second or two (it was “the middle of the night” for her) and then shifted gears and began to roll the snowball I’d started for her into a bigger and bigger ball.

So then and there, in the middle Christy’s night, we made a snowman. It was the first snow of the season and the first snowman of our first house. A little girl lost an hour or so of sleep that night, but along with that snowman, a memory was made that would last a lifetime. Two lifetimes!


(See Belinda's "Friday Post" below!)

Friday!

Hi Friends,
It's Friday and you see no post! Susan is having technical difficulties--not sure if she'll be able to get her post out. It's ready to go but she had no internet.

I'm on the fly but you are all in my mind and heart as I fly off into Friday. God bless each and every friend, even though we don't know many of your faces. You are precious to us and we are honoured that you choose to read here.

Happy Friday, and may God carry you on his wings today.
Love,
Belinda

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Finding the Balance

By Belinda

Short post, dear readers, for reasons that will become obvious.

I'm here at the end of a 12 hour day that's not done yet and I'm wondering how to fly straight and true.

Last night our son called and when I told him I'd just got home and he began...

He began repeating my own words back to me; the words I'd said to him just weeks ago, when worried about him and his work load, I had urged him to take care.

He had said to me then, "But Mom, I come by it honestly. You and Dad both struggle with this."

And I had said to him, "No Peter, I don't do that anymore. I have learned that I need to hold firm to the line, and you must too, because we love you and care."

So Peter took delight last night in laughing at me, and teasing; catching me out, he thought.

I said, "Oh, stop it, here's your dad, you called for him didn't you?"

But it's not so easy to stem the tide. The tide of meetings and paper and deadlines and follow up.
Yikes! Every meeting has follow up.

It's not so easy to fit it all into 8 hours.

But then I see faces, beautiful faces, and eyes of all colours, looking back into mine; those of colleagues, people on my team, parents of people I support in my work and the people supported themselves. And the hours invested seem so worth it.

So this is the day to work hard and long. There will be time to rest tomorrow...

I have to. Peter is watching. :)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cool is That God Loves Me

Cool is that God Loves Me
By Angcat (from the archives 4/1/09)

Is God a man that He should lie?
Is He a hero in the sky?
Does He love me for my clothes,
My style of hair or size of nose?
Or am I cool because I'm made,
In His own image, that won't fade?

These thoughts came to me a few weeks ago after my 5 year old and I had a conversation that went something like this...

"Hey buddy, it's time to pick your school clothes for tomorrow. How about these ones?"

('These ones' being a cool, blue, sporty set that kind of looked like a soccer warm up outfit).

"No I don't want those ones, my friends don't like them", he said.

"Why not", I asked, puzzled, "What's not to like, these are cool clothes?"

"They don't have pictures or designs on the pants, so they're not cool" was his response, and he refused to wear them.

Five years old and already the pressure to wear the "right" clothes.

So I said gently to him "Honey, it's not what you wear that makes you cool. You are cool because you belong to God. You are the King's kid. It's not what's on your body that makes you important, but Who lives in your heart. And if your friends comment about your clothes, you can let them know that you like them and that's what matters".

I hate peer pressure. And I was aghast that it was starting to hone in on these children at such a tender age. The giver of the comment is just as vulnerable as the receiver, as he has also bought into the idea that a person's clothes are worthy of his scrutiny. And who sets the standard anyway. Where did this child learn that logos or designs on the pants make them more worthy of approval, and conversely how do kids get the idea that they can go to a friend and place a judgement on what they are wearing. Yes I'm concerned. It may all be innocent preferences, but this is where it all starts, right. When my son was first given these clothes, he loved them and wore them as a first choice, now he doesn't want to wear the pants to school.

So now, I want to start a movement.It'll be called "In God's Image", or "Cool Hearts", or "Let's All Wear Hand Me Downs", or maybe "Not What You Wear, But Who You Know".

You get my drift. How do we spare these little ones the pain and pressure of trying to measure up in a world that says you only matter if you've got the right label on your back, or feet, or wherever.

It's our job as parents to guide, comfort and mold little hearts to hear that strong, quiet voice, that whispers a cry of love and acceptance just because.

"Because you're mine", I hear Him say (rather like in a Max Lucado story).

"I bought you with a great price. I gave my whole life for you little one", as He enfolds a small hand in His strong carpenter one.

"I love you always dear one" he murmurs into the little face gazing up at Him, eyes as bright as stars and full of wonder.

And just like the dots and stars in Lucado's story of Punchinello, other people's opinions will fall off, if we teach them to press in to the heart of their Maker.

I think I'll do a children's book about Covering. Covering is Who we're covered by, not what we're covered with. That's a right perspective. I'm still working on it in my own life too. It must be a life long journey.

Dear Father God,
Thank you that You look on the heart, not on the outside where man looks. Sometimes that's scary because what's in there isn't so nice and I'd rather that You just see the external me that I've prepared for humanity. Yet there's a deep rest and assurance in the fact that You see and love me, spotty heart and all and haven't finished working on it yet.
Please help our children as they navigate this world of external expectations. May they turn their hearts to the eternal and find the Truth and the Life and the Way that You are.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Race

Drawing by Tiffany-Amber Adams (11 years old)


By Belinda

I love each of the six precious grandchildren that God has blessed us with, as well as our assorted Godchildren. It is so interesting watching their personalities and gifts develop and to have a part in affirming and celebrating the wonderful individual that each one of them is.

They all march to the beat of their own drum, but none more than Tiffany-Amber. From earliest childhood, one of her preferred activities was imitating animals.

Brenda used to be beside herself with this little girl who scampered around the house in monkey mode, and who almost seemed to morph into the animal she was imitating. She can make the sounds of animals and calls of birds and when she does so, she enters into it with her whole being.

Although I was in awe at her abilities, I did wonder, how this skill could be used in the adult world!

Tippy, now 11, has had some real struggles fitting into the world of school, and even with additional supports to compensate for identified challenges, reading and writing are hard and she is well behind her peers. But oh, can she draw!

In her drawings there is life and personality in the creatures on the page and I suddenly can see all sorts of applications for her ability to "be" an animal. Perhaps she will work in animation or developing virtual reality software; perhaps she will work in advertising or use her art in some other way--the possibilities are endless.

One thing I know from experience: God has a plan for our lives. And if we follow his lead it is often surprising what he has in store for us.

I read these verses in the Daily Light for October 7th, and they reminded me that God's definition of a successful life can be very different to ours and he often uses the most unlikely and weakest candidates to do his work.

Ecclesiastes 9:11 (New Living Translation)
11 I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives...

Proverbs 16:9 (New Living Translation)
9 We can make our plans,
but the Lord determines our steps.

Monday, October 19, 2009

First Quarter

By Belinda

I left our family story last week at the end of 1967, happily connected at last with my true love and soul mate, Paul.

I have written already about our engagement, in June of 1968, and marriage in August 1969, so I will continue the story now, by remembering the quarter year of our life in Canada.

The photo below was taken on our honeymoon in Holland. I was just 19 and Paul 22 and we had only just begun.

We arrived in Canada with our wedding presents and the modest contest of my "bottom drawer" (which is what we used in England instead of a Hope Chest) in an orange crate. We had less than two hundred dollars to keep us going until we found work.

The second photo was taken a couple of months after our arrival in Canada, when some distant relatives of Paul's who had emigrated decades earlier, threw a wedding shower for us. The concept of a shower of gifts was foreign to us, but we felt truly lavished upon. I had discovered that I was pregnant within our first week in Canada, just as it was dawning on us that it might be a good idea to wait and get established first. Although it was hopelessly impractical the way we plunged into life together, what we would have missed had we been more circumspect. We were grateful for the help we received from many kind people.


We made our first home in a one bedroom basement apartment in Aurora, Ontario. We had not a stick of furniture, except the orange box, but we the apartment superintendent gave us a coffee table left behind by a previous tenant, and they sold us a table and chairs and a bed that they had in storage, telling us that we could pay as soon as we could afford to.

Paul soon found a job in a factory. He wasn't happy there but we managed to scrape by with the money he earned, and I too, started work in a clothing store.

We had landed in Canada in October. We came equipped with sweaters I had knitted and warm underwear. We knew that the winter ahead would be much colder than an English winter. We didn't expect that we would be far too warm to wear all of this heavy equipment but that was what happened. We were used to the damp cold and draughty houses of England. In Canada our apartment had central heating and double glazed windows. We sweltered through our first winter!

The snow came early that year, and one morning before the end of October we woke up to find snow several inches deep outside our basement windows. We couldn't afford a telephone or car, and walked everywhere. Paul's parents, sisters and brother, who had emigrated with us, rented a house a couple of miles away in the same town. They had a car and would pick us up for church on Sunday.

To ease her loneliness, Mum wrote to me every single night, recounting the events of her day. It helped her to "talk" to me in writing. She mailed the letters faithfully, twice a week and also sent English magazines each week. Those letters, full of the small details of life, kept me connected with home, but I was still intensely homesick.

As Christmas approached, we bought our first turkey. I had no idea how to cook it. Someone told me to rub it with salt before cooking. I didn't understand that they meant inside the bird and so I rubbed it all over outside with salt. In spite of that it turned out to be quite tasty. I hosted Christmas dinner that year for ourselves and Paul's family, seven of us, all missing friends and family back home very acutely.

Of course, being English, I had an umbrella, which I used when it snowed at first, until I realized that people were laughing at me.

Each week we would walk to the IGA to buy our groceries and treat ourselves to a new delicacy--a toasted bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. We had never had these at home and loved them.

Everything tasted different, even foods that were the same brand that we could buy in England, and we missed many familiar things, but there were other things that we embraced, such as donut shops.

My heart was still at home in England, and being pregnant for the first time and so far from Mum was not easy, but the ladies at the store where I worked were kind and eased the ache of homesickness.

1970 and a whole new decade started. What lay ahead we didn't know, but we knew the one who did.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Holding the Line

By Belinda (Meg has not been able to post today, so I am posting Sunday's post early. Perhaps, God needed this message to be here for someone today. Blessings friends.)

Hold the line
"To maintain the existing position or state of affairs"

I leaned over Paul, who sat in the window seat, and strained to see what he was pointing out to me--the C.N. Tower and Lake Ontario, then the streets with which we are so familiar. In other words: "home."

It was a beautiful, bracingly crisp and sunny, when we flew into Toronto this past Tuesday afternoon. The sky was a cloudless, deep blue, and below us we could see that we had not missed the brilliant fall colours, as the tree tops blazed red, orange and gold. It had been so good to be totally relaxed and luxuriate in family and friend time in England, but now it felt wonderful to be back home.

We both had work the next day, and I was up early, still running on British time. It was a good thing, because when I clicked on my automatic car starter, intending to give it time to defrost the windows, there was a scary squealing sound and smoke issued from beneath the hood. I opened the driver's side door and lo, smoke was streaming in from every opening on the dashboard. "Turn it off!" shouted Paul, in dismay, "It might catch fire next." Oh, and one of the rear tires was flat.

So began my first day back, but, I was only momentarily panicked and Paul and I, a tow truck driver and our Honda dealership, worked out how to navigate the next couple of days and I am now back on wheels.

At work, the pace picked up immediately I hit the ground, and I felt something I hadn't felt for a while; an intensity that I knew I needed to push back against.

I decided that, not just for my own sake, but also for the sake of the team of wonderful leaders that I lead, I needed to hold tight to peace, to fight for it if necessary. And that's what it felt like--a literal battle, to "hold the line," a term I think of as military. I realize that I am limited in what I can control environmentally, but I can work on my inner environment--my spirit and soul.

A devotion book that is feeding my soul of late, Peter Scazzero's The Daily Office, expressed my battle perfectly and I found myself underlining and circling several phrases (page 103:)

When we are busier than God requires, we do violence to ourselves:

"There is a pervasive from of contemporary violence...activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyyone in everything, is to succumb to violence...It kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful." Thomas Merton

The sections I underlined were:
To allow oneself; to surrender; to commit oneself; to succumb

All personal choices.

I choose peace. I choose to resist the violence that presses in from outside. I want those I work and play and live with to experience peace when they are in my presence. I want them to sense the Presence of God.

By God's grace, I am holding the line.

Psalm 63:7 (New Living Translation)
7 Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Message Without Words

by Susan

Bongo, Uncle Owen's dog was a wire haired terrier. I was fourteen years old the summer I met him. And as you can imagine, it was love at first sight. He was cute and playful - full of energy. And back then, so was I.

We were visiting at Uncle Owen's, my sister and I, and with Bongo on a red leather leash, we had walked down to the lake for a swim with a passel of younger cousins and their parents (our aunts and uncles). Uncle Owen didn't live quite on the lake. He was about a city block and a half away, but the subdivision he lived in cooperatively owned a lakefront lot, where he and his neighbours all had "beach rights".

It was a beautiful spot and I exulted in every moment we got to spend there. We crossed the highway that stretched along the lakeshore from Kingston and then went through the iron gate in the post and wire fence before following the path through the trees and down the slope to the dock. There was a swimming raft, maybe a hundred feet off shore, and we spent the better part of the afternoon diving off the raft, climbing back up and diving back in again. We were probably exhausted, but I still felt like it was way too early to be heading back to the house for supper. I could have stayed down there from dawn to dusk. But that wasn't allowed without adults and adults had responsibilities. And so we had to leave.

Parents gathered up beach toys and wrapped our shivering cousins in brightly coloured beach towels for the walk back to the house. Uncle Owen carried his youngest child, 1 year old Craig on his shoulders, and took his four year old daughter by the hand. I was only too glad to help out by taking Bongo's leash. No-one had to ask. I loved having the opportunity to be in charge of the dog. There was a total of 12 of us who snaked our way single file along the pathway to the gate. Uncle Owen opened the gate and then waited until everyone else was through before closing it behind us.

I can still hear the screech of the tires and the gasps of horror, as little Bongo darted away from me and onto the highway we were about to cross. I was holding his leash, but not tightly enough. When he broke into a run unexpectedly and tugged at the leash, it slipped out of my fingers. I can still see the tire of that car as it stopped just inches from the impetuous, but now terrified little dog and realized that I had come sickeningly close to causing his demise.
"What did you do THAT for?!" spat out one of the aunts, as though I weren't humiliated enough.
I wanted the shoulder of that highway to open up and swallow me whole. I wanted to die. And I'm not exaggerating. I wanted to die.
I looked up at Uncle Owen, who had by this time retrieved the leash and pulled Bongo back to the shoulder of the road where the rest of us were watching the drama unfold. The driver of the car waved in relief and drove on.
With everyone else in the party staring at me, I looked up at Uncle Owen, my eyes filled with tears of shame, and I mouthed the words, "I'm sorry."
His handsome face looked back at me. I loved this uncle with all my heart and even worse than the close call I had caused, was knowing that I had let him down. I waited for the words that I knew had to come. It bears repeating: I wanted to die.
Uncle Owen walked over to me and reached for my hand. He didn't say a word as he pressed Bongo's leash back into my palm. I closed my fingers around the leash disbelieving,as he squeezed his hand tightly around mine for an instant before letting go. Then he turned back toward the highway and looked both ways before leading the entourage across. I followed him - dumbfounded, and so full of feelings I could never attempt to identify them all, even now, some forty-three years later.
I don't remember what anyone said on that walk home. But I'll never forget what Uncle Owen said to me that afternoon without any words at all...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Maranatha

By Belinda

These photos are to accompany yesterday's post, "Kindred Spirits"




Kindred Spirits

By Belinda


In his forties, the older man invested time in a small boy who didn't fit a typical mould.

Their families lived on the same street in the town--one family gospel hall, the other pentecostal--a common faith, but expressed in very different ways.

The little boy questioned authority and rules that made no sense to him. This resulted in anger, frustration and frequent punishment from an adult world in a generation that expected children to be respectfully obedient and meekly silent. He would not be silenced or broken; not an easy child to raise, but one in whom God had planted seeds of tenacity, leadership and determination.

Mr. Atkinson had no axe to grind; made no demands of submission. He talked to the boy man to man, treating him with respect, offering friendship and companionship.

Perhaps in the boy, Mr. Atkinson saw the boy he had been. He had a colourful past, growing up in poverty and in a rough neighbourhood. He and his friends had once broken into a shoe shop and distributed the shoes to people that needed them. The police caught the boys, but when they found out what had become of the stolen shoes, they weren't charged.

The little shoe thief became a man who loved God and had a passion to let others know about him. During the week he worked in an alloy factory, where the pounding noise cost him his hearing. Every Saturday he would push a cart filled with tracts, books and records for sale, up to Redditch market. The boy, Paul, loved to go with him.

On the way the man would talk to the boy about Bible prophesy, explaining that the Jesus who came 2000 years ago, was coming again. He told the boy of the signs in the world that his coming could not be far away. The boy listened and learned. His own father, a pentecostal minister, was also convinced of the near return of Jesus; this was one thing they agreed on.

The boy looked after the wagon and took care of sales while Mr. Atkinson handed out tracts and talked to people in the market. He would also take books and records to his own church, for people who had ordered them.

Over the years Mr. Atkinson never failed to send us a Christmas card, until; only two years ago, after a fall, when he gave it up. He was 93. We miss the cards, which would always contain a smattering of tracts, and end with the greeting,"Maranatha!" ("The Lord comes!") in an increasingly quavery hand.

One of the things Paul wanted to do while we were in England, was to look up his old friend. So we drove to his house where he still lives alone, a widower now, at 95.

In the window, in front of the neat white lace trimmed curtains, was an oblong white sign with blue lettering, that proclaimed, "Maranatha." Before we left, he put his hand on Paul's shoulder and prayed. Although some of the words were hard for us to follow, we knew that they were understood in heaven and felt that we had been given a very special blessing. His investment in a small child helped form the man I love; someone who grew to also look forward to Jesus' return, and who loves to invest in children.

I wonder, readers, who influenced you as a child and how?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Recipe for Shepherd's Pie

By Belinda

Suz, one of our readers, asked me to share the recipe for Shepherd's Pie, so here it is. Thanks for asking Suz!

To serve 4
1lb lean ground beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup of chopped onion
1/2 cup of chopped celery

2 tablespoons All Purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1 cup boiling water
1 beef boullion cube
(or instead of the flour and boullion cube, use Bisto gravy powder)

3 cups mashed potatoes
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 sliced tomatoes

Combine beef, oil, celery and onion in frying pan. Scramble fry until brown.

Stir in flour, or Bisto gravy powder, salt and pepper

Pour boiling water over boullion cube, or into the meat mixture if using Bisto. Stir into the meat until boiling and thickened. Spread in casserole.

Cover with potatoes mashed with enough butter and milk to make them soft and fluffy.

Sprinkle grated cheese over the potatoes, then cover with sliced tomatoes. Season tomatoes with fresh ground pepper and a sprinkle of salt. Add another sprinkle of cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until heated through and cheese is browning.

Don't forget to cook with love. Enjoy!

Farewell

On Monday afternoon, our last day in England, we had to pack. I wished that everything would hop into the case magically, so that it wouldn't be so obvious that we were leaving. I always find it stressful packing to go home.

Paul had traveled very lightly on his way to England but when it came time to wrestle everything back into the two cases we had brought; my large one and his very small one, it soon became apparent that getting everything in was going to be hard.

After supper on Monday evening Paul wondered if he should buy a carry-on case, but we didn't think we'd find any nearby stores open at that time of day.

Robert decided to climb up into his loft to see what was up there and came down with a small tan leather overnight case that I recognized. Cases tend to circulate around our family and this one had belonged to me, years ago. It looked the perfect size for our overflow, and after Robert cleaned it up a bit on the outside we opened it and noticed a blackened chain of some sort, looped around one of the elasticated straps in the lid.

The chain was a medic alert bracelet made out of silver, that had Mum's name on it, and her address on Bear Hill, where she had lived, two moves ago. It was just like her to secure it in the lid so neatly, but it had been long forgotten.

Later, as we gazed at the bracelet, with its small heart shaped padlock, she said to me, "You can have it if you like. It's silver." God had given Mum the gift of something that she could give to me and given me the gift of just knowing that. I will treasure it, and the memory of how it came to be found, on our last day in England.

This photo was taken just before we left as Paul said goodbye. We had so much to be grateful for and we always part looking forward to when we will meet again.

Just before setting out we were warned that there was a 12 mile back up on the M42 due to a big accident and so with gratitude for the warning, Robert plotted another route and put the map into my trembling hands along with strict instructions to say, "That's correct," and not, "That's right," when answering his questions, so as not to confuse him. Yikes! I was so nervous that I insisted that one turn was to the right, while knowing quite perfectly that it was left, and Paul was saying so behind me! In my brain, right and left had switched places! Well, we got there in time and Robert was quite calm throughout the journey considering who was navigating.

Once at the airport and having said goodbye to our cases for a while, we headed for Wetherspoons for a coffee and quick bite to eat, our hearts were full to overflowing with loving memories. We are very grateful for our time in England with dearly loved family and friends, and are happy too, to be back with our family and friends in Canada.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Friends and Flying Saucers

By Belinda

You would think that having broken up with Mike at the end of June, 1967, and finding myself thinking of Paul on a regular basis, that I would have had a clue or two, but no...

I mean, I did know that I had feelings for him that weren't going away, but he seemed to be oblivious to my existence.

My life was a whirlwind of activity. There was so much going on with friends, singing in the gospel group at church, art, and helping out with the building of a new church on a piece of land that had been purchased by the small congregation.

There was a lot of pressure involved with my job and there were tearful moments at work where it all just seemed overwhelming and impossible. Looking at what was expected of us, it was a huge amount of work and responsibility but we didn't question it--we just did our best to do what was expected.

On October 12th a diverting thing happened. I wrote, "I had the shock of my life--David phoned and asked me out. Dave's the last person I'd expected to ask me out. I'd just never thought of him that way...I said 'yes,' anyway." It always took me by surprise when someone asked me out, I realize now. I think that I never quite shook off my self image of the homely child I had been. And it seems not to have occurred to me to say anything but, "Yes!"

David was tall, slim, blond and blue eyed. He was funny, and klutzy. He only had to move and something would bang and crash to the floor. I was confident that I would not have to worry about him becoming serious. In fact, on our first evening out he had great fun with a thing that buzzed when you shook hands with someone. It went off regularly throughout the evening!

On October the 15th I wrote, "Fool though I am, I still can't help liking Paul."

On October 16th, just before John, one of the older members of the singing group was to be married, I began to imagine who would marry who in our group of friends and wrote, "What will become of us all, I wonder. I bet Penny will marry David, Eileen will marry Hans or Richard and I know who I'd like to marry, but the Lord only knows who I will! In ten years the group will have split up. It seems such a shame, but it has to be. New teenagers will take our place...I don't think I will marry anyone."

Around this time in England there had been a rash of "UFO" sightings. Just in case anyone needs further doubt of my sanity, on October 28th, I recorded a strange experience I had the night before. I still remember it clearly. What I wrote was, "I thought I was awake, when after seeing some lights flash on my curtains, I looked out and saw an object whizz past. It was so real that I dashed into Mum and Dad's bedroom and shouted, 'I've just seen one them in the back garden.' I know UFO's are in the news and probably on my mind, but it seemed so real."

What I had seen, after the lights shining through my curtains made me look outside, was a saucer shaped disc, silently flying over the gardens from the north west to the south east. I don't remember waking up between seeing it and walking into Mum and Dad's bedroom. I still don't know if it was a dream or real, but a Google search of sightings around that date in England did yield this:
Report - October 25, 1967; 4:30 a.m., Hooks, Hamps., England. Domed disc hovered ahead, driver felt pressure on eardrums.
Report - October 28, 1967; 6:45 p.m., Tunbridge Wells, Kent England. Triangular object with bright white lights ahead. Slowly rose and moved away; car could then be restarted. Flying Saucer Review, Vol. 14, No. 3; see Rodeghier, 1981, p. 37 (E,L) car

David and I had fun, ice skating, bowling, simply being friends. In fact, on December 4th I wrote that he was "firmly friendly." It was probably the healthiest dating relationship that I had had in my young years.

And then on December 23rd, exactly a year after I had danced the whole evening with Paul at a company dinner and dance, I went to a party and danced the whole evening with him again and he took me home. We never parted again.

I wish I had handled things better with David but he didn't hold my blundering against me. He eventually became the pastor of the church that was founded by Paul's dad in Redditch and is still there.

A new year was about to begin, and on December 31st I wrote, "I felt so happy for an hour or so being in the church with Paul not far away and no worries for a while...We drove everyone home and then Paul came back to our house. We sat in the car for ages talking and then he came in to let in the New Year with the family. It was very cosy. I thought this thing with Paul was a beautiful bubble that would burst if I touched it, but it hasn't. I hope so much that it will work out o.k. because he's so very nice..."

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Harvest Montage

By Belinda
(My usual Monday continuing family story will appear tomorrow)

Today (Sunday)while our family in Canada was celebrating Thanksgiving, we celebrated Harvest Festival at Woodgreen Evangelical Church in Worcester.

At home we imagined the church decorated with pumpkins, a wide variety of colourful squash and gourds, and red, gold and brilliant orange leaves. Here in England, the small children brought their offerings of food to decorate the front of the church.





And we sang the hymns I remember from childhood Harvest Festivals, including
All Things Bright and Beautiful

Refrain:
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flow’r that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple-headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

Cecil F. Alexander, 1848

In Canada while families gathered for turkey and pumpkin pie, Uncle John, and Stephen took us out to lunch at The Bridge Carvery.

A carvery is a restaurant where the diners select from a variety of roasts: Turkey; ham; pork; beef; or nut loaf, for vegetarians. Then there is a delectable buffet of vegetables to add to your plate: Carrots; peas; red cabbage; potatoes-scalloped, mashed or roasted; cauliflower; mushrooms in white sauce; gravy, stuffing and Yorkshire pudding.

We savoured each delicious bite of the different vegetables and meats, enjoying the meal to the full!

And then--and then; dessert; or pudding, as it is called here. We gazed at the amazing selection, kept from the watering mouths of the patrons, in a glass case.

I chose a cream filled sponge, topped with honey and almonds, with pouring cream;
Paul went for apple pie and custard; Uncle John chose lemon merengue pie with soft icecream, and Stephen had trifle! We savoured our selections and delivered our verdicts on each: All delicious!


On the wall beside our table was this sign, for Grandma's, which at first we thought was another restaurant. Eventually the penny dropped, and we realized that this sign could go up in every grandma's home, where an endless supply of cuddles, hugs and all sorts of goodies are available.

We have so much to be thankful for. I thank God for our time here--for life, health, and the riches of family and friends.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

An Encore!

By Belinda


After cooking dinner one evening last week, my nephew John wanted to know, "When is Belinda cooking again?" Yeay!

I thought of making Butter Chicken, a delicious Indian dish, which usually goes down well, but no, Robert just wanted another Shepherd's Pie.

Well, no worries! I went back to kitchen, chopping, slicing and grating again, determined to make the very best Shepherd's Pie that anyone ever tasted.

After 2003 when Mum had a stroke she never recovered any interest in preparing meals and hung up her apron for good. Never a lover of cooking for its own sake, her simple meals always tasted delicious to us because of the love she put into them. I was thinking this week about the fact that she never enters the kitchen anymore, leaving that room to other people now.

So imagine how wonderful it was, as I chopped away at the carrots, to hear the rumble of Mum's walker approaching as she came to inspect the goings on!



Although the photo below of Rob would be perfect with the caption, "Who is this in my kitchen?!"
...

I have to be honest and admit that in his right hand he was holding...
a cup of black coffee, to keep his sister going! :)

Our vacation is close coming to an end. We fly home on Tuesday, but we will carry home happy memories such as this with us!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Food for Thought and Pilgrimage

by Meg

I knew this trip would be a pilgrimage...not just a visit with my daughter, old friends and a few relatives, seeing old and new places. I knew there would be lots of opportunities for reflection on life, ministry, calling, past, present and future. And there would be lots of food.. at chain restaurants in the middle of big cities,at Irish pubs with singers, at a bistro with a roaring fire in a rainstorm, in the modest homes of friends on missionary support, or in more elaborate homes with hillside or oceanfront views owned by friends very blessed financially. Each of them living out their Christian lives with many blessings and many trials, each of them with their own reflections on ministry, service, vocation, God's leadings, each of them with their own stories of moving around from one place to another or staying put for many many years.

Take today for instance. We are experiencing gorgeous early fall weather on an island off Vancouver Island, the sun blazing in the window as I write in the home of the camp cooks at a wonderful Christian camp which has flourished for more than fifty years. My husband built their first rowboats in his first summer in Canada in the 50's. The founders of the camp still live here in their 90's, setting up the camp after spending years living in a boat called the GoForth and journeying up and down the B.C. Coast spreading the gospel. They have spent their lives on this coast and in this camp. We had lunch with other camp staff who have been planted here for many many years also, never, as the husband said, having been told by God to go elsewhere. Our hosts, on the other hand, have moved every few years, blessing various ministries with their cooking expertise. Their daughter came out with us to Uganda in her mid teens to help us homeschool our daughters, and had what she called a "pivotal" time with us there.

This morning we meandered our way to the wharf and considered taking a rowboat out on the very breezy water, and thought better of it. Then the sailing director came down to prepare the four Catalinas for the campers who had just arrived. We had a lovely chat with him instead, hearing how God opened the doors for him and his wife to leave their ministry as worship leaders and pastors in a church where they were burning out. We reflected on balance in ministry, self care, and being led of the Spirit into ways of service where we can work with teams and not wear ourselves out doing too much.

I reflect on the motel room excellent wireless connection the Lord provided for me two days ago to take my Life Coaching online exam, which I had been too busy to finish studying for before we left on this trip. I muse about His constant provision and protection over me and all His children, and yet I long to be able to get on with new work and ministry and not keep having so many lessons of trust and patience to learn. I champ at the bit to know how the future will look, how I will combine my coaching with my counselling studies, and my dreams of ministry and creative ventures. It might seem I am still the driven person I have often been.

I go now, however, to read a novel on the porch in the sun, to bless God for His constant faithfulness to me again and again, and to put my trust in His timing and leading for yet another day, another journey, another phase of life. I look forward to Thanksgiving with our only B.C. family on their turkey farm and another look at life through the eyes of others. There are many reality tests on this trip, and all of them call me to reflect, to observe, to share and to trust, to forgive myself and others, and to move ahead in trust. This is my daily bread today, my food for thought and pilgimage.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Restoration

by Susan

We stood at the end of our laneway and waved at the two rambunctious boys who had just boarded the school bus. It had been a rough morning and as much as I love them, I was relieved for their mom's sake, that they were now someone else's responsibility for the next seven hours or so. I breathed a quick prayer for them and for their teachers, and hoped their energy subsided a little by the time the bus deposited them in front of the doors of their school.

As the bus roared into gear and began to pull away, their mom and I, turned to go back into her house for an anticipated cup of coffee and an opportunity to debrief. Just then the hideous sound of a car's horn split the morning air. I turned back to the road to see someone waving furiously from inside their car. I had no idea what this was about and wasn't quite sure how to respond. Was it someone who knew us and was just saying hello, or was it some stranger alerting us to danger? I waved back, just in case, and then watched as the car pulled over to the shoulder and the person got out. She was still waving furiously and suddenly I realized who it was.

I had prayed for this friend and about our relationship just the day before. We had hit a snag in the road somewhere and our friendship had all but disintegrated several years earlier. It seemed hopeless, utterly hopeless. I had often prayed for God to bless her and her family - I didn't know what else to ask for considering the hopelessness of the situation, but this time I had asked for more. He had been working on my heart, gently kneaded out the hurt of separation, and I had asked for him to bridge the gap between us, and to somehow bring us together again. I was ready to try again - and I hoped she was too.

Well, I know that God is in the restoration business, but I didn't expect him to act that fast! I guess she saw me at the end of the laneway waving at the children on the bus and had the same feelings in her heart that I did in mine. She followed her impulse, took the risk, and stopped.

There at the end of the laneway we had an almost instant meeting of the hearts with only the briefest exchange of words. We quickly made plans to get together for coffee, but in my heart of hearts I know "it's over" - this divisiveness thing that we had allowed to come between us. I can feel it in the spirit, though I don't understand it in my mind yet. I am so looking forward to that coffee together and our celebrating this triumph of God's love! Oh, I'm sure there will still be some work to do together on our relationship, repairing the breaches and shoring up the walls, but once again, God has turned a hopeless situation in my life into hope. And I can't wait to see where he takes us from here...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Hey, from Mum & Belinda!

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The Mop





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We walked, hands deep in pockets, knecks snuggled into our collars against the crisp chill of the autumn evening.

The streets of the village, normally quiet by this time of evening, are crowded with streams of families with excited small children, clutching inflated plastic hammers and bags of blue, pink and white, whispy, sticky candy floss.

As we get closer to the parking lot behind the Red Lion pub, we hear the pounding, loud beat of music and the banging and grinding of the gears of the rides, mingled with the calls of the food vendors and games hawkers.

The delicous smell of fried onions at the hamburger, hotdog and sausage stands, carries me back to my childhood, when, just as it has tonight, this fair came to our village each October. Hand in hand with our mum, Rob and I would walk down to the village from our home on Bear Hill, full of excitement and in anticipation of going on the wildest ride we could find. The rides were nothing in comparison the the rides at the theme parks of today, but they took our breath away.

Just a few years ago I went on the Octopus with my young nephew Tim, who was 12 at the time, quite looking forward to reliving the thrill. But the moment the ride hoisted us into the air and began to spin us wildly around, he screamed loudly, "I'm scared!" and I spent the rest of the ride, whizzing through the air over Alvechurch, trying to hug him close against the centrifugal force, while shouting over his screams and the loud music, "It's okay, it's nearly over--we'll be down in a minute!"

But what is a "mop" you might well ask:

Centuries ago, Alvechurch had a hiring fair for farm hands every October where workers would parade before the landowners who were looking to take on workers for the year. After being hired, workers would spend the rest of the day at the fair as a holiday. A maid would carry a mop to show the sort of work she was after and the event was known as the 'Mop Fair'. ( www.alvechurchdata.co.uk )

"The Mop" that we were at tonight is a descendent of that annual event. But I left my mop at home! :)

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Kitchen

A kitchen is more than just a kitchen; it can be the Jerusalem of a home--a hotly contested piece of real estate.

I love to cook. There is nothing I love more than to produce a meal for other people. I love the chopping, peeling and stirring; the delicious aroma of a meal in the making. Most of my friends will at one time or another have joined me in the kitchen either to talk as I cook, or join me in said chopping, peeling or stirring. I would happily have been Brother Lawrence, the monk who worked in the kitchens of a Carmelite monastery several centuries ago, and who wrote a book The Practice of the Presence of God.

Wikipedia writes of him:

He was assigned to the monastery kitchen where, amidst the tedious chores of cooking and cleaning at the constant bidding of his superiors, he developed his rule of spirituality and work. In his Maxims, Lawrence writes, "Men invent means and methods of coming at God's love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God's presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?"

Amen, Brother Lawrence!

The small kitchen in Mum's flat in Alvechurch, is Robert's domain. I learned a few years ago, to respect that. I had arrived and taken charge, thinking to give him a break, only to realize that he was happy in his own routines and didn't want or need rescuing from his kitchen sink and stove and who did I think I was to barge into his space?

I have learned to hang up my apron and enjoy being waited on!

But today I gently asked if he would like me to cook dinner, and yahoo, "Yes, that would be nice Belinda," he said.

So we went off to Sainsbury's and bought some nice lean, Irish minced beef, and the kitchen was mine for the afternoon!

I took my royal blue apron, with the big white words, "What Would Oma Do?" from the hook behind the kitchen door. I browned the meat with a little red onion (not too much,) added some Bisto gravy, topped it some fluffy mashed potatoes, followed by grated Cheddar cheese and some sliced tomatoes with some fresh ground pepper and a sprinkle of salt. The Shepherd's Pie was soon popped in the oven, along with an apple crumble--not a fancy meal, just plain, good, wholesome food.

Nothing is lost on the neighbours here. Anne said to Rob, "I see your sister's cooking dinner." The elderly gentleman from next door, Percy, looked through the window and said hello. I felt like inviting them in but restrained myself!

I consulted Robert on the oven temperature and the doneness of the carrots--he is the Alpha cook, after all.

It did my heart good to see him and John (Rob's son) and Mum, eat a meal that I'd cooked, although I held my breath until the first bites were eaten.

I knew that my mission had been accomplished when John said, "Were you taking notes Dad?"

Ahh, all is well in Belindaland.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Family, Flowers and Funny Moments


Uncle John's small but lovely garden in Worcester

With Uncle John and Paul's cousin Stephen.

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After church in Worcester, we drove to nearby Alcester, where Stephen cooked us a delicious roast chicken dinner.

Uncle John, who celebrated his 80th birthday on July 5th, is leaving for a trip to Nigeria in November to meet with other pastors there. His life is a great example of living, in the words of Oswald Chambers; his "utmost for God's highest."

Susan was curious about what we feasted on with Eileen and Chris on Saturday. Well, from Prettys Bakery in the village, we bought an assortment of cakes that included custard tarts, jam donuts rolled in sugar, iced buns and macaroons. I made some ham and cheese, sesame seed rolls and salad. For supper we went down to the Tudor Rose Fish and Chip shop and got battered fish, fish cakes and chips, mushy peas and curry sauce. It was all enjoyed very much indeed! Fortunately we are walking miles and miles every day and are hoping that this will help burn off all of this decadence.

There are moments when, although we grew up in England, we find ourselves lost with some of the language! Within a few short miles here, there are several different accents. The Alvechurch accent is different to that of Redditch and Redditch has had an influx of people from Birmingham over the past few decades, which is a totally different accent. Paul had a funny moment in the shopping centre when someone asked him if he knew where the "tie-lits" were.

Paul said, "Pardon?" and the person repeated his question.

Paul gave up and said, "No, I'm sorry." It was only as he walked away that he realized that the man had been asking for the toilets! :)

We are enjoying every moment of time together with each other and with family.

Monday, October 05, 2009

How Not to Be

Deep chagrin is what I feel as I read further in my journal of 1967. I feel as if I have to keep saying to myself, "I was only 17. I was only 17."

I had not even sent the goodbye letter to Peter yet, although I had written it and made up my mind never to see him again. We were over as far as I was concerned. Curiously, I was finding myself day dreaming about Paul, but a chance remark overheard had led me to believe, erroneously, that he was seeing someone.

Another young man though, was showing a lot of interest: Michael. He was a new Christian, full of passion for God and we had many things in common, including a love of art. We talked for hours the first few days we spent time together. I ended a journal entry that week with these words, which make me laugh and cringe at the same time: "I feel a faint regret (about Peter,) but it had to end. I could never live my whole life away in a fire station."

Mike was polite and interesting. After only a couple of weeks he told me that he had fallen in love with me, to which I wrote, "Oh, I like him so much, I think I must love him." Aaargh! I was in love with the idea of being in love. Things were moving very fast indeed. Towards the end of May, a month after we had started seeing each other, Mike was serious and asking me how I felt. Fortunately I managed to hold onto my senses for once and said I needed time.

One Saturday at the beginning of June--June 3-- we went to a church in Hockley, the slum area of Birmingham where forty six years earlier, Dad had spent his first five years of life with his grandparents. Two female ministers led the church there. We called them the "Hockley sisters." On Saturday evenings the church would be packed with people of all ages, worshipping and singing in the spiritual languages of tongues, as written about in the book of Acts and some of the epistles. I had been praying for the infilling of the Holy Spirit and that night, I knew somehow that this was the night it would happen.

The altar was opened at the end of the service for those who wanted prayer and as I walked to the front of the church, I felt as though bolts of electricity were flowing through my body and I was shaking so much that I couldn't stand. I felt pins and needles all over and it hurt to move. I spoke words/sounds that had no meaning to me, but with which I worshiped God from somewhere deep in my spirit and on a level I had never experienced before. In the prayer room I began to sob and sob. It was a deep, cleansing sobbing and I felt as though a great burden had been lifted. When we finally got home, I told Dad what had happened. He was very interested and talked to us for hours.

On June the 5th I noted in my journal that Jerusalem was at war.There was a deep awareness that we were seeing Bible prophesy unfolding in the events of the news.

Eileen and I had joined a singing group at the church and were practicing hard every week with the rest of the group--Hans, Richard, Mike, Paul and John. The older people in the church made way for us to sing each Sunday. It was so important for us to have a place in the life of the church. We felt that we belonged.

By mid June I was thinking of Paul more frequently and Mike was putting pressure on me to make some sort of commitment. I felt as though I made everyone I became involved with miserable--quite rightly, I think in retrospect. I wrote on June 12th, "I don't intend getting married for ages, if at all." Then on June 24th I wrote of Mike, "I wish I had the courage to tell him I just can't make myself love him."

When I finally did tell him, a few days later, as we walked in the park that surrounded the art club (which Mike had joined)it made no difference. Mike was certain that it would work anyway, but we agreed to not see each other for two weeks.

After 10 days, Mike and I went to Hockley again. I had been asking God for a sign. That night the preacher at Hockley spoke on signs and how they worked, so I prayed, "God, if you want Mike and I together, please give me one." I'd heard about "putting out a fleece," just like the account of Gideon in the Bible, so I prayed that if God wanted us together, Mike's motorbike would break down--never thinking for one moment that it would. We got right into town after the meeting and just as we were looking for a place to park, it stopped dead! I went cold. I was so confused! Could God really want me to marry a man I didn't love? Mike told me I was free for as long as I wanted, but to tell him when I knew what to do.

That night poor Mum didn't sleep a wink worrying about it all. Everyone in my life was a wreck.

Over the next several weeks Mike asked now and again how I was doing, but eventually gave up hope. I decided to that I had to trust my heart and feelings more than a tenuous "sign."

Mike went on to marry someone much better suited to him than I. He had five children and became a minister and missionary.

A few months later, in December, Paul and I finally did get together and at last I had found my heart's true home.

Yes, I was "only 17" and I had a lot of growing up yet to do.