Monday, November 30, 2009

A New Adventure Begins

By Belinda

It was no way to buy a house; in the dark. "Do not do it," I would say to anyone else, but we did. I suppose it was following a trend in our lives really; the trend of leaping first and looking later. Of course we always felt, as we leapt, that it was all part of God's plan, so it wasn't entirely as foolish as it sounds.

We saw the house once, in the evening, and the price and location were right, so we put in an offer conditional on the sale of our house in Tottenham. I really hoped that the house in Tottenham would not sell and thus prove that God wanted us to stay there, but alas, it sold immediately; for the asking price.

So we found ourselves, in February of 1974, with the help of friends and family, packing up our belongings and moving.

The house in Newmarket was built on a ravine lot. The basement had a walkout to the back yard, which overlooked waste land at the back. It was on the edge of Newmarket on a quiet street, and I know it sounds ungrateful but I hated the house the second time I saw it--which was the day we moved in.

I never felt as if it was really our "home," which was why, when Paul asked his question a couple of months after we moved in, I was ready to actually consider it.

He wanted to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities but he had been working in an institution for just over 2 years and he was up against huge barriers. Trying to make even small changes to a system felt impossible from his vantage point.

A couple had been living as house parents for a group of ten men with disabilities, in a home associated with the institution. They were leaving, and there was a search in process for another couple to take over at the end of July...Yes, you can perhaps guess Paul's question.

All that I knew about his work was what I had learned through listening, and helping him with his studies, and having house guests from the institution for weekends sometimes. I had gone to an open house there once and had been overwhelmed by a sea of hands reaching out to shake mine, hungry: for contact, connection, attention, touch.

Paul intended to keep working at the institution, but he wanted to move in with the men, who all had day programs during the week days. I would just have to do the cooking, he said, and of course, the laundry.

Only because I would have done almost anything to move out of the house we were in, I said, "Let's go and see."

It was at the beginning of June that we drove down the dirt road flanked by farms that ran between the towns of Newmarket and Aurora. There, off the road, at the end of a tree lined driveway, stood a rambling, white clapboard house, surrounded by fields and shaded by trees. Near to the road on one corner of the two acres it stood on, was an orchard and under some apple trees I noticed headstones--a pioneer cemetery. The wind blew through the tree tops and across the wildflowers in the fields and it whispered peace and welcome. I knew that we were meant to be there.

We went to England for a vacation that June and told everyone what we planned to do. At the time we were thinking of doing this for a couple of years.

When I think back to it now, such a lot had to happen in a very short time. We had only just moved into our new house, but we found a friend to rent it from us. I had an interview with the social work department at the institution and I must have passed. We went to England, came back, got ready to move again and ready for a family expansion from 5 (Paul's sister Sheila was living with us at the time) to 15. I was 24 and Paul, 27; Peter was 4 and Brenda was 2.

How mysterious and wonderful are the ways by which God works out his purposes in our lives; even stirring a nest he want a person to leave by making it ill fitting and uncomfortable.

And those two years? They stretched to ten, and I think that we would never have moved then, if the institution overseeing the home had not closed; God again stirring the nest when it was time to leave--but I am getting ahead of myself. Stay tuned for the next installment of the adventure of our lives next Monday.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Being There; Being Light

Weekend Post By Belinda

I'm picking up the baton from Susan, who posted on Friday about the gala we both attended on Tuesday evening. It was such an incredibly wonderful evening that I wanted to a little of it here.

Susan described journalist Brian Stewart's speech brilliantly. He is such a gifted writer that to listen to him speak was a treat. What he had to say was profound; how he said it was to the ears, what a Tom Thompson painting is to the eyes.

Brian spoke of a faith rediscovered; that began to grow out of the truth he was witnessing that for all the evil and darkness in the world, there was human altruism, "Quite simply the most stunning thing I have seen as a journalist," he said.

"Surprisingly, Christian faith was more powerful than anything else; mysterious and strong; the greatest mystery on earth."

His journey of faith, he said, was "a continuum over years." He came reluctantly, moving from outsider and cynic, to admirer and "wannabe Christian."

"I was inching my way," he said.

"Moments of grandeur didn't move me. What did were moments of courage and compassion; the two most powerful single things on earth."

Brian told us of El Salvador in the 1980's when peasants were driven off their lands and gunned down by death squads. He said, "I went out into the jungle looking for the peasants, who were obviously terrified. Dusk came on and we were deciding whether to go or not to go. They begged us not to go. The death squads were gathering; you could hear them. But we would have also been killed and we had to get the story out."

"I was paralysed; when at that point, roaring down the road came three young Christians. They said, 'Let the media go; we'll stay with you. We hope we can prevent a massacre, but if we don't, at least we'll be with you.' There was no massacre--the Christians prevented it."

"Somewhere in all the dark places there are Christians, standing against oppression. Often we begged pastors, nuns and priests to leave, but they wouldn't."

He spoke of the journalistic vanity that said, "We're going to be there first," and then getting out on the landing strip, and "out comes a Christian pastor with some tea and cookies and says, 'You're going to stay with us tonight.'"

Brian shared a verse from Hebrews at the conclusion of his talk, which had moved, inspired and humbled us.

Hebrews 10:24 (Amplified Bible)
24And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities,

Friday, November 27, 2009

Worth Dressing Up For


Posted by Susan

Galas aren’t my thing, which is probably no surprise to anyone who knows me very well at all. Give me a comfortable sweatshirt and a well broken in pair of jeans, with sandals and mismatched socks on my feet and I’m happy. I’ve always been that way. Even on my wedding day it wasn’t about my dress, trust me. There’s something about spit and polish on the outside that just doesn’t ring my chimes. Other people enjoy that, and God bless them. But it just ain’t me.

So when the notice came through our head office that there was a “Gala Fundraiser” dinner coming, I geared myself up for a boring evening of feeling like a fish out of water and, though I passionately support the cause, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the event itself. I was comforted by the fact that there would be people there that I know and care about and who love me too. But I really would rather spend time with them somewhere else – like around a campfire, or flopped around the living room on comfortable chairs. But I ordered four tickets anyway, and Ron and I invited another couple to go with us. At least the food and the fellowship would be good, I told myself.

Well, there is much to tell about the evening. I really did enjoy myself, even though I was probably the most dressed-down person there (I’m learning not to let that bother me!) The biggest surprise of the evening, however, as far as I was concerned, was someone with the same last name as me!

Brian Stewart is a familiar face in Canada. He is one of the best known Canadian journalists of our time, having worked on CBC’s flagship news program, “The National” for many years - as a foreign correspondent. He shared with us riveting stories of going “where angels fear to tread” on the front lines of breaking news stories around the world, often in terrifyingly dangerous situations.

Brian Stewart is a Christian. Unabashedly and unashamedly – a Christian. That seems a little hard to believe considering his respect as a journalist in this country for our nationally owned broadcasting company which is fraught with secularism and political correctness. He shared the story at that gala of how he came to be a believer and I’ve never heard a more eloquent or more riveting story. If you ever have a chance to hear him speak, go!

Brian Stewart was the first North American journalist to break the news to the world of the 1984/85 famine in Ethiopia. He spoke to us of the hellish and frightening conditions there and many other places – like the jungles of El Salvador, and how close he came to death. He witnessed first hand an untold amount of human suffering – more than most of us would ever be able to bear.

But in the and through the pain he witnessed something time and again that turned his inner world upside down. It turned him, this highly intelligent and eloquent man, into a believer - a follower of Christ.

Brian told us first-hand story after story of how Christians were always “there”. In fact they were there before the newsmen. They were there standing with those who were suffering and persecuted and often in terrible danger. They were there with passion and compassion. With humility and servitude. They were always there.

It was one of the most encouraging and exciting talks I have ever heard. The world would have us believe that the Church is puny and ineffective and irrelevant to today’s unfolding events, unaware and uninvolved in the real issues. But that’s just not true. Brian saw them there again and again – in fact he didn’t say they were “sometimes” there. They were “always” there. Making a difference. Standing for Truth. Sharing the love of Christ. Sent in to stand with and stay with those who were suffering and in mortal danger, representing the Kingdom of God and fulfilling its purposes. Glory, Glory, hallelujah. His Truth is marching on.

It was quite a talk all, right. I daresay it was worth dressing up for. And that’s saying a lot.

There was so much more to that evening than just Brian Stewart’s address. But I’ll leave that for another post for another day.

Over to you, Belinda.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Me Too

by Meg

The words jump off the page. But, hey, I've read this passage countless times. Why now? Why me? Am I all that bad?

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brother, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. James 3: 9 - 12

The memory comes that in the past I have always told myself upon reading this that it doesn't apply to me, that I am not one of those people who curses others, one of those bad people. Or at least that I'm not ALL bad.

But today, with my heart open to God in fresh ways, I stop, and listen, unafraid and ready to hear. Somehow I know I can face this in myself, at last, and in the moment of confession, find forgiveness. I trust my heavenly Father enough to know He loves me so much, and He just wants to do more refining. I instinctively feel that He is saying to look beyond the hyperbole that Jesus so frequently used, the exaggeration, and to see that even if my "tree" or "spring" is not all bad because of the bad that I do, that He needs me to see the destructive effect of what I sometimes do, and the potential for it to become much worse.

Yes, He knows I really mean it when I praise Him, when I lead in our worship team and belt out the songs I love. He knows I really do trust Him and seek to honour Him in my life and choices. He takes me seriously, and He knows I take Him that way too. But because He is my father, and He wants to bring me closer, move me further, grow me up even more, He has to touch that spot, and today He's done it and I didn't say ouch.

So I reflect, how do I curse? What have I done that merits that description? Ah, it is my critical spirit, that lurks behind my thoughts and comments. I don't always say things out loud now. But in the past I did. I often had to qualify praise for others, bring them down in some way in the eyes of others. Maybe it was only to close friends. But the bent was still there.

I remember that weird dream a few months ago. I was shown a funny little man, almost like a mischievous leprechaun, with an orange turtleneck shirt and funny brown tights, a jaunty cap, a jutting chin and a sharp nose. "His name is Legalism", the voice in the dream said. This was in the context of all of us in the dream being shown the evil parts of ourselves.

Again, I had been struck with the word. I am not one to think of myself as legalistic. Heaven forbid!!! I'm all out for a generous way of relating to God, while obeying His requirements, but not holding people's toes to the fire about rules and appearances. But again, I was open to see what God was saying. Again I had identified my critical spirit as the culprit.

Okay, so it runs in the family. I come by it honestly. In fact, that was the major thing I found fault with in my mother!!! How typical. My critical spirit was critical of her critical spirit. And I listened to her tongue qualify the faults of others, while to the world she presented that wonderful sweet spirit. Hmm...something hit home again.

Thank you, Lord, for Your gracious lesson again. Thanks for letting me find it in Your Word, and not have it come through the rebuke of friend or foe. Thanks for making me ready to hear and see, and ready to change. Help me, Lord, to leave the judgments of others to You, and just be the one to praise and bless.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Breaking "Molson News"

He got the call last week. Proud daddy Molson's presence was requested for a photo op with three of his young pups.

Molson's mom, Tilly, is owned by someone with McDonalds and they are sponsoring the training of the pups as servic dogs with C.O.P.E. (Canine Opportunities People Empowerment) with a wonderfully generous gift of $30,000!

So Molson was picked up on Thursday evening to be in the family photos at the official presentation of the cheque.

The names of the three pups? Big Mac (Mac), McFlurry (Flurry) and Golden Arches (Archie.) :)

Robert wanted to know if he wore a tuxedo with a scarf around his kneck, and was he picked up in a limo? I had to say no, but he did come home in a lovely yellow Toyota that looked very much like a Hummer.

Meanwhile, Molson's eating habits need some refinement, in keeping with his star status. Torie confided that he ate a chunk of her science experiment, a goopy mixture she concocted with flour, oil, salt and food colouring and which was hardening on a shelf in their kitchen downstairs.

"I had the chance to say, 'My dog ate my homework'" she said.

"I took my poster and report to school and told the class that the thing I would do differently, is put it on a higher shelf."

That's our boy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Space

By Belinda

Isn't it funny how when God is on the move in an area of a person's life, everything seems to connect and reinforce the work in some way?

My seemingly endless quest to declutter our house has been ongoing for weeks, but I have been relentless. And out of chaos, a beautiful order is emerging...and space...

The space brings with it restfulness and tranquility. There is room for people to move around; space to get things out and use and put away again, because they all have a place where they belong that is neat and orderly; not cluttered.

Nearly everything in our house now has a purpose or value. It is earning its keep in some way in our lives; not just "taking up space." I have been steadily giving away stuff that no longer has a purpose to me, and delighting in seeing someone else pick it up; knowing that they will enjoy using it for a season in their lives.

A couple of weeks ago at our work leadership conference (the one which was the genesis of the Great Pumpkin Nut Loaf Bake-off) our CEO challenged us to declutter our lives.

I took his admonishment to heart and pondered the parallel with my loft room.

As space and simplicity were becoming our surroundings, they were bringing peace. And so, in my life, this is a decluttering time; a time to let go of some roles and responsibilities; prayerfully and without guilt. I realized that God never asked me to do much of what weighed me down.

On this Sunday past, the first Sunday in which I truly felt that I "celebrated" Sabbath, I saw that as in our house we have created space, so also in my life, through this process, I have created room for God to move with his agenda.

On page 51 of the book we are studying with our cell group: Sabbath, Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest, by Wayne Muller, there is a beautiful quote that expresses this so perfectly.

All life has emptiness at its core; it is the quiet hollow reed through which the wind of God blows and makes the music that is our life. Without that emptiness, we are clogged and unable to give birth to music, love, or kindness. All creation springs from emptiness...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Making Home

We lived in our first house in Tottenham for a short time really--from the fall of 1971 to February 1974; just over two years.

Paul was working hard at his studies and loving his work and I was occupied at home with our two small children.

We had not a cent to spare, which was stressful, but I baked our own bread to save money and we managed by buying 50 pound bags of potatoes and eating eggs and chips (french fried potatoes) almost every night. It was handy that we lived conveniently close to Alliston, which has an annual potato festival. We used to buy the potatoes right from the farm.

Our store of furniture included a big old black and white television set with rabbit ears and a picture that rolled every few seconds. We had a second hand wringer washer in the basement that gave electric shocks every now and then. I was very grateful for it though, as I had a quantity of English terry cloth nappies (diapers) that I needed to wash each day.

Someone donated a wooden post for a washing line to us, but we had to wait a week or so before we could afford the line itself. It was wonderful then to be able to hang the laundry on the line instead of on a clothes horse and strings hung in the basement.

After a year we were able to buy an automatic washing machine. I was amazed that I could put in the laundry and then come back later to find it washed, rinsed and spun dry. After months of putting soapy laundry through a shocking wringer, rinsing by hand and then putting them through the wringer again, I was ridiculously grateful every time I used it.

Brenda was of such a different temperament to Peter. When she came home from the hospital she woke up for feedings and went right back to sleep again. After Peter's first months of colic, this felt like a great blessing.

Paul's grandparents visited from England, staying across the road with Paul's parents, and they kept coming over, hoping to catch Brenda awake, but she seemed to always be either not awake yet or just gone down for another sleep. She eventually slept less, and was easy going and outgoing from the start.

One of our neighbours had two sweet little girls who loved to come over and play with our children. When she got a part time job, I looked after them for a very short while while she looked for permanent day care. I earned $25.00, which seemed like such a fortune to us. We used it to buy Paul some much needed shoes. It felt incredibly wonderful to have a little extra.

It is by God's grace alone that our children turned out to be the amazing human beings that they are. Looking back, I see how really ill prepared I was for parenthood. It is a huge adjustment, from self absorbed single hood; to marriage; to parenthood where personal needs and desires come after other's needs have been met.

I resorted to patterns learned in my own childhood, where children were expected to do as they were told. I had such high expectations of our children's behaviour, I realize now. I have many regrets for my impatience and anger when they were naughty.It is strange how we find ourselves living out patterns we once were sure we would never repeat, but for lack of an alternative, we do.

How different I am today, as a grandparent who knows that gentleness achieves far more than domination. My only reference tool was a Dr. Spock book, which I referred to often. I am living proof that love covers a multitude of sins because however inadequate I was at showing it sometimes, I did love our children devotedly and was not ashamed to ask for forgiveness when I made mistakes.

Robert and Mum came and stayed with us in the summer of 1972. Robert, who was 16 when I left, was now 19. Things had not been easy for him at home in the years before or since my leaving. While with us he became a regular at the Tottenham Inn, the nearest thing in town to an English pub, and made friends with people who lived on the wild side of town. In fact, Tottenham after dark was a little like the wild west. More than once Paul went looking for him late at night, like a shepherd looking for a lost sheep. Still it was so wonderful to have him and Mum with us and we enjoyed just being together, going for walks to the conservation area and enjoying the simple pleasures of a day at the beach or trips to see the sights of our new homeland, such as Niagara Falls.

Our home became a gathering place both for family from overseas and in the neighbourhood. The photo below was taken at Christmas 1972 and shows Pauls two sisters: Sheila (on the left) and Judy (on the right,) and his brother John.

Paul was driving quite a distance to work each day along highway 9, which could be treacherous in winter. He wanted us to move to Newmarket, so that he'd be closer to work in Aurora. I was happy right where I was, but I also believed in following the one I loved, wherever he led.

So we put our house on the market, but asked $35,000. We had bought the house a couple of years earlier for $21,900 so this was a very high asking price. When I prayed and told God that if he wanted us to move, I would consider the house selling for $35,000 as a sign, I thought I was on safe ground. But the first couple to look at it, said, "We'll take it." And they paid the asking price.

To my dismay we would be moving. And a whole new chapter of our life together was about to begin!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Molson, My Personal Assistant


By Belinda

I was home for a much needed "catch up day," but not catching up as much as I'd hoped, when the phone rang. On the other end was a very pleasant voice belonging to a lady from our insurance company.

"Do you remember that letter we sent you a week or so ago?" she wanted to know. We needed to update our insurance based on the fact that we have done some home improvements.

I knew that the letter was somewhere in a pile on Paul's desk so I apologized for the fact that we hadn't got right on it.

"No worries," she said breezily, "you can answer the questions now and I will fill the answers in for you."

I had no idea then what a difference of opinion we had about what "no worries" meant, but I was soon to find out.

She started with a few easy questions and I began to relax a little, until she asked if we had fire hydrants on our street. Being someone who regularly walks a dog, you would think I would know the answer to that question, but honestly, I didn't. My friends will not be surprised at this. Ask me what colour the sky was or whether there was a sunset last night and I will know; fire hydrants, not so much. I felt as though I was back at a wooden desk in grade school, chewing a pencil and failing a test.

I had to know the square footage of various parts of the house, so, not wanting to keep her hanging on the line, I said that I would take the measurements and call her back.

Usually we have a couple of metal retractable measuring tapes around the house, but I looked in every nook and cranny and couldn't find either one. In all the house I could just find one measuring tape in my knitting bag, and it only went up to 6 feet.

Molson was alert and interested in my dashing up and down stairs and stood ready to join in whatever adventure was going on, but it was when I got down on my hands and knees to measure the dimensions of the rooms that he really thought this new game was fun. As I struggled to hold the tape in place at six foot increments, he got as close as he could and took to snuffling and licking my face and making me laugh so much that I couldn't get any words out. Telling him no, and to go and lie down, in between the giggles, just didn't carry enough authority to convince him that I meant it and so I struggled through the task with ever increasing laughter.

Eventually I had the rough measurements my insurance adjuster needed and called her office. She had left for the day.

Later that night at the dinner table at cell group I told Susan of my hilarious struggles to get the job done. She said, "But Belinda, you could just have measured the walls standing up you know."

"Oh...yes...well," I said, feeling very foolish all of a sudden; but it was so much more fun our way.:)

Paul, equally helpful, pointed out that we do have a fire hydrant, right across from our house.

Going downhill fast but happy in Belindaland!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The World Aches...

by Susan

"...the world aches for the generosity of a well rested people."

I bustled into Terry's office on Tuesday morning, looking as busy as I could.

"Can I use your fax machine?" I asked as I stood at her door. She looked up surprised and then smiled a welcome. She seemed calm and relaxed, even though she'd been hard at work.

I was anything but calm. I had just missed a doctor appointment through no fault of my own, and it was, thankfully, rescheduled for later that morning. I was happy to get the appointment, and yet, my week had been planned out, oh-so-carefully, making every attempt to fit all the important things in. All the things that could not wait. Even as I stood in Terry's office, my plan sat all laid out in my day-timer, each appointment and meeting for the week dove-tailed perfectly into time set aside for decent preparation and responsible followup. If I was really careful to stick to the plan, I would be even able to show up at the meeting of managers on Friday with all my homework done and thereby avoid my usual embarrassment. But this sudden turn of events blew all that out of the water. I was flustered and blustered and stressed and didn't know how to recover. It was a disaster. In my mind, anyway. I guess it showed.

"You don't have to do this you know..." I looked at Terry like she had two heads. And a tail! She went on to suggest that maybe I should take a good hard look at my life and decide if what I was doing was really worth it.

Wow. I didn't know that's what I looked like to people. Terry didn't hit the nail quite on the head, but I really appreciated her candour. She said the words I needed to hear that would really make me stop and think. As I drove away from her office and toward my second doctor appointment that morning, I did think - long and hard.

I realized that I appeared to Terry to be stressed out of my mind. I didn't look like I enjoyed my job at all. In fact it looked to her like it was killing me! And perhaps it was. I was glad to have the time to examine my heart and think through Terry's words..

As I began to process the things she said, I realized that there was something in me that needed to look "busy" to others in order to justify my existence. ("Busy" is an understatement.) Yuck. I thought about how serene Terry had appeared at her desk and how it made me feel calmer myself somehow. Her peace had ministered to my heart.

But what about me? I was far to "stressed" and what I had to do was way too "important" to be there in the same way for Terry. What she got from me was someone too busy, too flustered, and too stressed, to have time for her. Or to be happy at all... Double yuck.

Tonight at cell group, after a delicious dinner of pot roast and Yorkshire pudding, we cracked open the new book we are studying called, "Sabbath - Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest" by Wayne Muller. It was the first words of this post that struck the deepest chord tonight...

"The human spirit is naturally generous. The instant we are filled, our first impulse is to be useful, to be kind, to give something away... Once people feel nourished and refreshed, they cannot help but be kind; just so, the world aches for the generosity of a well rested people."

The world aches for the generosity of a well rested people. Aches.

Yes, I can identify with that. I've done my own share of aching.

I don't want to sail through life on stormy seas - full of myself, my problems, my worries, my issues, my reasons for being stressed. I want to be that ship of mercy that others are waiting to have sail into their lives. People are aching for my generosity - for the genersosity of spirit which comes only from sitting quietly and resting in him.

I've never thought of it like that before. That rest is not just for me, but for all of the hungry who God allows to cross my path.

"...the world aches for the generosity of a well rested people."

Even so, Lord Jesus, let me learn how to rest in you.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Example

1 Corinthians 4:16 (New International Version)
16Therefore I urge you to imitate me.

1 Corinthians 11:1 (New International Version)
1Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

I felt like a bottle of soda pop that someone had given a good shake as the anger sparked by the actions of another, boiled up within me. I had a sack full of emotion and I didn't know what to do with it. These emotions take up residence within us--that's the problem. You can't just put them on a shelf and come back and think about them later--at least I can't. We carry them around with us wherever we go, and like corrosive stomach acid, they burn a hole in us unless we do something with them.

Of one thing I was sure, I wanted to honour God in my response and so I asked him to help me. I've lived long enough to have had plenty of practice at doing things my way, in other words, the wrong way. Anger is such a dangerous thing, but it isn't a wrong thing. It just needs handling carefully and God's way.

I love the way it is put in these verses from Ephesians:
Ephesians 4:26 (The Message)

26-27 Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry. Don't give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.

So I prayed and God answered. I saw a way to deal productively with the situation that had bothered me so much, with a calm spirt and no judgement.

What I hadn't thought of was the power of that example for good. Being older in years, we don't often think about the fact that younger people are watching us. They see the gap between what we say we believe and what we do if there is one. The only way to get it right is to: "Follow the example of Christ."

I found this poem about the power of example. It's about a child watching the adults in their lives, and it makes the point perfectly.

The Power of Example
(Through the Eyes of a Child)
What Children Can Learn - Just by Watching

When You Thought I Wasn't Looking

-- by a Child

A message every parent should read, because your children are watching you and doing as you do, not as you say...

"When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you feed a stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me and I learned that little things can be the special things in life.

When you thought I wasn't looking I heard you say a prayer, and I knew there is a God I could always talk to and I learned to trust in Him there.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I learned that we all have to help take care of each other.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you give of your time and money to help people who had nothing and I learned that those who have something should give to those who don't.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I felt you kiss me good night and I felt loved and safe.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you take care of our house and everyone in it and I learned we have to take care of what we are given.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw how you handled your responsibilities, even when you didn't feel good and I learned that I would have to be responsible when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw tears come from your eyes and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it's all right to cry.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw that you cared and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I learned most of life's lessons that I need to know to be a good and productive person when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I looked at you and wanted to say, 'Thanks' for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn't looking."

Each of us, parent, grandparent or
friend, influences the life of a child.

What are YOU doing when you
think your child isn't looking?

About the Author:
Mary Rita Schilke Korzan, author of When You Thought I Wasn't Looking wrote this poem as a tribute to her mother. It was first published anonymously in A Fourth Course of Chicken Soup for the Soul and has since traveled around the world, touching the lives of countless grateful parents. To find out more about Rita and her latest book, When You Thought I Wasn't Looking: A Book of Thanks for Mom, visit her website:


www.onceuponapoem.com

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Loaf Lady Cometh

As I shared with you last week, dear readers, in my post, Beware the Great Pumpkin, I was personally inspired by the challenge given at the leadership conference of the not-for-profit organization I work for; for each of the 250 leaders in attendance, to raise $500 for our global ministries to children with disabilities, over the next year.

Susan, who was at the same conference, started talking after cell group about things that we could do to raise the money, such as putting a coffee machine in the church and donating the proceeds. After she left, I kept thinking about what I could do and one thing led to another and I ended up with 18 loaves of pumpkin nut loaf at the end of a weekend of frenzied baking.

We had a meeting of our district team the following week, and I had no shame--I brought my loaves--and they sold rapidly at $5 each. My coworker Iris told me that I should not be in charge of selling them, I should be charging more, but I couldn't bring myself to do that. Susan bought the last two loaves and told me to put them in the freezer for managers meetings, but the next day I went to another meeting and took them, along with another loaf from the freezer and resold them, planning to replace them with chocolate zucchini bread on the weekend. I ended up with $110 by the end of the week!

My friend and co-worker, Terry, was at my Friday meeting and when I told her I was heading back into the kitchen on Saturday, she asked, "Did you discuss this with Paul?" and added solemnly, "you know, our actions affect other people," (she had obviously read my last pumpkin post.)

Undeterred, I hauled out from the freezer some of my bags of zucchini to thaw on Saturday. They sat, resplendent in their light and dark green stripiness, while I again began the measuring sifting and beating together the ingredients of the moist and delicious chocolate zucchini loaves. It is very yummy. I'm not a chocolate lover, but even I enjoy this loaf. I ended up with 12 loaves (and there are still 2 more bags of zucchini in the freezer!)

The fact that I spend so much time in meetings suddenly seemed like a huge marketing opportunity, so on Monday morning I took 6 of my loaves with me to work, planning to thrust them upon anyone I met at the two meetings for that day--I was getting deja vu, thinking of my Amish Friendship Bread of a few months ago. I didn't have to work too hard at selling this batch either. My friend Irene, who loves chocolate zucchini bread, said, "How many have you got? and then, "I'll take 5 for $50.00!" She was also carrying a slow cooker full of spicy and delicious chili for the office lunchroom--for a donation. She donated the proceeds of her chili that lunchtime to my loaf fund. Can you believe it--I have $235.00 in my loaf envelope already?

Last night, Sue was here painting the cupboard doors in the loft room (which is almost completely organized now,) so, feeling too guilty to relax, I was tidying up another room downstairs. I took something out to the garage and what did I find? There sitting on a shelf--Brenda's discarded pumpkins--two of them.

In they came. I decided that I would chop them up and boil them instead of baking them. An hour or so later I had enough pureed pumpkin for another 9 loaves. I'm considering them "gold for global."

Yesterday as I was driving to work, I was listening to a CBC radio program about the UN meeting in Rome to discuss world hunger. They interviewed a couple of people who have experienced real hunger: a woman from China and a man from Sudan who had been one of the so called, "lost boys of Sudan." They described an experience I cannot begin to imagine: real hunger. The woman spoke about her anxiety as a child, when she would constantly check the rice barrel to see how much rice was left. Towards the end of the month she would know that in a few days they would get their next ration of rice and would relax a little. If the rice ran short, her mother would add more water.

She told of being given a coupon to buy one egg for her father who was in frail health. She was instructed to carry the precious egg home cupped in both hands, so that she wouldn't drop it. When she eventually came to Canada as an adult, she found it almost impossible to comprehend that here we can buy eggs by the dozen.

It's all a matter of perspective. People go hungry in Canada too, we know that all too well, but in general, we have so much in comparison to the rest of the world. It feels like a great blessing to turn some of our abundance into something delicious that people will buy and enjoy, and thereby help in a small way. And I am determined to cut our generous food budget and thereby save more to help. I am convinced that it is the cumulative affect of many small things, each of us using our individual gifts and abilities that will make a great difference in the world.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chocolate Zucchini Loaf

By Belinda

(You will understand when Wednesday's post publishes!)

Cream: ¾ cup of shortening or vegetable oil
2 cups of sugar

Add: 3 beaten eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Sift and Add:
2 ½ cups flour
½ cup cocoa
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Stir in: 2 cups grated zucchini
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup nuts

Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes. Makes two loaves.

Enjoy!

Our Children's Faithful Refuge

Habakkuk 3:11 (New International Version)

11 Sun and moon stood still in the heavens
at the glint of your flying arrows,
at the lightning of your flashing spear.


I glanced up at a flock of Canada geese flying across the sky like arrows shot from the bows of an army of medieval archers. How full of beauty and grace they were, these harbingers of another winter's approach.

Each year seems to fly by more rapidly than the last, with Christmases separated by spring and summer seasons that slip speedily into fall and then winter again.

I had been thinking of that when I read my Daily Light on the Daily Path over the weekend. I have a habit of making notes in the margin of my well worn copy of this cherished classic, usually when one of the readings has special significance to some event in my life on the day I read it.

Interestingly, in the margin for both November 14th and 15th, there are notes about both Brenda's and Peter's work situations in past years and some of the verses are underlined. Re-reading my notations from the perspective of "now," only serves to remind me again of God's faithfulness.

On November 14th, I wrote in 2005:"Brenda lost job at Montessori school." The school had gone bankrupt; a stressful ending to the jobs of the teachers, coming as it did so close to Christmas. Although so many of the verses for that day were comforting, the verse I underlined was Proverbs 14:26:

He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress,
and for his children it will be a refuge.


Yes, it was difficult, but 4 years down the road, Brenda is working at a job she loves at a school for boys. She is the "face" of the college, greeting parents and other guests with her gift of warm, easy banter and wit. God has provided for every need during some tough years. For this child of ours, he has indeed been a refuge.

On the page for the next day, November 15th, I had written, "Peter, interview, 2006, O.S.C." Again, so many of the verses were encouraging that day, but I underlined, 1 Corinthians 1:9:

God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

Whenever Peter changes positions at work, he gives me one of his business cards. Of course, since I've been cleaning out my loft room, I found them all and added them to my business card holder. There they bear silent testimony to God's faithfulness, as they outline the blessing of successive roles of increasing responsibility and influence, for the better of others. We are so grateful for God's faithfulness in guiding the path of his life.

One of the reasons I love recording the small details of our lives is that in them we can trace the faithful fingerprints of God.

Monday, November 16, 2009

1972 and Baby Number 2

By Belinda

In January 1972, I had just arrived back in Canada with 19 month old Peter, after a few months with my family in England. I was 3 months pregnant with our second child and Paul had moved into our new home, in the village of Tottenham, in November.

The village was pretty and had an old mill at the entrance to the conservation area, which had a large pond, that to us looked more like a lake. There was an old unused school house, with a bell tower, at the end of our street, and a small ice rink in the field that must have once been a playground. The sun seemed so dazzlingly bright after the gentle light of England; a different kind of beauty, that I was starting to love. Many days I would go out into the crisp coldness with Peter and we would slide and totter on the ice, as ungainly as newborn foals; laughing at our clumsiness; cheeks rosy and eyes bright with fun.

Paul had just started a new job at Pine Ridge, an all male institution for the developmentally disabled in Aurora. From the start, he seemed to have found a vocation that he loved. He had apprenticed in England for a skilled trade that didn't exist in Canada and had worked since our arrival at the only job he could find, in a factory. He hated working with machinery and longed to work with people, so this job was a wonderful blessing and answer to prayer.

Before long he had applied and was accepted, to take the Mental Retardation Certificate course; a combination of academic and practical training, with field placements, over two years. That too, seemed like a gift from God as he was paid to work while taking the course.

As he studied, discussed his courses with me, and as I proofread and typed up his assignments, both of us were learning. I had no idea at the time that God's agenda for my own life was quietly moving ahead.

Paul does nothing by half measures and his work at Pine Ridge was no exception to the rule. In April his family moved out of our home and into a bungalow across the road, and Paul soon began to bring various residents home with him to visit, or to stay overnight. He wanted them to taste life outside the walls of the institution.

I was stunned to see how a simple thing such as coloured bedsheets was exciting to someone who lived in a world with no colour. Such small things to us, but sources of wonder to the people who came to visit.

He brought home a man named Rodney who had been clinically diagnosed unable to speak, but Paul had an instinct that he had withdrawn and made a choice not to speak because he was lost in the crowd of people in the institution.

Patiently, by using successive approximations (rewarding even a small sound and then building upon that,) and with the use of flash cards, Rodney began to speak! He went from a few words to over a hundred in a short time. It was amazing and exciting to see the difference that attention and caring could make and Paul's passion grew. When he was reassessed, it was confirmed that his had been by choice. He had simply shut down.

Winter became spring and suddenly it was June. Our baby wasn't due until mid June, but towards the end of the first week of June I had the urge to deep clean the house and then felt very tired and unwell. As the weekend approached, Paul told me that he was bringing Philip, one of the residents of Pine Ridge, home for the weekend, starting with Thursday evening, as he was off on Friday. I inwardly groaned, but didn't want to disappoint him or Philip, so I determined to get through it somehow.

On Thursday the 8th, Paul went next door with Peter to visit our neighbours. The stairs to the basement in both of our houses had been built with only a handrail on the side facing the floor. Paul's dad had boarded ours up because he was frightened of Peter falling through onto the concrete. That Thursday he fell through the next door neighbour's stairway instead, landing on his head on the concrete.

We were grateful that he seemed none the worse for the bang, but the doctor told us to wake him up every hour during the night, just to make sure he was okay.

Philip arrived as planned, and finally, at about 1.00 a.m. having settled both Peter and Philip for the night, after all the drama and stress of the day, Paul and I were relieved to go to bed. Straight away I felt a warm wetness flooding the bed. My waters had broken.

"Don't worry," I said to Paul,"I'm sure nothing is going will happen until morning. I'll get up and pack for the hospital when I get up."

"Okay love," said Paul, and after we threw on some dry sheets, we turned out the light.

A minute later I flicked the light back on and said, "Paul! I think I'd better pack. Now!"

We must have resembled an old silent movie as we flung the bedsheets back and ran around the house gathering things together for the hospital and then dashing across the street to wake up Paul's mum to come over and stay with Peter and Philip while we drove to the hospital in Newmarket, 30 minutes away.

There was no mistaking it, the labour was intense and frequent. This was before the days of ultra-sounds so we didn't know if this was a boy or a girl, but I asked Paul as we drove to the hospital, "If this baby is a girl, can we name her Brenda, after your mum?" We had named Peter after my mum, Pieternella, and I wanted Paul's mum's name to be carried on in one of our children, too. He agreed, although ever after he complained that he really wanted her to be called Caroline. Brenda has always given us a hard time about both choices!

In record quick time, we got to the hospital and the doctor was called in. The baby arrived at 3.00 a.m. after just 2 hours of labour.

As the nurse lifted up the baby, to lay it by my side, she said, "It's a girl."

There are no words to describe the overwhelming joy of that moment. I would have been thrilled with either a boy or a girl, but the moment that I knew that this little one was a girl, my mind projected down the corridors of time, into the future. And of all things, I thought of--shopping!

Our family was now complete. We had what is called a millionaire's family and we felt like millionaires.

We were 22 and 25 respectively, we had two wonderful children, our own home, no money to speak of but a whole lot of love and faith--and we were on the adventure of our lives!

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Working it Out and Working it In

Dear Faithful Readers,
I have decided to honour God's principle of Sabbath by leaving Whatever He Says fallow one day a week from now on. I believe that as I do that here, He will help me to take it into the rest of my life more faithfully too. So this, and every Saturday post from now on, will be my "weekend post."

Belinda

************
My friend Susan: mother of nine and grandmother of ten; wrote to me last weekend to tell me how her day had gone. She wrote about her evening with her little granddaughter:

"I had a challenging evening. This is one conversation I had - (between me an Lizzie)

"I know everything." (Lizzie)

"You do?" (Me)

"Yes, I do."

"You can't possibly know EVERYTHING."

"Yes, I do. I know everything."

"You don't know when I'm going to die."

"Yes, I do."

"You do?"

"Yes, but I'm keeping it a secret."

Now, tell me. How do you reason with THAT?! And she's only five."


Lizzie was hilarious, but her attitude of certainty reminds me of my own self assurance at the start of my journey of faith.

At that time I often subjected my poor dad to what I can only describe as sermonizing, delivered with passionate zeal and disrespectful confidence.

I had a deep faith in, and understanding of, the One who is Truth, but in sharing that, I forgot that I was 16 and Dad was 40. I lacked the humility that listens before speaking.

Confident children grow into teenagers who are more sure of everything than ever, but who start to know less and less the older they grow. In the same way the older I grow, the more I realize how much I need God to teach me. This tends to take my attention off what I think others need to learn, although I still long that others who don't know the story of Jesus might know it and the peace that can be found through knowing him.

I think that may be the meaning of this verse in Philippians:

Philippians 2:12 (New International Version)
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,

with this reminder in verse 13 of who is really doing the work:

Philippians 2:13 (New International Version)
13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

The journey once begun, is still a journey, and a disciple will always sit at the feet of his or her Teacher.

Until the journey's end we will be working out our salvation, and working into our lives, the ways and wisdom of another Kingdom.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Transformations

by Susan

We sat at the kitchen table, my baby and I. Well, she's not really a baby anymore. She'll be old enough to legally consume alcohol in just a few weeks, but she'll always be 'the baby' in this family. (Poor kid).

Long dark blonde hair frames an animated face with eyes full of the light of success. She is handing me her latest assignment from school and is justifiably proud of the mark she received. 34 out of 35. She lost that one mark because she forgot one silly little heading. Still, not bad. Not bad at all.

Academics have never been Jorie’s strong suit. By the end of Grade 4, she still couldn't read. We borrowed a book from Belinda on our way up to a friend’s cottage that summer, "The Princess and the Goblin" by George MacDonald. If I remember correctly, it was the first book Belinda had ever purchased with her own money when she was only 11, and it was such a compelling story that it really did the trick for Jorie. We went to bed early each night, not to disturb our elderly hosts, and Jorie and I would sit up in the big old brass bed that sunk like a hammock in the middle and we would take turns reading. She would read one chapter and I would read the next. In the beginning I had to help her with nearly every word. But by the time Gurdie and the Princess reached their happy ending, Jorie was reader. What a victory!


She continued to struggle in school, however. One of our biggest challenges as her parents was trying to ferret out whether she actually had homework and how to get her to do it. She was a master at flying under the radar. She never seemed to have homework to do, and yet her marks were always mediocre at best. I could never figure that out.


We had her tested - a full psych. ed. asssessment, and contrary to what the school kept trying to tell us ("it must be the lack of structure at home") she clearly had some identifiable difficulties, especially in the areas of maths and science, although her ability with language and visual arts was above average. At the same time, a profound attention deficit was identified, which didn't help her cause at all. It's hard to keep on top of assignments when your brain is so naturally disorganized. But there are advantages that come with such a diagnosis! Like incredible creativity, for one. We saw signs of it everywhere. But alas, never on her report card.


How she got out of high school, I'm not quite sure, given the number of classes she missed and the amount of homework that went left undone. She did go back for a "victory lap" to pick up the last few courses she needed, and we used to joke that she was going through high school "on the installment plan" because whenever a course became too difficult for her, she always seemed to find a way to drop it while still able to get through by the skin of her teeth. I have worried about her more than any of my other children, I think, except perhaps the oldest one, who gave us lots of concern of a different nature. (And we him!)


During her teen years, it became evident that she is gifted with children. Jorie is shy, painfully shy, and unassuming, but she cares deeply about people and with children she could always relax. They seemed to feel safe with her and she clearly had a natural ability to put them at ease. And they her. She decided she wanted to spend her life working with children and eventually become a kindergarten teacher. But with her marks and the courses she chose, there was no way she was going to get into university. She settled on Early Childhood Education, and registered at the Orillia campus of Georgian College this fall. Her plan is to do as well as she can and go on to university as an adult student, once she gets that ECE diploma under her belt. We held our breath, are prayed alot, and blessed her on her way.


Highly motivated now, her struggles are not a thing of the past, but she has learned this fall to face them head on. She can’t afford to drop a course that becomes difficult. College is too expensive. There won’t be a second run at it. She won’t allow herself a second run. She’s going to make it the first time, and she’s going to do as well as she can. Her marks so far in almost all her courses have been outstanding. The paper she showed me tonight is just one piece of evidence of many successes.


That means she has had to face her fears and go to profs for help bytimes in order to understand the expectations and to keep all her assignments straight. No-one but her knows how hard that was to overcome her shyness and negativity, and to go ahead and knock on those doors.
“I figured out why,” she said to me tonight as she put her guitar back into its case and turned her full attention to explaining to me her latest epiphany. “It was Mrs. Jones.” (Not her real name.)


Ah, Mrs. Jones. That didn’t surprise me a bit. I had many a battle with that woman when Jorie was in her class in her primary years. I had tried to explain to her what “attention deficit” means, but she just thought we were excusing bad behaviour, and kept on about the “lack of structure at home”. Arghh. Her diagnosis was clearly “irresponsible and lazy” and instead of giving Jorie credit for doing as well as she did, considering the challenges of a brain that constantly galloped away on its own and required immense effort to bring herself back to the task at hand, she was constantly negative and critical.


“Mrs. Jones used to centre me out and humiliate me in front of the whole class,” said Jorie. “She would see that I wasn’t paying attention and then she would say, “What’s the answer, Jorie?” I would sit there and have nothing to say. The other kids would all laugh. And then she would lecture me for “not paying attention”.


Jorie went on to tell me about one of her worst childhood memories - how at recess the kids would role play with her as the subject while she stood and watched. One of her classmates would be in the centre of of a circle of her peers and say, “I’m Jorie. Duh-uh – I’m stu-u-u-u-pid. I don’t know the answer to anything.” Then everyone would laugh. When Jorie got extra help from Mrs. Jones, the teacher would sigh, exasperated after the second or third try, and scold, “I can’t believe you still don’t get this.”


Jorie said, “Mom, I learned that it was better to be a rebel and look like I was bad than to look stupid. So I stopped trying. I learned never to go for help because that would make me look stupid.”
Well, not anymore. “I’m not letting Mrs. Jones hold me back anymore,” said my beautiful daughter, as I watched the wounds of her past transforming into strong and beautiful scars of character before my very eyes. She went on to tell me about how she went to the director of the program a few weeks ago, and how she got a very different reception there than she did from Mrs. Jones. That’s when she showed me her near-perfect paper.


Suddenly I don’t worry so much about her anymore. And suddenly, well, maybe she’s not a “baby” after all.



Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Answerer

Once upon a time there was a young-ish woman who thought that she had the answers to most situations. In fact, the answers were readily available at the tip of her fingers, if not her tongue.

Whenever people shared their worries and burdens with her, she could hardly wait for them to finish talking so that she could give them the answer that was obvious to her. In fact, once she thought of the answer, her eyes stopped focusing on theirs and she was only half aware of what they were saying until they were finished. She noticed that sometimes the people to whom she gave the answers seemed resistant to receiving them.

As she grew older, a strange thing began to happen. She discovered that there were layers of complexity in people's lives and in her own responses to them. Answers seemed less readily available as she encountered this messiness. Sometimes she was in need of answers too and the answers she once found easy to access for others seemed trite.

Fortunately, the woman, answer-less now; had a Friend who had better answers than she ever had. His answers were never quick, trite or simple, but they were profoundly loving, true and wise.

All she had to do to contact him, was to stop what she was doing, be still, tell him all about the situation and then quietly listen, with every part of her being.

His answers did not always come quickly, but she would always experience a peace that told her that he knew all about the situation, cared deeply about it and understood it from a perspective that was perfect.

Sometimes the answer that she thought she needed so desperately when she first contacted him, was delayed indefinitely. But strangely, it didn't seem to matter so much anymore.

All that mattered was her trust in her Friend's wisdom and love, and that her heart was always open and listening for the answer when it came...

James 1:5 (New International Version)
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

James 3:17 (New International Version)
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Flander's Fields

Susan Stewart, who writes here, sent me a link to this beautiful musical rendition of the poem In Flander's Fields, sung by Adele Simmons and set to a very moving video.

I would also like to honour the memory of Susan's father (also Brenda Gresik's father, one of our blog readers,) Hugh Alden Saunders;another old soldier: March 6, 1924--February 7, 2009 (and yes, his funeral bulletin is in my loft room.)

In Memory

I am so close to finishing the loft room at last; filling my last banker's box; this one with funeral bulletins, wedding invitations--that kind of thing--I can't steel myself to throw away these evidences of lives lived.

Yesterday evening, I picked up one small bundle of cards inside a bulletin that declared "A Service to Celebrate the Life of Christopher Cater--4th May 1921--22nd January 2003. My dad's funeral.

"How fitting," I thought, "That I should find this on the eve of Remembrance Day," for he was an old soldier; a role fulfilled for a just a few of the overall span of his almost 82 years, but one which once played, forevermore changed and defined him.

Inside the bulletin are two hymns: The Lord is My Shepherd, and Just As I Am, a hymn that meant something to Dad, even though he staunchly wrestled with God as though he was somehow the enemy. Here is the last verse, which with all my heart I pray was true for him:

Just as I am, Thy love unknown
hath broken every barrier down;
now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Text: Charlotte Elliott, 1789-1871

On the back of the bulletin is a poem I chose because I loved it:

Prayer of a Soldier in France

My shoulders ache beneath the pack
(Lie easier, Cross, upon His back.)
I march with feet that burn and smart
(Tread, Holy Feet, upon my heart.)
Men shout at me who may not speak
(They scourged Thy back and smote Thy cheek.)
I may not lift a hand to clear
My eyes of salty drops that sear.
(Then shall my fickle soul forget
Thy Agony of Bloody Sweat?)
My rifle hand is stiff and numb
(From Thy pierced palm red rivers come.)
Lord, Thou didst suffer more for me
Than all the hosts of land and sea.
So, let me render back again
This millionth of Thy gift. Amen.

Joyce Kilmer
(He was an American poet and journalist who died on the battlefield in World War 1)

Today we remember, and give thanks for those who sacrificed so much. We pray, too, for those sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers who are in harm's way overseas. Dear Lord, watch over them.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Beware the Great Pumpkin

It happens to me at this time every year. At some time in October I will wrestle home a giant pumpkin to place on the steps of our sun porch alongside a sheaf of dried wheat--an emblem of the season of bounty, thanksgiving and golden fall glory.

There it will sit for a week or three, resplendent in its roughly round orangeness, until the cold winds of November begin to blow, and a change of season hints at decorations of a different hue.

But then, what to do with the pumpkin? I can never just throw it out. No, every year, my inner earth mother takes over my psyche and I stagger with the pumpkin clutched close to my chest, from porch to kitchen.

So on Saturday I halved it, scooped out the seeds and innards, and baked both halves until soft; cooled and removed the skin and ground the flesh in the food processor. I washed and dried the seeds, then tossed in a little butter and salt and roasted them. But that was just the start...

Even though a voice in my head was telling me that I was insane to be doing this when my loft room is still not tidy, and my daughter in law Sue was coming on Monday to start painting another room that needed to be cleaned out, I still decided that I was going to use the vast mass of pumpkin puree to make pumpkin nut loaves. This was because last years pumpkin puree is still in my freezer.

I had part one of the process done on Saturday, which meant that I ended up baking the loaves before and after church on Sunday. That one $2.99 pumpkin 18 fragrant and delicious, spiced loaves.

Oh, I know that I've written here about receiving the gift of Sabbath and this was definitely not doing that. By the end of the day I was so tired and testy that Paul let me know that he would have preferred a tranquil atmosphere to the abundance produced by a cook now cranky as a baby with diaper rash.

A nice cup of tea and some recovery time and I was back to normal with a great idea for some of my loaves:

Last week at our leadership conference, our CEO challenged the 250 leaders there to raise $500 each for our global ministry and I've been thinking about ways to do that. One thing I thought of is to reduce our grocery bill by $10 a week and put aside the money saved. I'm sure I can do that by shopping more thriftily; after all, we practically lived on fried eggs and chips for the first couple of years of married life and didn't die. But I also plan to take my loaves to a meeting on Thursday and sell some of them for $5.00 each. In fact I already have two sold! If I can sell 10 I will have my first $50, and still have enough loaves in the freezer to last for a while.

There is something very satisfying about seeing how one pumpkin can produce so much blessing.

Pumpkin Nut Loaf

This recipe came home from school with one of our children about 30 years ago photocopied on a green letter sized sheet of paper, which I saved for many years until I finally typed it out and saved it on my computer. Here it is for you to enjoy!

Ingredients

2 cups of sugar
4 large eggs
1 ¼ cup vegetable oil
2 ½ cup cooked pumpkin (or canned works just as well!)
3 cups white all-purpose flour
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup golden seedless sultana raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

Instructions

Beat eggs well. Add sugar and beat. Add oil and beat. Add pumpkin and beat. Stir some flour into raisins and nuts. Sift other dry ingredients together and stir into liquid. Add raisins and nuts.

Put into greased and floured loaf pans (2 large or 3 small.) Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Enjoy!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Letting Go and Taking Hold

In August 1970, before Mum left to go home to England, we had celebrated our first wedding anniversary. Peter was 3 months old and although he still slept only fitfully, we were so grateful that he was no longer suffering with colic.

It was almost a year since we had left England the previous September and it had been a year of huge adjustments--to marriage, parenthood and a new country.

Paul's mum and dad and his two sisters and brother, were living in Aurora too, in a rented house on Holman Crescent. We decided that if we moved in with them temporarily, it would enable us all to save some money, so in September that is what we did.

Their household of five increased to eight, in a three bedroom, split level bungalow. Paul's mum and dad gave up their bedroom for Paul, Peter and me, and they moved their bed into the unfinished basement. It was crowded, but we were just doing what many other newcomers have done to get established.

Paul's dad had got a job in an office and had started a church in Aurora. His sisters Sheila and Judy were in high school and his brother John, was working.

There was a spooky feeling about the house, even though it was probably not more than ten years old. I remember hearing a from cough down in the basement, when no one was there, and Paul had an experience while in bed one night, of waking up with a huge weight on his chest and praying desperately against a presence that was in the room.

I continued to work part time at Ardills, and Paul, even though he hated it, kept working at a factory. We saved hard, and soon had enough to plan for me to go to England in the following September (1971.)

During the summer of 1971 we saw in the newspaper that some houses were being built in a village called Tottenham, about 40 minutes from Aurora. We had an old clunker of a car by then, and went out for a drive one day to see the house that was in the photo in the paper. It was on a corner lot, had three bedrooms and for $500 down it was ours, fridge and stove included! The house cost only $21,900--less than a new car today! We put down our deposit, and we would take possession of it in November, but since I was going to England with Peter at the end of September and staying for 3 months, I wouldn't be there to move in.

Instead, Paul and his family moved in on November 4th. They planned to live with us for a few months in order to save some money so that they too, would have a downpayment on a house.

With both of our children, I somehow knew the moment they were conceived, and so it was with Brenda. Just before I left for England in September, I knew that another baby was on the way and not long after arriving in England I started to have morning sickness and a craving for fish! I lingered longingly at the fish market at the Birmingham Bullring.

Being "home" again after two long years away and to see Dad and Robert and my friends again was wonderful. Peter was 16 months old, and Mum had borrowed a crib for him to sleep in, and bought a little pushchair. Those three months together were so precious as we went shopping, to church and had endless cups of tea. Then as now, the simple pleasure of being together was all that we needed to be happy.

One day Paul called and said that if I really wanted to stay in England, he would come back. Two years before I would not have hesitated; I would have been so happy that at last we could go home. But thinking of the future for our children, I realized that we had a brighter future in Canada, so I told Paul that no, I would come "home" to him there.

Another phone call came a little later and his voice was full of excitement. He had been miserable working in a factory ever since we'd arrived in Canada two years ago. Now he had seen an advertisement in the paper for a job at Pine Ridge in Aurora, an institution for the developmentally disabled and applied. The position was "unclassified" staff, and he had gone for an interview and got the job! This seemed like such a miracle, as there were several applicants for the job and we were just Landed Immigrants at the time.

Paul was so happy to be working with people instead of machines and he started the job in December of 1971. At Pine Ridge Paul remembers that they were thrilled to have someone who didn't mind working New Year's Eve as it seemed everyone there wanted it off.

I arrived back in Canada with Peter in January 1972, to a different house in a different town than I had left and by then was just over 3 months pregnant.

Paul's mum had made the home look very cosy with all of our bits and pieces of furniture and there seemed to be plenty of room for all of us.

When I sat down to figure out our income and expenses, I saw that there was a shortfall. We didn't have enough to manage on when it was down on paper, even with only minimal expenditures. Somehow though, we never went a month without covering all of our bills. I never knew how that happened except that it was God meeting our needs.

I was still only 21 and Paul 24, but God had provided for us each step of the way on this adventure we were on and we knew that we would be okay as long as we kept following his lead.


Sunday, November 08, 2009

Opposites Must Attract

I sit, trying to focus on two minutes of silence, stillness and centering, serenaded by the ticking of the clock--and a Christmas carol!

The strains of Silent Night, Holy Night are wafting from Paul's office. I am afraid that he is well immersed in Christmas spirit already.

"Well, it could be worse," I think to myself, "It could be a more jocular Christmas song, such as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or Holly Jolly Christmas. Paul is just as partial to those songs. At least Silent Night is...peaceful.

There will be no holding him back now; after 40 years, I know this and choose to go with his festive flow.

As all becomes quiet again, I ponder the fact that God seems to pair up such opposites: jolly Christmas celebrants like Paul, with quiet, reflective sorts like me; tidy with messy; hoarders with throwers out; cautious with impulsive; driven with relaxed; sleepy heads with early birds--and sticklers for punctuality, with those whose inner clock runs consistently 5 minutes behind the rest.

All of this adds a certain spice to life and marriage; some might call it tension. :) You would think that with the constant mixing of gene pools, we would all have evened out to just about perfect, but that hasn't happened yet.

This is good, because the tug and pull of our differences is also the attraction.

When it's not driving us crazy!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Faulty Information Retrieval Systems

By Belinda

I spent the first three days of this week at a leadership conference at work. It was wonderful to see the familiar faces of so many old friends. When you work for the same organization for 25 years, the ties go deep and strong.

Yes, the ties go deep and strong, but the names don't necessarily stick with equal intensity!

I was embarrassed more than once because the face was one I knew so well--but I just couldn't cough up the person's name from my information retrieval system! What could be more insulting than to forget the name of someone you've known and connected with for years? It was mortifying.

We were all wearing name tags, but they dangled playfully from a lanyard which only had a fifty-fifty chance of being turned the right way around. It's hard enough, trying not to look obvious while making surreptitious glances at a name tag, without the information teasingly hiding against the chest of the nameless one.

With new people I connected with I made a point of making a note of the names, along with a reminder of something particular about them or something we talked about. Who knows if it will help! I hope so; but I think that I may be a lost cause, especially since it could be all downhill from here! :)

On Thursday afternoon after work, I stopped at the post office to pick up our mail and a stocky, gray haired man wearing a blue ski jacket and a peaked cap, said, "Hello, how are you?"

"I'm well, thank you," I replied, politely, with a smile and familiar feeling of cluelessness creeping over me.

"How are things going?" he said.

"You're going to have to help me out," I said, fishing desperately.

"It's Bill," he said, smiling and with an air of confidence that now I would recognize him.

"Bill Flynn," he said, studying me more closely.

I had no choice but to ask. "I'm sorry," I said, "How do I know you?"

Now he was embarrassed, "Um, I'm thinking that you look an awful lot like somebody else," he said.

We both laughed at the case of mistaken identity and I left the post office thinking that getting older is an endless adventure. We are either meeting old friends for the first time, or total strangers who we think are old friends.

Friday, November 06, 2009

One of a Kind


By Susan

Most of the time he's an inordinately happy little fellow. He scoots around the house with a contented look on his face, and if you're lucky, once in a while he'll flash one of those gap toothed grins that lights up your world, and makes you chuckle in return. He looks a little like that rusty old tow-truck in the Disney animation "Cars" and you'll even hear him affectionately called "Tow Mater" sometimes.

When it comes to cuddles, there's not a soul that rivals him. I stopped in there tonight on my way home, and his mommy, Beth, laid his sleeping body on my chest as I reclined in one of the lazy boys in their living room. His round head, with just a hint of golden fuzz beginning to appear, nestled into the hollow of my shoulder and I was instantly in heaven. I soon drifted off to sleep myself.

His head is the normal size for his 15 months, but his body just hasn't grown. He weighs only 16 pounds, not even double his birthweight when he should be triple that by now. He sits beautifully if you set him in that position, but he is unable to get himself there from a lying position. He should be pulling himself to stand by now, and toddling all over the house, but those milestones are months away yet. If he reaches them at all.

But we love him. Oh, how we love him!
He's been a concern to his mom and dad, and to all of us. His tiny body has been the subject of poking and prodding, and MRI's and EEG's and bloods tests and all manner of medical investigation, trying to figure out why his growth pattern and his development isn't keeping pace with the charts in the doctor's office.

Today, after months of investigation, the diagnosis finally came down.

"Let's just call it, 'Owen's Syndrome' for now," said the genetecist. "It's that rare. He's one of a kind."

It turns out that a sample of his blood, sent to a one-of-a-kind lab in Spokane, Wasington, has revealed a genetic abnormality under their hyper-microscopic scrutiny. When his chromosones were joined at the time of his conception, a few genes were dropped in the 20th chromosone. "There was," the doctor explained, " a micro-deletion of chromosonal material, when his DNA was formed."
There's no telling just yet, what that will mean in terms of his growth and development. Not even the most learned doctors can predict what he will look like, or what he'll be able to do. He's absolutely unique. One in six and a half billion. And we all think that's pretty cool.

The geneticist, Beth told me, seemed to have a little trouble with the fact that she and Mike took the news completely in stride. There were kleenex boxes placed strategically around the consultation room, which gave her the idea that a lot of tears are shed in that office when parents were informed of the difficulties their child might face.


"He's still Owen," she told him. "We'll take it one step at a time, watch who he turns out to be. We will deal with the challenges - if there are any - as they present themselves. The fact is, we love him. He is who he is, and nothing will ever change that. He's very special."

Owen, I think, is a very blessed little boy.

And so are we.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

"I Needed that Today"

By Belinda

This afternoon 250 of our organization's leaders gathered in one room, to sing; worship; tell stories; listen--and laugh together. It was the middle day of the week, and people in group A of the leadership conference, overlapped with group B and we were all together.

Our CEO, Ed Sider, shared his story, which spanned over 50 years and was really was a series of many stories. I want to share one of them here:

There had been stress; sustained over a considerable amount of time, and on this particular morning, he had to come to Toronto, early in the morning for another day of huge pressure.

He arrived at Yorkdale at 6.30 a.m. to catch the subway to his destination and stopped to use the washroom. He washed his hands and was leaving, when he passed a stranger who smiled and said, "Have a good day."

Ed went a few feet and then turned back to the washroom. Finding the man again, he said, "Thank you for the encouragement; I needed that today."

The man said, "You're a Christian, aren't you?"

Ed said, "Yes."

"So am I," said the man, "Just go about your day with confidence. It will work out."

A kind blessing from a stranger, that made all the difference in the world to someone worn down and discouraged by a battle he was facing.

The story reminded me of the importance of taking time to notice those around me; to smile, and encourage them if I can, even in some small way. We never know the difference a kindness that we think so insignificant, might make.

1 Thessalonians 5:15 b (New International Version)
15 ... always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Waiting Room

Exodus 29:42b (New International Version)

42...There I will meet you and speak to you;


Proverbs 8:34 (New International Version)

34 Blessed is the man who listens to me,
watching daily at my doors,
waiting at my doorway.


Psalm 123:2 (New International Version)

2 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God,
till he shows us his mercy



Luke 15:20 (New International Version)
20So he got up and went to his father.
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.


The room that we've been working on is finished and the mirror, clock and pictures are hung.

"What are you going to use it for?" several people have asked, curiously. We have several rooms on the ground floor, and more space than most houses.

"It's a quiet room; a reading room; a room just to be peaceful in." I tried to explain. But this morning as I sat and soaked in the quietness, I thought, "This is a waiting room;" the room in which I sit still and wait for God.

I gave thanks for it this morning, and blessed it, inviting the presence of God to fill it. If a room can be commissioned, I guess this one has been.

This morning, in the Daily Office (p. 119-120,) I read a beautiful quote by Henri Nouwen, that echoed my thoughts:

I have to kneel before the Father, put my ear against his chest and listen, without interruption, to the heartbeat of God. Then, and only then, can I say carefully and very gently what I hear. I know now that I have to speak from eternity into time, from the lasting joy into the passing realities of our short existence in this world, from the house of love into the houses of fear, from God's abode, into the dwellings of human beings.

I am do far too little waiting for God and listening, but I hope that in this small, quiet and beautiful room, I will hear from him often.

Monday, November 02, 2009

A Visit from Omie


On June the 12th, 1970, which is approximately the date our first baby was originally expected, Mum arrived in Canada. On June 1st it would have been 20 years since she had given birth to me, her first child, after her long, lonely climb up the hill called locally, "the drainpipe," while not realizing that the pain she was in was labour.

I had not seen Mum since September 27th--almost 8 months! I could barely contain my excitement at the fact that she would be here with us in Canada and staying to the end of August.

I remember her delight at and immediate bond with the tiny baby who had come to the airport to meet her, her first grandchild, Peter.

Her suitcase was filled with gifts from friends and family and little baby clothes that she had been collecting and knitting.

This visit was to be the first of many over the years. During her visits with us she was so very happy, as we were to have her.

Peter had developed colic, and every evening, like clockwork; at 6.00 p.m., he would begin to suffer terrible gas pains that caused him to scream inconsolably for three hours. I was not successful in breasfeeding during the first couple of days in the hospital and in 1970 there was not a lot of help and encouragement given. In fact my female doctor actively encouraged me to bottle feed since it wasn't working right away. I regret not persisting, but I was so inexperienced that I followed her guidance. If I had been able to breastfeed, Peter may not have had colic.

As all mothers who have gone through this know, there are no words to describe the desperation that descends when trying to comfort a baby that cannot be comforted. I don't know how I would have survived those first few months without Mum, who gladly more than shared the hours of rocking and soothing every evening. I was so grateful for Mum's help.

On the other hand, there was also a little tension around Mum giving advice, when I thought I knew what I was doing. I hadn't learned yet to be gracious and grateful. Instead I know that I was often defensive and stubborn.

Mostly though, the moments we shared together were precious and happy, with simple pleasures of going for walks and coffee at Mr. Donut, whenever Peter would allow us. He was a highly strung baby who let us know in no uncertain terms when it was time to leave.

The weeks sped by all too fast and soon it was time for Mum to leave again. I cannot begin to imagine how hard that was for her; but she was so brave and taught me to be, too. We determined from the very start, never to say, "Goodbye," just, "Until we meet again."

It seemed ungrateful to give in to sadness when we had such treasured memories to cherish. So another tradition began: that of smiling bravely at the airport. I'm afraid though, that once I had watched the last glimpse of her dear form vanish from view, swallowed up into the depths of airport security, as soon as I turned to leave, my face would crumple into the "ugly cry," though I never cried out loud. Part of my sadness was knowing that she was going back to an unhappy life at home.

Paul was always exceedingly sensitive to how I felt, and still is when it is time for me to leave Mum at the end of any visit. I've always been so grateful for his tenderness in that regard and grateful for a Mum who is so lovable and dear.

Another tradition that started during that visit, was the leaving behind of a little note, to be found upon return from the airport. Here is some of what Mum wrote in that note:

My dear Belinda, Paul and my little darling!
I thought I'll write a few lines, before I'm off again, because the post takes such a long time to come through from England and I know how you love the postman to bring something.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the lovely time I've had with you three. I've decided not to worry about anything like I will have promised when I leave. Belinda, I've seen for myself how well you look after each other. If I have been a bit anxious about you or Peter, forgive me, it's just that I love you so very much and that makes me go that way. I know what you think already, because you understand and say, "There's nothing to forgive." I've looked forward to every day and enjoyed them all. And of course, not to forget the nights with Peter. It was worth it, every single minute. Thinking back over the weeks, I keep on saying what a lovely pair you are to let me share Peter so completely and you Paul, to really share our Belinda. I mean that. Lots of men don't react or understand this. And I really think a terrible lot of that. You mean a terrible lot to me because I know how much Belinda loves you, and you make her happy. That's all a mother can wish for...

Darlings I will close here and I write my next letter as soon as I get home. Please take care of each other. Give Peter a kiss from his Omie every day. May the Lord bless you all always and don't forget I love you all very, very much!

With all my love you three, Your Mum/Omie xxxxx

Next week: The Move