Saturday, January 30, 2010
I tell him that I bought a new Leslie Sansone
Walk Away the Pounds DVD from Costco last Saturday. "I walked 3 miles last Sunday," I say, and add, "And I could still feel it in my muscles for several days afterwards, so I know I had a good work-out."
"Paul and I did Wear Away the Bones several years ago, Belinda," Robert said, "You can still feel it now; it's amazing!" :)
Brenda and I decided to spend one morning a month cooking together. Today we made Butter Chicken, from The Dinner Fix by Sandi Richard. I LOVE all of Sandi Richard's cookbooks and also have The Healthy Family and Dinner Survival. Many of the dishes I make for cell group are from her cook books and Butter Chicken is a recipe that people ask me for all the time!
Brenda and I cooked to the sensuous and beautiful Indian classical music from a CD that was free in a box of mixed vegetable curry made by Kitchens of India.
The results of our cooking this morning are mouth wateringly delicious. The fragrance of basmati rice hangs in the air along with the scent of garam masala and madras curry, cinnamon, chili and paprika!
Tonight Brenda's boyfriend Kevin will enjoy!
My friend Irene gave it to me. Well, actually she took it from Alicia to give to me because I think (and hope) that Alicia knew where to get another one. Anyway, I like everything about it and have been carrying it with me for a couple of weeks now, although I just used it for the first time this week.
I love, love, love, new journals. There are two others that I recently received, with beautiful leather covers; one black and one brown. They sit, pristine, on my bookshelf in the loft room, awaiting a "special" purpose--I'll know it when it comes.
My brown wrapping paper book, which was in my briefcase, found its purpose one day this week. I decided to use it for a reflective work journal. So far it has only one entry, but I intend to use it to reflect on what has gone well, or not so well; a record of things learned.
Would you like to hear what I wrote for my first entry? I read it to my team today during a conversation about time management. Since you can't say no, here it is (slightly edited:)
This week lay ahead on Monday morning, with carefully planned slots on my schedule, in order of priority. Into the middle of a 1.1 supervision meeting came the news of a serious issue.
The day unfolded, relatively as planned, but with added phone calls and emails, related to the issue.
And then this morning (Tuesday.) Already I had prioritized another 1.1 supervision meeting over a committee meeting an hour and a half away, but now the morning unfolded with added phone calls and connections that needed to be made in follow up to the matter at the same time as we all worked through the emotions surrounded it.
As lunch time approached, I glanced at the clock, thinking of 1 o'clock, when I had a video conference at another office, a good 40 minute's drive away. Meanwhile, there were other pressing priorities that had not been addressed because of the crisis we were dealing with.
The "old me" would have grabbed my committee binder and lunch, which I would have eaten in the car, on the way. I would have been ill prepared for the meeting and would have come back to my office in the late afternoon, stressed and overwhelmed with a pile of things to do. I would have had to stay late to get them done.
What I did, though, was to make a phone call and send an email, explaining that I would have to miss the afternoon meeting. I took time to have lunch and focus on things other than work. With ten minutes left of my half hour break, I sat back in my chair--a position I rarely allow myself to relax into--and I felt peace; physically; spiritually; and emotionally.
"Be still," I heard, "And know that I am God."
(Psalm 46:10 (New International Version)
I drove home at the end of 8 hours, still with one important task left to complete first thing in the morning, but having taken care of preparations for the next day's meeting and a meeting on Thursday. I knew that the most important things had been done.
I thought about the choices we are presented with in a day. Whether we are conscious of them or not, each one is important.
I'd love to hear. Do you find it easy to make the choice to say no to something?
Friday, January 29, 2010
I gave up on the curriculum weeks ago. Expressions of "I'm bored!" and "Can't we play a game?", both expressed in whiny tones, forced me to close my Teacher's Guide and set aside my lesson plans. "They seem to like to talk..." their other teacher told me, the one who has them on the opposite weeks of when I am in charge of their class.
And that's how we found ourselves in Tim Horton's last week, my wee class and I. I decided to "go with the flow" and capitalize on their gift of expression. I had parents' permission forms signed, read over the lesson plan so I knew what I should be shooting for, and we headed for the door with a prayer that I would be able to discern "the teachable moment" when it arrived in the midst of us.
Settling at the table with drinks and donuts, I asked the girls how their week had gone before turning their attention to current events and asking them what was in the news. They all knew about the earthquake in Haiti, but I could tell it seemed far away to them, as indeed it was.
"Could that happen here?"
That question stopped them short. They didn't think so...
"But what if something else happened? We talked about some possibilities. What if there was a tornado? A car accident? What would you do ?
"I would pray," answered one of them.
"Good answer," I said. "But what if something happened so fast you didn't have time to pray?" They stopped listening to themselves talk and all eyes were on me. It was the teachable moment.
We talked about crying out to God in the middle of whatever was happening - anytime, anywhere, and he would hear us. We talked about being ready long before any sudden calamity hit - of nurturing our relationship with God so that when we really needed him, when there was no time even to pray, we would already know him well enough enough to just lean back into his arms - even in the midst of the storm. We talked about "being ready", but even if we weren't ready, that we could still be confidant of his mercy and grace and though we might falter in our faithfulness, he never, ever would. He would hear our cry...
Half an hour later we were spilling back through the church doors and my girls were rejoining their parents. There was not a single hint of "I'm bored" this week. And I'm looking forward to our next class together - and that next teachable moment.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Happy Thursday Everyone! As I write this it is still Wednesday evening and Paul and I just arrived home from celebrating Doug Sewell's 30th anniversary with Christian Horizons.
Doug is my boss and much loved by all of us who serve under his leadership. I am so glad that as well as sharing a funny story, I had the chance to share the two things I cherish most in his leadership:
1) The fact that I can count without asking, on the fact that he will never stand for the people that we serve, being treated as second class citizens in any way and that we have his backing in any question over that.
2) I have also learned from him to lead with mercy. There have been times when he has said to me, "Yes, you can do that; you would be justified in doing that; but you don't have to do that." And then he left the choice with me. I've been the recipient of that mercy at times, too. His leadership has been a forming influence in my own.
As Paul and I drove up to Huntsville and then on to Dwight, we left behind sunny blue skies and clear roads and entered Winterland! We have been so spoiled with mild weather this winter that we almost forgot what it was like to sit hunched over a steering wheel peering through a windshield at falling snow, tense at the slippery snow covered road beneath your tires.
We arrived home safely and in my In Box I found another post on our daughter-in-law's blog, Pressing On, entitled Plus God. I think Whatever He Says readers will find it fruitful reading. Be blessed if you venture there--and be blessed in your day.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I listen to an interview on CBC radio as I clear the basement room and clean the floor. The producer of Slumdog Millionaire gives the real story about how the child actors from India were treated by their company. It sounds more than fair: wise, careful, insightful, culturally relevant, generous. I am convicted. I remember joining the chorus of critics and mentioning my concerns on a blog post last year the week after I,among millions, was very touched by this movie. Like so many people I assumed that the "information" I read was true...that there was unfair treatment, etc. The producer stated that their well thought out plans for present and future provision for these actors were all made before there was public outcry and inquiry into their welfare,before the movie won lots of oscars and made tons of money.
I thought of how many times I have been wounded by people not getting the story straight about me, to the point that I have learned to stop caring a lot of the time, or just to assume that it will happen that way. I recall our experience in Africa - being slandered and misunderstood, charged with false motivation and self- interest. Then I put it down to culture clash, jealousy, spiritual warfare. But it's often hard for me to remember how easy it is to do, how prone we all are to latching on to an impression, some hearsay, and then running with it. How often do we have the passion to get the whole story? How often in my life as a missionary was I guilty of a "smaller" version of the sins that were visited against us?
I ponder my future plans: to sit with others to hear their untold or mistold stories; to be the safe person who allows the unexpressed to be spoken, the trauma to be revealed, the hurt to be healed.
Jesus says that it is being faithful in little that counts. If we can't do it there, we can't be trusted with the big stuff.
I turn back to my floor clearing, picking up the little bits of stuff that could get in someone's shoe, finding missing pieces for some treasure yet to be discovered in the boxes still needing sorting. I am more than ever thankful for this humble, hidden task, and opportunity to pray, to ponder, to listen to the world talking on the radio.
In these later years of my life I am learning more kindergarten lessons. I expect it will continue til the day I die.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
"Metamorphosis" seems an apt title for what happened next in our life journey. Last week, in my memoir post entitled "Gifts in Strange Packages," I told the story of how in 1983, a challenging, busy, but very happy period of our lives that lasted for almost ten years, came to an end.
For the previous 9 and a half years, we had lived side by side with a group of people with developmental disabilities as house parents, but with the closure of the nearby institution: Pine Ridge, we were led to Christian Horizons, a small faith based agency with about 10 group homes throughout the province of Ontario. Christian Horizons agreed to assume responsibility for the group of 12 men we had cared for, and hire me as the director of the home.
The decision to do this happened in November, with a goal of my making the transition from "house mother" to "director" somewhere around January 1st 1984. This involved our moving out of the home, and into a home we had bought in nearby Holland Landing.
Looking back now, it was such a huge undertaking. We had lived there for almost a decade. Our children were 2 and 4 years old when we moved in. We ourselves were just 24 and 27 respectively. Now our children were almost 12 and 14 and we were almost 34 and 37. In many ways this was the home we had known for the most significant period in our lives so far.
We had two months in which to dismantle our lives in that house and try to replace it with a different structure of support--and it was incredibly difficult.
November and December are months that are normally insanely busy without a move and this one involved setting up a new household while still managing the old one. I spent those months packing and cleaning. I can't even remember how we celebrated Christmas, although I am sure that we did.
At the same time, I was so excited at the thought of being hired to work for Christian Horizons, that for the first day or so after it was decided, I just couldn't stop smiling with joy.
I had to hire staff since I would only be there for 8 hours out of 24. I had never interviewed anyone in my life or supervised another person. Christian Horizons had hired someone with a great deal of a certain kind of very valuable experience, but with a huge learning curve in others.
Ed was very patient with me. He was far away in Kitchener, but he was my boss. He told me not to hesitate to call if necessary and that he would rather I call and ask if I didn't know the answer to a question. I took him at his word and remember placing an advertisement for staff in the local paper at his direction, then calling him excitedly just to tell him that I had done it! I laugh at that now, but the lessons I learned from his kind leadership then, have helped to form my own leadership style.
Things had run pretty smoothly with our family living there 24/7. I had no idea how many staff it would take to cover all of those hours with people working shifts. One by one Ed brought candidates forward for interviews, which we did together. The first four staff hired were, Judy, Kim, Chris and Donna. We really needed at least two people for every 8 hour shift, and one for overnight. That is a lot more than four people--five counting me. I had never done scheduling before, and I struggled with a weekly schedule and a pencil, trying to somehow make the impossible, work. I was so stressed that eating seemed impossibly difficult. The food wouldn't go down and besides I had no time.
Meanwhile we did move, shortly after New Year's Day, but the move brought with it new challenges. Peter and Brenda now had a mom who went out to work and was not at home when they arrived home from school. But they did have my phone number and they used it! I had phone calls where it sounded like World War 3 had broken out and they were in the next town and I was at work. I had long ago learned that they needed to work out their own differences together, but it was scary hearing them going at it so far away.
I began to lose weight,and Paul was going through stress of his own. The closure of any facility is fraught with raw emotions and uncertainty on a day to day basis and he was working to close the place he had worked for 12 years. The environment at work was stressful and home was also a stressed place.
Gradually, one by one, staff were added to our small team: Debbie, Desmond, Gloria and others. We often started our shifts with prayer and a tight bond formed between us.
A young behavioural consultant by the name of Dave Hingsburger became part of our multi disciplinary team, supporting us with helpful strategies to teach replacement skills for difficult behaviour. We would pour out our hearts in dismay to him and he, with outside eyes, would see the answer we had been blind to. More than once I wondered why I had not seen the obvious. 26 years later, Dave has become a dear friend of ours and a faithful reader of this blog. He is also now a celebrated lecturer, writer and leader in the field of disabilities, especially abuse prevention and sexuality.
I remember Dave commenting on the level of laughter on the young team that was forming. We did laugh a lot, pray a lot and we learned a lot on our feet.
And all of this is why the unusual events of that night in November, which I wrote about last week, were so important to have to cling to as a sign that we were on the right track. The decision we made had resulted in so much stress that we needed to know that we really, really, had made the right one. We knew that for sure because of that night.
Stay tuned for further adventures next week!
Monday, January 25, 2010
The supper dishes are cleared away and the dishwasher softly swishes them clean in the nearby kitchen. The cranberry coloured tablecloth lies in a heap on a side table, ready for the crumbs to be shaken outside into the night at the end of the evening. The table pad is neatly folded, ready for the next meal around the long, oval pine table.
A group of friends settles into either easy chairs or the ochre leather couch. Anticipation hangs in the air along with the scent of an apple cinnamon candle.
Jane, a woman in her mid fifties, with short gray hair and dancing eyes, looks around the room with a smile as she prepares to start our cell group study. She leads the group with a deliberate, animated style.
The lights in the two adjoining rooms are off, and outside the night is dark. Our circle of friends seems to sit in a pool of light.
I suddenly have a moment of intense joy.
Barb, Jane's friend, asks, "Belinda, were you about to say something?"
And I try to explain how I imagined someone looking in from the darkness outside through one of the five windows that surround the room--or perhaps looking down from somewhere high above our house. What a happy scene they would observe, I thought; and how glad I was in that moment, to be there; with friends; gathered to read, learn and share our thoughts.
I stop, suddenly feeling slightly embarrassed at my outburst of extreme joy. Indeed, Susan, who is sitting next to me on the couch, smiles at me with a slightly incredulous expression in her eyes.
But I am so grateful for Thursday evening; a table of fellowship; a gathering of friends; and the promise of Jesus that where two or three are gathered in his name, he is with us.
Matthew 18:20 (New International Version)
20For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
Saturday, January 23, 2010
(Susan's post was missing yesterday because she was up all night nursing a feverish grandson. She'll be back next week!)
I love listening to audio books! While doing so I can do hours of cleaning or ironing and never notice. Mostly I listen while driving though. The latest book I picked up from the library is Prophet of Purpose by Jeffrey L. Sheler; the life story of Rick Warren.
It was several years ago that I read Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life , which deeply impacted me, so I was intrigued by a chance to know more about him. The book is inspiring and well written. Although it is 12 hours long, I am almost finished--and my ironing is up to date.
On the way home from work on Thursday, I listened to the account in the book, of an incident I remembered: that of Brian Nichols taking Ashley Smith hostage in 2005.
During the seven hours she was held captive by Nichols (who had murdered 4 people,) she built a rapport with him and eventually asked if she could go to her bedroom and get a book. The book was The Purpose Driven Life, and she asked if she could read it. When he said yes, she turned to the page that was bookmarked and began to read; she was on day 32 of the 40 days of daily readings. Suddenly Nichols said, "Stop, read that again."
The passage was entitled, Using What God Gave You. Smith read it to him again:
Since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be,
Romans 12:5 (Msg)
What you are is God's gift to you; what you do with yourself is your gift to God.
God deserves your best.
He shaped you for a purpose, and he expects you to make the most of what you have been given. He doesn't want you to worry about or covet abilities you don't have. Instead he wants you to focus on talents he has given you to use.
When you attempt to serve God in ways you're not shaped to serve, it feels like forcing a square peg into a round hole. It's frustrating and produces limited results. It also wastes your time, your talent, and your energy. The best use of your life is to serve God out of your shape. To do this you must discover your shape, learn to accept and enjoy it, and then develop it to its fullest potential.
Nichols asked Smith what she thought God's purpose for his life might be. She said that maybe he was meant to minister to people in prison. Nichols eventually decided he didn't want to hurt any more people and surrendered peacefully to the police.
When I got home from work, I couldn't wait to find my copy of The Purpose Driven Life. On the third bookshelf I looked on, there it was. I opened it to the reading for day 32, and it had a folded up piece of paper marking it, with the words to a song entitled, The Summons.
I shared the story during a devotion that I led on Friday morning and added a reading from Little House on the Freeway by Tim Kimmel (pages 131-134.) He wrote about being a theological student, and his professor's request to the class to write down on a 3 x 5 index card, their three greatest weaknesses. The only problem most of the class had, was choosing which weaknesses to write down.
Then he turned to them and told them that his next question would be the most important question they would answer, and that their ability to answer it, would indicate the future success of their ministry. He asked them to write on the other side of the card--their three greatest strengths. The seminarians groaned and suffered paralysis of the writing hand, but eventually they managed to write down their strengths. The professor told them that strengths as well as callings, are to be stewarded.
Rick Warren talks about the stewardship of influence and affluence.
We closed our devotions by passing around a sheet of paper on which the words to a song called, The Summons were printed. Each of us read a line out loud and passed it on until we were done; and then we prayed.
How about you? Is God calling you to use strengths, influence, or affluence for him--perhaps in a different way than you've considered to this point?
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?
Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?
Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?
Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?
Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In Your company I'll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow in you and you in me.
Friday, January 22, 2010
I look at the note at the top of my page in the Daily Light for January 22nd. It reads, "Dad's homegoing," and on the line below, "2003."
Seven years: It seems so long for him to have been gone, and I immediately think of all that has happened since the point where we carried on as family; without him: especially Mum's stroke in October that same year.
I wonder how they could have possibly managed as a couple through that terrible time if he had still been here.
I decide not to dwell on that which is impossible to know, and instead I remember him:
The boy born unwanted--the result of a liaison between an employer and household servant in 1920--willing or unwilling.
The boy who didn't know his mother until he was dropped off into the care of a virtual stranger at the age of 5.
Whose childhood included rejection, deprivation, hunger and violence.
Who joined the army in wartime, with patriotism and high ideals that were shattered in the blood, betrayal and brutal horror that he witnessed in his short weeks on the battle field; if there are such things as "short weeks on the battlefield."
Who married a beauty with a beautiful soul, who also bore scars unseen. A woman who wanted to love and rescue this man who had never known what love was.
A man who lost her love and found strength to face the world only when fortified by the warmth of liquor.
A man increasingly isolated as he aged, by hearing loss, but who steadfastly refused to wear a hearing aid; expecting the world instead, to conform to his disability.
But also a man we loved because he was ours to love. And because he did his best to love us with what he had to work with.
My Daily Light's first verse for today is:
Psalm 48:14 (New International Version)
14 For this God is our God for ever and ever;
he will be our guide even to the end.
And the evening reading includes these verses:
2 Corinthians 12:9 (New International Version)
9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
Matthew 9:2 (New International Version)
..."Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven."
Matthew 9:22 (New International Version)
22Jesus turned and saw her. "Take heart, daughter," he said, "your faith has healed you."...
These verses have seemed to me, since this day in 2003, a special message of grace to us; bringing us all to the foot of the cross; a cross where we all can find mercy and healing.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
There were times in my life when all I could do was put my head down and keep running. I had children to clothe; laundry to do; meals to cook; floors to scrub and a million other things that had to be done. Now there is more discretion. There is choice!
Daughter-in-law Sue came back tonight to do more painting. Tall, and string bean skinny, she walked in wearing her painting gear, still managing to look beautiful with her dark hair and striking eyes that are blue, gray or green, depending on the light.
She quickly trod on thin ice though, when she said, "Now I know for sure that you guys are old. This is the second night I've found you eating dinner on TV trays in front of the TV."
We felt compelled to point out that tonight the TV wasn't on and that the reason we were eating on TV trays was because we liked it and we can! I said, "Just wait until your kids are grown up and you don't have to make dinner and eat at the table--I bet you'll eat off TV trays too."
"Yes," she said (always one to have the last word,) "And then I'll know I'm old!"
But to get back to my original point: the thinking through of my life. I started as usual just before January 1st, taking stock. There is so much I would love to accomplish, but I know that left to chance, the urgent; the pleasant; and the delightfully distracting, will overtake the important every time. This why I began thinking it all through again.
Friends will remember that I had a colour coded Excel schedule a couple of years ago. I managed to fit every single thing into a slot on that page: writing; devotions; exercise; work; housework; sleeping; studying; volunteer work. It was with a great sense of triumph that I saw that it Could All Be Done. A short time later I wrote a blog post entitled, The Colours Bled, in which I bemoaned the fact that real life didn't unfold according to the template. My chart was far too rigid and strict and of course it was doomed to failure. It did look lovely and afforded me excitement for a while, though.
Maybe it's because I didn't just leap into it this year, but took time to think and experiment with my current template, but my days upon it look quite minimalistic. I have realized that I cannot do half the things that I thought I could in a given day or week. All along I have been setting myself up for failure and dashed hopes.
I still wonder why I can't be like some other people who seem to know without any sort of guide, how to live their lives effectively and get the essentials done. I'm not like that though. Without instructions and prompts and left to my own devices, I will wander all over the place like a fly waking up from winter hibernation.
So my life on paper has been simplified. I am harbouring a (probably vain) hope that by doing so I will suddenly out do myself and find I have time left over.
Time on my hands! Now that would be a new experience.
What about you? Is your life simplifying these days or as rushed as ever?
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Last night our daughter-in-law Sue was here to paint. She shared the news that she has started a blog connected to the Bible study in her home every other week, in which she and some friends are studying the book, The Attributes of God, by A. W. Tozer.
I loved what she had to say in her very first post on her blog. If you click on the blog title Pressing On , you will get there. I hope that you check it out today and be inspired too. Hey, I learned that there is such a word as "infinitude." I didn't know that! :)
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
God had been all over our coming to Maplewood Lodge in the beginning when we bought a house in the dark that I hated when I saw it in the light. It made me open to the opportunity of living elsewhere and doing something radically different to being a stay at home mom. So we rented out the house we owned and moved into a farmhouse on two acres of land that was home to ten, and later twelve, men with disabilities.
I did stay at home, which was always what I wanted to do when we had children, but it was "home" with a twist and just included a few extra people!
I said to someone in recent weeks, "Sometimes God gives gifts in strange packages." I have found it so! Often when I have been disappointed by a turn of events I wonder if God is secretly trying to give me a gift (if only I would stop wallowing in self pity and a bad attitude, and recieve it.)
When we did that incredibly naive job of buying a house in 1974, we had no idea that it was how God would get us to the next place in our lives.
Our children grew up on the farm with rosy cheeks and the wind in their hair as they climbed old trees and looked out across fields of waving corn--corn that whispered and creaked if they walked in it and listened. They awoke to mornings when the mist rolled across the fields until the sun burnt it off and the breeze sighed tales of summers past. In the field ran a creek into which Jeff, one of their friends, fell everytime he came over to play. He was a very precocious child, a sort of mathematical genius, but not good around water. They played in the long cupboards that ran the length of the house beneath the roof, and in winter they tobogganed for hours down the hill out back. I only found out after the fact that they had also played in the old barn on the property, leaping from upper floors in the old and dangerous building. Thank the Lord for guardian angels!
But as the 1970's turned into the 1980's, we heard of plans to close Pine Ridge, the institution where Paul worked. It is hard now to believe this, but we had mixed feelings about the planned closure. In fact I even wrote a letter to the local paper, expressing my belief that for some people, the institution had the support system needed for their complex needs--a point of view that I would hear years later from parents when other institutions closed. By that time I was able to reassure them that even for those with complex needs, life is better on the outside of an institution.
By 1983, the planning for the closure was well underway. Paul was in upper management at the institution by then, and helping to facilitate the closure by connecting with outside agencies who might offer homes and support to the people moving back to the community.
Within the institution there was great tension as staff adjusted to the thought of huge change coming into their work life. Everyone was guaranteed another government job, but it would mean a different location and different job.
We, too, wondered what would become of our home. We were praying about it and knew that God had a plan; but he never sees fit to reveal his plans too far ahead of time. Up until then we had been supported by an interdisciplinary team at Pine Ridge. We had access to behaviour management; health services; recreation department and vocational services. We needed to decide what to do when Pine Ridge closed.
Some options we considered, explored and prayed about were: coming under the auspices of the local association for community living, where many of the people who we lived with went to day programs; we considered being connected with Huronia Regional Centre, an institution to the north, in Orillia, and we considered the possibility of being independent. The latter idea didn't appeal to us at all, even though the families of the men we cared for liked the idea because we had formed a strong relationship with many of them. We pointed out to them that if anything happened to us, or if we took a different direction in our lives in the future, this option would not have much security for their family members.
Paul was attending many planning meetings throughout the stressful and unsettling early months of 1983. One evening he came home from a meeting at the Nottawasaga Inn near Alliston, where he and other government staff had been meeting with the leaders of community agencies. He said, "Lynn (his nickname for me), today I met a man named Noel Churchman; the Executive Director of a small agency called Christian Horizons." He went on to tell me how impressed he had been, both by Noel Churchman, and by the agency. Most of all he was struck by the fact that Christian Horizons was willing to support even the people with the greatest challenges."
We both thought the same thing--how wonderful it would be if Christian Horizons would consider taking over our home; it would be the perfect fit. Of course we had no idea if they would be interested, and didn't know what this would mean for us, but we began to pray about it.
Meanwhile, work continued on finding homes for the people living at Pine Ridge. There was a strong parents group opposing the closure, and one day Mr. McKenzie, the administrator, brought the vice president of the concerned parents group to visit our home. I knew that this was a great honour. Our home was filled with second hand furniture. It could happily be described as rustic although it was neat, tidy and clean. But Mr. McKenzie was shrewdly banking on a mother's instinct to know love when she saw it--and she did. She said that this was where she wanted her son to come and said that she had seen other homes that were brand new but felt to her, cold and sterile. Here, in this home, she said, she could feel the love. And so it was that Paul, her son, began a transition to our home, replacing one of the other men who was moving back to his home community of Brampton.
One day that summer, Noel Churchman came to visit us and look at our home. We were getting to know eachother; talking about the possibility of working together and what that might mean. Noel was tall, and skinny as a rail with a slight stoop. His features were sharp and his gray blue eyes twinkled with a quick intelligence and wit that could be biting. He had been a school principal when God called him to work for Christian Horizons in the 1960's. I learned later of the shoe box in which the bills to be paid were kept--the extent of the systems in place when Noel came on board.
It was in November when another staff of Christian Horizons came to talk to us. He was dark haired and as thin as Noel. His dark and gentle eyes danced with a humour that lay just below the surface and his questions were probing. His name was Ed Sider, and he was then the director of operations for Christian Horizons.
Before he left he said to me, "Lynn, (he had picked up Paul's nickname as did many others back then) we would like to offer you a position as director of this house, for Christian Horizons." But then he told me that Christian Horizons did not have a "live in" model. We would have to move out.
Of course we had been praying and we were willing to do anything that God asked us to do and I told Ed that, "But," I said, "The house we own (a different one to the one I had hated) is rented out."
I went on, "Even though they don't have a lease, we wouldn't want to just tell our tenants to move out without giving them sufficient notice."
Ed did not seem worried by that at all. He said to take as much time as we needed and not to feel rushed. "Let's work towards January," he said. That was very comforting.
Ed left to drive back to Kitchener before supper. He had not been gone for very long, I was just clearing up the pots and pans from our meal, when there was a knock on our door.
I opened it up, wiping my hands on a towel and I could hardly believe it; there stood our tenant. He had never come to our house before. He seemed awkward and uneasy. He apologized for bothering us and said that he was really sorry, but they had been offered a house at a rent they couldn't turn down. He said that they would be moving out on December 31st.
It was all I could do to keep my composure, but I did manage it and told him not to worry--that I was so happy they had this great opportunity for a lower rent.
God knew that in the months ahead, which would be turbulent and stressful in the extreme, I would need to have a sign to look back on that we had made the right decision. How often I looked back to that night in the months ahead....
Monday, January 18, 2010
Saturday mornings are deliciously lazy around our house and a time for family and friends. After the necessary focus and drive of the weekdays, the anticipation of the weekend begins to build as Friday evening draws near. I love my work, but I am thankful for the different pace of the weekend.
This Saturday found me after breakfast, sitting in the morning sunshine, feet up in a recliner, still in my robe, and chatting to Rob and Mum, 3,000 miles away in England. The week before last, a dog joined their family: Bruce, the Staffordshire bull terrier; 3 1/2 years old. He belongs to my nephew John, who adopted him from friends who couldn't keep him, but on Saturday John was at work and Rob was looking after him.
I could hear soft but persistent, whining in the background. Rob said that he had bought Bruce a ball that was supposed to be indestructable but that almost immediately Bruce ripped a piece off and then another, and another. Rob had taken the ball away and put it in the cupboard, but Bruce knew where it was and wanted it. "Yeah Belinda," Rob said,"He's not a gentle golden retriever."
When we said goodbye, I got up to put the portable phone in its charger, but before I could, it rang. It was my friend, Frances. I headed back to the chair; it was so good to hear from her and I looked forward to an update on her life. We had a conversation that went off in as many tangents as an accidentally ignited box of fireworks. We laughed at how cool it was to do that, while always managing to hold onto the original thread. And we covered a satisfyingly large amount of territory, thoroughly.
We talked about God and Frances recounted a conversation with another friend, when she had said to her of Satan, "He doesn't just get a foothold and then lollygag around; he's like a weevil. His modus operandi is not to be a minor irritant but total destruction."
I suddenly got a picture of Bruce and his ball, not resting until there was no more ball to rip. Yes, that is what Satan is like unless we recognize the territory we have yielded to him.
Frances went on, "I realize how much closer to God I need to be, and how much closer I can be. I need to burrow in. Just like Satan digging in, how much fiercer do I need to be in digging in to Jesus' side?"
We encouraged one another in Christ. And we talked of Jesus, and how closely he walked with the Father; never doing anything unless he heard from him.
John 12:49-50 (New Living Translation)
49 I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50 And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.”
And Frances encouraged me to listen to Jesus Culture and their song that echoes those words of Jesus.
I thank God for Saturdays. :)
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Genesis 15:12-14 (New International Version)
12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the LORD said to him, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.
I pondered this prophesy, given to Abraham, and fulfilled hundreds of years later, when the people of Israel were enslaved in Egypt. It brought home to me that there is a bigger story and we are all part of it.
Writers learn that a really good story--one that rings true and captivates our interest--has twists and turns, ups and downs; conflict and tension and moments of high drama.
When I understand my life as part of a bigger story, suddenly a lot of my perceptions shift. Once I grasp this, my importance diminishes in my own eyes. I am part of something bigger than my little life.
And here's the paradox: while my own concerns grow smaller in importance--my significance is heightened as part of that Bigger Story. We each have an irreplacable role to play in the story; but it's not all about us.
I am reminded in a powerful way that it is not my right to expect wealth, health or a life of comfort and ease. If I should land on this planet at a time or place where I experience the luxury of ample food, clothing and shelter, it is good to remember that it might have been different; and for many others it is.
What I have then, should not be considered mine to keep for myself, but as a man who happens upon a store of food in a land of famine--it is to be shared. And this is what I thought of when I thought of Haiti and the desperation there. I cannot allow myself to detach from it; to think of it only as "news." It is news allright, but news of hungry flesh, broken bones and unthinkable loss and tragedy.
As Susan wrote yesterday, the organization we work for had people in Haiti, working with a small orphanage. We haven't heard their status but we have people ready to go and help and there is an opportunity to give through our website http://www.christian-horizons.org/ . Only knowing that we are part of a bigger story can make sense of 400 years of slavery. Only knowing that we are part of a bigger story can make sense of what is happening in Haiti.
Colossians 3:1-3 (New Living Translation
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.
Philippians 3:20-21 (New Living Translation)
20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. 21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.
Friday, January 15, 2010
I trudge up the snowy sidewalk and make my way gingerly over the ice covered steps to our back door. I shed my burdens of the day, putting away my briefcase and kicking off my boots. I check the coffeepot, yay! there's still coffee in there. I pour myself a cup and stick it in the microwave. Because it's a thermal pot, it will taste just as good as when it was first made this morning. I add a little milk and carry it with me to the living room.
There is "my sister's" couch - way too nice to be called a hand-me-down. At one end there are pillows piled, waiting. At the other end is "Belinda's" duvet, another treasure picked up from a friend who no longer needed it. But in our old farmhouse, where there are cold spots and where Ron and I constantly battle silently, and good naturedly over the thermostat, it is a much appreciated commodity. I set my coffee on "Mom's" footstool, sink into "the nap trap" as my brother-in-law Rick used to call it and nestle into the pillows. The duvet makes a soft rustling sound as I pull it over myself.
I am alone in the house, which doesn't happen very often. Ron is at an evening meeting, Joel at his girlfriend's, likely, and everyone else who still lives here is away at school. I have time to think and to pray. Before long, I'm resting too. Crashed. Hard. I don't even hear Ron come in an hour or so later.
I am home. My belly is full, having been well fed at Belinda's house a few hours earlier with the rest of our cell group. It was anoter wonderful meal, shared with Paul and Belinda, and other friends who are growing in dearness every time we get together. We are still working throught the book, "Sabbath" and much of the discussion was about "rest". I have made myself and object lesson. I am home. And I am at rest.
My heart though, travels quickly across the globe to where - in a contrast that is obscene - there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
I won't describe here the scenes in Haiti that fill my mind and heart. I don't understand why I - one of the richest people in the world statistically - sit here with my coffee and my comfort, while those who are already the poorest of the poor are living a horror I can't even think about, let alone begin to endure.
God help them.
It is a silly prayer almost, when compared to the magnitude of need. But I pray anyway. God is big enough. I know that. I rest in him.
I feel guilty almost that all of my grandchildre are within ten minutes of me. Each one has a bed of their own, with sheets and blankets, a belly that is full, parents who love them, a solid roof over the head of each one.
If you haven't already done so, can I encourage you to give? The Salvation Army responded almost instantly. They are already there on the ground, in the front lines, doing what they can. You can make a donation from the comfort of your own home at www.salvationarmy.ca . Christian Horizons, the ministry where Belinda and I both work, have a small orphanage there, and were already seeking ways they could expand their outreach there. You can find out how you can help through them at www.christian-horizons.org . Wherever and however you choose to respond, let's just do it. Let's do what we can.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
From one Christmas to another, those happy years went by at Maplewood Lodge, shaping us all in ways we were hardly aware of.
Paul continued his work at Pine Ridge; always in a battle for some improvement or another. He petitioned for a "village area" on the institution property, where several portables gave some people an opportunity to live in a more homelike environment and get ready for the next step--living in the outside world--"the community." He fought for breakfast to be cooked "on the ward" on the weekends, so that the residents could have the pleasure of smelling bacon and eggs cooking. It also meant that they could sleep in later on those days and not miss breakfast--simple things everyone takes for granted. Before this, some people did stay up later on Fridays and Saturdays and were tired, but the night shift would get everyone up early in order to change the bed linens as the day shift didn't like having to do it. It was a short change for staff and those that had worked until 11 the night before were back at 7.00 a.m. and not always in good humour. The weekends, as a result of short fuses all around, were times when there were many behavioural outbursts.
When Paul asked for breakfast to be cooked on the ward, he was asked how 52 people could fit into the small dining area there. He said that if his guess was correct, people would get up as they woke up, in dribs and drabs--and that is exactly what happened. The table never had more people around it than would fit, and the atmosphere had changed from tense to relaxed.
Maplewood Lodge became a mandatory placement for the students going through the DSW course each year as the coordinator of the program, Mrs. Eileen Moran, a feisty Irish nurse, had taught Paul when he was taking the MRC course. Every February and March, pairs of students would come for a couple of weeks at a time and do part of their course work at our home. It might be coordinating a special event, such as a Valentines party; or putting together a program to teach someone a skill.
It struck me as very sneaky of God that he had taken this rather shy, introvert who would not have described herself as a people person, and plunked her into an environment full of all kinds of people. It was during this period that I went from being a detached, and often critical, observer of people, to someone who had grown to love people with a love that was birthed in a heart bigger than my own. It was a true metamorphosis and one about which I wrote in 1979 in my journal:
I've suddenly realized that something wonderful has taken place within me. I LOVE PEOPLE! ME the loner; the aloof one; the silent and critical observer! God has done something within me. I know that I am seeing the fulfillment of the verse God gave me last year:
Phil 1:9-11 in The Way. ..My prayer for you is that you will overflow more and more with love for others, and at the same time keep on growing in spiritual knowledge and insight.
Anyone reading this diary knows that a big flaw in me has been a difficulty in relating to people; in really caring for people. God began to reveal this to me last April and once I faced it, he began to work in me. Colossians 2 verse 10 says: "And ye are complete in him." Well, he has come in and really made me complete because I've been healed and made whole. I love everyone as they are and in spite of what they are! I just had to write it down for God's glory. If someone reads this, maybe they have doubted the reality of God. Please, I am an intelligent human being (30 years later I'm not so sure of that) who faced with a lack of feeling for others, prayed for God's compassion; God's love. I say with the blind man healed by Jesus: One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see. John 9:25.
Our children, too, were being shaped by our unusual family setting. Certainly there must have been a down side, but it never really was evident to me. Their horizons were much broader than they would have been otherwise, because every student that spent time with us also engaged with them. I was tired, but I was young enough then that I survived the long days and unremitting pace and I enjoyed the solitude when everyone else had left for work and school, and I was alone with my thoughts as I shopped and cleaned and cooked and did the many other things needed.
I began to attend occasional meetings at Pine Ridge. I remember my first time because I held a piece of paper in my hand that shook as hard as my hand, so intimidated was I by the professionals around the table. I grew in confidence and knowledge though and began to develop a set of deep values about working with people who need support. Our years of living with people taught me that people really are more the same than different and that disability wasn't the difference so much as just another part of someone.
I made some close friends on the staff at Pine Ridge and our home became a place where God led people looking for spiritual conversations and prayer; a mutual blessing.
We, who really only intended to do "this" for two years; found ourselves almost nine years in, when a wind of change began blowing...a wind that would bring changes I never imagined.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Here it is, the 13th day of the new year already--almost half way through the first month.
I have many friends that are firm about not making New Year's Resolutions and I respect their point of view that there is nothing magical about January 1st and that most people break their resolutions by January 10th.
Myself I do enjoy the days between Christmas and New Years as thinking and praying time, and starting the new year with a set of goals to press towards in the year ahead. This year I am going slower in thinking everything through though. It occurred to me that if I want to make changes, then making them one at a time is saner than trying to start several new habits or projects all at once.
I have made a determined, and successful (so far) effort, to get to bed at 10.00 most nights. I have naturally woken up earlier--often getting up by 4.30, and what a blessing that has been! At last I have that unrushed time I struggled to find consistently until now; just to read, pray and listen. It feels very good.
While practicing that first good step of the year, I am thinking about other parts of the day and how to structure it better. I finally gave up trying to find a way to fit more things into less time. In fact I had a lightbulb moment recently. I need transition times between one thing an another! It seems so obvious but it hadn't occurred to me before. Today I heard it put another way: "breathing space." It is a way of setting a schedule up for success. We aren't automatons going from one time slot to another. I don't want to experience life that way either. I do need structure and a framework--I just work better that way and accomplish more--but ahhh, it feels good to have breathing space built in. :)
So, here's to living peacefully, and breathing...slowing down, but doing more that really matters.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
This week's memoir will appear on Thursday; after Walk With Him Wednesday. Blessings! Belinda
My brother and I love each other dearly but we are so different that we make each other crazy when we are together for any length of time. How we sprung from the same loins is a wonder to me. I think that we both picked up odd bits of our parents--different, but very odd bits.
What I gain in quantity, he makes up for in quality. My life is packed to the very edges and beyond, with all that I want to do and be and accomplish. He does few things and lives a quiet, unseen life, but everything he does he does in a very particular way, and very well. He makes an incredible difference in Mum's life and is a gift that I am grateful for personally and for her sake.
But a few hours into a stay in Robert's world, and I suddenly feel that I can't wash dishes or cook, or make tea, or heck, even feed the cat with competence. He misses no detail--I have no time for all the details; the outdoors, nature, and books and writing are waiting.
So we had a few "moments" over our three weeks together. I didn't make spaghetti sauce quite right--I mean, I put onions in it. They make your clothes smell for days he said. Have I been going around smelling of onions for years and everyone was just too polite to tell me, I wondered?
The following week, he made the spaghetti for supper. It just needed a tiny tad of salt for my taste, so I tried to sprinkle some on unobtrusively. But when I thanked him afterwards for the lovely meal, he said, "It wasn't salty enough for you though, Belinda, was it? I saw you putting more on." I knew that even though he didn't look like he was looking; he was!
But then suddenly the weeks were gone and we were at the airport with, Brenda, Tim my nephew, and our friends Chris, Eileen and Nel.
Surrounded by noise and bustle and cases and people, in a moment to which everyone else was oblivious, suddenly my brother's big hand fell gently on my arm and it was as if we were alone amongst the crowd.The moment is freeze framed in my memory as a still photograph.
He said softly, "Thank you for coming, Belinda--I'm sorry for my outbursts." We both knew what he meant; it was a joking referral to our strange mostly unspoken relational dance.
" Well, I had one too," I said, thinking of the incident with the keys (see October 16th post, A Less Than Noble Moment).
"Just one?" he said.
And we laughed!
Monday, January 11, 2010
I give thanks today for that amazing gift: the gift of "praying through to peace."
You can go to God with a heart full of discouragement; disappointment; expectations unmet, or a bad case of "grass is greener on the other side of the fence" syndrome; and through the simple act of being still in his presence he performs the miracle of displacement and replacement.
I don't know how, but I am so thankful that he:
Smoothes out wrinkled brows
Reminds us of what is true
Thwarts the maneuvers of the enemy
Reorients our focus away from self
Replaces selfishness with love
And cleans out the gunk that clogs up the wheels of hearts!
Isaiah 9:6 (New International Reader's Version)
6 A child will be born to us.
A son will be given to us.
He will rule over us.
And he will be called
Wonderful Adviser and Mighty God.
He will also be called Father Who Lives Forever
and Prince Who Brings Peace.
Saturday, January 09, 2010
When lunchtime came and I needed to go to the post office to see if an expected parcel had arrived, I admit that although the post office is only down the road and I sure could use the exercise, I only crossed the road to my already warming car and drove there.
Yesterday morning my brother Rob called from England. "We just thought we'd let you know that we are all right," he said.
"That's very thoughtful," I replied, wondering why they wouldn't be. I hadn't heard the news for a few days and didn't know that England was also struggling through freezing cold weather and snow. I just checked the BBC weather website and it says:
Weather disruption and school closures due to snow, ice, wind, and rain
Train services through Birmingham New Street are experiencing delays and suspensions due to signalling problems; the Cross City line is running a half-hourly service, and trains between Birmingham New Street, Birmingham International, and Coventry are cancelled.
Last update 15:31 Friday 8 January
Rob, my embedded reporter in England, described making a trip to Sainsbury's, the grocery store, which is 3 miles away, to stock up on food, especially bread, because he had given a loaf to Olive, an elderly neighbour, then realized that it was his last one in stock. It sounded as though lots of people were holing up; once stocked up. Schools were closed and people were staying home from work. He and Mum, though, were snug, warm, and safe.
On Friday I stayed late at the office and didn't leave until 6.15. I planned to go grocery shopping in two places and stop off at a medical centre before going home. Everything in me just wanted to go home and make tea but by sheer force of will I drove to the first store and "got on with it." Having a British "stiff upper lip" comes in handy now and again. I pull it out for just such occasions.
By the time I was leaving Costco it was 8.30 p.m., the wind had picked up--and my stiff upper lip had blown off. I cannot describe how nasty it was to battle the wind with flapping, environmentally friendly grocery bags, trying to lasso the groceries in the big buggy. I was tempted to just toss them into the trunk of my car individually, but I was thinking ahead to the emptying process in Bond Head and didn't fancy fishing one thing at a time out in the dark and windy driveway.
I jumped into the car with the speed of someone escaping an axe murderer and thanked God that I was inside. Yes! I am a winter weakling.
What was the title of Susan's post yesterday? Escaping winter! Yes, lets.
Friday, January 08, 2010
"The Escape Winter Sale. Save 30%!"
It was an ad for a cut-rate travel agency and it made me think. "Do I really want to escape winter?" My mind flitted through a million different scenes in an instant. Mountains of snow, dripping icicles, bitter cold steering wheel first thing in the morning , winter driving , black ice, biting wind.
Nah. I don't want to escape it...
I love winter. It's one of the things my mother taught me. To be grateful for the one season almost everyone else seems to hate. Whenever I hear the snow crunching under my feet, I think of her. She loved that sound - the sound that you hear only on the days of the most bitter cold - when the snow is dry and powdery. It was Mom who modeled for me that particular icy-fresh joy of catching snowflakes on my tongue. And a thousand other joys that come only in the winter.
I've lots of happy memories of this season. Three days off school in Windsor, where I grew up, because we got five inches of snow there the year I turned 11. Skating with my dad and siblings on Devil's Crick. (That's how you pronounce "creek" if you grow up in Ontario's deepest south.) Cleaning off Mom's windshield for her while she got ready for work in the morning, and then being the recipient of her expressions of gratitude that she did not to have to do it herself. Building snowmen and snowforts with my brother Dave. Flying down the hill across the road from Grandpa Cook's farm on a toboggan, hitting a rock and then being unceremoniously separated from my red wool hat which landed a good 20 feet from where I did - to the mirth and merriment of the rest of the family who watched from the top of the hill.
Today there different enjoyments. The sight of naked tree limbs, dark and dismal grey against the snowy landscape. How I marvel that there is just as much root structure below the ground as there is now revealed above it and thinking how different it will all look when the leaves unfurl with the promise of spring. The bright red cheeks and steamy breath of my snow-suited grandsons as they trudge up the laneway headed for a few moments respite from their parents at Papa's House. Snow covers everything now, and sometimes makes driving an adventure at best, but fifty-seven winters have taught me that spring always, always comes. It's hidden like a promise under the snow.
No, I have no desire to "escape winter". I would miss so much!
Tonight at cell group someone mentioned the seasons... and how they are temporary. They always pass. Winter will indeed turn into spring.
Right now I'm in a winter season as much on the inside of me as the outside... There was a time I would have run like crazy to escape the feelings - or sometimes it's the tlack thereof. But just as much as those fifty-seven winters have taught me that there is a promise under the snow, so my heart waits for the sound of the turtledove to be heard in the land. My heart is quiet. Trusting. Like a weaned child... Not looking for anything; content just to "be".
Spring will surely come and I will welcome it when it does. But for now there's a joy that is ever so quiet and ever so crisp in a gentle sort of way. It's the joy of waiting. Waiting and knowing.
Spring is on its way.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
It is a season of reflection and pondering. I don't sit down on New Year's Eve with pen and paper and map a course for the next year, but I find value in taking inventory of my life; thinking deeply about what is working and what isn't, and coming up with a strategy for making good changes. This takes time and it's hard to find long chunks of time to just sit and lay it all out so I'm carrying my little note book with me and working in spare moments when I can find them--like at the hairdresser while my hair colour is processing!
On the topic of pondering, I read a story on Monday that I've been thinking about since. I picked up an old book on a "free to a good home," table at church. It's by Tim Kimmel and called, Little House on the Freeway-Help for the Hurried Home. (Click here). I thought the book might reinforce what I've been learning about Sabbath and rest. It turned out to be a different kind of book but I'm reading it anyway.
The story I've been thinking about concerned a friend of Tim's named Mike, who knew he was about to be drafted during the Vietnam War and so before that happened he volunteered for the artillery in order to have some control over his assignment. He thought he would be lobbing shells at the enemy from a distance, but he and his gun crew ended up being sent sent to be with an elite Green Beret company in the front lines. They sat, protected by two 8 foot barbed wire fences, providing occasional cover for the Green Berets who would carefully cross the patch of ground between themselves and a forest--a patch of ground in which they had planted mines. Eventually one of Mike's men, tired of being cooped up behind the fences and emboldened by the apparent silence, left the safe area. Avoiding the mines he crossed to the forest, intending to pick some of the fruit he could see growing there. Just before reaching the forest though, he suddenly stopped in horror and turned to run back--but before he could take even a step, he was shot to pieces by the enemy that had been lying in wait all along. Immediately they swarmed out of the forest towards the compound, many of them following the trail they had seen the soldier take. They engaged Mike and his men in hand to hand combat, with terrible consequences.
I found it a sobering story. Mike's gunner didn't just get shot to pieces himself when he broke out of the safe zone, but he created a pathway for the enemy to invade the safe area and attack his buddies. Maybe the story was just for me--and I'm not great at retelling stories-- but I found it a powerful metaphor to illustrate the fact that the steps we take are so important to weigh.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
My friend Frances has lately been longing to learn to "speak gently." In fact she begged me to buy her a gold ring with the initials SG, to remind her, if ever I saw such a thing. "Perhaps for your 50th birthday," I said (it is a long way off!)
I found this little prayer on a scrap of note paper, in, where else, my loft room! A garland of yellow tinged pink roses and rose buds twines along the left border of the page. I have no idea when I copied it out and couldn't find out quickly who wrote it. I pray though that someone is encouraged, blessed and helped by it today, as I am whenever I read it.
Set a watch, O Lord,
upon our tongues,
That we may never speak the cruel word which
or, being true, is not
the whole truth;
or, being wholly true,
for the love of
Psalm 141:3 (New International Version)
3 Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
In 1978 our family of 16 at Maplewood Lodge grew by one as my brother Rob, came over from England, intending to make Canada his home too. His decision was helped by the fact that during a visit the year before, he had fallen in love with one of my friends, Anne.
So it was that in the fall of the year, Rob arrived. The children made welcome banners out of construction paper (I found them while cleaning up the loft room.) "Welcome to Canada, Uncle Bob. We love you," the words danced over the paper in childishly scrawled letters.
Rob was a champion shot putter and into weight training. Paul was the brother he never had and together they lifted weights and trained in the frigid shed that stood about 20 feet from the house (wrecking their bodies, but they didn't know that at the time.) At school Rob had been the victim of ruthless and relentless bullying and for him, building a body that was big and strong was a way of ensuring no one wanted to pick a fight with him.
The men we supported at the home loved and respected him, although the first person he met, the day after he arrived for his 1977 visit, told him so convincingly that he was the gardener, that Rob believed him and we in turn had to convince him that we didn't have a gardener!
Peter remembers Rob's green Adidas track suit, in which he thought he looked like the Green Giant! He credits his uncle with teaching him how to throw a frisbee and catch a football. He taught Peter to keep his eye on the ball, the application of which principle he thinks helped him finally win the heart of Sue after we had all given up hope! Peter quickly added that his dad also helped, with the adage, "Faint heart never won fair lady." What mentors Peter had! How could he go wrong?
Rob mowed a running track into the front lawn. Not used the heat and humidity, he sweltered as he ran, sweat dripping, while Peter trotted behind him. Peter made the mistake of saying to his uncle, "This is easy," once. Funny but Peter still remember that day!
Rob regularly ran the 5 kilometre block from our house. Our little mutt Honey, used to hide when she saw him lacing on his running shoes!
Buffy the cat showed her affection for Rob in another way. She used his suitcase as a rather large litter box on occasion, but the worst of all was when she was sprayed in the face by a skunk and then retreated to her favourite suitcase. Did I mention that Rob is the most fastidious person you would ever wish to meet? :)
Rob stayed with us for two years, during which he became a Canadian citizen, but sadly, his relationship with Anne did not go further than a very close friendship and after a few jobs that were not something he wanted to spend the rest of his life doing, he realized that he just couldn't settle and in 1980, returned to England.
Before he left he carved his initials into a tree in the conservation area off Mulock and Bathurst in Newmarket.
We have so many happy memories of Rob's two years with us and when we are together, inevitably the stories begin. There are so many! Next week I will share one or two.
Monday, January 04, 2010
A daily ritual unfolds...a candle lit; the lid of a hassock lifted--a treasure trove lies within--Bible and book bag of softest needlecord, ochre and aqua...and my precious Daily Light.
I wonder if the Bagster family could have imagined that the book they compiled, Daily Light on the Daily Path would be loved so much after more than two centuries. They who prayed over each page until they were satisfied that they had heard God's voice for each day's selection of scripture, simply followed his leading.
It was through my dear Aunt Agnes, over thirty years ago, that I first became aware of the existence of this book. She read it daily and since her copy was falling apart, on one of her December 27th birthdays I bought her a new one. When she died, hers was given to me. That one had scripture from the King James version of the Bible, but now it is readily available in several modern English versions.
Mine is falling apart, just like Aunt Agnes's was, but every now and then I just add another layer of Scotch tape. It is one of the things I would be sure to pack if leaving home for more than a day--unless I am going to England--where I can borrow Mum's.
The notations on the pages track important milestones and turning points in my life. How often God has used this little book to speak to me!
And it is not uncommon for friends to call to share a significant moment in their journey, prefacing the conversation with the question: "Did you read today's Daily Light?"
I have given countless copies as gifts, so almost everyone in my life has their own.
Today I give thanks for all who faithfully follow the direction of God's Holy Spirit, doing "Whatever He Says." For who can tell what blessing it may be to another?
Saturday, January 02, 2010
The night is completely hushed; not a breath of wind, and so quiet that it seems the entire world is standing still for a while. Our property, and the fields, hills and woods behind it, are bathed in moonlight and fine snow falls like mist this New Year’s Eve.
Some celebrate with fireworks, toasts and parties, but I am happiest, as tonight, quietly reflecting in our country home, with Paul, who resolutely never celebrates New Years Eve, already sleeping soundly nearby.
Memories of the year gone by play like a movie in my mind: Emergency surgery in June taught me that absolutely nothing is carved in stone—not even airline tickets that have been bought and paid for, or a conference at which I was scheduled for many helping tasks. Life can change suddenly. The world carried on and instead of a conference, followed by a vacation in England, I experienced a gift I was not expecting: the gift helplessness. Friends and family visited me in hospital, bringing the gift of presence, flowers, and thirst quenching Popsicles. They put socks on my cold feet; sat with me and walked with me, and Brenda painted my toenails red. I will never forget either the love or many kindnesses shown during that unexpected detour on my journey.
Wanting to hold onto the peace that enveloped me during that time and the lessons learned, I finally loosened my grip on some roles and responsibilities and became less busy and scheduled; content to live more simply and quietly. I de-cluttered my life as well as my house and gained both mental and physical space.
I learned to rest one day each week and found that the peace of that day clung to me as a state of mind throughout the week.
I entered into a formal mentoring relationship with two younger women, and found the joy of listening to the dreams of another; encouraging; helping and cheering on.
Going forward I plan to read more diligently; enriching my soul. I especially want to systematically read the text books for the writing course that I started, but stopped because I felt overwhelmed. I want to finish it once I catch up on the reading.
I look forward to the lessons this year holds and to sharing the journey here.
Happy New Year everyone.
2 Peter 1:5-8 (Today's New International Version)
5 ...make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Friday, January 01, 2010
I had planned to spend this evening with my three oldest grandchildren. It was the first time ever any of our passel of ten were going to be allowed to stay up to ring in the new year, and so I invited them over to my house. We thoroughly messed up the kitchen by decorating gingerbread men and played some games before breaking open some snacks and Chubby pops. When it felt like things were dragging a bit and we still had a half hour to go, I decided to take them next door where they have all the comforts of the modern age, including satellite tv. We don't watch enough television to make it worth the cost of the monthly charges. And if there's anything we really want to watch, we can just go next door.
So next door we all traipsed at a quarter to midight and let ourselves into daughter Beth's house, where they get their money's worth in what they spend for television signals, I assure you. :)
I explained the countdown in the corner of the tv screen to the children and settled myself into an easy chair to watch it myself. There was a huge crowd in Niagara Falls, gathered together to listen to an outdoor concert and to celebrate the exact moment when the calendar changes to a new year.
As the camera panned the huge crowd that had gathered, I also thought about Times Square and the huge crowd gathered there. And Toronto's City Hall. All over the world people were gathered here and there to celebrate the turning of a page on the calendar. Why? I wondered to myself, "What's the big deal?"
"For the former things have passed away... Behold I make all things new..."
The familiar words from Revelation popped into my mind. Of course. It's a chance to turn away from the past and start a whole new page, not just on the calendar, but in our lives. It's a universal desire that we all have. To start over. To begin anew. Of course the whole world would want to come together and celebrate that. There is a deep desire in all of us to have the former things wiped away and to be granted the opportunity to start again completely fresh.
So happy New Year, dear friends and readers in blogdom. May God grant to you this year, the deepest desires of your hearts. May we all fully experience the wiping away of "former things" in our lives, of all that is holding us back from completely loving and trusting Him, and to completely comprehend and accept the making of "all things new".
God bless 2010. God bless us every one.