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Showing posts from December, 2010

Looking Backward and Forward

Fridays with Susan 


Do you remember my writing back in September about an encounter with God on a beach in Wilderness State Park in Michigan?  I remember that night as though it was yesterday.  I got up at 2:30 a.m. because I felt too wretched to be lying in bed still any longer.  I made my way down to the beach in the dark and all alone, something I would never, ever ordinarily do.  But whatever could happen to me down there in the dark couldn't have been worse than the darkness I was feeling in my soul that night.  I remember writing about falling completely apart at God's feet and though I didn't see him coming toward me walking on the waves, or hear his voice as a whisper on the wind, I knew, knew, knew something had happened.  As I got back into bed I wiped hot tears off my face and thought they might be melting icebergs.

Well here I sit just three months later.  It's been long enough now to be able to say definitively that something did indeed change.  I still ca…

The Fruit of Obedience

By Belinda

Lord grant me the courage of David to resist the temptation to live a life that is not the one you have given to me..Help me listen and obey your voice today. In Jesus' name, amen.  Peter Scazzero, The Daily Office

I know the importance of the "abiding,"written about in John chapter 15, and upon which a life in Christ depends completely, even if I haven't been very good at doing it faithfully. But I only thought of it as spending time in God's presence; listening for his voice; reflecting; reading; being positioned before him in a way that his life could flow through mine. And I do think that all of that is true, but today God showed me something more, another key that was missing in my understanding of this passage until now.

I realized today that "abiding" means a moment by moment faithfulness to something God reveals to me as a step of obedience. It might be something that is not at all important in anyone else's eyes, but it will be som…

Friends on the Journey

By Belinda

Down the centre of the long, oval pine table stood a line of scented candles, warming the room with their soft flickering glow. The coffee pot gurgled and snorted like a disgruntled steam engine as it produced a fragrant brew. And refreshments lay out on the table: Christmas cake, boterkoek and truffles. The house and I were ready...just waiting for the sound of stamping feet and opening door.

In the to and fro of recent conversations about God, we four had been grappling with concepts, seeking to understand some things better and learning how to apply truths grasped. When I listened to a CD in a set I'd bought Pete for Christmas, it so resonated with what we'd been talking about that a week or so ago, I invited them all over to listen to it with me on the first day after the Christmas weekend that we were free. The CD set I gave Pete was Great Books Everyone Should Know: A Practical Guide to 12 Timeless Classics by Dr. Ken Boa. He is such a good teacher and so enth…

Leaving Sally

By Belinda

One night after work last week I drove into Newmarket for one of my Christmas rituals, dinner with my zany friend Irene.

I circled the parking lot of the plaza. It was packed full with cars belonging to the Christmas shoppers. I was thankful to find a space not too far away from the restaurant.

Irene was there already, waiting at a table. I slid into the booth, unbuttoning my coat and unloading my purse and bags onto the seat beside me.

As the server handed us menus, Irene, who'd had the day off, mentioned that she'd had her hair trimmed that afternoon.

"Sally (not her real name) was asking for you," she said.

I groaned. Sally and me, we have history. Sally is my old hairdresser. I haven't sat in her chair for a good five years, but she won't stop asking after me. "Just let go," I feel like saying. but she won't. If Brenda pops in to have her girls' hair cut, she comes home saying, "Sally was asking for you," and my shou…

Christmas Eve: A Mary Christmas

Readers, our friend Dave Hingsburger posted this and I would love you to read it as "our" Christmas Eve post today. I will start it here, and then you can click on the link for the full post. May this Christmas Eve contain moments of reflection and gratitude for the mystery of holiness. Belinda

By Dave Hingsburger

"I don't know this child," I said to myself. She sat, a tiny thing, in my arms. She is a mere four months old, the child of a woman who works with me, and visiting her mom's workplace over the holidays. I'd positioned her so that she could see her mom the whole time. She glanced at me, looked for her mom, then relaxed for a few minutes. In those minutes I felt such huge responsibility. She had to feel both my strength and know she will not fall, and her personal safety and know she will not be hurt. I did not know this child and yet the fact that she trusted me mattered. A lot. The fact that her mother, who did know me, let me hold her mattere…

Emily's Song

Emily is one of Susan's five daughters and in an email today, Susan shared this little song, written for Emily long ago. Because I know that you will love it as much as I do, and because I know that Emily, with a heart as generous as her mom's, would gladly share; with Susan's permission, here it is:

By Susan  

I wrote a little song for my daughter Emily about 20 or so years ago which we sang every night to her as part of her bedtime rituals. As one of nine, she would grasp on to anything that was just "hers", of course, so simple though it is, she loved it, and still asks me to sing it to her at Christmas-time.

You sleep in your own room in your little bed
Mommy pulls your covers right up to your head
You have toys and games to play and lots of things to do
Like crayoning in your colouring books with red and green and blue...

When Jesus came from heaven, he didn't even have a bed
His mommy made a soft place in the hay to lay his head
She put him in a mange…

Welcome Home

By Belinda

Severe weather causing flight disruption
The southern runway at Heathrow is now open. Airlines are currently operating a significantly reduced schedule while they move diverted aircraft and crew back into position.


It is extremely important that you do not travel to the airport unless you have confirmed your booking with your airline and your flight is showing as 'scheduled' in the live flight information board...
The official website of Heathrow Airport in the U.K. shows hopeful signs that the majority of scheduled flights may take off on Thursday, but thousands remain stranded, holiday plans thwarted, caught up in the chaos caused by the freezing snowy weather in Europe.

Family and Christmas go together like peaches and cream, and being far away from one another is especially lonely and poignant at this time of the year.

In 1969 I was a 19 year old newlywed, spending my first Christmas away from "home" in our new home; Canada. I was wretchedly homesick. …

What's Love Got to Do With It?

A guest post by Sue Smith (fellow member of The Writers Nest) A "Last-Minute Christmas Sale" flyer swirled around the man’s tattered purple running shoes. The brown paper bag,clutched in work worn hands shouted “alcoholic” to the world. A black and gray Goodwill hoodie made a frail attempt to block the insistent December wind. The man beneath the clothes looked out at the world from the soft shadow of his hood as he sat on the bench by the bus stop. A thirty something lady collapsed onto the bench next to the hooded man. She instantly projected a wall around him as she looked up at her friend. "Finally. I'm exhausted." She lowered a heavy bag on the ground next to her. " I've had all the phony Christmas cheerfrom the stores that I can handle." Her friend, wrapped in a warm camel hair coat, stood glaring at the man willing him to move over. When nothing happened, she exhaled loudly and settled herself and her parcels as far to the other end of the ben…

The Best Birthday Gift Ever!

by Susan...

The phone rang and, characteristically, without so much as a quick "hello", Mikey launched into the purpose of his call.  "What are you doing for your birthday, Mommy'sMum?"  I smiled at his inability to grasp onto  the necessity of social niceties and began to formulate my answer.

Having no plans for celebrating your birthday is not unusual when your special day is the week before Christmas - especially, like this year, when it falls on a Saturday.  It's a busy season and there have been many years when the day has come and gone without much ado, between shopping, and wrapping, and Christmas parties, and church gatherings, and school concerts.  (It's hard to compete with Jesus, whose birthday is the same week.  And who would want to? :) )  So when Mikey asked what I was doing that day,  I responded quickly without going through my mental "Calendar of Social Events", and said, "Nothing...  Why?" 

Mikey was quick to fire …

How Old is Jesus?

By Belinda

Her blue-grey eyes looked intently into the green of mine. I had just asked her when my birthday was; a silly question, because she remembers the year and date of innumerable people's birthdays with effortlessness. It is a gift that amazes me.

"June 1st, 1950." she says, "You're 60 years old, I'm 54, that means you're 6 years older than me."

Numbers fascinate the friend I'm sitting beside for a few minutes at our Big Christmas Party at work--it is a facet of her Autism.

She leans in close and her eyes drill into mine as she asks, "How old is Jesus this year?"

Still focused on numbers, I give a ridiculous answer, "He's 2010 years old!" Silly me, of course that was so wrong. For all eternity, he was, and he will be--forever.


But for two thousand and ten years the Spirit of Christmas Present, as Charles Dickens wrote, has appeared, and the story of Jesus' birth has been told and retold in an unbroken chain of …

Living Stones

Fridays with Susan


"...you also, like livingstones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood..."  I Peter 2:4

We spent hours on the phone this week.  Another living stone and I.  We talked and laughed and grappled with new issues and old hurts.  We each had occasion to humble ourselves and to confess sin (we had judged and mistrusted and pretended everything was all right when it really, really wasn't.  We had quietly and secretly harboured feelings which had affected the other and which had affected our relationship in general. 

In the course of our  coming through to the broad place of peace, we laughed, we cried, we lost patience with each other, we interrupted, we gave in, we gave up, we started again, We prayed, we misunderstood, we gave an inch, and then a mile, we took responsibility, we validated our feelings, we gave each other forgiveness and accepted and at long last we came to that place of understanding that only God can give. We labour…

The Tipping Over Point

By Belinda

I left the office at 5.30 pm in a rosy glow. I'd worked hard all day but could not miss the sense of anticipation and preparation in the air. Plans were being made for visits home and staff coverage over Christmas and the Big Christmas Party is almost here. Yes, it had been such a good day.

The roads were clearer than they'd been for days and I even ventured to the post office to pick up mail on the way home, finding our mailbox packed tightly with cards. I don't think one more thing could have been squeezed in there. "It was a good thing I managed to get there tonight," I thought.

I pulled up to the house and approached the front door with my laptop bag hanging from one shoulder, and a briefcase, lunch bag, shopping bag and mail in my hands. I had to press the doorbell for Paul to let me in as I had no hands left to fiddle with the door.

The first words he said as I came through the door were, "Frances called. She wanted to know if you could cook…

Snow in Heaven

By Belinda (sorry for being a little "behind my time" this morning! This is a post from the past. Enjoy.)
"Miss Cheryl,” asked Stephen “is there snow in heaven?"

Stephen’s question took his school bus driver by surprise. Her young passenger, whose short, dark hair was as hard to tame as his spirit, looked up expectantly. His brown eyes, normally dancing with mischief, were serious and shining with curiosity.

Stephen; named for one of the saints of the Christmas season; knew that Miss Cheryl could be counted on as a source of reliable information. This warm, kind hearted woman, had the biggest of gentle, blue eyes that twinkled with good humour. She had forged a special relationship with the children on her bus. This question though, was out of her league.

"I don't know, Stephen. You could ask your dad--he's a pastor after all."

"He hasn't been to heaven," stated Stephen, with all the logic of a 6 year old.

Miss Cheryl had to laugh and…

Timbrels at Yorkmnster Citadel

By Belinda

It's been one of our Christmas traditions for over 5 years, going with Susan and Ron to the annual Christmas concert at Yorkminster Citadel Salvation Army , ever since one of their five beautiful daughters, Emily, married a handsome young man named Mike who plays the tuba in the brass band there.

This year's concert was last Saturday night and it included the wonderful children's choir, the Con Brio Singers. The church was packed more tightly than I've ever seen it, with chairs being brought out and placed in every possible nook and cranny. There were no seats anywhere when we arrived, but Paul and I were given chairs in a window alcove--right at the very front. We felt as though we were sitting in the Royal Box!

From our perfect seats I recorded some of the concert on my Flip camera. This clip is of the timbrels. I hope it brings a special bit of Christmas to your day. The people of this church put all of their own needs on hold during the Christmas season …

Marirose's Favourite Broccoli Recipe

For Dave, by special request, the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book recipe for the broccoli casserole that Marirose said everyone asks her for, once they try it.

Broccoli and Onion Casserole

2 10 oz packages of frozen cut broccoli (Marirose uses fresh broccoli)
2 cups frozen small whole onions or 3 medium fresh onions, cut into wedges (Marirose uses the fresh ones)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 3-ounce  package cream cheese, cut up
1/2 cup shredded American cheese
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 cup soft breadcrumbs

Oven 350 degrees

Cook broccoli according to the package directions. Drain well, set aside. Cook frozen or fresh onions in boiling, salted water about 10 minutes or until tender. Drain; set aside.

In the same saucepan, melt the 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in the flour, salt and dash pepper. Add milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 1-2 minutes more. Add cream cheese; stir till …

Time on My Mind

By Belinda

I picked up an audio book from the library a couple of weeks ago: The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945 by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns. Since I started listening to it, it has held me in its grip.

I was born 5 years after the end of World War 2, but it affected my life because it touched and changed my parents' lives so deeply.

I don't think I'll ever stop trying to understand what it was like for them. I'm not sure why it's so important to me--it was, after all, 70 years ago when it all began. I just know that it is; although the more I learn about war the more questions I have to which there seem to be no answers.

The book follows the lives of several ordinary Americans through those years. Their experiences are pieced together through journals and letters, one of them the diary of a young American girl in the Philippines who spent the war in a Japanese internment camp.

Courtships were whirlwind and intense. "You lived your life realizing t…

Recipe Exchange

By Belinda

"Belinda, what do you put into your hot apple cider?" My coworker Marirose was at my house with the rest of the team to work on our budgets for the coming year and I had assembled coffee, cold drinks and hot apple cider as well as an array of snacks to encourage us in the task. The hot apple cider in the slow cooker made the house smell like Christmas.

"I start with just apple juice," I said, and began to list off the ingredients, with my own small adaptation.

I went to the bookshelf in the kitchen that holds my collection of cook books, and pulled off the  Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook to show her the recipe, in case she wanted to write it down.

"I have that cook book!" said Marirose, "But my pages are all stained and the pages are falling off the ring binding."

I smiled as I turned to the page with the recipe, lying loose in the book, spattered and stained.

Marirose started flipping through the pages, showing me her favourit…

A Little More Advent

For a perfect read to go along with the hymn posted in haste in the wee hours this morning near the end of an overly eventful and taxing week, see our friend and kindred spirit Janet Sketchley's guest post on the Inscribe blog:
http://inscribewritersonline.blogspot.com/2010/12/preparing-for-his-comingjanet-sketchley.html

I couldn't have said it better myself.  :)  Thanks Janet.

A Hymn for Advent

Fridays with Susan....

A short discussion with Belinda last Sunday about some of the old hymns of the Church for Advent brought to mind this old favourite which is burned into my memory. 

Lo! he comes, with clouds descending,
once for our salvation slain;
thousand thousand saints attending
swell the triumph of his train:
Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia!
Christ the Lord returns to reign.

Every eye shall now behold him,
robed in dreadful majesty;
those who set at nought and sold him,
pierced, and nailed him to the tree,
deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
shall the true Messiah see.

Those dear tokens of his passion
still his dazzling body bears,
cause of endless exultation
to his ransomed worshipers;
with what rapture, with what rapture, with what rapture
gaze we on those glorious scars!

Now redemption, long expected,
see in solemn pomp appear;
all his saints, by man rejected,
now shall meet him in the air:
Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia!
See the day of God appear!

Yea, amen! l…

The Writers Nest

By Belinda The writers of "The Nest" met last night, for our annual Christmas pot luck at Bonnie's welcoming home. Messages flew back and forth by email throughout the day. Was the party still on? Streamers blowing across from Georgian Bay created scary driving conditions in some parts. But a turkey was cooking and there was no stopping it, so while some regretfully missed this wonderful gathering, others of us managed to get there, bearing desserts and salad, truffles and wine, cheeses and sweet potatoes. Our common bond is a love of writing, but we love one another too and celebrate the life journey that we share as we write, month by month, encouraging the gifts we see in each other. In September we decided to publish a Christmas anthology: The Christmas Quilt--and Susan Starrett, a gifted graphic artist as well as writer, designed the title page. We all went home with our own copy of this treasury; 23 pieces of writing to read throughout Christmas. Bonnie's burgundy…

Searching for Christmas--Prayer answered

Tonight was my third Christmas party of the season--our writers group pot luck. Bonnie had made a 2010 Christmas anthology of our writings, which we called The Christmas Quilt. My story was one I posted here in August. After dinner, we gathered in the living room to read out loud, stories that we had brought with us. I had not brought one, but Susan asked me to read the story of mine that was in the anthology. I'm so glad she asked, because when I first read it to the group, just after I wrote it, I read it with a sadness and poignancy that tugged at my heart and those of the listeners. Tonight I read it as a prayer that had been answered and it sounded completely different! I have found Christmas. My heart is at peace; I am not stressed; I am enjoying each and every celebration and every card I open. So, I share it here again--to give you a taste of a summer so recently past while we shiver in the snow--and to say that God is so faithful and true. *********************************…