Saturday, July 30, 2011

Belinda


Just a week ago, Tyson Luke Fury, became the new British and Commonwealth Heavyweight boxing Champion, beating Dereck Chisora on July 23, 2011.

Born on August 12, 1988, of an Irish father and English mother, he stands 6 foot 9 inches tall, but Rob wanted to tell me about this man's faith, which he is not afraid to own. On the back of his white smock, when he turns around, are the words, "I've Found God."

Rob quoted this 23 year old married father of two daughters as saying, "Most people, when they're in trouble, even if they've got no beliefs, will pray to God. But have you thought about having a word with him even when you don't think you need it?"

Rob added, "And he said it looking right into the camera."

Fury prayed for his opponent, Dereck Chisora, for his safety in the fight. And when he won the championship he thanked Jesus, as well as his uncle, and said that Chisora was "A warrior in the ring."
Boxing News 24 stated:
Tyson’s charisma and fighting qualities have grabbed people, they seem to love the way he goes about his business and it shows you that he is not only a star of boxing but is ready to shoot into superstar status over the next 12 months.’s
And in an article in the Catholic Herald he said:
“I would rather be knocked out 10 times by DC than not go to heaven. I’m God-fearing,” he said.
God bless you, Tyson Fury. I pray that he keeps you safe from harm, guards your integrity and continues to use your voice for him.over the next 12 months.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Readiness is All

By Belinda

Some weaving of threads as only God can:

On one of our walks through the churchyard some time ago, I had mentioned to Rob that graves generally face east, towards the direction to which we look for Christ's return (see scripture below.)
Matthew 24:27
English Standard Version (ESV)
27(A) For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be(B) the coming of the Son of Man.
Rob found this fascinating and told John, his neighbour, the one with the scooter and dog named B about it. John loves to hang out in churchyards reading headstones--something I love to do too.

 John wasn't too sure it was right, but has been checking the graves out ever since! Rob chuckled this week as John finally conceded, "You know I think your sister is right, there are a few that don't, but most of them do."

Then John mentioned a grave just behind Martha's in the churchyard. Rob said he told him, "Oh, Belinda knows about Martha, I think she has a book about her."

I told Rob that I also knew the grave they were talking about. The man had been a lodger in Martha's house. The stone is particularly interesting because it looks as though it was placed yesterday, although it is over a hundred years old. It is also a very fine stone of red granite, for a man who was a bricklayer. 

His name was Thomas Cooper, and the inscription identifies him as: "An honest man and a good bricklayer" who died on June 1st 1910. He would have been 64.

The stone was placed by "His fellow Shakespeareans," and Rob found the quote from Hamlet, based on Matthew 10:29 very meaningful.
Hamlet:....There is special providence in
the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to
come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come—the
readiness is all....
 
(Matthew 10:29
English Standard Version (ESV)
29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?[a] And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.)
Rob has mentioned several times, the final words from the Hamlet quote on the grave: "Readiness is all..."

My friend Dave shared the lovely song from Justin Hines's new album, Days to Recall; "Say What You Will," which I also posted here. I can't help but see a thread in these lyrics from the song...
And If I were to die today my life would be more than ok for the time I spent with you it's like a dream come true 
and if this was the last goodbye no more tears to dry i would say it one more time s'been more than fine 
My friend Dave posted this on his blog, Rolling Around in My Head this morning. I love it. Beautiful music, Justin Hines!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Simple Pleasures

By Belinda

I left Mum's flat at 8.00 am, just before the Helping Hands ladies came to get her up. I always feel a little awkward intruding on their routine as they bustle around, so I decided on this vacation to use the half hour at the beginning and end of the day to go for a walk.

I set out for the churchyard, intending to sit on the bench there and read from the books I carried with me: "The Valley of Vision," a collection of Puritan prayers; Handbook to Leadership--Leadership in the Image of God, by Kenneth Boa, Sid Buzzell and Bill Perkins, both books small black leather bound volumes with gold leaf pages-- and a small English Standard Version Bible, bound in soft brown leather and embossed with a crown of thorns that encircles the spine, showing half on the front and half on the back. I treasure all three books .

I sat down in the warm morning sunshine on the bench that overlooks the newer part of the cemetery.

The distant hum of traffic from the nearby motorway was background music to the cooing of a nearby dove. The church clock struck the quarter hour, its tone as familiar as the well known voice that hailed me from the path into the churchyard, "Hello Belinda!"

Rob strode up, behind a loudly panting Bruce. They were on their morning walk.

We chatted briefly, then Rob said, "Well, I will leave you to finish your reading," and headed for home.

Utter peace; the perfect place to soak in the words on the page and listen quietly. Such a gift.

A few minutes later, I felt full to overflowing and ready to start the day.

Before walking back down the hill into the village, I paused to read and photograph my dear old headmaster's headstone: Mr. Lowe.

I have happy memories of him and found him a kind man. And we didn't know then that he had been a Wing Commander during the war.

As I passed the small triangle of grass that is our village green and war memorial, I paused to look at the beautiful benches placed there, on which are emblems of Alvechurch: the barge on the Birmingham to Worcester canal; the village seal; an emblem of the school, local factories--and Miss Twitty's sweet shop. You can read about Miss Twitty--and even Mr. Lowe, in a post that I wrote a while ago:
Village
The rest of the day was wonderful. Just simply being here is enough. No need for anything more but cups of tea and time together.



Is It Me Or...?

The sign stood at the top of the steep path leading into the churchyard. I couldn't help it--the poster on the right seemed at odds with the rendering of the service times on the left with its random missing letters! Okay, I suppose it is not strictly the church yard. Let's walk on.

What has happened to the churchyard, I thought?

Then I spotted a sign.  Ah, that explains it! :)
More of the haven for wildlife! :) The other, newer part of the churchyard, where Dad's grave lies, is neatly mowed. This part would be spooky on a dark night! I don't know how they will fare in the Best Kept Churchyard Competition. But maybe they give points for nature in the wild. Rob hastened to the defence of the churchyard saying that it is maintained by faithful volunteers. I cast no disparagement on them. I just saw a little humour here.



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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Introducing B

Belinda
I heard a voice through the open kitchen window. "Is Rob around?" asked the man with fine, whispy, white hair and a day or two's growth of whiskers. He was on a scooter and had a passenger:

While waiting for Rob to appear I asked about the compact tri-colour dog perched on the foot platform of the scooter. "She's a rescue dog," said the man, whose name is John, Mum's neighbour from across the road.

"Her name is B. I tried renaming her but she would have none of that."

"What does she do?" I wanted to know, "Other than companionship."

"Absolutely nothing," said John, "She can turn what should be a pleasant walk into a nightmare."

It seems that she, like Bruce, has yet to come to terms with the fact that she is not the only dog in the village; she does not like other dogs.

Post Script: Susan said in a comment that she was looking forward to Chapter 2 on B. I did finish rather abruptly, I realize! 

Later in the day I sat on the bench outside Mum's flat with Rob while we had a cup of tea. John rolled over and joined us for a chat. He told us B's history. Her last owner, an elderly man, died, and she stood guard over his body and would not let anyone near him, she was utterly loyal.

Afterwards she was placed with several families for adoption but all of them brought her back due to her anti social behaviour towards other dogs. John has no plans to give her back as she has been with him since last year, but he said that a walk with B is an ordeal! Love conquers all when it comes to those brown eyes though.


One Big Softy

By Belinda

The famed singing cowboy, Roy Rogers, once joked that if there were no dogs in heaven, he wanted to go wherever they went!

This is Bruce, and every morning he comes for a cuddle with Mum, proving that his fearsomeness is a well crafted facade. But don't tell the dogs on the street that.






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Morning Thoughts

By Belinda

For those who would like to share devotions with me this morning...
Proverbs 3:6

English Standard Version (ESV)
6In all your ways(A) acknowledge him,
   and he(B) will make straight your paths.

 Usually, this verse is inseparable from the one before it:
verse 5:Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.


Together they go, and together they are beautiful, but this time, it is verse 6 that speaks to me:
"In all your ways acknowledge him."

These words remind me to be true to God's Holy Spirit, who lives in me, wherever and with whomever I am. It seems to connect with these verses from the book of Matthew:

Matthew 5:14-15

English Standard Version (ESV)

 14(A) "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15(B) Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

In some circumstances and with some people, I have, before now, shone my faith less brightly than I might. Yet we are the light of the world! Lighthouses! People need to see the light--they need it so badly themselves. They don't need anything more desperately than to see a life transformed by the Light of the World.


Oh, there is Light Quencher too, who hates the light, but I want, as the verse above promises, to "give light to all in the house." 

And I see then, that God's promise it that "he will  make straight" my path. No longer will it be crooked and wandering, but confident; quietly but surely following its North Star and Saviour's, lead.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The View from Here

By Belinda

This is the view from Mum's kitchen window at the end of the day. I am here!

Rob and my nephew John met me, with hugs and smiles at Birmingham airport early this morning, and by 9.15 we were at the door of Mum's flat.

"Leave the luggage to me, I'll open the door and you can go in," said Rob--and I needed no further encouragement.

I walked through the door, down a short hallway and pushed open a door that was slightly ajar, to find Mum on the couch, wearing a sky blue top and with a colourful crocheted blanket covering her knees and legs.

She looked at me with an expression of love mixed with stress giving way to relief, her eyes sunken with worry. "Oh, my dear friends," she said, "I had better not tell you what terrible things I was imagining." My mum is a catastrophizer. The gene skipped me but landed on Brenda and Tippy. Tippy, fortunately for her, is taught at school how to recognize when an innocent thought or comment is mushrooming in her imagination into a nuclear explosion of disastrous magnitude. She learns to breath, think the issue through to reality and employ one of several coping mechanism.

I didn't ask what dreadful fate had befallen us all in her thoughts--we were too busy hugging and dread was evaporating from the room faster than summer rain on hot asphalt pavement.

Rob was running water into the kettle for the first of the many cups of tea drunk today and I sat beside Mum and began the first of the many semi-comatose naps that would be taken. It was, after all, really still the early hours of the morning back in Ontario, and everyone was still asleep at home.

Throughout the day I slowly unpacked and organized my store of books and other stuff. Rob and I went to Sainsbury's in the afternoon to pick up a few things and I volunteered to pick up fish and chips for supper. They were the best fish and chips I have ever tasted!

When Mum's Helping Hands ladies arrived to help her get ready for bed in the evening, I took Bruce for a quick walk.

I walked up the steep hill (Bear Hill,) past the small triangular village green with a park bench and the war memorial placed there by the Alvechurch Ex Services Association. I was headed for the churchyard.

From the back I knew Dad's headstone. As I rested my hand on the dark grey granite monument still warmed by summer sun. I thought of how, had he been alive, his eyes would have brimmed with tears of inexpressible love. He would have awkwardly taken my hand in his big, clumsy working hands--the one wrist misshapen through being badly set after a motorcycle accident; and he would have wordlessly shaken his head, sighing his happiness at my being here with them. Never mind that as the evening wore on the occasion would have been cause for extra liquid celebration; I knew I was loved.

Bruce and I left him to head towards the churchyard gate leading to School Lane. I passed Martha's grave and knelt down and whispered that I hoped one day to meet her in heaven and that her life (1817-1904) was an inspiration to me. I have written about  Martha here before. Click on her name if you are curious! :)

Then it was home, past 48 Bear Hill where I lived for 10 years, and 42 Snake Lane where Mum and Dad moved and where I visited them many times over the years, and on to Tanyard Close, where Mum now lives with Rob close by.

It was time for prayer with Mum before bed, and to organize my place to sleep!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lost Things Found

By Belinda

It has been driving me crazy for months--I lost my box of journals somewhere in the house. I remembered moving them to a safe place when we had a spate of visitors in all of our spare rooms last summer. But where oh where was the "safe place?"

I found myself looking in the same places repeatedly as if I expected that although they weren't there the last time I looked, just maybe they migrated while I wasn't looking and were waiting to jump out and surprise me, "Ha ha--here we are!" Surely I couldn't have accidentally thrown the box away?

Meanwhile, Brenda, also similarly crazed, was looking for a book I'd given her and which she was sure she had packed, ready for her last trip. When she looked for it in the case it wasn't there. She looked everywhere but couldn't find it. How could a book just vanish?

I was determined to find the journals before leaving for England--a self imposed deadline. And so, although we are still in the middle of a heatwave and the loft room is the hottest room in the house, because they just had to be in there somewhere, I planned to drag every box from the storage closet beneath the roof and look inside them.

Opening boxes and looking inside is a misnomer really. I open boxes and get lost in the contents, so it was a very good thing that I only dragged out about five boxes before I opened a lid and glimpsed the silvery green five year diary with a lock but no key--my confidante between the ages of 12 and 16, and the red 1977 journal--I was 27 then--and piles of other journals in different shapes and sizes and colours, some spiral bound and some not--my life at different times and stages.

I heaved a sigh of relief and carried the box into our bedroom, where it is now safely on the floor of a built in closet, easily accessible.

Meanwhile I thought I had better start packing the suitcase that has been sitting beside my bed for a week . I found a black item of clothing camouflaged by the black lining of the case. It that didn't belong to me. I could only imagine it belonged to Brenda or one of the girls. Our cases are in regular family circulation.

It was indeed Brenda's. "Hey, did you happen to find the book in the case?" she asked.

"No, but it could be in an outside pocket," I answered.

She bounded upstairs, unzipped the pockets and with brown eyes sparkling brightly in triumph, shouted, "I've found it!"

Brenda had been going to borrow our case for her last trip, but changed her mind after taking it downstairs to start packing and decided instead to splurge and buy herself an easily identifiable purple case with an orange belt to go around it.

Two mysteries satisfyingly solved!

Actually it was three if I count the drivers licence that Paul has been driving around without, unknown to him. He discovered it was missing on Friday when he needed ID to rent a truck and called home, his voice grave.

"Belinda, I've lost my driver's licence."

I considered asking what he had done, but reconsidered!

"Have you used it lately for anything?" I asked, "What about your passport application?"

"I did photocopy it!" he said slight hope creeping into his voice (this was quite some time ago--months.)

I went into his office, opened up the photocopier lid, while breathing a prayer. There it was! Relief all around!

This seems to be running in the family lately. :)

The Looking Forward Time

By Belinda

I am quiet here at the moment in direct proportion to the steady hum of busyness getting ready to leave for England on Monday afternoon.

My hair and nails are freshly done!

I talked to Mum and Rob on Saturday and we laughed with joy at the thought of tea together on Tuesday morning.

I have a pile of books on my dresser and I know I can't take them all!

I still have to:
Pack
Complete some work early tomorrow morning so that I can leave with a clear conscience
Create some order in the loft room, which is a disaster
Take a few deep breaths!

I will write more again once I get to England--stay tuned for more Alvechurch chronicles.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gratitude

By Belinda

Earlier this week, a co-worker led us in devotions at a team meeting (Kare Bear--Karen) and she shared a quote that made us all gasp in horror at the thought:
What if God only gave us tomorrow, what we thank him for today?
Thank goodness his grace and mercy outstrips our expressions of gratitude!

Tonight I am thanking him for an elderly man who is close to death and may not make it through this night, but who is dying at peace with God because my friend Jane shared an illustration with him from the book I wrote about here earlier this week, Game Plan for Life by coach Joe Gibbs. he is an avid sports fan and knows everything there is to know about all the coaches.  He can no longer speak but he gave a thumbs up when, after sharing, she asked her friend if he was ready to meet his Maker.
Lord, I thank you for the mystery of your ways; how you have woven that book into our lives in the past two weeks and used it to bless us. Thank you for your tender care for a soul on heaven's shores; thank you that you are already in tomorrow and have everything we need for whatever we need to accomplish. I put my hand in yours and hold on tight. How I love you.

John 15:8-10

The Message (MSG)

 5-8"I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
 9-10"I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love. That's what I've done—kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

People of Ready Laughter

By Belinda

People of ready laughter--that's what we are. Well, maybe "we" is too sweeping--but I am a person of easy amusement, I got it from my mum, and sometimes it spills over to those in my vicinity.

I was in the kitchen tonight, baking apple pies when Tippy came upstairs to borrow a dishwasher tablet so that they could turn on their dishwasher downstairs.

Since Tori and Tippy hit 12 and 13 and are becoming increasingly cloaked in the great silence of teenage-hood, I take every opportunity to coax out information about what's going on in their lives and heads. A little at a time seems to work best, since adults are fast becoming an alien species, I can tell.

Tippy, sun drenched golden brown and and leggy as a young colt, is at art camp this week, learning about film scripts and doing visual arts. Art is her grand passion. So I asked, "How's art camp going?"

"Oh, it's great, I love it," she said.

"It must be wonderful to be with kindred spirits," I said, "I bet it's like when I go to a writers conference. I always feel like I'm with my 'tribe.'"

She looked slightly startled at the unexpected use of the word.

"Tribe?" she said, staring at me with a twinkle growing in her brown eyes.

"Yes, 'tribe'" I said, not explaining on purpose and staring back, with an equal twinkle.

Her eyes drilled into mine with a question mark while being struck by something funny.

"What are you laughing at?" she asked.

"I'm laughing at you, laughing at me."

"Well, I'm laughing at  YOU, laughing at me!" she said and we both burst into laughter which would be hard to explain to anyone passing by the kitchen. A floury hug ensued.

A merry heart does do good--like medicine.
By Belinda

I have shared a different version of this song before. It speaks to me on a deep level of the ongoing healing in our lives when we walk with God.

I felt led to post it here again this morning as a thanksgiving to God for all that he is doing in me and all of his children. He doesn't abandon us but wants to give us a new name, "Confidence!" "Faithfulness" "Overcoming one."

I chose this version of the song because the beautiful photographs are of imperfect faces by this world's standards, but they shine with his beauty. We all need to realize that we are beautiful---just as he made us. We are enough.



Monday, July 18, 2011

The Message of the Yellow Roses

By Belinda


"Belinda, Belinda, Belinda, I am having a tough time not highlightening your book -- in yellow of course. It is an interesting read and one quote on p. 69 is really profound. To bad the book is upstairs and I am downstairs because I would have typed it in for you."

My friend Jane who is a chaplain with the police, had spotted the study set of videos and book on my counter top at cell group the week before: Game Plan for Life by Joe Gibbs, the 20th and 26th head coach of the Washington Redskins ( 1981-1992, 2004-2007.)

"Why don't you borrow it and watch it first?" I had said, thinking that it might be a great resource for her work. Besides, I had also bought the audio book to listen to. Now I was curious. What was on page 69? It's hard to look up a page on an audio book.

Brenda had first noticed the book advertised in a magazine under our coffee table and thought it looked interesting for her fiancĂ© Kevin who coaches women's University softball (yes, they just got engaged!) She doesn't have a credit card so I offered to order it for her.

When I looked into it on-line it looked so good I got carried away and ordered the whole set, thinking it would be a great resource for ministry to men.

The next Thursday, Jane strode into my kitchen and flipped open her Bible to the fly leaf, where she had written the quote:
Once we are at rest in God's unconditional love, we are free to love others without preconditions. Most human conflicts arise when one person demands something of another that the second person is unable to provide. We tend to look to others to provide for us the peace, satisfaction, and contentment, that is, the love--that only God can give."  Joe Gibbs, Game Plan for Life, p. 69
 Jane's bright eyes peered up from beneath her baseball cap, searching mine to see if I "got it." I did. So much so that I handed her the special brown journal in which I write Bible verses through which God has spoken to me in a profound way at various times. It is  precious because it was a gift from my team. "Would you mind writing that out in this?" I asked.

Pen in hand, Jane went off to write, while I did the final dinner preparations...

On Friday Brenda arrived home from a week in Las Vegas where she had spent most of her time by the pool reading The Game Plan for Life, while Kevin was at a conference. So far this "book for men" had a bunch of female readers.

Saturday morning found us at the kitchen table catching up. We made tea and began.There was much to tell about her trip, but then we got to the book, which she had almost finished. She had so many people come up to her at the pool, wanting to know if the book was good, when they saw what she was reading. Several of them had been planning to read it themselves and she was able to tell them it was worth it.

I caught her up on my journey. She already knew how the book, In the Eye of Deception had given me valuable insight into the patterns of behaviour I learned in childhood and which I wrote about here recently.

I had decided to change these patterns now that I was aware of them and had. But since then I realized that the qualities  forged in dysfunction, were not negative in themselves, although they could be used dysfunctionally.

In fact, Susan had commented to me that she was "missing" me in our group relationships since I stepped into the shadows in an attempt to break with tradition! I recognized that when not used as an automatic reflex, these sensitivities could be all be turned around and used as helpful strengths and should not be wasted after all it cost to form them.

Brenda nodded in understanding and agreement. Although so different in personality we share some traits of relationship.

I asked if I could look at her copy of the book, since Jane still had mine. I wanted to show her the quote and look up another that had struck me when I heard it on the audio book. She went and got her book, its dust cover all water spotted.

The story I wanted to find and reread was the second last chapter in the book, by Dr. Tony Edwards on Purpose. I told the story to Brenda. He used the analogy of sand. On a beach, sand costs nothing, but when placed in a bag and sold in a hardware store for sandboxes it costs $25 a bag. If stuck onto paper it sells for $5 per sheet. Make it into silicone and sell it as chips and it is even more valuable. The value comes from having a purpose. Dr. Edwards said that we are like the free sand on the beach until we understand the purpose God made us for.

I decided to look up page 69 and read beyond what Jane had written in my precious brown journal. I found myself in awe of what I read, for the quote Jane wrote out, continued:
Knowing God and receiving his love are the most important things we can do. They are the keys to loving ourselves (being content with our gifts, abilities, and purpose in life.)
I said to Brenda that I had to write all of this down. "You should, Mom," she said. And we got up, she to go grocery shopping and I to start my list of Saturday chores.

Later that day, Brenda came home with her groceries and handed me a bouquet of yellow roses.

"Brenda, you have no idea what these mean to me," I said.

And I told her how over 30 years ago I had a dear friend, Cecil Cunningham, who was the chaplain at Pine Ridge, an institution in Aurora. One day he had visited and I must have been feeling a little insecure because he came back later with a bunch of yellow roses, and simply said, "Belinda, you are okay."

The yellow roses that Cecil gave me that day have been passed on by me many times over the past three decades, each time to someone who needed their drooping spirits lifted and to know that they were loved and they were okay.

"Mom, I stood for a long time deciding what colour to buy and these just seemed like the right ones," said Brenda.

God's special message of love, through Brenda and the roses. I am content in what and who he has made me and what, by his grace he will make me. It is enough.

Hebrews 13:5-6
Amplified Bible (AMP)
5Let your [a]character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God] [b]Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor [c]give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [d][I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor [e]let [you] down ([f]relax My hold on you)! [[g]Assuredly not!](A)    6So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me?(B

Sunday, July 17, 2011

God's Chisel


By Belinda

On Friday I promised to explain what's been going on in my life. I'm going to try! There is too much for one blog post, so this is part 1.

Over the past 4 months it feels as though I have had a lifetime of inner crises. Each time there has been something that needed working on-- painfully--and in great  insecurity. It has felt like a crash course in correction and healing.

It began with my realizing sometime in March that I had failed spectacularly in an aspect of leadership at work. I won't go into it all again because I wrote about it as I went through it but I learned humbling lessons and determined with all my heart to make amends. I've been working on that, with God's grace and that of the people I lead.

Then, because I was under  pressure at work--putting in longer hours than usual during an emotionally intense period, I lacked time for intimacy with God. By June, I doubted that what I was writing had worth and had a confidence melt down at a writers conference. God patiently and powerfully spoke through friends and events and  reminded me that my job is to be faithful to write what he gives me and just trust him. Crisis # 2 weathered!

In late June I took a workshop on leadership styles and was discontent with who I am: a leader with the ability to calm people down; smooth the path; support others; model respect for authority etc. It all sounds like Molson's personality come to think about it--and I love him--but I wasn't seeing it that way at the time.

God gave me a group of feisty colts to lead. Their styles cause them to act on the environment to change it, while my style adjusts to the environment. How could I be their leader?

I ruminated on this far too much; to the point that I actually considered asking my boss if he shouldn't consider trading me in for a better model, or asking for a refund.

Then God gave me a gift--a chat with two precious young women whom I led over 10 years ago and who came to our Writers Nest meeting last week. Both are writers--too busy at their phase in life to write much--but they came because it was Bonnie's farewell party.

As they were leaving and we were catching up on our current lives, I half jokingly told them about the test of leadership styles and the dismay I had experienced over my outcome. Both of them looked at me with eyes wide with disbelief. Ellen, who always struck me as a racehorse when on my team, said, "Belinda, you believed we could do things we didn't know we could do, but because you believed we could, we did them." Ang too, affirmed that there was no doubt that who God made me was a gift to her at the time she served with me. I was beginning to realize that my discontent was nothing but a sinful coveting of other's strengths.

As I walked with them into the dark summer night, we asked ourselves why we listen to the one whose modus operendi is lies and whose motive is discouragement!

I have finally realized that yes, I am surrounded by strong leaders--and I am with them for a reason. They have enough "acting upon the environment skills" for all of us, but sometimes they need a sanity committee; a listening ear; a voice of reason; a quiet port in the chaotic storm. I am that. I have strength of leadership--it just shows up in a gentle guise.

Phew! Crisis #3 over.

I found this skit that says exactly what I have learned through all of this. Tune in for the final (for now :) )beautiful chapter tomorrow!

Friday, July 15, 2011

"By Belinda

It's Friday, I'm home alone, just quiet before God; door closed up tight against all else but HIM and my heart is overflowing. Tears of sheer joy and gratitude; words can't adequately express all that I have experienced of his gentle loving and healing over the past four weeks but I hope to try, with his help, over the next day or so, to put it into words, only because I know that what he gives me, he gives not just for me, but to share.


Psalm 45:10-11

New International Version (NIV)

 10 Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention:
   Forget your people and your father’s house.
11 Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;
   honor him, for he is your lord.


God has taken me from my father's house in all of its brokenness, and into The Father's house, where I want nothing more than to stay, sit at his feet, grow, and flourish in his presence.

Tonight this song comes close to expressing my heart. I listened and tears came. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!
"Revelation Song"--Kari Jobe and Gateway

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Nest

By Belinda


The kitchen was fragrant with perking coffee when the doorbell chimed. It was Carolyn Morris, come early, and staying just long enough to sign Bonnie's card. She had a daughter at home with four holes where her wisdom teeth used to be. Carolyn's motherly mission for the evening was wrapping her daughter in tender loving care and getting ice packs for her face. Before she left though, she shared a surprise--her eyes sparkling with excitement. The first copy of her newly published children's novel, Mourning Dove, had arrived and she had it in her hands. It was beautiful, illustrated by another member of the Writers Nest (our writers group;) Anne Brolley.

Carolyn vanished as suddenly as she had arrived and I was almost ready for the party about to happen when the rest of the writers who make up the Writers Nest, began to arrive. A few couldn't make it--we missed Melody, Sue and Vi, and Claire is in Montreal, but there were still 14 of us; lovers of words and writing; poets, artists; contemplatives; quiet souls; extroverts, jokesters and ages spanning many decades.

This was a special evening. It happened to be the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Writers Nest. It was in 2001 that Susan felt God prompting her to start a writers group. Meanwhile I was praying, "God, if Susan starts a group, I will go to it!"

Susan asked our friend Bonnie Gilpin if we could have it at her house in Tottenham and Bonnie said, "Sure." Since then Bonnie has hosted about 120 gatherings of writers at her house, give or take one or two--spreading a lavish feast of goodies before us every month.

This was Bonnie's last Writers Nest though, because she's moving to Peterborough. I just hope it wasn't because it was the only way to get us all out of her house! :) Bonnie even offered to have the meeting there this month when she would be in the middle of packing. I said, "Are you crazy?" I know that Bonnie would have done it had we let her.

Instead we all met at my home in Bond Head; the new "nest." Bonnie gave me the picture of a bird's nest that for her symbolized our group. It now hangs in my kitchen.

She also brought boxes of books and a bookcase and left them in our sun porch. It is our groups' writing library, which used to be stored at her home.

I haven't decided where they will go yet. This means that I now have 8 book cases. :) But you can never have too many book cases, right?

My heart overflowed when two dear young friends, Angela and Ellen walked in, lighting up the room with their energy and sparkle (they are in the centre of the photo below.) It was SO good to see them both. They are both in busy seasons of life right now and can't drop in very often: Ellen home schools her family of five children whose ages range from 6 year old twins to a 13 year old daughter and Ang is managing a "fine thrift store" store called Alliston’s Attic, as well as raising a young family of four. I love this pair, and once was privileged to lead them on one of my teams at work.

Our assignment for the evening was to write a biography and the first thing we did--those of us who had written something--was to read them out loud. They were fascinating in their creativity and variety--something that always stands out to me in this group.

And then we celebrated--ten years of existence--and Bonnie.

We presented her with a necklace to remember us by. On a fine gold chain, a circle of clear sapphires, wrapped around a cluster of semi-precious gems: garnet, smokey quartz and citrine. It symbolizes "the circle of life," but to me it meant the circle of friendship that exists among us and never ends, and the fact that though we reflect different shades and colours of the light of God in our writing, we are all encircled by him. Bonnie (seated in the chair next to me) loved it.

And then we ate cake and drank coffee and tea and talked all the way out to the cars that lined our driveway, while swatting the mosquitoes that pricked our arms, in the warm evening air, as we reluctantly faced the fact that tomorrow was coming and we had to go to bed.

What will be the next chapter for each of us? That story is yet to unfold.












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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Divine Appointment



 By Belinda

I arrived early at the writers conference, turning into the curving, tree shaded driveway, with a sense of anticipation. What lay ahead over the next three days was known only to God. I knew that there would be many connections made; networking opportunities; chance encounters—I  prefer to think of them as “Divine appointments,” connections in which God has a hand.


After dropping off my luggage in my room, I reported to the volunteer coordinator’s post to pick up a bundle of signs. My first job of the day would be putting them up around the conference grounds.

I found that I had a helper named Nikki Rosen. Soon we were busy with our assignment and chatting at the same time. It turned out that Nikki wasn’t attending the conference but lived nearby and had volunteered to come help set up.

She was small and neatly built, with short, auburn hair and brightly intelligent brown eyes. Her conversation was as engaging as the person she projected and as parts of her story emerged, I was fascinated. I had recently returned from a trip to Israel and she said that she grew up in an orthodox Jewish family that was, behind closed doors, viciously abusive, physically and verbally—and yet she was a social worker, helping other women—how did she make the transition from abused child to whole person?  

I wanted to know the whole story. To my enormous relief she told me that she had written it down and that the book would be on sale in the bookstore. Did I mention Divine appointments? This was my first of the conference.

I bought two copies of Nikki’s book, A True Story—In the Eye of Deception. One to keep and one to share with someone else.

It wasn’t long before one of the books was in circulation. My daughter spotted it and said that she had a friend that might find it interesting and helpful. I began to read my own copy and was quickly gripped anew by Nikki’s story of survival.

Nikki told a difficult tale, describing graphically the brutality and violence she endured as a young child; the coping mechanisms she learned, including detachment, bulimia, drugs and cutting; laying down a pattern of victimization and abuse as she later lived a life of survival on the streets of Vancouver.

She was lured into a cult by the illusion of family and peace, and when she realized that she was entrapped in a web of abuse, being repeatedly raped; subjected to brain-washing, and deprived of nourishment, she managed to escape, only to climb back into captivity over the black wrought iron fence that surrounded the cult’s compound after short hours of freedom.

Nikki takes the reader inside her head, so that you understand why she returned to such violence and why cutting was a release. Terrible as life was, she remained with the cult until she endured a beating that ruptured her spleen and resulted in hospitalization to repair it.

A life of addiction, prison and psychiatric institutionalization followed—a downward spiral. It was in living side by side with other people in similar torment that Nikki developed the compassion that made her want to help and repugnance at some of the methods staff used to maintain order.
     
While sitting on a park bench one summer day, Nikki was approached by a young woman who shared her faith in Christ. Nikki began a long, sometimes torturous journey to freedom and wholeness with many painful years of slowly moving through a process of gaining insight and healing while still leaning into the destructive patterns that had been her survival for so long.

There was no “quick fix.” Eventually Nikki connected with a Christian counsellor who gently and patiently led her through steps of healing. Nikki describes this in such detail that the reader can understand the process that resulted in the freedom she eventually walked into.
     
Although there were many people who personified evil in Nikki’s life, there were many people who by simple acts of kindness and generosity, made a difference and Nikki brings them to life in the pages of her book.

Reading the Bible, meditating on it and replacing lies with its truth until it became part of her was a powerful step of healing for Nikki, eventually completely setting her free from  her bondages and addictions.
     
Still, few people knew of all that Nikki had endured. She was ashamed of her past and also tended to minimize the abuse. She began running in the woods near her home and there found peace, and the courage to begin to tell her story, starting by writing it down, no longer held captive by fear. In the woods she sensed God’s presence and touch, encouraging her to face the pain and to tell the truth.

I could hardly believe that the confident social worker with whom I had put up the signs for the conference was the same Nikki in the book. But of course I met the whole Nikki, the one who lives with gratitude for all that God has done in her life. Her life is a testimony to the goodness of God and triumph over darkness and evil.

Although my own childhood struggles cannot compare in the degree of heartache that Nikki lived through, reading the book was helpful to me.  I saw clearly for the first time, patterns that are old and no longer necessary coping mechanisms and how we can subconsciously recreate the dance of relationship learned in childhood.  
      
Until recently Nikki worked as a social worker in a hospital but now works privately, primarily with women with similar backgrounds of abuse.

You can visit Nikki's website Gentle Recovery (No Hope? Know Hope!)  at www.gentlerecovery.webs.com

Her book won The Word Guild Award and received Honourable Mention for the Grace Irwin Award

Sunday, July 10, 2011

On the Streets

By Belinda

Our large house has emptied out this week with summer upon us, and it is just Paul and I; our family dog Molson (really Brenda's dog;) Disco and Sunny the cockatiels; and a chinchilla named Blossom (all belonging to Brenda and her girls.)

I'm doing my best for Molson. Today he had two walks because he needs them and so do I. The other pets are pretty self reliant and I just go down and socialize with the birds a little each day.

I love walking the streets of the village, taking in every scent in the breeze and noting the sounds; enjoying the sights on every hand. Come walk with me.

This evening an ivory lace half moon hung in a sky dotted with puffy peachy silver cloud pillows. The ditches and fields were a riot of purple, yellow and speedwell blue wild flowers and elegant grasses and reeds, nodding their heads politely as we passed by.

A mourning dove cooed softly against a backdrop of twittering and chirping and the distant drone of cottage country traffic returning to the city after a weekend away.

An oddly comforting whiff of cigarette smoke drifted from a verandah, mixed with the scent of dryer sheets

On the pavement lay evidence of intimacy or perhaps not so much--a used condom. A different village lives at night.

Two weeks from tomorrow I leave for two weeks in another village--this one in England; the Alvechurch I grew up in. On those streets I will walk Bruce, my brother's dog and I'll be remembering, as I pass the house we grew up in, the summers of long ago when the street was filled with children.

We drew hopscotch squares on the pavements with chalky stones and tirelessly, we did the hop on one leg, then land on two feet, hop on one leg, land, jump, turn and land again, hopscotch dance, until it our parents called us inside.

Sometimes we skipped, or rode bikes or scooters, or roller skated. The day I learned to roller skate I thought that I would never learn to stand up on those ball bearing wheels strapped to my feet. I fell over time after time, feet flying up and bottom or knees hitting cement, but I was determined to learn and I did. I don't know how Mum ever coped with the noise of my skating the hallway inside and hitting the front door each time with a bang, but she tolerated it for considerable periods of time.

The village hasn't changed much, except for the big field that we called the "football field." It sloped gently down from the top of ancient Bear Hill, to a brook that ran along the bottom of the field. Each year the long grass would be cut down and stacked in piles which we would jump over. Once I landed on the ground on the other side so hard that I couldn't catch my breath. The other children gathered around in momentary panic until, after what seemed like endless seconds, my breath came back.

The brook was lined with trees that we climbed in or hung over the water from, or we sloshed through it with our Wellington boots on. The hedgerows had hollow spaces within them where all sorts of make believe games went on. The graveyard too, was a place to wander, look at names and dates and muse. There was never an end to things to do.

Now the football field is full of streets and houses, but the brook still flows along the edge of the land on which Mum's flat stands and I can see and hear it from her windows. She won't have any worries that I'll be skating her hallways and crashing into the door!

These are just a couple of the places I've belonged to and borrowed for a while.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Saturday This and That

By Belinda

Here in Bond Head, at 10.30 on a July Saturday evening it is still as steamily hot as I imagine a Turkish bath would be.

I am inside where the air conditioning is valiantly fighting the battle to cool the house and only somewhat winning. But an hour ago I was walking around the village as late as I could so that it would be cooler. Because it was getting darker by the minute I was reminded that already the days are shortening. Is it ungrateful to want to type, "Boo!" to that? :)

I was struck, as Molson and I walked past century homes, by the incongruity of big screen colour TVs flickering from windows all over the village.  We have one ourselves of course, and I had just watched a movie on it with Paul, but as we walked the deserted streets, Mo and I, I was trying to imagine another time, quieter, less hurried, and the TV's spoiled the illusion!

Today Paul's mum had a day visit from the hospital to her own home. She has been in hospital since May 31, recovering from a stroke that had paralysed her right arm and weakened her right leg. What a fighter she is. So determined to get home. She has been supplementing the physiotherapy by exercising on her own to strengthen her right arm and hand. If the nurses are slow to respond when she needs to go to the wash-room she has been wheeling herself in and with the determination with which she does everything, "Doing it herself."

Paul went early this morning to pick Mum up and on the way home they stopped here. She amazed me by getting out of the car, getting up four steps and using our bathroom, and then doing the whole process in reverse before continuing the journey to Tottenham. I imagine that tonight she will be resting very well in her hospital bed, although it must have been so hard to go back. It won't be long before she's home for good--well, it had better not be because otherwise we shall be reading a headline:
Patient Runs Away from Hospital. Last Seen Heading Down the Highway with a Walker.

I read a book last week and had another of my epiphanies.. The book was the true story of a woman who had grown up in a verbally and physically abusive family and then found herself in similar situations as an adult. Eventually (drastically shortening a story here--I must write a proper book review) she found faith in Christ and went through counselling to find healing from the pain and damage of the past.

In reading the book I realized for the first time where some of my own relational patterns come from. It seems obvious now that I realize it. Because of growing up with a father who was difficult and drank, I learned to be hypersensitive to conflict; to read the signs of impending discomfort in others and to take steps to mitigate them.

I'm very good at defusing tension in a room whenever emotions are running high in conversations (unless it's my own that are running high.) I can make a joke or find a middle ground that makes everyone suddenly happy. That is my goal--everyone must be happy.

I also learned to tiptoe around in other relationships--to accommodate and appease--unless something is really important and then I will stand firm. This too, was a revelation. No one asked me to do it--I just did, because it was what I learned to do. I just never realized why I did it, and where it came from.

So knowing this, I decided to stop it. On Thursday at cell group the discussion became, shall we say, "animated." I would normally have tried to smooth things a little, but instead I sat back and listened. After all, if a group of friends can't have an honest conversation that gets a bit rough around the edges, in a safe place, you are being driven by fear I think, and there is nothing to fear here.

Then on Friday I was having lunch with some team mates. I was in the middle of the table, with three on each side of where I sat. On my right, someone was being deliberately provocative of another and eliciting some frustration from their conversation partner, while on the other side of me three people were having a conversation in which I wasn't involved.

For sure I would normally have tried to bring peace somehow to the couple on my right,  but it was their conversation (the new me realized,) so I stayed out of it and just quietly and happily, sat and listened to both conversations. But a funny thing happened. It was like a forest in which the birds stopped singing one by one. An obvious silence gradually fell at the table and everyone looked at each other uncomfortably. Someone laughed and said, "Belinda isn't saying anything."

I wasn't, and it was a bit weird! :) Maybe I should have said something but I don't know what. :) I've learned what not to do but not quite what to do.

Well, that is my Saturday This and That.




Friday, July 08, 2011

A Young Writer Friend

By Belinda

It is Friday evening and the weekend lies before me like a luxurious bolt of cloth from which anything might yet be made. At this moment I am enjoying the thought of it to the full.

I have been listening to the unabridged diary of Anne Frank on CD while walking the village with Molson. What a good writer Anne was, so full of potential. Her descriptions of the small world of the secret annex and those who populated it are so vivid and filled with wry humour, wit and poignancy. I felt, as I listened to her words--her "voice"-- as though I was there, listening to the creaking stairs, slamming doors, droning bombers and machine gun fire that frightened them so much.  I felt that I was watching the people and sharing the emotions she described.

Her constrained surroundings, the tension and deprivation over the two years she and the seven others hid there were in stark contrast to the freedom I had to walk anywhere I wished without fear, to come home and find our cupboards amply filled with food, and to have no fear of hatred and violence being directed against me for my ethnicity or faith.

Anne's diary, which she called "Kitty," was a friend in whom she confided everything. "When I write, I can shake off all my cares, she wrote on April 5, 1944.

Listening to the diary reminds me to be deeply grateful for the blessings of here and now. It is easy to forget; to get off track in relationships that should be cherished, to be greedy for more things that don't matter at all, and forget how much we have. Anne reminds me of all of that and how important it is to stand against prejudice, hatred and bigotry.

This is a link to a 5 minute Anne Frank Biography - Biography.com


Thursday, July 07, 2011

A Little Henri

By Belinda

On Tuesday evening, Susan sent me an email saying that this was just what she needed to read--and maybe I did too. I was busy--connecting with several people and following up on some things I had meant to do sooner, so I didn't take time to read it until this morning.

What Susan sent was a link to a message by Henri Nouwen, one of my favourite authors; someone who has spoken into my life more times than I can count!

Thinking about what I wrote yesterday; the longing to be something different than who God made me sometimes--well, this was the best tonic for that. I should have read it sooner. May it be a blessing to you today. I give you:
A Little Henri

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

My Strengths Your Strengths

By Belinda

I just started a leadership certificate course through the University of Waterloo in partnership with the agency I work for, and the first module, Understanding Human Behaviour, sent me into a bit of a tizzy. I hadn't been in a tizzy for at least a week or so. It was about time for another one.

You see, it involved taking the DISC personality profile. For an example of what a profile looks like and to figure out where you might fall, click here

I`d done the test before and I was secretly hoping that my profile had changed, but no, it had not. I am still a high ``C`` and almost as high an ``S.`` C`s predominant quality is Conscientiousness and S is for Steadiness. You get the picture. The rest of my team who have taken the test are I`s or D`s--that means Dominance and Influence!

The quadrants for D`s and I`s are the ones where the person acts upon or changes the environment. The C`s and S`s--well, they adapt to the environment. I want to be a mover and shaker, not an ADAPTER! Aaargh.

I am leading a team of leaders and the best I have to offer them is that I can be depended on to always be there for them. :) I will be their anchor. I will be good for calming people down. That doesn`t sound too exciting. In my heart I know it`s true, but it is hard to be faced with being described as: accommodating; patient; humble and tactful; precise; private and reserved, when you would like to be: high spirited; lively; strong willed and forceful.

I guess that`s why all of my friends and the man I married are my opposite. They are what I wanna be!

I wonder why it is so hard to just be happy with who God made me. I happen to be listening to the audio book, Go Put Your Strengths to Work by Marcus Buckingham. I hope it balances me out--I think it might. So far Marcus is saying that companies that focus on identifying the strengths of their employees and tapping into them are far more successful than those that identify weaknesses and work on correcting them. In other words, if you need calming down or a faithful friend for a lifetime--pick me!

I confess that I am writing this a little tongue in cheek. God made us a glorious rainbow of shades of shy, tints of dynamism  and hues of inspiration. I know that we all need each other`s strengths.I can waste my gifts by wishing for another`s that look more attractive, or I can share mine in the communities in which God has placed me, pouring myself out with all my heart, thankful because I am here; I am who he made me and he knows what he`s doing! I think I just gave myself a pep talk.

A Legacy

By Belinda

Today I will attend a memorial gathering to honour a colleague in the field of developmental services: Manuela Dalla Nora the executive director of Vita Community Services

Manuela died suddenly on June 21 and it is still hard to believe that she is gone.

In the 50 years she lived she was brave enough to challenge the status quo. Her life affected the lives of many others for good. Her life made a difference. What more could any of us ask?

In her memory I share one of my favourite songs, by Nicole Nordeman: Legacy.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

A Sabbath Day's Journey

By Belinda

This is my sabbath day's journey--a summer sabbath day's journey. Come along and share it with me!

At worship practice I noticed that Frances had her beloved Daily Light. "I haven't read it yet this morning," I said, "Was it good?" And as the words left my lips I thought, "How silly! It is always good."

Frances immediately turned to the page for today and shared the verses that she felt led to share during the worship service.



And here is my dear friend Frances. The friend who is rich buttercream icing. And if you wonder why I call her that, you can read about it in a previous post, The Very Busy Day.






In the break between worship practice and the service, I chatted with Max, who was sitting in the pew waiting for church to begin. Max played his mouth organ for years as part of the worship team, but now, at 90, he doesn't always have the strength to make it up the steps to the platform. We could always depend on Max at the end of certain songs, to start a rousing encore of the chorus. His favourites were "How Great Thou Art," and the chorus to "Blessed Assurance." Today I excitedly told Max about my cataract surgery and how wonderful it was to see everything so clearly. He told me that he just had both eyes done within the past week. I said, "So you are putting in the eye drops too, four times a day?" And he said, in a Newfoundland accent and with a twinkle in his eye, "When I remembers."





This is Paul in deep conversation between the pews. He was probably hatching a project with Joyce, the leader of the missions committee.


Frances and sweet Paivi. We were the worship team for this good day.

Some of our grandchildren and their parents came for lunch after church, and after lunch and rest time for the adults :) we walked to the park.

Our dappled golden dog Molson came too of course!

Pete and Sue sat next to me on the park bench and watched the children, but eventually I left them to their own devices, and, with Molson, went to kick the football around with a grandson. Pete picked up my camera left behind on the bench and snapped a shot!


We tired before grandson!

I couldn't resist this abandoned scooter. Its owner came and retrieved it just after.

Flowers by the side of the road on the way home.





At the end of the afternoon, Molson, as he always does, took himself home on the last leg of the journey. It was such a good day.