Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tonight a Lighter Heart

By Belinda

I can breathe again and tonight I sorted out the food in my fridge and baked apple crisp and salmon and roasted vegetables and made chocolate banana bread. I made a good start on the things that have been on hold because I was too distracted to focus on them.

Rob was of course expecting my call when I got home from work, and had cautiously encouraging news. I tossed aside the "cautiously" and focused only on "encouraging."

Mum drank a cup full of liquid from a plastic coffee cup with a bendy straw today while Rob visited. She is still hooked up to an IV, and the bag was full today. Yesterday it was empty when Rob arrived. The nurses were busy when he went out and mentioned it and said they would take care of it in a bit. But they didn't. It was still empty when he left for home. We were brought up to be polite and not pushy but I felt like hopping on a plane right away--"tiger woman." I had to try not to make Rob feel bad for leaving with it empty. But tonight he said he'd made up his mind that if it was empty today he would say something. Fortunately it wasn't necessary.

"Her first words again were, 'I didn't think you were coming," said Rob, "But that's what she always says, even when she was in hospital after her first stroke, that's what she said. I think she must have been waiting for me all day and there's a bit of blackmail there too!" 

I think he meant "mother guilt," and why not? That is the prerogative of all mothers, and she doesn't use it much! :)

"Her face is starting to look better, no more sunken, hollow eyes," he said, "And the surprise and joy on her face when you walk in..."

Rob said he took her comb in and combed her hair on the front and sides. He didn't want to disturb her by moving her to do the back, but it was such a loving gesture that I loved him for it.

Rob said, "I don't expect too much, then everything is a bonus."

Right now he said he can't imagine her walking again, but she has been very ill and needs to regain strength. Whatever happens we know she is being looked after and I know she's in Good Hands.

Rob's final comforting words before we said goodbye, were, "So you can picture her in her pink nightdress, sitting up nicely and looking a bit better."

I literally felt energy and focus returning and the weight on my shoulders and heart growing lighter. I am thankful for the news of this good day.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday Update

By Belinda

Just a quick update tonight. Mum moved onto a different ward and is still in isolation. Rob had to wear a plastic apron when in the room and a nurse chided him when he tried to leave the room with it on to get a smaller chair so that he could actually sit beside the bed. He quite sensibly wondered why it would make a difference as he would eventually be leaving with his coat which had been in the room. Never mind. We both agreed that we appreciated all efforts to keep patients safe from infection in hospitals.

Mum's speech was a little bit better. When Rob arrived she said twice, "I didn't think that you were going to come," and she said, "I'm wondering when I can come home."

Rob said though that she's looking very old and very frail and told me, "I don't want to build your hopes up Belinda."

Friends will be driving down from both Newcastle, and Kendal in the Lake District, this weekend, so she will be surrounded with a lot of love.

I'm grateful: for God sending Liz, as an indication of his special care; for Rob's faithful support; for all the times we have spent lavish time together just simply enjoying and loving one another and for the support and prayers of our friends.

From Liz

By Belinda

I had an email from Liz, my paramedic friend in England this morning. This is what she had to say (below.) God's angel of mercy at just the right moment. How wonderful that when I cannot be there, God has his agents to take our place.

Hello Belinda,Hope you are all well.I was at Redditch hospital today, and when my colleague and i went onto M.A.U ward, i recognised a familiar face........your lovely Mum Peiter. I was surprised to see her through the window of a side room. I asked the nurse if it was at all possible to go and say hello before we went. Your Mum said yes  when i asked her if she remembered me, and Robert said he did, it would have been from the photo's. It was lovely to see your mum again, but obviously not in hospital.......hoping she makes a speedy recovery.I do hope the nurse took the sponges in to your mum, i asked her for. They will help to moisten her mouth and freshen it for her. I know Robert came out and asked for them before we went,  and i told him to ask again in 10 mins, if they forgot.......they do get very busy on the ward, but patients still need certain things for their comfort.Take care, sending big hugs, and best wishes across the waves. Liz xx

Monday, February 27, 2012

Today's Blessings

By Belinda

I'm sorry for not writing about anything but Mum right now. There are many things I would love to write about and ideas that percolate on the edges of my brain, but I find I'm too distracted to settle on them. I'm not worrying about Mum, I know she's safe and being well cared for (I'm so very grateful for that,) but at the same time, I have this low level anxiety that shows itself in an inability to focus on doing much. Usually I put anxiety to good use by cleaning. Maybe tomorrow! :)

These are the blessings of today:
 Rob spent a couple of hours with Mum. She still can't speak but a speech therapist has been working with her. Those of you who read here regularly, can you imagine how even much more precious those prayers she said for me when I was with her in January are now?

Before she had her first stroke in 2003, the last thing she did was post a letter to me in which she had recorded my birth story, then having put it in the post box, she collapsed. God gave me such a precious gift in that letter, her last written words. 

Now, he has given me a similar gift to cherish, words of prayer which I wrote down and shared here, the essence of her great love, distilled into a few words that came with vast effort and vaster depth of feeling.

Rob sat with her today and held her hands. He said to her, "Look at those beautiful hands that worked so hard and took such good care of us." (I took this photo of those hands in 2009 when she was in hospital.)

His back was turned to the door, and he was facing Mum, looking into her face, when a voice called out, "Are you Robert? Do you have a sister named Belinda?"

He turned to see a pretty dark haired woman in the door, who said, "I was one of the paramedics who came to take your mum to hospital in 2009."

Liz, (on the left in this photo) and I have remained friends since then, and kept in touch by email and on Face Book. She lost her own mum the year after we first met and I prayed for her through that time of grief and loss, knowing how dearly she loved her.

How she would come to be on the ward where Rob sat with Mum today, I don't know, but it made me feel as though God had her there, our own special angel!

A note waited for me in my email box tonight, with the subject line stating simply, "Prayer?" It was from my friend Janet Sketchley, the lead for The Word Guild Prayer Team, asking if she could ask them to pray. The great The Word Guild Prayer Team is made up of over 60 faithful prayer warriors. Of course I gratefully said, "Yes, please!" Another blessing to add to the many others, including the many friends who assure me here of prayer. 

"Thank you," doesn't come close to expressing my gratitude, but it's all I've got, so thank you. :)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Little More on Mum

By Belinda

Rob's words last night when we talked were, "There's a lot of concern in 'The Close'," (about Mum.) The parking issues and recent local tragedy are eclipsed by care for one of their own.

I dropped my bags in the hallway on my way to the phone after morning church today.

Rob was expecting my call and had encouraging news. Mum is comfortable and peaceful. She isn't stressed or anxious about being in the hospital (which normally she hates.) She still hasn't got her speech back; Rob wonders if she had a small stroke. Lots of tests are being done though and her care could not be better.

My dear brother who is very fastidious and fussy in a good way, said that she smells clean and her bed is set to the perfect position. Apparently the hospitals in the U.K. have had a lot of bad press lately and standards of care are being raised since being under the microscope.

Her expression was serene and the smile that is always on her face was there. Even though her eyes were unfocused, she gripped two of Rob's fingers and gave them a squeeze.

John, my nephew was there with Rob. How much support our own kids can be at times like this. One generation supporting another.

Rob was feeling at a bit of a loose end without Mum to care for, but he still went downstairs and ate in Mum's flat, as is his routine. 

Bruce was in the background barking now and again, and Rob commented on the fact that during the three days that Mum was in bed, he didn't once jump up on the bed, which he normally would do. He seemed to intuitively know not to.

So, Mum landed safely on a shore she needs to be on right now and there is only peace, knowing that she is lifted up in prayer and getting good care.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Praying Friends

By Belinda

After talking to Rob this morning, and posting my news blurt, my body was here but my heart and mind were with Mum. I visualized the paramedics or nurses trying to find a vein in Mum's frail, dehydrated body for the IV and would have gladly offered up my body as a pin cushion if only I could.

The phone rang. It was Susan. She had read the blog post about Mum and rang to give support and to catch up after being away on a trip to Ottawa for most of the week. She knew I was leaving at 12.30 for two grandson's hockey games, but before saying goodbye, she prayed over the phone for Mum. She had the joy of knowing her and loves her, as everyone does who has ever met her. It was a great comfort to have her prayers to carry me through the afternoon.

As I walked in the door at about 5.30, Paul said that Rob had called and Mum was settled in the hospital and being well cared for.

I called Rob back. Indeed it had been hard hooking her up to an IV and the first doctor that tried, put the IV into a muscle, causing her wrist to puff up, but then a black nurse patiently took over and worked gently until she got one in properly, while my nephew John, held her other hand, to reassure her. Rob said that it was so good to see the fluid dripping into her.

She had lost her speech completely and was unable to focus her eyes. Her mouth and throat had a bad thrush infection, which the doctor said may have been what made it hard to swallow, and she also had a urinary tract infection as well as chest infection.

The doctor called Rob at home this evening to get more details about Mum, and she said that she could be well enough  to come home in three days. Three days!!!

Poor Rob and Mum have had such a struggle this week as he tried to support her through her gastro-enteritis, trying to gently bathe her and keep her clean, while she struggled to stand and cling onto him, while too weak really to do so. 

I am so grateful for his tender care of her. So grateful too, for the fact that every minute, life giving fluid and nutrients, as well as paracetamol for her fever are dripping into her body. 

Most of all I am grateful for the prayer that covers her right now, like a blanket warmed by love.

She is on My Mind

By Belinda

I'm writing this at the time I would normally be talking to Rob and Mum on a Saturday morning, but this morning, Rob called earlier than usual.

As he always does at times like this, he started by saying, "I don't want to worry you Belinda, but I wanted you to know..."

I spoke to them both on Monday, but since then Mum has had gastr-enteritis, become dehydrated and is taking in only about half an inch in a glass of fluid a day. Three days of that and she is very weak and not really lucid.

Rob said she has grabbed for his hand several times and kissed it, and has "that faraway look in her eyes."

There is a nurse on Mum's fleet of Helping Hands ladies, named Julie. Julie said that she would call the paramedics normally at a time like this, so after a day of agonizing over that decision because Mum normally fiercely fights leaving home, Rob was about to call.

She's on my mind and I'm praying that she will feel Jesus close by. 

Friday, February 24, 2012 - "Ignite The Road to Justice"--Full Circle--Former Miss Canada Tara Teng 1/2

Hi Friends,
Susan sent me a link to an interview on 100 Huntley Street that I just had to share. Tara Teng breaks the stereotype of "Miss Canada" that some of us may have, and is using her public platform to raise awareness of issues such as those she speaks on here, and to be an excellent role model for young women. - "Ignite The Road to Justice"--Full Circle--Former Miss Canada Tara Teng 1/2

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Whatever it Takes - A Dangerous Prayer

By Susan (first posted in Dec. 2007)

Heading south on the Tottenham Road early this week, I was talking to the Lord, as I often do when driving, when I felt an unusually strong sense of his presence. I experienced a surge of inexplicable joy, and I remember looking quickly down at the soft grey material covering the passenger seat and thinking that it wasn’t hard to imagine him sitting right there. It was that real.

“Lord, make me more like you,” I said. “Conform me to your image. I don’t want there to be anything between us. Not a single thing.” I paused at that point because I understood the seriousness of what I was about to say. After taking a brief moment to consider what it could mean, and knowing what it could be potentially be, I added, “whatever the cost”.

I knew I was praying for him to go deep into the hidden places of my heart - to bring things to the surface – out of the dark hidden places and up to where the Light is – the only place our sin can be dealt with. That can feel impossibly and unbearably painful sometimes, especially when we are faced with the pain and embarrassment we cause others by our actions, but it’s a necessary step to getting where we really want to be. With him. Nothing between us. No impediments.

God seems to let us get away with things sometimes. But eventually, because he cares about the long term, he fingers the things in us that need to come under his Lordship. Things we need to die to, in order to find true happiness and fulfillment in Him.

That prayer in the car was a few days ago. Today, came some of the response. It hasn’t been an easy day. On two occasions, I was forced to look smack dab at the centre of my “flesh” – that place where the stinking swill that consists of “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life” is kept neatly under a lid. (the Bible says in 1John 2:16 that those three things are the source of everything that comes between us and a loving, but holy God). At least it feels like it’s all hidden under that lid. In truth, though, it’s a glass lid others can see through, and which isn’t at all neat. But we often, being far too merciful with ourselves for our own good, will turn a blind eye and tell ourselves its not really there.

Sometimes I think that disgusting container of swill is slowly being drained away… I am lulled into the deception that, “I’m getting better all the time”. But thank God for that dangerous prayer – that adventurous prayer, “Make me more like You”. A prayer God takes seriously and delights in answering. “Delights” in answering? Yes. Because he is committed to our holiness long term, not our happiness short term. Because he knows that is the only way we can truly live a life that’s blessed. Because he wants to shatter the deceptive illusions we blindly entertain and give us something incredibly real, incredibly valuable and incredibly lasting. He wants to form us into his own image – to get us into a shape that is useful to him in touching the lives of others and in bringing pleasure to himself. He wants us to "be" in his presence.

Talk to the pot on the potter’s wheel. That’s not an easy process to go through. It’s hard to submit to the potter’s hand – to allow the mars to surface – to submit to being smashed, then re-thrown onto the wheel with great force, in order to be centred and then to be worked over some more.

Tonight I’m feeling far from useful. Far from beautiful. I have some tough days ahead of me, taking responsibility for my actions, walking out the consequences of my “ways” that are still often so far from conforming to his ways. But I’m not in this alone. The Potter’s hands are all over me.

I have to believe that the final results are worth it all. To be a fitting vessel. A useful vessel. A vessel that is strong and endures the fire.

Even so, come Lord Jesus. Come into my heart to cleanse and renew. Help me to stop hurting You, and others, and myself. Get me ready for your coming. Don’t stop now. And yes, do whatever it takes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


By Belinda 

 From BBC Mobile News; Hereford and Worcester
PM tribute to Alvechurch ski trip coach crash victims 
"The prime minister has paid tribute to the victims of a coach crash, in which a Worcestershire teacher was killed. Peter Rippington, 59, a teacher at Alvechurch School, died and more than 20 people were hurt in Sunday's crash in northern France. Pupils and parents were among those returning from a skiing trip when their coach went down a motorway embankment. David Cameron said Mr Rippington was "much respected in the local community". He added that consulate staff were working to support those still in France. The prime minister was responding to a question in the House of Commons from Conservative MP for Bromsgrove Sajid Javid. Mr Cameron said: "The thoughts and sincere condolences I'm sure of everyone in the House will be with my honourable friend's constituent and everyone who's been affected."
And good news from The Birmingham 

Coach crash
A TEENAGER woke from a coma after the school coach horror which killed a teacher – when prayers were said for her on Twitter.Suzie Warner, 13, was said to be improving in a Paris hospital after the tragedy, which claimed the life of 59-year-old Peter Rippington.The news broke after friends used the website to urge people to say prayers for her.One message said: “We all need to get #PrayForSuzie trending. Please help as she needs all our support after the trauma she has been through.”
Susan forwarded me this video clip of Frances Chan from another friend's Facebook Page. As I watched it, I was struck by its relevance to the tragedy in Alvechurch and how very uncertain life is. We can spend life planning for a few years of retirement or focusing on all sorts of empty pursuits. Peter Rippington poured his life out for children, in a way that will always be remembered by those he taught. His was not a wasted life, but he could not have predicted its brevity. His death inspires reflection and a pause to consider the importance of pursuing a life of meaning, which can only come as we live in harmony with God's purposes for our individual lives. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

From the Scottish Sunday Express

A BRITISH coach driver appeared in court in France last night and admitted he may have fallen asleep at the wheel of his vehicle before the crash which killed a teacher and left a schoolgirl in a coma.
Derek Thompson, 47, was charged with manslaughter after the horrific motorway crash in northern France as he drove a party of school­children home from a skiing holiday.
It came after Mr Thompson appeared before an examining judge in the Palais de Justice in the ­eastern town of Chalons-en-­Champagne.
Last night Mr Thompson – who is believed to live with his girlfriend near Tamworth, Staffs – was released on bail pending further inquiries.
Christian de Rocquigny, the Chalons prosecutor, confirmed Mr Thompson had been formally charged with “manslaughter and involuntary causing injuries”.
The hearing was held behind-closed-doors but Mr de Rocquigny said outside court: “While being questioned the driver, having denied falling asleep, has acknowledged that it was possible that he did so.
The majority of the 49 British nationals who were on the coach are back in the UK
Foreign Office spokesman
“Witnesses who were driving in the area near the coach saw the vehicle repeatedly swerve towards the verge. The tachograph indicates some unexplained variations in speed in the nine minutes before the accident,
“The charges both effectively related to the carelessness of the driver causing injury.”
Mr de Rocquigny said Mr Thompson had been treated for minor injuries. He said that the driver would be free to return to the UK, so long as he did not interfere with witnesses, and returned for a trial, which is likely to be held later this year.
The prosecutor said it had been raining heavily at the time of the accident.
The coach was seen swerving slowly to the right and into a crash barrier before flipping over and ending up in a ditch.
Police said Mr Thompson tested negative for drugs and alcohol.
The coach’s tachograph had not revealed the driver had broken EU regulations for the number of hours which he can spend at the wheel. Mr Thompson was driving a party of Worcestershire school pupils home from a half-term ­holiday in the Italian resort of Val d’Aosta.
He was arrested shortly after the accident in the early hours of Sunday morning on the A26 motorway 90 miles east of Paris.
Popular teacher Peter Rippington, 59, died and 27 people were hurt.
Last night the devastated parents of Suzie Warner, 13, were keeping a bedside vigil at a hospital in Paris after she fell into a coma. She was said to be “stable” yesterday after undergoing emergency surgery.
Maths and PE teacher Mr Rippington had been in charge of a party from Alvechurch Church of England Middle School.
Mr Rippington’s wife Sharon and daughter Amy were also injured. Last night seven people remained in hospital in France, six serious.
The group of 29 pupils and 19 adults had been travelling to Calais from their annual half-term ski holiday in the resort.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The majority of the 49 British nationals who were on the coach are back in the UK.”
Tragically, Mr Rippington had planned to retire in April after a 30-year career. The ski holiday was set to be his last major school trip.
By Belinda 

Yesterday afternoon our phone rang several times and each time there was no sound at the other end when we answered, not even a dial tone. In the end we thought we had a phone problem.

Today, because I was home for Family Day, I called England to share some news with Rob and Mum and found out that it had been Rob trying to get through to us with the news of the tragic accident.

Peter Rippington, the teacher who died in the crash, was only 59, and had been a school mate of Rob's when they were both students at Alvechurch Church of England School. His older sister Elizabeth was in my class.

Rob said that Peter was going to retire this year and was already saying he was not going to be taking the children on any more trips..

Peter's 25 year old daughter Amy, was also on the bus that crashed. I have a photograph of her with my nephew John, who was in a school Christmas concert with her when they were about 5. She was Mary and he was Joseph.

In Alvechurch everyone knows everyone else and generations continue to live side by side in the lovely little village.

My heartfelt prayers are for Peter's wife Sharon, Amy, his fellow teachers, and all of the students dealing with the terrible shock of losing a beloved teacher so suddenly and also for the 13 year old girl who had to have emergency surgery in France.

I also pray for the 47 year old driver, Derek Thompson, who has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. He is thought to have fallen asleep at the wheel.

How fragile life is. No guarantees for a moment beyond the one we have. 

Tragedy Strikes Alvechurch School

Alvechurch School coach crash: Driver due in French court

The coach involved in the crashThe accident occurred on the A26 motorway near Chalons-en-Champagne

Related Stories

The driver of a coach carrying a Worcestershire school party that crashed in northern France, killing a teacher, is due before a French court.
Derek Thompson, 47, was behind the wheel of the vehicle when it went down an embankment on the A26 motorway.
He is being held by police in Chalons-en-Champagne.
Peter Rippington, 59, who taught at Alvechurch School, died and more than 20 people were hurt in Sunday's crash. Eleven remain in hospital.
According to French prosecutor Christian de Rocquigny, six of those are thought to be seriously injured, including a 13-year-old girl who underwent surgery in Paris.
'Formal investigation'
Police in France have confirmed Mr Thompson, who suffered minor injuries, tested negative for both drugs and alcohol. There was also no evidence of him having worked excess hours or was speeding at the time of the incident.
Investigators are considering whether he fell asleep or became ill at the wheel.
The BBC's Hugh Schofield said Mr Thompson is expected to be placed under "formal investigation for involuntarily causing death and injury", in the next few days.
Peter Rippington, who was killed in the coach crash, and his wife, SharonPeter Rippington died in the crash and his wife, Sharon, was also hurt
The school party had been on a skiing trip to Val d'Aosta in Italy, organised by travel company Interski.
The Mansfield-based firm said the crash happened at about 02:30 GMT, near the city of Reims, as the party made its way home aboard two coaches.
The Foreign Office said it was working closely with French authorities and was also assisting the passengers involved and their relatives.
There had been 20 adults - including two drivers and six ski instructors - and 29 schoolchildren on board, the company added.
The vehicle involved was owned by Solus Coaches, which is based in Tamworth, Staffordshire. A spokesman for the coach company said it was "saddened" to hear of the crash and offered its "sincere condolences" to the family and friends of Mr Rippington.
Most of the children have now arrived back in Worcestershire.
Tributes have been paid to Mr Rippington, whose wife Sharon and daughter Amy were also injured in the crash, at the Church of England middle school, which opened as usual following the half-term break.
'Inspirational teacher'
Speaking outside the school Bryan Maybee, chair of governors, offered his condolences to those "affected by this tragic accident".
He said: "[Peter Rippington was] a dedicated and inspirational teacher.
"We continue to wish for the swift recovery and safe return of those currently being treated for injuries abroad.
Mr Maybee was joined by the Reverend David Martin, rector of Alvechurch, who said Mr Rippington "was so much part of this community" and that he had given "his whole life to Alvechurch Church of England Middle School".
West Mercia Police said it was supporting the families of the children and members of the staff involved and family liaison officers had been put in place at the school.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Family Weekend in Canada

By Belinda

In Canada, the third Monday in February is Family Day. How great is that? Family is worthy of celebration, whether defined as flesh and blood, or family of the heart. It's all the about precious relationships in our lives and being reminded how important they are.

Brenda and Kevin went away overnight on Friday, to a gorgeous bed and breakfast in Niagara on the Lake, complete with dinner and a wine tasting tour--a wedding gift from Kevin's parents. Paul and I were "home alone" with Tippy, Tori & Molson.

The girls were off school on Friday and Paul was working from his home office. Tori, ("Miss Sociability,") had plans to play at the park in town for the day with a group of her friends and Tippy ("Miss Reflective Introvert") just wanted time alone to draw and to recover from several busy weekends with no time to herself.

I went to work on Friday morning but gave almost 13 years old Tori my cell phone number and told her to call me if she needed me. She gave me the address and phone number of her friend.

In the late afternoon my cell phone rang. It sounded like Tori on the other end, but her staccato sentences were blurted out between gales of giggles in the back ground. Finally I managed to decipher that she was asking for permission to stay for dinner at her friend's house. 

I asked how the day had gone, had she had fun, and enough other questions to be sure she was safe and that the friend's parent was in agreement.

She said that she and her friends had spent the day skating on one of the two outdoor rinks in the Bond Head park until chased off by two sudden snow storms that came out of nowhere, and being chased off first by a group of boys who wanted one of the rinks to play hockey.

Paul and I had just started a movie when my phone went again. More giggles in the background (do girls do anything else?) and Tori asked, "Um, would it be okay for me to sleep over?" Apparently the group of them would be there and it was okay with the friend's parents.

This required me to call Brenda and then call Tori back. Permission was granted, but pajamas and toothbrush etc. were needed, so Paul and I put the movie and our dinners on hold, and drove into the dark night to pick up Tori so that she could come home and grab what she needed. 

As we drove by the Bond Head park, we looked across the dark expanse of snow to the ice rinks. Under the floodlights, boys with hockey sticks wove in and out, following the puck.

At Tori's friend MacKenzie's house, I knocked the door and Tori opened it. Upstairs, MacKenzie's dad waved hello, while trying to hold onto several dogs he was dog sitting for the weekend, one of them a Great Dane. We couldn't help but notice that the garage light was on and that there was a big screen TV in there. This is probably his "man cave," I thought. An escape!

Again we drove by the park and I thought what a quintessentially Canadian scene the ice rink was, with the seemingly tireless boys, circling endlessly still in the crisp evening air.

As I drove Tori back from our house with her knapsack of night things, she was greeted by friends jumping down from their perches in a tree on the front lawn. "Tori!" they all shouted.

There's not going to be much sleeping in that house tonight, I thought to myself and gratefully went home to our movie night.

The afternoon, I had a plan to attend one of our grandsons' hockey games. That's his sweet face beneath the helmet, next to the coach.

Sue, my daughter in law waved me over to a spot beside her on the bench upstairs behind a glass window where we could look down and watch the action. She told me he was number 44 and for the whole game, I watched number 44 only! He got hit in the stomach by the end of a hockey stick and lay on the rink winded for several minutes, bringing the game to standstill for a few minutes while he was checked out. Sue ran downstairs and stood on the other side of the barrier, hands pressed against the glass and banging it in encouragement when he finally was able to get back to his feet. 

It didn't matter that they lost to the other team, all that mattered to me was the rosy cheeked little boy who knew his Omie was there to see him play.

Brenda and Kevin came back on Saturday afternoon too, bringing with them two precious jars of Greaves jam-- one apricot and the other blackcurrant. Susan had whispered to Brenda that if she was going to Niagara on the Lake she had to go to the Greaves store and bring back my favourite kinds of jam!

When they got there, Kevin had asked Brenda where she wanted to go and she told him, "The jam store!" He laughed at this exciting "must go to" destination on her agenda.

It was great to have them safely home again. There is no better feeling than when all the inhabitants of a house are safely back under one roof after being away.

On Sunday afternoon I had books to show Brenda (and Kevin was subjected to my enthusiastic raving too.) I had bought a new cookbook from Costco on Saturday:The Looneyspoons Collection;Janet and Greta’s greatest hits
It looks like an amazing cookbook, with healthy and delicious recipes that I will love trying! 

I also bought the New York Times Best Seller Wheat Belly by William Davis, M.D. and have read a chunk of it already. Brenda (and I am sure Paul) have wheat intolerance and it is fascinating reading the medical validation and confirmation of what Brenda has experienced since going wheat free several years ago. She recovered from all of the physical issues the book describes and I saw it happen.

I spent Sunday afternoon preparing for our second evening of "Catalyst" at church. This is the program of leadership development sessions that Susan and I are leading together. When we were talking about it over dinner on Thursday at cell group, Tippy had said, "Can I go?" and she did. There she sat tonight, one 14 year old among a room of adults, taking in a session and discussion on "The Evil, The Foolish, The Wise," by Henry Cloud. As I was gathering up papers afterwards, I asked her, "What did you think?" 

"It was great!" she said, eyes shining, "Can I come next week."   
And what greater gift could I have received this family weekend than that, I ask you?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Forgotten Gifts

By Belinda

On Sunday evening, stumbling around in my very cluttered little sitting room, I knocked over a CD tower.

It was late, and I was tempted to leave the pile of CD's where they had fallen, along with the dislocated pieces of the tower, but I knew that the next day would have enough mess of its own, so I put the  tower back together and began gathering up the old CD's that it had housed.

That was when I found magic. Back in 1978, Oma Schipper, Mum's mother, was living with her in England. A few years before that, Mum had bought a tape recorder. It was ten years after Paul and I had left for Canada and Mum had already made good use of this new technology that came into common usage in the early 1970's. 

She used her cassette tape recorder to record Dad's snoring at night. She could then prove just how loud it was!

She recorded bell ringing practice at St. Laurence church, on a Tuesday night in Alvechurch.

And she also recorded herself telling The Story of the Pixie Man, a story Mum used to tell to Rob and me when we were small. It was intended to frighten us into staying close to home when we went outside to play. The little pixie man wandered outside of his garden gate to pick flowers for his mummy, and then one flower led to another and in no time it was getting dark and by then he was lost in the depths of a forest. He was rescued by a giant who heard him crying and who carried him all the way home high up in his shirt pocket. Mrs. Pixie man was so happy that she baked the giant a BIG apple pie on the biggest plate she could find and the giant and the pixies became fast friends. No wonder I feel compelled to bake apple pies for my friends!! :) Mum sent this tape to us so that Peter and Brenda could hear her story. I have it still somewhere.

In 1979 she made a tape recording to send to my Tante Adrie, one of her sisters in Holland. Because Omie was living with Mum in England at the time, she knew it would mean a lot to Tante Adrie to hear their voices, and also they had just had a visit from Tante Adrie's daughter Deborah, with her little son Olivier and husband Jose.

So Mum set up the tape recorder and set it running while she and Omie chatted in Dutch about their plans for the evening; the socks Omie was knitting; having coffee and a cookie; and laughing and generally going on about all of the small things of that seem so insignificant, but which are the warp and weft of life. 

In 2006, almost thirty years later, I went to Holland again to spend time with some cousins and Deb, Tante Adrie's daughter, flew from Switzerland to meet me there. We met at Schiphol Airport and traveled by train to stay in Rotterdam. By then Tante Adrie was in a senior's residence, but the tape still existed, and Deb made a CD of it for me.

This is the gold I found in the pile of plastic. I put it on and for the first time in years, I heard Mum's voice as it was; it's timbre; the laughter that came so quickly; her vibrancy. And I heard Omie's voice too, chuckling, happy, so real again after all these years. She would have been 86 then, and not long after that returned to Holland to live the brief time she had left on earth.

Tonight after cell group, when Susan stayed for her "second cup" before going home, I played a few minutes of the CD for her. I translated the fast flowing conversation as best I could, but she recognized Mum's voice. She fully appreciated the gift that the CD is and her eyes misted over as she listened, smiling.

It is going to be placed near my luggage, ready for my next trip to England so that I can play it for Mum.

Sometimes when you knock something over you discover a forgotten gift.


 Note by Belinda:
Jane, our cell group study leader, sent this forwarded email, with the subject title, "Holy Conversation," which is the topic we are studying. I had to share!

   This   is one of the best explanations on the
nature of God that I have ever seen...

A man went to a barbershop to have his hair
cut and his beard trimmed. As  the barber began
to work, they began to have a good  conversation.
They talked about so many things and various subjects.

When they eventually touched on the subject of God,
the  barber said: 'I don't believe that God exists.'    

'Why do you say that?' asked the customer.
'Well, you just have to go out in the street to
realize that God doesn't exist. 

Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many
sick people? Would there be abandoned children?

If God existed, there would be neither
suffering nor pain. 

I can't imagine a loving God who would
allow all of these things.' 

The customer thought for a moment, but
didn't respond because he didn't want to
start an argument.

The barber finished his job and the customer
left the  shop.  

Just after he left the barbershop, he saw a
man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair
and an  untrimmed   beard. 

He looked dirty and unkempt.The customer
turned back and entered the barbershop again
and he said to the barber: 

'You know what? Barbers do not exist.' 

'How can you say that?' asked the surprised
barber. 'I am here, and I am a barber. And I
just worked on you!'

'No!' the customer exclaimed. 'Barbers don't
exist because if they did, there would be no
people with dirty long hair and untrimmed
beards, like that man outside.'

'Ah, but barbers DO exist! That's what happens
when  people do not come to me.' 

'Exactly!' affirmed the customer. 'That's the
point! God, too, DOES exist! That's what
happens when people do not go to Him and don't
look to Him for help.  
That's why there's so much pain and suffering in
the world.'