Saturday, June 30, 2012

He Giveth and Giveth and Giveth Again

Note by Belinda:

My friend Magda shared a story in response to my post of a few days ago:Point Taken. She agreed that I could post it here! When God gives, he gives so lavishly. And the song that Magda mentioned is a hymn that I love.

Oh Belinda - how amazing to read how God giveth and giveth to you. Do you know the hymn He Giveth More Grace? You can find it on u tube.I first heard it in the Salvation Army at a time when I really needed to hear this confirmation. The last line of the chorus is:
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.
Your story reminds me of the North American Christian social workers' conference we hosted in Toronto in 1998 when we prayed for a conference that would make our peers feel special. 

Registration fees for the annual conference are kept low to reflect the reality that social workers generally do not have the money to pay for a luxurious event. The week of the conference the loonie dropped to its lowest and since the Americans paid the registration in American dollars we reaped the benefit of the big difference in the currency.

On the first day the hotel put out the muffins we ordered for the 10:30 coffee break with the 8 by mistake, and we got a second batch of free muffins for the mid morning break. 

We also received a gift from God in the form of a wedding feast for opening evening President's Reception when a wedding was cancelled. 

Another gift was nearly two hours additional hours without charge on a  Dbus tour to Niagara Falls because the driver and tour guide claimed the extra time was such a great blessing to them. Sometimes when God wants to make a point He giveth and giveth and giveth again.

What to do With that Second


This week has been an emotional roller coaster on many levels, including the grade 8 graduation of two granddaughters from two distinct school systems; one Christian, the other public.

Our family is a patchwork quilt of colours that sometimes clash, but always belong together, no matter what. We have had painful differences, broken relationships, different paths chosen, but in the end we hang together because our individual relationships matter above all else. 

I have done a lot of thinking this week about my mum's response to my announcement 44 years ago, at 18, that we were marrying a year later and leaving for a life 3,000 miles away. 

Did it hurt her? Did it cost her? Did she lose years of intimate time together with us? The answer to all of those questions is obvious. And yet she never once focused on any of those things. It is only just now, when I am experiencing some of those feelings myself, that I'm thinking of how she must have felt. 

Mum looked at me with eyes that shone only love for us and said, "As long as you are happy, I will be happy."

Now---now--I understand that was an act of the will as much as an choice of the heart. With those ten words and generosity of spirit, she gave us a gift; freedom to fly. 

Anyone who reads this blog knows the depth of my bond with Mum, and how my twice yearly trips home in her old age were born out of a love that transcended time and distance and for which no cost was too much. 

I want to be like her...

Yesterday evening Tippy and I had walked Molson around the hushed streets of Bond Head as the sun set and the half moon rose. She, a 14 year old on the cusp of High School, was feeling the sadness of leaving the wonderful Sir William Osler Public School. She said, "I sometimes wish I could stop time."

This morning Tippy and her sister Tori, had breakfast with us before going to spend a week with their dad, Jay. 

We feasted at a table loaded with buttermilk pancakes fresh off the griddle, maple syrup and butter, orange juice and coffee; and celebrated a summer about to start as Paul bantered in the jokey manner reserved for our six grandchildren. 

"Hey girls, did you know that this day is going to be one second longer ?" he asked.

Three quizzical pairs of eyes looked back at him. Tori, who doesn't so  much wake up in the morning as gradually emerge from a coma, struggled to comprehend.

"You mean that the day is going to be 24 hours and one second long?" she asked.

"No," said Paul, "when the clock gets to 11.59 and 59 it will go: 59 seconds, 59 seconds; before going to 12.00 midnight."

"That sounds a lot like 24 hours and one second to me," said Tori, as the three female pairs of eyes connected with a common twinkle.

Paul insisted that there was a fine difference, but that we were getting an extra second somehow.

Tori's razor wit was waking up. 

"Well then, I'll savour that second," she said with a smile as she sipped her orange juice.

Savour that second. 

Accept choices that are not yours to make but love the ones who are precious to you for who they are.

Accept that change is the stuff of life--we won't love all changes, but we love the precious people in our lives.

Seconds pass, all too fast. How they are spent--we choose.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Point Taken!

By Belinda

Last year I went to Write! Canada in the midst of a writerly identity crisis, some friends might remember! I wrote about it here:
A Writer in Need of Direction June 22/2012

I had gone to the The Word Guild Writing Awards Gala which I attended with some friends and one of my granddaughters, Tori; a young writer in her own right. When all of the writers and editors in the room were asked to stand, I couldn't get up from my chair! 

Afterwards I felt like such a failure. In front of Tori I had lacked the confidence to stand up. I told her later that I had been wrong to deny the call God has given me to write, and wrong to take it upon myself to judge the worth of what I write. I'm sure she'll have moments of self doubt if she continues to write and I hope that if she does, she'll remember her Omie's apology that night.

I wrote how God answered my prayers for clarification and affirmation in this post: Markers June 23/2012. Write! Canada 2011 ended with my name-tag  being pulled from the 200 or so in the basket at the end of the conference. The prize was free registration to Write! Canada 2012!

I knew when I won it that it was a dual gift. I needed the affirmation from God that I was a writer, but I had also connected at the conference with someone who needed free registration to this year's conference more than I did; someone who was just behind me in the auditorium and praying that she would win. God got the gift to the two right people in one shot.

A couple of months after the conference I received a $50 gift certificate in the mail from The Word Guild. I can't remember what the draw was for now, but my name had been drawn. I saved the gift certificate to go towards this year's registration.

I arrived so happy to be back among old friends who feel like my tribe; my family.

During the opening sessions of the conference an announcement was made that another gift was being presented to someone--a gift certificate for Samuels Hotel in Goderich, which is owned and managed by a member of The Word Guild, Kim Burgsma

"The winner is...Belinda Burston," the emcee announced. I was speechless! I went to the front of the room to receive the long white envelope, to rousing applause. 

Later Kim told me that she would be delighted to host me at her hotel!

I couldn't quite believe it, and said to a couple of people who congratulated me on my blessing of winning that I wondered if
"someone was doing something nice." Now that sounds terrible, but then I couldn't help wondering...

On Saturday morning, the last breakfast of the conference, I sat beside N.J. Lindquist, one of the co-founders of The Word Guild. 

"I guess it really does pay to do good deeds," N.J. said with a smile, in reference to the gift certificate.

I confided my feeling that it must have been a kindness on someone's part, but N.J. said, "Oh, no, I used a complex algorithm to determine the winner and it was your name that came up!"

I was so glad that I had sat with N.J. and that we'd had that conversation. I went back to the couple of people I had shared my doubts with and apologized for even thinking such a thing!

Later that afternoon a pretty exhausted bunch of writers filled the sanctuary of   Guelph Bible Conference Centre, renamed for the conference, the "Irwin Room," in honour of the late Grace Irwin.

After the final keynote address 
and closing remarks by Denise Rumble, managing director of The Word Guild, final "chicken jokes"were told by Heidi Vanderslikke, the funny columnist who lives on a chicken farm near Harriston and volunteers in the conference bookstore.  Last book prizes were drawn for and then the moment of draw for the winner of free registration to next year's conference arrived. I relaxed into my seat, wondering who would win this year. Someone  rummaged in the basket among the pile of handed in name tags, and then the winner was announced: "Belinda Burston!"

No, "I am not making this up,"  to use a colloquialism that is too appropriate not to use here!:)

Everyone laughed and clapped at the same time, and I shook my head in wonder at God who can make a point loud and clear when he wants to. I realized that he was speaking to me on multiple levels all at once:

"You are a writer--any more doubts?" 


"You cannot out-give Me. As long as you are a channel for My blessings I will continue to pour them out through you."

"I hear you, loud and clear, Father."

The next day at church, my dear friend Frances, whom I call "Poppy" for her vibrant and colourful personality, gave me a belated birthday present, a soft brown leather covered copy of "Jesus Calling," by Sarah Young. At the time I did not know what a special gift she had given to me; it was the inscription inside that I focused on, for her name for me is "Quilla," after the quill that a writer would have used, before the dawn of pens.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Coming Home--Henri Nouwen

By Belinda

 I watched this video clip of one of my favourite authors and mentors, Henri Nouwen. I had book-marked it to watch when I had a moment and tonight was the night I had that moment. It is just the beginning of a 30 minute video, which you can view in its entirety at It made me want to watch the rest and I hope it whets your appetite too. It was so good to hear his rich Dutch-accented voice and his honest heart, challenging the listener towards God.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Yesterday Continued!

Two friends, Magda Wills and Marilyn Yocum, shared their responses to yesterday's post: All the Time in the World. Marilyn wrote in the comments and Magda in an email.

I am sharing Marilyn's comment so that no one misses it and Magda  gave me  permission to share her story. 

Often the responses to something I've written reinforce or expand on a point, and I love to "carry the conversation" further.

Marilyn wrote:
I never wore a watch while visiting my mother the last few years of her life. I would try to arrange my visits with no hard stop, running all my errands beforehand. 
At times when I was there I'd recall some little errand I meant to do and still had time for, if I hurried off. I'd be tempted, then decide it could wait. 
There isn't much you can give a 90+-year-old except your time.

 What a gift to visit someone and leave your watch at home. I loved the thought of a "visit with no hard stop." 

Magda wrote:
The concept of having all the time in the world has been the theme of my life for the past 14 years. When I left the SA I felt God calling me to an " ordinary everyday life" (Romans 12:1 & 2, The Message) with all the time in the world for people who God brought to my doorstep. It is based on the spiritual model Jesus revealed in the story of the woman at the well. Jesus was tired, sat by the well and the woman came to him.
Time is the most precious gift we can give someone. 
I have a Vidal Sassoon story in my life. In the summer of 1969 I travelled through Europe with 3 girl friends. We rented a car and camping equipment and spent 9 weeks touring the continent.
 When we reached Rome we camped on the outskirts of the city and set up our tent. On a site opposite there were three young British men who were off to the Sahara Desert in a jeep. They had large jerry cans in the back of their jeep for water and gas. 
On our last evening at the camp (both theirs and ours) just before we were ready to retire to bed we discussed our agenda for the next day. I mentioned that a priority on my list was a hair cut. I had short curly hair but it had grown quite unruly. My three friends had long straight hair which they pulled back into a pony tail every day - low maintenance. 
It was close to midnight when this discussion took place and we wondered how we would go about finding a decent hairdresser. At this point one of the British young men stated that one of his buddies was a hairdresser who worked for Vidal Sassoon in London. 
And so at midnight I found myself perched on a jerry can with two people holding a  lamp on either side of me as I got the best haircut in the world - for free.  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

All the Time in the World

By Belinda

I sat in Jamie's chair as she worked magic on my hair. I am so blessed to have found her as a hairdresser and have followed her through stints at several salons, to her current happily settled spot at Gravity Salon in Barrie.

I not only love what Jamie does with my hair, but I love her. I love to connect and catch up on her life and she with mine. She is a sweetheart and a joy.

 A young girl, about 14 years old and with pink hair had just left the chair of another stylist. As her dad stood at the cash register she told him about something she had noticed and asked him to come look at it, but he paid, and they left without him coming back to the thing she wanted to show him. 

"That little girl is begging for attention," she said as she scooped up a swathe of hair with her big round brush and aimed the hairdryer at it. 

"I observe people," she went on, "no wonder women grow up doing anything to get noticed. It makes me so mad!"

That led to a story about a motivational speaker she had heard recently: Charles Marcus. After a traumatic childhood experience, Charles developed a debilitating stutter and in spite of seeing several speech therapists he still stuttered badly when as a young man he went to apprentice as a stylist in a salon owned by Vidal Sassoon. His inability to talk to the customers was a handicap, but he could cut hair.

One day a ripple went through the salon, "He's here. Vidal Sassoon is here." 

As the legendary stylist walked into the salon, he gave the managers barely a glance. He went right to the back of the salon to the young apprentices--the 17-19 year old boys.

Charles was back there when Sassoon came up to him and took his hand. Charles remembers that he was wearing a blue silk suit. His skin was smooth; he could smell his perfume.

"And you, young man, what is your name and where are you from?" he asked.

Charles froze. The hardest question someone who stutters can be asked, is their name. Although he tried, no sound would come out of his mouth. It was a moment of complete humiliation before someone he looked up to so much.

But Sassoon's response was unexpected. He squeezed Charles's hand, leaned in and said quietly, "Take your time. I've got all the time in the world."

As Jamie told me the story, I found it so moving. The response of someone so important in the eyes of the world, to someone who was least in the hierarchy of the hairdressing business, reminded me of the graciousness that marked Jesus.

I long to slow down enough to make each person who crosses my path feel important and that they would leave knowing that for them I had "all the time in the world."

I've a long way to go to get there, but a new and unexpected hero has given me footsteps to follow in.

Click here for an audio interview with Vidal Sassoon

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Church as a Rain-forest!

By Belinda

Last Sunday was steamy and Ontario was officially in the middle of a heatwave. 

As I mounted the brow of a country hill on my way to church, I saw people sitting on either side of the road on lawn chairs. Wearing t-shirts, shorts and hats, and holding flags limply at their sides, they were waiting for the swarm of serious cyclists in spandex, labouring their way up the other side of the hill. As I drove past them I gave thanks for the air-conditioned comfort inside my car.

I had slept in that morning, my first at home after several busy days away, and I arrived at church late but not rushed. After so much activity, I needed to slow down; take things gently and recover a little. 

The parking lot was full and had the hush that parking lots have when everyone has already arrived and gone inside. I parked in the row farthest away from the church.

Across the road, gravel crunched as a car pulled into a driveway while a dog barked a staccato greeting or warning.

Like the wail of a lost child, the whistle of an approaching train hung in the air, mournful and lonely, fading into silence as  I mounted the stairs to the church doors. Now the sound of singing wafted out on the air.

I was entering the church, an ecosystem as fragile as that of a rain-forest.

The oldest rainforest in the worldAdd a new soul to the mix and the dynamic changes; lose a person and initially it feels like an amputation. I guess that is as it should be if we are a Body as in Romans 12:3-12 (The Message)

The relationships within this living organism are complex. We are together because of a common faith, but might never have met one another if not for that. We are so different--and we need to be if we are a body, otherwise we would look like crazy Mr. Potato Heads with our parts all mixed up or with too many hands and no ears.

My time away left me reflective and seeking to know the part God has called me to, more precisely. I long to be a fully functioning body part, doing what I was designed to do. I think that when we understand our purpose and function, we won't feel burdened but joyful, as we serve the body with who we are. God is making it more clear to me what that is and I know that in order to say "yes" to that thing, I need to say "no" to trying to be all the things I am not.  

By Belinda

Last week at Write! Canada, I had the great joy of singing on the worship team with a group of amazing women and one young man from Peterborough named, John Austin. It turns out that he works for the same organization I do--Christian Horizons.
Here we are, being whipped into shape by our fearless leader--AdeleSimmons. She told us all that she was pleased (relieved) by how good we sounded--none of us had sung together before and she had never heard any of us when we responded to the call for singers, "You might have sucked," she said. :)

John Austin is a gifted song writer and singer. He serenaded us all in the dining room  on Saturday with his song, Ode to Tim Hortons. Here it is being performed, not by John, but by Scott Pietrangelo.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Checking In

By Belinda

I have so much to write about that I hardly know where to start, and at this moment I seem to have no available time! But if you will grant grace dear readers, I will be back over the next few days, with some of what God is doing in my life and saying to me.

I am relaxing into knowing that he will give me the time to say what he wants me to say, so I'm not stressing over it. Just wanted to pop in and explain, because I so appreciate you, and the fact that you would even check in here is such an honour.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Jesus Calling

By Belinda 

We had not been able to get together to celebrate our birthdays, which fall close together; hers at the end of May and mine at the beginning of June. 

But on Sunday at church, she pressed into my hand an opaque plastic gift bag, with a colourful spray of flowers in one corner, signifying to me my special name for this friend: "Poppy." And inside, wrapped in palest blue paper covered in geese taking flight, was a book in soft brown leather cover, "Jesus Calling."

Poppy gave me the highest commendation possible. "This book is like on the level of The Daily Light or Valley of Vision," she said. I knew that she wouldn't give that degree of praise lightly, since, next to the Bible, we each treasure our Daily Light and Valley of Vision as prompts to hear God's heartbeat.

I took it home in anticipation! As I drove I thought with a smile that this spiritual daughter of mine is taking up my torch of sharing books that lead people to God. Her real name, Frances, means "messenger," and she is aptly named!

I am only four days into the book, and already I know that it is joining my classic beloved devotionals. I looked up the author, Sarah Young, online and found this You Tube video. I see that I am not alone. 100,000 copies have been sold. So grateful to be sharing in listening to God's voice within the brown cover.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012


By Belinda

Today I invite you to join in celebrating Juneteenth by raising a cup of unsweetened tea and reading Cuppa Tea on June 19th a post by our friend Dave over at Rolling Around in My Head.

My tea will be the finest Yorkshire Tea, it arrived today and is on my counter top waiting. I will celebrate the difference that making a deliberate conscientious choice, can make. Read all about it on Dave's Blog! :)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

By Belinda

It is Father's Day in many countries today, so it made me laugh when  at breakfast, Paul said, "I've got to borrow my chain saw back from Peter." 

Because isn't that a father's heart; to "borrow" back, something that you actually own? 

At church our pastor shared this video clip from God Tube, entitled
My Dream Father's Day from andrewmanzano on GodTube. Watch it and laugh with us. Personally I don't have to work as hard as the parents in this video to drive our kids crazy. It comes quite naturally. :)

Happy Father's Day!

Jean Little

 By Belinda

I have been away a lot recently, and busy when at home. And now I am home again but needing to go to bed and sleeeeeep.

Although too tired to write much tonight, I am posting some photos taken where I was for the past three days; at  Write! Canada 2012. The photos are of Canadian children's author, Jean Little, her sister Pat, and guide dog Honey (yes, I realize I have given preferential treatment to Honey. That dog was so well behaved.

Jean Little, as well as being a gifted writer, also has the ability to cut through pretentiousness. 

A few quotes from the conference, by Jean:

  • She doesn't read books that tell you have to be okay. "I'm already okay," says Jean.
  • There's nothing better than doing a hard job and doing it well.
  • Read a lot: Poetry; chapter books. Writers are the ones who know how you should do; teachers do not.
  • Eavesdrop!

And now dear friends, goodnight!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

First Birthday Without Her

By Belinda

My birthday just over a week ago, made me feel very grateful for the people I love and who love me back.

I've noticed as I've grown older that the  quantity of cards gradually goes down over the years; but each one: each phone call; each special yearly ritual observed, is more precious, because of those with whom they are shared. Old friends; shared memories; forgiven wounds; promises to love forever held true to; faith kept; these are things that only increase in value with every year.

On my birthday I felt lavishly loved and spoiled from beginning to end, so it took me by surprise, the wave of grief at missing her; the one who has shared every one of my 61 birthdays up to this one, in a way more intimate than anyone else. We were the only two who were actually there on the inaugural birthday after all. It was the day we separated for the first time physically, and I loved to hear her tell how all through the labour she focused on what lay at the end of it; that she would hold her baby in her arms. And then she said to the nurse, "Is that all?" when it was over.

"I think that was quite enough!" laughed the nurse.

Driving home from work on the day of my birthday I felt a sudden pang of loneliness at someone so special missing from my life.

I sighed a big sigh as I put down my briefcase in the hallway and picked up the phone. The rapid beeping signaled a message waiting. I punched in the code and heard the voice of my dear mum-in-law on the answering machine.

I called her number and got her right away. I told her how I'd felt so lonely for Mum, but how her voice was such a comfort. "I do still have a mum," I said.

"Oh, I'm not your real mum," she said sadly.

"Yes, you are. You've got me and you're stuck with me," I laughed, and suddenly I felt so much better. 

Just a few days before I had received an email from one of Mum's best friends since the 1940's--Auntie May. Her email started:
Good morning Belinda,How are you? My thoughts are always with you,loving you and wishing you well...
(then after some bits of news she ended...)
Tom and I send our love to you both, and your family, (I use your Mum's cream and wipes every day) I can see her smiling at me and saying(good girl!!!) Aunty May xxxx.
Mum had a pact with Auntie May that if anything happened to either of them, they would look after the other's children. Auntie May is keeping the pact faithfully.

So I've survived this first. And God was so good in giving two  special angels to share it.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

In Honour of Abe

By Belinda

During the almost ten years of our lives in which we lived together with a large (by the standards of what would be thought acceptable today) group of people with developmental disabilities; their personalities, quirks, strengths, foibles and sheer uniqueness, affected my life forever. I remember each one with deep affection and respect, for each one, by virtue of the fact that they came to us having been institutionalized, had lived with emotional pain, degradation, humiliation, lack of privacy and freedom.

Abe died in the nineties, some ten years after the ten years we lived together, but our lives had continued together until then, and he is one of my life teachers. 

He was a Jew, a short, intense and wiry man, with a sallow skin and piercing brown eyes that were usually serious in expression. He was prone to conversations with himself and long walks during which he could be spotted rubbing the palms of his hands together in excitement over some private thought.

He often carried a note book and bible, and the note book was filled with his idiosyncratic writing; pages of pages, in which he would copy out passages from his bible endlessly. He was like a modern day scribe!

Somewhere in his life, I'm not sure when, he had discovered Jesus and acknowledge him as the messiah promised to his people, the Jews. I once asked him about it and all he could tell me was that he read about it in the bible and that's how he knew.

An introvert, living in an institution must have been crazy making for Abe. Paul worked there while Abe lived there, before we became his "house parents," and tells me of finding Abe locked in a washroom for long periods. As a brand new staff back then, and trained to wonder what could be going on if someone hid themselves away in a washroom as Abe did, he discovered that it was the only place Abe could find to be alone. There he would be, with his bible and note book, happily copying out scripture.

From Abe I have learned to copy out scripture myself. I love doing it and have a special book; one of the lovely journals given to me as a gift; in which I write out the verses that are particularly significant to me. I love to open it up sometimes and read them through. Sometimes I've written the same verses out more than once. It is as though in the writing out of them, they are written more deeply on my heart. I often think that of all my possessions, that would be among the most precious that I would choose to inherit, if I was one of my grandchildren. 

I thought of Abe as I sat writing in my note book, copying out the beautiful scriptures of yesterday, from my birthday morning Daily Light, and want to honour him here:

Daily Light on the Daily Path: Yesterday

  • Morning: Galatians 5:22; Galatians 5:23; Exodus 34:6; Ephesians 4:1; Ephesians 4:2; Ephesians 4:32; James 3:17; 1 Corinthians 13:4; Galatians 6:9; James 5:7; James 5:8


But the fruit of the Spirit is… patience… gentleness.

“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.—Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.—But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.—Love is patient and kind.
In due season we will reap, if we do not give up.—Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Friday, June 01, 2012

The Butterfly Circus [Short Film HD]

Birthday Blessings

By Belinda

I get to celebrate a birthday today, and on the blog of one of my friends, Dave, is the first gift of this day, his post: DB

I am fabulously rich in the dear friends and family God has blessed me with. They grow more precious with every year. How grateful I am for them.

Last night at cell group, Paul was the master of dessert; so justifiably proud of the huge sponge cake with fresh cream frosting and strawberry and cream filling, made to order at one of the Portuguese bakeries in Bradford. He outdid himself in the ordering! :)

Susan sat with me for a "second cup" of decaff, after our other friends had gone home, and we sat and talked and celebrated a long friendship that runs deep and strong.

When I came into the kitchen from bidding Susan goodbye, on the table lay an envelope with the word, "Mom." The words on the card inside made me want to hug my daughter.

Relationships are so unspeakably precious. Pain; tears; forgiveness; love; joy; endless work--worth it. So worth it.

I thank God for the day I was born into this wonderful world of relationship.