Saturday, December 31, 2016

There's Always More Ink

December 31st...a day to look back before looking ahead; at where I didn't do as well as hoped, and where I have changed for the better (in my experience, with God's help.) 

I opened the small pink patterned note book in which I chronicled this year's challenges and victories, its pages secured by a knot, promising confidences kept.

I found on the fly-leaf, a conversation I recorded because it encouraged me, and I share it here because it is perfect for this day above all:

It was September, and our granddaughter Tippy was living out her dream--an art student at Sheridan College. She and her class-mates were instructed to draw a picture that represented themselves. Then, anonymously, the drawings were made into a slideshow for the class to view and analyse. 

When Tippy's drawing came up, some of the students commented on the strokes, saying that they indicated that the artist was confident and strong.

As Tippy recounted this to our daughter Brenda later, she said, "Mom, if you make a mistake, there's always more ink."

When I told Tippy later how her words affected me, I don't think she understood their power, but I pray that she, and others will. Fear of failure shows up in so many ways. In me it has frequently stopped me from even trying, to do something of importance to me.

Let this be the year to shake off the shackles of fear, to steward gifts--to try, knowing that failure is the path to any success worth achieving.

"There is Always More Ink"

Tippy Adams, 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Mittens

About two weeks before Christmas, a call for help came from Daisy, a friend and respected member of the community of Mishkeegogamang, a reserve 2000 kilometers north west of Toronto. She told us that many of the 200 children who attend Missabay School in the growing community, needed mittens. Since the temperature up there that day was -27 F, the need was obvious.

As soon as the need was made known, initially via Facebook, the response was swift. People's hearts were touched by the need and bags of mittens and other donations began to be dropped off for the children. 

The next thing was getting the items to the faraway community. Our friends Holly McCleary and Susan Stewart decided that they would drive the precious cargo themselves between Christmas and New Years. They set out early the Thursday morning after Christmas and made the distance in an unbelievably short length of time, driving in shifts through the night--2,000 kilometers north, arriving on Friday! Bags and bags of warm gloves, mittens, scarves and toques--and even 50 bright red, warm blankets made it safely to Mish and were distributed to all who needed them.

I thought of the brave travelers as I watched snowflakes fall relentless past my window, and in my mind's eye went back, past the flaming fire of autumn's falling leaves, to the sultry heat of an August evening in Mish. It was the evening of the great feast at the community centre. Our little group had prepared baked potatoes with butter, boiled sweet corn, and, helped by Gordie, a community elder, barbecued smokie sausages for the community. As the smoke rose and the barbecue sizzled, the tantalizing aroma of the sausage filled the air. We expected at least a hundred people.

Inside, on long tables in the gym, we unpacked boxes of new and gently used clothing. Every item had been carefully sorted by volunteers at our churches in the south and packaged by age and sex, while making sure that everything was of good quality and in good repair.

People were starting to arrive and look through the items, selecting what they needed. A woman held up a dress that shimmered in the light, and said to her friend, "Look at this!"

Holly joined me, but her eyes quickly filled with tears. Overwhelmed at the need, she slipped away as quickly as she had come--it was too much for her big and tender heart to watch.

A small boy on his own appeared at my side by a table of winter items. There, a pair of uniquely designed mittens caught his eye. He picked them up and said softly as he examined them, "I like these mittens."

"If you like them take them," I said.

But he put them gently back on the table and said, "Somebody else might need them more."

"Well, come back later," I said, "Maybe they'll still be here--you never know!"

Later, after the corn, potatoes and smokies had all been placed into the stream of waiting hands, and a great treasure--the leftovers--sent home with grateful people, I went back into the gym to help clean up the boxes and few items left.

There I met the little boy again. "I wonder if those mittens are still there, " he said. 

Together, hand in hand, we went back to the table, but it was now empty. I wondered if I should have put them on one side without him knowing, but that had not felt like the right thing to do.

The little boy simply accepted that they weren't there--someone else had needed them more, but he had three brand-new t-shirts slung over his shoulder. 

"Would you like me to fold your t-shirts?" I asked, and he nodded.

I handed them back to him with love tucked into every fold.

"You should have brought bags you know," he said, his observation breaking the tension in my heart.

"You are right!" I said, with a laugh.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Christmas Gift

I read the story over lunch a few days before Christmas, and laughed out loud alone in my kitchen, as it brought to colourful life in my imagination, the hilarious scenario played out on the page in black on white.

A day or so later, I was talking to my son, and I said, "Pete, I have a gift I'd love from you this Christmas."

"Oh?" he said, surprised, I suppose, at my unusual boldness in asking. "What is it?"

"It's a story," I said, "And the gift would be that you would read it for me and the rest of the family, when we all get together for Christmas." 

He agreed. asking only if he might get the story ahead of time to practice.

In the end, with all of the busyness before Christmas, he never did pick up the story to ahead of time, but on Boxing Day, when we all assembled to celebrate what was for some family members, "Christmas Version # 3," the bright-yellow-covered book with its coffee-stained pages was near at hand.

The house was fragrant with the aromas of Christmas dinner: roasting turkey, with a stuffing of bread, celery, onion and sage--and colourful winter vegetables: carrots, turnips and Brussels sprouts. The feast was waiting, with equally delicious options for the vegan members of the family.

But first all eyes were on the coffee table, piled with gifts wrapped lovingly into the night, in brightly covered tissue, with sparkly bows and decorations.

We did try to open the gifts one-by-one, slowly, so that each could be admired and acknowledged, but like a train leaving a station, the gifting, opening and thanking gathered speed--fed by a seemingly unstoppable force, until the flurry of flying paper, exclamations and laughter reached a sort of grand Christmas crescendo!

The careful wrappings of just moments ago were being gathered into clear plastic garbage bags, when I announced, "I have asked for a gift from Pete." 

I had everyone's attention, so I continued, "The gift is a story I have asked him to read out loud. Your part in the gift would be to listen to it with me. But I'm not sure when would be a good time."

"How about after we finish our meal?" suggested someone, and to general assent, the tidying resumed.

The meal was everything I had hoped it would be and it seemed to be enjoyed to the full. No one had room for another bite. It was time for the gift I had been looking forward to for days.

Pete was sitting beside me at the head of two long tables that had been pushed together so that all 13 of us could sit together for the meal. I handed him my book, open to the story I wanted him to read.

Our youngest grandson, Josh, left the table to work on his new Lego project, promising he'd be listening, and Pete began to read.

The story captured everyone within its first few lines. Josh returned to his seat, his eyes dancing with humour as they locked on his dad's in rapt attention. Pete's deep voice broke with laughter at several points and I looked down the table at the faces of our family laughing out loud with him, not an ear-bud in sight, and I received my gift--my very precious gift: a moment of shared laughter; a Christmas memory made; a gift honoured by all.

And my heart breathed, "Thank you."