Showing posts from July, 2009

Silence Is Golden

I'm going deep. Deep into the essence of "me". Deep into who I am . It's a place in my heart, I think. It's a place that is surprisingly simple and easy to get to. It just takes putting aside my agenda - and what I want to do and say and think about - and simply "connecting", person-to-person, with the Jesus who lives in my heart. It's a place that I love more than life itself - because He is there, the lover of my soul. (And the creator of it, too. It's a place that I have neglected, sadly, for most of my life, simply because I didn't know it was there or how to get to it - that it was where I would find God or that it may be the only place on this earth where I can truly know him. "Deep calls unto deep," it says in Psalm 42 and I have a new understanding of what that can mean. God is deep - and he calls to my "deep". He wants to relate to me. I've always believed, I guess, (I must have, because that is the k

Of Rings and Things

My curious friend Susan asked so many questions about my engagement ring that I decided to answer them here. You may recall, dear readers, that on December 23rd, 1967 (oh happy day,) Paul and I finally (but not forever,) straightened out our communication issues and agreed that we both liked each other very much indeed and we had better stick together from that day forth. Susan's questions caused me to dust off my journal again to trace the course of romance from that point on, particularly with regard to the ring. We set off into the new year of 1968 together and it was on February 16th that Paul astounded me by asking me to get engaged to him on my birthday: June 1st. I wrote that night, "I can't explain why, I just know it was meant to be. There could never be anyone else..." We decided to have my ring made in the "jewelery quarter" in Birmingham. In Hockley, to be exact, which is where Dad's family lived when he was born. I chose the design of the

Can it Really be True?

It was June 1st, 1968, my 18th birthday, and we were engaged! Since the party on December 23rd 1967; the night of the red dress; Paul and I had been inseparable. In typical fashion for me, that day unfolded in a whirlwind of activity. I feel breathless reading the account below. I should explain that Mum would have been immobilized at the thought of a preparing for a party--even a small family one, which was why I started the day by making sausage rolls and a flan; not that I minded--I loved doing that sort of thing: Woke up at 7.00, got up, had breakfast, made my sausage rolls and bacon and egg flan and got ready to go to Redditch. Auntie Corry and Oma phoned from Germany to congratulate us. The weather was really boiling hot. Caught the 20 to 11 bus into Redditch and bought some last minute bits for the party; some shoes, a handbag, some earrings and some perfume for Mrs. B's birthday tomorrow. Was just in time for the dentist at 11.45. Got home at 1.00 and all afternoon was bus

Thinking Time

I am in Kotsy's, a local diner, waiting for a friend I'm meeting for breakfast. I think she's forgotten, or maybe I got the days mixed up. I am enjoying being out and about earlier than usual, and the early morning sunshine streaming through the window. Having some extra thinking time is not such a bad thing either. I figure she's not coming so I order a modest toasted bagel with cream cheese instead of the artery busting Early Bird Special I would have ordered if not alone, wondering why it should make a difference. I conclude that I must be a social eater. I think about yesterday morning's CBC radio program, Fresh Air, that included an interview with the curator of the Kingston Penitentiary Museum. Among other interesting facts, he said that in the 19th century, the prisoners were ordered to observe a rule of silence. There was to be no conversing at all with other prisoners, and with the guards they were to use as few words as possible. The idea was to give the p


This is Oma; Mum's mother, Kaatje. I took this photo of her on the "balcon" of her flat on Saftlevenstraat, in the centre of Rotterdam, in August of 1966, when I was 16 and she was 70. The street was built in the 19th century but sadly, since then, the old houses have been torn down and replaced by modern buildings. The photo evokes so many memories. In flower boxes on the white painted balcony she had potted red geraniums. Each day she nipped off the dead flowers and showed me how to do it. I loved the pungent scent of geranium leaves that clung to my fingers. On her feet are the "pantoufles" that she always wore inside. She shuffled along in them, with a soft flip flop sound. The small balcony was off her living room, which had tall windows, with stained glass panes at the top. Attached to the outside of the window was a mirror, which was angled so that callers could be seen when the doorbell rang.The morning sun shone through the stained glass window panes, a

It is Written

I read this week about the 40 days that Jesus spent out in the wild wastelands as part of the final preparation for of his three years of public teaching. "Full of the Holy Spirit," he ate nothing during that time, and the Devil stalked him, tempting him. In each of his replies to the temptations of the Devil, Jesus began with the words, "It is written," or, in another version, "The Scriptures say..." It is written: "Man does not live on bread alone." "Worship the Lord your God and serve him only." "Do not put the Lord your God to the test." It is written; but have we read it enough? In order to respond as Jesus did when we are in the maelstrom and under dire pressure; in order to discern Truth from a close imitation, we must be saturated in the truth. Since the Devil uses the strategy of counterfeit and one his titles is Father of Lies, not being familiar with the Word leaves us vulnerable to deception. What could be more imp

Turning Round the Corners of the World

We were saying goodbye outside the US Security gate in Terminal 1. My other daughter cautioned my husband not to take any more pictures. We heard the annoyance of one officer arguing with other passengers. Three of them joined in a huddle, their holsters bulging, while my daughters, husband, three young friends and I stood, each waiting to give and receive our hug, and send my younger girl, my grown up baby, through the gates and on to the other side of the world. As I awaited my turn, saved to the last, tears sprang quickly to my eyes, and the first words of Sydney Carter's song leapt into my consciousness: " One more step along the world I go " I whispered to my daughter of this special confirmation, and that I would write more about it to her, as it felt such an affirmation of God's seal of approval on this mighty new embarkation: a high school graduate on her way to a half year at Bible school "down under", the furthest point we could choose from home to

Two Minutes of Silence

My father was shipped overseas in 1943 with the Royal Montreal Regiment. On D-day, instead of crossing the channel to the coast of Normandy, he was in hospital - being treated for pneumonia. Because of his illness, he avoided almost certain death since only a handful of the comrades he had lived and trained with for battle, returned. Although he was overseas for only three of his 85 years, his life was deeply impacted in that time. On the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour each year, you could count on where he would be and what he would be doing. He would be remembering those that gave their lives in service to this country - and observing a minute of silence. I always found those moments of silence awkward growing up. I understood the grave importance of those sixty seconds - my father had somehow instilled that into our developing characters - but I was never really sure what I should think about. So I would stand there - and let my mind and thoughts enter into a fr

In Praise of Doctors

I went for a post-operative check up on Monday, with the surgeon who saved my life on June 15th. Dr. Keshoofy is a kind and gracious Iranian, for whom I will always thank God. All was well, and as he shook my hand in parting, he gave me a copy of the operative note. Dr. Keshoofy explained that was in case I had a recurrence of symptoms in the future. There is a higher than normal likelihood of that due to scar tissue, and he said that it will be helpful to the doctor who sees me, should that happen, if I can show them what was done this time. It was fascinating reading the extent of detail in the notes, from the putting on of Ted stockings to prevent blood clots, to noting that all the sponge and instrument counts were reported to be correct. In between was more information on the operation than anyone but family and a few friends would want to know. Since I have an appreciation for the need for good documentation, but struggle with the balance between paperwork and people work, I tru

Fickle Heart~Faithful God

Dear readers: Turn back the calendar to December of 1967. It was England at the height of the Swinging Sixties, a heady and exciting time to be young and I was 17. The previous December Paul had asked me out and I had said no, because I was dating someone else at the time. By April I had ended that short lived romance and besides, I had fallen in love with Paul, but that didn't stop me going out with someone else when he didn't fill the void fast enough. I was as fickle as the English weather. My journals keep me humble because they shatter any idealized recollectiions! In comparison my own children seemed so much more mature in their youth. It is evident that my life was as busy then as it would continue to be. Trying to change that goes against my natural bent but I am glad that some other things did change. This is my journal entry for the day that Paul and I finally did get together once and for all: December 23rd, 1967. Oh, what a mixed day! Got up, had a bath and went to

The Tone of Voice

Dear Friends, Cleaning out some closets, I found this poem, saved many years ago. I've tried unsuccessfully to find the author, so cannot give credit. To be aware of tone is a reminder that I have needed often. It's not so much what you say, as the manner in which you say it; It's not so much the language you use, as the tone in which you convey it. "Come here", I sharply said, And the child cowered and wept. "Come here", I said he looked and smiled, And straight to my lap he crept. Words may be mild and fair, But the tone may pierce like a dart; Words may be soft as the summer air, But the tone may break my heart; For words come from the mind Grow by study and art, But tone leaps from the inner self, Revealing the state of heart. Whether you know it or not, Whether you mean or care, Gentleness, kindness, love and hate, Envy, anger are there. Then, would you quarrels avoid and peace and love rejoice? Keep anger not only out of your words, Keep it out o
I'm not sure what order these photographs were taken in. I would like to think that the one that appears first here, is actually the last one, but I'm afraid it probably wasn't. It looks like my brother was happily playing with my beaten up baby carraige, until a battle for possession ensued, which I seem to have won. Robert was born in 1953, and although I was not quite 3 when he arrived, I remember it clearly. Oma had arrived from Holland with a suitcase full of tiny baby clothes. How happy Mum must have been to have her beloved mother there in Romsley. I didn't see Robert immediately because I had the measles. Everyone else was busy in another part of the house with this new little being who was now part of our family. I had intense feelings about this and they weren't very loving. All too soon, Oma had to go home to Holland and Mum fell into a deep post partum depression. She didn't know what was happening, but her beautiful, thick, dark hair began to fall

Letting Go

Proverbs 16:9 (New International Version) 9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. The members of a local congregation in need of a new pastor, were each given a list of 18 pastoral qualities to prioritize. From the results, the search committee would create a profile of the ideal replacement pastor. While there is wisdom in defining the qualities sought in a pastoral candidate, this caused me to ponder the seemingly random way in which my life has unfolded. Some might have a shopping list of "must have" qualities in a potential spouse, but I didn't. At first I didn't "see" Paul at all and by the time I did, I had already turned him down. I was beside myself a few months later when it dawned on me that I had make a mistake. We were both shy, so I was convinced that I had missed my one and only chance at happiness. "He will never, ever again, ask me out, " I sobbed to Mum. But happily, he did, and at last we were bot

The Dance of the Teapot

Last week I found out that Beauty and the Beast may be performed locally this autumn. I fantasized out loud about what part I wished I could sing. Mrs Potts came immediately to mind, but only for her beautiful song. "But I wouldn't make a very good pot", I said to my friends. I think my vanity about appearance would have overridden the joy of singing that gorgeous love song. Of course I have always loved teapots. If I became a collector, I think it would be of teapots. I have some of my aunt's collection, destined to be kept because most of them came across the ocean from Scotland in the mid 1800's with my great grandparents, and graced family tables, along with their oversized sugar bowls, for many years since. I proudly use them from time to time, determined that a beautiful teapot should not just be on a shelf, but part of a social experience. My lessons on a potter's wheel have also convinced me that if I were a potter I would want to make teapots. So much

Short and Sweet

"My people shall be satisfied with my goodness..." Jer. 31:14 I have been hearing the beating of Father's heart in these words these last few days. I can only imagine what it would mean to him that we his children, the objects of his love, would be satisfied with his goodness alone. Not running to and fro and here and there looking for satisfaction or fulfillment in anything else. Not looking to find it in a book or a relationship or in our work, or in a television show. Not settling for second best. Him alone. His goodness Nothing more is needed, nothing less will do. Not looking anywhere else to be satisfied, not putting our hope in "stuff" or people, but finding all our sufficiency in him. I saw his goodness in a thousand ways today. In the fledgling robin that found it's way to a safe place on our back porch, perched on the edge of the bucket son Joel left there after washing his car. In the rosy glow of billowing clouds on the horizon as dusk

God Talk

In the category of cuteness, our five year old grandson seems to have received a double helping. A sprinkle of freckles adorns a button nose, just below brown eyes that are curious and thoughtful. And he is heart stoppingly cuddly. It is another quality, though, that I cherish above the ones that make me smile at his lovableness: For such a little one, he seems to have an unusual connection with God. He frequently inserts God into conversation, as if he thinks about him a lot and likes to make sure that we don't forget about him. This week Peter is home with his two youngest children as Sue is in Ottawa with the two oldest, at camp. They came over for the afternoon after church on Sunday, which gave Peter a bit of a break, and was also a chance for us to have a good talk; something we always enjoy. The conversation ran to a book I had read recently; a book which has some controversial aspects. Peter, who hasn't read it, eyed me guardedly when I said I had enjoyed it and that it

Molson's Big Adventure

It was going to be a few days away at a cottage and she was so excited. At first he was going. We talked about the water and how he would love it. We could see the flash of golden fur in sparkling lake and people running from the shower of water as he shook himself off. But then a worried look crossed Brenda's face. Haliburton was a long distance from Bond Head and Molson doesn't travel well. No, cancel that: He doesn't travel; he paces and pants --and then he does ungentlemanly things--over the back seat. Brenda has a new car. Plans changed; no cottage for Molson . It was either go to the kennel, or stay with me she said. We both knew this conversation was a formality because she knows how much I love him; no kennel for Molson . It was a gray evening a couple of weeks ago when Brenda was still away. Storm clouds were burgeoning and we were settling down for a quiet evening in when the phone rang. Brenda, was calling from the cottage on her cell phone and the lin

More on Mary and Martha

Dear Friends, Magda Wills, a blog reader and writer friend, often shares her reflections on what has been written on Whatever He Says, via email. This time I asked if I could share her thoughts on a recent post, here. The post was, "Nothing for the Journey," which mentioned Mary and Martha. Here are Magda's thoughts--with thanks: It's by grace we are saved, not by our works (nor non-works) lest we should boast. Years ago a close Christian friend asked what I thought it really meant to be saved. What are we saved from? I remember answering "from ourselves." God has used poor health, a Balaam-like experience and many closed doors in the transforming process to a Mary. Eventually we learn that God is trying to tell us something. But that usually doesn't happen until we experience the truth for ourselves and then we start making the right choices out of our own desire rather than His discipline. Our will and God's will become one and the same. That has b

A Family Grows

At the Festival of Britain in 1951 Belinda at about 6 months old--1950 Mum and Dad started out their life together, apart. Dad was stationed at the Guards Barracks in Caterham , near Croydon, Surrey. Mum continued to work at Farnborough Hospital in Kent and then boarded in a cottage in the small village of Woldingham in Surrey, while waiting for rooms in married quarters to open up. Although they were married in November 1948 and had gone together to on a trip to Holland so that he could meet Mum's family, they were still living separately when I was born on at midnight between May 31st and June 1st 1950. I wrote the dramatic story of that night in a post entitled Birth Story Mum was alone at the cottage when she went into labour, and she gave birth alone at the hospital in Redhill, Surrey as Dad did not know she had gone to the hospital. Sometime between June 1st 1950 and February 1952 when Dad left the regiment, though, Mum and I moved into the barracks. I have memories of Caterh

Nothing for the Journey

Mark 6:8-9 (New International Version) 8 These were his instructions: " Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. These words reminded me of the total dependance on God that must be my life from this point on if I am truly to LIVE. I choose this and no other way. I take nothing else for the journey but my Saviour--my staff--on whom I lean. I make no other provision but him. He must be my only hope and source of sustenance. Luke 10:38-42 (New International Version) 38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" 41"Martha, M

The Inner Maze of Waiting

We sat on the porch, musing about our coming empty nest, brainstorming about things for my husband to do as I set about building a new career and pursue some well established new directions. Yet even I am finding this waiting stage strange. I am excited about new possibilities, grieving things and ways of living left behind, and absorbed in helping release my two emerging butterflies from their chrysalids. Two weeks ago they were my sparrows, now they are my butterflies, in some ways still struggling to break free of the confining boundaries of their cocoon/chrysalids. These daughters are starting out on the big road of life in a new bigger way. Yet my husband and I are also working through these stages of transformation ourselves. I love the butterfly/transformation message so much that I wrote a whole thesis about it for my Master of Religious Education twenty five years ago. It is indeed a universal symbol, not just for Christians, but something deeply embedded and understood in the

Mercy and Grace - A little and a lot.

I've had a number of speeding tickets. They don't seem to have the desired effect on me, which is to influence me to slow down. With every one I have said, "This time I'm going to change," but admittedly, it never seems to last. Until recently... I shared a previous experience in court on this blog about a year ago. I fought a ticket which needed to be fought - and at the end of my day in court (most of it spent waiting), the prosecutor said to the judge, "We are withdrawing the charges, Your Worship," then turned and pointed in my direction before adding, "And we're going to hire her ." It was a very cool experience - one in which God had taught me much about facing intimidation and relying on Him to be my protection and for Him to be my strength in any given situation where I might feel overpowered and/or outnumbered. So when I got the next ticket - last September - I was facing court again, but this time without a shred of fear. I deserv

Wineskins Old and New

Mark 2:21-22 (New International Version) 2 1"No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins." What are my "new wine skins?" I wonder. I pray for the answer. It is almost 4 weeks since God stopped me in my tracks--and his timing was significant. In the three weeks that lay head of me then, I had, I thought, a significant role to play in several areas of my life. But it was as if God chose exactly that time to say to me, "You think that you are so needed and that your world can't proceed without you? Well, dear daughter, lie back (I had no choice in this part) and observe." I am grateful that I am still here and that I have this second chance to live a new life--my "new wine."

The Ladies of Ardill's

It was in the fall of 1969 that we arrived in Canada from England; complete greenhorns, mere children, when it came to our new country; love, marriage--and just about anything else. We moved into a one bedroom apartment on Temperance Street in Aurora, and the first urgent thing was to find work. We were limited by the fact that we had no car and no telephone for our first year. Both of these were luxuries we could not afford. Paul had apprenticed in England for five years as a grinder and polisher of surgical needles, but since that trade didn't exist in Canada, he found work in a nearby factory. I soon found a job too, at a small department store that had been owned by a family in Aurora for three generations. It stood on the corner of Yonge and Wellington. There were a couple of guys working downstairs in the ski shop but it is the ladies that I remember most. I became one of the ladies of Ardill's. Peggy was short and trim and wiry of build. She wore


(Although this post is "from the archives," and was published on May 7th, 2007, it happens that today was also my first day back at work after three weeks of recovery from surgery, and vacation. In the post below, I refer to "First Day," which was referring to the previous week when, in 2007 I had been recording the days of my vacation at home, preparing for Paul's 60th birthday celebration.) This was a different "First Day." First day back from vacation. It was as good as "First Day" last week. We had a house guest for Paul's birthday party weekend--an old friend who used to live with us when we were house parents for a large group of men with disabilities from the early 70's to the early 80's. John is 74 now but there is a huge hole of longing in his heart that never really goes away. "She shouldn't have waited so long to have me," he says of his mother, "I don't know why she decided to have anudder one.&q

Birds with Broken Wings

Their faces were full of joy and hope. Chris looked down with a smile at his "vrouwje," a Dutch endearment meaning little wife. Neither one knew the depths of brokenness that each brought to their oneness, hoping to find in the other, the missing piece, the lost part. Nell loved this man with all her heart. For him she chose to make England her home, leaving behind her own beloved parents in the Netherlands and her sisters and brothers. It was a choice that was to leave an ache in her heart that would lodge there and become as familiar and unremitting as breath itself, but today she only saw him; his poet's soul, his courtly good manners and proud bearing. The day after their registry office wedding, while Chris was still on leave, they boarded a train at grand Paddington Station in central London. Overhead. above the rails, stood high glassed arches, in place since the time of Queen Victoria. Chris was taking Nell to meet his mother, Lucy, in Hagley, but first they had

His Plans are Good

The storm that we sailed through as we left Liverpool for the turbulent Irish Sea, reduced us to pasty faces, churning stomachs and weak knees. When we absolutely had to get up, the floor seemed to move away with every step we took and we clutched wildly at the railings along the walls. But within 24 hours it abated and we began to enjoy bracing walks up on deck, the salt spray on our cheeks and the wind in our hair. A we walked hand in hand, thinking of the new land that we were sailing towards, and the life that was as yet completely unknown, with the drone of the ship's engines in the background, Paul turned to me and said tentatively, "I expect you'll be wanting to work, when we get to Canada. I mean, you'll want to have some independance." I said, "Oh...I was thinking how nice it would be to be dependant." (Have mercy on me. I was just a 19 year old newlywed.) If you could have seen one of those little thought bubbles over each of our heads they wou

The Empress of England!

Re: The post entitled, How I Came to be Here: what a great surprise I had today when our son Peter emailed me these links to a website with photos and information about the CP Liner we sailed here on, ( The Empress of England ,) as well as a copy of the passenger list for September 27th, 1969. In the ship's log, you can read about the storm that stopped just short of hurricane force. The Empress of England Empress of England Log and Tourist Passenger List, September 27th 1969 (Pages 2 & 3) Peter, thank you!

Lessons on the Lake

We'd gone in a circle it seemed. The eight of us in the pontoon boat were pondering where we were. The big lake had no familiar landmarks for us. The steadily falling rain and wind beating against the canvas and plastic only increased our sense of lostness in the grey Sunday afternoon. Yesterday had been a glorious day in our rented boat, a special family weekend plan to look over lake life while we could. Now I, the driver, was particularly worried about how we were going to get to our destination and then back home in time to turn in the boat. I wondered aloud if we should stop at a dock and see if some cottager would take pity on us and help us find our place on the map. But how to tell who was home in the midst of the drizzle? Hardly any other boats were on the water, and we, the brave but seemingly foolish ones, had ventured forth to make the most of our investment. "Let's pray", came the suggestion, and we all agreed. A moment or two later the proud tower