Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Life on a Quilt

         This picture cracks me up. My friend and I were trying to be very artsy, taking photos of her beautiful baby girl from every angle. This shot was taken by accident and of course is out of focus. But it's hilarious to me. With those beautiful blue eyes, baby seems to be saying, "Somebody help me! I can't keep my balance down here. I don't know what you're doing, but help me!" 

         She sees life from the quilt on the floor, as we tower above her and make all her decisions - where she will lie, when she will eat, when her diaper will be changed, what she will play with. She coos at us, she whines at us, she glows, she glowers. But we are the decision makers. We love her so much. Our perspective is from above and we see what she can't. We stop her when she tries to maneuver to the top of the stairs and drag her back to the centre of the quilt by her tiny feet. We try to distract her with bright round toys and momentarily she is pleased. When she gets bored, she tries to escape again...into the parts of the room that are not so safe, not so baby-proof. She's looking and looking, hungry to experience something new, not so satisfied with life on the quilt. But when she looks into the eyes of her mother, the eyes she knows best, she smiles that gummy grin from ear to ear.

             Are we not like that? Psalm 16:5-6 says,
       "LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made  my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. " 

           There have been times when dissatisfaction has crept into my soul. I've wanted to reach outside the boundaries God has set for me. But these places are unsafe. Other times, I've questioned the timing of God's provision and like the Israelites, I complain about the wilderness. What a more peaceful existence I would lead, if I'd just be content on my "quilt!" If only I'd let God be God and submit to his ways, which are so much higher than mine! For He is good, only good, and He always sees the big picture. The goal here is to look into His eyes, trust Him as a little child, and be grateful for all His grace and provision.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Blessing of Friends

                Can anyone aptly describe the blessing of girlfriends? Or should I say, "women friends?" For many years I have been blessed beyond measure with friends of character and compassion. Twelve years ago, when we moved to Ontario from British Columbia, we were routinely saying good-bye to many people who we'd grown to love as family over the years. One friend told her husband that they would have to get an excellent long distance plan so that we could keep in close contact. He jokingly asked what he'd get out of it, and she said, "You'll get to stay married." We laughed, but knew the truth. We had encouraged each other on many occasions to count our blessings, love our husbands and kids and pray, pray, pray. I love that about the women of God that have graced my life. We pray for each other.

              The best friends honestly and sometimes brutally encourage you to be the best you can be, to walk in the destiny God has. In the past few years, I have been privileged to know friends who have encouraged me to face fears, step out and move in what God has called me to do. Even when I can't see the big picture, there are steps to take, and friends will give me a gentle shove when I need it.

              Life can be harsh. Friends and I have seen each other through the death of children and parents, divorce, bankruptcy, wayward kids and just plain fury. One friend called me just hours after she had found her son in his bed; he had passed away from a heroin overdose. What comfort is there to offer in that situation? I told her that she had just experienced the very worst day of her life, that it wouldn't ever be as bad as that and she was strangely comforted. We wept together and called on God.

             Twenty-five years ago, one of my dearest and oldest friends saw her baby boy become irreparably damaged from viral encephalitis and still cares for all his needs today. I admire her more than she could ever know. Her mother's heart beats for her children. She is a woman of passion and has learned the secret of being content. I've gleaned much from watching her patience and faithfulness.

              And what would life have held without my two single mother friends, as we navigated the loneliness raising kids on our own for years? We learned from each other. 
I've so appreciated friends with children just a few years older than mine, so that when I call frustrated or bamboozled, they can give their wisdom that usually starts with, "It's just a stage. It will pass."

              We have laughed together. We've shared stories of embarrassing moments and victories over food, gossip and addictions. Where would I be without those precious women who have listened without speaking, spoken boldly when invited, and most certainly have taken me by the hand to the throne room of God? I hope I never have to find out. Today, let's appreciate our friends.

Thank you Lord for those you have put in my path.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Light Up the Sky

When I heard this on Life 100.3, I couldn't wait to get home to Youtube and find out all about it. The band is called, "The Afters," and their video deserves a look.

A number of the band members experienced some pretty heavy tragedies for such young guys, and the song comes out of that. Encouraging, I'd say.
Sunset on Christian Island

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What Now, Lord?

              Have you ever had one of those days where you've been completely blindsided? Well, yesterday I had one. I went to the Write! Toronto conference with the Word Guild. I enjoyed their writers' conference so much in June, that I could hardly wait to get to this "mini" version. I signed up for a three-part workshop entitled, "Fictionalizing Your Story: Components of a Short Story." I had written a short piece for our writer's group about a woman's struggle with a painful marriage and the first thing one of our writers asked me was, "Is that true?" And I had to admit it was a true story. I often have difficulty with plotlines so real life stories are easier for me to tell. I had ideas that this workshop would spur on my imagination, enlarge my setting, better tell the story. Little did I know that I was going to get a dose of real life that knocked me on my rear!
            Tynedale Intercultural Ministries visited the conference to encourage writers to tell stories of refugees who are now living in Toronto. There is a writing contest to capture the "newness" a refugee experiences in making a life here in Canada away from their countries of origin. We were introduced to "Matthew," a gentle Christian man from Iran, who had been imprisoned, tortured and nearly executed because of his faith. As he read his carefully prepared story, his voice broke more than once and I was horrified at what he experienced. And all because he spoke out in favour of Christianity to a Muslim society. I couldn't stop crying as he shared a detailed account of his death sentence, his supposed final hours of life and the horror of standing on a stool with a noose around his neck, his head in a hood. How can this be? How can this happen? What a sheltered life I lead. What a life of privilege and freedom!
           We were then introduced to Maria from Zimbabwe and Leo from Liberia. They led a panel discussion without revealing their horrors. It was important to them that if we are to write their stories, even through fictional means, that we had to get the word out that they are people of dreams, accomplishments and responsibility. Many people have a stereotypical view that refugees want to take from Canada and give nothing. Matthew was happy to report that he had paid back every cent he had been lent and is proud and thankful to pay Canadian taxes to a country that he now calls his own. All three panelists were educated, accomplished, energetic contributors who deserve our respect. They also wanted us to let people know that being a refugee is not their identity.
           My question to them was, "If we write fictionalized accounts of refugee stories, will this bring any dishonour to you? Would this diminish what you went through? After all, there are plenty of real stories to tell." They didn't think it would. Some people will read fiction more readily than factual accounts. All they cared about, was that people become aware of what is going on in other countries and the plight of those who come to Canada with nothing, having given up everything they know for the safety and freedoms we enjoy.
          It was an eye-opener to me. I can't help but wonder what I was doing there. I'm grateful to have had the experience. And I'll pray for these three people of hope and courage.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Confession Time

     We would never preach about the evils of television. It is just a box with wires coming out of it. There is a wide variety of programming to choose from, if you pay for the BIG packages from your service provider. If you are the kind of person who can choose wisely and discriminately, you can be trusted to own one of these things. But hubby and I had moved well beyond that stage. He worked evenings and is a night owl. I worked days and came home from work exhausted. Dr. Phil and I would enjoy dinner about 5:00pm. I might have a quick visit with Dr.Oz, but he freaks me out a little. A quick glance at the news seemed depressing, so I'd flip channels. At first we had the movie channels. Lots to choose from there to fill time until some of my most watched shows started on the networks at 8:00pm. Being a teacher, I'd do some marking, keeping company with the guys from Mythbusters and Wings Over Canada. Never got into the home and garden shows much, but I did enjoy Extreme Makeover. I could be counted on to cry on cue when they moved that bus at the end of every episode. The HD channel, Oasis was enjoyable for the sheer beauty of the subject matter. 

       Once in awhile, I'd puff and sigh, haul rear out of chair and do a chore, but the TV was always on in the background. I spent most of my evenings alone, so it was "company." I'd plug my ears and hum if I started to hear that familiar, persistent voice suggesting that enough was enough and I should hit the power button. It was just too easy to sit like a blob and escape reality watching the "reality shows." At about 10:30pm, I'd relinquish the remote and my husband's shift would take over.

       In early spring, I had a dream. I was on my way to my friend Anna's house in my blue truck. It was along a winding, narrow road with lakes of ice on each side. I was having great difficulty seeing the road ahead of me, because a 52" flatscreen Samsung was mounted to the hood of my truck in front of the windshield! I woke up shaking and convicted. I don't have a friend named Anna, but I know Anna means "favour and grace." And I couldn't get to it, because that television was in the way!

       Unbeknownst to me, my husband was hearing the same thing. He told me one night, that he had come to a decision. He felt we needed to cut off the satellite service. He was expecting a load of whining and arguing, but I shared my dream. We laughed and decided to get on with it. I called Bell and said, "Do it!" Little did we know that they don't flip the switch for thirty days, in hopes you'll change your mind!

       In that month, something else started to happen with greater and greater frequency. The TV ignition switch (or whatever it is) wouldn't work anymore. When we would try to turn it on, it didn't always work. Sometimes it would come right on and sometimes it would cut out after a few minutes. Hmmm. It gave one pause when trying to decide to watch or not. Hmmm again. This was a flatscreen with only one year's mileage on it.

       This helped me to wean myself off. I'd pick a little more carefully. But when that box worked, it still felt like "company." Human voices. In a weak moment, I confessed to my husband that I didn't want to cut it off, because I'd be "alone" all the time. And it hit me. I WAS physically alone anyway. Duh.

       So, on May 12th, a black screen was all that was left. The deed was done. And we didn't die. Something amazing started. We looked at each other more often. We talked more. And joy of joys, I rediscovered reading for the sheer pleasure of it. We still rent movies from time to time. And we have discovered that a few shows we like to watch can be viewed (albeit with much frustration) on the internet. It was a good choice, a great choice. Life together and with the Lord is markedly fuller!

Saturday, November 6, 2010


They say you are what you eat and that could never be more true than for squirrels - they are NUTS!!! I know it's fall and all, but the squirrels in our neighborhood are speeding out into traffic like bullets. Mindless of cars, or perhaps with a death wish, they seem to wait for vehicles before they cross. This week alone, I had to squeal on the brakes about half a dozen times for these bushy-tailed freaks as they try to make up their minds on whether to cross the street or not. They boot it to about the half way mark, turn around and head back to the curb, then change directions again and head once more for the tires of my car. Today I saw some road kill that was surely a squirrel...all that was left was the tail.

We have had ongoing battles with these "rats with bushy tails" ever since we have lived in this house. We've had red squirrels hiss at us when we've gone out to the driveway to get into our cars. They ate away at the wood under the eaves on one side of the house trying to nest in the attic. My husband chicken-wired the holes. We once had a squadron of grey and black ones strip all the bark off four cedar trees to make a squirrel condo at the top of our pine. I feared for the health of the cedars, called the Ministry of Natural Resources and was told that we could not kill them and we could not trap and relocate them. "So the squirrels have more authority around our property, than we do?" I queried. "Yes," I was blatantly informed. I was also told that squirrels do not strip cedar trees. I emailed the photos of the squirrels actually doing it and the resulting nest, but my call was never returned.

We borrowed a trap. I laced the thing with peanut butter. The squirrels could make themselves small, get in, get out with the peanut butter, without springing the trap, laughing and waving at me as I waited by the window. My husband got a nice slingshot. That scared a few of them off the "squirrel highway", the fence that separates our yard from the neighbour's. But the little scamps are still around. Well, it does give us something to watch outside! If nothing else, they are an annoying entertainment.