Art Gallery and Blog

Monday, June 17, 2013

Here in the Silence

I could watch this face forever. I could just sit here in the silence and drink in each line, each curve, every soft inch for hours.

I love my Nanny. 

My eye traces the scar just above her left temple, where the silver cloud of once black hair pulls back just a bit, refusing to conceal this reminder to me of the fragility, the vulnerability inherent in even the most courageous, resilient lives. 

I still feel responsible. It was probably a dozen years ago when Nanny was a young octogenarian. We were visiting Aunt Margie, laughing as we approached the front steps, when suddenly my dear nanny just tripped over the edge of the walkway and fell, striking her head on the iron rail. I'd never seen a head wound, and I'm not prepared to turn your stomach this morning by letting you in on the grisly details, but I do remember needing to pull off my pale pink cotton sweater and wrap it tightly around her head and quickly realizing it wasn't thick enough to absorb all the blood. The cut was so awful that, when the ambulance arrived just minutes later, one attendant let out some choice expletives and was rebuked softly by my weakened but ever alert Nanny, for his language.

Nanny's hand moves to the edge of the blanket, lingers for a moment then lays curled once more on top of the beautiful flowered nightgown Aunt Nellie bought for her. I love those little hands. Hands that crocheted baby clothes and knitted Barbie outfits, crafted lacey doilies, kneaded bread, washed dishes, washed and untangled and cut my mop of red hair, patted my hand as she sat beside my bed when I couldn't sleep, couldn't breathe, couldn't cope. Hands that comforted my mother when she was a baby,  corrected her when she was a child, folded in prayer for her when she was broken-hearted and lost, and that cared for and comforted her once more when she was sick and frail and dying. 

Nanny's chest rises and falls evenly with each breath, a little pulse visible at the base of her throat, and with each breath, each heartbeat, I can hear the faint echo of her long ago alto blending with and supporting my thin childish soprano in the little Independent Baptist Church in Lockeport. I hear her light, fun "mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy...a kid'll eat ivy too, wouldn't you?" while she washes the dishes, I dry them, and Grandad reads his Bible and twirls his hair in the rocker in the front room. And I hear her more recently, clearly singing ditties and hymns, tapping her hands against her lap, or smacking Jessica's teasing fingers, grinning up at Gaëlle, rolling her eyes at me, not a self-conscious care in the world, no more dishes to wash, hair to braid, cookies to shape or clothes to fold or mend. 

So I sit and watch this face, these hands,  and I wait. She's ready to go home. She's fought the good fight, finished this race. And it's my honour, my delight to spend a few hours, cheering her on to the finish line. 

Oh yes, I'm sad...when i find myself alone and unguarded my whole body shakes with the sobs of grief; my heart is heavy with loss and with shadowy moments of regret and sorrow. But this is not sad. It's a victorious end to a life well-lived,  the beginning of a legacy of 3 children, 8 grandchildren and 24 great grandchildren who have all put their trust in her Saviour and Friend, and who will continue to train up her 6 plus great great grandchildren to love and serve him. 

I hope I get to watch that face again tonight. But if I don't, thank you, Nanny. I'll see you soon...hug Grandad and Mom and Auntie May and Aunt Millie and Uncle Gordie and little Bethany for me...

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate~ Proverbs 31:30-31



Thursday, June 13, 2013

He's Gotcha Covered

I had a bit of an "aha" moment yesterday. Over the silliest little thing, really, but isn't that the way it usually is? An apple falls on a guy's head and gravity is discovered. Another guy does a silly dance on YouTube, a million people get a laugh and the guy gets a contract to do a TED talk.  A colossal big marital fight, I mean a "he's sleeping on the couch, she calls a marriage councillor, knock em down, drag em out, I'm going home to mother" spat usually starts with something neither can recall after they finally make up. Not that Andrew and I have EVER experienced such a row, but I've heard of such things...
I was scooping cocoa out of the can to make brownies for Bob, and I gave myself a great long slice on the back of my thumb, as I swirled the scoop to get more cocoa. It wasn't serious... silly, really, and I just shook my head and continued to prepare the batter. 

Usually, I suck on the wound, run it under water, pat it dry, polysporin and bandage the cut... but I knew Bob would wake soon and I didn't want to take one extra second of time. So I just kept my eye on the cut and kept working. Soon, however, I noticed the blood drop getting bigger and bigger, and I was just starting to think that I'd probably HAVE to stop soon or they'd be bloody awful brownies, literally, when the drop stopped growing and I realized I could just let it be. Faster than I thought it would, it dried up into a neat little seal and I let it stay there while I finished getting the brownies ready for the oven.

The first thing I thought was how awesome the human body is to stop its own leaks with the stuff that was leaking. 
That's pretty sweet design. 

And then it struck me that the cut DID NOT hurt. Not even a bit. EVERY cut I get hurts. Me and cuts aren't real good together and I'm not the most stoic patient. I've fainted, cried, hollered, screamed...and those were the paper cuts. I don't do pain well. You'd better clear the room if I stub a toe. 

So this little miracle fluid that plugged the leak, solidified into an organic plaster to shield  the wound from dirt and germs, to keep the good stuff in and the bad stuff out, was also an analgesic. Wow. Really! Wowwww! Did you know that? 

And so that was my aha moment. Sucking my thumb, licking my wounds, washing them clean, applying salve and a bandaid wasn't as completely awesome as just letting my body do what it was designed to do, because the blood-covering was healing, protecting, restorative and took away the pain!  

And, of course, you know me, that "aha" moment reminded me of my faith life. If you're not a Christian, what I say next may not make sense, so I'll give a little background intel:

As a Christian, I believe that God's son, Jesus Christ stepped into human history just over 2000 years ago, lived the perfect life I couldn't live and died the death I should have died so that I can spend my eternal life with my just and holy Father. One way we think of this is that we, broken and soiled with the stains of daily missing the mark of the goodness we were designed for, are covered by the blood of the one who saved us. He reached right into the dumpster, redeemed us, took our place, paid our price, made us new and clean and forgiven and capable of a relationship with our creator. 

That's kind of my Reader's Digest version of much more spectacular and wonderful good news, and if my explanation doesn't make sense read Mere Christianity by CSLewis (you know, the Narnia guy) and he'll do a much better job...

When we believe and trust His plan, stop sucking our thumbs, and licking our wounds, trying to wash ourselves clean, and making up stuff to soothe and cover our mistakes up, and just let Him stop the gap, provide protection and healing, He takes away the pain, too. 

Sometimes, when the wound is bigger, of course, pressure is needed, stitching up, help from others...and God's ready and able with all those supplies at his fingertips. Sometimes, the wound is too big for this life. You need a whole new one. And he's got that covered too. 

But this big "aha" moment was just caused by a little scratch. Like so many others. 

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds~Psalm 147:3

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
~Revelations 21:4


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

It was a day to honour mothers...

Isn't Mother's Day awesome?

And awful all at the same time?

In the early years of motherhood it's awesome for the breakfasts of burned toast smeared with peanut butter and a side of kool-aid, a mystery gift the grade p-2 teachers thoughtfully, creatively urged little hands to craft, the fistful of dandelions and your neighbours's tulips and forsythias and magnolia blossoms. Later on for the brunches and presents and cards picked out for just the right words or sentiments or private joke.

Awful if your mom is gone, or lost in illness or wasn't there for you physically or emotionally, or worse, if she was broken and had a role in breaking you.

Awesome for the closeness the day inspires, for the memories evoked and retold and laughed about and cried about.

Awful for the distance the day calls to mind if you've lost a child, or if a grown child is lost in other ways, or just physically living far away.

I've had both kinds of mothers days, awesome and awful, sometimes, most times, all rolled into one.

But this year was the best Mother's Day I've ever known. The absolute best, come big or stay home, no regrets Mother's Day.

And it was all framed up and set up for success by the words of my daughter Gaëlle. She took the time and thought and discipline to write something meaningful and specific about me in the 12 days leading up to the day.

Andrew and I have never been the best gift-givers in the world. Spontaneous gifts of love, sure. But those gifts, carefully, thoughtfully planned and shopped for, that arrive exactly on the day of your milestone or celebration or change of relationship status on Facebook? Terrible. Like Liz McEwan says, "We know you have a birthday this year; we'll get to it..."

So we don't go in for a lot of card and present giving. Our children, probably scarred by our apathy, are turning out to be rather amazing at it among themselves and with their friends, but they know it's not really my deal.

So I was swept off my feet by this gift of words. Sure, I loved the hamburger stacker and blender and lettuce cutter my hubby wrapped up for me from the kids.. I loved the DQ smoothie Stoneridge Fellowship had waiting for me after an amazing, fun, Mom-edifying and celebrating service...And I loved the surprise visit to my FAVE Mother's Day spot... Swiss Chalet (musical notes...always so good for so little...more musical notes). And I loved the cheesies and lime pop and cherry blossom and chips and dip my daughter brought over to share with me..(oh my fractured fitness goals).

But the encouragement and inspiration and, well, really, just the validation that those words brought into my life? And not only my life, but since she used facebook, it probably encouraged others to think about their own awesome relationships. That's forever. That's wholesome, and helpful, edifying (which means it builds others up), and of great value.

That's a Mother's Day gift. Thanks honey.

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen"~Ephesians 4:29

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mordecai

My friend Claude Hamilton, is the finest leader I know. He really is.

I don't say this lightly, and I don't say it from a distance. You could ask his business partners, his wife, his best friends, his accountant, his book keeper, the nanny, the guy who built his dream house, the decorator, the teenagers who are helping clear his land, the kid who showed up at his front door selling apples for his scout troop... And they'd all affirm what I'm telling you. He is who he is, on and off stage, at home, in his writing, with his son, with my son, with a new friend, with an old friend. Claude Hamilton is real.

The thing people notice first is how comfortable he makes you feel, even though he's head and shoulders taller than most of us...

But what REALLY resonates about the man is his passion. It's a passion born of wisdom and conviction and honour and integrity. And it's a passion made powerful and effective by courage and prayer. It's a good recipe. It makes great soil for growing other leaders.

Early this morning I was reading about a man who had cultivated that same great mix within. His name was Mordecai, a Jew during the reign of King Xerxes of Persia. Mordecai had raised as his own daughter his young orphaned cousin Esther, who eventually became Queen Esther, the wife of King Xerxes. You can find the whole story in the book of Esther in the Bible... It's a great read. I've read it to my children when they were small. I've read it to a 75 year old man with Alzheimer's disease. And this morning I was reading it for my own pleasure, encouragement and instruction.

But part way through I was struck by how very relevant the story is right here, right now. In this city at this time.

In this city, in this past month, a young girl's life came to a tragic, avoidable end. And in the first few hours of her death, her story had so tugged at Claude's heart that he started to talk about it, to learn about it and he began to collect the information needed to do something about it. He wrote about her, posted, tweeted, blogged about her, and tearfully spoke of her to hundreds and hundreds of other leaders. So when I read this passage from Esther this morning you'll see why I thought of Claude.

Here's the passage. It's a long one, but I've included the entire chapter because every verse resonated with me and pointed to Claude's powerful, passionate response to Retaeh's story. It'll probably be familiar...


Esther 4

New International Version (NIV)

Mordecai Persuades Esther to Help

When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. But he went only as far as the king’s gate,because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.

When Esther’s eunuchs and female attendants came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. Then Esther summoned Hathak, one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.

So Hathak went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate. Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.

Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”

When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai:“Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

When Claude first started to react to the devastating information about the crime against a little girl in our city, I didn't understand. I had somehow missed the whole story and just wanted to "send clothes to put on him instead of sackcloth". My friend Phil, another powerfully passionate leader in my life, asked me what I thought about it, and the truth was, I hadn't. All I knew was my leaders and friends were running around "in sackcloth" about something on Facebook, and that seemed, to my Suzy Christian mind, to be an OVER-reaction. But I was UNDER informed.

We need...I need... Mordecais who will react, gather details and facts and TRUTH, who will inform, give direction, and encourage and "urge" us to act. To wake us up to the matters that align with our purpose. And to keep urging until our hearts get involved, until we respond as we were meant to.

Thanks, Claude, for reminding me of who I am and WHY I am... And WHOSE I am.

Thank you for being a Mordecai in a world that badly needs them.

We desperately need the kind of leaders described by King Solomon in Psalm 72 of the same Bible:

"For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy
And save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight" (vs12-14)



Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

But God

It's been exactly a year since Andrew and I jumped on a plane with 10 strangers to go build houses in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

If you don't know me that doesn't sound that outrageous. Honestly, it doesn't sound like much of a leap for a Christian couple to make...right? After all, we're commissioned to go into all the world. We're called to help the widows and orphans. We're called to love our neighbour.

But if you DO know me, you know how very bizarre the whole thing sounds. I had heard the same great commission my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ had heard. From the same Holy Bible read by Mother Theresa and Leslie Chymist and Manfred Kohl. But I always thought the GOING part referred to other people. To missionaries and visionaries. So I did what people like me do. I memorized the verses; I liked and shared pictures of the widows and orphans on Facebook; I baked casseroles and cookies for my neighbours; I played the guitar and sang to the little ones in Sunday School. That was my GO. And it was good and comfortable and brightened the corner where I was.

I had left a career in banking to raise my four six-and-unders. And with that conscious decision to cut our income in half, in an effort to double the time we could invest in our children, we both had learned to live...frugally. I learned to make bread, play dough, mayonnaise, mittens. He didn't buy new tools. I didn't buy new shoes. The children didn't get dunkaroos. A vacation was taking our minivan, canoe strapped on top, children amused with library books and a dollar store game, to Kejimkuji to stay in a tent in the rain with our wet dog.

We didn't fly places.

People like me didn't fly to Ecuador to build houses. I certainly didn't own the required steel toed boots, goggles and work gloves.

But my husband? Well, if you know Andrew Beeler, you know he was born to build! He built our home in between shifts as a rookie police officer in the first few years of his twenties. No experience, no real house plans, no formal training, just pluck and courage and HEART. So when I read the one line promo in the church bulletin, I knew right away that he was supposed to go. I scribbled on the bulletin right away, "they need you, Andrew!" and thrust it over his way during the announcement time. He looked at it with mild curiosity because he knew we didn't have extra money for trips. We were budgeted down to last penny. Remember us?

He didn't buy tools;
I didn't buy shoes;
The kids didn't get no dunkaroos...

But God...

It may have been that very week or it may have been earlier that I heard Pastor Calder say "with God, there's always a meanwhile," and God was already at work, laying on my husband's heart the possibility that we could trust Him with this. Within a few weeks, the tug was so strong that every time we saw the word Ecuador we would look at each other with the spark of belief that Andrew could actually go to Ecuador and make a difference. When he filled out his application I promised I would help him fund raise and I thought all the big deciding was over.

But God...

Suddenly every time I saw anything connected with Ecuador or even any children or women in need ANYWHERE, I would cry like a baby. I know, I know... Not unusual for me if you've ever actually looked at me and noticed the runny dribbles of mascara beneath perpetually moist eyes during Sunday service. I'm always a little surprised our dear pastors can even look at me during their sermons and stay on track, my face is such a clear window into my heart...

But this seemed different somehow. There was a tug I'm just not used to feeling. It took me WEEKS, my dears, to finally admit to Andrew that I had this feeling I was supposed to go with him. What finally made me 'fess up was this cd I was enjoying on my way home one afternoon by Liz and Bob McEwan on marriage. Liz talked of a time when her children were all little and she'd still made the decision to go with Senator McEwan to China. She talked about the bond of those shared experiences and how they still value that decision decades later. So I cried one more time all the way to the back of the church to get my own application from Cindy.

Andrew and I prayed and God totally came through with all the funds needed for both of us to go... On the very last day, just so we'd know it was Him.

But don't think it didn't occur to me, again and again, that I didn't have anything to offer. Why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we undervalue the incredible work God has done to create us and equip us for His great plans? What about the resourcefulness and creativity it took to learn how to make bread, play dough, mayonnaise and mittens? What about the love and self-discipline it took to dedicate my career years to training up four children? What about the faithfulness and enthusiasm it took to lead children in worship?

We went. We learned to work together and support each other. We built houses. We dug in weedy, rocky garbage-strewn hills. We dug in muck and pig pens. We met women and their little ones, men and their grandchildren, pastors and youth workers in love with their Lord and their people. We hugged them and prayed with them, made balloon animals, played hopscotch, sorted nails, unloaded tippy trucks of their burdens of building supplies. We sweated, we sang, we laughed, we sobbed, we teased and tormented each other, listened to each others' stories, worked hard, walked and drove and laid in hammocks, shooed the cat off our breakfast table, avoided the smelly dog. We brought our gifts and personalities and uniqueness to the table and used them all with every bit of our selves and hearts and strength.

And we learned so much. You could ask any of us. We got more than we gave. We went to be with our brothers and sisters in another part of the world. And we were welcomed and celebrated and loved.

As we drove away from one of the two houses we put up one hot day, filthy and tired and deeply happy, we saw a little boy sweeping out his corner of the new home he would share with his three brothers and sisters, and we were quiet. This boy was like our boys. That father wanted the best for his family and worried about them and prayed for them. This mother cried over her sick baby, the spoiling food in the fridge that had no power; her family's well being. And although none of us could fix everything, that day we had been able to make a difference for that family. A home, food, clean new beds. Some privacy for mom and dad. Medicine for the baby for a few years until we can come back again. And a connection. We all prayed together, Ecuadorian and Canadian children of God, being together and loving each other.

I didn't think I was the kind of person who could ever do this kind of thing.

But God...

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong~1 Corinthians 1:27

























Breathe

Breathe.

That's it. That's the whole post:

Breathe.

Go ahead. Take a deep one. In....

...Wait for it...(I can't help it, I loooove Doogie Howser. All the cool old people will get that...)

...Out.

What a gift. What a blessing. What an inexplicable WONDER!

I'd like to tell you I know how it all works. And I do have a vague kind of sense of it all; a muddled up, highly inaccurate mishmash of all the stuff I've read or googled, watched on CSI or heard in school or pondered over and glazed over while trying to sort out those grotesquely mesmerizing posters in doctors' waiting rooms...

But really the miracle of it, for me, anyway, is that I do it without thinking about it. I've been unconsciously competent at it my whole life. And the few times I've been without this blessed ability, I'll remember forever. I bet it's the same for you.

I was running away from or chasing one of my cousins across Nanny and Granddad's front lawn and was taking the customary leap across Aunt Nellie and Uncle Hilton's flower border and front walk to get across to their lawn, when I crashed. I'm not clear on the details. It happened pretty fast. But the fall seemed to last forever. Isn't that just the way it goes with crashes? I must've not landed well on the other side and I fell backwards and slammed my back against the concrete wall that held back the earth and flowers from the cement path.

It didn't really hurt. Not at that moment.

But I couldn't breathe. I actually DID NOT KNOW how to breathe.

I found out later that I got the wind knocked out of me. At least that's the scientific term my grandparents gave it.

But the science of it, the why and how of it did not matter to me one bit. I just knew that breathing felt good when I could do it and I NEVER wanted to feel what it felt like to NOT be able to take a breath EVER AGAIN!

Fell out of a boat and crashed into the water that year too. My Grampie Doug pulled me back out of the pond by my easy-to-spot ginger mop, but that didn't matter. I felt no pain, only the all-encompassing need to breathe. And for a breathless, murky, hopeless eternity, I couldn't. And then I could.

I crashed my life once too. Found myself at work one night, staring out at the Halifax Harbour, four little ones at home with my husband, who also worked shifts and whom I wasn't sure I knew anymore, and suddenly I couldn't breathe. It took me 10 dizzy, panicked minutes, and the complete loss of everything I'd eaten in the past week to find that comforting rhythm of my breath again. But it took a solid 10 years to learn to breathe easy...

I crashed my car a few nights ago. The dark road, too casual a familiarity with the route, a bigger car than I'm used to, whatever else it was, I hit the shoulder, corrected, re-corrected, over-corrected, spun out, hit the only bit of guard rail on that entire stretch of road, then bounced back out onto the road. Felt like I was lifted out of the weird, eternal ballet spin and plopped back safely on the road. Except I'd wrecked the car.

And the first thing I did, the very first thing I did, was breathe. I felt the air come in and I felt it leave and I realized that no matter what else, I could breathe. I was deeply thankful.

The fellow who came upon my car a few minutes later and opened the door to ask if I was hurt, could clearly hear my gratitude when I replied that I was not. That I was sure I was all right.

"You're some lucky," he responded, shaking his head as he looked from the car to the rail that had caught me. "That guard rail saved your life".

"That guard rail saved my life..." I repeated, then I looked back at him and the rest of the men now crowding around, "No," I said slowly, "There was a lot of time to pray and God saved my life," I said as firmly as my shaky breathing would allow.

I may have been shaky. But I was breathing.

I'm still breathing.

And so are you.



The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
-Job 33:4

Let everything that hath breath praise The Lord- Psalm 150






Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Wedding and Two Funerals

Have you ever been so tired....?

What am I asking? Of course you have. Sorry.

Me too. Today, I have to admit, I'm bone tired. It's been an emotional few days, lots of pain, lots of joy. Hellos, goodbyes, tears, belly laughs, brand new encouraging friendships, reunions, wrenching separations. You know. It's been life.

But at this moment, there's none of that. I'm completely alone at home. Of course there's lots to do, but it definitely won't be getting done today. I'm having my day of rest. I didn't choose it really, I just found myself being ushered to bed by a concerned husband, and when I woke he was leaving to take the boys to youth band practice, time with his sister and nephews then his Theology course with the good Reverend Doctor. Jess is at work. Gaelle's at her home making a candle lit dinner for her husband. I've nowhere to be, no one is expecting me or needs me right now in any way. That's awesome, right? Or is it...

I managed to pull on my robe after 30 minutes of actually just staring up at the ceiling (not sure I've ever really done that before), and I went out to the kitchen. it went well at first... I simply responded to stimuli. I fed the mewling, wrapping-themselves-around-my-legs cats, filled the empty water jug and took a long swig. But then I opened the fridge and stared for a long minute, went to the bathroom and stared at the tub for about the same long minute, then wandered into the dining room and stared at the laptop. I'm pretty sure I was pleading with silent eyes for them to feed, bathe and entertain me, but didn't quite have it in me to do my part of any of those pretty basic deals.

So I laid back down on my rumpled old bed and let myself think about what I'm thinking about. Deep, huh?

Here's what I found I've been thinking. March has never worked out for me. I can go back pretty far and find some pretty horrible March days. Don't even offer me a shamrock shake. It won't be pretty. And I've been thinking this March is no different.

But that's not right. This March is VERY different! I just got back from a trip to Phoenix to visit my sister, if not in name and blood, then in bond and shared history, in mutual love, devotion and deep respect. When I came home I lost some dear family and friends, yes. But both not only knew The Lord and lived courageously for Him to the last, but lived lives that brought many others to know Him.

And I got to spend some very good moments with them my very last times I saw them. I mean really good times. We can sit and have a coffee sometime, you and I, and I'll tell you about uncle Gordie laughing and eating one of Gaelle's smooshed up wedding cup cakes or Miriam opening her mouth like a little bird to eat her chocolate chip cookie dough blizzard, chattering away, eyes big and bright and full of the peace of Christ.

And I can tell you about my beautiful cousins, Karen and Melanie, who put together the sweetest family celebration of Karen's daughter Sarah's wedding yesterday.

I can tell you about arriving at Aunt Rosalie's yet again to find her dear friends surrounding her and holding her up during the darkest time of her life.

I can tell you about my friends Bruce and Heather and Shawn and Cindy and Danielle gathering around Miriam's bed from early evening to just before dawn to sing and love on little Miriam while she slipped from this world into her Father's arms.

About Bruce sharing meal after meal with a hurting family because he's here and he can. And so he does.

I've been seeing so much of that. People who can serve and so they do. And if I look back at that first wretched March, when I lost another dear friend, my little momma, I see our family and friends camped out first on our living room floor, then at the hospital, being with us, feeding us, helping us clean up, singing to us. Because they could. Because they loved us.

I suddenly don't feel so weary any more.

So, here's the plan: I'm going to eat a yogurt, take a bath, and then spend time with someone I know really needs a friend right now. Because I'm here. And because I can.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. ~Galatians 6:9













Thursday, March 14, 2013

Miriam

My heart's too full, the ache too deep right now to tell you even one thing. I have no words but these:

"Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words."

~1Thessalonians 4:13-18

See you soon, sweet Miriam. I love you.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Well Done, Well Run



Well, I may have taken him off the list, but let me tell you, Uncle Gordie is very much on my mind. He's never been far from my thoughts, always in my prayers, a part of my own soft heart. If you didn't know him, can I just tell you a little bit about him? You'd have REALLY liked him.

I'll start with what my children called him. We have two uncle Gordies in our family, so one morning, when I announced we were going to go visit Aunt Rosalie and Uncle Gordie, Jessica quickly asked, "which one... Uncle Gordie Tickle?"

He TORTURED with tickles. Didn't matter who. You got no points for disability or venerability either. He even tickled Auntie May, in her 70's and on crutches... Or he'd send her jumping up onto the couch with the threat of bringing a mouse into the house. He teased, tickled, tortured his way into every heart, whether toddler, teen or tenured.

A great lumberjack of a man, he had a deep rumbling bass voice that was equally at home in the upper registers, greeting you with a half-grin and something to the effect of, "Well here comes Ugly"... And then he'd wrap those big arms around you and squeeze you surprisingly gently against his barrel chest, blink away a tear, and then threaten you with a "whiskerin".

He was so manly. He drove an oil truck, kept livestock and an enormous garden, cut wood with his brothers and father, manly men all, and could just make anything with his hands.

He could build a barn or doll furniture.

He looked at home in coveralls, hunter orange or suit and tie.

He could sing like the bass section of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir... but he also could sound like the violin I'm learning to torture my family with...he would make up these high pitched little ditties on the spot..." Oh miss Sonya, what a redhead, a sable river bed head"..."old rusty pigtail, gonna grab it, it's that sable river rabbit..."

When he wasn't working hard he was reading... As a child, I assumed men read more than women, because that's what I remember. My own dad with shelves lined with classics, tables and floor stacked with art books, Uncle Gordie or Grandad or Uncle Hilton pouring over their well worn out, used up or marked up bibles or the newspapers, or, especially in Uncle Gordie's case, any and every imaginable genre of book, fiction or nonfiction. 

He had the soul of a poet, but he spoke in the vernacular. "Pass the squarrrsh", he'd say, after he'd bowed his head and humbly, reverently, eloquently thanked his Heavenly Father for not just the meal but all his blessings. He was a man after God's own heart, honourable, loyal, hard-working, faithful, loving, mindful...

If you knew him, you know what's happening here. Gordon Fredericks cannot be captured with words. If you didn't know him, I'm sorry. I'm doing a poor job . This is but an outline. A shadow of a cutout of the man.

But I'll tell you this. He was such a part of my childhood pattern of what makes a man, that I see much of what I loved in him in my own dear husband. He would not have called himself a leader. But ask any of his friends. Ask his wife. Ask his brothers and sisters in law. Ask his pastor, the children he raised, his grandchildren, his nieces and nephews, the men he gathered with at the coffee shop, those he worked with or for, went fishin' with, his friends and family....those who saw and felt Christ's love and peace in the way he lived his life and loved people. He ran his race. And there is not a doubt in any of our minds that he was greeted with the words he longed to hear: "Well done, good and faithful servant". He'd be the first to tell you that it was not his own efforts that made him who he was or that would earn the praise of his Heavenly Father. He'd be the first to make sure you knew it was all a gift from God. He'd let you know it was the grace of his Saviour. But he did a few simple but not easy things. He believed, he was faithful, and he ran with endurance the race that was set before him.

Well done. Well run.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.- Hebrews 12:1






Monday, March 4, 2013

See ya

With a few key strokes I deleted his name from the list today. It was a short list and his name was at the top: Uncle Gordie, Miriam, Heather, Terry, Aliya, Andrea. I stared at the place his name had been... Not the space where it had been, because the delete button leaves no such gap. At least with paper and pencil  there would have been a messy eraser mark or scribble or line through his name, but my iPhone had no memory of it. His name was simply no longer on the list.

I cried. I wept for the loss, for the finality of it, for the space that wasn't there but that gnawed at my stomach and filled my chest and throat with ache.

I have trouble staying awake when I pray. Sitting, kneeling, standing or walking I either slide into sleep or drift into distraction. So I started to write in a notebook while I prayed. When I got my new phone I realized that I could just list the people I wanted to pray for, write it all down once, and then I wouldn't forget anyone. I typed in the names of everyone I want to pray for, and each day the list would grow as more names came to mind or as I met new people. But there's a separate list at the very top, a list of people I love who are battling cancer.

By the time I was 20, cancer had taken Andrew's dad,  my mom, my aunt, and then Andrew's best friend. So I pretty much assumed cancer was the end. Always.

But then people started surviving. Kim, Laura, Janet, MaryAnn, Lisa... I started to believe that healing was possible and that's what I prayed for. In earnest.

In the last month little taps on the shoulder reminded me that sometimes, though, healing doesn't come. My dear friend and encourager, Bruce, started to talk to me about it. I heard a song on the radio about it. 3 times. The daily bread reading one morning laid it all out for me. I heard the words "palliative care" more and more. And then I went to visit Miriam one afternoon at the hospital and they redirected me to the hospital where my mom had died. To the same floor. Two doors down. I took a deep breath and headed on in and visited my very alive, inspiring, beautiful friend.

As I walked from the hospital to my car I realized something. My name's on somebody's list (at least I hope it is), and someday they'll have to take me off it. None of us gets out alive, I've heard it said.

I am an eternal being, though, designed and created by the everlasting God. Heaven waits for me.  So even as my name is scratched off of or deleted from someone's list here, it's already on another list there. THAT's what you call blessed assurance.

So when I took Uncle Gordie's name off my little list tonight, as painful as that was, and as much as I'm devastated by the loss of one of the best men I've ever known, my dear uncle, my friend, my tease and tormentor, I am reminded that his name is written in the book of life, God's list. And there's no delete button.

When I tried to teach my first daughter to say goodbye, I was always disappointed that she just made some unintelligible sound, waving her hand like mad at her own sweet face. But one day, as I encouraged her to say goodbye, heard the usual babbling, shrugged apologetically at Marce and called out my usual "See ya", I suddenly heard Gaelle very clearly say what she'd been saying for weeks: "seee-ah! Seeee-ah".

See ya, uncle Gordie. I miss you. I love you. I mourn for you. But I'll see ya.

And for those of us left behind:"So do not fear for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand"-Isaiah 41:10

Saturday, February 23, 2013

today

I have been looking forward to visiting my best high school pal, Marcia White, for years. Since the day she moved away, I've been telling myself that someday I was gonna go see Marcie. Every year it goes on my to do list. Paint the kitchen,  read 12 books, start family devotional time, lose 10 pounds, visit Marcie was what the first list looked like, as I recall. Since that time the list has changed. This year, for example, it said paint my bedroom,  read 12 books, start family devotional time, lose 50 pounds, visit Marcie. Someday.

Belief is a tricky thing. It's one thing to think, I'm going to lose 50 pounds someday, another thing to write it on a list, and a whole other ball of wax to BELIEVE that you will lose 50 lbs.

As it was with my goal to visit Marcie.

I'm pretty sure I didn't really believe I was going to visit... To save the money, find a flight, book the ticket and actually make the trip from Timberlea, Nova Scotia to Tempe, Arizona. It sounded so big to the little redhead from Lockeport. I think if I had written, "visit Venus", my belief level might have been about the same.

And I don't know about you, but everything in my life that I've learned, every STINKIN thing, has been a process. There have been no aha moments for me. Each good and true perspective or behaviour or belief has been slowly earned and learned over a course of time and trials and failures and overcome excuses.

So three years ago, I'd grown to be the woman who not only wrote it on the list, but then ALSO looked up how much a flight to Phoenix would cost. Two years ago I took another step in my belief and registered with a site that sent me an email every morning to tell me what the current best deal on a flight to Phoenix was. And this year, I told Marcie I was coming, booked a flight, and here I sit in Tempe Arizona in front of Jon's AWESOME mac telling y'all about my journey. I spent the morning at the gym with my best friend, and now Marcie's writing her weekly Deep Thoughts from the Gym, listening to tunes, and I'm inspired just enough to write my "deep" thoughts too. And they're not thoughts about SOMEDAY. They're about TODAY.

Today, I woke up in this magnificent sea of a bed between my two beautiful daughters, in ARIZONA! I snuck away for a shower and some of that daily devotional time I still haven't figured out how to consistently share with my family, crept down the gorgeous marble stairs, missed one of those lovely stairs, and made a great big ruckus of an ankle turning, then hobbled to the couch, made some more noise as I raised the blinds so I could see the blue sky, palm trees and orange and grapefruit trees dripping and dropping with fruit. There was nobody around but me and the birdies, and boy did we have a good time. They sang up a storm and I prayed and read and smiled and giggled a bit to myself about my inability to master stairs after 44 years of practice.

But that's just it, isn't it? We live this life, we learn stuff, we do some of the same stuff over and over, and we try out new stuff. And sometimes we miss a step and fall down and make some noise. And then we hobble over to a place we can think and rest in the moment, in the TODAY, and then we get up and take another step forward.

Today is good. And the day I left Nova Scotia was good too. I snuggled with my sweetie an extra hour after his night shift, got up and had breakfast with one awesome son, packed him off to school, then had breakfast with another amazing son, drove him to school to get a little extra time with him, searched for dried lavender to make Swiss Lavender Fudge (?!!?) for Ted's school project, met a new friend, got home and made the fudge (tastes like chocolate, but smells like something you should  hang in mesh to freshen your closet), did some laundry and some dishes, finished packing and then enjoyed our long dreamt of journey to Arizona. Dreaming, planning, ...soooo good, soooo important. But what I've learned is that BELIEVING and DOING are life-giving, self-esteem building, vital parts of living every today. Today really is a gift, isn't it? Somebody was clever enough to figure out that one of the phrases we can use to describe today is "the present". I don't think that's a mistake. I think that's awesome.

Jesus put it this way: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." ~Matthew 6:34

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Terri Brady: If I am to be Queen, I Shall be a Good One

(This first bit is from me...Sonya...)
This morning I wrote a little note on Facebook to express a little of the delight I felt when I discovered that my husband had moved the cars around, warmed mine up and cleared it off so I wouldn't get cold in the shut-down-the-schools storm in which I was to travel to work. I looked at the comment again a few hours later and found other lovely comments about him from other men and women we know. So many people "liked" the comment... People I haven't seen since elementary school in some cases ...and I quickly realized how very much we love a hero, a king. We crave such tales from earliest childhood and that longing to hear heroic stories is still within. Then, in the quiet of afternoon nap time I read a blog by one of my own heroes and was again delighted, but not surprised,for my Heavenly Father often arranges my life in this way, to find that Terri Brady had written the most densely packed and perfectly apt article about just that very issue. Here it is...enjoy, ingest, and employ it!

http://terribradyblog.com/


In 1831 in Great Britain, a little girl was studying English history. Reading through the royal lineage, she saw her own family tree and innocently realized that she was to be the next queen. The thought overwhelmed her and her tears drew the attention of her tutor. The little girl explained her plight and her tutor confirmed her destiny. It was recorded that day that the young Victoria said, “If I am to be queen, I shall be a good one.”
Of course, Queen Victoria reigned through much of the peaceful 1800’s so well, that the Victorian era is renown as a pleasant one. Furniture and architecture styles bear her name.
When talking with other wives, I am often asked questions like: How do I get my husband to be a spiritual leader? Or how can I motivate my husband to do more?
My answer is not an easy one – and I didn’t like it when I first came to this conclusion:
If I want to be married to a king, I must determine to be a good queen.
A Chess piece.
Last week, I read the book of Esther. Following aseries of sermons on Esther that my pastor did last year, it struck me how much Esther had to do to be queen!! The year’s worth of beauty treatment and selection process alone are evidence of the Almighty hand in this suspenseful, twisting, true tale of a heroine. (I highly recommend reading that little 10-chapter book of the Bible again NOW!) But the biggest thing that struck me during the book this time was the respect with which she treated the king.
I have been guilty in the past of looking at other women married to successful men and thinkingwow! It must be cool to be treated like a queen! I can’t say I ever really thought about what it would take to behave like one.
I come from the same educational background as my husband: engineering. We both had high scores on the GRE (100% in logic – I know…GEEKville), went to the same college and had companies pay tuition through our scholarships. We went to work in the automotive industry. He worked on engine components; I worked on transmission components and together, we made the car go:).
It is a blessing when a woman can use her abilities to work outside of the home, when she has her Biblical priorities in line (Proverbs 31, for example)…but I hope her husband still feels like a king.
Too often, a woman will use her God-given talents to advance her family, (Her heart is right.) but somehow end up turning her husband into a pawn instead of a king, and then wonder why her husband won’t act like a king. (Of course, I would be equally disappointed with a man treating his wife as anything less than his queen, but I digress from my point in this letter…)
Maybe there’s something to this “act-like-a-queen” stuff!
A spiritual leader will be his best when he has spiritual followers.
I am no linguisticologist (although I can make up words!), but it seems like the word, “encourage,” would break down into “in” and “courage” or, “to put courage into.” (And “discourage,” would be the opposite, or: “to take courage out.”) I don’t know about you, but I always do more when someone is pumping courage into me. What if we pumped courage into our kings? Then we would be queens!
I recently read a blog which inspired me to make my own list of ways to encourage my husband. I am sharing the first 20, but I would love if you attached comments to add more!
Look out, ladies! This past weekend, I read this list aloud to a mixed-gender crowd of a few thousand people in Louisville, KY. I was shocked by the response of the men, who shouted, “Read more! Read more!”
I guess men, like women…and kings, like queens, crave encouragement. Don’t wait to receive in order to give it.
Make your own list… And then live it.
Determine to be a good queen.
20 Ways to encourage your husband:
  1. Enjoy a great time in the bedroom with him.
  2. Send him an email that lists the A-Z things you love about him. (If you can’t do this, it may be part of the problem. Think harder and longer; take your time…even a letter a day.)
  3. Know what his dreams are and make a scrapbook out of them for his review.
  4. Ask him not what he can do for you, but what you can do for him. It is not, “Do unto others only if they do unto you,” but “Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.”(Matthew 7:12)
  5. If he is concerned about eating healthy, prepare meals that align with his desires and have them ready. If he would rather eat differently, treat him like an adult…an adult king.
  6. Do “his chores” for a week, expecting nothing.
  7. When he fails, forgive quickly.
  8. Leave him a note in his briefcase or lunch bag, for example: “I am so glad to be YOUR queen.”
  9. Write his goals on the bathroom mirror with dry-erase marker (if he likes your encouragement on his goals, and if he likes to keep his goals to himself – let him! After all, aren’t there some goals we girls like to keep to ourselves, too?:)).
  10. Take care of yourself. Eat well, sleep well, and exercise, so you are the best queen. If you can’t live with yourself, it’s virtually impossible for anyone else to live with you either. Self-discipline helps so many more than yourself, but I could write another whole letter on that subject alone!!
  11. Let him be his own boss. (Too often, I am the captain of the ship when Chris travels and it is easy to let my command-giving fall onto the king’s ears when he returns. – Not a good method of encouragement:))
  12. INITIATE a great time in the bedroom.
  13. Buy his favorite soda.
  14. Have the kids make a “Yay, Daddy!” party complete with notes why they love him.
  15. Talk nicely about him to others, in front of him and behind his back.
  16. Be his advocate when speaking to your kids. Stand up for him, even if you need to buy time, for e.g.. : “I am sure Daddy didn’t mean it that way. He loves you. When he gets home, you can talk to him and clear it up.” How a child talks about his dad tells me A LOT about his mom.
  17. Don’t keep score. “his hours of free time” “his money spent” “his reading time”
  18. Greet him at the door in lingerie (First, make sure he’s not bringing business partners home with him that night!)
  19. Protect his time. Don’t invite people over, or to ride to an event with you, or stay with you, unless he agrees. Your “followership” encourages his leadership.
  20. Stop what you are doing when he comes in the door. (Don’t be on the phone if you are expecting him.) GREET him as though you are happy to see him! “What you have done for the least of these, you have done unto me,” said THE King. (Matt 25:35-40)
Feel free to add more in the comments below…(and kings could anonymously give us queens some ideas, too…)
I can see the crown beginning to grow on your head!
In love,
Terri Brady
Recommended Reading
Esther, of the Bible
Sexual Intimacy within Marriage by Cutrer and Glahn (Good for marriage – with or without existing physical problems.)
Intended for Pleasure by Ed and Gaye Wheat
His Needs Her Needs by Harley, Jr.
    Becoming the Woman of His Dreams
      (Sharon Jaynes) – My FAVORITE marriage book: what 300 men wish they had in a wife (and it had nothing to do with chest size! Phew!)
King & Queen