Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Cranky Solution by Susan L.

    Normally I am a patient person. Yesterday, the reserves were pretty low. By four o'clock, when work finished, I couldn't wait to get out of there. It happens.
  The piano beckoned. It was the ideal solution so I played for a couple of hours and found myself much more relaxed. The crankies had moved on. Worship can do that for you.
   My manicured and painted nails may need trimming though. There was the occasional click as they struck the keys. The noise made me smile because it would probably make any music teacher cringe. I'd grown them for the holiday seeing as there is no way to keep them long in the summer with all the yard work. Oh, well. It's a vanity that is easy to give up. Chances are once the bitter cold rolls in they'll break anyways.
  I can't believe I am blogging about nails! Seriously? Me, who is much happier playing in the dirt and making sawdust is going all fashionista...nope, don't think so.
  There's been a thought planted that maybe once a month I could go and play for a couple of hours at the local senior's residences. That is if they have a piano. It would be after a few more practice sessions that will help with confidence and to polish up the new music. It'd be a nice way to give back to the community when I have been so richly blessed. Music is a gift meant to be shared anyways.
  I'm not sure if it could be called a New Year's Resolution because it feels more like the leading of the Holy Spirit. I've learned to listen to that still, small Voice. He's usually right.
  "Who is like the Lord our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth?" Ps 113:5-6
 
 

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Unbroken by Susan L.

  My friend and I went to the movies last night to see "Unbroken", the true story of a young soldier who was an Olympic gold medal winner. In WWII, he survived forty-five days at sea following a plane crash only to be rescued by the Japanese. His time in the POW camp was terrible. Following the war, the commanding officer of the camp went into hiding because he would have been tried for war crimes. He was later pardoned when the Americans and the Japanese began forging a new, peaceful relationship.
  But then both sides did horrific things to each other.
  It strikes me as odd that one man would face charges for his acts of cruelty yet the American president didn't for his orders to drop the A-bomb on Hiroshima. I guess that's what power and having an arsenal at your fingertips enables you to get away with. I'm also not sure if there has been any restitution given to the Japanese-Americans who were forcibly interred during the war, their assets seized by the government.
  I'm not saying we Canadians have such a great track record for upholding human rights. I believe we also interred Japanese-Canadians during the war. Our own treatment of aboriginal peoples is a disgrace in this day and age. The African-Americans who fled the southern states during the era of slavery weren't always greeted with open arms. The last segregated school in Canada closed in...can you believe? The 1970's.
  Probably every country in the world has some sort of skeleton in their closets. Human rights still get tromped on worldwide. It doesn't mean it is something to be accepted.
  Forgive me Lord for judging. More importantly, forgive us Lord for the harm we do to each other. Thank You that the global village has been born. Propaganda no longer has as much power. The internet, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube enable us to validate or discredit what the masses are being told by those in power. Cell phones are the sword of the age. Video's don't lie.
  There was one amazing upside to the movie. The young man, Louis, while floating in the boat prayed that the Lord would save him. He offered up a bargain. If God spared him, when he got home he would dedicate his life to serving the Lord. And he honored that bargain.
  "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with a lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering , bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Eph 4:1-3
 
 

Monday, 29 December 2014

Teddy Bears by Susan L.

  Every Christmas since I've lived here I've made a new teddy bear to sit on the railing by the back door. Because my decorations never made it out of the box last year, it was necessary to make two. That's pretty much all I did this weekend except for the inevitable laundry.

  They're small bears, about eight inches high, so they don't take too long to make. One has jointed arms and legs, the other hasn't. I dressed one in a knitted hat and scarf, the other in a red, knitted vest. It's hard to believe there's eight of them now.
  Whenever I make one it brings my much loved Aunt to mind, the one who also taught me to crazy quilt. She's been gone a few years now but I'm still using the plastic eyes and noses she gave me when she could no longer sew. There are a lot even when I use eyes for attaching arms and legs to the bears. There's more pink ones than I'll ever use.

  I'd made one small enough to fit in the palm of my hand years ago. He accompanied me to the hospital hiding in my pocket. I'd reach in for a bit of fuzzy comfort. He was made with a longish, faux fur and because of his tiny size, it stood out willy-nilly. He's one of the few I've actually named. "Spaz" gave me a great deal of comfort because he looked like he was having a terribly rough day. His disheveled appearance made me smile every time I looked at him in a time when smiles were scarce. He was also a great grounding tool to help me reconnect to the present when my panic attacks threatened to take over.


  He ended up being given to another woman before I left the hospital. She was having a difficult time with anxiety as well. She appreciated the gift and like me, found something about him to make her smile.
  There's something wonderfully and delightfully innocent about a teddy bear. Even now, I have a bigger one who sleeps with me. Fuzzy cuddles help ease the stress of a hard day although the bear has been mostly usurped by a rather cuddle demanding Pumpkin.
  These bears have done something else even more wonderful. Tucked into bed, teddy bear in hand, I am transformed into a child. It enables me to come before the Lord as a child, with a child's heart and soul, in awe of the One who has done so much to set me free.
  "A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in the Father, and you in Me, and I in you." Jn 14:19-20
 
 
 

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Thank the Lord by Susan L.

  Spending so much time lately with my son, his wife and my grandchildren has given me a wonderful opportunity to get to know them better. My son has unknowingly taught me a lot over the last few visits: about life, about what's important and what isn't. I think I shared about the sock matching philosophy, "life's too short to worry about mismatched socks".
  Yup. So what if you're late if it means a few minutes on the couch reading a story to an interested audience. So what if making dinner is interrupted if it means a moment to cuddle on the kitchen floor. So what if beds need making, or laundry folding if it means taking a few moments as a family to sit and colour together. TV is a treat. Kindness, sharing and consideration towards each other are the most important things in a family and are firmly and lovingly enforced.
  I learned a lot. I hope it means I can be a better grandma because of it.
  I am looking forward to heading down again some time in January to help with the house again. There's much to be done before they move in and I am glad to help where I can.
  "But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred." Mk 4:8
 
 
 
 

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Christmas Travels by Susan L.

  The fog rolled in thick and heavy Christmas Eve day. I left the centre earlier than planned to head for Sarnia after a small turkey lunch. I didn't want to be full-belly, sleepy behind the wheel. I also didn't want to be driving too long after dark especially with the fog. It was pretty close to what the British would call a pea souper. Two thirty looked like dusk. With a short prayer asking for safe travels for myself and anyone else on the road, I was on my way.
  As I drove past the wind farm, only the base of the windmills closest to the road were visible. The tips of their massive white blades appeared out of nowhere. They swept by the earth and upwards to vanish again in the clouds that nearly touched the ground. It was a fascinating sight.
  A darkening and oppressive sky gathered ahead. The clouds glowered like satan's brow must have when Christ was born. I thought it might begin to rain but it didn't. It felt like five o'clock even though it wasn't even three yet.
  The Christmas carols playing on the radio contrasted with the bleak and eerie landscapes my car and I passed through. Thankfully the sky lightened again with no rain but a sporadic, drizzling mist that meant having to constantly fiddle with the wiper blade settings. I was glad for the comfort of the music and sang merrily along except when I drove around a curve in the road or approached a turn.
  I only know by heart the first verse of most carols. Comes from playing an instrument where the other lyrics are written below the music score.
  Fog blanketed most of the route and as it grew darker, my headlights gained strength. Fantastical, mist shrouded trees, mysterious woods, and brief glimpses of stubble coated fields had an other-worldly feel. Christmas lights were often the only sign there was a house at the end of a driveway.
  Despite the weather, I was making good time and made my last zig in the zig-zagging, back roads route just as night closed in. As the fog vanished near Lake Huron, it began to rain. Hard.
  The skies lit up making me jump. The rumble of thunder drowned out the radio and the thump, thump of wiper blades on high speed. I could feel the sound in the steering wheel of the car. Half a dozen times, terrific bolts of lightning flashed over the countryside as bright as day.
  The rain fell harder.
  I was following another vehicle a good distance ahead of me, ever so thankful I was not on the road alone. Like Rudolph's nose, the red tail lights guided me. The other driver would brake just before a curve so I knew what was coming. I was also thankful it wasn't snow. At least with rain, you could still see the road and the car ahead.
  It was the strangest Christmas Eve ever...thunderstorms in December... but as I pulled into my son's driveway, safe and sound, I realized I'd do it all again just to be there.
  "The Lord bless you out of Zion, and may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life. Yes, may you see your children's children." Ps 128:5

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Wandering by Susan L.

  I went to the local Walmart last night simply to have a walk around amidst the busy chaos of frantic shopping. A couple of movies were my only purchase. I'd wandered in and around the movie section for quite a while looking for something. What that was eluded me completely until I saw the mini-series, "The Bible" near the cash register of the electronics department. I'll save that for a movie watching marathon once the rush of Christmas is over.
  I also have a thing for corny, disaster-end-of-the-world movies. In all of them, the story line is utterly predictable: the underdog (usually American) always saves the entire human race from utter annihilation at the hands of monsters, aliens, or natural disasters. The hero is often a geeky, crackpot scientist with ridiculous ideas that end up being right. Or other heroes are outcasts who are given the opportunity to redeem themselves, even though they can never take orders and rebel against authority. They are always found in some obscure hidey-hole of a backwater town.
  I never get tired of it.
  Hold on a minute. That story line rings a bell.
  It's the same as the Story of all Stories! Minus the aliens although the Lord did battle demons didn't He? And the way He became a man makes us stretch our minds to believe in miracles that surpass the special effects of any old sci-fi, disaster movie.
  God came to earth to save us through the Holy Spirit and a young woman named Mary. She risked her life in faith and trust in the One she worshipped. Because of her willingness to rebel against the laws of her culture, she bore the Saviour of all mankind.
  Her son is the Hero above all heroes, born in a manger, who came from the most backwater town in all of the middle east: Nazareth.
  Christ went to the Cross to win the greatest good vs. evil battle of all history. He defeated death, sin, and all that would swallow mankind for all eternity... that means forever and ever and ever...wow!
  And that is what Christmas is truly about: to celebrate the birth of One who was born to die in the purest act of heroism that ever was.
  For us.
  "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." Mat 1:23
 
 
 

  

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Oh, Well by Susan L.

  After finishing yesterday's post, which I realized was almost a duplicate of the day before, a little panic episode erupted. It was eleven o'clock and in a mass of confusion, I thought I was supposed to have been at work for ten thirty. After a few blood rushing, face paling moments and after studying the calendar, I realized it was Monday. Work wasn't until Tuesday.
  Then a text arrived from my son wondering if I was coming down today or tomorrow. He'd read my blog and was rather confused by it.
  I thought it was Tuesday yesterday. That comes from usually returning home on a Monday when I've been away instead of a Sunday. Yup, silly me. Messing with the routine throws the whole day off whack or in this case, the whole week!
  Today at work we'll be doing some prep work for our big Christmas dinner tomorrow at the centre. I've tucked my peeler into my purse to help with the copious amounts of spuds and carrots that need skinning. It's broken in the way I like it even though it hasn't been used all that much. Are peelers a personal item? Does everyone have their own "special way" of using them? I know I dislike using someone else's because it doesn't feel right or worse yet, having to break in a new one.
  I hope I don't get pulled over or stopped by the Ride Program, a random check where the police inspect every vehicle looking for drunk drivers. How would I explain carrying a potato peeler in my purse without a permit?
  That's enough nonsense for today.
  "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying "Know the Lord," for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." Jer 31:34
 
 

Monday, 22 December 2014

Wonderful Weekend by Susan L.

  It was great to be with family over the weekend. Our Christmas celebration worked out well. We ordered in festive chicken dinners from Swiss Chalet that contained all the trimmings: cranberry sauce, stuffing and chocolates for dessert. It meant no one was tied to the kitchen. It meant cleanup was a breeze. Having it at my mom's was nice too, seeing as she is pretty much central to all my children. It meant none of us had to travel too far except the Sarnia crowd.
  The weather was good for driving. The sun actually peeked its head out from behind the clouds for a brief while. Didn't that give the spirits a lift! It's been a very gray December.
  But for me, the high point was when my grandchildren opened the Tickle Trunk.
  My grandson's first response was, "Another toy box?" accompanied by a heavy sigh.
  I'd put a couple of parcels inside, something I'd found in the States. They were costumes from one of the kids favorite TV shows, The Wild Kratz. It's an awesome, animated nature show on both PBS and TVO. The lead characters put on vests with special abilities that enable them to become the animals they are studying. They call it a creature power suit. That's what was in the parcels.
  Jai made my whole existence worth while when he said to me as he slipped on his green vest, "Wild Kratz! Nanasue, you've made my dreams come true!"
  I nearly melted into a great big, blubbery blob. Oh, who am I kidding? I did!
  Sunday we drove to Ancaster for my Uncle's ninetieth birthday. Mom organized everyone to meet at his place then we went out to a local Chinese buffet for lunch. He didn't know about it and was surprised and delighted when the family kept showing up.
  Another note to self. I'd bought a card that contained country hoedown music and a dancing chicken. My uncle jumped and nearly dropped the card when he opened it. That may not have been a good idea for someone who is elderly!
  All in all, it was a wonderful weekend. I am looking forward to going to Sarnia tomorrow after the Centre's dinner. It'll be nice to spend Christmas day with the little ones. I'll be back home on Boxing day. It's a short visit but that's okay.
  I am so incredibly grateful for the One who has enabled me to endure and overcome my challenges so I may be part of these joyful days. Amen!
  "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him." Mat 2:2
 
 
 
 

Friday, 19 December 2014

The Big Day by Susan L.

  It isn't the really big day. You know, the day we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour.        Tomorrow we celebrate our family Christmas. It's at my mom's this year and we're ordering in chicken dinners which means no-one is chained to the kitchen. I like that idea. There's only a couple of things left to do to get ready. One of those is packing the car and a suitcase.
  I'm staying over night at my mom's because on Sunday we're heading off for lunch with my Uncle. Not so much for Christmas but to celebrate his turning ninety on Monday. That's a milestone that deserves something. It's going to be a bit of a surprise for him because all my family is coming to that as well.
  It means no blogging for a couple of days but that's okay. Family time is important.
  I've invited myself to my son's for actual Christmas. We'll have done our gift exchanging already. I simply want to be with my grandbabies.
  It's nice to be in the Christmas spirit. It's been a few years. I even put my tree up even though I won't be home. My car is dressed up with a bow too!
  Like I've said a couple of times already, it's nice to be well. That's nearly the best gift of all.
  "But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel." Mat 2:6
 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Coming to Terms by Susan L.

  There was some conversation amongst the visitors at the centre. Actually, it was more of a trip down memory lane. It disturbed me that even though I was there when the events discussed took place, I have absolutely no recollection of them. In exploring the recent past, there are huge chunks that are missing.
  For me, this is the hardest part of having mental health challenges. The lost days, as I have come to call them, are simply part of my history that I'll have to come to terms with. The reasons are understandable for these missing memories. Getting through the day while struggling against depression by operating in survival mode doesn't leave much room for memories to be remembered. The powerful, all consuming, inner memory pain of PTSD swallows current events and they vanish like the mist. The teeth on that particular dog have been dulled. Praise God!
  There are snapshots recollections of events that took place during these dark days but they are almost like someone else's history. I suppose in truth they were. I am not the same woman I was.
  The memory loss could be God's way of protecting me from the worst of things. They were pretty bad at times.
  Thank You, Lord, I think I can finally let go of this now.
  Which leads me to be extremely grateful this Christmas for how well I am feeling. The biggest hunk of that is not being afraid of my own mind, that my wellness will collapse again. I realize it might in the future but I am wiser in knowing when to reach out for help. I won't wait as long as I did in the spring before conferring with my psychiatrist should another dip in mental health occur. There's a confidence that wasn't there before, a trust that I'll know what to do.
  For now, excitement has replaced anxiety. Joy and contentment have settled into my psyche like a warm and fuzzy blanket. Making music releases the good endorphins that are helping to offset the fact it's dark by five and, as I mentioned yesterday, it's a good de-stressor.
  I had my bangs coloured last week: a deep red for Christmas. For a long, long time I wanted to do something funky like this with my hair. It's funny how such a little thing can create an extra dose of confidence. It means all the reasons, the lies believed, that stopped me from doing this before don't matter any more...Thank You, Lord, for setting me free again.
  "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." Jn 3:16
 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Make a Joyful lNoise by Susan L.

    I am managing to squeeze some piano time into the busy-ness of the pre-Christmas rush. It helps me de-stress in a huge way. The massive book of  600 Praise and Worship songs is a delight to play. New music always is. It's one of several books in the series under the Fake Book title. All the music is written simply with a melody line and chords for guitar. I am thankful for my organist background. Chords are a huge part of that type of music so I am able to ad lib the background accompaniment and dress up the melody line. That's the really fun part. It makes playing the piano, well, playing!
  It was rather interesting to utilize the record/playback feature on the piano. I recorded the song "Memory" from the Cats musical. It's not in the Worship book but in another Fake Book of some 1200 songs from the last sixty years that I've played over and over the last couple of decades. With a critical ear, I listened closely. There's a few things needing work on: play it slower, hit the keys softer, add more expression. It'll take some more practice for my left hand to truly develop the "piano touch".
  In the worship songs there's a lot of what's called syncopation, the dah-da, dah-da rhythm. I've always struggled to master that. Jazz beats aren't my strong point. As I was attempting to get it right I could hear my first organ teacher, Mr. Kenny, tapping his pen on the edge of the organ in a steady four count. It still helps, the constant one-two-three-FOUR patter that rings clear in my mind even though it was over forty years ago when he taught me. I am thankful he gave me a solid foundation in music fundamentals.
  There's another aspect of the piano I enjoy immensely. An organist doesn't move. No toe tapping. No upper body movement. No fancy flourishes with the hands. The only movement is fingers gliding along the keys and feet along the bass pedals. Piano? A pianist dances with the music and the instrument. It's incredibly freeing and adds a whole new and wonderful element to the playing experience.
  There's just one thing that needs to be fixed. I sawed the legs shorter on my organ bench so it would work for the piano but it really, really needs a cushy seat!
  "It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your loving kindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night, on an instrument of ten strings, on the lute, and on the harp, with harmonious sound. For You, Lord, have made me glad through Your work; I will triumph in the works of Your hands." Ps 92:1-4
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Realtiy by Susan L.

  The gift delivery went well. They were received with much thankfulness. What both amazed and saddened me was the great disparity between the various domiciliary hostels.
  There were a couple that were running on a shoestring budget. Tired floors and walls had been decorated with just as tired Christmas bling. I am sure the staff did the best they could to make the men living with disabilities at the poorest hostel comfortable. This was where were greeted most warmly. It made me wish our small parcels had been bigger...Maybe next year the Krasman Centre will get more donations to help fulfill this hope. Lord, I lift this need to You.
  The hardest part was seeing the hopelessness in some of the residents' eyes who live in these forgotten corners of our country. A good number of the homes are at rural locations with no public transit nearby. But that's assuming the people living there could afford it. The other thing is how does someone improve their situation if they can't get to a job even if they are able to work? Many weren't.
  There were eleven drop offs. We spent maybe five minutes at each place. It's not really long enough to get a sense of what's happening. Although, there were a couple that the joy of the upcoming holiday was obvious on the few residents we met. They looked happy with their situation, both young and old. But they were living in the nicest residences.
  In the end, it made me appreciate my little home that much more. It made me appreciate the ample space I have to call my own.
  As that thought went through my head last night whispers of guilt tried to make me ashamed when there are so many living without. The Lord reminded me that I have worked hard to get all that I have. There's no shame in that. Thanks be to God that I have been able to do what was needed.
  "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgement you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you." Mat 7:1-2
 
 

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Reconnected by Susan L.

  I went years without internet or a cell phone but when my phone decided to act up last week, it surprised me how much I missed it. It's my lifeline to the internet. Thankfully it was only the USB cord that needed replacing and not the entire phone so now I am back in business.
  And I am having a hard time concentrating this morning. Too much on the brain because my family Christmas celebration is next Saturday and there's a heap of things that need to be done.
  I work Monday all day. This year my co-worker and myself will be delivering packages to the Northern Half of York Region. Every year the Krasman Centre makes up gifts for people living in shelters and domiciles in that area. This year we made up 560 gifts with items like socks, hats, mitts and scarves (a lot donated by the Knitter's Guild), new toiletries and so forth. The majority of the recipients are men. They tend to get forgotten about. It makes me happy to be part of this opportunity to give back because our little package is often the only gift they receive.
  I haven't done the delivery run before and I am sure it will open my eyes when I see how some people live. In saying that, my heart has been filled with gratitude lately because of how rich I am in so many ways. It's not just financially although many would ask how living near the poverty line could be rich. I have ample to live on, to pay my bills, to run a car, to heat my home, to buy food, and occasionally a treat or two.
  My wealth lay in family and friends and in my job of serving others.
  My mental health has been stable now for several months. That alone is priceless. I have the physical strength to shovel my driveway even if it left me aching and tired for a couple of days! We had quite the dumping of snow this week but I can afford the Tylenol to ease those pains and have a bathtub to fill with hot water.
  Yup, my innards are all gushy thinking about all these blessings and more but I am going to close to with a thought to ponder. We are great supporters of food banks to help those in need. Thank God they are there. They serve a much needed group in our population, the 14% of Canadians who are living in abject poverty. Here's the thought: before donating that box of Kraft Dinner, remember those who would receive it rarely have the milk or butter needed to make it with.
  "I will mention the lovingkindesses of the Lord and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has bestowed on us." Is 63:7

 

Friday, 12 December 2014

Writer's Group Dec 2014 by Susan L.

Do You See What I See?

    I have some time to talk now. Most of the flock is settled in for the night and are quietly chewing their cud. You hear the ewes muttering to their babes? It’s a peaceful sound; a love sound reserved for their lambs that after all these years it still brings a smile to my face. Come; let’s sit by the fire so I can enjoy a moment of warmth before I need to check the sheep again.
  I’m not sure how much longer I can be a shepherd. Ha! The long years in all weather has me looking like an old, hairy, wineskin don’t you think? My bones and joints ache in the night from the long day’s search for better pasture. The ground seems to be getting harder.
  It’s not that there’s an alternative; my father and my father’s father before him were masters of the sheep. They died doing what they loved, free and in the open. I suppose that’s how I’ll end up. Huts are for women and little ones.
  Wool, milk and meat are all I know. I’m proud that the knowledge of generations means my breeding stock is sought after for improving other flocks.  In fact, they are descended from Jacob's sheep. But I have no idea what will become of them when I die. I have no son to inherit my flock and it’s too late now to start one. Maybe I should have thought of that sooner but life in the hills is busy and well, women are kind of scarce.
    Maybe it won’t matter. Look behind you. See that strange light in the eastern sky? Some are saying it’s a sign the world is ending. Some are saying it’s a hole that will only get bigger until nothing is left. Some are saying it’s a dagger of fire that will burn up the earth. I don’t know what to believe. It looks like a star to me even if it is the biggest one I have ever seen.
   I’m wandering...what was I saying? Oh, yes... the sheep are my family. I can tell every one of them apart. I know their voices. I know when they are hungry or thirsty. I know when the lambs will come. I know when they are afraid or in danger. Same with when they are ill. You can’t spend a lifetime around them and not know these things.
    Did you know they like music? On windy nights I play my pipe for them. Wind makes them skittery especially when they’ve been newly sheared and the air tickles their skin. How they leap about! Ewes carrying on like day old lambs! Imagine! But the songs quiet them. It helps me too, to forget how much my back aches these days.
  There was a time I could catch a ram all by myself. Those days are over. I have to let the younger men help me. Hmmm, maybe young Sol might like my flock. That’s him across the way, the big one in the middle. He has a good way about him: kind and gentle with the animals despite his size. He’s been kind to me, too.
  You know something? He’s the closest thing I have to a son. I’ve had to swallow my pride whenever he offers to help because I’ve come to realize he never offers unless I need it. I never thought I’d need a shepherd who watches over a shepherd! When you’re young, you think you’ll be young forever...
  What’s that! Sol! Zeb! Ben! You! Get down! The star has exploded behind you! Oh, Lord, oh Lord! What terrible fate do You have for us? Mercy! I cry mercy! Mercy on us all! Oh that I should live to see such things!
  “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  (Lk 2:10-12)
  Look, it’s not the star! It’s a being of light! An angel! An angel! And another! I never imagined...they could be so beautiful...What’s that he said? A Saviour?
  Ahh! The sound! My ears have never been so blessed! It...it’s beautiful! What a gift! A thousand thousand pipes would not even compare!
  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”   (Lk 2:14)
  Sol, Zeb, everyone, they’re gone! Clear up into heaven! Did you see that? Miracles! I tell you miracles!
  Is everyone okay? Are you okay? Good!
  Quick, put the fire out! "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us!" (Lk 2:15) There’s no time to waste! Hurry! Thank you, Sol, for your arm. Let’s see how much speed is left in these ancient bones!
  The sheep? When God sends angels, I am sure He will watch our sheep for us.  They will be safe. I know it sure as I know anything.
  Ben, Zeb, go on ahead. I’ll get there as soon as I can. My friend here and Sol can help me get to Bethlehem. What? Stay behind? No way! I have to see this Saviour the angel was talking about.
************

  Oh my goodness...look at Him! Isn’t He the most Perfect, most Precious Child you ever saw? Bless the woman, Lord, to have given birth in such a lowly place only to lay this Child of God in a manger, just like the angel said we would find. The star shines brightly right over the spot where He lay! Another miracle! It’s almost as though God has His finger on the Babe.
  Sol, help me to my knees. You, come kneel beside me. All of you, on your knees. This is a Holy place and a Holy night. Praise God! Praise the Child! From angels’ mouths to mine: Glory to God in the highest!
  Silly old man, to weep this way...but for the likes of us to be invited to see the Saviour of all mankind... Would you have dared to imagine such a thing? What a gift! What a blessing! What wondrous things have begun!
  Sol, Zeb, Ben and you there, we must tell the world!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Home Safe by Susan L.

  As much as I enjoyed being away and spending time with my son and his family, it was nice to get home. Pumpkin was glad to see me as well. I managed to finish painting the living room for them on Saturday.
   We left the kids in the loving care of their other grandparents and headed off to do some Christmas/house shopping in the States on Sunday. I didn't buy much: some plush fabric for teddy bears and a couple of things for my grandchildren to go in their Tickle Trunk that we can't get in Canada.
  When the opportunity to go to a mall arises on either side of the border I always feel like such a tourist. The size, the glitter and sparkle and the overload of items for purchase is something else. There's nothing in my home town that is like it.
  I ended up coming home via the highway in order to stop by my mom's on the way home. She needed my help for a few things and wanted me to come and pick out my Christmas present. We went to Long and McQuade, a large music store, so I could have a look at an electric piano.
  Once again, my mom has given me the gift of music. Bless you, mom.
  Its narrow profile means it fits in my living room nicely. Yes, I opened it before Christmas! We wanted to make sure it fit. Or at least that's what I am telling everyone! I needed to test it out as well so it got a good hour and a half workout before my fingers started tumbling over each other.
  I'd bought a big book of worship music in the spring, some 600 songs, but hadn't had a chance to practice any of them even though I'd gone to friends' places to play their pianos. I also bought the score to Man of Lamancha when we went to see it. Play and practice are two different animals. That's a lot of music I don't know but given time, they'll soon be part of my repertoire.
  First of all comes Christmas and there's much to do: baking, making and wrapping. Ha! Who am I kidding. There's always time to make some music!
  "Indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and tanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice, with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, "For He is good, For His mercy endures forever," that the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud." 2 Chr 5:13
 
 
 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Results! by Susan L.

  It was with great anticipation that I opened my email from FamilytreeDNA.com. The results from the five generation test have arrived. The results from the more detailed one are still pending but should arrive in the next week or three.
  Much to my amazement it turns out that I am 41% Scandinavian which I suppose counts for being a child blond and having blue eyes. 38% of my makeup is from Southern Europe meaning Spanish or Italian which would account for my olive complexion and terrific tanning ability. Could I add that it also might count for the fact that I am broad across the beam as well? Only 19% of me is British and there's a tiny bit of Eastern European.
  My mom told me my adoption papers said I was French, meaning Quebecois, and English. Interestingly enough is there are 65 people who share similar DNA. They are listed as second to fourth cousins and there are a large number of French surnames in that list. I haven't quite decided what I am going to do about these people. I could contact them but am not sure if that is a place I am ready to go yet. If ever.
  It's nice to have some answers. It's wonderful what medical technology can tell you whereas only a few short years ago, this kind of detailed history would have been impossible to find out.
  I'll spend some more time investigating what I've learned when I get home.
  "So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations." Mat 1:17

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Good Times by Susan L.

  I am going to do the Grandma thing, Nanasue actually. Last night was an opportunity for me to spend some quality time alone with my five year old grandson, Jai, and my nearly three granddaughter, Keely. We played reindeer games with Keely bringing up the rear as Santa. Her voice wasn't quite deep enough for the "Ho Ho Ho!" but I'll give her an A for effort.
  My son had left instructions on how to work the TV but neither Jai or I could get it working. Which was a good thing. We ended up pretending we were the TV and whoever had the converter was able to change the channels. I confess my newscaster's sports knowledge was not to Jai's satisfaction. The only hockey player I could remember was Darryl Sittler and he hasn't played for a long, long time! I also had Raptors battling it out against the Buffalo Bills. Yup, definitely not my strong point.
  I acted out a smooch scene from a soap opera just to see the reaction.  "OOooo, Fred, I looove you! I looove you I do!"
  With a snort of utter disgust, Jai announced quite firmly, "I'm changing the channel!"
  We played Hide 'N Seek although a constantly giggling Keely wasn't much of a challenge to find. The pair got their jammies on then opened a new Christmas book together. It is how my son counts down the advent. A new book a night. So story time, teeth brushing, tuck in songs and it was over far too quickly.
  It's great having this extended visit. I get to see more of my son and his family. We're getting quite a bit of work done at the house as well: carpets torn up, the brick fireplace primed in preparation for the living room to be painted. That's my job for the rest of the week.
  I've discovered painting brick is a very time consuming job. Especially rough brick. I spent six hours at it today and still have one side left to prime. It should only take another hour. The coats of paint should go on quicker because the primer is acting like a filler, smoothing out the surface. Note to self: use stucco.
  "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord." Ps 127:3

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Safe Arrival by Susan L.

  The back road to Sarnia is long and often winding. Four hours behind the wheel covers a lot of beautiful, mostly rural scenery. The route passes through quaint villages, some so small that if you blink, you miss them. There's one about half way called Seaforth although it's about as landlocked as they come. By the time I get there, i's time to stretch my legs and get a coffee refill.
  Not long after is another small town, Zurich, with the best bakery this side of the US. It's nice to take some baked goodies along and worth another brief stop. Their varieties of butter tarts are absolutely scrumptious. It was overflowing with construction workers buying their hearty sandwiches, soup and pies slices for their lunch. Good food for good prices. Like seniors and truck drivers, they know the best places to eat.
  There is a good sized population of Mennonites in the country between Alliston and Sarnia. They have very little to do with modern conveniences except perhaps having electricity in the barns if they run a dairy operation. Refrigeration is mandatory. It isn't unusual to pass a horse drawn buggy on the road drawn by a Standardbred trotter or pacer who didn't make it in the racing world.
  This year has seen a lot of corn un-harvested. I passed field upon field either untouched or only partially harvested. The late spring meant the crop matured late. A wet summer and fall has made it impossible for the combines to get out do their thing. The high demand for limited grain drying services has meant a back log. To store the grain damp is to risk fire. Mostly, the ground needs to freeze without any snow so the heavy equipment can work without getting bogged down. I hope that happens. The amount of corn standing represents millions of dollars. It's tough enough to make a living in agriculture without these additional worries. My thoughts and prayers are for those who are still waiting for the harvest.
  I pass by a couple of wind farms too. A stark contrast to the horse and buggies. The massive white windmills have their own kind of beauty as they reach to the heavens, their massive blades sweeping round and round. For some reason, there are always a few not turning regardless of how hard the wind is blowing. I'm not an engineer, simply puzzled. They represent a huge investment so you'd think they'd work. And yes, there is a fair bit of controversy around them. Still, they are lovely to watch.
  There's so much to see but mostly I kept my eyes on the road. Good thing, eh?
  "But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." 2 Cor 9:6

 
 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Trucks and Trees by Susan L.

  There's been several trucks passing by the house laden with Christmas Trees being shipped into the city. This is a big area for tree farms. The mostly sandy soil is ideal for pine and spruce so there are acres and acres of them everywhere.
  It's been years since a real tree has graced my living room. I bought a tall and slender artificial one my first Christmas in the house. Its small diameter is more suited to the scale of my living room.
  When the kids were little we'd go and cut our own. The farm would have tractor and wagon to take  budding lumberjacks out into the fields. It was even better if it was a team of horses like some places have. Their breath would rise in steamy clouds as they patiently pulled the wagon.
  The kids had a lot of fun running back and forth trying to choose the one that was perfect. We tried to encourage them to pick one fairly close to where the wagon would pick us up. A fresh cut tree is rather heavy. There was usually a concession stand selling hot dogs and hot drinks, a must have before heading home with the big prize: the best tree of the lot. A large bonfire would help thaw frozen toes and runny noses. Hot chocolate never tasted so good!
  Getting it home was part of the grand adventure. There are these big doughnut things that wrap the trees in mesh making it easier to tie down. We rarely bothered with that because we didn't have far to travel. We'd put the tree in the back of the van or the trunk of the car with its own trunk poking out. Tying it to the roof was another option. I preferred the tree to be outside the vehicle because come spring, vacuuming needles out of the carpet was a laborious task.
  In fact, cleaning fallen needles up in the house was a task that lasted 'til spring. There was always a few left no matter how carefully I cleaned. It's like finding the hidden Easter egg the following January. I'm ever so grateful for artificial trees that are looking more real as the years go by. Perhaps at some point I'll replace the one I have with one that has the lights built in.
  The tree looked twice as big in the living room than appeared to be out in the open. We had some mighty big ones that swallowed up most of the room. The tip of the star on top would touch the ceiling. We learned to tie these monsters to a hook in the ceiling to prevent them falling over. It happens. Tree stands never worked no matter how carefully designed they were so we used a big bucket of sand and bricks to weigh the thing down.
  There's many a memory been stirred up. Some are good, some not so good. I think I'll set those aside and focus on the best of times.
  "Therefore say, "Thus says the Lord God: Although I have cast them far off among the Gentiles, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone."" Ez 11:16
 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Racing Brain by Susan L.

  Friday is drawing near. My mind is utterly distracted in thinking about everything I need to take to my son's for next week: painting equipment including a small CD player, a few tools, work clothes, regular clothes, winter gear for watching the Santa Clause parade at night (Brrr!). Then there's my passport. He lives right on the border so we plan to go across to the States for some shopping. It can't be all work and no play!
  My laptop will come with me because the plan is to continue blogging. Maybe not every day, but a few times. I also want to work on a story for December's Writer's group because an idea popped into my head yesterday that needs a bit of research. My travelling art kit can come as well to keep my hands busy in the evening once the grandbabies have gone to bed. It could have been knitting but that passion has fallen by the wayside for now.
  The car will be loaded but then a working holiday of ten days means taking a fair bit of stuff.
  My friend H is going to come over regularly to give Pumpkin some cuddle time and to keep an eye on the house. I'd debated asking if she would take him home but when he first moved in with me, he hid in the basement for over a week. The change would be too hard on him.
  I am looking forward to going and helping out. The hard thing will be to pace myself so I don't end up exhausted. Must remember to take some bath salts to soak the aches away. Note to self: arrange for some sort of coffee making equipment to be at the new house.
  Yup, a gazillion miles an hour.
  I'm not stressed about it. Isn't that a blessing! And if I forget anything, there's plenty of stores nearby.
  Thank You, Lord that I am blessed with the skills, the equipment and a car so I can go help my son and his family. Thank You also for a good friend who will watch over my home so there is no worry. Keep them safe. But most of all, thank You that I am truly rich beyond imagining.
  "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Cor 10:31
 
 
 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Tree by Susan L.

  Around five thirty last night a horrendous crash shook the house. It momentarily drowned out the howling wind that was rumbling overhead like constant thunder. I knew exactly what it was. The dead tree in my front yard, all forty five feet of it, had come crashing down.
  I went flying out to see if the road was blocked, wary of the wind and wary of the other big tree in the front that was swaying dangerously back and forth. The pavement was littered with chunks of branch and bark, blown outwards from the force of the impact. The main trunk had fallen sideways along the shoulder narrowly missing the small, green phone box that houses the connections for everyone who lives in my little community.
  My neighbours came out as well and we began to clear the road. Or should I say, they cleared the road with snow shovels while I kept an eye out for cars. It was quitting time for many so the traffic was constant. A couple of people didn't even see us even though I was waving my coat frantically to get them to slow down. They went flying by, tossing up debris in their wake. A couple of people hit their brakes only when they realized there was something on the road. They hadn't seen any of us.
  I am relieved the tree is down. I am relieved it fell away from the houses. I am extremely grateful no one got hurt by the tree or by a car. Thank You, Lord for answered prayers.
  What amazes me is no one stopped even when there was still a lot of good sized tree litter on the road. The majority only slowed down and drove over it despite the people (us) who were trying to clear things up. Nobody was willing to stop and wait for the ten minutes or so that it took to clear the roadway. Or maybe it was fifteen because we had to wait for the steady stream of cars to pass. I know everyone was anxious to get home after a long day but seriously, is a ten minute delay going to change things that much?
  Which leads into one of my favorite ponderings. God often puts things in our way to slow us down. A truck, a school bus, or red light after red light can be very frustrating especially when we are in a hurry (when aren't we?). The one thing we don't know is what He has protected us from. Maybe, had we been going as fast as we wanted, we could have been involved in a car accident. Maybe we wouldn't even be here to have supper with our family. Maybe we might have ended up in a wheelchair. The maybees are limitless.
  I try to be thankful when things derail my schedule because I'll never know the might have been.
  "You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance, they drop on the pastures of the wilderness and the little hills rejoice on every side." Ps 65:11-12
 
 

Monday, 24 November 2014

Winds by Susan L.

    It's a rather gray day out there, mild, but dismal looking. The wind is howling around the treetops making them dance and sway. I'm watching the scrawny dead tree in the front yard shudder beneath the gusts. It's only a matter of time until it comes crashing down. I wish the town had come and taken it down like they said they would. I suppose it will take yet another phone call to get them to see it through.
  Come January, I'll begin my campaign to do something about getting the speed limit changed. It's even more important to get it done soon because, over the next five years or so, 3000 new homes will be built in the village just north of me. That means way more traffic on my road. Getting the speed limit reduced would hopefully encourage people to take a different route. There are options.
  It wouldn't hurt to do some research by driving around and seeing where lower speeds are posted and why.
  My concerns are legitimate. There's two narrow bridges that although two cars can squeak past each other most of the time drivers treat them as one lane. It's an unspoken rule to stop and take turns to cross. There's often people fishing from the one that crosses the river a couple houses down from me. Cars park on the roadside to access the conservation area across the road which means there are also pedestrians.
  The current speed limit is 80 km. Cars fly by all the time doing way more than that. I'd be very happy to see it changed to 60 like it often is where there is a cluster of houses. Or if that's not an option, the second best would be to see our strip of road posted as a community safety zone where speed fines are doubled.
  Years ago, I spearheaded a community movement to restrict the size of an intensive agricultural operation run by one of the largest cattle farmers in North America. (He was not pleased or used to being challenged.) The neighbouring 3000 head operation and corn mill was seeking to expand. What began as concerns about smell, lights, traffic and noise soon evolved into very real health, safety and environmental concerns. It took a couple of years for the township to do their research.
  My role was to represent the community in talks with the various government ministries involved. It helped that I was a small scale farmer. In the end, the township instituted bi-laws concerning scale and location specifications for these massive types of operations. Many of the neighbouring townships utilized this information to amend their own bi-laws.
  The town approached me a couple of years after this stating that the farmer wanted to build a commodity shed to house his tractors and other equipment. I mentioned that cattle were commodities too. Both the town and I were familiar with the slippery business methods of this particular big time farmer. The permit wasn't granted.
  Sometimes the little guy's voice is heard. Sometimes there are things worth fighting for.
  "But the Lord is with me as a mighty, awesome One. Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail. They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not prosper." Jer 20:11

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Clean Up by Susan L.

  A little bit of housework, a little bit of laundry, a little bit of cooking made the day fly past. There's servings of chili in the freezer and a pot of soup stock in the fridge waiting to be made into Beef Barley soup. I stopped by the butcher to get soup bones and ended up with an entire thigh for a fraction of the price they charge for bones at the grocery store. Thanks go to my co-worker for teaching me how to make awesome stock. Roasting the bones first makes the stock flavour more intense. It made the house smell pretty good too with its comforting aroma. Soup somehow suits a gray November day and warms the heart.
  My folks are coming for a visit today. It'll be nice to see them. It's been a while. So the major dilemma of the day is about what to serve them for lunch. Bacon and eggs or soup are my options. My step dad said either would be fine but he is fond of eggs.
  He left the decision up to me. Oh dear.
  And I am laughing at myself over how agonizing this decision is. It's only lunch!
  How about a cup of soup to start? Yup. I can have it ready just in case and serve up the eggs for the main course. Now this is getting fancy! A three course lunch!
  Now, what to do about desert...Baked apples with pecans and maple syrup. I'm drooling at the thought. I could very easily skip the main course and go right to desert!
  So there we are.
  There's much to be done before they get here so that's it for today.
  "Jesus said to them, "Come and breakfast." Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, "Who are You?"--knowing it was the Lord." Jn 21:12
 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Reluctance by Susan L.

  My church is encouraging the women to sign up for a secret sister. It means being in contact with someone anonymously to encourage them and to pray for them. I haven't signed up yet. Someone from the church contacted me last night and left a message to see if I was interested in taking part.
  Where does this reluctance come from? It could be an issue around trust. That's not a surprise. It took a long time for me to open up to my friends at the centre. Could it be a fear of messing it up by saying the wrong things? But then, as the Holy Spirit guides me, that wouldn't even be an issue.
  Part of it could be that I still don't feel settled at Faith Community even though I've been going there off and on for a couple of years as my health would allow. There it is...the biggest part of my reluctance. I don't want to abandon someone if my mental wellness takes a downturn. Not that it will, but it might.
  Maybe if historically I had felt well for longer periods of time it could be something I'd be able to take on. Right now, at this point in my life, that wellness is still rather fragile. It's only been a few months since my medication change which helped me so much in getting rid of the chronic anxiety. I also know I am as thinly spread as I can be with work and the holidays coming up. It's a difficult season for many and in order to help as much as I can, it needs to be balanced with plenty of quiet rest.
  The prayer blog last night helped a lot.
  And there's my answer. Right now, it's "no". But that's not to say at a later date I won't sign up.
  I can do this instead: Lord, if someone needs prayer, please bring them to mind. Help me be obedient to Your wishes. In Jesus' name I pray.
  "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy." Phil 1:3-4
  

Friday, 21 November 2014

A Burden to Share by Susan L.

  The Lord has promised that whenever two or more meet in His name, our prayers will be answered. Maybe that is why the Lord has placed the world at my fingertips. Miles, language, race, gender have no meaning in God's world.  Friends, my gentle readers, I ask that you stand in agreement with me as I pray.
  Thank You, Lord, that You are so faithful, so generous. Thank You, Lord for a love that surpasses all understanding. Thank You that You have wept over us, over the harm and hurt we do to each other. Thank You most of all that You can forgive us our sins, our humanity the moment we ask.
  My heart is heavy with all I have heard over the last two days. Stories of terrible sadness, horrific abuse, losses beyond loss, betrayal, addictions.
  But most of all, the hardest thing was hearing a mother share that our young people, who's brief life hasn't even reached their teens, are contemplating suicide in unprecedented numbers. Forgive me for merely nodding at the statistics and doing nothing. These are flesh and blood, very real boys and girls. Yes, the schools are aware but You know as well as I, it only takes a moment to take a life. Lord, it breaks my heart into a gazillion pieces that they are in so much pain. Help them. Help the bullies who can make other's lives so difficult. They too, are broken and in pain.
  Grant them the courage to reach out, to seek help...to trust. Let them know there are other choices. It can be a big, hard world when you're young. Lead these children to safe places, to adults who will take them seriously. It is a serious matter. I ask for the most precious Blood of the Lamb to cover them, keep them safe.
  Help everyone who has shared with me these last two days hear Your voice. Through Christ's authority and in His Holy Name, I silence the dark whispers. Lord, I ask that legions of angels guard them and guide them to You; children and adults alike.
  Gentle readers, if you know of anyone you would like to add to this, please do.

  I stand with you in your prayers. Lord, protect those of us who draw the sword and those we hold most dear.
  Thank You Lord that in the midst of such deep sorrows, the joyful sound of laughter rings out frequently. Thank You that I am witness to the incredible ability of the human spirit to rise above and beyond our challenges. Thank You for enabling me to share my creative abilities in such a way that I can witness the shattering of the lie, "you can't!" The smiles of those I taught today were a reward beyond anything silver could buy.
  All this I pray in Jesus' name. Amen
  "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Jesus Christ to all generations, forever and ever, Amen." Eph 3:20-21
  
 

Nervous by Susan L.

  Today is the start of acrylic painting classes at the centre. As the facilitator, I'm a bit nervous about how to approach the first session. Who am I kidding? I'm nervous every time I run a group! Where to start is the question.
  Should I provide a base drawing for everyone to do the same picture or let everyone pick an image of their own liking? Would hard edge painting be the best place to start? That's where an image is broken down into linear sections of colour like a paint by number kit does. How about doing a monochromatic image to get the eye used to seeing different shades or areas of shadow and light before introducing colour mixing. They can be quite striking.
  Most of those who are interested have taken part in the how to draw group and the few classes I did on watercolours, a much harder medium to work with so there will be a mix of beginner and experienced artists. I want this to be enjoyable for all.
  Perhaps a study of a single image like an apple? The good food box was yesterday so there's plenty of apples to pick from. Yup. That's it. Technique can be either hard edged or blended. It'll be an exercise in the most important aspect of painting: learning to look and see the various hues and shades in something as simple as a piece of fruit. Or it could be a monochromatic study. I'll let everyone decide for themselves.
  I've said it before, art is all about seeing what you are looking at.
  I think I've shared this before but it's the most important step in learning to paint. An apple isn't just red. There's hints of yellow, orange, red, purple, brown, and even blue...that makes the purple. Seeing the colours takes practice. My trick is to imagine a block of yellow, for example, then look at whatever I am painting. The yellow in it pops out. If imagining colour isn't something you can do, look at something yellow, close your eyes then look at the object. It'll do the same thing. The world is a rainbow of colour.
  Well, that's it. I need to run to the store to make sure there are enough small canvases for everyone before heading into work. Thank You, Lord, for helping me sort out my day. I'm not so nervous now.
  "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." Prov 9:10
 

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Conversation by Susan L.

  I met with my psychiatrist for my bi-monthly check in. I am blessed to have one who will take the time to chat by allowing at least forty five minutes for an appointment. There are many others out there who simply prescribe medications in assembly line fashion without taking the time to find out what is going on in their patient's lives.
  I shared about my DNA testing and what I hoped to find out. He was excited about the idea, that it would provide another piece for my journey of self-discovery. I am sure that search will continue the rest of my life. I shared that I wondered where all my creativity came from. Part of the DNA quest is hoping to discover possible connections who could answer that.
  We chatted about inherent abilities. I shared that I truly believe that our blood has memory, that the gifts and talents we are born with are part of our family line. And it's not just artistic abilities. Talents take many forms: math, mechanics, organization. The good Doctor smiled and told me there was a prominent doctor years ago who theorized that a collective subconscious was part of  relational make up. In other words, blood memory. His name was Carl Yung, a forefather of modern psychiatric medicine. It seems I am in good company and not completely off my rocker!
  I don't know what answers this quest will provide. Judging from the number of people who have taken a DNA test, well over 700,000 with Family Tree DNA alone, it appears I have a lot of company in the desire to know our roots. There are other companies with similar statistics.
  When I was little, my father was on a similar quest. We spent many hours wandering around cemeteries as he searched for family members. Back then, it was a monumental task. Computers didn't exist. Ancestry.com wasn't there either. Top that with the name Smith, it was astounding that he found all that he did. But he had the background story of where his family came from. They were loyalists who fled the States during the war of independence and settled in New Brunswick.
  This adopted heritage is part of my identity and means a lot to me.
  Which creates more questions. Does my blood also carry adopted memory? If so, is that part of where my gifts come from? Has my adopted heritage reinforced that of my bloodline?
  As Christians, we know there are connections that lay beyond mere flesh and bone. The Holy Spirit unites us as one body under the most precious Blood of Christ. It is far better and far greater than this little human brain can fathom.
  "As for Me," says the Lord, "this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants' descendants," says the Lord, "from this time and forevermore." Is 59:21
 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

More Safety by Susan L.

  I'm glad I spent a few chilly hours in the garden getting the perennials chopped down and burning the scrap wood from the basement. It was windy as anything but thankfully my yard is sheltered by  trees. We had our first snowfall that dumped a couple of inches start on Sunday night and continue most of Monday. Big Kleenex flakes fell for most of the day.
  It's the kind of snowfall that makes everything so beautiful and white unlike the white of February when we complain "Not again!" Branches, twigs and dry grass were capped with their own little white mounds that by this morning have fallen or melted away. The grass is still covered but it may not last. A blast of sunshine should get rid of it in no time. I'm okay with that. The season is still young.
  While outside on Sunday, there was a bit of excitement. My neighbours two doors down run a seasonal campground. They have a large, green garbage bin at the front. It caught on fire because someone had thrown out hot ashes. I don't know who called 911 but the volunteer firefighters covering this area descended en mass. A small pumper truck with a water reservoir in it quickly doused the smoldering trash. The bin was mostly empty, the camp has been tucked away for the season, so it only took a matter of minutes to put the fire out.
  Shortly after, a pick-up truck pulled in to my driveway and a man got out. I wasn't surprised. I figured someone from the fire department would stop in to check out what was happening with my own back yard fire. The fire chief introduced himself while eyeing the situation. He was pleased with what he saw, that it was small and contained, that I was outside tending it. My fire permit was up to date. A ten dollar, yearly permit can prevent up to a ten thousand dollar fine so it's worth it to me! With a shake of hands, a word of thanks from me, and he was on his way.
  I have the utmost respect for these men and women who volunteer as first responders. It isn't an easy job. When safety is ignored, they are the ones to pick up the pieces. Not all their calls have a happy ending so folks, be safe! Drive according to conditions. If you're going to be late, be late! I witnessed a terrible car accident on Christmas day because someone was in a hurry. There were no survivors. Be aware of your environment, don't take foolish chances and never throw out ashes that haven't cooled for at least three days!
  "Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious." 1 Pet 2:4
 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Safety by Susan L.

  The ole body won out this morning with a bit of a sleep in. It was much needed although the last couple of days haven't been so strenuous, only tidying up around the house and doing laundry. It's a bit milder today so I want to get outside into my own garden to cut back the perennials. The wheelbarrow has been lying full for quite some time.
  It'd be a good day to have a fire. The boxes of scrap wood in the basement need to be cleared away. They are a bit of a tripping over hazard.
  There's always something isn't there?
  Carbon monoxide detectors are now mandatory in Ontario as of October 31. I picked one up yesterday and installed it in the basement at the foot of the stairs. They'd been sold out so I hadn't got one sooner. There was a whole list of not to do's with it and instructions about where to install the thing. All the do nots made it difficult to find installation places in a tiny house so hopefully where it is will suffice.
  I should have installed one years ago.
  My cousin and her family were lucky. She woke up in the middle of the night with a blinding headache and was having a hard time breathing. She got her husband and children out in time and called 911. Their house was filled with carbon monoxide. Snow had blocked the outflow pipe from the furnace.  
  Something to keep in mind if your furnace direct vents from the foundation and not up a chimney.
  When my own furnace needs replacing, they will change the venting which means my chimney is no longer needed. I'll be able to tear it down to give me some more space in the bathroom. Space that is sorely needed. I'll want it to be outside somewhere that I can easily keep the snow clear.
  Be safe, folks. Make sure you have a CO detector. Not because it is law, but because it is wise.
  "Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning." Prov 9:9

 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Note Book by Susan L.

  In those few seconds between sleep and awake brilliant blog ideas seem to pop up. They vanish in moments as sleep wins the battle for a few more minutes. It might be a good idea to keep a pen and note book on my bedside table although it would mean waking up enough to write them down. Don't know how well that would work. So I'll write about my day yesterday.
  We had a lady come to the centre to run a workshop on how to do encaustic art. It uses Crayola crayons, the best quality, and an iron. The less expensive crayons lacked the level of pigment for intense colours. The center picked up a couple second hand irons at one of the local thrift stores for the workshop. A travel iron would be ideal since it's a bit smaller. The facilitator had a tool similar to a soldering iron to make flowers and other more detailed objects but I forget what it is called. It heats up various tools to create different effects.
  Basically, encaustic art is applying melted crayons, using the iron, to any kind of glossy paper. We tried photo paper but the plastic layer melted. Bristol board or glossy print paper worked the best. A linen cardstock added its own texture which created a different effect.
  After we chose our paper, the next step was to put a layer of beeswax on it because it helps the melted crayon flow across the surface. The beeswax was bought in a block at the local health food store although beeswax candles would work just as well. The hot iron is applied to it and quickly lifted to spread this first layer on the paper.
  It was most enjoyable. It took a bit to get the irons set so they didn't smoke. Low heat works best. The smoke is not good for you. The melted beeswax left an aroma of honey in the room that was very pleasant. The melted crayons? Not so much.
  They are applied by holding the iron upside down and melting the crayon on the point. It is then applied to the paper. Oh, peel the paper off the crayons first.
  It was surprising how many different effects the iron could create. By pushing it, pulling it, sliding it sideways or simply placing it on the paper and lifting it up created an astounding variety of textures. Throw in some different colours and the results were beautiful.
  The iron was kept clean by pressing it on brown paper towel and wiping the base off.
  The final step was to polish the piece with a tissue by rubbing it quickly. It gave it a nice shine.
  It was suggested to seal the piece using podge, a clear drying adhesive, especially if you were using this technique to make things like bookmarks. It wasn't so necessary if it was going to be framed.
  So there you have it: encaustic art. A fancy name for an opportunity to play, once again, with crayons.
  "The glory of Lebanon shall come to you, the cypress, the pine and the box tree together, to beautify the place of My sanctuary; And I will make the place of My feet glorious." Is 60:13
 


Friday, 14 November 2014

Heat Glorious Heat! by Susan L.

  There were some technical difficulties yesterday. Good old AVG, the antivirus program, picked up some issues. It took a bit to clean them out so there wasn't time for yesterday's blog. I missed doing it. Somehow the day doesn't seem right.
  So, cranky and out of sorts, I worked outside in the bitter wind helping a friend build a roof cap over a door. It gets bombarded with rain runoff from the roof of a large garage. It looks okay but it isn't pretty. The pretty can wait until spring when the weather is a bit warmer. I might put a bit of gingerbread trim work at the peak. The owner asked for two birds. Easily done with my scroll saw.
  My experience building the shed came in handy. So did the roll of roofing paper that was left over.
  I have to smile. Years ago when we replaced the shingled garage roof on a nasty, cold weekend I swore I would never do roofing again. So much for oaths. This is twice I've had to eat my words although my role yesterday was to cut and pass up the handful of needed shingles. It would have been enjoyable if the wind hadn't been so icy. (Should've worn long johns!)
  It was a whole lot hotter when I did the shed. Unbearably so. It's hot, heavy, dirty or perversely frigid, dirty and heavy work. God bless roofers who do this for a living. Lord, keep them safe.
  We had soup at lunch to warm the innards and when I got home, I was especially grateful to have hot running water and central heating. A long shower and a cup of tea warmed me up nicely. Some Pumpkin cuddling: my personal, furry, hot water bottle, helped the heat seep into my bones.
  I think I'm getting too old for this sort of stuff...or not. I thoroughly enjoy this type of work but maybe I need to think about setting some boundaries on what I want to do and when.
  Boundaries. They can be tough to implement but are so necessary to our well being. Now that's something to think about.
  "I am young in years, and you are very old; Therefore I was afraid, and dared not declare my opinion to you. I said, "Age should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom."" Job 32:6-7
 
 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Apologies by Susan L.

  There was an error in my newspaper article. It was about soldiers and Post Traumatic Stress. I mentioned an author of the book "Warrior Rising", an autobiography of  one brave man. Unfortunately, I didn't get his rank right. In the article, I have him as a lowly Lieutenant but Chris Hadfield is actually a Lt. Colonel.
  He's been touring Canadian Forces bases telling his story. A brave thing to do.
  Mistakes. They happen regularly.
  I will make the correction in December's column which might end up being about mistakes. I'd thought about doing a piece on poverty. We are nearing the season when finances are stretched to the limit but I think that's been done already.
  I am honoured by my column being promoted. It's still pro-bono but is no longer squeezed between ads at the back of the paper. The last two times, it has been published right next to the letters to the editor in the opinion/editorial section.
  Thank You, Lord, my Muse, my Inspiration. The One who provides the words for both these creative endeavours.
  "But there is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding." Job 32:8
 
 

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Hockey Time in Canada by Susan L.

  It was a great weekend visit with my family. It was busy, noisy, and a whole lot of fun! We spent time reading stories, playing with Play Doh, and had a shopping trip to the toy store for a birthday gift.
  My granddaughter has definitely warmed up to me and no longer makes strange. I'm glad that phase is over. It did take some time for me to understand what she was saying but by the end of the first day, we were able to have a decent conversation.
  My grandson had hockey practice on Saturday so I was able to watch him learn some of the basics like how to stand up when he fell down. Within an hour the coach had him doing that with ease. He is still unsteady on skates but seeing as he is a child, that shouldn't last too long. It won't take much time before he is whipping around the ice.
  Watching the other three to six year olds learn how to handle their narrow skates, the cumbersome protective equipment, their hockey stick, the treacherous ice, and wayward pucks was most enjoyable. They were like puppies, wobbly and unsteady, with limbs flying everywhere. A short burst of speed ended up with them splayed flat on their backs.  A swing at the puck would throw them off balance as well. So did trying to stop. It didn't take much to have their feet in the air. I couldn't help but smile.
  Some of them were surprisingly good, these three foot potential NHL stars. Their only downfall? They were way too cute!
  I'm thankful that on Friday I took the back roads to get to Sarnia. If I'd chosen the highway route, I wouldn't have got there. There's a notoriously lethal stretch of about sixteen kilometers on the 402 that was closed due to white outs and blizzard conditions. My slower, meandering northern route drove through everything from sunshine, rain, and flurries but nothing like that.
  I came home the same way and was blessed with another first. A rare, white squirrel ran across the road in front of me. I'm not sure if they are albino or if a different genetic fluke gives them their white fur. It took a moment to figure out what it was as I braked to avoid hitting it. Glad I did. He or she made it safely to the other side.
  It's good to be home but I'll be heading back shortly. My services as a painter are required.
  "I will lift up my eyes to the hills--From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth." Ps 121:1-2

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Travels by Susan L.

 Tomorrow morning I am heading down to Sarnia to visit my son, his wife and my grandchildren for four days. I hadn't made it down for my grandson's fifth birthday so part of the plan is to take him shopping to celebrate the big day. That's what we did last year and it was a lot of fun.
  He's an amazing little guy. He wanted to open an art gallery. In early October my son and his wife took all the furniture out of the living room and put up all the pictures for him. (They are amazing big people!) I believe some of the original paintings and drawings were from my grandson's friends as well. They sent out invitations to family, friends, neighbours and classmates to attend the gala and to give them the opportunity to purchase some great works of art. I was given the honor of getting two of them at Thanksgiving created by each of my grandchildren.
  What a gift to give a child.
  It's the stuff of dreams and aspirations. Who knows what seeds this event planted.
  My children constantly amaze me. Their home life wasn't so great as they were growing up... an understatement if there ever was one. Yet they have all managed to rise above circumstances that could have easily caused them to become one of the lost. I'm blessed to have them in my life.
  Sometimes it feels like a dream, having been a mom when the kids were little. In a way it was. I know now that the last ten years of my marriage during their teen years, was spent living under a blanket of major clinical depression. I didn't know it at the time even though the signs were there: disassociation, numbing, hopelessness, and isolation. Thoughts of suicide would crop up on a regular basis. Those terrifying ideas got shoved down deep as quickly as they arose. I remember wanting to simply curl up in a corner and shut myself off from the world, to disappear. I never told a soul about any of this. I was a master at hiding/denying the truth.
  Responsibility ruled my life.
  As much as the farm was a burden and such hard work, the truth is: it is the only thing that got me out of bed in the morning. Ahh, there's a shadow of regret in that statement. As a mom, I wish I could have done more. But then, I did the best I could with the tools I had at the time. Most of those were pretty broken to begin with.
  The Lord has blessed me by leading me into wellness during the dark days and years that followed the sudden end to my marriage. I let go of the pride and distrust that kept me from first admitting there was something wrong and the pride and wariness that kept me from getting help. Or maybe I should say it was the utter lack of self esteem that held me back from believing I was worth helping. It was probably a lot of both.
  Don't mind me. It's nearing the wonderful/horrible anniversary of the start of this journey with the Lord. It's hard not to feel sad/glad, angry/peace and a whole slew of other emotions. Grief is a huge part of it as well.
  Thank You, Lord for the opportunity to create new memories, good memories.
  Thank You Lord that You believed in me, that I was worth saving. Thank You Lord for freedom, redemption and for Your most amazing grace that has healed so many wounds. Thank You for the gift of grandchildren and family. Bless them as You have blessed me.
  "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ." Eph 2:4-5
 
 

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Sidetracked by Susan L.

  The sled coffee table hasn't been started yet. I got sidetracked by the fact Christmas isn't too far away. Especially since we celebrate it a week or so before the 25th. My kids and I do a home made gift exchange rather than purchasing our gifts. It takes a bit more time but means a whole lot more to all of us. Socks are usually the only thing I buy for them, part of a long standing joke began as children when they would ask what they were getting for Christmas. My pat response was "socks".
  So instead of building the table, I've started painting a wooden trunk my dad made years ago. It's for my grandchildren. It's their very own Tickle Trunk, an idea from the old TV show "Mr. Dressup". It's meant for costumes and articles of clothing that let the imagination fly. I did buy a few fun items to add to their own collection of things courtesy of the Halloween selection at the Dollar Store. I can't very well give them an empty box!
  I was thinking of calling it an Adventure Box instead. I might even write a story for them about it...we'll see. Maybe for my grand-daughter's birthday in January. The painting is going to take some time with a triangle, quilt pattern decorating the top and checkerboard sides in a variety of colours. It's one of those paint jobs when watching paint dry is crucial or I will end up making a mess.
  I've three of these boxes. My dad built them years ago to hold his power tools when we moved up from down east. They're made of plywood, nothing fancy, but a coat of paint makes them lovely. One is already used as a toy box/coffee table. The other two were in the basement empty and forlorn. I am glad to put them to good use.
  There's one challenge. How to get the locking hasp off of it. A safety concern with small children. I wouldn't want one of them trapped inside. The issue is that the existing layers of paint make the screws...well... unscrewable. Hmmm, I could take a hacksaw to the metal loop the tongue goes over and create a handle using the existing hardware. That would work. I love it when a problem is solved so easily!
  "I will both lie down in peace and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." Ps 4:8
 
 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Ise the Byes by Susan L.

  It's an old folk song from Nova Scotia. "Ise the byes (boy) that builds the boats, Ise the byes that sails her, Ise the byes that catches the fish and takes em home to Li-zer..." I heard a brief snippet of it on, of all places, a classical radio station. It was being performed by an operatic tenor and choir. Somehow it lost some of its charm.
  Now I can't get it out of my head.
  It's a song of my childhood learned when we lived in Dartmouth, NS. I remember practicing it in music class as well as other long forgotten traditional maritime songs. Brookhouse elementary school encouraged the development of musical skills. I'll never forget the taste of the antiseptic Detol. We used to dip the communal recorder mouthpieces in it to prevent the spreading of germs from student to student. Blech! My children were spared that, we had to buy them their own recorders.
  In grade five they introduced musical instruments. I took up the flute. There was a man, name forgotten, who came in the beginning and gave five of us budding flautists private lessons in the hall while everyone else was in the music room. The first time I opened the flute case I was utterly swept away by the silver instrument sparkling and gleaming against the blue velvet lining like treasure.
  I remember him saying that the flute is one of the easiest instruments to play but the hardest one to blow a decent sound out of. It's also one of the smallest and lightest, much appreciated as I took it back and forth to school for many the years.
  It got me out of music class in grades 7-8. All I had to do was practice in the hall to earn an A+.
  I haven't played it for years. Music was what got me through high school. It was completely centred around band practice, and more band practice, sectional practices, private practice sessions, and even being part of a pit band for the school musical and a flute septet. Before school and after school it took up many hours.      
  Music helps me get through the tough times although instead of the flute or the organ, the piano has become my instrument of choice.
  Thanks go to my Mom, for her dedication in driving me to practices and lessons for so many years. Thank you for the gift of music in my life.
  "My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise. Awake, my glory! Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn." Ps 57:7-8

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Rabbit Trails by Susan L.

  I've another little project to do. My mom's childhood bobsled has resided in my basement for a good number of years. It's made of wood with metal runners. I've decided to repurpose it and make it into a coffee table for the living room. It'll be nice for winter and come spring, the current trunk/toy box/table can be put back.
  The sled needs a base to raise it up to a decent height. I've plenty of wood left from building the book case that will do nicely. The build part will be a low table that the bobsled can rest on and will provide a shelf for magazines or whatever. It'll be painted or possibly stained black to match the fireplace.
  Here's the good part: this idea has been in my head for a number of years. The only thing holding me back was I wanted a clear tray to protect the sled and provide a smooth, stable surface. It wasn't something actively looked for and only came to mind from time to time.
 Yesterday, H and I had some business to attend to in the city. We stopped at a linen outlet store right next door to where we needed to go. It was full of bedding, towels, bathroom accessories, and some kitchen wares. Guess what I found? A large, clear acrylic tray. It was exactly what I wanted for the tiny sum of a few dollars. It felt like Christmas!
  As I was paying for it, the cashier said to me, "They sell these at Bloomingdales for $300."
  Okay. I got a deal. (Thank You, Lord.) And Bloomingdales, the famous high end geared to the rich department store, is committing what amounts to highway robbery.
  Yes, retail does mark up prices but not as much as you think. Stores have to make a profit as well as cover the costs of running a business. However, a mark up of nearly 300% is a bit over the top wouldn't you say?
  Years ago I went to Las Vegas for a long weekend. I didn't gamble much but spend most of that walking around looking at the glitz and glitter of a town geared to one purpose: to get as much of your money as possible. There was a shopping centre with stores which had beautiful and incredibly expensive things to spend your winnings on. (I never even came close to winning a fraction of their cost.)
  There were also countless pawn shops, a testimony to the darker side of gambling. They likely did more business than the mall.
  I thank God for His provision in all things that matter to me. A provision that includes finances and bargains. He's given me opportunities to learn the skills needed to tackle whatever project comes to mind. Most of all, He has filled my heart with contentment so I don't need to shop at Bloomingdales simply to say I shopped there. I am thrilled with road side finds. Home made, hand-me-down works as well.
  I've never been back to Las Vegas. Once was enough.
  "For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all things shall be added to you." Mat 6:32-33