Monday, 30 May 2016

Camel Back by Susan L.

  My biggest challenge is starting to make itself known again: overwhelm. Its companion, depression, is also beginning to creep in partly because of feeling overwhelmed, partly because the anti-biotic interferes with sleep, partly because I've spent too much time alone over the last couple of months.
  I got thinking about the old expression about the straw that broke the camel's back. There's a lot of straw in my life right now.
  There's the everyday responsibilities of home ownership and the extra chores brought about by the wonderful explosion of spring life. As much as I love getting my feet dirty and feeling the earth in my hands, being sick has put me far behind the weeds. Straw.
  The bag of dirt is still sitting on the lawn waiting to be emptied but I can't do that until the back garden gets cleaned up. Instead of using the good dirt, I am taking the grass filled soil from the garden and spreading it on the front yard where there's no grass. The bag dirt will then replace what was taken from the garden. Straw.
  There's a massive ant hill back there. I hate killing anything but it's in the way. Straw.
  There's the heavy slab of concrete sitting on the driveway waiting for some inspiration about what to do with it as well as the cleanup from the deck build needing to be done. Straw.
  There's a load of stuff to donate to the second had store that's been in the car for over a week and some books to take to the second hand book store. Gotta get the car emptied before being able to do a dump run of scrap, pressure treated wood. Straw.
  I still have my snow tires on but can't do that either until the car is empty. Straw.
  I have postponed going to the new Bible study until the fall yet feel bad because it is an opportunity to fight off the isolation that feeds the overwhelm. I was invited to attend the year end pot luck but the thought of going sets a swirl of panic in motion. Straw.
  The fish tank looks like a biological experiment on algae growth. I want to take the fish to my friend's pond rather than putting them out in mine. The goldfish are simply too big now. Straw.
  I really should get to the doctors as a follow up. There's still traces of the cough hanging on but getting in to see him is a challenge and I am working four days this week. Straw.
  I've several emails that need responding to. Straw.
  But you know something? A bale of straw weighs a whole lot less than a bale of hay! Thank You Lord that this is all straw. Still, I lay these burdens at Your feet. Help me do as needs doing in Jesus' name I pray.
  "But to You I have cried out, O Lord, and in the morning my prayer comes before You." Ps 88:13


Sunday, 29 May 2016

Going Batty by Susan L.

 A little bit of this, a little bit of that was how my day went yesterday. Only a couple of things got done outside because the heat rolled in with a vengeance. It was in the thirties yesterday or nearly a hundred Fahrenheit. Coupled with high humidity and clouds of mosquitoes, it wasn't very conducive to labouring over gardens. I've got to brave another hot day and cut the grass. It's too long and therefore inviting to the biting pests. Mosquito repellant is the pass word for happy mowing.
  I spent more time inside tidying up my room and doing some much neglected house work. Closing the windows in the morning helps keep the house cool.
  The swarms of mosquitoes (they are bad this year) got me thinking about building a bat house. The one I have enough unpressurized wood for holds thirty to sixty bats. It's like a big bird house. Apparently, one little brown bat will eat a thousand mosquitoes in a night. That's my kind of mammal!
  The only question is where to put it. It needs to be installed fifteen to eighteen feet high and in the sun. I thought about putting it on the old hydro stack on the roof but, well, bats poop. Even though it is considered one of the richest forms of natural fertilizer, I don't think it would be good for the shingles.
  The websites say not to install it in a tree because of the shade and easy access for predators. So before building it I need to look around for a good installation place. It would be nice to put it on the new hydro pole out front. That would be perfect but I don't think it's allowed. Maybe one of the neighbours would be willing to have it put up in their yard if they have a place for it.
  Initially, I had concerns about rabies but came across the fact that the chances of getting the disease from bats is as slim as getting the disease from a cow. The Little Brown Bat is on the endangered species list. It's not just habitat destruction but due to the use of pesticides. This not only reduces their prey numbers but is also poisoning them.
  "Then He said to them, "What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Mat 12:11-12

Friday, 27 May 2016

Walk In The Woods by Susan L.

  I'd gone for a walk a in the park a couple weeks ago but wanted to take some pictures before blogging about the damage this spring's ice storm did. 
  Big trees or small, very few were spared some sort of damage. The staff took over two days to clear the path I usually take. It had been impassible. Piles of brush, or cut up, massive branches were pushed aside and left. It's part of the conservation area's practice to create habitat for God's critters. That includes insects and insect eaters.
  The devastation caused by the weather is awe inspiring and somehow makes me feel rather small in the grand scheme of things. Entire areas of once tall trees were completely flattened but that's mostly where the ground is swampy and wet. Shallow roots don't stand a chance against nature's fury. I've seen similar damage done by a tornado. This was simply the weight of ice that felled the mighty.
  There's a wood duck nesting box the park installed a couple of years ago that was once tucked away safe in the trees but now stands, unscathed, like a guardian of the fallen.
  There are other, rarely seen, residents of the area who are more than happy to take advantage of this easy meal. This stand of poplars didn't stand a chance against the ice. Beavers love poplar. To have sweet, young branches from the tree tops served up without having to any of the hard work must be appreciated! There are many branches like this one that have nibble marks on them.
  It will take years for the trees to recover or regrow. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see what different life the altered habitat welcomes.
  "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven." Eccl 3:1


Thursday, 26 May 2016

Essense of Lilac by Susan L.

  It was astounding how many different ways there are to make a distillery for capturing essential oils or fragrances from herbs and flowers. Some were incredibly complicated with tubes and burners. The easiest one was to simply place a pie plate in the bottom of a large pan, pour some water in the bottom, add whatever you want to extract the oils or scent from. Place a glass lid with a handle upside down on top of the pot. Heat it on low heat until it simmers. The condensation gathers on the lid and drips into the pie plate because of the handle. Voila!
  I used the cooled, boiled water that had been poured over the crushed lilac blooms to distill. Because I don't own a pot with a glass lid, covering the top with tin foil that was angled down towards the centre worked just fine. I wondered if putting ice on the foil would make the yield higher and create a more efficient way of collecting the distilled fragrance. Perhaps doing it on a cooler day might be better, too.
  I didn't boil away all the water like was suggested on one of the sites. What was left over is more concentrated and unfortunately, a rather unappetizing brown. Don't know if that's how it should be.
  So much to learn, so little time!
  It might be wise to get a neutral nose to do some quality control. I think it has a bit of a cooked spinach undertone perhaps caused by the small amount of green from the flower bases but I could be wrong.
  I will admit, it's much easier to simply pour boiling water over the flowers. It was also suggested to use warm oil, olive or coconut, to create a scented moisturizer.
  There's plenty of lavender in the garden. Once the new growth has fully come in, maybe it's worthwhile seeing if using an oil will capture another of my favorite natural fragrances.
  How nice it would be to pull spring and summer scents out when a howling blizzard is raging and it's minus thirty for the fifth day in a row!
  "Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing." 2 Cor 2:14-15

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

A Grand Experiment by Susan L.

  The lilac bushes surrounding my house are in full and fragrant bloom. They are loaded with more flowers than I've seen for a few years. The scent is lovely and wafts in through the open windows. The bushes hum with bumble bees and other nectar drinking insects. I smile at God's planning because just as the apple blossoms are beginning to fall like snow, the lilacs come into their own. Such spring feasts after winter's famine must be so delightful!
  One spring, I attempted to bottle this favorite fragrance. It didn't work out too well. Throwing whole blooms, stems and the odd leaf into a pot, it was supposed to be simmered for a couple of hours so the fragrance was concentrated. It ended up smelling like old socks. Maybe because cooking the stems and leaves interfered. I don't really know but the whole lot ended up in the garbage.
  Therefore today's exploration into capturing the aroma of spring is a grand experiment. This time I've removed as much of the stem as possible. There are no leaves in the bowl. Instead of cooking the mixture, the internet suggested pouring boiling water over crushed flowers then letting it cool. It will be reduced, once the blooms are removed, by simmering the infused water until it reaches an ideal concentration.
  That might be a bit tricky. The house is full of the aroma. So is my nose.
  I'm thinking of rigging up a distillery. It might be easier than trying to monitor the intensity of the fragrance via overloaded olfactory senses. The distilled water would be high in fragrance and would keep longer.
  Hopefully if I Google how to make a small distillery, I won't be flagged as a potential bootlegger!
  "Rise up my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land." song 2:10-12

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Puttering by Susan L.

  I did manage to get some things done around the yard simply because they have to be done. The front lawn needed mowing and some of the scrap wood got burned. Having a fire is a sedentary job which merely involves keeping an eye on the flames. The first coat of stain got put on the boardwalk because the rain is supposed to move in later this week and stick around for a few days. It didn't take that long because it wasn't a big area to stain. The second coat will go on later today.
  Each of these tasks was accompanied by a great deal of rest. Maybe it is more about finding balance. On a positive note, it feels like the congestion in my lungs is finally breaking up. I guess the antibiotics, the sunshine and plenty to drink are doing the trick.
  It was nice to sit and listen to the birds as I sipped a cup of coffee or juice. The variety is astounding. The first cat bird of the season meowed his feline song which always brings a smile to my face. He really sounds like a lost kitten.
  As Mrs. Oriole feeds on the sweet apple blossom nectar, she randomly bursts into a song. Not as complicated as her mate's, it's still lovely because it sounds like an uncontainable expression of the joy in simply being alive.
  My neighbour has a not quite two year old little boy. He has blond curls and bright, inquisitive blue eyes. He is constantly on the go exploring his back yard. Whenever he sees me, we have an over the fence chat, albeit with a rather limited vocabulary. "Hi! Hi!" and "Ouch!" for the fire. He reminds me so much of my youngest son when he was that age.
  Like the oriole, a surge of inexpressible joy swept over me as we chatted yesterday. It truly is a blessing to have children and now grandchildren in my life. There was joy, so much that it hurt, in remembering the simpler times when a bug hunt in the back yard was an adventure. Many other good memories of all my children flashed past like a stack of postcards.
  Had I been an Oriole, I'd have sung as loud as I could.
  Thank You, Lord, for inexpressible joy.
  "I (Jesus) have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness." Jn 12:46

Monday, 23 May 2016

Day of Rest by Susan L.

    After finishing my blog yesterday, I headed outside with all the good intentions of spending some time working on the front flower bed. In true Sue fashion, this involved a lot of standing and simply looking, musing over what to do. After moving the only small sprig of bee balm that survived the deck reconfiguration, waves of exhaustion washed over me.
  So I sat down and remained sitting down for the rest of the day, baking the cough out of me in the sunshine. It was a perfect day for such exertions. The slight breeze kept it from being too hot and had the added bonus of keeping the mosquitoes away.
  I suppose it was a form of working...on my tan!
  So, here's the thing. After a good night's rest, I am still very weary although the cough seems to be loosening up. (Yay!) Even so, this infection must have a stronger hold than I thought or perhaps it's because I've kept pushing this ole body of mine beyond its limit.  
  It's telling me to STOP!
  It might be wise to listen and give myself another day, or even two, of rest. Or maybe it might be wise to rest for as long as it takes to get better. The work to be done isn`t going anywhere.
  Help me, Lord, set aside the tasks waiting to be done. Help me stop being such a driven task master when things are unfinished. Help me find grace and patience and rest. In Jesus` name I pray. Amen!
  ``Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret--it only causes harm.`` Ps 37:8

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Magic Moments by Susan L.

  I was good to myself and quit puttering around the yard about three o'clock. One way to stop me overdoing it is to put on jammies. The pond had been cleaned and refilled, disturbing a rather large frog in the process. A bit more was done to the front garden so with absolutely no guilt, the jammies went on.
  It feels like a vacation when there's so much to do even if this is a forced relaxation due to the bronchitis.
  Towards evening I stood under the ancient apple tree that is in full bloom. The tree hummed with the busy life of bees and other insects. Mrs. Oriole skipped from flower to flower like it was an all-you-can-eat buffet, sampling a bit of this, some of that. She was quick to chase off a smaller, unidentified bird from her feast.
  The heavens were brushed with wispy clouds that accented a startlingly deep blue. The pink and white colour of the newly opened buds was amplified against such a striking sky.
  It was one of those moments when everything seems right with the world.
  I'll be skipping church this morning but that's okay. This week's service was held last night at the foot of an apple tree.
  "So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good." Gen 1:21

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Cough! Hack! Wheeze! by Susan L.

  I've been fighting this thing for three weeks now. It didn't stop the deck build but it's finally stopped me. A trip to the doctor's has me on a course of antibiotics and two types of inhalers to help loosen my lungs from the infection that moved in. More than anything I pray this will heal me. It would be hard to take another nine week cough like the one that took over earlier this year.
  But there is a plus side. (Thank You, Lord that there always seems to be one!) I seem to be super aware of the birds. Maybe it's because there's been a dire need to take a break more often during the physical demands of outside work. Despite accomplishing so much, I've been really sick. To my own detriment, I ignored the signs.
  Mrs. Oriole has decided to build a nest in the big, ole tree out front. It's fascinating to watch her weave what looks like a handbag attached to the branches. It takes several minutes for one string or piece of dried grass to be worked into place. I've only ever seen an oriole build a nest on a nature show so this is pretty cool! It helps that the tree is mostly dead now after the beating it took in the ice storm so there's a clear view to watch her work.
  I should look up what they like to build their nests from and see if I can contribute anything. Bits of string might be appreciated. A call to the township might be wise, too. The last thing I'd want is for the tree to be cut down while baby orioles are brewing.
  There's a lot of work to do. My load of topsoil arrived so there's that to tend to and the boardwalk is yet to be stained. Although I think opening the pond and getting the fountain pump in might come first. Mosquitoes love stagnant water and if it's left too long it becomes rather malodorous. That sounds a bit easier than shovelling dirt for today.
  But mostly, I think I'll simply sit in the sun. Or perhaps read a bit and let the heat bake some of the germs out of me. What a great way to spend the day!
  "The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much." Eccl 5:12

Friday, 20 May 2016

Lost It by Susan L.

  Someone shared a link on Facebook about Tom Hanks putting his daughter in a beauty pageant entitled "Ultimate Sexy Baby". I couldn't get past the title. Those three words don't belong in a single sentence! Before watching the entire clip to realize it was a comedy sketch on the Jimmy Kimble show, the words against these pageants exploded.
  I later posted that I realized my mistake and apologized to Mr. Hanks.
  Even so, these pageants are real! Parents dress their little girls to look four times their age: hair, make-up, revealing's all so wrong on so many levels. At least, it is to me.
  Being a girl is hard enough when the media continues to ram home the lesson that it's all about appearance. Hair colour, skin colour, eye colour, lip shape, weight, figure...if you don't fit into the idea of cultural beauty, you are nothing.
  Heck, being an older woman with, gasp, signs of aging is another of the great unacceptables! (Yes, that's a made up word but it fits.)
  The cosmetic industry feeds doubt and self loathing just to get you to buy their miracle, anti-aging cream that never really works anyways. It feasts on the doubts and insecurities they worked really hard to sow. As long as we buy into this cannibalistic cycle, they will continue to hammer people to the ground. It's all about making a profit.
  The sad thing, is it isn't just women anymore who struggle against defined beauty. More and more young men are living with eating disorders. The lie is that unless their stomach is graced with a rippling, six-pack, they are nothing. Boys are hurting themselves by weight lifting at too young an age.
  Is this vanity or is it simply not knowing our worth regardless of our age or gender?
  Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder.
  If only we could see ourselves as God sees us...
  "For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well." Ps 139:13-14

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Reality Check by Susan L.

  Yesterday's foray into plumbing was successful. The new pump is installed which took a bit of fiddling around; finding some stone to set it on because the other pump interfered with the float switch so it needed to be a bit higher. It ran the pit dry a couple of times before this issue was corrected. It meant the back up pump had to be primed by pouring water down the pipe back into the machine. It's a bit tricky because that means finding something long and skinny to lift the back flow prevention valve up. Although it didn't take that long, it was just an added item to yesterday's unplanned list of to-do's.
  I am concerned that the new pump has a shallow draw which means it's kicking in every twenty seconds or so. It has a five year warranty so all that can be done is to wait and see if it survives such demands. I've kept the box and receipt just in case. Lord, I lift this up to You. Help me not become obsessively worried about it.
  The larger pipe is buried and covered. It ended up being eighty feet long but thankfully isn't buried too deep. Still, it took a while to dig out the old hose, set in the new one and replace the sod as best as possible. It made me happy to see the local robins having a good feed of grubs and worms that had been disturbed by the digging.
  In saying all this, I am growing rather frazzled. The everyday responsibilities of home ownership have been neglected simply because by the time I finish working on things like yesterday's project, there is no energy or strength left. Days when the weather hasn't been nice have been spent resting because, in all honesty, I've pushed my body far beyond its limits trying to get the deck done. It sure doesn't bounce back as quickly as it used to!
  Yet, it's another lovely day out there. Two days of sunshine after the weekend's mix of rain and snow means the deck is dry enough for its second coat of stain. Which is good. Then it will be finished and I can concentrate on more mundane chores.
  Sigh. Sometimes it's hard living on my own.
  One step at a time. One chore at a time. It will get done when it gets done. A dump run to dispose of the scrap wood, the lawn mowing, the housework, the landscaping, getting the snow tires off the car, putting the generator away after doing an oil change...that's enough to think about for now.
  Thank You, Lord, for helping me keep it real and keeping it simple. "One step at a time."
  And thank You as well that I am never truly alone.
  "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Mat 6:34

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Plumbing by Susan L.

  So the ancient, back-up pump saved the day again. It appears I need to replace the main one because it quit working again. This is the third time in ten years a newer pump has had to be replaced while the old, original one keeps on ticking. It's going to take some messing around to get a new one to fit in the sump pit beside the old one because they've changed the design.
  I am sorry I didn't get the contractors to install a bigger liner than the one they put in. It's a really tight squeeze to get two pumps to fit with enough room that the floating switches that turn them off and on have room to rise and fall. It's all cemented into place so replacing the liner isn't an option.
  The Lord knows I love a puzzle.
  I think I have to replace the pipe that runs under the grass with a larger one so the pump doesn't have to work as hard to get the water down to the culvert. That could be part of the issue. It's something that should have been done a while ago but digging a seventy foot trench isn't my idea of fun.
  So for today, the deck build/landscaping will have to be postponed. A trip to the hardware store for the necessary supplies is the first step. Thankfully we had some rain so the ground will be nice and soft for digging.
  Thank You, Lord, for Your provisions. Thank You that it has happened often enough that I know how to fix this problem. Thank You that everything will be made to work. Thank You that I am able to dig the needed trench. Help me make sure I get everything needed in one trip.
  I don't quite trust the old pump to keep going so I'd best be off before it decides to go on strike as well! (Oh, Lord, that it will keep going!)
  "Who shall separate us form the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" Rom 8:35


Monday, 16 May 2016

Bird Census by Susan L.

  Simply for curiosity's sake, I've been keeping track of the different types of birds that grace my neighbourhood. Some have shown themselves. Others have been identified by song. Even though that recognition tool is rather limited, my knowledge is growing.
 There are Mourning Doves, Grackles, Starlings, Chickadees, and tiny Wrens. There are several types of sparrows all dressed in drab browns and grays. The Song Sparrow's beautiful arias more than make up for his neutral colouring.
  Red-breasted Robins, dandelion yellow American Goldfinches, and Mallard Ducks are bright and colourful. I've seen several other varieties of ducks on the river as they rest during their migration north but that was before I began my little census.
  Canada Geese are a perpetual neighbour unless the lake freezes.
  Turkey Vultures are incredibly ugly compared to others of the avian clan yet fly with a ballerina's grace. It's wonderful to watch them soar, riding thermal winds, with barely a wing beat. I fear the tree they nest in every year came down in the ice storm because I haven't seen the pair who made it their home yet.
  Crows and seagulls take advantage of the freshly plowed fields.
  There are many more unidentified singers in the woods across the way: the shyest birds that I'd be lucky to catch a glimpse of.
  One of my not-so-shy favorites is the Orchard Oriole who also make their way further north to breed. The male's bright orange and black is stunning, his song is beautiful.
  And how could I forget the Blue Jays' constant squabbles and the Red-Winged Blackbirds who are just as territorial!
  It's not surprising that this is another gratitude post. There's so much life out there! Each has its own special niche in the great circle of life. It leaves me awestruck how God left no little detail undone. And these are just the birds! There's plants, grasses, flowers, insects, arachnids, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles that haven't even been considered!
  Lord, help us be better stewards of this planet so future generations will be blessed as You have blessed me. In Jesus' name I pray.
  "My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God; even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young--even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in Your house. They will still be praising You. Selah." Ps 84:2-4

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Racing by Susan L.

  Half way through my morning routine, there was a loud eruption of splashing water in the basement. Within seconds I was downstairs to see was had happened. The senses went into hyper-drive.
  Water was spraying everywhere!
  The back up sump pump had kicked in!
  Oh, horrors, that means the main one isn't working!
  (Whew! The back up one still works! Why is it leaking?!)
  It must have settled a bit because where it is joined to the outflow pipe by a rubber gasket, the leak was where a gap had formed. Just like putting your thumb over the end of the garden hose increases the pressure, this small gap had created an icy cold jet.
  This blast of frigid water, barely above freezing, soon soaked my jammies. Not the nicest wake up call! I scrambled to get a screwdriver to fix the leak. It was simply a matter of loosening the bands that hold the gasket tight then make sure everything was snug before tightening it up again.
  It would have been much easier and dryer to have unplugged the pump first but the water level in the pit was really high for the back up to have kicked in the first place. (Panic!!!) Unfortunately, logic had flown the coop because of adrenaline rush and pre-coffee morning fog. By the time this stroke of genius, "unplug it," flashed past, I was already soaked to the skin anyways.
  After running for a couple of cycles on the now leak free back up pump, the main one started working again. (Sigh.) All I can figure is the automatic off/on float switch got stuck then got unstuck.
  Sunday service unfortunately was blanketed with the residual panic created by the adrenaline surge. I didn't play or sing my best as nerve endings continued to fire. Then there was some worry about what was happening at home. The jump started hyper vigilance made the music feel extra loud which only amplified the anxiety. The closeness of the microphone made me feel rather claustrophobic.
  Let's face it, I was an emotional basket case.
  Still, there's much to be happy about. All this happened while I was at home. Then I was going to buy a new pump after church but couldn't find exactly what was needed. Perhaps that's because a new one isn't needed after all. There's thankfulness in the fact that what needed to be done was done automatically.
  I am extra thankful for warm, dry clothes!
  And for today's lesson: Look for Jesus in All Things.
  "The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the Lord." Prov 21:31

Friday, 13 May 2016

Postponed by Susan L.

  I was glad that there were potential thunderstorms rolling through last night. It meant the second coat of stain will have to wait until the weather settles down. The boardwalk leading to the deck still needs to be scrubbed. It's necessary prep work so the stain will stick better to the older, more weathered wood. Not being able to do anything last night was okay because it gave this ole body a chance to rest and recover although I did tidy up the workspace and swept up the sawdust before the rain hit.
  Over the weekend I could always work on the landscaping (if the delivery of dirt arrives) unless it is too wet and mucky. Or maybe housework should take precedence. It's been rather neglected.
  I stopped at the hardware store on the way home last night to get the second gallon of stain needed for the second coat and a quart of paint to match the siding. It will be used to paint the gray hydro box to help it blend in a bit better.        
  Eventually there will be shrubs or something in front as well to hide it even more. So long as hydro workers can get to it, anything is game,
  It's funny how you get used to something being the way it is. In looking at the photo of the old goodness, it was unattractive! Having lived almost ten years with it the way it was had created a bit of a blind spot.
  Having the before picture also helps me remember just how much work was involved and even though I have grown rather impatient that it has take sooooo long, the truth is: it really hasn't.
  When all is said and done, I am pleased with the results. And humbled. It's amazing what can be accomplished by simply trying.
  But then, I also have to be grateful for the experiences which taught me so much. There's much good to be salvaged from the not so good times. It's like being able to use the deck's old foundation structure to make something new!
  Thank You, Lord for also giving me this connection to another Carpenter. The rebuilder of souls.
  "But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk." 1Cor 7:17

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Overdone by Susan L.

  It took some over-the-counter pain killers for me to fall asleep last night. I've muscle aches where I didn't even know there were muscles! The tops of my feet? Really?
  Joints are creaky and stiff from all the bending, kneeling, reaching, stretching, lifting.
  My neck and ears are blushed with sunburn. So are my shoulders but they stayed covered yesterday because winter white skin already burned meant the sun stung something awful. A baseball cap saved my face and served double purpose in keeping my hair out of my eyes.
  The skin on my hands is rough. Knuckles are nicked and scratched. Snapped off fingernails mean a manicure is a distant dream.
  There are bruises on my arms and legs that I have no idea how they got there.
  But oh, the joy!
  The last bits of lattice work were installed and the last of the railing. The build is complete! All that's left to do is a second coat of stain and the landscaping. Putting in the garden ties got started yesterday as well but the ole body gave up. Shovelling dirt was asking too much so I had to stop.
  When I get home from work later today, I'll probably do the last coat of stain. The weekend is supposed to be rainy and while the weather is fair and everything is so dry it needs to be done.
  Stay tuned tomorrow for the before and after pictures.
  "There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; and one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches." Prov 13:7


Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Enthusiasm by Susan L.

  I leapt out of bed this morning or perhaps it was Pumpkin pushing me out by demanding affection or maybe he wanted his breakfast. He must sense when I am half awake and feels the need to make sure I get up. NOW! Having him sit on my head and brush his face against my nose isn't conducive to falling back asleep.
  Then the mental hamsters joined in the party. The end is in sight for the deck but there's a few things that need thinking about. Like how to put the lattice under the stairs. There's nothing underneath to attach it to so...
  Would building a simple frame be strong enough? Would a two by four fastened to the stairs then the other end buried in the dirt be strong enough? Would it last?
  It seems like a lot of agonizing over such a little thing but there's several native critters who would be happy to make a home under the deck. Skunks and racoons are notorious for taking up residence in man made structures. The latter is preferable. Neither is better.
  I guess getting up early is also due to sheer excitement because everything is so close to being done.
  It was especially pleasing that almost all the railings got installed yesterday and I had exactly the right amount of finials. Not planned but a celebration of God's provision. There's only one small section left to install. It is where the upper deck meets the stairs so one of the posts is at a forty-five degree angle to the other. Got it worked out. I cut one of the railing ends at forty five degrees and will simply screw it to the post rather than using a bracket like on the other rails.
  I also got the first coat of stain on the deck. The lattice doesn't but I want to install it all before I get the roller out to stain it.
  Oh my goodness, the fingers are flying faster than the brain! Then the garden beds need to be built up, and thought about and planted. What bushes, what flowers, what arrangement?
  Whoa there girl! You're getting ahead of yourself.
  Haste can be dangerous. Don't rush the finishing. It will get done when it gets done.
  "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

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

New Career? by Susan L.

  My neighbour stopped by yesterday to check out the deck in progress. Rather impressed, she said I just might be able to do this kind of thing for a living. I replied as long as there is no deadline because on my own, speed is impossible.
  Everything takes time. The measuring twice, the board cutting, the checking if everything is level, drilling, fastening, all seem to take forever. There's a lot of back and forth between the wheelbarrow tool box, the build, the "where did I put it" hunts, and the table with my saw on it.
  Then there's the breaks. Sometimes it's to simply stand back and analyze how everything looks. I am pleased how it is coming together, pleased with the stain colour, pleased with how the railing looks. I am ever grateful for everything, the good and bad, that has enabled me to do this project.
  To keep me from getting above myself, one pause yesterday was to let my thumb stop screaming (or maybe it was me) after getting in the way of the hammer. Not impressed.
  There's time taken to pick up the wayward screw, or nail, or board, or hammer, that for some reason refuses to do what it is supposed to do and dive bombs the ground for the umpteenth time.
  Then there's the one screw that the head ends up stripped so the bit simply spins. It's always an important one. Thankfully a pair of pliers was able to mangle the head so enough grip could let it be unscrewed a fraction of an inch at a time. This one happened to be one that fastens a railing bracket to the post so it needed to come out.
  While installing some of the railings yesterday after staining the posts I noticed I was short some brackets so a trip to the hardware store is the first order of business today.
  Hmmm, maybe this isn't taking as long as it feels...besides, what's the hurry?
  "By humility and fear of the Lord are riches and honour and life." Prov 22:4

Monday, 9 May 2016

Wild Fire by Susan L.

  My thoughts and prayers go out to those in Fort McMurray who have lost so much because of the monster wild fire labelled "The Beast". Many of those who fled the blaze no longer have a home to return to. Lord, be with them as they come to terms with the losses.
  The city looks like it's been bombed.
  Prayers of thanksgiving are in order for those who are running shelters to give the evacuees a place to stay.
  Bless the Red Cross for their aid efforts and fundraising to help those in need. The government will match all donations made to this organization for Fort McMurray relief so, please, give as you are able!
  Rain is desperately needed to help get this thing under control. Lord, let it rain and rain some more!
  Prayers of safety and blessing go out to the men and women who are working so hard to tame this monster: the firefighters, pilots, heavy equipment operators, volunteers. Lord, I ask You to protect and sustain them as they work in such a dangerous environment. Comfort them as they, too, deal with the devastation the Beast has caused.
  All other workers are included as well. Long after the flames have gone out, Hydro crews face a massive job of rebuilding an entire power network from the ground up. Actually, entire neighbourhoods need to be rebuilt from the ground up. I pray there will be no shortage of materials or labour. I pray money will flow either from insurance or donations.
  Disasters have a way of bringing out the best and, sadly, the worst in people. Lord, keep the scoundrels away who would use this disaster to line their own pockets by defrauding those in need.
  "Save, Lord! May the King answer us when we call." Ps 20:9

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Coming Along Nicely by Susan L.

  Despite having a cold that has slowed me down, I was able to get some more of the deck done yesterday. Work a bit, rest a bit...tortoise work ethic or maybe it's the hare's ethic: work like crazy then take a nap!
  Initially the plan was to re-use the existing stairs but it turned out the stringers, the part that holds the treads and risers, was too cracked and brittle to be used safely. They didn't look very nice either. My first attempt at building stairs several years ago was more utilitarian than pretty. New stairs were a must. It was the right decision. The new ones look so much nicer! Again, thanks to all the instructional videos on the internet.
  There is a mighty big hole to be filled with dirt before any sort of landscaping can happen but that's getting a bit ahead of myself. There's still the railings to install. The lattice under the deck to keep critters from taking up residence is yet to be put up. The finishing touches need to be added then the whole lot has to be stained.
  That should keep me busy.
  The lawn needs mowing, too. Badly. Everything is late this year but there's a fine crop of dandelions in full boom throughout the yard. I know they are thought of as weeds but there's something lovely about the burst of bright, sunshiny, yellow against the fresh green of new grass.
  I am enjoying doing this project but the best part is being outside listening to the birds sing, a woodpecker tapping, and the sound of the wind through still bare branches. Ahhh, spring has sprung!
  "Yes the Lord will give what is good; and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before Him, and shall make His footsteps our pathway." Ps 85:12-13

Friday, 6 May 2016

Rest Day by Susan L.

  Yesterday was a couch potato day. Not up to doing too much, I hauled out the bread maker and treated myself to a home made loaf. There's something comforting in the rich aroma of baking bread. There's something even more comforting about eating it fresh baked warm. It's far too tempting so it's not something I do very often.
  There's been a long pause. The brain isn't working too well this morning so perhaps it might be best if I cut this short rather than ramble on about nothing much.
  Seeing as I am hooked up to the internet, it might be a good idea to check out how to build stairs for a deck. Doing them right is rather important.
  "Jesus said to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes."" Mk 9:23

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Day(s) of Rest by Susan L.

  I've come down with a nasty cold. It's really taken the wind out of my sails. Yesterday was a full day at work: staff meeting followed by a picnic/barbeque in the park to give those of us from both centres a chance to socialize. It was nice to see everyone but all I wanted to do was crawl back into bed. Chills, fever, sea lion barking made the day rather miserable.
  It meant I missed Bible study last night and it might be prudent to cancel being on the worship team this week. God is good, though. This is a rare week where there aren't any flute parts. It's all vocals. Seeing as I can't talk without coughing, singing is out of the question.
  Meanwhile, plenty of liquids, rest, cough syrup and I'll hook up the warm mist machine again. Hopefully this will get rid of it ASAP. It is a virus so there's not much sense in going to the doctors unless it drags on too long.
  The deck will have to wait until I am feeling a bit better.
  Oh, well.
  It's a good day to start filling out the long form 2016 Census paperwork I found hanging on my door last night when I got home. It's the law so as much as paperwork isn't my thing, its 36 pages of questions have to be answered and sent in before May 10. At least I don't have to travel to the place of my birth!
  "And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city." Lk 2:1-3

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Slow as Molasses by Susan L.

  As I packed up the wheelbarrow yesterday, it felt like there hadn't been much accomplished. Only four boards, the base for the new angled piece stepping off the deck, got cut and installed. It gave me some idea that the deck rebuild may take longer than planned. Which I should know anyways. Allow a certain amount of time to do any project, then triple it.
  I did do more that that. There was a honking, great big slab of concrete that had to be moved because it was in the way of the new flowerbed. It's part of an original cement path that led to the front door and the only piece remaining. Two feet long, twenty inches wide and anywhere from one to four inches deep, it was a questionable task to get it out of the way. It probably weighs close to three hundred pounds, if not more.
  Oh, I love a challenge!
  It's all in the leverage. Pushing down on a pry bar wedged against a hard block loosened the slab enough to get some scrap bits of wood underneath. Eventually I switched to a longer four by four post for better pushing power, then slipped in more scraps of wood to hold it safely in place until it was high enough to clear the driveway. (Finger and toe safety were in the forefront of my mind.) My thought had been to flip it over onto the driveway but instead ended up simply sliding it out of the way.
  It was a successful adventure into physics.
  Now what do I do with it?
  It's in pretty good shape. The step at the back door isn't. If I used round wood to act as wheels, it would be much easier to roll it into its new home just like the Egyptians did to move massive blocks of stone for the great pyramids. Getting the slab installed level is a challenge for another day.
   Thank You, Lord, for this lesson: pushing something down has the power to raise something to unimaginable heights. Thank You, Lord for life's challenges.
  "Blessed is the man whose strength is in You." Ps 84:5

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Story From India by Susan L.

  Apologies to any of my readers in India for the liberality taken with this beautiful story. It was only briefly mentioned during a documentary but nevertheless, struck a chord with me. I hope I've been able to maintain the heart of the story.

  When man was first created, the lesser gods were upset because of the status man had; how God had made him in His image. They decided to steal the God-head from man and hide it from him. The gods discussed the best place to hide it.
  One said, "Let's hide it at the bottom of the ocean!"
  The others replied, "No, because one day, man will be able to go there."
  Another said, "What about hiding it in the sky?"
  The others replied, "No, because one day, man will be able to go there."
  One of the lesser, lesser gods suggested, "What if we hid it inside of man? They'll never think to look for it there!"
  And so it was agreed.
  Searching. Longing. Missing something. Empty. Disconnected. I hear these words all the time from people who have yet to fully embrace Jesus as their Lord. I felt the same way before He was invited into my life. I held out a wistful hope that there was something better, something more to this life on earth. Only now do I realize the invitation was an awakening of the recognition that God had always been there. It was me who had been blind.
  Science has proven we are genetically wired for God, for a connection that surpasses the physical restraints of this life. The "God Gene" is part of the makeup of every single cell in every part of our body. Seeing as genetics has also proven the existence of a genetic Adam and Eve, it means every single one of us on the planet share this gene.
  Is this coincidence?
  With God, there are no coincidences.
  "For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height--to know the love of Christ which passes all knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." Eph 4:14-19

Monday, 2 May 2016

Gratitude of Success by Susan L.

  The deck floor is installed after putting in a long day Saturday. I was happy it rained Sunday and really happy that my son and daughter-in-law came for a visit so nothing more could be done the next day. The ole body was pretty done in. So much so, I slept in and was late for pre-service worship practice. Only by twenty minutes but thankfully the team was just at the point of starting to rehearse. I was glad it takes a fair bit of time to set up the sound system so there were moments to spare.
  Between moments of measuring, cutting, kneeling, and bending on Saturday, waves of gratitude washed over me. Thankfulness for the skills. Thankfulness for the resources to learn what I don't know. The tools, the strength, the fact that the deck foundation is still solid, all gave me something to be grateful for. The sun was shining but when it moved around to the west and left the front of the house in shadow, I was really glad. Even though being in the sun felt so good, the shade felt good as well.
  I gave thanks for the extra tools that make life so much easier when dealing with twelve foot boards on my own without someone to hold them. A metal stand with a roller on top, set to the same height as my electric mitre saw, means I don't have to wrestle with boards falling away once they are cut. There's a wooden saw horse for the other side, built to do the same thing.
  And my wheelbarrow! It doubles as a table as I remove nails from the boards taken off the old deck. It served to haul them to the pile in the driveway. When the job was done, rather than putting all the tools that will be needed again back into the basement, they all went into the wheelbarrow and were wheeled into the shed to be locked up, safe and sound. I am glad there's a shed big enough for it!
  I was also very, very thankful for the plastic chair that gave me a few moments towards the end of the day to sit and rest. There was a push on to get the floor boards screwed down before they warped too much. The mind was willing, the flesh groaned.
  When things go well, it is easy to be thankful. The challenge comes in offering gratitude up to the Lord when things aren't going so great.
  Help me, Lord, be thankful in all aspects of my life no matter what they may be. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen!
  "And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Rom 5:3-5