Thursday, 30 June 2016

Simple Joys by Susan L.

  Some time was spent last weekend clearing one of the garden paths that had been buried by ground cover, weeds, and overdone Forget-me-nots. It brought a smile to my face this morning as a Mourning Dove walked the path searching for whatever it is Mourning Doves eat. They have rather short, bright red legs. I guess since the rest of them is drab brown, the Lord decided to give them a flash of colour. They are funny looking though, somehow not quite matching the rest of them.
  There was a heavy dew last night. The tomato plants are adorned with watery jewels at the ends of their leaves.
  A lot of the garden is allowed to freely express itself. Wildflowers, or what some consider weeds, are left to grow (not thistles though). Johnny Jump Ups, the miniature pansies, have erupted wherever they will. Daisies have exploded everywhere. There's a ground cover in the middle of the yard that has a tiny, hot pink blossom that deserves a corner of a flower bed. I had no idea it was there because it's the first time it's ever flowered. Normally it gets mowed but the grass is fried from the drought so it's had a chance to show off.
  The baby walnut tree is flourishing. When it's big enough it will be moved to the park somewhere. Apparently they are pretty messy.
  Finding a new melody hidden in the piano keys. Acknowledging that my passion is more along the lines of classical music. Letting go of trying to write worship songs.
  Being chilly this morning.
  Being up early this morning.
  Making lunch today at the centre for anyone who might need or want a meal: potato salad, carrot salad and egg salad sandwiches. It's a summer, salady kind of day.
  There's so much more.
  Knowing the Lord is in everything from the dew's kiss to every heartbeat.
  "Blessed is the man You choose, and cause to approach You, that he may dwell in Your courts." Ps 65:4

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

On Pride by Susan L.

  In an out-of-character fit of boldness, I shared a link to my blog on Facebook so my church family could read what had been written about Sunday's fun. It's left me feeling rather, not anxious...Guilty? Yes. That's one part. Uncomfortable. Yes, that's another. Is shame in there? Shame that I put my writing out there for all to see?
  This happens every time I share any aspect of the creative voice God gave me be it in art, writing or even playing or singing with the worship team. My stomach roils with toxic emotions. Why?
  That's opened a barrage of ugly. The devil is having some fun with this.
  "How dare you! It's boastful! It's arrogant, conceited, prideful! What makes you think you're better than anyone else? Talent? Bah! Nothing you do is ever good enough! What make you think anyone would be interested in what you have to say anyways?"

  Wow. I need to take a moment. That wasn't much fun but the Lord says anything that is held up to the light will be made manifest by the Light.

  To the Light I offer this: lessons learned at the hands of abuse and control don't belong. Lessons that were drilled into my soul by hurtful words, hurtful silences and cruel actions don't belong either. These poisonous understandings no longer have a place in my life.
  I thought checking out the blog stats was an egotistic, prideful thing but realize now it's been simply out of amazement that so many people from all over the world like to pop in and read what is written! It's an honour. It's encouraging. Thank you, dear readers, for helping me come to believe in God's gifts.
  Lord, help me forgive. Help me share, with a soul freed of lies, the gifts You placed in my heart and mind. Help me understand when real pride is at work. Help me stay truly humble because, Lord, I am honoured by the many, many gifts and abilities you have given me. Use them for Your glory. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen!
  "Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money." Mat 25:16-18



Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Little Things by Susan L.

  There were a couple of magic moments for me on Sunday besides playing the games. Witnessing some of the youth leap up to help the tug of war team that, due to luck of the draw was mostly children, take on the he-man team; to help the little ones have a chance. It didn't matter the team they were on, the imbalance didn't seem fair.
  We also played a game of musical chairs with a twist. We started out one chair short with one person standing. Instead of removing chairs when someone didn't find a seat, those people had to sit, sliding from chair to chair in the opposite direction of the people walking around waiting for the music to stop. It was a neat way of including everyone in the game even if they were "out".
  It was hot and thirsty work. We had played this physically demanding game upstairs in the barn where there was absolutely no breeze. Afterwards, people headed to the containers of water and lemonade. There were no cups left. A young girl tried to bend under it and pour it directly into her mouth. She didn't have much luck because the table was in the way so I helped by holding the jug and pouring it for her. It made me think of the Orioles as she opened her mouth for sips of the juice. All that was missing was the demanding, "Feed me!" cheep.
  When the Freezies came out, the kids were like a duck on a June bug. This big duck was pretty quick to get in line, too! There was a little fellow who chose his flavour and took the scissors to open his icy treat but seemed a bit lost. I asked if he'd like me to cut it open for him. He passed me the scissors with a look of relief. Memories of doing this for my own kids made it extra special.
  There's some take out from all of this. I suppose there needs to be some forgiving, some letting go of the crap that stops me from simply having fun. You know...the age "rules", the gender "rules", the "primandproper" ideologies...but mostly? It's the sadness that life beat the fun, the carefree spirit, out of me.
  I think I can set a goal: (gasp) to laugh more, to play more, to embrace joy in all its many facets, to be unafraid of making a fool of myself, to break the "rules". Well, that's actually five! (another gasp) With God's help, they will become an intrinsic part of my life.
  "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." James 1:17

Monday, 27 June 2016

Fun and Games by Susan L.

  Literally it was fun and games at the church summer service/barbeque in the barn. Normally I'm not one to sign up for this kind of thing but, once again, in a rare fit of exuberance, I found myself signing a piece of paper that would place me on a team.
  The first game was a water bucket challenge. We were give a pail of water with spongy objects in it. There was an empty pail twenty feet away. The goal (oooo, sneaky things) was to fill the empty pail until it overflowed by running with the sponges and squishing the water out. My team won that! We had three mature women whose dish rag wringing experience showed it actually has some value!
  The next game was a bit more complicated. It was a race, albeit a very slow race. The lawn was an imaginary river of lava. We were given bits of "fire proof fabric" that had to be stepped on as the team worked its way around an orange cone and back to home base. It ended up being like the game "Twister" only in a wiggly line. There were fabric thieves who would snatch the fabric foot thingies if no one was touching it. Balance was tricky. It took a whole lot of physical coordination not to step on each other's toes. We waddled in last.
  Give a group of people a rope and a tug of war is bound to break out. The ole muscles are complaining a bit this morning after that workout. Legs mostly. One of the teams had been stacked by chance with large, able bodied, young men who pulled their way to victory with very little resistance from the rest of us.
  The final game was to toss softballs into a pail. The rules were quickly changed that if you even hit the pail it was allowed to be tossed in otherwise I think we'd still be there! Nope. No winner there either but I think we came in second. Only one of our team managed to actually toss the ball into the pail. Her accomplishment was celebrated by a huge cheer from us.
  There was much laughter and much sweat. It was pretty hot. The prizes for everyone were the same: a huge, right-from-the-freezer, Freezie that, for me, never tasted so good!
  I surprised myself a bit by signing up but ended up having a lot of fun. It's easy to forget that it's okay to get a bit silly every once in a while.
  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering , kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentle ness, self control." Gal 5:22-23

Saturday, 25 June 2016

For the Farmers by Susan L.

  It's been weeks since we had any rain worth mentioning. While ideal for making hay, other crops are suffering. Without rain, the hayfields won't regrow either to enable the second cut later in the season.  Any livestock on pasture will quickly eat what little green is left. The rest of the grass will have no nutrition whatsoever as it shrivels and dries up.
  This drought will hurt everyone by impacting food prices.
  Since having attempted farming and therefore quickly losing the idyllic stereotypes about it, my heart goes out to those who are dedicated to working the land. It's a tough job.
  Raising livestock takes dedication and commitment. It runs twenty-four hours at certain times if they have been bred. Babies mostly come in the wee hours of the night. A moment's inattention could mean a loss.
  Time needs to be spent simply watching the animals for signs of physical injury or illness. A limp, a runny nose or even blindness can strike quickly.
  Then there's the predators who also only come at night. Coyotes will take lambs and goats or even a calf. Smaller predators like foxes, weasels or skunks will take chickens. A hen house doesn't mean they are safe.
  We had a lot of losses. I say "we" but it was mostly me who was shepherd. The deaths haunt me still. The sheep whose throat was torn out by an extremely bold coyote one night only meters from the house. The newborn lambs or goats that froze to death or got crushed. A foal that got hung up by its halter and strangled. The ignorant mistake of breeding our cows to a different breed of bull meant the loss of a couple of calves one year because they were too big for the girls to deliver. Thankfully, we were able to save the mothers.
  Lord, why are you taking me back into these sad memories? Every loss is as clear as if it happened yesterday...
  Help me, Lord, see this through Your eyes of Honesty.
  There was a lot to take care of. Too much. At our biggest, we had seven cows with calves, an unusually docile bull, nearly fifty sheep and goats, a couple of pigs, a half dozen horses, never mind counting the free range chickens, ducks and geese with the added responsibility of raising over a hundred and fifty meat chickens each year. I don't even want to go into the haying nightmare.
  I suppose I am still angry that all this ended up being my responsibility but then, shouldering responsibility was what I was good at. Saying "no", not so much. Although, I did draw the line at buffalo (extremely dangerous and we had very inadequate fencing) or dairy farming (not just tied to the farm but tied to the clock).
  Later I heard that the buffalo killed the farmer raising them.
  During this time I also didn't know the Lord. I felt so terribly alone. But He obviously was watching over me, waiting until I had nothing left but to turn to Him.
  Where was my ex? Away at work. We needed the money because the farm didn't generate enough income to pay its way. It was mostly a tax write off and a back breaking one at that. Lord, help me not be bitter about it all. I know there was also a lot of good that came out of those years it's just sometimes, the hurts and pain need to come out.
  So, Lord, I am grateful for the dedicated men and women who have made farming their life, who have to hold down a full time job as well so they can fulfill their calling. Bless them and keep them safe. In Jesus' name I pray.
  "Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain." Jas 5:7

Friday, 24 June 2016

Music by Susan L.

  While watching a rather strange movie a few nights ago, there was an idea mentioned a couple of times that has struck a chord with me. To paraphrase, "Music is the silence between the notes." I've been thinking about it off and on trying to figure out what that means.
  Music is more than notes because occasionally the composer inserts rests or breaks. Those pauses are used to create impact, evoke emotion or to highlight a particular instrument when another stops playing. That's the technical end.
  My idea is this: the silence spoken of is relating to the unheard breaks as an instrument moves from note to note. I'm talking nanoseconds here, a sub-audible break. Even though the notes are connected there's still a pause, a momentary sense of anticipation as the melodic story unfolds.
  I like to think that's where God is. I envision the heavens, a galactic cosmos full of stars and comets and swirling, colourful gases hidden between the sounds.
  While the notes themselves evoke emotion, it's the soul that longs for a deeper connection to something bigger than ourselves. The something bigger that has humbled Himself by becoming human.
  Could it be the silence filling, immense presence of God fills those few moments between the beats of our heart as well?
  "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last." Rev 22:13

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Ramble by Susan L.

  A baby Oriole was out of the nest yesterday. While not able to fly, he or she moved from branch to branch incessantly demanding food. Or maybe it was so mom and dad would know where to find their chick when they brought home some munchies.
  I feel a bit like the chick because for the last couple of days, I've flitted from task to task that had been on the honey-do list. Some of the stuff wasn't on the list at all but when the mood strikes to wash windows, they better get done!
  There was a visit to the doctor's yesterday to get checked out. Good news! It appears my lungs have finally given up the bronchitis! Woo hoo!
  It makes a huge difference in everything from mood to energy level.
  The leader of the new bible study group I've sort of joined (I went once) made a point of inviting me to their year end pot luck Tuesday night. In a rare explosion of carefree exuberance, I went and had a most enjoyable evening of good food and good conversation. But honestly, the good conversation meant I was listening, not flapping my gums.
  This sort of thing is waaaay outside my comfort zone. I admit I am socially awkward and have a wonderful way of putting my foot in my mouth by saying the wrong thing. Ask my kids. They know. What the heart means isn't what the tongue spits out.
  "I don't get out very often." Should have been, "I don't go out very often because it is a challenge."
  "I live in a six hundred square foot bungalow. It's hard to get my head around how big other people's houses are!" should have been, "You have a lovely, old home!" (It was!)
  There were a couple other choice comments that made me feel even more socially inept. I'll keep those to myself. The entire situation is making me laugh at my own expense because yes, there is a brain between my ears! It just doesn't reside in my tongue at all.
  Hmmm, maybe it might be prudent to take my laptop and type out what I want to say before uttering a word. At least then I can delete what shouldn't be said before it's out there for the world to hear.
  I hope the group will forgive my faux pas...what's the plural of faux pas? Faux paases? Hopefully the next time we get together it will be better. I won't feel so nervous.  With God's help of course!
  "For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him." Mat 6:8

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Oriole Update by Susan L.

  While standing under the Oriole nest doing the bi-nightly garden watering, Mama bird sat in the tree with a beak full of caterpillar. She eyed me with a great deal of distrust. When I moved further from the nest the young ones in the nest chittered away. I guess the noise had them thinking some sort of snack was nearby. It was but delayed by traffic. It's nice to know they hatched.
  The wren in the back yard wasn't so lucky. What was probably a racoon climbed the pole and tore out the bottom of the box. I didn't think predators could get to it but obviously I was wrong. It will have to be rebuilt and hung on the side of the house where it's safer.
  This means a bat house wouldn't be safe on the pole either. Too bad. There's really no other place to install one that gets enough sunlight. Maybe this need for the box to be hung in the sunlight could be rethought. Bats normally dwell in caves which isn't a particularly warm environment. A few years ago there was a small group that took up temporary residence in my neighbour's eaves on the shady side of the house. If that's the case, the box could be hung elsewhere. Hmmm. I'll have to scout around the yard to see if there's an alternative site. Or...
  Several years ago I built a privacy wall using old windows decorated with faux stained glass. Gray latex caulking was put on to resemble the leading between the sections. It was left to dry over night then cleaned up by trimming it with a sharp knife. Clear silicone was applied in various textures to create the look of frosted glass.
  They're looking kind of tired. The calking is nearly worn away. The wood, salvaged from various sources, is also looking rather weatherworn and starting to sag. (The photo is from when it was first done.)
  What I could do is incorporate a taller post for a bat house to be hung on. And maybe this time the wall will be installed square and level seeing as how my wood working skills have greatly improved since this build. I am amazed it's stood this long!
   Okay. I'm not psychic but I foresee an impending trip to the hardware store!
  "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations." Ps 100:4-5

Monday, 20 June 2016

Of Faith and Facebook by Susan L.

  There seems to be a recent trend in attention getting that has me rather disturbed. Today's example of a post was "You will die tonight unless you type Amen." This was accompanied by a sickly infant's photo. It had well over a hundred thousand responses.
  First of all, from a Christian standpoint, there is something gravely wrong with the curse, "you will die". I am assuming it was posted by a person of faith because otherwise they wouldn't have asked for an "Amen" response. This isn't the first time threats have been used to get a response. "You will have seven year's bad luck unless..." is a popular one.
  Maybe it's my own suspicious nature but I'm thinking if someone wanted to plant a virus in a computer by having a key word typed in, sick children are a heart grabber. Not that I know much about the abilities of hackers but it strikes me as being a possibility. Just saying.
  Lord, help me forgive those who would use anything related to You for nefarious purposes.
  I encourage all Christians to do this right! How about simply asking for prayers and shares if there's a desire to reach out to the global world of Facebook? To threaten, to curse, to speak hateful words is absolutely not what the love of Jesus is all about. Having these types of posts do tremendous harm to all followers of Jesus especially if they are read by those who have yet to enter into a life with Jesus as Lord. Seeing posts like this leaves me wondering why would they?
  Is this really how we want to portray a faith whose foundation is love?
  Using guilt as a motivator is a worldly tactic (read enemy's). Our Lord uses kind conviction wrapped in grace and patience to encourage, grow and change us.
  Marketers have long known how to manipulate emotions to get us to buy into something. Shame, blame and guilt are the top three...unless you do or buy or own or have, you are nothing. If your grass isn't green enough, if you have wrinkles, if your hair isn't perfect, or your teeth or nails or home or car or whatever somehow it's equated with being a failure. They are adept at having us spend money we don't have just to be accepted.
  Jesus meets us where we are at. His unending grace and patience means none of the surface stuff matters. He doesn't care if we don't drive an Audi. He doesn't care if we go out without doing our hair. He treasures every line, every wrinkle and sag because they are beautiful!
  As for the child who's picture was posted today, I offer up my prayers freely that this little one be healed. In Jesus' most precious name.
  And I will type, "AMEN!"
  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Mat 5:3-10

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Dry, So Dry by Susan L.

  We are in desperate need of some rain. The earth in the flowerbeds is like dust even with bi-nightly watering. The grass is turning brown as well. I hope we get some before going camping next month. It wouldn't be so great if there's a fire ban on. Campfires are such a key part of the experience. I pray it doesn't rain all the time we're away making up for missed opportunities!
  I was chatting with my mom last night, travelling down memory lane about childhood camping experiences. She'd gotten a laugh about the inchworm and my dad. As we chatted, I remembered more.
  When we lived down east, having a lobster dinner while camping and ice cream for dessert. It was astonishing to watch my dad eat his entire pint of the sweet, icy treat. Fishing with a piece of string, a safety pin and a chunk of hot dog where I could see the fish but they wouldn't take the bait. Catching an eel one time and it was the only other time I saw my dad freak out besides the inchworm. Going pier fishing and dad locking the keys in the trunk. There were a whole lot of kids watching as he broke in via a coat hangar, pulled out the back seat (before back seats folded down) and had my brother worm his way in to find the keys.
  Fishing. I really enjoy fishing. It's not something I think to do very often but perhaps it might be fun to start up again. There's three rods in the basement and a tackle box just waiting for the opportunity. There's a lot to learn though. Dad always looked after tying hooks on and I am unfamiliar with the types of edible fish, what season they can be caught and the rest of the details. I'd need a licence, too. Easy enough to get.
  Maybe when we go camping I'll pack a rod. They don't take up much room. I can do my research on the internet beforehand. Our site is near the water so it may mean there's a place to cast a line without going anywhere. Wouldn't it be nice to have a fresh fish supper? And a trip to the store afterwards for ice cream? Ahhh, the simple joys in life.
  "And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, "In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided." Gen 22:14

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Stuff 'n Stuff by Susan L.

  I couldn't resist taking a picture of the outdoor thermometer this morning. It's not often you see the needle at the max of over 120 F or 50 Celsius. It would probably go higher if there was room. Yes, it's a combination of being in full sun as well as the heat reflecting off the house but still, baby, it's hot outside! Toss in the typical southern Ontario humidity and it's downright icky and sticky.
  Which is why I haven't been moving too quickly to go out. The hatches were battened down by shutting the windows this morning. There's a fan blowing the air around so inside is very comfortable.
  I've a new tenant that's been kicking around the kitchen window for a while. This jumping spider is about the size of a peanut which is big for them. I haven't the heart to kill her because she makes mosquitoes dinner.
  That's it for today. I'm not much in the mood for writing so probably shouldn't have bothered at all. Hope everyone has a blessed day!
  "Grace, mercy and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love." 2 Jn 1:4

Friday, 17 June 2016

A Father Story by Susan L.

 Since writing about the inchworm, my dad came to mind. Once, when we were driving somewhere in the era before mandatory seat belts, we had a rather unusual stowaway. I leaned close to watch a pale green, skinny, less than half an inch inchworm measuring the breadth of my dad's shoulders. They walk rather funny by stretching their body as far as it will go then, by humping up their back, bring their back legs forward. It isn't the most efficient way of moving around but I don't think they have any legs in the middle so it's the best they can do with what God gave them.
  But, by being so unique, these little critters have their own song!
  I remember being delighted with the sight and scooted forward in my seat to have a better look. In the days before iPads and laptops and hand held video games something new in the car was most welcome, especially on long trips! I shared this wonderful discovery with my folks in the front seat.
  My dad freaked out. "Get it off me!" he roared.
  This was a man who coolly picked potato bugs (they're really gross) and tomato worms (even more gross) off plants by hand.  Although my mom informed me that I'd often help him purge the garden of these unwanted pests (ewww!), this was such a tiny little caterpillar his response astounded me!
  I think I protested or tried to assure my dad that it wasn't very big before my mom reached around and brushed it away.
  That's all I remember. I was pretty young.
  He's been gone a long time now. As time has passed, the memories of my dad have faded so having this one come to mind is a wonderful bit of time travel.
  "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!" Ps 150:6

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Magic Moments by Susan L.

  For several days now there's been a hunt to find the two small catfish, Cory Cats, that were moved to the pond. There'd been a change in water temperature when they were let loose and sometimes it shocks fish and they don't make it. The two of them had been in the aquarium to help keep the bottom of the tank clean. Seeing as it's my thoughts to do a tropical fish aquarium come fall it seemed worthwhile to keep them. They're tough to see because of their camouflage brown with black stripes. The water lily is rapidly covering the surface as well so there's plenty of hiding places.
  Finally I saw them and was greatly relieved.
  Sitting there for a moment, simply enjoying the pleasure of watching the water cascade over the little waterfall, a flash of orange made me freeze. Mr. Oriole was attracted by it, too! Sitting as still as possible so as not to disturb him I only moved my eyes to watch what he was doing. He flitted from fence to tree, watching me before warily making his way down to the upper part of the pond. It's the shallow part, just right for birdbaths, where the waterfall comes from. Chattering away as though pleased with the set up and satisfied that I would do him no harm, he jumped down and splashed about for a late afternoon bath.
  What a treat for both of us!
  They are truly a beautiful bird.
  "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

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Inchworm by Susan L.

  "Two and two are four. Four and four are eight. Eight and eight are sixteen. Sixteen and sixteen are thirty-two. Inchworm, inchworm, measuring the marigolds, you and your arithmetic will probably go far. Inchworm, inchworm, measuring the marigolds, it seems to me, you'd stop and see how beautiful they are." author unknown
  In a blast from the past, this childhood song memory came to me this morning. The lyrics parallel accomplishing my to-do list one think at a time. Ha-ha, that's a typo. It's supposed to be one thing at a time but the whole whack of the to-do's is in my head.
  I'd managed to get a couple of jobs done yesterday before going to the doctors to see about this lingering, determined cough. Hopefully another course of antibiotics will kick it to the curb.
  One thing that has been hanging over my head for years was how to get rid of an ancient set of ugly bedsprings that once belonged to the antique, cast iron bed in the guest room. It had come with the original button tucked, extremely saggy mattress that has long been replaced with a proper box spring and mattress.
  I'd used it for a couple of years to grow cucumbers on. The vine would climb, the cukes hang down. It didn't take up as much room in the garden and the cukes didn't have an ugly, yellow side from resting on the ground. I haven't had a veggie garden for several years. The bedsprings have been moved around the yard since then somehow always seeming to be in the way.
   It looked to be rusted solid and because it wouldn't fit in the car, it hadn't been taken to the dump. It wouldn't have worked to tie it to the car roof because it might have damaged the paint. Should it be buried? Could it be used as a lattice for something? Should I just tuck it away behind the shed?
  I decided to tackle dismantling the now heavily rusted contraption. If necessary, the cast iron outer frame could be cut using a hack saw; a job that might last several hours or even weeks!
  A pair of pliers were used to wrestle the springs free that held the wires to the metal frame. As the last spring was unhooked, the frame fell apart. It startled me into laughing because it hadn't been welded or rusted solid but was merely held together by the tension of the springs. Years of complete agony and hand wringing about "what to do? what to do!" were swept away with a metallic clank. Thankfully it was when it hit the ground and not my head!
  While not a fan of marigolds, ergo I haven't any, the peonies are in full bloom. All of them. Even ones that weren't mature enough previous years. Their lovely fragrance fills the yard. This is the first time in as long as I can remember that it hasn't poured cats and dogs the day after they bloom, crushing the fragile flowers. So this rather large inchworm paused often to simply inhale the sweet, sweet smell.
  Thank You so much, my Lord: for successes, for Your provision, for Your creations. Thank You, so much, my Lord, for the ability to laugh at myself.
  "You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will remain." Heb 1:10-11

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Orlando by Susan L.

  Because of rarely watching the news, I hadn't heard about what had happened until yesterday, that over fifty people were killed in a nightclub. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of those whose lives were taken in such a senseless exercise of hate.
  The outpouring of love from the LGBTQ (hope I got that right) community around the world is beautiful to see.
 Yet, I wonder where the rest of the world is when countless women are slaughtered in honor killings or mutilated in the name of religion. I wonder where the rest of the world is when women and children, of both genders, are sold into the sex trade. I wonder where the rest of the world is when boatloads of families drown trying to flee war torn homelands. I wonder where the rest of the world is when slave labour is used to manufacture cheap goods. I wonder where the rest of the world is when illness rakes her disease tainted claws across a land. I wonder where the rest of the world is when entire races of people are systematically erased from existence.
  Not that I am any better. That "rest of the world" includes me. Being snug and safe and utterly disconnected from these events means I don't think about them until they hit me in the face by watching the news.
  I may not be able to help personally or financially but I can pray for those who are dedicated to righting the wrongs, who fight against crime and injustice. Prayers of blessing can be offered for those who have opened their doors to the disenfranchised. Prayers of protection can blanket those who, despite danger to themselves, fight for human rights. Prayers of victory can assist those who offer medical aid without a thought to their own safety.
  God bless these warriors. Help me, Lord, be a better prayer warrior for the world.
  "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Jn 16:33

Monday, 13 June 2016

Blue Bundle by Susan L.

  We had our church AGM last night. I was seated beside a friend who had her months old son with her. He only squawked when it was feeding time. As the meeting went on, despite not being a woman who goes gaga over babies, (never have been) I offered to hold him for a while to give her a break. Well, what a joy!
   I'd forgotten the delightful fragrance of clean baby that somehow speaks volumes about the innocence in new life. I'd forgotten how soothing it is to have a sleeping babe's head tucked under your chin. I'd forgotten that holding a child cements you in the moment and even though discussions and motions and seconds and votes swirled around me, they faded into the background as he sighed and breathed. I'd forgotten the sweet noises sleeping babies make.
  I could feel my own tension drift away. I could feel the sadness that's been haunting me fade.
  It was a healing moment. You see, part of me has been reluctant to get close to my own grandchildren. It's because of my own brokenness. It's bothered me a lot because I couldn't get past the idea that they might be taken away or somehow no longer be part of my life. I could feel the wall between us knowing that it was one I'd built. It has prevented me from connecting with them. It's completely fear based and so unfair to them. 
  This is a page turning, wall crumbling moment. The what-might-happens belong in the trash. God forgive me for being so afraid, for believing I need to protect myself when You are more than sufficient in all things.
  So I am going to build a swing that hangs from a branch of the old apple tree. It will be big enough and strong enough for me yet low enough for little ones. It's a tangible exercise of hope, that children will be part of my life and I can and will be part of theirs in a meaningful way.
  "Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Lk 15:10

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Passing Storm by Susan L.

  Having had a few successes in getting rid of the molehill mountain of to-dos, having a heart to heart conversation with one of the small group leaders about what had happened and why I was leaving, and getting rid of the goldfish have all come together to help me feel much less depressed.
  Although not having the fish has really messed up my morning routine of feeding Pumpkin, turning on the laptop, connecting my phone and the internet, putting the kettle on, opening the living room curtains if it isn't too hot then feeding the fish. There's a big gap there.
  Part of me is sorry to have seen them gone but part of me is happy with the decision. I am sure they are pleased to have a huge pond a gazillion times bigger than the ornamental one in the back yard. The two little catfish, the aquarium vacuum cleaners, went into my pond because I hope to set up the aquarium with tropical fish come the fall. They would fit in nicely. My son has done copious amounts of research about tropical fish, tank set up, and all the other details so it would be nice to work together to put something in place.
  I am relieved to feel better. A big part of what was going on was simply grieving and coming to terms, once again, with the challenges that face me every day. Part of the conversation with the group leader was simply sharing my story and why I had been triggered so badly. That was healing, too because it reminded me how far I've come. Still, I don't plan on attending the year end group barbeque but who knows what the fall will bring, if returning is what the Lord wants me to do.
  Meanwhile, I've signed up for an eight week art therapy session. There's been a huge gap in my journey that has been felt most keenly lately: attending recovery oriented workshops or groups. Recent events have shown me there's unfinished business in my soul. It's time to do some growth work and lay it all before the Lord.
  "The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish woman pulls it down with her hands." Prov 14:1

Saturday, 11 June 2016

One of Those Days by Susan L.

  Yesterday saw me wake up earlier than the alarm clock's preselected notification. Falling back asleep didn't work so with a grumbly snarling noise it was rise 'n shine! Or at least rise.
  The extra time was well used. A blog post, the garbage and recycling was escorted to the end of the driveway, the pails organized for fish transport to their new home, a bit of this and a bit of that chewed up the extra time. After getting ready for work, I headed out, pleased with all that had been accomplished.
  The clock in the car informed me that departure was actually one whole hour too soon. Unless there was some kind of time portal between the side door and the vehicle, somebody had made a mistake.
  Okay. There were a couple errands to run. Even if I showed up early for work, there's always something to do anyways.
  After pulling out of a parking spot, the tire started to make its own grumbly snarling noise. I'd just had my summer tires put on a couple days ago and, due to another very scary farm experience, the sound was easily identifiable. The bolts holding a tire on were loose!
  The tire iron in my car was buried beneath winter tires that had yet to be stored in the shed. In a flurry of panic, I tried to limp my way the couple of kilometers to the garage after finger tightening the bolts on the one tire that was loose.  It only took a couple of feet for the noise to start up again. The last thing I wanted was to have the thing fall off or do damage to the wheel rim so I pulled over, put on the hazard lights and tried to find the number for the garage.
  Note to self...make sure cell phone is fully charged each night.
  A tow truck passed me going in the other direction. Damsel in distress frantic flapping of my arm got his attention so he swung around to see what was what. I asked if he could tighten the bolts for me.  He didn't have a tire iron at all. I guess tow trucks usually only tow.
  Instead, he was more than happy to scoot up the road to the garage and get someone to help me out. His unexpected kindness and generosity was more than appreciated. It was wonderful to meet a "Road Vulture" who didn't treat this as an opportunity to make some money.
  A few minutes later, the garage manager arrived, tire iron in hand. Full of apologies, he explained that this problem had something to do with a new torque wrench. Once the tire was secured and after a quick check of everything at the garage, I was on the road again, arriving at work at the normal time.
  This could have all turned out so differently. My guardian angels must have been doing double duty.
Praise God!
  "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" Rom 8:35

Friday, 10 June 2016

Joys of Depression by Susan L.

  Several years ago I read something somewhere that stood out for me in a huge way. It was as big as the title of the book, "A New Kind of Normal", that helped me begin to process and accept the sudden changes in my life. The expression was, "The Gift of Depression".
  It's hard to wrap my head around the positive aspects of what can be a debilitating issue. But they are there. Learning to simplify, to let go. Learning to be kind to myself, learning to reach out...well, that last one's a work in progress.
    My battles with the hills and valleys of depression and the ongoing challenges that are part of PTSD have taught me how to be grateful. The joy of gratitude may not be a whoop it up, dance party when I'm in the Black River but merely a simple smile at or about something.
  It's like finding the growing walnut in the middle of the dirt bag. Finding this little treasure has meant a lot to me. Since being planted where the sun can encourage it to grow, the white stick has turned brown and the leaves are slowly emerging. If a seed can bring forth life in such utter darkness, how much more can the Lord bring to life from the seeds of a smile?
  There's joy in trusting to hope for better days even when better days are merely a wisp of the imagination and hope is a wraith.
  But then, even if I am in the River, it isn't as deep as it has been in the past. For that, I thank You, my Lord, for this, too, shall pass.
  "For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself." 2 Tim 2:11-13


Thursday, 9 June 2016

Animation by Susan L.

  The car was in the shop yesterday to finally get the snow tires off and its spring maintenance done. There were some extra things needed replacing because they were worn out so it ended up being gone all day. I've a good mechanic. Because of the added expenses and the fact that my summer tires are on separate rims, he didn't charge me for putting them on. They also dropped me off at home and picked me up when my car was ready.
  It was unseasonably chilly yesterday so I didn't feel much like working in the garden. Instead, huddled into a flannel shirt and hoodie, I spent a good deal of time puttering around the house and watching animated short films on YouTube. There is some incredible talent out there and some amazing story tellers.
  One particular film touched my heart. It's called "Tzadik" by Oriel Berkovits. I don't know if it was meant to be an illustration of what living with depression is like but, to me, it captures the joys and challenges in a stunningly beautiful way.
  "Joys?" Yup.
  That's for tomorrow's post. Gotta go get ready for work.
  "For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand." Ps 84:10

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Round the Bases by Susan L.

  The batter hits the ball waaaay out in left field. Is it in? Is it foul? Nope! It's good! He tears around the bases as the ball bounces off the back of the outfield wall. The outfielder fumbles an on-the-run-two-finger scoop...the home crowd groans...he picks it up again and whips it as hard as he can towards third base.  
  Too late!
  The base coach frantically waves the runner on, "GO! GO! GO! Take 'er home!"
  The visiting fans erupt from their seats with roars of encouragement!
  The catcher tosses off his face mask and stands alert for the third baseman's throw. It tears into his mitt with a bone cracking whack. The runner drops to the ground and slides towards him in a breath choking cloud of dust and gravel. The catcher's tag attempt is nanoseconds too late.
  The umpire calls it, with a swipe of his arms, "Yrrrrrr SAFE!"
  It would be a completely different story if the ball players were young children or if it were told by a person in the bleachers. That would be impacted by what team they were cheering for. What if the runner was called out? How about hearing from the outfielder that botched the pick up?
  It would be terribly amusing to hear from an ant who was crossing the plate just as the runner slid home. It makes me laugh a bit at its expense, poor thing. Can you imagine its bug-eyed expression as a pair of massive, cleated shoes heads straight for it? It would survive. At least, in my story, by body surfing the wave of dirt.
  Perspectives. Hmmmm.
  The idea leaves me feeling a bit teary-eyed.
  I suppose the threatening waterworks are an acknowledgement of my own brokenness and how it shapes my world view. I realize that view is often out in left field but, it is my reality. Maybe even more so because of the consequences history has left me trying to cope with. Those consequences shape how I think and feel in the present. It's another ugly, ole hamster wheel and one I'd be more than happy to jump off of.
  Still, there is beauty on the wheel. An acknowledgement that even though the events mentioned yesterday sent me into a downward spiral, there was no major panic attack in the moment. That's a barometer of victory and should be celebrated.
  Also, the piano piece I'd been working on, growing frustrated because it wasn't going anywhere for several weeks is now completed. It had no title, no direction which was part of the problem. I should have known the Lord was saving it for me. It's called "The Black River."
  "For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost." Mat 18:11

Monday, 6 June 2016

Mandala Therapy by Susan L.

  There's something about drawing the repetitious nature of mandalas that's both soothing and relaxing. I am always amazed by the unique look each one has as it unfolds simply by repeating a line or shape in each section of a circle grid. I use a compass to draw random circles then a protractor to divide the circles into even sections.
  These are fairly large, roughly ten inches in diameter. They take several hours to complete which suits me fine. It keep my hands busy in the evening and helps keep my mind off of how I feel both physically and mentally (which isn't so great).
  I'd like to try a really massive one but have to go hunting for the arm attachment for my compass. It's got to be in the art supplies somewhere. The arm extends the diameter and keeps the circles accurate so doing a twenty-four inch mandala would be possible.
  Some day anyways. Just not today.
  Today I simply want to curl up and go back to bed. Why?
  ......a long pause.....
   Sometimes when we seek an answer, the Lord grants it freely. Thank You, Lord.
  This started a month ago and it isn't because of being physically unwell although that generates emotional vulnerability.    
  It really began when a brother Christian made a couple of extremely inappropriate comments directed at me. Huge trigger. His words shocked and dismayed me not simply because of the source, a married man whose wife was present, but because of how quickly the old response mechanisms kicked in. I shut down rather than calling him on it.
  So now I am afraid to be in the same room as him. His thoughtless words have created a place that is no longer safe.
  I mourn the loss.
  It took a long time to begin to open up with the group he is part of. Yet, I wonder if my own obstinacy is partly to blame. Despite misgivings, I kept on going, believing that, like Buckley's cough syrup, the things that taste bad are often good for you. Now I don't know if it was the Holy Spirit telling me not to go.
  Now that's an interesting thought. Why am I holding myself responsible for another's behaviour? Because that's the way it's always been. My fault.
  It's not. It never was.
  There's a huge whack of disappointment. That is my fault. People rarely live up to our expectations. But then, as Christians, we are called to live with higher standards. I know I fail on a regular basis. Lord, help me find forgiveness and grace for this situation. God have mercy on us.
  Lord, grant me discernment so I may come to know when it is You guiding me.
  "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." 1 Cor 5:8


Sunday, 5 June 2016

Done by Susan L.

  It was a beautiful day yesterday. The garden beckoned. The bag of dirt beckoned more. It's finally empty. It took a lot of work, wheelbarrow and I, to get to the most wonderful sight: the bottom of the bag.
  There was a hidden treasure deep inside: a walnut that had started to sprout. It was basically a white stick with a couple of leaf buds on it. It was probably white because it hadn't got any sun. The roots looked very healthy. Its tenaciousness and determination made me reluctant to simply toss it away. There wasn't any harm in sticking it in the garden to see if it continues growing.
  There was also a sugar maple seedling growing in the front flower bed. I'll not see any great size in my lifetime but I know from experience, a seedling grows as fast as a five foot tree that's been purchased at a nursery. A seedling will sprout where the seed is happiest. I only moved it to get it out from under the peonies.
  These two tiny bursts of life won't see much size in my lifetime but it gives me a couple of options once the big tree out front is taken down. Walnuts would feed the squirrels and birds. A sugar maple turns a glorious shade of red in the fall. Its seeds also feed small mammals and the birds as well.
  They also represent a whole whack of hope and, for me, a rare hint at the future. Someone will be able to enjoy these majestic examples of deciduous glory once they reach maturity in a hundred years or so.
  "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper." Ps 1:1-3

Friday, 3 June 2016

Music of the Night by Susan L.

  Despite the fact that the waters of the Black River are sloshing around me, I decided not to cancel being part of the worship team this week. It's challenged me for sure. There are new flute parts to learn as well as lyrics for a couple other songs. In saying that, after Wednesday's post, practicing alongside the satisfyingly loud, original recordings did much to lift my spirits. It truly does bring much joy despite the added pressure of trying to play or sing the best that I can or getting frustrated when the notes don't quite match.
  It was a long, busy day yesterday. It was community lunch and my turn to cook. A couple of frozen lasagnas and cheesy bread made it easy. As a treat I fought off the mosquitoes and raided my rhubarb patch. A fresh rhubarb crumble capped off the lunch.
  My folks stopped in for a visit last night. My friend H stopped by as well, needing me to help her with a small task. When all was done, the company gone, I practiced some more. It didn't go so well. Hopefully when I run through the pieces before tonight's rehearsal it will be better.
  Feeling overwhelmed and inadequate for the task, I sat down at the piano for a bit. No sheet music, no pre-planning, no rules, no such thing as a wrong note as I simply played my soul's song; somewhat melancholy with shifts between the plaintive sound of minor chords to the laughing delight of joyful majors and brisk arpeggios filled the room.
  Each note was a release, a celebration of the necessity of the good and bad in life: minor/major, positive/negative, yin and yang. Without the dark days, I wouldn't know the light. Without the dark days, I wouldn't know how to step aside and simply be a creator in tune with my Creator. In those moments, when the world around me ceases to exist, worry vanishes, anxiety stops jumping up and down for attention, and the waters of the Black River grow calm.
  Lord, You have given me such a priceless gift. There are no words in the English language sufficient to tell You how thankful I am. Hear my heart, O Lord, it aches with joy.
  "My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God." Ps 84:2


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Working Through by Susan L.

  It's been tough going this past week. It's more than feeling overwhelmed or simply blue. A sign of depression is a sense of hopelessness. That's what's been bothering me the most, this loss of hope. In its place is a great, aching emptiness. It's a warning sign as big as a billboard that I need to take notice about what is happening.
  Depression often strikes people in the late spring and early summer so I decided to see if my own feelings of depression were cyclical. I know August can be hard for me as the days grow shorter but spring is normally a season of hope and new life. It's good to have the blogs to check out and see if anything had been written to either confirm or eradicate this idea. It's been eradicated. It isn't cyclical.
  Mind you, this could also be related to physical health. Respiratory ailments can cause depression so maybe it's not all in my head. Although the cough is mostly gone, praise God, I still feel run down.
  Wanting to isolate is another warning sign. That's simply because being out and about takes up huge amounts of energy that, right now, simply isn't there. It also means I can't fulfill my role as a peer support worker as well as I would like. Again, the energy simply isn't there.
  It's scary feeling depressed like this. That's the worst part.
  It's scary feeling vulnerable and in need of support.
  Lord, I know You are with me. I lift this all to You. Help me find the courage to ask for the help I need. Help me not be ashamed of that need. Help me make the healthy choices I need make. Most of all, my Lord, My Saviour, my King, lead me to where You would have me go to for help. In Jesus' name I pray.
  "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake." Ps 23:1-3