Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gleaned from Christmas Letters…

Life is a journey.

Justin also completed the Boston marathon on April 20, five days before Joseph (his son) was born. Needless to say, we were all relieved when Justin returned home!

We gave Ryan a set of drums for his birthday, and he faithfully plays them every day….He has music in his bones.

As proud grandparents, we can unabashedly say that he is the most handsome little boy you could ever imagine.

Turkeys require a lot of care and monitoring when they are young, but as they grow they become increasingly “impossible to kill.”

The five youngest kids are doing great. They all averaged over 80% first term—awesome! So, they get a box of Smarties for being so smart.

By the time July hit, we were more than ready to get outside and enjoy the summer, but unfortunately, it never really showed up this year.

Anco had a little altercation with a chainsaw and sustained a nasty cut just above his left knee.

We didn’t go anywhere this year.

Live is not without challenges.

I'll cook a Butterball Turkey for anyone who can correctly identify the author of any five of the above.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Review of Blooming (Christian Courier 9/11/09)

Book Review:
Blooming—This Pilgrim’s Progress, Marian den Boer
By Heidi VanderSlikke

Long time Christian Courier readers will remember Marian den Boer’s column, Slice of Bread, from the days when Bert Witvoet was CC editor the first time around. In her energetic, good-natured style, Marian wrote then about the joys and challenges of her life as a Christian wife and mother in Hamilton, Ontario. The fact that I still remember some of her columns a decade later attests to the sincerity and broad appeal of her writing.

Her book, Blooming—This Pilgrim’s Progress, uses some of those earlier columns to provide a more intimate look into the heart of this gregarious pilgrim. But it’s more than a collection of her previous work. With the enhanced vision of hindsight and a deep desire for truthful self-examination, Marian tells us familiar stories with new insights, adding further adventures as well.

She punctuates each vignette with reflections on her personal responsibilities, motives, mistakes and flaws, sometimes with brutal honesty. She includes appropriate scripture verses and contemplates her relationship with God, candidly speculating on what lessons the Holy Spirit might have in mind for her through each of these episodes of daily life. She groups the stories within two sections –Old Testimony and New Testimony.

Marian, you see, has had a profound spiritual experience—a watershed event which launched her headlong into a quest to live the Christian faith wholeheartedly. She poignantly captures the essence of her struggles with self-righteousness, pride and independence in a piece titled Psalm 51 As it Happened to Me. From that point forward Marian determined to live with a finger constantly on her spiritual pulse.

As is often the case, her personal strengths are also her weaknesses. The key for the child of God is to make every thought captive for Christ. In this process Marian’s quirks and shortcomings are easy to relate to. We’ve all been there, if we dare to admit it to ourselves.

Her headstrong attitude and fearless personality often lead to escapades that make a reader laugh out loud. Picture this slender homemaker suddenly face to face with a kitchen full of huge firefighters, all because she got a little overzealous about the possibility of carbon monoxide in the house. Or there was the time when she turned a telemarketer’s call into an opportunity for evangelism. Any parent of teenagers will smile knowingly at Marian’s anecdotes about teaching her daughter to drive, all the while developing a retroactive empathy for her own driving instructor.

Her stories run the spectrum from hilarious to heart-wrenching. For the sake of consistency, all are treated with brevity. Perhaps in the future Marian will revisit some of the deeper issues she raises incidentally. No doubt she has wisdom to share on such matters as dealing with a teenager’s depression, a death in the family, or the trauma of nearly losing a child to drowning in the backyard pool. And I wouldn’t be surprised if she someday writes a more contemplative book about the impact of a charismatic encounter on the life of a born and bred Calvinist.

For now, Marian’s spunky anthology is engaging, amusing and thought provoking. It’s the kind of book you can pick up while waiting for the potatoes to boil, but you probably won’t want to put it down when it’s time to eat supper. The lilies on the cover aptly remind us of God’s ability to work the mundane into something marvelous, and how, in spite of our best efforts, it’s only by his Holy Spirit that we can truly experience the joy of blooming.

den Boer, Marian. Blooming—This Pilgrim’s Progress. Winnipeg: Word Alive Press, 2009.
$19.99 Cdn.

Available from bookstores everywhere.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blog Bog

Christmas means all sorts of seasonal activities: shopping, wrapping, decorating, card sending, visiting, special lunches and dinners, school programs, baking, socials, pot lucks and exercising self-control.

My relatively insignificant seasonal activities are my human attempt to recognize the significance of Christ's sacrifice. Christmas really means Christ came to save us.

To more fully appreciate the season this year, I am limiting time spent in the virtual world. Real world here I am.

Merry Christmas blog readers and see you again next year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tree Decorating of Christmas Past

Above: Tree cutting 2008.

Tomorrow we will be heading out to harvest our Christmas tree. Going to the fields to choose and cut our tree has become an extension of the den Boer family Christmas tree decorating tradition.

Here's a link to a nostaltic look at our 1986 family tree-decorating experience. Back then just getting the tree set up in the living room with lights and ornaments provided as much excitment as our family could handle.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

He's Not Much to Look at But We Love Him

Socks has won our hearts. He loves to snuggle.

He plays.

Socks keeps his toys by the sliding door in the kitchen. Maybe we should get him a little toybox.

Socks on his post.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

From Grade school to Grey Head

Recently we attended a retirement dinner for Marty's old boss, the executive director of the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools. I looked around the room and remembered many of the greyheads in the room as young and ambitious. The change was a little too startling.

To knock this point home, one of Marty's second cousins, my cousin's husband, and a friend from Toronto days all passed away in the last few months, coincidentally each at the age of 57 which happens to be my age. This sojourn is a little too short.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

“We have to eat early tomorrow night because I have to leave at six.” This is what I heard my husband say.

At five, I set the table in the kitchen. There would only be the two of us eating. Elizabeth who was babysitting wouldn’t get home until after Marty left. Allison was away. I had the casserole ready by 5:15 but didn’t ring the dinner bell until 5:30.

My wonderful husband wondered why we were eating so early. “Christina isn’t even home yet.”

“I thought you had to leave at 6.”

“I said I had to leave at 6:30.”

“Why did you say we had to eat early then?” That’s when I started my rant and Marty calmly picked up the nearest Christmas letter and tuned out.

“Marty, eating at 6 is not early. Eating at 6 is late. Eating early is 5, or 5:30 at the latest.” I wanted him to take note of the language he had used. To my mind it was important we both understood phrases the same way. That is how couples grow quietly old together, totally in tune with each other. “Marty, you’re not listening to my rant.”

He smiled, “It was too much of a rant.”

I knew that.

We ate at 6 when Elizabeth walked in the door. The casserole was actually better than usual. We discussed ipod music.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Twelve things I like about "The Defilers"

Deborah Gyapong
told me she spent 10 years writing
The Defilers
and that writing this book was a lot of work.

It shows.

Twelve things I like about "The Defilers"

1) The characters are real and multi-dimensional

2) The issues are real

3) The main character grows and changes

4) The supernatural is naturally included

5) This is a novel by a Christian about Christian stuff

6) There is suspense

7) There is romance

8) The Defilers is well-written

9) The story flows

10) It’s even better than the Frank Peretti books

11) I read The Defilers instead of doing the 101 other things calling for my attention

12) I feel good about recommending The Defilers to my friends

Here's a link to find out more about this great book.

Friday, December 4, 2009

This Year’s First Attempt at a Christmas Letter

Dear Friends and Relatives,

I can’t believe this…I am writing this Christmas letter in November, November 28th to be exact. This is too good to be true. It’s not because I have a lot to say…I don’t. I just have a half hour to spare this afternoon and thought I might as well be writing you a letter.

(This is a chatty opening…but doesn’t really say anything, so I will delete it)

Now, it’s several days down the road and I have 10 minutes before I have to pick up my daughter, Elizabeth, from school. Last year, as you may recall my youngest daughter Elizabeth walked home from school pretty well every day. She also walked to school. She was in grade seven and green as they come. She thought saving gas was a high priority and she was ready to do her part. Blah, Blah, Blah….blah blah, blah, 100 blahs……

(The blahs represent a whole paragraph I had to remove because my daughter doesn’t approve.)

Now it’s December, and I am not in the mood.

(My Christmas letter is not evolving the way it should. I think I need eggnog to create a mood. I’ll buy some today. Then I’ll make a list of things to write about and let the subject matter percolate. There's still plenty of time before Christmas.)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My 9 Do's and Don'ts for Writing a Christmas Letter

1) Get in the mood

2) Don’t brag unbearably

3) Let my readers in on the not-so-bright spots

4) Don’t write from the no-go territory (somebody else’s story)

5) Possibly let my children write about themselves

6) Be myself

7) Maintain a sense of humour

8) Remember the Christmas in Christmas letter

9) Don’t send it to my mother

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Balancing the Christmas Letter

In my Christmas letter I try to remember the not-so-bright spots in the year, the few embarrassing moments, so I can share these things with the Christmas letter readers. It warms their hearts and cheers their souls to find out I slept in the spare room for three hours one night not so long ago because my mostly understanding husband found my tossing and turning irritating. I only lasted three hours because I missed him. I suppose after consistently sleeping beside one’s husband for 33 years that can’t be helped.

Christmas letter readers find it endearing to know I’m wearing baggy sweaters this year to conceal my bulging midriff. No I am not pregnant.

They revel in the information that we could practically drink one of my lemon meringue pies this past year—that after I spent years perfecting my lemon pie to the point where it surpassed my mother-in-law’s. My daughter tells me I should spend less baking-time on the phone. Cordless phones do have disadvantages.

But, in a Christmas letter to maintain good family relations, the junk involving my loved ones is no-go territory. The report-card F. The cult connection. The gossip fiasco. These are not entirely mine to tell.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Art of Writing a Christmas Letter

Over the years I have tried not to brag in my Christmas letters. This is becoming increasingly difficult as I grow older and as the shadow of my great dead uncle is fading. Even my mother’s disdain for Christmas letters is fading as she too has left this earth and gone on to the next.

I find myself bragging more and more.

I mention my daughter who is at McGill in neuroscience (no less). I talk about the two most darling grandchildren ever to walk a piece of the earth which happens to be my daughter and son-in-law’s large prairie turkey farm, a most valuable piece of earth, I should say. I mention my son who works for the Saudi Embassy and his university-attending wife who has worked ‘on the hill’ (Ottawa language meaning ‘at the parliament buildings’). I throw in comments about my daughter who works for a prestigious legal firm, my daughter, soon to be nurse, and my darling baby, grade-8 genius and soccer star, all ripe brag material. Does this sound like vicarious living?

I reason that these comments occur naturally for the Lord has blessed me with six talented children and a successful and highly talented accountant husband. And, did I tell you I had a book published this past year? Yes, I am a published author and I shouldn’t get started with the wonderful things people are saying about it. That would be a very big brag.

Of course these tidbits need to be balanced with some nitty gritty reality. How do I do that without stepping on the toes of loved ones? That's my dilemma.

(Balancing the Christmas Letter - tomorrow)

Monday, November 30, 2009

My Mother Didn’t Like Christmas Letters

When I was young, my mom used to rant, well not really rant, but huff about Christmas letters. She did not like them. The reason: one particular great uncle and aunt from Hamilton who wrote an unbearable Christmas letter. In it they talked about their superior children who were all going on to university to be engineers and such. I never saw the letters, but that is what I gathered from my mom.

I think the yearly letter would have been more well-received if the other thing about my great uncle hadn’t been. Every great once in a while my Great Uncle Arie and his second wife would show up for a visit. It wasn’t really a visit. My great uncle always brought a book and sat in our living room and read. That is all I remember about his visits. I don’t remember his wife at all.

So, when I began writing Christmas letters, I felt the shadow of my great uncle (who as mentioned also lived in Hamilton from where his lengthy condescending letters were mailed, until the day he died whenever that was).

I never dared send my mother my Christmas letters for just that reason. She had to resort to reading them at my brothers’ houses or asking me for them when she came to visit.

(Tomorrow - The Art of Writing a Christmas Letter)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Views on the Bread at the Lord's Supper

My friend who is in his fourth year in seminary is writing a paper which involves the way various denominations view the element of bread at the Lord’s Supper. He gave me a brief synopsis.

Some see the bread becoming the actual body of Jesus Christ. Some say Christ is in and through and under the bread. Some say the bread is symbolic of Christ. Some say the bread is part of a memorial to Christ.

This is what T.L. Osborn in his book, Healing the Sick, has to say about the bread:

The bread represents the body of Christ, on which was laid the stripes by which we were healed….Many are sick or infirm because, although they partake of the Lord’s body, they do not understand it.

When Jesus said of the bread, This is my body, which is broken for you, He expected us to understand that it was on His body that the stripes by which we were healed were laid. (1 Cor.11:24.)

Some take the Lord’s Supper unworthily and are, therefore, unable to discern or appropriate with faith the Lord’s body for healing. If those in need of healing will first examine themselves and be sure that they know why Jesus Christ suffered and died, then eat the bread and drink the cup worthily as Paul instructed, they will then discern the Lord’s body with faith for their own healing.

The benefits of healing in the lacerated body of our Lamb are just as clearly taught in the scriptures as the benefits of salvation in the blood of our Lamb.

Discern the body as having been beaten and lacerated with stripes—stripes by which your sicknesses were borne and you were healed—and health will be yours. It is as certain as when you discern His blood as having been shed for you the sacrifice by which your sins were borne—and salvation is yours.

Sickness will lose its power over your body just as sin loses its power over your spirit. You will be as free from sickness as you are from sin. Christ, your substitute, bore them for you, so you do not have to bear them. By believing this portion of the word and acting accordingly, you are as free from sickness as you are from sin.

Once we take our focus off the physical element of bread and simply realize the body of Jesus (by His stripes we are healed), the Lord’s Supper becomes a very powerful meal.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Stuck on a Psalm

Psalm 15 (Amplified)
LORD, who shall dwell [temporarily] in Your tabernacle? Who shall dwell [permanently] on Your holy hill? He who walks and lives uprightly and blamelessly, who works rightness and justice and speaks and thinks the truth in his heart, he who does not slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his friend, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he who honors those who fear the Lord (who revere and worship Him); who swears to his own hurt and does not change; [he who] does not put out his money for interest [to one of his own people] and who will not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.

I so want to dwell permanently on His holy hill.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

If Humans Aren’t Animals…

I don’t have an excuse to treat or think of any human being as an animal. What if the human doesn’t have a conscience? What if the human acts like an animal? What if the human lies and steals and cheats? What if the human makes absolutely no sense and is pretty well full of nonsense? He is still human. He still has a soul and spirit. He could benefit from prayer, even if I would rather ship him to the funny farm.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why I Woke Up at Four in the Morning Worried about Frieda

In our last Truth Project class, we dealt with the topic, “Who is Man?” Our worldview stems from our answer. If we take the Biblical view, we believe humans are created in the image of God with both flesh and spirit.

A humanist believes man is simply flesh, an animal in fact. The humanist puts me and the rest of mankind on the same plane as Frieda.

In the Biblical worldview, we humans were created with a soul and spirit. God created us with the ability to think, to reason, to experience emotions and to commune with Him. I don’t for a moment believe the humanistic lie that humans are animals who have merely developed a step beyond the ability to function by instinct.

But, just because I don’t believe I am an animal doesn’t give me the right to be cruel to animals, which is probably why I woke up at four in the morning worried about Frieda.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Frieda at the Farm

Frieda thinking about not coming out of the box.

Frieda on the woodpile.

Close-up of Frieda on the woodpile.

Frieda hasn't made any friends on the farm yet. She keeps to herself, eats after the other cats have eaten and runs if a human approaches. Amy's dad is determined to tame her.

She has had at least one run-in with the cat-eating dog. She lost a bit of fur, kind of like she used to lose fur in the kitchen when I accidently stepped on her (at least once a week).

Socks sat on my lap most of last evening as the family watched The Return of the King. Socks is a very people-oriented cat. He has only one fault--he likes what we eat. He is used to eating scraps of people food and is very much attracted to it. When he jumps up on the kitchen counter looking for food we thow him off repeatedly, sometimes 15 times in a row. Now he jumps down as soon as he sees someone approach.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Frieda's Life on the Farm

Amy reports that Frieda is acting like a three year old in a snit. She has two places to be: on top of the dog house and at the food dishes. She is not interested in any other places. The other cats are afraid of her. She is actually in a competition with the top cat who happens to be the mother of about 80 per cent of the cats on the farm. This top cat is about half the size of Frieda and she has claws. Nobody eats out of her dish. Frieda had chosen to challenge her—size and teeth versus claws. At latest report they were in a stand-off: two cats at the same dish, neither of them eating.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Worries

(continued from previous post)
So why did I wake up at 4 in the morning worried about Frieda? What if the other cats don’t like her? What if the dog tries to eat her? What if she can’t kill rodents? What if her hair gets matted and she doesn’t take the time to clean it? What if she tries to return to the city and gets run over by a car on the way. Why am I worrying about this soulless creature?

(tomorrow - Frieda's new life)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Eye for an Eye, Cat for a Cat

(continued from previous post)

Well, Frieda left for the farm in the cardboard box shortly after five in the afternoon and it turns out she stayed in the opened box until well into the night long after Amy’s family went to bed. The cat-killer dog was tied up for the occasion.

Frieda is destined to be fed once per day and live in the barn with the other much smaller cats where she will work as a rodent exterminator. They call her The Beast. Until now, The Beast, alias Frieda, hasn’t worked a day or night in her life unless you count sneaking cookies and tarts out of the tupperware container on the kitchen counter.

The morning after Frieda left, Socks, alias Boots, showed up. He came in the same box Frieda had left in. Socks is a third the size of Frieda.

He follows me around the house.
Frieda never follows anyone except people who are scared of her.

Socks will sit on a lap forever or until the lap leaves.
Frieda might let a person she knows hold her for ten seconds.

Socks uses the litter box properly.
Frieda sometimes misses. On the farm she won't need this skill.

They both eat like animals.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Frieda the Cat Becomes Frieda the Savior

I woke up at 4 o’clock this morning worried about my cat. What had we done? Yesterday we sent Frieda away in a cardboard box sealed with duct tape. She was off to her new home on the farm.

Yes, we traded Frieda for Socks alias Boots. (This wasn’t my evil plan as Amanda suggested when we phoned her after the deed was done.) But, I'll admit when my husband’s assistant Amy broached the idea, I adopted it immediately.

Amy’s family lives on a farm with farm cats, feral animals kept to exterminate the rodent population. Recently Boots showed up at the farm. He’s small, short-haired, loves people and is scared of the farm dog. This dog has a reputation as a cat killer, especially those who are scared of him.

Frieda is large, long-haired, seems to hate people except the ones that are scared of her, and would stand up to the dog (we think). So we traded. Staying on the farm meant a sure death for Boots. Frieda became his savior so to speak.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The First Christmas Card of the Season

Last week I received my first Christmas card of the season. I opened it to discover I was one of the most faithful and generous friends of this particular charitable organization. This came as a surprise to me. I know I drop a few coins in their pot once a year and I may have paid for an unsolicited product or two, but most faithful and generous friend? I hope not...because if what I have given them is the most faithful and generous, they are in trouble.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

57 is Too Young to Die

Last week I attended the funeral of Dave’s second cousin. Norman Arthur Knibbe lived to the ripe age of 57, my age. He was born in March, my month of birth. He had six children, so do we. Norm was a happy, mostly healthy, loving prankster. His funeral was a celebration of his life.

Listening to all the stories about Norm, told so lovingly by those near and dear to him, I know he will be missed. Those near and dear to him are bound to be hurting for some time. Norm was so full of life. Things changed when he entered the room. Life happened better wherever he was.

The age of 57 is much too young to move on out of this world, although Jesus Christ left his earthly life at the age of 33. And, because He did, and died the way He did, my husband’s second cousin Norm is celebrating his eternal life. That is awesome to know. We actually have something much better than this life to look forward to, and whether we believe Jesus died for us makes life and death difference.

Listening to all the stories about Norm, makes me think he’s enjoying more than a few heavenly crowns.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Black, Black, Black, All the Outfits are Black

Trees wear colour, why don't we?

I waiting for the year when the costume of the season is not black. Most women who attend the pre-Christmas events I attend dress in black. This has been going on for at least three years. Is this because the events I attend are fundraisers and the women are mourning the money they will be parting with?
At these events, I've resorted to looking at men's ties for happy colours. There is something joyful about colour. Joy and Christmas and colour, they all go together.

Black makes me look very pale and washed out. That's my main complaint. It’s not that I have to wear what everyone else is wearing, but more choice in the stores would be welcome.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bowling With Oma

Family Bowling Night






No one on this team belongs to the 900 club.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Marriage is Not a Perfect Little Golden Circle

After wiggling it past my rather large knuckle and off my finger, I showed my 13-year-old daughter Christina my bent wedding ring. Her observation, "Well marriage is not a perfect little gold thing."

Where did she get this idea? Is it because I threw the tarnished silver coffeespoons out the front door when my husband mentioned they needed polishing? This happened before Christina was born and I doubt she knows about it. Well, maybe now she does.

Could it be because my husband discovered me in the exhibitor lounge enjoying a beer with some new-found friends while he was stuck manning my company's booth at the Home Show? That was before any of our six kids were born. We certainly haven't talked about that little incident.

It must have something to do with the time I threatened to jump out of the van as we were driving along a very bumpy back road to an obscure campground late in the afternoon because... (I truthfully can't remember why). I think that was also before she was born.

Or is she alluding to the several times I was PMS-ing all over the house?

I took the above picture of my wedding ring beside my husband's. It appears his marriage ring is more perfect than mine. Is this pure coincidence?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Speaking of Trails and Roads

At 4 a.m. I woke myself right up,
laid awake thinking about God.
I love God.
I wonder a lot about my relationship with Him.
I know He knows everything.
I know He loves me.
But, I don’t know if He really asked me to do some of the things I thought were His initiative.
Did I twist His intent to my meager understanding?
I know His ways are higher than my ways,
so I don’t understand why He asks me to do some of the things He asks me to do, but I don't want to get ten miles off track like the time we went on a hike and ended up who knows where because we got on the wrong trail – it wasn’t the original loop.
The problem is I am very often very sure the wrong way is the right way – speaking of trails and roads, of course.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Accepting Senior-hood

At the mum show I got in as a senior—over 55. It felt good to save $1 at the entrance. I’m usually looking to save a buck…it’s a dutch thing.

Yet, the idea of being a senior takes some getting used to. My mother-in-law and I are in the same age category even though she is 30 years older. Mom readily admits even she has to adjust to the idea.

I don’t feel like a senior. I do have two grandchildren. I do laugh at the Pickles comic more than Adam, or Hi and Lois or Drabble. I want to think this is because the creator of Pickles is just a better cartoonist and a lot funnier than all the other cartoonists. He must be the best cartoonist of all time.

I almost always laugh at Pickles—the way I used to laugh at For Better or Worse. What does that say?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Two Moms out to See the Mums

Last week Dave’s mom and I went to the mum show at Gage Park.

Mom and mums.
Farmer and Farmall.

Mum Cow.

Mum rooster perched on back of mum cow.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Secret to Great Chicken Soup

At four a.m.
I jump out of bed,

could smell it
left soup stock heating on back of stove since 7 p.m.
not just simmering,
at medium heat.

When you are in your twenties you wonder if this is inexperience.
When you are in your fifties you wonder if this is aging.

The whole house smelled of unmade soup,
the pan still warm at breakfast time.

It made excellent soup.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Digitally Translated

Pictures of movement on my digital camera are recognizable as movement, but that’s about it….what just moved?

It makes me think of transfiguration or being translated to another place. It makes it seem like this is something that could easily happen here and now. We could be in one place, all our molecules in order and then move to another place far away instantly as our molecules separate and reassemble at that far away thought-of destination.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why I don’t like Halloween

ghastly movies
gooey candy
graveyards on lawns

Read Sheila Wray Gregoire's thoughts on Halloween at
"I didn’t like walking around in the cold and rain. And I didn’t like being scared. Many Christian families approach Halloween with a certain degree of trepidation. We know the evil roots of the celebration but all around us family and friends lure us to participate."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Things We See Outside Our Front Door

A post for Owen
my favourite grandson
Breaking up the sidewalk

Breaking up the street.

The shovel.

The police car.

The Opa bothering the bees.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One Writer’s Balancing Act

Ten Things That Get in the Way of Writing

1. Phone calls
2. Walks in the park
3. Birthday parties
4. Visits from friends and relatives
5. Facebook
6. Volunteering at the Rock
7. Women’s group
8. Mrs. Z.
9. Cleaning house
10. Watching movies

Ten Things That Inspire me to Write

1. Phone calls
2. Walks in the park
3. Birthday parties
4. Visits from friends and relatives
5. Facebook
6. Volunteering at the Rock
7. Women’s group
8. Mrs. Z.
9. Cleaning house
10. Watching movies

When Put to the Test

Would I stand up for what is right or Biblical in a room filled with non-Christians spouting unbiblical views? Possibly I would, but possibly not.

Recently I was in a room full of Christians who talked as if all Roman Catholics were not Christians. I personally know several Roman Catholics who are true believers. These friends of mine believe Jesus died on the cross to save them from their sins.

Did I say anything in that room full of Christians? Did I stand up for my friends?


I need help.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Truth Project—Philosophy and Ethics

See to it that no one carries you off as spoil or makes you yourselves captive by his so-called philosophy and intellectualism and vain deceit (idle fancies and plain nonsense), following human tradition (men’s ideas of the material rather than the spiritual world), just crude notions following the rudimentary and elemental teachings of the universe and disregarding [the teachings of] Christ (the Messiah). Colossians 2:8 Amplified

There used to be a distinction between ethics and morals. Ethics were what ought to be. Morals were actuality. Ethics used to be defined by the Word of God.

In our society we base our ethics on the morals of the day. If 51% of the people agree that something is morally right, that becomes the ethical standard. This is just one of the many crude notions of today’s North American society.

Based on a survey using ten questions, only 4% of the general population in America has a Biblical worldview. The scary part of that survey shows that only 9% of born-again Christians in America have a Biblical worldview. Possibly Canadians are different, but probably the statistics in our country would be very similar.

We need help.

To find out more about the Truth Project visit Focus On the Family's The Truth Project.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Truth Project

(continued from previous post)

Truth is reality, lies are an illusion.

Recently I signed up for the Truth Project. This is Focus on the Family’s 12-lesson, in-depth Christian worldview experience. The lessons are designed to cause transformation among Christians.

There is a cosmic battle that pits the truth against the lies. This started back with the creation of the world when Satan tempted mankind with a lie. We made a poor choice and history is about God’s plan to redeem mankind to Him, to the truth.

Jesus came into the world to testify to the truth. Jesus is the truth. In John 8, Jesus mentioned there are two fathers. Either we belong to God, the father, or to the father of lies. The reality is that those who do not belong to God are captives. Jesus is the way to the true father. We were all captive until Jesus saved us.

We must help free other captives.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity, Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:5&6.

The idea is to gaze upon the face of God. This will expose us to ourselves, will expose our culture, and will transform us into world-changers. Like Isaiah we will say, “Here am I, send me!”

I need to spend all my time looking at and listening to God.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rants and Conspiracy Theories

I heard a theory that Obama is being groomed to run the government of the New World Order. That’s why he received the Nobel Peace Prize.

I heard a rant that Stephen Harper is selling the country. It was a long rant that I don’t care to repeat because I believe Stephen Harper is a man of integrity who is doing a difficult job rather well considering the system he has inherited.

I heard a theory that my husband is smarter than I am because he understands what I do while I don’t understand what he does. My husband voiced this theory and I don’t want to disillusion him. It’s good for him to think he is smarter than I am.

What is Truth? How do you know what is true? This is an important question because we make decisions based on what we believe to be true.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Reality of Divine Healing

Lately I’ve been thinking about healing and past experiences of being healed or praying for people who were subsequently healed, and I realize that healings aren’t usually conspicuous and after they happen I don’t think about what could have been, might have been or would have been.

Except in dramatic cases—like when Christina practically drowned in the pool—after the healing I tend to doubt or even dismiss the existence of the medical condition that caused me to pray.

But, if the healing hadn’t taken place, I would not have doubted the reality of the illness. Then the proof would be obvious.

So thank you Lord for all the diseases I didn’t get, for all the times I was coming down with a cold and it disappeared after I told it to go away in Jesus name. I’m grateful for all the times, you Lord, protected me from the flu. I thank you Lord for all the cases of food poisoning you saved me from, for all the accidents I did not have, for all the pains that did not develop into anything, and for all the blemishes that aren't.

Lord, thank you for divine health.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Don’t Mess With Reta

(continued from previous post)
To navigate me through the various possibilities for new glasses frames, Reta, a friendly, big-hair lady in a classy pantsuit was assigned to my service. She asked me what I liked.

“A designer person told me I should get something with a strong horizontal line across the top,” I replied.

This seemed to upset the hitherto friendly Reta.

“Well!” she said snatching an ugly pair of thick black frames out from the wall of frames. “You should get what you like. Children will tell their mother what they want her to have. She’ll give in, and a week later she’ll bring the glasses back, because she is not happy with something like THIS.” She jiggled the ugly black frames at me.

“Okay,” I nodded and gulped as I quietly decided to exclude mention of my image consultant from all further conversation with Reta.

She picked three sets of frames from various locations on the wall. They each had a similarly strong horizontal line across the top, relatively small lenses and modern design.

I chose the third pair.

Reta clucked approval, “See, together, you and I can choose the perfect set of frames.”

Yes, indeed.

Now for the haircut, can anyone recommend a good stylist?—possibly someone who doesn’t mind my mentioning the image consultant. I did pay $50 for that.

Improving My Vision

(continued from Awakening My True Identity - Part 4)

Old Glasses - no longer in style.

The day for my eye appointment finally arrived. It has only been three months since the image consultant at the writers’ conference suggested I spring for new glasses—a design to complement my small face and small mouth (she didn’t tell me about the mouth, but I thought I’d add that bit, less you mistakenly imagine my mouth as big to accommodate the many things I have to say).

An eye test revealed that my 'near vision' had improved since the last exam while my 'far vision' had slightly deteriorated. I definitely needed new lenses.

To match my forthcoming improved vision, of course I needed those recommended face-enhancing frames. I tried to remember what the image consultant had said—something about small lenses with a strong horizontal line across the top in a modern design.

Surely, among the hundreds of frames displayed at this particular establishment, there was just such a pair—small lenses, strong horizontal line across the top, modern design.
How hard could it be?

(continued tomorrow)

Friday, October 16, 2009

What NOT to Do when Winterizing the Pool

(continued from previous post)

To rinse the pool’s rather grungy solar blanket, I took it out to our broad, concrete, front driveway. I moved the vehicles down to the end of the drive to make room. I would have parked them on the street, but workmen were redoing our damaged sidewalks. The construction paraphernalia made street parking difficult.

Ripping up old damaged sidewalk to replace with new.

The crew had just finished pouring cement for the strips of sidewalk on either side of our driveway when, at the top of my driveway, I began merrily spraying the bubbled plastic solar blanket with the garden hose. A dark cloud was forming overhead. Maybe it would rain. That would help clean my solar blanket. Thank you Lord.

I was abruptly drawn out of my bubble of gratitude by urgent repeated honking. A workman in a passing van was honking his horn and pointing at me. Suddenly there were seven Italians (at least they sounded Italian) standing out front. They seemed to be agitated. They were pointing at the water running down my driveway, running over onto their fresh cement.

As they pulled burlap over their concrete, these men certainly were not thanking the Lord for the possible rain, or the impossible woman running water into their project.

I quickly turned the hose off and spoke a feeble apology before retreating into the house. Oh, Oh.
Moral of the Story: What's good for me is not necessarily good for you. Or, rain doesn’t make everyone happy.

The Good News: my pool is covered. Let the autumn leaves fall! Let the snow fly!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How to Winterize the Pool?

(continued from previous post)
One semi-sunny Monday after several weeks of misty, rainy weather, I realized, for my psychological well-being, this was the day to close the pool. There were five good reasons to make pool closing a priority:

1) No one had been swimming for weeks, not since before Labour Day.

2) The calendar said October.

3) The pool thermometer said 17 degrees.

4) I had been neglecting to run the pump.

5) And scariest of all, the leaves from the neighbour’s huge maple were beginning to float down.

How To:

Step 1: Pull back the solar blanket. Whoops, it's green again.

Step 11: Vacuum and vacuum and vacuum as the pump drains the pool. Once the water level reaches the required level quit with the vacuuming. The chemicals will have to do the rest.

Step 111: Throw in the chemicals.

Step 1V: Drain the filter and the pump and blow the water out of the pipes.

My pool-closing was going swimmingly, until….


When to winterize the pool?

Closing the pool means summer has ended. This is an emotional thing. To winterize is to get ready for winter which shouldn’t be done before autumn.

For psychological well-being, closing a pool has to be timed right. One must not close the pool before Labour Day. That’s just wrong.

It doesn’t matter how cold, wet, or windy August becomes, winterizing the pool before Labour Day can be classified as disrespect for the seasons.

Yet, if one waits too long, the rainy autumn days might take over and lead right into wet snowy days with only a slight chance of Indian summer. One doesn’t want to close the pool in a snowstorm. Cold wet hands are more painful than the word ‘winterize.’

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Recognizing a Deal—or Not

Hey that’s a good deal, I thought.
The sign outside the local video store said:

Buy Two Movies
Get 1 for a Buck

I could buy a previously viewed movie DVD for $9.99, and get the second one for a dollar. This was almost too good to pass up.

There wasn’t a lot to choose from, but after 20 minutes of reading DVD covers I chose Slumdog Millionaire as a Christmas present for my son and Frozen River based on a true story as the second movie. I had never heard of Frozen River before, but what’s to lose at $1.

I took my choices to the check-out. The clerk smiled as she dug out the appropriate CD’s to place in my chosen cases.

She then informed me, “We have a sale. If you buy 2 movies you get the next 1 for a buck, so if you pick another movie you only have to pay one dollar.”

I looked at the sign again. Of course, it was obvious, or was it?

What do you think? How would you have read that sign? Leave a comment, let me know. I am curious as to whether my brain works differently than yours.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Blogs Worth a Visit - Counting My Blessings

Ellie over at Counting My Blessings sees beauty all around. She will open your eyes to things you otherwise may not have noticed.

Read her blog and I guarantee you will see your world with new eyes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Blogs Worth a Visit - Whatever He Says

Whenever Belinda puts up a post at Whatever He Says, I'm there. She always has something thought-provoking and/or amusing to say. And, whatever she says is always real.

The philosophy of Belinda's blog comes through loud and clear in the postings:

If I could leave behind only one piece of wisdom it would be to echo the words of Jesus’ mother: “Whatever He says to you, do it.” (John 2:5) For this is the secret of a life of joy and intimate friendship with God.

Keep up the good work Belinda.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Blogs Worth a Visit - Local Pond

Local Pond is my all-time favourite blog to visit. Going there is like going to a modern-day Little House on the Prairie. Of course, for me the most powerful draw: at Local Pond I catch glimpses of my grandkids, Owen and Julianna.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Blogs Worth a Visit - Interviews & Reviews

At the blogsite Interviews & Reviews you can read reviews of fiction and non-fiction books, followed by interviews with the authors who are Christian.

After Laura Davis reviews the book and interviews the author, she gives the book away in a draw. You enter the draw by leaving a comment.

I like this blog and I'm not just saying this because Laura reviewed my book—although that helped.

Blogs Worth A Visit - 2catsandahusband

Every Monday my friend Betty-Anne over at 2catsandahusband posts Mailbox Monday. If you visit on a Monday morning you'll see a unique and interesting mailbox. This week it's a hammer, last week it was a church, and before that a fish.

That's just Mondays. On Sundays she'll show you a smiley face and on the days between babies and blankets and whatever else strikes her fancy. Check it out.

Friday, October 2, 2009

My Interview with Laura Davis

Yesterday, Laura Davis interviewed me about Blooming. Here is the link to her blogsite: Interviews and Reviews.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Day I Yelled at Mrs. Z.

Monday afternoon Mrs. Z phoned me, “You will pick me up and take me to the doctor tomorrow morning at 9:30.” This was news to me.

I looked at my kitchen calendar—Tuesday's square was as blank as my mind, but I knew I had another commitment. What was it?

Mrs. Z. continued, “You will take me to the Old Medical Building and I will get…”

“You can take a taxi,” I surmised.

“No, no, I can’t. I have a walker."

“Irene, you didn’t even ask me?” my voice was suddenly unusually loud. I quickly closed the door to Marty’s office. “You phone me and tell me what I must do. I don’t appreciate this.”

“…I am so tired. I have to lie down and rest.”

“Yes, call back after you rest.” There was still an edge in my voice.

“You will be home in half an hour from now?”



What had I done? I had yelled at a 96-year-old woman and refused to take her to the doctor. What kind of cruel unchristian person was I?

Then I remembered my previous commitment. Mary, a neighbourhood friend, would be coming over Tuesday morning to use my clothes dryer as hers was on the fritz. I had already postponed Mary’s visit by a day because I was doing my own five loads of laundry.

I called Mrs. Z. back and quietly told her why I couldn’t help her.

She understood and decided to ask her other lady friend, “…the one who was going to do some shopping for me tomorrow.”

Did I tell you I love Mrs. Z? Well right now, I don’t like her (or myself) very much.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Finally: Are Men More Free With Money?

A Definitive Experiment

(continued from previous post)

I was still pondering the hypothesis that women are more careful with their money than men several days later when Elizabeth asked for money to spend at the Ancaster Fair.

“It’s $30 for 22 tickets,” she reported.

“That’s the sort of thing we give you an allowance for,” I answered.

She minimized her request, “How about $2 for the entry fee?”

Together we decided to do an experiment. She would ask her father for the money, not mentioning that I had already turned her down. I was willing to go with whatever he said.

“What if he says, ‘ask mom?’” she wondered.

“Then we’ll discuss it.” I replied.

She approached her father just before leaving for the fair.

He immediately reached for his wallet, “I’ll give you $20. Anything more, you pay yourself.”

According to Elizabeth the hypothesis that women are more frugal than men is 100% correct.

Read Rave Review at 'Interviews and Reviews'

Laura Davis recently posted a review of Align LeftBlooming on her blogsite Interviews and Reviews. Tomorrow I'll be over there for an interview.
Thanks Laura, your words are music.

Women Who Buy Books

(continued from previous post)

Are women more concerned about price than men? Five women in the store during the book signing bought my book. None of these women expressed any concern about price. Of course there were also a number of women who didn’t buy the book. Possibly they were concerned about price.

One woman wondered about a senior’s discount. Another woman told me she didn’t come that day to buy a book. Astutely, I deduced she wouldn’t buy a book. She didn’t.

Yet, another mentioned apologetically that she had just spent $26 on another book. I gave her my blog address.

As you can see my study was inconclusive, not to mention, unscientific.

(to be continued – tomorrow – A Definitive Experiment)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Do Men Spend Money More Freely than Women?

(continued from previous post)
My testing field wasn’t exactly even in the middle of the day in the middle of the week at a Christian bookstore. A steady stream of women flowed through the door the day I was there; whereas, I noticed less than a dozen men during my four hours in the store.

At least two men rushed past me as they targeted their purchase. I read somewhere that men treat shopping like a hunt—find it, and capture it.

Women treat shopping more like an exploration—don’t miss anything along the way. I suppose this fits in with my friend’s observation that men are looking for the item, while women are looking for the bargain.

Men with the wives are different then regular men shoppers. These men are looking for something interesting to happen while their wives check out their purchases.

One such husband said to me, “I don’t read.” I noticed his wife three feet away at the check-out counter shaking her head.

Using my superior reasoning ability I guessed he was lying. I read a story to entertain him. He laughed out loud at least three times during the story and ended up buying the book.

(to be continued)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Husbands, Wives and Parting With Money

Photo taken by Lynn McCallum

A writer friend of mine observed—while working in a Christian bookstore—that women are more frugal than men. The gist of her observation: women want to pay less for more; men, on the other hand, want what they want and will pay whatever it costs.

At my book signing last week I had an opportunity to test this theory.

Would it be easier to sell books to men?

Friday, September 25, 2009

MY Jars of Frozen Fruit (I Think)!

Monday I visited 96-year-old Mrs. Z at the extended nursing facility. Mrs. Z is now using a walker to get around, her eyesight is steadily deteriorating, and although her mind is still pretty savvy, she's definitely in Ecclesiastes 12.

Mrs. Z had phoned me in the morning to make sure I would first go to her house to clip some roses, check her mail and pick up two jars of frozen fruit from her freezer downstairs.

“I have an upright freezer downstairs in the laundry room.” she explained.

“Yes,” I said remembering the years of arranging her garden tomatoes in plastic bags in her upright freezer in the laundry room while she spent her summer at the cottage up north.

“Count the jars and take half of them for yourself. The fruit is about a year old.”


“You will come here to visit me and give the two jars, and you must go back later for the jars for yourself because they shouldn’t thaw out while you are visiting me.”


I brought her a jar of raspberries and a jar of apricots, along with four gorgeous roses from her bush. As I arranged her roses, she wondered, “How many jars are there in the freezer?”

“About twenty,” I guessed.

She put the raspberry jar on her dresser. “Take 10 jars for yourself.”


As she showed me where to put the apricot jar in the fridge, she reconsidered, “Maybe take eight jars for yourself.”


When we came in from sitting out on the little deck, she pulled off her well-worn purple mohair sweater—the one I had given her for a clothing drive for the people in Latvia about seven years ago—she reconsidered once more, “Maybe take seven jars and we can talk about the rest later.”

“Okay.” I said.

As I prepared to leave, she thanked me for coming and asked me to pray a blessing.

I hugged her, and prayed for her health, for peace and for her son. Then I kissed her and smiled as I left.

About an hour later, my phone rang. It was Mrs. Z. “Hello Marian, I forgot to offer you one of my roses while you were here.”

I pictured the four coral roses in full bloom. “That’s okay. There were only four and they look so beautiful together in your window.”

She continued, “When you go to my house to get the jars, then when you come to visit me, can you bring me two jars?”

“Okay,” I agreed. I love Mrs. Z.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting Shovel-Ready

A very efficient company has been awarded one of those shovel-ready boost-the-economy infrastructure projects in our neighbourhood. Among other things, they are ripping up old damaged bits of sidewalks and putting in wheelchair assessable walkways.

At 4:30 Monday morning I woke out of deep sleep to beep, beep, screeching growling roaring noises. Marty who had already peeked out the window explained to me that a giant shovel was being loaded onto a trailer bed just outside our bedroom. A few minutes later we heard a woman voice. We assumed she too had been startled awake. Then we heard the clunk clunk of chains being gently arranged, followed by the roar of a mighty engine starting up, then fading off and finally silence.

Is there a bylaw against disturbing the peace at 4:30 in the morning? Or maybe there are exceptions for shovel readiness. I had trouble keeping my eyes open Monday.

Above: equipment used to break-up and truck out the old sidewalk. I didn't get a picture of the shovel they carted away at 4:30 a.m. It was one very large shovel on caterpillar treads.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


The front window after we cleaned it up.

Sunday afternoon, when I came home from the woman’s conference I attended on the weekend, our front bay window was slimy with raw egg and bits of egg shell. Apparently sometime Saturday evening someone had spent a few wonderful moments tossing eggs.

I found a note on the table from my husband, “If you wait until I get home, I’ll help you with the front window.”

Between us we hosed down and wiped the window clean. Then we prayed that whoever did this thing would come to the decision that they’d rather eat eggs than throw them.

We tried not to perceive this attack on our house as a personal attack—whoever threw the eggs didn’t hate us, they just liked throwing eggs.

Having our house egged reminds me of an e-mail I received a while back. Someone had spent a few wonderful moments putting together an email that blasted me from five different angles and then told me she would pray for me.

I thanked her for her prayers and tried to believe she didn’t hate me—she just liked writing nasty emails. Nevertheless, I felt slimed.