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)