A Star is Born

It was a magical night. For drizzly, chilly Saint John, New Brunswick – the skies yielded a billion stars in celebration of this most wonderful evening. Stars were a huge part of the birth of One Very Special Baby. The same happened during the evening of June 15, 1981 when our very special baby – our first daughter – was born.

It’s amazing how you simply ‘become parents’ when your child is born – this lifelong journey of giddy joy, deep sorrows – love and loss. How my parents withstood it – I will never know. How I bless them for their sacrifice on my behalf. No matter how much preparation is done – ‘the baby is born’ is such a simplistic statement of what has just happened. A tiny little commander has entered the family and nothing will ever be the same – it will be better beyond what you can dream. This was completely true in our little family.

I share the same name and non-blue eyes. She is very much like her dad in personality and hair colour…(when he had hair). She lights up the room with her brilliant smile and exuberant personality. Life was incredibly exciting when our daughter was born. We journeyed through the difficulties of breast feeding, colic, first stuffy-nosed colds, medical appointments, learning to eat solid food, walking, talking, and new sisterhood (to name a few milestones).

As she grew – it was our complete joy to search for ‘church dresses’, go to piano practice, sign up for soccer and search high and low for the correct Ninja turtle. Our Disney trip was planned specifically so that we could get all four autographs of this incredible quartet. We supported tears and teen days, serious medical issues, princess moments, driver training, college, engagement, wedding and even the celebration of our daughter’s daughter coming into the world. Nothing was too hard or out of reach it seemed.

We are parents for life. We didn’t take vows. We just ‘became’. Yes, God creates the life in our body. Yes, it’s a miracle. But at the same time, it happens in one moment in time. In our case, we did not know ‘who’ to expect – so when my beloved said ‘It’s a girl’ – between the pain, the focus, and the announcement – my life was never, nor will ever be the same because she entered into it.

So it was entirely appropriate that there were a billion stars and a brilliant moon to welcome her arrival. I held her close and made my own vow of love and loyalty. I told her that she would be mine. I would never let her go. History would not repeat itself. What a privilege – this daughter of mine. While we are at a distance now – the bond of love cannot be broken. In my heart – it was sealed with our first introduction. Love never fails in the heart of a parent.

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Back In The Saddle Again

This reflection has taken nearly six months to write. It began as a vacation highlights blog and became a thankfulness letter. It morphed from giddy girl-like excitement from our time away on the East Coast to a deep gratefulness for life and my family. The title of my post says it all in five words. Back in the saddle again. For my beloved and me and for our son-in-law.

After a few years of challenging health for my beloved, we wondered (to ourselves) if we would be able to do a long haul motorcycle trip ever again. We have bountiful memories from our travel and we are deeply grateful. We don’t take these things for granted. We understand that these opportunities are fleeting. We also understand that life itself can change forever in a few precious seconds.

As the beginning of 2017 settled upon us, my beloved was realizing a few perceptible gains in his health. We tentatively wondered if it might be possible to think about motorcycle travel in the future. Our questions were answered as we put together a simple plan that would see us on the East Coast of Canada to visit family and friends with our return encompassing a Bay of Fundy ‘island hop’ between Campobello and Deer islands, a ‘bucket list’ trip to Martha’s Vineyard and a gentle return through the Berkshires and the Adirondacks.

As time drew closer we were excited as it seemed our plan was moving forward. Our hearts were joyful that we could be ‘back in the saddle’ again. Everything continued to come together and before we knew it – my beloved was off with the bike while I was to join him to start the journey in New Brunswick.

We had so many wonderful visits with loved ones! Our love tank was re-filled. Our ‘need to eat fish’ tank was being filled with delicious offerings. Our gas tank started racking up the miles. God provided beautiful sun and safety as we marvelled at whales in the bay from the front porch of our Campobello Island B and B and watched the sunset over the lighthouse at Head Harbour. We stopped at a local shop on Deer Island where I marvelled at the amazing art of Natasha Miller (her pictures of local life are brought alive through charcoal and pops of colour). We meandered through slow roads in Maine, always having lobster sandwiches for lunch at McDonald’s. Martha’s Vineyard was a slice of New England ‘cottage’ life that we found fascinating. More fish meals and beach walking and people watching. We reluctantly, yet gratefully started the journey back through mountain ranges and gentle valleys. What a ride! Together on the motorcycle again – simple pleasures with my sweetheart.

Our arrival home was a welcome one and we spent the following few days in re-establishing our work routines…until the following Sunday changed everything. Our son-in-law, himself a cyclist, was involved in an accident that re-defined what ‘back in the saddle again’ might mean to all of us. I had been thinking most of my vacation that I would write a piece about this topic – but the plan for the original script was shattered. How on earth could I even begin to think about this now when our son-in-law was lying in a bed having been knocked out of his saddle? It couldn’t happen. Our prayer was that someday it could be written.

So the second part of this rejoicing note is that with the healing hand of God, awesome doctors and true grit….our son-in-law is alive! What could have been a day of tragedy – God spared our family of that horrendous possibility. Healing is happening. While it is a huge climb – he is able to tackle each day with the help of our Healer. The story is a very complicated one – but suffice it to say – we were overwhelmed to be able to celebrate this Christmas season together. While cycling isn’t occurring, we felt that we had our ‘back in the saddle’ moment over turkey and cranberry sauce. It could have been ‘A Different Kind of Christmas’ (Mark Schultz) for sure….but GOD.

Life is fragile, handle with prayer we say…but there was no other visual more stark than these past six months. Health had prevented us from being on the motorcycle – my sweetheart’s passion. Our son-in-law is prevented from a sport he loves. Everything has changed. However our Healer and Deliverer made some special things possible. ‘We get knocked down, yet we are not destroyed’ (2 Corinthians 4:9) Scripture instructs us. What a beautiful promise of HOPE! This New Year’s Eve we are rejoicing together in all that God has done in our lives.

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Love…by Numbers

It was a ‘lightbulb moment’ for me a couple of weeks ago on my drive through beautiful farm country. My mind was drifting to some of the vacation plans we have been making. We are looking forward to reuniting with family and friends on the East Coast of Canada. I haven’t visited in person with my mother-in-law for almost two years. When you’re climbing in age (both of us…LOL), that’s not good! We chat on the phone frequently, but we are both looking forward to some time in the same space where we can take a trip down memory lane over old books, handcrafts and family stories.

The ‘lightbulb’ came on when I was thinking about how long I have known her. We met in the spring of 1977! 40 years ago – that’s a WOW for me. She was an energetic new Christian getting to know people at church. As for me – I was a young, determined person with lofty goals. She was standing behind someone, as if waiting to talk to me. I was impatiently wondering what this older lady needed. (for anyone reading this who know me…UGH…how I wish I could do ‘Dear Younger Me’ – Mercy Me). She wanted to introduce herself and find out some things about me. She told me about her son. Uh oh…

Lest this story become a book all of its own, suffice it to say that her son was invited to church because they have lots of girls…my beloved, being an individual who was very interested in girls – agreed to come. The rest, as they would say, is history. From 1979, she became my mother-in law.

This woman – a more godly person you will never meet. In my youth, I wanted to understand her, even though I didn’t understand myself. When my father-in-law died, I observed her overwhelming hurt constantly. I wanted to comfort her, but didn’t know how. She lived in my house for a few years when our daughters were young. She served at our little church plant passionately, spent time with our girls and blessed everyone she came into contact with – including me. I was broken-hearted when she relocated back to Atlantic Canada. I missed her.

There were some dates and timeframes that blew me away. Dates like our twenty fifth wedding anniversary. I remember as a newly wed helping to plan HER twenty fifth wedding anniversary. It felt ‘old’ – but it was a huge milestone. I was the one receiving a ‘keepsake’ from her to mark the occasion. Another date was our 28th anniversary. My mother-in-law was married 28 years when her husband died. I was beyond grateful to celebrate with my beloved (and continue to do so).

Here it is – the biggest date that I realized recently is that I knew my mom for 41 years before she went home to be with Jesus. I am in my 41st year of knowing my mother-in-law! I think about this every day now and my mind is blown away that this woman waited to meet ME – a young woman who didn’t want to spend time with an older woman. How foolish and short sighted of me. How gracious and kind God has been to me. The meeting at church was life changing. apart from my life in Jesus, my life with my sweetheart is the most significant relationship with which God has blessed me.

I felt this incredibly important marker in my own history is to celebrated. My mother-in-law, apart from my own mother was used by God to change my life.

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Let It Go…

It has been a long while since I sat down to write ANYTHING. I’ve battled with my thoughts and emotions endlessly throughout this bumpy journey called a ‘year’. I have seen God do some incredible things – in particular, my precious husband has had health restored (mostly). This, by itself, is a huge praiseworthy item.

I have seen God provide for us on beautiful Lake Huron in very mysterious ways. When I say ‘provide’, I’m not really just singling out the payment of our exorbitant hydro bills, either (although God has done that). He has provided emotional and spiritual rest. This has been huge in our lives this year. PEACE. Elusive peace. JOY. Unspeakable joy. LOVE. Unfettered and authentic love. I have rested well in His arms. He has provided all that we have needed. I have been restored spiritually and emotionally.

Once I understood that driving with a rear view mirror only will cause the car to crash – I began to clear the fog on the windshield and move forward ever so slowly to a destination of rest in God. But first…I needed to LET IT GO. Whatever ‘it’ might be…it needed to be wiped away so that my front view windshield was clear enough to journey onward.

‘It’ was bound in disappointment, unrealized goals,  broken dreams, unmet expectations, lost plans. And God had to teach me to LET IT GO. When each day would dawn and I realized I was gifted to be together with my beloved in a place where the ‘boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places’ (Psalm 16) I gave honour to God by stepping forward in His plan for the day. I wanted to know Him more. I definitely wanted to make Him more known. This was my focus for each day. Knowing Him. Making Him known. When whispers and doubts crept in…I chose to remind myself of God and His all knowing character. We held each other, while holding on to Him. I worked diligently to LET IT GO.

I have learned that once I chose safety in God, that He was my strength. Only then could I see I could give my battle to God and He would do everything else. No matter what. I could lie down and sleep because in Him alone was there any safety at all. With  sweet surrender, my restoration was completely at the hands of my Creator. However, it was a choice. I had to LET IT GO.

While at the beginning of 2016, my prayer was for God to make my pain count, He graciously responded with daily lessons about surrendering my hurt to Him. The grip I felt  I had on my life was released and placed into the loving hands of the Only One Who could rescue me. So, my precious readers, it’s been a bumpy, joyous journey through this year. As I stand literally and figuratively on the shore, my HOPE for 2017 can be placed in God – who for the past many decades has proven Himself to be always faithful to me. I have LET IT GO  and I don’t want it back! I love my sleep too much.

Matthew 11:28 ‘Come unto me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.’

 

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50 Years of Life in Christ

I am approaching a huge milestone in my life – my 50th birthday as a ‘new creature’. I was a young girl attending a one room school house church in a small fishing community when I was confronted with the ‘good news’ – the best news really – that anyone could possibly know. The gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the news that transforms darkness in our heart into eternal life.

It happened through a Sunday School teacher telling the class about the future when Jesus Christ will come again and take all of us who have decided to follow Him, back to our ‘forever home’ in Heaven. In my young mind – I had not made that decision and what would happen as a result? The teacher told me that I am separated from God forever – and even at my tender age, I knew that was a very, very long time. I didn’t want to that for my life and I decided that same day to become a follower of Jesus.

It was a timely decision considering I made it during Easter season. Understanding why Jesus had to die and that He rose again was a step of faith for me and I was overjoyed that I chose to believe Him and that He sacrificed Himself for me!

I didn’t get to this place as believer by myself – nor have I grown in my faith as a solo act –  there were many ‘thought leaders’ who are unsung heroes of the faith that impacted my life and taught me faithfully. Pastors, teachers, youth leaders all prepared, taught, spoke truth, prayed and lead by example. I was most encouraged to live my faith through the years in order to glorify God, whom I love more now than ever.

Frank and Lorraine Smith – faithfully drove to our village weekly to bring strong Bible teaching to those of us who did not know. This was the foundation for my ability to access the Word of God. They will be richly rewarded for their faithfulness. I loved everything about Sunday School. I did not love having to since a duet at Christmas with their son.

Douglas and Hazel Fraser – who faithfully pastored and lead our city church family for so long were incredible teachers. The amazing charts depicting Daniel, the Tabernacle, the Feast and more were works of art worthy of a museum. The thorough teaching of the Word created a foundation of Bible knowledge like no other for a young person who paid attention. I felt better prepared when my beloved went to seminary than most first year seminary students. We loved the Frasers so much that if either child was a son – they would have born the name Fraser as a tribute to this dynamic duo.

George and Sharon Dow and Wayne and Lois Hunter – the youth leaders who embodied a passion for teaching truth and balancing the youthful need for fun. I never wanted to miss our Bible study sessions or opportunities to serve with our group.

These were the thought leaders of my spiritual life who helped to create my hunger for spiritual matters. While I had other pastors and have listened to many Bible teachers in my life – when I reflect upon my foundational teaching – these are the ones who have established me in the Word.

As a way to celebrate this incredible milestone – I am reading the Bible through in a new plan that has been  a real blessing to me. While I am almost 25 percent of the way through this goal, I am certain that my teachers would rejoice and be glad that my heart’s desire is firmly planted in the Word of God for now and always.

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Groundhogs and Grandsons

Perhaps it’s an obvious answer….but….what do these two unlikely sorts have in common? Not exactly the same birthday, but the same week.

Forty years ago while still in high school (you can easily do the math, I know), a hurricane blew into our small town in New Brunswick. It was infamously known as the Groundhog Gale. It was a life changer, if you recall,  for all of you who might be reading from the Bay of Fundy. Fishing boats (our lifeblood) were destroyed. Homes damaged. Hearts broken.

Not every Groundhog Day yields such ferocity. This year at the Lake House on Huron it was a balmy 10 degrees Celsius. No snow, just teasing sunshine and massive flocks of geese in the farmer’s field nearby.

At the same time, we are planning to converge at the home of our grandson to celebrate this year of teen times. When I think grandson visits, I get busy in the kitchen. Food can be love and this Nana loves her grandson! I think about things to prepare or take along that will be enjoyed at some point during the weekend. Of course, the now expected taco dinner will be augmented with some extra special touches. My mind happily busies itself thinking of ways to demonstrate my love and desire to celebrate this awesome young man.

From the moment we knew he was coming into the world, our hearts grew along with the baby. When he arrived and when his mommy put him on the phone for the first time, we were ecstatic with joy. We are now officially ‘grandparents’ – the name that speaks pure love.

We have been an active part of his life always – and it has been such a privilege for us to be there with him. We have shared so many meals, games, school, holidays – our grandson love tank is overflowing. Our current role is hockey fan. We try to get to as many games as possible and share time with him. Life is simply better when we have a ‘fix’ with our grandson.

We, like so many grandparents, could go on and on about this magnificent young man. We see how he is developing. We interact with him. We are really excited to see what a great guy he is becoming. Blessed beyond words.

Our lives have intersected in so many deep meaningful ways that the bond is very tight. We know that now and always our relationship with our only (we say favourite) grandson is secure. We look forward to seeing what is next – school, sports, church, all of those big decisions that will be made at some point that will, to some degree, redefine him as a man.

We are so thankful for him in our lives. The first week of February is a big week. Groundhog Day and hopes of early spring, grandson day and hopes for the future – and yes, even Super Bowl 50 has its own cachet of hope, I suppose. My grandson loves it – that’s all I know. And that’s all I need to know about that!

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Gold and Silver

There is an old childhood song that goes ‘make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.’ Wise advice for all of us.

Recently, we have been blessed beyond measure with friends, new and old in our lives. some we have met in the past month – while others we met decades ago. (Sounds a bit strange to say ‘decades’). A friend from New Brunswick called us and chatted on the phone. Precious moments to be grateful for all the God has done in our lives. We visited with some new friends locally that blessed us in our time lived in Lambton County. It was special as they wanted to share some vacation time with us. Such an offer of trust! And there were the seminary friends who reached out to meet us for breakfast which became lunch, which became dinner…the investment of time in shared experiences, both joyful and sorrowful.

These are just a few examples – I could name so many that God has recently allowed for us to both look back and reflect and look ahead with anticipation. We sometimes wonder how Heaven will be as we enjoy these wonderful reunions here on earth. We indulge ourselves in the ‘here and now’ and for a moment forget that we will be basking at the feet of Jesus, our best Friend of all.

We were created to be relational. It is one of life’s greatest pleasures as humans. My beloved and I are no exception. How we love to be with people around our table, in a coffee shop, sitting in front of a fire and just letting our friendship grow. Sharing life, love, laughter and tears. It’s been a very rich life for us. We have had the joy and privilege of getting to know so many people.

It’s been said (often by us) that the passage of time is irrelevant in a real friendship. We can see each other every week or once in thirty years and the result is still the same. While a weekly meeting may be shorter in duration, the thirty year pause may need some serious restaurant table rental (as evidenced today). BUT, the warmth, the friendship, the continuity is astounding.

While gold and silver are both very precious – the same can be said of our friends – old and new. They have lifted us, loved us and listened to us and we trust that we have done the same for them. Some were in our life for a season – very special memories. Some were in our life for a reason – lessons learned and life lived. Some, we believe, are in our life for the rest of our lives and that is humbling and we cherish the very thought of such a relationship.

We hope that such a trust between us will be treated as the treasure it is intended to be – safety, grace, mercy, empathy, patience, kindness – to name a few. Our hearts are fragile places and we entrust them to our friends. It is risky business, but it is the right thing to do. We invest in our friends and the investment returned to us is pure gold and pure silver. We are very wealthy. And thankful. And honoured.

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