Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sit. Come. Thank you. - Eleanor Shepherd

Now that my children are now in their thirties and forties, it is time for the next generation to step in and continue my education. It starts young. My granddaughter, Sanna is nearly two, and her vocabulary is increasing every day.  If find that the words she uses remind me of important principles I need to remember.

One of Sanna's first words was, "Sit."  The first time I heard her use the word, we had taken her out for lunch with a friend who was visiting.  She was in her highchair at St. Hubert BarBQ enjoying her chicken fingers.  My husband was making sure everyone had what they needed: napkins, straws, and all the essentials.  Sanna patted the bench beside her and said, "Sit, Gammpa!"  She would not stop until Glen took his place beside her and joined her in eating his meal.  Her two words were a reminder to use our opportunities to stop and enjoy the time we have with those we love.  Although we might busy ourselves doing things for them, we need to offer them our presence, sitting with them and enjoying their company.

Sanna offered her invitation to sit with her one morning, as I dropped off something at her home on my way to work.  As soon as I walked into the living room, she ran to me holding out Barnyard Dance and patting the sof ordering me to, "Sit!"  with her and read. How I was tempted to let my responsibilities go and take the time to read to her, especially when it is one of my favourite activities.  However, I knew that I had to go to work.  I promised that I would return later to read to her.  She reminded me that when we cannot immediately take the time to be with those we love, we can put it on our agenda so we do not neglect the things that are important.  Thank you Sanna for reminding me that I need to plan sometimes to take time to sit with you and sometimes just to do it spontaneously.

Another powerful word Sanna has added to her vocabulary is, "Come."  This is accompanied by a gesture where she puts her hand out in front of her with the palm up and waves her fingers towards herself, to the accompaniment of her invitation to, "Come, come!"  Usually she wants to show me something.  Sometimes she wants me to take her where she wants to go but is reluctant to venture out on her own.  She wants the security of my presence as she dares to step out into a new adventure.

I find it awfully hard to resist her invitation when she waves those little fingers at me and invites me to come.  I still love adventure and to discover the world again through the eyes of a twenty-two month old, is exciting.  She wants to show me the antics of the bird in the tree just outside my window, so we can laugh together.  She wants to make friends with the dog in the elevator my neighbour is taking for a walk.  She wants to see where the path through the trees in the park is going to take us.  There are all kinds of new friends to meet and new places to go, and it is so much more fun to do this together.  Plus, new adventures are a lot less scary if someone we trust goes with us.
Sanna reminds me there is no shame in being afraid to try something alone.  In addition, the level of fun and satisfaction increase for our escapades when these are shared.  Thank you little girl for this reminder.
Sanna is learning three languages: English, French and Swedish.  She knows that as adults, different people have mastered these, so she tries to accomodate to us.  When we give her something, she will often reply, "Merci!"  If we fail to react to that, she will switch and say, "Tank you."  In her own limited way, she seeks to respond to others in a way that is appropriate to them.  What a great reminder this is to me that I need to try to do the same.  I cannot expect that everyone will see the world as I do.  As a writer, I need to try and use words that help others understand what I want to say in a way that is meaningful to them.  Communicating in a way that is appropriate and respectful of others is useful in all areas of life.  What a good lesson from a toddler!

Although her vocabulary may be small, it is powerful.  In using her words, Sanna  helps me remember important principles.  Sit. Come. Thank you. These will take her a long way.  Together we can learn to put them into practice.                    
Word Guild Award
Word Guild Award

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

COURAGE -- Alan Reynolds

One of the most amazing things about people is the way some have the capacity to rise above their circumstances, even when life is hard.

True, some people, like Lot's wife, tend to look back in bitterness. But there are those triumphant others who smile through their tears, who pick up the broken pieces of a shattered life and start to work with them again -- and often make of those broken pieces something beautiful and even joyful.

         She lost her spouse after thirty years of reasonably happy marriage, and life became a nightmare. Life was empty, food tasteless, sleep difficult, and waking each morning something she'd rather not do. Even God seemed gone. Yet she got up each morning, put on her best face, and stepped out to meet the world. It took courage, incredible courage. No one but her closest friends knew the grief that was in her heart, the tears she shed when no one was around.

         He lost his job, after twenty-five years with the same company. Fifty years of age, too young to retire, he faced the prospect of finding other employment, the discouragement, day-after-day, being told, "Your qualifications don't fit our requirements." But now, there he is -- in the park with his granddaughter, pushing the swing, sitting close on the teeter-totter to balance her lighter weight, making a little girl happy while her mother is at work.

         Or, there is the woman who has so desperately desired marriage and children, but now has had to realize, as the years slip by, that she may never have what she has so much desired -- no partner with whom to face life's storms or share life's pleasure, no children to bear and to hold, to love and care for. She could grow bitter. But how often she accepts the reality and plays the hand life has given her with grace and even joy!

 It is amazing how some people, when life turns hard and bitter, continue to find joy in living -- in the beauty of their garden, in the laughter of their grandchildren, in music, painting, friendship, volunteering, or faith in God.

All of them, all of us, find courage to get through the really hard times, the times that seem to wring us completely dry, until we hurt. But maybe God allows us to be wrung to bring out the courage He has put in us. The courage that gives us what we need to help others in their difficult times. And no matter what happens God gives us the courage to face each day, each moment, to keep going forward, keep looking up.

Be Strong and courageous. do not be afraid  do not be discouraged; for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. 
                                                      Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Friendship is . . . and a lot more/MANN

Friendship is precious. As a senior, I've said goodbye to many friends over the years through death, moving or mental health. Memories and stories are an important dimension of friendship, even in loss. When I want to remember my grandfather, I think of fishing with him. Just to look at Grandpa’s picture and notice his suit, or the pattern on his tie isn't enough. Appreciating the backdrop in his picture, even if it’s beautiful scenery, doesn't really do much for appreciating him as a person. Without a personal connection to the picture, it remains just that—a picture. It’s only when the tie triggers a memory of him taking it off one Sunday afternoon and putting it on the dog’s neck for me to paint a picture. Or perhaps remembering Grandpa’s suit usually wrinkled because he hung the pants by the belt-loop, rather than taking Grandma’s consistent reminder to fold them over a hanger.
Friendship is always changing. This is not to mean we intentionally set one friend aside to accept another one, but that the ingredients of forgiveness, tolerance, acceptance and understanding are forever growing and developing. Different attitudes, awareness, growth and understanding of issues can tax friendship and it’s a gift to one another to be honest and able to explore them in discussion. Both friends can gain new understandings through this trust.
Friendship is challenging. It’s important not to attempt to clone another person to be like ones self. Celebrating another’s depth of character, different theological stand, or gift of awareness can add to our own understanding of life and everyday issues. It’s kind to remember that one friend is not expected to meet all the needs of another, nor is it a mutual responsibility to always provide happiness.
Friendship is being truthful. It knows what experience or newly discovered world-changing information is only for self to soak up and not meant for sharing, should it seem preachy or self-righteous. Sometimes, it’s all about tone of voice.
Friendship is noticing. Knowing what's important to another person, to affirm and encourage where you find some common ground is important. We don't have to make a list, just be aware of what plays another’s heartstrings. It also means we don’t have to touch on that which is uncomfortable to us. It does not have to hear a mutual recognition that we’re connected to what’s important; it’s being able to extend a caring approach into someone else’s life.
As Henri Nouwen so eloquently says, “. . . we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”
My father had the profound experience of having a rather refined gentle man as a friend, drawn together probably only because their wives were related. Perhaps that makes the friend's remark even more honourable, "I know Charlie, and like him anyway."

Through the eyes of a two-year-old--Carolyn R. Wilker

This past weekend my husband and I had occasion to look after our two-year-old granddaughter— a blonde, blue-eyed child with a headful of “boing-boing curls” as author Beverly Cleary wrote of one of her characters.
I wrote back to a fellow editor, Leslie R., who had replied to one of my email messages that I had been busy looking after our grandchild who’s two. She wrote, “I can't imagine a more pleasant pastime than spending time in the magical world of the two year old.”
In a two-year-old, there is great enthusiasm for life, along with strong reactions to situations the chilld cannot master. Tasks that frustrate and spill over into tears or tantrums. At the same time, wonders of the world that we adults walk by without noticing, they pay full attention to, if only for a few moments. These things become part of her world, and “mine” and “me, too” are favourite words.
We took her to church. There was plenty to look at, music to move to, as well as a little bag of toys and treats to help pass the time. A fellow speaking with us afterwards, upon learning that she’s two, said “terrible twos,” but I answered, “It’s only terrible if you look at it that way.” I think he was partly joking, but it's true.
Having taught preschoolers and having had three of my own, I know there are many good moments— little arms wrapped around my neck for a juicy kiss or a hug, as well as their exuberance for life—that can be both exciting and exhausting. A two-year-old needs her routines, good food, enough sleep, and people around her who look out for her. And not just her parents. It includes grandparents, neighbours or any other people who care for her or about her. Eventually it will include her teachers in school and others in her community.
It brought to mind the saying, “It Takes a Whole Village to Raise a Child.” On an Internet search of what could well be a proverb, I found that the source is not easily tracked.
According to a discussion on H-Net among African Librarians in 1996, Gretchen Walsh stated that no one could find a source, but she wrote, “It’s a phrase that has really caught on.”
Other people have used the phrase, including Hillary Clinton. Another librarian, Greg Finnegan, replied, “Guy Zona in The Soul Would Have No Rainbow if the Eyes Had No Tears (Simon & Shuster, 1994), a book of Native American proverbs, attributes the quote to the Omahas, a Siouan-speaking tribe from Nebraska.”
Whoever coined that proverb was a wise person, reflecting that we are to look out for children around us. It’s a responsibility to watch out for the child who is not aware of certain dangers, use the teaching moments well, take the opportunity to show the child that you care for her. It’s also an opportunity to model good behaviour.
And so we did many things together this weekend: played with toys, ate meals, explored the library, read the same two books over and over, pretended to have tea, tried out every piece of equipment at the park suitable to her age. We blew bubbles, picked flowers and tiny tomatoes, and best of all, there were many hugs.

Editor/storyteller and speaker. Author of Once Upon a Sandbox

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Stories that are food for thought for writers - Denyse O'Leary

You write mysteries? How about: Forensics: Even cat DNA can be used in forensic investigations

 Or: You can write truthfully about fear, but not in fear (Be honest about the real problems your characters would face.)

 Why paywalls won’t work for mainstream media. (For the same reasons as you can’t charge for seawater in the ocean.)

Wanna make your living as a musician? Or your teenager does? Read this first.

 Should you write to your favorite author? Advisory tales.

 Why you should care about the cataclysm in print media … even if you don’t write for them or want to. (Yes, it does affect us all anyway)

Friday, August 09, 2013

Seven Days Can Make One Weak (if you don't include Jesus in your day...)


by Glynis M. Belec

The nonsense started Sunday evening. I reached out to make myself a cup of tea while visiting my darling son's home. We were chatting about this that and the other and I suppose my attention was not on the task at hand. The scalding steam on my forearm bit like a vicious snake. I pulled back. Soon it started to sting...out came the ice. Next day - a nice bossy red area and a tingle to remind me of my foolishness. Couldn't you have warned me, God?

     Enter Monday. I had a ton to do and a student coming at 9:30. I arrived at my Dad's place around 7:15 am, planning on getting an early start. All began well. I woke Dad up, took out his clothes and readied everything for his morning care. I prepared ingredients for his evening meal - a chicken casserole would be on the menu. I took out the medication drawer, turned the stove to 325° and told Dad not to rush because I had a few things to do out in the garden. After pulling a few weeds and replacing some forlorn plants with some fresh geraniums, I thought I should pop in to see if Dad was up yet. Time was getting on. I opened the door and my mouth dropped. At first I thought it was shredded paper or something. Upon closer inspection I saw that Dad's oven door had exploded/imploded and the glass chards were all over the floor (and the carpet, and the chairs and the inside of the stove...) Dad was still sleeping and heard nothing. I cancelled my student and the day progressed nothing at all like I had planned. Couldn't you have stopped that from happening, God?

     Tuesday morning - 5:30am. I woke up with a wretched pain in my chest that knocked me for a loop. I had to take two shots of nitro before it subsided. But it did subside. My sweetheart brought me a cup of tea. I laid in bed for 20 minutes feeling sorry for myself. Haven't I been through enough, God?

Wednesday was a sad day for me. My lovely little Japanese student, Wakana, was in my
classroom for the final time. She and her host family are heading to Nova Scotia for a vacation and then she will be returning to Japan next week. I am going to miss her terribly. Why did you only introduce me to Wakana for such a short time, God?

Thumbs up!
     Thursday I was in a hurry. Haste makes waste 'they' say. I scoffed sensing some impending doom if I didn't put the safety cover on my brand new Pampered Chef slicer. Sure enough...that little voice was one of warning which I chose to ignore. The result? I cut off the tip of my right thumb. I tried to control the bleeding myself but ended up at the local clinic with a thumb bandage the size of a peach. Seriously, God? What would it have taken you to just give me a reminder rather than allowing my foolishness to bleed all over the place. You know I had a ton of things to do.

     Today is Friday. The one hour trip to the dentist for Dad's 10 o'clock appointment this morning should have been uneventful. It was, until the phone call. "Did you forget your Dad's appointment?" Cheryl asked. It was 10:45 and we still had 10k to go. I had written down 11 instead of 10? I was convinced I was told the wrong time, but I had no proof. Knowing my mind these days, I was likely the guilty party. I mumbled my apologies praying we were not going to be moved to another day and listened. God, why couldn't you have prompted the dentist office to call me yesterday to remind me of the appointment time.

Tomorrow is Saturday. Maybe I will stay in bed...

        An attitude of gratitude changes the course of events

  •  Thank you Jesus for allowing me to spend time chatting with my son - what's a little red mark?

  •      I am grateful that Dad did not get up early on Monday as he usually does. He would have been sitting in his chair close to the stove, having breakfast.

  •      I am grateful that I already have an appointment arranged next Monday afternoon with the cardiologist. I am also thankful that I am upright, filled with the joy of Jesus and loving each day without restriction.

  •      Thank you that I had the privilege of working with Wakana these past few months. As I worked with her teaching her English, I thought about the wonder of words and the power of 26 letters. I also tried sushi for the first time and loved it!

  •      Dad's implants will be fine. After Dad was finished, Dr. K told me to jump in the chair (I had told him about my filling that had fallen out) and he fixed my problem - no charge. I didn't have any freezing and he did an amazing job. What a nice dentist.

  •      I'm thinking the sun will shine tomorrow...

1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.


Saturday, August 03, 2013

A Kindness Done, but not Forgotten (Peter Black)

Oops! I missed posting on my appointed date last week, so I'm squeezing in the following piece (a true story) for the August holiday weekend. It's adapted from my column of a couple of weeks ago, and will likely be included in my next book-- a collection of those articles.
It was quite late that night when Norman was called to the police station. Someone had suggested to the attending officer that he call a Mr. Clarke—my brother-in-law Norman.
He was ushered into a room where, huddled in a corner, cold and shivering from a soaking in the rain, was a young black man. His dark eyes couldn’t conceal his fear and uncertainty. He was alone, a stranger in a foreign country and an unfamiliar culture.
This occurred many years ago in Oxford, England. Norman wasn’t a social worker, but a chef in a university college . . . and a caring man. The young fellow had arrived from Africa, to study at the university, but knew no-one. Although his fare and tuition were sponsored, no other resources were provided; no food nor money, and nowhere to stay.
The officer released Daniel into Norman’s care, who took him to his home. After a warm meal and a bath, the youngster stepped into some dry clothes and slept in a warm bed. Thus began a new relationship, an extended stay and a new beginning. He soon began referring to Norman and my sister Chris as "Uncle" and "Aunty." 
Their church congregation welcomed him warmly – it was a virtual United Nations (like the couple’s home!), with attendees representing various ethnicities and many countries of the world.
Some years after Daniel’s studies were completed and he was back in Africa, I was in the UK for my mother’s funeral /memorial. One night during my stay he telephoned from Africa to thank Chris and Norman for what they’d done and the love they’d shown. He was now in business and employing people. That was over nine years ago. It was welcome news, and decent of him to call.
Several years ago Norman and Chris returned to Scotland to live, and recently received another call from Daniel. He’s now married and is currently visiting the UK with his wife and three children, introducing them (uhh, "showing them off") to some of the friends he made there – especially to “Uncle and Aunty.” Currently, he’s  a banker in Nairobi, Kenya, and gives thanks to God for all that they did for him when he had nothing and didn’t know what to do.
And so, a week or so ago Daniel and family should have left Chris and Norman’s place to head back to England, before flying home to Nairobi.
I’m reminded of friends who welcomed us like family when we first came to Canada. Some became like grandmas and grandpas to our kids. They included us in their circle of love and made an investment in our lives. Whatever good may have been done in the places where we lived and served as pastors was in part due to their kindness.
And yet, kindness has continued to follow us, for during our time in Guide Country [an epithet for the readership of the newspaper], others of you also extended friendship and invested kindness in our lives, and therefore assisted us in fulfilling our calling.
We may never know this side of heaven how far a kind word spoken, a warm welcome given or a kindness done in Jesus’ name with love in our hearts, can go, when God blesses it. He will reward.
Jesus said, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Also, “. . . your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 25:40; 6:3-4).
Thank you! Many of you have been kind to us.


Adapted from original article published in P-Pep! column in The Guide-Advocate – July 25, 2013. His articles have appeared in 50 Plus Contact and testimony, and several newspapers in Ontario.

Peter A. Black is a freelance writer in Southwestern Ontario, and is author of “Parables from the Pond” – a children's / family book (mildly educational, inspirational in orientation, character reinforcing).
(Finalist -- Word Alive Press ISBN 1897373-21-X )



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