Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Broken Yet Loved Carol Harrison

I could never be described as a minimalist for I love to be surrounded by items that remind me of family and friends, lessons and days gone by. Sharing the stories behind my collections gives enjoyment and becomes inspirational anecdotes when I speak.

One of these little trinkets belonged to my grandmother. She received a little pair of white, ornamental china shoes decorated with pink and blue china roses where the ties or laces should have been. She enjoyed the gift because they represented the love of her daughters who gave the gift but also because of their prettiness.

My grandmother set the pretty little shoes on a shelf to be
admired until one day, a few years later, my grandfather used
them to entertain the granddaughter they both loved deeply.

Grandpa decided to dress my doll in the best finery he could find. He took those cherished china shoes and attempted to place one on the doll's foot. It did not fit but he kept pressing harder as he tried to make it work. The shoe broke into pieces - ruined.

But Grandma replaced the good shoe on the shelf and picked up the broken pieces. She glued them together, restoring the shoe as close to its original shape as possible. Then with great care she placed it beside its mate.

Years passed and the glue in the cracks turned brown with age. Grandpa passed away. I grew up and had children of my own. She told the story of the little ornamental shoes and the reason for the brown tinged cracks over and over.

The time arrived when my grandmother needed to move to a smaller apartment. She sorted her treasures and the lifetime of memories they represented. She took those little shoes from the shelf and asked me, "Would you like these? Well at least the good one. I supposed I should've thrown the other one out years ago but couldn't make myself do it. Maybe now it's  time."

"I want them both grandma. The set needs to stay together just the way I remember them. The story and memory wouldn't be the same if I only had the unbroken one."

I received the pair of china shoes and a huge hug that day. Now they sit on a shelf in my home and I tell the story to my grandchildren who never had the privilege of knowing this wonderful woman.
Every time I look at them I am reminded of my grandparents and their love.

I am also reminded how imperfect we all are but how God does not throw us away. He waits for us to give him all the broken pieces of our lives. Then he mends them together with His amazing love, mercy and forgiveness. We might look at all the mends in our lives and see flaws like the brown of the glue but God sees us like the first little unbroken shoe - whole and perfect because of the blood of Jesus. We are broken yet loved by God more than we can comprehend.

Carol Harrison is a speaker, writer and educator  from Saskatoon, SK. who believes we all need to be continuously learning and growing. She uses the power of story to encourage, help people find their voice and offer a flicker of hope in life's choices, changes and challenges.


Monday, February 27, 2017

February takes us up . . . and down/MANN


ebruary is often a drab month with little sun and lots of snow. It’s a difficult time for many people. That’s why many Canadians head out for the south or Canada’s west coast. Being the shortest month of the year, it does not always have a full moon. This can make the nights darker then usual. But, this year, February surprised us by serving us a dish of record-breaking sunshine and warm temperatures

It's is also a month that grievers find desolate. Perhaps weather plays into this or the aftermath of Christmas might also be a reason. February is one of the most significant months to define love. It can make people suffer their loss in similar ways as Christmas.

My part in the anthology, ‘Good Grief People’ (Angel Hope Publishing – 2017) marked a February celebration. I acknowledge the sorrow that loss brings. Writing, submitting, revising stories of experiences with the dying might seem depressing. Does it seem like a disheartening topic?

Too sad to talk about? One that fits with February? Maybe!

For me, it was a time of acknowledging this topic as sorrow-filled. Yet, the honesty of writing an account was freeing, converting it into a celebration - a tribute to the dying. I confronted the lack of honesty in cliches often tossed around at funeral homes when people don’t know what else to say. It pokes holes in definitions that had often hindered my participation in conversations. We relate to our loved one's in particular ways during life and when they die we find other ways to honour them, so conversation is important. This is good. Grief can be as elusive as a shadow: First you think you see something and have a handle on it. And then you don’t. This always brings me a smile in spite of tears.

We find different ways to honour people. Funerals, memorial services, hockey arenas to government locations, churches to cemeteries provide opportunity. People say words and play musical instruments from pipe organs to bagpipes to mouth organs. 

My choice in this book was to honour friends from my early years and show gratitude for being apart of their life. I didn’t write about my parents or brother’s death. Each died as they lived. This comforts me and I still draw on it many years later.

Like the surprising week of balmy days in February, my participation in the anthology warmed my heart.

Blessings on this day,
Donna Mann  

Check out www.donnamann.org  - lots of happy reading for dull winter days.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Prompt to Write by Carol Ford

I volunteered to a write blog for The Word Guild site on the 22nd of each month, and February’s theme “love” was idling in the back of my mind, but I was having trouble moving forward with the piece.  Then I remembered our writers’ group had written a devotional specifically for this purpose. How could I have forgotten this source? Do you sometimes forget to apply the very ideas you have put in writing to inspire others?
I leafed through our book As the Ink Flows: Devotions to Inspire Writers & Speakers and found the devotion entitled “Writing with Love,” written by Glenda Dekkema. Here was the prompt I needed. Glenda had written out 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and replaced the word “love” with the word “writing”.
"Writing is patient, writing is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Writing does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
At the end of this devotion, Glenda asks the reader to reflect on the words of Mother Teresa, “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”
She also prompted the reader to write a love letter to the world, the army, a victim, or my nemesis.
This gave me an idea for today's blog. I chose to write a letter to a victim.

Dear victim of war,
Nightly, when I view the news, I see the violent and shocking ways your life is being destroyed and abused in the turmoil of war.  My heart aches for the misery and sadness I see in your eyes, especially in the eyes of your children. I watch your desperate flight from enemy fire, the bleeding injuries to your loved ones as they lay in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, the mud and snow you have to trample through to carry out your daily chores, and the temporary shelters that make up your home. I cannot comprehend the depth of anguish and pain you must be feeling, but I want you to know, that with every meal I eat, or when I crawl into a warm bed, or observe wet and cold weather from my dry and comfortable home, I’m acutely aware of the contrasts and of God’s blessings in my own life. I feel guilty. I ask God, “Why am I safe and sound when so many others are suffering in the world?”
I feel helpless to right these injustices being inflicted on you, and, although I pray, give money to missions and look for opportunities to help those in my own community, it never seems to be enough.
I wanted to write this letter to tell you that you are not forgotten and that God loves you, and he knows all about your trials.  He really cares and so do I. The following scripture might be of some comfort to you. These words are from The Holy Bible, words believed by followers of Christ around the world. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 New International Versions (NIV)
As I close this letter, be assured that many of us continue to pray for peace and restoration in your country.

In Christian Love, Carol

Carol Ford is a co-author of As the Ink Flows: Devotions to Inspire Christian Writers & Speakers and has a short story in Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon. She is a career coach and speaker. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Hope Meets Grit - by Heidi McLaughlin

Hope is not optimism or a good luck charm. It takes grit to walk through darkness and believe in something better for tomorrow. On a recent Facebook post I declared: “The darkest storms make way for the greatest sunlight.” I believe this with all my heart because God is a good God who promises that our future plans are good and abundant. But how do we survive those endless, dark seasons without any cracks of sunlight?

We need to have grit to grab hope.

Sometimes hope feels like an exploded dandelion seed floating in the air teasing my fingertips as I try to grab it.  Hope is not nebulous.  It is real and tangible but it takes backbone to step into it. I am at the three-month marker after the death of my second husband. It’s been a long, cold and hard winter outside and in my soul.  As I wait for my new season to arrive I need to do what my brother-in-law Bill says, “Give ‘er snoose.” Not entirely sure what it means but I know it entails hard work.

Give ‘er snoose.

With determined grit I step into hope every day. Here is how I do it:
  • Whether I feel like it or not, I get out of bed, feet on the floor and start my day. Time with God, a shower and I make intentional appointments with friends to get out of the house each day.
  • In spite of how I may feel, I start each day writing in my Gratitude Journal.
  • I keep my body strong by eating healthy and walking 5 km every second day.
  • I DECLARE that I will live in God’s light and that God has my glorious future. Out loud I speak against defeat, discouragement and despair. I will not allow the enemy to sabotage my thoughts with negativity and hopelessness.
  • I stand on God’s promises with hope for my future. I look up verses that proclaim God’s truth for my fulfilling life. “So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.” (1 Peter 5:10)
  • I remember God’s faithfulness in the past. I suffered through the death of my first husband, watched my father die of ALS and my mother of a pre-cancerous blood condition. God was with me in those grieving journeys and He restored my soul and placed a beautiful “new normal” in my life. Because God did is then…He will do it again.
  • After a thundering, black storm the sun emerges and we enjoy a gorgeous rainbow. A visual imagine of an eternal promise.  Life is circular. Babies are born-we die. Winter is here-spring comes. We die-we go to Heaven. The suffering seasons we are in do not last forever.  Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. “(James 1:2)

There are many more but I will end on this note. God is the I Am of all I Am’s. The name of God is YHVH, which means “I Am.” When I say, “I am Heidi McLaughlin” that means that my “I am” only exists because of His. I know that everything in my life flows from Him and He would never intentionally hurt himself, so why would He hurt me? The only time He hurt himself was when He sent His son Jesus Christ to die for my sins and freedom. 

What kind of radical love is that?

That’s the hope I cling to each day. My God who loves me like that will walk me into a new and glorious future. I believe it with all my heart.

Heidi McLaughlin lives in the beautiful vineyards of the Okanagan Valley in Kelowna, British Columbia. Heidi has been widowed twice. She is a mom and step mom of a wonderful, eclectic blended family of 5 children and 12 grandchildren. When Heidi is not working, she loves to curl up with a great book, or golf and laugh with her family and special friends.
Her latest book RESTLESS FOR MORE: Fulfillment in Unexpected Places (Including a FREE downloadable Study Guide) is now available at Amazon.ca; Amazon.com, Goodreads.com or her website: www.heartconnection.ca

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Tried and True or What’s New—Carolyn R. Wilker

In my household, tried and true is a good thing for many reasons. Whatever works, we keep on with it, whether it’s a particular way of planting or making a pot of soup. Whether it’s a way of building something or a system for filing important papers. Sometimes, though, it’s good to break out of a rut, if one could call it that, and try something new.

The philosopher in Ecclesiastes declares that generations come and go, that the sun rises and sets and confirms that “There is nothing new under the sun.” (v. 1:9c, NIV) While those things regarding creation remain the same, if the philosopher were here, I might argue that there are new things under the sun. Maybe not the way the water flows to the sea or the return of seasons, or the wind blowing as it does. It’s good to have some things that remain consistent. But there are new ways of doing many things.

            In our time, we have telecommunications systems that the philosopher could never have dreamed of. We have Go Bus, Go Train, printing presses that are much more efficient than the first presses invented. Our way of sharing ideas is different, with internet and Smart Phones and the iPad, for example. Perhaps the ideas are limited, but the way of expressing them can be quite varied.

Several years ago, I got tired of my garden not producing in our sandy soil, no matter what I did or how hard I worked and watered it. Some plants did alright and others failed. 

A friend shared an idea on her Facebook page that she found on some other social media sharing place. A raised bed, in which we could add better soil, would be less stress on the back leaning down to plant, and we could put netting over to keep the small animals out so the plants get a chance to grow. I thought the idea was brilliant and I was able to get my husband—who likes tried and true the best—on board. That was March. In May, when it was time to get things planted, he completed the raised beds and we put them in place and filled them with new and better soil, with a lot of help from family members and a neighbour. Thus we began a new way of gardening.

Since then I’ve learned about Square Foot Gardening, an idea that the raised bed was built on. There were learning curves with this kind of gardening, for example how close could I plant the seeds or seedlings so they have room to grow and aren’t crowded. It’s been a successful venture even if my tomato plants grew through the netting. And it’s been fun, too, for my grandchildren to help me plant and water.

 And here’s where I’m glad for what doesn’t change, that the rain falls from the sky to water the plants, the water we collect from the downspouts into our rain barrel that’s the best kind of water for the plants—warm and soft.  Also I'm grateful that the seeds grow as they are intended to, and the sun shines, and that God, the creator, is in charge of all that. We just have to be good stewards and take care of what we have, using it wisely.

Carolyn Wilker is a writer and editor from southwestern Ontario, Canada

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