Sunday, July 22, 2018
“Life is amazingly good when it’s simple and amazingly simple when it’s good.” Terri Guillemets[i]
“What I remember about Mom is biking all over Aurora.”
He looked down at me from the podium with a smile.
Did I hear right? The comment came from my youngest son during his speech at my older son’s wedding. He sounded loving and happy recalling this memory.
Up until then, I’d often looked back to their childhood and regretted the fact that we hadn’t taken trips to Disney World, boarded luxury cruises or skipped off to a cottage each weekend. Our family income, compared to those of others in the affluent town where we lived, was very modest. Most other families had second vehicles so moms could taxi their kids around, and everyone else seemed to be having much more exciting summers than us.
Since I was a stay-at-home mom, financial sacrifices were needed to make ends meet. I had to find creative and inexpensive ways to occupy my sons during their school vacations.
Several summer days started with a leisurely homemade waffle breakfast, after which the boys and I hopped on our bikes and rode to the outdoor town pool for their swimming lessons. When the lessons ended they begged for permission to play with their friends in the park for an extra hour, and by then it was lunchtime. We rode to the IGA store and ate hotdogs and drank pop at the snack bar. A visit to the local comic store usually completed our stay in town, and mid-afternoon we biked up the steep hill to our home. I was exhausted from this last leg of the trip.
At home, the boys settled into playing with GI Joes or watching a favourite TV show until suppertime, after which they participated in town league soccer or baseball games; and so, the days drifted by.
It was also not unusual for us to sit together on the couch and read several pages from a chapter book whenever we felt like it.
If it was a rainy day, I would invite in other neighborhood children for a craft morning. I found that they were extremely inventive when I dumped textured fabric, wooden sticks, buttons, glitter, glue, scissors, and markers in the middle of the table. While they created, I baked cookies and played music that they would enjoy.
My days centred on my children; I listened to their conversations, looked for teachable moments and talked about faith-based attitudes.
God tells us in His Word, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. [ii]
Were there days and times when I would love to have ducked my responsibility? Absolutely. Keeping children happy and engaged is no easy task, especially during the last couple of weeks of summer prior to school commencing.
Today, my sons are fathers to their own children and both hold to the Christian faith. I would like to think that many of their choices have come from “...biking all over Aurora.”
Reflecting on this topic, makes me wonder if some of God’s best memories of me might be the simple things that I had done.
Jesus told us that many actions that don’t seem very significant, expensive or brave will be honoured by Him.
“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” [iii]
I pray that you will feel refreshed on this summer day and find joy in serving God in the simple things.
Carol Ford specializes in career consulting and personality differences. She is a member of The Word Guild and co-author of As the Ink Flows: Devotions to Inspire Christian Writers and Speakers and Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon, Christmas with Hot Apple Cider. Carol shares her adoption reunion story in a variety of settings and is a contributor on Hope Stream Radio; http://hopestreamradio.com/contributor/carol-ford/.
She has been married for 45 years, has two married sons and four grandchildren.
Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Grief is a mysterious monster. It lunges us into deep dark places seeking the once familiar pathway of love. It longs to recapture the beautiful rhythm of shared experiences, intimate conversations and physical touch.
Grief is love with no place to go.
At one time my relationship with my beloved Jack was like listening to an exquisitely tuned symphony on a magical summer evening. Perfectly crafted sounds and rhythms that felt like a touch of Heaven. Grief steals that flawless balanced harmony and now all I wanted to do was hide and cover my ears to drown out the screeching and wretched sounds. Will that musical masterpiece ever be heard and felt once again? Does grief and pain sabotage our future creativity and ability to craft beautiful lyrics?
Grief has a profound affect on our brain. Through cortisol chemicals being released in the body, the brain is scrambled and unpredictable. Details are foggy, internal reactions are shifted and concentration is compromised. We lose interest in things, find ourselves unable to smile or laugh, we can’t eat or sleep and we’re emotionally numb. With all this disruption on our physical, emotional and psychological state, what happens to our creativity for writing, painting or writing a new symphony?
Pain takes us into unfamiliar and unpleasant places.
Yet each time we are thrust into deeper places, our mind expands with greater understanding, priorities and images. Once the fog disappears, images and colours are brighter, notes are clearer and we’re more courageous with our words and descriptions. Pain opens up another world that gives us permission to think and create outside predictable clichés and nuances. Barbara Lane in her article on “How Grief Affects the Brain” states: “Grief provides some of the low notes of our lives that make it a richer symphony overall.” In fact, we’ll fearlessly embrace new words and notes that synthesize exceptional beauty and harmony.
Some of the greatest cultural masterpieces are the byproduct of pain and grief. Homer’s “lliad” tragedy is among the oldest extant works of Western literature and written around 8th century B.C. C.S. Lewis ‘ greatest works, one being “The Problem of Pain” was written after the death of his beloved wife. The single mother, billionaire and ninth best-selling fiction author of all time, J.K. Rowling, makes no secret of the fact she deals with depression and pain. Doctor and author Henry Seiden goes even further to say:
“Creativity is the essential response to grief.” 
Twelve months after my beloved Jack died I attempted to carve out time to write my next book. Frustration set in and I felt inadequate as I wrote predictable sentences with lack of insight and creativity. At the time I thought I was ready to write another 60,000 words but my brain knew better. I will still foggy and disjointed. This year in the month of May I tried writing another chapter and this time excitement seared through my body as words, images and concepts flowed in harmony like the beginning of a new symphony. During my time in the dark and deep, the harsh life and loneliness gave way to the emergence of a magnificent new sonata. It won’t look like my previous ones, but I believe these will have more depth, colour and harmony. Lord may it be so.
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
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Inspiration hardly strikes on an empty stomach. For this, and other reasons, writers must eat.
And if you like minced beef (and you do if you like burgers) and chick peas, this recipe is perfect solo or shared.
Goofta is simply fried mince meat and chickpeas.
Chickpeas are healthy and tasty, high in proteins, and lower on the glycemic index. (https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods)
Goofta was introduced in my native country of Trinidad by the settlers from India and the Middle East. (A similar variation of the dish called fallalel omits the meat and is merely chickpea balls.)
I used the recipe from my absolutely favourite cookbook The Multi-Cultural Cuisine of Trinidad & Tobago and the Caribbean.
You will need:
½ lb. minced beef or lamb (chicken or turkey would not hurt)
1 can chick peas drained
1½ tsp salt
black pepper to taste
1 tsp hot pepper (optional)
2 tbsp chopped chives
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp minced garlic2 tbsp finely chopped onion
2 tsp butter or margarine
1 cup oil
1. Season meat with 1 tsp salt, black pepper, chive, thyme and hot pepper.
2. Drain and mince chickpeas in food processor
3. Combine meat, chickpeas, chickpeas, onion, butter and ½ tsp salt. Mix well.
4. Shape into balls about 1”-1 ½” in diameter and flatten slightly.
5. Fry in oil on moderate heat.
Drain on paper towel. Serve with a dip or sauce.
I hope you enjoy goofta this as much as I do. Happy snacking.
SUSAN HARRIS grew up on the island of Trinidad. She loves to cook and feels impelled to since her new kitchen is dominated by an island which has endless space for utensils, appliances, food, books, camera and the many non-kitchen items that often grace it. Find more recipes at her blog at www.susanharris.ca
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
No, not the beat. It’s the heat. Not so long ago we waited for the heat to come. Now we’ve got it in spades. The ground is dry again, the grass is dead, but thank goodness for the rain we had that filled our water barrels and soaked the ground. Our garden plants stood up taller and had a great growth spurt afterwards. It’s as though they were saying "thank you." Even the drought tolerant flowers were showing signs of stress stood up taller.
|garden after the good rainfall|
We could use another good rain shower for the crops and gardens. Then people wanting to picnic and have outdoor events might holler, "No, we want sunshine!" or "Couldn't it come at night instead?" There’s no pleasing us humans. Some like it hot, some like it cold, some like it … in between, like me.
We can be picky, or maybe it’s particular. Many times we just complain, but it seems God is used to that. He’s heard it before—centuries of it. One most notable being the philosopher in Ecclesiastes who felt nothing was right. People worked hard and got nothing for it. He wrote, “the streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full" (v7a), "all things are wearisome, more than one can say" (v 8a). He declares that everything is meaningless (v. 2) with no new things under the sun. People reading the philosopher now might think he’s a pessimist. Maybe when he wrote it, he was having a bad day, just like us.
Does he change his mournful tune though? By Chapter 3, it seems he is resigned to life as it is, for he declares happy with the sad, though the sad in most lines comes first, "a time to weep and a time to laugh" (v 4),"a time to tear down and a time to mend" (7a). Then wonder of wonders, despite all the trials, he declares that God has set eternity in the human heart. There’s a sign of hope there.
We, too, have hope because God doesn’t give up on us, even when we’re not sure where we stand. As with the philosopher, we have times where things are not so glum, and we accept 'what is' about life and go on. Then there’s the garden, that when we tend it and take care of it, offers up food for our use and sustenance. That, too, is a gift.
Carolyn Wilker is an author, editor and storyteller from southwestern Ontario. She gardens and loves to spend time with her family.
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