Thursday, June 30, 2011

How I Came to Be Here

By Belinda 
(This is a reworking of a post first published a few years ago and I submitted it to for Canada Day. I'm not sure if it will be published there but thought I would post it here anyway! Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow--Canada Day.)

A couple of years ago on Canada Day weekend, when our youngest grandson was just five, he sat between Paul and me in a church pew one Sunday morning.

He was scribbling on an offering envelope when he suddenly looked up with wide eyes and said, "Omie, when you used to live in England, did you just get on a plane and fly over here?"

I smiled and said, "No, Sweetie, we came on a boat."

"You came on a boat?" he echoed, eyes growing wider.

"Yes, and a cat named Tibby and a Myna bird named Jasper came with us."

"They did? Where are they now?" he wanted to know.

"Oh, it was a very long time ago and they grew old and died," I said.

"Oh," he said, going back to scribbling; his questions satisfied.

But I was remembering how it all began...

After a false start when I was 16 and turned Paul down because I was going out with someone else, he finally gave me another chance and asked again a year later.

I was 17 and he was 20 and I was head over heels in love by this time. I had a hunch that I was hitching myself to a man that was not going to stay put. And, like my mother before me, I was ready to follow the man I loved anywhere.

I don't think he ever really proposed but I do remember him saying, "So, how would you feel about coming to Canada with me?" and having to read between the lines that he had marriage in mind.

We got engaged on my 18th birthday, and just over a year later, we were married, on August 23rd, 1969.

By this time we had applied to immigrate to Canada and were accepted. We had absolutely no assets to our name but a few wedding gifts, and a very little cash.

I remember on our honeymoon in Rotterdam, my aunts and uncles asking about where we would live and did we have jobs. They all seemed so surprisingly cautious, practical and conservative to us.

"Hadn't God opened the door?" we thought, and we were sure he knew the next step!

Paul's older brother had married an American girl and emigrated the year before, and his parents had also applied to emigrate and were accepted.

And so, on Saturday, September 27th, 1969, Paul's parents and his younger brother John; sisters Sheila and Judith; their cat, Tibby, and Myna bird, Jasper, arrived in a rental van, at my parent's house in Alvechurch, Worcestershire, where they picked up Paul and me for the drive to Liverpool. From there we would set sail on the C.P. liner, The Empress of England.

It was only five weeks after our wedding and we were just 19 and 22 respectively.

In my mind’s eye I can s see Mum, Dad and my 16 year old brother Robert, framed in their front doorway, waving goodbye to us. I don't think they ever really got over the pain of it, but with the self absorption of youth, I had no idea at the time of the cost to them. Mum, whose love was always such an unconditional and unselfish love, only said, "As long as you are happy, darling, I am happy." But her heart broke.

At 19, I had no real concept that the rest of my life was going to be so far away. That dawned on me slowly and with an aching heart of my own, over the subsequent months.

There was a terrible storm as we crossed the Irish Sea. I woke up on Sunday, the day after we set sail and thought of Mum cooking the traditional Sunday roast as she always did, and I longed to be back at home, but every moment took me further away, and I was wretchedly sea sick as were most of the other passengers.

I didn’t yet know it but I was already pregnant with our son, Peter, having romantically and impractically wanted to bear children with this man I married, right away.

By the time we realized that waiting might be wise, it was too late. Peter was born 9 months to the day after our wedding--May 23rd, 1970. While as hopelessly impractical as the rest of our lives at that time, we never regretted Peter's joining us so soon.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stupid Pie

This is the last week of school--the week the girls had been practising for; the week to bake their teacher's pies: One for Ms Gallant and one for Ms Barr.

I asked them yesterday if they wanted to make the pie all in one go or make the pastry one night and peel the apples the next. They voted for the two step method. Making pie is hard work for small hands!

So last night the pastry was made and stored in separate zip-loc bags and tonight we entered phase two--the peeling of the apples, adding the sugar, cinnamon and flour and then the spraying of the pie plates with Pam and rolling out the pastry.

The girls were giddy and giggly. Tippy whipped out her I Pod touch to consult on quantities but for sugar quantity looked quickly and said, "One!"

"One what?"

"One tablespoon!"

"Check again!"

They thought that one cup of sugar was a vast quantity--and I suppose it really is.

In the middle of Tippy's rolling out of pastry my friend Jane called. I could see the pastry sticking to the rolling pin and with gestures tried to motion for more flour! How hard it is to instruct without words while listening to someone talking on the end of a phone. In the end I had to explain to Jane what was going on and excuse myself momentarily to say something. What a relief that was instead of watching pastry disaster unfolding in mute helplessness.

"Sprinkle more flour," I urged Tippy, whose pastry was a little sticky from the start.

"Pretend that you are powdering a baby!" More loud gales of giggles from both of them. And I didn't even mention the word "bottom."

It was hard, but I was "hands off" because they will only learn by doing themselves, and I wanted them to be able to say that they made the pies, so I encouraged when courage failed them when spraying the pie plates, "Just shake and spray. You can do it!"

Tippy was finished first and left Tori to finish rolling out her pastry. Tori has always had sensory issues, so watching her putting her hands in the flour and shortening is hilarious, she handles it so gingerly.

And Tori is quicker to tire and has a lower frustration level than Tippy, so when trying to put the lid over her pile of apples she burst out with, "Stupid pie!"

"Stupid pie?" I said.

And she patted the pie to make it better and said, "Encourage the pie."

The pies are baking--thank goodness!

The kitchen is in need of some serious attention.

I wonder if their teachers will have any idea what a riotous process this was!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Golden Boy Calls in the Big Guns

By Belinda

We were on the last leg of our walk around the village one evening last week. We were climbing the hill that joins our road, almost home.

Down the hill on the end of a lead, held onto by a woman being dragged along, came the big Great Dane that lives in the only house on the side of the hill.

She was a slightly built woman, with short, brown curly hair and she was dressed in jeans and a t shirt.

I was relieved that he was on a lead. He's scared me more than once, bounding loose across the road. I made a light hearted comment meant to be friendly.

"Is that a dog or a horse?"

But as the words left my lips, to my horror, I could see that the dog was clearly in charge and the lead was not holding him back at all. Dragging the woman behind him, he was making a beeline for Molson, and snarling as he got closer. It happened so suddenly and he, twice the height of Molson, was biting and snapping at the top of Molson's head, as he snarled back in defence. The Dane's owner yelled at him and thumped at his head, dragging him off, and we went on up the hill as fast as we could, shaken.

Unbelievably Molson has been attacked by three different dogs on our walks around the village--a German Shepherd named Tupper who escaped from his house one morning and bounded across the highway filled with morning traffic, with a fight on his mind as the drivers looked on; a vicious bulldog named Rambo who was always tied up to his kennel until his owners bought an invisible fence and then let the battery run down; and this Great Dane.

On Saturday evening we went out again, walking down the hill this time. At that point I still refused to let fear decide where I could walk in the village. I could hear barking from inside, but took comfort that he was inside, but then he burst out of the house and came  running across the road again. I yelled at the top of my lungs, "Get away, get away, get away!"

A young man with dreadlocks ran after the dog and caught up as he again went for the top of Molson's head, dragging him off. I ignored his apologies and said that I was going to call Animal Control.

"Oh please ma'am, we're moving," he said.

"I don't care, I shouted back at him, "Where ever you go, people won't be able to walk in their own neighbourhoods."

When we came back at the end of our walk, I avoided the hill, and instead we walked along the main road.

On Sunday I told the whole story to Rob, my brother in England, including my call to Animal Control, only to get a message telling me their office hours ended at 4.30 each weekday. Robert said, "Oh, so dogs can only bite Monday to Friday."

 "Right, Belinda," he said, "I will have to send Bruce over on a plane."

And we laughed at Rob's description of how he'd wear sunglasses and have his collar turned up.

"And he'll carry his kong in a suitcase," I said.

"Yes, that will be the only thing in the case" said Rob.

The kong, which I gave him when I was last in England, is his most precious possession. He would not travel anywhere without it.

So yeah--that Great Dane had better look out because we have connections he won't want to mess with. Bruce may be scared of fireworks, but he's The Dog!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

In the Arms of the Angels # 2

My cousin Deb, who lives in Spain, recommended the Josh Groban and Sarah MacLachlan version of this. I'm not sure if this is the exact version she meant but I am sharing it for its beauty. I love the raw talent/voice of the previous version I posted too.

In the Arms of the Angels

I just checked out Afsoon and Shapour's blog (they had left a comment on my last post) and they had posted this amazing song on their blog. I just had to share it. Belinda

Friday, June 24, 2011

Celebrating Seeing

By Belinda

On Thursday the cataract on my right eye was removed and a beautiful new lens implanted. I am the recipient of a modern medical miracle and so very grateful. The surgery went perfectly and as I lay on the stretcher in the recovery room, through the clear plastic eye shield, I looked at the clock on the wall and saw the time. Right after the operation!

I have seen only fuzzy shapes through that eye for so long, and felt so inhibited because I couldn't see the expression on people's faces when they were any distance away. We rely so much on facial cues--you take it for granted when you see clearly.

I am grateful, grateful, grateful. I thank God and bless the hands of the skilled surgeon who did the operation: Dr. Leslie Landecker.

My daughter-in-law, Sue, put this song up on Facebook in celebration of my new sight. It says exactly what I feel!

Chief Credentials

By Belinda

I journal sporadically, and this morning I opened my leather bound Nationwares journal for the first time in a few days and discovered that the last entry was last Friday, my first morning at Write! Canada.

You've been with me on the journey, but I hope you can stand just one more post on the topic to bring it all full circle; from one Friday to the next, with so much in between!

I wrote:
Friday, June 17, 2011
A few precious moments before the day begins, here on this holy ground, my 11th Write! Canada.
I had some moments of self doubt coming here this year. Was I writing enough to call myself a writer? Whatever He says, the blog I write, has evolved, and I write less of a devotional genre and more light hearted humour and family stories, interspersed with leadership epiphanies and inspiration. Is this what I am meant to write? Is it enough? Is it fluff?
So doubtful did I feel that at the gala on Wednesday night, when the call was given for all writers and editors in the room to stand up, I did not. Why? Well, the struggle of self doubt--and the fact that in the row of friends who had come to listen to the speech I wrote, I didn't feel worthy of standing. Yet I see now how silly that was. The speech had to be written and I had worked hard and long and put my heart, soul and prayer into it.
While here I long to hear his clear voice saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it."
Today I wrote:
Friday, June 24, 2011
Did I really write those words just a week ago? I feel so differently now! God answered my longing prayer as clearly as could be over those precious days at Write! Canada, culminating with my name being drawn out of the basket at the end of the conference. "Belinda Burston of Bond Head," won free registration to next year's conference. I didn't keep it; I paid it forward to an heroic writer who has already typed the first three chapters of her life story with one finger of her left hand--the only way she can type--and who has limited finances. I knew that the prize was meant by God for her, but it had to come through me, for I was the one that needed the blessing of God on my writing--and what clearer blessing could he give than to say, "You will be here next year; this is where you belong." My heart sings.
Today's Daily Light is full of significance. If you need encouragement, click on the link and read it. The page in my own copy is covered in notes in the margin which I have scribbled on different years.

And at the very bottom of the page are these words, a quote I wrote down from a talk years ago at Write! Canada
The chief credential for the Master's service is not technology, but a broken and contrite spirit through which the Master's spirit can flow.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Encircled by Love

By Belinda

My friend Bonnie and I drove home from Write! Canada ; my trusty old Honda Civic laden with her luggage and registrar paraphernalia and my copious baggage. In spite of determining to only buy one book this year, I came home with four copies of A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider an anthology by the best of the best writers of The Word Guild.

These are the some of the writers of A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider--a group of gifted story tellers from the east and west of Canada and everywhere in between.

Can I whisper a secret? If there is a Third Cup of Hot Apple Cider I plan to submit something! It doesn't matter if I don't get in, but I plan to try. I have a story in mind already.

I brought home copies of Tim Huff's books:Bent Hope and Dancing with Dynamite and 2 copies of Nikki Rosen's In the Eye of Deception (we put up signs around the conference on the first day and hearing a tiny bit of her story, when I heard she had written it down in a book, I just had to buy it.)

I bought these books too:The Elements of Style by Strunk, and Harold Taylor's book on time:  Slowing Down to the Speed of Life and Findependence Day by Jonathan Chevreau, a finance columnist and blogger at the National Post, who was at the conference for his second year. I bought the same book last year but our son Pete borrowed it. Now he can keep it. You see that I melted in the face of the book store. I promise to share a little about the books as I read them!

Bonnie and I stopped for supper on the way home at Fionn MacCool’s an Irish pub/restaurant in Orangeville. This is one of our conference traditions--a way to make it all last a little longer. The food we chose was amazing: She had shepherd's pie and I had salmon with a salsa and portabella mushroom sauce. I highly recommend the restaurant if you are in the Orangeville area.

Often there has been a crowd of us heading home together. This time it was just Bonnie and I. Since she is moving to Peterborough in August, this was our last time driving home from Write! Canada together. It was a special opportunity to spend time one on one.

I dropped off Bonnie in Tottenham and arrived back to where I had started three days before, in a very different frame of mind: Bond Head.

Tori, who had joined me and our friends popped in to give me a "welcome home" hug. I was so glad to see her because I needed to say something.

"Tori," I said, "Do you remember at the gala, when they asked all the writers and editors to stand up and I didn't?"

She nodded.

"Well, that was very wrong. It was terrible that I denied who I am, and who you are, too."

Her eyes were wide and serious. Attentively she listened.

"Do you ever feel like your gifts aren't worth much?"

She nodded vehemently, "Uh huh." I could tell that she really could relate.

"Well, that's how I was feeling that night too. But it isn't about our gifts being good. It's about knowing that God gave them to us and he will use them if we give them back to him."

She nodded thoughtfully and impulsively moved in and gave me another very tight hug. I hope she always remembers my confession and the lesson learned.

The next morning it was Father's Day, and as I got ready for church I was listening to CBC radio--a father being interviewed about the cycles that parenting philosophies go through.He grew up in a time of Free Range parenting which I think I did too. Parents weren't so intensely involved in their children's lives. The pendulum always swings though and he described how much it means to him to be his son's soccer coach. He said he  doesn't know much about soccer but the kids seem to respond.

"He got hurt on the pitch yesterday and I held him. Oh my goodness, what more can a dad do?" he said.

And I thought that was exactly what my Father had done for me over the days away at the conference. He picked up this kid of his that fell down in the dust. It felt like I was his only child, he gave me such individual attention (although, being God, I know that he was loving many others all at the same time.) I got hurt on the pitch and he held me. Oh, how he held me.


Zechariah 4:10

New International Version (NIV)
 10 “Who dares despise the day of small things...

By Belinda

I have a ritual at Write! Canada. I love to get up early while my room mate still snoozes blissfully on; shower, dress and put on my make up. Then, trying not to wake her, I fumble around the dark room trying to remember where I left things the night before, feeling my way over unfamiliar furniture until my fingers find what I am looking for: my Bible, Daily Light, and journal.

Clutching my precious bundle of books and my room key, I unlock the door as quietly as I can and tiptoe down the hallway and into the long, almost empty lounge. 

There are usually one or two other early risers there in the dim morning light, fingers quietly tapping away at laptops. I find my own quiet corner with a seat turned away from others. 

This is always a time when I feel so close to God--a time set apart, away from the distractions of home--the mental "to do" list tempting me to just start the laundry or water the plants before sitting down with God--and then too often, I don't.
In my Daily Light on Saturday morning, I almost missed it, this verse underlined the previous year: Zechariah 4:10, "Who dares despise the day of small things... 

Oh...Is that what I have been doing? "Despising" the "small thing" that I consider my writing? I catch the gentle rebuke and I think back to the plenary of the night before. 

Grace Fox spoke to the 200 writers gathered in the sanctuary, about the journey that she describes in her book, Moving from Fear to Freedom

I had my note book with me--I was on the lookout for any "markers" that God might send my way.

These are some things that she said that caught my attention:

If God is in your writing then don't stop until he tells you to.

God can do anything he wants when we just say "Yes"

Jesus commands my destiny!

I will accomplish what concerns you.

My pen scribbled furiously.

And then she quoted this verse:

John 12:49-50

New International Version (NIV)
49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

Although I've read that verse many times, I suddenly recognized that the title of this blog is hidden within them, even though it isn't the verse the blog title "Whatever He Says," comes from, (which is John 2:5.)

I felt like I had my marker. The servant is not above the Master;  if Jesus depended so entirely upon his Father, that was my key mistake lately; allowing life to consume me; running too fast to sit at his feet and allow his presence to soak into my soul and into my writing. It was no accident that I found myself adrift. I had truly lost my moorings for a while.

Grace, who insists that she was once shy, spoke with the fire of the Holy Spirit flowing through her to us.  

She was a living example of what she writes about in her book, Moving from Fear to Freedom and she said that God equips her to do what he has called her to do. I loved this--she said that we need to "Do it afraid."

Grace wrote recently on the topic of fear of failure. A friend had given her a greeting card that said, “Attempt something large enough that failure is guaranteed unless God steps in.” She said that is the way she has chosen to live her life. Wow!

I sat in the front row of the Irwin Room (the sanctuary,) blown away as ever other person in the room was, and I cried, wondering why I had chosen to sit in so visible a spot. I don't cry "prettily." :

I would have been good to go at that point. It felt as though God had spoken to me clearly through this dear and inspiring woman who described hearing him speak as "an icicle dropping on her head."

But then...on was the last hour of the conference. We all gathered for the last time in the Irwin Room to hear the last plenary address, by N.J. LIndquist, the co-founder of The Word Guild. Our bags were packed and already in our vehicles. In the air hung hopes, dreams and gratitude, and sadness at saying goodbye. We were all overflowing with the gifts of the past two and a half days, so very thankful for every minute. 
On the way in we separated our name tags from the plastic holders, saving the holders to be re-used next year. Our name tags themselves went into a basket. The final exciting moment is a draw for one person to get free registration for next year's conference.

The moment came, a name was drawn. "Belinda Burston of Bond Head," was the winner! 

And I think an icicle fell from the ceiling and hit me on the head.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Writer in Need of Direction

By Belinda

On Thursday morning I got up early to drive to Guelph Bible Conference grounds for Write! Canada the annual writers conference organized by The Word Guild. My friends Susan Stewart and Claire Alexander were not attending this year and I missed them. But I did look forward to seeing other old and dear friends and the sun shone brightly as my beat-up but faithful old Honda Civic wound its way up the drive of the conference centre, and into the grounds with their beautifully kept gardens, shaded by tall trees and dotted with Adirondack chairs.

I arrived at 10.00 am, in plenty of time to put up signs around the conference centre and be ready to help my friend Bonnie, the registrar, when two hundred or more writers and faculty arrived for registration at 12.30 pm.

A sense of anticipation hung in the air. The pre-conference quietness was pregnant with promise and under girded with the prayers of the sixty or so strong strong prayer team that supports this organization. I knew that over the next three days, connections would be made; skills honed; new friendships formed, callings affirmed and destinies would be birthed.

I checked in with Andi, the volunteer coordinator and noticed an empty gift bag on the table she was sitting at. It had a sign next to it: "Prayer Requests." I was not going to pass up this opportunity to ask for help. I found a scrap of paper and wrote out my prayer request--basically something like:
"I need direction--am I really a writer or just deluding myself? Does what I write matter or is it only fluff? I need to know, Thank you, Belinda"
I dropped the request into the yawningly empty bag with a sense of jumping to the front of the prayer queue but I knew that my aching question was now in good hands.

I went off to enter into the exciting bustle of a conference-about-to-happen.

It was wonderful from the very first moments. High quality teaching, an inspiring  plenary address by Tim Huff, who had won the Grace Irwin award the night before at the awards gala, and the fellowship of friends who are kindred spirits.

Several times when I introduced myself to someone new the person said, "How is your mother-in-law doing now?" with an expression of genuine concern. I knew then that I had just met a member of that band of prayer warriors that had been praying for her.

They were everywhere, these pray-ers--getting together in the early morning and again in the evening each day, to pray throughout the conference. Janet Sketchley , the prayer team lead, whispered to me at one point that she was praying for God to give me a "marker," something that I would know was his direction. It was good to know that my sad little note had been found and I thanked her with all my heart, so grateful for the ministry of the prayer team. Now that I knew they were praying I was waiting for that "marker..." 
To be continued!

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Sudden Sinking

By Belinda

What is it that causes a total loss of confidence?

I don't know, I only know that on the day I drew this now aged sketch, I experienced a loss that I have never regained--the confidence that I can stay afloat when out of my depth in water.

I was fifteen, at a lake somewhere close to Rotterdam, in Holland, withTante Hannelore and the daughter of a friend of hers.

It was an impromptu trip to the lake, and the girl, whose name was Ria and who was a couple of years older than me, had loaned me one of her bathing suits.

Ria was tall, with long tanned limbs and short blond hair. At fifteen, I was only just beginning to emerge from teenage puppy fat and I really would have much preferred to stay at the side of the lake and draw, but I didn't know how to say that without offending them, so I didn't. I sat by the side of the beautiful lake, enjoying the warmth of the sun on my back as I sketched the tall poplars reflected in the water; the boats, and the boat houses on the other side of the lake; but eventually at Ria's urging, I put my sketch pad aside and walked out into the water where she was already swimming.

I was a fairly strong swimmer when younger, at least I can remember swimming the length of our local pool in a relay race at school when I was about eleven and having no problem, but, inexplicably, when I found that I couldn't touch the bottom of the lake, I panicked and started to sink. I felt the water closing over my head and realized that no one would know what was happening--they thought, quite rightly, that I could swim! I wonder if I felt so inept and clumsy that day that it affected everything including my ability to swim. Obviously I didn't drown--I made it back to the shore without being dragged out and resuscitated on the shoreline, but ever since that day I have had no desire to go swimming and the few times I have tried, when my children begged me to, I sank like a stone, so powerfully was I convinced that I would!

And that is how I felt at the gala on Wednesday night when the managing director of The Word GuildDenise Rumble, asked all of the editors and writers in the room to stand up. I sat in a row near the front, with the four friends who had got all dressed up to enjoy the evening with me, beside my granddaughter Tori, who was there because she is a young writer who loves to breath the same air as other writers--and I lost all confidence that I could call myself a writer. I stayed in my seat.

That moment, the decision not to stand with the other writers, was a denial of a part of my self identity, and while I was ashamed that I didn't stand up, I also didn't feel worthy to. I could no more explain it than explain why I sank in the Dutch lake, but the loss of confidence was just as real.

For the last several months I have been extra busy at work and my writing has been less consistent. I suddenly wondered if what I write about had any value--my little stories about Molson and baking pies--and this and that. Was it all just fluff and meaningless?

A small inner voice reminded me that faithful readers do still read and wasn't I insulting them if I thought that? But I squashed that thought and chose instead to believe the other voice that told me I was being completely self indulgent spending family finances to go away to a writers conference the next day. It was as though I had a slow leak and all of my vision and confidence was leaking out.

To be continued!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Catching Up

By Belinda
Note: My apologies for the fact that this is long and a bit scattered. I wanted to catch you up--more is yet to come...

The day flew by on Thursday. I was at the hospital in Newmarket by 8.30 in the morning for a consultation with the anaesthesiologist in preparation for eye surgery next week. The instructions said to be prepared to be there for 3-4 hours, so I took along a good book.

I felt a little like a parcel at the post office being stamped and labelled and sent off on a long journey through various places in the hospital as my blood pressure was taken and forms were filled out. But eventually I was passed as healthy and fit for surgery.

Since I was at the same hospital that Paul's mum had just been moved to, I decided to pop up to the 6th floor, even though it wasn't visiting hours yet, hoping to see her. The nurses welcomed me and said to go right in. I stayed until her lunch arrived, marvelling at the spunk of this woman. Even if her red hair had long ago turned to ash grey, the flame of her determined spirit burned as bright as ever. She was longing to go home and anxious to do whatever it would take to get there.

Back home in early afternoon I packed for the writers conference starting the next day in Guelph. I would be leaving early the next morning to help before the conference began.

Then it was time to get ready for The Word Guild Awards Gala, the climax of this day. My faithful friends: Frances, Susan and Jamie were to arrive at 4.15 and we were meeting Irene in Mississauga at 5.30, so I had no time to waste.

I washed my face and redid my make up, feeling naked without eye liner and mascara, which carries a risk of eye infection and is not supposed to be worn prior to the operation. I took out my contacts and wore my black rimmed glasses to give my eyes a break. My hair flopped into my eyes like a blond mop but it was clean and shiny.

I put on my new dress. Short,dark grey and sleeveless--the fabric a polyester, cotton spandex mix, it was simple and I loved it.

I wore black patent pumps with low heels and consulted Paul for advice on whether to wear a short black tailored jacket or a loose grey wrap. He thought the jacket looked better. Tippy and Tori arrived home from school at that moment and agreed with his choice! The final touch was my "blog princess" bracelet, given to me by my friend Dave. It matched the shiny stones on the shoulder of my dress, perfectly.

At that moment the front door opened and in came Frances, Susan and Jamie. Frances was every bit the "butter-cream icing" that she had promised, the day before, that she would be ! She looked beautiful in her long, Grecian style dress, with white shrug, low heeled sandals, silver polished toe nails and her long, dark blond hair, tumbling down in a loose pony tail.

Susan also looked lovely in a fuchsia pink, flowing top, her blond hair shining around her dear face. And Jamie, usually a t shirt kind of guy, wore a shirt and pants! :)

Last year Tori, who loves books and writing, came with us to the gala because the writer receiving the Leslie K. Tarr award was Jean Little, the beloved children's author, but I hadn't mentioned it to her this year, the winner being the equally beloved theologian, J.I. Packer.

I saw a faint glimmer of sadness pass across her face as she realized where we were going, that made me wish I had thought to invite her this year.  But it was not too late to rectify that.

"Tori, I'm so sorry I didn't think to invite you, would you want to come with us? I can get another ticket at the door."

She hesitated momentarily. "But I'm not dressed."

"We'll wait if you want to come. Ten minutes?"

"Um....yes! I'll come!" and she was gone in a flash to change.

She emerged moments later, eyes bright, her hair pulled back, looking bright and beautiful in nice jeans and a turquoise top. At twelve years old she didn't bat an eyelid at going out with a group of adults whose ages ranged from early forties to early sixties. I love that. Had it been an art or dinosaur exhibition, Tippy would have joined us in a flash--but writing--that is Tori's special thing.

We all piled into Susan's Hyundai and set off to find the restaurant in Mississauga: Nirvana. There we were joined Irene, dressed in a lovely loose flowing lime green and brown top and pants.

Seated around a round table, the six of us laughed and talked as we carefully considered our selection of dishes for dinner, which turned out to be delicious. The meal was the perfect precursor to the special evening that lay ahead; an evening to honour the best writing by writers who are Christian from all across Canada.

From the moment we stepped through the doors of World Vision headquarters, where the gala was to be held, familiar faces of writing friends from the east and west greeted us, all dressed up and ready to celebrate.
Amid the sparkling crowd, there was one writer of an award winning book, Dancing with Dynamite, who was not dressed up to the nines: Tim Huff. Tim, who works with the homeless, wore jeans, t shirt, a chequered shirt and a baseball cap. He belonged though; we were proud to say that he was one of us.

Just before the final speech of the evening in honour of J.I. Packer, the speech my faithful friends had come to hear, the Grace Irwin Award winner was announced. This award has a 5,000 dollar prize for the winning author to invest in furthering their writing. Before the name of the winner isJean Vanier announced, a passage is read from the winning book. The winner was Tim Huff. He looked dazed as he mounted the steps for the second time that evening, to receive this prestigious award.

At the reception afterwards, I shook his hand and congratulated him. He shook his head, smiling, and said, "I was listening to the words being read, and I suddenly realized, 'I think that's my book they are reading from.' I couldn't believe it."

Afterwards he sent an email to family and friends with the subject line, "Shocked." His mother sent an email back, saying, "I'm shocked too." And his mother told him that Grace Irwin, who died in 2008, at 101 years old, had been a friend of their family.

The prize could not have gone to a more deserving recipient. I have a copy of his book, which Jean Vanier wrote the foreword for. I cannot wait to read it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

By Belinda

"When generations meet and blend, old and young hearts meet as friends"

That is the quote beneath this beautiful painting in the dining room at the Guelph Bible Conference Grounds, where I am at the moment, at Write! Canada.
I asked permission to take a photo of it and had to share it here so that you, too, might enjoy it! I love it for reasons that will be obvious to readers of this blog!:)

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Very Busy Day

By Belinda

It has been a wildly busy day. This week I am preparing for eye surgery, which is next week on Thursday. I have three pre-op appointments today and tomorrow; and the one tomorrow, is 3-4 hours. And it is the week of The Word Guild Awards Gala and Write! Canada, a conference, two events I would not miss if I could help it.

This morning I went for one appointment, with my ophthalmologist. He peered into my eye and asked it I could leave my contacts out for a few days. I must have winced because by his reaction I felt compelled to explain that I am going to a gala tomorrow night. He was so interested in the gala and wanted to know what I was wearing. "I haven't decided," I said, "But probably something I already have."

He laughed. I guess he has a wife and daughters and knows something about women because upon thinking it over as I left his office, I headed for the mall--where I had been going to buy some shoes, but now I decided to also see if there was something there that might go with the shoes!

I saw a store I  hadn't been in before: Forever 21, and soon lost track of time as it is easy to do when trying on clothes. When I glanced at my watch I was shocked to see that it was 12.00 noon. My next doctor's appointment, for a physical, was at 12.45, so I decided to leave right then and come back afterwards. I felt the sweet and unaccustomed sensation of knowing that I was going to be on time for the appointment, early even, as it was in the next town down the road.

Well, the sweet sensation was over quickly, because a few minutes down the road I remembered that I had intended to go home after the first appointment and the forms which the doctor was to fill out were still there.  I turned at the next side street and headed for Bond Head. By driving very quickly I got to the doctor's office 15 minutes late. Fortunately he was also running late and I was still early on doctor time.

After the doctor's appointment I went back to the mall and found a beautiful dress that happened to be 50% off.

Four friends: Frances, Susan, Irene, Jamie and I are going to the gala together. They are coming to the event because it is an important one for me, not because I am winning an award, but to hear one of the speeches to accompany the giving of an award, that I had the privilege of writing! Really it is a night when we have an excuse to go out, get dressed up and have a special time together. We are all going out to dinner first at a nearby Indian Restaurant: Nirvana.

Frances called at 10.15 pm to discuss what she is wearing. When I told her that I'd been to 21 Forever (although the dress I bought for tomorrow came from another store) she told me that it is a store owned by Christians and that there is a text on the bags. I checked it out, and sure enough, there it was, on the bag: John 3:16, How cool.

Then it was on to "Frances."

She said "It behooves me to be beautiful for my friends!" And of her dress she said, "I tried it on when I got home and Summer's (her daughter) face hit the floor. It is strapless gathered at the cleavage and it falls from there. a grecian cut, something summery, grayish blue and white with a white shrug, white sandals and silver polish for my toes."

Frances said,  revelling in the thought of getting dressed up, "I am icing. A substantial icing; butter-cream; rich. I enhance. I don't just make Brian (her husband) better--Brian the cake--but I'm a woman--I'm beautiful."

This is one of my dear friends--a rich, butter-cream icing friend--a friend who is making this evening special with her presence and going all out to enter into the joy of it all.. And I am laughing at the thought that Brian is a cake to her icing.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Definitely Doted Upon Dog

By Belinda

I have not written lately about Molson, my beloved furry friend, so here is what's going on in his life.

He is not living up to his job description as a stud dog, I am afraid to say.

He recently had a "date." He booked into his home kennel and the kennel owner arranged a romantic rendezvous for several days, with special quarters so that he and the "lady" in question could get acquainted with no distractions. We missed him terribly; our house was like an empty shell without him.

After a few days he came home to his ecstatic family, having had a hair cut and pedicure, but no romance, and it wasn't the lady's fault; he just wasn't that into it.

He is not a macho dog at all, although he is making progress and will now bark back when another dog barks aggressively at him.

Tori came upstairs looking for Brenda, who was debriefing her day over a cup of tea this evening.

"Molson was stuck in the bathroom!" she said to Brenda, with a note of reproach in her voice.

Let me explain: He was "stuck" in the bathroom with the door wide open, because he was afraid to walk past the bird cage. He will only do so with an escort or a push, one or the other and must have followed Brenda into the bathroom and been left behind. Well, the birds do rattle their cage you know!

But we all love him to pieces just the way he is. He is the perfect dog for who we are.  This match was definitely made in heaven.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fruit from God's Table

My team at work gave me two beautiful books for my birthday. One of them is Where There is Love, There is God by Mother Theresa. What a precious gift this book is. I can tell already that it is going to nourish my soul every time I read. And you know I'll be sharing here! :)

This morning I read of the words on the back of her "business card." On the front were the words, "God Bless You," and her signature. On the back were these words--good words for Sabbath--and every day:

The fruit of silence is prayer;
the fruit of prayer is faith;
the fruit of faith is love;
the fruit of love is service;
the fruit of service is peace.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Philip Yancey Coming to Toronto

Note: The writing of Philip Yancey has been such a blessing in my life and he is coming to Toronto!

Here is the information on when and where:

Philip Yancey, the multiple Gold Medallion winning author and editor-at-large of Christianity Today, is presenting two seminars in Toronto on July 01, 2011. 

The Bayview Glen Church (300 Steeles Ave East) will host the lecture "Communicating Faith to a Skeptical Society" from 8:30 am to 12:00 Noon. 

Queensway Cathedral (1536 The Queensway) will host the talk "What Good is God? In search of Faith that matters" from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm. There will be opportunities for Q&A and Book signing at both these events. The events are free, but RSVP may be required. Please visit the site: for more information.

The Pie Goes On

By Belinda

I checked in before she left for school this morning to make sure that Tippy did not forget her pies.

"I've got them all ready to go," she called up to me.

Of course. Did I think that after all of that hard work she'd forget? You might guess that I had some investment in the pies that she had made for the bake sale--and you would have guessed correctly. :)

I happened to be home at 4.00, when I heard the door open and bang shut and the sound of her feet running down the stairs. I gave her a few minutes, but then I could wait no longer and went downstairs to end my suspense.

"How did the bake sale go?" I asked.

"Great!" she said, "I sold every piece of pie."

"That's wonderful! How much did they sell for?" I asked.

"Well, I told them how much you sell yours for," she said (that's $20 to raise money for the Power of One,) "so they cut them into 10 slices and sold them for $2 each."

I inwardly gasped at her confidence in asking for the worth of her pie!

"And did people like it?"

With wide eyes and nodding head she answered me, "Oho yes. And one person ate five pieces!"

"Who was that?" I had to know.

It turned out that the name of the pie's biggest fan was the aptly named "Wolfe."

When Brenda heard the story of Wolfe's capitulation to the pie, she laughed at the probability that his mother would be asking tonight, "Wolfe, why aren't you hungry for supper?"

I'm so proud of her and I'm so happy for what she experienced today: the satisfaction of sharing the fruit of her own labour in the aid of a cause and bringing delight to others through a skill she is developing.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

A Quick Postlet

By Belinda

Mum B is so much better today. She has had a tube inserted to drain the fluid from the gall bladder and is comfortable and not in pain. We are deeply grateful to know that she is getting well again and give thanks to God.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Apprentice

By Belinda

According to the radio. the weather today was  "breezy and steamy"  in Ontario. It felt like 40 degrees with the humidity, but I had a baking date with Tippy and a promise is a promise.

She told me last week that she needed two pies for a bake sale at school on Friday and she was excited about baking them herself.

So tonight, armed with her i pod, where she had typed in the ingredients,  she was ready to roll.

My part was simply to coach; to encourage confidence--and (I confess) tidy up the mess afterwards! Well, she had baked two pies entirely without help except for Tori coming up to help peel and slice apples. It is quite a lot of work.

I found some perfect pie apples at Costco. They are called "Red Prince," and they come from Waterloo, Ontario. But does anyone know how we have apples from Waterloo when it isn't apple season yet?

One finished and one more lid to go.

Brenda came upstairs and obliged us by taking a photo together.

This is Tippy's steam vent. I always make mine in the shape of a leaf. Hers were happy faces!

The fruit of our labours; hers and mine. Mine are the far two pies. Hers are every bit as good--maybe better!

The quote of the evening:
Tippy was dotting a tablespoon of butter over the apples before covering them with pastry. Throughout the evening I had been coaching her on some quantities of ingredients being "scant" or "generous."

"In the case of the tablespoon of butter," I said, "Don't skimp, a little extra butter never hurt anybody."

"Unless they have heart disease," said Tippy.

"Well, okay, perhaps my mentorship could use a little work." :)

A Mum Update

By Belinda

I arrived at the hospital in the early afternoon. I had already picked up a message on my cell phone from Paul saying that Mum's night had been better. As I climbed to the third floor of the large open plan hospital I looked down to the food court on the ground floor and waved to Paul's brother and two sisters who were sitting there, having a bite to eat. That was a good sign, I thought.

When I got to her room though, I could hear sounds of distress. Mum was lying with her eyes closed, obviously dealing with pain. Her nurse came in and explained that when she had turned Mum over for a bed bath, it seemed to trigger the pain she was suffering.

Mum characteristically put on the best face possible when the nurse came to check on her, but I told her, "This is 'British stiff upper lip,' she is in a lot of pain."

Before too long, Paul arrived with the rest of the family, and shortly after an assessment by the nurse manager on duty, we all made way for a flock of blue uniformed nurses--a critical care team from the ICU as they defibrillated her heart which was beating erratically. They decided to wait until tomorrow for a procedure that will relieve pain from her gall bladder.

If in our stress we questioned anything that a nurse did, Mum said a variation on, "No, no, no, she is doing her best. She's all right. Be nice," keeping her family settled and setting the example that we love her for.

In all of this there is much to be grateful for. She truly is getting excellent care. Had she not had the stroke last week that brought her to the hospital, this attack would have happened at home and she may have suffered much longer not knowing what it was. She might have ended up on a stretcher somewhere waiting for a bed. But God had her right where she could get the best of care.

Small details such as my arriving just when she was in great distress and no one else knew are all God's doing.  Even though I couldn't take the pain away, I was with her, praying.

Thank you to those who are praying, for your loving support.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A Prayer Request

By Belinda

This seems like the easiest way to reach our friends to ask for prayer. Paul's mum, who had a stroke a week ago today, was doing really well in her recovery from the stroke, but has become ill with a gall stone and severely inflamed and infected gall bladder and liver. She was in excruciating pain yesterday but they are managing the pain better today. She is on massive antibiotics.

The doctor said that her stroke was unlucky, but that being in the hospital for this problem was a very good thing. He said that she is a very strong person and that is in her favour. They don't think she would come through surgery.

We are trusting God with this precious and much loved mother, grandmother and great grandmother.

We know she is in good hands, but we treasure each prayer on her behalf.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Rites of Friendship

Note from Belinda

My dear friend Dave sent me an email today as he prepared to leave for a while. It was so beautifully written (which is what comes of having writers for friends) and it made me feel that I might  be proud to have inscribed on my headstone one day, simply, "She baked a good pie."

And you can be sure that Ruby, too, shall have pie! :)

By Dave Hingsburger
The weekend before we begin a long lecture trip is one that has become full of traditions. Being away for a long time means incredible organizing. Everything has to be made ready, lists made, items ticked off, everything double checked. At our age this means everything from ensuring that we have enough of our medications to last and that we've packed a book or two for those long airplane trips. By the time we get to the weekend before, we are pretty much organized, then it's the job of getting ourselves emotionally ready for life out of a suitcase, life on the road. No matter how much they romanticize it, it's arduous. This is particularly true when travelling for work, not pleasure. Everyone assues that we are 'in vacation mode' when that's as far from reality as possible. So, we've developed some traditions. One of our main ones is that we make a big home cooked feast, enough to have one day and then leftovers the next. I think leftovers get a bad rap - they are wonderful. All of the taste, little of the work. It's like being able to relive a moment, and having the joy of knowing exactly how it will turn out. We like to be able to get on the plane with the flavours and tastes of home on our tongue.
Which brings me to why I am writing you. Over the past many years now, your pies have become part of this tradition for us. We keep them jealously stored in our freezer. Trying to guard them against intruders can be difficult. When Mike and family are here, just before they leave, they look in the freezer and Ruby exclaims, 'You've got lots of yummy pies in here!' She knows not to ask, but then I see Mike and Marissa wink at each other. They know that our hearts will melt long before the pie is defrosted. So we hide some. Just enough to make sure that we always have one for the weekend before a long trip. What better way to finish a weekend at home than with an apple pie, made of three different apples no less? Thus, yesterday we plopped a pie in the oven to have after dinner. It was so full of apples, three different kinds I'm told, that it took longer than expected to heat all the way through. We sat up and waited for the pie - much later than our typical bedtime. Did you know that it starts to get dark around 8:30!!
We munched on pie yesterday and will again today and finish it off tomorrow night, the night before we fly. Somehow it makes the leaving easier, having these traditions. As we get older, the packing seems to take longer, the trip seems to be somehow more daunting than it used to, and as such we need a little more protection, a little more sweetness. Apple pie, no, that's wrong, YOUR apple pie does that for us. It tastes of apples and friendship, and the marvelous thing about those ingredients is that they both taste better with cinnamon.
I just decided that you should know that your pies are sometimes more than pies. Sometimes they fit into the lives of  others in a unique way. Because, of course, they are more than pies. They are little personal gifts. I've told you before that I think that cooking is a kind of spiritual thing, it's an intimate thing, the feeding of an other's body, the replenishing of energy and spirit. Your pies do that for us. Particularly before we leave.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The One Rabbit Rule

By Belinda

After three busy days it was Thursday before I found myself at my office this week. Opening my door on its quietness had the feel of entering a sanctuary, an island of peace in a wild ocean of work.

I unzipped the briefcase, unpacked and plugged in my laptop and mentally rehearsed the list of issues that I needed to follow up on and soon I was making the first phone call of the day. At the other end of the phone was a colleague at our corporate office--the person to help me with one item. I can tell when someone is trying hard to be patient. I imagined that I was just one of many people calling to work out the many issues she had on the go that day. In fact her whole job is dealing with people like me who come to her with paperwork completed "creatively," rarely correctly, by our staff and their doctors. 

After I hung up the phone, with several file folders open on my desk by this point, I checked my email. My in-box had escaped my control during the past week and had grown to over 400 emails. I began to delete insignificant ones when something caught my eye on one that I was about to delete--a Quote of the Week. I paused to read it and it made me laugh! A moment later, still laughing, I sent this message to my team--and the colleague at our corporate office:
"This quote made me laugh. So that's what's wrong! :) Let's all try to catch one rabbit today--how to choose--how to choose! :)" 
Quote of the week ~ “If you chase two rabbits both will escape."Chinese Proverb
The emails started coming back. Endorphins were flowing all over as we laughed at the rabbits loose in our respective offices. Two of us even had one each on our laps, and two people decided to get themselves a dog--in fact my colleague at corporate even named hers Snoopy.

It was so good to just laugh! But although I laughed, I also saw such wisdom in that Chinese proverb. It has stuck with me through the past three days and kept me chasing one rabbit at a time and catching it before going on to the next one.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

I Think I May Have Passed on a Torch--Technically

By Belinda

Tippy and Tori had joined me for supper upstairs one night this week. As she munched on grilled cheese on toast, Tippy said, "We're having a bake sale at school for the track team. I need a pie."

"You've got it!" I said. Then I caught myself, remembering our great pie practice session of the previous week.

"But you could bake it."

"I know. I want to," said Tippy eagerly.

So as we continued our supper, I drilled her on the ingredients. She and Tori racked their brains and came up with them one by one: the flour, salt, shortening, water, vinegar and egg for the pastry and the apples, cinnamon, flour, sugar and margarine for the filling.

When I began to test her for the second time, on the quantities of each, Tippy had an idea, "Wait a minute, I'll get a piece of paper and a pen--NO, I'm going to put it into my ipod touch !"

Right there she entered the apple pie recipe into the handy tool while over my head there was a thought bubble, with a recipe card holder exploding. :)

Meanwhile, Tori was absorbed, gazing at her own ipod touch, a recent 12th birthday gift.

"What are you doing, Tori?" I asked.

"I'm reading a book," she said, "Alice in Wonderland."

I'm just trying to keep up; with my grandchildren--and a mother-in-law who turns 85 on June 2nd and tried to call for help on Skype while having a medical crisis this week!

But I think I may have passed on a pie torch--technically.