Planting Flowers and the Rhythm of Grief

575640_10152843706565531_1400055617_nOn September 20,2012 I posted this about our dear friends in Ontario who were facing the diagnosis of leukemia for their precious Emma Grace.

Yesterday, May 20,2013, Emma received complete and total healing as she flew straight into the arms of Jesus.

My earthly, motherly heart cannot comprehend the depths of despair that her mom is feeling.

My soul bursts with grief and mourning for this family.

In my present condition~human,fleshly, selfish and needy~all that I know is I have all 4 of my children here with me but my friend is feeling the ache of empty arms for not one, but now two precious daughters.  I weep.

It was 16 years ago that we first found out that Michelle was carrying another precious bundle after only a few months earlier experiencing the devastating premature delivery of Claire. I sat in that mournful sanctuary on that day in October 1996 and saw that tiny casket and wondered how God could possibly redeem this.  And yet, He did. Were it not for that horrible loss, Emma would not have been conceived under impossible circumstances.

I visited Michelle in hospital that summer. Bed rest for months while summer heat and life continued outside those walls. We laughed as she shifted in her bed, unable to get up at all for fear of losing this precious life. There were a few times when it seemed like maybe the odds were stacked against her. We prayed. We hoped. We rallied around this young family. And when the first anniversary passed of baby Claire’s passing and the due date drew near, there was that tension of grief and anticipation. How does a mother both mourn the loss of one baby and rejoice at the life within her? A sacrifice of one for another? I was a young mother too and I always marveled at her ability to remain steadfast in grace and hope and the victory of each day. Perhaps that is why, on October 17, 1997 when that baby screamed out her first cries it was the only word that seemed remotely appropriate: Grace.  And so they named her….Emma Grace.

Borrowed from Heaven. Not fair. Not fair at all. Rage and grief. Anger and suffering. Pain and weeping. Why does God only give us a taste and not the whole meal? Why?

Questions.

So few answers.

Thankful for this family to have had 15 and a half years of Grace. But so sad that there aren’t 15 more yet to come.

Today I’m planting flowers. It’s time. It’s warm and I have these empty beds that need to be filled.

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And in 3 months all we will have will be the leftovers of what was. We plant knowing that death will come. We make beauty in the moment knowing that it is temporary. It is this temporary season that brings us eternal joy. We give colour and life and beauty to THIS day knowing that hail, storms, pests, drought could wipe it all out in the blink of an eye. We plant in hope. We plant for  a season. We know that winter will come again and steal it all away.

And yet, I love to feel the earth and let God use me to bring a little beauty to my neighbourhood for such a short time.

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That is what the Stewarts have done. They have allowed God to use them to show us some beauty for a little while. They partnered with the Heavenly Gardner to sow a seed that became a flower that grew and then wilted and fell back into the earth.

We grieve. We mourn. We plant. We water. We cry. We pray. We hope. We live. We wilt and then we die. And so for today…let us live and be beautiful wherever we are planted.

This is the rhythm of sowing and reaping. This is the song of grief and mourning.

Zach died yesterday too. He is teaching a lot of people about living in this moment.

Follow up post: What to Say when Someone Dies…

Mennonite Girls Can Cook- Celebrations { A Book Review}

This book could not have landed in my mailbox on a better week than this! Mother’s Day is fast approaching and I can almost guarantee that this is THE go-to gift this year. Let me tell you why.

First of all, I’m going to change up how I review books. I would like to break my posts into three sections:

The Bones(the physical appearance and structure of the book)

The Flesh( the content and meaty portions)

The Soul( this is the part where I give you my honest opinion)

The Bones:

I have never owned a MGCC book before so I wasn’t sure what all the fuss is about. After all, they have a website(it’s fabulous) and who really needs another cookbook in their collection?  Well, this is somewhat different than a cookbook. It is about 8 1/2 ” wide by 10 1/4″ tall. It is a hardcover and the photography on the cover is absolutely stunning. The inside is equally as beautiful: full colour photos, 2 page layouts, step by step instructions all meticulously chosen for their inviting warmth.

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I love how this is a book about celebrating ALL of the seasons of life. Whether it is a Christmas family dinner or camping around a fire, there are recipes and ideas for how to make each occasion simple yet special. But I digress:

Broken into “Celebratory” sections like  Celebrating Birth, Family, Community, Hospitality, Milestones and more, there are recipes for every occasion.

The final sections of the book focus on Gluten-Free Cooking, Hosting tips and a thorough index.  There is even a nice little biography about each of the contributors in the MGCC group.

Each recipe is very clear and easy to follow and the book opens nicely to allow you to read while you work. Photos are so important to me and this book has TONS!

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The Flesh:

I touched on this above a bit, but the recipes are definitely the star of the show in this book. And you may wonder who really needs another cookbook? The way this book is broken into life celebrations really adds to the value for me. Who of us doesn’t have a community picnic, potluck, anniversary, holiday or gathering to plan something for? The recipes are so easy to follow and use ingredients you already have on hand or can access easily. This is a major plus for me!

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The added bonus in this book is that each section begins with a memory, an essay, an encouragement from one of the authors. Gentle reminders of how gathering around a table is so important in every family and also how we pass these simple traditions on to our children and grandchildren.

The photos are inspiring enough to make this a coffee table book ready to browse, filled with stunning photography and inspiring messages.

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I particularly love the personal touches each author adds to her recipes.

You will find recipes from Taco in a Bag for the hiking trail to Chocolate Sheet Cake to Gluten Free Baked Rice Pudding. This book has it all!

The Soul:

With online sources like Pinterest and All Recipes it might be easy to ignore another cookbook on the shelf that may or may not ever get used. I certainly feel that way about my recipe book cover.  But this book will make you put down your smartphone or tablet, walk away from your computer and sit with a solid, beautiful book in your hands and be inspired. It truly is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen in the ‘cookbook’ category.  Useful for empty-nesters and new brides-to-be, oozing with encouragement and wisdom and inspiring enough to make even the most timid cook want to try something new. Soul-full with just the right amount of faith-induced messages of comfort and hope for your journey, whatever that may be.

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And if that isn’t enough of a reason to buy this book, the royalties from the sale of this book will go to provide safe,clean drinking water in Africa.  These women embody what it means to give and be hospitable, celebrating all things around the table!

You might still have time to order one from Amazon and have it arrive for Mother’s Day. The price is worth it~you won’t be disappointed! (hint, hint, family reading this) .

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“Book has been provided courtesy of MennoMedia and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Available at your favourite bookseller from Herald Press, a publishing imprint of MennoMedia”.

The Cowboy and The Indian~ A Story about Family

He shuffled forward, almost like his boots were too big;  they probably were. His body, frail and small after years of health problems. My dad and my uncle flanked him on either side and moved him slowly forward. He reached out his hand and I nearly missed that moment. I quickly grabbed my camera because I knew we were about to witness something special.  Grandma stood and reached out her hand too. And then it happened~barely a whisper but his voice got stronger as he spoke.  A beautiful language I did not understand. Though I didn’t need to.  It was between him and his Maker.  “The Creator” is what he calls Him.  A blessing from one friend to another.  Tears rolled down my cheek as I listened and watched. And he touched my grandpa’s hands and his face. A final farewell from the Indian to the Cowboy after nearly eight decades of friendship.  I can’t imagine the stories or the adventures these two have shared. Most will never be heard or known by human ears.  For barely two months later, Old Bill went to meet his Maker too. I suspect he was homesick for his friend, The Cowboy.IMG_1332

Everyone has a story.  It doesn’t matter where you’ve come from or where you’ve been.  If matters not if your skin colour is brown, white, black or red. And for my grandpa and his friend Bill, the story is full of love, respect and friendship that stood the test of time and  bypassed all political,racial and economical barriers.  I am glad they aren’t around to see what has become of their people and their country.  Protests and name-calling are dividing families and friendships for nothing more than greed and status.

I was called a racist this week. I was called ignorant and uninformed. Someone told me I couldn’t possibly understand what it is like to grow up on a reservation or have ones rights stripped. If only they knew….

If everyone has a story and we’re all fighting for the same thing, do you want to hear mine? Some people don’t. It seems we’ve come to this moment in history where no one’s story matters except those of one specific race. But how different am I from them?

I grew up living on the threshold of an Indian Reservation on the Alberta Saskatchewan border in the north. Our neighbours were Cree. I don’t remember knowing or understanding anything about the difference between them and me. They were our friends, and our family.  In our home, my mom and dad often had young people around. Some played their guitars, others sang. Dad had moved an old school building onto our property before I was born and that became the meeting house for weddings, potlucks, gatherings, baptisms, Bible studies, and Christmas concerts. In a world where the “Us and Them” mentality decided where you lived and where you didn’t, where you shopped and where you ate, we managed to live harmoniously and obliviously happy for decades. My grandpa pushed bush and built a thriving ranch from nothing. He was a man in tune with the land and all of its resources. A businessman for sure but before that and always thereafter, a lover of life, nature,horses  and the Cree people who he called his friends.  That’s why it’s no surprise really, that his children fell in love with this indigenous people too.

If you’ve lived on the prairies of Canada for any length of time, chances are that you too, have family and friends who call themselves First Nations.  That’s a perplexing label to me. Indian, Metis, First Nations, Aboriginal….whatever you call these people, it doesn’t really matter; they are our neighbours and they are fellow Canadians. This is where I find myself confused and somewhat hurt.  My great-grandparents were either born just prior to coming to Canada or born following the migration of their own parents to Canada.  At what point do I become First Nations?  Doesn’t the idea of “first” mean the place of your birth? The place of your heritage? The place of your family’s beginnings? And what is the beginning? Is the beginning 3 generations back? Or ten?  Does it really matter?

Yesterday the news came out that a high court in Canada had decided that all people of First Nations/Aboriginal/Metis descent , whether living on reserves,settlements or in cities,off reserve or elsewhere would benefit from Indian status. What does this mean? Well, as best as I can tell it means that they can apply and be approved for any funding, health care, privileges that people on reserve are privy to.  Now, as far as the concept goes, I agree. If people on reserves are getting special privileges for their racial background then in all fairness, those of the same race should receive those privileges regardless of where they live. I absolutely 100 % agree with this.  However(and you knew I’d have a big BUT right here),  this is exactly where the system is wrong and broken.  The idea that a group of people, based on race alone, are treated differently than the rest of the country is absolutely offensive to every race, Aboriginals included. This is not equality. This is segregation. And it now muddies the waters of inter-racial  heritage. It also encourages the ongoing labeling of people based on country of ethnic origin which is silly and pointless.

Back to my story…..

My mom’s family, both sides, are Mennonites.  Mennonites from Russia to be precise.  They fled the Ukraine in the late 1870s because of religious persecution.  Some stayed but most left. The Canadian government helped them to get here because the land in southern Manitoba and southern Saskatchewan was uninhabited and the ground needed to be broken and worked. Thousands upon thousands of Mennonites , Ukranians, Irish and Scottish Europeans came over with little idea of what they were about to face. Can you imagine not speaking the language, facing your first prairie winter in little more than a shack for shelter? And the process of homesteading required that the land be lived on for the entire year before land titles were turned over to the owners. I have seen some of these “homes” that could only be called mud huts at best.  But they did it, to be free and to have a hope of a future. This is my family and this is the family of my husband.  In the 1920s the government of Manitoba took over the education of all immigrant children. Up until that time, Mennonites, Hutterites, Ukranians and any other ethnic group were free to educate their children in their mother tongue.  But the Canadian government and provincial and territorial governments of the day decided that English must be taught as well as government approved curriculum. There is a part of me that totally understands the fear and anger that my family must have felt during this time.  They had just become accustomed to a new way of life in a new country and now their rights were being taken away. And so, many fled.  South to Mexico and other points in the US. There is , to this day, a very large community of Mennonites in Mexico and more communities in Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil and other South American countries.  My great aunt was one who fled and died a short time after, leaving many children without a mother. But I do not blame the government.  I do not advocate for compensation for my family who were persecuted and driven from their homes. (There was a threat of government intervention and children were forced by authorities to attend these schools. It was not optional.)  But that was then and this is now.

In the 1940s following the bombing of Pearl Harbour, there was a mass round up of Japanese Canadians.  They were interned in camps and forced to work in often treachorous conditions. Japanese men were separated from their wives and children and laboured on the Trans Canada Highway that we all now enjoy the freedom to drive. This was less than 70 years ago but you don’t see Japanese Canadians demanding compensation or restitution for the time or property lost(their houses and possessions were sold and they didn’t receive the proceeds).  It was a different time and a different place.  That doesn’t excuse what happened but it is no more Stephen Harper’s fault than it is my own. It is a sad part of our history but it is in the past.  The stories of these people is no less important than that of Aboriginals who were forced into residential schools.

So why does any of this matter? It matters only in the context of each family’s history and story. And all of our stories matter in the context of what Canada is and who we are as Canadians.  Why an aboriginal who is 28 gets more privileges, rights and protection than I , at 41, when we both have been born here, our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were born, worked, paid taxes here is beyond me.  I get treaties. I understand promises and the shaking of hands. I also understand that the day a treaty was signed in the 1860s  or 1910s it was a very different world than it is today.  No vehicles relying on gas and oil, no homes powered by electricity, no hospitals with NICUs keeping preemies alive long before they ever would have survived in more primitive times.  The leaders of the day shook hands in good faith and they promised in the context of what they knew and what they could imagine only years ahead of where they were.  Not decades and not centuries.  I am Canadian.  My kids are Canadian.  My cousin and brother and sister and aunts and uncles and nephews and nieces are all Canadian.  Some of us have darker skin and some of us are pasty white. But we are still family and we love the land which we came from and which we still hold dear.

A year ago, we laid my grandpa to rest a mile or so from the border of the Indian Reservation where he lived most of his life. I was in the minority at his funeral. As I looked out across that room full of friends and family there were definitely more brown faces than white. And it made me smile. This is how my grandpa would have wanted it:Friends and family all together~Laughing, hugging and sharing stories of times gone by.

My dad and a dear family friend whom I had not seen in many years. I love the smiles and I love these two people.

My dad and a dear family friend whom I had not seen in many years. I love the smiles and I love these two people.

Old Bill, my Grandpa's lifelong friend, with help from my Dad and my cousin throws one of the first shovels of dirt onto Grandpa's casket. A poetic moment I will never forget.

Old Bill, my Grandpa’s lifelong friend, with help from my Dad and my cousin throws one of the first shovels of dirt onto Grandpa’s casket. A poetic moment I will never forget.

 

 

How do I , a white woman, introduce the brown-faced members of my family?  Like this:

He’s my brother.

My dad and my brother. Love them.

My dad and my brother. Love them.

My brother, my cousin and my husband. Three of the handsomest men I know.

My brother, my cousin and my husband. Three of the handsomest men I know.

She’s my sister.

My sister, and 2 cousins(they're all about the same age)~ and their dads are all brothers.

My sister, and 2 cousins(they’re all about the same age)~ and their dads are all brothers.

 

This is my cousin, whom I love like a brother.

This is my nephew,isn’t he cute?

The last time many of us got to see Grandpa it was a lovely time~family time.

The last time many of us got to see Grandpa it was a lovely time~family time.

And here’s one of  some of my favourite people in the world.

This is my family.

Me,my sister, my grandma, my aunt and my cousins.

Me,my sister, my grandma, my aunt and my cousins.

2012 in Pictures ~ Because sometimes,there are no words big enough.

My grandpa's tender hands. I held them for the last time in January. He was nearly 93 when he died on January 20,2012. I miss him so.

My grandpa’s tender hands. I held them for the last time in January. He was nearly 93 when he died on January 20,2012. I miss him so.

 

 

 

At my grandpa's grave side~his friend Bill , who would pass away 2 months later, threw on one of the first shovels of dirt. A poignant moment.

At my grandpa’s grave side~his friend Bill , who would pass away 2 months later, threw on one of the first shovels of dirt. A poignant moment.
Grandma and just about all of her grandkids. This was good for her.

Grandma and just about all of her grandkids. This was good for her.

Family fun at Sunshine Village in February.

Family fun at Sunshine Village in February.

Dad and son jamming before everyone had to leave for their "temporary homes" .

Dad and son jamming before everyone had to leave for their “temporary homes” .

Lyndon actually let me photograph him. What a miracle.

Lyndon actually let me photograph him. What a miracle.

Leslie working on one of her many masterpieces. This girl has mad talent.

Leslie working on one of her many masterpieces. This girl has mad talent.

The view of our farm from the road. And a few friends dropped by.

The view of our farm from the road. And a few friends dropped by.

Epic night of aurora borealis in March.

Epic night of aurora borealis in March.

Friends from Ontario~all of us reuniting where our friendship began more than 23 years ago.

Friends from Ontario~all of us reuniting where our friendship began more than 23 years ago.

Does one ever tire of a prairie sunset?

Does one ever tire of a prairie sunset?

Saying goodbye...we will meet again!

Saying goodbye…we will meet again!

The girls enjoying one last prairie storm before our big move to the city.

The girls enjoying one last prairie storm before our big move to the city.

My son's high school grad~time has flown. (he's on the far right).

My son’s high school grad~time has flown. (he’s on the far right).

Another night of amazing skies.

Another night of amazing skies.

"'Then sings my soul~~ How GREAT Thou art!"

“‘Then sings my soul~~ How GREAT Thou art!”

A hazy,hot summer day.

A hazy,hot summer day.

The glory of God I see most in His amazing displays of creation. How can one not believe when you see this? :)

The glory of God I see most in His amazing displays of creation. How can one not believe when you see this? :)

One last sunset...

One last sunset…

Storm clouds followed us as we left the farm...a fitting farewell I think!

Storm clouds followed us as we left the farm…a fitting farewell I think!

" ....I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul! "

” ….I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul! “

A lot of kitten chaos~who can resist?

A lot of kitten chaos~who can resist?

Welcome to Regina!

Welcome to Regina!

The perks of living here ~ cousin/friend/adults to share the days with!

The perks of living here ~ cousin/friend/adults to share the days with!

Our move tuckered everyone out...particularly this pair!

Our move tuckered everyone out…particularly this pair!

Our furry little ball of love is growing up.

Our furry little ball of love is growing up.

Lyndon getting some good experience with one of his former teachers on the church worship team.

Lyndon getting some good experience with one of his former teachers on the church worship team.

Finishing out the year with family around! Happy New Year to all!

Finishing out the year with family around! Happy New Year to all!

Wild Clover and Laundry on the Clothesline {It is Evening}

It’s summer and on the Saskatchewan prairie that generally means hot sun and temperatures above my pay grade. I don’t do well in the heat. I’m like a wilted flower. Lazy, listless and lethargic.  We don’t have a pool or even a lake very close by. The A/C is running, the blinds are drawn.  We open the door only if necessary and even the dogs are begging to come in and lay on the cool tile floor. But the sun brings generous gifts: green grass, blue skies, thunderstorms occasionally and magnificent sunsets. The evening is my favourite time. I feel alive. I am energized.  And I am beckoned outdoors and this is my sanctuary.  God’s holy tabernacle of praise.  Meadow Salsify lifts its seeded head towards the sun.  The various flowers and grasses gently sway to the rhythm of the crickets and frogs’  evening song.  The fragrance is intoxicating and I want to bottle it up and save it for those cold, rainy October days that are bound to come. Evening. My soul is alive.

Psalm 65:8
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.

 

Mammatus Clouds{Everything You Wanted to Know}

This is a different kind of post for me but if you know me, you know I am addicted to skies and clouds. I love that we get to see so many colours and variations even within one day here on the prairies.

We truly do live in the land of living skies(as per Saskatchewan’s motto).

Earlier this week, while in Regina for my son’s grade 12 graduation, we were under some very intense storm warnings.  Lightning, thunder, large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes were the order of the day.  I would have loved to have been out storm-chasing but I only have one son and he’s only going to graduate once so this was kind of pretty important! :)   Anyways, we were caught in the edge of a pretty vigorous storm cell on the north end of Regina mid-way through the evening.  After the storm passed over and the sun came back out, we were treated to a spectacle worthy of international attention: mammatus clouds.  Most people who came outside to take pictures and view the sky had never seen or heard of mammatus clouds. I was giving quick tutorials while pressing the shutter on my camera.  But I thought that with all the attention paid to these bubbly wonders, a longer post might be in order.

My husband has said he’s never seen them before.  But in reality, we all have.  We just don’t see them on this scale usually, or recognize them when we do see them. Because they are associated with the cumulonimbus clouds  that produce thunderstorms here on the prairies, we see them often from spring till fall.  But maybe you don’t notice these after a storm or they pass by too quickly.  I admit, this was a first for me to see such a large display but I have pictures of other times I have seen small pockets of them.

Wikipedia describes them like this:  Mammatus may appear as smooth, ragged or lumpy lobes and may be opaque or translucent. Because mammatus occur as a grouping of lobes, the way they clump together can vary from an isolated cluster to a field of mamma that spread over hundreds of kilometers to being organized along a line, and may be composed of unequal or similarly-sized lobes. The individual mammatus lobe average diameters of 1–3 km and lengths on average of 0.5 km. A lobe can last an average of 10 minutes, but a whole cluster of mamma can range from 15 minutes to a few hours. They usually are composed of ice, but also can be a mixture of ice and liquid water or be composed of almost entirely liquid water.

Also, you might giggle, but the word mammatus comes from the root word mamma meaning breast. So my daughter lovingly calls them “boob clouds”.  Oh yes. That’s what they are!   ** Mammatus, also known as mammatocumulus (meaning “mammary cloud” or “breast cloud”),] is a meteorological  term applied to a cellular pattern of pouches hanging underneath the base of a cloud . The name mammatus, derived from the Latin mamma (meaning “udder” or “breast”), refers to a resemblance between the characteristic shape of these clouds and the breast of a woman.**

Here are the photos I took on Tuesday June 26 in Regina, followed by other photos I’ve taken at different times of mammatus cloud structures.  They are pretty awesome to see in person!

The setting sun giving a nice yellow glow to the clouds.

June 18 during a tornado warned storm. You can see how the light filters between the “bubbles” defining their shapes.

June 18~same storm…..swirly clouds forming into the mammatus. Sometimes there may just be a small area at the edge of a cell that looks like this.

Sometimes mammatus look like this. I liken them to baffles on a mattress. July 20, 2011

They look wavy in these pics. July 20, 2011

Keeping Memories Alive, even in Death {with a little help from Shutterfly}

I have been scrapbooking most of my life but time, space and the overwhelming job of keeping up with all my pictures has made it impossible for me to get anything done anymore where albums are concerned.

My problem is this: I love taking photos.  I love telling stories with a series of photos.  I am a photo-essayist.  It’s one of my great passions.  But here I sit with literally 10′s of thousands of photos archived only on hard drives and discs.  They rarely see the light of day or anyone’s eyes.  It is so sad.  That is partly why I love my Facebook account.  I can parade my photos for all to see and yes, I actually do go back and browse them from time to time myself.  I love seeing and remembering.

So this year, one of my resolutions is to REDEEM my photos from digital hell.  They have been cast into this pit of despair and it’s time to free them.  But where to start?? No better place than the present.  And nothing better that something touching, personal and important to me and others in my family.

Namely: my grandfather’s recent passing.

I blogged about him earlier in February.  He was the pillar of love and faith in our very large family.  He knew each grandchild’s name as well as his 48 great-grandchildren.  He was a man with a twinkle in his eye but oozing with wisdom and advice.  Strong in his faith until the day he died, he led and served his family well.  When it came time to lay him to rest, everyone made the trip to be there.  It was, in fact, the first and only time all 22 of his grandkids were in the same place at the same time.  It was quite the homegoing for him. My dad spent hours and hours plotting out how the service should go.  There was to be no church, no minister presiding and no funeral home involvement for the procession or graveside.  This was a family dominated event and a send off fit for the cowboy that my Grandpa was.

Just a side note here about taking pictures at funerals: This is the 3rd funeral where I have taken photos without fear of being disrespectful. There’s a way to do it where you are not disruptive. At this funeral, it was a very casual atmosphere so it wasn’t taking away from what was happening. At a previous funeral where it was in a packed church, I refrained from taking photos during the service but took a lot at the graveside using a zoom lens.  I cannot tell you how much these photos mean to me personally and to the families. Yes, this is a difficult event in the life of a family. But it is still an event worthy of remembering.  Most of the time, people are too emotional to think about pulling out their cameras.  But I have a healthy respect for death  and the transition to the here-after.  It might not be for everyone but I find it to be one of the most beautiful things to witness.

With my dad being so involved in the service and arrangements I wanted to give him something to remember the day by.  I decided it was time to get the photos off my camera and into a book.  My past experience with photo-books is minimal for what reason I do not know.   I have wanted to  get my photos published over the years but I think I justified not doing it because of the  stash of papers, albums and embellishments that I have amassed.   That has been a huge mistake on my part.

I knew I wanted a good end product.  I also knew I wanted some creative control over what I was creating.  With many options from Walmart to various printers I could have chosen any one of a hundred printers.  But Shutterfly was my first choice.  I have had experience with them in the past.  They do ship to Canada.  And , the best reason? Their album options, layouts, colours and prices were second to none. With deals  every few weeks, I knew I could get this done on budget, on time and with great results.  The only problem?? My sometimes pokey rural internet connection. I feared I would have to mail in a disc of my photos.  But no, Shutterfly has a “fast” upload option which is suitable for photobooks and prints.  I wondered if my connection would handle it.

It did.  In fact, I uploaded dozens of photos in less time than it would take me to drive to town and back.  I was in business.

I’m so grateful to Shutterfly for their service and their “Custom Path”  options for albums.  It allowed me to honor my Grandpa and make something timeless that my dad and the rest of the family will cherish for years to come.  When I got my book earlier this week I was SO VERY IMPRESSED by how well it turned out. I quickly posted photos of it on Facebook and had such an overwhelming response from family and friends! Several  family members have already ordered copies thanks to Shutterfly’s sharing website.  What a great idea! I am hooked!!

Here are a few pages from my album.  It is an 8X11 album with hard cover.  I had to add 20 pages to accommodate all the photos.

Front cover

Front Cover

Page one

Amazing quality of photos

Don't be shy about capturing different moments at a funeral. Many people there are so caught up in emotion that they will thank you for this later.

My grandpa was a simple man but he loved his ranch and his horses. This was such a fitting tribute to him in the end.

Capturing faces and emotions at the graveside can be done respectfully with a proper zoom lens.

Sometimes black and white makes you focus on the subject rather than the busy-ness of color but in this case, my grandpa's favorite color was red, his grandsons were the pallbearers all in black and it made such a statement. Shutterfly allows you to opt for B&W while putting the photos onto the page so you can play with different looks.

Back Cover

I want to challenge any of you who, like me, are hoarding thousands of memories on a digital file somewhere that no one ever sees.  Do you remember the days when we would rush our film to the local 1 hour photo? We would spend $10, $20 or $30 and even go for double prints! This is really no different. Only this time, you’re getting a finished product, not just an envelope of photos needing a home.   Join me this year and REDEEM your memories! Let’s get this stuff published and into a tangible, beautiful book that will be looked at, loved and treasured for a lifetime!

Here’s one more book I just got today. This one was a freebie and it’s just for me.  A little 8X8 album with photos I took of my grandpa this past year.  I even added a few that had some poor resolution and blurriness. I don’t mind~it’s all memories that I am so grateful for!

I love these hardcover books!

He Just Wanted To Kiss Me

I have no idea how this happened.

I don’t know where I’ve been that this day has come so quickly and without warning.  I sometimes wonder if I’ve been in some sort of coma for half of the past two decades. I simply cannot believe that we are here:  our 20th Wedding Anniversary.

Yes, 20 years.

When I first started dating my husband he had forever in his eyes and it scared the crap out of me.  I had no idea how to handle the emotions and the thrill of having a man focused entirely on me….and my lips.  Yes, he just wanted to kiss me.   I didn’t let him…at first.  I had never been kissed.  I was 19, almost 20 and no man had ever kissed me on the lips. And I was scared.  What if I had fish lips that went limp and slimy?  What if let him down?  What if he was disappointed?

If I never learned how to kiss I would

surely be an old maid forever.

(these are the irrational thoughts of a naive teenage girl with no “experience”) .

Well, he did kiss me.  He pretty much had to throw me down on the floor and plant one on my cold, hard lips. I’m sure it wasn’t enjoyable.  But he persisted.  And eventually, I loosened up. And then we couldn’t stop.  Kissing became thrilling and romantic; lovely and heart-pounding.

But that’s as far as we went….till our wedding.

On our wedding day, my love got to show off his love of my lips in front of all of our family and friends. And boy did he give them a show! I look back at it now  and think we were nuts.   I suggest people do the nice closed mouth lip lock for the nuptials and leave the  tonsil-hockey to other more private locations.  Not my man.  Oh no…once he got a hold of me I was at his mercy.  I think I had to shoot up the white-flag a couple of times just to come up for air.

Ahhh yes…..young love and immature kissing.  It’s one of the special things we’ve grown into and perfected over the years.

I’m thankful for a man that didn’t give up on an inexperienced young girl.

I’m thankful for 20 years of learning and loving together.

I’m thankful that our marriage isn’t all about kissing but it still gets my heart pounding every time.

And I’m still thankful that I waited for the ONE guy to be the ONLY guy to ever be the one to kiss this girl.

Happy Anniversary my sweet love.

If you like this post please read what I really think about marriage:  What Marriage is For

He’s Making Me a Quilt

I have this thing with colour. I can’t get enough of it. I’m drawn to shades and hues and blends.

I want to be the one who discovers you really can put orange and purple in a room and not have it look like a Halloween theme party.

For years my colour obsession manifested itself in scrapbook paper. I have boxes of the stuff…still.  Unused; untapped potential to be cut and matted and pasted into something amazing.  When I look at it, I get a fire in my belly once again and I remember what I thought I might use it for.  But that doesn’t really redeem the fact that I have all of this paper sitting in boxes, unused and unfulfilled.

Photography has filled that need for capturing and harnessing the power of colour and sharing it. Making it into something for everyone to see and bask in the glory of God-given colourful creation.   Sunflowers are my favorite flower to photograph; literally bursting forth with the most vibrant, intense yellows, oranges and reds.  The magnitude and depth of colour in one petal is like a drug to my thirsty, colourless soul.  I crave colour.

And so it goes with fabric.  Get me into a fabric store and I am lost. My heart beats faster and I find it hard to not scoop up armloads of chintz, calicos, toiles and run full-force out the doors.  Where would I go? I have no idea.  But there must be a special place for lovers of fabric, texture and colour. I am there.

For years I have been building up this stash.  I don’t know exactly when it started but I happen to have remnants of my bridesmaid dresses from 20 years ago so I guess that’s as good a place as any.  Tafetas , silks, broadcloth, gingham.  I can see the decades passing by in this one box of colour.  The colour trends of the early 90s were smoky and moody.  And then there were cheaper, brighter cottons later on followed by more elaborate patterns in the 2000′s.

Red is the dominant from the past 10 years.  I picked up one yard meant for a small craft.  And then a few metres on sale begging to be created into some curtains that never got off the floor.  A little here and a little there.  Over the years, through several houses, I’ve been buying and collecting.  And what of it all?  Why buy and never use? What is wrong with me that I start but never finish?

It’s an awful lot like life with Jesus.  It feels a lot of the time like we are just grasping at colours and textures barely long enough to appreciate them.  Storing up and waiting for something. Never really knowing what the outcome will be.  We gather and prepare and plan.  And then we throw it all away because it’s outdated, we’ve grown up; we mature and no longer do those plans fit who we are.  And we wait.

I sat down this week and decided it was time to finish what I started.  I gathered some pinks and reds, a bit of white with flowers.  A cheap yard that was leftover from someone else’s project.  Another bundle from a long-forgotten goal plus a few other pieces and all of the sudden a plan was born.

I don’t do well with patterns. I work best by just starting and learning as I go.  Adjustments come along the way and sometimes the tension messes up the work I’ve done.

Tension.

That’s the one thing about sewing that can really cause a lot of grief.  Too tight or too loose and you’re ripping out seams and stitches.  You have to find that sweet spot where there’s just enough to make it right.

The Lord began to speak to me as I was adjusting the tension control.  He reminded me that sometimes he pours on the heat to push us forward and other times he lays right off depending on  my mood, my circumstances and my spiritual maturity.  Sometimes I can’t handle much tension at all and other times I thrive in it.  Just like this fabric I’m working with.  

I started out around 4.5 for tension and soon found it could handle 6.  In fact, the whole project is coming together better and faster since I upped the tension.  Hmmm. I wonder if there’s something I should be learning here?

I am beginning to see that the Lord has been making me a quilt for many years.  He’s given me a bit of colour here and there.  He’s pulled me and shaped me.  Cut me down a few times to something smaller.  He’s weaving and stitching the experiences of my life.  I haven’t always liked some of these times. In fact, some of them were so ugly that I’d like to forget them and throw them out.   And then I read this:

  Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

God doesn’t sew the way I do. He uses fabric and thread that I would never go for to make something beautiful.  If it wasn’t for some of the colours, textures and the tensions that He’s chosen,  I wouldn’t be who I am today.

Just like this quilt I’m making to mark 20 years married to my husband.  I didn’t plan this project when I first bought that little floral pattern or that brick red cotton.  I liked the potential of what they might become but I had no idea I’d get   this:

God is making me a quilt. He will redeem these seasons of my life.  He promised me joy instead of mourning and provision over poverty.  Our family will be redeemed and this quilt will be finished. I can hardly wait to see the end result.

Isaiah 55:

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12 “For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Clean up~ Clean out.{Everything from Sheets to Spices}

Why do we purge in January?  I don’t know why the urge doesn’t hit in March or July or October.  But here we are, second week of January and blogs are practically exploding all over the web with de-cluttering  resolutions, organizational insight and the urge to purge.  People are even purging their bodies of toxins and an over-indulged holiday of gluttony.   Ah yes, January is de-tox month.

So, what are you cleaning up?

Are you attacking a closet or a storage room? Are you on a mission to figure out how you got to this  point of having more stuff than you know what to do with? That’s where I’m at.  So, in lieu of making resolutions I’m making  a list of things to purge and clean out.   I am planning on moving soon.  Like, sooner than later would be GREAT!  But in the mean time, I have decided that there’s no point in moving all of the things we have.  Because, well, we have TOO.  MANY. THINGS!!

Here’s where I’m starting:

  1. Clean out pantry and get rid of stuff we never eat. Actually, I’m trying to bake and cook my way through most of the pantry this month to cut down on my grocery bill as well as use up what we have.  I’m also going to move a lot of my dry goods into jars~ something I’ve wanted to do for years.   Here’s a great blog that has some good tips on what to store in your pantry: http://www.simplebites.net/9-foods-to-stock-in-your-pantry-in-2012/
  2.  I’m going to clean out my dishes. I have so many that I never use and then I have too many that we use which clogs up the dishwasher way too often. I’m pretty sure we don’t need 40 cups in rotation on any given day.  And I’m also very fine with not using 3 complete place settings of dishes.  At least one has to go.(There’s 6 of us in our family plus we have to be prepared for company but I’m done with these 6 piece place settings that I’ve had for 10+ years)
  3. Time to clean out linens.  I try to do this regularly anyways but somehow the closet has become the dumping ground for any piece of cloth that people don’t know what to do with. Tablecloths of varying sizes, colors and fabrics are overtaking needed space for sheets.  Which reminds me~ we need sheets!! I’ve been using the same ones for 20 years and they are thread-bare!
  4. Books!  Oh dear. It’s such a love of mine but we just can’t keep accumulating books.  I’m actually going to be doing a book giveaway starting this next week.  Watch for details because I have some really GOOD ones!
  5. Digital photos~ now, while these may not take up physical space , they’re clogging up the memory on my hard drive.  I have folders that are mis-labeled, photos from the past 6 years all on CD or some sort of memory drive and I’m losing track of where they all are.  I fear this will be a several-month long project.  But, I am committed to deleting. Yes.  DELETING. I have multiple shots  of the same thing, some good, others not. It’s time to pare down the folders to a more manageable state. That, plus I’d like to see them for a change and so I need to get them on my digital picture frame.    Once this is done, time to make some photo books. This is one of my major goals for 2012~ actually have published, tangible photos to hold and look at.

Okay, well, that’s enough.  There will be more added to this list but I have to start here.  My pantry is calling and the spices need some TLC!