He Paid a Debt He did Not Owe { When Will it Be Enough}

Yesterday, I shared with you all about my family and where I was born and raised. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so because it will give you some insight into why I care so much about what happens today in Ottawa with the meeting of the Prime Minister and the First Nations leaders.

Prime Minster Stephen Harper and First Nations Leader Sean Atleo

When I was a little girl, growing up on an Indian Reservation in Northern Saskatchewan, we spent our summers at home and for many weeks that included walking up the road to the tabernacle in the bush. Along the path we were sheltered by towering evergreens and through those evergreens, wild Tiger Lilies(or Prairie Lilies as some call them) would grow.  If it sounds pastoral and peaceful, then you have read it correct.  It was.  It was a time within a time. Almost a stopping of time.

The world may have been spinning in darkness but we were suspended in moments of perfection and light.  

If you’ve ever been to an Indian camp meeting you will understand when I say there is no agenda and there are no clocks.  If you haven’t been, do yourself a favour and go this summer~it is a world like no other. Cranked up amplifiers, electric guitars, steel guitar, the smooth vocals of the special speaker and his wife from way down south in Oklahoma.  I mostly fell asleep on my mother’s lap as the hours waned after the children’s Bible stories and games were done. There was only so long that our attention could be held before we were sent back inside to that hot and over-flowing  tabernacle of praise.  And when a song was going well and the 4th verse was over, they’d start it all over again to keep the Spirit moving. One song in particular always plays over in my memory…..
( I found this on YouTube and the memories came flooding back).
Wow that brings back memories. That’s pretty much how we’d sing it. 

” He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay…I needed someone to wash my sins away..”

The song is about redemption. And the only way to be free from the burden of sin is for Jesus to take the load. Because there’s no human way possible for us to pay back to God for all of the sin in our lives. 
I thought of that song today because this week there’s a battle going on in our country over native rights and responsibilities.  The players and issues are convoluted and complicated. I can’t possibly address it all here in one blog or even ten.

 To be honest, I don’t know what the answer is.

When identities are wrapped up in treaties that are over 100 years old and the foundation of those treaties is based on the past and simple concepts like land ownership, I throw my hands up and wonder “when will it be enough?”  When will our debt be paid?  I am white, you see. And because I am white, I have to pay a debt that I do not owe but I owe a debt I simply cannot pay.  We are in desperate need of a Saviour here and sadly, the only ‘saviours’ that everyone is looking to are mere men and women who are hardly capable of satisfying the demands. 
Identity.  That’s what this is all about. Who am I? Who are you? Who are we together and who are we apart from each other?  If the only answer is more land, more rights, more money, more schools, more houses, more laws……there will never be enough. 
And so, I’m praying this prayer today. It’s the Prayer of St. Francis and I don’t know of anything more appropriate to pray than this over our leader of the First Nations, Sean Atleo,the Chiefs of Reserves and Settlements,Metis and Inuit leaders and for Governor General David Johnston and also our Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;

to be understood, as to understand;

to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

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

Turning Points{Growing Deep Roots}

32 years ago today my life changed abruptly. I didn’t totally understand what was going on and for a moment I was caught up in the hype.  The only home I had known was a flurry of activity and most of our worldly possessions were either packed into boxes or being auctioned off.  It was a bit of a blustery day, much like today.  I only have two vivid memories from that day.

1.  Helping our neighbour ladies serve homemade pie slices to concession customers through our dining room window.

2. Watching a little girl walk away with MY tin doll house(I sure wish I had that now. It was the coolest thing and so vintage).

We were moving.  We slept on homemade mattresses that night under the new tied-quilts my mom had made.  The horse trailer was loaded with all that we owned and cherished.  I looked for my cat, Chocolatebar(she was a brown calico) the next day but she was no where to be found. She must have known the jig was up and purposely made sure she was not a part of it.  We all cried that day as we drove away from the family ranch.  My grandma was in tears; she could barely talk.

Looking back, I know there was way more going on than my sisters and I could comprehend. It took another 20 years for me to figure most of it out.  With the farming and ranching business being so volatile in those years and interest rates through the roof, no one was doing very well financially.  The winds of change were blowing and my dad had an itch to move on.  But that day, May 3, was the last day that our family was the family I knew from birth. Everything changed after that.

If you knew me then, you would know I was a quiet, shy and extremely introverted child.  The upheaval of leaving our secluded country life in Northern Sask/AB(we lived on the border) and moving to a city where I was thrown into a culture I neither asked for or liked was devastating.  It was so devastating I threatened my parents that they could NEVER, EVER do this to me again. I refused to be a part of whatever plans or schemes they had. Of course, I was nine; what did I know?  I probably shed quiet tears in my room at night.  I tried my best to make friends, and I did.  But I hated the city.  I missed the farm. I missed my family and friends and our old life.  I don’t think that I really accepted our new life for several years.

With this traumatic event came the separation of my parents and a new life of my mom and my 2 sisters living a difficult life where we often had little to eat and certainly there was no money for shopping or frivolous expenditures.  This is the time I grew up.  I got my first babysitting job at 11 years of age(barely 11).  That became my bread and butter and my escape for the next 8 years.  I loved kids. I loved the money I made.( $1 an hour!)  I loved the responsibility and the ability to be in charge when much of my life seemed so not within my control.

Looking back now, I am thankful for those years but there was much pain.  I stopped showing emotion and crying.  I saw too much pain within my family and I couldn’t add to it or join in.  So I shut down.  I didn’t release any of that emotion until I met my husband.  Poor guy. He had no idea what he was in for.  But for the first time in more than 10 years I felt free and safe enough with someone to let him know all of the pain of growing up in a single-parent home and all of the fears I had carried.  We had only been dating for a short time when I let it all out and I COULD. NOT. STOP.  I shocked myself.  Bless his heart, he stuck it out with me!  And I haven’t really stopped showing emotion since!  (Like I say~the guy is a saint!).

So here we are, on the 32nd anniversary of the day that changed my life.  I am so thankful for that move in spite of the hard years and pain.  If we had never moved, I would not be the person I am today.  I would never have met my husband or so many of the friends and mentors who have helped shape and guide me into being the person I am today.

And now, as we are on the cusp of moving our kids for the 3rd time in 6 years, I can only hope and pray that they are old enough to remember and acknowledge that painful, traumatic events can be character building turning points.  They make you or they break you.   And even if they break you, you come out stronger in the end.  We don’t grow when life is good.  We don’t find out our strengths and abilities when we’re not challenged and pushed.  My dad was telling me last week that drought is what makes a good wheat crop.  In times of flooding and rainy springs, seeds that are planted do not form deep roots.  The seed doesn’t need to burrow down deep because the water is plentiful.  So when the storms and winds come, the plant is wiped out. It has no strength and can’t hang on. Seeds that are planted in dry soil have to form deep roots to find enough moisture to germinate and grow.  Often it may seem like there is nothing happening;  no growth is seen because it’s so dry.  But under the soil, in the dark places, the roots are bearing down before the plant is ready to burst through the tough, dry ground. The difference for the seeds planted during drought is that they are so strong and able to withstand any storm, heavy rains, winds and pressure.

This is my life right now. I feel like we’ve been in a drought much like my life was in the 80s.  The advantage is now, as an adult, I can see that I am burrowing down deep and forming roots.  It feels like I will never see a breakthrough but it’s beginning to rain.  And the breakthrough is imminent.  I can’t   We WON’T be staying this way much longer.  The roots that God has been forming in our lives are the exact things we’re going to need to sustain us in the coming years.  And I pray that my kids will benefit as well.

Christmas Memories {Pretty Paper}

I don’t know if my sisters read my blog. But they’ll like this post.

I have a couple of things in my possession that are near and dear to all of us.

When we were little, growing up on the farm, yearly traditions were something we looked forward to. For us, Christmas had very little to do with presents and so much more to do with the people we entertained, family gatherings, special foods saved only for this time of year and our favourite colouring pages.

My mom had either copied(by tracing) or ripped a page out of a colouring book at some point and given us each a copy to colour. I’m sure we were 3 or 4 the first year we coloured them.  For whatever reason, she held onto the picture and then  the next year she simply traced over with a pencil or pen using carbon paper.  Do you remember carbon paper? What a cool invention and tool to have in the 70′s when you wanted to provide multiple copies of the same drawing!

So, year after year, when December rolled around, we would ask for the pictures.  And year after year, the same one was brought out from its safe storage and we would begin again. It would be cool to go back and see the evolution of our talents over the years.  I don’t have those, but I do have the originals. Brittle, thin paper now; they are like precious artifacts saved from certain destruction.  Every line following along the same original lines carefully traced by my mother nearly 40 years ago. Lines worn deep into the weave of the paper~ some carved straight through. I can smell the shortbread baking and I can hear Willie Nelson singing “Pretty Paper” on the radio….as we colour.   Memories.

 

~ that song makes me cry every time~

Merry Christmas

I’ve Killed Christmas Trees before….

***UPDATE*** After numerous Google searches with people frantically trying to revive their sad and pathetic trees, I must interject and let you all know that #2 is SO CRITICAL to the health and life of your tree. It cannot be said loud enough or often enough….YOU MUST CUT OFF at least 2 inches  off the base of your tree before you put it into your tree stand with water. The bottom is sealed tight and opening up the trunk is the only way for water to get to your branches and needles. If you don’t do this, your tree will die and that’s really all there is to it.  Happy tree trimming and tree hunting!

I’m sad to admit that I have a very high mortality rate with any living plant in my house. I just can’t seem to have a thriving greenish type of thing that isn’t plastic, silk or otherwise fake.   And when it comes to Christmas Trees…well, I’ve killed my fair share.

Needles all over the carpet, ornaments too heavy for brittle branches, even trees that topple in the night due to pathetic hydration.

I grew up on a farm and we had a real tree every year. My mom would use a coffee can to hold the water and I really had nothing to do with it from there. I just cared about tinsel and shiny balls all over it along with the multi-colored retro LARGE bulbs.

We had artificial trees when we moved off the farm and my husband and I only started with real trees in our 5th year of marriage.  I killed that tree early too.  And then next one.  I couldn’t figure out how to prolong its life.  Until I asked my mother how it was that we always had our tree up for at least a month on the farm.  Ginger Ale.  Say what?  Yes.  You know the saying ” a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down”? Well, it applies to evergreens too.  Seems that the sap in the tree blocks up all the pores when you cut it down. Sort of a life preserving technique but it makes it pretty tough to absorb any water.  So here’s the tricks I learned and let me tell you, it works and you can even revive a nearly dead tree!

  1. When you buy your real tree or cut it down , you must let it “settle” in your warm house before it can be decorated. It may take hours or up to a day.  But you cannot leave it inside without putting it in water.  So set up your tree stand(or coffee can) and fill it half full of water.
  2. CUT OFF the bottom of the trunk. Regardless if you have cut it down in the forest yourself or not, the sap will have solidified on the bottom of the trunk and you need a fresh cut to absorb the water.  I have even had to take down a tree and cut the bottom off after I’ve started to decorate just because I forgot this step. Not fun.  Also, trim off  those straggler branches on the bottom. You don’t need them sucking up the water before it gets a chance to travel up the trunk.
  3. Add equal parts of Ginger Ale(I like Canada Dry myself) and water to your tree stand.  Watch the water level~ in the first couple of hours the tree will suck up most, if not all of the liquid and you will need to top it up. After the first day you can go to a 1:4 ratio of ginger ale to water.
  4. You MUST check your water level daily. If you live in a dry climate, have a wood stove, have forced air heat it will dry your tree out quicker.  Also, if you have a vent near where your tree is, consider closing it off for the season to avoid it blowing directly on your tree.
  5. All trees shed needles a bit at first.  You are going to want some sort of proper tree skirt that will catch most of them so that you aren’t still vacuuming needles in July.(been there)
  6. Check your tree daily. It should smell, needles should be pliable and not brittle.  Keep the water level up at all times and you will enjoy your tree through New Year’s! ( I also have used a spray bottle mister sometimes to add a bit of moisture to the upper branches but that’s not really necessary if you’re watering properly)

I don’t have a real tree this year…but next year….OH YES I WILL!

*** NEW**** if you don’t have ginger ale, sugar water will work too! But my experience has shown the gingerale works faster/better??? Not sure why. I’m not an arborist or chemist.

It is Evening

Something about evening calls to me.  I cannot explain it but I am rejuvenated after 8 p.m. After a long , hot day~ there’s a cool quietness in the air. It’s calming.

I went out into the yard this evening to mow.  I love mowing, especially in the evening.  Cutting down all those weedy heads that stick out like bothersome pests. Our yard is nothing special~ not really a lawn but rather a matted mess of weeds and quack grass.  Not very soft under the feet or inviting.  Except after a mowing. In those moments, the lawn becomes an inviting, dreamy carpet.

The sun was setting, I hurried to finish my chores before it was too dark.  But pausing along the way~ I notice the glow of the sun against turning leaves.  The sunflowers too, are not so vibrant but bowing their heads~ as if in earnest prayer.  I am reminded: it is in these secret places of my yard that i am compelled to pray too.  Thankful for a loud motor, I hold nothing back. I call out to my Maker~ my evening Companion.  I ask for his mercies on my kids, my husband and our future.  I proclaim thanksgiving and anxiety in the same breath~ not unlike these flowers dying and living on the same stalk.

Revealed in evening’s soft light this humble yard becomes my sanctuary.  These trees and flowers:a congregation of praise.

I love evenings!

Psalm 55:6But I call to God,
and the LORD will save me.
17 Evening and morning and at noon
   I utter my complaint and moan,
   and he hears my voice.

40 and Lilies in the Woodlands

It has been just over 7 weeks since I last posted here. It wasn’t intentional, just something that happened. It’s been sort of a busy summer in some ways and in other ways very uneventful.  Last week I was thinking it would be time to blog again but what would my first post be about? There’s many things that have happened in the world, many ideas that have come across my desk and many conversations that have peaked my interest.  But writing has not come so easy. I decided that 40 would be my topic.  Why? Because this summer, that is the threshold that I crossed.  Yes, I am now in the over-40 club! Wow! It really sort of snuck up on me.  No fanfare, no party , no real celebrating other than a quiet little cake festivity with my husband and kids.  And so, I decided to mark this historic event by dedicating this post to the number FOUR-O.  And as I just looked at the calendar, it has been exactly 40 days since my birthday. How’s that for timing? Or maybe it’s God’s way of sending me a message.

As I was looking for examples of 40 in the Bible I saw a pattern.  It isn’t the first time I noticed it but tonight it has a clear significance for me.   Noah and his family endured 40 days of rain in the ark.  Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days two different times.  Jonah warned the city of Nineveh that they had 40 days to turn from their wickedness in order to escape God’s wrath.  Goliath came out to challenge the Israelites 40 days before he faced David.   The Israelites roamed the wilderness for 40 years before getting to the promised land. Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days.  He then was seen on the earth for 40 days following his death and resurrection before he ascended into Heaven.

There are more examples but here’s what I noticed:   The 40 days or years always preceded something great.  David killed Goliath in one shot of a stone.  Moses came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments.  Jesus revealed WHO He really was. Jonah and his family were saved got a chance to start over fresh.

I have no idea why God has chosen us to be where we are right now at this time.  But I do know that He has brought me through 40 years of struggles, triumphs, tears, joys, sorrows, mercy and grace overflowing.  I do know that He has a plan even though I don’t know what it is.  I do know that He will redeem all of the negative things I’ve done and said and been through in order that His glory will be revealed.  This I know.

We are here…in the wilderness. And for the past 40 days I’ve been waiting for God to DO SOMETHING.  We have 2 houses up for sale and for the past several months we have been a week or two away from defaulting on a mortgage payment, loans, credit, etc….and yet, here we are, months later and we have not missed one payment.  I don’t know how. I really don’t.  My husband only started working last week and we haven’t received one paycheque yet.  But God has provided .  He has miraculously made sure we’ve had gas in the tank for countless trips to the city as we looked for work and a house.  We have had food on the table and we have paid our bills. We’re still behind on many payments and by no means are we out of the woods…but HE has given us lilies in the woodlands.

Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you,even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

This passage stirred within me 6 weeks ago as I was driving to pick up my kids from camp.  I had to drive very close to the area where I grew up and I always enjoy so much seeing  the dense forests.  When my sisters and I were very young we lived with the woodlands right outside our door. We spent hours a day roaming through the trees, creating our secret hideaways and houses, sunlight filtering through and causing all sorts of shadows.  Some people find it creepy and scary but we thrived on the mysteries within those forests.  And each summer we looked forward to seeing the forest floor covered in Tiger Lilies.  Beautiful and perfect these orange beauties would sprout up all over the place….in a place where few eyes would even see them God had lovingly crafted each one and placed them in the darkness and shadows……for who? I often have wondered who they are for.  Why would God hide them? But he hasn’t .  In his word He clearly tells us that he lavishes His creation with beauty and clothing and so how much more will He then clothe us?   I just think it’s the perfect picture of my life.  Even in the shadows and the woodlands, He gives me lilies….the gifts and the joys in each day.  

These days are sometimes hard.  The unknown is always a bit scary and uncomfortable but I have learned….am learning…that HE has not forgotten me.  He’s giving me lilies ~ beautiful gifts, provision, clothing, food, comfort~ even in the shadows of my circumstances.

Thank you Lord for the lilies…and these 40 days of seeing your hand move and provide.

And as I drove………..I saw the lilies….