Category Archives: Holidays

Lost in Beauty!

In her book, Meet the Austins, Madeline L’Engle tells the story of parents rousing their children from sleep to experience the spectacular beauty of the world bathed in moonlight immediately after an ice storm. The scene, as described by a child, depicts the family standing lost in wonder amidst the beauty of God’s world. The hymn, This is God’s Wondrous World, flooded my soul as I read.

As I pondered the scene, I thought of similar moments in which I, too, have been lost in “wonder.” I remembered being overwhelmed with the majesty of nature, as I stood transfixed by the glory of a summer sunset.  Flaming reds, yellows, purples, lit the sky, not just in the west, but overhead and around to the east. Five minutes and the colors changed, fading and shifting to patches of pink and violet as dusk descended. I remembered the thrill of watching the mating dance of two loons in the moonlight, while being rocked in our canoe on Sturgeon Lake – a momentary privilege, a gift from God.

My mind moved beyond the miracles of nature to family moments of God’s total love. We actually captured on camera the night we found my granddaughter asleep under her bed, cuddling her beloved chocolate lab. The beauty, the love, the innocence of a child fills my soul as I remember. Often, as I fall off to sleep cuddled up to Tom, I thrill to the total safety of his love.

This morning as I look forward to yet another year, the peace and joy of these amazing moments lift my soul. I suggest you, too, take time to relive your spectacular God-given moments of beauty and love. What better way to step into a new year. These moments are a resource of power and energy and peace. They can carry us through the tough and the regular times of daily living.

Every time we notice God’s presence, God’s overwhelming extravagance, love and forgiveness; every time we remember and relive these spectacular experiences, there is a tiny change, a small alteration in the entire world. With this simple shift, our world takes a step closer to being God’s intended kingdom. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

What is Christmas? Over the last few days all of my readings have pointed to one of the basic definitions. Christmas is about relationship? I offer you today this quote by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Earth is crammed with heaven,

and every common bush afire with God,

But only those who see, take off their shoes.

The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.”

Celebrating tonight and tomorrow are those who have come to pick the blackberries. They know that Christmas is about family, giving, love. They, like all of us, can see and enjoy the blackberries, the joys of relationships.

When we come to Christmas with the eyes of Christian faith, we see the bush loaded with blackberries and alight with the fire of God’s love. We know that bush will never be consumed. We know the delicious blackberries are always available to nurture us with life.

I am excited, thrilled, privileged to come to church tonight and see, experience, the wonder of God’s love, what Elizabeth Barrett Browning calls heaven on earth. I have already taken off my shoes. I will enter the stable and feel God’s love; a love so committed, so strong, so unconditional, that God risked being born as a helpless baby needing us for life. I will listen to the story and let the wonder, the miracle of God’s love, acceptance, forgiveness well up in my soul.

The miracle of Jesus’ birth happens every day, with the birth of every child, even with my birth and yours. I can only take off my shoes and enter God’s presence with total joy. I can live the miracle  of Christmas everyday.

My wish for you is another step into the joy, the miracle of Christmas tonight and tomorrow. Stop, remove whatever keeps your mind racing, soak in God’s love until your entire being glows. Risk becoming the “God’s miracle of Christmas for 2018”.

How Do We Prepare for Peace?

This is Christmas!

The December 10, 2017 reading from the Daily Disciplines published by the Upper Room touched my heart. I will share it with you in its entirety. I typed this into my computer this morning before church. I didn’t have time to look for a picture, besides where would I find a picture of a tree covered with white envelopes. When worship was over we went to the church hall for refreshments. This tree stood by yesterday’s bake table, resplendent in it’s white notes waiting to be part of our tree lighting tonight. God incidents never cease to amaze me. I pray this story will speak to you as it did to me. Blessings as you wait for the Christ child.

“Mike hated the commercialism of Christmas. When forced to retire early, he checked out altogether. ‘Get me nothing,’ he crouched, ‘until people understand what Christmas is all about.’ That year, his wife, Nan, gave him a white envelope, which she nestled into the tree. Inside, Nan pledged to sew uniforms for an underprivileged wrestling team. Once she started, Mike decided to help. Together, they sized the children, cut the fabric and befriended the school kids. By year’s end, Mike was ready for another envelope. Each year thereafter, Nan gave him another envelope. The acts of kindness they shared together sprouted throughout their city: birdhouses for a refuge shelter, a playground for an orphaned children’s home, a community garden from a vacant lot. Those became the best years of Nan’s and Mike’s lives.

One year, Mike died just three days before Christmas. Friends and family gathered to share Nan’s grief. On Christmas Eve, Nan placed for Mike, one last envelope into the tree. She awoke Christmas morning to squeals downstairs. As she came down, she saw their Christmas tree covered in white. Dozens of envelopes from every child, grandchild, nephew and niece – pledged acts of kindness in honor of Mike, the man who had come to love Christmas.

How do we wait faithfully for God in today’s wilderness? The prophet Isaiah says, “Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.” We pave a straight path for through acts of kindness, justice, generosity and compassion. When we love, God will come. “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me,’ John says. As sure as a baby’s birth in a manger, as abundant as Christmas envelopes multiplying into the future, God will walk the path laid out. Love will encompass the world.

PEACE WILL COME!!!!!

Dear God, Baby of the Manger, may each act of kindness be a straw in your crib, preparing the way for your coming. Amen

Advent Waiting

Christmas is about the birth of a baby. We know that pregnancy, like Christmas, is often a flurry of preparation. That last four weeks, most of the preparations are complete. We are left with a time of waiting.

As a culture, we’re not good at waiting. Waiting on hold on the phone, waiting in line, waiting for our teen or partner to return, waiting for our paycheck, waiting for whatever…is exasperating. My new book “Elizabeth Gets Her Wings,” begins with impatient Elizabeth trying to get on God’s good side so she can get her wings early. She didn’t want to wait.

My Advent season has usually been a time of doing, four weeks of preparation for Jesus’ birth. This year I have heard God speak to me through many sources about Advent as a time of waiting – waiting with open hands and open heart.

Today, I arrived at church with my mind and heart focused on Advent waiting. We were collecting toys for the Salvation Army baskets. I’ve been so wrapped up in book signings that I had forgotten. As I waited for the collecting to be done, scolding myself for being so selfish, I heard these words in my heart, “Go get your new children’s Christmas books from the car. How often will a child receive a book signed by the author? I smiled. Before I set the books with the other toys on the chancel steps, I wrote this message for the child who would receive them, “Always remember you are God’s precious child.” Food for the soul: what better gift for a young child at Christmas? Already my focus on Advent as a time of waiting has borne fruit. I am grateful.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord”.  Psalm 27:14

“I’m Right?”

At the moment I’m using The Shack: Reflections for Every Day of the Year” as part of my daily devotions. Yesterday, the words”How can I see in fresh new ways unless I admit that my current way of seeing is flawed?” inspired this poem.

I’m Right?

I’m right.

I know I’m right.
Others agree with me!
And yet…
Is it possible?
Is there more?

Jesus brought a new way.
Our rightness led to crucifixion.
Have we not learned?

Is there a flaw in my thought today?
Have I lost his “Way of Love”?
Is fear leading me astray?

Maybe?   Possibly?

Lord Jesus, come.
Open my heart.
I want to see!!!

 

I’m thrilled to introduce to you –

Elizabeth Gets Her Wings

Elizabeth is delightful. She’s enthusiastic. She’s a child, God’s beloved child just as each one of you and each one of your children and grandchildren are also God’s beloved children. Elizabeth is an angel child who is waiting for her wings. Just like us, Elizabeth can’t wait. She’s wants her wings early. Maybe she can earn them. Elizabeth Gets Her Wings is a magical children’s story, yet it’s our story.

My new Christmas Book for children and their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles & neighbors, Elizabeth Gets Her Wings is now available for ordering.

To purchase an autographed copy or two or ten for yourself or as Christmas gifts, please email me:  info@janetstobie.com 

Elizabeth Gets Her Wings is just $10.00 plus shipping.

Order now by clicking on the link: info@janetstobie.com

Elizabeth Gets Her Wings will be available on Amazon.com and .ca within the next two weeks.

 Reflection

My Story/ Elizabeth’s Story

I’ve never thought much about heaven. It takes all my energy and focus to enjoy and live well in this present life. Mostly, I believe that eternal life means I will be with God, and life will be good. Even so, my imagination and God’s inspiration resulted in Elizabeth Gets Her Wings, a story about an angel child from heaven doing a task for God here on earth.

The day after Elizabeth Gets Her Wings went to print, my daily reading was based on the Biblical Quote from King David, “One thing I ask from the Lord…that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord.” (Psalm 27:4)

In the middle of the new book, Olivia, the illustrator, has drawn Elizabeth basking in God’s love and acceptance. God’s multicolored hand rests on her head. The complete ecstasy embodied by Elizabeth expresses the feelings I experience every time I hold a new born baby, or am truly hugged by someone I love who loves me. These are my glimpses of heaven, times when I recognize that I am in God’s presence.

If heaven means I am perfect in God’s sight just as I am, with all my faults, idiosyncrasies and attempts at goodness, I know I don’t have to worry about the details. I can be one of Elizabeth’s volunteers. I can step into the mysterious journey of this next life with confidence and joy. Thanks be to God.

Please pass this on to all your email friends.

Why Bother With Family Gatherings?

Vanessa, our granddaughter, is our family’s very own Canada Day baby. Her birthday party is unique in that both her dad’s (my son’s) family, and her mom’s family come to celebrate with her every year. And then there are fireworks, all over Canada. When Vanessa was little, I’m sure she thought those fireworks were just for her. For the past twenty-seven years, we have gathered as a family to celebrate Vanessa and Canada. I am so grateful.

Why are these family gatherings important to me? Especially on Canada Day, there are always heaps of other places to be, events in which to participate.

My parents didn’t have family gatherings, but Bruce’s did. I remember the thrill I felt at the age of 18 when I experienced that first White gathering 55 years agp. I’d never been part of a large group in which everyone loved each other just because they were relatives and the focus was to have fun and eat lots. As the years passed, our group of five became the only family that lived away. Still, we came back to Lion’s Head for every possible holiday, so the kids could learn to love their cousins, and so I could once again feel that love that special family feeling.

I believe that God created us to be in relationship with God and with each other. Being adopted I learned the value of the family relationship, first in terms of my adoptive family, and later after I turned fifty in terms of my birth family.

Of course, every family doesn’t live up to this ideal. Some of us try our best and succeed often. Some of us pull away, because of distance, grievances, huge expectations that aren’t fulfilled, and more. Over my lifetime, I have learned a great deal about the extended family. At its best the family represents unconditional God-given acceptance. You are loved, not because you have done anything special, but rather just because you exist and belong to us. The goal of family is to support, celebrate and grieve with you, to be your anchor in all the storms of life.

I realize that we succeed as family because we are committed, and determined. It’s not easy to make time for family, give family a priority year in and year out. I know it’s worth it, totally and completely.

“…there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26)

Actually I recommend you pick up your Bible and read all of chapter 12 and 13 of 1 Corinthians. In this part of his first letter to the people of Corinth, people gives a beautiful picture of what family CAN be. Thanks be to God.

 

When I Thought I Wasn’t Looking at You, Dad.

Father’s Day celebrations dominated my thoughts today. I felt called by God to consider my adoptive father. He was a good man, respected, and yet, for many reasons, he and I were not particularly close.

There is a beautiful poem available on the internet titled, “When you thought I wasn’t looking,” (author unknown).  When I think about my dad, I need to write a new version of that poem. It goes like this.

“When I Thought I Wasn’t Looking”

When I thought I wasn’t looking, Dad, I experienced you driving my sister and me into town for Sunday School at 9:30 a.m. You then returned to the farm, collected our mom, and returned for the 11:00 worship service. Dad, your commitment to Sunday worship as a family, is a strong part of my faith today.

When I thought I wasn’t looking, Dad, you wrote the cheque and put it in the offering envelope. It lay on the kitchen table every Saturday night, along with our Sunday School offering. Dad, your generosity to the church and its programs is the yardstick by which I measure my own.

When I thought I wasn’t looking, Dad, you planted a garden much too big for our family. You tended it lovingly. At harvest time, you took so much pleasure in eating the tasty vegetables, and just as much in giving them away. Every time I make a salad, I see you with a huge bowl of lettuce sprinkled with salt and vinegar. Dad, your love for your garden has shown me the wonder of God’s beautiful world. A tiny, spindly blueberry plant, baking in the hot sun, produces a whole handful of luscious berries. I take nothing for granted.

When I thought I wasn’t looking at you, Dad, someone crept into your garden and stole your entire crop of cantaloupe melons. I remember the tears in your eyes when you said, “If they’d only asked, I’d have gladly given them all they needed.” I learned from you, Dad, the pain that comes when we steal, lie, or deceive.

These are but a few of the things I learned from my Dad. We learn even when we think we are not conscious of what is happening. On this Father’s Day, I encourage you to go back through your memories. Regardless of who your father is, whether the world identifies him as good or not, there will be things you learned that have been helpful in your life. Give thanks for those things.

Even if you don’t know who your father is, you can give thanks that his DNA is part of you. Fathers, like mothers, have given us life.

When I thought I wasn’t looking, my dad taught me lots.

 

 

 

The Impossible Is Happening Everyday!

Balancing Rock
Picture taken by Chris Oates

When we were in Vancouver, our Grandson Chris took us for a walk along Vancouver’s English Bay, to watch the sunset. Even though it was cold, the walkway along the ocean was busy with people soaking in the sun’s last rays.

“Look,” Chris said, “they’ve been balancing rocks.” He hopped over the sea wall to take a picture. All along the shoreline was a trail of large and tiny rocks standing on their edges and points. I have tried this myself. Determination, patience, skill and belief in the impossible are required to balance a rock on its point so solidly that it survives the force of the spring breeze.

When we, as individuals, put that same kind of determination and faith into our efforts for peace, we too leave a trail, a trail of kindness, acceptance, forgiveness, that is even more beautiful than the stone sculptures we saw with Chris. Too often, we feel as if our peace paths are washed away by the sea of fear and violence that seems to be flooding our world.

As I studied Chris’ picture, I remembered a headline from the Vancouver Sun:

“Water, Water, everywhere but is it safe to drink?” The article stated that IC-IMPACTS, a Canadian international bilateral research organization has teamed Canadian engineers, research scientists and business people with their counterparts in India to develop cheap, safe water purification for isolated villages in India and in Canada. For me, this bit of news speaks of practical efforts for peace that are happening on a large scale.

In our world, where fear seems to be the biggest commodity sold, and isolationism is accepted wisdom, it’s wonderful to learn about co-operation between countries for their common good. There are wide trails and narrow trails. gradually building a network of love in our world.

As I gaze at Chris’ picture of the impossible, I am reminded that even though we may feel that our values of loving and caring for others are being put to death, resurrections, small and large, are happening the world over. God’s new life is coming. With God, anything is possible even peace. Let us celebrate Easter this year, with confidence, because we know that with God, anything is possible, even world peace.

 

 

 

 

 

Saying Goodbye – Flying Home

Today began at 6:00 a.m. We wanted one last hug from Dave, Joanne and Jenna. They leave for school every day at 6:30. I learned that saying goodbye that early is just a little easier because sleepiness clouds my ability to feel. After everyone left the house was silent, too silent. We had intended to go back to bed but we didn’t. I worked on yesterday’s blog and we packed.

We didn’t bring our luggage scale and Dave doesn’t have one. We reverted to using the bathroom scale. It worked as we were not overweight at the airport.

We left for the airport at 3:00 p.m. in Jonathon’s flashy BMW, our last opportunity to live as the rich. I wrote that statement and thought, no that’s not right. Although we are considered Middle Class in Canada, we live as the ultra rich every day, compared to most of the people here in South Africa and around the world. I’ve always known that. Now, I have a deeper knowledge and an even stronger desire to share my many blessings.

Rain poured down all the way to the airport. Traffic became more and more congested. We were both glad we had left early and Jonathon was driving. The trip took a good half hour longer than expected, but we arrived with heaps of time to spare. A friendly and helpful man offered us a cart, loaded on our bags and took us to the check-in. We gave him 20 rand ($2.00 Canadian). He was delighted and so were we.

Took a while to go through security and immigration. Lots of people are travelling. Terrorists are certainly not keeping any of us home. We had brought a snack, so once inside that was our first task. We wanted to use our last few African Rand so I invested in a Hagendaz milkshake – 85 Rand – the Canadian Equivalent $8.50. That was obviously a poor investment as it was gone from my body before the end of the day. It did satisfy my desire for something sweet, taste delicious and may still be around in a few extra fat cells. After eating, we talked with a friendly french couple who assured us our ten hour lay over in Paris would give us plenty of time to hop the train to downtown. I’m wasn’t so sure. We decided to check out the weather in Paris. If it’s pouring rain, we might as well just stay at the airport. At that point, all I wanted to do was get home.

I was cold, so we decided to buy me a South Africa sweatshirt. The stores were ultra chic. Sweatshirts were not on the agenda. After asking at several places we were directed to a sports shop that specialized in souvenirs for South African rugby. There wasn’t much choice. I paid the equivalent of $55 Canadian for a white Springbok (that’s the name of the national rugby team) sweatshirt. I just pulled it on over the light sweater, and t-shirt and camisole I was already wearing. It felt good to be warm.

Food on the plane was great. I enjoyed my fish and potatoes and veggies. The salad was good too. When we bought our tickets originally Tom had ordered gluten free for me. They are doing a grand job with that.

A small blip on this first leg of the journey was a spill. As usual they offered me tiny bottle of red wine (equivalent of one healthy glass), free on international flights. I saved it to drink in the middle of the night when I would be restless. The time came and I poured my wine and set it on my seat tray for sipping. A little later I asked Tom to get something for me from his seat pocket. In the process he jostled my tray. You guessed it. My new sweatshirt, my light sweater and my beige jeans were all christened. Oh well, it may wash out.

Food on the plane was great. I enjoyed my fish and potatoes and veggies. The salad was good too. When we bought our tickets originally Tom had ordered gluten free for me. They are doing a grand job with that.

The Flight from Johannesburg to Paris went on forever. We both decided that overnight on the plane is not really our style. We just don’t sleep. When we arrived in Paris at 6:00 a.m. we just couldn’t face going anywhere. We laid down on the floor and slept for a couple of hours or more. That used up too much of the time we could have used to take the train into Paris and look around a bit. Next time we will plan a stopover for 2 or 3 days.

The flight from Paris to Toronto was fine. I even slept for an hour on the plane. Our bodies seemed to respond much better. We talked with a family, and two different single people, all returning to Canada from India (their place of birth). We thoroughly enjoyed our conversations with these nice people.

The arrival in Toronto was crazy. One of the airport workers said that 5000 passengers had all arrived at almost the same time. The line ups were long. We did an endless spiral dance to get to the customs machine and we were fortunate. Being Canadian citizens we could use the machines. Once past that point the customs people just looked at our Pass Ports and our landing card and waved us on. By the time we got to baggage, it was no longer rolling round and round. In fact a lot of the bags had been taken off the carousel. I guess the baggage crew were trying to get ready for the next plane.

We are home. Hallelujah! We had a marvelous journey that we won’t ever forget. And we are grateful and delighted to be back in good old Canada. It’s fun to travel and it’s fabulous to come home.

Tom’s brother Bob came with our car to the airport. The fact that he can store our car at his condo for three weeks and is our airport taxi, is so very helpful. We are truly blessed.

All in all, even though its a grinding trip home from Johannesburg, I know we have sent an abundance of God’s light of love out to the world in large doses today.

Over the last three weeks we have met a multitude of friendly caring people. God loves variety and I am grateful. Our world is amazing. Thanks be to God.