Tag Archives: family

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.

 

Another Super Day

Beach Volleyball – Lovely South African Summer

We’re tired tonight mostly because we spent most of the afternoon sitting in the sun, watching our amazing granddaughter Jenna, play beach volleyball. We are proud grandparents. Jenna is an elite athlete. It’s always fun to watch her participate in her sports. The tournament was held at the German International School of Johannesburg. Among other things, there was a beautiful 25 meter pool, with lanes delineated ready for racing. Today, there were no races, so I had a swim between Jenna’s games. Jenna must have inspired me, because I swam 500 meters – 20 lengths of that pool. We didn’t bring a towel. In this beautiful African weather, the solar dryer did the trick.

Before the tournament we shopped in the Rosemount Rooftop Sunday Market. We are slowly gathering together our souvenirs of this trip. When we arrived back at Dave’s, we were thrilled to have almost an hour long conversation on Skype with Bonnie , Boris, and the children Lise and Alex. Another dose of home which was needed. Supper required little effort, as we had heaps of leftovers from last night’s party.

Now we’ll crawl into bed early. Those night’s are needed. Tomorrow, we return to being tourists as we travel to the Lesedi Cultural Village, a world heritage site.

My moments of joy started with Joanne our amazing daughter-in-law. She volunteered to drive us to the rooftop market, making herself late for Jenna’s tournament. She helped with the bargaining when we purchased something. While I was swimming, she went back to the city to get us all some lunch. She brought me rice cakes iced with yoghurt that are delicious, cheese and a gluten free granola bar. She always ensures that there is food for me without gluten. I know that requires extra effort. She is special and caring and very kind.  Of course, there is Jenna. Watching her, talking with her, just being able to spend time with her, is a total joy. I have to include the swim. It felt so good to stretch out my muscles in the water.

Lots of light emanated from me today. I am truly grateful.

Jenna’s solid serve just over the net, difficult to return.

A Day with Family

This morning Jenna, Joanne and I brought their three three canine family members to a dog park. This was not your normal Canadian dog park. We drove out of the city about half an hour to arrive at a multi-acre park set aside just for dogs and their caregivers. Within the fences there was luscious lawn, a small sparkling lake, heaps of long grass, all for the express purpose of exercising our doggy friends.

After a walk round, and Roger’s many swims, we settled down at a picnic table beside a pub/restaurant to have breakfast. The sun shone. The dogs romped. What could be better.  After about two hours, good food and lots of conversation we brought our exhausted dogs home. Like the dogs, I laid down for a nap.

This afternoon, Tom and I went for a walk, a long walk, to replenish our wallets with South African Rand at a bank machine, and to buy a stamp. We wanted to send a thank you note to Leonie, the owner of the Air B&B in Cape Town. The nearby shopping centre supplied the stamp but not the correct, ABM. We asked directions for the needed ABM.

“Just up the street,” was the reply.  The helpful security guide pointed. “You can see it from here.”

Tom and I plodded onward. The cars whizzed by. Slowly the lovely warm day became hot. This second shopping centre was under construction. I’m sure we walked a full kilometer around it, looking for an opening in the construction fence. We could see the bank we needed but we just couldn’t get to it. Finally, we found a fence break and walked through. Success – Well maybe. All we could see was barriers.

A workman in a truck told us to follow the gravel road which pointed back the way we had come, except it ran inside the fence. Up a hill, down a hill, around a corner we trudged in the heat. There was not point in giving up. Retracing our steps just wasn’t feasible. Eventually, we dragged our sweaty, thirsty bodies up a set of stairs (the escalator wasn’t working) and inside.

The security guard at the end of the dingy hallway pointed up more stairs. “Next floor and to the left. There is an elevator over there.”

I hate elevators in well-kept buildings. I wasn’t ready to step into a little box in this place. We climbed more stairs and found our coveted machine right where the man had promised. Our precious Rand securely stowed in Tom’s wallet, we considered shopping. Nope. Not here. Not now. We asked again about another way out. This time we were sent out through the parking building to a side street. “Do you know which way to turn,” I asked Tom. Not being directionally challenged like me, he nodded. And he was right. The wind had come up, which alleviated some of the heat. Still it felt like a long walk into forever before we got home.

NO nap. We had been away too long. We helped Jo prepare for the four families that were visiting soon.

Tom and I took time to Skype with Connie and Ellie. It sure was good to talk with them and see them on the screen. Although this is an amazing trip, we are missing home.

At supper time, Dave and Jo ordered in delicious Indian cuisine from a restaurant down the street. The food was delicious, the conversation stimulating. It was a good evening.

Once again, we were surrounded by helpful people. My biggest joy of the day, was talking with Connie and Ellie. I wanted to give them a big hug. Second in line was the walk in the dog park. Mind you the relief I felt when we finally stepped inside that shopping centre felt pretty good too.

As usual, our day was filled with God’s light. We had only to open our eyes.

A Lazy Day – Feb.16

It’s only been a week and already the inches are piling up.

Today Tom and I enjoyed a slow day at the “White House”. I slept till 9:00 a.m., Tom quite a bit longer. For most of the day, I worked on yesterday’s very long blog, writing the text and organizing the pictures. We went for a walk to a strip mall up the street to buy a thank you card to send to Leone and a box of just plain tea. The tea of choice in South Africa is Roibos and Roibos Chai. It tastes good, but my digestive system hasn’t been all that happy. I decided the familiarity of good old English Breakfast tea might help a little.

Tonight we went to a tiny Chinese restaurant for supper with Dave and Jo and their friends Lee and Russell. The food and the company were both grand. It’s good to meet some of Dave and Jo’s friends. Jenna stayed home to do homework. Lee and Russell’s three boys didn’t come either. I guess the teens thought the old folks could use a night without them. Homework does rule a teenager’s life. Tonight we went on online to look at things to do in and around Johannesburg. We picked a couple. Tomorrow we’ll set them up.

One of my joys today was the pleasure of returning to my daily routine. I actually started the day with my meditation/reflection/prayer time. And I did my physio exercises. Routine has its advantageous. I felt a bit like I was home and I needed that.

A second joy of course was meeting Lee and Russell and sharing a meal.

Best of all was the grand conversation we had with Jenna after school. We were in the pool. She came out to talk. It’s wonderful to be a part of her life. Yes, even on this lazy day, we have had opportunity to give and receive love and add a little light to the world. Sometimes, we just have to be intentional about noticing it.

 

 

 

Two days on Safari

Pilanesberg Gate

We have been blessed, truly blessed. Two days on safari in South Africa, is, for many people a dream come true. The animals have been amazing. A highlight for me happened when the elephant we were watching started to walk casually toward us. As he got closer and closer, he seemed to be looking straight at me. I heard the tour bus ahead of us start up and watched it pull forward out of the elephant’s way. Our motor started up as well, but our bus didn’t move. The elephant kept coming. His tread measured and slow. In my mind I heard, “Take all the pictures you like. I’m special.”, as he lumbered past at the most two feet in front of our bus. This majestic, awesome animal walked by just four feet from my seat. (Of course, we were in the front seat.)

There were other times when it felt as if the animal was actually posing for our picture. Here they roam free in a 550 square kilometer game park. These animals are wild. That’s for sure. And yet, at times it felt as if there was a connection. I’ve added some pictures for you to enjoy. On our evening drive, there was a time where pictures couldn’t happen. We joined a collection of about five vehicles sitting in the dark. “Lion’s,” our guide said. “There’s a family of lions here. Two cubs and a Mom and Dad. They made a kill yesterday and have dragged the carcass into that thicket. He shone his light on a collection of shrubs. The lion’s were well hidden. We sat in silence and listened. We heard the cubs mewing. We heard  the sounds of lion’s at play, of Mom encouraging them to settle down, of Father losing patience and roaring, but not a fearsome roar. No it was more a “Come on kids, settle down” roar. We heard them crunching bones. Experiencing the family was a special gift.

During the morning when we were out with Dave and Joanne, we saw zebras. Two particularly touched my heart as I watched them, possibly lovesick teenagers, standing close, nose to nose and side to side. It was neat. In fact it was the families and their interactions that touched my heart and filled it with joy.

 

The other most important part of this safari is being with Dave and Joanne and Jenna. This has been a special time that will live in our hearts forever. We’re not only experiencing their passion for animals and safari’s, but we’re sharing thoughts and stories. Our family traditionally gets together regularly to celebrate the good things of our lives. This is a memory to add to the pile that is special. Today I have so much joy that the world over must feel a lightening of whatever darkness hovers.

I hope you enjoy my pictures as much as I have enjoyed taking them.

Here I come. Get out of my way.

 

He was just four feet away. Nervous I didn’t get him in total.
He kept on walking.
He stopped and turned to say goodbye.
Mom and baby Frankolins take over the road.
This beautiful big zebra stood at the side of the road waiting for us to take his picture.
Zebra Friends
The Giraffes are so graceful.
Baby Leopard Tortoise – He and his Momma were on the side of the road.
Male impala
Springbok is the national animal of South Africa.
Blue Wildebeast family having a rest on the road

Lonely male Blue Wildebeast, sometimes called Gnu

A Sunday Dinner

summer-still-life-783347_1920

Last night, Tom and I sat on my daughter’s deck with family and friends. Some of the circle were missing. Sickness, work, life had led them to different places at that moment. We ate well from a simple and delicious meal prepared with love. We shared stories of the past and present, and we shared dreams for the future. I felt love’s mantle enfold us and with it came inner peace.

It was just a Sunday dinner; a rare occasion in today’s world; a quiet gathering. For me, it was a glimpse of heaven. I could have missed it. We could have gone home early or been too busy to come. I could have been focused on my own concerns, but last night, my heart was open – open to God’s special gift of love. In Biblical terms, “Last night, I joined Moses as he saw the burning bush, took off his shoes and walked on “holy ground.” I’m truly grateful.

I’ve been practicing. Just as a child needs to learn to stop, look and listen before he/she crosses the street, I have been learning to stop, open my heart, look and listen for the moments of joy that God offers us daily.

I recommend you start this journey for yourself. It means letting go of whatever is going on in your mind – plans, frustrations, fears, worries –  letting go for just a few moments so that you can become aware of the love and joy around you.

All God needs is a crack in our armor, just a crack. Open your heart to the love that surrounds you. Whether it’s the joy that comes with a stranger’s smile, a child’s laughter, or a dog’s cold nose on your arm, let it in. These moments will stay with you. Their memory will give you strength in your darkest hours.

Remember, God’s “holy ground” is where you are at the moment. And…Don’t forget to give thanks.

My thought this morning is, “With moments like last night as part of God’s heaven, I have no fear of death.”

Saying Goodbye!

Goodbyes are never easy.
Goodbyes are never easy.

Saying good-bye is not easy. Practice does not make it easier. Two weeks ago, I woke up at four a.m. to help with the last minute stuff and say goodbye to our Bonnie, two- year- old Alex and three-month-old Lise. We’d been blessed with a two-week visit, half at home, half in Cuba. We’d laughed heaps, taken a host of pictures, played, talked and walked the floor with baby Lise. We’d enjoyed a wonderful time together. Their flight home left Toronto at eight a.m. Alex gave me a wonderful hug and said, “See ya.” In his short life, Alex has already said good-bye many times.

 

As I sat down to do my morning journaling, after they left, both the toys and I were already lonely. Tears lurked in my eyes. These three are not our only family members living far away. Several of our grandchildren have grown up and gone away to college. One lives in Vancouver permanently. Teenaged Jenna and her parents live in Johannesburg, South Africa. Saying goodbye is common today as families disperse around the world.

 

I’m grateful for modern technology. In a couple of weeks, through Skype on my computer, I will take Alex to the garden to see the tiny sprouts growing from the seeds we planted while he was here. When I lose patience with computer glitches and ever-present cell phones, I give thanks that they bring our far-off children and grandchildren into our living room regularly. We are truly blessed.

 

Yes, good-byes are difficult, but visits from our loved ones are well worth the pain.

 

“God, whom I so love to worship… knows that every time I think of you in my prayers, which is practically all the time, I ask God to clear the way for me to come and see you.”  (Romans 1: 9-10)

Happy Thanksgiving! #travel, #family, #thanksgiving

October 11, 2015 Happy Thanksgiving! Have a blessed day.

View from Sharon's visitor parking - Camera didn't deliver the gorgeous colors.
View from Sharon’s visitor parking – Camera didn’t deliver the gorgeous colors.

At 8 a.m. this morning, we delivered twenty copies of Fireweed to Rev. David Zub. His study group will be reading and studying it this fall. Hopefully, either I or UCRD, will receive many more large orders like David’s.

Goulais River between Sault Ste Marie and Sudbury
Goulais River between Sault Ste Marie and Sudbury – this is a panorama shot – 360 degrees

The drive from Sault Ste Marie to Sudbury was beautiful. Lots of tall spreading hard maples resplendent in their scarlet gowns, danced in the sunshine. As usual my sister Sharon welcomed us here with open arms.

Sharon an I on her balcony - warm and lovely in the breeze.
Sharon an I on her balcony – warm and lovely in the breeze.

view from Sharon's balcony

This afternoon Sharon and I sat in the sun on her balcony. The lake, the trees dressed up in beautiful bright colors and the warmth of the sun together with our conversation made those hours absolutely delightful. Tom slept peacefully in one of Sharon’s comfy chairs. It’s good to be with my sister again.

About 3:30, I skyped with my son Dave in Johannesburg, South Africa. As I said in my blog earlier this week, today is Dave’s birthday. It’s hard to believe he is 50. I’m much too young to have a son 50. I enjoyed catching up with Dave, Joanne and Jenna. I am grateful they are well and working at settling in to their new location.

Sharon, Tom and I had our Thanksgiving dinner at Swiss Chalet. It was delicious. It’s good to be with my sister again. This has truly been a great family day away from home and I’m grateful.

Tom and I wish you a wonderful holiday tomorrow. Whether you spend it with family, friends or on your own, I remind you that you are never totally alone. God is with you, always.

Family – Biological and Church #travel #family #church

October 2&3 Day 35

Balzac United Church
Balzac United Church

Yesterday and today have been mostly family days. We’ve totally enjoyed Claudia and Will. It’s great to be here.

Balzac UC - a place to worship, a place to gather
Balzac UC – a place to worship, a place to gather

I’ve managed to do some driving here in Calgary. Calgary side streets are set up as a maze to keep people from taking short cuts through residential areas. It makes driving interesting.

I drove out to Balzac United Church, which is one of our rural United Churches that is flying on God’s Spirit. Located about twenty minutes out of Calgary, this little church sits within a few hundred meters of a major artery out of Calgary. There is no town or village of Balzac. The United Church and Anglican Church, next door neighbours, along with the UC hall across a busy road, are all that is left of a once busy railway stop. Everyone drives to Balzac United. It draws members from the south of Calgary Airdrie in the north, as well as the surrounding farms. Young families, and seniors gather to worship, work, and play together. A few years ago they added a big addition. As you can see from the pictures, one side of the sanctuary opens into a lovely meeting room. Behind the meeting room is a two story building with washrooms, small meeting rooms, a nursery. Upstairs is a large Sunday School room. I liked the idea of going upstairs for Sunday School instead of down into a basement room.

Neighbouring Balzac Anglican Church
Neighbouring Balzac Anglican Church

Today, Tom and I actually did some shopping. With the exception of grocery stores, this was only the third time we’ve managed to enjoy the stores. We also joined Will and Claudia and their friends Lydia and Jeff for lunch at Nash, a new Calgary restaurant. Tonight Claudia and Tom shared their music as they jammed on their guitars. What a lovely way to spend the evening.

An Ending and A Beginning #travel #family #hotels

Sept. 29  Day 31

Today was a day of ending and beginning. Last night we said goodbye to Chris and Boris. Today, Alex and Bonnie received one last hug. The time in Vancouver has been awesome and it’s hard to see it end. Even baby Alex seemed to know we were leaving. This morning our active grandson who is usually too busy for hugs, crawled up onto Grandpa’s knee and stayed there. Every time Tom tried to put him down he objected. Thanks to Bonnie and her efforts at Skyping Alex knew us before we arrived. What a wonderful blessing.

A Dry and Thirsty Land
A Dry and Thirsty Land

The trip home has begun. We arrived in Kamloops about 4:30 ready to stop for the night. Our frustration mounted over the next hour. On the way west we had stayed five nights in four different Choice hotels. They have a fall special that offers one free night after two separate stays in a Choice hotel. We went on line to book our free night at a Choice hotel in Kamloops. Neither of us could remember the Password, so we called instead. Patiently we found our way to a representative. After giving all our information, he informed us we did not have enough points for a hotel in Kamloops. The advertisement doesn’t mention points, I said. It states that two nights in two separate hotels earns the free night. This representative just kept saying “not enough points.” I asked to speak to a supervisor. After about 15 min. on hold, the call cut out. Obviously, their system timed out. Needless to say, tonight we’re in the beautiful new Fairview Hotel which is connected to the Marriott hotel chain. Their rates were less than a Choice hotel as well. It will be a long time before we look for a Choice hotel. We don’t do business with company’s that put out false advertising. I’ve already sent a note to the head office of Choice rewards and tonight I’ll email Trip Advisor.

Just a few drops of rain would help.
Just a few drops of rain would help.

In the grand scheme of this trip, that frustration is barely on the radar. We had a lovely drive today. This part of BC is quite desert-like. Everything is a faded yellow. Even the weeds look thirsty as you can see in the picture. Still the naked mountains felt magical as we winded our way through them.

After we checked in to the Fairview high up on the side of the mountain, Tom and I drove down into the heart of town. Kamloops is spread out over a huge valley and meanders up the sides of the mountains as well. It’s a beautiful city. During our drive we checked out possible supper spots. In the end we chose “The Noble Pig”, just because I liked the name. Turned out it was a brew pub with a young clientele. The dining room was partially separated from the bar area, which made it quiet and secluded. The food was fabulous. The menu said that all beer and food were produced on the premises. Supper was an experience, a wonderful experience. We started with a bacon potato soup and a buttery cheese onion biscuit. Wow. That soup had just enough bite to make it interesting. The smooth texture and warm orangey color brought comfort to our souls. I had a delicious salad with a fresh Pacific red salmon steak on top. Tom had curried bison with cashew nuts, green beans, cilantro and much more. Both meals were artistically laid out on the plate, melt in your mouth yummy, fresh and tasty. We would recommend “the Noble Pig” to anyone who travels through Kamloops.

Where was God today? For sure God was with us helping us to say goodbye, and keeping us focused on the next stage of our journey. The mystical mountains with trees dotting their sides certainly spoke to us of God’s amazing creation. Tonight, at the restaurant, we felt God’s warmth and joy in the friendly, extremely competent waitress who served our dinner. When we raved about the soup and asked about a recipe, she happily talked with the chef and brought us the ingredients. I stretched out my knees and arms as I swam in the pool an loafed in the hot tub tonight. Now we’re both doing our “computer thing”. Tom says, “Maybe God intended us to be in the luxurious hotel tonight. The comfort and exercise has helped with the sadness that comes with goodbyes.” This is definitely what we need tonight. Tomorrow will be a new day, a new walk with the Spirit. God is good, all the time.