Tag Archives: family

Just Three More Days!!!

Three More Days to Christmas!!!

Today I am counting my blessings. To begin with, I’ve enjoyed the last hour in prayer. This is my favorite way to begin my day. Tom is sleeping – letting his body heal. The last few days have been filled with blessings. First and foremost, Tom is doing well with his new hip. Of course, he’s using a two-wheeled walker, but he is walking and putting some weight on that leg. At this point he’s doing well enough to wish he could do more. For me that is a great sign that he’s on his way to dancing this summer.

Our daughter, Connie and family have a new puppy for Christmas. They’ve added to the sacredness of this season by welcoming home a rescue pup. Oliver has brought joy into the household.

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I’ve been specially blessed over the last two days. Two grandchildren, Jenna, age 17 and Tim age 22, have spent a day baking Christmas cookies with me. They’ve filled my heart with joy and memories of baking with my kids.  In the midst of the crazy busyness of living, when there are so many demands on their time, they want to be with us. What a true blessing!

And yet, as is always true in living, there is sadness and worry as well. My brother-in-law, sister Gayle’s husband, is nearing the end of his journey with cancer. Today I give thanks that Gayle’s daughter Tracey, is being their anchor. Although we’re not together, Dina, Sharon and I are sending our love and our prayers to Gayle. The love of family is a precious gift. I am grateful for my faith and theirs. I can trust in God’s comfort and strength for all of them. I can trust that God will welcome Bruce home when the time comes.

And those are just the tip of the iceberg. Always I give thanks that I was born in Canada. I give thanks that my mother who raised me lived the Christian faith, and so I too had the opportunity to become a person of faith. All my life I’ve known that God is with me, guiding, comforting, strengthening and challenging me. I truly believe that God is there within all of us, all we need do is open our hearts to let that knowledge grow. Not everyone, lives in a family where the opportunity to learn about God is present. Yes, with three more days before celebrating the birth of Jesus, God with us, I am overwhelmed by the blessing of faith.

This morning I suggest that you take time out, for prayer and gratitude. I promise it will bring smiles and sunshine into your heart.

What Do You Expect This Christmas?

 What do you expect this Christmas? Society has painted a picture of a happy family gathered around the dinner table by the Christmas tree.  Abundance prevails – gifts, food, laughter and love. This may be the reality for a few, but not for all of us.

Years ago, Bing Crosby sang “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.” Loneliness, sickness, grief, job loss, hunger and more, do not disappear just because we’ve flipped our calendars to December. Our Christmas story reminds us that on the first Christmas, Jesus was born into poverty, not abundance – in a stable, not the Best Western, and far from home. And yet I am sure there was abundance – the abundance of love and joy that can come  with the birth of a baby. Christmas is the celebration of love and new life in the midst of whatever life offers at the moment. There is truly no ideal Christmas for us to expect.

Instead, each year at Christmas, we receive the peace, hope, joy and love that come from new beginnings. Regardless of our circumstances, even if we are in the midst of deep sorrow, anxiety, fear, we can expect God’s presence among us. We can open our hearts and feel God’s love enfold us. We can pick up a baby, hug a loved one, drop money in a Salvation Army bucket, bring a meal to someone in need. We can expect God’s presence on the street, at the food bank, in the palace, in our homes.

When we expect to meet God, we will.  God is always with us, in the people we meet. All we need do is open our eyes, our ears and our hearts. God will come in stranger, enemy, friend.

I suggest that you expect an opportunity to hold the Christ-child this Christmas. Let me know how Jesus came to you this year. Your experience will be a blessing to me. Thank you.

Family – God’s Gift to the World

This is day five of our sister’s week. Each year since our Mom died, my three biological sisters and I have gathered to spend a week together. We add spice to our laughing and talking, by enjoying a bit of sight seeing. This year we’ve expanded the family circle to include our aunt and her four girls as well as a family reunion that lasted all last weekend. What a fabulous time we are having. Each day, I have given God thanks for helping me find this wonderful family, seventeen years ago.

Families sometimes have struggles, for sure. As human beings we can be mean, spiteful, even cruel at times. Yet when we focus on love, joy, & acceptance, as our crowd has been doing this week, joy explodes and pours out all around us.

Today God has reminded me that the whole world is our family. We are not called to judge people as enemy/friend, useless/valuable, different/equal. Instead, God has given us millions of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, sons and daughters, we haven’t yet met. All we need do is open our hearts to embrace all people and watch love  explode into the world.

Today, let us give thanks that we are all God’s children, one family. Offer your love to the world. Trust that God will make it grow.

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

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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)