November 26, 2015

Rose-Coloured Glasses by Marnie Pohlmann

Since last January when the year’s lists of prompts for this blog were shared, I have been dreading this month. The prompt is to choose a memory connected to our writing, and tell how it is a memorial for us, which is an appropriate subject for the month we commemorate Remembrance Day. However, memories are difficult for me. Childhood trauma buried most good recollections along with bad. As an older teen, some of those good memories began to return, as did flashbacks of pain. Stories told by my siblings also raised reminiscences, however good times were often bracketed by confusion. So while I could try to tell a story of how books and writing provided escape from pain, I believe it’s more helpful this month to share that God heals pain.

Shared on Facebook recently was a meme with a picture of blankets thrown over a table and chairs to make a tent. The sentiment was that as an adult we want to go back to those simple days of playing in such a shelter. I was reminded that seeing my own children play under the dining table many years ago, and not recognizing what they were very naturally doing, was the impetus for me to focus on healing from my past. And so began a journey from darkness, through memories, to learning to wear rose-coloured glasses.

If you read my post last month, you may wonder how a girl who sees most situations as glass half-empty can also wear rose-coloured glasses, but I don’t mean seeing life outside of reality. My rose-coloured glasses are God-given, developed by building memorials.

I love memorials! They are different from memories. Memorials are monuments of when we recognize God at work. Memorials can be built in celebration or in the midst of troubles, or even in the blank spaces of memory - because God is sovereign in all these times.

A definition for memorial is “a written statement of facts presented to a sovereign,” so we can take our understanding of the facts of our past or present situation to our Sovereign God. When I write a memorial like this to God, He faithfully shows me His presence and speaks into my heart.
God’s presence makes it possible for me to see not just the pain of the past, but also the blood of Christ that redeems that pain. When we know Immanuel, “God with us,” He helps us make sense of life, providing bloodstained truth about our struggles. As we take the time to build this kind of memorial, facing the hard things and testifying to God’s work in our life, the memorials become guiding lights, shining when we again find ourselves in darkness and pain. Memorials provide Hope for God’s good plan. 

Seeing life through rose-coloured glasses does not mean ignoring pain or insisting our glass is only ever full. The frame of our glasses may be coloured by the pain we have experienced, but Christ’s blood tints the lenses through which we view life. 
Our memorials light not only our own path, though. God’s light can shine from our path into the lives of others. There has been a lot in the media lately about the effects of trauma on soldiers, first responders, and refugees. When those affected are struggling in darkness, our memorials show them there is hope. Writing is how I build memorials, knowing God can use them to light the journey of others.

So I wear God-given, bloodstained, rose-coloured glasses and write memorials of God’s work in my life.

November 25, 2015

A Beautiful Plan By Vickie Stam

I remember a time when I felt somewhat lonely. I had gone through a divorce and was single. Being alone was hard; always coming home to an empty apartment and then to an empty house. I started to wonder where my life was going. What were God's plans for me? That was the burning question; pretty much my constant companion back then. I liked a good surprise but I much preferred knowing what might be down the road. I guess that was my nature. 

Someone close to me kept reminding me of a verse found in Jeremiah, "For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord." I grew weary of hearing that even though I knew that God was in control.    

And then one day I started to realize that God had already placed someone in my path. This person was someone I had known for a while and had grown to respect very much. Although we came from different worlds our common interests began to surface through our many conversations. I felt good being in his company. His smile was contagious! I was certain that God had brought this man into my life. Yet deep down I wasn't convinced that I deserved someone like him. I was still very good at punishing myself for my past iniquities.    

I wondered how this man could care for me when I was still hanging onto so much hurt, sorrow and pain. Couldn't he see how tightly these emotions clung to the walls of my heart. They lived in there. And they barely slept. I would lay all my grief at the feet of Jesus and the next day I would take it back. I struggled to just let it go.   

Still there was something different about this man. Something that made me feel comfortable. Something that made me want to let go of the things that weighed heavily on me. His demeanor was calm and gentle. He never got angry even when I thought there were situations that just might warrant his getting upset. He simply didn't. I liked how he treated people with respect. I enjoyed talking to him. We enjoyed being with each other. Sharing our stories, hopes and dreams became easier with each passing day. 

We talked about Jesus and about the church. And over time, I learned how he managed to rise above the ashes of his own pain. He encouraged me to put all my trust in God, not in man. Trust that God is always walking with you.  

I was happy and excited! And over time the load felt much lighter.

"Will you come to church with me?" I asked him one day, my heart pounding inside my chest. I wanted to introduce him to my friends. I wanted them to meet the man that was changing my heart. 

"I would love to." He said, his blue eyes dancing.

That Sunday morning we walked into church together. My hand rested in his. Our fingers intertwined. He looked amazing! He wore a dress shirt and tie along with dark dress pants. Stunning to say the least.

I hoped my friends would like him -- would welcome him. 

"This is my friend, Tony." I said as he reached his hand out to greet my friend.
They exchanged pleasantries and smiled at one another. I smiled too. Everything was going well. There was a lunch after the service in the fellowship hall. My face could have lit up the entire room. I will never forget the precious words my friend whispered in my ear. "He must be a breath of fresh air for you." She was genuinely happy for us. 

I couldn't wait to write those precious words between the pages of my journal.

I couldn't wait to write more of our story. 

Today, we live on a farm just outside of Jarvis, Ontario. We've been married for 9 years. This month we retired from raising pigs. No more livestock. We will continue to farm, growing corn, wheat and soybeans.

And when people ask me what I'm going to do with my time when we retire, I should tell them......

"I to enjoy the 'breath of fresh air' I married. I want to live, love and laugh together. Our work in the barn is finished and yes we give God all the glory because without a doubt we know that God put us together. We look forward to what God's plan is for our future." 



November 24, 2015

My Mother's Gift - Tandy Balson

My mother was very excited as she presented me with a copy of Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter. She told me that this was one of her favorite books when she was a girl.

Soon I was lost in the story of Elnora, an impoverished girl living near the Limberlost Swamp. Her life moved from the pages of a book into my imagination, where I pictured the scenes and her struggles.

I had read Trixie Beldon and Nancy Drew mysteries, but they were just entertaining stories.  Elnora’s life became very real to me.  It was the first time I was ever sad when a book ended.  I didn’t want to leave her and imagined how her life would have carried on.

Thus began a life-long love of reading.  By gifting me with literature that was important to her, my mother ignited my passion for a well written story.  

Over the years I have spent countless hours immersed in good books. The world around me fades away as I enter into the stories.  To this day, I feel one of the best ways to spend a day is curled up with a book.

This love of reading has been passed along to my daughter and my grandchildren.  I wonder if my mother realized the legacy she was handing down when she gave me that book.

I inherited her collection of books when she passed away.  In it are many classics, some dating back more than 100 years.  I treasure these volumes and when I look at them I send up a prayer of thanks for the mother who loved me enough to share her favourite book with me.

November 23, 2015

The Feather by Lynn J Simpson

You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am. Psalm 139-3

I have a bird feather that rests on the sill of my home-office window. Its white edges that I stroke from time to time, are smooth between my fingers and I remember the moment of its rescue. It was early in my Christian journey of just about 6 years ago. At the time I read one of my first Christian books, a contemporary modern day drama of love and restoration. The main character would find bird feathers drifting on whatever path she had taken, a sign from God for her, affirming and comforting.

At that time, every day I would take a half hour walk in my neighbourhood, Christian artists like Switchfoot, Casting Crowns, and Chris Tomlin blessing my ears through my headphones. It was a transitional period for me, and I would find myself talking with God, bringing Him my past memories that wrapped me in sorrow and regret. But then He would interrupt me.

Lynn, remember that speech you wrote for that fifth grade contest? That one about people? That one that your teacher wanted printed in the local paper? It was insightful, real, and showed how much I, the Lord, wants others to love and accept each other like I do. You were that quiet, shy child, and that high sensitivity helped you understand what I wanted those people around you to hear and know. 

"Ahh...maybe Lord," I argued back, "but that speech never got published in that paper. The teacher said she would but she never did try. I guess it just wasn't good enough. I'm not good enough."

What are My words, Lynn? For you (we) are My (God's) masterpiece. I (He has) created you (us) anew in Christ Jesus, so you (we) can do the good things I (he) planned for you (us) long ago. Ephesian 2:10 You are always enough. Every memory, every path I have placed you on is a orchestrated by Me to lead you to your unique purpose. What you always must remember, dear one, is who you are in Me. Break those lies from those past memories that leave you in shame. Break those lies with the truth of Me.  

It was on one of those walks, on one of those days that I found myself wrestling with my truth on how I had interpreted those memories of rejection, of not being good enough for a teacher to follow through on a promise. Or getting that C on my first university English Essay. Or that grade 12 teacher telling me my short story was just a mess. Sure, those memories are followed by many A's and many encouraging comments to continue writing. Yet, the shame stuck like gum to a sidewalk. Only intense heat might melt it away.

And then there it was. A bird feather suddenly on the sidewalk, in the centre of my path. I almost stepped on it, making it dirty from the mess collected on the bottom of my shoes. But I stopped, picked it up, and twirled it between my fingers, the white pure as fresh snow. I tickled my cheek with its soft and cool feathers. I took in the moment, The new memory.

And looked up.

Yes, Lord. You make what is meant for harm and turn it into to good.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Genesis 50:20

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 20:11

May you see God's working in all your memories and all your steps to where you are today. And maybe pick up that feather that shows up on your path!

Lynn J Simpson-Website

November 22, 2015

My Writing God’s Handiwork? By Alan Anderson

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2: 8-10)?

The passage of the Bible I have included in this blog is a memorial as to my motivation to write. As one of His children I am part of God’s handiwork, His masterpiece!  Wow!  I can rejoice in this and carry on with the unfolding of my life.  It was not always so!

For much of my younger years I was a closet writer.  My memories of whatever I wrote are surrounded by the mystery of what was going on in my mind.  As a young guy in high school I wanted to write.  My insecurity and shyness as a person was reflected in my writing.  I was not very comfortable around people.  My stories and poems were also shy and wanted to be alone.  It didn’t matter what I wrote it would never see the light of day.  My early writing projects were for my eyes only.  My fear of the world caused me to toss whatever I wrote.  No one else would be interested! No one else would understand! It was just me and my words!

My childhood was often one of insecurity, fear and childhood imagination.  It wasn’t completely devoid of fun and some good family memories however.  I enjoyed time playing with my siblings and cousins now and again.  I was for the most part, however, a loner content to make my own world and not become too involved in the one around me.

Stories like Daniel Dafoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island were wonderful!  They opened my imagination to what my eyes observed about life.  Their stories allowed my heart to feel the longing to be heard and to let others into my inner world.  I could imagine myself on an island building my own abode among palm trees and swimming in a warm ocean.  I could pretend I was an innkeeper visited by pirates and sailing away with them around the world.  I would always have to come back to reality and make my way through a world of strangers.

By nature we are all strangers!  God sees a bunch of strangers and by His grace, His free favour; He makes us children of God.  We are His kids!  That calls for another wow!

I love writers but I know this does not make me a writer!  On the other hand, words have been my friends and companions since I can remember.  They are my memories!  They are expressions of my life!

As a writer who once lived in a closet so to speak, I have come to realize that I am also an expression of God’s gracious handiwork!  As a somewhat older guy now I still have a passion to write.  I am no longer afraid to allow others to see my writing. I know that my writing moves some readers.  That is so amazing and humbling!

I write stories of human frailties based on the realities of life and the place of unexpected hope.  I guess it might be said I resonate with frailties because I know myself so well.  I guess it could also be said I relate to unexpected hope because I never expected it in my life!  That calls for yet another wow!

Personal Blog: