November 28, 2008

It's a Long Story - Bonnie Way

“Is that the new fashion?” My brother asks, pointing at my running shoe. I look down, remembering that I’ve tied the shoelace to the left side, rather than in the centre.

“It’s a long story,” I say, as I bend down to untie that shoe.

See, my husband and I were visiting his parents, and my mother-in-law and I decided to go for a walk one afternoon. After a few minutes of running around finding hats, putting on shoes, getting Sunshine into her Snugli, and telling everyone else in the house where we were going, we headed out. We stopped to see what my father-in-law and brother-in-law were doing at the cow’s watering trough, and then wandered across the cow field. I was watching carefully to make sure that I didn’t step in any cow pies.

Dad often tells the story of he and his dad went for a walk across the cow pasture with a city slicker once. The city slicker was carefully picking his way around every cowpie, worried about his shoes, while Dad and Grandpa just walked across without really noticing where they were walking. When they got to the other side of the field, the city slicker was the only one with any cowpies on his shoes. So I was thinking of that story and smiling, but being careful anyways.

We took a shortcut through some trees and into the back pasture, where we looked at the cows and the swamp and the quad tracks from the family reunion. Then, as Sunshine was getting tired, we turned around to head back. I was telling my mother-in-law about my trip to Ontario, and forgot to watch where I stepped. She was the one who noticed that I’d landed right in a cowpie.

I scraped my shoe along the ground, and walked sideways dragging one foot, and tried to get the cowpie cleaned off. But it was sticky and wouldn’t come. So when we got to the house, I kicked my shoes off outside, not wanting them to smell up the house. I went in and put Sunshine down for her nap, and by the time she was asleep, I’d forgotten to go back out and clean up my shoes.

The next morning, my husband and I were heading out to church. I stood at the top of the stairs and surveyed the stack of shoes at the bottom, trying to find mine. They weren’t there. I asked if anyone else had seen them. Surely nobody would walk off with my shoes? We search around the house and then I remembered I’d left them outside. But they weren’t there either. Finally, as my husband came to help look, then my father-in-law and my mother-in-law, I noticed one running shoe way out in the middle of the lawn.

My father-in-law slipped into his shoes and went out to retrieve mine, while my husband and mom searched around the other side of the house. Then my father-in-law saw the other shoe, down by the driveway, and brought them both back. Apparently some critter had taken a liking to them and dragged them away. He chewed off one shoelace, but otherwise the shoes were fine. So I put them back on again, tying the left shoe to the side because of the shorter shoelace, and we went off to church.

And that is the story of why my shoe was tied to one side.

November 25, 2008

Something to Look Forward To - M. Laycock

“See what you have to look forward to now?” the whisper in my ear came from a friend in the pew behind us and it made my smile widen. It was Dec. 10th and we were on our first outing with our new baby. She was only 10 days old, but we braved the frigid Yukon winter to attend the Christmas pageant at a small mission church.

I knew the service wouldn’t be a grand production. The church was just a hall, tiny and dilapidated. The Carols were sung a cappella, without a pianist to help keep us in tune. The pageant consisted of six or seven children dressed in bathrobes, their heads in kitchen-towel wraps. The backdrop was made of cardboard stars covered in tinfoil.

But I was seeing everything attached to Christmas in a new way. The tinfoil stars glittered more brightly than a chandelier. The carols were as harmonious as though sung by angels. And the children... ah, the children made the story live! I was bursting with thankfulness. I had just been given the desire of my heart, the precious gift of a child of my own.

We had been told it wouldn’t happen, and after five years without conceiving a child, my husband and I tried to resign ourselves to that reality. I took great pains to hide the deep sadness I found almost unbearable. No one knew how much I wanted a baby, but the clues were there. I was angry much of the time. Convinced God was punishing me, I hated Him. The bitterness poured into all aspects of my life.

Until the day God laughed.

It was on the road to Mayo, Yukon. I was going to visit a friend, determined not to think about God or religion or any of the baffling questions my husband kept bringing up. But no matter what I tried, my mind would not rest. The question of God’s existence and what he had to do with me would not go away. In desperation, I pulled my vehicle into a lookout point above the Stewart River.

The beautiful river valley stretched out below, but I barely saw it. In turmoil, I challenged God to do something to prove He was there. Then I realized how foolish I was, talking to a God I did not really believe existed. At that point something happened which I have never been able to describe adequately. I “heard” laughter, like a grandfather chuckling, and the words, “Yes, but I love you anyway.”

None of this was audible, yet it was real. I thought I was going insane. The turmoil had finally pushed me over the edge and now I was hearing voices. I stomped on the gas pedal of my truck, turned the radio up as loud as it would go, and fled.

My visit with my friend turned out to be more discussion of spiritual things, but by the time I returned home I was determined not to pursue Christianity. Besides, I had something else on my mind. I had been suffering from a strange flu. On about the seventh day of this “flu”, the realization I was in fact pregnant flooded over me like warm rain. With it came a thunderbolt of truth. This was the “something” I had challenged God to do. The child growing in my womb was His answer, the proof of His love. He gave me the desire of my heart. She was born Nov. 30, 1982.

“See what you have to look forward to now?” Oh yes, I saw. I saw a future filled with the knowledge there is peace without measure, grace without limit and love without conditions. I saw a future suddenly bright because I believe the Christmas story. A tiny baby, whose sole purpose was to die for me and all others, was born in Bethlehem. I saw the reality that the Christ is still intimately involved in our lives here on earth. Though the church may be just a hall, the music less than perfect, and the costumes homemade, the story is exquisite.

The story is true!
Marcia Laycock is the winner of the Best New Canadian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. Visit Marcia's website -

November 23, 2008

The Good News of Christmas - Jan Keats

The time came when the prophecy of a Savior was unfolding. God’s only son was going to be born. God sent an angel to Nazareth to proclaim to Mary that she was the chosen one to bear God’s only son. Mary was troubled by the message because she was a virgin. “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”(Luke 1:34) The angel assured Mary that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the Holy One that was to come will be called the Son of God. Mary accepted God’s will for her life. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:38)

One can imagine the emotions Mary was feeling. After all, she was going to give birth to the Savior of the world. Oh, what joy and anxious moments that must have overwhelmed Mary and Joseph! What was God’s purpose for sending His son into the world? What was God’s purpose in choosing Mary to the Mother of this Holy infant?
We find God’s purpose in Matthew 1: 21-23, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus because He will save His people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel – which means God with us.”

In His adolescent years Jesus grew wise. Luke 2:40 says, “The child grew and became strong, He was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon him.” When Jesus and His parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, His parents learned just how wise He was. As the people were traveling home, they noticed that Jesus wasn’t with them, so they headed back to look for him. He was found sitting among the teachers, who were amazed at His understanding of the word of God. Luke 2: 52 says: “ Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and with favour with God and men.”

As an adult the time came for Jesus to fulfill God’s purpose that was set before him. He traveled many towns and villages preaching the good news. Many people came to hear Jesus and to be healed of their diseases. (Luke 6:18) He performed many miracles; Jesus enabled the lame to walk and to the many who suffered from terrible diseases, He gave healing and new hope again. The good news spread rapidly and many placed their faith in Him.
The Good News of Christmas is what many people looked forward to upon hearing of the virgin birth. (Luke 2:38) It is a joyous occasion that the angels and the shepherds exclaimed. And it is for all people. (Luke 2:10)


How would you feel if God had Chosen you to be the parent of His son?

How do you think the people of Nazareth reacted to the news of the birth of baby Jesus?

Do you think that it is more difficult to share the Good news of Jesus Birth considering the pressures in our society today?

Copyright Jan Keats

November 21, 2008

Follow the Leader

[Photo: Amanda ~ Chip off the old block~]

A funny thing happened on my way to adulthood. I was followed. My children were apparently eyeing me all the way. That delightful old adage - do as I say, not as I do - got tossed out the window. And no matter what I said, my children become more of what I did.

I spent most of the day yesterday helping my daughter pack for her impending move. With a 6 month old baby and a busy little two and a half year old, Amanda has to work double time to get her kit and kaboodle packed and ready for relocation. So I was happy to help. She's a bit stubborn like her momma' so I had to convince her to let me help and that she didn't need to do this all by herself.

I get a big kick out of how alike we are. She is very independent but she has a lot of my traits. Some not so good. Yesterday it was confirmed that I have created a junior packrat. She is just like 'yours truly' for stashing and saving. I totally sympathized with some of the 'but I might need this later' comments from my darling daughter. Our similarities are obvious in many areas.
There were moments, yesterday, when I knew she wanted me to tell her to toss out something but then we would both think of good reasons for keeping said object. Take the wine bottles from the many weddings that she had collected. Afterall, they had the nice label and the photo of the happy couple. I remember the same dilemma when I moved. I was so glad when I ended up purging my own collection of photograph-adorned wine bottles. So I shared this with her.
Finally we made a decision. She would only toss the empty photograph-adorned bottles. The full ones she would keep. We felt bad tossing the happy couples into the recycling box. But we moved on. And so the day continued. Decision after decision. Packing is not an easy task for packrats.

On the whole, we actually did well sorting and discerning between need and want. However, I must say that our packing session likely took a little longer than perhaps might be considered the norm. There were so many decisions to make.

Later, I again thought about how important a job motherhood is. As I watch my big little girl interact with her own little ones, I see me. She speaks with my grandchildren in the same manner I spoke to her. She disciplines the same way I disciplined her. We have the same sense of humour.

I left her house with a smile on my face and three bags of 'stuff' I might use (no wine bottles). Then I thought of a poem I wrote a while back for Amanda's birthday card.

Sometimes I watch you.

I watch the way you look at your children, my grandchildren.
I watch and wonder where the years have gone and how it is that you are now a mother.
Then I see the dependent, adoring way your children look at you.
I remember when you used to look at me like that.
But time marches on
You, my once desperately, dependent daughter have become a fiercely independent woman.
Did I teach you that?
We had our moments of conflict.
We faced joys and challenges together.
We overcame grief and sadness.We triumphed.
I love spending time with you.
I appreciate when you ask me for advice.
It makes me feel valued and worthy.
Our relationship is special.
We are more than mother and daughter.
We have become friends.

(God has blessed me beyond measure!)

November 19, 2008

Not This Dance . . .

Amy’s friend Arlene keeps pulling the conversation back to George and Florence. Amy resists and wonders if this is what a man feels like when his partner tried to take the lead in the middle of a tango. She leans hard toward tomorrow evening’s supper menu. Arlene sways again toward the latest gossip. Amy pulls the words around to the meal. Arlene tugs her back into defamation and slander.

Would she ever shut up?

“I really would like fish with all those vegetables. Any other meat would be just too heavy, don’t you think, Arlene?”

Arlene would have none of it. No fish. No vegetables. She only had tongue for George and Florence.

“Susan says they have done it several times,” she hints.

You have done it one too many times, thinks Amy. I’m not getting dragged around this kitchen floor again. Stiffening slightly, she rises and goes deliberately to the window. Cathy and Rider are playing in the sandbox. The thought briefly crosses her mind that someday someone might be talking about THEM just as their mother was trying to talk about George and Florence. She wishes they would have an argument or something, anything to turn off this torturous tango. But the children play on.

“I’m sure Susan wouldn’t lie, would she, Amy?”

Would she . . . ? Oh no, I’m letting her lead. Fish. What kind of fish? Some salmon? No. It might be too filling. Some sole? That would be nice, with a light sauce.

“Didn’t you hear me, Amy? Where is your mind? Are you paying any attention?”

“I’m sorry, Arlene. The meal tomorrow night has been more important to me than much of anything else I’m afraid.”

Afraid, my eye -- I’m terrified. The last time she dragged me into one of these conversations, my heart ached for a long time.

“What do you think of sole?”

“Sole? You are out of it, my dear. Anyway, the afternoon is slipping away. Call the kids for me, won’t you. I need to slip down the hall and then I really must run.”

Amy wondered if it was too soon to relax. Yes, it was. Words still rung in her ears, fragments about George and Florence, jarring, acid-etched fragments. As soon as Arlene is out the door she must turn on the radio. No, a tape. If I don’t play some praise and sing along, I’ll start to tango without her.
“Lord, teach me to be reverent in the way I live, not to slander, not to sit around drinking coffee and getting caught in the trap of the tango . . . that my life might glorify your Word.” (Titus 2:3,5)
by Elsie Montgomery

November 12, 2008

Book review and a Bonus - Nesdoly

Title: Hot Apple Cider - Words to Stir the Heart and Warm the Soul
Author: Edited by N. J. Lindquist and Wendy Anne Nelles
Publisher: That's Life! Communications, May 2008, paperback, 296 pages
ISBN-10: 0978496302
ISBN-13: 978-0978496302

True stories that deliver a shot of inspiration, non-fiction pieces that get you thinking, Robert Service-like poetry that champions the cause of the poor and hurting, fiction that delivers truth with a pinch of drama and humor: Hot Apple Cider - Words to Stir the Heart and Warm the Soul has them all. This anthology of 44 pieces by 30 Canadian authors was conceived and compiled by N. J. Lindquist and Wendy Anne Nelles, co-founders of The Word Guild, a professional organization for Canadian writers who are Christian.

“Today many Canadian Christians are realizing that they’d like to read literature that reflects their own culture, values and experiences,” says Lindquist in the introduction. Janette Oke in the foreword says, “I feel a bit proud in knowing that we, here in Canada, have so many skilled, inspirational writers who are able to present their work – their words – in this way.”

Hot Apple Cider does feature writing from across the dominion (although it's light on writers from Quebec, the Maritimes, and the Territories). In it you’ll read about a Lethbridge pioneer woman who championed the rights of women and the poor, a perceptive Yukoner who kept showing up, like an angel, when a lonely soul needed her the most, a childless Ontario couple who had their prayers answered in a most unexpected way, and many other accounts about the intersection of life and faith. Stories from abroad are also well-represented and include a tale of tragedy in the Australian Outback, a birth crisis in Nepal, and a terrifying night in a drug dealer’s apartment in Boston.

Besides being a powerful book in its own right, Hot Apple Cider also has value as a sampler. Many of the pieces are extracted from full-length works. Don’t be surprised if this book has you adding titles to the list of volumes you’ll want to read in their entirety – books like Seven Angels for Seven Days by Angelina Fast-Vlaar, Where Have all the Mothers Gone? by Jean Froese, M.D., Why Does God Allow Suffering?: An MD Examines by Brad Burke M.D., and a host of others.

Hot Apple Cider’s honest and thought-provoking writing combined with its tasteful cover and apple-themed photo illustrations may find you thinking of purchasing copies as gifts. And what better gift could you give than a book brimming with heart-warming stories to sip at over the Christmas season – or any season for that matter?

(Review first posted on Blogcritics, October 27/08)

Bonus: A behind-the-scenes look at how this book came together.
Purchase information.


Violet Nesdoly blogs daily devotions for children at Bible Drive-Thru, about things writerly at Line upon line and personal and community stuff at promptings.

November 05, 2008

A Song in the Morning - Janet Sketchley

As a little girl, I used to bounce out of bed early, chattering and ready to play. Somewhere all that changed. Most days in my adult life have started with resentful thoughts toward the alarm clock and an excruciating crawl out of sleep’s warm embrace into a cold and dreary morning. At least that’s how it feels, even in July with sunshine and birdsong.

I’ve dreaded waking up, dragging into another day’s responsibilities with insufficient energy and less joy. Somewhere on the planet are people who spring wide awake and alert, fully rested and eager to get going. If you’re one of them, congratulations but please don’t tell me.

Occasionally I wake knowing something exciting waits in the day: a trip, or any of the days I’m at Write! Canada. I’m still low-energy, but it’s easier to get moving because I look forward to what’s waiting.

Once, I woke feeling happy. Must have had a lovely dream. Dreams that encourage me spiritually or suggest intriguing stories let me wake with more cheer, as do the mornings when there’s a song in my head before the radio comes on.

I notice the music connection even more since CBC Radio 2 changed its format. Without the gentle classical music that used to comfort me in the waking, things have gotten harder.

Not long ago, I woke one morning with a worship song drifting through my mind and something finally clicked. I thanked God for the song, for how it made it easier to accept being awake. And that night I asked Him to please do it again.

He did.

Each night I ask, and each morning there’s part of a worship song to smooth my transition into the day. Focusing on the lyrics instead of just coasting on the tune brings me into God’s presence to start the day with Him.

I can’t say I look forward to mornings yet, but the dread is gone.

God is good.

© Janet Sketchley, 2008
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.