Love Thy Neighbour

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With all of the opinions and scriptures, accusations and recriminations being fired back and forth between both sides of the Homosexuality debate, I have become heart-sick at the hurt and pain being caused by and felt by so many people in both camps.  It is such a controversial issue for many, and while both the US and Canadian governments have now ruled that gay marriage is legal, giving gays the same legal rights and recognition as any couple, many people are struggling with this decision on a personal and spiritual level.

I’ve been open about my own position on the matter in personal conversations with my friends and family, but have never published it here because I’ve been afraid of the backlash.  I feel like I have reached a point in my own journey where I can do that and handle whatever might be sent my way.  This is my blog, which you can choose to read or not.  However, my intention is not to offend or hurt anyone, simply to open up another potential perspective for people.

So, lets start with this: My background is Christian.  I was raised in a conservative Christian household, as a Missionary Kid (MK) in Botswana, Africa, and then later as a Pastor’s Kid (PK) in British Columbia, Canada.  I went to a Mennonite high school, complete with mandatory bible classes and lessons on abstinence instead of birth control.  I LOVED my school and am grateful for the 5 years I got to spend there.  But then my high school made my sister feel judged and unwelcome when as a teenager, she made some decisions that led to her becoming pregnant. That did not feel like Love to me.

As a young adult, I attended my local college, started dating my now husband, and was exposed to a larger world where opinions different from my conservative upbringing were suddenly available to me.  I stopped going to church for a while, partly because my Sweetie and I couldn’t handle the disconnect between the Love commanded in the Bible, and the Condemnation actually being practiced and preached in church. The homosexuality issue was a huge part of that. We have since come to terms with the fallibility of humankind, and the limitlessness of God, and have found a church where we feel loved and supported.

Part of the expansion of my world in college was getting to know my Sweetie’s brother and his partner.  They were the first openly gay people I had ever met.  Until then, I had been totally unexposed to the gay community, and had a vague notion that the Bible said homosexuality was wrong.  It wasn’t really a large issue in my life and I hadn’t spent much time thinking about it.  The concept of two men in a romantic relationship made me uncomfortable because of its newness, but I quickly learned that they were just two people in love who wanted to share their lives with each other.  Without aggressive teaching against homosexuality, it was relatively easy to accept their relationship as it was – full of love, respect, fun, and commitment.  I quickly grew to love them as my own brothers.  Perhaps my parents and teachers will feel like they failed in properly training me in the ways of the Bible, but really they should be proud that they instilled kindness and love as my primary values.

I haven’t always agreed with every decision my homosexual brothers have made, in the same way that I have not always agreed with every decision my own heterosexual sisters have made.  But their sexual orientation is a separate issue – I can’t make myself see that as a decision they have chosen for themselves.  Knowing them as well as I do, there is no arguing who they are at their core, and that includes their homosexuality.  I don’t believe they could choose to be (not just act) heterosexual any more than I could choose to be an elephant.

Now, here is where I expect to start getting some argument from my more conservative friends and family.  If the Bible says homosexuality is wrong, then it can’t possibly be core to their identities – they have chosen to live a life of sin.  Or they were damaged emotionally as children and can’t help the way they feel, but they are broken and need healing.  To anyone who makes those arguments, my question is this: Have you gotten to know someone who is gay well enough that you have had intimate conversations, gone vacationing together, and made them part of your family?  If you haven’t, how can you presume to have an opinion about whether their sexuality is innate or chosen?

If you do have close relationships with homosexual people and still believe their homosexuality is evil, have you looked into the history of the word “homosexual” in the Bible and considered the cultural context?  I’m guessing you have done so with other issues such as the acceptance of slavery, polygamy, racism and sexism in the Bible, all of which are rejected by most Christians these days.  If you haven’t considered these things, how can you be sure that committed, loving homosexual relationships are condemned by God when Christianity no longer condemns interracial marriage, no longer accepts slavery and polygamy, and for the most part no longer prevents women from holding leadership roles in churches.

There is plenty of brokenness in every person – it’s an unfortunate part of being human.  But what I’ve discovered after many discussions with my gay friends and family, is that the brokenness involved with their homosexuality has nothing to do with conflict over who they are.  They know who they are, and have found extreme relief in accepting their own homosexuality.  Any remaining conflict for the people with whom I have a relationship has everything to do with how they are treated or expect to be treated by others.  So here, finally, I come to the main point of my post.

In both Canada and the United States, we are free to follow whichever religion we choose. (Note how this is clearly a choice each person has a right to – whether you are born to a religion or not, you can choose to worship in whatever way you please.  This right is not unique to North America, but there are plenty of places where being a Christian is illegal.)  As such, if you choose to interpret the Bible to mean that homosexuality is a sin, that is your right, and no one can take that from you.  Chances are there is something that you feel is core to your being or core to your spirituality that another religion sees as a sin, and they have a right to believe that too.  We also enjoy Freedom of Speech, which means that you cannot be arrested for expressing your opinion.

My challenge to those who believe that homosexuality is a sin is two-fold:

  1. Consider how your words and actions might make others feel.  While it may not be your job as a Christian to approve of behaviour that your religion says is a sin, as a Christian it IS your job to spread the Love of Jesus.  Do you think telling people that they are an abomination makes them feel loved?  What is your true motivation for posting articles condemning homosexuality – do you think that will convince homosexuals that they should come to you for spiritual counselling?  Are you looking to have your beliefs confirmed by like-minded individuals?  Are you inviting debate and open conversation?  Being legally free to express your opinion does not necessarily mean that you are obligated to express that opinion in mixed company and without a sufficiently close relationship to soften the blow of your words.  Whether homosexuality is a sin or not, relationship is more important.  This is something my parents taught me – the value of relationship over rightness about theological argument.  Holding too close to the latter may create a rift in the relationship that is very difficult to repair.

     

    And please don’t tell me that you “love the sinner but hate the sin” (I have more to say on this phrase but that’s a whole post of its own).  Do you actively campaign against sin in your own communities and in your own intimate circles? Do you post articles on Facebook condemning divorce, laziness and pursuit of wealth in Christians – all biblical sins that have become accepted as a fact of life these days?  Or are you picking on homosexuality? Is there a chance that your own intolerance and judgement of people in the LGBT community is a sin that you are committing in the name of righteousness?

     

    I have considered that my words might make you feel uncomfortable, and I expect that you will react.  I hope that you will react by thinking and praying about the consequences of loudly and publicly objecting to homosexuality.  Are gay people hurting you by being gay?  How?  Are you hurting gay people by objecting strongly (a nice way of saying “condemning” but I don’t want to make assumptions about your motives) to something that they believe is innate to who they are?  Probably.

  2. Actively get to know someone in the homosexual community and have an open dialogue with them about their own experiences and feelings.  Choose to listen rather than try to change them, and learn about the struggles they are actually experiencing, not the struggles you imagine for them.  Meet them where they are and leave your own beliefs on the side for a while so you can truly get to know them.  You are not responsible for their salvation, Jesus is.  Your Love will prove your Christianity to them more completely and more honestly than your judgement or attacks with bible verses.

Now, I also have a message for those on the pro-homosexuality side of the equation.

I know that people in the LGBT community have felt condemned and pushed aside by the religious community for a long time.  I know there is a lot of hurt there.  It makes me so sad to see how The Church has failed to love and embrace this part of the population.  Granted, more liberal-leaning Christian denominations have begun the process of adjusting to this new world of inclusiveness for homosexuality.  But many Christians have spent their entire lives being taught that homosexuality is an abomination.  For right or wrong, modern translations of the Christian Bible have interpreted the ancient texts to be unequivocal about this.  When you are brought up from birth to believe that the Bible is the Word of God and is infallible, it can take a while to adjust to other ideas.

Many Christians are feeling like core parts of their belief system are being threatened right now.  It’s not that the idea of homosexuality-as-sin is a core part of Christianity, though with all the articles and opinions being bandied around on the Internet these days you’d think it was THE essential tenet of the religion.  The issue is that Christians in particular are being demonized by liberal media and pro-LGBT groups for their religion.  It feels like reverse discrimination and they are very humanly fighting back.  Some might think it’s only fair after all the hurt inflicted on the LGBT community by people claiming to do so in the name of God.  But most Christians are only humans trying to do their best and live their spirituality in the way they understand it.  The acceptance of homosexuality as normal and celebrated feels like a slap in the face of Christianity. Being condemned as homophobic or bigoted for their beliefs instills fear that their freedom of religion is threatened.

Not all Christians who believe homosexuality is wrong are bigots (bigot: a person who is intolerant to those holding different opinions) – regardless of what it feels like to you, they are not out to spread hatred.  (Side question: are YOU tolerant to those who hold a different opinion than you do about homosexuality?)  In fact, I’d argue that many Christians who are actively campaigning against homosexuality and gay marriage are doing so because they truly ache for the LGBT community and want salvation for them.  It breaks their hearts to think of a whole community of people being deceived into thinking that their sin is actually something to be celebrated, because then they will not go to heaven.  They aren’t being exclusive – they genuinely want to help save you from eternal pain and suffering in Hell.  This may not seem logical to you, but since when has human emotion, or even spirituality, been logical?

Others are caught up in the political debate and may have forgotten that their assignment as Christians is not to determine civil law, but to love their neighbour.  Please try to understand that they are human too, and we all get caught up in these things from time to time.  The first part of this blog post is for them.

I’m not saying that some groups aren’t actively being hateful and bigoted – hello Westboro “Baptist” Church.  I personally believe that Satan is campaigning with them and trying to disguise himself as Christianity to discredit those who are truly trying to do God’s work.  Most Christians don’t condone what Westboro is doing so please try not to judge them on the actions of that group and groups like them.

So, my challenge to the pro-LGBT community is as follows:

  1. Try to understand that generations of Christians are having their beliefs challenged in a way that they have never experienced before.  You know from experience that it’s a hard pill to swallow – to be judged for something that feels core to your being.  I see a movement spreading among Christians (especially the younger generations) that is beginning to accept the idea of loving not judging, with many even advocating for the rights of their gay friends and family and including LGBT people in their religious leadership. It will take time, please be patient.
  2. If a conservative-thinking person tries to get to know you and wants to listen to your story, be vulnerable and open.  It may be hard to do so when you are worried you’ll get judged, but try to give them the benefit of the doubt that they are trying to expand their horizons and truly want to understand where you are coming from.  I believe that if enough people witness the reality of committed gay relationships, they will see the difference between what may be condemned in the bible and what is actually being celebrated in the LGBT community.

I have not delved into scripture in this post, largely because I am not a biblical scholar, but also because this post already feels like a short book rather than a blog post.  I don’t claim to have all the answers, and I have had to really struggle with this issue because, no matter on which side of the coin I choose to land, my position causes a disconnect between me and people I love.  However, I wanted to include links to some of the reading I have done lately that has helped to solidify my theology on this matter.

  • Are You Open to an LGBT-affirming Biblical Perspective? – Written by a married, heterosexual United Methodist pastor.  This article challenges traditional interpretations of the New Testament passages that Christians usually cite when arguing against homosexuality.
  • Are you In or Out? 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy – Written by a heterosexual Christian speaker, author and educator who advocates for inclusion of the LGBT in the church.  This article focuses on these two passages, and goes into a deep analysis of the origins of the words that have modernly been translated as “homosexual” in the Bible.
  • The Bible and Homosexuality – This is an article and a video.  It features a young gay Christian man who has spent more than two years intensively studying what the Bible says about homosexuality.  He published a book, and also speaks on the topic.  I encourage you to read his short bio before watching the video.

There are many more articles, books, and recordings published on the Internet that will make these same arguments. The ones above are those I have read that I think are clearest and least fraught with leaps in logic that might not make sense. There are also many, many articles posted on the Internet that use the same Bible passages to condemn homosexuality.  I have read a lot of those, too.  But none of them have explained the original meaning of the words discussed in the links above to my satisfaction.

I have a lot more to say about this topic.  Now that I have broken the seal, I expect that I’ll post more articles.  In no way am I trying to drive a wedge between myself and my conservative friends and family.  I feel quite strongly about this topic, but not without a lot of study, prayer, and personal experience.  I believe that you can’t really claim to have formed an educated opinion on something until you’ve looked at both sides of the argument.  Having come from a conservative Christian background, and growing to a more liberal Christian adulthood, I can see both sides of the issue, and have still set down on the side of acceptance for homosexuality.  I don’t think I am going to change a lot of minds with what I’ve said here.  But what I hope will happen is that my words will encourage people on both sides to consider where the other side is coming from.  I believe that above all, kindness and love are my calling.  And that is what I am trying to spread to all within my sphere of influence.

I welcome civil, loving discussion about this topic. However, anything that smacks of judgement rather than legitimate attempts at understanding from either side will be deleted or will not be posted. Since it is my blog, I get to make the rules. 🙂  Consider yourselves warned.

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Food for Thought on a Monday Night

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1. Homemade low country boil (crab, shrimp, sausage, potatoes, corn cooked in broth) is awesome. I used this recipe as my inspiration.

source: flickr.com

source: flickr.com

2. There is loud, and then there is “I’m in the bath, and excited and taking advantage of the acoustics” loud.

3. Today, the Bean learned that you don’t put soap in your eyes.

4. Today, Mummy learned that the Bean still needs 100% supervision during bath time. Sitting right beside her reading does not count.

5. It pays to ask questions. Today, we got a huge discount (more than 50% off) on our tickets to Happy Hollow Park and Zoo because I thought to ask whether they have a deal for Oakland Zoo members.

6. When you go away for the night, there is no cleaning fairy that comes and makes sure your house feels like a hotel room when you get home.

source: flickr.com

source: flickr.com

7. Lest we forget: November 11 is Remembrance Day (Canada) and Veteran’s Day (US), and we must not forget to honour our soldiers: the fallen, the veterans, and those still in active duty. Thank you to all who have sacrificed so the rest of us can experience freedom.

8. I have missed blogging and am determined to get back to it on a more regular basis. This is a nice easy start.

Grief During the Most Joyful Time of the Year

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Today I am hurting for a friend who suffered a miscarriage this week.  This is supposed to be a fun, joyful, and busy time of year, and yet there are so many people with reasons to mourn at Christmas time.  Hearing about my friends loss brought back the pain of my own miscarriage in full force.

We had been so excited coming up to Christmas.  Two weeks into December, we discovered that I was pregnant, and immediately informed both of our families.  Come Christmas Day, we received gifts for our unborn little one, and I was already imagining the coming year of a growing belly and our growing family.  The baby was due on my birthday.

Two days after Christmas, I started bleeding.  I was barely 7 weeks along, and my dreams were coming crashing down around me.  I called in sick to work, and laid on the couch holding my belly and sobbing.  The physical pain was considerable, but the emotional pain was much worse.  There weren’t many who even knew of the pregnancy yet, and so in order to get the support I desperately needed from my friends, I had to inform them of my pregnancy by telling them of the loss.  The only person I knew of who had gone through a miscarriage was my cousin, so I reached out to her, and we bonded in a way that I don’t think would have happened otherwise.  I’m not sure I ever thanked her properly for that.  Thank you!

At the time, none of the well-meant comments about the frequency of miscarriages, the good chances of a healthy pregnancy afterwards, or the blessing that it happened so early in the pregnancy comforted me.   I endured a wedding shower (with family that hadn’t even known I was pregnant) and a baby shower within a month of my miscarriage, and it was so hard.  I was a mess at work for the first few weeks of January, and my colleagues were so sweet, even though I’m sure most of them had no idea what to do with me.  In the months that followed, friend after friend sent out happy announcements of their healthy pregnancies, and I cried.  I sobbed each time my period arrived, even though we had decided to wait a few months before trying again.

Of course, my Sweetie was also affected strongly by the loss, even though I’d had to convince him that having a family was a good idea in the first place.  In the few short weeks that we’d known of our little one’s existence, he had also formed some hopes and dreams for his child.  If people aren’t sure how to comfort the mother, they are even more at a loss about what the father might be going through.  I think the hardest part for him, though, was not knowing how to help me work through my own strong grief.

To distract ourselves from baby-related things, we took a trip to Thailand and had an incredible, life-changing journey that would not have happened if I’d been pregnant.  My best friend got married that summer, and it was fun to be able to fully enjoy the celebrations without the encumbrance of a pregnant belly. We started “trying” again, and I was tracking all sorts of unmentionables in an attempt to increase our chances of conception. I cried every time it became evident that there wasn’t a baby on the way.  It felt like an eternity of waiting.

Then, one day in July while I was alone with my thoughts, I suddenly felt a real sense of peace.  I knew God was telling me that he had things under control, and that I would be pregnant before my birthday – the due date of the baby who hadn’t made it.  Sure enough, that month I got pregnant – only four months after we started trying again.  Part of me was nervous that I would miscarry again. But for the most part, I just trusted the feeling I’d gotten in that quiet moment, and believed that everything would be fine.  And it was.  I had a relatively easy first trimester, a wonderful second trimester, and we were able to celebrate my healthy pregnancy at Christmas that year.

One thing that really comforted me was a statue of an angel that my parents had given me for Christmas two days before the miscarriage.  The angel’s hands are held to her heart as if she’s protecting something precious.  For me, it has always been a symbol of God holding me and my first baby close to his heart.  I still tear up when I look at it on the shelf, but it’s primarily a comforting feeling, not a painful one.

I still feel the pain of my loss every time someone tells me they’ve had a miscarriage.  However, I know that if that baby had survived, we would never have known our darling Bean.  I can’t imagine that!  My experience with miscarriage has allowed me to comfort my own sister and friends who have endured the same loss.  In the same way that I feel a special closeness to my cousin, I have bonded with those friends over our shared pain, and it’s good. Some people seem to be more matter-of-fact about having a miscarriage, and some are affected very deeply by it.  Each person needs to deal with it their own way.

So to my friend who is in so much pain right now, I know what you’re going through.  I am so sorry for your loss.  It WILL get easier over time, but for now, you have every right to feel lost, and alone, and disappointed, and supremely sad.  Cling to the hands and hearts of those who love you.  Allow yourself to grieve and then allow yourself to be happy again.  And then when the time is right, you’ll give it another try.  There are no guarantees in life, but the fun and interesting part is the journey.

The Joy of Music

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(courtesy of wikipedia)

Recently my Sweetie picked up his guitar again and has started serenading us every night.  It started a little rough…after all, it had been at least 10 years since I’d heard him strum those strings.  But he was determined, and he’s starting to get pretty good.

When we first started dating, it was his rendition of The Barenaked Ladies song What a Good Boy that won my heart.  I was impressed that he trusted me enough to sing and play his guitar in front of me, and I was properly wooed by poetry and music.  As our lives became intertwined, things got very busy and the guitar disappeared for while…a very long while.  I’m so happy it’s back.

Sweetie has been experimenting with everything from his favourite classic rock songs and oldies to Christmas carols and children’s songs.  Probably the best part about his renewed love of singing and playing is that The Bean LOVES it!  She gets super excited when he brings out the guitar, and loves to strum and pick the strings herself.  She dances and smiles and laughs.  Today, she kept pointing toward the dining room where a bunch of her toys were, and when I set her free to show me what she wanted, she grabbed one of her bells and started playing along.

The Bean and I have been going to music classes together for a few months now.  She starts out reserved in each class, but gets into it earlier and earlier each time.  She has even started to sing along in class and loves to experiment with the instruments provided.

Treble Clef (courtesy of starmouth.wordpress.com)

Music is one of the major themes of my life.  I grew up listening to my parents perform duets as my father played guitar.  Later, I sang duets with my father as well.  I played the piano from the tender age of 6 and added recorder and flute into the mix later on in school.  I was in the church children’s choir, often chosen for solos and duets.  I joined the band and the concert choir in high school.

When I started college I stopped playing piano, was no longer in a choir, and sold my flute.  Music became something I only did in the car or with my family – singing at family gatherings, especially around Christmas.  I really missed singing in choir, but never thought I had the time to devote to practices and performances.  Perhaps I didn’t…I was working my way through school and living away from home.

I rediscovered my voice when I got pregnant with the Bean.  I sang to her and knew she could hear how much I loved her and the music.  After she was born, I made a point of learning lullabies to sing her to sleep.  I made up new words to old songs, and a few tunes of my own.  I pulled up songs that I hadn’t thought of since my own music-filled childhood.  They brought back so many good memories.

Attending toddler music classes with the Bean has brought so many more songs into my repertoire.  I’ve been practicing harmonizing again – picking out a harmony if there isn’t one I already know.  And to top it off, the Bean’s music teacher has now asked me to sing some harmonies on the album for the next session of classes.  We record in January!  I’m pretty excited.

I hope that the Bean’s love of music continues.  I hope she wants to play instruments and doesn’t feel shy about singing.  I’m so glad that my Sweetie is starting to model that for her as well, and it’s so much fun to have live music in our living room every evening!

Drinking and Blogging My Way Through Christmas

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Those who tend to get stressed about Christmas might think I’m talking about drinking wine or other adult libations…but actually I’m not.  For sure, wine will be consumed this month; I’m not going on an alcohol hiatus.  But yesterday I was looking for something warm to help me feel better and I realized that we have a ridiculous amount of tea in the cupboard.  Sweetie and I both love tea, which is why we’ve picked up specialty teas at so many different locations.  But we rarely remember to drink it.  Coffee is the required consumable in the morning, and it’s usually a glass of wine in the evening.  So tea gets lost in the shuffle. I decided yesterday that our tea collection needs some attention before it all goes stale.  So I’m making a point of drinking a cup of tea every afternoon in December instead of a second cup of coffee.

Tea is purported to have a lot of great health benefits.  Most of the research has been done on green and white tea, but black tea has some beneficial properties too.  I was checking it out on Wikipedia.org (of course), and I discovered a few pieces of information that are of particular interest to me.

  1. Drinking black tea can lower stress hormone levels.  When I drink tea, it’s usually black or herbal, so I was happy to see that not all the health benefits belong to green tea.  One study showed that drinking black tea lowered the levels of cortisol in subjects.  It also showed that black tea consumption lowered blood clotting risk factors for heart attacks.  Unfortunately, it was necessary to drink 4 cups per day for six weeks to achieve these results.  I don’t think I’m going to manage to drink that much tea.
  2. Drinking black tea can help prevent cardiovascular disease.   According to another study (if you want all the proper sources, take a look at the Wikipedia article here) just drinking one cup of black tea a day can help to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease by improving performance of blood vessels, lowering blood pressure, and lowering arterial stiffness.  I have slightly elevated blood pressure, and my Dad had a heart attack last year, which scared the bejesus (I’ve always wanted to use this non-word in a sentence) out of me, so this is pretty good news.
  3. The caffeine levels in tea are misrepresented.  Yes, it’s true…by weight, dry tea has more caffeine in it than dry coffee does.  But you use a lot more (by weight) coffee beans to make a cup of coffee than tea leaves to make a cup of tea.  So in the finished product, there is WAY more caffeine in a cup of coffee.  You did know that WAY more is a totally measurable amount, right?
  4. Adding milk to tea negates the benefits. Apparently a chemical in milk binds up the chemicals in tea that are good for you, and makes them ineffective.  Now this sucks because I grew up drinking tea the Batswana way – with lots of milk and sugar (see the bottom for a side note about this). I’ve since decreased the sugar drastically, but the only time I like my black tea without milk is when I’m sick and I drink it with lemon and honey instead.  Oh, or as iced tea.  Now apparently adding citrus to tea increases the benefits, so that’s good news.  But I don’t think I want to give up my milky tea altogether.

My Baby Sister is an avid tea drinker.  She goes to tea festivals.  She doesn’t drink a drop of coffee ever.  She’ll probably live longer than the rest of us, and not just because she’s already younger.  I hope she comments with additional wisdom she has about tea.  🙂

Where this leaves me is that I’m going to try to make a dent in our tea stash this month. Today I’m sick with a cold, so I had two cups of lemon ginger tea with honey. Mmmm, so good. I’m going to try each and every variety we have, and if they suck, I’m getting rid of them to make room for nicer tea.   I might mention my teasploits on the blog again.

Personal Blogging Challenge

I’ve been blogging for almost a year now; it was a 2011 New Year’s resolution.  I’m so glad I started and have no intention of stopping any time soon.  So I thought it might be fun to end 2011 with a bang, and blog every day in December.  I don’t have a very good track record of sticking to things that I have to do every day…well, with the exception of brushing my teeth.  But I’ve decided to do it.  Some days, you may not get much, but unless I’m hospitalized or stranded on a desert island somewhere, there will be something.

Side notes about Botswana

  1. The people of Botswana are called Batswana (like people from Canada are called Canadians) – I didn’t misspell this earlier.
  2. My family lived in Botswana for eight years while my parents were missionaries there.  Maybe that’s something you’d like to hear about?  Comment and let me know.
  3. While we were there, we had a house keeper/nanny named Esther who took good care of us and fed us sweet milky bush tea, which you might know as roibos.  When I tasted it again for the first time as an adult, I suddenly missed her like crazy.  I hadn’t had any contact with her since we left Botswana in 1986, but she died of AIDS (a huge problem in Africa) several years ago and I’ll never get to tell her how much she meant to me.  I hope she knew.

15 Things That Made Me Smile This Weekend

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In chronological order…

  1. Getting the Bean back to sleep for another hour and a half of sleep after her 4:45am wake-up on Saturday morning
  2. Giggles and smiles from my Bean
  3. Having tea with a friend
  4. Seeing the sun streaming down through the clouds
  5. Going for a walk with my Sweetie, my Bean, and my Dog and stopping for coffee along the way
  6. Getting a thank you note in the mail from a close friend
  7. Having friends over for dinner and making everything from scratch
  8. Sleeping in until 9:30am on Sunday…sleep, glorious sleep!
  9. Brunch at our favourite little diner
  10. Driving along the coast on a sunny day
  11. Seeing the beautiful fall colours on the trees
  12. Watching the Bean walk across the house with her walker all by herself! (I just helped with steering)
  13. Meeting friendly neighbours as I walked the Dog
  14. Quality time with my Sweetie with the TV off
  15. Finally getting back onto my Blog

Hope you had as great a weekend as I did.

I’d love to hear what made YOU smile this weekend.

On the Kindle: The Tavernier Stones by Stephen Parrish

This modern-day treasure hunt features an Amish (turned modern but still conservative) cartographer, John Graf, whose hero, 17th century mapmaker Johannes Cellarius is discovered in a bog after floating to the surface.  Cellarius is clutching a huge ruby in his dead fist, sparking a race to find the rest of a treasure thought to be the lost Tavernier stones.  One reviewer likens it to Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, which I LOVED.

I’m not very far into it, but so far, it looks interesting.  I’ll give my opinion when I’m done.  But if you’ve got a Kindle and you like stories involving puzzles and mysteries, you might as well pick it up – it’s only $2.99. 🙂

Happy Birthday Captain!

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How do I even start to talk about my Dad?  He is such an amazing man, in so many different ways. Today was his birthday – one day after mine. It’s always been very special to me that we almost share a birthday. I’m a Daddy’s girl, and maybe our birthdays are part of the reason why.

We went to Hawaii with Mom and Dad in November of 2009. It was a vacation to remember!

My Dad calls me Number One. The nickname has two meanings: I am the eldest child in my family – literally, the number one (first) child. It’s also a little inside reference to Star Trek. When we moved back to Canada from Botswana in 1986, we had a TV for the first time – I was 10. One of the channels that we could capture with our rabbit ears aired Star Trek: The Next Generation, and it quickly became a family favourite. (Actually, I’m not sure if Mom ever liked it.) In the show, Captain Picard refers to his second-in-command, Commander Riker, as Number One. For some reason, the name stuck on me, and I love it.

Dad is the second-youngest of six children, and the youngest boy in his family. He is definitely the family entertainer. At any family gathering, Dad will take out his guitar and we’ll have a sing-a-long. I think newcomers to the family find this tradition a little disconcerting when they first start attending our gatherings. But most learn to tolerate it and some even seem to like it. I think singing together is one of the best parts of family gatherings. With many songs and hymns, we actually break out into four-part harmony. It’s pretty impressive and Dad is usually the instigator.

Dad’s guitar is full of many wonderful memories. As I was growing up, he and Mom would sing duets at various missionary gatherings, Dad usually singing the melody, with Mom in an alto harmony. As a child, I fell in love with the music of Gordon Lightfoot, the Carpenters, The Mamas and the Papas, Stevie Wonder, and many others – not because we listened to their albums a lot, but because my Dad was always singing the songs. I learned to love singing because my Dad loves singing. One of my favourite childhood photos shows me standing on a chair beside Dad at a microphone. He’s playing his guitar, and we’re singing a duet together. Opportunities to perform duets with my father don’t come around anymore. Hmmm, maybe we should remedy that.

Another defining characteristic of my father is his ability to make something amazing out of bits of wood, an old sliding glass door, a salad bowl, or a run-down basement. He is a true MacGyver. Recently, he renovated his basement, but instead of just throwing some paint on the walls and updating the bathroom, he tore down walls and created new ones, got a hole cut through the foundation for an extra window, and re-invented storage spaces. He turned a two-bedroom, one bath (shower but no tub) basement suite into a three-bedroom, two bath suite with a full-sized tub in the main bathroom. It looks incredible, and he did most of it with recycled or second-hand materials. He really should get a feature story in a home-renovation magazine. He’s also a handy guy to have around when you’ve just bought a 55-year-old house that desperately needs a facelift. We’re flying him down in September.

Me and Dad at my triathlon in June. It was awesome having him there to cheer for me on Father's Day.

The most magnificent thing about my Dad, though, is his love for his family. Anytime I needed a playmate, or a tutor, or a basketball coach, or a reading partner, he was there. Anytime I needed some discipline or a gentle reminder, he was there. Anytime I was confused about God, or boys, or friends, or anything, I could talk to him…well, at least until I was 16 or so. He included me in his world of building and fixing things, and was very much involved in my world of school and friends.  On Father’s Day I participated in a triathlon, and my Dad was my helper and cheerleader, even in the cold, damp weather.  He nurtures, encourages, challenges, and adores all of his girls (including my Mom).

This post doesn’t even scratch the surface of the wonderful man who is my father. He is honorable, trust-worthy, loving, kind, humble, confident, and handy. He is strong, sensitive, thoughtful, patient, idealistic, smart, and spiritual. As most teenagers do with their fathers, we had a rough spot in our relationship – that pesky teenage rebellion stage that is so painful when you’re going through it. But those times taught me so much about who I am, and who he is. I feel so fortunate to have him as my father. He is a great example of what it means to love unconditionally.

So Daddy, Happy Birthday! I hope my humble words have begun to express how much I love, respect and admire you. You amaze me.

Love from your No. 1

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