Sunday, April 24, 2011

because He lives

A friend in our book study group sent out this beautiful image by email so I thought I'd share it here.

Today being Easter I was thinking about the words to a well-known song that we sang at a meeting in church earlier this week:

Because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

These words have special meaning for me today and I find strength in them. We all need hope for the future. May you find hope today in whatever situation you're in.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

TNEL Day 46: Name them one by one

Today is the last day of Lent and so this is my last official entry in the "TNEL" turnaround series. It's been interesting to do and I know I will enjoy looking back on the entries. A few thoughts come to mind at the end of this experience:

I think that something like this is best done because you really want to do it -- not out of a sense of duty or guilt. Often people who are discouraged or depressed are advised to count their blessings or write down things they are (or should be) thankful for. In one sense there's a good reason for that: discouragements can be the result of wrong or distorted thinking, and pondering the good things in our lives can help forge new pathways of thought. The down side, though, is that it can feel unnatural or forced rather than being a genuine response. So while I agree somewhat with the "count your blessings" admonition, I think it's important to remember that we have hearts as well as heads and shouldn't be forced or guilted into separating the two.

All that being said, this exercise has shown me that there are many, many things in our lives to be thankful for. I can't say I had any really earth-shattering or climactic moments during the last several weeks, but I did have an underlying sense of being blessed. I think that the whole point of the Lenten tradition of giving something up is to focus on the spiritual -- but that can often happen in ways that really do not appear very spiritual, like just being happy about the weather or your home or a brief encounter with a person. So while I can't say that I feel like a "more spiritual" person at the end of this, I do have a stronger sense that life is full of grace, and that you can become more aware of that just by reflecting on the simplest pleasures and joys.

"THANKS" for taking this journey with me. And have a joyful Easter, whether that involves enjoying chocolate and new spring clothes, or celebrating Jesus' Resurrection ... or all of the above! I think Easter is big enough to accommodate all of those things.

Friday, April 22, 2011

TNEL Day 45: church family, family family

We had a Good Friday service today at Bethel; it was a short, simple service with readings, songs, communion, and several videos of people giving their ending to the phrase "Because of Jesus, I...". There was no Sunday School so the kids were in church, which can be a bit stressful with Jonathan because he often talks loudly and makes weird sounds. But he did quite well and we all enjoyed the music and the meaningful presentation of the Good Friday story. Sandy Sheahan, a very kind woman in the church who takes a special interest in our kids, sat behind us (as usual) and made a fuss over Jonathan (as usual). During the prayer time I had Jonathan on my lap so I prayed for "Mommy, Daddy, Allison & Jonathan." Jonathan liked this and asked me to repeat it several times. Then Sandy leaned over and said a prayer for
"Jonathan and Allison and their great parents." That really touched me.

Then this afternoon we headed out to Doug & Caroline's for a family get-together. We had a turkey dinner and DQ ice-cream cake (the obligatory Prinsen dessert). We worked on a huge jigsaw puzzle with NHL hockey players, which Jonathan just loves to do every time he goes to their house. The kids played basketball outside with Rich & Doug. Cara gave us a little piano recital. We played "Apples to Apples," and Allison won. It was a great afternoon -- we always have such a good time together.

So today I'm grateful for family: church family, "real" family. That's what it's all about, really.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

TNEL Day 44: nice 5 weeks

Errol was here for his "last supper" tonight; he leaves tomorrow to go back to Alberta after 5 weeks here taking a French course on the base. It's been great spending time with him: we've had quite a few meals together and spent lots of time talking, laughing, and catching up. He expects to be posted elsewhere again next summer and it would be great if it were Kingston or Ottawa. We'll miss having him here but it was really fun while it lasted.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

TNEL Day 43: Mr. O

While we're on the subject of Jonathan I have to say how grateful we are for his Educational Assistant at school, Joe O'Connor (a.k.a. "Mr. O"). He's been Jonathan's EA for 2 years now and knows him well. He's helped Jonathan learn to read, learn his numbers, and use the computer; he's helped with social skills and motor skills; he's even taken Jonathan on a summer day trip with his family and to a hockey game. He also likes (or at least tolerates) Yellow-Blue-Red (see last entry). We can't say enough good things about the wonderful Mr. O!

TNEL Day 42: Yellow-Blue-Red

Jonathan is totally hooked on what he calls "Yellow-Blue-Red" -- those playground structures where you throw a ball in the top and it comes out one of the coloured holes. He has been absolutely addicted to this activity for the last couple of years and would do it all day every day if possible. There is a YBR at his school and yesterday we played it before the morning bell with a couple of his classmates. It is such a great activity for Jonathan: it improves his ball skills (which are now amazing for a kid his age) and it is a good social activity too because he loves to share the ball with his friends; he very generously says "So close!" or "Try again!" when they miss. Although it can be a bit annoying to try to find YBR's when you're away from home (as we experienced last year in PEI as we drove past every school in the area looking for them), but it's a great thing for Jonathan to do and he shows no signs of getting bored with it yet!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

TNEL Day 41: writers' group

Last night I hosted a meeting of my writers' group. I and three other women started this group back in 2008. We've had a couple of people drop out and others join, but there are usually still around four of us at each meeting, which occurs every second Monday night for 2 hours. At the meeting we each share a portion of our current writing and get feedback from each other; sometimes we also talk about what's going on in our lives and support each other in that way too. It's great. I've learned a lot about writing from these women -- and have done far more writing in the past 3 years than I ever would have done without the group. So I'm very thankful for it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

TNEL Day 40: surprise

A few years ago when we still attended Westside church, a woman named Heather Berghuis came to our women's group. She was in my study group and we all really enjoyed her presence: she was very honest and real and had a great laugh. She and her husband and kids were going to Bethel Church at that time, and when we started going to Bethel 5-1/2 years ago we overlapped there for about 4 months -- until their family was posted with the military to Ottawa and we had to say goodbye. Then they moved to Wainwright, Alberta, which was the last address I had for them. Although we didn't have regular contact, I still sent them a Christmas card each year and always looked back fondly on the time we'd had together in both church settings.

This morning at church I was singing with the worship team and we were just hanging out in the back room waiting for the service to start. Suddenly there in front of me appeared Heather, with a big smile on her face. She kissed me on both cheeks and then we had a huge hug. It turns out they are living in Belgium now (hence the European kiss, she said) and flew here a couple of days ago so that she can visit her mother who is unwell in Michigan. So they came to church at Bethel to catch up with some of their old friends.

Though we only had a few minutes to talk, seeing her was such a pleasure. When someone just appears like that with no warning, you just feel like it's a gift -- and you realize how much impact certain people can have on your life.

TNEL Day 39: quiet weekend

This was a cold, wet weekend, great for "hunkering down." I love it when we have no big plans for the weekend and can just hang out. Jonathan seems to relax into a settled mode and just enjoys the peacefulness, and when he is contented and happy we all feel better. It's nice just to enjoy being at home.

Friday, April 15, 2011

TNEL Day 38: "black cars look better when they're free"

As Rich returned from the mechanic this morning with our car (we were getting the snow tires off, wipers replaced, just little things), I thought how grateful I am for our lovely 1999 Acura EL.

The main reason I'm grateful for it is that it was a gift. Our friends R. and M., who attend our church, gave it to us. They both drive 40 mins in to town every day in separate vehicles, so they need reliable ones. A year & a half ago they decided to buy a second SUV to replace M.'s car ... so they GAVE us the car. Our 1989 Corolla was working great but was nearing forced retirement, so the timing was amazing.

And so was the grace. I mean, you don't often hear of people giving other people cars. What can you say to that except thanks?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

TNEL Day 37: transatlantic chocolate

Yesterday I got a fat little envelope in the mail: it contained a birthday card in Dutch from my good friend Lori Hellinga (whose family is in Holland for several months) as well as a Dutch chocolate bar. So I'm thankful:
- that chocolate is mailable
- that the mailman didn't have the munchies
- for thoughtful friends

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

TNEL Day 36: new toy

I'm thankful for our new laptop! While Errol's here I've taken shameless advantage of his technological savvy by asking him to help me buy one and get it up and running. So we headed out to Future Shop last week and I purchased a very nice (and inexpensive!) Compaq laptop. Errol also very kindly presented me with a wireless router for my birthday; I can't say I always secretly (or even openly) wanted one, but it is sure nice to have wireless Internet.

It's fun getting to know our new toy. It's also extremely useful because Allison is using the computer more and more for her homework and we were finding we would be waiting for each other to be done using it. So that won't be a problem any more.

So there really isn't much profundity or spiritual significance to this entry, but sometimes you just have to enjoy your toys!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

TNEL Day 35: Signs of spring

- Putting laundry outside for the first time this year.
- Setting up the trampoline.
- Standing around outside and chatting to neighbours.
- Putting away the winter boots.
- Allergies. :-(
(Not exactly thankful for those, but they do come with the territory.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

TNEL Day 34: Monday Morning Workout

Last fall Jonathan went for several Monday-morning physiotherapy sessions at the Child Development Centre here in town; he has a physiotherapist come to the school periodically but at the CDC they can use equipment the school doesn't have. Today he started another set of these physio sessions so I took him there at 9 a.m. and then he went to school afterward. It's really fun to watch him do all the different activities: sitting and lying on the big fitness balls, lying face down on a wheeled scooterboard and pushing himself around the room with his hands, jumping on a mini-trampoline, walking the balance beam, stepping in and out of wooden boxes, etc. And the reward at the end is always 5 minutes of basketball-shooting. Janet, the physio, was very pleased with how far he's come along since the fall: how much stronger and more confident he seems. I am so grateful to have these services available for Jonathan -- and at no cost. We are blessed with many helpful resources in and outside of school.

TNEL Day 33: Contentment, defined

Last night Rich and I watched a movie that our book study group had done recently: an Indian movie called Amal. It's about an auto-rickshaw driver in New Delhi named Amal Kumar who takes on a disgruntled old passenger. The old man appears to be a drunken bum but is actually a dying millionaire looking for one good person in the city; when Amal treats him kindly in spite of his insults, he decides Amal will inherit his fortune.

There are many interesting threads to the story: Amal's relationship with a woman he drives every day, his concern for a young street girl who gets hit by a car, and the contrast between Amal's humility and the greed of the dead man's sons.

In one scene, the dead man's business partner is searching the city to find the obscure rickshaw driver who has been named in the will. Finally he locates Amal and takes a ride with him to ask him some questions about his life and ascertain that he is the right Amal Kumar. Amal tells him in simple terms that he is unmarried, that his deceased father left the auto-rickshaw to him and that he lives with his mother, and that he is just focused on working and making a living. "So you're content, then?" the business partner asks; when Amal says yes, he remarks, "Then God has been good to you."

I found that very profound: the idea that if you're content, that means God has been good to you. You just have to recognize it!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

TNEL Day 32: Inspiring music

Last night Rich & I went to a concert by Bruce Cockburn here in town at the Grand Theatre. Errol looked after the kids for us, & we met up with our good friends Gary & Corina and enjoyed a great visit with them as we waited for the concert to start. We don't go to many concerts but Bruce Cockburn is on our "must see/hear" list so we bought our tickets way back in the fall when we heard he was coming. Bruce is 66 now but still puts on a great concert. He's an amazing guitarist; last night he had only acoustic guitars and the sound was wonderful. His voice is as strong and passionate as ever if kind of raspy around the edges at times. But his song writing still stands out as his best attribute. He sang some of his classics like "Rocket Launcher," "Wonderin' Where the Lions Are," "All the Diamonds," "If a Tree Falls," and one of my favourites, "Lovers in a Dangerous Time": Don't the hours grow shorter as the days go by? You never get to stop and open your eyes One day you're waiting for the sky to fall; The next you're dazzled by the beauty of it all. To me those words really embody Bruce Cockburn's vision: he sees all the terrible things happening in the world, and it angers and frustrates him -- yet there's still joy and beauty all around as well. I find that very inspiring because it is tempting to focus on all that's wrong and needs changing, and forget that this world is beautiful and God is still God.

Friday, April 08, 2011

TNEL Day 31: Simple tastes #2

Today Allison is home from school because she decided not to enter the regional science fair which is going on today at Queen's. So she and I took Jonathan to school and then walked over to Tim Horton's for a donut and a drink. Then we walked to the library and took out some books and dvd's. Now she's sitting on the couch reading, and I'm catching up on email and giving some serious thought to marking some assignments. A day like this makes me realize that just as I mentioned a couple of days ago that Jonathan enjoys the simple pleasures of life -- I do, too. I don't really need a lot of entertainment or change in my life; I like things quiet and steady. And I think that's fortunate because our family life just doesn't allow for a lot of travel or change or new experiences. And while I do at times wish things were different -- e.g. I imagine how our lives would be different if Jonathan did not have the challenges he does -- I really try not to obsess about that because it's not very productive focusing on the "what ifs". I really try to live with what is, which is essentially what this blog series is about, I suppose.

TNEL Day 30: People who "get it"

Last night I went to an information meeting for Extend-a-Family, the organization that offers camps/programs for special needs kids. It was just an opportunity to find out how the summer camp program is set up, funded, etc. I sat between 2 very nice women, each of whom has a child around Jonathan's age who attends EAF camp. It is refreshing to meet with other adults who have special needs kids. So often when you interact with parents of non-disabled children, they talk about all the things their kids are involved in, hockey, gymnastics, birthday parties -- not that special needs kids cannot be or are not involved in things like that, but in our case those things just don't happen, and at times I feel like I'm in a totally different world. But in this case we could talk about our kids EA's and programming, their need for structure ... just things that, in OUR worlds, are the norm. Very refreshing.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

TNEL Day 29: Simple tastes

Jonathan is home from school today because he's been a little under the weather since the weekend. I can't actually say that I am thankful for high-level quality time with Jonathan when he's home: he's sick enough to be better off at home, but well enough to be whiny and wanting to go somewhere. What I am grateful for are the simple pleasures he enjoys, like watching and re-watching Blue's Clues videos, doing jigsaw puzzles, and listening to favourite CD's like Simon and Garfunkel. Jonathan has a very high boredom threshold so it does not take much to make him happy.

TNEL Day 28: Lent is LONG!

WHEW! Who knew Lent was so long?? Four weeks down and still two to go. I'm trying not to scrape the bottom of the barrel for things to be thankful for but sometimes it's hard to come up with something meaningful or at least not completely trivial. But it's good that Lent is 6 weeks long. Whether you give up something or add something, you need an extended period of time to reflect on what you're actually doing. A book I recently read by Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son, comments on gratitude not just as a spontaneous response but as a discipline -- a mindset that you develop so that you come to understand that all of life is a gift of grace. I really like that idea, and it fits with what I'm trying to do here. So I guess I am grateful that I have 2 more weeks to go ...

Monday, April 04, 2011

TNEL Day 27: "Refrigerator Rights"

Today I'm thankful to see yet another note on my blog from my good friend Lori Hellinga! We met way back in 1990 or so when she & Bruce started attending our church. We scheduled a coffee "date" and we've been friends ever since. They live in Waterloo now so we don't see them nearly as much as we'd like -- and now they're in Holland for several months. Ironically, though, we're keeping in touch far more frequently now through our respective blogs; I know way more about their day-to-day life in Holland than I did about their Waterloo life! So that's been an up-side to the distance between us. Rich and I once read a book that asked us to consider who we have "refrigerator rights" with -- in whose home would we feel comfortable just opening the fridge and looking for what we want? There really aren't too many people I feel that way about but Lori & Bruce definitely fit into that category. When we get together, even if it's only every couple of years, we are totally at home and at ease. So no matter how many miles or years come between us we know we will always stay friends. Unless they get a padlock for the fridge, of course ... that would be a deal breaker. :-)

Sunday, April 03, 2011

TNEL Day 26: Walking to church

We're very thankful for Bethel Church, which we've attended for the past 5-1/2 years. There are many things we love about it: the great leadership and preaching, the dynamic music, the mix of different ages and backgrounds, the kids' programs, and more. It is also really great to be able to walk to church. In the winter months we hadn't been able to, but this morning Allison & I headed out in the sunshine at 8:30 a.m. and really enjoyed our walk together. (Jonathan was sick so Rich stayed home with him.) It's a great way to start the day and the week.

TNEL Day 25: family in town

For the last two weeks I've been enjoying having my brother Errol here in Kingston while he takes a short French course on the base. Rich is used to having family living nearby, having been born in Kingston and lived here all his life, but I haven't had that experience for most of the last 25 years. So it's been great to have Errol dropping by at all hours of the night (OK, not really). He also fixed the computer (YESSS!). Last night we had pizza together and played a game of Apples to Apples, which Allison loves. So it's been fun.

Friday, April 01, 2011

TNEL Day 24: "a time to laugh"

It being April 1, I was tempted to post something about being grateful for my plastic surgery or my recent lottery win or something, but I thought I might start some unpleasant rumours, not to mention having friends and relatives come out of the woodwork asking for loans ... :-)

I really am thankful for April Fool's Day. It's great to have a holiday that just involves silliness. Allison goes to youth group Friday nights, and they got a notice saying that tonight they have to bring a bicycle pump, a bathing suit, and a snorkel. Hmmm, sounds suspicious to me ...

Speaking of Allison, ever since she started school, April Fool's Day has been a well-kept tradition in our house. She has come to expect that when she gets to school she will find her backpack and lunch bag full of silly things. Now that she's getting older and a bit more self-conscious, I've assured her that if she does NOT want to keep up this tradition she should say so ... but she just smiles.

That being the case, I hope she likes the plastic bat in her clarinet case, the purple toy puffer fish in her binder, the toy wrench in her pencil case, the plastic bun in her sandwich container, and the grape tomato in her container of orange slices. Hey -- what's not to like?

TNEL Day 23: Me & my computer -- a love-hate relationship

(Computer woes have beset me this week but I'm determined to keep this series up if I can. If it suddenly stops, though, you'll know why. Sigh, computers: you can't live without them, but they can drive you crazy too.)

It's ironic, then, that I would say I'm thankful for technology. But there are so many great ways now to keep in touch with people: blogs, Skype, Facebook (though I haven't succumbed and joined up with that yet), chats, forums, and of course email. The computer is actually the introvert's best friend because it lets you keep connected without having to actually get out there and see people.