Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, November 20, 2020

AND THEN I REMEMBERED...

If you’ve heard a rumor that I’m once again working at City Hall in Portage la Prairie, you heard right. And you heard wrong.

After 18 months of retirement, the City invited me back to help out until my old position can be filled once again. The request came completely out of the blue, but I knew I was supposed to say yes. I’m discovering that being pulled out of retirement is proving excellent for the memory.

Portage la Prairie City Hall

Day One felt the way I imagine it feels to come out of a coma. Slowly, gradually, I began to recall how to do various tasks I hadn’t given a thought to for a year and a half. Despite dead brain cells, the job was coming back to me and it felt good.

Until I returned home, too exhausted to do anything else. Then I remembered why I’d been so eager to retire.

Commuting to work on foot reminded me how lovely it is to feel alert and fit at 8:15 a.m.

Until I arose one mid-week morning to ice and snow. Then I remembered why retirement had felt so delicious.

Back at work, everyone was so appreciative and nice to me, I remembered why I’d been hesitant to leave in the first place.

Then I handled a phone call from a disgruntled citizen and remembered how little I’d missed work.

By the end of my first week, the work seemed like second nature. I felt competent. Useful. Accomplished. I remembered what I liked about working.

Then I suffered a restless night and remembered why I’d wanted to retire.

Until my first payday. Then I remembered why I spent most of my life employed.

Until a writing deadline loomed but my limited brain energy was all drained at city hall. Then I remembered how desperately I’d longed to retire.

Then one of my co-workers said, “I’m so glad you’re back. It feels like all’s right with the world having you here.” Which may have been a tad dramatic, but it made me remember what I loved about being at work.

Then I referred to Davy Crockett and another co-worker asked, “Who’s Davy Crockett?” and I remembered that I’m the oldest person in the building.

After three weeks, Covid restrictions tightened again, and I’m now spending my mornings on a city laptop in my house, remotely connected to files on the city’s server. And I remember how, even before retirement, I’d often thought I would like to try working from home. Except not under such sad circumstances.

While my memory bank is yanking me around like a kite in the wind, I confess I’ve wondered what God is up to in all this. It may be as simple as my easing another’s load for a while. Or maybe God has unfinished business for me. Or he’s simply providing for our financial needs in a surprising way. Maybe he wanted to remind me of the importance of not burning your bridges. Perhaps it’s all of the above or something I have yet to discover. Regardless, lessons can be learned in every expected and unexpected turn in the road and I don’t want to miss them. If my memory has retained anything, it is this: you are never a mere pawn moved around by a mysterious higher power. God opens doors and gives us the freedom to choose whether to step through or to stay put. Choose well. You’ll make some great memories.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

 

Friday, November 13, 2020

I HOPE SHE LIKES PANDAS

If you are a regular shoebox packer for Samaritan Purse’s Operation Christmas Child, you probably know OCC typically receives more boxes for girls than for boys, and for younger children than older. Their greatest need is for the oldest category of boys. I used to try to help fill this gap.

Then God gave us five grandsons and I became a rebel. The annual shoebox project has become my once-a-year opportunity to buy little girlie things. In 2019, I had great fun packing a shoebox for a girl around four years old.

Before I started shopping, I prayed. God already knew who was going to receive my box, so I asked him to show me which items she most needed and would like. In addition to the practical hygiene items and school supplies, I found a pink skipping rope, hair accessories, a pink notebook, and more. When I placed them all in the box, I discovered that by removing most of the packaging, I still had plenty of room for more.

I went shopping again. I prayed again. This time, I found a package of little girl underwear and a “Canada” t-shirt for her. But I knew the box still had space for one more toy. A little stuffed animal was in order. I sifted through the store’s bin of little stuffies. Which one would she like best, Lord? Please help me spot it.

I narrowed them down to three: a puppy, a panda bear, and a cute, snugly bird. I couldn’t decide. That’s when I noticed a man shopping with his little daughter. She appeared about the same age as “my” little girl. I wondered which toy she would pick.

As they walked toward me, I smiled at them. Holding up the three options, I asked the dad, “Is it okay if I ask your little girl which one of these she likes best? It’s for another little girl.”

Before I could even finish asking, she pointed with enthusiasm to the panda bear. I thanked her and put the other two back, hoping I hadn’t created a dilemma for her dad.

When I took the items home and began packing my box, I discovered something. The little pink hairbrush I had picked out on my previous shopping trip featured a panda bear on the back. A perfect match! The two bears looked terrific nestled in among all the pink.

Don’t tell me God isn’t in the details. I know this box landed in the hands of a little girl in a developing country—possibly even the same part of the planet from which the man in the store and his daughter came. A little girl who never received a gift before in her life. A girl who likes pink and who is especially fond of panda bears. I hope she also discovers that God is especially fond of her.

If you have never participated in Operation Christmas Child, I encourage you to consider packing a box this year. If shopping is too hard for you right now, your can fill a box online by going to OCC’s website.

“Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:40 (The Message)


 

 

Friday, November 6, 2020

FOR THE EXERCISE

I wrote this piece immediately following the 2019 Remembrance Day Community Service in my home town. Little did any of us know what the following year would bring.

It’s a cold day, but sunny. I decide to walk. That way, I can kill two birds with one stone—show my gratitude to veterans while also getting my daily exercise. Sure, I could drive instead. But the congestion leaving the island afterwards will make the walk worth it. Win-win.

I arrive early and find a seat on the end of a row for a quick getaway. I decide I won’t allow myself to get emotional this year. Becoming emotional is too draining and I have goals for the rest of my day.

The place begins to fill, and I move to the middle of the row so folks won’t need to climb over my knees. Within minutes, I am joined by my friends Oege and Ineke Boersma, who take the seats to my left. A few minutes later another friend, Ferdi Van Dongen, sits on my right.

“I think I’m in the wrong row!” I joke, suddenly surrounded by Dutch immigrants.

While we wait for the service to begin, Ineke tells me how she was born only four days after the Germans invaded Holland on May 10, 1940. Her father was away, driving ambulance at the front lines. Her mother gave birth at home, with a midwife. I try to imagine how frightening it would be for a young woman to deliver a child into a country occupied by enemy forces, her husband not around.

Ferdi tells me he was also born at home with a midwife. His birth came nearly twenty years after Ineke’s, but his parents’ memories of the war are similar to hers. Both families hold great respect and gratitude toward the Canadian soldiers who liberated their country.

“Dad always said without the Canadians and Americans stepping in, we’d be in Siberia now,” Ferdi says.

Ineke agrees, although her parents always thought they’d have ended up in Poland.

I ask Ferdi if his parents’ appreciation for Canada is what inspired him to come here, and he says it probably did.

A few minutes later, we stand together to sing O Canada. I listen to these naturalized citizens of my beautiful country belt out the anthem with gusto. I sing, too. Not being a sports enthusiast, I have few opportunities to sing it anymore.

But when we reach the line, “God keep our land glorious and free,” my voice stops cooperating. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Ferdi raise his hand ever so slightly. I know that for him, the words are not merely sentimental lyrics, but a heart-felt prayer to the only One who can truly keep our country either glorious or free. The lump in my throat prevents me from singing.

Later, we watch the Silver Cross Mother, Jane MacKay, make her way forward to lay a wreath at the cenotaph. Jane’s son, Master Corporal Timothy Wilson, died in a vehicle accident in Kandahar in 2006. My heart goes out to her in a way it has not done in the past. Perhaps that’s because the older I get, the younger the Silver Cross Mothers seem to be and therefore, the easier to identify with. She’s on my mind through the remainder of the service.

On my walk home, I reflect on all these things. The air is cold. It’s Canada, after all. We know about cold air. We sometimes wonder why so many from warmer climates flock to this country. And then we remember. We remember that we don’t know what it’s like to live with invading countries taking over our homes, schools, churches, farms. We don’t know how it feels to be denied the freedom to participate in a public ceremony or to walk home afterwards in fear of arrest.

I hear a friend call my name as she rolls down her car window and asks if I want a ride, but I decline.

I need the exercise.