Prov 17:22

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

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Honey, I'm Home

I’m writing this, my first blog post from our new house, surrounded by packed boxes still stacked high and rain pouring out the window. But the electric fireplace blazes, tea is on, and I am home.

Call us late bloomers. After 36 years of marriage, for the first time ever, hubby and I own both the house we live in and the property on which it sits. Having raised three terrific people to adulthood in a mobile home, I understand a “real house” is not essential to a good life. But I still gotta say, it feels great to call it ours.

Our previous move was a temporary arrangement. Two years grew to four. The place before that was supposed to be temporary, but “a year or two” morphed into seven. We leased the place before that a year at a time, always hoping to buy “maybe next year,” as soon as the owner agreed to sell. After fifteen years, we gave up and moved.

The temporary nature of our homes has felt unsettling, unmotivating, and sometimes, disheartening. Now, as long as we pay our mortgage and property taxes, we can stay. We can paint our walls periwinkle blue and Persian melon. We can let the weeds grow, and so far we’ve done a superb job of that. 

If you’ve ever purchased a home, you already know every house comes with its quirks and things that go bump in the night. Some of these you find quickly, like discovering your basement landing has only one light switch, and it’s upstairs. Other secrets will reveal themselves over time. It’s the nature of home ownership, or, as some call it, the money pit.

And even if you could create the perfect house filled with impeccable furnishings and fixtures, it’s only a matter of time before the law of entropy rears its ugly head – everything tends toward disorder. (Which shoots a massive hole in the theory of evolution, but that’s a topic for another day.) Chances are, you’ll ding up the new paint or scuff the floor just moving in furniture. If it’s perfection you need, don’t look for it on this planet. And if you find it, it won’t last.

For whether you live in a mortgage-free mansion or a one-room apartment, the truth is, it’s all temporary. The day approaches when we will move on, some of us straight to a pine box and some of us via the scenic route of assisted living, nursing home, hospital. There’s no getting around it.

But I, for one, possess no desire to “get around it.”

On the contrary. I can relax about the quirks of my house, the repairs that will inevitably become necessary, and the impermanence of it all. You see, the most talented carpenter who ever walked the planet is preparing a home for me. The same designer who paints the sunset is choosing the colors. I don’t know what He’s making it from, how large He’s making it, or how He’s furnishing it. But I do know this: it’s going to be flawlessly and completely custom-designed especially for me by the One who created me and knows me better than I know myself. And it will never wear out. How do I know? One of the last things Jesus told his disciples before he went back to his Father was “I am going to prepare a place for you, so that where I am, there you may be also.”

An old spiritual says, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

For now, I intend to enjoy our cozy bungalow with a glad and grateful heart.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

One rascally long day…

Don’t spread this around. Last month I accepted an invitation to spend an entire day, from rising until bedtime, alone with three unbelievably handsome gentlemen. To keep things anonymous, we’ll call them Alfalfa, Buckwheat, and Spanky.

Alfalfa is six; Buckwheat is three and a half; Spanky is one and a half. 

As the appointed day approached, the arguments between Cynical Me and Optimistic Me went something like this:
CM: You’re never going to have the energy to keep up with those rascals all day.
OM: Hey, I already know how to do this. I once had three preschoolers of my own.
CM: Yeah, but you were in your twenties then.
OM: So, I’ll just let them tear around while I sit and watch.
CM: You’ll become exhausted and irritable and then you’ll get mean.
OM: No I won’t. All I need to do is keep them alive for one day until their parents return. How hard could it be? 

By the time breakfast was over, I had prayed for help three times, but I felt pretty proud of myself. Everyone was fed, Spanky had a clean diaper, and the kitchen was sort of clean. So what if Alfalfa decided to stay in his pajamas all day? The cold wind prevented us from playing outside, so we spent the morning reading books. Actually, Spanky and I read books while Alfalfa and Buckwheat jumped from bed to dresser to floor until I made them stop lest someone or something get hurt. So they jumped from crib to floor until something did get hurt: an overhead shelf came crashing down. But hey, everybody was still alive.

After lunch, I put Spanky down for a nap and sent Alfalfa and Buckwheat to their rooms for quiet time.
“But I don’t need a quiet time any more, Grandma,” Alfalfa said.
“I know,” I said. “But Grandma does.” 

We survived the afternoon and after supper the weather improved enough to go out. With a big farmyard to play in, I turned Alfalfa and Buckwheat loose and focussed my energy on watching Spanky toddle about. Until I heard heart-wrenching screams coming from the other side of the barn. Buckwheat had managed to collapse the rotting top fence rail. His belly still straddled the second rail, his head and hands lost deep in the long, woodtick-infested grass on the other side. Alfalfa looked on with an amused expression.

From the safety of the mown side, I managed to pull Buckwheat off the fence and checked him over for broken bones, cuts, bruises, and ticks. A hug and a kiss and he was good to go. But now where was Spanky? How did that little hooligan disappear so fast? I started calling.

Thankfully, he had only ventured inside the barn. That’s when I spotted the big red wagon. Hey, what a great way to contain all three boys—I’d give them a ride! They happily piled in and I began to pull. But half-way down their long driveway, I gave out.

“Say, Alfalfa,” I said. “Wouldn’t you like to pull your little brothers in the wagon?”
“Well, you’re going to. Hop out.”

So Alfalfa pulled Buckwheat and Spanky to the end of the driveway. On the way back, Buckwheat pulled Spanky until, with one heroic last effort, I pulled all three of them again for the last half. I then left the two older characters outside while I wrangled Spanky into the bathtub.

When I called Alfalfa and Buckwheat inside for their baths, Buckwheat had soaked his shoes and socks in a deep, cold puddle and was howling again. But hey, everybody was still alive and Spanky wore a clean diaper and pajamas.

I got Buckwheat into the tub and went to hunt down Alfalfa. Meanwhile, Spanky wandered into the bathroom where his brother splashed around, soaking the entire room. I had to start all over, wrestling Spanky into a dry diaper and pajamas.

Eventually, everybody was tucked into bed, still alive, and their parents returned home. I drove home to a cup of tea and my own bed, thinking about how dearly I love these three little rascals and how thankful I am that God gives children to the young.

Alfalfa, Buckwheat, and Spanky

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Oh, the Power!

Power Tools
Look out. I have a power tool and I don’t know how to use it.

We are in the process of moving, and with a 33-day overlap (which requires paying utility bills and mowing grass at two homes for a month, but let’s not think about that), I am learning all kinds of new skills. Pulling nails, screws, and anchors out of walls, crack filling, sanding, and painting have kept me almost too busy for column-writing. My friends Tim and Alison were kind enough to loan me their power sander and wow, does it ever do a nice job! Alison also rolled paint at our new digs for two afternoons before leaving on a well-deserved holiday. Now that she’s gone, it’s just me and the tools. This could get frightening.

Progress as of yesterday.
Power Renovations
My new home office includes a closet. I hatched this big fat idea to turn it into a little reading alcove with bookshelves, a padded bench, and some cozy lighting. If I had to tackle this project myself, I’d end up with two sets of badly-assembled metal utility shelves, a lawn chair, and a rusty trouble light hanging from its cord—not quite the comfy haven I dreamed of. Instead, I’ve hired Pat Hennan of Integrity Home Renewals. I’ll let you know how it turns out, but having seen one of the homes Pat recently renovated, I’m confident it will be a work of art. (No pressure, Pat.)

Power Shopping
Fabrics for the Book Nook
My friend Barb took me to Fabricland to choose fabrics for the aforementioned reading nook. The store is aptly named. I could spend all day in there gazing at the endless array of textiles in gorgeous colours and patterns. On the other hand, it’s pretty overwhelming when you’re trying to narrow your choices. Eventually, I made my selections and now look forward to a little sewing once Pat completes his magic. I’ve already received some good advice from my friend Noel Smith, upholsterer extraordinaire.

After the fabric store, Barb and I hit IKEA for lunch and a power walk-through. We didn’t buy anything, perhaps because we started at the wrong end and went through the whole store backwards. Not that we walked backwards. We were simply going against the flow, like the rebels we are. Given the slippery slope nature of crime, next thing you know we’ll be dealing drugs and robbing banks.

With fabric purchased, I could pick my paint colours. Cam McLean of Gallons Galore is a tremendous source of experience and helpful tips.

Power Cleaning
After we move, I’ll go back to the old house to clean so it’s all ready for the new owners. My generous sister Shanon offered to help. (Shanon’s the one I look like. In fact, I look more like Shanon than she does, but don’t let that confuse you.) Even my almost 82-year old mother has offered to pitch in. Maybe I’ll convince Mom to clean the oven, heh heh heh.

Power Friends
I don’t know how anyone manages a move without the help of friends and family. We’re not even moved in yet, and look at all the folks who have already loaned a hand or a word of advice. And when moving day gets here, I hope we’re able to recruit an army of muscle power to make it go quickly and smoothly. Even my boss, Jean-Marc, has already offered his.

Sometimes independence is highly overrated. Teamwork, however, is a powerful thing.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

God Shed His Grace on Thee

Having married an American citizen and given birth to three more, I naturally have a certain affinity for our neighbours to the south. Since my column happens to come out on the 4th of July this year, I thought I’d pay tribute.

We Canadians like to mock the Americans, particularly for their ignorance of the rest of the world. And I’ll be the first to admit, it can be pretty funny—and annoying at times. Once, when I was in the States and was asked where I came from, I replied, “Manitoba.”

“Manitoba. Where is that?” the American asked.

“North of North Dakota.”

The American looked at me with a blank expression, as though gazing at the U.S. map on my forehead. “There’s nothing north of North Dakota,” he said.

Home of the brave, indeed.

To be fair, they don’t limit their ignorance to other countries. In a man-on-the-street interview, one young American was asked to name a country that starts with the letter “U.”

After thinking a bit, he answered, “Utah.”

His buddy looked at him, laughed, and said, “that’s a city, dummy!”

“Whatever,” the first guy said. Neither of them could think of a correct answer.

So they won’t win any Geography awards. Still, is there really any other country you’d rather live next to? Okay, Switzerland might be nice. But don’t go running to them for assistance if a war breaks out; they’d maintain their neutrality. And Australia would be fun, if you don’t mind jack rabbits and kangaroos jumping over our common border and overtaking the country. Or maybe you’d prefer to skip the U.S. altogether and live that much closer to Mexico with its sunny beaches … and its average wage of $4.60 per day. Habla usted espaƱol?

I happen to think we’re blessed to have such good neighbours. I believe one of the biggest reasons for the United States’ success, though it may no longer be obvious by the actions of many of its leaders, is that the nation was founded firmly on faith in God. Their Declaration of Independence assumes mankind has a Creator. The pledge of allegiance to their flag declares it “one nation, under God.” Even their money is stamped “In God We Trust.” And look what I uncovered in verse four of their national anthem:

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

As Americans celebrate their 237th birthday today, my prayer is that they return to the God in whom they originally trusted. Psalm 33:12 says “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” 

Take note, Canada.

And Happy Birthday, U.S.A.