Prov 17:22

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

Friday, July 29, 2022

What's in YOUR Name?

In a sermon series on Jonah at our church, the speaker informed us that the Bible refers to Jonah as “Son of Amittai.” Jonah means “dove,” a symbol for peace, while Amittai means “faithfulness.”

While ancient cultures put great stock into the meanings of names and how their names affected their lives, most of us don’t. But this information made me curious. I decided to investigate the meaning of my own name and of my parents’ names.

It got more complicated than I’d hoped.

If, like me, you were born in 1959, chances are you had a Terry in your class. Mine had three at one point—two girls and a boy. An online search tells me that, in Canada, the name peaked for baby girls in 1955 and for boys in 1958. Given its many spellings, variations, and gender-neutral nature, finding an accurate meaning became a “choose-your-own-ending” story.

Technically named after my great-grandmother, Theresa, I started there. Probably derived from the Spanish, Theresa means “Harvester.” An alternate site told me Terrie means “late summer” in Greek or old German. Well, it’s not hard to make the connection between harvest and late summer.

My father’s name, “Matthew,” of Hebrew origin, means “gift from God.” Though he was born in 1919, Dad’s name didn’t reach its popularity peak until 1996. I bet you know a few Matthews now in their late twenties.

My mother’s name, “Norma,” comes from Latin meaning “the standard” or “norm.” It reached its popularity peak in the 1930s.

If I wanted to be sinister or cynical, I could put these three meanings together and concoct some doozies. I could see myself as “God’s gift” to the world, “harvesting” where I didn’t plant, helping myself to what others worked hard for, because that’s considered “normal” in today’s society. I could be a professional thief, movie star, or maybe a politician.

If, on the other hand, I wanted to draw valuable spiritual life applications, it’s not hard to see this a different way. Since my father was a gift straight from God and since my mother set a pretty high standard for what’s “normal,” (she even attended “Normal School” back in the day to become a teacher) and since I am apparently the harvester of all this goodness, how hard can it be? Seems like a person known as “Harvester, Daughter of God’s Gift and The Standard” ought to be raking in a bountiful crop by now. Turning around and feeding the hungry. Teaching those around her valuable lessons. Maybe even storing away sustenance for future use, possibly even for others after she’s gone. Hmm. Those all sound like things mothers, grandmothers, and writers might accomplish.

Well, as I said. You can bend, twist, and stretch meanings to fit however you’d like. But I think learning the meaning of your name and your parents’ names can prove valuable in establishing your life’s purpose. You may need to pick one from several options, but once you do, if you take it seriously and make it your calling, who knows what might develop? Once I knew my name meant “Harvester,” I Googled Bible verses about harvest. I found thirteen. Guess what? Half of them already appeared in my top-ten all-time favorites! Perhaps there is more to this than I knew.

Do you know what your name means? How about the names of your parents? It’s easy to find out. Do a little digging—see what resonates with your heart. Find corresponding scriptures. Claim your purpose, God’s purpose, for your life. You’ll be glad you took the time.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Lillie and Diana

In 1940, Lillie, a young woman with a deeply troubled past, turned for comfort to another man while her husband served overseas in World War II. When Lillie discovered she was pregnant, she sought an illegal abortion without informing a soul, not even the man with whom she’d had the affair.

At a doctor’s office a few weeks later, Lillie learned she’d been duped. She was still pregnant. When, a few months later, her husband returned wounded from the war, it’s difficult to say who was more caught off-guard—Lillie, at the sight of her husband’s facial disfigurement, or her husband, at the sight of his pregnant wife.

Fast-forward to 2019. A young woman named Diana is enjoying her single life in Edmonton when a mysterious DNA test result indicates something amiss in her family tree. When her 80-year-old father begins to reveal the long-kept secrets his mother, Lillie, passed on to him before her passing, Diana is swept into Lillie’s world. Meanwhile, Diana feels torn in half by the two most terrifying invitations she has ever received: to adopt a young girl’s unborn baby, and to marry a man she considers only a friend.

It requires over three hundred pages to adequately tell Lillie’s and Diana’s stories, even though they are mere figments of my imagination. This split-time tale is the novel I wrote in 2020 while the world was locked down. I titled it “From the Ashes.”

In February of 2021, my agent pitched “From the Ashes” to seven publishers. By January of 2022, we’d received our seventh rejection and my agent had run out of potential publishers. By that time, I’d completed another manuscript and we moved on to a new round of rejections. “From the Ashes” was history in more ways than one.

When the 2022 Braun Book awards opened for submissions, I decided to enter “From the Ashes” even though I knew its odds were slim. After all, I’d entered four other manuscripts in this contest over the course of thirteen years and never won. But what did I have to lose? My last pathetic shred of confidence? I sent it off and forgot about it.

On May 27, I received a phone call. The team at Word Alive Press in Winnipeg had selected “From the Ashes” as the 2022 Braun Book Award winner! They plan to publish the book before the end of the year. This will be my first novel published in Canada.

I share all this with you, my readers, as a reminder. My author’s journey has provided the perfect metaphor for life. Just when you think all hope is gone, it’s not. Just when you think you’ve got it made, you don’t. Just when you think your path is clear, God comes along with a surprise that shifts your direction. Through it all, you learn he can be trusted. He truly does know what’s best.

To prove this point even further, the week before I planned to post this story, my agent dropped me from her clientele list due to not being able to place my books. If you’ve ever been fired from a job or dumped by a boyfriend/girlfriend, you’ll know how humbling this feels. I loved being part of that agency and feel deeply disappointed and sad. Will it mean the end of my novel-writing? Possibly. Will "From the Ashes" be my final hurrah? Could be. Only one thing is certain. It’s not the end of God’s faithfulness. I didn’t know how much I’d need to read my own words this week.

As the release date for “From the Ashes” nears, I’ll keep you updated. While I hope you enjoy Lillie’s and Diana’s stories, I hope even more that you’re inspired by mine.

Don’t give up. God has a plan. He hasn’t forgotten you.


Friday, July 15, 2022


Though our little deck right off the kitchen is convenient for preparing meals on the barbecue, I have frequently wished it held more people. Four is pretty much its limit if you want everyone comfortable.

I harbored no such desires, however, when I decided this was the summer to stain the thing. In our nine years here, I’d never performed this feat, only dreaded it. Fear of difficulty and of doing a bad job made me postpone it far too long. But the deck wasn’t getting any younger, and neither was I.

I watched a few how-to videos on YouTube and received conflicting advice. Oil-based is best. Water-based is best. No need to sand. You must sand. Use a roller. Use a brush. The only thing these videos had in common? The people presenting them were all men. Deck-staining lands nowhere near the top of my man’s priority list. He did, however, remove the barbecue so I could proceed.

To start, I borrowed a pressure washer and hosed down the deck, gouging the wood in only a few places. No matter. I’d already decided this job would not be perfect, only an improvement. I came home from our local paint store with a gallon of latex stain, a sheet of sandpaper, and some advice.

Then I waited a week or two for the weather to cooperate.

I am now convinced God may have given me the one perfect weekend we’ll see all summer, June 4 and 5. Perfect temperatures. Zero mosquitoes. No humidity. Glorious sunshine and a gentle breeze. My favorite music wafting through the screen door from inside.

After sanding the worst spots, I vacuumed the surface. Then I stirred the stain and began brushing it onto all the spindles and trim. Expecting the big job to prove unbearably tedious, I was surprised to realize I was enjoying myself. Time-wise, I could have completed the entire job that day. Energy-wise, I knew I’d better hold off or I’d become extra careless.

The next day dawned beautiful again. After church and a nap, I went out and completed the deck floor in about ninety minutes. The next day I touched up a few spots. By mid-week, the furnishings were returned to their places. Our beautiful, imperfect deck stood ready for me to put up my feet and read a good book. I’d spent less than a hundred dollars.

Almost immediately, heat and humidity emerged along with mosquitoes, tree fluff, and flying seeds. I cannot describe how thankful I felt for that brief window, confirming the sign on my fridge that says, “Procrastination is the arrogant assumption that God owes you another opportunity to do what you had time to do.”

Naturally, I can’t tackle something so challenging without learning and sharing some life lessons, so here are three from my deck-staining journey.

1. Sometimes you just need to jump in and start, because the need for perfection will paralyze you. I didn’t do a perfect job, but I made a huge improvement. I posted before-and-after photos on social media and lapped up friends’ praise. Those who may have spotted my goofs kindly kept quiet. Or lied.

2. Small can be best. If we owned the huge deck I frequently hanker for, the staining job would have cost far more money, time, and energy. I could never have completed it within the sweet window I was given.

3. When God adds his blessing, a difficult job becomes a joy. I have no control over the weather, but I know the gorgeous weather made all the difference that weekend. May I never lose the wonder of such an unexpected, undeserved gift. 



Saturday, July 9, 2022

The Weak and the Strong of it

If you’ve been paying attention, you may recall that I am currently drafting a novel set against the backdrop of the Great Halifax Explosion of 1917. I’ve lost count of the books and articles I’ve read (kudos to our helpful and efficient local librarians!) or the websites I’ve visited in my attempts to bring historical accuracy to my fictional characters. It’s a crazy business, figuring out which parts you can invent and which parts you can’t. I like this definition: history books tell us what happened to people, while historical fiction shows us how they felt. I want readers to walk away from my books believing my story “could have happened.”

The following story, I’m sorry to say, is a true one.

Charles Upham, a Halifax harbor yardman, finished his night shift on December 6, 1917, and returned home. After eating a big breakfast and stoking the furnace for the day, he burrowed under the covers to sleep for a few hours. In the next bedroom, his daughter Millicent, nine, was staying home from school sick. Her brother Archie, seven, was visiting her for a moment before leaving for school.

Suddenly, the children heard a huge rushing wind tear through their house as shards of glass flew from the windows. Glass lodged into the back of Archie’s head while Millicent’s face was sliced to shreds. Their screams roused their father.

Although he’d been protected under the blankets, Charles ran barefoot into the next room, cutting his feet on glass fragments strewn about the floor. Seeing his children cut and bleeding, he led them out of Millicent’s room only to discover the entire east side of their house gone. The explosion had knocked out their staircase, trapping them on the second floor of a building about to collapse. The long strip of oilcloth that had covered the stairs, still attached at the top, flapped in the cold December wind.

Charles used the oilcloth like a rope to let himself down, then pulled it taut. He persuaded the children to slide down, even as beams and walls were caving in. Both children, though covered in blood and oily soot, did as their father urged and slid down the oilcloth. Immediately, the house went up in flames.

Charles carried Millicent piggyback and led Archie by the hand to safety. Though Millicent lost an eye and Archie later had twenty-two pieces of glass removed from his head, all three survived thanks to a humble oilcloth. All over Halifax, the strongest and most important parts of buildings (beams, joists, bricks) often became instruments of death while lesser, weaker items (like oilcloth) became lifesavers.

Throughout the Bible, God used humble and weak people to make a difference for good in this world. He used a shepherd boy to put an end to a giant bully. He picked a man with a speech impediment to lead his people out of slavery. He chose a peasant girl to become the mother of his son, our savior. I’ll bet you can think of others.

God delights in demonstrating his strength through our weakness, and that’s good news for us. A simple oilcloth possessed the properties to do what nothing else could that day. You and I have unique qualities God can use, too, in his way, when we say yes to him.

God told the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Paul’s response? “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me…. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV)

You can’t make this stuff up.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Long May She Wave!

As a six-year-old in 1965, I tootled off to my first day of Grade One at a school that proudly flew a brand-new Canadian flag. The red maple leaf and red borders on a white background, which now easily identifies us to the rest of the world, is relatively young. Prior to January of that year, Canada’s official national flag was still the Union Jack, the United Kingdom’s Royal Union Flag.

In addition, various and evolving Canadian ensigns were flown—all with the Union Jack appearing predominantly.

The evolution of Canada’s flag was slow and arduous. While attempts were made throughout the early twentieth century to create a unique flag for our country, efforts were resisted. Following World War II, many who had fought alongside the British under the Union Jack were opposed to change. Prime Ministers were hesitant to create political divisiveness or offend veterans who had fought so valiantly and who were attached to the old flag.

Then, during the Suez Crisis in 1956, Egypt was invaded by Israel, France, and the United Kingdom. Canadian troops were sent to Egypt as United Nations peacekeepers. When they flew the Canadian Red Ensign, which incorporated the Union Jack, the Egyptians saw our flag as British. It was time for a distinctive Canadian national flag.

When Lester B. Pearson was elected Prime Minister in 1963, he promised to unveil a new national flag in time for Canada’s centennial celebrations in 1967. The “Pearson Pennant” was proposed. It featured a sprig of three red maple leaves on a white background bordered by two blue stripes. Thus began “the great flag debate” in parliament. A committee was formed, and numerous designs were put forward.

The committee short-listed the entries to three, then chose the design by George Stanley, Dean of Arts at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario: a single red maple leaf with two red borders on a white background.

On January 28, 1965, Queen Elizabeth II proclaimed the new maple leaf flag official, and it was inaugurated on February 15. At noon, the old ensign was lowered and the new national flag of Canada was hoisted. Prime Minister Pearson spoke. “May the land over which this new flag flies remain united in freedom and justice … sensitive, tolerant and compassionate towards all.” He ended his speech with, “God bless Canada.” The National Film Board recorded the event, and it can be viewed online, HERE.

At the World’s Fair in Montreal in 1967, the year of Canada’s 100th birthday, our new flag was showcased to the world.

Happy Canada Day!