Monday, February 28, 2005

free books!

Fellow blogger Stacy Harp has recently started a company called Mind & Media with the purpose of publicizing authors, filmakers and other forms of media through blogs. And she’s looking for help – our help! Mind & Media needs all kinds of bloggers to review upcoming material.

It’s free books, guys! And a graphic for your website while you review the book, which you can do in one shot, or blog it as you read it. Then later, you might even want to do an interview with the author.

So, check out Stacy’s several sites:
Mind & Media

If you think you’d like to help out with reviews, email her. (Free books guys!!)

Sunday, February 27, 2005

greg sczebel nominated for juno

Greg Sczebel's CD "Here To Stay" has been nominated for a Juno award (Canada's premiere music awards) in the Contemporary Christian category. (It's the CD I wrote about here: and some have the audacity to question the taste of 50-something women- even implying they may not be hip enough!?)


"Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men." - Jesus

Fish are unaware
that they’re
a catch,
with seeking food.

Wily angler uses
every angle
casts a wide net
sets irresistible trap
obsesses on fish-study
where they eat,
and what and when.

Not above pursuing them
waist-deep in water
or sitting cramped for hours
in a boat
he goes where fish
are known to be
then casts and casts again...

and should a school of hungry fish
swim by, what overjoyed confusion
reeling in, resetting bait
and casting out once more
before that multitude moves on
and it’s too late

Copyright © V. Nesdoly - 2004

Saturday, February 26, 2005

makes one think

Have you noticed how ideas one comes across often seem to complement each other? This happens to me a lot--in Bible reading and then in my Oswald Chambers devotional. Also in the blog world.

Yesterday I read this anecdote by Robin Lee Hatcher, about how books she’d written a few years ago, when she was drifting from God, are still around and have come back to bite her.

Today I read "Second Chances" by John Zimmer (letter from babylon).

Makes one think...

Friday, February 25, 2005

i'm being interviewed!!

This is another in the continuing web of blogosphere interviews.

Professional radio personality Cindy Swanson, who blogs at Notes in the Key of Life asks me these questions. (And I think my answers are way too long-winded. In real life, I’m sure she’d have to cut me off for important stuff like commercials or just 'get on with it'. Oh well...)

1) I know you are a published writer. How do you handle rejection slips?

I’ve had my share, and I handle them pretty much in three ways.

a] I try to handle them philsophically. The first rejection slip I ever got was for some craft ideas I submitted to Hopscotch. This was way back when I was still taking a writing course. Some weeks later, a familiar-looking envelope arrived (my SASE) containing a form letter saying ‘no thanks.’ I pretty much took this in stride. I was new at this business, still had much to learn and at least I was submitting.

b] But rejections have immobilized me. That’s what happened after one I got from By that time I’d already pitched and sold an article to editor Roseanne Tolin, so when I got her go-ahead on another one, and worked weeks to get the thing thoroughly researched and enticingly written, I was shocked when, less than 24 hours after I’d emailed it to her, I got a to-the-point reply which said, in effect, research is impressive, but this is boring. Talk about a sucker punch. I was pretty much out of commission for weeks after that.

c] My relationship with Pockets typifies the perseverence I try to cultivate. Right from when I first started submitting stuff for publication (circa 1997), I’d send them things. Always they came back. But the sample magazine of theirs was so beautiful (and their pay rates so good - for children’s), I was determined they would publish me. Finally one day, instead of my SASE, I got a postcard (on their dime) telling me they were holding my story for their editorial meeting in November. Yes! But, sadly, November came and so did the manuscript, back to me with a note: ‘Not suitable for our needs.’ With Pockets, though, I was a bulldog. And it paid off. They finally accepted one of my pieces in the spring of 2003. I’ve since had another acceptance from them, and a few weeks ago, another postcard telling me they’ll be holding a manuscript of mine for further consideration - until (get this) March of 2006!

2) What do you enjoy most about blogging?
I love being my own editor! It is so fun, writing what I want, as long or short as I want, on whatever subjects I want. And I also thoroughly enjoy the interaction with other bloggers–the way it stimulates ideas and keeps one thinking and on one’s toes.

3) What's your favorite holiday and why?
It’s got to be summer vacation. My favorite thing is to go away for a week or two with hubby, rent a cottage or a hotel room by a lake somewhere – say Osoyoos or Shuswap on the mainland, or Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island– and simply veg - read, play games, listen to music, have long devotions, sun, go for walks, drives, sightsee. I love the change of pace and scenery and how I come back to the work-world mellowed and with a changed perspective.

4) You're going to a desert island, but you get to take five things with you.
What would they be?
I would take five kits: a food preparation kit; a shelter kit; a communication kit; a writing kit; a Bible study kit
(This is NOT cheating. Though these kits contain more than one thing, every solitary item one could choose contains many things as well. A book, for example, contains two covers, many pages and a ton of words.)

5) What do you like best about your husband?
There are so many things I could pick–his sense of humor, his loyalty, his helpfulness... But I will pick one thing that overrides all those–his integrity. He does not play games, is not sneaky or underhanded (although he does know how to drive a hard bargain when wheeling and dealing e.g. buying a car). You know where you stand with him. He’s straight with you and he expects you to be straight with him. If he says he will do something–he’ll do it. He’s a rock and I love that!


Would you like to play the interview game? Here's how:

1. Leave me a comment saying “interview me.” The first five commenters will be the participants.

2. I will respond by asking you five questions.

3. You will update your blog/site with the answers to the questions.

4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions. (Write your own questions or borrow some.)

friday goody bag

For those who love a delicious irony: there is a proposed anti-abortion legislation to protect gay-gene carriers: New Maine House Bill Would Protect Fetuses Carrying the ‘‘Gay Gene’’ (Hat Tip - The Crusty Curmudgeon)

Mind on higher things: Rebecca Writes continues to unearth treasures from the Puritan era. This post contains a sermon segment from "Christ Altogether Lovely" delivered by John Flavel, which is certainly worth some meditation.

For writers:

- first impressions DO matter: Dave Long at faith*in*fiction has written a series of posts (Monday to Thursday - starts here) giving writers of book-length fiction a behind-the-scenes look at how an editor reads and processes that pile of unsolicited manuscripts.

- Terry Whalin at The Writing Life is doing a series on article writing. Now we no longer have the excuse to say, I don’t know how. (Part 8 with links to the other segments.)

Thursday, February 24, 2005

christian carnival is up

at Wallo World.

Wallo World’s blog holds a place of high esteem for me and I owe him a debt of gratitude. A few months ago, when the blogosphere was going through yet another session of navel-gazing, Joe at the evangelical outpost featured a series on blogging. In that series he linked to this article by Bill Wallo, from a previous and similar ‘why-am-I-blogging’ -type cycle. When I read these words of Mr. Wallo, something pinged! He articulated exactly why I too was blogging:

As I looked at other blogs and saw the types that were successful, I recognized a couple of things. First that I didn’t have the time to blog like many top bloggers do. Second, that my interests were varied and I wanted to say things about quite a variety of topics. I wanted to do a general blog, not a law blog or a Christian blog or a comics blog, or whatever. I wanted to be able to write about whatever suited my fancy.

So thank you Wallo World (not, of course, that I could write a law or comics blog - but I can do 'whatever')! If I ever rename my blog, I will call it Miss Elaineous (and how fitting–seeing as how Elaine is my real second name!).

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

the first step

Today Donna at The Master’s Artist writes about lessons in perseverance to be learned from by writers from the book of Nehemiah. She says, in part...

Before Nehemiah began his mission to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem, he prayed and fasted. But he didn't stop there. He made a plan. But he didn't stop there. He followed through on that plan. He put not only feet, but hands, brain, and hard work to his prayers.

I’ve been reading Nehemiah in my personal devotions since Sunday and have had some of the same thoughts. I’ve wondered, though, whether the secret of Nehemiah’s success didn’t come in the first step.

During those days Nehemiah spent in fasting, weeping and prayer, it seems something happened between God and him. His passion to see the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt led to the sense that God was fingering him for the assignment and in some way making him personally responsible and accountable. That personal call led him to jeopardize his well-being as he requested of his boss Artaxerxes, not only for time away from his job as a cup-bearer, but for help with the project in the form of protection and letters.

He would need that knowledge of divinely decreed vocation in the days ahead. For the rebuilding of the wall was riddled with setbacks, discouragements, naysayers, outright opposition. I believe it was in large measure the knowledge this was an assignment from God that kept him on-task.

I’m thinking the reason some of my writing projects fizzle may be that I have skipped that first step. If I’m beginning projects on my own without knowing this is an assignment from God, is it any wonder when the fire in my belly cools, when the project feels too big for me, when I compare my meager talents with the talents of others, or a myriad of similar obstacles loom, I give up?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

is Terri Schiavo living her final hours?

The clock is ominously ticking down for Terri Schiavo--unless someone intervenes with a reversal of the court order to remove her feeding tube. This New York Times article explains the situation today.

Catez at Allthings2all explains what we can do in yesterday's post: "Terri Schiavo: Will You Help to Wash Her Feet?" She also provides background in Terri Schiavo: Who Crushes a Butterfly With a Hammer."

how to resist the redecorating craze

Directions for writers (0r bloggers):

Do you live in a house whose walls are still builder-beige after all these years? Do you return home from visiting friends to find yourself entertaining the nagging thought - I should do something with this place?

Now I’m not talking about adding the odd picture, bookshelf or file cabinet. I’m referring to serious redecorating where you move all the furniture, replace flooring, paint or paper walls, build stuff – in other words, bring major disruption on yourself. For though part of you knows you should redecorate, another part argues, why would you plunge yourself into such chaos when all you really want is the peace and quiet to write?

If this is you, take heart. Help is at hand. Do one or all of the suggestions below and house-guilt will forever be a thing of the past.

1. Watch lots of redecorating shows. Even a few of these will exhaust you and leave you feeling that you yourself have been redecorating for days.

2. Have a husband who, the first time you mention redecorating goes apoplectic and ever after asks for complicated things like a cost-benefit analysis (well, actually no, but he does ask if it fits in my budget - what budget?!).

3. Hang around with friends who are perpetually redecorating. You’ll soon find that in all the time it takes to collect and consider paint and carpet swatches, visit drapery stores and home shows, you could have finished your novel - or at least come up with an article idea.

4. Redecorate one room as a trial run. When you see how much work it is, you’ll be cured forever.

5. Scrub your house till it glows. Who’d want to improve on such a lovable place anyway?

6. If you should happen to find that lonely decorating article that lauds the hodge-podge look of your home, keep it handy against the next time the urge to redecorate resurfaces.

7. Buy one or two trendy accessories to make you feel better (no matter that they don’t fit the 80s decor of your home).

8. Stay the course and one of these years the house fashion trends will come full circle. All those mulberry, taupe and navy walls of your friends will find themselves beige again, faux wood will be all the rage again and your house will be fashionable again without you ever raising a hammer or paintbrush.

9. Stay the course and before you know it your house will be a community heritage treasure with by-law protection against change.

10. Write instead, make lots of money and hire a professional decorator or your decorator-savy friends.

11. Write instead, make lots of money and move to a house that comes pre-decorated.

12. Memorize every Bible verse about contentment that you can find. Start with: "If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" (I Timothy 6:8 - NIV).

(BTW - This isn’t new. I wrote it about a year ago in response to a weekly weekly Writing Challenge. I think it’s part of a book collection somewhere--yes it's in volume 1. Of course I still live by these principles!)

Monday, February 21, 2005

taking stock

I don’t know whether it’s a recent funeral or all the birthdays celebrated in the last little while, but my thoughts have lately gone to the brevity of life. Not in a macabre way, but more in an urgency, check-up-on-myself way. I think this focus also has to do with other changes I’ve experienced.

My kids (at 19 and almost 22) don’t monopolize my time and attention like they used to. A few years ago I simplified my job by working for only one client instead of several. And when my husband a year ago and took over some of my housework jobs, I suddenly found myself free to do what I’d always dreamed of doing - actually writing for a chunk of time every day. I expected that when this happened the projects I'd always hoped to complete would somehow start coming to pass. It hasn’t been like that.

Instead, I've experienced the fact that just because you have some time to write doesn't mean you'll spend it doing the hard stuff...getting those ideas, writing those first drafts, sending out those manuscripts. Lately the cold breeze of reality has blown across my life as I consider what I’ll probably get done if I carry on at the same pace. I've become more realistic and sober in what I fantasize I’ll accomplish. To grapple with this sense of time slipping away I’ve started asking myself questions like:

  • What, of all the things I’d like to do, will I, at the end of my life, feel disappointed if I haven’t achieved?
  • If I knew I could do just one or two or three more projects, what would they be?
  • How will I account to God for the talents, opportunities and assignments I’ve been given?

Now I’m not sick, and I am expecting to live a good many years yet. But at the same time, I’m becoming more aware of how easy it is to procrastinate and fritter away hours and days. When I look back over recent weeks and months with my list of sensed assignments and ‘must dos’ in mind, and see what little I have to show for time spent, I realize it’s a good thing to take stock.

The grass withers, the flower fades beneath the breath of God. And so it is with fragile man. The grass withers, the flower fade, but the Word of our God shall stand forever. Isa.40:7,8 (TLB)

What, after all, is your life? It is like a puff of smoke visible for a little while and then dissolving into thin air." James 4:14 (Phillips)

"...our days on earth are like a shadow, gone so soon, without a trace." I Chronicles 29:15 (TLB)

Saturday, February 19, 2005

tournament of hearts - YES!!

Canada’s premiere women’s curling bonspiel - the Tournament of Hearts - begins today! I curled a little myself one winter when I lived in Hazelton. A group of us went to Smithers to curl every week. Predictably, I was lousy at it - as I am at every sport! (For an explanation of how it works, Kim of The Upward Call has explained it very nicely here.)

But I love watching others do it well. Here are some reasons to watch (and love) curling:

1. It’s a smart game. It’s been called chess on ice. Each skip works on setting up the house to their advantage several ends away - anticipating what shots the opponent has, and trying to block them while at the same time, getting their own rocks-in-a-row, for that the final button shot.

2. It’s a polite game. No bashing people around, getting penalties, bloody noses and broken necks (like some other games we know).

3. It’s played by ordinary folks. Where else do people who in real life are clerks and accountants and technicians and housewives get a chance to be in the sports spotlight?

4. It’s easy to watch. No guessing where the rock is. No missing the play. No question about who’s who. Also, the close-up television shots of players’ faces give watching it a huge human interest factor.

Here’s a ditty I wrote about curling a couple of years ago - a little work done in an attempt to placate my conscience for those hours frittered in front of the TV...


In the hack and grip your rock
crouch so low and glide so nice
eyes on broom across the sheet
send the stone along the ice.

Skip is yelling form the house
to the sweeper, Hurry hard!
Rock is light and slowing fast
comes to rest, a perfect guard.

Rival stone sits in the rings
(they would dearly love to steal)
Throw a bullet, is the call,
Sweep it clean, we want to peal.

Now the house is getting full
stones in twelve-foot, four-foot, eight-
try the double, watch the jam
need to throw a lot of weight!

It’s our hammer and last rock
draw to button a clear shot
sweep for line and watch it curl –
it looks easy, but it’s not!

Friday, February 18, 2005

friday pocketful

It’s a beautiful Friday afternoon and I’m going to take a few minutes to dump my pocketful of treasures in here

We kept to our Friday routine thing today and drove out to Abbotsford, stopping at Superstore along the way to pick up groceries for Mom, then detoured to MacDonald’s to pick up three coffees and Fruit ‘n Fiber muffins.

Mom was good. She’s been making more cards. We put away the groceries, then sat around having coffee and chatting. Before we left, I set her hair.

Traffic on the Number 1 coming home was heavy both ways, as it usually is. We decided not to take the time to go into Fort Langley and do the Fort-to-Fort Trail. Instead, we came straight home, had a quick lunch of toasted bagels, cheese and apples, and then drove to Elgin Park for our walk.

Signs of spring are everywhere! The alder twig ends are dripping with chubby rufus-colored catkins-in-the making. Under the old oak tree a patch of snowdrops was in full bloom. Beside the Stewart Farmhouse where we parked, a stand of early daffodils will open probably tomorrow or Sunday. Even the birds sound energized.

Let’s see if I can remember all the birds we saw today:

a kingfisher
a hawk
- green-winged teals
- widgeons
- mallards
- buffleheads
a loon eating a fish

It’s just lovely walking along the banks of the Nicomekl! Today the air was crisp, the breeze fresh, the sky blue, the sun grinning. The day has a just-out-of-school feeling.

Thank You, Lord, for pleasant interludes, for a hubby with whom to enjoy them, for the innocent and un-selfconscious world of nature, for this beautiful spot on earth we call home...

Now for a shot of reality. I must clean my house.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Pray for Meeting with Cdn. P.M.

We just got this message via email from our church:

Pastor Brent (Cantelon) and several other Christian leaders are going to be meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin tomorrow (Friday morning) in Ottawa. The purpose of the hour-long meeting is to discuss the proposed same-sex marriage bill. Please take some time to pray for this meeting and for Pastor Brent in particular as he joins others in expressing the biblical view of marriage.


On a related topic - Joel at Proud to be Canadian has posted leader of the opposition, Stephen Harper's speech to parliament given on the first day of the same-sex marriage debate. (This after the posted a link to the transcript of PM Paul Martin's speech but refused to do the same for the leader of the opposition.) It is long but an excellent read showing how the party in power has flip-flopped on their former position and why same-sex marriage is not a fundamental human right, among other things. (Or read it in context from Hansard, February 16, 2005.)

'rebecca' by daphne du maurier

I am reading Rebecca – for the third time!

It’s the rare novel I read twice - so this book is exceptional-- in my books.

I read it the first time for the story. I read it the second because I remembered I had enjoyed it a lot the first time. I’m reading it for the third time to figure out - how does (did) Daphne du Maurier do that?

The book is an oldie - copyright 1938. I can’t think of any other books of this vintage I like. I’ve even read one other book by Du Maurier and it wasn’t memorable. But Rebecca I like. Here are some reasons:

1. The person who tells the story - the ‘I’ of the book - is unnamed. She isn’t Rebecca - that’s the other woman. I find this first-person narrator sympathetic - shy, not pretty (or at least not in her own mind), not society bred, so she does clumsy things like spills glasses of water. Yet she has a refreshing honesty and ability to see through pretense. I found myself on her side all the way.

2. I love the way the author takes us on detours from the action onto trails in the storyteller’s head. There are parts that are downright stream-of-consciousness. Here, for example, is the part where, after two wonderful weeks spent in the company of Maxim de Winter, Mrs. Hopper her boss decides it’s time to return to the States. She and Maxim will be parted:

I went into the bathroom and locked the door, and sat down on the cork mat, my head in my hands. It had happened at last, the business of going away. It was all over....I should say good-bye to him in the lounge, perhaps, before we left. A furtive, scrambled farewell, because of her, and there would be a pause, and a smile, and words like, "Yes, of course, do write," and "I’ve never thanked you properly for being so kind," and "You must forward those snapshots," "What about your address?" "Well, I’ll have to let you know." And he would light a cigarette casually, asking a passing waiter for a light, while I thought, "Four and a half more minutes to go. I shall never see him again."

3. There’s a gothic quality to parts of the book. The evil maid, Mrs. Danvers, for example, is always described in the language of death. Here’s our young bride's first impression:

"Someone advanced from the sea of faces, someone tall and gaunt, dressed in deep black, whose prominent cheek-bones and great, hollow eyes gave her a skull’s face, parchment-white, set on a skeleton’s frame....when she took my hand hers was limp and heavy, deathly cold, and it lay in mine like a lifeless thing."

All through the book, things are double-sided, not as they seem - rooms are locked, pleasant places feel sinister, people shield secrets.

4. The setting, the Cornwall estate Manderley, is gorgeous. I love living (vicariously of course) the life of an English estate wife – seeing the hedge of blooming red rhododendrons and the azaleas on the path down to the beach (although in this book the azaleas have a scent - are there scented azaleas? I've never come across any!), having Frith and Robert at my beck and call, and Clarisse, and Frank Crawley and Annie, and the quantity and variety of food served each breakfast and the tea brought in each afternoon at four, and changing each evening for dinner...

Sol Stein in his book Stein on Writing says:
"...the correct intention (for the writer) is to provide the reader with an experience that is superior to the experiences the reader encourages in everyday life. If the reader is also rewarded with insights, it is not always the result of the writer’s wisdom but of the writer’s ability to create the conditions that enable pleasure to edify."
du Maurier in this book certainly succeeds in providing that experience for me. (The Cornwall setting and portrayal of life has shades of the English domesticity of another of my favorite writers Rosamunde Pilcher.)

5. Most of all, though, I’m fascinated with the skill of the storytelling. Ms. Du Maurier has chosen a clever way to do it - using the viewpoint of the person in the story who knows the least - about the man she marries, the home he takes her to and, the kicker, his first wife. The reader, of course, knows only as much as she does, so the entire read is a mystery.

I’m almost done this third read-through. I wish I weren’t. And it’s odd, because even though I’ve read the book twice, enough time has elapsed between readings so that I’m not precisely sure what happens next - I just have feelings of intuition like a kind of clairvoyance - ‘nothing to worry about here,’ or ‘that character is dangerous’ or ‘this is going to end badly.’ That’s definitely the way for someone to read a book who doesn’t like characters to pop from behind doors and yell "Boo!"

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

watercourse heart

The first part of Ezra (1-6) is the story of how Gentile kings - Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes - are the driving force behind having the Jerusalem temple rebuilt after the Jews are taken into exile.

The temple stands completed at last and the Jews celebrate by observing the Passover.

"So the Israelites who had returned from the exile ate it, together with all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of their Gentile neighbors in order to seek the Lord, the God of Israel. For seven days they celebrated with joy the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel." (Ezra 6:22 - bold mine)

This instance of God working in and through secular leaders is a great faith-builder for me, a Canadian citizen, living in a time when the legislators in my country are bent on passing laws offensive to God. I remind myself:

The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD ; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. (Proverbs 21:1)

Skirmishes in the war:

The pro-gay ads playing as part of the deluge of commercials before the feature performance at Famous Players Theaters in Canada, will end this Thursday.

But now, what’s with this - Canadian Tire sponsoringMy Fabulous Gay Wedding.’?!

(Hat-tip: Proud to Be Canadian)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

mother of the bride

We got to Kamloops Friday afternoon, after the Kelowna leg of our trip, with the intent of helping Sonia with wedding plans. Up till now I’ve felt a little out of things. After all, the wedding is happening three hours’ drive from where we live, and since Sonia does event planning as part of her job, she seems to have it well in hand.

One of the first things she did was show us her invitations. My she’s gone to a lot of work - designing, printing, embossing, tying and trimming with ribbon. It suddenly hit me again how much work a wedding is, just considering all the hours she’s spent on those alone! (Each invitation has the name of the recipient printed on it - for starters.)

After dinner at a so-so Italian restaurant, we picked up Kate (Sonia’s bridesmaid) and went back to our motel room to put some more hours of work on those babies. I stuffed them into envelopes (making sure the name on the invite and on the envelope were the same - I hope I didn’t goof up anywhere!), then put in all the inserts - the info about Kamloops for out-of-town guests, the reply card and another card telling which stores they’re registered in for wedding gifts. Meanwhile Sonia and Kate were ribboning more invitation covers and centers together, and even Ernie got into the action by licking envelopes and putting on gold stickers.

Saturday morning we went dress shopping. This was something I’d been worried about - as a friend of mine told me these dresses usually have to be ordered in, can take months to arrive, and this puts a lot of stress on things. With Sonia’s wedding set for the end of May - we don’t have a lot of months.

Sonia had scouted out the wedding shops in town - or at least one of them. She’d tried on dresses one day with two of her friends along...and found the one. It sounded lovely when she described it on the phone - until it came to the price tag! So Saturday we were going to check out the other wedding shop(s).

At the first place we were met by a sign which told us to take off our shoes (the temple of the garment world after all!). Then it was digging through the racks to find prospective dresses. Efficient shop lady soon had half a dozen collected for us in the change room.

I went into the change room with Sonia. She showed me how to make a tunnel with my arms through the bodice and then she found my opening from the other end, by groping through trains and crinolines. All in all, it worked pretty well.

There were all types and if I knew my fabrics, I would be able to write about how they were organza, or satin or taffeta or brocade. I know this - they were all pretty, and all expensive, and all not quite right, at least not when compared to the dress. When one seemed particularly close, the shop lady got a sly look in her eye and threw out the info that she could give us 25% off - because it would be bought off the floor (not literally of course). When I quizzed her about this, it turns out that any dress bought ‘off the floor’ was discounted - but not all by 25%. It depended entirely on how long the dress had been hanging around. The older it was, the bigger the discount.

We soon exhausted the supply of dresses there, and then it was on ... "Let’s go see if my dress is still there," Sonia suggested. So it was down the street to the shop she’d been in a few days earlier (Rosa's) and straight to the row of dresses. The dress was still there (whew) and she put it on... Oooh and aaah and how wonderful it made her feel, and see how it was almost a perfect fit? I could tell by the look in her eyes and the plead in her voice that it would be nigh impossible to persuade her to forsake this wonderful dress and keep looking. (And could I get a discount? Ah yes, but one that was ever so small - as this dress had not been around long at all!) So pushover mom that I am, I gave in to the only bride daughter I’ll ever have and consented to a dress which cost about as much as my first car, but made my little girl’s day and will ensure she’s as pretty a princess bride as you’ll ever see.

We did other wedding things Saturday too. After breaking the news of the dress to her father, who had holed himself up in the library while we did the dress shops, we checked the fabric stores in town for bridesmaid dress fabric (she’s chosen a taupey pink color) in taffeta, which none of them had. So I’ve come from home with a swatch of pink bridal satin in my pocket and a mission to find that color in taffeta in one of the local stores. I also need to make about 40 dozen squares for the reception.

After this weekend I definitely feel like the mother of the bride!

Monday, February 14, 2005

browning - love poems

You'll Love Me Yet

You'll love me yet! -- and I can tarry
Your love's protracted growing:
June rear'd that bunch of flowers you carry,
From seeds of April's sowing.

I plant a heartful now: some seed
At least is sure to strike,
And yield -- what you'll not pluck indeed,
Not love, but, may be, like.

You'll look at least on love's remains,
A grave's one violet:
Your look? -- that pays a thousand pains.
What's death? You'll love me yet!

-- Robert Browning

Sonnets from the Portuguese - No. 14

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
'I love her for her smile -- her look -- her way
Of speaking gently, -- for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day' --
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee, -- and love, so wrought,
may be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry, --
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou may'st love on, through love's eternity.

-- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Sunday, February 13, 2005

don't i know you?

On Wednesday we said goodbye to my Aunt Helen. I want to tell you a bit about her, so that when you meet her in heaven, you can say, "Don’t I know you?"

My first memories of my mom’s younger sister are the flannelgraph stories she told us and the Wordless Book song she sang. When she came for a visit, Mom had her hands full keeping us from barging into her room first thing in the morning to see what magic she had in her suitcase.

You see, Aunt Helen wanted to be a missionary. When she was turned down, she became a missionary to the kids of Saskatchewan where she worked with Child Evangelism Fellowship and organized and taught Good News Clubs wherever she lived.

She took me with her to Regina one summer when I was a kid. There I helped her for a couple of weeks with the games and songs and crafts and even told the odd story. I can still also recall the smell of those kids in that poor part of town (cigarette smoke, grubby clothes - like the smell of a thrift shop - and cooked cabbage).

She was one of my maiden aunts - a single state which, at the time, seemed irrevocable. So imagine everyone’s amazement when she announced, the year she was 61, she was getting married (to an also never-married Dutch farmer from Grande Prairie, Alberta). "I’m sweet 61 and never been kissed," she said with a self conscious giggle.

You never saw a more in-love couple than Uncle Dick and Aunt Helen. She was a little bit of a thing - about 4' 10" and under 100 pounds. Uncle Dick said about her: "She’s a little woman, but she fills the house." He was always telling corny jokes in his Dutch accent - and she rewarding him with her twinkly blue eyed smile. Together they supported missionaries all over the world with money, prayers and hospitality. She prayed for her nieces and nephews - and there were many - mentioning each by name at least once a week. She also never lost her adeptness at finding a place in conversation to slip in a question about how things were with you and the Lord, and then giving you a tract from her plentiful stash.

She and Uncle Dick would go for an early morning walk every day for years. Part of their route was along Highway 33 in Kelowna, between the seniors complex where they lived and Costco. The pastor officiating at her memorial said, "Any unsaved person walking that stretch of road was marked."

Aunt Helen’s world came crashing down when Uncle Dick died in 2002. Shortly after that, she went blind. But though she never had any natural children, the love she poured into others then came back to support her. Uncle Dick and Aunt Helen years earlier had adopted a young couple and their two kids. Now this relationship bore fruit as this family, as well as my brother, visited her - someone every day - to read the Bible, a devotional book, and then to pray with her.

She died a week ago today. I can just imagine how her face lit up as she caught sight of Uncle Dick, saw all the things her prayers and giving had accomplished, and then met all the people (kids and adults) she’d led to Jesus.

Aunt Helen’s memorial service on Wednesday made me aware, again, that though she was simple and unpretentious, she did many things right. By contrast, I see myself sidetracked with much that is seemingly unimportant (at least in the light of eternity). It makes me wonder, who will be in my receiving line when I arrive in heaven?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

life trumps blogging

Blogging will be light the next four days - a funeral to attend, wedding arrangements to make...

If we come to mind, pray for safe travel as we (I) have

"miles to go before I sleep
miles to go before I sleep."

(from Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Day- Robert Frost)


Powerful Defender - Elizabeth Bunyan (Part 4)

Part 4 (Conclusion)

Blind Mary gently patted Elizabeth’s hair and dress with her thin, sensitive hands. "You look wonderful, Ma," she said. "I will pray for you." Then the others hugged and kissed her goodbye, and she was on her way, walking toward the Embankment and the courthouse.

It was finally the August day Elizabeth had looked forward to and dreaded since returning from London. John had been ignored, no one else had come forward, today the judges arrived and it was all up to her.

"We must believe that this is how God wills it," John had kept encouraging her.

When Elizabeth arrived at the courthouse, the crowd was thick, with many already assembled. Elizabeth joined a line to await her turn. Through the long morning and into the afternoon, she inched forward as one after the other presented their petitions to the judge. When she got closer, her hands grew clammy and she felt her heart begin to pound. Too much was riding on the next few minutes.

She rehearsed again what she planned to say: Your Honor, my husband John Bunyan has been jailed these nine months for a crime he has never been tried for or pleaded guilty to. No, ‘crime’ was too strong. He has been jailed these nine months for a mere oversight, a misunderstanding –"

"Next," the clerk’s voice cut into Elizabeth’s thoughts. The judge looked coolly down on her.

"My name is Elizabeth Bunyan," she began, surprised at the strength in her voice.

"Judge Hale," he said, giving her a nod.

"I am here on behalf of my husband, John Bunyan. Here is his petition." She handed him John’s petition. "He has been in prison these nine months for a misunderstanding – for something he was never tried for or been found guilty of."

When Judge Hale looked at her she saw kindness in his eyes. "I will do the best good I can for thee," he said. "But I fear I’ll not be able to do anything."

Elizabeth’s heart dropped at his words. She opened her mouth to say something more, but the clerk was already calling out, "Next!"

She stopped at the jail on her way through town.

"How did it go?" John asked.

"I gave the petition to Judge Hale," she began. "He was kind, but he said he didn’t think he could help us."

"We must have faith. God can work the impossible,"

"Also," Elizabeth went on, "there were crowds of others with petitions. The place is so busy. Thy case may well get lost in a sea of papers."

"Perhaps we should give it to other judges as well," John said. "Here, take these." He handed her several more packets.

If only John were allowed to speak for himself, or someone else took up his cause, she thought again, as she made her way home. Please, send us some help, Elizabeth prayed all the way home.

The next day, Elizabeth went out again. She took up a spot along with others on the Embankment, near the courthouse. She wasn’t sure what she would do with the petitions she clutched in her hand. But as the carriages carrying the judges drew near, she had an idea. It was daring, but what did she have to lose? She elbowed her way to the front of the crowd, stepped up to the carriage and just as the door opened, tossed a petition inside.

A red-faced judge emerged and scanned the crowd. Then his eyes locked with Elizabeth’s.

Around her she heard a murmur of the bystanders.

He picked the petition off the carriage floor, deliberately unfolded it and skimmed its contents while she waited hardly daring to breathe. Then, looking straight at her with angry eyes and speaking with barely suppressed rage, he said, "This John Bunyan is a convicted person. He cannot be released unless he promises to preach no more!"

Elizabeth felt her face go red under the scrutiny of the judge and the bystanders. How could they not see that John was no criminal, that he was a far better risk to be pardoned than the thousands of real criminals who had already been freed by the king’s pardon? Instead, all these powerful men seemed to have made their minds up about John.

But for so long Elizabeth had been sure that the king’s pardon would be the means of John’s release, she would not give up now. Somehow these judges must be convinced that John was innocent and belonged at home with his family.

The next day was another day of public hearings and Elizabeth was again in line at the courthouse, clutching another of John’s petitions. When it was her turn, she saw with relief that kindly Judge Hale was on the bench.

"And what can I do for you, young lady," he asked, not showing any sign that he recognized her from the days before.

She stepped forward with her petition, but before she had a chance to say anything, another official, a sly man, took the paper from her.

"This is John Bunyan’s wife," he explained to the judge. "He is a high spirited fellow who’s been convicted by the court. Don’t even consider freeing him."

Judge Hale gave her a regretful smile and dismissed her with a wave of his hand.

On her way out of the courthouse, the high sheriff stopped her. "How did it go?" he asked.

"An official took my petition,"she told him. "He said John was a condemned man so I never even got to say a word to the judge. But they are wrong. They tricked him into an indictment. He’s done no crime."

"There, there," the sheriff said in a kind voice, patting her on the shoulder. Elizabeth heard the sympathy in his tone and her eyes fill with tears. She hurried away before she shamed herself by weeping in front of them all.

The next few days Elizabeth busied herself at home. House duties had been neglected the last few days, the garden was ripening fast and there was much to do. But as busy as she was, she couldn’t stamp out the fearful thoughts of facing another winter without John. As the days wore on, and she knew the court sessions were drawing to a close, her prayers grew ever more desperate. Oh God, let John speak, she prayed, or send someone powerful and persuasive plead his case.

The last day of the assizes dawned and Elizabeth was at home attending to the children’s breakfast when there was a knock at the door. It was a young man, a court page, who handed her a message:

"A hearing has been arranged for thee before the judges in Swan Chamber this afternoon one hour after noon. Bring John’s petition. His Majesty’s High Sheriff of Bedford."

The remainder of the morning was a blur of activity – getting ready, making arrangements for the children, stopping by the prison to tell John. She forgot all about eating and when at last she was called in to the courtroom to face the crowd of judges, justices and gentry, she couldn’t tell whether it was hunger or nervousness that made her tremble.

She spotted Judge Hale and stepped over to where he sat. "My Lord," she said shyly, "I make bold to come once again to your Lordship, to know what may be done with my husband."

Judge Hale looked at her with kindness and recognition. But his voice was resigned. "Woman, I told the before, I could do thee no good; because they have taken for a conviction what thy husband said at the sessions. Unless there be something done to undo that, I can do thee no good."

Elizabeth felt her indignation rise. "My Lord, he is kept unlawfully in prison. They clapped him in there before there was any proclamation against the meetings. The indictment is false too. He never admitted his guilt and he did not confess."

One of the justices, who had been listening intently, broke in, "My Lord, he was lawfully convicted."

His assertion made Elizabeth furious. "It is false!" she exclaimed. "For when they said, do you confess the indictment, he said only that he’d been at several meetings where there was preaching and prayer and that God’s presence was there."

There was a moment of silence. The whole room was electrified at her bold response. Then another angry, and familiar voice boomed out. "What! Do you think we can do whatever we want?" Judge Twisdon’s face was red with anger. "Your husband is a peace breaker and is convicted by the law!"

But Elizabeth would not let Judge Twisdon have the last word. "My Lord," she said, looking straight into the angry man’s eyes, "he was not lawfully convicted.!"

"What?" It was Judge Twisdon again. "Will your husband leave preaching? If he will do so, then send for him."

"He dares not leave preaching as long as he can speak."

Twisdon threw back his head in disgust. "See here, what should we talk any more about such a fellow? He is a breaker of the peace."

"He desires to live peaceably," Elizabeth insisted, "and follow his calling to support his family. Moreover my Lord, I have four small children that cannot help themselves and one of them is blind. We have nothing to live on but the charity of good people."

But Judge Twisdon scoffed. "You make a show of your poverty."

"Why don’t you let him speak for himself," Elizabeth pleaded. "He preaches nothing but the Word of God."

"He? Preach the Word of God?" Judge Twisdon looked so angry, Elizabeth thought he might strike her. "His doctrine is the doctrine of the devil." Looking over toward Judge Hale he bellowed, "Send her away!"

"I am sorry, but I can’t do thee any good." Judge Hale took his cue from Twisdon. "Bring the statute book. Here, I’ll show you the three things thou canst do."

But a great despair swept over Elizabeth, caught in her throat and flooded her eyes with tears. She had failed. She strode from the room, trying to muffle her sobs.

Elizabeth didn’t visit John until the next day. "I have failed thee," she blurted as he came to meet her in the common room.

"No," said John, comforting her. "That is not what I heard. Those that were there said thou wast magnificent, that thou spokest like a different person, with passion and persuasion."

Elizabeth looked into his eyes through tears. "But I failed to convince them to release thee, Why would God give us this hope and then leave us with only failure?" She began to sob.

John took a handkerchief from his sleeve. "There, there my dear," he said as he wiped her eyes, "they’ve said no more about banishment or the gallows. We thought this was God’s way, but we cannot know His plans."

"But how will we survive the winter?" Elizabeth asked.

"I have news on that front," John said with renewed vigor. "I have met a man in here who knows how to make long tagged laces for boots. He will teach me. We can sell them to the hawkers. And who knows but God may provide another opportunity to appear before the courts. If He does," John went on, with a twinkle in his eye, "I will have no one speak for me but my shy wife."

A reluctant smile crept over Elizabeth’s face. Her performance in the courthouse yesterday had surprised no one more than herself. Surely the God who had heard her prayers and had given her the boldness of a different person would continue to hear her prayers through the coming winter, and spring and summer...


John Bunyan was released from prison eleven years later, in September of 1672 but was jailed again for six months in 1675. During his time in prison he wrote many books, one of which was Pilgrim’s Progress. This fanciful allegory was an instant success when it was first published in 1678. By 1688 eleven English and five Dutch editions of the book had been printed. Today it has been translated into over 200 languages and dialects and is one of the most popular books ever written.

After his release from prison, John Bunyan continued working as a popular itinerant preacher and pastor. He died in 1688 at the age of 60. Elizabeth died about five years later.


Some John Bunyan resources:

John Bunyan Museum - Bedford England.

John Bunyan Online

Acacia John Bunyan Online Library

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Powerful Defender - Elizabeth Bunyan (Part 3)

Part 3

All the while Elizabeth made the preparations to go to London, her emotions swung between fear and excitement. What if she couldn’t think of what to say, or worse, said the wrong thing and made a total botch of it? On the other hand, this possible release for John just when things looked the worst, was a miracle. Surely God was in it.

Jack Bludgett accompanied her to London. The trip was long and tiring but after a good night’s sleep, she felt refreshed and optimistic. As their carriage maneuvered the crowded London streets, Elizabeth looked with amazement at the huge buildings and the swarms of people. She felt in her bag again for John’s laboriously composed and copied petition.

It wasn’t clear where they had to go. They tried one place, and were told to go to another. At that place, they were given directions to do their business in the House of Lords.

When they finally got there and Elizabeth entered the building with its echoing hallways, alive with uniformed officials and impersonal efficiency, she was awed. They were given directions to a hallway outside one of the chambers and told to wait their turn. She calmed her pounding heart by reminding herself how wonderful it would be to have John home again.

Finally a page opened the door and called, "Elizabeth Bunyan." She got up and followed him through massive doors, into a vast, high-ceilinged room. At one end sat a row of men wearing heavy white wigs. Beside them were other men, busy writing or looking at papers.

"Lord Barkwood, Elizabeth Bunyan,"the page said as they stopped before one of the wigged men.

He gave her a little nod, and she curtsied.

"And what is it thy matter?" he asked.

"I have this petition for my husband John Bunyan," she said, handing him John’s papers. "We have heard that many criminals are being released in honor of the king’s coronation. My husband wishes to apply for release."

He took the petition and looked through the pages, then back at her. "I must confer with my colleagues," he said. "Come back tomorrow morning for my answer. "

The next morning, after a long and restless night Elizabeth was back in the same room. She felt growing apprehension as she awaited the Lord Barkwood’s answer. It wasn’t long in coming. "We have discussed your husband’s petition," Lord Barkwood began. "We cannot release him."

Elizabeth’s head swam. John would not be coming home. But Lord Barkwood was saying more.

"We’ve committed such cases to the local judges. If you want to pursue this further, present his case at the midsummer assizes in Bedford.

All the way home she wondered, how would she break the news to John, and how would he react? However, when she did tell him, he was unabashed. "We’ll prepare our case for the next assizes in August then," he told her.

Immediately he got to work, revising and laboriously writing out several copies of his petition. "God is in this," he said, whenever she expressed concern. "Perhaps they’ll allow me to speak for myself."


Powerful Defender - Elizabeth Bunyan (Part 2)

Part 2

How gloomy everything was without John, Elizabeth mused this April evening as she walked the few blocks from their home on Cuthbert Street to the County Jail in the heart of Bedford.

He had been kept in prison since the November day, almost five months ago, that he was arrested. The hoped-for baby was a long ago dream, for a few days after John was imprisoned, it had been born prematurely and died.

Though their house was only a few minutes’ walk from the jail, and John was allowed visits, she didn’t get to see him that often, for there were the children to look after. At ten years old, Mary was responsible, but because she was blind, Elizabeth hesitated to put her in charge of Beth, little Thomas and Joseph. Today, though, she’d felt the need to see John so desperately, she’d asked a daughter of a church acquaintance from Elstow to come for a few hours, so she could get away.

Perhaps today John would have word about when he’d be released. Or if not, at least he’d give her the courage to go on. He was always so full of faith and optimism, just being with him would help.

Mr. Cobb, the warden, answered her knock on the heavy wooden door. "Welcome, Mrs. Bunyan," he said. "John will be happy to see you." He took her to the jail’s tiny, dim common room and a few minutes later John arrived.

It was good to feel his strong arms again and look into his brown eyes. But today they didn’t sparkle like usual. As she told him the news from home, he seemed preoccupied and burdened. "How is it with thee?" she asked.

John gave her a long look, as if sizing up her state of mind. "It seems I won’t be freed as readily as I thought," he began. "Cobb called me in for a talk today. He was most civil. But..." John looked at her with concern, "I’m afraid the news is bad."

Elizabeth felt the familiar rise of panic. "What is it?" she asked, keeping her voice calm.

"Cobb told me that at the next assizes, if I don’t promise to stop preaching and holding meetings, they may well banish me – or worse."

Elizabeth was stunned. She’d hung on to the hope that it was just a matter of time before they’d realize that arresting John had been a big mistake. But banishment or – the gallows?

"What wilt thou do?" she asked.

"I could make them that promise," John said, looking down. Then he lifted his face and she saw in his eyes a mixture of defiance and regret. "But I can’t do it. God knows how I’ve struggled with fears for myself. For thee. For the children. By taking this stand I feel like I’m tearing down my house with my own hands. But my conscience won’t let me give in to them. I would rather be obedient to God and make Him responsible for my concerns than deny what I know is right and thus take things back into my feeble hands. But it means I must look death in the face."

"Don’t say that, John," Elizabeth said. "Surely God will send someone or something to help deliver us."

"Maybe He will," John replied. But his voice lacked its usual conviction.

Elizabeth was shaken when she left the jail. She had never seen John so discouraged. He seemed to think he really might be banished or executed. Suddenly the weight of it all – John’s predicament, the responsibility for the children, their poverty without John’s income – felt overwhelming. He had always been there, capable, ready with answers and solutions. But now he too was powerless. If John couldn’t help, then who?

There was only One. Oh God, she prayed silently, we desperately need Thee.

A few days later, friends from church stopped by her house.

"John wants thee to come," they said. "We’ll stay with the children."

Elizabeth was out of breath when she knocked on the jail door.

John’s broad smile and twinkling eyes filled the prison’s common room as he entered. "Great news, Elizabeth!" he exclaimed. "I’ve just heard that in honor of the king’s coronation, prisoners are being set free. And they can’t banish me or change my sentence in any way till the business is done! This may prove to be the answer to our prayers!"

"Are you on the list to be freed, then?" Elizabeth asked.

"No," replied John. "We must apply. I have twelve months to sue out a pardon. I’ve heard that one does that through the courts in London."

"Will they let thee go to London?"

"No. I had thought that I would send thee."

Elizabeth felt fear and resistance rise inside her. Did John know who he was asking to speak for him? She - who got all tongue-tied, flushed and choked with emotion at the smallest thing - speak to the authorities? "Wouldn’t someone else do a better job?"

"There is no one else." John replied. "Thou must go."


Monday, February 07, 2005

Powerful Defender - Elizabeth Bunyan (Part 1)


A few years ago, I accepted an assignment to write the story of John Bunyan for a kids’ take-home paper. Weeks of research ensued and then the writing (and rewriting) of the piece. Finally I submitted the story and it was published in Guide in 2003.

However, as often happens, the research I did alerted me to many interesting side stories. One of the most fascinating was a series of incidents which involved John Bunyan’s second wife, Elizabeth. John Bunyan tells the story himself here .

More as a writing exercise than anything, I decided to try to recreate that story as a piece of fiction. "Powerful Defender" is that effort. I have tried to keep the story as close as possible to the facts Mr. Bunyan reports, although I did invent a few characters (Jack and Martha Bludgett, for example). I will post the story in four parts, and as a kind of sidebar to Rebecca WritesPuritan Month.


POWERFUL DEFENDER - a story of Elizabeth Bunyan (Part 1)

Elizabeth dropped another lump of peat into the stove and pulled her chair close to its warmth. The winter cold was quickly consuming their fuel. But this should be the last time she’d need to feed the fire tonight. For soon John would be safe at home and she cozy in bed next to him.

She sat down, took up again the tiny garment she was knitting and examined it. To think that in a few months, her own baby would wear it. She put one hand gently over her swollen stomach and savored the joy of the last months. Who would have dreamed, not two years ago, that the popular, outgoing, fiery but gentle preacher, John Bunyan, would choose her, shy, quiet Elizabeth, to be his wife and the step-mother to his four children? And now she was carrying his child!

Elizabeth took up her knitting again. Only the sound of clicking needles and an occasional muffled crackle from the five broke the stillness.

It was November 1660. England had been through decades of upheaval – civil war, a king, Charles I, beheaded, his heir, Charles II, exiled to France, then a ten-year trial-and-error parliament under Oliver Cromwell.

Growing up in the town of Bedford, Elizabeth had paid little attention to national politics, though they had affected her through her church. For as long as she could remember, things had been up-and-down for their dissenting congregation, the Baptist Church at Elstow. There had been disagreements between parish authorities and their pastor about things like using the Book of Common Prayer, adult baptism, even whether he should be allowed to preach. Thankfully under Cromwell’s parliament, the rules had relaxed.

As Elizabeth’s needles flashed back and forth, her mind went to her first memories of John. She had first seen him about eight years earlier when he, his wife and their four children began coming to her church. She’d admired him right from the beginning – for his tender care of his family, especially little blind Mary, for his wisdom as a deacon and, in the past few years, his passionate, piercing sermons. When he preached, you felt he could look right into your very heart.

Then came 1658. She recalled the news of Cromwell dying, rumors that a group of loyalists in London was trying to bring back the king, discussions of what would become of dissenters now. But what was vivid to Elizabeth from that year was the memory of the death of John’s wife.

How sad he had looked. Her heart had ached for him and the children and she’d wished she could do something for them. But she’d kept her feelings to herself. Over the months that followed, however, she became aware that John was noticing her.

The courtship was short but when John asked Elizabeth to marry him, there was no hesitation on her part. She knew that being his wife and mothering his children was a big job but she wanted no other. They had married in 1659 and in the months that followed, her esteem for him had only grown.

She especially admired his zeal as a Christian. He was so inspired by his love for God and compassion for unsaved countrymen that many a night, after working all day as a tinker, he’d walk miles to neighboring towns or to homes in the countryside to share his faith with many or few. It was just such an invitation that had taken him to Samsell this night.

He should be home by now, though, Elizabeth realized as she put down her work and strained to hear his footsteps. But the only sounds were the sighing of the wind and the bark of a dog. What was taking him so long?
His recent words came to her: Since the king has been returned, they are clamping down on our meetings. One of these days I’ll be arrested.

In her imagination she saw a constable grab him by the collar, cuff his hands, drive him to prison with a club. She gave herself a shake. This would never do. After all, it was a long walk from Samsell back home to Bedford.

"Please God, bring him home safely," she prayed.

She got up and checked the stove. There were only glowing embers. She’d best go to bed.

When she finally got to sleep, she slept fitfully. She had a dream about John and awoke feeling terrified. Sleepily she reached for him but when he wasn’t there she was instantly wide awake. Something had happened to him!

Mid-morning the next day, the three youngest children crowded around Elizabeth as she answered a knock on the door. Jack Bludgett from their church stood outside.

"Bad news, I’m afraid," he said to Elizabeth. "Thy John’s been arrested."

"Why? By whom?" Elizabeth felt the room spin around her. She put little Joseph down and grasped the door frame.

"It’s Justice Wingate," he explained. "It seems he’s had his eye on John’s meetings for a while now. They sent a constable with a warrant after John last night. He was taken just as the meeting got underway."

Elizabeth felt like she would be sick. She hung onto the doorframe as a cramp gripped her stomach.

"Art thou alright?" Jack asked.

"Ma, what’s wrong?" Five-year-old Beth who was clutching her skirt, stared up at Elizabeth’s ashen face.

Jack caught her just as she was about to crumple onto the floor and carried her to a bed. Far away she heard him explain to Mary, "Thy Ma has fainted. Can thee take care of the little ones till my Martha comes?’

good thoughts for a monday morning

"I think I find most help in trying to look on all the interruptions and hindrances to work that one has planned out for oneself as discipline, trials sent by God to help one against getting selfish over one’s work. Then one can feel that perhaps one’s true work – one’s work for God – consists in doing some trifling haphazard thing that has been thrown into one’s day. It is not a waste of time, as one is tempted to think. It is the most important part of the work of the day – the part one can best offer to God. After such a hindrance, do not rush after the planned work; trust that the time to finish it will be given sometime, and keep a quiet heart about it."Annie Keary, 1825-1879

"We look for visions from heaven, for earthquakes and thunders of God’s power...and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us. If we will do the duty that lies nearest, we will see Him. One of the most amazing revelations of God comes when we learn that it is in the commonplace things that the Deity of Jesus Christ is revealed."Oswald Chambers, 1874-1917

Sunday, February 06, 2005

kids - on the Bible






















(Thanks to my friend Jean, who keeps me laughing.)

how to find a new church

Pretend you're visiting
a family of distant relatives.

Of course you don't expect
      to get an invitation for lunch
      and all your social needs met
      by a bunch of third cousins.
And it doesn't matter
      that the stairs smell of mildew
      and water stains the ceiling
or that amongst themselves
      they're way too loud and happy
      and hug a lot.

What may catch you by surprise
      even make you want to return
is how the Father you share
      meets you there
puts His gentle but persistent hand
      under your chin
      to lift your face
and meet His eyes
      in theirs.

2005 - VNesdoly

Saturday, February 05, 2005

to mother

Take my hand,
I will walk with you
the last miles
measuring my steps to yours.

When you’re weary
we will sit and talk
of Daddy and girlhood friends
and whose related to whom,
and I won’t mind
that sometimes
you cut me off mid-
sentence because your hearing’s
not so good.

I will handle your treasures carefully
knowing they are more
than mere bells and teacups and photos.
I will do all I can of grocery shopping
running errands, changing light bulbs
cleaning closets, setting hair, coming
when you call and praying comfort.

Come. Take my hand.
We will walk the last miles together
Into the brilliant sunset you deserve.

© 2004 by Violet Nesdoly
(published first in Prairie Messenger).

I post this today for Katy Raymond - and her Mom.

Friday, February 04, 2005

typical friday

Early Friday morning Mom phones with her grocery list, which Ernie and I shop for on the way to her apartment in Abbotsford. Today along with her groceries, I picked up five primulas. They are the perfect herald of spring with their glorious jewel colors and look so perfect, they could be artificial (or that kind of craft flower I saw when I was a kid made out of dyed nylons stretched on thin wire). She had me put them in a big basket just outside her glass patio door so they brighten her living room.

Mom, even at almost 91, is my inspiration. She doesn’t get around very well any more, but her mind is active and she can’t stand to be idle. Today she had two or three quilts she’d made, ready for us to take to the MCC store. She also showed me the cookbook she is making for Jane, one of her grand-daughters (in-law). Jane is Rwandan, and finds it hard to reading writing script. So Mom has printed each recipe – a collection of all the goodies and oldies that are in the recipe book she made me when I left home. (She found a hardcover blank notebook for this with Canadian flags on the cover - perfect!)

Once the groceries were put away it was back in the car with the three of us hitting the MCC store - where we dropped off the quilts and browsed in their thrift store section. Mom looked at blouses, and picked up a couple of $1.00 bags of assorted toys for when the great-grandkids (Chris & Jane’s - a couple of toddlers to Kindergarten) and bought yarn for her next project which is making bookmarks (she uses old cards - and the yarn makes a tassel at the bottom or top). I tried on some jeans - but no, they weren’t ‘friendly.’ Then I wandered into the book section. There a hardback of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon Days caught my attention for only $3. On further browsing I found the same thing in paperback for only $1.50. When I took it to the checkout the lady charged me only $.75. Now if I’d have known there was that kind of sale - well, there’s no predicting how I would have ravaged their book section.

Next it was off to the "Towers" for lunch - to which Mom treated us. Oooh, those Mennonite ladies sure can cook! We had cabbage rolls and mashed potatoes smothered in a tomato sauce savory with oregano (I think it was), peas and carrots, coleslaw and chocolate pudding for desert.

On our drive back to Surrey, we realized the rain had stopped. No excuses, then, to avoid our walk. We took the Fort Langley exit in order to walk a section of the Fort to Fort Trail. It’s one of my favorite paths - rich with moss-covered trees and rainforest vegetation that follows the Bedford Channel of the Fraser River . About ten minutes into our walk the rain began again, though, so today I would have needed windshield wipers on my glasses to see the scenery around me. We got drenched, but we did get our exercise!

Now we’re home again and I’m feeling good - with a sense of satisfaction from looking in on (and being a good, dutiful daughter to?) Mom, mellow from the walk, and contemplating porridge for dinner.

ruminations on writing

Last night I started reading Heather Sellers' new book Page After Page. (Intro here).

One of her main messages is that you need to treat your writing like the most important thing - the lover in the center of your life. (Chapter 3 "Lover on the Side, Lover in the Center"). Now I have a little problem with that. Because, you see, I already have a lover - it’s Jesus. And I’ve struggled against my natural tendency to make writing my lover for so long, I’m weary of the fight and don’t need another skirmish. So I take her advice there with salt - largish doses.

But I’ve found lots of good stuff in it too (and I’m only till chapter 5).

One thing that resonated with me is how she says you have to nourish two parts of yourself at the same time:

"Writers have to be very secretive. They also have to be very communal. Successful writers learn how to navigate between the two states....The yakking you is just as important as the quiet you. The to be able to choose and conjure the appropriate productive state on command." (P.21 from Chapter 2 "Writing You Don’t Do It Alone").

On the secretive side, I’ve learned you have to keep quiet about projects that are germinating inside you. Talking about them too much – at all sometimes – lets out the air so when you go back to your desk to write, your balloon is flat. All the tension, the urgency to write it is gone - you’ve used it up in talking.

I did this once. I had this fabulous idea for a novel - was simply bursting with it. I kept it a secret for a long time. But one day the little voice inside that often said - Try it out. It needs some testing. You need to check and see if it’s really as good an idea as you think - got the better of me. I told one person, and then another, and another... Maybe that’s why it still sits in a binder half formed (together with the fact that I really need to go to - HA!- Egypt to do some on-the-spot research to get the ambience right!).

The bold and open side of writing has caused me some inner angst. I discovered that even though most of my life I thought of myself as someone shy and introverted, there came a time I had to gag that shy, sly voice which kept whispering in my ear: This public display is so out of character for you. To be a happy, contented, well-adjusted writer, I found I also needed to grab the mic, step up to the podium and get used to the sound of my voice - on the page, the computer screen.

This public part is not without its risks though, from praise (now I have a standard to live up to), to silence (nobody cares - what’s the use?), to misunderstanding, to even outright criticism (yikes, I’d better shut up!). It’s important to be prepared in order not to lose one’s equilibrium – ever heard of ‘writer’s block’? Even in the blog world (maybe especially in the blog world) the words you write can evoke responses you never envisioned.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

echoes on legalizing the world's oldest

A chilling little tidbit from the Telegraph (U.K.), illustrating the repercussions of legalized prostitution in Germany:

A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job providing "sexual services'' at a brothel in Berlin faces possible cuts to her unemployment benefit under laws introduced this year.

Prostitution was legalised in Germany just over two years ago and brothel owners –– who must pay tax and employee health insurance –– were granted access to official databases of jobseekers.

The waitress, an unemployed information technology professional, had said that she was willing to work in a bar at night and had worked in a cafe.

She received a letter from the job centre telling her that an employer was interested in her "profile'' and that she should ring them. Only on doing so did the woman, who has not been identified for legal reasons, realise that she was calling a brothel.

Under Germany's welfare reforms, any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take an available job –– including in the sex industry –– or lose her unemployment benefit...

the whole article...

Then again, it seems this article may be an instance of "the sky is falling"

is this plagiarism?

Would you say this:

A few months before I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small Tennessee town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a few months later.

As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught me the word of God, and Dad taught me to obey it. But the stranger? He was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies.

If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry.

The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn't seem to mind. Sometimes Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to her room and read her books. (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.)

and this:

A few months before I was born, my dad met a stranger who was new to our small town. From the very beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer, and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a few months later.

As I grew up, I never questioned his place in our family. Mom taught me to love the word of G-d, and dad taught me to obey it. But the stranger was our storyteller. He could weave the most fascinating tales. Adventures, mysteries and comedies were his daily conversations.

He would hold our whole family spellbound for hours on end. He was like a friend to the whole family. He took Dad, Yaacov and me to our first major league baseball game. He was always
encouraging us to see the movies and he even made arrangements to introduce us to several movie stars.

The stranger was an incessant talker. Dad didn’t seem to mind, but sometimes Mom would quietly get up - while the rest of us were enthralled with one of his stories of faraway places - go to her room, read the Bible, and pray. I wonder now if she ever prayed that the stranger would leave.

were written by the same person?

The truth is, the top quote comes from one of those feel-good mass emails, that regularly finds its way from in-box to in-box. It’s credited to "Author Unknown" and signed off "God Loves & Jesus Saves."

The bottom is from a story - "The Stranger" - authored by Rabbi Eli Taitelbaum. My husband found it in a search that took seconds, when he put one line from the e-mail story into Google.

My question:

- isn’t this plagiarism?
- it looks suspiciously like the Mr. Unknown who found this story, tweaked it to fit his purposes with an author-credited version at his elbow. Why didn’t he, at the very least, give the original author an ‘adapted from’ credit?

It makes me wonder how many other "Christian" email stories are stolen in the same way, converted and sent out as "Anonymous" or "Author Unknown."

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

trap of comparing

I’m always amazed at how little it takes to trip me up. A dashed expectation, an unexpected request when I have my day all planned, a comparison that shows me in an unfavorable light.

That last one happened to me on Monday. I came across a message of a writing acquaintance in the forum section of an e-zine. (We had formerly met when we shared a prize in a contest we’d both entered.) On Monday I read his reply to the editor’s question about what he’d been doing. His successes over the past few months included a contest won, a book finished, this set of articles sold to one magazine and that to another. The list went on and on. On top of that, I know he teaches school full-time!

In the few seconds it took me to read his post I became totally deflated. Why wasn’t I finding those opportunities, venturing boldly out into new markets, at least having some doors I was pushing on, open to me. I turned back to what I was doing thoroughly dissatisfied and not a little jealous.

And then I heard a small voice: "Did I ask you to do any of those things?"

I had to admit, no. I hadn’t even been aware of the opportunities.

Like the servants in the story Jesus told (Matthew 25:14-30), God has given me and my colleague different talents and opportunities. Someday He will ask me, not what I did with what I was never given, but how I handled what He did give me. My success will be measured not against the successes of others but by my faithfulness and obedience to what I know He asked me to do.

I want this to be my motto: "But let every person carefully scrutinize and examine and test his own conduct and his own work. He can then have the personal satisfaction and joy of doing something commendable [in itself alone] without [resorting to] boastful comparison with his neighbor." Gal. 6:4 - Amplified

After all I am working, not for the applause of people, but for my Master’s "Well done."

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

circling the sphere

A variety of subjects and writing styles makes reading blogs always an adventure - sometimes an experience, like dipping into a good book. Three posts lately caught my eye in the experience category:

As someone who has a daughter about the same age, I can sure relate to Debra’s musings in her blog As I See It Now - the post "My Daughter’s Birthday Eve" (have the tissues handy!).

Amanda Witt at Wittingshire gives us a lovely glimpse into her home and her aspirations for it in "Kingdom Come."

Phil at Another Man’s Meat walks us through his Saturday morning in "Ranchers, Rednecks and Rowdies". I guarantee, you’ll be right there with him, musing on the reason for hands - as he and his wife walk hand-in-hand to the local diner - ordering the Saturday special, and stopping for a friendly chat with acquaintances on the way home.

Finally, the February issue of FaithWriters Magazine is out. For my column (The Tree House) this month, I chose a lovely poem, "Heart Pockets," by DeAnna Brooks. If you want to read more of DeAnna’s poetry and reflections, check out her blog WhisperingBrooks.

For my feature article I picked "More Beautiful Than Flowers" - a fiction I wrote a few years back and had published in On The Line. I find writing fiction a huge challenge and this is my most favorite kids' story I’ve ever written.

january, february...

It's January, all must change
my resolutions cry it!
I'll clean the cupboards, shine the glass
and promptly start my diet.
The constant list of things to do
reformed, from buying treats
to organizing, storage boxing,
buying sets of sheets.

It's February, one small change --
weight's up, the scales decry it
(that frozen stash of Christmas treats
has sabotaged my diet).
The hopeful list of things I pledged
discreetly tucked away.
Ten months to do just as I please
until next New Year's Day.

c. 2004 - VNesdoly

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