The Tale of the Orange Crush, in honour of my husband’s birthday

Andy young boy picToday is my husband, Andrew’s, birthday. Now in his 60s, his dark brown hair has just developed some patches of white. He is calm, serious, kind and loves to challenge people with trivia questions. Over the years, though, I have heard stories of a younger, different Andrew, capable of driving his parents and other authority figures to distraction. The story I am about to share, in honour of his birthday, is his favourite and mine.

In the late summer of 1960, Andrew was five and a half and his mother was soon expecting his brother, Christopher. The family were living at the time in Saskatoon, not far from where Andrew’s father, John Adams grew up. Andrew’s maternal grandfather was visiting, awaiting the new arrival. In order to give Mom a break from caring for a very active little boy, Dad, Grandpa and Andrew went for a trip to the foothills of the Canadian Rockies.

By August, the long days of sunlight and limited precipitation had taken their toll on the vegetation. Andrew looked out the window of the car and saw brown, barren land. The grass had turned yellow and most of the beautiful wildflowers had disappeared or gone to seed. Some of the trees had started to turn yellow, a contrast to the faithful evergreens. Harvest was about to burst into full swing, with harvesters, combines and grain trucks.

The rambunctious five-year-old was hot and probably a little bored. Their route was taking them along a highway  which was  away from any major centre.

“I’m thirsty!” Andrew said.

There weren’t many places to choose from. Finally Dad and Grandpa found a roadside Orange Crush concession booth. Dad stopped the car and the three of them went in.

“What do you have to drink?” Andrew asked.

“We just serve Orange Crush,” the clerk explained.

“I don’t want Orange Crush,” Andrew complained.

Dad and Grandpa grumbled as they took Andrew back to the car.

“I’m still thirsty!” Andrew whined.

About 10 to 15 miles down the road, was a hotel with a diner. This might prove more promising. They went in and sat on the  bar stools in front of the counter. The interior was dark. The middle aged lady behind the counter was occupied with another customer, Andrew was restless. He begin to swing over and over, round and round, on the bar stool.

“Stop that, Andrew,” Dad commanded, increasingly irritated  with his young son’s behaviour.

Finally, the lady was free to serve them. “What kind of drinks do you have?” Andrew asked.

“We have Coke and Orange Crush.” Andrew didn’t want Coke. He realized that Dad and Grandpa were unlikely to take him to a third place, so he said, “Okay, I will have the Orange Crush.”

It was all Dad and Grandpa could do to keep their tempers under control on this hot August day in the barren Rocky Mountain foothills. However, Andrew got his drink, most likely having no idea why they were so irritated.

Happy Birthday to my beloved husband! We will make sure that there are other selections of drinks at your party, besides Coke or Orange Crush!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Days Before Christmas

Two days before Christmas! The gifts are wrapped and arranged under our tree and being used as a gymnasium by our cats! Most of the housework is done, baking is underway and our cupboards are groaning with food. The trappings are largely completed but what is happening in my heart? Am I honouring the Christ child, keeping peace in my heart and  life, and refusing to worry about what another year might bring?

My key word for 2016 is gratitude. Without it we cannot truly have peace or appreciate all we have.

Sometimes, God sends an unexpected occurrence to remind us of his goodness, his grace, and the love he shows in the stressful circumstances of life. Last Friday, my husband and I went shopping. When I got home, I realized I didn’t have my purse. In my purse were my credit cards, health card and all the other ID I  carry with me, plus several gift cards that I had purchased. The last place I had been was in a MacDonald’s, waiting for my husband. We quickly got in the car and drove back. Had a desperate shopper taken my purse? Would it still be there? I rushed into the MacDonald’s and just as I was looking around the table where I had been sitting, a lady said, “Are you looking for your purse? We gave it right away to an employee.” I thanked and thanked this lovely young couple, out having a meal with their little boy. Having worked retail, I know that not everyone is as honest. This couple blessed me by their compassion and thoughtfulness. They warmed my heart and helped me to remember that God’s mercies are always there.

My pastor, Gary Hooper, says that 2016 is going to be a year of surprises. May this couple, and all of you, discover wonderful opportunities, good health, provision and beautiful surprises of every kind in 2016.

Merry Christmas!

Ruth Ann Adams

 

 

 

 

Seize the Day

In Thornton Wilder’s three-act play, Our Town, a young woman named Emily dies in childbirth. The Stage Manager, who narrates the play,  gives Emily the choice of reliving one ordinary day of her life. Emily chooses her 12th birthday. Her expectations are shattered when she realizes that her family goes through the motions of life without really savouring what they have. Emily asks the Stage Manager: “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?”

The Stage Manager  replies: “No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.”

Saints and poets. Maybe.

There is an expression in Latin, Carpe Diem, which means “Seize the day.” The word seize implies a deliberate action on our part. What does it mean to seize the day? For some it may mean grabbing hold of every part of it, being in control, moulding the day to their  wishes.12091393_10153140078465778_5869073415636498001_o

There is also a gentler meaning. When I was a child, my grandmother taught me the verse: “This is the day which  the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118: 24). From this perspective, we recognize that all the gifts in our life  come from God. We cannot live in the past nor the future. We can only live in the present. Regardless of our circumstances, we can rejoice, because God is with us and has equipped us with many blessings. We can “realize life while [we] live it,” by by focusing on our family and friends while they talk to us, rather than being distracted by things around us. We can take the time to deeply appreciate God’s created world, in all its beauty. We can read God’s Word, the highest form of worship, as my pastor says, and focus on his plan  for our lives. Life on this earth is finite, but we can grab every opportunity to take in all the joy and love, all the simple blessings, that each day brings. We can also practice forgiveness and not dwell on offences. Life is much  too short for grudges.

This Thanksgiving, seize and enjoy your time with family and friends. Thank God for all his blessings and be encouraged by the knowledge that there are many more to come.  “Realize life…every, every minute.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letting go

During the past months, I have been struggling with a sense of sadness and impending loss, not wanting life to change, not wanting to let go. Why? Two weeks ago my youngest child was married. This was my second experience being the mother-of-the-bride. When my oldest child, Ruthmarie, was married, there were some cliffhanger moments, such as the caterer cancelling a week before the wedding, but the emotional impact was minimal. Ruthmarie had been living on her own for eight years and I was excited to have my first son-in-law. We wondered which of our four younger children would be next. The marriage bug flitted by the middle three and settled on Susanna, the baby of the family. We were very pleased with the young man she chose but I was unprepared to let her go.I couldn’t imagine not having her in the bedroom right next to ours, not having her rummage through my dresser for socks or coming home and filling our house with her sunny presence. At twenty she seemed too young, or so I told myself. I also struggled with issues of identity. If I wasn’t a mother in an active state of parenting, who was I? So much of my life had been poured into my children, making sure they were safe, educated, loved and provided for. Letting go of Susanna felt like letting go of a big part of myself. After months of planning, the wedding day arrived. Susanna was a radiant bride marrying a young man who will always protect and love her. I kept my emotions in check until Susanna danced with her father, to a sentimental tune. Then people started handing me tissues.

The house is very quiet now. My middle daughter and her friend, who live with us, are away on a road trip and my husband is busy with work. There are some tears but that’s okay, and the solitude is not all bad. God reminds me that my roles are not confined to being a wife and mother, that I am his, and as I keep on with the responsibilities he has given me, he will guide me into my future. I also realize that I am very blessed. Susanna and Chris are settling into married life beautifully and making sure to stay connected with their families. My husband and I have five thoughtful children, caring sons-in-law, a lovely young lady who is like a fifth daughter to us, siblings and other family members, good friends, a faith-filled church, and a lovely home in a beautiful city. God is our strength and Saviour and his plans for us are good. And some day in the future, we hope our house will be ringing with the laughter of grandchildren!

Photograph by Karen “Ren” Strong

Resurrection

Today, as I walked outside into the bright sunshine glinting off the snow, a bird landed in the tree in our yard. I wondered if it could be a robin.The bird turned enough that I could see its red breast. “I just saw my first robin!” I exclaimed excitedly to the mail lady, who was just walking up the steps of our porch. She was pleased too. In this land of snow and ice, the sight of a robin warmed our hearts.

The locals say this has been the worst winter Nova Scotia has experienced in many years. Even White Juan, in 2004, did not fill our streets and sidewalks with so much snow. It is almost Easter and gritty snow banks are piled high. Sometimes, it seems impossible to believe that the snow will ever disappear and spring take over its destined place.

Yet the little robin gives me hope. The sun is also a little warmer and there are daffodil shoots in my garden,in a small space where the snow has melted. The towering snow banks will disappear and once more the season of growth will arrive.

When Jesus died on the cross, it must have appeared to his disciples that all their hopes had died with him. Although he had told them he would rise again, they didn’t appear to understand what he meant. We can only imagine the despair and darkness that must have filled their hearts during the terrible hours following the crucifixion.

However, death had no hold on Jesus. The resurrection occurred, at this specific and appointed time in history, and the chains of sin, fear and hopelessness fell off the human race. The disciples were overjoyed and spread the good news. People continue today to experience peace and joy, as they make the decision to accept God’s free gift of grace.

Spring will come to Nova Scotia and new life will be given to all who ask.

Have a blessed Resurrection Sunday!

Celebrating Friendship on Valentine’s Day

A few months ago, I was idling away some time on Facebook and almost on a whim typed in the search section the name of a friend who had attended university with me. We had shared many happy hours talking about our studies, hopes, boyfriends, faith, life goals and the many topics that two young women,in their early twenties, might discuss. For a while, we kept in touch, but as the years went by, lost contact. Now, thanks to Facebook, there she was again, just a click away. I sent her a friend request and she accepted immediately. I found out that she had 17-year-old twins, in their final year of high school. She was surprised that I had five children, and that one of them was married. Since then we have been exchanging notes and pictures, and I feel blessed that even though I just recently found out about her twins, I will now have the pleasure of seeing their prom and graduation pictures, finding out what universities they choose to attend, and feeling a small part of their lives.

On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate not only romantic love but friendship. In the Bible, this type of relationship is referred to as philia love, the feeling of connectedness two friends have for each other. Friendship offers support, nurture, caring, shared interests, laughter and fun. We aren’t meant to walk alone. We are meant to be in relationships with other people. Joy is heightened by friendship and sorrow is lessened. Even if our contact is restricted to an occasional letter or a note at Christmas, we know our friends are there and savour our past history.

Since I tend to find change difficult, during my childhood I envisioned living my life near my family in Southern Ontario. However, I fell in love with a young man who chose the ministry as his calling. Our first child was born in Saskatchewan. The next four were born in Ottawa, during a lengthy period in Eastern Ontario. Then in 2000, we moved to Nova Scotia, where we plan to remain. Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to live in the same house or the same location, for most of a lifetime. There are certainly positive aspects to this, including a sense of security, stability and continuity. However, in spite of the drawbacks of our frequent moves, I would not change the past. Everywhere we have lived, we have met people who have deeply enriched our lives. I would not exchange such a precious gift.

In September 2014, we suffered the terrible loss of my sister and brother-in-law’s 31-year-old daughter. There were many people at the visitation, in Ontario, that I had not seen for some time. One of these was my best friend from elementary school. To me, she looked unchanged since we had parted, when her family moved in the middle of our Grade 8 year. We talked about old memories. She said, “Do you remember Mr. White making you stand on the top of your desk? You stood there and tapped your foot!” I had blocked out this memory, but her retelling the story brought some levity into a very sad evening. Later, a woman came up to me and said how glad she was when she heard I was coming. My friend recognized the panic in my expression, which clearly conveyed that I was desperately trying to recall who the woman was. Like the good friend she has always been, she came to my rescue.

On Valentine’s Day, and all through the year, remember your friends with appreciation and love. To all my friends: I am deeply grateful for you. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Note: Mr. White: name changed.

Sarah Jane

Sarah

September 14, 2014 was a day full of celebration. In the afternoon, I went straight from church to attend the birthday party of a good friend’s nine year old son. Even though rain was predicted, the skies held off their downpour, and the party was held in the back yard, complete with a bouncy castle for the children. Then we went inside while Sam opened his gifts. It was a joyful event for a special child in my life. 

I also was aware that on the  same day, a surprise party was being thrown in Ontario, for my close friend, Donna, who was having a turn of the decade birthday. I would loved to have been there, but it made me very happy just to think of her excitement  and joy. 

When I went to bed that night, I was content and thankful for  the events of the day. The phone rang in the darkness, and I reached over to pick it up, thinking it was my daughter, Hannah, who sometimes called late. But it wasn’t Hannah. It was my sister, Brenda, from Ontario and her voice  was full of worry and fear. “Sarah is breathing like a fish,” she said. “She might die.”

Brenda and Mark’s daughter, Sarah Jane, had suffered for a number of years with kidney failure and sporadic incidents of a rare but very dangerous brain condition called PRES. On May 23, Sarah had had a kidney with a cancerous growth removed. The cancer was completely contained and no treatment was needed. Then, in the summer, she had a second operation, this time to remove most of her parathyroid glands, because of excessive hormone production. Generally this procedure only required an overnight stay but Sarah experienced another episode of PRES and dangerous and fluctuating blood pressure levels. Finally, after 46 days in  hospital, she was released. Now she was in Owen Sound, for a short family holiday, to see her grandmother. 

I went downstairs and sat at the kitchen table to wait for Brenda’s next call. All my family were asleep. I noticed, though, that my dear friend, Gina, was still up and on facebook. It was a comfort to chat with her online and tell her what was happening. 

About twenty minutes later, the phone rang again. I knew it wasn’t good news. “Sarah is dead,” Brenda said. We cried over the phone, overwhelmed with the pain and shock of the death of this beautiful, courageous and faith-filled young  woman. 

Over the next few days, family gathered at Sarah’s grandmother’s house in Owen Sound. Somehow we got through  all the formalities: the visitation, funeral and burial. We were comforted by being together and by all the friends and family members who joined us in our grieving. 

Eventually, though, we  had to return to our lives and responsibilities. For Sarah’s parents, it is a matter of putting one step in front of the other, of taking each day as it comes, of holding onto their faith in the midst of such a great loss. 

And now Christmas is coming. There is much joy at Christmas. The angels rejoiced and sang when the Christ child was born, and in our churches and homes, we try to keep that sense of expectation and thanksgiving alive. However, I am well aware, that in spite of our faith , this will not be an easy Christmas for our family. It will not be an easy Christmas for thousands of others who are experiencing loss, poverty, family and relationship issues or other types of suffering. The minister at Sarah’s funeral used as her text 1 Thessalonians 4:18: “We do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope” (NIV). Rev. Zakamarko pointed out that while the Bible tells us not to grieve, as if we have no hope of seeing our loved ones again, it doesn’t say not to grieve at all. Sarah had a strong faith in Jesus Christ, and we know we will see her in heaven. In the meantime, we grieve that she is not with us on earth. This is where our hope comes in, hope for a better tomorrow, hope that God is still in control and will take care of us. This is what Christmas is about: Emmanuel, “God is with us.”

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Secrets and Lies by Janet Sketchley

 

Secrets-and-Lies-web-258x400Once again, Janet has written a compelling novel, full of suspense, imagery and fast paced action. In her first novel, Heaven’s Prey, a psychopath, Harry, kidnaps and threatens the life of a woman named Ruth. Through her strong, uncompromising faith, and God’s love and guidance, Ruth survives, and Harry, against all odds, finds a relationship with God. In Secre ts and Lies, Harry’s sister, Carol, is hunted down by evil men who believe Harry has stashed away money. Janet’s second book is not as intense, for those who are squeamish about crime details, but there are plenty of dangerous and riveting moments. Themes of trust, relationships on several levels, pursuit of happiness and dreams, and ultimately forgiveness are interwoven throughout the novel. Carol enjoys peppermint tea, cookies, brownies and the songs of Billy Joel. Janet plays these notes like a leitmotif, drawing our attention to Carol’s humanity and wish to simply provide a normal, happy life for herself and her son. However, before Carol can provide such a life, she has to get in touch with the Provider of life itself.

Secrets and Lies is the second novel in the Redemption’s Edge series.

Janet SketchlyThe books can be read either individually or as a set. A  mystery is hinted at, which will provide the material for the third novel. I can hardly wait for the characters to tell their story through Janet’s pen.  

Janet Sketchley  is a  Canadian author from Nova  Scotia. Check out  http://janetsketchley.ca/books/secrets-and-lies/ for information on where to buy her books. She has a number of writing credits, including her two Redemption’s Edge novels and a story called “The Road Trip That Wasn’t,” included in A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider, edited by N.J. Lindquist and Wendy Elaine Nelles. 

With Christmas coming up, Janet’s Redemption’s Edge novels would make an excellent gift for those who enjoy Christian literature which delves into the darker side of humanity, those on the edge or redemption, but whom God extends his grace to in the end.

Note: A review copy was provided by the author and I do not receive any type of monetary gain for my review.

My Guest Blogger: Andrea Adams

In December 2013, I had my first experience of Africa. I fell in love and knew that I would be going back. I actually distinctly remember the moment of this decision. I was standing in the squatter camp with one of my team members and out of the blue I just said. “I am going to come back here this summer.” I didn’t know then what that would mean but later when I found out about the summer internship, I knew that was where I was supposed to be.

Road block one hit when I realized that the internship would start before my college graduation. I inquired about the possibility of going late but as that was not possible I had a decision to make: attending my college graduation or summer in Africa.

The choice was simple: AFRICA! After months of preparation and hard work I was on a plane travelling across the world. Arrival day was interesting. The  many new people and new surroundings  overloaded my my senses. How I managed to get through the jet lag and stay awake during the next few days of training, I will never know.

 Finally it was time to visit the communities. I was so excited to get back out there but also nervous.  The communities looked different from my last visit because winter had set into the country. Everything was dry and had an empty look about it. I noticed that it looked more traditionally Africa than my previous visit had.  I found  out during my first couple of days that  I really enjoyed talking with people. I loved meeting new faces and then sitting for a good hour and getting to know them. For the first few weeks this is what we did, walk through the different African squatter camps and talk. What was interesting about this is that people with nothing materially were far friendlier than many of the people I knew at home. People seemed to know each other and know children from all over the camps. The togetherness of the communities was something incredible.

One day I got the chance to visit a new community and made friends with a woman named Clementine. She was an amazing woman and I was so fortunate to be able to spend some time with her. I met her family and learned about her life and her struggles. We shared our favourite Bible verses with each other and talked about our different struggles. She was as much of an encouragement to me as I was to her. When I departed we exchanged cell phone numbers so we could keep in touch via sms.

One of my favourite aspects of the summer was working in children’s ministry. We ran a program in Africa called Jabalani kids which means “joyful kids.” The program is full of skits and lessons that keep the kids entertained, while teaching them the basics of the Bible and God’s love for them. I loved being with the kids and had so much fun with this program. There was moments where we were singing with the kids and they would be jumping and laughing around us. I could do nothing but smile watching the joy that radiated off of their faces.

I also got the opportunity to help at the preschool that Impact Africa runs. Here I became a human playground. I ran with the kids, I let them play with my hair and I talked with them. The kids were wild and crazy but it was amazing all the same. One thing that we did with the kids was to take them to the dairy farm. This was similar to a field trip with kids from any part of the world. We started out the day with well behaved and excited children but towards the end the kids were nuts!! Throughout the craziness though you could see that these kids, though they came from the squatter camps, and saw poverty on a regular basis, were still very much children and acted like it!

One day my friend and I met a lovely young women. She was very nervous to talk to us so we left her after a few minutes and said we would come back another day. Two days later we returned and she was amazed that we had taken the time to come back to her home. We sat down and talked and learned that she was only 20 and was the sole provider for her four younger siblings. Her parents had both died a few years earlier. When we got ready to leave, she asked us to come back in the afternoon. When we returned she had invited a group of friends over. We spent the afternoon having a Bible study and talk with the group of women. It was a great opportunity for all of us to learn about each other and share the Word of God.

What I learned in Africa was that people are people no matter what country they live in. The women ,though they lived in different places, had the same struggles and problems that we do in Canada. The kids still jumped and played and God was just as exciting to them. The landscape and the poverty were very different from what we experience here, but seeing these things only made it even more interesting that the similarities were there also.

I had a great trip and can’t wait for my next adventure.

Catherine Cookson

“We are in Catherine Cookson country,” our tour guide, Andrew, informed us, as we travelled through north east England. Even though I had heard of this well known British author, I had yet to read her books. However, since then, a good friend, who is an avid Cookson fan, has loaned me her favourites, and I have grown to understand why this writer is so loved and widely read.

Catherine (Davies)  Cookson was born in June 1906 in Tyne Dock. She had an alcoholic mother and was raised by her grandparents. Her first novel, Kate Hanniganis autobiographical in nature and gives a strong sense of the misery and poverty she observed in her youth. Catherine married a teacher, Tom Cookson, who taught in Hastings. A serious depression set in, after she suffered four miscarriages. Catherine turned to writing and published close to 100 books. She died in June 1998 and her husband shortly after. Her books have enjoyed a great deal of popularity, not only in England, but in many other places around the world.

One of Catherine’s trademarks is that she was not afraid to address difficult and sensitive issues of morality and hardship. Her books deal with poverty, homelessness, illegitimacy, abuse, class distinctions and  incest. She incorporates these themes into her stories in such a way that the reader becomes intimately involved with the characters and understands their struggles to survive and overcome. 

silent ladyMy favourite Cookson novel is The Silent Lady. What is especially intriguing is the manner in which the story was conceived. Cookson explains in the dedication that she is old and ill, her husband is looking after her many needs, and “[d]octors are forever  coming and going.” The last thing she feels equipped to do is write another novel. However, the story of The Silent Lady springs to life of its own accord. She writes: “My mind gave me every character, every incident from the beginning to the end….” Finally, she decides to record the story onto tape and send it to a typist. Within a very short time, her final novel is complete. 

In The Silent Lady, the lovely, young heroine, Irene, pursues a career in singing and acting. She is noticed by a widower, Edward Baindoor, who is desperate for a male heir. They marry and have a son. Edward becomes possessive of the child and abusive towards his wife. A crisis occurs and Edward becomes so enraged that Irene is hospitalized and later, through a series of events, becomes homeless. Irene is taken in by a kind hearted and unforgettable character named Bella. Cookson says, “…when I came to Bella Morgan, I was in her body more than I was in my own.”

One  of the consequences of the abuse Irene suffered from her husband, is that she is almost incapable of speech. Thus, she is the “silent lady.” Catherine Cookson used her words prolifically to describe and explain not only her own suffering, but the suffering of her many fictional characters. Now she was at a point in her life where she could not write and her voice was failing her. Taping her novel was an arduous task. Catherine knew that she would very soon be a “silent lady.” The love, pain, self-sacrifice and eventual joy in this novel may well represent Cookson’s own final victory, her last brilliant effort to use her words to inspire and entertain, before she herself fell silent. 

Cookson’s novels are readily available in libraries and bookstores, or, if you are fortunate, you may  have a friend willing to loan them to you! Now that I have experienced these books for myself, I hope to have another chance to travel through Catherine Cookson country!

If you have read any of Cookson’s novels, which is your favourite?

Happy Reading! 

Please Note: Books reviewed on my site are either from my own collection or borrowed and are not reviewed for any kind of  monetary gain.