Sunday, April 19, 2015

That Thing in Your Hand

The title of this blog post goes back several years to when employees at the Provincial Government funded agency where I work were challenged to participate in a campaign called "The Power of One." The idea was that if many staff at Christian Horizons raised $500 each for CH Global, which is only funded by donations; collectively it would add up to a significant amount.  It was in the last quarter of the fiscal year, a busy time at work, and I remember having a sinking feeling. I am not a natural fundraiser and it felt like one more pressure added to my full plate.

That attitude didn't last long, thank goodness. I was soon thinking of the old bible story of David and Goliath. No one was stepping up to fight the giant Goliath until a young shepherd boy named David  reminded them that there was a God in Israel who only needed a willing heart and pair of hands. My attitude to that point resembled that of King of Israel at that time: Saul; who was defeated before he even tried, because he looked at the natural possibilities--not the supernatural. There was really no choice--I preferred to be David than King Saul.

That's when I thought of another even older bible story--this time about the reluctant leader, Moses; when God asked him, " What is that in your hand?" God used the staff in his hand supernaturally as a sign to the people of Israel that Moses really was commissioned by him to lead them out of Egypt. I thought about what I had in my hand, and it was pie. I put my goal out on Facebook: 25 pies at $20, equaling $500. By the end of March I had sold over 50 pies and raised over $1000. In my experience, God always exceeds our expectations.

Image result for dwayne milleyIt was a couple of years later, November 2013, and at a leadership conference I again felt God tap me on the shoulder with a nudge to bake pies for CH Global. I touched base with my boss at the time, Dwayne Milley, and he approved the idea, asking only if I'd mind getting behind our $10,000 district project--a simple guest house in South Sudan, where visiting workers could stay. CH Global was giving support to the people there. I began taking pie orders with that project in mind, drawing energy from thinking of this people so far away, who had so much less than we do here in North America. Two weeks into December, civil war broke out in South Sudan, and the little guest house we were funding, became a place where an impossibly large number of people fled, from the atrocities that began as the war took hold. 

So many people got behind the pie project, donating pie boxes, flour, sugar, apples, and peeling box upon box of apples to be frozen. Many people helped by buying pies at above market price and I have now had a lot of practice, baking hundreds of pies and raising thousands of dollars. All the time with people far away on our hearts.

Last week I went to my hairdresser, Gravity Salon, in Barrie, where Ivo Tiberio, the owner, and his staff, are part of the cheering section for the pies for South Sudan, giving generous support at every opportunity. 

I never go to the hairdresser without at least five pies in my trunk--just in case someone asks, and I had five with me last week. As I stood at the cash register paying for my hair cut and colour, the pies were snapped up. 

Ivo, called me over to his chair. The woman whose hair he was cutting wanted to ask me about the project. She looked to be in her late thirties, with fine features and her ash brown hair cut in a stylish mid length bob. "Why South Sudan?"  she asked.

I told her the story in a nutshell, then she told me she'd bought pie before when we were both in the salon at the same time. And then she said, "I haven't been in South Sudan, but I've been in the north with the Canadian Armed Forces in charge of logistics." She said,"You need to know that while all the wealth is in the south, it is all taken to the north."

Dwayne moved from Christian Horizons to CH Global last October. He now gets to see first hand what most of us can only imagine in the Third World.  On April 16 he posted a story on his own blog about South Sudan and you can read it HERE. I read it this afternoon and spent some time searching for words for the emotion I felt. Then I gave up--it is impossible to describe without diminishing the impact of Dwayne's words, so I hope that everyone who reads this, clicks on the link and reads his story.

I continue to be amazed at what happens when you follow God's lead. And when you simply pick up, "that thing in your hand."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Doesn't it drive you a little crazy when things just go missing? I wrote about the case of the missing salmon three years ago when Tippy and Tori were 13 and 14. Here is that little story, since they both just spent the weekend with us and are so much more grown up now!

I was loading the dishwasher when Brenda wandered upstairs and into our kitchen with her brow furrowed and a perplexed expression on her face.

She told me that she had just posted as her status on Facebook :
"Ok its official--I have lost my mind--and my salmon! Made my lunch for tomorrow and could have sworn I put the leftovers in the fridge but the illusive salmon is missing in action! If I ever find it I'll let I you know where I put it!"

I am used to hunting my kitchen and office for things that seem to vaporise the moment they leave my hand, but it was funny to see Brenda standing there in her pajamas telling me that she had actually looked inside her washing machine, dryer, oven and microwave for her salmon.

We had decided that weekend to split some of the items we buy in large boxes from Costco. We figured we would save money as well as space that way. One thing we bought was a salmon steak, which I had baked and then put into two large take-out containers from Swiss Chalet that used to contain chicken. These containers aren't small, so how hard could it be to find one in her apartment downstairs? I went downstairs to help, sure I that would spot it in no time.

We recruited Tippy, and laughingly proposed a prize for the one to find the salmon. We looked in all the cupboards, the garbage bins, even the appliances; again. Nothing.

Tori was in the shower, but when she emerged, Brenda asked her if she had seen the salmon. She replied with a flippant, "No, but feel free to interrogate the shampoo!"

Molson was circling us, his soft nose nuzzling my hands, but if he had anything to do with this, where was the evidence? The container would have been left behind and it was nowhere to be seen.

My mind turned to the one member of the downstairs household not present: Kevin, who was upstairs working in his office. The salmon had to be with him; "I bet he's playing a joke on you," I said.

Brenda was about to buy the Kevin theory when there was a crack in the case. Tori caved under the pressure of knowing that he was about to undergo interrogation, and confessed.

She had taken the Swiss Chalet container from the fridge into the TV room thinking that it held chicken. When she found that it contained salmon, she left it on the table. Enter Molson; “Only Too Glad to Help;” stage left.

I couldn’t believe it. “Tori, you actually watched us searching high and low, and you knew all along where the salmon had gone?" 

She said she hadn’t known what to do. She hadn't banked on her mother going into "Such a Tizzy" over the salmon; or me, "The Big Guns" as she put it; being called in!

She went and retrieved the missing container from her room and held it out to us.

"What were you going to do with it?" I said, looking at the empty container with vestiges of salmon clinging to the edges.

"I was going to wait until tomorrow and then dispose of it!" she said, as though referring to an inconvenient dead body.
And I thought that she seemed a little too comfortable with this problem solving method.

As for her partner in crime, Molson; we decided that since the mystery of the missing salmon was solved, he might as well finish off the job he had started. 

And he was only too happy to oblige!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

That In Between Time

One of our three eldest granddaughters is 16, and two are 17. To say that they are growing up fast seems an understatement. That "in between time" between childhood and adulthood is a tender, precious time.

I wrote about one of them recently in a post entitled, A Little Adventure. It was during that very adventure, while Tori and I were driving to Owen Sound to pick up her new pet rats, that I noticed she had the sniffles and offered her a purse sized package of Kleenex. She was so thrilled with the Kleenex package that I told her to keep it, and the next time the family all got together for Sunday lunch, I had an assortment of several little fancy Kleenex packages; from my bulk Costco pack; for each of the girls. I watched them pick out the patterns that appealed to their individual taste and saw I'd guessed correctly when I thought I knew which ones they'd each choose: the camouflage print drew Tippy, the teal green print was Tori's, and K went for the bright pink and orange print.

A few weeks later when we were at Montana's celebrating Tippy's 17th birthday, Tori said, "Omie, we are so popular at school with our Kleenex." 

"Yes," said Tippy, "Everyone thinks they are so cool!"

Who would have guessed that popularity comes in the shape of  Kleenex?  :)

Another joy is shared pleasures. Tori and I were having breakfast together a few weeks ago when she told me about a movie she'd enjoyed, starring Bill Murray. One of my all time favourite movies starred Bill Murray: the 1991, What About Bob . 

"Would you like to see it?" I asked her. 

"Sure!" she said,  

I couldn't wait to order it online; it was less than $4; and that's how she came to spend Saturday afternoon with her grandparents, all three of us laughing till our stomachs hurt, at a very old but very funny movie. 

It was Good Friday when the family gathered next at our place for dinner after church.  After the meal, the dishwasher hummed away with its first load and some of us were relaxing in La Z Boy chairs in the big living room, too pleasantly full to move far. I mentioned something to my daughter-in-law, Sue, about the situation in the world, which isn't good. Tippy, who had been quietly sketching, looked up and said, her eyes filled with concern, "What is going on in the world, what do you mean?" 

 Where to start and what to say to this sensitive one?

Events of the day before were weighing on my heart so I told her that in Kenya, 150 students not so much older than she is, had gone to bed on Wednesday not imagining the horror that they would wake up to on Thursday morning. I told her that a militant Islamist group; Al- Shabaab; had gone through the dorms demanding to know which students were Christian, which then became their death sentence.

I was torn as I told her. Was I burdening her with something she did not need to know?  Yet she had asked a serious question and it deserved an answer.

Tippy's brow furrowed, but her words were not what I expected. 

"At least they stood for what they believed," she said.

It was a message of hope beyond this life; a reminder that I needed. A young person in Canada was honouring the courage of peers in Kenya who did not deny their faith in the face of what could only have been unspeakable terror.  In doing so she showed me who she is becoming. And if it were remotely possible to love her even more, in that moment, I did.

They and their cousin K are teens; they are tender; and they are vulnerable. But there is also sprouting strength.