31 July 2010

Friday treasures

Yesterday my writing partner, EGM, and I went out to clear our heads
(we're both involved in deadline-driven work this week and next), and
joyfully (re)discovered some of Cochrane's treasures.

Pictured here:
Bernie's Bavarian Bakery for sustenance during our explorations; the
recycling depot where we found numerous suitable books at a ridiculous
price (they were priceless); Opa! for a lovely lunch of spanakopita
and salad, and a scenic drive along one of Cochrane's main roads, past
the eternally flapping flag central to our splendid town.

Not pictured here:
the charming Nan Boothby Library (for more priceless books); and a
charming little place called something like "Cochrane Home Treasures":
every nook and cranny crammed with further treasures (and, you guessed
it, books).

All in all, a fun and fruitful day.

Cochrane park treasures

Last week I took my camera for a walk through one of our local green
spaces; we are blessed with parks galore in our pretty town of 15,000.

30 July 2010

"unexpected rainbows"

This morning I received a most unexpected rainbow in the form of a blog post from an inspiring writer-friend who lives in the east; join us both in finding your own "unexpected rainbows" today.

{Thanks, EB. Your delightful post fully captures the purpose of our little book of hippo and unicorn letters. It also reminded me that 2007--publication date--was a long time ago. 'Tis time for my next letter-book, methinks!}

unexpected rainbows

Ever read something that just grabs a hold of you and won't let go? The first time I ever read Lord of the Rings was like that. So was Terry Brooks' Shannara series. The Bible, well, let's just say that God has a way of bringing all those different authors together to make something amazing that no publisher on earth could ever dream of duplicating.

I was reading a wonderful book the other night (The Hippo and the Unicorn - co-authored by my good friend Elaine Phillips) and came across the phrase "unexpected rainbows". It referred to those things that we see around us that bring us joy, especially when we are not expecting it. Often, they are the biggest, yet we often miss them unless we take the time to stop, look and listen. It got me thinking, as the two friends in the book shared their favourite things that bring them joy, there are many things that bring a smile to my face and for which I am truly blessed to be able to enjoy. It is but a small taste.

- sunrise on the water
- a gentle spring rain
- books (sometimes I just like to smell them)
- the laughter of children (innocent and truthful)
- the sound of darkness

- long overgrown paths (they are full of promise and mystery for me)
- spiderwebs covered with the morning dew
- ice-cold water (nothing is more refreshing)
- a library (it is so full of knowledge just waiting to be discovered)
- silence

- underdogs (I'm a sucker for these movies)
- the tartness of anything made with lemons (meringue pie)
- glistening snow, untouched by man or beast
- the feeling of freshly cleaned sheets at the end of a long day
- a kiss from the one you love

- Brandenburg Concerto played by Yo Yo Ma
- ocean waves lapping on the shore
- a brook deep in the woods
- memories of my grandparents
- running (especially in the rain)

- the beautiful game
- secret passageways (I've always dreamt of having one in my house)
- eagles, hawks and other birds of prey
- the brave little tailor (my favourite book as a child--I wanted to be him)
- movie previews (continue to capture my attention)

- fire
- the magic of spring
- how quiet it is after a snowfall
- castles
- all of God's promises exhibited in the rainbow

- comfortable silence (two people can be in the same room and not have to speak)
- the power of a thunderstorm
- dragonflies
- creating a new name that has meaning only to you
- poetry

- clouds with definite borders (cumulonimbus in particular)
- golfing early in the morning
- eating blueberries right off the bush (reminds me of my grampie)
- waking up without an alarm clock
- early morning mist in the hollows

These are but a few of the things that bring me joy, that I don't often remember at the time, but will be more aware of in the future. I suggest you follow the example of Hroshi and Evangeline. Take time to look up, listen to the sounds around you and capture a little of the joy that God intended for all of us.

"God saw all that he had made, and it was very good" (Genesis 1:31).

If it is very good for Him, might it be good enough for us?

I most emphatically think so!

~ by EB

29 July 2010

The scent of rain

Last night I curled up on our bed to listen to the rain, almost straight after supper, and promptly fell asleep--before 8:30.

I LOVE stormy weather (always have, since I was a child) and was devastated to hear of a South African visiting Canada who was struck by lightning recently.

Despite being fully dressed, and in spite of the thunder rumbling through my open window, I slept soundly ... and awoke eleven hours later, refreshed and alert for the first time in days.

Late last night a friend wrote: "When that thunderstorm came by tonight, did you smell it? It was just the most cool, clear and alive smell in the air. I could have drunk it by the bucketful." {Thanks, EGM.} A beautiful description, and yes, I find the scent of rain and the electric power of lightning and the familiar grumble of thunder intoxicating. I wilt in the heat of our all-too-brief summer, and the rainstorm was just what my body needed to fully recover.

Today I'm hard at work, back in the swing of things, catching up on some long overdue projects and attempting to meet the deadlines of new ones ... while listening to the gentle demands of my writer's soul. And paying attention.


The oxygen of writing

Since my return from Africa earlier this month, I've noticed (as have others) that I'm taking a long time to settle down again.
I seldom struggle with jet lag as intensely or for as long as I have this time, and I'm often nostalgic and reflective. Hours--days--go by without me talking (unless "What would you like for supper?" and "Please pass the salt" and "Will you answer the phone?" count as conversations). Yes, dear Reader, I know this is hard to believe. Try.
I've spent weekly quality time with my close circle (gym and accountability partners, special family friends, a couple of neighbours and the odd colleague), and I've attended three birthday celebrations involving good food and great company, but by and large I've been a hermit ... and I'll most likely remain reclusive until further notice.
I am reluctant to answer the phone which seems to ring ceaselessly {and no, Ms. Ip, this will not be the year I get a cell phone--thanks for the offer to buy me one for Christmas!} and I've even gone so far as switching my computer off one day a week: a practice I once enjoyed but dispensed with due to the complaints of critics. What on Google Earth did we do without the wonders of modem technology for all those centuries?! 
My spouse thinks I've been away from home and hearth too long; my sister (to whom I just spoke) thinks it's time to book my next air ticket to Africa; and I think this trip has changed me in ways I'm only now awake enough to explore.
One thing is certain: I've wanted to be a writer for years (since I was seven, actually), and when I finally brought out a short and sweet co-authored book in 2007 I was ... relieved. But since then I haven't written as regularly as my soul would like; I confess my writing is largely a hit-and-miss affair. To remedy this appalling situation, I've drawn up a Writing Plan to share with my accountability partner on the morrow, and I'll take it from there.
I have the ideas--they rouse me from my slumber in the wee hours--and I definitely have enough words to share (!) but often I lack the discipline, the routine and the respect for my own writing-as-work. These past few weeks have found me longing, yearning, aching to write.... And so my journey has once again begun in Earnest (a sleepy town outside Calgary). 

23 July 2010

Best friends since 1979

Here Bronwyn and I are drinking tea in her mom's garden, and
reminiscing about our long companionship since childhood. It's hard to
believe we met more than thirty years ago! Last year this time we
celebrated three decades of friendship.

My cousin, Leanne, was at primary [elementary] school with Bron's
older sister, Glynnis; and when I moved from Kempton Park in 1979
[Grade 3] to a new school in Bedfordview, Bronwyn was in my class.

Oh, happy day!

One of our very first encounters involved trading sandwiches (or
"swopping sarmies" as we would have said then); Bron had Provitas with
cheese and I had brown bread with peanut butter and syrup--or vice
versa!--and each of us preferred the other's lunch.

And that's how it all began, if memory serves me well...

My best friend

This is one of my favourite photos of Bronwyn taken in her mom's
garden during my June visit.

Picking flow'rs in Pretoria

One of my favourite things to do is pick flow'rs for friends (from
their own gardens!) and present them as a posy.

'Tis always well received. :-)

{Bron, how I wish I could offer you a fresh bouquet today!}

Raiding Mientjie's garden

On the phone today Mientjie said the bouquet of flow'rs I picked from
her garden lasted two whole weeks!
She and Malcolm drove up to Bostwana to surprise Bron on her birthday.
{Nice talking to all the Hills and Wilsons today!}

Wave your flag!

Bronwyn and I were driving in Pretoria on a sunny Saturday in June
when we saw this colourful flag-seller.

Wave your flag! (I feel a song coming on...)

RSA flag

My sister bought this South African flag for me from a street vendor
and delivered it as a parting gift at the airport. I'd seen this
particular one with its World Cup border a few times and asked her to
keep an eye out for a replica.

{Thanks, M'ri.}

It now adorns the stairwell of our home and is the first thing we see
upon opening the front door. Isn't it cheerful?

Snail mail

One of my favourite treats in all the world: a handwritten note.

Especially when it has crossed the Pond to reach me.

When it's from my childhood companion and best friend of 30 years,
it's even better.

And when it arrives on the sender's birthday--collected from the
mailbox moments after we spoke on the phone--it's special beyond

{Thanks, Bron.}

Blue butterfly

One of the Botswana stamps on Bron's postcard features my favourite
butterfly: the pretty Southern Sapphire (Iolaus silas), a butterfly of
the Lycaenidae family. It is found in South Africa (and I assume, from
the stamp, in Botswana).

A gift from Bronwyn in Botswana

This arrived in my mailbox today: a postcard from my best friend,
currently living in Botswana.

Great timing, eh?

It's her birthday and we'd just spoken on the phone when I went to
collect the mail. I was really missing her and thinkiing fondly of the
time we'd spent together in Africa in June ... and there she was.

What an unexpected gift!

Photo credit: "Confrontation between two hippos" was taken by Colin Mead.


Raising a glass in my best friend's honour!

Just after I spoke to Bronwyn in Botswana on her 40th birthday earlier today, I went to the mailbox to collect the day's offerings ... and ...

Watch this space.

22 July 2010

Sweet Ellen

My friend Ellen celebrated her birthday today. {Sweet dreams, dear girl.}

21 July 2010


Happy birthday, Carl and Amy in Cochrane, and Breanne in Calgary.


Just got home from seeing a movie with dear friends who surprised us with tickets during supper. Three words of advice: Go see Inception!

20 July 2010


Ugh. It’s been 3 nights since Saturday, and I’m still shaky and unable to keep food down. Must definitely be a bug.

Sunday’s sermon on the Trinity came and went—I trust I did no doctrinal damage to anyone who showed up as a guest at DCC! My friend and former Phoenician neighbour came, but left before I exited the sanctuary. Sometimes folk stay behind to talk to me, or ask me to send them my manuscript. By the time I got out into the foyer my friend had left (although I didn’t know she was there, so her e-mail came as a nice surprise).

I then went home (via Staples and Claire’s) and had a four-hour nap! Even for me that’s excessive.

On Monday I stayed close to home, and today I went out and did some work. Tonight’s one of the highlights of my week: “Tuesdays with Tammy”—a tradition of many years. More on the morrow.

18 July 2010

Post-sermon stillness on a Sunday afternoon

When I got home from church, I had a longer-than-usual Sunday afternoon nap (I'm physically under the weather today but emotionally well). Then I posted the following snippets on Face book:
Relief. I am home, and I made it through another sermon without being struck by lightning. Sometimes I am quite terrified as I take the few steps from pew to pulpit. Speaking God's Word has never felt "light" like teaching; and so I came home and had a very long Sunday afternoon nap. ...
My previous post sounds a tad negative, and it's not meant to (I really do take my occasional preaching very seriously). I also absolutely LOVE it--the prep, the prayer, the reading and research, the calm that comes once I've started speaking...the joy at the end.
In writing these words, I was reminded again what a privilege it is to get to stand up and say what God says in His Word; the Bible message of grace and joy and outward-focused love never ceases to amaze me.

Coming, ready or not

Last night I finished working on my sermon for today ... I'm always relieved once it's printed and I'm ready to roll ... and then I got really sick during the night. I'm glad I had started preparing my manuscript mid-week and wasn't still writing in between hasty trips to the WC.

Not nerves-kind-of-sick (I know what that feels like, and this ain't it). No, I mean, get-up-and-run kind of sick. Must've been something I ate. Eek. I hope my still sleeping spouse is okay!

I'm terribly sensitive to oil--have been since I was a child--and recently I've had a surplus of rich food. Since coming home, I haven't quite got back into the habit of our usual plain and simple eating style: viz. fruit, veg, few additives, plain proteins. Too many kind friends and neighbours have popped over with treats of late, and methinks my system is finally rebelling. Back to basics from this afternoon.

Oh well, if I have to sit on a chair and read my notes instead of offering my usual scintillating style, that's what I'll do--I doubt it will come to that, though. Hopefully I'll be less blurry around the edges in a couple of hours.

off to shower (and allowing myself a tiny moment of self-pity before I get on with my day)

16 July 2010


Okay, in addition to praying (like a zealous Desert Mother) since hearing my pastors would be away and realising I'd be in the pulpit this week, I've done all my research for Sunday's sermon: I've gathered 50 pages of info, read prolifically, listened to other preachers, sought out relevant illustrations; that's my usual MO.

Now comes the hard part of sifting through the layers of rich material and distilling a (relatively) short, memorable, life-changing message.

I hasten to say, only God can change lives--this I know from experience--but His Spirit is present in the study as well as in the pulpit. Despite frequent advice to "wing it" and not try and "control the process," I personally believe I can only truly let go and trust God to speak through me once I've carried my share of the load.

Once I've refined the manuscript to a dozen pages or so (in large type!) I then go through it several times, so that my delivery sounds natural (and on good days folk actually think I'm speaking without notes, which I seldom do ... far too many rabbit trails to chase).

And so what have I been doing, while all this material is percolating in my brain?!

Let me see:
1. Going out with a couple of special friends for lunch to celebrate a birthday.
2. Heading up to school after lunch to use the library.
3. Wandering around my workplace in awe of all the renovations.
4. Returning home with my friend and hunting for a book for her to read on her birthday.
5. Writing about going out with a couple of special friends for lunch to celebrate a birthday.
6. Popping over to see my neighbours' basement renovations.
7. Pulling up dandelions (before Robin mowed the lawn).
8. Making supper and cleaning up.
9. Chatting to my friend Michael on his 40th birthday.
10. Sorting through the first wave of my RSA photos for some family pics to post here.
11. Replying to personal e-mails.
12. Listening to Laurika Rauch (my favourite South African singer).

Sounds like a whole lot of procrastination, even for me!!

Back to work...

Iwisa is #1

Eating pap in Mientjie's kitchen

Drinking tea...

... in Mientjie's garden.

Best friends...

... and a bunch of flow'rs.


Caught raiding Mientjie's garden...

Best friend, mom & bird

Go, England!

For Bronwyn!

Elaine, Mari & Julie supporting England ... for a day. :-)

Little sister

Medium brother

"Here's looking at you, Tyla Mari!"

Big brother

Two proud aunties

Auntie Elaine, Tyla Mari (1), Barry (18), Auntie Mari, Bronwyn (10)

Blue Bull supporters

Bronwyn & Auntie Mari

"Elaine" wine

This bottle really did have my name on it.

Happy 1st Birthday, Tyla Mari

{Great job with the poster, Mari!}

Bronwyn: 'n Bloubul ondersteuner

Barry J & Auntie Elaine

Hey, my nephew is taller than me!

Dad, playing with fire

Quinette & Elaine

Mari & Chantal

My other brother

Mark-John, Wal & Peter