Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Tree

The sky was a cloudless blue. He looked at her and knew that she was just what he had been waiting for. He could hear the birds calling, "What a great Creator we have. Let us give him the glory due his name."

He nodded, his heart too full to speak. And then he looked to the centre of the garden.
"Eat your fill. But do not touch that tree." No worries. Easily done. He gave it not another thought.

But, the snake was present and the woman listened.

God’s wrath descending. Laying blame. Passing the buck.
Kicked out of all they ever knew. Experience pain, sorrow, anger, murder.

Lord, is this the end?

"As a tree has cursed you, so one will save you."

And through the ages, they looked to the promise.

And in Bethlehem, a babe was laid in a manger made out of wood. Splintery, cold, dirty, filled with straw and cow dung.

Lord, is this the conqueror?

No, this is not the end of the story. If it was, would Christmas be something to celebrate? What can a baby do to rule the world and crush the serpent’s head?

The answer comes later. A tree is cut down for the most horrible use of all. Blood spilled, a thief is saved. And the hoarse cry, "It is finished."

Finished? The death of a miracle worker, an illegitimate baby from Nazareth? What does this mean? Scoffers laugh. Disciples despair. Yet, the answer is clear. So sin came through one man, so we will be saved by one man. So Satan used a tree to undo man, so God used a tree to make all well again.

This Christmas, you will probably sit in front of your evergreen tree, dazzling with lights and decorations. But, as you celebrate, do not forget the tree shaped like a cross and the babe, grown man, who died for sinners such as us.

- Millie

Friday, 23 December 2011

Let the Season be Bright.

Don't worry. Nothing too deep here. Just some pictures...

 say Merry Christmas.

Enjoy the good things Christmas can bring!


Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Of Madcow and Mincemeat

Mincemeat was the order of the day here.

And in the stuff's honour, I've decided to share an incident from our past which involves mincemeat, a heroic quest, and an evergreen tree.


Living two miles from an international border has its perks. A twenty-minute drive finds you in an American town, a sort of twin companion to your own belonging place.

That town ‘over across’ the border has been part of my life since I was a baby. I remember the evening ice cream runs to Drakes Dairy Bar, with wet hair and a nightgown on. I remember border guards barely asking your citizenship before they waved you on. I remember the tightening of security after 9/11, the longer lines, the strange questions about your work or sharp objects in your car. And of course, the mad cow scare.

The last is the most memorable of any border phase. Citrus or wood products faded out of importance, but the mad cow fuss touched our mincemeat and us personally. And you don’t play around with mincemeat in our family and than just forget about it.
Mincemeat is an intensely traditional food in our family, and one that seems to be dying everywhere else in the world. Each fall, just as the winds start to get that snap of winter to come, Mom pulls out the huge cooking pots and fires up the wood stove. Dad is sent to dig out the ancient metal food grinder and we start to concoct. Ground beef, minced apples, raisins, brown sugar, molasses, orange juice, a pound of butter, and all the spices that smell of Christmas. I’m not sure if the original recipe still exists. We cook by smell, with Mom’s direction. As we are fond of saying, "Are we gonna measure, or are we gonna cook?"

We all have our eating preferences too. Mom and I eat it straight out of the bubbling pot. Aimee prefers it with ice cream on top. Owen is only happy when it is baked into a three-inch thick pie. Dad agrees. "Mincemeat pie," he says, "is the perfect food. One of those quintessential all-food-groups-in-one-dish." I believe this thinking also justifies mincemeat pie for breakfast, scooped from the cold pie plate with one hand. This is the type of thing mincemeat is. Wholesome. Comfortable. Cherished.

And it was a pie of this hallowed stuff that we bore aloft one evening, as we traveled to supper at our American friends’ house. A pie is close to the best thing you can do for someone, and Mom set it lovingly on her lap for the trip, still steaming hot.

Maybe it was that steam, or the rich smell that made the border guard perk up when we came to a stop beside him.

"How many on board?" He asked. "Citizenship? Where are you headed? What’s the purpose of your trip?"

Then he leaned forward for the clincher. "Anything to leave?"

"Just a pie" Dad said glibly.

I’m not sure that the guard didn’t lick his lips.

"What kind of pie?"

And for the first time Dad faltered, "Just mincemeat…"

"Meat?" The guard was definitely interested now. "As in beef?"

"Oh…" Heavy realization hit Dad. "Yes. As in…exactly."

"Well, I’ll have to take it then." Border guards love their job.

Dazed, we all watched it transfer from hand to hand. The border man moved and straightened his garbage can with one toe. He bent forward, in my mind it seemed like he moved in slow motion, hands tipping the pie plate forward.

But before he could, before the bottom crust had started to slip, Mom’s half shriek rang out.

"No! Wait – can we turn back?" Her arms were actually outstretched like she was pleading for a baby’s life.

I’m not sure Mr. Border Guard had ever seen such panic or devotion to food in his line of work. He must still have had a few drops of milky human kindness pumping underneath his blue uniform however, and obviously felt a weeping woman was far out of his comfort zone.

"Sure…You can turn back. If you want."

"OK!" Mom said and received the pie to her lap again. She waved for Dad to drive forward, astounding us kids with her confidence.

But our troubles were hardly over. The Canadian border wouldn’t hold our pie in safe keeping while we went to our friend’s house and we were already late.

We poked along the road, everyone suggesting and hypothesizing at once.

I don’t remember who thought of it first. We all take collective glory for it now, that idea born of sheer genius…the inspiration to hide our mincemeat pie under a safe looking evergreen tree.

If there is one thing in abundance along New Brunswick roads, it is trees; lonely stretches of patchy highways, with only shades of green along each side. Our pie would be safe.

"Unless a coyote finds it." Owen said.

"Better a coyote than that man’s garbage can!"

We headed to the border again, feeling Mom was entirely right in her opinion.

The border guard looked more than a little surprised to see us.

"You’re back…" It was a half question, so Dad responded.

"We hid the pie…" (The man’s eyes lit up,) "…under a tree back there."

The guard looked almost stunned – his eyes followed Dad’s quick point and then stayed there, looking blank.

"You’re kidding right?" He said in a faraway voice.

"No, indeed," Mom said.

The man lifted one hand and waggled it vaguely.

"Alright," he said it in a voice that meant I give up. "Have a nice evening."

"Thank you," Mom and Dad said together. And we drove onto American soil with heads held high. We didn’t have dessert for our friends, but there are things more important.

On the return trip home, we found our pie tucked safely where we had left it. We had kept part of our tradition safe. Mad cow scare might come, and the easy rules of a country’s border might tighten over time. We would have to use passports on every trip, eventually, and officials wouldn’t know you by sight. But mincemeat and its treasured part of our family heritage would not fall victim to the marches of time.

At the very least we had given that border guard something to tell the guys during break.


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

How Young Families Get Ready to Go Out

I have never heard of anyone who hasn't had a nightmare like this: you need to get somewhere and are trying to get ready, but things keep happening. Your clothes won't stay on, your friend keeps stopping to talk to people, and you drop, or lose your car keys. And that's only the beginning. You wake up sweating, with your bedclothes wrapped around your legs, breathing a sigh of relief that it was just a dream

However, sadly, for a certain demographic, this frustrating scenario is a sobering reality.

I have never seen the list of rules that dictates what preparation for a young family outing looks like, but I have noticed such little variance between households, that there must be some secret book of directions that harried parents and nonchalant children are forced to follow. Or perhaps it's just human nature.

1. Naivete. "There's plenty of time." Mom leans back and sips her coffee. Dad takes another cookie and bites into it leisurely, seeming to have wiped last week's mad rush entirely from his mind. Ten minutes later the tune has changed. Mom's voice is less sweet and Dad's honking the horn from the driveway.

2. Missing shoes. It's scientific fact: children's pairs of shoes are polar opposites. The right shoe is magnetically driven away from the left and finds solace under the livingroom couch. Children's shoes never sit demurely together, laces un-knotted. Unless, of course, they're the ones you don't want.

3. Dirty clothes. In her head, Mom has her outfit all planned. As she's shoving applesauce in the mouth of the six-month-old and buttoning up five-year-old's shirt, she runs throught the oh-so-chic list. "I'll wear my white linen skirt and my blue blouse. Then, I'll accessorize with the silk scarf that my sister gave me. I'll just get dressed last minute to prevent mishaps." What she doesn't remember is the time she sat on a chocolate chip cookie in the aforementioned skirt, that there is a white dribble line on her beautiful blouse, courtesy of six month old, and she doesn't even know that hubby used the scarf as an emergency cleaning rag. Two minutes before they have to be at church, Mom's still digging through her clothes pile, looking for a clean, non-ripped piece of clothing that fits her. And then, hubby walks in wearing nothing but his shorts and says, "What should I wear?"

4. Forgetting something really important. She sinks into the head rest. The children murmur quietly in their car seats. Strains of music soothe her aching head. For once, they're going to be on time. Then Daddy says, "Um, hon. I think we forgot something." Her eyes open and she slowly scans the rearview mirror. One, two, three, four. She nods. Daddy turns the car and heads for home, to find the three-year-old happily playing in the sandbox.

There are many opportunites for sanctification in one's life. Things like famine, drought and pestilence. But there is no greater trial than to take part in the everyday ritual of a young family getting ready to go out.

-  Millie

Friday, 9 December 2011

When it comes to sewing clothes I usually defer to Aimee. Everyone has their talent, and I've always seen mine as anywhere but a close proximity to that terrifying pattern paper. Seriously, it tears if you breath on it the wrong way.

Nope, I've never seen the advantage of the mental excercises a sewing pattern requires, and have always been happy to see Aimee whiz off skirts and baby clothes with nary a thought. (Or so it appears.)

But then I realized you can't buy some styles at the mall. At least, not just the way you want them.

Like these pants...

Aren't they the best?

I'm kind of digging the sweater too. Hehe.

So...after a few months of pining and looking in thrift stores I finally just took the plunge. I bought some fabric. I bought a pattern. I waited for a snowy day.

And then I sewed...

and sewed...

and sewed!  I even put in a zipper and waistband. No small feat, I can tell you!

It took me all afternoon and a few ripped seams, but at the end of it I'm glad to say I had a pair of pants. Voila!

And you know what? The best part of the whole thing is the ridiculous sense of empowerment I feel as I zip them up. It's mildy pathetic really, but whatever...I feel a whole new world open up and all those vintage things I've been loving seem within reach.

Maybe a Petticoat Junction dress next?

Or these pants!

In other words, I'm armed and dangerous. Stand back folks.


Friday, 2 December 2011

Children and the Mouths Thereof

I love kids. I mean, what else can you do with them?

Some of the best moments are when they blurt out a deep thought that has clearly been discussed with their parents – all pleased and confident with their knowledge.

Like this…

I’m babysitting and a rousing game of make believe was in progress with stuffed nativity figures of Joseph and Mary. The story came to a climax when Kid #1 made "Jophes" fly off the handle and attack Mary. Everyone broke out in high giggles except Kid #2, who looked up from her book and said, "He is not respecting his wife like he promised in the wedding. God will not be pleased with him." And a nod for emphasis.

Or like this…

Landon was doing his classic gulpslurp, that’s-how-he-eats routine last night at supper. At one point he must have stopped to actually chew some chicken, because he had time to announce. "We’re all sinners." We all agreed with the ‘saved by God’s Grace’ clause. "Yup," he said, "God has more power than anything else. Even a dragon."

Of course, things can sometimes get a little off the track.

"The only thing dragons can do that God can’t, is blow fire," Landon says.

Yeah. Well…nobody can deny that growing in knowledge of the Truth is always a work in progress!