A Priceless Gift

He was the OG up-cycling trendsetter. The master engineer without a degree. We had front row seats to “How It’s Made: Grandpa Edition” our whole lives long. There was nothing he couldn’t cobble together from parts and pieces or improve upon with a few days of thinking and tinkering. On the farm and later on in the little town where I grew up, his creativity and ingenuity continued to amaze.

When I was a kid, I had a lot of questions about the mechanics of things. Once, around the big brown table in the farm kitchen, I asked my dad how an engine worked. He encouraged me to ask Grandpa. His eyes lit up as he explained the inner workings of spark plugs and pistons in a way I could understand. Often when I visited Grandma in the kitchen, the shop across the yard was alight with welding flashes which I was always warned to look away from so they didn’t damage my eyes.

We grandkids wanted a trampoline more than anything. So he made one for us. A big rectangle with a green rubber mat. No padding on the springs, and spaces in the corners for you to sit with your feet dangling down while you waited for your turn. How those springs could pinch! We learned the hard way not to sit on them while we waited. He had one rule – no shoes on the trampoline! Double jumps got some serious air. That thing could hold an amazing amount of water and became ridiculously slippery when wet. We spent hot summer afternoons flailing around, playing Crack the Egg and Slip and Slide thanks to Grandpa and our uncles.

I remember helping Grandma bring supper to the field during the long hours of harvesting, the free range chickens that left their presents all over the yard – easy to find in bare feet – and Grandpa’s old dogs one at a time in succession who were always named Pup.

And music. How he loved to listen to us play and sing! Not at first though. When I was just learning on their old piano he’d tell me to be quiet because he was reading at the table. But something must have changed over the years because I remember how he loved it when I’d lead the singing at our little bilingual country church. I used to pick his favourite hymn without telling him. I was always fascinated by the German hymnals that sat next to the red English ones in the backs of the pews. When I learned how to sing in German in my high school choir, I signed up for a special number in church one day and surprised my grandparents by singing a hymn… in German!

I remember Grandpa wiping his eyes and thanking me, in his understated way, for singing that song. Grandma clasped my hand and gave it her signature squeeze. As the years went on, I moved around. But anytime I was back in my childhood town, I stopped by and sat down at the table for a few more stories, cookies and hugs.

My little corner of the world is darker these days. And my blog has lost one of its most faithful readers. My heart feels the ache of grief, compounded by current restrictions on group gatherings and travel. I watched through a screen as my dad and aunts and uncles stood up to tell his story. I never got to gather around his grave to sing a hymn or place my flower there. I didn’t see my cousins carry him or watch as he was lowered into the ground in my childhood church cemetery. No fellowship time with distant relatives and old friends over raisin buns and cheese and pickles and red funeral juice and bad church coffee in those little white cups. 

And worst of all, no hugs for those who suffer this loss from those who suffer alongside.

Jesus keep me near the cross
There is a precious fountain; 
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calv’ry’s mountain.

In the cross, in the cross
Be my glory ever
Til my ransomed soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

-Fanny Crosby

After the online funeral last weekend my husband and I sat on our little front steps drinking coffee with blankets on our laps in the March sunshine. As I processed my feelings I asked him why our generation had the tendency to be dissatisfied with a simple life.

“Why isn’t it enough?” I asked. “Why are we rushing around trying to prove ourselves, desperate to matter to everyone but those closest to us? Why are we reaching for the stars when we already have the real treasures right here?”

I have a choice. I can focus on the things that don’t matter in the end, or I can turn my eyes upon Jesus. I can do the hard, slow, steady work of cultivating what I already have right in front of me. I can plant the seeds, pray for rain, watch the growth and reap the harvest in the right season. I can practice creativity in problem solving, be a good steward of what I have, pour into others and choose to be content. I can love my family in the best way I know how, and I can praise Jesus for His goodness to me even passing through the valley of the shadow of death.

These simple things I have learned from the ones that have gone before me. They have given me a priceless gift of a life well-lived.

A little corner of the old farmyard in the trees behind the garden.

Weeping with Those Who Weep

We pulled on our snow pants and jackets, zipped up the zippers, donned the hats and mittens, and with sturdy boots on our feet, began the long walk up the hill to the grocery store.

With a 5 year old up ahead and a 2 year old in tow, I had plenty of time to admire the scenery in the neighbourhood on this particularly chilly morning with no promise of spring in the air. It was one of those mornings that was just warm enough for a long walk and just cold enough to remind you of the polar vortex from weeks ago. As we made our way past the familiar landmarks of the various types of trees that make their home on our street, it wasn’t the spindly and barren ones that so often grab my attention at other times of the year. They had no sprouting blossoms or changing leaves to marvel at. On that winter day, it was the mighty evergreen that caused me to be amazed.

Remarkable. Towering several feet into the air, sending its roots deep into the ground below and across multiple yards, standing tall and unchanged in the bracing north winds that blow dead leaves off of every other tree in the neighbourhood. The snow piles high and the branches bear the weight. The temperatures plummet and the thousands of needles hold fast, only made more beautiful by the silvery frost that highlights each individual one.

Winter really is the evergreen’s time to shine, isn’t it?

In no other season of the year do I take much notice of its thick, velvety branches providing shelter and comfort to critters and birds. The coldest months are made bearable by its dense design, offering the hope of a warm place to sleep when all other trees are bare.

My heart is broken today as I think of two families who are in the process of losing children to paediatric cancer. Treatment options have been exhausted and the disease is progressing through their small bodies moment by moment. Jesus, be near these precious ones and hold them in your arms! Surround their parents and siblings, be the strength of their hearts in the darkest of times!

When our lives fall apart, when the lives of those we love are changed forever because of loss, we know that we have the light of Jesus’ life flowing through us. We are comforted by God himself! We become like the mighty evergreen, holding out hope in the midst of despair.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25 NIV)

Yes Lord, we believe! Let us weep with those who are weeping today, and be a place of comfort because we have been comforted in our own times of trouble by Your very presence.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV)

evergreen afar

Evergreens standing tall