Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Soul Food

Ah, food for the soul.  Soul food.  The notion conjures up a variety of images for me. Here are a few pictures from my week that have helped feed my soul. 

Fresh cookies in the cookie jar!  I asked for this cookie jar for Christmas, wanting a jar big enough to hold a batch of cookies.  Well, ahem, it seems that the jar is plenty big.  Andrew was out when they were baked and Ben asked me if these were a surprise.  I questioned what he meant by that and he replied "you know, like when we're at school and we come home to freshly baked cookies".  Well!  Seems that they DO pay attention to little acts of love along the way.

A cup of tea, anyone?  I love reaching for a cup of tea to sooth the soul.  Here is my brand new cast iron teapot that I got for a really good deal in my favorite color, red, one of my favorite tea cups (you can't drink tea out of just any old mug, you know!) and a sugar bowl just like the one we had on the farm.  My current tea favorite is a mint tea by Tazo. 

I could get used to this view.  Dean and I were scouting through downtown Saskatoon Saturday morning, looking for a place to have breakfast.  "I want a pastry and a cup of coffee", I told him.  Suddenly, RIGHT BEFORE OUR EYES, appeared this bakery/deli coffee shop in downtown Saskatoon.

We parked and wandered in.  Smitten.  Fresh baked ... everything.  Meat supplied by a local farm.  Home canned goods on the store shelves.  My breakfast consisted of a haskip danish and fresh coffee with just a hint of cinnamon.  We also purchased lemon tarts (with the prettiest piped meringue ...) and a loaf of brioche.  An old hardwood floor lines the shop; the ceiling is vintage.  The waitresses were attentive and friendly.  3rd Ave, between 20th and 21st Street, downtown Saskatoon.  We will be returning.  You should come, too.  Souleio.
This is a hopeful picture of soul food.  Hopeful in that I'd love it if this boy chased the musical bones that are definitely in his young body.  I'd love for music to be a refuge for him, to feed his soul.  It's a work in progress. He has a fantastic ear for pitch and has a great sense of musicality.  I hope he discovers some fun there.

Right now, HE is a work in progress ... he is a very sick young fella.  If you're of the praying sort, we'd all appreciate some on his behalf.  He's under good care and close attention from a doc or two but he's fighting a nasty bug.  NASTY. 

This handsome man just turned 14!  THAT does the soul good!  He's....he's a nice guy.  Yup. I'm so proud.

Okay, this isn't soul food.
Consider yourselves warned! 
If EVER you should open up a box containing a new cast iron tea pot, please, whatever you do....
DON'T EAT THE BAG OF SILICA GEL!!!!!!!!!!  Please.   

 Cookies, tea, a bakery and my sons.  My comforts for the moment.  What are yours?

Monday, 11 February 2013

Beauty and Ashes and Beauty

    "And provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them
a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair."  Isa. 61:3

I've been quiet around 'everywhere', aka, social media, for the past week.  Actually, everywhere.  Our family suffered a tragic loss with the death of my cousin/friend through a horrible accident Feb. 1.

Janet was, wow, well, how do I summarize her life?  I grew up with Janet.  We were farm girls, our mothers were sisters, we called Shell Lake 'home'.  We shared a quirky sense of humor.  We gardened because we were raised to garden.  We proudly bore Ukrainian/Polish heritage, she being lucky enough to be able to speak the language.  When you ask the question "Where were you when Elvis died?" - I was with Janet. We hung out when we were young because we were family.  We hung out when we were older because we grew to be friends - maybe because we started out as family, maybe because we had this "Zuk"/Ukrainian understanding, maybe because....we just liked each other.  She quietly gave me wise parenting advice.  We visited at the lake, we visited at the hockey rink, we visited at every family gathering available to us, and we burned through hours of time texting each other.  She "liked" every picture that I ever posted of my kids.  She found my last blog post amusing. 

A year ago, Janet began treatments for breast cancer.  She tackled surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, and was declared cancer free at the end of it all.  In the fall, she shared her cancer story at her church and her friends threw her a "you did it!" party at the end of it all.  And in that all, she showed a gigantic bunch of courage.  She didn't sing the "poor me" song, even though she had every right to do so.  She gave me strength and set an example of how to face adversity with strength and courage.

That's why it didn't make a lot of sense to lose her so swiftly in a car accident last Friday.  I had a few questions yet that I wanted to eventually ask her...."what's it like to be a grandma?", "How did you survive menopause?" and "What's it like to be 90?"  You see, those were the questions that I hoped to eventually, as in 10-20-30-40 years from now, be able to ask her.  I hoped she would be around to discuss retirement plans with.  I hoped we could look at each other when we were 70, 80, 90 years old and remember the family, the farms, our heritage, our history, back in the old days. 

She was a person of beauty.

And this has been a week of ashes.  Ashes of mourning.  Ashes of a life that ended before I wanted it to end.  Piles and piles and piles of ashes and aches for her husband and kids.  We grieve. We hurt.  We ache.

I'm not ready to lay my ashes down yet.  I will grieve until I'm done grieving, and, in some ways, I'll never not miss Janet. 

But today, I had this craving for things of beauty.  I needed to see something beautiful.  I went thigh deep into the snow in the back yard and in the park across the street to find something beautiful. 

This is a brave shrub that lives in my front yard and this branch is barely seeing the light of day with the snow deeper than it has ever been before.  Yet it holds its' hibernating arms out to the sun today.  Hello sun, let's meet again next summer.

This picture was taken at the same spot as the following picture.  Funny how a different focus shows a different scene.

The same can be said of life.  Shifting our focus opens our eyes to beauty in different shapes and sizes, sources, forms.

That patch of snow looks to be safely nestled in the crook of a branch. 
"I will hold you always in the palm of my hand" Isa 29:16.

Ach, the snow is so deep!  I will remember this view in July when it is +37.

This one too...this little pine is shrouded in a blanket of snow...."You hem me in, behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me" Psa. 139:5

The snow is hanging on our (ugly) fence like a Christmas garland!  It's pretty.

Behind those spent leaves, blue rules the sky.

Life will come again to these branches.  To me.  To my family.

While not the most beautiful picture, behind those leaves, sun shines.  I'll take it.

I hope that sunshine and blue sky will find their way into your world in a way that is meaningful to you today.  Sometimes the sun just simply shines and brings beauty; sometimes you have to go looking for it. 

Me, today I'm just a little hungrier for HEAVEN than I was before...

Love you forever and always, Janet! 

As for the rest of you, find someone to hug and make it beautiful.