Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Anchors and Clear Sailing


In the life of a person, there are a very few anchors. For me, they are the relationships that keep one on an even keel, point to true north and keep us steady on toward wholeness and deep satisfaction. I am privileged to name mine as 1) Jesus 2) parents, 3) spouse, 4) child. From each, I have received unconditional love. My first anchor is the One who chose me from before the foundation of the world, loved me so completely he voluntarily gave his life to ransom mine, and now, by His Spirit, lives in me, to guide, sustain, provide, direct and complete.

When I am loved by those closest to me--my human anchors--those who love me best, I can more capably navigate the rest of life with its joy, trial, or trouble. This past weekend was one of those anchor-strengthening times and this blog entry is something of a journal entry. This unique weekend was one of those transcendent times that are hard to capture in words. Yet, I shall attempt to do so. Grab a cuppa something warm and read along if you like.

We had planned to possibly join my son and his wife on his birthday. As an only child, our family was small. When I was young, my very large family rarely ever celebrated birthdays in a personal or stupendous way. So, when he was young, we always made a big deal about birthdays. Now he is a mature young adult, it is only right and fitting that I share him. He is married, living close to his in-laws, and as a couple, they are quite socially active with their own circle of friends. I checked in with them about possible dates to come visit, and they'd already made plans for several close friends to come from out of town to spend his birthday weekend celebrating with him.

So we chose an alternative weekend when the Christkindlmarkt (German Christmas Market) was also going to be open in downtown Vancouver. Might as well include as much fun as possible with one trip. And much fun we did! We knew in advance, however, that there would be a third person with them: a dear young boy who had special needs. We'll call him "Joey" (not his real name). They had recently been approved by the government body who certifies relief care givers. They provide occasional care, keeping Joey the entire weekend, so that his foster home has a brief respite from his full time care.

My mother's heart was so enlarged by seeing my son and daughter-in-law's loving care for this sweet boy who'd been born with limitations he will never outgrow.  I was able to bear witness to how both of them patiently care for him, lovingly train him, and relate to him in healthy, life-giving ways. This was one of the most transcendent experiences of my life, defying definition. Gratitude and pride are mere shadows that barely approach the depth of emotion from our weekend together.

In these moments approaching holiness, I have learned to be silent. I used to be like the impulsive Apostle Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration, blurting out whatever comes to my head that "seems like a good idea at the time," but as I've aged, some wisdom has arrived that helps keep me humble (and closed mouthed) as an observer of the miraculous.

Please allow me to share some weekend highlights, and delights of all sorts. Rejoice with me. I record them because I want to remember.

Friday night we arrived after a full day of driving. The roads had been clear, with only a skiff of snow near the mountain pass. Driving through the mountains when the weather is good is such a gift and settles my soul every time. It is such mysterious, majestic beauty.

Upon our safe arrival, we checked into our favorite Best Western nearby, then went to my son's home. Joey was already in bed, so we visited quietly.

We had brought Andrew's birthday gift, a hockey jersey from his favorite team with the name of one of the rising young stars. He was delighted, as it had been on his wish list, which his wife kindly shared with us. Don't you just love giving your children gifts and witnessing their total delight?! And, of course, I also had to bring a gift for my grand-dog, Louise the Doodle. She enjoyed the tug of war rope I'd found for her. I also have begun an annual tradition of giving both him and his father-in-law a bottle of the annual release of Alberta's first local single malt whiskey. It's made using local grain, in small batches, at a certified farm distillery. It's a farm to glass operation, with some of their select batches coming from an old-fashioned harvest involving 4-horse-teams which pull a cutter/binder. This fall, Henry and I, along with a few dozen others, got to be "farmers for a day" and help stook the barley or assist later in threshing for a future batch.

Since the beginning of Advent was the next day, I had planned a special surprise for "my kids" -- even though they are adults, I suspect a part of us never outgrows our favorite childhood traditions. This is the first year I've made up a calendar on my own, rather than just buying a chocolate one. Our church held a fundraiser recently, sponsored by women from the sewing club. Proceeds go to our church camp, so I'm happy to support it by stocking up on stocking stuffers. One item I found there was this hand stitched advent calendar which can be re-used each year. I filled each pocket with two chocolates for both A & R. Gotta be fair!

(If you want to see more detail, you can click on any picture for a larger version.)

Then, I added individual notes in each day's pocket with a daily activity to help focus on faith. Each day the items rotate through either prayer, service, or a spiritual practice. The ideas and inspiration came from here. Since the prayer practices included lighting candles once per week, I also gave them an accompanying advent wreath and candles, so they can light them each Sunday to represent hope, peace, joy, love and (on Christmas Day) light. This is my first year doing this also, and I'm very excited to share the experience with them. It was fun picking out the candles and finally using the wreaths I'd purchased several years ago and saved for just the right time.

We finished our night with snacks and a couple quiet rounds of Azul, an award-winning board game which they had introduced us to on our previous visit. To my surprise, I managed to win both rounds. That's unusual, as I instilled a competitive spirit in my son and he's usually tops in most of our competitions.

Saturday we met for breakfast at Porters Bistro Coffee & Tea House, as is our favorite tradition. It's successfully managed by my son's in-laws, and no visit is complete without at least a couple breakfasts and an evening of scrumptious buffet dinner with live music in this heritage building built in the early 1900s. If you are the kind of person who likes to watch Hallmark Christmas Movies, you might see Porters featured in some of them.

Then we were off to walk Louise the Doodle. It was a lovely foggy day, with frost just clearing from the grass. The mist hung low over the school field as we made our way to the playground.


Then it was time for regularly scheduled therapeutic horseback riding for Joey. I can't share pictures of him, but let me try to describe it. The weather had turned into a wonderful sunny day which offset the chill in the air. We watched the ride, where Joey sits on the horse with someone walking alongside as a spotter and another person leading the horse. He did very well, sitting tall in the saddle, holding on by himself, and his smile gave testament to the joy of this experience.

Afterward, we all went to our hotel, had a quick bite of lunch and took a dip in the indoor pool, which we had all to ourselves. Joey loves the water, even the hot tub, which was very hot! I love being in the water, so this was a treat for me too!

Our evening was a repeat of the night before, but we brought in Vietnamese food for supper, and watched a hockey game, then just chilled with Louise the doodle, who is also learning some very valuable lessons as she now shares her master's attention with another person in the house.


Sunday morning started a bit earlier than usual, as we chose to attend services with A & R. Next, we explored the small, quaint, trendy town of Fort Langley, browsing the shops and discovering a new brunch place which made its own jams and sauces, and baked lovely pastries. They even had a lovely gluten free scone for me.

We picked up dried cranberries and cranberry tea from our favorite shop, and took a few photos by the artist's murals.


The nearby playground had another artist's installation that added a stunning, playful splash of colour to the day. Hanging from wires you can't hardly see, were several dozen open umbrellas. Aren't they fun?

After that it was well past time to go home and chill. Well, home to A & R's  place. Joey loves relaxing there and Louise was happy to see them and get her own walk and snuggles.

That afternoon, Henry and I took a drive into the city to spend a couple hours at the Vancouver Christmas Market. We headed across the bridge as the sun was setting, navigated the maze of big city streets and were pleased to find on street parking right in front of the market.

This is an annual tradition, a German-themed craft and food market for artisans of all sorts, set up around the Olympic torch on the Vancouver waterfront. A carousel greets you at the entrance, and in the centre is a very tall (2-3 story) revolving pyramid, and a very tall Christmas tree. For more details, go here.

We loved our time, sampled Gl├╝hwein, enjoyed bratwurst, and selected some Christmas gifts. The view at night over the waterfront and the seaplane harbour is delightful. Then we returned to A & R's place for a final visit and fond farewell.

The next morning, we met Andrew's in-laws for a lovely visit and breakfast at the Hilltop Diner, a long time fixture on the old Fraser highway between Langley and Aldergrove. That is also a joy-filled experience, sharing comfort food, life experiences, and parenting stories about our two children whom we love.

Our journey home was quiet and uneventful. Any time we drive the 11 hours between Langley and Calgary, especially in the winter, it can be a hair raising experience, but once again, the roads were clear, and we made the trip in Godspeed. I drove from Sorrento to Golden while Henry caught up on the sleep lost due to the one hour time difference and early mornings.

All in all, a joyful weekend and terrific start to the Advent season. Thank you for sailing along with me. I hope your season is filled with similar times of family joy.



Merry Christmas!


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