The Color of Love

The morning sky seemed like a water stained, black and white photograph. The recent memories of a client’s struggle muddied my thoughts even further. With furrowed brow I cautiously dodged patches of ice. “Such a slippery slope life can be” I thought.

Dainty white whispers of snowflakes fell on my forehead. I knew what they were trying to do. “I know, I know – no two of you are alike” I whispered back at them. If anything could cause me to look heavenward and consider my Creator, they could.

Once inside the windowless office I opened doors, turned artificial lights on our plastic Christmas tree and, put the brown coffee on to brew. I wandered over to the reception desk and spied a pile of bulging black garbage bags. There was a faded note marked ‘donations’ taped to one of them.

I fumbled with one knot. I pulled and pushed and caught a glimpse of something unexpected. Something new, brand new. I grabbed a pair of scissors to get to the treasure inside. The rhythm of my heart began to race. My eyes teared and the breath in my throat gasped.

Gently I lifted a perfectly hand knit child’s sweater out of the bag. My lungs lifted and sighed in relief. “The color of love!” My fingers gently untied the pom pom strings, and moved the zipper up and down. I twirled the sweater in the air from back to front, and felt a strange sensation come over me.  

The love someone had poured into every stitch was now flooding into my veins, warming my limbs, blushing my face, and painting my lips in a smile. I found the faded note and turned it over to find a lady’s name and address. How could I possibly thank her enough? My heart took in every thread of her kindness and compassion.

She had no idea how the gift she’d made for someone’s little boy or girl had been a gift for me as well. I paused and the colors of love filled the room around me. The muddy struggles, the slippery slope, the plastic tree, and the browns and blacks of a challenging world were now magically changing to blue and yellow, pink and green.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Nativity, Yesterday and Tomorrow….

Last Christmas we bought our grand-daughter a Nativity Scene, I think it was the PlaySkool brand. For both of them we purchased a storybook about the Nativity, with incredible life like  illustrations, Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell and Jason Cockcroft

This Christmas we cannot be with our grand-children and their parents, so I wanted to make the children something special in honour of our baby King, and to teach them about our very sacred family tradition. My husband bought me a Precious Moments Nativity Set some thirty years ago. Precious Moments are Sam Butcher’s creation. I pulled them back out of the box and crafted a story. Now that this little video has been made perhaps we’ll need to come up with another way to share the Nativity next year?

I did suggest to my family, (the ones that are here) that we go down to Hildebrand Motors and tell the story using their Nativity Scene, by moving the almost life size figures around, and video taping it. They thought that was a tad weird. It would have been great fun.

Anyway, thank you to Sam, Garage Band, and Facebook, oh yes and iMovie

A home made Christmas present for my two little grand-children….

Merry Christmas Willow and Thorin

Love Grammie and Papa

My Christmas Surprise

We were expecting a rather quiet, but blessed Christmas season, with our youngest daughter who teaches at a Bible School, flying in from Australia. It would be her first Christmas at home in three years.

We learned months prior to December we would be blessed for four days the week before Christmas, by our daughter’s bestie, whom we endearingly refer to as ‘number four’. She was flying in from Toronto, where she studies dance. Accompanying her would be her fiance, whom we had met the year before at Christmas time. He was flying in from Florida.

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Monday night I left work in the dark and walked home along the snowless sidewalk, excited to see who would be gathered around the fire at home. The air was crisp, but unusually warm for the week before Christmas.

I rounded the final block and a car came out of no where, and drove up beside me and stopped. The window went down and I heard a voice say “can we help you with your bags?” I bent down to see a familiar face smiling at me. It was our son’s girlfriend. I looked behind the wheel and there he was – our son. But how I wondered? They were in Europe skating. We had just Face-timed them the day before.

Still in shock, I hopped in the back seat. Seconds later their rental car was parked in our driveway. They had flown all the way from Utrecht (Netherlands) to surprise us. Although they were given five days off, much of that would be travel time. I was overjoyed at their adventurous spirits and their huge sacrifice to be with us for a few short days. Due to the nature of our son’s work, it was his first Christmas at home in seven years.

Although our eldest daughter and son-n-law and two precious grand-children would not be able to join us, I cherished our time together in October and November.

As if things couldn’t get better, I looked out the window Monday night and saw the snow begin to fall. Every bed in our house was full and so was my heart. 

The fullness would continue with a spur of the moment family dinner planned for the next evening, Mom and Grandma, and other dear friends travelling up the next day.

I knew in a few short days our circumstances would be quite different. Our full house would not remain full, but the memories made, our conversations and warm embraces would be more than enough to keep a smile on my face all year long.

-Cindy

 

 

What’s in a Teddy Bear?

Yesterday coming home from church I was reminded about the annual Hitman Game and the Teddy Bear Toss, http://hitmenhockey.com/teddy-bear-toss. The news announcement brought back a difficult, but heart warming memory. Thank you – to our communities and the Hitmen Hockey Team, for your generosity and kindness during the Christmas Season. It made a difference to our little family, and we will never forget you.

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One afternoon around Christmas time in 2007 I had gone down the stairs to our daughter’s bedroom to see why she wasn’t answering my call. We were all getting ready to go out and visit with friends. When I found her in her room she was not able to speak or walk. She was eight years old. I carried her out to our vehicle, and drove her down to the clinic. Her younger siblings were crying and frightened because their big sister didn’t recognize them.

Soon after our arrival at the clinic we were told about her Grand Mal seizure. Her Daddy arrived from work to comfort our children, and I got in the back of an ambulance to ride with her to the Children’s Hospital. After a very long night of nurses coming and going, poking and prodding and shining lights in her eyes, the sun arose. I waited to see if our little girl would open her eyes, if she would talk. I had been cautioned that she may have sustained brain damage.

Our daughter opened her eyes. She didn’t smile like she usually did, but she did look around the room. I told her where she was, but she didn’t seem to react, however she noticed she was sharing her room with another patient, a little boy in the bed next to hers. She shoved off her covers, and slid out of her very tall hospital bed. She walked over to a book shelf and pulled a book out. I then watched her go to the boy’s bed and reach for a chair that was nearby.

The seconds that followed were magical. I watched her turn the pages of the book, and heard her voice begin to read. Tears trickled down my face. I didn’t know what the days ahead would bring, but our little girl had come through a very difficult challenge. She was walking, talking and able to see another child’s needs.

Later that morning while we were resting I tried to stop my mind from worrying. I knew our daughter was in good hands, but the fatigue and the weight of our daughter’s health cast a long shadow on my heart. The word ‘Epilepsy’ had been used in the nurses’s conversations. What did it all mean? Would our daughter ever enjoy a normal life? Would she have another seizure?Just as my head felt like it might explode a group of men in hockey uniforms came into the room. They were all holding Teddy Bears. Our daughter sat up and blinked. The men smiled and three of them offered her a bear.  I think it was because they had learned she had a brother and sister back home.

Their visit reminded me that so many people cared. We were not alone and forgotten in our sadness, but cradled in the arms of others, even strangers. The Teddy Bears were a symbol of compassion.

Later that day a neighbour and her son came to visit. They were frequent visitors to the hospital and heard we were there. Her son had had several seizures as a young baby and boy, and was in a wheel chair. Our daughter didn’t say much, she was very tired, but she looked at the little boy then back at her three bears, picked one out, and offered it to her new friend.

It was at Christmas time so long ago, in the Calgary Children’s Hospital, where our daughter was indeed given the diagnosis of ‘Epilepsy’, but it was then she also decided to be a Nurse. She never wavered from that call. Her health condition improved, and four very challenging years later, on September 9th, 2011, she was given a clean bill of health. Today she is married, with two beautiful children, and practices nursing on the Sunshine Coast.

Thank you Calgary Hitmen and all the Teddy Bear donors, for keeping the  Annual Teddy Bear Toss tradition alive. We are witness to the difference a Teddy Bear can make in the life of a child.

 

 

 

 

Unanswered Prayers at Christmas Time?

Years later when another Christmas was fast approaching, my children and I were coming home from a medical appointment in the city. It was somewhere around 5:00 p.m. and the sky was already dark as I drove in a southerly direction  back into town. My children could hear me praying out loud as I drove. A very dear neighbour was terminally ill with cancer, and I was begging God for a miracle of healing. The next day I planned to stop in to see her at the hospital, if she wanted visitors.

She had been battling stoically, but privately, and even that summer when I happened to bump into her on the sidewalk with her rainbow toe socks, and Birkenstock sandals, she didn’t want to talk about it.

I dropped the girls off at the house. Our son was away. I then turned around and went back to the office to finish up where I left off. When I got to the shop my husband’s face said it all. She was gone.

With my head buried in my hands, I quietly sobbed behind my desk. With only an hour left until closing, my husband insisted I go home. For some reason I picked up the phone, and called our eldest daughter to give her the devastating news, and to announce I was coming home early. God then prompted my daughter to be an instrument of hope in the moments that followed.

We lived only a few blocks west of the store, but the blocks stretched into miles. I pushed my foot down on the gas pedal, but the van belligerently crawled along. Streetlights lined the road, but not one of them seemed capable of beating back the darkness. The bleak winter night grew blacker than ever before and threatened to swallow me whole. My lungs lamented beneath my ribs. Why had God not answered my prayers?

“Why did you allow her to die?” my spirit screamed into the darkness.

“Her children needed her, her husband needed her, and I needed her!”

My emotions were all over the map. I felt betrayed, and deeply wounded. For one very dark moment I believed God had abandon us all. I cranked the wheel to maneuver up our driveway. There on the peak of an enormous white snowdrift, which had conquered our front step, was one small candle propped in a mason jar, shining defiantly.

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God could have healed my friend, he could have made the moon stand still, but instead he chose to reveal himself to me through a tiny yellow flame, and the love of my children. The vast expanse of snow was indeed a vicious cruel reflection of the unfair world we live in, but the candle’s flame profoundly commanded the view, and spoke volumes.

“I hear you, and you are not alone” I heard Christ speak as I stared at the incredible view.

Christ’s presence lit up the sky and surrounded me. I went into the house and embraced my children. Together we walked to the window and silently watched the flame of the candle burn brightly.

Cindy Palin

Once Upon a Christmas Past…

Once upon a Christmas Past…

Struggling with pneumonia, I laboured to pull out the piano bench quietly. Once seated my right foot found the middle peddle, and pushed it down to the left to lock it in place. This way I could play and not disturb anyone’s sleep. It was the middle of the night. Only the street light’s glow on a fresh fallen blanket of snow lit the keys before me.

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Christmas was coming, and I had been too sick to do any shopping or baking. Little did I know that a song would be my gift to those I loved.

“Seasons come and seasons go, and every year the sight of snow, threatens to paralyze my soul. Christmas finds me questioning your gifts of joy and suffering and memories send me off in search of hope.”

My parent’s marriage had its ups and downs. When they divorced Christmas was never the same. I know now that Christmas does not hinge on humanity’s imperfect state.

As I wrote at the piano, their pain and mine, of never being a whole family again, flowed out of my heart and onto the page. Mysteriously, for every sorrow a remedy followed. Each melodic, aching admission turned into a revelation of hope.

“I am weaker than most; you came to a manger. I am broken to the bone; you were pierced for a stranger. The past has left its mark, but Christmas heals the heart with memories of a child who offers hope.”

The next day I printed the song onto fancy paper and fashioned small pillows with pockets, from scraps in my sewing closet. Each pocket was sized to hold a copy of the song.

When Christmas day arrived, our family drove almost two hours north to my sister’s place for dinner. Unfortunately I was still very short of breath, so I attended the festivities in my pajamas. Like Linus from ‘Charlie Brown’, I toted a blanket behind me. Although my ‘song pillow’ gift to everyone was small, I trusted they too would be lifted by the musical revelation of hope God had inspired.

Cindy Palin