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O Canada
by Fran Alexander

Today may well be the quietest Canada Day in our one hundred and fifty-three year history.

Though provinces, cities, towns and even villages are slowly opening up, large crowds are not gathering, fireworks are not happening, nor will we stand shoulder to shoulder and sing O Canada.

And that is because we are Canada … a vast land filled with leaders from coast to coast.

I don’t mean elected officials or public health offers. I mean the over 37 million individuals who call Canada home. We who recognize that the whole is of more value than the individual, that self sacrifice is for the greater good. That the greatest way to attain freedom as a citizen is by looking out for others.

During this pandemic we have done what the public heath officials have asked of us … kept our distance, stayed home, washed out hands (again, and again and again), worn masks and, when we didn’t quite feel well … we stayed home. Our united goal was to flatten the curve, stop the spread of Covid 19, protect others … our families, our neighbors, others who have never met.

In our following of their health orders, in our others-centered living, we, the citizens, have become leaders in the world … in our home and native land.

“This is one country. We’re all playing for Team Canada right now. Making the announcement as we did today was just part of getting Canada back on its feet and healthy again.” (CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie after the league postponed the start of its regular season)

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all of us command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

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“They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.”
Robert Laurence Binyon

in-war

Tomorrow, Canadians will show respect and honour for our veterans in Remembrance Day ceremonies across the country.

It is an annual pilgrimage for our family to a local cenotaph where we will sing, pray, and remember that freedom has not come freely, or without great loss.

But, loss is not only felt in death.

Many veterans, and their loved ones, have also experienced loss through the suffering of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). This disorder comes about through a traumatic event, which causes psychological injury. Professional treatment is imperative to healing and restoration of health.

According to Veterans Affairs Canada, “for military Veterans, the trauma may relate to direct combat duties, being in a dangerous war zone, or taking part in peacekeeping missions under difficult and stressful conditions.”

PTSD is not new, as it has had many names over the years, including soldier’s heart, shell shock, war neurosis, combat fatigue, and combat stress reaction.

What many, who live with the horrors of this damage, know all too well is that there is also shame attached to the horrors of an invisible moral injury.

Moral injury is “defined as a profound sense of guilt or shame resulting from a perceived moral transgression or sense of disillusionment resulting from an institutional betrayal” and “recovery from moral injury cannot happen in isolation.” Steve Rose

We humans need each other. Those who have suffered injury to their minds, for the sake of peace, of human rights, of freedom need to be shown and told, we remember your sacrifice too.

“Sin has made a great change in the world for the worse,
and Christ will make a great change in it for the better.”
(Matthew Henry Commentary)

May we be the hands and feet of Christ in making a great change in the lives of our hurting veterans.

We will remember all of them!

(This is a repost from 2016)

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Happy International Women’s Day!

I love being a woman, been raised by an amazing woman, have raised a couple of women, work with and for a number of women.

I do believe that if we can find our strength, our confidence and our comfortability in our own skin, we can do just about anything we set our minds to.

The theme of International Women’s Day this year is #BalanceforBetter. On the IWD website it says, of balance:

“We notice its absence and celebrate its presence.”

The idea of this theme is, perhaps, a bit more applicable to women in developed, as opposed to developing countries, where women’s struggles are, perhaps, more foundational. It applies to “gender-balance in business, government, media, wealth, sports coverage, etc.”

I am old enough to have seen changes in our world, regarding this desired balance. I remember when leaders in all areas of society were men. Women have worked hard to achieve positions of leadership and visibility.

I am young enough to have not known what it was to be persecuted for my gender (other than once … and that was by another woman … but that is a story for another day). Over twenty years ago I worked as a Drafstman for a well-established Engineering company. It wasn’t until recent years that I realized I was their only (and first) woman hired in that position. I just knew that I was thrilled to have gotten a job there.

For me (and I know that there are other narratives out there that tell a very different story), being a woman has never hindered me, my goals, my future. I know that part of that has to do with who I am, how I interpret events in my life. I also know that I am blessed, benefitting every day, from the women who went before me, paving the way of balance for myself.

Recently, while assisting a high school student on an assignment, I was introduced to Pink Teas. In the early 1900s, as women, in Canada, were striving for the freedom to vote (and, first, to be recognized as ‘persons’) they found that through organizing these ‘Pink teas’ … women-only events, complete with lace doilies and finger foods … more women were able (allowed) to attend, and the events would not be interrupted by opponents.

These events, and the work of the Famous Five (Emily Murphy, Irene Marryat Parlby, Nellie Mooney McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards) resulted in England’s Privy Council declaring that, indeed, women are persons. Lord Sankey declaring “The exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours.”

Balance is better, better for all people. And balance is best achieved when the door is opened to us all to achieve our place in business, government and society by our merits, our hard work, our giftedness.

Perhaps, in Canada today, our greatest example of female leadership is a woman who has spoken up and stepped down from a position of power, out of personal integrity, out of knowing that her position (provided for out of balance) is not as important as truth.

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Screen Shot 2018-06-30 at 7.15.30 AM

It’s a birthday for the nation of Canada and the nation will be singing it’s song all day long.

“God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.”

Glorious and free …

What exactly does that mean?

Glorious …

Well, glorious could be substituted with wonderful, magnificent. And Canada is! It’s beauty, from coast to coast (sea to shining sea), not just in it’s vast and varied landscape, but in it’s citizens from every nation. All have come here, to this vast nation, seeking what those of us who call this our native land … home … a place to live and work and play. A place to call our own.

Free …

To be free is to not be hindered, by anything or anyone. It can be physical, but it can also be emotional, social, spiritual … freedom from the inside out. So many Canadians have sought to live here in the True North, for the strength and freedom that is absent elsewhere, that is here in abundance. From my perspective, our freedom of speech has been, is and should always be our greatest freedom (even when what is said is disagreeable to us), for from it every other freedom evolves.

I am thankful for this nation that I call home.

I pray that God would keep our land glorious and free.

“Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer,
Hold our Dominion in thy loving care”

 

 

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IMG_3142

(obviously I love alliteration …)

Sometimes we forget what we know in exchange for what we feel.

I had that happen when I read a news article about Canada’s Prime Minister, rolled my eyes and thought … well, not nice thoughts. That was the feel part.

In the midst of my negativity, another thought, one might even say a still, small voice quieted my negativity …

pray for your leaders

I knew I had heard it before, and I was pretty certain that it was from (what I declare, over and over as the source of truth) …

the Bible.

That still, small voice followed me, for days and weeks. It haunted every social media feed, every radio and television newscast. Finally, I did what I knew it was whispering in my ear to do … see what the Bible does say.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 reminds, instructs us:

I urge, then, first of all,
that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving
be made for all people—

for kings and all those in authority,
that we may live peaceful and quiet lives
in all godliness and holiness.

This is good, and pleases God our Savior,
who wants all people to be saved
and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Well now … that’s a bit of a spanking of biblical proportions!

And so, I (and maybe we) do a bit of a readjustment.

Timothy (that younger, right-hand-man of Paul), tells the Christians of the day (and every day after) to:

  • make petitions/requests of God for all people— for kings and all those in authority. 
  • pray for all people— for kings and all those in authority. 
  • interceed/speak for all people— for kings and all those in authority. 
  • give thanks for all people— for kings and all those in authority. 

Our leaders, whether we voted for them … or not, whether we agree with them … or not, whether we like them … or not, live in a fish bowl of pressure, responsibility and with divergent voices all around (kinda like that of a pastor … but I digress), need our prayers … even if our leader does not acknowledge to whom we are praying. It is our responsibility, straight from the Bible, to pray for our leaders … and it pleases God our Saviour.”

Do you ever wonder might be the fruit for our countries, if Christ-followers, committed our leaders in prayer?

“It is a great privilege
as well as our responsibility
to pray for our government leaders”

Billy Graham

 

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remembrance day

Dear Sir (who I never met, and whose name I will never know),

It is that time of year again, as a fellow Canadian citizen, to be thankful and to remember those (such as yourself) who gave their lives, so that I could live my life in freedom.

I have a good life.

I am married, and have three grown children. My youngest just turned eighteen (eighteen … if my son were to have been eighteen in the early 1940s …), and two daughters who are twenty and twenty-five (you might have had a girlfriend, a wife?).

I work in a high school, assisting students to do the best work they can on their assignments and tests (if you had not gone to war, would you have worked a trade? gone to university?).

My husband and I own our home, on which we often spend our time, cleaning or fixing up each spring and summer (did you help your parents on chores around your home growing up?).

My husband coaches community football to young men who are sixteen to eighteen (I wonder, did you play football, or other sports).

I love to garden, and read, and write (what did you like to do in your spare time?).

We are involved in our church …

did you attend church?

did you know the one who gave his life for yours?

the one whose sacrifice of great love mirrored your own.

I need to be honest with you, sir, I live a pretty ordinary life. I have never saved the life of another. I have not invented or discovered a cure for a life-threatening disease. I can be apathetic, sarcastic and down-right lazy at time. I have been known to spend far too much time on frivolous time-wasters like social media and Sudoko.

Was it worth it? You giving your life, so that I could live my days taking your sacrifice for granted?

I am thankful, sir. I am thankful when I hear or read of one, a kindred spirit of yours, who died a hero, stepping in, stepping up to give their life for another. I am thankful when this November 11 day rolls around each year, when the familiar, pin on that red poppy pokes at my arm, when the planes fly over, the songs are sung, the guns fired, the prayers offered and the silence …

Sir, please accept this letter of thanks. Please receive it as a love letter, from one who is undeserving of your sacrifice.

Your friend,

 

 

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*This is a re-post from three years ago, after having been for a visit on the East Coast of Canada. Today hubby heads there (he refers to it as the Promised Land) and my thoughts have been going East more each day … it is time I make plans for a trip to that temporary home, from my past..

I have brought up the house issue a few times. The house ‘issue’ being my love of houses with character, and the discontent I live with in our present west coast contemporary home (it is all size and little character). Well my trip to the east coast, this past summer, did little to hinder my house ‘wanderlust’ (House Wanderlust). I felt as though I was in architectural heaven! Character abounds on the east coast, which for more years has been more widely settled , than the west coast.

While I was there, I am sure the incidence of road rage increased, as I was constantly making last minute stops at the side of a road to take a picture of a house, a church, a barn, or of landscape.

It never ceases to amaze me of how the sights of these character (or, as hubby would say, “old”) buildings makes my heart flip flop. But, when you live in a place (as I do) where buildings over fifty years old are torn down to make room for ‘modern’ architecture (modern architecture, to me is an oxymoron), you can see where my longing comes from.

On the east coast, an older home is one which is over seventy years old. And it is not a rarity for these homes to be inhabited (case in point is hubby’s parent’s home, built over one hundred years ago). Many are homes that were built for, and once inhabited by, sailors and sea captains in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, when shipbuilding along the Bay of Fundy was a major industry. The end of that industry resulted in the gradual demise of many communities beautifully situated along the Bay, and it is reflected in the low cost of character-rich estate homes in those communities (low cost, as in  w  a  y  less than $200,000).

I even love the dilapidated ones. The ones that (like the picture to the left) are empty of inhabitants (other than the rodent and insect variety), with a broken window or two, with faded exteriors. Often though, their strong and well built frames are standing straight and tall for all who pass by to see that they may no longer be lived in, but the beauty that was built into them stands tall for all to see and admire (or, in the words of hubby’s dad, “look at that straight roof line”).

The people who built those homes probably sacrificed greatly to build and maintain those beautiful abodes, whose walls must be full (of not just newspaper for insulation) of memories. Memories of people who worked hard to build and maintain those homes. Memories of lives lived in wealth, and lives lived in desperation. Lives filled with love, and lives lived with sorrow. It is, I think, that which draws me most to older, character homes. I look at an old home and I wonder about it’s history, I wonder about the stories that it could tell, if it could talk.

But, a house is, if nothing else, just a temporary home. A place to lay your head, and live your life. As I look around our current temporary home I am reminded that what makes it appealing at all is who lives under it’s roof. It is not the craftsmanship, or character that was built into it, but the characters and the craftsmanship of their (our) Creator that makes it the place I most love to be.

And, for that reason, I love my ugly west coast contemporary … temporary home … but mostly I just love the characters who share it with me.

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Sometimes … the past comes back to haunt, and once in a while … it comes back to soothe and reassure.

It was a sunny, warm spring day. Hubby and I had packed our modern picnic lunch (also known as fast food, picked up en route to the park), and were heading to a local park with our 20’ish month old daughter.

We drove until we found a park that we had not been to before (and I do not remember ever returning to again). The park was large, with a soccer field and baseball diamond towards the back. Parking was at the front, near the street. Also, towards the front was a small playground area with swings, and a sandbox. And near the playground were just a few picnic tables and benches.

Our daughter was very eager to get to the sandbox … we were very eager to eat our fast food picnic lunch, before the hot and crisp fries became cold and flopsy. And so, she played, and we ate … all of us enjoying the respite that a park provides.

And then, there she was …

A little girl had arrived at the sandbox, seemingly out of nowhere. She was a blond pre-schooler, who seemed older than her years. As quickly as she appeared, she befriended our daughter, and the two of them played, in the sandbox and on the swings, as though they had known each other all of their lives.

As we enjoyed watching their play with each other, we finally realized that this delightful little girl did not seem to have an adult with her. When we asked her who she was there with she pointed to the baseball game, happening towards the back of the park, and said, “they’re over there.” Although we thought it odd for her parents to allow her to be so far from them, at such a young age, we felt we had no alternative, but to believe her.

The two girls sat on the swings, and we responded to their requests to push them. As hubby and I pushed, we marveled at how the two looked so similarly, they could be sisters. Their blond hair swaying in the breeze, and their blue eyes shining with delight, their contagious giggles. Why, they could be … sisters …

And it hit us both … they could be sisters. They looked so much alike, their age difference … why that delightful little girl could be the same age as our first baby, who had never made it to live with us.

It had happened over three years before. At four months into our first pregnancy … the baby, our first baby, died (this wasn’t to be our first such loss, as over the years it was to happen four more times). We never knew the gender of that child, but we had named it, to provide for ourselves some bit of identity. We had decided on the name Alison, because it could be a boy, or a girl’s name. The name is an old one, meaning noble or truth.

The two girls continued to play happily, until it was time for us to leave.

Then we asked the little girl her name … and she smiled at us, and replied, “Alison.”

 

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Today is Canada Day, the one hundred and forty-seventh anniversary of the forming of Canada into a country. As a country we are our own entity, and as citizens, we are Canadian!

I have had the privilege of living on the East Coast of Canada, Canada’s national capital (Ottawa), and now on the West Coast of Canada.

I have had the privilege of enjoying fresh lobster, fresh Pacific salmon, and fresh … chip wagon poutin on the streets of Ottawa (it always comes down to food with me).

I have watched the sun rise from the horizon of the Atlantic, and set into the waters of the Pacific … on the same day.

I have watched the lupins blow in the eastern gales, tulips color the landscape of the nations capital, and ancient cedars grow to gigantic sizes on the west coast.

I have lived in communities where there is one church for every sixteen people, and in communities where there is one church for every six hundred (and as many people attend at each).

I have left the house with a perfectly coiffed doo, to have it mangled in minutes by winds from the Bay of Fundy. I have left my home, showered and clean, to arrived at my destination soaked by perspiration thanks to the humidity of central Canada. I have left my home in shorts and a t-shirt on a sunny day in the Fraser Valley to be drenched to the skin by a downpour, only ten minutes later.

I have wandered through the flowerpots of The Rocks on the Bay of Fundy, skated on the Rideau, and have hiked the mountains in the west.

I have enjoyed winters of over ten feet of snow on the ground, winters where the wind chill reaches -50 degrees celsius, and winters where there is no snow, and the temperature never goes below +5 degrees celsius.

I have awakened to the bright mornings sun glistening off fresh snow, the most vibrant colors of red and orange and gold of fall foliage, and the amazement of snowdrops blooming in January.

I have seen AHL (American Hockey League), WHL (Western Hockey League), and NHL (National Hockey League) hockey games in person … and even understood what was going on! (and been to hockey’s ‘holy of holies’ (hubby’s title), the Hockey Hall of Fame).

I have watched the Anne of Green Gables musical at the Confederation Center, in Prince Edward Island, the Rankin family at the National Arts Center in Ottawa, and the Three Tenors in Vancouver.

I have known what it is to walk down a street and know everyone who I pass, and to walk down a street and know no person who passes me.

I have eaten in homes where meat is a main course, and homes where meat is only spelled with two e’s.

I have met people who are pacifists at any cost, and people who who have died to save and improve the lives of others.

I have stood on Canada Day, with Queen Elizabeth in attendance, at Parliament Hill singing Oh Canada, with so many others, singing so loudly, so proudly I almost felt … American. And I have stood at other gatherings where I can only hear my own (very off-key) voice.

I have seen the auroras boreales, the Niagara Falls, the Tidal Boar, the red soil of Prince Edward Island, Peggy’s Cove, the Rocky Mountains, Lake Louise, and the whole of Vancouver from Cypress Mountain.

I have crossed the Canadian-American borders at Calais, Philipsburg, Rock Island, Peace Arch, Woodstock, Cornwall, Prescott, Aldergrove, Windsor, Sumas, Vanceboro, Stanstead, St. Stephen, Blackpool and more!

I have met people from Ukranian, Chinese, Russian, American, Dutch, German, Japanese, Scottish, Indian, Australian, Vietnamese, Iranian, African and more other national heritages than I have paper to print them on, who now call themselves Canadian.

I have met people who arrived in Canada many years ago at Pier 21, in Halifax, and people who arrived this year at Vancouver International airport.

I am from a family that is so Canadian, we go back to the Loyalists and the Metis. And I know many Canadians who still call themselves Canadian with a hyphen (ie. American-Canadian).

I feel blessed to be part of the society known as Canadians. We are a study in contrasts, from sea to shining sea.

(The intent of this writer was not to provide advertising for Molson Canada 😉 … but it IS part of our identity too)

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In recent weeks seismic activity of the west coast of North America has once again been in the news. And, every time this happens I think the same thing, ‘I really need to put together an emergency kit, in case THE BIG ONE hits.’

I’ve only been thinking about this since we moved here to the Pacific Coast … over sixteen years ago! It is just that, well, it is like buying life insurance … it is a good, wise and responsible thing to do, but acknowledging that it is something that I might just need is so very depressing.

I remember my first west coast earthquake. It was in the late 1990’s. It was early morning, hubby was preparing for work, our eldest was watching The Big Comfy Couch on TV, and our youngest was an infant in her bed. When the Earth started to shake I was … in the loo, and my first thoughts were not for the safety of our children, but “God, don’t let this be the Big One, I cannot have my body found here!” Ever since that early morning on the throne, I have been thinking an emergency preparedness kit is in order (I also spend much less time in the loo).

I also remember the first time I had to prepare a small kit for our daughter (and her siblings each year thereafter) for her school classroom. One of the things that needed to be added was a note … a note of encouragement … a ‘what if’ note. That was a most traumatic event as a mother!

So now, sixteen years after moving here, the iron has entered my soul, and I am determined to prepare for, what scientists believe to be, the inevitable.

I have started with purchasing tarps and garbage bags, and emptying the large container that will house our kit. I have also started to research what is recommended to put into such a container, how long to be prepared for, and other preparations that need to be made.

In my research I found an article from Parents Magazine, by Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., called “Are You Prepared for an Emergency?” which is all about  Emergency Preparedness. It is probably the best article I have read, with both a list of necessary items to pack, details to organize, plus rational for those things.

Check out this article by Dr. Swanson, and re-think emergency preparedness for you and your family.

On the subject of earthquakes, I thought I would share a song that comes to mind whenever I hear of such events 😉

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