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where brown meets blue

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December 2017

Joy

I love old classic Christmas carols.

There are a lot of great new Christmas songs out there, but I’m always drawn to the oldies. It’s probably partially because I grew up on them, and the older I get the more I’m drawn to “good” stuff vs. new stuff. As a teenager I was always annoyed by the music chosen by major supermarket chains. These days every song I hear at Superstore is my jam.

I think it also has a lot to do with content. Old hymns and Christmas carols carry such foundational truths. I find when I listen to or sing them that they deepen my faith and speak to my soul. Like this one:

“God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,

Remember Christ our Saviour was born on Christmas day!

To rescue us from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.

O tidings of comfort and joy!”

Most of my favourite songs have to do with the joy of Jesus’ birth. Songs like O Holy Night, O Come all Ye Faithful, and Joy to the World.

These songs speak about the long awaited birth of Christ. The prophets of old had predicted his coming. For centuries, while the world around them fell further and further into darkness, God’s people waited for the Saviour they had been promised. For the One who would free them from oppression, and bring them Hope. And when he finally came, they almost missed Him. Because He didn’t come as they expected. He came as a tiny, helpless newborn baby. Many didn’t recognize him at all. But for those shepherds who heard the angels proclaiming in the fields, for the magi who followed the star to see where it would lead, for Anna and Simon, the prophets who were told they would see the Saviour before their death, for Mary and Joseph, caught up in the middle of this strange, remarkable, unbelievable story – can you imagine the pure joy? The absolute awe? The wonder of knowing that all the prophecies, all the promises were finally being fulfilled? That all the years of waiting were done?

This is what I love about those carols.

“Long lay the world, in sin and error pining,

til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”

This year these familiar songs have taken on a new meaning for me. Because the world feels dark, doesn’t it? Wars, disasters, shootings, train derailments, crazy politicians, bombings, sickness, death. There is so much calamity in our world, so much hurt, so much sadness. And I can’t help but think this is what it must have felt like for all those people waiting, waiting, waiting for the promised Messiah.

Except for one major difference: He’s already come. He came. He lived. He died for our sins. And He rose again.

And so this year, as I sing these hymns of joy and expectation – I sing them not only in celebration of the birth of Christ the Savior, but also in honour of Immanuel, God with us, and in hopeful expectation of His coming again – of the time when He will rule the nations with truth and justice, and make all things new.

“Come thou long expected Jesus,

Born to set thy people free.

From our fears and sins release us,

Let us find our rest in thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,

Hope of every longing heart.

Dear desire of every nation,

Joy of every longing heart!”

Merry Christmas,

Raquel

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Hunting

I certainly never imagined that I would be a hunter. In fact, I’m fairly certain there was a time in my life where I condemned all hunting as cruel and senseless. I was probably 15. And yes, I ate meat.

I’ve always loved animals. Real animals, of course, but even stuffed animals. I remember vividly an incident as a young girl when a stuffed lamb got accidentally thrown into the fireplace. You guys, I cried tears of regret for a week. I even bandaged the thing up and put it in a little basket beside my bed at night because I felt so bad for it. (I’m not going to tell you how old I was at the time of that incident).

I guess you could say things began to change drastically for me in Afghanistan. The process from butchering to the table is not so hidden or sanitized there as it is here. I was exposed to the sight of dead lambs draped across the back of bicycles on a regular basis. And there was also that time one of my students decided he wanted to gift me a turkey for Canadian Thanksgiving, and much to my surprise brought me an actual live turkey. Which we then had to butcher in order to eat.

My sisters were shocked at the change in me, when on a visit home one Christmas, we were passed by a truck with a flatbed full of dead deer. Don’t look, they shrieked, knowing this would have sent me into a tailspin of wailing in the past. Instead, I found the sight rather funny, and surprised them by bursting into laughter instead of tears.

Getting married to an avid hunter and spending time in Saskatchewan furthered my interest in hunting. I even pushed bush for the Hubs a few years back. Unfortunately, that ended with the Hubs having to hunt for his lost wife, instead of a nice big buck.

At some point this year (and watching a few seasons of Meat Eater on Netflix might have had something to do with this), I decided I was going to hunt. I thoroughly enjoy eating deer, and the idea of extra free meat in the freezer for the winter was very enticing. I took my hunter safety course, spent some time practice shooting, bought myself some serious outdoor gear and was ready to go on the first day of hunting.

I soon learned what most hunters already know. That hunting is partially about being prepared, but a lot about being in the right place at the right time. I had one fairly good opportunity early on in the season, but that was it. I spent time in a blind, I hiked through wildlife lands, I walked through fields of snow (and nearly died in a ditch that ended up being chest deep with snow rather than knee deep as I had thought). I had a small taste of success on the day the Hubs, his dad and I managed to push a nice buck in the direction of the Hubs rifle. But I was so itching to get a real chance to shoot myself.

It’s crazy how obsessive I can be. I literally lost sleep just thinking about situations in which I might be able to shoot a deer. I replayed that one chance I had over and over and over again in my mind. I was getting anxious about the days passing by; my window of opportunity quickly closing. I seriously considered calling in sick to work to get extra hunting time.

And then, the answer came in the form of help from a friend. There was this spot where the deer just came in droves at the right time of day. I set myself up the first evening and I. Was. Focused. My eyes never strayed from the treeline. I watched and waited. I noticed every movement from a chickadee taking flight at 150 yards away, to a blade of dried grass blowing in the wind. But not a single deer came my way. Nothing, nada, zilch.

At this point, I began to take it a little personally. Why would the deer not come for me? Why had I spent so much time away from my kids for this? My poor Hubs had given so much of his time and energy to help me out, and I hadn’t even delivered. You know how these things go. By the time I was walking back to the truck, empty handed once again, I was having a full on inner crisis on my various failings, all my shortcoming as a woman, wife, mother, and human being.

On my second evening in the perch, the atmosphere was immediately different. It was a cloudy day, but the sun was dipping below the clouds, and shinning for the first time in a few days. As soon as I sat down, a deep quiet came over me. I felt my mind slowing, my heart opening. I felt at rest and at peace.  The quieter I became, the more I could see, and hear and feel. As I scanned the view in front of me, I began to see things differently. The treeline in front of me was a mass of branches and trunks, stripped bare of the leaves that give them substance and life in summertime. I stared and stared at them. And as I did, something inside of me broke.

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My heart recognized a Truth in those trees. They were seemingly dead, hollow, devoid of colour and life on their own. But in the radiant glow of the setting sun, they were stunning, vibrant and full of beauty. The Truth came in a wave. I am like those dead winter trees. I have nothing to give or offer, no inherent beauty of my own. But even stripped bare, in the radiance of the Son, I become alive, set on fire, and filled to the brim. For I was made to house the fullness of God.

I sat in the trees, watched the sun illuminate them, and wept tears of gratitude for a God who knows exactly what I need to hear, and just how to speak to my heart. Who patiently draws me to Him, and who loves me enough to remind me that He is enraptured by me. The trees burned bright for over an hour, until the sun dipped below the horizon, but the moon was already rising, also brilliant as it reflected the sun.

I never did see any deer out there in that “perfect” hunting spot, and I never had another chance to shoot one. So you might say that my first ever hunting season was a failure, but I happen to think it was a success.

 

 

 

Dear Dog

Dear Dog (aka Inferior Species)

We, the beloved cats, having tried our best to ignore your existence as much as possible, now find it imperative to bring a few important items to your attention. We were sincerely hoping that you would be gone by now, but it seems we must live with disappointment.

It’s true, we had reason to hope your stay would be temporary. Your arrival here a few weeks ago was not a welcome one. We were both shocked and dismayed to see you jump out of our family’s car. Thinking it must be some sort of mistake, we felt the most appropriate response would be to absent ourselves. Why get all in a tizzy over a dog, after all. Imagine, if you will, our deep dismay when you were promptly let inside the house. We have been attempting various methods of entry for over a year – from sneaking stealthily when the door is slightly ajar, to making a mad dash. We have tried just waltzing in and acting as though we belong, and running upstairs to hide under the bed. All of our attempts have ended the same way. We are unceremoniously ushered outside. Every. Single. Time. To say that we were mystified and disappointed, that you – a dog no less – would be freely allowed to enter that most coveted place, would be a gross understatement.

The situation worsened considerably during the family’s next outing. Typically, we accompany the woman and our boys on their daily walks. We follow behind, and receive copious amounts of love and pets from our boys. They usually find some sticks or tall grass which they wave in front of us to entice us to chase them, much to our delight. But on that particular day, you were there. Your mere presence was disturbing enough, but you made it an absolute nightmare by insisting on chasing us up trees and into the bushes every time you spotted us, even in spite of the woman’s repeated cries of No! You don’t listen very well, Dog.

That first night we huddled in our house and told each other comforted each other. It’s ok, we said, this will soon pass. It is but a momentary lapse of judgement. But the next day you were still there, and then there was another day, and another day. We began to realize running from you was not solving the issue, and so we stood our ground, giving you a good swat on the nose once or twice. We are not ashamed to say that we enjoyed that rather immensely.  There, we thought, now the dog will know its place. It’s true you no longer chased, but your repeated attempts to smell us and your incessant barking at us was really becoming irritating. We didn’t care that you were just trying to get to know us, or wanting to play. We really truly didn’t want you anywhere near us. (Please note: this has not changed).

A few days after your arrival we felt salvation had come at last! You were taken away and we breathed a sigh of relief. Now surely everything would go back to the way it was before. And for a few blissful days, it was. We were rather hoping that we would now be let inside the house, but our repeated attempts continued to be denied, but we found solace in the knowledge that at least we no longer had to deal with you.

But then – you had the incredible audacity to return. We really cannot over emphasize how upsetting this was, Dog. And once again, you were let inside. We let the woman know our feelings on this issue as often as possible. We took shifts sitting on the landing outside the front door so that every time she looked outside, or opened the door, there we were. Our expressions made our feelings abundantly clear. Unhappy. Unimpressed. We meowed pitifully and incessantly at her. All to no avail.

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Unimpressed

We had high hopes that this stay was also merely temporary. But one night, sitting on our perch, we overheard the woman tell the boys…OUR boys…that you are here to stay. Unbelievable.

Nevertheless, denial will get us nowhere. And so Dog, we feel it necessary to establish some rules.

Rule 1 – Under no circumstances are you ever to come within a two foot radius of us. We refuse to be tainted by your overpowering dog stink.

Rule 2 – You will be swatted mercilessly should you ever break rule 1. We will do our best to draw blood.

Rule 3 – In order to enable you to experience to some small degree how you have made us feel, we will sit in a tree exactly one inch out of your reach and pretend to sleep or lick our paws while you bark and work yourself into a frenzy. We are aware this drives the man and the woman crazy, and we confess that this is in fact our purpose. It is our sincerest hope that they will become so annoyed by this behavior that they will send you away again. It hasn’t worked yet.

Rule 4 – You shall not touch our food or water bowls. Should you happen to drink out of our water bowl, it will be considered tainted, and we will refuse to drink from it until it has been properly sanitized and refilled. We reserve the right to try to eat your food even though we already know it’s too big and too hard for our feline teeth.

Rule 5 – We reserve the right to change our minds about any of the above rules, but especially Rule 1 in the winter months for the purposes of using you as a living heat pad.

We feel it of utmost importance to make it clear that even though of late we have been in fact, slightly more tolerant of your presence, we still ultimately dislike you. That one time we brushed up against you and didn’t immediately recoil shouldn’t be taken as a sign of acceptance…even if you are soft and fuzzy and oh so warm. Ahem. In any case, we think we have made ourselves quite clear.

Regards,

The Cats

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Tonkin (aka Dog)

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