Friday, February 27, 2009

Won’t you be my neighbour?

I remember watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood when I was young. He would always sing a song asking me (and all the other children viewing his show) to be his neighbour. After watching each 30-minute episode, I'd plan ways in my head to become a neighbour to someone so kind and friendly ...

Although I've never been Mr Rogers’ neighbour, I most certainly have lived in communities with people much like him – people who genuinely care about those in their communities. That's the kind of neighbour I aspire to be.

I live in a small town just minutes from the city I grew up in. It's quite incredible the difference a smaller centre can make in bringing neighbours together.

There's a bakery in my town that has the most delicious pastries ever! It's locally owned and it seems like there's always a vehicle parked out front picking up a loaf of freshly baked bread, or goodies to take home and share with the family.

There's also a gas station just as you enter our town. It's one of the few “Full Service” stations in our area. There always seems to be teenage boys standing about waiting for the next customer to roll up and proclaim "fill 'er up".

In this economic crisis, it’s quite evident that people are tightening their belts, including my husband and I. I have become quite the sale shopper and spend time going through flyers looking for the best deals on the goods needed in our home. However, one place that we refuse to cut costs is when it comes to supporting our local businesses.

Sure, I could buy bread at the grocery store for a more inexpensive price. And I could fill up my car with gas at a station that's self serve and spend less.

But then, what kind of neighbour am I being?

If I fail to be a good neighbour and support those who invest so much of their time into making my town better, I'm not only tightening my belt, but I'm also becoming stingy. This economic crisis is no doubt affecting the small businesses in my community, I would hate to be a contributing factor to businesses closing and my neighbours moving away.

I want to be known as someone who lives generously. I want to contribute to a community that lives generously.

I want to be like Mr Rogers.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Male presence

Stuck in traffic on my way home from work, a quick glance to my right caused me to well up with tears. No, it wasn’t a car crash, it was simply a dad walking along with his daughter, swinging her hand, both of them laughing at something. It was nothing special. It was nothing out of the ordinary. But for my daughter, it’s something she has never experienced with her own father.

There are so many of us, even some of you married girls, who have found themselves wondering when the men in our lives (if any) will either step up, stand up or just show up for us and/or our kids.

These are the moments that I, and many mums who have walked the path of parenting alone, can make a split-second choice to fall apart with regret, hurt and aching or blink back the tears, brace ourselves and see the flip side of the situation, which for me is to be grateful for the men in my life who add so much. Having my father as a strong presence in my daughter’s life is a gift that I will never take for granted … I know not everyone has that.

The older my daughter gets, the more I see her need for a strong and trusted male presence to be a part of her life. I’m sure everyone’s view on this will vary, but in my experience, Mannie’s life is richer and her smile is stronger when I see the positive effect my dad, my brothers and my male friends have on her.

My father volunteered for many years at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre where numerous young men’s lives were touched by the simple presence of my father teaching them woodwork. Again nothing special, nothing extraordinary, but it had an effect that not even my dad saw coming. After years of dedication, my father was nominated by these young men as Father of the Year in 2000 and won. A testimony to a man who saw the value in time and patience extended to those in need … who saw that fathering could reach beyond the walls of his home.

To the men reading this, I thank you for all your efforts with your families. The fruits of your labour will be great. And to those readers who are finding themselves in lack, I urge you to put your hand up, quash the supergirl act for a second and ask your friends’ husbands, your brothers, your friends to take time out for your kids. An hour kicking a football or painting a fence won’t kill anyone and the benefits just may astound you.


Monday, February 23, 2009

How to cater for 25 adults + children

Hey all, I hope everyone has had an extraordinary weekend. I know I did.

As usual, I posted a quick update on my twitter account and this one obviously caught the eye of many of my followers. I simply said something to the effect of: "Susan is hosting 25 adults plus children for Sunday lunch."

I was pleasantly surprised by all the good wishes I received and the questions regarding how I (as one person) was going to prepare and host this many people.

Well friends, in true family room style, I did it. We all had a great time, the clean-up was quick and relatively painless and I'm onto tonight's dinner of lamb chops and all the fixins.

So, how does one cater for this many people? Simple, a one-pot meal plus salads, bread rolls and an extra crock-pot of meatballs on the side.

Let me start at the beginning (it's the very best place to start :)!

Friday night, we had a family from school over for a nice, very relaxed dinner. We had a great evening of good food (that amazing and very simple, yet dazzling, recipe to come this week ... stay tuned), great conversation, lots of laughs and a new friendship was birthed. What a great night. Saturday night saw us treated to dinner at our great friend's home. As they say, what goes around comes around. Another great night.

On the way home from our Saturday dinner, we did a quick stop at the supermarket. I purchased a few ingredients that I was missing for Sunday's feast, headed home and began to chop and cook whilst enjoying the company of my eldest daughter (hubby took the two little ones, told stories and tucked them in for some much-needed sleep). My daughter and I not only got a huge head start on Sunday's lunch, we also had a great conversation. It's amazing how much you can learn when you spend quality and quantity time together (read The Gift of Time post from Monday, November 24, 2008).

Our Menu for the Lunch (all recipes will be posted later on this blog):
  • Susan's Yummo Chilli
  • Crunchy Salad
  • Macaroni Salad
  • Veggie Stick Platter
  • Bread Rolls
  • Extra Crock Pot of Meatballs

We prepared everything ahead of time, we even set the table and chopped the vegetables for the veggie platter. We placed everything in containers in the fridge ready to be assembled on Sunday following church (you see, we didn't have all Sunday morning to prepare).

Once home (after church), I had a few last minute clean-up duties to tend to. My eldest was placed on vacuum duty, my son on upstairs tidy and my little one on play room clean-up. I then prepared the last minute sauces, heated up the chilli, added the spices, arranged plates and cuttlery plus small bowls (for the chilli). My husband ran out for a 'forgotten' ingredient, returned home and created a fun atmosphere through his music choice.

We were ready. I believe in order to host people in your home the trick is to keep it simple. Don't stress and complicate matters. People just want to be invited and included. Who would think that a pot of chilli would be appropriate to serve people? We seem to think the simple foods we eat should only be for our family ... well friends, I think if it's good enough for my family, then it's good enough for all!!!!

I hope you are encouraged to open your doors and invite someone in. It's not hard, truly it's only hard in our head. Once we simplify and get everyone involved, whether you are hosting 2 or 25, the difference can only be heard in the sound of the voices resonating through your home. Only one sound (for me) tops that of people coming together and that's the sound of my children's laughter - which, by the way, could be heard throughout our Sunday fun.


Check out and join the challenge. You WON'T want to miss this one!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Delicious dumplings

Hi everyone,

I have just discovered a great, easy recipe for dumplings. It’s a fun way to get the kids involved in cooking and you can add some Asian veggies and sushi to make a healthy meal.
(For the fussy ones, you can leave out the ginger and mushrooms).


Makes 25
Chicken and shiitake dumplings
3 dried shiitake mushrooms
250g chicken mince
3 spring onions, white part only, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp grated ginger
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp honey
25 round wonton wrappers (from the Asian supermarket)

Prawn & scallop dumplings
400g large green prawns, peeled, de-veined, roughly chopped
200g scallops, roe removed, roughly chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tsp grated ginger
25 round wonton wrappers

Chicken & shiitake: Soak mushrooms in boiling water for 10 minutes or until soft. Drain then finely chop. Combine all filling ingredients in a bowl and season with 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Prawn & scallop: Combine all filling ingredients in a bowl and season with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.

For both dumplings
  • Place the wonton wrappers on a clean surface and cover with a damp cloth so they do not dry out.

  • Working with a few at a time, place a teaspoon of the filling in the centre of each wrapper. Using a pastry brush, brush the edges of each wrapper with a little water.

  • Fold each wrapper in half, enclosing the filling to form a semi-circle. Pinch the edges of each wrapper together to form a frill. Alternatively, bring in three sides of each wrapper to join at the centre, to form a triangle-shaped dumpling.

  • Line a steamer (bamboo or metal) with baking paper. Half fill a wok or steamer base with water (the steamer holding the dumplings shouldn't touch the water) and bring to the boil.

  • Cooking in batches, place 6-8 dumplings in the steamer, place over boiling water and cover with a lid. Steam for 8 minutes or until cooked through. Serve with dipping sauce.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

De-cluttering your life

We are currently in the process of building a house, which is ridiculously exciting and leaves me feeling very grateful. The actual building will begin in the next few weeks and so we have chosen to halve our rent and move into a two-bedroom apartment for the duration.

Our kids will have to share a room and we will put some stuff in storage, but it will be fun to walk to the shops and cafes and the gym and have everything at our fingertips. Plus the money we will save will allow us to do some of the things to our new house that aren't included in our package. We're just choosing to be clever in these uncertain economic times.

One of the great aspects of this process has been de-cluttering. I know there's a guy who appears on the Oprah show who goes into people's homes and helps them wade through the clutter. He looks at the emotional benefits, as well as the physical. I'm with him, I tell you!! We cleaned out our garage last weekend and sent two car loads (!!) of stuff to the charity shop. The rest went to the top of the street for a council clean-up. I was mortified by what I saw in those bags and bags and piles of stuff!!! I hope to never accumulate so much again, it was embarrassing!!

It now feels great to walk into the tidy garage and when we move, it will be with only the stuff we actually use and need. I feel so much freer but also glad that I can pass on some of my stuff, that is still in good condition, to others. As I work from home, I also feel like the de-cluttering process has made me more productive. It's all psychological I'm sure, but hey it works!

I wholeheartedly recommend putting on your trackies, getting out the massive garbage bags and getting into your junk! You'll feel 5kgs lighter!!


Monday, February 16, 2009

Rollerblading - a cautionary tale

A little while ago, I sat down and tried to think of an outdoor activity that we could all do as a family. Something that was new for all of us, that would be challenging for the girls but would also be of interest to both my wife and I.

I thought about horse-riding. I was sure we would all get a buzz out of it, but we don’t have horses and it’s not really something that would be spontaneous. Hiking? Also not bad, but a bit boring perhaps for the girls. They get bored of walking after about 10 minutes. I thought about rollerblading. Now that sounded like fun. I could not see any reason why we would not all enjoy it.

I ran it by the troops and it was well received. We marched off to the shops and picked up some blades that were on sale. Apparently, they were last year’s colours. Big deal. Armed with our blades, we set off to the waterfront to try them out. We were excited. It was sunny and the bike path looked perfect for blading on.

Our family is a bit bonkers. Most people, putting on a pair of blades for the first time (well in fifteen years at least) would be content with skating around for half an hour or so. We decided we would take the bike path and skate all the way to downtown Barcelona and back – a distance of about 15 kilometres (just under 10 miles for those of you who are non-metric). In retrospect, this was not a good move.

All was going well. The sun was shining. The view was awesome and we were getting to grips with propelling ourselves at ever increasing speeds along the path. Life was good. We were feeling confident. It was then that we encountered our first descent.

On the back of just one of the rollerblades is a little square piece of rubber. It is about the size of a marshmallow. This is supposed to be a braking device. It is highly ineffective. Trust me. Do not rely upon this to stop you. This product design ranks up there alongside those waxy napkins that you get in a motorway café. The ones that cannot soak up any spilled coffee, that serve only to smear liquid all over the table. Like the rollerblade braking device, they are useless.

Rollerblades gather speed quite quickly on a hill. It was manic. It was absolute chaos. None of us could stop. We began to yell at people to get out of the way. I was fixated upon a large group of old women standing on the path. They were all staring out to sea and were blissfully unaware of us hurtling down the hill towards them.

A particularly large lady, complete with headscarf and walking stick, positioned towards the rear of her group, had left a two-foot gap between her backside and the fence. I was committed to shooting the gap, there were no other options available. I zoomed through, praying she would not take a step backwards and wondered if the rest of my family would avoid wiping them out like pins in a bowling alley.

Thankfully, we all zipped through and came to a stop when the ground had levelled out. We were laughing like idiots, enjoying the buzz, enjoying being together as a family, doing something fun. We almost forgot how tired we were.

For those of you out there who blade regularly, I am sure 15 kilometres is not a great distance, but for us, it became a challenge. The return leg was hard work. My youngest daughter started to complain of blisters. My eldest daughter complained of blisters. My blisters complained of blisters. My wife was fine. She was the only one wearing thick socks. Rule number one – wear decent socks. Rule number two – don’t bite off more than you can chew.

All in all, I would recommend it. Blading, I mean, not blisters. It is fun and it is good exercise. Just make sure you practise stopping first. We came home and looked up a few YouTube videos to figure out the best way to stop. Now, all we have to do is put what we have learned into practise and be sure to avoid groups of large, elderly women. :)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Hey all I hope you're having a great day. For some, it's already Valentine's Day and for others tomorrow is our day for LOVE.

Speaking about LOVE I encourage you to listen to today's online radio show (Coffee With Susan and Friends) on Today's show was all about LOVE!!! You can listen on demand so jump on and enjoy.

If you're lost for things to do this Valentine's Day I thought thefamilyroom could give you a few ideas. So here goes:


If you're interested in curling up on the couch with a special someone and watching a movie here's a list of familyroom favorites (just to name a few)!
  • An Affair to Remember
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • The Notebook
  • The Wedding Singer
  • Sweet Home Alabama
  • 50 First Dates
  • Serendipity
  • Return to Me
  • Love Actually
  • Say Anything
  • Legends of the Fall
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Snow Falling on Cedar
  • High Fidelity
Carpet Picnic

Don't want to break the bank or maybe you can't find a babysitter? Have a carpet picnic at home with a few tasty morsels. You can have a night of appetizers a nice bottle of wine, music, dim lighting and vavoom you have created a fantastic night at home with a twist.

Chocolate Fondue

Enjoying a night with your girlfriends or a group of friends? Make it a simple night and enjoy a Chocolate Fondue. To make it even better add 1/4 cup of condensed milk to your melted chocolate. Dip strawberries, pineapple, melon, marshmellows and even a few nuts....Yummo!!

Go Out For Dinner

Book your favorite restaurant or why not try something new. Jump on YELP or another food search site and check out what's new, exciting and different in your area.

I think that's enough for now. Whatever you do, make sure you enjoy. Find something to laugh about, go armed with conversation cards (if necessary) and just relax into the night.

Take care and share a great story from your night.

Susan xo

Thursday, February 12, 2009

First tough life lesson

We recently moved across Canada, to a new home and a new life to be closer to family. I sensed my son, who was usually a friendly, good-natured boy, was having some issues at his new school. He didn’t seem to want to play outside in the morning and was often the last one out at the end of the day. Twice he has come home with a hurt leg and once he has cut his lip.

He was not volunteering any information when I asked about his day, so I decided the best time to get him to open up about what was happening would be at bedtime. It's when we are closest. It is a time of story-telling, snuggling and safety.

On this particular night, I created a story about a little boy named Ed, who was much like my son. The story went like this …

“Ed was a little boy in grade two who loved playing soccer (just like my son) and he was really good at math (just like my son). He had recently moved to a new school and was feeling ….”
Here I paused and pretended to think. My son quickly interjected with “left out?”.
“Yes,” I continued, “He felt left out. And what do you think Ed’s favourite thing about school was?”
“Probably gym,” replied my son eagerly.
“Oh yes, you are right,” I replied and continued, “And what do you think he liked least?”
“Recess,” replied my son without hesitation.

Now that shocked me and broke my heart because up until this point, my son had always made friends easily and loved to play at recess. As the story unfolded, I found out that there were a couple of bigger kids who were picking on him. The boys would push him or kick him when the teachers weren’t looking. And he was scared to go out to play.

Needless to say, I did not sleep well that night, with thoughts of home-schooling and other alternatives racing through my head.

But the next day, I went in and talked to the principal, who is now aware of the problem and has talked to the two bullies, who seem to be keeping their hands to themselves. As well, with a little coaching, my son has mustered up his courage and approached some other kids in the school yard and made some new friends. He also confronted one of the big boys himself and told him that he didn’t like it when he hurt him.

Although the problem may arise in the future, I am proud of my son for working his way through his first tough life lesson, and more importantly, he is proud of himself.

In the meantime, my son’s new favourite bedtime story is the one about Ed, who each night, continues to overcome bullies, make new friends, and discover his own strengths and talents.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Where are friends found?

Have you ever sat and considered your friends and then thought about when you became friends and what triggered your friendship?

Just yesterday, Philip and I were talking about ‘friends by chance’ and ‘friends by choice’ (catch that article on his blog, see our “Blogs we Love” panel for the link).

Today, I want to introduce a new friend to you. Her name is Rebecca Ness, and Rebecca and I truly became friends by chance.

It all happened one hot summer day in Wolseley, Saskatchewan. I was spending the summer with my family, in my parents’ new house by the lake with the bridge (my parents were still living on the farm). It was a warm day and I was busy preparing lunch for my children whilst they ran through the sprinklers my father had set up for them on the front yard. Their squealing and laughter let us know how much they were enjoying the cool water and the splurges of their super soakers.

My mum was with me and, like every day, we noticed a vehicle arrive at the lake with the bridge. The bridge is a major tourist spot in our small town - to learn more about this picturesque area visit: - and it is seen by many who travel the #1 highway across our great country of Canada.

The vehicle in front of my parents’ house was a caravan, or RV as we know them here. Once parked, the side doors flew open and out jumped two lovely little children. They were followed by their mum, who has now become my friend, Rebecca. Her children unashamedly joined my children, as only young ones do (how I wish we adults still had that ever-welcoming disposition) and began to run freely in our front yard. It was lovely to watch.

Rebecca and I chatted and, like any two girls, we covered a lot of ground in those 60+ minutes on the front lawn. When her family had enjoyed their lunch and had a quick last play, they packed up their RV and away they went. Days later, I was surprised to open my emails to find that Rebecca had found me on Facebook. Since then, as they say, the rest is history.

So, I ask you to welcome Rebecca (pictured above with her family) as a new writer to thefamilyroom. She will contribute articles, like the rest of us, from her everyday life. She, like us, is on a journey and through this platform is choosing to live her life out loud hoping that somewhere, someone will take something from her journey and live a stronger, more confident life. Drop by thefamilyroom tomorrow for Rebecca’s inspiring first article.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Prayer for children

I've been contemplating the luxuries of the developed world, and the insane relative privilege that my children are accustomed to. I am planning for the opportunity for their young lives to intersect with the reality of poverty and the billion children who live in it.

I heard this poem in a Sunday message, and it was exactly the juxtaposition of privilege vs. poverty that is jarring and impossible to ignore. Some amazing people who I know, one very well, the others by handshake and brief interaction, have launched a movement called Compassionart ( ). Another story, where those who know have been compelled to act.

So I urge you to be shocked, disgusted, heartbroken. And may the realities of this poem turn you into an activist for the least of these.



We pray for the children who sneak Popsicles before
supper, who erase holes in math workbooks, who can
never find their shoes. And we pray for those who stare
at photographers from behind barbed wire, who can't
bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers, who
never "counted potatoes", who never go to the circus,
who live in an X-rated world.

We pray for children who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions, who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money. And we pray for those who never get dessert, who have no safe blanket to drag behind them, who watch their parents watch them die, who can't find any bread to steal, who don't have any rooms to clean up, whose pictures aren't on anybody's dresser, whose monsters are real.

We pray for children who spend all their allowance before Tuesday, who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food, who like ghost stories, who shove dirty clothes under the bed, who never rinse out the tub, who get visits from the tooth fairy, who don't like to be kissed in front of the carpool, who squirm in church and scream in the phone, whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray for those whose nightmares come in the daytime, who will eat anything, who have never seen a dentist, who aren't spoiled by anybody, who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep, who live and move, but have no being. We pray for children who want to be carried and for those who must, who we never give up on and for those who don't get a second chance. For those we smother and … for those who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Today's Show

Hey there have posted the 'Dining Table' story on (link on the left). Will have something else updated here later so enjoy the story over there then come back and join us here for something new.


Thursday, February 05, 2009

For Mothers Everywhere!

Job: Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations
Pay: None
Start Date: Immediate

This is a little something for all amazing mothers who do what needs to be done everyday :)


The Story:
A mother renewing her driver's licence was asked by the woman at the registry to state her occupation. She hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself. "What I mean is," explained the staff member, "Do you have a job or are you just a …?"
"Of course I have a job," snapped the mother. "I'm a Mum." The woman then replied, "Well, we don't list 'Mum' as an occupation but 'housewife' covers it."

I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in a similar situation.

The clerk was obviously a career woman - poised, efficient and possessing a high sounding title like 'Official Interrogator' or 'City Registrar'. She quickly and very sternly asked, "What is your occupation?" What made me reply the way I did? I have no idea but it was great! The words simply popped out and I replied by saying, "I'm a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations." The clerk paused, ball-point pen frozen in midair and looked up as though she had not heard right. For her benefit, I repeated the title slowly emphasizing the most significant words. Then I stared with wonder as my pronouncement was written in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire.

"Might I ask," said the clerk with new interest, "Just what you do in your field?" Calmly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself reply, "I have a continuing program of research (what mother doesn't), in the laboratory and in the field (normally I would have said indoors and out). I'm working for my Masters (first the Lord and then the whole family) and I already have four credits (all daughters). Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities (any mother care to disagree?) and I often work 14 hours a day (24 is more like it). The job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers, the rewards are more of satisfaction rather than just money."

There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk's voice as she completed the form, stood up and personally ushered me to the door.

As I drove into our driveway, buoyed by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab assistants -- ages 13, 7, and 3. Upstairs I could hear our new experimental model (my six-month-old baby) in the child development program. She was testing out a new vocal pattern. I felt I had scored a beat on bureaucracy! I had gone on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than 'just another Mum'.

Motherhood! What a glorious career! Especially when there's a title on the door. I wouldn’t change jobs ... ever!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Everyone Has a Story

Hello friends. As promised, here is the story I mentioned on today’s radio show. It is a story that has made its way around the globe. Why? Because we all desire wholeness in our lives and I think all of us can see a piece of ourselves in these events. After sharing my experience I was asked to write my story out so it could be shared with friends and family. I hope it makes its way into the right places.

The story is simply about a day in my life. A day that I know will stay with me forever. Allow me to begin. I was at the supermarket doing my weekly shop. Normally I am a very interactive shopper. I like to know what’s going on around me and I truly enjoy the supermarket experience (yes … I go down every aisle ~ except the kitty litter and doggie treats ~ even if I don’t need what’s on offer there. I guess I just like to have a ‘look see’). This day was different for me. I was focused on the job at hand. Friends were coming over for dinner so I was shopping with my recipe book. I couldn’t miss a thing so my attention was on my shopping trolley rather than on my fellow shoppers.

At the checkout, I placed my groceries on the sliding countertop and watched the screen as the cashier scanned each item. I felt satisfied I had found almost everything I needed (except the madras curry paste ~ I was making an Indian feast that night). I stood patiently, waiting for my transaction to end, all the while smiling politely to the disabled man doing his best to pack my groceries. During this time, someone had joined my line. I turned to discover it was a homeless man in his late 30s or early 40s with matted hair, dirty clothes and a horrible stench. He placed his groceries on the sliding countertop. I can’t remember exactly what he was buying but I do recall it surprised me. I guesstimated his groceries would cost around $10.Standing there, I felt a voice within me say, "Pay for his groceries".

I know those of you reading this are familiar with that voice because we all hear it. Call it your conscience, call it the Universe ~ I call it God. I immediately began a debate in my head that went something like this: "What if he gets offended? What if he freaks out on me? How embarrassing, what if, what if." I argued with myself for so long that others had joined the line. Again I heard the voice say, "Will you not humble yourself to do something that will change a life? Have you not asked to be my hands and feet? Pay for his groceries."

Being stubborn, I attempted to ignore my instincts, but I was becoming visibly more uncomfortable ~ getting hot and shifting from side to side. The kind cashier finally finished and said, "Thank you Miss, you have saved $16.00 today." Those savings were thanks to my supermarket club card, but standing there it occurred to me that my savings were greater than the homeless man’s whole grocery bill. My heart sank. I had missed the moment. Offering to pay for his groceries now would be awkward as I couldn't add it onto my bill. I would have to stand and wait and there would be an uncomfortable silence ... the excuses stacked up and I convinced myself.

I wheeled my well-packed trolley to the exit and left with a horrible sense of sadness. The sadness of walking away from a missed opportunity. Suddenly, I heard a well-spoken man calling out after me. “Excuse me Miss, excuse me Miss”. I turned around expecting the friendly cashier but found the homeless man with the matted hair and dirty clothes. Handing me my supermarket club card, he explained I had dropped it and he wanted to make sure I got it back. You can imagine the looks from the other shoppers watching a homeless man chasing me down in the shop.

At that moment, I heard the voice again say, “Here’s another chance.” I ignored it and stood at the entrance saddened by my weakness. The well-spoken homeless man returned to the cashier to complete his transaction. I stood riveted to the spot ~ scared but desperate to BE in that moment. I hoped the man would take the same exit as me and silently prayed for a third chance to make a difference in one person’s life. I prayed that I would forget me and live beyond myself at that very moment.

Before I knew it, the homeless man was behind me ~ he had chosen the same exit! He said, “I hope you don’t mind that I chased after you with your card." I looked at him and said, "No. Thank you so much." I paused and then asked, “How is your day going?” He locked eyes with me and replied, “Not very good, it’s hard being homeless.”

The conversation continued as we walked to the car park. “You took a risk in there running after me to give my card back and now it’s my turn to take a risk with you,” I said. “When we were standing in line I believe God spoke to me and told me to pay for your groceries. I ignored him because I was scared.” His eyes remained locked on mine and he told me, “Everyday I ask God for direction, I wasn’t always homeless you know. I used to live in a nice area, I grew up there (a very good area, one that I hope to move into with my family soon) and I had a good job. Things just went wrong, but I know I won’t always be homeless.”

Then I said, “You’re in this patch right now but God wants you to know that this isn’t how your life will end, that there is more and this isn’t forever.” He replied, “It’s Angels like you that give me hope and today I needed hope, I just spent my last dollars on those groceries.” I asked him if I could give him some money and he replied, “If you would like to. I want you to know that I’m homeless but I don’t do drugs, a lot of homeless people do but I’m just not one of those.” I believed him about the drugs, but you know even if that isn’t the truth God is in control and He orchestrated the entire encounter.

I asked him his name and introduced myself to him. I told him I would pray for him, that I knew God was going to do something great in his life and that he needed to hold onto hope and have faith. He extended his hand to shake mine and in my head I was thinking, “Oh no, I don’t want to shake.” Again I heard the voice say, “Shake his hand well, place value on him.” I extended my hand and said, “God bless you.” He said the same and we parted ways.

I made my way to my car and instantly began praying for him. I almost buckled over in tears; I felt such a huge burden for him. I don’t know how his life will change but I know through God’s creativity this homeless man’s life can become what it was meant to be.

Today I walked away from an opportunity to make a difference but I believe I was given a second and a third chance and I chose to simply do what was right. I ended up giving him all that was in my wallet ~ not a lot to most of us but a fortune to him. Who knows what will happen in his life. All I know is that I’ve asked to be God’s hands and feet on this earth, and today I had the opportunity to speak into a hurting life. I realize now more than ever that on either side of our obedience there are people who will be affected forever.

My friends can attest to the fact that I always say EVERYONE HAS A STORY. I learned that from a great man ... my dad. I believe that as we walk through life it is our responsibility to pull back the layers of the story and discover the gold that is within each one of us. Try to look beyond what you see. There is a why behind every what.

Thank you for reading this simple story. I ask today that you say a prayer for this homeless man, my friend whose name is Sean.


You reap what you sow

We’ve all heard that line at some point in our lives. Perhaps you heard it from your mother, warning you as she sent you off to school after hearing about incidents of a child being teased in your class. Or maybe you heard it in reference as to why someone’s marriage has failed. Or it could be that you heard it as a good deed was done for you after you willingly helped someone else. Sometimes this phrase has negative connotations, and sometimes positive. But whatever the situation, this is one of those lines that, more often than not, tends to be true.

I’ve recently witnessed this to be so in my own life. A couple of weeks ago my paternal grandma passed away. It was rather sudden, and came as a shock to many of us (that could be a blog all of its own!). As we grieve our loss, my family has been overwhelmed by the support and encouragement we have received from those around us.

From the meals, to the flowers, to the cards, to the emails and Facebook messages, to the phone calls … it has touched our hearts and lives and helped us realize what a great community we live in.

The other day, as my dad was on the phone going over the details of the funeral, the person on the other end of the line commented on the overwhelming response we’ve received. He simply said: “Rick, this is your time to reap what you’ve sown.” How profound …

Many people in my parents’ world know that when in crisis, Rick and Cindy are the people to call. Whatever your need is, they’re always prepared to drop everything and come to your aid. From meals, to helping with renovations, to babysitting and picking up and dropping off kids, to helping with moving … you name it, they’ll do it. But they aren’t the only ones, my in-laws would have the same reputation. And so, as it’s in our DNA, my husband and I are the same. The families of those on thefamilyroom team, and others in my life, are the same as well.

But why do we do what we do? Is it because we want to stock up for when our time of need comes? Absolutely not! Rather it’s because we know the value of family and community.

We know the pain that comes with the loss of a loved one.
We know the trouble that comes with undergoing surgery and spending weeks in recovery.
We know the hassle and chaos that come with a big move.
We know that every once in a while a mom needs some time to herself.
We also know that there’s nothing like overcoming. And that’s why we do what we do. To help overcome. To be the support and encouragement that true friends and family are meant to be.

And so my challenge to you - as part of the greater familyroom network, no matter where in the world you are reading this blog - begin sowing something wonderful into the lives of those around you. Help those who have sown into your life reap what’s being deposited in you.

As all farmers know, in due time you will reap a harvest.

Love you and believe in you,

Monday, February 02, 2009

A new chapter ...

It's been a rollercoaster of a day.

Not only have the blissfully long summer holidays come to an end, signalling a return to routine for the whole family, but my eldest daughter has taken her first tentative steps into the scary, rather grown-up world of high school.

At least, it seems scary and grown-up to me. We've waved goodbye to the simple security of a bright and cheery primary school classroom where a single teacher nurtures, cajoles and cheers the same children on for one whole year.

Instead, my daughter must embrace the demands of switching classrooms and teachers every 40 minutes, lugging a backback bursting with text books which will become her reading material of choice for the next ten months. She must get used to being the youngest child in a teenage environment, rather than the oldest and most revered in the final year of primary. She must motivate herself for the hours of serious homework ahead, each mark counting towards a grand, end-of-year total.

But of course, these words, tinged with anxiety and apprehension, come from a mother's heart. Seeing my daughter begin a new chapter in her journey is like the first day of school all over again. Me filled with hesitation and emotion, while she charges ahead with excitement and enthusiasm.

It’s late as I write this and my 11-year-old is tucked up in bed, probably dreaming of tomorrow’s challenges, but before she fell asleep, I asked her to name the best thing about her first day of high school. “It was fun,” she told me, tiredness failing to dim the excitement in her voice. “We changed teachers every lesson and I got a locker with a padlock for my books.”

So the very things that worried me, were the undisputed highlight of her day!

Perspective, hey – it’s a wonderful thing.


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Grass Roots

I have a love/hate relationship with my veggie patch. I love to plan it, get online and order the seeds, prepare the soil (actually Richard does that!), and sow the seeds. Then the wait ...... Over the days and weeks, little buds burst through the soil’s surface. Some make it and some don’t.

It is about this time that I lose track of the identity of 50% of my seedlings and plant them with a sense of anticipation of what they are! More waiting ...... more watering, staking and fertilizing until finally flowers and then fruit appear! I am never without awe at this process and am at my happiest harvesting from my garden as I put dinner together.

Veggies grow anywhere. I have a traditional garden allocated to this end. Boxes, pots, even old bath tubs can be used to grow vegetables. The internet has all the information you will need to get started as well as the answers to any problems you might encounter.

My children enjoy seeing this process unfold and I believe the appreciation of how things grow is invaluable. In this world of hurriedness and consumption of all things manufactured, it is refreshing to smell the leaves of a tomato bush as it is being watered, feel soil between your fingers or see bees buzzing busily around herb plants. It is a fact that gardening has health benefits, so much so that I even discovered a publication called The Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture. Next time you are at the garden centre, grab a packet of seeds and some soil and give it a try. It's food for the soul!


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