Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Happiest of New Years


"And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown. And he replied: Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way." ~ Minnie L. Haskins

Of one thing I am certain, whatever unfolds in the coming year, I continue to have the confidence that the same God who brought me through the ups and downs of the past 12 months has not gone into retirement. So I choose to place my trust in His Faithful Ability to help me walk joyfully and with peace of heart into this brand new year. No matter what lands on my doorstep.

Oh yes… my 'resolution' for this new year? To come back to that place I once knew more intimately of being so aware of walking out my days expressing the Royal law of love every single moment.  Not to worry about numbers, as Mother Teresa once expressed, but to truly love and honour the one who happens to be nearest me in the present moment. Which, of course, also means walking nearer the One who is called Love Himself.  I find it's not possible to love well otherwise.

That's my heart's yearning ... how about you, what do you yearn for this year?

Here's my deepest wish you and yours in 2012... May you experience His perfect ‘daily bread portions’ of love, peace, joy, health and wealth in every area. Not to forget, myriad glimpses of heaven on earth in unexpected places... 

So that your joy may be full!


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Reading and Stuff

Carli Jean /

I am taking these days between Christmas and New Year's to crack open my new books and disappear between their inviting covers for a while.
Christmas was wonderful, and in the middle of family celebrations, I also had the very pleasant opportunity to meet a blogging friend in person for the very first time. Of which I will write about more later ... I have something beautiful to share with you that she created for me.

For it being the middle of winter, there is no sign of snow. It's been well above freezing all week which means it's been very nice for driving and getting around in, but one doesn't feel quite the same push for hot cocoa when the nip of frost isn't biting noses. Yet, sipping Scottish breakfast tea (which someone received in her Christmas stocking) while nibbling a generous slice of rich and fragrant fruit cake seems a match made in heaven! Especially when there's a pile of books to savour as well.

Okay, okay... I hear you wondering about my new books ... here is a quick peek, nothing fancy:

1. The Writing Diet, Write Yourself Right-Size by Julia Cameron.  I had this self-help book in the back of my mind ever since Lin mentioned she was reading it and enjoying it way back when.
"Over the course of the past twenty-five years, Julia Cameron has taught thousands of artists and aspiring artists how to unblock wellsprings of creativity. And time and again she has noticed an interesting thing: Often, in uncovering their creative selves her students also undergo a surprising physical transformation-invigorated by their work, they slim down. In The Writing Diet, Cameron illuminates the relationship between creativity and eating to reveal a crucial equation: creativity can block overeating."  excerpt from

2. The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge. Originally published in 1963, this novel has been re-released by Hendrickson Publishers just this year!  I was first introduced to Elizabeth Goudge by another Brenda, a beautiful blogger who shares with her readers her own love of books.
“Jean was visited by one of her rare moments of happiness, one of those moments when the goodness of God was so real to her that it was like taste and scent; the rough strong taste of honey in the comb and the scent of water. Her thoughts of God had a homeliness that at times seemed shocking, in spite of their power, which could rescue her from terror or evil with an ease that astonished her.”

3. Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber, a fellow Canadian who once moved to Oxford in England to study.  Now that makes me think of C.S. Lewis and Narnia and such...
"Surprised by Oxford is the memoir of a skeptical agnostic on a surprising journey toward a dynamic personal faith in God. When Carolyn Weber arrived at Oxford for her graduate studies in Romantic literature, she felt no need for God. Her childhood in a broken but loving family taught her to rely on reason and intellect—not faith—for survival. What she didn’t know was that she was about to embark on a love story of her own—one much deeper, more colorful, and more surprisingly God-shaped than any she’d read before." excerpt of book synopsis

4. One Hundred Names for Love by Diane Ackerman. It's a beautiful memoir about 'a stroke, a marriage, and the language of healing'.  I read the library's copy a couple of months ago and knew I wanted to read it again as she shared so many interesting things about how the brain works and how she and her husband are 'recovering' from his stroke... all in such a beautiful way.

5.  Eat, Shrink and Be Merry by Greta and Janet Podleski. These delightful ladies have created a fabulous and humour-filled cookbook which hubby and I are hoping to cook our way through. So far we've sampled the broiled salmon with a cream dill sauce and tonight we're trying the grilled pork tenderloin with a tangy apple jelly and Dijon mustard sauce. Yum!


On that note, I'm wishing you a pleasant day. Don't forget to watch and listen for glimpses of heaven in unexpected places ... they sometimes come with songs for the heart!


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Christmas!

Folks may have different reasons why they celebrate Christmas
and each reason can add special layers of meaning and joy to our lives...

I, too, have lots of reasons why I love Christmas
and why it's my favorite time of year, but
here's my very first reason for celebrating....

"Love came down at Christmas...
The star and angels gave the sign."
~ Christina Rosetti

The Light came
to shine hope and love in a dark world
which, for me, makes everything else worth living.

In which ever way you celebrate and for whatever reason
I want to WISH you, dear friends,
the happiest and most deeply satisfying Christmas.

May you catch glimpses of heaven in unexpected places!

Hugs to each of you.....


Photo source:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A List of A Different Kind

HERE'S A LIST you don't have to check twice, and you don't have to admit if you've been naughty or nice either.  Just a little fun as we count down four more sleeps!

1. Are your lists done or are you still working on them?
Some years I'm all done by this time, but have to admit I've still got a wee gift list as well as a food shopping list to finish by Friday.

2.  Hot Cocoa or mulled apple cider? Hot Cocoa... and don't spare the whipped cream and chocolate shavings either!

3. Turkey or Ham?
Turkey with Mom's recipe for stuffing, and lots of it.

4. Do you get a fake or real-you-cut-it-yourself Christmas tree?
I love a real tree, but for years we've set up a very pretty artificial one and put candle-like lights on it.  As a child I loved it when we'd come home from school one afternoon to discover that the tree had been chopped down and was now waiting for the okay to haul inside.  That meant Christmas was almost here.

5. Decorations on the outside of your house this year? Very simple this year -- lights on the house and a wreath with the long-tailed velvet bow on the door.

6. Snowball fights or sleddin’?
Sleddin' (although it's been a while since I've done that. Snowball fights were a menace to eyeglasses).

7. Favorite Christmas song?
That's too hard to narrow down; it depends what grabs my heart and fancy on a particular year. Sacred: Joy to the World; Secular: Sleigh Ride would be right up there.  When I'm not paying attention, I most often find myself humming Deck the Halls.

8. How do you feel about Christmas movies? I like them - love The Bishop's Wife, the old Bing Cosby ones (White Christmas, Going My Way, Bells of St. Mary), While You Were Sleeping, You've Got name a few. I also enjoy movies that add to the ambiance, but aren't necessarily Christmas, e.g. Anne of Green Gables (there a scene with Christmas festivities going on).

9. When is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?
Is it ever too early? Some Christmas music I can listen to any time (usually the classical stuff by Bach or Handel).

10. Going to someone's house or they coming to you? This year we're off to my sister's where we get to christen her newly-built home; it's out in the country and overlooks the Rocky Mountains.

11. Do you read the Christmas Story? If so when?
I love the Christmas Story from Luke 1-2, King James Version (the one I grew up on and learned by heart without even trying, I'd heard it so many times). I love to read and ponder, like Mary, throughout December.

12. What do you do after presents and dinner? Sit around and visit, snooze, play games, nibble.  Laugh and tell stories.  Listen to the kids do their piano recital pieces, maybe sing carols.

13. What is your favorite holiday smell? The spicy smells of cinnamon and cloves; the turkey cooking on Christmas Day; evergreens as they warm when they are brought into the house.

14. Do you open a present or presents on Christmas Eve, or wait until Christmas day? Our family tradition until siblings started getting married (needing to go to in-laws) was to open our presents on Christmas Eve, but now we wait until Christmas Day.  Rick and I usually do our own exchange of gifts early Christmas morning, tucked up in bed with something steaming to sip on as we savor packages and giggle together at the fun.

15. Favorite Christmas memory?
As a young child, sitting in the darkened living room on a quiet evening watching the tree lights while my mom made supper in the kitchen. I felt cozy and safe.

16. Favorite part about winter?
Snow; short days and early twilights; that Christmas is in the middle of it; looking for the birds come to the feeders on cold days; watching the joy of kids and dogs playing in newly-fallen-snowman-worthy snow!
17.  Write Christmas cards or send e-cards and Facebook greetings?  Both now.  But I still love looking for the perfect Christmas cards that become part of the message I want to share from my heart, which usually includes a letter or note (to go snail-mail and arrive in someone's letter box).

And now I'm off to tackle my other lists.  From the heart of my bottom bottom of my heart, I wish you a beautiful day --- as Mary Engelbreigt would say, Be warm inside and out!



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Waiting For Christmas

I shall never forget the day last year, right around this time, when Miss Kitty came and asked me to move her pillow from her chair to the table sitting in front of the bay window. She was very clear about what she wished. Today, as I remember and miss this sweet kitty today, I'm posting those photos as a little comfort to myself. Hope you enjoy too.

Miss Kitty Waits For Christmas

Miss Kitty instructs her staff to please take
her chair cushion and lay it on the table --

That way she can look out and be more comfortable
while she waits for Christmas to arrive. 

Peering out on the frost-bitten day,
she finally finds the best spot and settles down.

So while Missy tends to her post,we happily tend to ours
as we work on our last day preparations...

before the arrival of Christmas Eve --
which to me is the most beautiful day of the year.

Wishing you lots of JOY,

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Little Lamb

You may recall I found a lovely set of Christmas cards the other day.  I so fell in love with this Little Lamb nestled on the Shepherd's lap that I basically took several cards from the box and propped them around my house... on my desk, by the lamp on my bedside table, and a-top a bookshelf that I pass by often.

I even had one tucked inside my Bible, until today when I felt to write it to someone who's going through a rough time. I wanted her to experience the wonder I  was experiencing and to sense the same peace and rest as I...

...because we all have occasions when we need the gentle reminder that when life looks dreary or scary, we have a tender-loving Shepherd who longs to gather his little lambs near to himself so He can whisper words of comfort and peace.

Don't you just love her face?  She knows all is well.
Imagining what it would be like to be that Little Lamb cradled so sweetly on His lap, something lovely begins to swirl around me....I begin to truly feel His protection.  I feel safe. Peaceful. At rest. Happy. Cared for. Content. Not to mention cherished and well-loved.
So, here's my invitation -- wanna scramble up beside me? There's room...

Photo source:  Barbour Publishing Inc.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook


Outside my window... the sun has risen and the sky is that not-too-ambitious pale December blue. It promises seasonal temperatures minus the biting winds. 

I am thinking... about a quote I found recently by William Blake -- In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.  I think that might be something to ponder a bit.

Question of the day... do I know what season my heart is in at present? I like to use the garden's seasons as a metaphor, e.g. new life in Spring, growth and bloom in Summer, harvest for labours in Autumn, rest and hibernation in Winter. 

I am thankful... for the box of Christmas cards I found with this particular painting in its collection (below).  I can easily imagine that I'm the one sitting so contentedly on the Shepherd's lap.

from Daymaker Inspirational Gifts, Barbour Publishing Inc.

From the learning rooms... I'm taking a night class right entitled 'transform your life, transform your city'. 

In the kitchen... we just had freshly brewed coffee (from Panama beans) and a toasted raisin-cinnamon bagel a-drip with melted peanut butter. Yum!

I am wearing... a black legging with a lacy spaghetti-strap top (still in my jammies). 

I am going... shopping with hubby for a new winter jacket. He wants to be sure I'll be warm when the temperatures plummet. I hope I can find both warm and pretty in the same jacket. And although I like the warmth of down, usually I feel too much like a Mrs. Waddle Downy Duck when I put on such a jacket.

I started reading... Jan Karon's Shepherds Abiding. Perfect for this season. Just cracked open the covers late last night to catch a few moments in Mitford before heading off into la-la land.

I am looking forward to... the weekend. We have a Christmas choral concert on Sunday afternoon. They usually give opportunity for the audience to join in a couple of rousing carols at the end. That is always one of my favorite things to do -- to sing the old familiar carols simply and sweetly. 

I am hearing... my computer humming. No birds around yet. No music on, Christmas or otherwise.

Around the house... I came in last night from my class. It was cold and dark outside (except for the shimmer of the moon way, way up). Hubby had already gone to bed, but he left the Christmas tree candle-lights on, and when I walked in I felt a rush of joy... for they offered such a warm welcome.

Wishing you a beautiful day and a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

From My Christmas Archives

Below is a piece I wrote for my mom one Christmas, my little tribute and thanks for her ever-present love to her family over the years. Although she doesn't sew as much these days, we still love to reminisce about the 'olden' days when getting a new dress at Christmas was a very special event.  

She remembers the fidgets we'd have as she'd twirl us around while we stood atop a sturdy kitchen chair, while we remember scratchy, poky pins when we'd have to try on the pattern pieces for the right fit.
Our Christmas Dress fittings were all part of the great build up to Christmas Eve, the most important day of the year in my books. Most of our celebrations were on Christmas Eve, including the annual Christmas Concert at church with candy bags at the end and rushing home to present opening by the tree.  The turkey and its trimmings were happily part of the next day celebrations -- the 25th -- and while it cooked and filled the house with yummy smells, oh the bliss of having a whole day to play with our new toys and treasures.  

Wishing you pleasant memories popping up from your own archives!

* * * * * * * * * *

Me and Little Sis, circa 1963

Fabric, Tissue Paper and Christmas Dresses
by Brenda Leyland
The whir of a sewing machine was a familiar sound growing up in our little farmhouse. Mom always had some sewing project or another under construction. But of all the garments she made, it was the pretty Christmas dresses I remember (and probably loved) the most.

With the arrival of each December the anticipation would swell as the days were counted off. Mom would study the Eaton's catalog for ideas, and then during the seasonal trip to Edmonton pore over wondrous bolts of possibilities in the fabric department, pondering all the while what would make the ‘perfect’ outfit for her little girls that year.

Amidst scissors, stick pins, not to mention the ever present tape measure draped around her neck, sheets of ecru tissue rustled with expectancy as Mom carefully pinned each pattern piece to the fabric.

It was always a thrilling moment to hear the first snip of scissors crunch their way through the layers. Soon threads would litter the floor and we’d hear another whoosh as the hot iron pressed damp cloths down on a newly sewn seam.

Many Christmas outfits passed under the pressure foot of that old sewing machine. Sometimes velvet would be the chosen fabric, sometimes organza. Holly red velvet dresses with lace on the bodice; red jumpers paired with crisp white blouses; my fifth grade dress a royal blue jacquard shift with three-quarter sleeves, offset by a white pleated organdy collar. And of course, my all-time favourite: the peacock blue velvet ones with swirly skirts of whispering chiffon (see photo).

Although we’d sigh and groan impatiently when Mom would make us stand on a chair to check hems and seams, it sure was a proud moment on Christmas Eve when we’d stand in our newest finery, delivering mostly memorized recitations and warbling through partly familiar carols.

It doesn’t matter how many Christmases come and go, recollections of lovingly made dresses and annual concerts in the old country church remain special memories, as treasured as any heirloom ornament.

And, of course, the wonder of it is that these gifts of love were wrapped up in the celebration of the One who came to express the everlasting love of a generous Father to our world.

Who would have thought that the whisper of tissue paper on velvet would echo that great love to three little girls?

Monday, December 05, 2011

December Thoughts


Dear Beautiful Friends,

You probably wonder where I am.... I'm wondering where I am too. Because at present I have no concrete thoughts to share with you. The flow isn't there. It's not that I'm not thinking of you and it's not that I'm not taking moments for wee visits...but the desire to write about anything, even about my favourite time of year, pales at the present time.

For in the midst of my usual joy in Christmas activities I have been experiencing a great longing to draw near the fire within my heart and sit nearer the feet of Jesus... to wonder at His great gift... to just be quiet and soak in His presence. Which, as I've said, makes everything else pale in comparison.

Which is maybe why I don't really feel like posting these days. Even my own personal journal scribblings have slowed (something that doesn't happen often). I don't want to write about my usual little joys -- somehow the throbs of my heart have been listening for something else. I want to feel His love, hear His kind voice, listen to the beat of His heart for a world He loves so much... so writing about ordinary things (as wonderful as they are) just doesn't fit the season right now.

I wanted you to know I'm not far away, my heart is near, even if there aren't any words right now.

As you prepare for these special days, His heart is near, and I wish you your own true glimpses of heaven in unexpected places. I'll return.

With my heart,