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Credit: Maiden

Credit: Maiden

Here’s another guest post from my dear friend Miriam. Enjoy!

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When I went to Haiti on a Missions Trip with our church in the Spring of 2013, our group had the privilege of attending Haitian church on Sunday. We couldn’t understand the sermon, so we just read our Bibles, and soaked in the delightful atmosphere of exuberant and heart-felt worship. (People of African descent have just the most incredible singing-voices – I think!)

One of the passages I happened upon at this time was Mark 14, where Jesus is reclining at the table of Simon the Leper, and the woman comes and anoints His feet with a very costly perfume.

While some of those present are indignant about the waste, and even rebuke the woman harshly, Jesus rises to her defence. And of His defence, the words that struck me most were, “She did what she could.” I thought, you know, that’s all any of us can do – be willing and available and ready to just simply “do what we can” wherever we are, whatever opportunity God places in our paths.

Maybe we can’t do something as well as John or Mary over there, maybe we haven’t been called to go overseas and minister to people in other countries, but we can all contribute somehow, in some way, with what God has gifted us – and if we all faithfully do our part of doing what we can, we will be used of God wherever we are, even – or perhaps I should say in many cases, especially? – right here at home.

“Use what talents you possess. The woods would be silent if only those birds sang who sang best.” – Henry Ward Beecher

Credit: Kids Math

Credit: Kids Math

I couldn’t get away from school fast enough. My stomach tightened, and I pressed the palm of my hand against the anxiety that balled up in my chest. I’d just barely passed the math test last week, and today’s lesson left me bewildered. Walking down the road towards the restaurant where my mom waitressed, I hoped it wasn’t busy.

Mom set down a Coke with ice and I took a long sip through the straw. “I’ve never really liked math, but I always understood it—until now. I’m scared, Mom.”

“Why don’t you ask Grandpa for help? He’s always been good with numbers,” Mom said as she filled the coffee pot.

Just having a plan made me feel a little better. The corners of my Grandpa’s eyes crinkled with pleasure when I asked him to help me with my math. I pulled up a chair to his recliner and placed my grade 7 math book on a rickety little table between us.

For an hour he reviewed the concepts with me that I’d failed to grasp and made sense of the problems that had left me feeling ill. More importantly, though, he showed me math could be fun like doing a puzzle or discovering the answer to a riddle.

I didn’t learn to love math all at once, but I did come to appreciate it. I became fascinated with geometry, and Pythagoras’ theorem stayed locked inside my mind ever since. The number Pi intrigued me—the key that unlocks circles, cylinders, and spheres. It’s perfect and yet irrational.

I often hear students and parents bemoan that they will never use the math they are learning, but take a moment and think of how dreary our lives would be if we limited our education to what we thought we would use every day. Why bother going to school beyond grade 3? Do we really need to know how to write a poem or how many planets circle the sun? Do we need to know who Alexander the Great was or Isaac Newton? Most of us don’t use this information in our day-to-day lives, but undoubtedly it enriches us. So does math.

Owning math concepts—not just knowing them enough to pass a test—is what makes them useful. I’m not sure in what grade I learned cross multiplication, but I’ve used it countless times since for reducing a recipe or comparing the prices of similar products. I’ve used Pythagoras’ theorem to determine how long the rafters should be when we were building our house. And just like a magnificent waterfall can give us a glimpse into the nature and beauty of God, math can reveal a little of God too—his perfection and infiniteness.

Just spending one hour with someone who loved math showed me math could be useful, fun, and beautiful. I challenge you to be that for your children, the person who sparks in them a passion for learning—even learning math.

Echo Lake

Echo Lake

We all have them, those little quirks that make us unique. Some of my “quirkiness” rose to the surface last weekend, and I’m still shaking my head.

I’d been looking forward to the weekend all year. It was the homeschool mom’s retreat at Echo Lake. It’s one weekend a year to spend time with a group of women with similar goals. Invigorating. So much so, in fact, that I couldn’t sleep.

When I’m nervous or shy, I get very animated—obnoxious really. Friday night, we stayed up late talking. One lady read a story about a woman’s experience with bikini waxing. I laughed until tears ran down my face. I made those horrible cackling noises that I make when I’ve lost all control. But I didn’t care. I was having a blast.

We all said goodnight and headed to bed, but I was buzzing like I’d slammed two pots of coffee. I read for two hours before I even tried to get to sleep, and then I laid in bed and turned over every 20 minutes for the rest of the night. I might have slept as much as two hours. Maybe.

It’s embarrassing to admit that you are so excited you can’t sleep all night. Am I twelve? Quirk number one.

I didn’t want to miss a thing, so I got up to run with a lady at 7:00. (I only begged her to walk once. It was a big hill. Honest.) Then I went for a power walk at 10:00. (There is no way I could keep up with some of those ladies. I’m blaming it on my short, little legs.) Then we went for a lovely canoe ride in the afternoon.

I was sore for days. It was a good thing I was so active, though, because we ate amazing food and lots of it. (Thanks, Rebecca!)

I crashed pretty hard in the afternoon. I even went down to my room and laid down for half an hour, but I kept thinking, “What if I miss something fun?” So that didn’t last very long.

That evening we watched a movie and painted ceramic mugs. On my mug, I painted all of my children (as stick people) doing the things that they love. Yes, I was loving every moment of my mom’s retreat, but I was missing my family too.

That evening we stayed up late talking again. One has to soak up these moments, you know. It was after everyone else had gone to bed that I realized I didn’t know where I was sleeping. We’d shuffled the sleeping arrangements to make room for two more ladies. I’d been moved, but I forgot to ask where. Sleeping on the couch seemed like a better option than shining a flash light in people’s eyes and asking if they knew where an empty bed was.

I tried to sleep. Really I did. But I had this unpleasant realization that I’d told my family I’d have my phone with me all the time, and if they needed me they could call. The problem was my phone had died a few hours earlier.

Quirk number two: I’m neurotic about keeping my word to my kids. I act irrational and freak out if situations prevent me from fulfilling a commitment to them.

I gave up trying to sleep. As long as my phone was dead, I’d be worrying about someone being injured and having to go to the hospital while I was out of reach. I padded up and down stairs looking for a cord I could borrow. I went to my van twice—barefoot (couldn’t find my shoes) until I could successfully charge my phone.

By the time I headed back to bed (actually couch) It was 3:00 am. The floor dipped under me like a boat deck. I was dizzy with exhaustion, but I didn’t feel tired. Bad sign. I got about two hours of sleep again.

The next morning, I tried to write a cheque, but it took me a full minute to remember what month it was. I thought it was finished, but I realized I hadn’t written in an amount. It’s not a great idea to hand out blank cheques.

I did question whether I was in a state to drive, but after a couple of cups of coffee I felt more coherent. I said good-bye, prayed for God’s protection, and headed home. The only weird thing I did was stop for the mail. (It was Sunday.)

It took me all week to recover. I do know that it’s pretty ridiculous to go away for a retreat—which should refresh—and come back home too exhausted to function. I’m telling myself that it’s better to know your neurosis than to have these issues and not know about them. Everyone has quirks, right?

Have an awesome weekend!

 

 

 

stevia rebaudianaI’ve always been skeptical, so when I first heard about a natural sweetener that has zero calories, doesn’t raise blood sugar levels, and the extract is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar—I just dismissed it. Some things are just too good to be true, right?

But 15 years later, I revisited stevia and decided to try it myself. I loved it! 

I add it to coffee or make hot chocolate with cocoa, milk, hot water and stevia. I mostly add it to drinks, but I also make desserts with it.

My favourite so far is the liquid hazelnut-flavoured stevia from Now Foods. It’s doesn’t haven’t a bitter aftertaste like some others I’ve tried.

The price was the drawback—$15 for a 2 oz. bottle. But we used such a tiny amount at a time that it lasted a couple of months. I did manage to find some cheaper, though, and several people have asked where to get it, so I decided to share that here.

I ended up ordering seven 2 oz. bottles of differnet flavours from iHerb. ($8.40 each plus $4 international shipping.)

Here’s a link to the hazelnut stevia and new customers get $10 off their first order of $40 or more with coupon code: NKJ199

Blessings!

 

 

 

 

Back to the Books

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Photo credit: Lusi

I always have a niggling dread as the end of summer approaches. I just don’t feel ready to launch back into being teacher to my kids. I wasn’t prepared when the first week of September swept upon us; I hadn’t made up lesson plans or even had a good look at this year’s curriculum.

Life was just that busy. Last year’s school schedule was still on the wall, though, and it gave us the framework we needed to start the school year. (Ominous drum roll.) We faced the first day with fierce determination. But it was an awesome day. It felt so right to be back in the books. The children got along better. The hours of our day flew along with incredible efficiency. (I didn’t feel like I should be doing housework!)

I love being teacher to my children, but I forget that sometime in early spring. By Easter we’re tired and cranky and need a break. And by September, as the days cool off and the leaves start to change colour, we’re ready for structure and intensive learning again—even if I don’t know it yet!

To all the homeschooling moms out there: I wish you passion for your journey. May you pass onto your children a love of learning that will last a lifetime. <3

Is this Normal?

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Ten years ago, I brought two babies into the world. I prayed for twins and got them. The sense of fullness and completeness I felt as I held a baby in each arm is indescribable.

From the very start Ethan and Owen were completely different in their personalities and yet they’ve always got along beautifully. Even as babies they would look out for one another.

You can believe it when people say that twins are double the trouble, though. Together, those little munchkins could do anything. If they couldn’t reach something, then one would lay down so the other could climb on top. I’m serious! But they’ve been double the blessing too. I don’t regret praying for twins.

We had all the usual birthday stuff today: balloons, fruit faces (see Birthday Crazies ), presents. The kids even convinced me that they should have a day off of school and watched a movie instead.

When Kevin got home from work, he called me outside to see the helium balloons in the back of his work truck. He sheepishly told me that the balloons were cheaper if you bought the theme pack. There were two round spider-man balloons, two red stars, and one awesomely cool—and massive—spider-man shaped balloon.

Somehow the biggest balloon got away from the others, and Kevin and I stared stupidly at each other for a moment as the ribbon slipped out of reach. We watched the balloon spiral in awkward loops as it rose over the house.

Suddenly, Kevin sprinted towards the house. “I’m going to shoot it down!” he yelled back at me.

I followed him and called to the kids. “Come outside quick and see the spider-man balloon that’s floating away!” Everyone stormed outside, and we watched the balloon soaring higher and higher into the sky as their Dad tried to shoot it down.

I don’t even make this stuff up. My life really is this hilarious.

After dinner, my sugar high kids turned out the lights and ran around in the dark with glow sticks. Then the boys found out that the sticky hands and hex bugs that they got for their birthday were glow-in-the-dark too. The wild mayhem lasted and hour, and I laughed the whole time.

Yeah. My job rocks. :)

 

Is it any wonder people thought I had two sets of twins?

Is it any wonder people thought I had two sets of twins?

 

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Blackwater Crossing

I recently had the privilege of interviewing David Griffith—an author and  long-time resident of Vanderhoof. David (writing under the pen name David Griffin) has recently had the first three books of The Border Crossing Series published. Read on to find out the story behind the story and what makes this author write.

 

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the pen. Years ago, I started writing for small publications, then dabbled with cowboy poetry, and finally decided that the stories that kept bubbling to the surface had to get onto paper.

When did the idea for the Border Series come to you and what is the story behind the books?

Rodeo and ranch life is what I know best, so it was natural for me to write about horses and the land. However, several real estate ventures forced me to learn more than I ever wanted to know about drugs and the resulting degradation to property and lives. Those negative experiences created a curiosity that has engendered hundreds of hours of research and driven me to poke around some of the less touristy areas of Mexico and Central America. Ultimately, Mexican drug cartels bear much of the responsibility for the property crime and drug related deaths that plague our country. Los Zetas, La Familia, the Sinaloa cartel, all use increasingly sophisticated means to evade detection as they move their product around the world. So the protagonist in the Border Series is a cowboy, but he’s also a drug agent for an elite security firm.

What was the journey like to publication?

Early in the process, I committed to the same tortuous journey all serious writers have trod. First—get a U.S. agent. They’re the established gatekeepers of the traditional publishing industry. Publishers have one file for unsolicited manuscripts. The round file. After many months of sending out book proposals, I finally landed an agent. I had it made. It was only a matter of time before my new agent hooked me up with Thomas Nelson, or maybe even Bantam books. After all, I’d just written the best western romance since Louis L’Amour. Hadn’t I? The publishers said: Ahh . . . it’s good, but to sell in this market, you really need a female protagonist. We’ll pass. I hunkered over the keyboard for another year and wrote a novel with a female protagonist. Fired it off to my agent. Surely, this would be my ticket to the hallowed halls of traditional book publishing. Wrong. This time it was “not quite what we’re looking for.” Plan C? I had no other plan. Any other publishing option was unthinkable. Then my agent called. “We’re starting a new e-book publishing company. We think that’s the future in publishing. We want Blackwater Crossing.” It’s probably still too early to tell whether that was the right decision, but it’s been a great journey.

 I was amazed at the vivid details in your settings. You really brought me to those areas. How did you bring all those places to life? Have you visited all the cities, towns, and areas in your books?

Before I write a story, I visit every location, whether it’s out on the Blackwater River or deep in the Sierra Madre of Mexico. It’s important to me that when I write about places, the reader can know that whether it’s a creek with good water, or a restaurant with bad food, they can count on it being true. Sure, it’s fiction, but I think truth interwoven with the storyline makes for a better read.

You included Vanderhoof and the local area in your books. What was behind that decision?

There’s no place I know that has such a wealth of local authors telling real edge-of-your-seat stories from the past. For a fiction writer, there is an absolutely huge background of material to draw from. I think of writers like Jack Boudreau, R.M. Patterson, and our own Rich Hobson, June Wood, and Diana Phillips. The list is endless. They all wrote stories that are for the most part, true. Their stories, and the rich history of the area we live in are a wonderful resource for any fiction writer.

Lonnie, the main character in your books, is a prize-winning rodeo rider. Do you have personal experience in that area?

Lonnie Bowers is a bronc rider. I did that. For a lot of years. Once again, it’s what I know, and I think that for any writer, that’s important. Write from your strengths.

In Blackwater Crossing you deal with some heavy subjects like adultery, murder, and drug smuggling. You’ve also packed your book with a lot of action. Did you know that you were going to write such an intense book? Was this challenging?

Some writers can do a comprehensive outline. They know from the first sentence where they’re going with the plot. I wish I could do that—be that organized. I don’t know where the next paragraph is going—or at least until the characters tell me where it’s going. When I start a novel, I know the opening scene, and perhaps have a vague idea of the ending. Another writer said it this way, and I thought it was good advice. “Chase your protagonist up a tree, and then throw rocks at him.” I try to have a good supply of rocks.

How has your own faith affected the direction of your books? Would you call The Border Series Christian fiction?

Tough question. To write anything worth reading, you have to write from the heart, which means you’re going to leave some of your soul on the page—at least you’d better. So yes, my experiences with horses and cattle, drug dealers and Mexican cartels are part of my books. So is my worldview and faith. Does that mean they are Christian fiction? Probably not. They’re a little edgy to fit comfortably in that category. That said, does the Border Series have a message? Absolutely! But neither is it in your face. I want readers to be carried away by the story. If it challenges where you’re at in life—great.

Where can we buy the books? Are there plans for the series to be printed?

The Border Series can be bought through any e-Reader. Kindle, Nook, iPad, Kobo—pretty much any e-reader platform. Zeal Publishing, who put out the series is currently pursuing other print publishing options.

Are you currently working on another book? If so, can you give us a preview?

I’m currently editing the second book in the Winds of Passion series. The first book follows Dina Rodriguez, a Mexican girl who dreams of being a top barrel racer. But when she arrives in Miles City Montana, she soon realizes she hasn’t escaped her father’s criminal connections. And her love of barrel racing wasn’t supposed to collide with international terrorists or an enigmatic stranger who is determined to be more than her protector.

Where can we learn more about your books and get updates on your future projects?

I occasionally blog about updates and share cowboy poetry at www.davidgriffinsite.com. Writing is a contract of trust. When a reader purchases a novel, they expect it to be to a certain standard. I take that charge seriously, and I’m grateful to all those who have read and enjoyed the Border Series. I hope they will enjoy the Winds of Passion books as well. Some have asked whether there is going to be another book in the Border Series. Absolutely!

Check out Blackwater Crossing at Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.

David Griffin Photo

 

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