Sparking Joy Through Photographs

This weekend was spent pouring over memories. I sat in a room with with about 50 other ladies (and the occasional man) scrapbooking. Technically, it was a scrapbooking “retreat” — but I’d like to think of it as time spent recalling happy (or sometimes sad) memories … with a little paper and tape mixed in. Okay… a lot of tape, and glue, and patterned paper, and embellishments, and ribbon, and die cut machines and lap tops and…oh, nevermind.

Ask any scrapbooker or photographer (or blogger for that matter) why they do what they do, and one of the first responses is this: I want to capture the moment. To savour a unique blip in time that brings an emotion to life. And, we want to share it. How many grandmas pull out those precious pictures of the new grand baby? How many times have you looked through that trip to the mountains album and discovered you have taken 101 shots of the same piece of dirt? Photographs produce memories. Visual cues to a time and place stuck in our brains forever. Moments to be recalled and re-lived. Moments that spark joy. Or moments that bring a flood of tears as you remember challenges… and how you are overcoming them.

I skimmed through a few articles about how our brains and memories work together to store and interact with images — and no surprise here — looking at pictures helps to recall memories. We remember: who, what, where, how and sometimes the why of those pictures. Lots of research is being done to see how scrapbooks and albums are helping Alzheimer patients and people with learning disabilities cognitively connect. I will try and Pin some of the articles on my Pinterest board for you to check out.

Having discovered all these great facts about pictures, I decided for this blog entry to ask a few of my friends to share some of their favourite pics. Images that capture “joy” for them. Some of my friends have studied photography. Others are still learning. For this project, though, I simply asked them to send me photos that “spark joy” for them. I love the results. When you google “joyful images” you get a lot of smiles, a lot of hand raising… and for some reason: bubbles. I suppose “joy” ignites the feeling of freedom for some of us. Therefore, without further ado, here is the collection of a few images that “spark joy” . Please check out the links to follow along if you like what you see –and share the joy around!


As Easter rolls around this week, I am musing about what it would be like if there were photographs of that last trip of Jesus’ ministry. What a contrast of images from the triumphal entry on palm Sunday to the dark hill and the gruesome scene on the top of Golgotha. What would the Instagram accounts of the disciples document in the eventful three days of the first Easter? Does it spark joy in your heart? We’d love to see what images kindle joy for you! Share with us on our Facebook page and tell us why !!

Adventures in Sourdough

“Mom killed “Herman”! ” “I did not… I saved most of him”… “Quick! Grab a towel!”

Laugh if you will, but this is how weird our house is getting now that we have introduced a new “life” into our home. “Herman” is our sourdough starter. Hush. It’s not odd… lots of people have names for their sourdough starter. I looked it up. And, for the record, I didn’t kill him off when the measuring cup malfunctioned and “Herman” became a melting, stinky puddle running down the side of the dishwasher… some of him was already saved in the container! “Herman” lives on!!

Okay, okay, let’s back up a little bit. Goal for 2019… live a bit greener and a bit more simply. Subsequently, I see a post from a friend that she has some sourdough starter to share… yes please… let’s try something new! Visions of the simple homemaker baking bread, the sweet smell of yeasty goodness filling the air with aromas of days gone by. Simpler times when everyone got along and borrowed cups of sugar. And so a tiny jar came home to me — filled with half a cup of sourdough starter: “Herman” had arrived.

People have been making bread for years. All kinds of bread. I read somewhere that sourdough starters present today could be upwards of 300 years old. History tells us that some form of bread has been a staple in almost every culture. However, unlike the great pioneer woman, I bought mine in the grocery store, already baked, packaged, and sliced. Therefore, I was excited to try out homemade. Many health experts say sourdough bread is a healthier option for people who are trying to reduce their gluten intake. Compared to store bought white bread, it also has a low glycemic index and can keep your sugar levels down. How hard could it be? I was in –but– I had no idea how to feed, nurture or care for this new being. So, I had to look up the instructions, again.

Along the way I have learned a lot! Most breads contain a yeast. Sourdough bread is made when the dough is allowed to ferment in a “culture” or starter. The mixture of a naturally occurring yeast (referred to as a “wild” ferment) and Lactobacillus (a bacterial culture) that produces lactic acid. This lactic acid produces the “sour” taste of traditional sourdough. The long story is: you’ve got to feed the starter in order for the culture to thrive. This is usually done by adding flour and water, which the starter then breaks down into sugars etc, etc… basically a living science experiment all happening on my kitchen counter.

At first, I was adding too much flour, and my starter became very thick, almost glue like. The hubby complained about having to wash those jars… gooey glop for sure! Then I added less flour — which makes the starter a bit more sour tasting. Parenting yeast and bacterial cultures is a delicate balance. And heaven forbid you spill… years of history running down into clean forks! Oh! The Tragedy!

All these adventures to say this: we have enjoyed trying all kinds of sourdough starter recipes! We’ve decided we don’t like the pancakes. The bread is good… although I am still learning to get a good rise. I think our house is too chilly. Pizza dough has become a favourite, and we have enjoyed the family bonding experience of making our own pizzas. Cinnamon buns and pretzels were big hits and baked donuts are on the agenda! I will post all the recipes on my Pinterest boards for you to check out!!

Cinnamon Buns were so yummy!!

I may not have become the pioneer woman of the gold rush, but “Herman” has forced me to slow down a little, to plan my rising times, and try new recipes for using up leftover starter. There is nothing like getting your hands all floured up and kneading dough. The whole family now has to participate in pizza night. I think the only one who is not so sure of “Herman” is the dishwasher. Sorry, darling. Be that as it may, it now comes as no surprise to me that our cultures have put such a significance on bread. It has deep symbolism in the Bible, too, many I am sure you are familiar with: hospitality, the bread of life, remembrance of Christ’s body broken for us at the last supper. Thanksgivings for our daily bread and the forgiveness of sins that can grow and multiply like the yeast and levain in a sourdough starter culture.

It’s a good reminder, isn’t it? How something so simple, so traditional, can contain such meaning. We forget to be thankful for our basic needs. We forget to take advantage of time. To be patient and wait for things to rise and flourish. We forget to appreciate the traditions of hard work, in this quick paced society. We forget that unless we are fed in proper proportions we become sour and fermented. Do we bless others through sharing our wealth and our hospitality? For now, “Herman” will continue to be fed and thrive on our counter… a reminder of so many more complex things!

Why Disney is Better than the Bible

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is one of the most visited theme parks in the world. Nearly 20.5 million people visited the attraction in 2017. And that’s not including all the off park resorts, hotels and other theme parks. Mickey Mouse is certainly popular. Not to mention all the memorabilia! Magic Kingdom sells over 300 000 pounds of popcorn and employs nearly 70 000 cast members. Approximately 285 thousand pounds of guest laundry is cleaned by Walt Disney world employees every single day. During the Christmas season, 8.5 million lights and 300 000 yards of ribbon decorate the park. And you think you had a hard time keeping up with the housework?!

However, I am curious to do some research on the underlying (and overwhelming) reasons why Disney products are so popular. What have they got that makes them… well… the most magical place on earth?

Legend has it that Disney created the theme park for his little girls. A place to feel like a princess. Filled with adventure, mystery and treasures. If you have ever been, you know it is a reality. We visited way back when our beloveds were a little younger … a trip the kids still talk about. From the check in desk, to the ice cream vendor, every “cast member” was trained to talk directly to our little “prince and princesses”, and to make everyone’s stay the most special visit ever. We even talked to the cashiers in the Canadian pavilion at Epcot… and they enlightened us that most of the employees were chosen from their home countries and had to undergo two years of training before joining the Epcot world teams.

And it’s not all about the kids. In 2013, about 1 500 weddings were held at Disney. That number has steadily grown, and last year, more than 4 000 ceremonies have been performed each day! I have heard of lots of newlyweds who have chosen the theme parks as a honeymoon destination. You can even choose to live there (if you happen to have a couple of million to put out on a house and are willing to abide by the rules). More and more travel companies are promoting adult only Disney visits. And we are eating it up!

So — I muse — WHY? Just think with me a minute. What would happen if our churches were like Disney? What if they were the most magical places on earth, and every child and adult had your church building on their bucket list for places to visit? What would that mean? The coolest rides? The best shows? The best marketing budget for toys and movie clips? Yeah, Disney has all of those things, and yes, many believers are discovering that Walt’s traditional themes are becoming subtly more “worldly”. I’m not saying we have to compromise our fundamentals to woo seekers with magic and pixie dust. The Bible is God’s living word and is perfect in all it’s details. But it doesn’t change the fact that people are seeking places to belong.

Places where they will be accepted. Maybe a place to feel safe. A place to feel special and loved — even if you have a funny voice, or a tiny fin, or ugly, mean stepsisters. To know that it really is “a small world after all”, and that all it takes is faith and trust. If we really and truly believe that we have the. best. answer. ever. to the problems we all face in this world, why are we not sharing it?! Why are my beloveds seeking adventure and drama in the latest superhero movie? Why do I wish for a fairy tale marriage? {no worries, honey, it’s pretty close…} Why is Disney our celebratory destination and not the streets of gold in Heaven? Is God not bigger and more powerful than Mickey Mouse?

As usual, I don’t have all the answers. I love Disney. The family is trying to convince me to see the new, live action Dumbo movie. I’m gonna cry. Poor Dumbo is snatched away from his momma all too soon. But I’ve got to wonder, am I moved the same way when I read of the atrocities that human babies face in our own world? Does it grieve me the way that it grieves our Heavenly Father? The Bible is filled with adventure, romance, humor, and boundless love. Love that can cross barriers, and the test of time. Are we training our “cast members” to treat every person who walks through our doors, that, they too, can experience the most magical place on earth through the person of Jesus… and that an even greater adventure awaits them after? To infinity and beyond?!

Photo credit: Roberto Gemini Pixabay

I want my daughters to feel like princesses. I want my boys to seek adventure and fight for justice. I want to whistle while I work as my house gets cleaned by a variety of adorable woodland creatures. But I know that, sometimes, fairy tales don’t always have a happy ending. So I entrust my friends and family to be sons and daughters of the king of kings. To put on the whole armour of God, and enlist in the adventure of a lifetime. Because with God’s help, Walt Disney himself, might agree… “if you can dream it, you can do it.”