Moving On

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

It’s a small little verse tucked in to the end of Luke 2 (verse 52) but contains a wealth of information. And a lot of time. It’s the only verse we have that tells us about Jesus’ adolescent years before we see His ministry begin in adulthood. (Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about that — I didn’t truly research it). It’s a verse that I’ve been reflecting on this week as the youngest Mitton moved on from elementary school.

School (albeit the strange form of online-homeschool-semi-vacation-time-filling-preparatory-work as it has been for the last few months) is now completed for the summer. Our youngest was supposed to have graduation ceremony from our elementary school, which ends in grade 6, and move on to middle or junior high. Covid-19 prevented any kind of formal celebration — but that is another muse. For me, it was the end of an era. All four of our kids attended the same elementary school, and we parents were quite active in all of it’s goings ons — bake sales, track and field events, farm visits, pizza days, talent shows, concerts, parent teacher interviews and the school council. I’ve been on our elementary school council for almost 20 years… and now it’s done.

This past week, my current council blessed me with a “drive by” parade and a flood of well wishes and tokens of their thanks for my service. At first, the introvert in me was completely taken aback, and thoroughly embarrassed — the principal and vice principal, administrators and even key teachers showed up on my front lawn. (To the absolute detriment to my children’s self preservations — now the teachers know where and what our house looks like! The horror!) Alas, after the initial shock, I, well, I “had a moment”. Private thoughts and personal memories of each of our children’s first days, struggles and moments of joy flooded back as I reflected later. I, too, met new friends, shared highlights, valley lows and packed a whack load of lunches. I learned about other cultures, set goals, experienced frustration, joy and pride as I watched as my children also grow in “wisdom and stature”.

I don’t know what education looked like in Jesus’ day. I don’t know if Mary homeschooled or if education was at the temple or under Joseph’s care in the shop. The Bible verse tells us Jesus grew in wisdom — which means He persevered through experiences that lead Him to make decisions, to grow, to debate, and to decide in which direction to move forward. He grew in favour with God and man — which means He had to study the Torah and be taught foundational principles, as well as participate in traditions and festivals. It means He made new friends and endured teasing, perhaps even bullying, by peers. I’m sure He had chores and bookbags and homework. I’m sure Mary baked for neighbourhood kids and shooed them out to play. Did she have to send two healthy snacks and hope Jesus didn’t lose His indoor sandals? Did Jesus get frustrated learning how to knot the perfect tzitzit or did Joseph have “take your kid to work” day?

It’s a small little verse tucked away at the end of our “Christmas story” in Luke 2. For me, it’s packed with almost 20 years of memories of my own kids and many “I wonders” about another child who grew, yes, but yet had such a special mission. Time has a cruel way of never standing still. As my youngest “moves on” and I am forced to move with her, I will continue to pray and trust that we will all find favour with God and man. Enjoy your summer vacations, my friends!

Fish Care 101

We accomplished a big task this week… we cleaned the fish tank. Aquarium enthusiasts be warned, I have had fish for years and know that tanks need regular maintenance… but I am not the person to follow if you need good fish advice on how to clean an aquarium. But, let’s back up a bit shall we? We have a tall tank that sits in our living room — I’d say it’s about 35 gallons or so. We’ve had it for years and have done goldfish, tropical community fish and slightly more aggressive ones. My brother kept cichlids for years, but I am too “frugal” for that hobby favourite. Which brings me back to this week. A few years back we picked up some cheap show guppies — an easy-to-care-for community fish that is pretty enough to look at. Check out my facebook page if you wanna see the video of our fancy guppies! Fun fact about show guppies is that they are also live bearers (which means they breed well and have live babies). So, needless to say, our stock grew from 6 fish to about 80. Yes, 80. We also had some living duckweed and some other live aquatic plant in there… and an aggressive green algae that soon took over. ( I told you I wasn’t someone you should take advice from). Alas, here we are in the tail end of a global pandemic with nowhere else to go, so we decided to take the beast on!

You see, cleaning a green monster is no easy task when you still have about 80 fish… many of which are teeny tiny babies. You can’t just dump and pour. Fish tanks have delicate balances of good bacteria and things that fish need — not to mention our city water has a lot of bad chemicals that fish don’t need! And so we began the task of categorizing fish and separating them out to other balanced tanks. We even saved the littlest one which is about the size of “l” with eyeballs. We “traded in” quite a few to our local pet store (which was an ordeal in itself — self distancing with our bucket after sloshing the original container around in the car. Sorry about the seats, darling.) We knew we might lose a few to stress. Overall, though… a fairly successful fish move after their small tank “vacation” as the youngest referred to it as.

The tank itself wasn’t too hard to scrub out… and years of thrifting and pet ownership provided a nice selection of accessories to choose from, but we needed a new background. Did I mention I am “frugal”? Which means I wasn’t about to pay for a new fancy piece of glossy paper when I could print, laminate and creatively tape together my own… let’s just call it crafty, okay? So… after a week or so of scrubbing, fishing, waiting and bucket patrol… Volia! Happy fish and a clean tank!

The “After”

The week long task had me musing about fish, of course. And there are lots of examples of fish references in the Bible: the fishers of men miracle, Jonah and the giant fish, five loaves and two fish etc. Margaret Feinburg’s “Taste and See” book has some good thoughts on the “fishy” parts of scripture, so I encourage you to see my review about that here. However, my internet travels took me to another fish that I found interesting to read about: The Jesus Fish or ichthys. I’m sure you’ve seen it on jewellery, bookmarks or the back of someone’s bumper.

What I didn’t know was that the ancient Greek symbol was an acrostic of ΙΧΘΥΣ (ichthys), which translates into ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, [Our] Saviour’.

Iota (i) is the first letter of Iēsous (Ἰησοῦς), Greek for “Jesus”.

Chi (ch) is the first letter of Christos (Χριστός), Greek for “anointed” (of the Lord).

Theta (th) is the first letter of Theou (Θεοῦ), Greek for “God’s”, the genitive case of Θεóς, Theos, Greek for “God”.

Upsilon (y) is the first letter of (h)yios (Yἱός), Greek for “Son”.

Sigma (s) is the first letter of sōtēr (Σωτήρ), Greek for “Saviour”.

Pretty cool, eh?

Apparently the symbol was used by the early church as a “secret” symbol during the Roman persecution of early Christians. It helped to identify whether a stranger was a fellow follower or an enemy. As the story goes, the greeter would draw the first half of the fish, and a friend would complete the reciprocal line if they understood the initial drawer’s reference. If not, the stranger would just appear to be drawing arches in the sand. The symbol was also spotted on secret meeting places or worship gatherings. It made a comeback in the 1960’s as Christians began to use it as a “logo” for Christian merchandising. Do you have it somewhere?

I hope you liked that little tidbit of information on such a simple idea. In these strange times of identities and isolations, I’m reminded that I too, have conversations to start about my identity as a “fisher of men (and women)”. That I belong to a bigger world of people who follow Christ, and that by doing so I may be persecuted for my own beliefs. Like our aquarium, I can get overcrowded, choked out and clouded up without regular maintenance. And it can be a big job to clean it up and get our lives back to looking sparkling again.

So, next time you see an ichthys on the back of someone’s car, send me off an email to remind me to change my fish tank’s filters okay? Be blessed, my friends!

Be Like a Bee: Make Dandelion Honey!

May 20th was World Bee Day! A day to acknowledge these tiny pollinators and the important job they do for us. I think it is so fascinating that these tiny creatures were created with a unique and vital job for (literally) the world’s food supplies, and yet we still place so little value in them. In fact, we often think of bees as annoying and squash-worthy. Did you know that they can fly at speeds of about 15 mph? Or that it takes 556 worker bees to gather a pound of honey, each individual producing only 0.8 grams in her entire lifetime?  It takes one colony of honey bees (around 30,000 bees) to pollinate an acre of fruit trees (from our Canadian stats). I bring them to your attention to highlight another forgotten piece of nature: the humble dandelion.

Taken from the French phrase: “dent de lion” describing the tooth-like spikes on the flower’s leaves, these “weeds” have one of the longest flowering seasons around. Every part of the plant can be used: leaves, root and flower for edible delights! And — they are one of the first sources of foods for our ever-more-valuable pollinators! Again, a unique example of God’s intricate designs for our planet! This week, we learned to appreciate this symbiotic balance of God’s goodness even more – by trying our hand at Dandelion Honey!

I’ve been studying more about “natural” uses of things, and watching videos on foraging and gardening (still trying to be a bit “greener”) and use less, and thus discovered dandelion honey. I suppose it is technically dandelion syrup — but it tastes more like flowery honey of bee pollen than the mapley goodness Canadians are famous for. You can find lots of videos and articles on How to’s, each with their own quirks, tips and tricks, but I thought I would lay it out here for y’all on how we did ours. Check out my Pinterest Boards for more ideas. Note this was our first attempt, so proceed with caution!

It’s kind of an old fashioned recipe, so measurements were not all that precise, which is just up my alley ‘cuz I love to “wing it” a lot in the kitchen. First, the hubby picked a bucket full of dandelion flower heads (from our very own lawn — which we knew was pesticide free and abundant). I rinsed them off and picked out some grass (and the odd ant). You can leave the green head on the flower, and although we left some stems on (because I am lazy) I learned after that the stems are fairly bitter so should be removed. Some videos made tiny batches of a few cups of flowers, but we had a lot! You then make a dandelion “tea” by covering the flowers with water and boiling all the goodness out of them (about a 10 minute boil). We added a sliced lemon and a sliced orange to season even more (as per the videos). The tea is then cooled and steeped overnight in the pot. The next day, I strained all the “juice” out with cheesecloth — about 10 cups worth of liquid from my “big batch”.

The next part may be disheartening to the health conscious of you looking for natural recipes, but you add a lot of sugar to the mix here. Most how to’s say even amounts to your liquid, some say a little less, so for my 10 cups of tea, I added 8 cups of white sugar — okay a little less than 8 cups because I added a bit of brown sugar because I didn’t want to be left with no sugar left in the house! You get my point, though, right? It’s a lot of sugar! The next step is the syrup part of boiling off. And as any good Canadian knows, syrup takes a lot of effort to boil down. Did I mention I am not patient? I boiled my mixture for about an hour — just until it started to thicken up around the sides and slide between my fingers like the viscous syrup we know and love. I should have boiled it longer. Perhaps a lot longer. I was hoping it would thicken up upon cooling, but it didn’t. Our final product was pretty runny — but oh so yummy!

I think we got about 5 or 6 jars of the honey packaged up in the end. I gave two of them away as gifts. The citrusy sweetness is apparently a very good elixir for sore throats and such — not to mention great on pancakes! Or spoonfuls at a time. 🙂

A Sweet gift for a Special Person!

So there ya have it: Dandelion Honey! As I reflected on these two simple beings, honeybees and dandelions, I couldn’t help but muse how deep their examples are to us. Both are seemingly insignificant. Common place in our springtime worlds. Easily ignored and often thought of as nuisances to be got rid of. Yet so vital to our earth’s mission. Much like we often feel in our own worlds. I recently put these words on our letterboard at home: You are sons and daughters of the King. Act like it.

I want my kids (and me) to be reminded that we are children who belong to the Most High (Psalm 45) So often we feel insignificant. Worthless and commonplace with little to offer to a bigger world at large. How can we serve when we are so small? Or so common place that no one pays any attention to us? Especially when things can be air brushed and photoshopped. The scriptures remind us of our place. We are heirs to the throne and will one day sit next to the Creator of the world! He who delights in the honey bee and humble dandelion, finds absolute sweetness in the sight of us! Rejoice in this my beloveds! And be reminded of it next time a bee buzzes by, or you see that field of “weeds”.

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com