A Thankful visit to Transvaal Farm

Hello again, my friends! We just got back from a wonderful, long Victoria Day weekend. We opened up our tiny trailer and got our first real taste of summer — despite the fact that it was still quite chilly. Oh my, we are so ready for some warmer weather over here!

Which got me thinking about all things vacation. Therefore, I wanted to throwback to a few weeks ago, when I took a lovely, little “mini-vacation” with a couple of good friends. We had an awesome time together — simply enjoying each other’s company, with no set agendas, just doing whatever tickled our fancy (which was a whole lot of shopping!) We journeyed to little town called St. Marys, near Stratford, Ontario (Canada!) and spend a few days in a wonderful little place called Transvaal Farm.

The guest house, situated on 50 acres of rural farmland, was quaint — and perfect for the girls’ getaway. The home features two bedrooms, a lovely sitting area, and a country kitchenette, allowing us to save some money by cooking our evening meals in-house (all the more cash for shopping!) Our host, Cindy, and her working partners, were eager to show us around, and we reveled in the delights of the goats… and you guessed it… CHICKENS! (I don’t know what it is with me and chickens, right now….but I am lovin’ them!)

Although not a true bed and breakfast, our hosts delighted us with a stocked fridge full of fresh goat cheese, delectable, baked artisan bread and treats… and, of course, farm fresh eggs! We even got to gather our own eggs, direct from the coop, one day! We visited during off season, so many of the garden’s goodness’s were not yet available, but I’ve been told that the property boasts a lovely variety of fresh veggies all summer long. I did see quite a few rhubarb patches, too! I understand that Cindy hosts some wonderful classes on all things good and yummy, as well. I encourage you to check it out!

Our felted owls
Our crazy little felted owls!

The girlfriends and I spent our days touring around the surrounding cities, thrifting (I was on the hunt for glass bottles!!) enjoying cafe lunches, and quaint little gift shops. We found boundless treasures and laughed and chatted for hours. We even tried our hand at some felted owls one night. Which led to a deluge of giggles at our own inadequacies! But, the fireplace was warm, and the company was even warmer. It was such a refreshing time for me!

I am so blessed. Indeed, I must remember to be thankful. To take time to reflect and thank God for the bountiful blessings He provides — warm beds, nourishing food, a bountiful earth full of good things, and lasting relationships with friends who bring such value to my life. I must remember to be thankful that I am blessed enough, financially, to take time away from working, to be a bit frivolous with my time. I must remember to be thankful for a family that is home waiting for me to share my joys upon my return (and to hear me talk about chickens… again!)

Have you made your blessings list? Have you taken the time to indulge in a few days with no agenda, to laugh with friends and collect fresh chicken eggs? To pet the barn cats and enjoy lattes at a quaint, small town cafe? To find treasures hidden away in a thrift shoppe? Oh, may you enjoy coming home again to the faces of your beloveds, because your absence has made your heart grow fonder. Be blessed, my friend — and be thankful.

Moms who Mop

There is a poignant scene in Mel Gibson’s 2004 movie, The Passion of the Christ, where Jesus’s mother, Mary, is desperately wiping his blood from the cobble stone walkway where He was just brutally tortured moments before. It’s graphic and gruesome. Yet, to me, it is such a vibrant picture of motherhood. Here is a mom, who’s firstborn son has been wrongly accused, and is about to be crucified. Mary has watched Jesus grow from a tiny baby into this radical man who has had such an impact on His world, and although she doesn’t understand it all, she knows somewhere deep in her heart, that she must do something to support Him… something, anything… even to the point of wiping up bodily fluids.

From The Passion of the Christ 2004

I had a wonderful mother’s day weekend away with my own mom and daughters this year. We had fun together and enjoyed our time. I read the posts on social media about mothers everywhere… flowers and cards and beautiful Sunday brunches. Florists all over Canada just moved into the red based on their sales for this one day a year. But let’s be honest, moms. Motherhood is tough.

Children do not come with a set of instructions. There is no book, no podcast, no blog or youtube channel that will tell you how to mother your beloved. Because there is no one exactly like you… and no one exactly like your kid. God made each and everyone one of us special. Which makes mothering hard — and absolutely beautiful at the same time!

I am really quite amazed at how resilient God made us mothers. Our bodies take a beating and fight back. We survive sleepless nights and midnight feedings, we kiss skinned knees and manage the daily task of hair brushing and teeth flossing. God knew what He was doing when He made babies so cute… because despite all the paranoia, we often do it all again… and then a third and a forth and a tenth time! What were we thinking?!

And then! Then, we pray for soul mates and fret and worry when they leave the nest and fly away and become their own. And we get angry because it’s not how we wanted it to be. They deviate from our perfect mother-knows-best plans and we can no longer shelter them. We have to let them go — and let God. Or we don’t understand why God has given us this challenge, this extra need, this life curve that throws us off our plans for a future of flowers and rainbows. And we cry out “Why”?! Trust me, I’ve been there.

Or maybe you have to be the mom to your own mother now. Roles are reversed and you have to be the caregiver to the one who once cared for you. The vulnerability is still there. You have to make hard decisions, and be the one to fight for dignity, and be courageous and kind. You become like Mary in the movie. You don’t quite know what to do — but you have to do something! So, you mop the floor.

I have met many brave moms. Courageous mothers who fight like momma bears for the sake of their children. They advocate, protest, speak out and speak up. Still others who quietly, yet equally as bravely, support their children with every ounce of their being, through silent prayers whispered late at night. Parenting is hard. This is why God gives us families and communities and villages… and the internet! We need each other. Good grief, if even Mary didn’t know what to do in her crisis situation, we can consider ourselves in good company.

So, if your Happy Mother’s Day bouquets have now slightly wilted, and you are feeling a little frazzled by it all, remember that there is no magic wand. No fairy godmother to make it all go away, and no enchanted mice to clean up the messes. God has chosen each one of us for His specific plan, and the specific plans for each of our beloveds. We must learn to trust that God knows the why. We just have to bring along the mop buckets sometimes.

The Cross

It’s been a busy week here, as Easter celebrations are completed, chocolate has been consumed, and we’ve enjoyed having the whole Mitton crew around for a long weekend. In this week’s blog, I want to continue our thoughts from last week, and examine the way that images can spark so many emotions for us. (In case you are a new visitor to the the blog and missed that great read… you can check it out here).

Specifically, I want us to focus on the image of the cross. The cross design has taken many forms: from the simple wooden “t” — to very ornate and beautiful beacons encrusted with jewels and gold. Jesus follower or not, most people are familiar with the image of a cross and it’s association to the crucifix, or depiction of Jesus’ death on Good Friday. It certainly sparks emotion for people… one way or the other! History has presented us with burning crosses of protest, crucifixes to ward off evil, and rows of white crosses amidst blood red poppies. It seems an appropriate image to look at since we are in the throwbacks of Easter and have seen some powerful images from the recent Notre Dame cathedral fire from April 15th. I watched, along with many others in the world, as the spire collapsed and the roof of this beautiful, old building was engulfed in flames. Many of my social media sights were dotted with the images of personal photos of Paris visits before the destruction, but one news image in particular caught my eye:

Mandatory Credit: Photo by CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON/POOL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock (10205506cs) A view of the cross and the sculpture ‘Pieta’ by Nicholas Coustou behind debris inside the Notre-Dame de Paris in the aftermath of a fire that devastated the cathedral, in Paris, France, 16 April 2019. The fire started in the late afternoon on 15 April in one of the most visited monuments of the French capital. Cathedral of Notre-Dame of Paris fire aftermath, France – 16 Apr 2019

It was hailed as a “glimmer of hope” or a “miracle” that the cross within the Notre Dame Basilica still stood – despite the destruction all around it. And so I muse: what is so special about the cross? This simple shape is immediately associated with Christianity. Our graves are marked by it, our churches are adorned with it, we tattoo it on our bodies and wear it around out necks. But if we take a moment to really think about it, does it seem odd to hold such a device of torture in such revere? Seriously. Do we wear guillotines on our sleeves? Little electric chairs around our wrists? Skulls and crossbones? (okay, maybe that one gets tattooed a lot …) But you get the picture.

Crucifixion was reserved for the vilest of criminals. The hanging on a cross was proposed to be a political show of guilt, as a way to shame the criminals as they hung from stakes or crossbeams along public walkways. Displayed as spectacles for all good citizens to take note of. The victims essentially were asphyxiated as they hung, and their bodies were often left to be eaten by the buzzards and wild dogs as the ground was considered “too sacred” to allow criminals of such stature to desecrate it. The death itself is painful and slow. It is where we get our word “excruciating” from… not the prettiest of images to admire. It’s no wonder we fluff up Easter with yellow flowers and cute bunnies.

So, why a cross then? I’m going to propose that the cross has been allowed to stand as a symbol of Christianity, because our Creator embedded the ability to see past our sinful natures (and all it’s desires for pain and torture) into the spark of hope that occurred on Easter Sunday; when Jesus defeated that painful death, and rose again to give us the victory over our sin. The news stations were right when they declared the remaining cross in Notre Dame as a “glimmer of hope”. It has become a reverse icon… not promoting pain, but seen as the ability to move beyond destruction to the deliverance from the evils of this world — through Christ.

It’s important for us to see two sides to every story. One cannot see light unless you’ve been exposed to the darkness. One cannot experience true joy unless you’ve felt the pain of grief. Perhaps we embellish our symbols a tad too much. The golden cross left standing in Notre Dame didn’t do so by it’s own miraculous merit. Hunks of metal and clay statues do not save our sins. We must remember that the cross is not the saving grace itself, but the one who overcame this vilest form of death. It’s true. Images can spark such deep emotion within us. And symbolism is simply one way to elicit those responses. So, yes, feel free to wear that shiny gold and silver cross around your neck. Light it a top your church frame for all the world to see… but not as a magic icon, but as a conversation starter. As an image to add insight to a much, much deeper story of hope, compassion and love. The love of a Saviour for a dark and desolate world.