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!

Aloe Vera

I’ve been reflecting, lately, on how complex our world is, and yet, how it all seamlessly works together to provide us with all that we need:

  • Our middle school son has been learning about parts of a cell and all the intricate workings of the tiniest of living things. I love that! Besides, it’s just fun to say “rough endoplasmic reticulum” and know what it means.
  • We have been surviving the snowmaggedon of 2019 here, and many are waiting for spring to arrive — and it will — eventually. The snow will melt and nourish the land just in time for spring flowers to peep up out of the ground. But for now, we continue to shovel out.
  • We’ve marked the year anniversary of my beloved mother-in-law’s final battle with Alzheimer’s, and reflected on how painful it was to watch this awful disease rob her of so many things. Yet the beauty of her life was cared for so diligently by her beloved husband and family.

Which brings me to my Aloe Vera muse. In case you don’t know, aloe vera is the term given to a variety of succulent plants know for it’s “healing” or “soothing” properties. The aloe vera gel is harvested and used in countless beauty and hair products. It’s been grown by many a gardener for it’s attractive, easy growing nature and it’s medicinal properties. A few years ago, I received a huge pot of aloe. It had been left untouched for some time and had propagated to about 40 “pups” or off shoots — baby plants, if you will. I have shared or used most of those babies and now have a few lone survivors left on my windowsill. Recently, I bought an aloe stem (stalk?) with my groceries! It didn’t cost too much, and held all the promise of good things. Only issue… what to do with the crazy thing?!

You tube to the rescue again! Apparently, you harvest the gel inside by trimming away the sharp, spiky edges, filleting the green off, and scooping up all the yummy aloe vera gel from the inside! I wish I was better at videos, because it would have been much more entertaining for you to watch the process as opposed to my still photos! The plant smelled a little funny, it tastes bitter direct from the plant, and the gel is like trying to herd a slippery pile of snot. We laughed. All in all, we harvested a good sized jar of the soothing aloe gel — currently stored in my refrigerator.

Further research says I can use it on my skin, hair and nails. We’ve been trying some natural bar shampoo that is a little drying, so hair help might be on the agenda. I can mix it in with my smoothies for digestion help (or a good cleanse (apparently) if one adds too much!) I use it all the time for minor burns and skin irritations. It works wonders on sunburn (not that we are having any of that in the middle of winter!) but supposedly it works well on chapped lips, so this is a current seasonal option! I figure if it worked for Cleopatra’s beauty regime, it will certainly help with ours!

Learning more about this miracle plant has shown me, that yet again, the Creator of this world takes good care of us! Time and time again the words of Psalm 147:3 ring true: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (ESV) Like the soothing gel of the aloe vera plant, God is the balm that calms our hurts, heals our pain, and binds our wounds. Sometimes it is messy. We get lost in the snotty goo of our imperfections, but His grace covers us and provides that added layer of protection on our parched, chapped skin.

His nourishing word cleanses us from the inside. Our bible study group last week reminded me that meditation on God’s word gives us the tools we need to navigate through our daily routines. Like the aloe, a little nourishment can keep us “clean” and boost our immunity.

So, if you are like us, and dreaming of more tropical weather and sunburn season… remember the little Aloe Vera plant and all it’s benefits. Let it be a green reminder to you of how God is the balm that cleanses and purifies. The One who heals and calms our hurts. Be blessed!