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.

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.

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.”