Farewell to Fruitland

Image result for fruitland crcIt’s been a week now since my last service at the Fruitland Christian Reformed Church. A week since we said goodbye after working with this congregation as their interim pastor for two years

I’m finding that one of the struggles of being a pastor in a place for a short time, a time with a definite end date, is the burden of saying goodbye, of knowing already when staring in a place that the goodbye is already creeping closer.

Goodbyes are not easy, particularly after two years of building relationships, of listening to stories, of holding hands, of comforting, of being a shepherd, a cheerleader, a counselor, a friend, two years of stepping into the pulpit and opening the Word with them.  It’s hard to step away and allow someone else to fill that place, to have those conversations, to take over those relationships.

It’s particularly hard this time since Fruitland has not yet been able to find a new pastor to hand all of these things off too. Their search committee is working hard, harder than any committee I’ve been involved with, and they are close, but the search didn’t come to a conclusion before I left.

I could have stayed. I could have put off the goodbyes for another month, years even. The other churches where I worked as an interim have asked me to stay as well. For the church it is the path of least resistance, settling for the known rather than striving to find the right person and stepping into the unknown. Staying would not have been wise.

And so, we said goodbye. There were tears. I left them with the words of Paul to the Philippian church ringing in their ears…Rejoice in the Lord always…….think on these things. We can rejoice, even in uncertainty, even in times of trouble, because we already know at the end of the story, God wins.


We are all nourished from the same trunk…no matter where we are.

We left, a beautiful gift to remember this fine congregation in hand, cake in our tummies, our hearts just a little heavy.  We left, knowing this congregation was in God’s hands, knowing that God has plans for them, knowing that they continue to have a role to play in bringing God’s kingdom into the world.

What’s next for us? We don’t know, but that has become part of the pattern of leaving one thing to wait for the next door to open.

2018 Cycling Stats

So…a little late with these numbers. It seems we have so many bikes and so little time (or inclination)

Here it is:

Opus Orpheus (Stoney Creek hybrid work bike)         528 km

Santana Arriva Tandem                                                    580 km

Cannondale R6 Road Bike                                                 123 km

Brody Dynamo (Picton Hybrid)                                          28 km

Tulip Cycling Rental Bike (Holland)                                 178 km

Total 2018                                                                            1467 km


Maybe we can do better in 2019!!!

2018 in Review


On the flight to Holland

It seems like the theme for the year 2018 might be driving. This has been the first full year where we have lived in two places, Picton and Stoney Creek, with our lives pretty equally shared between them. We drive from Picton to Stoney Creek on Saturday afternoons so that I can be ready to lead worship on Sunday and then return on Wednesday afternoon for a Thursday office day at the kitchen table. We do this for three weeks and then have a week off.

The drive (288 km one way) has become a constant with the traffic of Toronto always the wild card. We’ve used the 407 often enough to make the transponder subscription worthwhile. The drive, the distance, the disruption have become a little much and we are looking forward to the end of my contract as an interim pastor on January 20th.


The Piecemakers Quilting group at the church made me a new stole!

It’s not that the church has been an issue. Fruitland CRC is a wonderful congregation with deep family roots that truly care for each other, truly tries to share their gifts and their love with others. It has been good to be their pastor during these past two years as they search for someone to take on the job permanently.  We’ll leave there with good memories.

We have been busy in other areas this year as well.  We continue to be busy around our house. Early in the spring, a local landscaping company finished the hardscaping they started just as things started freezing up. We followed that up spending a lot of time searching through nurseries here and in the Niagara area for the plants that our landscape designer had recommended. Some of them proved to be a challenge. There is still quite a bit to do next year and we are looking forward to the hunt. We are also looking forward to seeing how the things we have in the ground now mature from little potted plants to their mature size over the next few years.

Our house was full for the months of July and August when J and M, their two kids, two dogs, and a cat moved in with us while they were doing renovations on their house. You get to know people on a whole other level when they are with you all the time. It worked out well though, and really, we weren’t together all the time because that constant trip to Stoney Creek was being made.

In late October we made a trip to Victoria to help paint part of the interior of R & J’s house. It was an intense five days and we came back exhausted with a feeling of accomplishment a dining room, living room, hallway and two bedrooms looking a lot different than they did before. We also got to visit D’s school and get lots of snuggle time with N.


We did some traveling for ourselves as well. In August we did a short (and very wet) canoe trip in Algonquin.

In September, we had a two week trip to Holland. We went at the same time as all of J’s siblings so that we could attend a family reunion following the recent death of one of her uncles. That was one Saturday afternoon, so we built four days of cycling and five days of exploring Amsterdam around it for a very wonderful holiday. We had said a little more than ten years ago that we didn’t need to go back to Holland, but this trip left us feeling a lot better about the place…maybe we will go again.


The “piano” bench painted in the style of Mondrain


My job is part-time so we have a week off every four weeks. When we are not traveling, I spent some time in my shop. This year I’ve renovated the Martin houses to keep out the starlings, build an addition to the “little library” at J & M’s house, repurposed a running gear we brought with us from the farm into a kid’s wagon, built a bench out of a recycled piano, and started to explore the world of charcuterie/ cutting boards.




A wagon for a little girl’s birthday

J continues to keep herself busy knitting (we’ve got a lot more socks) spinning, dying wool and throwing pottery. her hands are never still.

We’ve both made a lot of new connections over the past year. The church, here in Bloomfield, has been very welcoming, embracing us warmly into a community of people with whom we have a lot in common.  Maybe even more exciting, and surprising, are the relationships we have been able to begin with others who are also new to the area. Breakfasts and potluck suppers have brought us new friends, from varied backgrounds, all looking to begin life, to find community, in a new place. When we go to the grocery store now or walk down the main street,  its not unusual to meet someone we know.

And so we move on to 2019. We have lots of unknowns ahead, but that’s alright. We continue to trust that God has a plan, that God holds us in the palm of a loving hand.




Martin House Revisions

I’m a fan of Purple Martins and have two houses up with a total of (11+18) twenty-nine apartments. Last year the houses went up a little late and we only had two of the nests occupied.

29570807_787927051402234_9103955552295374133_nThis year, I got the houses up in good time and even moved one of them to a better spot. We were hoping for good things.

After being up for most of a month we noticed that the starlings really seemed to like them. They would come in a flock of a dozen or so, chase everyone away from the bird feeders and then check out the accommodations. Some of them looked ready to stay.

I wondered if, maybe, Martins and starlings could live together in the same house. A little research suggested this was not possible and the starlings would actually go out of their way to kill the Martins.  I took the houses down to discourage the starlings from setting up housekeeping and tried to figure out how to head off the problem.


For a little while, I considered trapping the starlings and doing away with them. We live on a fairly busy corner and most of the good traps seem to include a cage where the starlings end up awaiting their fate, which in this case would be terminal. I’m not sure if trapping would actually make a big difference in the overall population and if it would be worth the wrath of my neighbours to try it. We also have the issue of not being at the house where the bird houses are all the time so the traps would need to be disabled quite often.


A seemingly better plan was to alter the entrance holes to let the Martins in but keep the starlings out. I found  this problem was so prevalent that the modified entrance even had an acronym, SREH, Starling Resistant Entrance Hole, The job seemed daunting but if these houses were to cater to Martins and not starlings, I thought I better try. I was off for the week, so had time to devote to the project.

545A7B49-77E6-468C-A87F-E645B745C1C5The current holes were 2 1/4 inches in diameter. C39FC8C2-16C7-4219-8A1B-ED3F998B04B7The SREH which seemed to be having the most success was figured out by someone named Lewis and is a half moon shape that starts out with a 3-inch diameter hole covered to allow an opening 1 3/16 inches high. Most of the literature also suggested a porch be added flush with the bottom of the hole.


Over two and a half afternoons, I got the job done, 9071E41D-D734-4927-803E-13834EE3257Fdisassembling, cutting, nailing, screwing and reassembling.   The houses have been repainted and are back up on their poles.

There was some urgency since, at a talk in Picton from the local bird banding group, we learned that the first of the Purple Martins had arrived in The County this week.

After being up for a couple of days we can claim some success.


The starlings have been back and are frustrated, they cannot get into the houses. Its sort of fun to watch them now, struggling to find a way in and then giving up in disgust.

The Martins have arrived as well. The day after the first house went up, there was a Martin on the wire above it. Apparently, the first adults to arrive act as scouts. It was back today. I didn’t see it try to enter the house though.

Here’s hoping.


Canada Reads 2018

Since 2002, CBC has been hosting an annual battle of the books called Canada Reads. Five books are chosen, around a particular theme. Each book is championed by a noteworthy Canadian and, over the course of a week, four of the books are voted off the island, leaving one book that all Canadians should read.

Over the last few years, we have been buying all five of the books on the shortlist, reading most of them, and then enjoying the debates. This year’s theme is “One Book to Open Your Eyes” with the debates beginning on March 26th.

Just days after the shortlist came out, we this year we headed down to Books and Company In Picton, (a really awesome independent bookstore) and were able to get all five of the books. I love books and this little pile just seemed to make me feel a little richer. It was also cool to think that all over the country, people were picking up these same books and curling up to read.

20726950._UY475_SS475_I began with Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto and have to admit, I was disappointed and hoped fervently that this offering was not indicative of the entire group. The story is a good story blending the true-life stories of the horrors of World War Two, and prisoner of war camps in the Pacific with the injustice, and racism endured by Japanese Canadians in the story of two families that are eventually joined together through the marriage of their children. There is lots here, lots of strong themes, lots that we should know about, but, for me anyway, the punch of the book was lost in what I would call a lack of good editing. The book has spelling errors and sometimes wanders off into the minute pieces of life that really didn’t add to the story, but were written in a notebook somewhere and just had to be used.

9780771024290My fears about the quality of the entire offering were quickly allayed as I got into the Boat People by Sharon Bala. A number of the same themes that came through in Forgiveness appear here as well, beautifully interwoven into the story of Tamil boat people arriving in Vancouver. References to the Japanese internment and the response of both the government and the public to the boat people suggest that the racism and injustice of the past is not really a thing of the past at all. This work of fiction, based on real events, is gripping and revealing.

I somehow managed to read the books in sets. Forgiveness and the Boat People share themes, localities, and even history. The next two books I picked up did as well, but they are very different than the first two in that both of them are apocalyptic in nature, science fiction written in a time somewhere in the future.

35436476The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline is the only book of the set written by an indigenous author.   It’s a young adult novel based in a time when, because of environmental degradation, people have lost the ability to dream. This ability continues in the native community and they are being tracked down and their bone marrow harvested so that the ability can be reclaimed by the colonizers. The Marrow Thieves is a story of colonization beyond land, a story of abuse of power, and a story of the struggle of a community to survive. Its a story of the battle against entitlement, and the strength that is found in bamding together against evil.

9780771009402American War by Omar El Akkad is also a dystopian, apocalyptic novel. I’m not sure why this book is part of the Canada Reads offering. While it does touch on huge themes: climate change, war, the plight of refugees, the influence of foreign powers, the polarization of society, it is not strictly a Canadian book and doesn’t deal with issues that are uniquely Canadian. I suppose the big issues it does cover are all of our issues, international issues, but the book is set and plays itself out in an American context, imagining the result of current American political and societal trajectories. That said, American War is a great read, thought provoking, and just a little bit more than frightening.

precious-cargoCraig Davidson’s Precious Cargo was the last book on my pile. If I hadn’t been sick for a week, I’m not sure I would have gotten this far. After the dystopian novels, Precious Cargo was a breath of fresh air. Its the true-life account of Craig’s year as a school bus driver, driving his precious cargo of special needs teenagers. Interspersed with the story is an “unpublished” novel that puts the characters on the bus in a futuristic setting where they are integral to saving the world. Craig writes about his year as a bus driver, with humour and compassion, helping us to really see the kids on the bus for the people they are rather than for their disabilities.

So, that’s all five. They are an interesting mix of the past, the present, and the future. I’m glad I read all of them, rather than just the one that is crowned the book we should all read in a couple of weeks. In my opinion, the celebrity panel, with its voting process, often gets that book wrong.

2017: A Year of Construction

2017 is coming to a close. The end of a year provides a good marker to stop for a few minutes to reflect and record what has happened over the past twelve months.

The last month of  2016 was really the first chapter of 2017. It set us on a course that we would follow for the year. Set the theme really.

text99858_4In early December I received a call to serve as the part-time interim pastor of the Fruitland Christian Reformed Church. That job began on the first of February and has been a good experience. The congregation is a faithful one that is really trying hard to figure out who they are as they move into the future. It’s been good to be with them, to get to know them, and the serve them as their pastor.

Just a week after receiving the call from Fruitland we moved from Huron County to Prince Edward County. If you went back to my year-end post for 2015, there would be no hint that a move across the province would be in our plans, because it wasn’t. But sometimes life changes and direction changes as well. The move to “The County” was part of 2016’s story, as was the purchase of a condo in Stoney Creek as our second home. This year’s story is the making of this new place our own.

To say we have been under construction for most of this year would not be an understatement. The home we bought in the county is a beautiful one, on a wonderfully treed lot, close enough to the town of Picton to be convenient, yet far enough outside to be rural. We’ve made friends here and actually meet people we know in the grocery store quite regularly. We are happy with our move…..can you hear the “but” coming….the house we bought was less finished than we had anticipated.

IMG-0362We knew we would be finishing the two-thirds of the basement that had been left unfinished, we knew we were going to build a garage to house J’s shop, the trailer, and my woodworking. We did not expect to have to rewire the master bathroom, rehang doors that were upside down, repaint the entire house, replace trim and doors, rebuild stairs, reroute heating ducts, rebuild bathroom vanities, replace the entire kitchen. The house is new and showed quite well, but once we moved in we started to notice the shortcuts that had been taken and the overuse of the Sawzall as a primary tool.

Right now there are piles of paving bricks outside our kitchen window, covered with snow, which is part of a project the landscapers tried to squeeze in at the end of the season. We’re not quite finished, but most of the projects left on the list are ones that aren’t so much about inadequacies as they are about making the house our own.

Property-18799338-LargePhoto-13Fortunately, our Stoney Creek place didn’t take as much time in construction. It did get a full coat of paint in early February when we moved in (the colours are the same as our house) and we did have some furniture store visits to get it furnished. The condo gives us a comfortable if small, space to live and work out of about half of our time.

IMG_0200  Besides construction, we have travelled again this year. In September we packed up our bike and spent three weeks riding in Tuscany followed by a short visit to Rome. The biking was challenging with lots of hills to climb, but the scenery, the people, the medieval towns made it all worthwhile. But J refuses to go back, at least on a bicycle.

We’ve also travelled this year to see our kids. In June, our grandson N was baptized in Victoria. We were glad to be there. We visited Victoria again in November on a trip that also took us to Oakland to visit our newest grandson R. Of course, we get to visit with our Belleville grandchildren a lot more. For part of this year, they were here every week as we provided part of a patchwork of childcare so our daughter J could take a job at the local library.

We’ve been making it a habit to return from Stoney Creek to Picton on Wednesday evenings so that we can have as much time here as possible. I build sermons on the kitchen table on Thursdays. J has used that time to paint, to work on dying wool, making pottery, and making new friends through the local newcomer’s group. Our car is racking up kilometres. The trip from Picton to Stoney Creek takes just about three hours on a good day with the uncertainty of Toronto in the centre.

The last couple of weeks of the year, all of my spare time was spent in a corner of J’s heated pottery shop doing another sort of construction. I built a dollhouse for granddaughter I. It was a cool next step after birdhouses and a little library.

We’re thankful for another year of health, another year of challenge, and another year of blessings.



Our move to “The County” didn’t get us away from the snow. We bought a snowblower, but I sure am missing my tractor with a cab.


2017 Cycling Summary

Its the 22nd of December and pretty blustery outside, so I think our 2017 cycling season has come to an end. For the past few years, I’ve been using this space to keep track of annual biking distances.

2017 was a different sort of year for us. 2015 and 2016 both had long bike tours in them as we crossed the country. In 2017 we did take the tandem to Italy for a couple of weeks of riding, and even though we did a lot of climbing, the distances weren’t that great.

At the end of 2016 we moved to Prince Edward County, and then in early 2017, we set up a second home in Stoney Creek. We had sold our Opus Touring bikes last year, one of which went across the country on the Sea to Sea fundraising ride, so we had to buy some more bikes. For Stoney Creek, I got a good deal on a used Opus Orpheo that I regularly ride to work. I replaced the touring bike with a Brody Dynamo, a hybrid bike with great components for rides to town in the county.

unnamedOur transient lifestyle, living in two places at once, hasn’t really done great things for the amount of riding that has happened this year. Too much time is spent every week commuting, so some of the bikes really haven’t had the use they should have.

Here’s the summary

Santana Tandem: 1325 km

Opus Orpheo: 985 km

Cannondale R6 Road: 75 km

Brody Dynamo: 70 km

Total: 2455 km