High River -Stronger


It’s been a year.


IMG_0566 High River tent balloons

It’s been a year since the rains came down and the floods came up. Our son and his family are back in their house in High River, but it’s still a construction zone.

The kids are back playing soccer and baseball, but I see some of them watching the approaching rain clouds as much as they watch the ball.


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The middle school band plays at an outdoor concert for an audience of proud parents, grandparents and siblings who step around puddles in the gravelled yard.

The temporary business structures beside the Saturday artisan’s tents have become the new downtown.


IMG_0509 puddle balloons

When I ask my granddaughter how her friends are doing she says everything is different , but different is kind of normal now.

Then she asks, “Do you think it’s going to rain like that again?”

There’s a greater maturity, but also something akin to a lost innocence in High River. I suppose that is what happens after any disaster, or after any change in the definition of normal. Whether it’s a flood, a tornado, a serious illness – or a betrayal, wherever we experience unexpected loss we can no longer say, “That would never happen.”

Now we know it can.

And now that we know we are left standing in the playing field on a Saturday morning in June checking the sky for signs of rain, wondering if it will happen again.

“Folks are a bit twitchy when the forecast is for heavy rain in the mountains,” a merchant/artist told me. “It’s understandable -especially for the kids.”


IMG_0411 22x storm clouds granary

The thing about lost innocence is that it is one thing that can never be restored. You cannot un-see things. When I’m with my family it seems like half a dozen times a day I hear the phrase, “We had one of those, but it was lost in the flood.” My grandchildren don’t have bikes or outdoor toys because even though we offered to replace them, they don’t have anywhere to store them yet. The shed containing their old bikes and toys was also lost in the flood, and that image is still with them.


Innocence may not be restored but many other things can be. Bikes and sheds and houses can be restored. Purity can be restored. Faith can be restored. Respect, hope,  joy, peace, confidence can all be rebuilt, but they require new firmer foundations than the absence of the experience of suffering.

I asked an older gentleman how he saw the town now, 365 days after the rushing water that poured down from the mountains changed everything.

“It’s the best thing that ever happened to this community, ” he said.

“Why do you say that?”

“We discovered what it means to be a community,” he answered. “We discovered what it means to have real  friends, and who our real friends are. We discovered what it is to work together for more than our own comforts. We discovered the generosity of strangers. We discovered what it is to need help and give help. We discovered faith.”



He smiled sincerely when he said this. He had genuine joy.

“Not everyone is back in their homes yet and a lot of businesses are still in temporary quarters or not even up and running at all. We hope it doesn’t rain like that again, but you know, we also hope it does so we will know if the steps toward flood mitigation are working. We hope another disaster doesn’t happen anywhere in Canada, but we also hope the things we have learned here can be put to use if there is one – when there is one.”

Loss of innocence is being reconciled to the reality of sin in people around us and in ourselves. Loss of innocence is acknowledging that all is not right in the world. The Bible says all creation groans until things are put right again. For some who have survived disaster there lingers an increased fear and greater sensitivity to pain which results in anxiety that hums in the background like the drone of a machine that never shuts off . For some there grows a greater faith that seems to free them from fear of the future. I watched this gentleman in a crowd after church, smiling and greeting folks, shaking hands and giving hugs when he met someone he hadn’t seen for a while. After I took the kids home for lunch I remembered his words.

“The flood showed us that God is faithful and even though we have been down and bone-weary, we now know that with His help we are much stronger than we ever thought we could be.”


IMG_0607 green quilt




IMG_0577 now open



IMG_0554 boots



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IMG_0485 love high river




Don’t Stop Thinkin’ About Tomorrow

Light Arises in the Dark
Light Arises in the Dark

I woke up with a song in my head. I’ve learned to pay attention to the seemingly random songs in my head, particularly if the music comes unbidden, is insistent, and like this one, is a song I don’t know very well. God speaks to people in different ways and for me it is often through music.

The song is “Don’t Stop Thinkin’ about Tomorrow.” That single line kept going through my head. I had to look it up. It’s by Fleetwood Mac from the 70’s. That’s why I didn’t remember it. In the 70’s I was a sleep-deprived young mother just trying to get to bed before my babies woke up. Who had time to listen to anything but nursery ditties?

If you wake up and don’t want to smile
If it takes just a little while
Open your eyes and look at the day
You’ll see things in a different way

Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here
It’ll be, better than before
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone

Why not think about times to come
And not about the things that you’ve done
If your life was bad to you
Just think what tomorrow will do

Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here
It’ll be, better than before
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone

All I want is to see you smile
If it takes just a little while
I know you don’t believe that it’s true
I never meant any harm to you

Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here
It’ll be, better than before
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone

-Christine McVie

I’ve been thinking about loss. My son and my daughter-in-love and my granddaughter and my grandson are grieving the loss of all their belongings but for a car and three days worth of clothes. My heart ached for my granddaughter when she told me the thing  she would miss the most was her treasure box which included some baby clothes and photos and precious little things wrapped in beautiful memories like the tissue paper scrunched around them. We often sat on her bedroom floor going through the box together.

My grandson said he would miss his games, especially his first computer game, which apparently is no longer made. And all his Lego. I’ve spent hours on the floor snapping Lego together with him  -and quite a few more hours pushing wrong buttons as he tried to explain the proper way to play a wii game.  The children have a beautiful attitude about losing all their toys and games and books -and the computer and the wii- but it still hurts.

My daughter-in-love has lost all the family photos lovingly and creatively displayed in scrapbooks she spent hours making. She is also a fine teacher who has lost her personal stash of teaching aids built up over years of teaching special-needs students.

My son is a fine hobby carpenter. He built my beautiful kitchen for me. Now all of his tools lie under flood water mixed with sewage — irretrievable, and uninsured because they were lost to “an act of God.” (Man, I hate bad theology!)

It’s so hard to see your children and grandchildren suffer, especially when on a retirement income it is impossible for us to do much to help them. It’s so easy to take up a cause for someone else and give into resentment, but trusting the Lord to take care of my needs means trusting him to take care the people I love as well, and thanking the Him for His faithfulness and for solutions to their problems that we cannot yet see. It means not only hearing the music of the future, but being able to dance to it today.

The reason I chose to post these flowers (“painted with light” on my computer using my photo as a template) is because it reminds me of all the things I planted in that spot that I eventually had to dig up and throw out because they died. My neighbours can grow luscious hydrangeas and dramatic astilbes. I can’t seem to. I despaired of  ever growing a pretty shrub in that shady corner of the garden.

Then this mock orange showed up one spring. I never planted it. I think the previous owner may have, but it never flourished because I kept planting other things too close to that spot. When that place in the garden was empty it suddenly shot up, covered in white blossoms.

I believe God has something better in mind for my family -and for all the people in High River and other places in Alberta where faithful, diligent folk have seen the work of their hands swept away by flood waters. So, since yesterday is gone, I will choose to think about tomorrow, and give God room to do what he wants to do, which is always better than our own designs. My prayer is simply, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I trust You, Lord.”

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—  that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem
Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 3:8-14)