Vote Ontario Fresh

It’s been years since I did any canning/preserving but I’d been thinking of reviving the tradition for a while and this weekend I set out to make some salsa.  It actually was less work than I remembered and the salsa is so, so much better than the store-bought variety.  I’ve already been into it myself and gave a jar away to my neighbours.

While only some of the fresh veggies came from my own garden (I didn’t have enough for the 3 batches I made), they were all fresh Ontario produce and I’m excited to be able to store some of this freshness for the winter ahead.

My success with this project has encouraged me and excited me to try some new endeavours in canning (as I mentioned, I have done salsa before, although not in years).  I’m determined to try to can peaches and pears this summer/fall especially as I realized that the canned ones I usually buy from the grocery store are imported from South Africa!  How truly ridiculous is it that we live a region that grows some of the best peaches and pears in the world and our grocery stores are importing them from the opposite side of the globe!

I recently watched the documentary “Food, Inc.” (which I would highly recommend) which has caused me to reflect again on my eating habits and the increasing complexity of where our food comes from.  It seems like we are in the process of forever losing the days when farmers and individuals produced food for themselves and their communities.  Instead we have allowed ourselves to embark upon a food production system that more closely resembles and industrial plant.

I’m glad to see a bit of a resurgence towards eating locally grown produce and shopping at farmer’s markets.  I wish the government was doing more to support this sustainable food system rather than the mass-production, mass-marketing of unhealthy, unethical, unsustainable options out there.

While it’s perhaps not manageable for any of us on a food budget to purchase locally food all the time, we can begin to make small changes in the choices we make and the food that we buy and eat.  As the documentary points out, every bite we take is our vote (for the type of food production system we want).  Are you happy with how you’ve been voting?

This weekend I spent considerable time considering the food I eat and choosing to not only eat locally grown produce but to prepare this myself to allow for this to be eaten through the year when it otherwise wouldn’t be available.  As a result, I am more conscious than ever about what that vote stands for, for my own health, for the environment, for the well-being of farmers and for my community.

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Filed under August 2010, Uncategorized

My Mini Bio

Hello All:  I was asked this week to provide a brief biography for consideration by those who may be in a position to support me.  As I was sending it off, I realized this may help some of you who don’t know me well to get a sense of who I am and what God has called me to, so here it is:

Hello, my name is Carrie Elsden.  I am presently living in Hamilton, Ontario but believe God has called me to be a long-term missionary in Zimbabwe, Africa.  I am trained as a Registered Nurse and am working as a Public Health Nurse in maternal-child here in Hamilton.  I also have my International Board Certification as a Lactation Consultant (a breastfeeding specialist).

I did not grow up in a Christian family but was introduced to God through a friend in high school.  Shortly after I professed my belief in Jesus and my commitment to follow Him, a friend went on a short-term mission trip, introducing me to the idea of Christian missions.  I felt like this could be something that God had for my future and embarked on a couple of short-term mission trips myself, further confirming my desire to engage in overseas missions.

In my early days in university, God directed me towards some interesting statistics.  I learned that while Zimbabwe was touted as the “bread-basket of Africa” (at the time), they had some of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world.  This discrepancy ignited an interest and passion in my heart of the plight of the Zimbabwean people and birthed a deep love for them.

When I began working for Public Health, I met another woman who had lived as a missionary kid in Angola, Africa.  She invited me to join her in traveling to Angola (where her parents still live) to engage in some public health nursing and to get a taste for missions in Africa.  Her family are members of SIM Canada and so I joined with her and this agency to plan for our trip to Angola.  To my surprise, God had other plans for me and due to a serious injury, I was unable to travel with her to Angola.  During the time of my injury and recovery, SIM was instrumental in praying for me and supporting me.  As my recovery progressed I felt God directing me to apply for a long-term opportunity with SIM.

There was some concern about the difficulty of the living situation in Zimbabwe and whether it would be possible for me to live and work in this context.  Amazingly, God opened a door to allow me to travel to Zimbabwe in January of 2009 for an exploratory trip with some of the leadership of SIM.  During that trip it was confirmed that my skills and training fit in very nicely with the work of the Hope for AIDS project already running successfully in Mutare, Zimbabwe.  I was given the green light by these SIM leaders to pursue long-term ministry in this context.

At present, I am continuing to work full-time for Public Health while trying to share this passion that God has put in my heart with others.  Currently I have been blessed to have received 63% of my one-time expense needs (including things like pre-field preparation, tickets/visa, purchase of a used vehicle, household setup and language learning) and 18% of my monthly expenses have been pledged (including on-going living expenses).  I am still actively looking for networking opportunities and for partners in this mission of God’s.  Specifically, I am needing prayer partners and those willing to partner with me financially.  If you are interested in supporting me or know of someone who might be please contact me.

Thanks for your time and consideration, Carrie Elsden   c.elsden@sympatico.ca

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Filed under July 2010

Sharing the Road

This week I went in to a local bicycle shop and picked up a few free “Share the Road” bumper magnets to display on my car and for the cars of my family.  I fully believe that as drivers of motor vehicles we need to be more conscientious and more careful to share the road safely with those driving smaller vehicles (bicycles, electric scooters, etc).  However, my experience is that just as many of the drivers of these bicycles and scooters are endangering their own lives and the lives of those around them by making poor decisions out on the road.

Stijn

The most common thing that I see, is cyclists riding in places they have no right to be – namely sidewalks.  I understand the argument that many raise about the preferred safety of riding on the sidewalk, however, besides being illegal, there are actually more safety concerns with being on the sidewalk.  When you are riding your bike on the sidewalk, no one knows what you are going to do next!  I’ve seen cyclists riding on and off roads and sidewalks leaving pedestrians and drivers alike trying to guess what they will do next.  This puts everyone on the road and sidewalk in danger.  Additionally with riding on the sidewalks, drivers of motor vehicles are much less likely to see you.  That means that if they go to turn into driveways or onto other roadways they are much more likely to hit you.  If you are cycling with children, use appropriate cycling paths and parks until they are confident with road safety rules.

I also frequently see cyclists flagrantly disregarding the rules of the road.  All the laws of the Highway Traffic Act apply to you as you ride your bike.  That means that you must obey all stop signs and lights, ride only in the direction of traffic (no going the wrong way on one-way streets) and must indicate your movements and turns with appropriate hand signals.

The most deadly mistake I see cyclists making is failing to wear a helmet or wearing it incorrectly.  It is still law in Ontario that every person under 18 yrs of age must wear a helmet at all times while riding.  Cyclists over 18 yrs are equally responsible (although not under the law, unfortunately) to protect themselves with proper use of a helmet.  Other safety equipment must include a bell or horn on your bike, and lights used within half and hour of sunrise and sunset.  Your bike must also be equipped with reflectors and it is recommended to wear reflective clothing to make yourself more visible.  You should also save your music-listening for another time and make sure you are fully engaged with your surroundings while out on the road.

I am all for the use of bicycles to improve health and reduce environmental impact and just because they’re a fun way to get around or to get out with the family.  However, I find I am too frequently cringing when I see cyclists out around the community with seemingly little regard for their own safety or that of anyone else, never mind the law violation and risk of fines with their actions.  It is my hope that we will continue to improve the safety of our cyclists by creating and improving bike lanes and pathways around Hamilton but as cyclists we also are fully responsible to the laws of the road and to the safety of ourselves and others as we venture out on our bikes.

If you are unfamiliar with bicycling safety or if you have a new rider in your family, I highly recommend a bicycling safety course such as CAN-BIKE.  Adult and children’s programs are available at the following website:  http://www.ontariocycling.org/web_pages/edu_canbike.php

For more information please visit:

The Ministry of Transportation:  http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/pubs/cycling-guide/index.shtml

Ontario Cycling Association:  http://www.ontariocycling.org/

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Filed under July 2010, Uncategorized

Reconnecting

I had the great privilege of attending a wedding yesterday.  I actually never expected to be included in this event so it was an even greater blessing.  You see, the woman who was getting married was a great friend of mine . . . back in highschool.  I have actually only seen her a couple of times since we graduated in 1998.  One of these times was a chance meeting while both of us were out shopping over a year ago.  We spent only a few minutes catching up and exchanged current email addresses before parting ways.  Despite our good intentions to keep in contact, we exchanged only a few emails.

To my great surprise a couple of months ago she sent me an email inquiring about my mailing address so that she could send me a wedding invitation.  I responded promptly, excited to once again reconnect with her and to (at least in some way) become part of each other’s lives again.  As the wedding date approached I was actually a bit reluctant.  As much as I was excited for her, I was also attending on my own and with some much time and space between us I expected to know few if any other people at the wedding.  She did email to reassure me that two of our most beloved highshool teachers would also be attending.

Very shortly after arriving at the venue where both the ceremony and reception were to be held, her groom, whom I had never met marched right up to me to introduce himself.  Moments later, her mother approached me, greeting me as if I were a long-lost friend (I had only met her a few times back in highschool).  Already I was feeling very welcomed and overwhelmed (in a good way) with their kindness.

I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with my music teachers from so many years earlier and had such a good time chatting with them and meeting new people at my table.  I’m usually not one for crowds of people and find meeting too many new people at once to be a bit intimidating.  God blessed me that time with a quick memory for everyone’s names which certainly helped!  The wedding itself was an incredible mix of Muslim Indian and Germany Christian traditions and elements and the Indian attire worn by most of the attendees was beautiful.

During the bride speech, I was astounded to hear myself mentioned in thanks for attending.  In a room full of roughly 200 guests, I couldn’t believe she would single me out along with a handful of others (including our music teachers) in such recognition!

The whole evening was such a huge blessing to me and so, so much fun.  I’m so glad that tamped down my reluctance and chose to attend the event.  I am so excited still to have been included and to have this incredible opportunity to begin to reconnect with her (and her new husband) more consistently and to begin to weave our lives back together again in great friendship.  I am also so excited to have reconnected with my music teachers and to have had so much time to catch up with them.  It was so special to be able to look back to remembering some of my greatest memories of highschool and then to be able to look forward to what God has been doing since and where He’s leading me next.

Mostly I am so honoured to have been there and am so thankful to God for prompting this reconnection and for prodding me to go and be open to having a good time.  Only a great God who cares about the intimate details of our lives and our relationships could have orchestrated a chance meeting that led to a wonderful reconnection!  I encourage you all to think back to an earlier time in your life to someone you cared about or had a relationship with that you might be able to rekindle.  Perhaps a letter, a phone call, an email could allow you to make a new reconnection that’s just as meaningful.

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Filed under June 2010

The Disciplined Life

I can’t say that my life is all that disciplined.  Most people who know me imagine me more disciplined than I see myself, I think.  Unfortunately I find it so easy to let things slide, especially now that I live alone and don’t have as much accountability (and in some ways, responsibility).

Several events in my life recently have reminded me of the benefits of discipline, both at a practical life-level and in my spiritual life.

As I have been continuing to go to physiotherapy I have now reached the point that my back feels pretty good most of the time.  I still have occasional nerve discomfort but it is fairly short-lived and not too painful.  As a result, I am finding it easier and easier to “forget” to do my daily exercises.  Each time I feel that little pang of nerve sensation or see my exercise mat out on the floor I am reminded that things will regress quickly if I don’t keep it up, but without the sharp pain, I have lost much of my incentive to continue.  Don’t get me wrong, some days I have been quite disciplined and managed to do all my required exercises but other days, I am tempted to let this go in favour of more interesting activities, or with the delusion to myself that I will “get to it later.”

I am also regularly reminded of the challenge of discipline when it comes to housework.  This is one area that I fail to keep up with more often than not.  With living alone there is no one else to feel like I need to keep up with the cleaning for.  Instead, I let things get to the point that I just can’t stand it and then have to embark on a major clean-up.  Logically I know that if I just did a little at a time, I would have a much neater space and it wouldn’t feel so daunting to do but somehow my best intentions succumb to more immediate pleasures and I find myself back in the lack-of-discipline cycle.

My experience of the Christian disciplines has been much like this at times.  As much as I know that Bible reading and study, prayer, fasting and so on should be a routine part of my life, I somehow end up waiting until my life is in crisis before I get my act together and seek God’s purpose.  Why can’t I seem to learn that keeping up with these disciplines a little at a time would mean that I reach that crisis point less often, I don’t know.  You’d think that I’d have things more figured out at this point in my life.

Too often my life resembles the struggle that Paul speaks about in Romans 7:15-25, struggling with the tension between the desires of the mind and the flesh.  I do praise God that He has set me free from this tension!  Now to get out and live it out in His strength.

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Filed under June 2010

The Refreshing of God

As much as I love long-weekends, the days that follow are a bit of a strain.  I had a fantastic Victoria Day off on Monday but found the rest of the week to be incredibly draining.  It could also be that right now my two volunteer coaching positions are overlapping so that I have more commitments in the evening than I usually do.  I truly love those evenings with the kids, getting some exercise and having fun but it adds to my overall busyness and I will be glad when those commitments lessen.

I also found this week to be a strain in working with the clients I saw.  For some reason, this week was full of challenging cases.  It seemed like each family was going through a stressful time and had an emotional story to share.  I’ve never considered myself to be overly susceptible to compassion fatigue, but after a week like this I can appreciate how tiring it is to become that invested in the stories of others.  As a Public Health Nurse and Lactation Consultant, not just invested but to even try to help people make changes to their stories as they feel the need, to walk alongside them and live a small part of their story with them.

In so many ways it is an incredible honour, even, I think, how God has called us to interact with and live in community with each other.  It is more stressful to do so in a secular job where my ability to speak of the One who writes each of our stories and walks alongside us through ever minute, is hindered and restricted from how I’d like to share.  I look forward to the day when I’m working overseas and I can interact with people in a more honest way, trying to point them to the One who has upheld my story through some pretty rocky times.  I further pray for more opportunity here to share with people and for them to be prompted to ask me about my faith and open the door for me to share about my relationship with Jesus.

As I came home this evening to try to find some (physical and) mental and spiritual rest and renewal, I was further reminded that I haven’t been spending as much time in the Word as I clearly need to be.  Although it is great to dive into God’s Truth when I’m feeling dry, the best way to be sustained and refreshed is to be in the Word continually, to be in God’s presence to prevent the dryness from happening.

One of my favourite passages that reminds me of how God calls us to respond in the dry moments in our lives is Psalm 42.  May you also find refreshing through these words of Truth:

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

4 These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude,
leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng.

5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and
6 my God.
My
soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

7 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

8 By day the LORD directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.

9 I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”

10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

11 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

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Filed under May 2010

Digging in the Dirt

I spent much of my time over the last week out in the garden.  I was late getting started this year but I can finally relax that my veggies are in and ready to grow.  As much as I appreciate flowers and I enjoy the space in the garden where I’ve managed to create a bit of an oasis in the midst of a busy city around me, my spring itch is always to get the veggies in the ground.

Somehow being out digging around in the dirt becomes therapeutic for me.  Such a simple pleasure of working the soil, laying out the plot, planting the seeds and young plants and yet it always makes me feel more complete somehow.  There’s something about gardening that aligns me with God’s creative power.  Something that reminds me that He has ordained life on this planet to revolved around birth and growth, death and rebirth.  Something about ultimately trusting Him for the growth that will happen over the summer.

Regardless of how much effort and care I put into preparing the ground for the seeds, caring for the young plants, watering and so on, there is nothing in my power that could cause a seed to grow.  Only God in His infinite wisdom could come up with a system that requires so much of my time and energy but that ultimately demands my trust.  Trust in the process that He has established and critical trust in the Creator God.

Gardening reminds me so much of that truth – that my life is about making every effort I can for His glory and then ultimately standing back and trusting Him for the outcome, for the harvest.  Digging around in the dirt always reminds me of who He is and who I am in Him and points me back into right relationship with Him (and a right view of my own efforts).

How great that something seemingly so insignificant can be used by God for His own good purpose.  May you each turn your faces toward God as you get out this spring to muck around in the dirt.

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Filed under May 2010, Uncategorized