Welcome to my Blog!

Welcome to my blog! Of course if we were visiting in person, I'd have the teapot out and we could sit and chat.
I'm honored you stopped by to listen to my thoughts and ponderings - and if you have a minute sometime, let me know you dropped by!

You can also find me on Facebook at Grace Notes, Thoughts and Prayers.

I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What are You Reading this Summer?

Yes!  It is Summer!

Officially on the calendar, anyway.  When we picture summer, we see picnics, lake views, outdoor activities, and time away.

For me, it is an invitation to dive into books... without guilt!  Every year for the last few years, I have "escaped" into a world of reading, which is a true vacation for me.  Of course, book reading is not confined to summer, I also think of lazy winter nights by the fire.

When do you read?  And what do you love to read?

The last few years I have revisited the Mitford series by Jan Karon (my favourite for emotional and spiritual encouragement), and read through the entire Anne of Green Gables stories.

This year I was inspired by some book purging we were doing.  It gets me every time.  "I can't throw out that book!!"  These were companions and friends of long ago, dog-eared and precious.

So I decided to revisit some of these books before I decided to keep.... or discard.  One of them my daughter spied, and it disappeared into her home quickly - I guess it wasn't just MY favourite!

These are a few of my books I am re-reading.  Some have my maiden name still in them.

I was fascinated to read "Not Regina" again, since I had worked on an Anabaptist paper for my recent classes at Carey Theological College.   It is a story of a young girl during the time of the Anabaptist persecution, and part of my roots.

"The Earth Is Round" is another historical novel that tells some of the same stories my own great-grandparents experienced when they  immigrated from Russia.  This book is falling apart but I enjoyed every word.

"Star of Light" was a missionary tale, and I'm looking forward to rereading "A Man Called Peter", which was the story of Catherine Marshall's first husband.

And I have many more.  How could I throw them out?  But I could lend them, sharing is a wonderful idea!

I do have a Kindle device and read there too.  In face my own book "A Journey of Hope" is available on the Amazon Kindle Store.  I didn't think it was worth another printing which is costly, but it was a good way to make it available to those who would like to read it.

However, there is nothing like settling into a comfortable chair, or a lounge chair at the beach and settling into a good story.  Here's to happy reading, and wonderful escapes to places we can learn from and delight in.

And an addendum:  I'm so pleased to share that my story "The Christmas Ornament" will be included in the latest edition of Hot Apple Cider books, and will be published early this fall.  I will be posting more about this book - another book to read once our summer is over!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Those Pesky Mosquitoes!

Years ago I wrote a column for a little newspaper in Hope and one of my topics was the question "Why did God make mosquitoes?"

It seemed a valid question at the time, and I still ponder it now and then.  Certainly in the huger scheme of things, mosquitoes are a minor pesky irritation, bringing discomfort and generally stealing the peace of enjoying the outdoors.  Which most of us love at this time of year, particularly after a cold spring.

Complaining aside, I've been doing a lot of research into Essential Oils and alternative methods as to what I might put on my skin.  Most young moms I know are deeply concerned about exposing children to Deet, and I certainly don't want it on my body either.

So it was fun to get together with my daughter and a few others last night, and create some practical things we could use and try, including bug repellent and after-bug spray!

I don't believe there is any perfect method, bugs and ticks seem to prefer some body types to others, and there are the rumors that what you eat can also attract or repel creatures.  Some swear by home-made recipes, others say they don't work.

In the war against bugs, I think anything is worth a try.  I've been teased I'm a "hippie", and truly I don't mind... I honestly believe that God has provided most things we need in creation, we just need to be creative and learn.  And so I've started experimenting with Essential Oils and find myself loving them, and on a huge learning curve.  Not only are they good for repelling bugs, but for cleaning and many health remedies.

And this is no sales pitch, everyone needs to find what works for them.  What is important to me though is that what I put on my skin or in my home is as pure as it can be and I avoid chemicals or imitations as much as I can.  It is critical to do the research or learn from someone who has done so.

So, a few simple recipes today, a result of some creations we made yesterday!

In a 6- 8 oz. spray bottle (coloured is best), put 2 T. sweet almond oil (you can also use grape seed oil or fractionized coconut oil),  Add:  1-2 drops lavender oil, 1 drop grapefruit oil, 1-2 drops Eucalyptus oil, 1-2 drops lemongrass oil.  And if you have it 1 drop of Geranium.  Fill the rest with water.  Shake well before each use.  You might also want to experiment with citronella oil.

Here was another bug recipe put out by Young Living (where you can purchase essential oils).  In a small bottle, put 10 drops purification oil, 5 drops peppermint oil, 1 tsp. salt and fill the rest with water.

And if you've been bitten, try 5 drops peppermint and 5 drops of lavender into a small roller bottle or spray bottle.  If you are using the roller bottle, add a couple of tsp.of carrier oil (almond or coconut), and if you are using the spray bottle, fill with water and shake well before spraying.   I'd be inclined to add a little aloe vera too!  This cooling spray or roll-on will likely help the itching.

Please note!!  I am no herbalist, just learning what works and what doesn't.  If you have time to research, Dr. Eric Z has some amazing information on line, and there are other sites as well with a lot of information.  So research before you try - that is my disclaimer!  

Sharing our world with bugs is part of living.  Keeping them away from our personal space can be a little bit more challenging.

One final note... life can be hard enough.  You just have to watch the news, or walk through your local hospital.  Being outside is a healing and wonderful thing.  Creating with natural resources and plants can be therapeutic and besides, it usually smells good!  Here's to enjoying the beautiful summer that is upon us, bugs and all.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

It's the Little Things - & a little Rhubarb Secret!

I'ts the little things, the ordinary, the everyday, that makes our world go round.

Oh yes, there is a time to celebrate, and I think of many who are doing just that this time of year... graduations, music recitals, weddings... June should be called the month of celebration!

But in our flood-clogged region, it has been the acts of kindness lately that have moved me... kids giving up a gym class to fill sand-bags, neighbours helping neighbours.

The other day I was moved by our own ER department of the hospital where I work... I had been assisting a lady to find her way, and they told me she comes in often... for an appointment she doesn't have... and she is treated with kindness and dignity.  Those are the things not often recorded, or noticed.

There are faithful volunteers who come in.... they listen, they sing, they hold someones hand or give some reassurance.  I shared one story recently on Facebook of a woman who realized her mission in life was to care for her husband who was in a care home.  She came, daily, to feed him, to sit with him, just being present.  As she was there,t she noticed others who also needed encouragement.  And she began to care for others, caregivers, who also needed encouragement.  There are people like that in every facility, often unnoticed, but faithful.

Sometimes when life seems big and crazy and even overwhelming, it is good to go home and make soup.  This is the necessity of life, to create nourishing food, and where we are able, to share it with others.  It is good to go for a walk and smell the flowers, to take in the scenery, to notice the ordinary moments.

Today I picked rhubarb.  It seems like a rustic fruit to me... or is it a vegetable?  Chopping is good therapy!  It reminds me of my mom, always busy, always creative, and she would not have let rhubarb go to waste.

There are times when I'm too busy for rhubarb.  That is ok too!  But I'll let you in on a secret... I simply chopped it and cooked it in water... and I will strain that water, and make rhubarb ice-cubes... tangy, and a lovely addition to a cold class of water. Or sparking water if I want some pizzazz..  A little bit of joy.  A simple pleasure.

Today I saw the peonies had bloomed.  They are the prettiest they have ever been!  I rushed out with my phone, snapping pictures, all the while eyeing the stormy clouds that were threatening rain and wind.  And I brought some beauty inside, and made a simple bouquet.

Last week I was in a traffic jam, a sinkhole had affected our local highway and my commute.  As I sat amidst all the cars, a small deer, timid, stepped out into all that traffic.  Across the four lanes she came, and fortunately we were all at a standstill!  A lovely moment - and for a minute it was OK not to be going anywhere.  

These are the ordinary things.  Enjoying wild flowers on a walk, enjoying God's creation, smiling at those we meet.  The ordinary becomes the beautiful, it is the fabric of our lives.

peonies from my garden

wild flowers in Vernon

Friday, June 2, 2017

Politics and Loving the Earth

So there wasn't the plan to write a blog today.

But sometimes the words come, burning inside and wishing to be written.  And the thoughts will spill into words - words that might resonate, or not.

There is no lack of news these days in the political realm.  In BC, our election has dragged on, too close to count, and now we are faced with a coalition challenging the minority government.

Whatever your take, or personal preference, or party affiliation, there are no winners here.  Or could there be?

I was so interested in a newspaper story in our own Vernon Morning Star which highlighted a group of primary age children who were "practicing" to vote during the provincial election.  They became educated on issues and learned how elections worked in our province.

They, like all of us, had differing opinions about who they thought might be our best government leaders.

But what struck me the most was one child's observation of a debate she had watched, and had asked... why are the adults fighting?

Why indeed?

We preach against bullying, but it is all too evident in the bashing, the put-down ads, in the debates.  In my mind, it is completely disgraceful, and a bad example to our children and grandchildren.

So I have not been completely dismayed as some are at this election outcome.  In my hopeful mind, I think, isn't this an opportunity?  An opportunity to work together for the good of all?  I realize this is a highly unrealistic idea, but it is something I long for.

If governments and parties work together, we all win.

And then there is the Paris Accord...

As the leader to the south pulled out, I know he angered many of the world's leaders, and many leaders from his own nation.  I feel the need to speak out, a small voice, but an angry one.

When do we start taking ownership for taking care of the earth, the beautiful earth God has given us to live in?  What about future generations who will suffer if we don't do the right thing?

And I know I am far from understanding the whole picture, but we can all do our part.  So we can recycle, and use less plastic, and live simpler lives.  (Yes, I'm preaching to the choir).  We can be good neighbours, and care for the poor.  We can avoid pesticides and plant bee-friendly plants.  We can support local farmers and grow our own food as we are able.  We can encourage our leaders to make good decisions.  We can even choose to invest in those who have good environmental policies.   Oh, there is much to do...

And in all I do, I ask myself... am I a good steward of what God has allowed me to have?  Am I a good citizen, and do I reach out to the poor, the refugee, the sick?

There is no room for selfishness, for protecting ourselves over the needs of others, for bullying.  I often pray, Lord, can I be part of the solution, not part of the problem?  May God give us wisdom, love for others, and a deep concern for the earth which we have inherited and will be stewards of, for the next generation.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Finding Peace in a Fear-mageddon world

Growing up in the 70's we became familiar with the word Armageddon - describing the final battle many believe signals the end of the world.

Years later, I find the word still brings chills to me, and a haste to prepare for I don't know what...

Whatever theological debate is around this word, it is a place that is associated with a terrible time.

So I was amused (and somewhat frightened) when reading in my Facebook feed this past week that this word was used to describe other calamities to be sure to come to our neighbourhood, very soon.

One warning was about tick-maggedon, the other about mosquito-maggedon... and yes, this was the language used.  Other dire warnings this week have included recent reports about bed bugs infestations and one that is too close to home - exposure to the dangerous object in the sky, the sun.

I've looked forward to summer for a while now, but it has come fast and hard.  In our area many are experiencing the calamity of floods.  With the heat of the sun, and the melting of the snow, this late spring and feeling like summer is bringing a host of challenges.

A bad year for mosquitoes we've been told, and I've heard the same dire warnings about ticks.

Sometimes it feels like we live in an unsafe world from recent terrorist attacks to less insidious threats of disease from bugs and bats and the sun.  There is much to be afraid of!

Some of this hits close to home... and we do the best we can to live well, while taking great precautions.  Because melanoma has touched our family, sunscreen, and the shade are all part of our daily lives.

In this year where I have been deliberate about practicing joy, it has struck me how fear can rob me, and many others, of living relaxed, joyful lives.  And perhaps, in this broken world this is a daily quest, a choice, a deliberation to live in peace and trust in the midst of challenging circumstances, or perceived threats.

We can also suffer from compassion fatigue, as we hear story after story of calamities around the world, drought, terror, wars and refugee crisis.  There is a feeling of helplessness, as we seek in our own ways to help, and it seems so little.

As we deal with our own home-grown threats, I've grown to love using essential oils, which I believe are truly God's medicine, and if used correctly can be very helpful in prevention and treating things like insect bites and sunburns.  There are even oils for anxiety!  There are many resources available to us, and I'm thankful for them.

Some of us are more prone to fear than others.  Others seem to love living risk filled lives, and you wouldn't catch me among them!  No, I'll leave falling out of airplanes and racing cars to those with braver hearts!!

If you have a sensitive heart, like mine (which has wonderful and difficult qualities), we will be more affected by these fear-based forecasts.  Sometimes I just need to take a break from the news stories and find some peace by a lake or in a garden where I feast on what is beautiful and good.

I'm also reminded that there are 365 quotations from the Bible that remind us not to be afraid - that is one for every day!  I have always taken great comfort in this; that God knows my tender heart and our Creator reminds us that we are always assured of his love and care in any circumstance.

When I set my heart on these beautiful words, peace overcomes fear.  We cannot always control the challenges we face, but we know God will see us through.  And that is something I believe, with all my heart.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Time to Breathe

Breathing is the most natural thing we do... all of us, or we are in trouble!

But I've been more mindful of my breathing lately...paying attention, slowing it down, taking deep breaths.

Life can come at you, full and fast, like the rain today, and the floods so many are facing.  Sometimes the adrenaline kicks in, sometimes we live lives full of adrenaline, till our bodies are tense with the next thing, the to-do list, with the pressures of life, or the heartaches we face.

Last week as we were studying our Bible lesson from Ephesians three, I was struck by these words from the Apostle Paul, which is really part of a prayer: "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."  (3:20).  I pondered that prayer for a while, but more than thinking about it, God wanted me to put it into practice.

And the lesson I've been learning is... do I live life with dread or expectation?  Do I react to what is in front of me, or take time to slow down, to ponder, to ask my Creator (who is able to do immeasurably more than I ask or imagine) for divine assistance?

Sometimes we have to ask for help in this!  The very next morning with those words in mind, I woke up with my back in spasms... and I had a full day ahead.  Panic seized me, and I wondered how I would get through.  I phoned someone I trusted and asked her to pray for me... and the miracle happened.  My body relaxed, and my day went well.

 I say this carefully, because I am not one to demand things from God, and I see people... often... who are racked with pain.  But as I listen, or pray with them, or just hold their hand, there can be a relaxing, and an easing of the tension.  And God can help us to do that, I believe!  The prayer states, to the One who is able to do immeasurably more that we ask or imagine!  These are heavenly resources that help me to face life with expectation rather than dread.

And breathing IS important... I don't believe we were created to be tense.  And when I am, I find that breathing exercises can help me immensely.  One exercise is to take a deep breath, counting to four as I take it in... hold it for the count of one, and release it in another count of four.  It slows you down, and this has even helped me to go to sleep.

Breath prayers are also a wonderful way to practice calming the mind.  Simple prayers like "Help, Lord!", or "Have Mercy on Me", or "Thank you that you are with me", help us to focus on our source of help and strength.  I heard another prayer recently where I can breathe in a prayer, focusing on God's love filling me as I breathe, and with my exhale, I pray a prayer of thanks or love back to God.

Breathing in love, peace, calm, is another way to refocus the mind.  Breathe it in, and breathe out the fear, the anxiety.

Take time to breathe.  Today I am grateful for the gift of life, I am thankful for the air I breathe, for the beauty all around me.  There, that feels better already!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

We All Have a Mother

This is the week our calendar reminds us to think about our moms - and we all have one.

It was once noted that Mother's Day is one of the busiest days for churches, for florists, for restaurants... because nothing can play on our heart strings like a mom...

After all, it was her heart-beat that was our first symphony...and the safe place she carried us was our first home.

It is a week I miss my mom, now in heaven almost four years.  And as I attend many bedsides, where death is imminent, where children of all ages say good-bye, those are sacred moments.  There is something primal about saying good-bye to a mom - a final separation of the emotional umbilical cord.  It is hard to explain, but the feelings can be intense, and even physical.

Everyone has a biological mom... but not all get to know her. I also think this week of those who never got to know their mom - through death or separation.

I think of those who grieve... and I've joined those ranks.  Remembering a mom in heaven!

We need to also remember adoptive moms... brave and courageous, often sacrificing much to have a child of the heart.  We need to listen to their stories.  I admire them greatly.

And others who released their children to be loved by others, bearing wounds and holding stories not told. Some, deeply troubled, some addicted.... we need to listen, to show compassion.

And there those who cannot be mothers but long to be... and the travail of the heart for those whose womb is silent.  Others choose to share their love through fostering or being a loving auntie or neighbour, or surrogate grandma.

I also want to remember mothers who grieve... and the children who have died; children they will carry forever in their hearts.  And there is the disfranchised grief... those who mother those in trouble... children on drugs, or in trouble with the law.   Their grief is silent.  We need to acknowledge their pain.

Then there are the mothers of those with great needs... and their children will always need a caregiver.  Sometimes the care is around the clock, and exhausting.  They need our support and care!

I've been grateful for spiritual mothers in my life... those who mentored me, prayed for me, listened with unconditional love and open hearts.  These are precious women I am thankful for.  And I pray I can also be that kind of "mother"... heart open wide to love those who need extra encouragement.

I've heard it said the greatest joy... and the greatest sorrow... lay in the heart of a mother.  We've just celebrated Easter and we think of the heart of Mary, blessed and chosen to be the mother of Jesus, yet her heart broke for him as she watched him suffer.  A mother's heart is a fragile thing...

Emotions are stirred when we think of our moms... they can drive us crazy, and as we have pushed their buttons, we can be triggered by them too!   Moms are human beings, flawed, needy, while they are generous and caring.  The older I get, I see the human side of my mother... striving, yearning, loving, giving, serving.  She longed for peace in her family, she wanted to know how everyone was, and she cared deeply for each one.

I am also called to remember that we are not defined by the labels we wear... although there is great significance in them.  We are human, we are loved, we are flawed, we are created in the image of God, (both mother and father) we have purpose, we are blessed.  And we are grateful that God created moms - the path to life here on earth.