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, August 22, 2017

Breaking the Rules

I actually like rules.

In my early years, a preacher's kid, there were some that might have called me "goody-two-shoes".   Where that particular description came from I have no idea, but it wasn't flattering.

I think it comes back to my personality of being somewhat a perfectionist (ouch, it hurts to say that), and wanting to get things right.  Wanting to please.  Wanting to be liked.

Rule-keepers can easily shift to policing, and that isn't always pretty either.  One of my worst memories of this was in an uppity neighbourhood we once lived, where we shared a big house with my parents.  We were up, they were down. (in the house, that is!)  And someone down the street decided we had an illegal suite and reported us.

The day the city official arrived to investigate, we were all sitting outside, sharing a meal together, and it was very apparent that we all shared the house together.

But this blog isn't about suites, illegal or not!

My mom had a lovely take-charge personality, and although she worked hard at fitting into "her role" as a pastor's wife, she also took much leadership!  And she said to me, more than once, that rules were only rules if they made sense.  One late evening, we went to a convenience store together, and the parking lot was empty.  She parked in the handicapped zone.  I couldn't believe it, and told her so.  She couldn't understand my chagrin.

We had other such conversations around canning and preserving... I was a "by-the-rule" gal, she did it the way she had done it for a hundred years, and no one had died yet.... ah yes, she lived to her own rules, and we all loved her.

Recently I wrote about compassion. As I was thinking about compassion, I realized that sometimes this involves breaking the rules.  Because Compassion should be a compass for any rule!  I remember talking to a Parking Lot attendant once, about a ticket someone had received in the hospital parking lot, and we were trying to get it voided.

We asked for mercy.  And in all honesty, parking is a real challenge for those in a medical emergency. Compassion should rule!

We live within systems or bureaucracies which create rules to make things work.  To keep us safe.  To create order.  But sometimes those rules have to be challenged!  Or at least looked at on a case-by-case basis.

I was thinking of Jesus, who is the ultimate example of this.  He lived with a lot of rule-keepers, the Saducees and Pharisees who did their best to keep all the rules and make sure everyone else did too.

But Jesus challenged that, saying he had come to free us.  He healed on the Sabbath.  He mingled with the poor and those society had discarded.  He showed great compassion to the women in particular, who were often marginalized in those times.  There is a lot of Gospel stories where he demonstrated that compassion should rule!

I love the fact that we can't put the God who created us, who loves us, in a box of rules.  This is not neat and tidy stuff, but a God who loves a messy world, who dares us to follow the steps of Jesus and show compassion to those who need it most.

And when Jesus was asked what were the greatest commands, he gave these very simple instructions:  to love God with all our heart, soul and strength and love our neighbour as ourselves.

As I live out my life, it is good to refer back to those important rules, rules that trump everything.  To seek God with all my heart.  To live a life of love and compassion.  And when I mess up, I can go to my Heavenly Father, and I am grateful for the grace and mercy I receive, always there for the asking.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Rising Above Oppression

The air has been oppressive lately.

I woke up to gray, the mountains obscured by haze and smoke.

My  mood reminded me of SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is usually a winter issue here in my corner of Canada, when the clouds settle in for weeks on end and we long for the sun.

I try to pay attention to what my body is telling me... sometimes there are things I can do to lift my mood.

And I realized that the sadness was deeper yet... there is an oppression far beyond smoky skies and all that entails.

I realized the news had affected me too... news that has shaken many, as we have watched in horror what has unfolded in the state of Virginia.  I have family there and it hits too close to home.  I have written often against injustice and bullying.  I believe in kindness and love. I don't need to describe what happened in Charlottesville, you can read that in the news.  It has created a deep grief in my soul, a sadness that just won't lift.

I also realized this morning that I live in white privileged skin.

Really, I don't have much to say.  Unless I begin to listen to my brothers and sisters, also part of God's creation, and hear their pain.

When I am sad, I often turn to art.  I actually believe this can be a spiritual experience, for we are made in the image of the creator... all of us... and God has made us to be creative beings!  Of course we are inspired by the handiwork and beauty we see all around us.

Today I did something very unusual.  I was intrigued by a collaborative art project at the Vernon Art Center, something that is sponsored by various levels of government, a way of community building and showing respect to one another.

I was curious.  So I showed up.  A lovely young artist in Vernon has the vision of creating a mosaic river - created by many hands.  Today I became one of those hands, working with another friend and a lovely group of people, both children and adults.

The artist explained that she chose the visual of water, a river ... a source of life for all of us, and how we need to care for our water resources.  This fall, as part of RespectFest, this mosaic river will take shape in downtown Vernon, and it will be a lovely piece of art for years to come.  You can read more about it here,  at https://respectfest2017.com/public-art-workshops/,  and even sign up to create a piece of this beautiful mosaic.  Participating is free!

It seemed timely today.  To work with people I never met, to share creativity, to be part of making something much bigger than I would create on my own.  This was healing for me.

The blue and white tiles put together by my friend and I will be part of a much larger "river" of tiles that will flow in our downtown, this fall.

We all do our part.  It might be speaking out against bullying, or sharing kindness with a stranger.  It might be volunteering.  It might be writing a letter to a government official.  It might be as simple as getting to know your neighbour.  It might be sharing a meal, or creating art together.

This is how we fight against oppression.  By praying, by showing kindness, by loving, by acknowledging the many good women and men who make a difference in our broken world.  

For me, today, it was placing broken tiles, one at a time, and knowing there was a bigger vision.  And I know God has a bigger vision too.  I can trust in that.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Will that be a complaint or a word of compassion?

My hubby has found a new show we've been watching lately called "Brain Games".  You can find it on Netflix.

We watched an episode recently on the subject of compassion and I found it fascinating.  The premise was that most of us are born with compassionate genes and generally will respond with compassion to needs around us.

But... if we are treated badly, we are likely to respond in kind... and compassion goes out the window.

This is a simplistic overview, I know; you'll have to watch it for yourself.

But it had me thinking...how choosing to be compassionate can change me and the world around me.  And that spurred me into action.

Recently I have heard a lot of complaints.  Some of them were legitimate, I get it, but I recognize that listening to a complaining person is draining indeed if it is not balanced with the positive.  There are some people who look at life with dark shades indeed, and have no trouble voicing their dissatisfaction to anyone who will take time to listen.  This is exhausting.

I'm always amazed when I visit people at the hospital... some of them need to talk about their troubles, and it is my job to listen!  I get this. Interestingly I find that is often those who have the most difficult of situations who are the most grateful.  Even though they might be suffering, there is room to be grateful for the medical care, for a visit, for the support they receive, and some of them are very grateful to God in the midst of their circumstances.  I admire their attitudes, and their very countenance often reflects their inner life.

And then there are those who tend to complain, and find it hard to find the good in life.  I recognize it is much harder to show them compassion.

We live in a negative world... but when we find the positive, and recharge the serotonin in our brains, we are able to cope, having a much brighter countenance.  I have come to believe that gratitude is a key to finding that positive way of living.  Gratitude to the One who made us, gratitude for breath, gratitude for the beauty around us, gratitude for so many things... clean water, plentiful food, loving relationships.

The other day I was quite impressed by a video blog originally released on Twitter by Chris Hatfield who listed 25 positive things that were happening in our world.  It was inspiring!  He is not a complainer or someone who shouts doom and gloom....

I found myself greatly encouraged by that.  Not that I'm going to stick my head in the sand (although some days I'm sorely tempted to do just that), but one needs to counter all the negative press with some positive news.

So back to compassion.  The Brain Game episode we watched scientifically proved that the more compassion you show, it affects others to also behave in compassionate ways.   How cool is that?

It reminds me of those two words... react or respond.  When I react with my emotions and speak without thinking, there is often a negative response or outcome.  When I stop to think it out, I often can respond in a thoughtful manner.  And if we choose compassion as a way of life, it can change the way we think, the way we respond, the way we even feel.

Respond with compassion.... my new goal for this week!  And thanks for taking time to read my blog!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Signposts and Billboards and Painted Rocks

I wonder if we would be surprised at the number of messages, both blatant and subtle that assail our brains every day.

From road-signs and billboards, to the television, to our ever-ready phones and social devices, and I'm sure I've forgotten a few.

These signs shape us and influence more than I would like to think.

In our North-American culture which has affected many parts of the world, beauty and youth is in.  It is big business.  My granddaughter told me seriously today that she hopes to be a princess when she grows up.  In her world of influence, this seems totally possible!

And it is wonderful for children to live in their imagination, but the world is far less kind as we age.

I viewed a new wrinkle this morning and fought the urge not to panic.  Age seems to be creeping up, well rather falling down as I get closer to the big 60.  I remember my mother's own angst at those wrinkles as we kept telling her how beautiful she was.  And truly she was, a beautiful lady full of dignity.

Another day recently I was with a group of women and one of them, slim and tall left for a minute.  And it was commented on how fortunate she was... and I found myself saying no.... we are all beautiful!  And I shared with them that when I need to convince myself, I tell it to my face in the mirror.  You are lovely... you are precious, you are valued...

I truly believe these words are from the Creator who made us, who delights in us,... who loves us all equally, and sees beauty in a far different fashion that we do.

Sometimes I feel we fight against the social current, but many voices do speak out.  I love the ads that help women to love themselves, no matter what shape, what background, no matter what...

And so perhaps we need to create new signposts.  I can often be tempted to see the negative and be affected by it.    It has become important to speak things that are true and right and good, and to tell them to myself, as well as to speak them to others in my sphere of influence.

There is a lovely movement in our city right now where people are placing rocks with lovely messages, and randomly people find them.  How fun!  I've been painting on rocks for a while now, and enjoy putting them out on my front porch.  Some are silly, but many have a message.  They are signposts and reminders to me.

Recently we repainted our bathroom cupboards and I asked my painter hubby if I could paint words on our on-suite bathroom cupboards.  If I botched it no one would see, but me!

And the words etched on those cupboards have spoken to me, again and again, as I leave the house.  "Be Strong and Courageous - The Lord is with you Always!!"  I drink in those words, and the truth of them, and they give me hope and courage for the day.

What signs have you created to feed your soul?  I'd love to see them.  Or perhaps you'll be inspired to hunt for rocks and create messages on them.  The possibilities, the encouragements are endless!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Ditching the Busy Life

I've been noticing lately... how often I use the word "busy".

And I have noticed often I hear the word "busy" in conversation.  We are a busy lot!

I have been making a conscious effort to use this word less often, and since I've been noticing, I'm realizing how hard this really is!

I decided last week to write a blog about it, and was very amused when that VERY day I get an e-mail from a family member with the subject title "You are a very busy lady!".


I wondered, as I reclined in my easy chair this evening, doing my computer puzzle, how I pull off that persona.  I have come to believe it myself.

And yes, my life is full.  It is rich.  And I am so grateful it is meaningful.

And sometimes, like this very week, I need to slow down, to rest, to savor life.  Yesterday was our wedding anniversary.  Nineteen years!  So I didn't write a blog, like I usually do on Tuesdays, we both took a day off any scheduled work, and scheduled play instead.

We had a lovely picnic at the beach - and I love picnics!  And then wandered around the Okanagan in the air-conditioned comfort of our car and just took in the beautiful scenery of our beautiful valley.

It truly was a lovely day.

I am grateful for every day I am well and have energy to do the tasks before me.  I understand so well when pain and lack of energy get in our way.

And so I'm ditching the word "busy".  Yes, my life is full.  Full of good things, of being with people, of ministry opportunities, of listening, of delighting in relationships with family and friends.My calendar is full of good things.

And it is also full of wondrous ordinary things, like laundry - I have lovely clothes to wear, like a simple garden to tend which produces beauty and food,  like a messy kitchen where we just concocted a lovely nourishing meal.

I am grateful for each new day, as I get up and shake off the aches, and I can thank God for fresh air, for beautiful scenery, for the gift of coffee, and so much more.  I am alive!

This year my theme word is JOY.  I have found that it is often a choice.  The more I see life as a gift, and practice gratitude I am nourished by joy.

There is no boredom here... another word to throw out!  There is life to live, work to do, loved ones to care for, and a deep gratitude for life itself.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Just Stay Calm

Just stay calm.  Easier said than done.

The other day I had volunteered to help at a center set up for fire evacuees and found myself swamped almost immediately with inquiries, needs, patiently waiting people, things coming at me from too many directions,  and the enormity of the challenge overwhelmed me temporarily.

I was on a learning curve, to be sure, but the sheer volume of displaced people in our province at the moment is staggering.  It was heart-warming for me to see the residents of our community stepping forward - the white boards that people could write down what they could do for the evacuees were full, full of offers for housing, pet care, places for live-stock.  Volunteers are amazing.

I'm reminded of the statement I often use when visiting with those in waiting rooms at the hospital.  It's all about hurry up and wait.

In our province, people have fled from the fires, some with minutes to spare, with little with them, to find themselves in waiting rooms, line-ups, and the waiting can be difficult.  The unknowing is the worst of all.

And yet, so many I've seen are grateful and taking it in stride.  Others are frustrated, and often, justifiably so.

How does one stay calm?

Breathing helps.  Deep breaths, breathing in deeply, letting out the tension.

Gratefulness helps. I believe firmly that there is always something to be grateful for, even though it can be very challenging.  I met with a person recovering from a stroke the other day, struggling with paralysis.  This is not easy to be sure.  But I could have a conversation with her, and I told her how wonderful that was, that she still had a voice.  Her demeanor changed... something to be grateful for in the midst of a trial!

Helping helps!   I love looking around me, looking at the helpers, the encouragers, those who give a cheerful smile, and a encouraging word.  I am inspired by them.  Helping gives us something to do, and there is always work to be done.

Praying helps.  "I lift up my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from?  It comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth."  A beautiful verses, a scriptural prayer that we can pray and it brings comfort.  Another new favourite verse is from Exodus 14:14 which says, The Lord will fight for you, just stay calm!

None of us are in control.  We do what we can, and it is a calm presence that also encourages others around who might be panicked or afraid.  I am inspired by this, can I be a calm presence in my world?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Finding Tranquilty

I wrote last week of returning to my roots, to Harrison Hot Springs, and to Bowen Island.

One of the joys of vacation is that I can lose myself in art, and there is so much to inspire!

My mother used to say that there is always a "re-entry" phase to coming back from a rest or retreat.  Sometimes it is literally coming from calm to a full life. So I write from that place, coming home and entering in, after my heart has been stretched and renewed.

In BC we are all on high alert right now with all the forest fires and thinking of all those who have suffered such a difficult year - first with floods and now with so many displaced.  It feels like we are in a tinder-box, and there is a fragility to life.  We are not in control.

So I go back to my art.  It brings me peace.  Merton said "Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time."  This continues to resonate with me.

Today I had much joy in creating art with some of my grandchildren, this is one of the grander things in life, to paint with a child, and all else that is on our mind ceases to have such a hold.

As summer continues to unfold - with challenging times for many, restful vacations for others, and just regular life, I pray that we can find times of refreshing.  Whether it be in creating something beautiful, or just enjoying some fresh fruit in season.  Whatever moment we are in, to cherish it to the fullest.  And then go play with some crayons.