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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.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Kind Words

When I turned to Social Media yesterday, I was reminded that the Royals were visiting our beautiful province.  Our Province's capital city was in waiting for this monumental arrival, and crowds of dignitaries including our prime minister and premier were all on hand, as well as half of Victoria.

To be honest, I have always been fascinated by the Royals.  My mother followed the Queen, and had clippings of her visits to Canada.  My dad talks of a royal visit.  When my children were little I followed Princess Diana, and I think there is something in every girl that wants to know a real live princess.

So I had coffee books about her, and followed her wedding and the birth of her two little boys.  I felt the heartbreak when her life unraveled, and yet admired her compassionate heart.  It is a princess tale with a sad ending.  I see her courage and compassion in her two sons, especially William.

Most girls love a princess story...

I laugh at my little three year old granddaughter with a closet of princess dresses, she is our royalty for sure!  And when she twirls with her lovely smile, we are all smitten.

We can only imagine what it is to be born into that kind of living, and I actually felt for the young couple, William and Katherine yesterday as they got off the plane, every eye on them and their two adorable children, the same age as my grandchildren.  Where most normal people would be bedraggled and pooped, they were expected to look glamorous and the children behaved.  Although it was quite humorous that little Prince George refused to give our Prime Minister a high five.  A true three year old, I thought!  

And then off to speeches and formalities, and I admired how they took time for people... genuinely listening, asking questions.

What I found appalling as I watched all of this was the news feed on my screen... there was the welcoming remarks, but there were a number of people that were spewing unkindness and rather rude remarks. Negative, hateful, jeering remarks about the events of the day.  This is one side of social media I do not like.  Ever.

It is one thing to have an opinion, but another to publicly vent unkind words, often about things we don't fully understand.

It reminded me of words often preached to my children when they were little... "If you can't say anything nice, don't say it at all!!"  

Our pastor spoke on Proverbs this morning and on the power of words.  I loved the picture he used of a filter... if we are truly wise we will use a filter for our words.  Are our words pure, peace-loving, considerate, full of mercy, impartial, sincere?  

I enjoy Facebook and other social media for the connection I feel with family and friends, and even what I can learn from the rest of the world.  But sometimes the meanness just gets to me...  and I have to remember, when there is a fly in the ointment... we notice the fly!!  

Still, it is good to make a choice to be kind.  To be positive.  To be peace-loving.  To be considerate and full of mercy.  To be impartial and sincere!  

"Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.  "Proverbs 16:24







Sunday, September 18, 2016

I've returned to Mitford

In last week's blog, I talked about pain and poverty.

Sometimes, in a broken world, one has to take a step back and find some time for self-care and soul-care.  I have found myself in that place in the last weeks, even in the midst of a full schedule, back pain which has slowed me down more than I would like, and just the busyness of life as it comes...

This Sunday, a lovely day of rest, I find myself on a day between Memorial Services.  I was privileged to lead a memorial service and graveside for a family yesterday, for a gentleman I had met as a chaplain.

And tomorrow we will remember five more lives at a Memorial Service I hold for the Seniors Residence that is next to the hospital where I work.

It is always a sacred privilege to share in people's lives, to remember lives lived, and to comfort those who mourn.

It is good to rest in between.  Perhaps that is partly why I love going back to Mitford... because there I am in love with a Parish Priest named Father Tim... who is as human as I am, who loves his parishioners, who seeks God with all his heart.  Of course it is the fictional book series I am referring to, starting with "A Home in Mitford" written by the talented Jan Karon.

This is the third time I have "escaped" to Mitford, and I find as I read, I relax, I laugh, I feel at home, and I delight in the goings on of this little town with all it's wonderful characters.

Reading has always been a great escape for me, and even though I value and have a read a variety of books: inspirational, challenging, devotional, and yes educational, I do delight in a wonderful novel that inspires me.  Some of my favourites include the Anne of Green Gables series, Great Expectations by Charles Dickons, and some of my other favourite authors include Angela Hunt and Lynn Austin.

Almost every room in our house has a bookshelf, all brimming with books.  Every once in a while I try to weed it out, but it often feels like I'm discarding old friends.  I do have a kindle I use... great on holidays... but there is truly something about sinking into a chair and turning the pages that I absolutely love.

So today, on this season changing day, with autumn hanging in the air, a pot of soup on the stove, my hubby's music playing in the background, you'll find me in Mitford.  It truly is a wonderful rest, something to enjoy regularly!

And I'd love to hear from you... what is your favourite book, or a favourite way to escape?




Monday, September 12, 2016

A Potpourri of Thoughts including Pain and Poverty

I don't like to write just for the sake of writing.  And I've been grateful I have not experienced a lot of writer's block.

But there are days when one just has to start writing, and get the juices flowing.  One of my "spiritual mentors", is Henri Nouwen and he talked of this very thing:

"Writing is not just jotting down ideas.  Often we say: 'I don't know what to write.  I have no thoughts worth writing down.'  But much good writing emerges from the process of writing itself.  As we simply sit down in front of a sheet of paper (or computer!) and start to express in words what is on our minds or in our hearts, new ideas emerge, ideas that can surprise us and lead us to inner places we hardly knew were there.  One of the most satisfying aspects of writing is that it can open in us deep wells of hidden treasures that are beautiful for us as well as for others to see."  - Henri Nouwen

In fact, if you are interested in daily inspiration from Henri Nouwen, I'd encourage you to do so!
  Henri Nouwen Daily Meditation

This summer I have had an unwelcome teacher.  The teacher's name is PAIN, and we have not been on friendly terms.   But it has drawn me to a deeper life of prayer, of questioning, of seeking God for strength, and looking for wisdom as I daily help others... in pain.

I've come to the conclusion that while i wholeheartedly dislike my weaknesses, and desire to be strong... and I know I have written about this before... it is in the acceptance of our infirmities, our aging, of accepting what we cannot change, that we come to serenity.

I think this will be the cry to my generation... we are aging, and a lot of us are not doing it well.  I am at the tail end of the Baby Boomers, who have been blessed in many ways.  But we are also an entitled bunch, and have bought and taught the "God of Entitlement Theology" to our children.  

Health and Wealth have high value in our culture.  And even though I fight that in my spirit, I know I practice it, it is part what I know, it is how I have lived.

And I hear the young prophets like Shane Claibourne calling our names, calling us to embrace poverty of spirit, to speak up for justice, to live differently.  We need to turn from building empires and bank accounts to caring for others.

And as I see these words spilling out on the screen I say yes... that is true.  But it is so much easier to write it than to put it into practice.

Sometimes I think embracing my weakness, my fragility causes me to ask these hard questions.  To say, how do I live in a broken world, and how do I truly care for and encourage others whose lives are spinning out of control?  Perhaps that is a little over dramatic, but I do believe so many of us struggle with the achievement of perfection, of the happy life, of feeling wonderful, or having it all.

And if I am a truly a follower of Jesus... and I say I am... is that what life is truly about?  I think of Ghandi who lived in poverty to help others.  And Mother Teresa.  I'm a far cry from that kind of devotion.

When Jesus says to deny ourselves and follow Him... what did he mean?  Somehow I think my poverty of spirit includes weakness and total dependency on the God who created us. We are not in control.  We are not entitled.

With that I can be exceedingly grateful.  This weekend, I just soaked it in.  We spent some time lake-side, and I said to my hubby... I just want to drink it all in.  It was so beautiful.  He quipped that I would be more than sick if I drank the lake... and we had a good laugh.

But to drink in beauty.  It is an antidote to pain.  There is beauty everywhere.  It is free and abundant.  There is beauty in creation, and we live in paradise.  There is beauty in people around me, I see it in a smile, or in a child's laugh.  It brings hope... not in a perfect life, but in the provision of a Creator who cares deeply, knows deeply and loves deeply.  I can rest in that.


Monday, September 5, 2016

Strength upon Strength, a Sun and a Shield

It has been my spiritual practice to sit with words or phrases and this summer I have spent some time with Psalm 84.  I was drawn to it when I was thinking about strength, and even spoke on strength twice this summer, once at Knox Presbyterian and once at my own home church.  (You can check it out, if you like, at First Baptist Church, Vernon, under sermons, on August 7)

Perhaps, because I have been confronted with my own weaknesses, that these lessons have been very important to me.  I'm encouraged by scripture that God cares for those who are weak, because our very dependency is on the One who gives us life.

Last week, during a retreat time I thought I would revisit Psalm 84 and was drawn to the latter verses, 11 and 12 where it speaks of the Lord God being our sun and shield.

It brought back memories of twenty years ago when I was newly widowed, living in an isolated community in a big creaky house and feeling very responsible for my three grieving children.  Every night as I prayed I would pray these words... Be my sun and shield.

I know I was thinking more about the shield part, and in my active mind (or was God giving me spiritual eyes), I would imagine hosts of angels surrounding my house, covering me, protecting me from any harm.  And then I would sleep.

I've thought about these words this past days, what do they really mean?

For God to say He personifies the sun, brings me pictures of warmth, energy, light, provision, and a fierce radiance that permeates all He touches.  I thought of my friend who is undergoing radiation treatment, and I prayed that God would permeate, radiate light and love throughout her body.  It is a good prayer to pray for me, for those I love, for those I minister to.

I don't think of God in purely masculine terms, although that is how we have come to see it written.  We who are created in God's image are both male and female.  I think of the warmth of a mother's love, of her fierce embrace, of her compassion and protection.

A Mother is like a shield against the world.  And God, who is Holy and Just and Pure would know that we also need a shield... even Moses hid his eyes from God.

This is truly an oxymoron, a mystery.  An all powerful God, holy... like the sun we are drawn to the Radiance, the Heat, the Energy.

I know I cannot sit in the sun for long... I need my sunscreen, an umbrella, some shade, a shield.  And God provides the protection I need!

Even though this is beyond understanding, all that is required is trust.  The psalm says "Blessed is the one who trusts in You."

I am an expert at trying.  Trying to get it right, trying to live healthy, trying to live my best life, physically, spiritually, mentally.  This can be exhausting!

To change trying to trusting... this is the challenge.  I might not always get it right, but I can rest in the fact that God is my source... my Sun, and God is also my protector, my Shield.  Trusting and resting in that promise is a good word for me this week, and I hope it will encourage you as well.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Could I buy some Serenity?

There has been some intention on my part in recent days to pay attention to self-care.  I set aside a day for that recently, spending a day up in the hills at a retreat center, with time to reflect, time with God, and time with two delightful soul-friends.

As I came down the mountain, I thought to myself... I need to drop by my naturopathic doctor's office for I had run out of a supplement that supports the adrenals... also part of self-care!

The office where I needed to go was surrounded by road work, and I took one road, then another, only to find I was blocked and had to go the long way around.  I finally found my way, and announced to the girls at the desk, "I need to buy some Serenity!"

It made sense to me, the product is called Serenity Pro, but as soon as it slipped out of my mouth, we all realized how funny it was.  "Make that two", I said...

As we all lamented about the lack of access to their office and the general stress we all felt, it was great to laugh about buying a little serenity!

If only it was that easy...

The other day I lamented to my hubby... I'd like to go to the store and buy some new body parts.  I was done with the aching.

There are lots of things we would like to "buy".  I'd be first in line to buy a cure for cancer, or a large dose of hope for someone I know who is depressed.  I'd like to tidy up the world, fix all the problems, and where could I go to buy some contentment for today?  I'd like to lift the stress off those I love, those who work hard and give it their all, day after day.  And peace in the world... well, you know where I am going.

I sat with a quote the other day from a book I picked up at the retreat center.  The book... which I didn't read fully, but skimmed, is called "The Spirituality of Imperfection" by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham.  A book I'd like to add to my reading list.

 In their introduction they quote: "The spirituality of imperfection speaks to those who seek meaning in the absurd, peace within the chaos, light within the darkness, joy within the suffering - without denying the reality and even the necessity of absurdity, chaos, darkness and suffering."

Choosing serenity is an acceptance of imperfection, or resting within the chaos of life, of seeing beauty even in the midst of life's challenges.  It always comes back to the beautiful serenity prayer,
 "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."  -Reinhold Neibuhr

May God, the God of peace, grant us the wisdom to do just that.




Friday, August 19, 2016

Zucchini Tango with a Mango - Peachy Salsa

Every once in a while I feel like writing a food blog.

I generally love cooking, but baking has gone by the wayside.

I wasn't going to preserve much this year, it has been a very busy year for us, and finding rest time is a priority!  But my salsa had run out, and it is one of our favourite things...

Like many, I have a love-hate relationship with Zucchini, but I've discovered a couple of awesome recipes, one a Zucchini Tomato Salsa which I have made for a number of years now, and another for Zucchini relish. Another of our favourites is Zucchini Quiche.

And so when I had a Zucchini on the ready, and peaches that need some attention, it seemed like a good idea to marry the two. If you have a food processor, this doesn't take long to put together, and today was a good day to use things up, I really hate wasting food.

I'm also learning to preserve food in small batches.  I remember the days when we had canning marathons and the counters would be filled with gleaming preserves.  We don't need that much food, and I don't have the time or energy for bulk canning, although I admire people who do.  Small batches, using up what I have, makes more sense to our current lifestyle.

I had already experimented with Mango a couple of weeks ago, and was pleased with the result.  I was inspired by a jar I bought in the store and thought to myself... how hard could this be?

Using a couple of recipes as guidelines, I came up with this.  And you might as well know, it is helpful to write this down for my sake... I will be looking for it next year!  I tasted the results and I thought it was quite good!

Peach-Zucchini Salsa

Process in a food processor, or grate, or finely chop:
3 cups zucchini
1 large Walla or sweet onion
1 large pepper, red or orange
3 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed.

Add 4 cups chopped peaches (and I added a mango to this as well, just because I had one).
2 garlic cloves chopped fine
a handful of cilantro, finely chopped
3 T. Lime juice
1/2 cup white pickling vinegar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 T. salt (I used Himalayan)
1/4 cup sugar (I used Date Sugar)
1/2 cup liquid honey

Mix well together in a large stock pot, bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.  Process in hot sterilized jars for 30 minutes.  Yield, 7 small jars.

I find this kind of salsa tasty on chicken, either in a stir-fry or in a crock-pot.  It would also be tasty on rice, or with crackers.

If you try it... let me know what you think!




Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Shadows

Early morning walk
In the August sunshine

Sun already warming my shoulders
Birds happily
Flitting
here and there
Before the midday heat.

Another day
I walked
Grandchildren and me
And we danced with our
shadows

"I'm stepping on you, Grandma!"
"Ouch" I reply!

Life casts shadows
Sometimes long and deep
Sometimes shadows hold
mystery,
heartache and pain,
and seem larger
than life itself.

And then I thought of the Creator God
Creator of the sun,
Author of the shadow
Does God have a shadow?
A shadow so vast
I can hide.

And my own shadow fades
overtaken and protected by
the large and sacred
shadow
of the Creator.

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 
 Psalm 36:7



Early morning walk on the Commonage, Vernon BC
August 2016