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.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Eternity in our Hearts

You might have noticed that I have been drawing in circles lately.  Today's art is no exception, but it was very deliberate.


We tend to think in linear ways, with a start and a finish, a beginning and an end.

A circular shape speaks of the never-ending quality, much like the officiant or pastor  reminding a bride and groom that their rings are a reminder of unending love - a love that goes beyond any limits we might give it.

Our bodies, on the other hand, seem to have more finite qualities.  I've spoken recently about people who have been given a "terminal" diagnosis, a diagnosis most of us have difficulty with.  I hadn't heard that word in ages, actually, so was surprised when it surfaced.

More often in my work we use the word "palliative" which defines a patient with a life-threatening illness, who might need more comfort care than curative care.  Whatever words you use, we all have the knowledge that our lives are temporary here on earth, we live in fragile shells.

I remember clearly my first husband saying that while he came to terms with his impending death, he was aware that any of us could be living our last days... and not even know it.  We don't like to talk about it, much less think about it.

But the incredible comfort is that our souls are eternal.  I believe that with all my heart.  The imprint of God the Creator is set in our beings, for it is said we are made in God's image.  Deep inside of us, I believe there is a longing for the eternal.  And with that there is the hope of eternity, of a peace we cannot even imagine in an unbroken world.

This can be unfathomable, beyond our imaginations.  While I don't understand the mystery of it, I do believe that the God who created us, loves us immeasurably and longs to have relationship with us. 

It is this knowledge that gives us courage and hope when we say goodbye to the dear ones we love.  Today I asked a dear friend if he was ready to go... and he is in that place of relinquishing the things of earth and preparing for heaven.  With tears in his eyes, he nodded... and yet it is not easy.  The earth, our bodies is what we know, and it is hard to say good-bye.

These are holy moments, when the veil between the earthly being ...and the eternal reality... intersect.  It fills me with wonder, with hope.  And with that knowledge it gives me courage to live well, to love well,  in my earthly home.





Tuesday, October 10, 2017

S-t-r-e-t-c-h-ing my Vocabulary, exploring the meaning of Eucharist.

I tend to be a plain-speaking kind of girl.  Authentic, I hope. 

When it comes to faith and Christianity, I will avoid a lot of "Christian-ese".  Large words usually don't impress, and even more so, are seldom understood.  In my world, working in a secular institution, it is not helpful to use theological terms.  Words like love and peace... and comfort... those are the words we need and understand.

I struggled with this when I was studying theology - there was an inner pressure to impress, to speak in academic terms.  But I have long appreciated the preacher who speaks in lay terms, who relates to the "every-day" man.

That being said, I was inspired by the author Madeline Le'Engle this summer, as I read her book "A Circle of Quiet".  She is a fascinating author and makes me think.  Part of this book is her experience with a word she sat with and ruminated on for an entire summer... and I will leave you to find out what her word was. 

I found myself stretched to learn to new words, to explore what they mean.

One of the words we didn't use much in our church circles as I grew up was the word "Eucharist".  It is used much more frequently in Catholic and Anglican churches, and many will know it refers to the sacrament of communion, or as we Baptists like the call it "The Lord's supper".  This ceremony is an ancient one, celebrated in remembrance of the last supper before the death of Jesus. The bread and wine (grape-juice in some cases!) are consecrated and consumed, as we remember his sacrifice for us, his presence with us.

This is a sacred ceremony, the Eucharist.  It is a remembering, an identifying with...and denominations will have different ways of celebrating it, or even understanding it. 

But the word itself is so rich, and I wanted to learn more... Eucharist actually comes from the Greek word Kharis, which means Grace.  Of course, I love that... not so much that this is my name, but we are called to live lives of grace... and God extends grace to us, just as we are. 

The dictionary goes on to tell me that Eukharistos means "Grateful", and Eukharistia means "Thanksgiving!"  How appropriate for this week, as our thoughts are turned to thankfulness. 

So as I think of this Sacrament (a religious ceremony or act of the Christian Church that is regarded as an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual divine grace, in particular), of Eucharist, I am thankful! 

I recently posted I am thankful for Family, for Friends, for Faith... and it is true.  How good to think about Eukharistos in our daily lives... to show grace to one another, to acknowledge grace shown to us, to be thankful.  Even in the midst of hardship, there can be thanks.  And sometimes, that can make the difference.

I look forward to participating again in the celebration of Eucharist - it will be even richer as I understand it more fully.



Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Heart of Gratitude

Ever since I read Ann Voskamp’s book on gratitude (A Thousand Gifts), I renewed my efforts to practice gratitude each day.
Thanksgiving is really the icing on the cake; it is such a good reminder to be grateful for the many blessings we enjoy.
Ann encourages us to list those thankful thoughts each day, and if I don’t do it on paper, I do try make a mental list.
Gratitude can make a huge difference.  I see it in patients all the time, in my work as a hospital chaplain.  The ones who can face the most difficult of situations with a grateful heart... grateful for the care they receive, the love they have for and from family and friends, the knowledge that God loves them... these are the ones who often face their difficulties with peace.   I am inspired by them!
One can even be grateful for pain, it is the body’s way of telling us to slow down, to pay attention.  I’ve come to the place where I can be grateful even for physical challenges because it makes me more empathetic, most of the time, anyway!
Because it is thanksgiving, I want to make a list... I’ve come to like lists, they are very helpful!
I’m thankful for my family.  For beautiful children and adorable grandchildren.  Each one is a precious gift.
I’m grateful for my community, who could ask for better?  One day when we were living in the foothills of our beautiful city, (we’ve since moved across town)...my dad declared: we live on the most beautiful property (with the best view!) of the most lovely city, in the best province, in the greatest country.... it’s all in our own point of view of course!  But we do live in awesome beauty, and as we enjoyed the lakes nearby us just last week in the late summer sunshine.  I was full of gratitude.
I’m grateful for our church community.  For praying and caring friends, for hugs when we meet, for spiritual nourishment and encouragement.  What a privilege to worship in freedom!
I’m even grateful for Facebook and the internet!  Although I have to know my boundaries, what an incredible gift to stay connected to family scattered around the globe, to friends from long-ago, to new friends we connect with.  It is truly amazing and when used positively can be wonderful.
I’m grateful for friends!  Each one a precious and unique gift – you enrich my life!
I’m grateful for words.  What would we do without communication, without being able to speak words or share our thoughts.  I'm grateful for art and beauty and gardens, vistas, and the vast ever-changing sky. 
I’m thankful for variety... it is everywhere we see, from the food we eat and enjoy, to the flowers that bloom, to the birds that live among us. 
I’m also mindful of suffering... of tragedy, that we live in a broken world.  I’m thankful for those who rise up to help, to bind wounds, to reach out to the hurting, to fight for the oppressed.  I’m thankful for the helpers.
It is a never-ending list. 
Happy Thanksgiving!

“I will give thanks to You, Lord, with all my heart, I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”  Psalm 9:1


Sunday, October 1, 2017

To Market We Go!

I love a good Farmers Market. 

Homegrown vegetables, fruit and other homespun creations warm my heart. I go as often as I can, taking in the sights and sounds and even the smells... it enriches my life. 

I don't take for granted the work behind the market.  The long hours in the fields, the bakers rising early to prepare their wares, and then the packaging, delivering, presenting, in all kinds of weather. 



I've been involved in a marketing adventure recently. Because I am one of 55 authors who have a work published in an anthology, we are celebrating the book release of  Christmas with Hot Apple Cider this week!

It has been exciting for me to be part of such a lovely project and I have enjoyed reading all of this book. The contributors are a varied group of lovely Canadians all sharing Christmas spirit through stories and poetry. 

The first time I wrote a book I went to my brother for advice, since he has a marketing degree and had a written a book himself. I never forgot what he said.. He shared with me that the writing was the easy part!
Then there is the production of the book, which has many facets.  Nowadays many authors are self published, and our online world has changed the way we read and assimilate information. 

I've spent countless hours with my son who has helped me to produce work that looks appealing and professional. It is a lot of hard work. 

The most challenging part, though, my brother said, was the marketing. And I have found that to be very true. It would be much easier (for me) to give it all away. 

I was reminding myself this week that I don't expect the farmer to give away his or her produce.  And the thought occurred to me that the farmer might also get more joy out of growing things then trying to sell them!

So how does one create space for a marketplace for things like art, music and books?

If you are still with me 😊, I have been on a sharp learning curve as I observe the very hard work of the editors of this anthology as they market this book. They make it fun. And as I enter into this week, I will also invite you to join the Facebook launch party as you are able. You could even win prizes!  

I'm also learning a great deal about the Internet and Facebook practices. I will confess here I really like things that are free!  I recently stopped playing a word game because I just couldn't stand the ads. They were long and loud and bothered me. But I get it... somebody needs to make some money for providing this service. 

I made a conscious decision some years back not to have ads on this blog page. One reason is that I was concerned I wouldn't always endorse their content. I was happy to share my thoughts if people wanted to take the time to read them. And I've been so honoured by the kind feedback I've received. 

More than once when I was ready to set down my pen, someone has come to me and told me not to stop writing. What an encouraging word that has been, and has felt God-sent at times. 

Another interesting fact I learned about Facebook recently is you wish to follow someone, or a page, just "liking" it (which is great) does not necessarily mean you will always see those posts in your news feed. But if you tap and hold on the "following" button on the right hand side of a page you wish to follow, you can choose an option to "see first", for up to 30 pages. And if you don't wish to follow, you have that option too!!

So... there is the market story. I'm much more comfortable at the Farmers market chatting it up with my favourite farmer. But here I am, marketing a wonderful product, a lovely gift.  I've revamped my website  (well, I hired a lovely lady to help with that), 
I'm ready to share my wares. 

You'll find information about the book and other resources at on my official web page.

I also welcome you to join me on my Facebook page Grace Notes, Thoughts and Prayers, and "like" it if you have not already done so!  There you will find information about this week's book launch party, as well as encouraging thoughts, prayers and art.

You can also visit the Hot Apple Cider Books official page and get updates from the editors themselves. 

Thank you to those who read.  Thank you for your feedback, your encouragement, and helpful ideas.  Happy October!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Flitting from Branch to Branch

We were having our morning coffee, my hubby and I, and he observed as he looked out the window, "look at that bird, just flitting from branch to branch."

I looked, but the bird was gone... just couldn't settle down, I guess.

Somehow the phrase stuck with me... maybe because I identify with it.  Sometimes I'm "flitting from branch to branch."

I've often wondered what it is like to have a boring life.  I know some people who do, and they are lonely.  Their worlds are small.  So as I have been examining my full life, with many things, I remember to be grateful for it all.

But I also want to be mindful.  Mindfulness is the latest buzz word (unless we've moved on to something else and I hadn't noticed).  No, I'm stuck on trying to be mindful.  What does that mean?

Some might think it is  New Age take on approaching life, but since I love words, I would rather just see it as this... my mind is full!  And how do I get it to slow down, to focus on the present?

I was at a seminar last week and the presenter shared that if we focus on breathing, really paying attention to our breath,  our thoughts will cease.  I'm not so sure about that, but I do know that when I am feeling anxious or overwhelmed it DOES help to practice breathing.

I take a deep breath now.... I breathe in peace, I breathe in Love.  Sometimes I imagine God's loving spirit enveloping me, like that wonderful prayer of St. Patrick... God behind me, God before me... God within me!  I breathe it in.  And I slowly exhale, my anxiety, my worries...

Another word I love to focus on... is focus!  Can I focus on the present moment, to the person I'm talking to, to the task at hand?  Or is my mind flitting about?

When I pray, this can be especially challenging, as I rein in all those thoughts.  What will I make for dinner?  Oh, I needed to make that phone call, and perhaps I should check the e-mail.  I find this especially challenging at night, when there is much going on and I can't sleep.  Sometimes I pray through the alphabet, or down through my family, by name.

I find art especially helpful in this area of my life.  When I pick up a wonderful blank sheet of paper or canvas, or whatever, and start to draw, my mind calms, and even rests.  I stop flitting.

I was challenged recently to record all the tasks and responsibilities of my life, so I did that.  I realized there are some that are imperative if I am going to face the rest.  The daily rhythm of praying, reading, stretching, and hopefully a good walk, preparing healthy food... all of these tasks help me to do the rest of life.

So this is a blog to myself.  Stop flitting... settle down.  Focus on God, on the present moment which is a gift.  One day at a time, Sweet Jesus... so the song goes, and I'm singing it as I sign off.



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Time for Those Fuzzy Socks

I sat on our deck Sunday afternoon and the air was chilly.

I went into my unused sock drawer and pulled out one of my favourite happy pair of socks.  These socks have a bit of a story.  Some years ago, my friend Christina, insisted we all would be happier if we owned... and wore... happy socks!  These socks were a gift from her.

In the Winnie-the-Pooh world, Christina was the Tigger... and we joked that where she was unconventional, I was rather staid and kept the rules.  (I believe I wrote about that recently!).  I am an Eeyore, a Winnie-the-Pooh want-to-be, and I'm OK with that!

And generally I wear boring black socks, if any at all, but once in a while I need to spice things up.  Or in Sunday's case create a little warmth.
I put my feet up on my deck, sharing the chair with this Teddy Bear, rescued from my stash at the hospital.  He needed a bath and was drying in the late summer sunshine.

The socks felt good on my summer-calloused feet, and this year especially, I am grateful for the cooling winds of autumn coming.

This time of year the quilts and sweaters come out, and it is time for the bi-annual closet shift from warm to cool.  The soup pot comes out and there is so much inspiration from harvest.  Last week I cut up a rather interesting squash I had grown in my garden, and we added ginger, carrots, onions and garlic as well as some peppers and simmered it all day.  A little cumin and turmeric added some zest and the blended soup was delicious.

This morning I heard of reports of snow in the passes, and am wondering if we are going to bypass autumn altogether.  Right now I'm hoping to put off the winter coats as long as possible and enjoy some sweater weather.

I'm thinking tomato season is done, and like many others I'm storing for winter.  For years I have roasted tomatoes in the oven, and there is nothing like that rich smell of garlic, onions and tomatoes simmering in my roaster, sometimes for a few hours.  I've added peppers and zucchini too, and cooked down and blended with basil, it makes a rich sauce that can be used all winter long.

Thanks to my new friend Hannah, I'm freezing my sauces in "pucks", how brilliant!  The silicone muffin tins work great, and once it is frozen, you can easily store in freezer bags, and just take out what you need.  In fact, I think I might try that with applesauce....

Life can be full... especially in September.  I'm reminding myself to slow down, to savour the moments, the smells, the sights.  Just walking through a market and seeing the colourful inspiration of harvest is food for the soul.  I met a dear couple at our local farmer's market recently, both now in a extended care home, but there they were out for stroll.  She in her walker, he carefully watching out for her, and they were enjoying the autumn sunshine, taking it all in.

So I'm inspired to pull on the socks, brew some Chai tea, and inhale... in the middle of a labour-intensive season, it is good to settle my heart and be grateful for the many blessings that abound all around us.



Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Help!

A couple of years ago I had a display for the chaplaincy work I do, and brought a basket of rocks.  I had written words on many of them, and encouraged participants to write their own.

We had written out words:  courage, strength, faith and love.  And on one rock I wrote the word "Help!"

It was quite popular!  :-)

Even though many of us appear to be well put together (sometimes), within all of us is a place where we know we need help.

Of course babies are the best at this.  They just cry about it!

But independence sets in early and my darling grandchildren are very quick to point out "I can do it by MYSELF", even though Grandma is more than willing to help.

It can take courage to ask for help.  It is a vulnerable place.  Recently in our community a father reached out on Social Media and asked for help.  His son who was challenged in a number of ways was having a birthday.  And none of the invited guests were coming.

It was heart-warming to read the story in the paper the following week, but the community responded to this cry for help, showing up, bringing presents and even a fire-truck got involved.  It was a wonderful birthday!

There is another funny fable about a man in a flood who was perched on top of his house, calling out to God for help.  There were offers, but none suited him, and he kept saying that God was going to answer.  Well, he drowned.  And the fact is God had sent all kinds of help but he didn't recognize it.

We can become overwhelmed by all those who need help.  Right now our eyes are fixed on hurricanes as they have pummeled the United States and Mexico.  Mexico is reeling from a large earthquake on top of this.  We are still recovering from a summer of flood and fire in the Pacific Northwest.

And then I saw a news-clip almost hidden in the hurricane stories of mass flooding in India and Bangladesh, and other parts of Asia, where more than a thousand people have died, and others and are crying out for help.

It IS overwhelming.

And yet I am amazed at all the helpers.  We need to pray for them.  People at the ready, responding to disasters all over the world.  I pray for strength, for wisdom to manage resources, for protection.

And how do I respond?  I think it is good to do some homework and see how the agencies we give to manage their money.  It is good to give, and it is also gratifying to see governments match many of those donations in kind.

Years ago at a widow's retreat I attended a dear elderly pastor gave the sermon.  I've probably shared this before, but it is worth repeating!  The title of his sermon was "Help!"

The message was about prayer.  It is the simplest of prayers, and the most heart-felt.  "Help!"

I find I pray it often, because I know I can't do life alone.  I pray it as a chaplain when I see the great need and I don't know where to begin.  And God gently guides my steps.

I pray it when my body fails me, and I ask the Creator who made it for wisdom for how to take care of myself.

I pray it when I struggle with relationships or schedules or work, because I know I need help.  And I have found God is faithful to answer that simple prayer!

I am grateful for a God who is personal, who I can reach out to and cry for help.  And I pray for all the helpers who are also responding to the many around this world who are crying out for help.  I pray those needs would be met, and know that God can use all of us to help, through prayer, through giving and through compassion.