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.

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

Saturday, August 6, 2016

My Love-Dislike Opinions of the Olympic Games

So I'll admit right off this is an opinion piece.

I wrote about it four years ago... I just checked!  I was reminiscing then, on a article I had published when I was seventeen... in Seventeen magazine about my not-so-favorable opinions of the Olympic games.

You can read about it here!  Why Olympics?  Through the eyes of a Seventeen Year Old.  

The truth is that I am quite mesmerized by the games.  Especially the human-interest stories.  I love that there is a refugee team this year.  There are amazing stories of personal achievement, hard work, sacrifice.

There is enormous pride in our country and a sense of patriotism.  And beyond that there is a sense of Global community, of coming together, of celebrating the best of the best when it comes to athletic and physical ability.

I guess what got me going this week was a newscast that had two Olympic stories.  They were not related, and not reported as such.

The first story was about the poverty in Rio and the surrounding areas.  The reporter talked about the many slums and walked through some of them telling the story of deep recession, poverty and anger.  She talked about the huge expense of the games and how it was impacting the Brazilian people.  And it was not positive. Many of them live in slums, without much hope for tomorrow.  Many residents are bitter that money is spent on the opulent, not on the needs of the people.  These games will not benefit the locals, according to the story.
 
The second story was about the opening of our Canada House in Rio, to house and showcase our Canadian athletes.  It was posh, decadent, filled with Molson Canadian fridges  (not that I am against beer) .  It seemed like a little oasis, a temporary one at that, and perhaps it is true that is what Canadian athletes need to perform on the world stage.  But after the first story, it seemed opulent and indulgent.

The contrast was stark to me.  I felt like the rich Canadian looking on, but I wanted to look further.  I thought, what are Canadians doing as they visit this country, with their contingents of reporters, medical teams for their every need, healthy food and water, and who knows what else?

I would dare to ask, what do the rich countries do, coming into a place of poverty and need?   And perhaps there are those who have gone to help.  I want to hear those stories.

I WAS grateful for the first story, for awareness.  The question is always, what do we do about it?  It is always a good question to ask, because there is poverty in my back yard.  Do I care?  Do I do anything about it?  Do I notice?

These are never easy questions, but I believe that we need to have conversations, brain-storming conversations about how to care for the homeless, to bring real solutions to those struggling with mental illness and additions.

I felt anger as I pondered these things this week.  I've seen the raw side of the underprivileged in our community, and I wish we had better solutions to help; to make a difference.

So much need.  I am reminded though, that we can help, one person at a time.  We can raise awareness and speak out.  Because we are part of a global community, privileged to live in a wonderful country.

As always I'm grateful for the helpers.  For those who care, those who see, those who help us to know how to help, thank you!







Saturday, July 30, 2016

Life is Hard AND Life is Beautiful

It is over twenty years ago now that my friend Carol died tragically in an ambulance accident.  She was a paramedic, and was coming back to her ambulance station from a transfer to the city.  It was pouring rain, a miserable night in January.

The next evening we gathered at our church, shocked, and grieving.  Carol and her husband had four children, all at home.  We had walked together and studied together.  It was hard to take in; to believe she was actually gone.

And I remember well our Youth Pastor uttering these words that night, "Life is hard, and then you die."

I have never forgotten those moments.  How we all grieved, as we also tried to be the helpers, the comforters.  And we also tried to make sense of it.

Sometimes life IS hard.  As a chaplain, I see it regularly.  And as I seek to bring comfort and hope and faith, I find it is also helpful to just admit it...life can be HARD.  It is hard when a person struggles with unbearable pain or depression.  It is hard when a young child struggles with a difficult disease.  It is hard to sit at the bedside of your parent and know you are saying good-bye.

Life is messy.  We see it in the political storms around the globe.  We see it in a world rocked by terror.  We see it in the youth who I've read about recently who experience child-labour and slavery.  It is hard for women in the middle East and other places who don't have a voice, and we were shocked to hear lately that some are still stoned... these things are horrific.

There are days it would be nice just to bury one's head in the proverbial sand and pretend it isn't happening.  I'm so incredibly proud of my niece Jessie who flew to Africa this week with International Justice Mission to help some of the most marginalized children who have come from slavery.

Recently I read this incredible book The Color of Grace by Bethany Haley Williams, where she chronicles the stories of children who have come from horrific torture in the Congo.  She believes their stories need to be told, and she seeks to bring healing to their lives.  It is not an easy read, but an important one.

This week my hubby encouraged me to doodle the words, "Life is Beautiful". I struggled with that at first, as my heart had been full of concern this week for loved ones, with sadness for many I knew who were going through difficult times, with anger at some of the injustices we see and hear about.

And yet... I thought back to the amazing movie "Life is Beautiful" about a Jewish family who become victims of the Holocaust, and their incredible courage and passion for living; you watch it and your life is changed because you realize that even in the hard times... Life is beautiful.

My hubby was also inspired by the life of Etty Hillesum, also a Holocaust survivor who is called a Celebrant of Life.  Isn't that beautiful?  Her writings and journals of her positive spirit under horrific circumstances are documented in the book: Etty Hillesum: An Interupted Life and Letters from Westerbork.

I wandered outside the other day, thinking about these things, and was immediately captured by a birdsong.  We have one larger tree in our front yard, full of green, but at the top a naked branch reaches out to the sky.

Atop this branch sat the most beautiful little yellow bird, and I was convinced it was singing to me.  I stood there, entranced, and the bird sang on...it was one of those mystical moments, personal, comforting and it felt to me that God was singing... or at least sending me the message "I see the bigger picture.  I care."

As I enjoyed the beauty of this song, I was truly grateful.  And mindful.  That even in the hard times...

...that life truly can be beautiful.



The LORD your God in the middle of you is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over you with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17



Sunday, July 24, 2016

Accessible Strength

It is Sunday as I write this, and I spoke this morning of strength, something I've been sitting with and meditating on this summer.

Instead of a lengthy blog, I thought I'd share some of the verses that have spoken so deeply to me as of late:

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phil. 4:13

"He gives strength to the weary.  And to they who lack might, He increases power."  Isaiah 40:29

"The Lord will give strength to His people, the Lord will bless his people with peace."  Psalm 29:11

"Do not fear, for I am with you, do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you.  Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isiah 41:10

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Cor. 12:9

"I pray that out of the riches of His glory, He may strengthen you with power through His spirit in your inner being."  Ephesians 3:16

May these sacred words encourage you this week!


Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Cry of the Heart

My heart has been sad this week, on many levels, and as I was reflecting on some of this, this past weekend, these words came to me.

I grew up believing Christians should be happy victorious people or something was wrong with them.  It was a deeply flawed way of thinking, part of the culture I was part of.

As I have sat with many who suffer, and have gone through my own difficult challenges, I have come to appreciate the laments of King David and Job who dared to ask the hard questions.  I often refer people to Psalm 13, a wonderful Psalm where David pours out his heart... and ends with trust... trust that God is faithful, even in the hard times.  Yes, I too have come to that place...

So my ponderings this last few days:

Sometimes I want to cry
Well,
I do.
And if I emptied myself
of all the tears
It would not be enough.

for even my small
corner
of the world.

Suffering 
seems to come in
Extra-large

Those I love
Friends I care about
Those I meet

Tear-stained mothers
wailing
on my TV screen
over their lost children.

Some-days it is too much to even
absorb.

Come to me
Jesus said

I go
   running
       tear-stained.

Knowing that my God
  can handle my questions

And hold the pain.

We can come
come as we are

Bruised
  Broken
     Weary.
Holding hands open.

And find rest
  for our souls.

-July 2016

Psalm 13
How long, Lord?  Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord, my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say "I have overcome him"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
and my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord's praise
for he has been good to me."
- a Psalm of David