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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.
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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Saying good-bye, and hello

   I think back to a New Years eve sixteen years ago.  It is one I remember well, for I was a new widow, and the grief I felt was overpowering at times.  It hit me particularly hard that evening where we were, at my parents home with my elderly grandmother and my uncle and aunt.  I was afraid of walking into the unfamiliar, the unknown, for my identity had changed.  I was no longer married, a single mom with three teens, and I felt so alone.  I remember my grandmother that night, whose mind was often not with us, but as we sang and prayed she did both naturally.  It seemed a miracle, to watch her sing the old familiar words, to breathe the prayers; it was like grandma came back in the realm of the spiritual for those sweet moments.


  Closing the door to 1995 that night felt like closing a chapter in my life, acknowledging that the past was behind me, and I was entering into a new life, one which was unknown and unfamiliar.  As I observed my grandmother's faith come alive in those moments, I saw that God was with her, even in her unfamiliar world, and I never forgot that moment.


  Yesterday I was aware of two funerals - both of which I could not attend, but my heart and prayers were with the families as they said good-bye to those they loved.  One was for an elderly lady who had lived a full rich life and I myself had seen her influence as she had mentored many women in her life.  She had been a praying woman, full of influence, and although she is gone, it is her influence that lives on as others emulate her life and what she taught.  And even though I did not know her well, her influence spills on to me, through the friends she taught so well.


  An ending perhaps, but also a celebration of a life lived well.  


  Today we attended a wedding.  A beautiful bride, the joy overflowing on her face and that of her beloved, all the hopes and dreams of new beginnings.  It was beautiful and a wonderful celebration to be part of.


  As we close the chapter to this past year, I think of all the rich gifts, the learning that has come, often through challenges and pain.  For this I am thankful.    


  My hubby read this verse to me this morning and I thought it was so appropriate as we say good-bye to the old year, and hello to new beginnings.  It says: This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.  Deuteronomy 30:19.


  Even as we remember those who have entered heaven before us, I look in the mirror each morning, and say "I'm alive!".  It is a gift to be here, to live well, to choose life.  Life in all it's fragility is to be cherished and held lightly.  Hello to 2012, I choose to embrace thee well.


  

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry... or not?

  There is always the annual debate about "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas", and how we've turned a sacred holiday into a holiday season... leaving Christ out of Christmas.  You see it posted on Facebook statuses, and talked about in the news, and today when I looked at all the cards for 1/2 price or less, I found myself checking - Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas?  I do prefer the Christmas ones, I love a Christmas focused on Christ...

  But that being said, what about the "Merry"?  Where did that come from?  One of the things about Face Book is that you can get little glimpses into people's lives without ever really talking to them, unless you choose to comment or reply... and it appeared to me that quite a few people had a Christmas that wasn't so merry - sick children, failed plans, disappointments.

  Being idealistic myself, I try to create that "perfect" Christmas, the one that is merry and full of love and laughter and great moments... and find myself often disappointed, in myself, in the reactions of others.  This must be part of being human, I think... to project my hopes on others and it often doesn't work out all that well.

  I really have begun to think that "Merry" is a very bad adjective for Christmas, rather I would love to pray for a peaceful Christmas, a calm Christmas.  And for me, one where I let go of expectations, and rather enjoy the moments as they happen.

  This year I was to organize the Christmas service at the hospital, a first for me.  In fact it was significant because mother and dad were there, and my husband with the guitar.  Mom, Dad, and myself had all been patients at this hospital just this past March, and here we were on this Christmas Day to take part in this service. To me it was a miracle of sorts!  I had put up posters, gone to all the wards, had it announced on the PA.  But only three people showed up!  In the end, we drew our chairs in a little circle, I read some of the scripture, my dad prayed.  It was beautiful, intimate.  Not what I had imagined, but what was - and for those who were present, I believe it was meaningful.

  No, Christmas is not always what we plan, not always merry.  My dear friend is in hospital tonight, sick with pneumonia.  Others are hurting too... My heart is with them, and for all those for whom life is a challenge right now.

  And so, instead of Merry Christmas, I think I would rather say... may your Christmas season be filled with peace.  And may God give you everything you need, for every moment.

  Here is a little poem I wrote to celebrate the season:


They say “Merry Christmas”
but not all is so bright
somewhere there are soldiers in terrible plight
somewhere there is a child who is hungry and cold
And doesn’t know Christmas the way it is told.
There are those who are grieving someone who has died
And the empty space in their hearts cannot be denied
Oh they say “Merry Christmas”
but not all are well,
For those who are sick, in body and soul
Christmas can definitely take a great toll.
And yet, if you think to that first Christmas morn
Not all was that merry before Christ was born.
Mary and Joseph a long journey to take
A baby was coming, much was at stake
No room to be found, no comforts of home
The Christ child was born in the midst of a barn
The mystery of Christmas, that God would be man
Could Mary and Joseph really understand?
We look back to that Christmas with awe and with wonder
And like Mary, we stop and we ponder
Perhaps the true Christmas begins in the heart
Not always merry, but where hope finds its start
There is hope in the Christ child,
And faith, peace and love
May the true spirit of Christmas
Touch us from above.   
–Grace Wulff December 24 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tidings of Comfort and Joy


  It is Christmas Eve!  I have such wonderful memories of this day through my life - it is a day of expectation, of joy, of looking forward to...

  Sometimes this has got me into trouble, for in being somewhat of a perfectionist, one hopes for the perfect Christmas, to have everything done, wanting everyone to be happy, and well, those picture-perfect moments we see taunted in front of us in all those tv commercials, and yet, deep down, we know it isn't true... at least the perfection is definitely an illusion.

  Was picturing that first Christmas again this morning, Mary, tired and VERY pregnant, probably aching all over, and wishing her mom was there... trusting her life to Joseph and traveling to a strange town, only to find there was no room for them at all.  Can you imagine the smell of the barn, trying to find clean hay, listening to the bellows of the animals... no, it is not a picture of perfection at all!

  It is good to think about in our messy world, where I want to get it "Martha Stewart" right, and then I remember, she hasn't had a perfect world either... didn't she spend a Christmas in jail?  So you might find dust in my house, and the baking didn't all happen, and I didn't get my garland up this year.

  But I am alive!  I think of our past year, with time spent in hospital, and my parents so sick, and the imperfections of this day don't bother me so much.  We have each other!  We have memories!  And my heart is with those who are sick, and who are grieving, and who are very lonely this Christmastime.

  I love the refrain to that Christmas carol - tidings of comfort and joy.  It is good to be comforted, to know there was a divine plan, to know that into our imperfect world came the Perfect Gift, the gift of Redemption, so that we could have hope... hope in a little baby named Jesus.  There is comfort in that, and much joy.

  Merry Christmas everyone - tidings of comfort and joy!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Angels All Around Us

  Being Christmastime, angels are everywhere - in our decorations, on our trees, I've made a few myself!  They are beautiful, and peaceful, most of the time we really don't give them too much thought...

  I'm not so sure that angels are always peaceful, certainly in Bible times they were messengers, and must have been a frightening sight, because usually they spoke "Fear not!".

  I have a memory of being very aware of angels when I was a young mother, with three little ones.  Quite often I would make the trek from Hope to Abbotsford, a one hour drive.  Part of the road was known for rock slides when it rained heavily (which was often), and I usually preferred driving it during the day.  But one dark rainy night I was coming home with my babies all asleep in the car, singing away to my Amy Grant CD to keep me company.  She was singing one of my favourite songs "Angels Watching Over Me"... and as I sang, I saw something on the road - it was a dead animal I think - and I swerved to miss it... so thankful I did't swerve much and didn't lose control, and on I went.

  You know those moments - when your heart thuds and you realize how close you were, and yet you know you are safe, and you take a deep breath and keep driving.  And I had a new awareness of what I was singing.. Angels watching over me!  The next day we heard that there had been a terrible accident on that road, probably shortly after I had passed through... why them, why not me?  And I knew I was thankful I and my children were safe, even as I felt for those who had had the accident.

  Years later, I had a most amazing encounter with an angel.  Part of me has always been reluctant to tell the story, but it is as real to me as the day it happened.  My husband Andy was dying - and had a hard time sleeping.  He would sit outside - it was more like a crouch - the only way he could be comfortable, and where he liked to sit there was a drop-off where we had not been able to put a rail on yet. (We had been building new walkways when he became sick).  He was unstable, and I was terribly worried he would fall... so I couldn't sleep either.  There was a strong part of me that wanted to protect him, even when I was exhausted.

  The one night I was particularly tired, and he was urging me to go to bed, and then I saw the angel.  I still can't tell you if I saw him with my eyes, or that my spirit was opened to the vision, but there, right beside my husband was the tallest angel, he was dressed like a warrior and obviously protecting my husband.  It was so real to me, and although Andy could not see him, he too seemed aware.  It was then I was able to go to sleep, I knew that I need not worry any more.

  Ever since that time, when I really stop to think about it, I think about the spirit world all around us - I believe that God's angels do protect, do comfort, are around us.  Probably not the way we might vision them, but real just the same.  I really am not versed in the theology of angels, or have I done much studying on them, but I would like to think they are still messengers - messengers of hope, of comfort, and sometimes in those moments where we need God the most, he can use an angel to let us know that He is very present in our lives and cares for us deeply.  Glad tidings, indeed.


                                            Little Angels I have made to celebrate Christmas.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Joy Unspeakable

  There was a day, in this past year, on one of my walks, that joy seemed so far away, so illusive that I picked up a rock, a round smooth rock that filled the palm of my hand, and I took it home, and with a permanent marker I printed the word "Joy".  I stuck it on my kitchen windowsill and it has stayed there ever since.  I'm not sure exactly why I did that, but I think the longing for joy that was coming from a very dark place was real, and I needed to name it, to mark it as a goal.


   I have heard often that happiness is dependent on circumstances, while joy can be present depending on our attitudes, our connections to the Creator of Joy.  This might be true, but I also know to be true that joy is not always felt; it can be hidden by pain, by depression, by despair.  


  In fact the Psalm eludes to the fact that we often wait for joy, "weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning", much like a mother who is filled with joy after the safe arrival of her beloved child after the travail of birth.  I remember well the first tears I felt, I tasted, after the birth of my little brother Randy, who was born when I was seven.  This joy, these tears were a mystery to me, who cries when one is happy?  I experienced the same tears of joy again this morning when a new baby was a church, the beloved granddaughter of friends, also named Grace, who underwent serious surgery after birth.  There were a number of us crying over this precious little one, so beautiful, what a precious miracle!  


  When it comes to Joy, I often think of the often used acronym I was taught as a child:  J is for Jesus - Jesus first, O is for others - they are second, Y is for you, myself comes last.  I've rethought the theology of that little ditty this past year as I've soul-searched and believe it is fundamentally flawed.  Oh, I want to put Jesus first, God, the Son, whose birth we celebrate with such joy this time of year.


  But as I have looked at the first and second commandment which Jesus himself taught, I hear Him say: Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind... and the second commandment is to love your neighbour as yourself.  What we miss, in my thinking, is how to really love ourselves, and we cannot truly love others as we should until we learn to love ourselves fully.  This has been a big part of my learning this past year, to learn to know myself, foibles and all, and to embrace all God has given me, and to love each part of myself.  In doing so, there is freedom to love others as I should!  


  So in my little Advent drawings, my thoughts on Love, Hope, Peace and Joy, I drew another acronym for joy.  


  I've thought a lot about joy this week.  One picture that came vividly to mind was that joy often grows out of the dark places in our lives, the fruition of longing, of things hoped for, the exclamation after a long sentence... It is almost like it gives birth in the dark, like a seed, where there is much life, but it is difficult to detect joy or life in those dark places.  


  But then the seed begins to grow, and I was imagining those stems, those shoots, might be called gratitude.  I have come to believe that gratitude is the prelude to joy, finding thanks in the midst of all life, being thankful for each day, for each breath.  I am always touched by people who are positive, and I find it is because they are grateful people, they have an attitude of gratefulness.  That gratefulness breaks forth as joy, in my little word picture, the beautiful blossoms that are the fruit of careful tending, of gratitude even when life is not easy.


  Perhaps that is joy unspeakable!  Certainly the Christ Child brought that kind of joy, the arrival of the King that had been waited for for centuries.  In the book of 1 Peter (1:8) it speaks of the joy unspeakable: "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,"  It is this wondrous faith he speaks about, this waiting in the dark, knowing that even though we cannot see this God of ours, He is real and gives us the gift of real joy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

God's breath

  This came to me today on my walk - thinking about God's breath.  Really, it is a terrifying, comforting thought all in one.

  God is unfathomable, Over-all, the Creator of all, a Mystery of such proportions that it is beyond imagination, and yet, as I was thinking about it, He is personable, He says we are created in "His image", He is interested in me...

   There is an old hymn - perhaps this is where the thought came from - that talks about God's breath.  It was a favourite of mine when I used to play piano for our church, one that made me feel reverent and reflective.  The words go like this:


1. Breathe on me, Breath of God, 
 fill me with life anew, 
 that I may love what thou dost love, 
 and do what thou wouldst do. 

2. Breathe on me, Breath of God, 
 until my heart is pure, 
 until with thee I will one will, 
 to do and to endure. 

3. Breathe on me, Breath of God, 
 till I am wholly thine, 
 till all this earthly part of me 
 glows with thy fire divine. 

4. Breathe on me, Breath of God, 
 so shall I never die, 
 but live with thee the perfect life 
 of thine eternity. 
Edwin Hatch, 1835-1889

When I think about Mary and the birth of Jesus, did God breathe on her to enter her womb, to create a living space for a living God?  The kind of God who would become one of us, so we would know Him is an awesome thought.

  My prayer today, as I walked was, Dear God, breathe on me... to be infused by God, to be loved by Him, to reflect Him.  It is a sober thought, for I am so very human.  It is a comforting thought, to be loved exactly as I am, not for what I do, or say, but just loved.  Period.  I bask in that for a while, as I picture in my mind the breath of God, gentle, loving, healing, personal.






Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas in the hospital

  It was 1965, and I was seven years old.  I don't remember much of that fall, but know I was sick a lot.  A week before Christmas, I was hospitalized, put on complete bed rest and had my first hospital experience.

  But it was Christmas!  I don't remember much of my hospital stay, but do remember being shocked by the big boy in the bed next to me who was badly burned by a fire cracker, still recovering from a Halloween incident.

  I also remember my mother's friends - she was a nurse, and had many friends at the hospital - treating me well.  My favourite memory is of the nurses caroling in the hall ways and we had a grand Christmas party on the ward, complete with Christmas tinsel for me and for my doll.

  What was strange so many years later was that my sister Val, who was five at the time, came across a picture of her husband - and it was the Christmas picture from the hospital!  He had swallowed fluid and was being treated in the same hospital... small world!  It was great to see that newspaper photo so many years later!  (I'm the little smiling girl at the right - my stay couldn't have been so bad!)  Val's husband Dave is the little boy on the left.


  The bonus was that because my mom was a nurse, they allowed me to go home Christmas Eve - I still remember being wrapped snugly in a blanket and carried in the house - and was on bed rest for the next three months... bed rest seemed to be popular back then!

  Today it is 9 months since the day of my heart attack... interesting how that is important to me, but I thought of it today, of the months that have passed, how I am stronger, what I have learned, where I am vulnerable.  Events like that change your life... This time I spent a birthday in hospital... but was glad for all the care I received.

  So it will seem a little strange to be in hospital again this Christmas - but a good strange... I am so grateful for the opportunity to visit patients, to make friends with staff, to be present there.  I'm glad I'm not the patient this time, but those memories stay with me and are not far off.   Funny how things turn out!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Heart full of Peace

  The word today is peace... something I have thought a great deal about in the past months.  More often than not, in my journals and prayers I prayed for peace - peace in my heart, peace in my surroundings.  


  I was thinking about my heart today - my heart as a vessel.  I have a friend, a potter, who makes the most delightful bowls shaped like hearts.  In the language of the heart we hold so much, our hearts are full... sometimes I wonder, what are they full of?


  As I have longed after, and prayed for peace, it seems to me I've had to do some emptying.  This is harder said than done.  To let go of things I cannot change, love people who think differently than I, become aware of my own opinions, ways of doing things, and make room for others... to enlarge my heart.  


  The heart cannot hold peace when it is full of bitterness, or is focused on disagreements, disappointments or envy.  It cannot be peaceful when one is convinced that my way is the only way... to be a peacemaker is to be loving, respectful, forgiving...and I think to also love, respect and forgive myself, even with my shortcomings!  To be at peace with others, to be at peace with myself, ultimately to have peace with God; this is a gift that Christmas can bring.


  But first we have to make room in our hearts, just like the innkeeper had to find room in his crowded stable - room for Jesus, the Prince of Peace... I have been practicing breathing exercises, concentrating on my breathing, on enlarging my lung capacity, on giving exercise to my heart.  As I think about my breath, I often think of emptying out the negative - the thoughts that bring me down - and as I breathe them out, I think of breathing in what is good:  peace and love and the light of Christ.  I find it a healing exercise, it calms me and brings me peace.


  In the midst of busyness, the chaos of life, can I choose peace?  I think of one of my favourite verses...And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:7).  Don't you love that?  I love the imagery of my heart being guarded by the peace of God.  


  It is a prayer I've prayed lately as I enter a new season - "Lord guard my heart - my physical heart, and my emotional heart"... and I can add, "please fill it with Your Peace."





Thursday, December 8, 2011

Reconciliation and Advent

  After writing my last post on "Wounded", I was somewhat depressed; as I wrote, my desire is to be part of the solution rather than the problem, and I think that is the desire of most...


  If you've read a few of my posts you'll know already that I tend to focus on one thought, and the word that kept coming to me this past week has been "reconciliation".  It is such a beautiful word, really, like ointment to a wound, the resolve after a dispute.  With advent also on my mind, and the major themes of advent being hope, love, peace and joy, I began to see how advent relates to reconciliation in every way!


  There is such hope when we yearn for reconciliation.  The first Christmas was filled with this hope, this yearning of better things to come.   Today too, we yearn for hope in a world of terror, of war, of financial uncertainty.  On a much more personal level we long for hope where there is brokenness, sadness, quarrels, pain.


  I recently read a quote by Martin Luther King where he talked about love being a weapon.  I was so intrigued by this concept, that we face life with love; it breaks down barriers and walls, it softens hearts, it reaches where hatred cannot.  When I feel defensive, I think about this.  Part of reconciliation is responding in love, even when it is not easy.  I am challenged by this!


  Peace on Earth!  It is the mantra of the season, something we long for.  Sometimes it seems so unobtainable.  I often think of the picture of a bird, perhaps a big powerful eagle, covering her chicks in the midst of a storm.  That is the picture of peace.  


  Joy is the last piece; reconciliation is such a joyful word!  It is Hope fulfilled, Love conquered, Peace attained, and Joy simply overflows.  Isn't that the message of Advent?


  I found this verse tonight: "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation", 2 Cor. 5:18.  Advent is the gift of Christ who came to bring us Hope, Who is Love and Peace, Who brings us Joy.  And in turn, He calls us to pass it on... a ministry of reconciliation.  A wonderful gift to give... and receive... this Christmas season.  

 
 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wounded

  On three separate occasions this past week, I was privy to hear of the pain of others - pain inflicted by people in the church, those who call themselves Christians.  Details are not necessary - I was just deeply saddened, because I call myself a Christian, a follower of Christ.
(Disclaimer:  please know that these three stories were from very different places, and I am not reflecting on any one situation in this blog)


  And yet, there are many out there who bear the wounds of thoughtless words, of righteous judgments, of power struggles, often in the name of Christ.  It would be easier not to write about this, pretend it isn't there, cover up what is not so often talked about. And yet...


  I often think, how can I be part of the solution?  I don't want to be part of the problem.  And yet, by the nature of my own humanity, I too have probably wounded others, hopefully not intentionally, and for that I am truly sorry.  I too, have been one of the wounded, in my past, and know the heart-ache some carry when they simply don't understand why others are treating them so badly.


  Christians are charged to be known by their love... and if we are honest, really honest, quite often this is sadly lacking.  It is much easier to judge, to hide behind our comfortable barriers of that which we believe is right and wrong, to not take time to really understand and listen and hear people's stories.  We become like the friends of Job (heard a sermon about this last week!), who are full of opinions and judgments and advice... and empathy is sadly lacking.


  I am very comforted that the Bible itself does not cover-up the humanity of man.  King David himself, who had a heart after God, failed miserably, committing adultery and murder.  I sit with his repentance recorded in Psalm 51 which says: 
Have mercy on me, O God, 
   according to your unfailing love; 
according to your great compassion 
   blot out my transgressions. ...

 Create in me a pure heart, O God, 
   and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 
Do not cast me from your presence 
   or take your Holy Spirit from me. 


I also greatly admire people like the late Ruth Bell Graham, who had a incredible sense of her own humanity, and a lovely sense of humor.  She requested this epitaph for her tombstone: “End of Construction. Thank you for your Patience.”

  That I would be known for my love, not my judgments, this is my prayer.  And I pray for all those who have been deeply wounded - that they would look to Christ, who Himself was wounded for our transgressions, He knows our weaknesses and failings.  And He also calls us to forgiveness, not always easy, but a necessary step to bind our wounds.

  There is no flippancy intended in that... for those who bear wounds need time to heal.  The word "wound" itself depicts the need for healing, and healing often is a process, that requires patience, understanding, acknowledgement, and often, wise counsel.  So as I have heard these stories this week, I also pray for healing... healing for them, and all those who hurt.  

  I also am reminded of the prayer of Jabez, who prayed: 
"...that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!”  (New King James Version) .  A good prayer to pray!  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Filled with Hope - Advent Thoughts

   Ever seen a collection of rocks... with words written on them, like Hope, and Joy, and Peace and Love?  I wonder if they are advent rocks?  These words, which we hear often in the advent season are like ambassadors of hope.

   I have a lovely little collection of candle holders, each with a different word written artistically on it.  This year I created little angel ornaments made with clay, with such words written on the heart of each angel... they are such powerful words, we see them everywhere.

  I looked up these "advent" words, each one a powerful message on it's own, and I discovered I had the order wrong... I really should have started with Hope; a week ago I wrote about love!  But does it really matter?  So I've decided to center my thoughts on hope this advent weekend, as the 2nd Sunday of Advent is upon us.

  I wrote a little book some years ago, called "A Journey of Hope".  In some ways, it was an off shoot from the organization "New Hope" - (New Hope for Widow/ers and Their Families), that I was part of starting fifteen years ago now.  How the years have gone by.  The message of hope is a powerful one to one who is widowed, when all seems lost, the way unclear.  My own story... so many stories I have heard; tell of life's plans being suddenly altered, it wasn't the script we had written, and the way forward was uncertain and unknown.

  When I think of Mary, the mother of Jesus, I can only imagine she too felt that way.  She was in love with her Joseph, her life set out before her, when all of a sudden everything changed.  It wasn't her script anymore, the God of the universe touches her with the breath of God, and she bears the Christ-child.  As she is filled with wonder, there must also be the uncertainty of what the future held, and for a time, how her Joseph would react to such impossible news.  They had to face the questions and no doubt the condemnation of the community around them, facing disgrace and misunderstanding.  Life as they knew it, changed abruptly.

  Hope is what sustained Mary, don't you think?  I wrote out a little acrostic this week about hope... H is for heart's longing.  I sense Mary's heart for God, her longing to follow the Messiah, one that was long-expected.  O is for Open my Heart, and I love that thought of Mary being open to whatever God had for her, although she must have been terrified, she displayed a complete trust in the providence of God, an acceptance of what He had for her. Amazing!   For P, I wrote "Prayer with Anticipation".  Isn't that descriptive of hope?  Even though we don't know the outcome, we have Hope that God has gone before, that He will provide.  E follows with Expectation of God's answer!

  In a way, hope is about trust... trusting in an outcome we can't see, trust in a God we don't always understand, believing that He will provide for us in every moment, the good, the hard, in the peaceful times, in the raging storms.  Resting in Hope... that is a good thought for today, in this Advent season.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Art Therapy - artsolutely!

  I've been in therapy for a while now - art therapy!  Truly, I believe that art, or the act of creating something, in whatever medium whether it be painting, music, theater, so many ways to create... is therapy indeed.


  There is something about becoming "lost" in the creation of something, troubles are forgotten, pain often lessened, I wouldn't be surprised if blood pressure drops.  Yes, I am generalizing, but overall, art brings me joy.


  We are very blessed in Vernon to have a Community Art Center and I feel sorry for any community who doesn't have such a resource.  The Art Center, where I play with clay, offers a place to create art, opportunities to learn through classes and support, and a wonderful creative staff to interact with.  There are special classes for those with physical and mental challenges, and it is wonderful to interact with these people and see the benefits that art brings to their lives.  


  Even if you don't "make" the art, it is a great place to regularly visit, for their regular revolving art shows, featuring artists in the community.  Their biggest art show started today... Artsolutely... which features thirty artists with a wide variety of art forms:  fiber arts, jewelry, glass and metal work, photography, weaving, to name a few...


  I'm delighted to be a part of it; I enjoy the comradery, and just being in such a positive atmosphere.  I am thankful for this wonderful place to be a part of - it is truly community in action.



  For more information, check out their web page: www.vernonarts.ca; Artsolutely runs from December 1st to 23.  
  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Inadequate

  In our culture, we are taught to be strong, to conquer, to achieve.  


  As a woman, we often carry the mantle of over-achievement, multi-tasking, mega-management... to be all, to do all, to have it all together.  We expect it of ourselves, our perception is that others expect it of us.


  I was going to write about something else today... but my inadequacy kept tugging at my heart.  In many ways it has been an exciting week, but also a stretching and exhausting week. I have felt overwhelmed at times.  I know I am not alone - this season of pre-Christmas brings it's own frenzy of extra tasks, expectations, long to-do lists.  I have been preparing for Artsolutely (which I hope to write about later this week), as well as preparing for my new volunteer part-time position at the hospital.


  Today I was at the hospital for a tea, where they said good-bye to John Franson, long-time chaplain, retiring after ten years.  He has set a high standard for chaplaincy and has won respect among clergy, doctors, nurses and administration.  He is a humble, kind, and wise man, and I know that his quiet presence at the hospital will be sorely missed.


  In the last number of weeks I have been training for this job, and this week I begin my new position as resident-Chaplain for the Vernon Jubilee Hospital.  I feel inadequate.  But I was thinking today, perhaps that is a very good place to be.  I know I need the prayers of my friends and family to take on this task, but more than that, I know that I simply cannot do this by myself.  It is one of those moments where you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is only through God's strength that I can be present, that I can listen, that I can care for others.  


  It is also an exciting place to be, to see doors opening after a season of suffering, of difficulty, of intense self-growth.  It gives me hope, hope I pray spills out to others.  That God is truly never finished with us, that there is always so much more to learn.  But with that also comes a quietness, knowing that it is not about "doing" as it is about "being"...trusting God to use us in the very place we find ourselves.


  One of my fellow students posted Steve Bell's song "Kindness" today, and I found it very meaningful.  I hope you will too...

"Christ has no body here but ours
No hands no feet here on earth but ours 
Ours are the eyes through which he looks
On this world with kindness

Ours are the hands through which he works
Ours are the feet on which he moves
Ours are the voices through which he speaks
To this world with kindness

Through our touch, our smile, our listening ear
Embodied in us, Jesus is living here
Let us go now, inspirited 
Into this world with kindness"

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Season of Advent

 'Tis a Season of Love... of Joy, of Hope, of Peace.

  It is a season of waiting.

  Advent has come to mean so much more to me.

  I was thankful today to set aside the hustle and bustle of the holidays (which seem to come so early, at least commercially), and focus on the gift of Emmanuel, which means God with us.

  Our thoughts today centered on Jesus, who had everything and gave everything, to become poor, to be born in a stable, to share His love, so that we might have hope, and love, and joy, and peace.

  When I think of waiting, I think of longing, of anticipation, of expectation. Traditionally the four candles on the Advent Wreath stand for Love, Joy, Hope and Peace.  I ponder these gifts for they are things we long for in this life, often illusive, out of reach.

  We fill the longings with so many things, with busyness, with food, with stuff.  Is there room to quiet my heart and search for, and wait for the truth of Christmas?   Is there room in my heart this year for the Christ child, room to receive this gift for me?  It is an awesome thought, to think that the Creator of the Universe stoops down to be with us, to love us with the gift of his Son.  I am so very grateful.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Count down, count my breaths

  It is almost the end of November.  I, with many, many others (mostly women, I think) everywhere, start the countdown until Christmas, until December.  To some it is madness, with extra recitals, concerts, baking, school events, church productions, shopping, and most of all, thinking, thinking.  It takes planning to make a Christmas!

  This year I am definitely feeling the crunch.  My new job (working as Chaplain at our local hospital) begins officially on December 1st, directly colliding with the opening of Artsolutely, a wonderful Art Show and Christmas shopping event that I am part of for the second year in a row.  Deadlines loom everywhere, Christmas is spilling out of boxes and bins, my art has taken over my office/studio, with lists and bits and pieces.  Throw a husband and a new business into the mix, and it all seems a little insane.

  Of course, all of this busyness, (and we are empty-nesters) - and it seems less chaotic than the crazy years not so long ago, of having three little ones at home, plus taking in foster children.  It was a huge production back then to make Christmas the best ever... I think being a mom of toddlers and babies is one of the most time-consuming, all-consuming jobs in the world - rewarding and fun, but exhausting just the same.  I remember that when I was in the midst of it, I vowed never to forget it, and I haven't.  Kudos out there to moms everywhere!

  Which is why I am taking Saturday off.  I'm hoping to attend a retreat of quietness, to still my heart, to ponder the real meaning of Christmas, to reflect on what is really important.  I'm hoping my mind can be still and really listen for those hours.  I am grateful for those who provide these times of reflection and excited about attending.

  Whatever we do, it is vastly important to take care of ourselves this time of year.  Perhaps I am more aware of this than ever, given my health this past year.  Each day is a gift.  When I start counting down the days, or counting up the presents, or chores, or events, I am trying to slow down... and take a very deep breath.

  I read recently that a really good breath, one that you breath deeply in, right down to your belly, and let out again, very slowly, actually changes the pH in your system, helping your body become more alkaline.  Breathing is good.  Breathing slowly, deeply, breathing in good thoughts, filling ourselves with love and light; all gifts from the Creator.  Breathing out the tension.  Knowing that it is each moment that counts; like the crazy lunch I had today with mom and dad in the midst of a crazy day - boxes stacked all around, Christmas decorations and art in every corner, but we created space at the table, and enjoyed good conversation, good soup.  Those are the moments that truly count.

 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Living One Day at a Time, Livin' to be 100


When I was a teenager, there was a strong movement of last-days theology.  We sang with great enthusiasm "The King is Coming", and "I Wish We'd all been Ready"... and the movie "Thief in the Night" came out, and I remember watching that on the old reels (yes that really dates me), at one of our New Year's Eve Church family celebrations.  Yes, Christ's coming was just around the corner, and we never knew if this year would be the one...

  I still believe in the return of Christ, but I have struggled with the strong emphasis of last-days theology that permeated our churches, our religious culture at the time.  It colored my growing up years to the point that I didn't think I would get married, have children, and I didn't plan well for an education.  Everything seemed well, so temporary.  

  And here we are, almost in 2012, and I am a mother, a grandmother.  Who would have thought?  I have often remembered a conversation I had with a very wise friend, who said to me "We should live each day as if it were our last, and at the same time live our days as if we will reach 100.".  This thought has never left me.  Our lives are uncertain, we don't know what tomorrow brings, but we also need to live and plan and be present to the lives we have been given.

  We live in the tension of paradox; living between the ideal and the realistic, between the seen and the unseen, between what is temporal and what is eternal.  I love Stormie Omaritian's title of her book "Just Enough Light for the Step I'm On", because that is so true - we really don't know what tomorrow brings.

  And yet, I am confident that I have relationship with a God who holds all of the tomorrows in His hands.  So I choose to keep moving forward, even at age 53, to embrace new opportunities, to try new things, to live life well.  I'm learning so much in these new "college" years of mine, stretching and growing.  I know that these years of life can be the most productive of all.

  I saw a story in the news recently about a 98 year old man who just recently had graduated from college - amazing!  It is good to be in a place of learning, and one is never to old to give it a whirl.  My dad received a diploma at age 65, his fifth graduation.  It was quite inspiring.

  Each day is a gift.  In the face of loss - I also hold life loosely - there is no time for grudges, or regrets.  "I love you" are words I want to speak often, to value those around me, to cherish the moments.  To live each day as if it was my last, to live it well ....to live my life as if I'll reach 100 - to me that is inspiration.

  

Friday, November 18, 2011

Safe

   We were having a family dinner the other night, and my little grandson, Little E was happily pushing around his fire truck, complete with great siren sounds he was producing at the same time.  About that time, the fire alarm in our house went off, emitting ear-piercing sounds that startled little six-month old R, poor little guy.  At first Little E took it into his stride, but as the adults paced around trying to turn the fool thing off (very false alarm), both little boys were definitely traumatized.


  I picked up little E and snuggled him to me and told him it was fine, there was no real fire.  After all we had his fire trucks in case of a real emergency!  He clung to me for a while in the safety of grandma, and after the crisis passed, he said "But we're safe, right Grandma?"  "Yes, honey, very safe..."  How I love this little boy.


 After writing about "entitlement" earlier this week, and coming to the place where I know that God doesn't owe me anything, I have also had the overwhelming sense of His love, His care.   It really is amazing - don't we sing about Amazing Grace? - that the God that created the whole universe loves and cares for me personally?  


  There are countless verses of scripture that speak of safety and how He watches over us.  No, there are somethings I don't understand, and when one is in the midst of suffering, there are no pat easy answers.  What I do know that God does not abandon us, although at times He seems mysterious and far away.  God with us, which is what Emmanuel means, is a promise I rest in.


  A verse I have been pondering over the last few weeks is expressed in such a beautiful way in Peterson's translation of the scripture in "The Message".  It says, simply: "God is a Safe Place to be".  (verse 8).  Reminds me of that picture of a mom - a grandma - holding a child.  The child might not understand the complexities of life, but can completely, wholly rest in the security of those arms.  And in the midst of life, that is lovely thought to dwell on.


  Psalm 91 is the great psalm on the safety of God, and I particularly love this verse: "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." (vs 4 - NIV).  Again it shows the heart of a mother who shields and protects.   I picture this bird in the midst of the storm - for it seems there will be storms - and the hiding place of a mother's breast, safe and secure.  It is a trust in something, Someone so much bigger than I, who sees the bigger picture.  I can rest in that, perfectly safe.

 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Entitlement

 I had an epiphany of sorts this spring when I realized how incredibly upset I was with how life was going.  I was overwhelmed by sadness and anger and it took me a while to process it all.  Part of my healing was the realization that I had a problem with entitlement.  


  As I wrote out page after page after page in my journal, often none of it too happy, although I was trying very hard, it came to me that I felt I really didn't deserve these difficulties.  However absurd this thinking,  it was deep in my subconscious. I felt I had paid my dues when my first husband died.  I was well acquainted with grief and suffering.  But the events in our family circle of 2010 and into 2011 were overwhelming at times, affecting our health, our family circle, our economics, and at times I just didn't understand what was going on.


  I don't think I am a complainer by nature, but with this new realization, I realized how we buy into North American Culture, and our faith is also driven by the thinking that if I do A plus B, if I live a good life, if I eat right, if I care for my neighbor, if I am a "good Christian",  - the list is endless, then somehow I am immune.  We live our lives in search of the "good life", our striving takes up energy and we we don't do well when dreams crumble and it doesn't turn out as we thought.  There is a whole segment of faith that is absorbed by this thought - the health and wealth gospel - which (although I don't want to offend anyone) has begun to nauseate me.  Who of any of us can claim we own health or wealth?  Most often, it is completely out of our hands.


  I often think of the ratio of the rich and the poor in a global sense.  We are wealthy in so many ways, and don't even realize it.  We (and I speak generally) are easily offended when our rights are violated, when we don't receive what we think we deserve.  We use up much of the world's resources while our brothers and sisters in Third World countries live on so much less.  Are we really entitled?  Or are we blessed to live here, and do we need to become more aware of the pain and suffering of those less fortunate?


  When I think of all those who are protesting these days, in cities across the world, one has to stop and ponder.  Some of the protesters are articulate and make very fine points.  The very rich ARE often corrupt - but not always.  Many of the protesters are also caught up, I believe, in thinking they are entitled... they are angry and feel their rights are violated.


    Obviously, it is complicated.  Perhaps it is better broken down into simple facts.  God does not owe me anything.  Every breath I breathe is a gift from Him.  The joy I feel, the delight in His creation, the gratefulness for His provision - these are all gifts.  As my heart has changed from frustration, and the futility of that, I realize that gratitude for life itself is a healing balm.  Although painful at times, the lessons I have learned through deep waters have been the richest yet.  God has not abandoned me.


Like Job, I can say: 


"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." Job 1:21

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Immunity

  Today is Sunday, but I'm resting at home... well, resting in my computer room anyway!  I'm hoping that I'm in the last hurrahs of this autumn cold which has taken over my sinuses, filled my head with stuffiness, and caused me to feel like a drip a great deal of the time.  Certainly I've had colds where I have felt worse, but it is an annoyance just the same...

  Two words have been floating around my consciousness as of late... one I have sat with for a very long time - the word is entitlement.  The other is immunity.  In my thinking they are related, but might be worth at least two posts, if my wakeful moments last night are any indication!

  Obviously I was not immune to this cold.  I tried valiantly to stop it, to prevent it's entry into my system, but was unsuccessful.  More than ever, it is important for me to be well.  My mom, going through chemotherapy cannot be exposed to a cold.  She is taking some amazing medications that help her with her immune system, but the chemotherapy and other cancer drugs put her at great risk.

  But I am not immune.  Mostly, I think, it is because I am alive.  A good thing!!  Immunity is a treasured sought after entity, you just think about the show "Survivor", and how the contestants fight for immunity; it is the precious ticket to avoid pain, hardship, suffering.

  I think most of us, especially in our North American culture don't realize how immune we are - immune to the suffering of the world.  We sit in our sheltered warm houses and the reality, the suffering of much of the world is far from our minds.  I was thinking about that yesterday as we sat for a coffee at Blenz.  One of the coffees we enjoyed was free - thanks to a coupon, and we just sat there in the coziness of the shop, out of the wind and rain, sipping our drinks.  No talking was necessary.

  I pondered on what a gift it was - just to sit there.  I thought of those in hospital who can't leave - I've visited many of them lately there; those with chronic conditions that wait day upon day, week upon week, for release - either from this life, or from a hospital ward which offers no fresh outside air.  There are many who would only dream of sitting in a coffee shop, a world far removed from their present reality.

  My prayer is that I can offer fresh air, a ray of hope, some sunshine to those who are sick as I start my work at the hospital.  But underneath that is my own awareness of my own humanity.  Because I AM human, I am not immune to sickness, to sorrow.

  One of my mottos this year, was to live well, to be well!  It is not a bad goal, and I believe we need to take care of ourselves, to be aware, to live life as healthily as possible.  But once in a while I realize I also need a reality check, to know that I am really in God's hands, no matter how I am feeling.  I am not in control - He is... and I can rest in that.

  So along with the oregano, salt-gargling, vitamin C and other remedies I can think of, today I will also think about prayer and rest and trust - because it is God alone who is the Great Healer of the amazing bodies we live in, and I can trust in that truth.

 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Symbols of Remembrance

  I've noticed recently a new bloom on the clematis plant I planted in memory of my nephew Chris.  This beautiful flower has braved the November frosts and was shuddering in the wind today when I snapped it's picture.  It is one of the symbols I remember Chris by - a happy, loving, outgoing, hard-working seventeen year old with huge ambitions, his life ended oh too soon.  We miss him.

  Remembrance Day triggers thoughts, reminders of remembrance.  This was brought much closer to home when just days after Chris died last year, a grandmother I knew in our church lost her beloved grandson, a soldier, in the Afghanistan conflict.  It is one thing to listen to stories on TV, in the news, in our papers, but it is another thing altogether to sit with a granny who is grieving as we pour over her collection of pictures of this beloved son, and grandson, and see all the newspaper clippings saved.  The sorrow is real, palatable, and the red poppy we wear each November takes new meaning.   

  One of the good stories that happened out of those weeks of sorrow last year, was the mountain of food that was donated on the day of Chris's funeral to feed over 1000 people who attended his funeral.  As an outpouring of support we not only had enough to feed over 1000 people, but we were able to donate two van loads of food to the Salvation Army that evening to feed the hungry, and another truck load of sandwiches went to the East Side of Vancouver.  We packaged up fruit and vegetables and one of the things I brought home to Vernon was celery - a large quantity of vegetables had been donated by a local grocer who knew my brother's family.  It was amazing.

  With that celery, I made cream of celery soup.... I love soup - another symbol to me, of comfort, of warmth, something easily made, easily given.  Some of that celery soup made it's way to this grandma whom I visited.  It was a powerful moment for me, something tangible and real, that connected us, in our common loss.

  It is not uncommon for those who grieve to have a symbol that becomes a comforting reminder, a symbol of remembrance.   A yellow rose, an eagle, became powerful symbols of remembrance for myself and my children.  I wrote about the yellow rose in September.

  As I wear my poppy this week, I will also think of the grandmothers, the moms and dads, the family circles that mourn and remember. I will be thankful for the freedom I have, the country I live in.

 I am also mindful this week for the fresh grief of those who grieve in Armstrong; four young people, gone so soon.  It is a solemn time.  I gaze at my flower, blowing in the harsh November wind; reminding me that life is frail, but not without hope.  My prayers are with all who grieve.


A flower in memory of Chris Friesen.  

 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What's not to love in November?

   What is not to love in November?  Well, actually... I can think of a few little things!

   It's civic election time.  Like in any election, my commute is now littered with election signs, struck haphazardly on lawns and anywhere they can be planted - sometimes multiple signs of the same person in a single location.  I have never understood this phenomena.  A sign has never influenced me, hopefully a thoughtful voter, to be swayed in one direction or another.

   In my mind, they just created a big eyesore, a mess.  I love beauty, and nature, perhaps I might be more influenced if the signs enhanced the landscape, add some flowers perhaps?  Well, maybe not...  if nothing else it will remind me to my civic duty, to vote on November 19.

   I don't love the dark evenings, the short days, the grey skies.

   But there is always something to love...even in November.   Today I had a wonderful morning with my mom, sewing and creating - those indoor projects are welcomed on these cooler days, giving us a chance to visit and talk, with a cup of tea at hand, soup simmering on the stove... this afternoon my hubby and I tackled a mountain of fallen leaves.  For those of you who know our yard, and the two little trees that struggle to grow here, you will know it wasn't our yard!     Within an hour and a half we had filled twenty large lawn bags, our cheeks were warm with raking and piling and we just enjoyed hanging out together.  Moments like that are treasures I think... enjoying the moments with those that you love...

  Speaking of things to love, I absolutely LOVE the bum warmers in my little VW... oh so toasty this time of year.  I have had some difficulty adjusting to driving the standard, but the bum warmers are definitely winning me over... how thankful am I.  The other day it was a very frosty morning and we went out to warm our little car and someone had scraped all the frost off for us!  We strongly suspect the "downstairs people" - it was a lovely kind thing to do which brightened our morning.

  So many things to love, to be thankful for... so with the inspiration of the Mitford books (Jan Karon), this is my little list for November.

 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Finding Treasures in the Darkness

   November turned over it's leaf this week and I realized again this has not been one of my favourite months - if I was to color the months, as I am apt to do in my mind, November would certainly be grey.


  I've been grateful so far that the days have been laced with sunshine; trees are still stunning everywhere we look, and I have especially enjoyed studying the patterns on leaves this year.  I picked up a dozen of them yesterday, in Polson Park, still frozen with the frost, and brought them into the art center to preserve their images on clay.  It is a lovely process.


  Perhaps for me it is the descent of darkness that November brings; tonight we turn our clocks back and the long dark evenings begin.  For some winter is delightful; in my case I have never had a love affair with the snow - I positively hate driving in it, and my pigeon toed feet allow for the awkwardest skiing you ever saw, so I gave that up altogether.  In fact, if someone would ask me, my favourite wintertime sport is reading a book by the fire.


  Which is not together unappealing at all, but does nothing for the exercise I am told I need daily!  So there is need to be creative to exercise in winter, to get the fresh air while the light is out.


  I was pondering how to embrace this season, a season which is not my favourite.  I thought about that verse from Isaiah which says: 


"I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name."


  Amazing things are created in the dark.  When I think about the gift of life itself; a unborn baby, cradled in the dark of the mother's womb and growing before it's very being is discovered - what a treasure.  It is a time of waiting, of nurturing, of longing.  


  Life all around us is represented in death.  A leaf dies to nourish the ground that cradles the seeds of tomorrow.  Those seeds need time in the dark before they can break into the light.  


  Even this past year as we have struggled with the darker sides of life, with illness, with loss, I see how these deep experiences bring forth light and life... in time.  As I embrace new seasons and experiences in my life, I also see how God has taught me lessons and prepared me in a way that I could have only learned in the dark.


  So as the seasons turn, as winter comes, as darkness falls, I will settle in, and wait - ever so patiently for spring to come.  But to be present to right now, to embrace this season, as a cozy comforter warms me at night, to see God's cover of comfort and safety that is present for us all, when we find ourselves... in the dark.






  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cancer

   I spent part of the last two days sitting in the Cancer Clinic here at Vernon Jubilee Hospital in Vernon, while my mom received treatment for cancer.  She has chronic lymphatic leukemia and has lived with this disease for the last thirteen years.

 When I was growing up cancer was not a common phenomenon, at least not in my world.  It now affects so many of us, and has become part of the fabric of our lives... and we are not willing participants.  Cancer rocked my world 16 years ago when my husband Andy was diagnosed with advanced melanoma.    We were surprised by the diagnosis and did everything we could to save his life - and in the end he just wanted to go to heaven and be released from the pain.  And that is what happened.

  A couple of years later mom was diagnosed with cancer.  She has responded well to treatment, although there have been some very rough patches.  In 2000, I found a small mole that was new to me and had it diagnosed.  It is a terrifying thing to hear a doctor tell you that you have melanoma when your husband has died from the same disease.  I struggled emotionally with that for a long time.  But it was caught very early and surgery was successful; I never had any further treatment, and am diligent to have my doctor check any moles.  Others in our wider family circle also live with cancer every day; each one with a different story and different challenges.

  I have not found it easy to accept cancer as a part of our lives.  Today as I sat in the cancer clinic I was touched by the variety of ages, and the cheerfulness, yes, the cheerfulness, of patients and staff alike.  The staff are amazing and caring and respectful, and it is a comfortable place to be.  Mom did well today, and we are grateful she continues to respond well to chemotherapy.  It is not an easy thing - chemotherapy... a choice no one wants to make.

  I'm struck by those who choose it; who choose any form of treatment... it is a choice to take a risk, so that they can live well again.  There are countless opinions and cures and ideas; it is not an easy road to find out the right path of treatment.  I remember well the emotional struggle of that decision for Andy; praying for wisdom to make the right decision when everything was on the line.  It takes a lot of courage!  We tried a number of remedies, and finally also chemotherapy.  It was not an easy choice.

  As insidious as this disease is, is does not have to quench the spirit!  Mom is definitely not defined by her cancer!   I have struggled with the language around it which I have used myself - fighting cancer, battling cancer - perhaps it should be changed to "living with cancer"... an unwelcome visitor that one must deal with in the midst of the rest of life.

  I'm proud of my mom for carrying on with her life - she walks every day she can - in spite of how she feels.  She is determined.  She does things for others.  She helps my dad with his medical needs.  She continues to create quilting projects.  Life goes on...

  Years ago, when Andy was so sick, we were given the following poem which I have used many times since, but it remains so true...


Cancer is so limited…
      It cannot cripple love,
      It cannot shatter hope,
      It cannot corrode faith
      It cannot destroy peace,
      It cannot kill friendship
            It cannot suppress memories,
       It cannot silence courage,
      It cannot invade the soul,
      It cannot steal eternal life,
      It cannot conquer the spirit.