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Welcome to my blog! Of course if we were visiting in person, I'd have the teapot out and we could sit and chat.
I'm honored you stopped by to listen to my thoughts and ponderings - and if you have a minute sometime, let me know you dropped by!

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I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Endings and Beginnings

  It is the last day of August, for many the last day of the summer.

  For many it is a time of new beginnings, back to school, a new cycle of commitments, groups, even new resolutions.  But for today, we hang on to summer, enjoy the sunshine, and savor the warmth.

  For me, September has always marked by big beginnings and endings.  I became a mom on a September afternoon, and remember vividly that profound emotion of that moment and the mantle of a new role, and more so an awesome responsibility.  Life changes in that moment.  Two of my children were born in September; and my memories of September are marked with birthday parties, fall fairs, canning up a storm, and the hustle of getting my children ready for school.

   In 1995 September took on a new sadness as my husband of 19 years was ushered into heaven after a short battle with cancer.  And so September is also a reminder of those days of caring for him, of our end-of-life conversations, of saying good-bye.  I was blessed to have those moments; not all do.  I ache for my friend Fiona, who will also bury her husband on a September day this year, and we mourn for Derek's passing, and think of all the rich gifts he gave to his family and all who knew him.  He lived life well.

  My pondering has been on death and life, and remembering, as it often is this time of year.  I was drawn to the words of Henri Nouwen as I read his thoughts this week:
"Choose life."  That's God's call for us, and there is not a moment in which we do not have to make that choice.  Life and death are always before us.  In our imaginations, our thoughts, our words, our gestures, our actions ... even in our nonactions.  This choice for life starts in a deep interior place. 
  Death and Life are all around us - I see it in my garden as the leaves die and crumble, while the gifts of rich produce are there - full of life.

  I choose life while acknowledging death.  To choose to live in celebration of what is - this day has been given to us - a special gift to live - and to live well.  To cherish the people that enrich my life with their presence, my friends, and my family, and even the stranger that smiles at me as we pass by.

Each new day can be a new beginning.  So as I say good-bye to August, to summer, I choose to embrace September, and all the good things to come.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

hospital visits

   Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting the open house of the new tower of Vernon Jubilee Hospital.  Clean, bright, ultra modern are words that come to mind.

   It didn't yet have the smell of the sick, of disinfectant, of life at it's most urgent moments of pain and despair.  The waiting rooms sat empty, expectantly, with rows of clean new chairs waiting for a host of people to come, each with their own stories, their own fears and hopes, their own pain.

  It was almost too close to home; I had to breathe deeply a couple of times, as I walked through the new ER (making me think of the present ER where I have made a number of visits in the past months, where my mother spent six whole days in early spring, where we took dad when he was so sick).  And again the memories came as I viewed the new ICU, the Coronary Care Unit, and even though it was all new, the memories of my stay in such a unit are all too fresh.

  It was much more fun to view the new Labour Rooms, and think of my own Leanne... who just had a baby in May, and stayed in a rather crowded room in the present hospital.    The new rooms are private and spacious, and if you happen to be having a baby, you stay there right through labour and delivery and your hospital stay... complete with a fold out bed for dad or a support person.

  Of course there has been lots of controversy over the new tower and the lack of new acute care beds, and we our family, have been asked by health care providers to speak out.  Some thought that if there hadn't been such overcrowding, dad would have never had C difficile, and nearly died.  Certainly mom wouldn't have had to stay in ER for 6 days, while she battled her infection in a tiny dark corner of the hospital.

   I tend to be conflicted over some of these protests.  I see how hard the nurses worked, and we definitely saw overcrowding.  It seemed that if there were more beds in the community for long-term care patients, there would be more room in the hospital for acute care.  It is complicated, as most big decisions are, involving money and policies, and people's lives.

  Instead, what I am intensely grateful for is the fact we have health care at all, that I can go to the emergency room and receive reassurance when I have chest pain.  My doctors visits are not limited by the size of my pocketbook.  That we as a family are not struggling with massive health care bills after stays at the intensive care, and all of mom's cancer treatment,  is an amazing gift, and makes me thankful for Canada's health care, imperfect though it may be.

  And I am excited to start participating in hospital visits of another sort - on Tuesdays I will begin a ten week program, once a week, to be a student-chaplain.  It is a privilege which thrills me, and yes terrifies me as well.  I certainly don't have any wise answers, but if I can sit with someone and listen, as others have listened to me, it will be time well spent.

 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Gift of Friendships

  There were six of us the other day, meeting for lunch to celebrate our friend's birthday.

   Not everyone knew each other, but I was amazed at the repoire of the group - and recognized that most of us - perhaps all of us had and have been going through pretty deep things.  Some of us with health issues, others whose husbands were ill or recovering from operations, one of us recovering from major surgery.

  As we laughed together and shared stories, there seemed to be a deep understanding of what was really important - not having a dust-free house, or having it all together, but being there for each other, in the good times and the bad.  We laughed like crazy at the funny stories, and cried at the pain, and at the joy of good news... it really was an amazing time.

  I feel blessed to have friends.  Just this past week I was having a particularly challenging day and phoned up a friend.  We talked for a while, and my spirits were incredibly lifted.  What a gift.  I enjoy doing pottery with another friend... we chat and laugh as we create and admire.  It is lovely.

  This last year I had the privilege of forming a spiritual friendship circle, as a requirement for my class.  Part of our time together was spent on meditation on a passage of scripture, and part of it sharing our spiritual journeys and praying for each other.  I am forever grateful to these ladies for the wisdom and sharing that I received from them.  I also became part of a second group of ladies where we also met with a spiritual purpose.  These gatherings were highlights for me.

  The value of friendship is like the credit card commercials - absolutely priceless.  I often have thought of my friends like a garden of beautiful flowers.  Some are annuals - friends for a season, blessings at certain times of my life.  Others are perennials - they are friends over long periods of time, and even when we don't see each other for a while, it is easy to pick up where we left off.  Together, they all make a beautiful tapestry, they color my life with their love, their joy, and their humanity.  Together we are not alone, but share in this gift called life.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fighting cancer, one bite, one step, one prayer at a time.

My hubby Steve's brother Larry and his wife Sue are just back from three weeks near Seattle, Wa. where they went to learn about health and nutrition from a doctor who has had a lot of success helping people overcome cancer with nutrition.  Larry has been fighting cancer for some time now, and was looking for nutritional answers to battling this insidious disease.

It is good to see them back in Vernon, filled with hope, and a positive direction to follow.  I am impressed with their dedication and perseverance to tackle a diet that is not that easy, and to embrace a new lifestyle.

In our conversations over the last couple of days, we are learning again the importance of what we put into our systems, the importance of good healthy food, that is not laced with pesticides; it is inspiring and makes me think again about how we eat and live.

Larry actually walked over 10 miles recently at one time; amazing!  It is good to see him robust and full of new energy.  My own heart specialist told me that the key to recovery is two things:  walking and prayer.  I have been walking almost daily, but am newly inspired by the energy and determination I see in Larry and Sue, and it was fun to go walking with them today.

My pondering lately has led me to think about what living well really means... my faith lived out as I pray, as I trust, as I commune with God, which can be sometimes in silence during a walk, or pondering the mysteries of life as I sit on my deck.  It is a "whole health" approach;  taking care of my body, in what I eat and how I exercise, and in taking care of my mental health, what I think on; and also spiritual, as I learn to trust God when I do NOT know all the answers.

The other day, I thought; it is so easy to be negative; to dwell on what is wished for and often unattainable, instead of being thankful for what IS!  Not that I cannot hope for things, or have goals and dreams. There is a balance, there, I think.   So I made a mental list of all the things I HAVE to be thankful for, and the list is plentiful.  Just the gift of TODAY is a blessing, in the light of those who are saying painful good-byes to loved ones this weekend; young lives cut tragically short. (see previous blog)

To be able to breathe, to be able to walk, to have the abundance of food available to us so we can make healthy choices, to have family who love us and to love them back, to have freedom, to be able to communicate with a Creator who loves me... the list has just begun...

So we cheer Larry on, as he pursues his own path of health, and life, and know we are all connected as we seek to live well, and to trust fully in a God who cares.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mourn with those who mourn

  I was saddened on Tuesday night, when listening to the news, that a young man had died in a boating accident in Osoyoos.   My heart always is saddened when I hear of these tragedies, knowing first-hand the deep grief and long journey that comes with the death of a loved one.

  When a person is young, with life full ahead of them, the pain speaks loudly.  What I didn't know at the time was that this young man, whose name was Marco, was a friend of my niece's, the boyfriend of one of her best friends, an upcoming musician, and had played bass guitar for a recent concert of my sister Cathy's, at the Mission Music Festival.

  And as my sister Cath and her daughters surround this family with their love and support, I am with them in spirit, sad for a family I don't know, for somehow I feel deeply their loss and pain.

  At the same time I found out a young woman, also only 17 died in Cranbrook this week, the daughter of a distant cousin.  There too a family, a community, is in mourning over the death of a young person.  Lives are changed forever.

  It is scarcely over a year since my own nephew Chris died suddenly at age 17, rocking our family to the core.  We think often of him.  Just this week, my husband and I were hunting for a van, and I started talking to the owner of a van we were interested in.  "My son's all about lacrosse", the van owner told me proudly, "and was in the BC Provincials this year. He's hoping to go to Simon Fraser University on a scholarship", she continued.  Their new car was bought specifically for travel for lacrosse - specially measured to fit this fourteen-year old's stick!  I was a bit stunned at the conversation, for Chris was a top lacrosse player, who had been a top player for his team, with trophies galore and a bright future ahead.  Those dreams died with him, and a scholarship in his memory has been set up at SFU for upcoming lacrosse players.

I wished this lady and her son well, with their own dreams.  I wanted to tell her to cherish every moment.   And as I have a heavy heart this week, I also cherish every memory, thankful for every moment we share as families, every memory we create.  Life is fleeting, but precious.

My sister's blog, a tribute to Marco; she will sing at his memorial his coming Sunday: http://kateaj.blogspot.com/2011/08/and-we-will-continue-singing.html
And my brother Randy's blog, a tribute to Chris: http://rpfreeze.wordpress.com/category/be-the-best/

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Everyday Theology

  I don't know if everyone thinks like me (likely not!), but there are certain words that conjure up images, colors, even smells.  Theology has always been one of those big words for me, something I really didn't understand, and the images were of a whitish gray color, the smell of chalk dust in the air, the feeling of dry dusty bones.

  So here I find myself in the midst of studying theology, well at least going to a school that has Theology in it's name (Carey Theological College), and getting my mind around what does that really mean?  The Spiritual Formation Diploma Course I have been taking has been life-changing and thought-provoking.

  Of course in it's simplest form, according to Wikipedia, Theology is about the meaning of God.  Which is as vast a subject as there ever was, it is like the pot trying to define the potter.  In my quest to understand God more, and to know my life's meaning in that context, I find that the more I search, the bigger and mysterious He becomes.

  I am humbled by the vast knowledge out there, and often overwhelmed by the strength of very diversified opinions.  The mysterious God who loves me, speaks to Job and says:

"Do you control the stars or set in place the Big Dipper and the little Dipper?
Do you know the laws that govern the heavens
And can you make them rule the earth?
Can you order the clouds to send a downpour
Or will lightening flash at your command?"

The fact is that I do not know, and am in awe of the Creator God who speaks of deep love and devotion for His creation.

So how should we then live?  This week I was reading about Dorothy Day, an activist who sought change by helping the poor.  It was said about her "She wanted Christianity whole and entire; its devotions, its depth of prayer and spirituality, its love of humanity, its celebration of creative and created things." (pg. 211, Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin).

It wasn't about going to church (although I would not disregard that), or even evangelism, but of matters of the heart; of seeking God, of loving humanity, of celebrating Creation.  A heart after God, loving Him, loving others, perhaps that is everyday theology.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ode to the Zucchini (recipes included!)

  Zucchinis have had a bad rap in the past, but they get big marks for bring a smile to my face, even when it is at my expense.  You know, you've heard the joke about why the church people lock their doors on a Sunday morning in August.... to keep the zucchini's out, of course.
 
  It is a very bad joke, and I have always enjoyed this rather prolific vegetable, even though it has a bad reputation at times.  And on a light-hearted note, I must include two rather funny stories about this vegetable.  The first is one I can't forget, because my children seem to bring it up at every opportune moment.  When they were young, and I was trying to stretch the budget, I did a lot of canning and gardening and my friend Tracy with whom we shared a lot of domestic adventures found this wonderful recipe - "Mock Pineapple!"... it was the perfect recipe to use up that big zucchini that had somehow got away on you in the garden, and made a great substitute for pineapple - one of my children's favorite!

I didn't think the recipe turned out all that bad, a fine specimen of canning after chopping the vegie to look just like pineapple chunks, and soaking in pineapple juice.  But my children were on to me, and highly questioned the pineapple look-alike on their pizzas.  To this day they bring it up; how could I deprive them of the real thing and try to sneak zucchini on their palate?  So the "mock pineapple" became "mock mamma", although I've learned to smile about it and let it go....  and guess what?  I found the recipe.  Just scroll down.....

Our other zucchini story involves Laura who house-sat for us a few years ago.  Being a Davison of Davison Orchards, we knew our garden was in very good hands!  But to my dismay, when I got home, I discovered one of my zucchini plants had died.  I'm sure it wasn't Laura's fault, but she couldn't quite understand my dismay either, really who would be sad over the death of a zucchini plant?

To her credit, she tried to make it up to me, and one day the following week I came home from work to find a MOUNTAIN of zucchini in front of my door - in fact so many I couldn't get in!  I laughed... and I laughed.  It was a great surprise on me, and one I thoroughly enjoyed.  We definitely enjoyed zucchini that week, and I enjoyed sharing it around as well... thanks to Laura!

So zucchini's make me smile, which makes their worth even higher in my books... and here are the recipes:

I tried a new recipe this week for the bread machine:
Cinnamon Raisin Zucchini Bread
7/8 cup warm water
1 T. honey
1 1/2 T. oil
1 cup zucchini, shredded
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup spelt flour (can substitute unbleached)
1 1/2 cup unbleached flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. dry yeast
1/2 cup raisins

Add all ingredients to bread pan, adding raisins after first mixing.
Use the whole grain setting.

And.... here is the Mock Pineapple Recipe!
48 oz. Pineapple Juice
1 gallon cubed zucchini
3 tsp. pineapple extract
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 cups sugar
Bring to boil for 3 minutes - Process in jars for 10 minutes.



Sunday, August 14, 2011

Heart Thoughts

There is a language of the heart.

The language of the heart is heard everywhere - I heard it this morning in a hymn, and read it this afternoon in a book.  The heart is central to our emotional well-being, and reflected in what we say, in our language, songs and poetry.  "The heart of the matter", "from the heart", "deep in my heart", "a broken heart", all just a few examples of everyday language that express our innermost thoughts and emotions.

I recently read about someone who was "emotionally rich", and found it most intriguing; indeed I identified with it quite strongly.  I have sometimes longed to be less emotional and more staid, but I am wired differently.  I was reading "Uncle Tom's Cabin" today, and one of the little heroines, Eva makes a remark where she says "...these things sink into my heart".  How true, I thought.  To think and feel deeply, this can be wonderful and difficult at the same time.

As I learn to take care of my heart, following it's "attack",  I am struck with how the emotions of the heart also can affect the very physical heart.  I am sure there are many who would identify with our "heart sinking", at some piece of bad news and there is a physical reality to that.  Or a glad heart that even "jumps for joy" when there is a celebration or some good news.  A broken heart is a physical reality; it can be felt.

Perhaps the good that comes out of having a heart attack early in life is to encourage others in prevention.  I am very aware of what I need to do to take care of myself: to walk and exercise, and eat well, avoiding high fats and salty foods.  The bigger challenge, or course is how to manage stress, because stress will always be there.  How we emotionally process life affects our heart, and our health.

How does one tend to the heart?  Attentiveness is a good thing, I think, and I often practice breathing, slowly, deeply.  It is a wonder just to be alive.  To practice gratefulness.  A grateful heart that is thankful for many blessings.  A cheerful heart, the proverb says, is like a good medicine.  To laugh is a good thing.

Proverbs 23:15 says "if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad indeed". Another proverb says, "to fear God, is the beginning of wisdom."  I love where King David with all his glory and accomplishments, and disappointments and human failures, is known for his heart after God.  
All this heart pondering... part of the journey.



Friday, August 12, 2011

HOPE

Sometimes hope means:

  • hanging on, not giving up
  • optimistic thoughts in the face of pessimism
  • praying for mercy
  • entering a quiet place of trust
My prayer for today.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Perfect in Weakness

Do I really want to write about weakness?  Not so much.  But it is part of my journey of faith, and it is good to acknowledge it.  The apostle Paul wrote:


"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."


We live in a society that wants to be seen as strong.  Well, I certainly do, to be liked for my courage, for my strength, for my accomplishments, even for my amazing personality!  (just kidding).


This last year it seems the life lessons have centered in on the not so lovely, on the weakness.
I was confronted with that again yesterday as I experienced pain and discomfort and the anxiety of the decision to ask for help, to go for help, to admit things were not so great.  I have fought hard to be well, and it is like a goal, and to admit I am not there, is tantamount to failure.


But is it really?  I was confronted by this in a reading recently:
It was a meditation sent by Rob Descotes quoting Ruth Burrows, who writes:


I want to show people that what really matters is utter trust in God; that this trust cannot be there until we have lost all self-trust and are rooted in poverty; that we must be willing to go to God with empty hands.  The whole meaning of our existence and the one consuming desire of the heart of God is that we should trust God enough to let ourselves be loved.
I long to convince them that, here and now, in their present ‘unsatisfactory’ state, in their so-called ‘failure’, God desires to give himself to them; that this state of poverty is precisely what he wants and that it represents his way into them. He has laboured with love for a long time to open up this way for them.  Will they now block it?  If they do, they are turning from the straight path of poverty, and choosing instead the winding road of spiritual riches. 
To grasp the wonderful meaning that God loves us in our poverty, in our failure, in our weakness, is a gift.  It is not one easily learned, and I'm suspecting it might take a life-time.  To utterly depend upon the Creator who made us, who loves us just as we are, sometimes takes a leap of faith, radical trust.


It is part of the journey.  To slow down and be truly thankful for each day, for each moment, part of the on-going lesson.  


I am grateful - for help received, for wise friends, for the health I have, for a God who loves me as I am.
 







Sunday, August 7, 2011

Family Photographers - an afternoon at Beacon Hill Park

We just spent a couple of days in Victoria - it isn't often things line up so well, but son Steve was on a course to Royal Roads University and completing two weeks there, and daughter Karen moved to Victoria this past week.

Family times are precious, with son Steve living in the deep south (South Carolina) and I enjoy every opportunity to see him.  It was unique that at the same time Karen is beginning a new chapter in her life, and going back to school.  She has long had a dream to live in Victoria, and study at the University of Victoria, and now it has happened!

It was a quick trip, one afternoon spent all together, but quite delightful.

Brother and sister have always had a bit of competition, especially when it comes to photography.  They come by it honestly, their dad loving photography as well.  So they armed themselves with their cameras, shared lenses, and made fun of their mama and her little point and shoot camera... but I did some capturing of my own!  Good memories... and an afternoon I will remember with pleasure.

Here is some of MY photos!




Monday, August 1, 2011

Letting Go, with the promise of the rainbow.

I was sent a devotional recently which talked about the Israelites fleeing Egypt, and coming against the great road-block of the Red Sea.

I identified with those people, who wondered in terror, what they had gotten themselves into, as they saw the great obstacle before them and heard the cries of their blood-thirsty enemies, and saw the clouds of dust as they approached - and there seemed no where to go... at that point, their old life looked pretty good, and they doubted the wisdom of their journey, crying out against Moses, maybe even God who had brought them there!

I've felt like that in past months, yearning for "the old" life - the life where we both had steady jobs, my health was better, oh, it is easy to remember all the sweetness and beauty of it, but I know down deep it was not perfect, and God had other plans...

And as he miraculously opened up the sea for His people, He also in His Way, His time, which is so mysterious, will open up to me, to us, what is the plan.  Oh to completely trust, and to let go, and to move forward, without looking back.

I think about grief, and there can be grieving over many things... we have grieved deeply over my nephews death, just last year.  In our family alone, there has been job losses, marriage breakdowns, cancer, all life-changing, and life-challenging.  As we look back and remember, we tuck into our hearts the good memories that no one can ever take away.

Can I face tomorrow without fear?  I think sometimes it is easy to feel shell-shocked, to set myself up for "what next",and  the defenses become fragile.  I've been told, post-heart-attack, that depression is not uncommon, I need to sort out what has happened, and find the courage to find myself again, to dust myself off, to learn to live well, and to accept that all of this wasn't my fault.

With all of this, good-byes are not easy - this week we wish our Karen well, as she starts a new life as a university student in Victoria.  I do much better with "see you later", "talk to you soon"... I am fragile in the face of good-byes, of any change, of any perceived loss.  And yet, one needs to celebrate life, new beginnings, to forge ahead and find the promise of bright tomorrows.

I will never forget the day I moved to Vernon, in the spring of 1996, and it seemed a million voices all had a word of advice for me, a grieving widow, and what I really wanted to figure out was where did GOD want me anyway?  As I left Boston Bar, feeling deep physical AND emotional pain, we saw a rainbow - a double rainbow.  It seemed to sit in the canyon, just waiting for me, and I knew at that point, that God was there.  He was guiding me into my own unknown, where only He knew what was before me... there was safety in that!


The other day, the first day of my hubby's new business, born after fruitless job searches this past year, it poured rain, and we looked out the window, and there was the most enormous double rainbow, it seemed right over our house.  I basked in it's presence, and felt again, as I let go of yesterdays, that God's promises are still true in all our tomorrows.