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.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Kissin' it better

  The other day, my hubby took our little grandson for a wagon ride.  On the way back his little finger got caught in the wagon wheel, causing an owie, and lots of tears.  Grandpa kissed it better, and it was ok for a few minutes... then the pain hit, and tears afresh.  When they got home, Grandma kissed it better, poor little guy, and there was a great production, while mommy washed it, and we cleaned it, and wrapped it in a cute monkey bandage.  All was well again in our world.

  I'm always amazed at my own emotions when my children... or now my grandchildren get hurt, or hurt for any reason... perhaps it is that motherly instinct to protect and comfort and to make it better!  I think it is also part of my own personality - which is a nurturing sort, I tend to want to "fix" things, to care for people.  Sometimes that is good, and sometimes it gets me into trouble; I just have to let it go!

  I was thinking about this today - there are some heartaches that no one can fix.  Someone's grandchild died this week - I can't even imagine the pain.  My own family continue to mourn and remember our Chris, who would be entering university this fall, and we mourn his death, and the death of all his dreams and aspirations.  I cannot even begin to understand the deep pain of losing a child.

  I have a book by James Dobson called "Safe in the Arms of God".. and sometimes I think, what does that really mean?  Sometimes when I am stressed, or worried, I actually picture myself in His arms, just resting, trusting.  It is a lovely picture, like that of a sleepy lamb completely resting in the shepherd's embrace.

  The fact of the matter is that we live in a broken world.  It is a stark reality, in the midst of ideology, and idealistic thinking.  We desperately want everything to be OK.  Sometimes it is, and sometimes it simply is not.   I think what I'm continuing to learn that in the midst of it all, there is a God who is present to us and cares and sees our pain;  and some day all will be redeemed.

  Perhaps that is why the African slaves sang long and loud about their future hope, their Beulah Land, in the worst that life could be.  Their hope inspires me; perhaps it is hope that is the bandage of life, that kiss from Someone who loves us, so that we can truly say, it is better.

 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Things to Love

One of my favourite book series is the Mitford Series by Jan Karon.  I fell in love with the characters Father Tim and his darling wife Cynthia who are as real and genuine as you can get.  Cynthia knows exactly what she loves... and doesn't love.

  Like this passage from "Those High Green Hills", where Timothy tells Cynthia he is taking her for a little recreation.  She replies "I love recreation!  What are we going to do?"  He answers, "It will be a surprise".
"Good" she says "I love surprises!"
"Cynthia, Cynthia.  What don't you love?"
"Exhaust fumes, movies made for TV and cakes baked from mix".

  Cynthia inspires me, she loves life with a zest, and isn't afraid to say it as it really is.  Or perhaps is it Jan Karen who inspires?  In any case, books well worth reading.

  What do I love?  I was thinking about that today as I walked to the Art Center where I spend time with potters and artists and play with clay.  It was so stunningly beautiful today, it didn't take long to come up with a list... in fact, I thought I should do this regularly, great to have lists of lovely things.

  Of course, love here should be loosely translated, "things that bring me great pleasure"!

  So today's list might look something like this:


  • I love sunny warm days in September!
  • I love going for long walks, when the air is clean, and the sky is blue.
  • I love days where I see my grandsons - like today I saw two of them... nothing like the joy of being grinned at by a four-month old, or sticking stickers with a 2 year old, or counting apples together.
  • I love the sunny brightness of the single orange pumpkin sitting in my garden, and the beans that grew up the trellis to my balcony so I could pick them for supper.
  • I love the moment when freshly-fired pottery is done, and I actually like it!  You never know until that moment...
  • I love conversations with good friends about things that matter.


What I don't love?  Cobwebs in my windows, sirens that break the peaceful sounds of the neighborhood,  (although it is an opportunity for prayer - Lord, help whoever is in crisis), fruit-flies in my compost.

"...whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."  Philippians 4:8b





PS.  The first book in the Mitford series is "At Home in Mitford"; I have the complete series if someone would like a good read!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Autumn

  I finally put up my autumn wreath yesterday.

  Yes, I'm well aware I'm a few days late - but I tend to be a bit of a procrastinator when it comes to autumn, pretending it's arrival is not really here.  That was fairly easy to do last week with all our hot weather.  I know many people love autumn, and I will admit it has it's own incredible beauty, and offers relief from hot summer days....but for me, I think it is about the light.  I miss the light-filled evenings, the long days, and am not fond of the early darkness that falls each day.  It creates a melancholy in me that I cannot easily dismiss.

  I started thinking about the changing of seasons, and how they affect us.  Perhaps it is about growing older, and reflecting on a life lived.  When you hit your fifties and sixties, you start to think about these things!  I feel like I am in the autumn of life, and there is an urgency to spend time well, and to make the most of things.  Like autumn, there is a correlation to harvest; the reaping of what has been sowed in the past.  And as I spend time with harvest, I also reflect on the bounty of all I have; friends, family, strong values, a deep faith.

  That being said, there is something to being "young at heart", and not growing old before your time!  I've observed people that I would not wish to emulate who act very old indeed,  and I would hope that as I age that I have an open mind and heart, a curiosity about life that does not diminish, and a love of life that permeates everything I do.

  Whilst I was in this frame of mind, I came across a book review on a book that I'm hoping to read someday called, "Falling Upward" by Richard Rohr.  He is quoted in the review:

"Much of contemporary religion is geared toward teaching people how to navigate the first half of their lives, when they’re building careers and families. Rohr calls it a “goal-oriented” spirituality.
Yet there’s less help for people dealing with the challenges of aging: the loss of health, the death of friends, and coming to terms with mistakes that cannot be undone, he says.
Rohr’s new book, “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life,” is his attempt to fill that void. It also functions as a spiritual survival guide for hard times as millions of Americans young and old struggle to cope with “falling”: losing their homes, careers and status."
(full review: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/17/priest-offers-spiritual-survival-guide-for-recession/ )

  Although I have not read the book yet, what I heard was that we often are not prepared for the autumns of our life so to speak and just like I avoid the changing of the seasons (really, as if I could), we are very good at avoiding the topic of aging, of death, or what is inevitable.  For me, it is kind of like that TV commercial where the girl spots the first leaf to fall on the sidewalk and utter panic sets in!

  One of my goals this year is to "live well", perhaps that is also walking into a new season with dignity and grace and a sense of reality?  In any case, I'm inspired to dig out my autumn decorations - seems it is that time of year!



 


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sanctuary

  We enjoyed a little outing last Sunday afternoon to Bishop Wild Bird Sanctuary, a place we had never gone before.  It is nestled beside Kalamalka Lake, a lovely homestead and acreage, preserved by those who had lived there before -  a place of sanctuary for birds.  (www.bishopwildbirdsanctuary.org)

  It has also become a place for those who cherish and want to preserve the environment, and there are many varieties of trees and plants, many local to our area which are lovingly planted, tended to and being identified so that someone like me, who has no clue what most of them are, can learn!  There are lovely trails, incredible views of the lake, a butterfly garden, and just peaceful places to sit, walk, and meditate.

  I did find it amusing that we saw almost no birds.  Some of our friends had enthusiastically brought binoculars (we were not quick enough to think of that important accessory!), but the only birds we did see were two very majestic eagles that had nested near by - amazing.  I did hear another bird, and spotted a feather that one had left behind, but that was about it!

  I'd love to go there again, just to wander, to look, to listen.  And it got me thinking about the meaning of the word sanctuary.  Do the birds know that this little place of nature is lovingly carved out for them?  Certainly there was evidence of that from little bird houses and vegetation lovingly tended.

  And it made me think - where is my sanctuary?  Interestingly enough the dictionary defines it as a "Sacred Space"... some might automatically associate that with the church or a place of worship, and indeed this could be true.  But I've been stretching my mind around this concept, and asking myself ... where is my sanctuary, my sacred space?  Increasingly it is in the quiet places, in the recesses of my heart, where I sit, and ponder, and reflect on my Creator, on God who loves me, on God who is so amazingly creative in all He has made.  It becomes a holy ground, as I allow myself to just sit there with Him.

  I'm not very good at this, but I'm seeing it as increasingly foundational to my faith, and to my well-being.  Some might call it listening to God, others just spending quiet time.  In our fast-paced world with commitments and places to go, and people to see, and phone calls and internet and tv and i-phones - (yes, I love my Blackberry), it is so hard to just sit still, and be quiet.

   It's a good word to ponder on... and with that, perhaps I'll just leave this computer alone for a bit... and find sanctuary.

Eagles above, a feather in an old stump, below

 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Yellow Rose from my Garden


  I took this picture yesterday - a lovely solo yellow rose blooming in my garden.  It was appropriate for this week, since it is a week of remembering, and yellow roses are a symbol of my late first husband who died September 23, 1995, 16 years ago tomorrow.

  For us, the symbol of the yellow rose goes back a long ways to my first bridal bouquet on a rainy Wednesday in December, (1976) and yellow roses were the choice of flowers for me; in fact they were a flower that Andy had bought for me on occasion - he preferred them to the red or pink.  So yellow it was!

  Every year on our anniversary he would go out and buy yellow roses - one for each year of our marriage.  It was one of the most romantic things he did!  After we got past a dozen, I started worrying about the cost, a dozen plus yellow roses three days before Christmas with all the other expenses of children and living and Christmas thrown in... I was sorry later I ever mentioned it, because it was a lovely thing, and I really treasured the roses each year.  I think he only missed a year or two...

  When we were planning his memorial service, we decided to celebrate with those yellow roses, and bought one for each year of his life - 41 beautiful yellow roses.  At the service it was announced that all who had worked closely with Andy - either paramedics or RCMP, could help themselves to a rose before they left.  I was quite moved when later I found most of those roses strewn on his fresh grave, a silent memorial to a friend and colleague.

  A few years ago when I wrote my little book "A Journey of Hope", we decided to create a publishing label: Yellow Rose Publishing, in memory of Andy.

  And so the story goes.  I think symbols are important - they help us to remember, and they link us to the past.  They provide beauty and a tangible symbol for the present.  I'd like to think that God, a God of comfort and love also provides for us - a single yellow rose blooming this week, for this day of remembrance; a comfort for my children, and for me.

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Broken Angel

  There is a repaired angel sitting on my desk; recovering from a nasty fall, where she broke in a number of places.  My dear hubby was the cause of this unfortunate accident, and felt so bad, because he knows what this little figurine means to me - she is the symbol of "Courage" which I wrote about some blogs ago.  But tumble she did, and Steve suggested I write about it, thought it was fodder for my imagination.

  To further inspire me, he left the quote sung by Dolly Parton: "She's a sparrow when she's broken, but she's an eagle when she flies".  Good words... and it got me to thinking.  Sometimes my thinking can get out of hand, as when I can't sleep at three in the morning, and my mind just goes...

   But the truth of it is, there is something to brokenness.  It seems that those who have been through deep struggles, and have been broken, so to speak, can learn deep lessons that would not be learned if life was an easy road.

  I was reminded of the copied status on Facebook that is making the rounds - the one about those with chronic illness, depression, pain, the unseen illnesses; that we need to  recognize that just because a person looks fine, it is not necessarily so.

  I also thought of those who are near and dear to me - like my mom, who has borne the illness of Chronic Lymphatic Leukemia for over ten years, and how she holds her head up high, and dresses like a queen, and bears her infirmities with dignity.  Her brokenness is known to us close to her, but she is not one to feel sorry for herself, hardly so... in fact this past week she was caring for a friend a few years older than her, her own pain set aside.

  My friend Dene is like that too... I love it how she shows up to church, decked to the nines, this week with the most amazing jaunty red hat, looking stunning as usual, in spite of her breathing difficulties.  How often has she reached out to me and helped me with her amazing medical knowledge, or been willing to do research for me on a drug or condition I didn't understand.  Even more so, I value her prayers, and know she prays for me, and many, many others, putting her own cares aside.

   And there are others... many others... like my friend Karen, who bears her illness with grace, and continues to serve her family, and her church family with cheerfulness and a terrific sense of humor.  Karen, you inspire me!  For Dot, who organizes birthday luncheons for friends, just weeks after brain surgery.  Amazing!

  So my little broken angel, named "Courage" - she is now glued together, thanks to my hubby, and continues to inspire - and remind me of those around me that show grace and courage in the midst of great adversity.  They are truly an inspiration.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Abundance

  Abundance and September seem to go together.  We have a land overflowing with fruit, vegetables, with plenty.  I love going to Davisons Orchard or Swan Lake Nursery and see the overflowing bins with squash, corn, pumpkin, peppers, tomatoes, apples.  We are so incredibly blessed.

  Coming from Mennonite stalk, there is an inner urge in me to do something with it all, and my mind is often busy this time of year with thoughts of canning, preserving and preparing foods.  In the last couple of weeks I've made salsa, zucchini relish (resisted the urge for mock-pineapple this year - but if you have the need, check out the blog "Ode to the Zucchini"), made several kinds of jam, and experimented with canning with less or no sugar at all.  I pulled out the dehydrator yesterday, and am reliving memories of making fruit leather for my children by making some for my grandsons.

  In a new inspiration to eat healthier than ever, I'm looking for creative vegetarian meals, or at least meals with less meat.  I tried eggplant for the first time in a vegetarian lasagna last week, and have figured out a way to cook spaghetti squash that I find quite yummy.  I've been roasting tomatoes in my oven with home-grown basil and the smells this creates are quite lovely!

  It all leads to a sense of thankfulness for all the choices, and our accessibility to so much wonderful food, most of it grown locally and available to us at a reasonable price.

  I could not help think of our brothers and sisters in Africa, in the depths of drought and famine and think of the contrast.  Life simply does not seem fair at times, and if only we could share just some of our plenty with those who do not have.  I read recently that we, consumers in North America use far more resources than those in third-world countries; something like 20% of us using 80% of all the world's resources.

  I am challenged to make a difference, but how?  I know I am becoming more aware and paying attention.  I am trying to waste less and share more.  I am impressed with the Gleaners program -  http://novgleaners.org/ - in our area which picks up excess fruit and vegetables and dries it to send overseas where needed.

  I'm actually looking out my office window to a lovely tomato plant sitting there, cherry tomatoes like jewels waiting to be picked.  My little grandson loves them... calls them "matos", one of his favorite foods.

  Again, I am in awe of the Creator as I simply enjoy the beauty of all this wonderful food, the shapes, and brilliant colors, and the never-ending varieties.  To savor it all will take a lifetime.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Thoughts on Grace

   The other day I happened to read a quote that argued against the concept of grace, calling it antiquated - even suggesting there was no such thing.

  I was quite surprised really, because grace defines my life.  Not only am I delighted to carry such a name (which is exceedingly difficult to live up to, by the way), but the amazement of grace has captured so many, such as Newton who penned those famous words in "Amazing Grace" which we all know and recognize so well.

  When I was first dating my husband Steve, he happened to come across the book by Phillip Yancey, called "What's so Amazing about Grace", a title that captured Steve, because of his new awareness of a "grace" in his life.  So he bought it, more for the title, but quite honestly, it was a book that deeply impacted both of our lives.  It is a book I would highly recommend, because it made me think, and examine my own life and how I viewed grace.

  Not only does Yancey address the amazing grace of God, but it spoke to me deeply about how I in turn need to show grace to others, whether they are like me, whether I agree with them or not, whether I have been wounded by them, whether I even like them!  To show grace to others is a reflection of Christ, who shows grace to me, and I know that I am undeserving of that gift.  And I in turn, am amazed at the grace shown to me, the generous love of God, and also those who love me as I am, without conditions.

  Unfortunately many Christians (and I include myself in this) have been known more for their judgment of others, and one another, rather than showing grace.  Often we judge each other by our own perceived way of how we think things should be - without fully opening our minds to others.  I have been guilty of this very thing, of thinking MY way of thinking is God's way... and I am realizing more and more as I listen, and learn, that I really have not begun to get it right.

  Who can know the mind of God?  What I do know, is that He is love, and light and wisdom.  And He, the Creator God, reserves the right to judge.  I'm quite happy to leave the judging to Him.  And I hope with all my heart that I can reflect His love, and light, and wisdom.   So when I think about grace, and love, I realize how blessed I am, and hopefully that grace overflows to others; it is a wonderful gift to receive, and to give.

  And not only does grace exist, but it is abundant, according to this scripture I found: And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Cor 9:8    On that note, I think of the lovely hello's that the apostle Paul penned in his letters and pass one of them on to you: "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.: 2 Cor. 1:2.  Lovely, don't you think?


   

 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Two Steves

 
Thirty-three years ago my life changed - and I became a mom!  Steven Andrew entered our life with all the determination and charm that has been part of his great personality.  Of course it feels like yesterday - and like forever ago at the same time.

  He is the one child I wrote a diary for while I was pregnant - a number of letters written to him as a young mom, full of all my dreams and hopes.  I had actually forgot about this diary until years later - and then it became a rather precious document - especially since his dad had also written him a letter.  So it was pretty special to give this gift to him on his 25th birthday.

  I remember choosing his name carefully - Steve after Stephen in the Bible - a man of great character and courage, and Andrew after his dad - a name to live up to for sure!  We had a joke that when he was in a great deal of trouble (we won't count those times!) I would use his very FULL name, borrowing his dad's two middle names as well... but it wouldn't be fair to him to recite that here - I'll leave it to the imagination!

Thirteen years ago this year, the year of my 40th birthday I married for the second time, not quite three years after becoming a widow.  On one of my first dates with Steve - you have to love the name - I was very curious about how old he was - and what would his birthday be?  To my great surprise and amusement, he told me: September 15.  So, two Steve's, one date to celebrate - how good can it get?

I'm grateful for my husband Steve, he is a quiet, gentle man who loves me and my children and is a wonderful partner in life.  Really, he doesn't like attention drawn to him, so I'll leave it at that....

yup, I'm a blessed woman.  Happy Birthday, Steve!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Heart-full of Gratitude

  The irony was not lost on me this morning as my husband drove me to the hospital - this time to visit others.  Six months ago today, he drove me in on an Sunday morning to check out my symptoms, only to discover that I was having a heart attack.

  I must admit, I still find it difficult to believe this happened; in fact the symptoms that morning were not what you would think.  There was very little pain, but a great deal of discomfort, and with that a lot of anxiety.  I had some pain, not severe, under my arms, and going down them, but it was easy for me to explain that away as a hormonal episode, and after all, I had been through a very difficult week!  So when the doctor looked into my eyes and said "You are having a heart attack", I didn't believe him.  But they were firm with me that yes, this was my new reality, and I remember telling myself, "Calm down... you need to be very calm"...

  There are certain times in life that are marked by before and after, and certainly this event for me has been placed in that category.  Not that I want to be defined by it, anymore than I ever wanted to wear the label "widow", or "single-mother".  And yet, life hands us these curves and I knew I had to come to terms with this new reality.

  I could probably write paragraphs of medical history, and emotional upheaval, but as I mark this day, I just want to be filled with gratitude.  I recognize that if it wasn't for dear friends and family, my outcome would be much different.

  From the friend who urged me to go to the hospital that morning, to my loving husband who was my calm rock and was ever- present for me, to my children who loved me, to the many friends who stood behind me, and who have lovingly listened and cared.  I am also incredibly grateful for our medical system; to think we were five minutes from hospital, and so well cared for.  I have always felt affirmed, even going back to ER to get checked out from time to time, that what I feel is valid and that they are there for me.

  Another friend pointed me to the book "Thriving with Heart Disease" by Wayne Sotile http://www.amazon.com/Thriving-Heart-Disease-Program-Healthier/dp/0743243641
which I found amazingly helpful and would recommend to anyone with a heart-related illness.  I also was very grateful to be part of a cardio rehab program, offered here at the hospital, and spent two days a week exercising and learning my limitations.  The care-givers, physiotherapists and others were kind, available, and very helpful in every way.

  I am told my heart is doing well.  I had very little damage, and I work every day through exercise and diet, and yes, learning to think well, to be on the road of recovery.  Sometimes this is a daily thing, to place my trust in God, and let go of what I can't control.

   So, six months later I say thank you again - to the doctors, the nurses, the staff at the hospital.  I say thank-you to my supportive family.  I say thank you to my amazing friends.  My heart is full of gratitude.

ps.  I have not named names, for fear of missing someone.  But if you happen to read this blog, and recognize yourself, know that I am truly thankful!


 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Serenity

  It feels odd to post about this word today; it felt odd to me yesterday when during a walk, the word settled into my mind like a message.  Really, I was disturbed yesterday; it had been a troubling week.  I knew people - my friends -  who were mourning; most newscasts on TV pointing to 9-11, and even more possible terror threats, my heart was aching for little Kienen who was missing, and his family, and all the friends who were searching for this precious little boy. And I thought of all those children who were missing their daddies after the horrific plane crash in Russia; young widows like I myself once was who face a new life full of uncertainties... and I, like so many of us, had a heart full of aches, and full of prayer.

   The night before, we had been watching a documentary on 9/11, and all of a sudden I had enough - I just couldn't watch it anymore.  The sorrow, even all these ten years later, seemed to great, the grief too raw.

  Serenity is an illusive thing, something longed for, like peace.  And as I walked, and thought, and prayed, I knew I had to change my focus.

  Years ago, I wrestled with God about the pain in the world... the fresh grief of being a widow drove questions that were just polite to blazing realities of why; why now, God, why me?  I realize there are some that are more accepting than I was, but I had to ask the questions, and to me it was better to ask than to bury them into some corner of my heart.  I came to the conclusion that I really couldn't blame God, and also came to believe He didn't cause my pain, or cause cancer or any other tragedy.  But somehow He allowed it...

  And even though I didn't always get it, I became increasingly aware of His presence - that the God of creation was with me in my pain and would not let me go.  That lesson has remained with me, and although I still at times ask the questions -  I love that God is approachable, and I can be real with Him - and even though  I don't always get the answers, it comes down to trust... trust in a God who is so much bigger than I.

  So serenity.... perhaps it comes when we are grateful for the moment - this precious moment we now have, and see all the good in it.  It comes when we look up, instead of at the troubles all around us.  (And like Peter, who had faith to walk on the waves, but then stumbled - this is hard to do!).  Perhaps it is reaching out to God when it is dark outside, and say "I trust you, even in this".  It is being aware of Emmanuel, which means God is with us, He has not abandoned us.  It is a journey of learning to trust, of picking myself up when I stumble, of knowing I am not alone.

  And I join with many others in praying today for those who grieve and mourn, in rejoicing in the safe return of a little boy to his mommy's arms, in being thankful for right now, this beautiful moment.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Remembering

  Today is September 9, 2011, just two days before the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

  I hear the words 9/11 and immediately images come to mind - where I was when the news first hit - those first minutes of unbelief and horror - watching on live TV the collapse of the towers - comforting the Japanese students staying with me; one who had just come from a visit in New York, both of them needing to fly home to Japan.

  As days passed, we all realized how the events of that day changed our world; changed our sense of safety, changed our priorities.  Churches were full as people gathered to pray.  Like others, I was awed by the sacrifice of the firefighters and others who walked into that inferno to save lives, touched by stories of survival, wiped tears at stories of good-byes over cell phones, was moved by those who dropped everything to help, like our east-coast neighbors who hosted hundreds of airline passengers who couldn't go home.

  This weekend many of us will pause to remember what happened 10 years ago.  Like a pause, to stop -  and think and ponder - and be grateful.

  Some days of remembrances are more personal.  Tomorrow we will remember a friend, gone home to heaven, suddenly and swiftly, leaving us all shocked and saddened.  I did not know Derek well, but was so glad to have known him.  He is remembered for his kind spirit, his gentle ways.  He cooked a terrific roast beef dinner, and we were blessed by it; we understood he did this for many.  We know he had a heart for missions, for helping people, a big heart for his children and his beloved grandson.  Tomorrow we will celebrate his life and what he meant to us.  We ache for the empty space that is left in his family, for his wife and each of his children.

  I have been thinking a lot about living life well.  Sometimes sadness and grief overshadow the well part.  And yet, as we celebrate a person's life, we can be inspired by them to live our own lives well, to be thankful for each moment we are given.  To keep accounts short, to say "I love you", and "I appreciate you".  Remembering does that for me.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Courage

  I was at Safeway yesterday stocking up on Kleenex tissues, because they were on sale, good for extra air mile points, AND I got 10% off!  Not bad - I love a bargain.

  A number of the boxes had the words Courage emblazoned on them, a tribute to breast cancer patients and survivors.  It brought me back to last year when I saw this little box for the first time.  Sometimes it is good to recall stories, to remind ourselves of where we've been and what we've learned.

 In June of 2010 I went to Bowen Island, on a retreat like setting to begin my college experience, studying spiritual formation.   If I were to be honest, I was excited but terrified; it was a huge step for me to take, but it was an open door, and as doors shut behind me, I felt I needed to move forward and enter the future.  I felt fragile; not only had my job just ended, which I mourned for, but I arrived two mornings after my mother-in-law's funeral, and my hubby was also starting a brand new job that very day.

  My dear friend had encouraged me to go, and it so happened there was a car that belonged to her on Bowen Island that she requested I drive back to Vernon.  For those who know me well, I am not a risk taker, I do not enjoy change; and this was definitely out of my comfort zone.  However, it WAS a ride back... and I said of course I would...

  The week was wonderful and challenging in so many ways, life changing and stretching... and the car also gave me a few challenges!  It had difficulty starting, the tires were low and in question, and in the midst of studying and learning, I found myself looking for solutions to this little car that glared at me from the parking lot, as if to say, you can't do it...

  At the end of the week, with my sister's help, we drove through Vancouver, and I was on my own... my brother-in-law checked tires for me and discovered they were quite low, so my imagination and fear were fairly active as I faced the formidable Coquihalla.  But before I left, I admired a little angel my sister had on the table, and looked at the bottom, and what should it say, but "Courage".  I went on to meet another sister at a restaurant before leaving the Fraser Valley, and wouldn't you know... the restaurant had that very SAME angel figurine on sale.  So I bought it and set it beside me.

  I got as far as Hope, and had the tires checked again - a kind mechanic topped up the pressure, and said they were again quite low.  I took a deep breath, and dropped by the church we used to attend there years ago, and was so happy to see my friend there.  I escaped to the bathroom and what should I see?  This Kleenex box with the words "Courage" emblazoned on it... I had never seen this before, and I was totally amazed... was God trying to tell me something??

  And so I drove the rest of the way home, aware of God's presence, the tires holding me up, and feeling blessed by the gift of courage.  I was so touched by how He cared for me personally, I even painted a picture to remind me... but it is easy to re-enter life and forget.

  The most amazing thing was when I read in my journal later, and realize that just days before on our retreat, I had written "I looked for courage and I found none"... and there it was. all along.  I'm convinced God loves our honesty, and in his gentleness he gave me the gift of courage.  It is a daily thing - there for the taking.  It is good to remember and reflect and claim it once again.



Monday, September 5, 2011

Opinions

  I have this opinion...

  ....that I have a difficult time with strong opinions... especially with those who are sure they are right and try to set you straight as well!

   Usually I try to be very positive, but perhaps it is good to ...ahem... share my own strong opinions?  Kinda goes against the grain.  Perhaps it is because I love peace, and quite dislike arguments.

  But that doesn't shut down what goes on in my head, and hey, this is my blog.. :-)  And I really don't have a vendetta against anyone - I just strongly believe (an opinion perhaps?) that we need to listen to each other, and truly respect each other's journeys.  Not that we can't offer advice (if asked for), or creative suggestions if that is required.  Or share our own stories - this is a good thing!

  Case in point, is medical opinions.  It really starts with the doctors - I have heard from naturopaths that I should not be taking certain meds, and from md's who tell me that I would die without them.  This is along with advice on avoiding stress... to me, their strong opinions CREATE stress!

  The other day I was asking my pharmacist a question and she was doing some research for me.  She said to me, "I truly don't know, but I'll look into it for you."  I thanked her profusely for "not knowing", and being willing to say so.  She was so surprised!  But it meant a lot to me.

  This happens too in the spiritual world.  I think we all have heard strong arguments against this or that; interpretations, and opinions that are often presented as gospel truth.  I love God, I believe in the Bible, but so much of whom God Is is such a mystery to me.  I think this is ok!  One only has to read Job to realize he had to come to that conclusion.  I don't have all the answers; I am a seeker of the truth.  I am a seeker of Wisdom.

  And while I respect those who study and learn and present, it is those who are truly humble and tell me that they too are on a journey, seeking to know and follow their Creator, that impress me the most.

  And yes, that is MY opinion.  Hopefully written in love, because as it says in 1 Corinthians 13:
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.