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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.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Splash of Color, a Splash of Joy

  There is a real joy in holding a paintbrush full of colorful paint and just splashing it on the page, or whatever you are painting.  I've been attracted to brighter and more brilliant colors lately - perhaps that is a reaction to the whites and grays of winter, but it is lovely none the less.


  Nothing like coloring up a grey or black outfit with a splash of red, or pink or even bright yellow.  Of course, lately I've been inspired by my friend Dene, who loved all things red, and I've had fun shopping at thrift stores and consignment shops and adding to my "red" collection.  Being wrapped in red is like a connection with her, a hug from heaven, if you will.  


  I was also reminded of the book by Barbara Johnson, called "Splashes of Joy in the Cesspools of Life".  There is nothing like a good read by Barbara; it is more like a visit with a dear friend as she honestly shares her life, heartaches and joys mingled together like a beautiful tapestry.  Her quotes are priceless, and when I need a bit of encouragement I head to my library and find her books.  She was a lady that overcame unbelievable tragedy, losing two sons before her, and battling with brain cancer the last years of her life.  


  But she always found something positive to say, to share, and encouraged people around the world with her talks at Women of Faith conferences, and in her many books.  Just reading the titles added color to my day today; some of them are "Fresh Elastic for Stretched Out Moms", "Humor Me, I'm Over the Hill" and "Plant a Geranium in Your Cranium: Sprouting Seeds of Joy in the Manure of Life".  


  Her books are easy to find (CBD or Amazon), and if you need a smile or some encouragement, I'd heartily encourage it!  


  I have this mental picture of splashing about joy - perhaps it is like smiling at a stranger, or sharing a hug, or singing a tune.  I can dance while I'm dusting, or send an encouraging e-mail, or phone a lonely friend... 


  Here is one of my favourite quotes by Barbara: "Never let a problem to be solved become more important than the person to be loved.".  Good to think about this Monday in January!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Good neighbors, Good friends

  It snowed this morning; quite a little dump - and I was tempted to put on my Facebook status "how I love to hate the snow"!  But I was stopped in my snowy tracks this afternoon, as I wandered outside to shovel, thinking it was good exercise.  There was cheerfulness in the air, neighbors were out shoveling away, and one of our neighbors had thoughtfully shoveled all our sidewalks and then helped me finish mine!  I noticed he had also shoveled our elderly neighbour's drive, and I was impressed.

  People doing for each other - our own sense of community, the sound of chatting and the scraping of shovels: it was a gift on this winter's day.  I had fun this morning, braving the snow with my friend (well, actually SHE braved it), as we drove to the local arena to go for a walk and then had great fun checking out a consignment shop) - and again was blessed by the value of friendship, and the simple joys of sharing moments together.

  I've been missing my friend Dene (as I know many others are as well), and as I was cleaning out my e-mail in-box the other day I found one of the last posts she sent me.  I don't know the author to the following, so I'll post it as anonymous - if someone knows, I'd love to give the right credit.  But it is a priceless piece sent to me by my friend Dene about the value of friends:


Why do I have a variety of friends who are all so different in character?
How can I get along with them all?             

I think that each one helps to bring out a "different" part of me.
 
With one of them I am polite.
I joke with another friend.
I sit down and talk about serious matters with one.
With another I laugh a lot.
I may have a drink with one.
I listen to one friend's problems.
Then I listen to another one's advice for me.
My friends are all like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
When completed, they form a treasure box.
A treasure of friends!
They are my friends who understand me better than myself,
Who support me through good days and bad days.
We all pray together and for each other. 
Real Age doctors tell us that friends are good for our health.
Dr. Oz calls them Vitamins F (for Friends) and counts the benefits of friends as essential to our well being.   Research shows that people in strong social circles have less risk of depression and terminal strokes.  If you enjoy Vitamins F constantly you can be up to 30 years younger than your real age.  The warmth of friendship stops stress and even in your most intense moments it decreases the chance of a cardiac arrest or stroke by 50%.
  
I'm so happy that I have a stock of Vitamins F!
   
In summary, we should value our friends and keep in touch with them.
We should try to see the funny side of things and laugh together,
and pray for each other in the tough moments.
  
Thank you for being one of my Vitamins!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Surrender

  Not one of my favourite words... surrender.  Although when I once heard someone suggest that I was a control "freak", I was quite offended!  (smile)... And I've come to realize that I like an ordered life, I do like my ducks in a row, not scattered, I am happiest when everyone around me is happy and sometimes I go to great lengths to make that happen... which is not always healthy.

  The last couple of years of learning have taught me, or perhaps I should say life continues to teach me that I am simply not in control.  Part of that is surrender to something, Someone who is much greater than I.  As much as I can try to be healthy, I am not always healthy.  As much as I try to organize my life, something pops up, something breaks down, schedules change, life happens.  Life can be messy, unfinished, and sometimes incredibly sad and out of our control.

  My littlest grandson showed me this week the lesson of surrender.  I was babysitting - and he was tired.  But showing already a will of his own, he did not want to sleep.  I admired his strong effort at staying awake.  We jiggled, and we rocked, and I sang, and I sang some more, and we paced, and then, all of a sudden, he caved. There is nothing more beautiful, I think, then a child sleeping in your arms.  He gave himself to sleep and the peacefulness of it was lovely.  We sat together; I pondering, him sleeping for a very peaceful time.

  And I thought about how true that is to life... how we fight to stay in control, it is almost instinctive.  But to let go, to give it over to God, can be the most peaceful choice we make.  To trust that He knows infinitely more what is better for us, this is radical trust.  It was a good lesson for this week.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Full

  This morning I was thinking about the Chinese New Year which is being celebrated today (Happy New Year!), and happened to read today's reading of "Our Daily Bread" (http://odb.org/), January 23 entry, which talked about the tradition of the New Year and embracing certain words.  This tweaked my interest, especially the word "full" which is one of the "popular" words for the New Year, apparently.

  I've been thinking about that word as it relates to my body, well perhaps more my spirit.  When I practice breathing, I often will picture breathing out the negative, the fearful thoughts, and visually think about breathing in God's peace and love.  It is a good imagery, prayerful in nature, relaxing.  The question is - what am I full of?

  I also thought about the language of the heart... how we say our heart (a vessel) is full - it can be full of fear, or full of gratefulness, or full of love...  what struck me is that in order to fill something, first it needs to be emptied.

  And the good question is... how do I do that?  Today was a full day for me, lots to think about, lots to absorb, and I felt filled with many thoughts... some of them anxious, some of deep concern, I felt full... full of the concerns of this life.

  I've tucked this poem in my journal which I read from time to time.  I re-read it today.  The author is Joyce Rupp (http://www.joycerupp.com)  and the last stanza of this poem reads:
Generous God
I come to you again
holding out my waiting cup
begging that it first be emptied 
of all that blocks the way
then asking for its filling
with love that tastes like you.

  Perhaps it is God himself who we can trust with the emptying... as we relinquish fear and doubt, as we let go, as we surrender.  Not always easy.  But it is a necessary, to allow the filling of peace, of love.  Thoughts I had for today...
 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Oh the good old hockey game... or not.

  I'm wondering if I should don a helmet before I write this, perhaps I'll be safe behind my monitor but I have dear family many of whom are die-hard hockey fans!

  I write this in jest, but hockey has been part of my life, oh, since 1998 when I met my hubby Steve.  Our family were not heavily into the sport before then, except perhaps for my bro Randy and his boys... but that has definitely changed.  I was concerned at first though, hockey was quite foreign to me, (I know... I had lived a sheltered life), and I wondered how I would fare being married to a serious fan.  In fact it was something I questioned a wise friend about, wondering if this really was a good match - me married to a hockey fan?  She just laughed at me, saying it was a good opportunity to snuggle...

  So I have watched it ever since; well, I should clarify that... I watch with one eye, or an ear to anything exciting; for the rest of the game I'm usually buried in a book.  Or if it is a social affair with family or friends or over a meal, it becomes a way to be together with lots of visiting in between.  Even my parents started watching  the game, and my son is now a serious fan... yup, it is a Canadian past-time.

  I must admit, I really became disillusioned last year during the last series between the Canucks and the Bruins, where I started calling the Bruins bullies (now, I know this is not nice, but it seems to be truthful!).  The roughness of the game really got to me, the unnecessary injuries, the intent to shove and hit and be well, mean... really isn't this what I taught my kids all their lives NOT to do?  And after having two concussions myself (not hockey induced by the way) I know the after effects only too well.  Is there any safer way to play sports?

  Not to mention good sportsmanship.  We have an annual day in Canada now where we wear pink and remind ourselves that bullying should not be tolerated and it is a serious problem.  So why do we tolerate it in the sports arena?

  Now before I get out of hand... and this little blog is really more about life and my spiritual journey, I know I am not well educated in matters of sport, and really don't have much to say.  But I'd like to say to those hockey players... Could you just be a little nicer to each other?  (And perhaps not spit so much??)  We took my mom to a local hockey game last year and she was aghast at all the hitting, and kept worrying about those nice boys who were getting hurt.  Yup, mom, I think I'm with you.  And of course I'm a girl and don't have all that testosterone to deal with and think differently, but still... can't we play a game without hurting each other?

  So there... I got that off my chest.  And you'll still find me cheering with my hubby, or family members, and being proud to be Canadian, and tearing up at the Canadian anthem (yes, I've been known to do that).  I'm glad for reasons to hang out with those I love and it is fun to have something to cheer about.  So go, Canucks, go, and please stay safe while you're at it, please!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Winter's Day in January

  It was the kind of blustery day where I imagined dear Winnie the Pooh being blown about on his balloon - (or was that his kite??), mitts and hats and scarves all swinging about in the snow and wind and shivers and sighs abounding... Or perhaps he just hibernated like all smart bears do...

  A-midst the shivers today I had to reflect on all I am so grateful for... flannel sheets, and a warm house, and a furnace that works, and a hot water tank, and a gas fire-place (no wood to chop), and an electric tea kettle that delivers hot water in just minutes...

  In fact I was especially thankful for my mitts, my lovely new ear-muffs (thanks, Mom), and wool hat, a warm wool coat, and warm car to drive in... as I crossed the highway in my warm little vw beetle yesterday with the seat warmers on full blast, I spied what appeared to be a homeless man crossing in the other direction, pushing a shopping buggy.  I looked again and was startled to see he was glove-less.  There was no where to stop, I was going in opposite direction hurrying home for someone was waiting for me... but I thought of it often during the day... did that man get warm?  Did someone give him some mitts?  I wished I had stopped, turned around, and given him mine.

  I also spied the mail man today, faithfully delivering the mail in the blowing -25 wind (with the wind chill), and felt grateful I can work inside where it is warm.  I feel thankful for my crock pot and my warm oven and all the luxuries I take for granted.  I'm grateful for all those workers who deliver my mail, and my newspaper and hope they know how much they are appreciated.

  And right now as I sit in my cozy house, I am able to chat with my friends and family world wide, through the magic of the Internet even though there were great complaints about that very thing on the news today.  And though there was much discussion about privacy laws and rules about how we should use this amazing thing called the Internet, it continues to amaze me that after I finish writing this post and press "publish", in a few minutes there will be someone reading these very words and I feel blessed to be so very connected.

  They talk about the "good old days", but more and more I realize that each day is a good day, glad to be alive and thankful on this snowy blustery day in January in 2012.





Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fuzzy thinking

  In case you think that this blog is just an excuse for not thinking clearly... perhaps you are right!  But I have become aware, perhaps even personally acquainted with ... a phenomena called "fuzzy thinking".


  It seems a common symptom of those in menopausal or peri-menopausal years. (now if you happen to be a younger woman reading this, you can continue to anticipate what is to come, or just x out - I'll understand!!).  Sometimes it is the over-abundance of yeast (candida) which can be treated through diet, or just all those hormonal changes that plague girls like myself.


  At any rate, there are times I shake my head, and try to clear it... and wonder why I'm always losing things or can't remember stuff.  And I try to exercise my brain to prove I'm still all here... I've even taken to playing "Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader" on facebook, and am quite pleased when I actually am!!


  On a deeper level, it made me think about life itself - how we want to figure it all out, and most of the time, just find it beyond understanding.  For years I thought in black and white, but that simply doesn't make sense anymore. I have more questions than answers.  I'm learning to be ok with that. Instead,  I'm learning to embrace the mystery of God, and my own humanity, and know that on this side of heaven, I'm just not going to get it all...


  Perhaps that is what Paul meant when he said:   "Now we see only a dim likeness of things. It is as if we were seeing them in a mirror. But someday we will see clearly. We will see face to face. What I know now is not complete. But someday I will know completely, just as God knows me completely." (from 1st Corinthians, New International Reader's Version).

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Snow Days

  It has not been lost on me that the two middle letters for the word snow are NO.  This is not a serious blog entry.  But it is genuinely mine.  I say NO to snow...

  My loveless affair with snow started later in life - like any child, I frolicked in it, and have happy memories of building a giant snowman family in the front yard of our manse (preacher's house that sits beside church) in my growing up years.  Later I even was part of creating an elaborate tunnel fort which we were quite proud of.

  But then I got cold.  Does that happen as you get older?  Or more so, just got scared.  Perhaps it was the 180 I spun with my little VW on an icy road on my way to school one winter morning in 1975.  Or the accident with my boyfriend where we were hit head-on by an out-of-control car - fortunately we were all going about 20 miles an hour in white-out conditions near Agassiz and other than seat-belt bruises we were just fine...

  Perhaps it was that my pigeon-toed feet that have never really behaved did things of their own when I put on skis causing several rather ungraceful mishaps.  Or the day that we went up to Silver Star in -20 degree weather on Christmas Day (where were our heads?) to try out snowshoeing, and nearly died from the cold...

  Oh, I know there are many people who LOVE snow... they even love winter.  My hubby said this to me the other day as we were driving home in a sudden blizzard (typical of the Okanagan, it lasted about 2 hours and left again), and he said to me - "I would really miss this if we lived somewhere warm."
  "I could look at pictures" I said sarcastically.

  I really should be out walking right now.  But it is so much warmer in my computer room, the computer keyboard so much more appealing than pulling on all my woolies and praying I don't slip on the ice... oh I forgot to mention that part?  The part where I fell on ice several years ago, resulting in a rather nasty concussion.  Perhaps that experience has affected my brain?

  So I think I'll just make myself another cup of tea, run up and down the stairs a few times to appease my exercise-needing conscience, and then settle down with a book by the fire...and wait for spring.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Waiting Rooms

  When I toured the new wing of the Vernon Jubilee Hospital this past August during their open house, I was struck by the waiting rooms... many of them, scattered throughout - in the emergency department,  two beautiful rooms in the ICU for family, rooms in the maternity and women's ward, and waiting rooms for the surgical floors... Lovely comfortable chairs, peacefully painted walls, wide hallways.... but still... a place to wait.  I remember imagining at the time the people who would be sitting in those chairs... waiting for surgery, waiting in ICU and praying for loved ones, waiting in Emergency, waiting for help.

  I was sitting there this morning, in one of those waiting rooms, waiting for a test, and I thought about what it means to be a patient... to wait and wonder, and to place your trust in those who are going to proceed.  I remembered back to those long days last March where my dad was hospitalized for a month... and how it seemed a life of hurry up... and wait.  The hospital is a place for waiting, whether you are a patient, or someone there to wait for a loved ones.  We waited for tests, we waited for results, we waited for surgery, we waited for doctors to show up, we waited for medicine to work... and while we waited... we prayed.

Waiting can be exhausting.  Often not knowing the outcome, of trusting the system, of putting yourself in someone else's hands.  It made me think of a scripture verse I had been pondering this week:  "Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion.  For the Lord is a god of justice.  Blessed are all who wait for Him."  (Isaiah 30:18)

 To put my trust completely in God, to trust the medical system, none of this comes so easily.  It is good to be reminded of this, to be the patient, to be the vulnerable, to know that my life, our lives are a gift from God to be cherished each day.  My test turned out well, even if it was not easy.  But I hold those feelings in my heart as I continue to visit waiting rooms with those who wait; to acknowledge the uncertainties of life, while hanging on to the certainty of a God who cares, who does not leave us, even in the waiting room.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Shirley and Mercy

   I wrote a blog recently about angels all around us... this week my awareness of angels resurfaced as I was so privileged to spend time with a dear friend in hospital.

  There are times when I really don't know what to say.  So a few evenings ago, as my friend was lying in the Emergency Ward, I attempted to recite the 23rd Psalm.  Pretty familiar - and as I walked through the words, savoring the ancient meaning and God's comfort which has been so evident this week... she said to me... you forgot surely and mercy!  And I had!  She helped me get through the Psalm, even in her weakened state; and we thought about the words together.

  She then went on to tell me that as a child she envisioned two angels... Shirley and Mercy... following her home.  What a picture!  I've had it with me all week...
"Surely Goodness and Mercy shall follow me... all the days of my life", the Psalm says, and I can just imagine the child's thoughts of two beautiful angels accompanying her... all the way home.

  We joked about it... and thought perhaps those angels were present, and would keep her company that night in hospital.

  She's with the angels now... their names might be different, but she is safely home.  How we will miss her.  I have been so blessed to have this friend, Dene, who has been a mentor to me and so many others for many years.  She is loved by her family, her friends, and a wide circle of people who respect her wisdom, who have valued her prayers, who have been enriched by her love, interest in them, and her care.

  It is not good-bye... but see you later.  How I will miss the phone calls, the prayer times, just knowing she is there for a good conversation, to reflect on a deep question, to share a concern and pray.  Surely goodness and mercy - words that personified her - have followed her all her days.  Surely goodness and mercy... good words to live up to and ponder this week.

 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sing a New Song

A soloist I am not; the other day I led some hymns in the care facility here in Vernon, connected to the hospital, and my alto voice cracked on the high notes, and I was glad the little group of people gathered didn't seem to mind!  In fact some nodded, others joined in, and yes, some just slept.  The 90+ year old pianist played heartily, and we tried to keep the same rhythm.

  No, a concert it was not, but certainly it was an attempt at praise.  I woke up the other day, rather early in the morning, with some enthusiasm for life.  After the last two years, this is somewhat unusual, and I wondered what medication I had taken that might have inspired this!

  From one who is acquainted with depression at times, this manifestation of joy is a gift indeed.  I know only too well that we are not always in control of the switch that generates sadness or joy in the depths of our being - rather we make choices along the way to choose life, to think positive, to focus on what is good.  But we certainly cannot always control our feelings.

  As I reflected on this, I thought about a new song - a new beginning of a new year - and felt inspired to create art to reflect my feelings... yes, God is good, He is faithful, and this verse comes to mind:  "I will sing a new song to you, O God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you."  


Monday, January 2, 2012

Self-fulfilling Prophesies

   Seems it is the time of year for prophets, or predictions; I was thinking about that today, as I contemplated new year's resolutions (or not).  


  The beginning of a New Year means looking ahead, and today I heard gloomy forecasts for Europe's economic woes and there seems to be a lot of opinions on whether 2012 will be as challenging or more so than 2011.


  On more personal terms, I had to think about my own predictions... after listening to one sermon I had to agree that often what we think about is what we become.  If you think "old", old you will be!  I remember visiting a sixty year old widow (scary thought, sixty is only six and some years away for me), and she was ancient.  Not in her age,  - really!!  But she was old in the way she thought, in the way she had reacted to life; she talked old, and she looked old.  


  I contrasted that to my mother, who was in her early 70's at the time, and one thing I can say about mom is that she thinks "young", and she acts "young"... the other day she accompanied me to visit a patient on Christmas Day, and the proverbial nurse in her went into action as we entered the room - she arranged the gal's pillows and immediately was able to see what was needed physically.  It didn't really matter that mom was a cancer patient herself, she just went into action and focused on what needed doing.  The youth of my mother is a lovely thing, no matter her actual age.


  As I thought about that, I wondered on the self-prophecies I would like to make as I enter this new year.  I know all too well that we cannot control the future, or do we know what the future holds.  It is a mystery!  But what I can control is how I will respond, or how I will prepare my heart.  Will I face the future, choosing life?  (I love the verse I quoted yesterday from Deuteronomy 30:19).  Do I choose to live with a heart that is open to God, open to love, one that forgives instead of holds grudges?  


  Will I choose peace instead of resentment, love instead of judgement, listen thoughtfully instead of push my opinions?  Somehow those choices will affect the outcome of my life, like a self-fulfilling prophesy.  


  I was thinking about the phrase "you are what you eat"... I love cooking, I love eating, and my husband often asks, why is it that the things that are NOT good for us taste so good???  I've gone wheat-free, as an experiment, not easy through the holiday season, but I believe it helps me to feel better!  Making good choices for my own body certainly does affect how I feel.


  Perhaps the phrase "you are what you think" is equally true - perhaps even more so... my mind can easily become a busy busy place with thoughts crowding each other out; I especially feel this at 3 am in the morning on nights I can't sleep!  It is so easy to let the thoughts of worry, concerns, and even those busy to-do lists crowd our minds.  I love the idea of centering prayer, where I try to chase all those thoughts out and focus on a single thought from Christ - like how he loves me.  As I think that, and breathe it in, I can become quiet and feel His peace.  But it can be a difficult exercise at times!


  It reminds me of that verse from Philippians which says: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.