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Welcome to my blog! Of course if we were visiting in person, I'd have the teapot out and we could sit and chat.
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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ending Well

   There is a beginning and an end, birth and death.  We live in the middle, the dash.  Often without thinking about it.  How is my dash today?  Am I living life well?  I ask myself these questions from time to time!

  Taking a palliative course has forced me to think about end-of-life matters more.  We avoid such topics, I think, in our culture.  But it doesn't change the inevitable.  I was asked recently this somber question:  "How can I die a good death?".  This came from a younger person who is facing a grim diagnosis.  What should I say?

  I think much of the answer is that we die as we live.  Am I living life well?  I think often of my friend Dene.  This Saturday, March 3, there is a celebration of life for her.  I love that terminology - celebration of life!  She lived her life well.  She followed her passions.  She loved to teach Bible Study and did so all last fall, even when she had difficulty breathing and needed extra oxygen.  Amazing!  She was passionate about it.

  She loved people.  She often had a "list" for me, people she wanted to know about, so she could pray for them more effectively.  She was so interested in people, and cared for them.  She was knowledgeable about medicine and pharmacology, being a pharmacist, and more than once, after asking her a medical question, she would show up with a bottle of pills from the health food store after she had researched what I might need.

  She, and others, inspire me to live my life well; even if my own life is not perfect, I can still care for others.  I choose each day to embrace life.  For some, like Dene, there is time at the end to say the good-byes, to communicate our love.  For others, death comes quickly.  It is good to remember to say "I love you", to keep our accounts short, to forgive and let go.

  And really ending well, is just the end of life as we know it.  There is a continuum, I believe, a life to look forward to in heaven.  The favourite verse from John 3:16 says it so well... For God so loved the world (His love is amazing and for all!), that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes (it is that simple) will have eternal life.  It is a promise worth hanging on to... it is not about doing, or being a good person, or figuring it all out theologically.  It is about simple trust in a God who loves us, who promises us a life eternal.

  We live in the dash, time seems to go so quickly.  I am inspired again to live it well, to embrace what God is given me, with thankfulness.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Awards

  I watched bits and pieces of the Academy Awards tonight, partly because I was rooting for "The Help".  I loved that movie.

  They didn't win... but then again, perhaps they did.  The story was told.  A big part of that story, was the power of... telling your story.  These women, who represented "the Help", black African Americans who were shown such great prejudices in the very era in which I grew up, told their stories in this movie... stories of how life is unfair, how their feelings didn't seem to matter, of deep injustice in a world where white still seemed to rule.

  It was lovely tonight as I watched these awards, to see all races honored, those from Italy, and Iran, and France; and it didn't seem to matter what race or culture or creed you were, it was humanity that was celebrated.  It reminds me of that old chorus we used to sing in Sunday School "Jesus loves the little children... ALL the children of the world... red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world."

  Prejudice is everywhere.  In our society we value the young and the beautiful; we strive for that; it is our god.  Wrinkles must be banished (where's the cream), unsightly hairs quickly removed, (my tweezers at the ready) and grey hair is dyed.  Being beautiful is in.

  These days, I am meeting some beautiful older people.  Some of them can't talk, and as I look into their eyes, I wonder... what kind of lives have they lived?  Have their dreams been fulfilled?  Do they feel loved?  Some of them, trapped in their decaying bodies, look at me with tears in their eyes.  And I wonder what to say.

  It is so easy to walk away, to go to my life of relative ease.  Our culture does not honor our elders, in most cases.  I admire the workers, the compassionate care aids who really care - who treat our elders with respect and dignity.  They deserve an Academy Award if you ask me.

  I witnessed recently the gentle hug of a beautiful nurse as she lovingly embraced a lady facing death.  I was moved by her compassion.  No one wrote that into her job description.  There was no prejudice there.

  It makes me ponder what I truly value... the glitz of the Academy and Hollywood is often a made up world of movies where we often go to escape our real lives.  And yet some movies also tell the stories of real people, people with a story to tell.

  It makes me want to listen to the stories... really listen, to those who don't have a voice.  I am inspired again to pay attention to what is really important, and to treat with dignity and respect, all whom I meet.

 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lent and the blues...

  Today wasn't too much fun.  I had looked forward to pottery - and broke two pieces.  I put too much spice in my taco casserole I was building (I'm usually known for under-spicing things.)  Totally minor things, in the scheme of things.  I was missing my friend Dene.  We would have long chats at least once a week about life, about our families, about health.  Yup, having a bluesy day.

  Lent doesn't seem like fun either.  I don't think it is meant to be fun.  It is a time of serious reflection.  In the faith tradition that I have been involved in most of my life, Lent wasn't usually even mentioned.

  And yet, I feel drawn to Lent this year.  I'm appreciating anew the rhythms of the Christian calendar - the advent of Christmas, the weeks of ordinary time, and now the 40 days of reflection, or lent before Easter.  Normally celebrated by more traditional churches, this season is also practiced by those who enter into the contemplative life.

  To be quite honest, I have not given up anything, nor am I fasting.  I was thinking of giving instead - little gifts of service, something to think on each day.  I would like to read the Gospel stories - enter into the life of Jesus as He lived out his ministry before the Cross and Resurrection.

  It is in the everyday - days blurred by work and play, monotonous chores, where there is always something to do, but it seems the "to do" list is never done; perhaps it is here that God wants to reside.  He sees when I feel lonely, or tired, or miss my friends.

  As I enter into His story, and listen to the Gospel Stories, I also see how this God of love enters into mine... with compassion, with love.  I am inspired to learn more about Lent, and enter into this season of preparing my heart for Easter.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Flying

  I found myself in a jet - Westjet to be exact - this weekend, on a little weekend jaunt to Victoria.  We love Victoria - we honeymooned there, and love the ocean, the fresh air, the amazing scenery, the ambiance, and the old world charm.   Of course, now that our daughter has moved there, it is extra special, and it is good to see her happy in a place she has wanted to live in so long.

  I can't say I enjoyed the rain... we were hoping for a little drier weekend, but given this time of year, you get what you get.  We reacquainted ourselves with our umbrella, I bought a hat, and we spent a lovely afternoon at the Royal Museum - always a treat.

  The flying is another thing altogether.  Those who know me know that I am not particularly fond of this mode of travel, and do it for only two reasons:  it transports me to those I love, or it takes me to some place warm.  I'd rather be on the ground, thank you, although a trip over the Coquihalla highway in snowy stormy weather is actually less appealing.  Victoria in less than an hour by air is a much better choice!

  It made me think of my very first airplane ride, many years ago now, and I was very nervous.  I was leaving my three young children and travelling with my husband to Peru, to visit his brother and family.  It was a incredible journey, a trip of a lifetime, and we were excited to see Dennis and Ruthi and the kids and have a glimpse into their lives as missionaries.

  But as the time grew closer, I grew more nervous.  I remember writing out Bible verses on little cards to calm me down - verses like "Underneath are the everlasting arms", and I would close my eyes and vision that very thought - God holding that airplane in the sky!

  When we arrived at the airport that Halloween night to take the red-eye to Miami where we would transfer to fly to Lima, I must have looked somewhat terrified.  I had just said good-bye to my children, and was trying to convince myself I would see them again.  A sweet lady - probably in her fifties - although I would have considered her "older" at the time - patted my shoulder gently and said "honey, it's going to be fine... these cruises are amazing, and we'll be in Miami in no time!"

  I smiled back with gratitude and managed to say, "But we are going on to Peru".  She looked at me, rather wide-eyed, and said "Well, then I'd be worried too!!!"

  Twelve take-offs and landings and three weeks later, I was safe back on Canadian soil, after an amazing trip.  I had survived!  And wondered why I was so dramatic!

  For those of you who will identify with flying phobias I know you understand.  You can be assured that any flight I am on is well prayed for.  I think of Dale our friend, who teaches aircraft mechanics and hope his students didn't sleep in class.  I pray that the pilot had a good sleep and is alert and I pray for him and the co-pilot.  I closely examine the airline attendants to see how cheerful they are - if they are relaxed and happy, I can breathe a little better.  Crazy, I know!

  Even so, I'm determined not to let my comfort of being on the ground stop me from living.  It is great to get away, to step away from routine, and busyness and the demands of life and breathe some ocean air.   And I know, deep down, this is about trust - trusting that this airplane will hold me up, trusting that God is in control of my life... even the airplane rides.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Balance

   I've been taking a stretching/yoga class when I am able to on Monday nights - I love it, we do exercises to inspirational music, our leader prays with us to start and closes often reading a psalm or inspirational piece of scripture.  I come away feeling my body stretched rested and my soul fed.

  Achieving balance is the most difficult part for me.  I totter and I teeter, and as I stand on one leg trying to look like an airplane, or swan, I sway back and forth and quickly drop a foot for support and try my utmost to keep from falling.  It is a good exercise - one I'll keep working on, despite my lack of grace in this area.

  It reminds me that finding balance can be really difficult!!!  I keep thinking about left and right (last blog!), and how I try to find balance in all of my life, whether it be spiritual or emotional, or physical, or intellectual.  There are some who know me who see me as very conservative, and careful and I think they are right.  There are others who know me who might see me as liberal and they are right as well!  Finding the balance is different for each person; a matter of perspective.

  The amusing part is that I believe most of us feel we have a corner on the right balance of thinking and living and tend to judge the world from that personal point of view.  I had an excellent teacher in counselling that helped me look at my own frame of reference and how I judge the world from that frame.  To suspend it can be challenging indeed.

  When it comes to absolutes, there are somethings I am very sure of.  They are the solid ground on which I stand.  One is my faith in a God who is unshakable.  In knowing He loves me absolutely; and He has declared His love for all.  John 3:16 says it all!

  There are many things I have become less sure about.  Who can fathom God?  Who can know His mind?  I have become less opinionated on subjects like global warming, on prophesy, on politics.  There are many who are much more educated that I that might enjoy the debate; I really do not.

  To live a life in balance; that is the challenge.  To dwell on the truly important; for me this has become a pursuit of knowing God in a new way, and learning to love Him, and praying that love will spill over in loving others.  And to be grateful for all those in my life who are my teachers, my mentors, my friends; as we share this journey we call life, together.

 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Right... or Left?

  These thoughts were inspired by a dinner-conversation with my mom and dad the other night, after my dad asked a question which got me to thinking.... by the way, a Happy Birthday to my dad who is 81 today!

  Which makes me think of a whole new topic - dinner conversation and how it is a lost art.  It is good times when we get together with my parents once a week over dinner - it connects us, it enriches us, it is a gift!

  But back to the topic... am I right winged, or left?  Now THAT is a heavy topic, and already I feel the polorizations of those who might read this!!  I guess I'm thinking mostly politics, but unfortunately religion seems to mix right in.

  The religious right has not made a good reputation for themselves in our era, especially those with radical views who make the press and give Christians a very bad name.  There are times when I hear a story of judgement, or a statement that I would think is not loving and I want to apologize.  I, like many other believers in Christ, cringe at these kind of headlines, because it is simply not how we think, nor the behavior we want to be known for.

  But the question remains... who am I?  There as been a lot of self-discovery this past while as I have looked hard in the mirror, squirmed at times, come face-to-face with my humanity, and out of all that comes the sheer delight that God loves me intensely, immensely, just as I am.

  When it comes to politics my "rightness" has certainly shifted.  I realize that much of my opinions have come from a frame of reference I am no longer comfortable with.  I have seen that Christians are often known for their judgments rather than their love, and I know I fell into that camp for many years.  I have no desire to go back.

  I read a book by Bill Clinton this past year, and like many, I certainly had judged the man.  Reading his book opened my eyes.  I became acquainted with Bill, a human being, one who had made terrible mistakes and was sorry for them.  Even if I don't agree with all his politics or policies, I admired his faith, his love for his country, his desire to follow God.  I felt sad that we define a man by one sinful event.

  It made me think of King David, who also could be defined for his sordid deeds - committing adultery and murder.  And yet, he was called a man after God's own heart.  His repentance was genuine,  and his Psalms a big part of our Christian heritage, the holy Scripture we read.

  So... although I have been comfortably conservative all of my life (and probably still think and act conservatively!), am I right?  One could do a play on words right about now... :-)  Certainly I am not right wing, nor am I left.

  It seems to me that when there is a reaction to one side, the pendulum can swing right to the other.  And to be quite honest, I don't fit at all with the left either!  Does that put me in the middle?  I really don't know... nor does it really matter, in my thinking.  I know my voting has become more thoughtful and I struggle with making good choices at the ballot box.  When it comes to Christianity, I pray that I am known for love, not judgment, known for compassion... especially compassion for the suffering, the poor, the different from me.  To me that is true Christianity, and the model that Christ himself taught.  And one that will take me a life-time to learn.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Amazing Love

  Love is on the mind... tomorrow being Valentines Day, and other than it's over-commercialized side, it has always been one of my favourite holidays.  I believe in saying "I love you" each and every day, but perhaps we need reminders now and then.

  I was positively sappy when the kids were little - I loved making valentines with them, and I made heart-shaped sandwiches for their lunches and heart-shaped meat-loaf for supper.  Valentines Day cupcakes and cookies were usually on the menu.

  Lately, though, the love of God has become more real to me; meaningful and amazing.  That we have a God who is not distant, but personal, who became one of us... when you really think about it, it is quite staggering.  My theme for the little service we held today at the hospital was on the love of God.  Here are some of my thoughts, in poem form... a Valentine to God, if you will.


A love poem to God
How does one say I love you
To the One who is the giver of life?
He who is tenderly interested
In all I do, in all I say, in all my thoughts?
He who is called Emmanuel
meaning God with us.
How does one love a God
Who chooses to love me
Who calls me by name?
Who prepares tables for me
In the midst of my enemies?
Who, but a God who loves me
Who calls me His child,
and I can call him Father,
Abba Father,
words of endearment
as a child to a daddy.
I love Him because
He first loved me
Love that is perfect, and unconditional
and kind, and tender,
and merciful.
Amazing love, how can it be?
That God would love such
a person as me?
And yet, it is true
I am wrapped in His love
as a child in a warm blanket
snuggled in his mother’s arms
and my feeble words of praise
Seem small
at the immensity of such
vast love for me.
To be loved by God is beyond imagination.
I say yes to His love
I accept His love
Perhaps this is how I say
I love you,
to the God of Love.





Saturday, February 11, 2012

Was it the Moon?

  I had "one of those days", this week, where Murphy's Law seemed to reign and everything seemed to be rather challenging.  Days like that take a lot of energy, and leave one, well "grumpy" would be the word that would come to mind.  And with that came guilt, because really the problems were SO trivial.

  My daughter suggested it might be the full moon - and perhaps it was.  And here I digress; for the moon was amazing this week, silently chasing it's silver perfect round radiance around clouds and hiding the moment I reached for my camera.  Behind the fog and night sky it's illumination was charming and eerie at the same time.

  Whether the moon influenced Murphy's Law on "that" day, I really don't know!  It started with a TLC day for the house, and for the furnace; I had purchased a Group-on to clean my dryer vents, and our furnace vents, and thought this cleaning out the dust would be marvelous for our airways, and our breathing clean air, and generally the house would be cleaner on the inside.  At least that was my theory, and I was saving money to boot..  Two friendly guys arrived, but the first bad news was... oh, your furnace isn't sounding so good.  Really??

The second bit of bad news came when they could not reconnect the dryer hose, because they discovered it had become disconnected in the ceiling, and was crushed by insulation.  They tried every which way to reconnect it and I realized this problem had been there before they got there.  But now it was in my knowledge base and I wasn't too happy about it!

  We are owned by our stuff, I think; things break down, it just seems like it comes in batches.  Two days later, we have a new motor for our furnace and it is much happier.   The vents ARE clean.  My hubby was able to carve a hole in the basement ceiling and repair the vent.  I can dry my clothes.  The rest of my bad day is forgotten...  except when the scanner started making loud noises as I scanned something for hubby's business... but one glare from me seemed to help, and it behaved after that!

  Yes, my troubles do seem trivial.  I've been very aware of suffering this week - of those we love, and those we don't know so well but I have come acquainted with.  My heart has been saddened by their pain, by their incredible challenges.  I have felt helpless in the light of their pain.

  Reminded again of how our life is temporary, and yet eternal.  Our possessions break down; and really in the end, they are not important.  They take our time and energy, and we are thankful for what they provide... warmth, shelter, a way of life.  Our bodies too are temporal.  A truth that we avoid thinking about most of the time.  Again I was reminded that each day, each breath is a gift from God; something to be thankful for, and to remember when the little things get me down.

 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A cup of tea - and a few thoughts on fog!

  This time of year I drink copious cups of tea.  I find it comforting, refreshing, invigorating, not to mention it warms me up!

  We've been shrouded by fog this week, and valley cloud, something we know well and don't like to discuss in the North Okanagan.  We want to be known for sunshine and beautiful lakes and warmth, but this time of year, our valley can capture that cloud and not let go.  Up in the hills of Silver Star the sun often reigns.  I remember looking down on Vernon when I lived in the Foothills, at the blanket of fog.  It was very pretty, but I was so glad I was above it!

  Fog can be beautiful in it's own way, eerie, mysterious.  It also can feel smothering and oppressive, and the cold mist of it seems to climb into your very bones.  I've been so very cold this week.

  Which brings me back to tea.  Tea is warm, and friendly.  The other day I happened to have tea with a number of friends.  One friend served it in old-fashioned tea cups with a teaspoon of honey.  It was grand, and the conversation warm.

  My dear British friends seem rather strict when it comes to tea.  For their benefit, I keep Orange Pekoe and Earl Grey on hand, and hope I have fresh milk.  But for me, I am more into the health benefits of herbal tea - Peppermint to sooth my stomach, Lemon and Honey for a sore or tired throat, and Rooibos or Red Bush Tea is great for a pick-me-up and comes in so many flavors.  Some say it has more antioxidants than Green Tea - I really don't know, but also enjoy Green Tea when I need a boost.

  Tea is good for the soul, good for the body!  We have a saying, if all else fails... just pour a cup of tea.  When I'm having a challenging day, it is so good to stop, and take time to nourish myself.  Things just look better!

This afternoon, I've just poured myself a Spiced Plum Rooibos Tea, and need to settle into some serious reading and studying... but if you were to brave the fog, and drop by, be assured I'd pour you a cup!


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Food for Thought - and borscht for lunch.

  On this foggy winters day in February, I'm fogging up my windows even more - warming up soup in the crock-pot and made some muffins too... comfort food!

  The favourite soup in our household is Borscht - a Russian version with lots of cabbage, potatoes, totally vegetarian, and for us ... heart and cholesterol friendly, I hope.  The original recipe which I have carefully written out by my mother-in law was given to her by friendly Doukhobor ladies in Grand Forks who have been made famous with their borscht.  It has become a Wulff family favourite, full of cream and butter, but given the stroke and heart history in our family, I took liberties and made our own healthy version.  Critics might tell the difference, but most don't know.  (until now... maybe!)

  I was thinking about food, one tends to do that when you eat three times or more a day (smile) and how much it is a part of our lives - for those of us who cook, it is not just the eating, but the mental preparation, choosing what to make, what to buy, and the creation that takes a lot of us many hours every day, every week, our whole lives.  No wonder it is a passion for many, a drudgery for others.

  We are what we eat... I've heard this, and certainly I believe that we are affected by what we eat, how much we eat... I also have come to believe that many of our foods have become harmful, those that are genetically modified, those that travel thousands of miles to sit on our grocery shelves, preservatives and chemicals we ingest daily without a second thought.  The body is amazing really, helping us to cleanse and eliminate and process what we put in our mouths, but more and more I'm thinking about my choices, being more deliberate, and making food choices that are good for me, and good for our environment and way of living.

  Food is also social... it can create community.  It is something we share with others.  Perhaps the word communion is related?  Jesus broke bread and shared it, and this week I've been pondering the 23rd Psalm, especially the line where He prepares a table for us in the midst of our enemies.  What does that look like?  The thought of God himself preparing a meal for me is a picture of great love and a desire for communion.

  As I write this, I realize I could write dozens of blogs on this subject...it is something I have become passionate about.  So to be continued, perhaps?

For now, here is a simple version of Borscht, Grace's style:


In a large stock pot stir in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil:
Saute: 1 large sweet onion, chopped fine, 2-3 carrots chopped fine, celery if you have it, chopped fine (a cup will do)...
In the mean time shred fine1 medium cabbage and chop finely 1 beet.  Chop up one green pepper, also fine.

Add to the Pot, 2 quarts of water, 2 large cans (28 oz) of diced tomatoes, 3/4 of the chopped cabbage, the chopped beet, 1/2 of the chopped green pepper.  I have to admit, I rarely measure the water, enough to cover the vegetables and a bit more will do.  

In the meantime... (actually this is usually a group project and my hubby does this part!)
Peel a 5 pound bag of potatoes.  1/3 of them can be finely cubed and added to the pot.

Boil the remainder of the potatoes in a separate pot, just covering the potatoes in water.  When soft, drain most of the water and mash - adding one third to 1/2 a cup of real butter (depending on my mood) and 1 can of evaporated milk (here is the cream part - you can add real cream, light canned milk - whatever works).  When watching calories we usually use light canned milk and really don't notice a difference in taste.  By this time the stock pot of soup should be almost ready, vegetables cooked.  Add to the stock pot the mashed potato, the remainder of the cabbage and the green pepper, a generous portion of dill weed (either fresh or dried) and salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for another 1/2 hour or so on low heat.

This is how I cook - it drives those around me crazy, and no soup ever tastes quite the same.  But to me it is a delight, the variety of life, and a wonderful way to use all those winter vegetables that are available to us this time of year.  Enjoy!!



 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dancing with the Wind

  The wind was blowing gustily again the other night as it is apt to do in our neighborhood - I think it picks up off Okanagan lake and blows on through.  At least that is my theory.  When it picks up, we often hear an eerie sound, particularly in the garage as the wind hits our property.


  The sound of the wind was loud the other night when my little grandson came to visit.  His eyes widened, and he asked me what "that" was?  I thought for a moment, and then told him, "the wind is singing".  "Oh", he said, satisfied for the moment... and back to our book we went.  A few minutes later the sound returned, and again wide-eyed and full of wonder he told me "Grandma, the wind is dancing!".  


  I loved the picture - dancing with the wind.  There is freedom to dancing; freedom I have not always felt.  I grew up in an era and religious culture where dancing was looked down at; not allowed.  I had to sit out of square dance lessons in Grade five, and never went to a school dance in my life.  Sadly, I also imposed those restrictions on my own children; well, I did let them go reluctantly.  There is no blame in this... it comes from generations of rules, and for the most part there is a new freedom in our generation.


  For me, dance can be spiritual, and reverent.  There is something beautiful - and private - about moving to music in worship to the One who created us.  There is something that wells up in me and wants to dance - even though I have not learned the graceful steps.  I love the graceful instinctive movements of our African brothers and sisters who seem to move so naturally - it is lovely to watch.  


  The verse comes to mind:  ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring."  Paul the apostle spoke these words as he spoke to the crowds in Athens.  (Acts 17:28) 


  We are created to move, to worship, to sing, to dance... like the wind.