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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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I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Hope for Christmas...and all the year

  Christmas Eve has come.

   It is a nostalgic Christmas this year, with pockets of sadness. There will be an empty place at our table. I think of friends who are also grieving this year.  And even though joy is in the air, there is a weight of grief that colours this holiday.

  And yet... there is hope.

   I sat in an office, at the hospital, of one who worked with the very sick, with those for whom the outcome was grim. And on the bookshelf sat a large plaque, with the word HOPE.

  I pointed it out, this word of hope, and was given the sad reply that really, in that department, hope was illusive....  How sad, I thought.

  A few weeks later I was passing through a hallway on a medical floor and a family member of a patient caught my eye and I was drawn into the room.  His wife lay there, weak, discouraged, sick. And we talked.

  And the words that came to mind (actually I believe God reminds me of words at times like these), were from Romans 8, that beautiful passage where it says that NOTHING can separate us from God's love. Nothing. And as we shared about the love and care and compassion of God, something eased in the room. And God was there.

  As I left the husband whispered to me...."you gave her hope back".

  And isn't that what Christmas is all about?  In the midst of sadness, despair, loneliness, grief, we know there is a bigger picture. There is hope....even beyond death!  That love promised to us binds us together, even to those who have passed to the other side.

  It gives reason to hope for today. Tomorrow.

  So, a gentle Christmas, to all who grieve. I am grateful for the love and hope we share.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

I really want to wish you a Merry Christmas!

  The tree isn't up.  Oh, there is a little one there, on the toy shelf, overlooking the toys, a few clay ornaments to dress it, so it isn't completely naked.  And there is another tree outside.

  We had an early Christmas... cherished, wonderful, but that was November.  And now the real date descends on us, a first without my mom, and for many, their first too... and it brings me back to my early widowed years where one has to learn to do holidays all over again.  A new normal.

  So I found it interesting that a conversation on the radio got my ire this morning.  I was fuming!  I don't have names, or even the station, it just happened to be on as I drove.  The lady being interviewed was telling the interviewer how we need to change our winter greeting.  We could say "It is Winter", or some other ridiculous statement.  She went on to say (quite vehemently I thought), that we should never WISH something on anyone... that is imposing.  Really????

  I could tell the interviewer was rather aghast himself, but trying to be polite.  And then she verbally attacked him, saying she could "feel" his disapproval.  She demanded an apology!

  I could not believe my ears...

  This in sharp contrast to the Global News this morning where they were discussing the same subject... must be popular... or a slow news day... and what I loved was that they talked to a Rabbi.  A man with kind eyes, and obviously a warm heart, and he said he wasn't offended by the words in a greeting... but rather the warmth of giving a greeting at all should be seen as a gift...

  And I said Amen to that.  And usually I don't really like getting into this "Christ in Christmas" argument, because in my mind, we have secularized Christmas to such a large degree anyway, and it is largely a commercial holiday.

  And yet... this is the season of good will... I love buying magazines this time of year, and watching movies... it is the season for the good story, for sharing the kindness of the human race, the inspiration for all of us to give beyond ourselves, to think of others.  It is a beautiful time.

  And I love this season of giving.  One of the deepest joys I have is giving quilts and prayer shawls to those who are sick in hospital... lovingly stitched by those who care, and it is I who has the wonderful privilege to wrap these gifts around those who need it most... and give the message of hope and love and comfort.

  And the Christ in Christmas, the Christ I love, who started as one of us, a baby, also grew to be a man and came to love the ill, the neglected, the poor, the sad, and the lonely.

  And when I wish something for those in need, when I wish something for my friends, or my family, I don't think of it as imposing, but rather as a blessing, a gift.  So I do wish you a Merry Christmas... I wish you a season of hope, and peace and joy.

  And even in the midst of a broken world, I am so thankful for the gift of Christmas.

A Christmas Past... One of my favourite pictures



Saturday, November 30, 2013

Caught up in the Season

  It is the night before Advent begins... my husband strums a Christmas Carol in the living room, and I sit, pondering the week, thinking about the Season.

  What really got me going this week, was how I was caught up into consumerism.  Black Friday was black indeed, calling me and many others to pay attention.  It felt like a frenzy, from the thickest newspaper I had ever seen on Wednesday, sandwiched loosely around the many flyers, like a sandwich with way too many fillings, gaudy, full of deals.  I wondered how many newspaper carriers would be heading for the chiropractor!

  And it didn't end there... my e-mail box was flooded with exceptional promises, bargains that I couldn't possibly pass up, temptations.

  And I admire those who can ignore it all, there are even some who hate shopping!  But if the truth were told, I have always rather enjoyed shopping, and I especially love a good bargain.  I like stretching my dollars and the words that have been used to describe me would be Mennonite (in a good sense!), which can go along with frugal, careful, and perhaps less flattering, spendthrift.

  So the onslaught of sales drew me, like a bee to honey.  Because bargains were to be had, to the savvy shopper.

  And it exhausted me.  There was just... too much.

  In the midst of it all, I was preparing my own art collection, an accumulation of all my loved hand-made treasures, pieces of art, and I hoped, and still hope, that they would bring joy to some, a handmade gift to treasure.   I love that I can be part of something local, something creative.  And I was torn between the busyness;  was I contributing to the madness of it all?

 So I come, to the Eve of Advent, somewhat spent.  In spirit.  In dollars.  I didn't go crazy, but it affected me.

  I realize that I, that we, are part of a culture of consumerism.  It is almost impossible to avoid.  It hits us on our computer screens, on our phones, on the billboards, on the TV... and how do I counter that?

  And as I live in the land of plenty, I think of those who have not.  About the man I saw today, rummaging through the garbage bin while I pulled up to the bank machine... to retrieve a little cash.  I wanted to offer him an orange, but by the time I had completed my business he was gone.  Was he hungry, I wondered?

  The word balance comes to my mind, as I long for simplicity in a complicated world.  To live with less.  To care for the poor.  To buy only what I need.  To take time to see the real beauty, in the nature all around us, not the gaudy glitz that lasts but a season.  To spend time with friends, to have meaningful conversations.  To make memories with family.

  Part of Advent is to wait... which really means to slow down.  And we do just the opposite often, speeding up, there is a frantic spirit in the season.  At least what I witnessed and felt this week.

  I sit here.  I close my eyes.  I savor the silence.

  I know, that even in this creative, joyful season, of giving and receiving, I want to experience peace.  And rest.  And I go to the Creator, who after six days of incredibly creating... rested.  I think of the gift of life, and I am grateful.  And I ask for balance in my life.  Even in a culture of consumerism.

 












Thursday, November 28, 2013

Angels Everywhere

  I have been making them by the dozen.  Angels that is!  They are all different, unique, hand-formed, lovingly created by my hand.


 I do love decorating with angels this time of year.  And nativity sets - I have a number of them.  They speak to my faith, to miracles, to angels among us.

  And the angels pictured above are part of Arsolutely, a lovely art show I am part of every year at the Vernon Art Centre where I love to play and practice art.  

  I find it interesting through... all our depictions of things unseen, these angels...are the real angels amused?  Or do they understand our need for the symbolic?  Our need to connect and be protected and cared for?

  Perhaps that is why that wonderful movie "It's a Wonderful Life" continues to hold our attention... to know that there is something much bigger than us, a Creator who cares for us... who is with us in the hard times...

  I thought of that again when we had our long-awaited early Christmas in November.  It was incredibly wonderful to connect with all our children and celebrate.  But the empty space my mom left, after her departure to heaven in June was felt... deeply.  

  Something wonderful happened that weekend, really, out of the ordinary.  A little finch, an albino finch, which must be incredibly rare, dropped by my rose bushes, just after we had taken our family photos.  I had seen him once before but never captured him on film.

  My son had the camera at the ready and captured these amazing pictures:



  Does that not look like an angel?  Amazing...

  I am convinced that God uses the ordinary, the everyday to show glimpses of the unseen, to bring comfort, to bestow beauty and wonder.

  Angels all around us?  I think so... sometimes we just have to pay attention.  I believe God is limitless in His imagination and creativity.  And in this season of wonder, even in the midst of busyness, shopping extravagance, overindulgences, we too can catch the wonder, the beauty of the gift of Emmanuel... God with us, with angels showing us the way.

Finch Photos by Steven Lacoursiere

Artsolutely runs from November 29-December 24, at the Vernon Art Centre, in Vernon BC.  You are welcome!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Baby, it's cold out there!

  The temperatures plummeted today, and as I sipped my green smoothie made with the last of the kale in my garden, I thought it might be time to count my blessings...

1.  The gift of greens...  kale until November 19 this year. And best of all, it doesn't require a green thumb...

2,  A warm house and money to pay the heating bills. There is nothing like a warm house to go to, blankets to spare.

3.  I might be a turtle, wanting to retreat to warmer spaces, and admire friends who embrace the cold. Not me!  Thankful for tights, mittens, warm coats and scarves. And cars with heaters!

4.  And I need to thank those who work in the cold. My newspaper which was delivered on time, early this morning, which I always enjoy with my morning coffee. And for the mail delivered on a cold day.

5.  I thought of all the hospital volunteers this morning as I went to work, many of them seniors, showing up for their shifts; always cheerful and helpful. For volunteers everywhere who give of their time, their resources, often without thanks.

  Yes, it might be November, and winter is coming and it's cold, and the nights are long. But the sun shone today, and now it is time to cozy in with a hot cup of tea. And count my many blessings.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Birthday in November

  It started with writing about roses in November... then Christmas.  It has been quite a month!

  My cousin asked what would come next?  And I thought... it would be the birthday in November...

  Last year, in November, my mom turned 80.  We celebrated it well, a lovely picnic and day at the beach in the summer with family, and a great get-together for her birthday with friends and family in November.  I think we knew... it could be her last birthday on earth.  So we held it close, we celebrated it well, we celebrated her.  

  She would have been 81 this past Saturday, November 16.   And I wondered... do they celebrate birthdays in heaven?

  Or do they begin anew...or do they count at all...it is hard to imagine, this everlasting life we are promised after death.  As we age, and gather birthdays we often complain...and yet, each year is a gift... another year we have been given.

  So in heaven, do they grow younger?  Or just stay the same, an eternal beauty, where time does not have the limitations we know here on earth?

  So, I wonder...and that is part of the mystery.

  On Saturday, I invited a number of friends... mom's and my own, along with my daughter and granddaughter... her granddaughter and great-granddaughter and namesake... and we had a tea party.  To celebrate mom.  To celebrate friendship, and Mom, and remember.

  I was honestly surprised how many came, and it touched me deeply.  And it meant so much again to know how she touched others by her friendship, and listening and caring spirit.

  My friend shared with me that this is a more common thing in countries like Mexico, where they take time each year to remember the dead.  We usually don't throw birthday parties for  the departed here in Canada!  And I thought, what a shame... perhaps we should do it more.

  And I was grateful, on many levels... for friendship, and sharing, and celebration.  For the simple art of a cup of tea in old china cups, Mom's china.  Her own dishes that she had presided over for many conversations, times of listening, conversation, prayer.    For a mom who invested in the lives of others and who instilled those values in me.

  And as I said good-bye to the guests, I spied in my garden, a rose blooming.  A single rose, on this cold blustery day.  Gifts for November... friendship, family, beauty, and the gift of a loving mother who remains part of the fabric of our lives.

Monday, November 11, 2013

T'was the Night After Christmas

T'was the Night After Christmas
And all through the house...
Not a creature was stirring
The house silent
and quiet

And Grandpa and Grandma all snug in their bed
Were left with the wonderful memories they shared.
And the noise and the clutter
And the food and the laughter
All lingered, yes lingered

And even though all their grand-kids had gone home
Their kisses and snuggles
And giggles and wiggles
Their joy over Christmas
Though celebrated early
Would last through this season
And warm up this home.

The stockings now emptied
The presents unwrapped
The food all been eaten
Christmas crackers been snapped.
Our Christmas was early, but what a delight
To have each one present
Our season was bright.

The day doesn't matter
Or the time of the year
It is family that matters
And family we hold dear.

And quiet, though silent the house may now be
The pictures, the memories
The moments we shared
Will be part of this Christmas
Of 2013.

Grateful for our family... and an early Christmas celebrated this November long weekend.  All five children present and their spouses and six beautiful grand-kids.



Friday, November 8, 2013

Christmas in November

  I've always thought November rather dull and grey and thought we should brighten it up!  Hence we are celebrating Christmas in November!

  To be truthful, it is family circumstances and schedules that caused us to seize this opportunity. And with three new babies in the family, it seemed a great way to celebrate.

  It is good to celebrate life. To celebrate family. And even in missing mom; this first Christmas she is not present with us, I hear her enthusiasm in my ear and her encouraging me on. She would be so into this!!

  And as I see the Facebook Posts about not decorating for Christmas until after Remembrance Day, I get it. But Christmas just isn't the day. It is about family and celebration, and remembering the foundations of our faith. So as I set out the nativity scenes, and hang up the stockings, I also will remember.

  Remembering all who have gone before, and whom we miss. Full of thanksgiving for freedoms and our country.  Thankful for family, and blessings.

  Thankful we are able to gather, and celebrate, no matter the date on the calendar!  So at our house we are a little different this year.  Merry Christmas, and a safe long weekend where we remember and memories are made!




Saturday, November 2, 2013

Roses in November

  Last November, 2012, we celebrated my mom's 80th birthday.  It was a delight to celebrate her life and this special occasion, both in summer where the family gathered by the beach, and again on her actual day in November, where family and friends gathered in Vernon.

  It was especially fun to surprise her with eighty roses and decorate the room with them for her special day.  She loved it.  She loved roses, and flowers, and she delighted in sharing those roses with her friends.

  This spring, as many know, we were by her side as she spent three months in hospice.  Of course, we never knew it would be that long, but for 100 days mom brightened up that room in the beautiful facility we are privileged to have here in Vernon.  Her room was almost always filled with flowers.  And she loved it.  Friends and family were so kind and thoughtful, and we delighted in each flower, plant and bouquet - even the hospice staff often dropped by to admire the displays.

  As June approached, we waited for the first blooms in the hospice rose gardens to appear.  And I was delighted to bring my very first two rose blooms of the year in for mother to enjoy.  And I was reminded how many times she had helped me prune my own little rose garden, and taught me about their care.

 

Yesterday, the first day of November. I saw to my delight that there were new blooms on my roses.  They had survived the heavy frost early this week and our cold nights.  I was so pleased to find roses in November.  

They remind me of mom.  How I miss her.  Today, as we packed up the last of their household things and loaded them on the truck, and bade my dad a fond farewell as he begins his new life in Abbotsford, I felt bereft.  And yet... there are so many reminders.  Of beauty and love and of life itself.  As I snuggled with my little granddaughter today, named after mom and I wonder... will she too love the roses?

And is mom, who is enjoying all the beauty of heaven, smiling too.... because I am enjoying the gift of roses in November?  Somehow, I think so.


Blooms from my garden... doily and vase compliments from mom.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Afternoon Thoughts; what I Want!

   Just woke up from a nap.  This is not usual for me, but there is something about a Sunday afternoon that invites rest.  And the body is grateful.

  Of course, the fact that I had trouble sleeping last night might have had something to do with it.  I have wrestled with insomnia off and on, and I know I am not alone.  It is ironic that our adult children with babies live with sleep deprivation, and here I lie awake.  Is it sympathy?  Or too much on my mind?  Or perhaps just this stage of life?

  As common as it is, I am never happy about it at night, struggling to settle my mind and body and drift to sleep.  But sometimes the thoughts and prayers that accompany those night hours are worth the wakefulness.

  Last night I decided to go over Psalm 23 in my mind.  I love the Shepherd's Psalm.  I often use the image in my work, that lovely picture of Jesus the Shepherd, holding us, caring for us, guiding us home.

  But last night I was struck... and stuck - on the second line.  "I shall not want".

  And I realized I live in a society riddled with want.  I want.

  I want to be comfortable.  I want to be healthy.  I want my family to be happy, and things to go well with them.

  I want peace in the world, in MY world.

  And then we could get going about material possessions, and after the emptying of my mom's possessions, and going through mine, it has struck me afresh how much stuff we have.  She managed it well, but it has caused me to review my own stuff as I add precious belongings to my own.  I wonder how to value them.

  We are a society that craves stuff.  It was not lost on me how ironic it was that the Mission, where we tried to donate many items lately,  were so overflowing with people's stuff they had to turn us away. And Christmas is coming.  We need to make space... for more stuff!!

  "I shall not want".  My wants get in the way of rest. In the way of Trust.   Resting with the Shepherd.  Focusing on what is important.  To think like a sheep, following the Shepherd, living a simple life, knowing I can trust in his care.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Saturday Morning in October

  Eight o'clock on a Saturday morning.

  I step outside on my deck and the thermometer reads 0 degrees.  Fog clings to the hills, promising sunshine later, and the mist hangs over the colored hillside, this beautiful view I call my own.

 I step into the garden, my little patch, where the kale still thrives on October 19.  It is quiet in the garden and I pick the baby kale, bright green, fresh for my morning drink.  It is a gift.

  I hear a crow call... loud, then distant as it flies into the mist.

  I spy a spiders web hanging from the roof of my deck, perfect.  No spider, so I try to capture it, catching it on paper.  God's art, through his creation.  Beautiful.

  A busy day ahead... a day of travel, a day of remembering, a day of celebration.

  And I am glad for the gifts of the morning.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Falling

We sat there on the bench, in the park.

Under the maple tree.  It is one of our favorite parks in Vernon, just a little neighborhood park, and we think we will take our grandchildren there one day and play boccie.

So we sat, in the sun, on a lovely Sunday afternoon, and just watched the leaves fall.



Silence our companion, mesmerized by the falling, the gently floating, the colorful leaves...

Which one would be next?  I stared upwards, enjoying the dancing of the tree, this slow dance of fall, with the gentle release of leaves, one by one.

 I knew it could be another story in a storm, a gale wind could take them all in a howling swirling sweep.

 But this day was a gift, in the sun, just enjoying.


And I thought... Sometimes we have to fall... before we can truly live.

There are always lessons in nature... God does it so well.

And as we watched, and listened, I again realized that in the letting go... we are truly free.  We hang on to life, to our dreams, to our so called entitlements so very fiercely... and inevitably we fall.  We are not in control.

This faith, this God I trust, teaches that in our weaknesses lie the strength.  In letting go, we live more fully.  In surrender, we are free.



Saturday, October 12, 2013

Thanksgiving

It really should be an all year post...
Being thankful that is.
Living in North America we
can be thankful in Canada in October
and reminded again by our American friends
in November.

Sometimes thankful is the telling
the expressing
the letting know.
Gratitude cannot be held in solitude.
No, it has to spill out to others
These expressions of thanks.

Thankfulness holds no bounds
Each breath, each day
Rich variety of food
Never-ending beauty of the earth
Shelter, Warmth
All are gifts
We often take for granted.

Today a bald eagle soared above our home
I watched in fascination
He was large and graceful and strong
And reminded me of promises past
That I am grateful for.

A deer bounded past
Nearly out of sight
As we went for our walk.
Graceful too, totally free
Enjoying the meadow as we were.
Another gift, just for today.

New life, beautiful new life
Blessing our family this year
And as we say our goodbyes,
We have also said our hellos
in the boundaries of this life
 as we know it
But also hanging on to the
eternity of forever.
Thankful.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

auf Wie·der·seh·en

Auf Wiedersehen.

This beautiful German phrase reminds me of my childhood.

 My childhood was rich with the sound of the German language, spoken by my grandparents, and my parents as well.   It is a lovely language; poetic, full of expression. Sometimes I am so very sorry I lost my ability to speak in this mother tongue, the birth language of my parents and part of my heritage.

  I grew up with phrases like:

 Gesundheit   (Bless you!), the sneeze variety! ... literally meaning good health!
 Sehr goot!  pronounced zeah-goot, meaning Very good!

and lots of Mennonite food with German and Eastern German origins such as

 Roll Kuchen, (dough to be fried and eaten with watermelon)
 Wareneki, prounouncing that W as a V (perogies stuffed with cottage cheese as I remember),
 Pluma Mous (and the visions I have as a child of this delicious cold fruit soup was always of mice... and yet that didn't stop me from enjoying it!!), literally meaning Plum Soup, usually made with all variety of dried fruits.
 Zwieback  literally meaning two buns in one... I remember my grandmother making these for every Sunday.  A handful of dough expertly rounded and placed on the pan, with a baby piece of dough stuck on top.  We loved it!!

  I recently found a recipe of my grandmothers... her famous bun recipe, and it had chicken fat in it!  Nothing wasted back then, and I'm thinking the chickens lived in healthier times as well.  It might be hard to duplicate that recipe in 2013.

 When I was in my thirties I got into the habit of muttering Das ist Schrecklich!  

 Don't you love the sound of that rolling off your tongue?  Literally meaning It's terrible, it became a fond form of expressing frustration.  Really!

  The other day, while at the cemetery, my dad pointed out a gravestone, near my mother's grave site, and the inscription read "Auf Widersehen".  It means "until we meet again!"

  And I've been thinking about how beautiful that is, how expressive, so filled with hope.  So much better than "good-bye".

   So, Auf Widersehen, for now... until I write next time, or our paths cross.  It is good we can borrow words from others and enjoy their beauty.

  Oh and yes, here for fun is my grandmother's recipe for buns... which she made into Zwieback on many occasion:

Grandmother's Buns:
1 T. Yeast
1/2 cup water
2 tsp. sugar
1 cup milk
3/4 cup margarine
1/4 cup chicken fat
2 cups water
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 scant T. salt
Enough flour to make a soft dough


Dissolve 1 pkg. yeast (1 T) in 1/2 cup water to which 1 tsp. sugar has been added. Meanwhile heat 1 cup milk, melt 3/4 cup margarine and 1/4 cup chicken fat in the hot milk. Add 2 cups water to cool it to lukewarm.
Then add 1/3 cup sugar (more or less to taste), 2 beaten eggs, and 1 scant T. salt. Add enough flour to make a soft batter, beat until smooth. Knead to a soft elastic dough. Let rise for 2 hours, then put on pans. Let rise another two hours (or less). Bake at 375 degrees for 15-17 minutes.



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

October

October
Calendars turning
Seasons turning
Leaves turning
Falling.

Autumn.
Mom loved autumn.

Are there seasons in heaven?
Or does time stand still?
Moments held
I wonder?

Outside,
In the world I know
The leaves fall.
The wind blows.












Grief too, has seasons.
She is there.
I am here.
The distance deafening.

I turn the pages of the calendar
And she is not there.

I pick up the phone
The conversation is silent.

And yet
The sun goes up
I live
My breath reminding me of
Calender days
Waiting to be filled.

Memories crowd my mind
Reminders of yesterday
Giving strength for today
Courage for tomorrow.

The song I sing comes to mind
He gives
He takes away
My heart will choose to say
Blessed be Your name.

(song by Matt Redman).



Sunday, September 29, 2013

I call myself a Christian

  Been thinking a lot about labels recently.

  Mother.  Woman.  Daughter.  Grandmother.

  Artist.  Chaplain.  Writer.

  How do we identify ourselves?

  And yes.  I call myself Christian.

  I've thought a LOT these last years about what that really means.  When I am questioned on it, I will say, "I am a follower of Christ".

  The word, the label Christian has had a lot of bad press.  And some for very good reasons.  I hear the stories often, in my work.  People wounded, mostly by the church.  And the church can encompass any number of denominations.  And some of these folks become jaded, angry, and want nothing to do with religion.  When I hear some of their stories, I honestly can't blame them.

  I shared a quote recently that talked about a lot of great leaders... Ghandi, Jesus, Buddha.  I thought about that later... if I quote something from Buddha, does that make me Buddhist?  Hardly!

  And I would hope that if someone would ever think to quote yours truly, that does not make everything I believe or say true...  no, I am a work in progress, learning, exploring, listening.  Following.

  And the one I do follow is Christ.  It is personal.  It is holy.  It is real.

  There have been so many things been done in His name that are hardly Christian at all...

  I often think about how he came and hung out with the poor, the sick, those who struggled.  His harsh words were for religious leaders who thought they knew it all...

  He called us to love... the greatest command was to love and know God... a lifetime adventure.  The second was to love others... as myself.

  Instead I have been witness (and been guilty myself) of a religion based on judgement and fear.  Sometimes superiority.

  How do I change that?  I think by listening to others.  Jesus created a level playing field... there was no competition.  Slave or free, male or female, rich or poor..... He loved them all.

  Oh I have my questions.  I think we all do.  Some things I'm not sure we will figure out this side of heaven.  I struggle with suffering.  But I have come to understand that He is present in it.  He wept, and weeps with us.  And someday, I believe it will become clear.

  So, I call myself a Christian.  A work in progress.  On a spiritual journey that is filled with faith, hope, sometimes discouragements, but ultimately, a deep assurance that I am loved.  And that I can love in return.
Not better than anyone, just a human, in love with her Creator.



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Feeling it...

  I've been "feeling it" this week... and thinking about how our feelings and emotions factor into our daily lives.  How do I own that?  How do I process it?

  I recognize that there are some who feel more deeply than others.  There are the male/female factors which are significant, but often stereotyped.

  There are those who have high thresh-holds of pain, and feelings of pain and emotion are more suppressed; sometimes this can serve people well, at other times, it is downright dangerous.

  I know people (and have experienced this myself) who can physically feel the pain of others.  That is not always an easy burden.

  I have a very wise friend who told me that I was a burden bearer.  And so I needed to take care of myself, needed to learn and play and have fun, or my serious side would take over and rule my life.  And burn out would be a constant companion.

  Sometimes easier said than done.

   As I thought about these things, I heard of a number of new difficult diagnosis this week, tough news for those facing serious illness.  I heard the deep pain of another, in a difficult situation.  I see people in the cancer ward, facing their battles.  I see the exhaustion of the helpers...

  I see it in our own family.  Our grief as we continue to process the death of our mom.  I see young mothers with toddlers, babies, sleep-deprived, and I remember those days well.  And I think about it, when I lie awake at night, praying, thinking, and trying to force my stubborn body back to slumber.

  Oh, the feelings are real.  I know what it is to feel pain, to experience despair.  And if I am not careful, it can be all consuming.

  As I tried to help one young man this week, I shared that it could be a matter of focus.  Yes, the feelings are real, and must be acknowledged.  I don't think denial ever serves us well.

  And yet, it is good to focus on the good, the beautiful, the hopeful. To bend my mind in another direction.

 I had fun walking through a farmer's field today, therapy for me.  Beautiful big red peppers, strewn on the ground, begging to be picked.  The smell of the dirt, the miracle of harvest, the sun on my back, the autumn wind cooling my cheeks.

  And I picked those babies and brought them home and put them in jars... preserving hope, sunshine, colour.

  And as fall descends, and life goes on, and the cycle of life and loss remain, I again acknowledge the feelings...the good and difficult... and choose to be thankful, to keep on keeping on, to keep pursuing hope, and finding lots to be grateful for.

 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Words that define us

So I'm lying awake, early in the morning, thinking about the power of labels.

 This week it has been about being a mom, a grandma, a daughter.

  Mom has been gone three months now. Yesterday, as they remembered her at hospice, with all the others who had died in the last several months, I was so aware of her presence, her influence in my life. And I missed her terribly.

  And as I've held our newborn granddaughter this week and cuddled and kissed and sung the same lullabies we sang to mom when she was so sick, I've had lots of time to ponder.  I watch the interactions of my own daughter and her tow-headed little boys and I see myself in them, and remember.

  The circles of life.

  And. I think, does this define me?

  And it is true that for many women, their identity can be wrapped up in their role of parenthood.
 
  And it is also true that the deepest joys and also pain flow from those relationships. When we are close, we are happy, content. When things go wrong, the heart hurts. And when we are separated, we are bereft.

  Everyone has a mother. Not all have children. This too can be an immense grief for those who long to have a child. It seems that sometimes we have put the labels of womanhood and mothers so closely together that when one isn't realized there is a feeling of brokenness. How I feel for those who are barren. Even the label, the word, seems unkind, empty.

  But back to labels. What defines us?

  In our broken world, we will be disappointed.  WE will disappoint.

  As I continue to come to terms with my own humanness, my brokenness, I also see beauty in a new way. God the Father, who is also pictured as a Mother in the scriptures gives me a different label.

It is not based on what I do, or the labels I define myself with.

In fact, we are usually our worst enemies. Words and labels like "fat, lazy, unproductive, ugly" and there are many others can become part of damaging self-talk that can permeate our minds.

  But our Creator has a different label.

  It is "beloved".

  Not for what I do or say or am or what I accomplish.

  Beloved.

  And as I sit with that thought,,, and receive it as a gift, this name "beloved" is the label, the name, I need to own above all others.

  For it frees me to be me, to receive love, and to love fully.

Monday, September 16, 2013

True Expectations

   It has been a while since I read "Great Expectations", that great novel by Charles Dickens, where the orphan Pip faces poverty and obstacle after obstacle.

  I've seen in the last few days a number of articles and had a number of conversations where the focus was on expectations.  A fascinating subject.

  Because we live in a culture of expectations.

  We expect to live a long life.
   We expect to live and good and healthy life.
    We expect to be happy.
      We expect that we deserve it all... the house, the car, and all the latest gadgets.

  I believe in Hope.

  But I'm starting to think that expectations, good or great, can be incredibly disappointing.  Even crippling.

  I think about that when I sit by the bedside of someone who likely will not get well... and it is not that I don't believe in miracles.  But I do believe in life... and death.

  Someone said again to me today, from their hospital bed... we all have to die.

  We really don't like to think about it.

  I was in my late thirties when a dear friend died suddenly in an ambulance accident.  She was married.  She had four kids at home.  And suddenly, abruptly, she was gone.

  It shook me to the core.  I remember the evening of her death, as friends and family gathered at our church to sit and pray and just support each other, the youth pastor said to me "Life is hard... and then you die."

  I thought about it again some years ago, when my elderly grandmother-in-law sat day after day, struggling in her circumstances in a nursing home.  "These golden years are not so golden!", she'd tell me.  "They are downright rusty!!".

  I was reading some of Ann Voskamp's writing today and she quotes her mother as saying:  "Expectations kill relationships.".  

  I've been thinking about that all day...

  My expectations of God.  Of others.  Of myself.

  Is it realistic?  Or do my expectations become my demands?  And when life doesn't turn out, as I expected it might, and I am faced with disappointment, can I truly say, I trust you God!  And i focus on the treasures I have and focus on the blessings...

  It is holding hands open... instead of clenched.

  I quoted that verse today, to someone who had been facing difficult circumstances this week... reminding me of where it says "In this world you will have trouble... but I have overcome the world."

  That old song comes to mind.."Put your hand in the Hand of the Man who stilled the water."  It is about relinquishment.  (not always easy!)  And trust.  Which in the end, brings peace.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Learning to love... Myself.

   The title goes against the grain.  The way I learned to think.

   Because loving myself seemed selfish, inward.  And not terribly Christian.

   But the more I grow up, the more I realize that I have missed something.  That I misunderstood this concept.  That it wasn't all about JOY, the acronym I learned as a child, which spelled out says "Jesus first, Others second, and You (myself) last.

  I've had no trouble loving God.  I know not everyone can identify with that, but I am thankful it has been true for me.  But I have had a lot of trouble loving me.  And I know I am not alone.  (now that could be taken two ways!!)  But I do believe that many people struggle with loving or even liking themselves.

  And sometimes we don't even really KNOW ourselves!

  It was transformational for me three years ago when I had to confront this head on.  I held my worth in what I did, in who I was, in what I had achieved.  And it was all crumbling.  It was then, and only then, that I began to glimpse how much God loved me... not for anything I had done, or accomplished, or who I belonged to.

  Part of the exercise was to really look at myself, flawed, with weakness and strengths.  And start to accept and love the whole package.

  Unique, created, loved.

  And as I continue to learn to live in this way of thinking it has helped me to also love others more.  With less judgement.  More acceptance.  More love.

  This isn't about self-exultation.  Or being self-absorbed.  No, it is about acceptance.  Understanding.  Being OK with being fully human.  Self-care so that I have freedom to care for others.

  I'm reminded of the greatest commandment.  To love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength... and the second?  Is to love your neighbor (your friends, those around you) as yourself.  

  Old habits die hard.  But I was thinking about this a lot this week.  Sometimes we have to practice kindness to ourselves.  And I thought perhaps it was worth sharing...

  We are loved enough to be called children of God... lovely.



Friday, September 6, 2013

Balancing Joy and Lament

  I had this picture in my mind today... of someone balancing on one leg, arms outreached to heaven.  It is a peaceful pose, even worshipful.

  I've tried to balance on one leg, and it is an exercise in amusement.  It is great for practicing my balance, but invariably I teeter, and totter, and finally give up.  It is easier to do when the conditions are right.

  Life is a balancing act.  To keep things in balance when all is well is one thing.  But then the storms do come...

  Last night I was awoken in the early morning by a storm... as many were, from conversations I had today.   The thunder shook the house, and the lightening sent streaks of light beaming into our open window.  And then the rain came, with the wind, intense in its fury.

  It was good to be inside, warm, snug and just listen and watch.

  After a while I fell asleep... and awoke to peace.  The sun was shining, patches of blue, with promises of warmth, birds singing, the air smelling fresh.  I was reminded of Lamentations 3 where there is great descriptions of darkness and trouble and then the writer declares:   "Great is His faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning".  

  There is a time for lament.  And Lamentations 3 has become one of my favourite passages of poetry.  There is no denying the darkness, the struggle, the questions; they are all there.  And then comes hope.

  One of my favourite authors and spiritual mentors is Henri Nouwen.  He writes much about death and life, and how we hold them both... every day.  We don't deny death and its reality, but we constantly have a choice... to choose to live.

  I think this is where the balancing act comes in.  While we acknowledge the sad, the challenges, the questions, the uncertainties, we also can choose life.  To choose joy, to cherish moments, to spread happiness through smiles, hugs, acts of kindness.  To see beauty all around us.  To value one another and love unconditionally.

  And there will be times when we become off balance.  The storm will hit.  We feel the pain.  And that is when we live by hope and trust, in a God who cares.  Who knows my name.
 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Sunshine for the Morning

  We walked into the medical lab, thirsty for coffee, having fasted, and ready to give our blood.  It was a task we had put off for weeks, my hubby and I, just routine tests that go along with physicals that we know we should do since we are now over the age of *ahem* fifty.

  I find it crazy that I, a chaplain, who wanders the hospital corridors and frequents waiting rooms always finds it a little difficult when it is my turn... I struggle with apprehension, not so much for the test, but for anything that might be wrong... and 99% percent of the time my fears are unfounded.  But I think it goes with the territory that those who have experienced illness and loss are a little gun-shy.

  So we eased into the chairs, took our numbers and wondered how long we would have to wait...

  I will now confess that I am a people watcher... it fascinates me to watch and wonder about people's lives... but here sitting with her partner was a most pleasant woman.  You know the kind?  With a yes face... interacting with the little girl beside her, smiling to all.  Every once in a while she became preoccupied with her book... which looked like a book about Love and Miracles to me... and I dubbed her the "positive person".  Her sunny disposition was evident, even without words.

  The door blew open and in came a rotund older gentleman... joking to all as he entered, as cheerful as could be.  I wondered if he permanently wore a smile.  He was so cheerful, I immediately relaxed, such was the gift of his countenance.

  A moment in time, an intersection with strangers.  The gift of smiles.  And I was again inspired to think of what I bring into a room.  Is it a smile, a cheerful nod?  Do I spread sunshine where I go?  Or am I preoccupied with the worries of the day?

  On a rainy morning, in a medical lab, the gift of sunshine had been shared and received.  The gift of a smile... it doesn't cost a thing, but must be one of the richest treasures we can receive... and give.

 

 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Hummingbird Makes a Statement

  Yesterday was the day of the garage sale.  This was the parting of many of my mom's possessions, and although we had kept many for our own memories, dad needed to downsize, and we were dismantling a life-time of memories.  Mom was a creative person... although she lamented that writing and art was difficult for her, she turned out the most beautiful floral arrangements and quilts... the work of an artist.  And the house was filled with tools for the artist, the cook, the business of life.

  Mom also loved nature and the outdoors, and she loved birds.  She had a number of bird houses and she lamented in her later years that birds did not often frequent the town home where they lived.  She also was sad she no longer could hear their singing... with her loss of hearing, came the loss of hearing the birds.  And she mentioned on more than one occasion how much she missed that.

  So I was more than startled yesterday as we were setting up, and I was gearing up for this big day when I felt something hit me... and I looked down, and there on the ground, stunned, lay a little tiny hummingbird.
I was immediately distressed for its tiny life, and we didn't know whether it would make it.  But my brother carefully lifted it and put it on a ping pong bat perch and set it on a ladder that was up for sale...

(photo by Randy Friesen)

  I didn't think about it a lot at that moment... but in retrospect, I began to wonder if this little hummingbird was something more... a message of comfort, perhaps?

  A few minutes later my brother came across this ornament among piles of treasures, and planted it beside me.  In dealing with boxes and boxes of memorabilia I somehow don't remember handling this little piece.  But there it was, appearing suddenly on this day of the garage sale, a beautiful ornament of a hummingbird.

 I decided then and there to keep the ornament... and was rather comforted when I was told the little hummingbird that had flown in and literally bumped into me had also flown out, on it's own steam...

  After the hustle and bustle of the day, with lots of caring people that came to help and buy, I came home exhausted... one of my spoils being the little hummingbird ornament.

 
  As I examined it more closely, I turned it over and discovered it's source was the Crystal Cathedral in Anaheim, California.  But even more startling was the inscription, which seemed at the moment to be just for me... "For the time of the singing of the birds has come." (Song of Solomon)

  Ahhh... yes.  Mom can hear the singing of the birds...and they sing for me.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Rushing to meet the red light

  I was on my way home from work yesterday, and need to make a quick lane change for my turn-off, which can be tricky sometimes with traffic coming down the hill into Vernon, where I live.  However the speeds are posted a low 50 kph, and usually it is fine.

  However yesterday, I barely squeaked through realizing that a pick-up was bearing down on me, speeding down the hill, followed by two other cars, just as fast... all speeding for the red light some yards down the road.  I shook my head...what was their hurry?  They had to stop anyway, and they scared me in the bargain!

  I made it home, but was chagrined.  And I also thought about my own life... hurrying here and there, and how much I am valuing just slowing down.  Breathing.  And when I take time for those rests, it seems so much better.

  I wasn't home long, and hopped in the car again to head to my dads...and actually I was a little late.  Which always bothers me.  I know my dad loves punctuality!  And at the 4 way stop, a lady was crossing... no, really she was jiving... bebopping to some music.  Totally oblivious to her surroundings she literally bounced across the crosswalk, dancing as she went.  I tried to see (without rudely staring) if she had ear-buds in, but couldn't figure out where her music came from.  It didn't really matter... she was jiving, she was in her own joyful world, and one could almost hear the rhythm.

  Sometimes I wish my color was black.  They really know how to sway to the music!  And I watched in fascination, and then remembered I needed to drive, and I smiled, and the joy was back.

  Often at the hospital I say to the patients there... "It's all about hurry up and wait".  It is so true... the rush of the ambulances, the scurry of the ER nurses, the intensity and trauma... all push up the heart-rate.  And then you... wait.  It isn't easy.  I talk to people all the time who are waiting for tests, waiting for results, waiting for chemo... and on a much brighter side, waiting for babies!  There is no hurry about it.  It just happens in its time.

  And I keep telling myself, in this roller coaster of life, that I don't need to speed to get to the red light.  No, I can stop to smell the roses. I can make room for those cars in a hurry.  I can smile at life and others enjoying it.   I can take time to breathe.  In four breaths, out five, my sister taught me; a relaxing exercise.

  I used to listen to Chuck Girard frequently when I was younger, and I was reminded today about the lyrics he wrote to a song I much enjoyed.  He writes:

In the midst of my confusion
In the time of desperate need
When I am thinking not too clearly
A gentle voice does intercede..

Slow down, slow down, be still
Be still and wait, on the Spirit of the Lord
Slow down and hear His voice
And know that He is God.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Wu4Ux6WpFg





Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Savoring the Moment

   I sat on our deck this morning.  An ordinary deck, really, in an ordinary neighbourhood in the Okanagan.  Was feeling thankful for the deck roof my hubby and a friend built a few years back...it creates this cozy space.  Even though we are surrounded by neighbours, we have this little oasis.

  We purchased a little fountain a few years ago too... it was a great investment, bought at the end of the season, at half price.  The sound of water gives the illusion that we are near a stream, and it is peaceful.  I love sitting there, and just listening, as the birds flit by.

  The vista we have is amazing.  Today I looked, I really looked.  I saw things I had never seen before.  A barn nestled in a grove of trees, close to Turtle mountain.  I started imagining what was in that barn... and the animals that might be around...

  As I sat, in my housecoat, wrapped in a quilt, I just enjoyed the moment.  Fresh coffee, a fresh morning.  Blueberries in my oatmeal... I savored the taste of them.  It is one of the pleasures of summer.  To really taste the freshness of fruit, so readily available.

  Yes, life can be crazy busy.  And sometimes crazy sad.  And it is so easy to go from one thing to the next, on this roller coaster we call life.  I feel called to the quietness.  We went on a vacation, but I didn't come home rested.  And then I realized, that I just need to enjoy what I have.

  The quiet moments... my deck calls me.  And the busyness of life, the busyness of my mind calms to a restful state, a thankful state... for all we have, for this moment in time.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sometimes there is not much to say

Come sit with me a while.

There is not much to say.

There is companionship in silence.

So I listen... I heard a cow bellow today as we whizzed by on our bikes... "I heard you", I wanted to say...

I heard the cries of a little grandson... miles and miles away and yet I could touch him via the screen... the wonder of technology.

I listen to the distant sounds of traffic... people busy... going here and there, all in a hurry it seems.

I'm listening for the night sounds... the grasshoppers, the bugs, and sometimes we even hear a coyote's choir in the distance.

And I just want to sit as night falls.

Still.
And listen.

Sometimes listening can be a prayer.  To still myself to hear the beating of my own heart...
constant, steady, faithful...

And I pray that God would guard my heart
both physically and emotionally and spiritually...
It is a good prayer

As I sit.
And slow down.
And listen.

Thanks for listening with me.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Acknowledging the Broken

  So I woke up pondering this morning how my longing for perfection, for the idyllic robs me of joy...

  The morning read of the newspaper wasn't helpful...

  Controversy over the foods we eat... genetically modified seeds and all the ramifications...  another seething letter to the editor about the huge debt all levels of government are amassing... and I think of my darling grandchildren who will inherit this mess.

  And I thought about my own frustration of my own little kingdom... the beans have done poorly, and I wonder about the quality of the soil.  I really need some advice here.  And the tomatoes I thought would do so well in pots look rather sad, and I was shocked to spy some root rot, the bane of tomatoes... the roses have been beautiful but the battle with aphids rages on...

  It takes energy... to take care of my world, to constantly fix and repair and tend to.

  Last night, when the wasps visited our picnic with savage energy, determined to swarm on every morsel, I felt deflated.  The lovely picnic I had imagined, quietly taking in the lake, resting, enjoying the good food I had prepared, was rather spoiled by a battle with the wasps.

  Life can be weary.

  And all of the above seems petty, although it is very real, in the face of those in our family and friends circle who have received difficult news lately, and sometimes this breaks my heart.

  How does one live with brokenness if it is not acknowledged?

  And as a new day begins, I realize so much of it is a choice.  I think of those with incredible odds against them who get up, day after day after day, and face life with courage and determination.

  I also ponder this need for perfection... and the sense that I have held on the ideal that as a person with faith in God, I should be joyful always... and I realize I have had the gospel all wrong.  If Jesus is truly the Redeemer, He came to redeem the broken, the flawed.

  I've done some interesting reading as of late on theories why children of my generation have left the church in droves.  Part of the thinking is that we presented a gospel based on being good...and none of us can live up to that.  That the Christian life should be one without worry, and victorious, and without question.  The message being that if we fail to live up to that standard, there is failure.

 And perhaps because (and I'm speaking very generally here), our kids saw that we couldn't live up to the good, to the rules, to the perfection, it was a discouraging faith.  Not authentic.

  The wisdom of St. Ignatius comes to mind, where he encourages us to take it all to God... each day bring to Him the happenings, the feelings...the good and the bad.  Both are acknowledged. We offer it all to God, as a prayer if you will.  We come as imperfects, looking to be redeemed.  And it is a daily thing.

 We don't live in a world of happy. We are flawed, as is our world.  We live in a world that is fused with joy and sorrow, and the two interconnect at every level.

  And so, perhaps it is good to have an acceptance of both sides of the coin if you will... to acknowledge the frustration, but also see the beauty.  To know I have need of a Redeemer.  To accept the flaws, and yes, experience the joy.  It is all there.



Saturday, July 27, 2013

Deadly Sins (Now, will anyone read this?) :-)

   An article posted on Face Book caught my eye the other day about ten foods you should never eat... the implication being they would lead to a certain demise.

  Aha, I thought, I've eaten so well lately, I'm sure I'll fare well.  Minutes later, with a sinking feeling as I read the article, I realized that I had sinned badly... and had digested most on the list... within the last week!!

  To top off my bad behaviour, I can no longer recall where I read the article, or what the ten foods were.  They say ignorance is bliss, but I'm feeling rather bad about it.  However I remember two of them... the top culprit was microwave popcorn.

  Now I can hear some of you saying, "What gives?", and the others "You should have known that, my dear... we have been eating popcorn sensibly for years!"  

  But the truth of the matter is that my husband loves microwave popcorn, loves making it for our spur of the moment movie nights, and out he will appear with two bowls of steamy, scented popcorn and in we will settle for a lovely hour or two...

  So I have gently suggested that we might try other alternatives, but I hate to ruin a good thing!

  The other sin, the one I remember anyway, was canned foods.  Who knew what might be lurking in the vast array of canned foods... the ones we are encouraged to give to the poor, to stock the Food Bank Shelves, to keep on hand for emergencies.  I do like to make food from scratch, and try to eat as healthy as possible.  So it really bothers me to imagine what might be leaching from the tin can I just purchased... tomatoes being the worst, apparently.  And I just bought four cans on a very good sale, just last week!

   Perhaps it is the matters of the heart that should concern me more than the matters of the stomach... and speaking of sins, I was reminded again of one I struggle with the most... that of worry.

  It is exceedingly difficult not to worry at times... and if you are anything like me you will relate to the fact that we want to protect, take care of, make everything right, stay very healthy, and hope everybody will be happy.  Which is impossible of course...And I find myself, often going down the path of worried thinking, instead of just breathing deeply and enjoying the moment I have.

  And when bad things have happened (and they do) it is easy for the mind to go down the path of waiting for the other shoe to drop... a tension filled way of living.  It reminds me of the old joke where the person finally saw the light at the end of a very dark tunnel... only to discover it was a train bearing down.

  So the challenge is... how does one shed the worry and live a life of joy? I find it helpful to read about others who have found this balance in their lives.  To focus on what is good and beautiful.  To laugh more.
And perhaps to even enjoy that popcorn with my hubby... although I admit I will look for a healthier version in the near future.




Monday, July 22, 2013

Scissors and Summer




I acquired my new pink scissors this spring, at a silent auction fund-raiser.  I always find garden tools inspiring... and today these scissors were put to work.

Scissors are not always friendly... they are sharp. and they cut away... today tackling dozens of heat-scorched roses past their prime, withering in the sun.

A garden is never stagnant.

It seems it would be nice if the pruning work I had done weeks ago would last... that the roses could have lingered in all their beauty.  But they wither and fade, and call me to cut away.  And the more I cut, it invites others to grow in their place.

And so I cut... and thought about life.

How it isn't stagnant, it doesn't sit still.  I linger with the memories, wanting to hang on to the beauty I experienced yesterday.  And yet today calls.

We celebrated a birthday yesterday... the birth of our eldest grandchild, young, full of promise, tender... but also growing... moving past his baby and toddler years and entering a new world of thought and wonder... the gift of the young fill us with hope.

  Today is a gift... a gift that won't last... but one I choose to enjoy.  So I cherish the birthday party memories, and take time to smell the roses.  I cut the few that have not been spoiled by the sun.  They are the gift of today, and with the gift of photography, can be preserved for tomorrow.

  And I also think about my own choices... what I cut from my own life... to create more beauty.  Sometimes it is to carve more time to think and to reflect.  What I carefully prune today also makes a difference in my tomorrows.



 


Thursday, July 18, 2013

An Abundance of Books


   I went downstairs the other day; the object was to clean out a number of closets and areas.  I'm trying to reorganize my house.  I did fairly well until I came to the books...

  We've been taking turns going through my dad's library.  Over half a century of collecting, a pastor's library filled with treasures.  He's picked out the ones he wants to keep, he too is downsizing drastically.  And I am making room for more... because when it comes to books, they are always welcome here.

  But in making room, I ran into a little trouble.  An empty box beside me, I started in on the first book case.  Now I have to admit, that when it comes to books, I am abundantly blessed.  There are bookshelves in the hallway, in the guest room, in my office.  There are books in our rec room, and scattered in our bedroom.  Books in the living room... they are welcome anywhere.

  I looked at the books on this particular book shelf... this one was written by my Uncle Abe... this one a special gift... the Heidi books I would surely read to my grandchildren... other books that reminded me of long satisfying reads... and on it went.  And when I was done with that bookshelf, I had only two offerings in my box.  Oh dear...

  I love a good novel.  One that challenges me, that touches my heart, and stretches me to think about good living.  I love Jan Karon's tales of Father Tim and all the wonderful characters at Mitford.  (Really, you should meet them, if you haven't read this series!) Angela Hunt weaves a good story, and I've read most of those John Grisham books.

  And then to be challenged in my spiritual life... authors in the last years that have especially blessed me are Phillip Yancey, Sheila Walsh, Henri Nouwen... and I have been stretched in my thinking by so many others... St. Teresa of Avila, Richard Rohr, Kathleen Norris, David Benner...

  On that shelf alone, in my basement, there were books by Michael Phillips, Francine Rivers, Catherine Marshall... and some of my childhood favourites... Anne of Green Gables, with an "e" of course... these books are like friends to me.


I sighed... and determined to reread some of them again... but to part with them seemed a travesty.  My favourite reading chair beckons, (I was inspired to paint it once!);  the one I spent so many hours as a child reading, tuning out my mother's calls for help in the kitchen, or reminders to practice that piano.  No, I was in another world, and it was hard to disturb me.

  Books have shaped me and formed me and inspired me and disturbed me... they are invitations into the mind of another... and I have been privileged to tarry there.

  Oh yes, I have a kindle... but there is still nothing like opening the pages of a well-loved book and losing myself in the story... so if you don't hear from me in a while... you might hear the turning of the pages.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The robin came to visit.

   Do you ever wonder?

   What the birds think?  Bird-brain... that seems so rude.

  How do we know, anyway?

   Birds have always fascinated me.  My first husband, Andrew, was an avid bird watcher.
   His bird book, the North American Volume, dog-eared and well studied.

  He learned to tell a bird by their voice, by their song.
  He took great thrill in identifying them by their stripes and colors and size.

  It was no wonder, then, that he loved the eagle...as we all have come to love the eagle.
   That verse from Isaiah 40... "They that wait upon the Lord... they shall mount up on wings like eagles.."  it was his favorite.  And should I have been surprised when I saw an eagle, flying low, the day he died?

  Does God use birds, creation, to communicate with us?  I believe He does... although some might question it.  God, the Creator... how do we hear His voice?

  And so I've learned to pay attention.

  Thinking lots about "the other side" these days... how close are we really, to eternity... our earth-bound minds bumping up against the supernatural?

  I asked the question yesterday... If we knew what "they" knew... how would it change our lives?

 And so the robin came to visit.  He has been hanging around lately.  He seems to have a lot to say, but I can't understand a word.  But I'm trying to listen.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Embracing the season.

   Summer; July is upon us.  As I write, we sit on our patio watching the night descend. The warm air is inviting, we see the first star of the evening. Smells of herbs and fresh mowed grass fill the air.

  Underneath the deck is a robins nest. Yesterday he perched, or was it she?... on our grape vines, so still, watching us. And then I saw the nest and the little birds, jaws hanging open, waiting. Quite amazing.

  Work calls.  Weeds to be pulled, raspberries to be picked. Today I made jam; a combinatin of my berries and dad's.   It is in our blood, to preserve the food. What isn't used can be shared. I've learned it well.   Yesterday a neighbour brought by cherries from her tree. I am surrounded by a sense of community, of caring.

  Life goes on, its rhythm calling to work and sleep and eat.  I usually love this season. I take great delight in bringing in produce from the garden. Yesterday, lettuce and a big fat cucumber. Fresh dill for the summer stew. Juicy cherry tomatoes for the salad.

  The roses, still blooming, remind me of mom. I will bring the fragrant petals to her grave. For it is also a season of grief, and reminders are everywhere.

  On the weekend, we went for a walk, a beautiful path in the Kootenays. The path was lined with a riot of wild flowers. Mom loved wild flowers this time of year and would love to hike the hills in search of them. Surrounded by flowers, a butterfly flits by... It is beautiful.

  It is the season. A season of plenty, of beauty, and yes of sadness. Joy mixed with sorrow, our lives hang in the balance of these. And I embrace the season.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Turning the Page

 My calendar says June.  It is time to turn the page.
 I really don't want to...

Mom didn't want to see June, but we were blessed by June.

Two more weeks to love and talk and smell the roses.
 I really don't want to turn the page...

the last of the flowers, those last flowers I bought
for her the Thursday before she died,
 bright happy gerbers, yellows and pinks...
 I hung on to the yellow ones, and they have crumpled
 Yellow petals and pollen fallen on my mantle
 And I can't bear to clean it up.

  Leftover food...
  Gifts of love
  fill my fridge... we eat, not hungry
  but grateful..

  Reminders everywhere of family love
  Of being together
  Of sharing these moments together
   The house now empty
   but full of reminders.

  I don't want to change the page.
  I don't want to clean it up...
  I want to hang on and sit and remember

  And as I water the fading flowers
   And wipe the tears
   
 I really don't want to celebrate this Canada Day
  My flag flies at half mast
   The world more empty
    Heaven richer.

And I know that I know
  that I am grieving..
   and that others grieve with me,

And that she would encourage me
   to turn the page.

Canada Day, July 1, 2013
for my mom


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It's raining.

It is raining.

Water pouring down from the sky, relentlessly, 
Soaking the earth,
puddles.

It is raining,
Tears mingling with rain
running down my face
At the most inopportune moments.
I'm grieving.

Oh yes,
she is in a better place.
she is free from pain.
We are glad
We are sad.

I feel like my little grandson
Whose mommy loves him so
And he loves his mommy with
wondered passion
And when she leaves the room
His eyes well up
and sometimes he even
howls,
and we can't comfort him.

She'll be back...
we tell him.  

I'll see her again...
I remind myself...
But that thought is lost
in the immediate need.

It is a primal need,
this attachment to our mothers.
The ones who birthed us
and loved us
and nourished us
and worried over us
And my gratitude wells up
with my tears.

It is raining.
I am grieving.
It is ok.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Conversations with Mom

  We have passed the three month mark.  Three months at Hospice, an epic journey for mom, for all of us.  The highs and lows have reminded us of that roller coaster ride... yes  there are discouragements, but also joy and love and even laughter.

  I was thinking this morning, as I couldn't sleep... of all the lovely conversations I've had with mom... just this week!!  And I realize that these are gifts I might have missed... and I am grateful.

  So with her permission, I'll share some of them with you...


  Mom sleeps a lot these days.  The other day, I was busy by her bed, texting my siblings and thought she was fast asleep.  All of a sudden she says with a start..."How are my beloved children today?"  I wondered how she even knew I was just communicating with them!  "Just fine, Mom"... I say, and then I think about that... am I really fine?  Part of me wants to answer NO!  I am tired, and I don't want to say good-bye... we all don't want to "lose" our mother... and yet... it is true.  We ARE fine... so very fine.  We have had this gift, the gift of a loving mom, who even in these days her first thought is of us, of her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren.  I've heard her whisper their names in her sleep... we are fine because we are loved, because we have each other.  And we are rich.

  The other day, she apologized to me... "I keep forgetting things."  Honestly, we are amazed how good her memory is with blood levels in the basement.  "You remember the important stuff, Mom", I reassured her.  She sank back into her pillow.  "I love you," she said.  "See?... you remember the important things!"

  She is always concerned about others... "Watch the clock", she told me the other day... "I try not to bother the nurses during shift changes"... my mom, the nurse, so aware of others.  I assured her that if she needed help during shift change we might ask for it anyway!  But she has taught us consideration of others... and displays such a grateful attitude to all staff who walk into her room.  (And the staff at Hospice ARE wonderful).

  "I don't want to see June!" she said frequently as the days of May closed in on us.  May passed by... we walked into June.  "I didn't want to see June", she said to me this week... "but then I would have missed the roses.  Thank you, God for the roses!"  Last month she read Ann Voskamps book "A Thousand Gifts".  It is all about gratitude.  I highly recommend the read.  The book encourages us to count the gifts, to live in gratitude.  Even in dying, Mom looks for the gifts, and is grateful.

  Mom has spunk, even now... "how should we plan this day?" , she said to me this morning.   She has no strength left for any projects.  The crocheting has been put away.  The books lie beside her unopened.  "I will sleep", she said... and then I might eat a little... Oh, I need to make some time for washing up!"  She smirks at me... the days plans are set... and I read to her from the Morning Prayers..."The night has passed, and the day lies open before us; let us pray with one heart and mind.... As we rejoice in this gift of this new day, so may the light of your presence, O God, set our hearts on fire with love for you."

  A new day, a new gift...another conversation.  And we are grateful.



Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gifts for the Journey

   My hubby and I went for a walk the other night; the air warm and the evening still bright. I love this time of year - the sun going down late, the days long and full of possibilities.

  As we walked, along the path, the left side of the path was full of weeds.  Untended grass and bramble.  And in the middle of all that wild growth, stood a poppy, almost out of place. A flash of colour, bright, beautiful.


  I was thinking about a conversation I had with mom this week.  Coming up to three months of living at hospice this week gives one time for reflection!   We talked about the journey.  Because it seems when you think you have life all figured out, and have certain expectations about how things should be, you can feel  disappointment. Or struggle with adjustments.

  But when you see life as a journey, never really knowing what is round the bend, perhaps it is easier to accept and enjoy the here and now, the living for today.  And there is a whole lot more peace in that way of thinking.

  A little like finding the poppy. Not expected, but very much enjoyed.

  Our family has always liked to plan. We (mostly) are organizers, which can be very helpful at times.  But, I'm realizing that has its limitations. One of my favourite holidays with my hubby was a trip to the Maritimes where we didn't plan every stop. We drove and discovered and landed in some interesting places. This was disconcerting for me some days when I couldn't envision where we would sleep that night, but also wildly freeing.

  Every day was an adventure!  Right now our lives are in limbo.  It is hard to plan anything. But I'm learning to treat it like the journey it is... Each day a gift with surprises, new things to learn, points of beauty on the way.

  One day, one hour at a time...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Endurance

   Mom and I were chatting yesterday and she mentioned the word endurance with me.  A word she is embracing as these days stretch into months in her journey at Hospice.

  Today I flitted through the internet looking for meanings to this word I'm not sure I like.  Some indicated an almost immunity, rising above circumstances, going against the odds, coming out on top.

  It didn't fit.

  Bearing up under, living with circumstances, breathing.... in and out, in and out... breathing... and breathing some more.  This sounds more like endurance.  In our world anyway.

  Cruising through the internet, I saw all these pictures of athletes, sweating, pushing one more mile, glamorous, exulted, cheered on.

  And all I could think of was the dear man I had got to know, the double amputee, legs missing, whose arms are not working all that well, and how he mustered a smile every-time I walked into his hospital room.  Endurance.

  Or the thought of my Uncle Frank came to mind, living with Lou Gehrig's disease for years and years, day in and day out, losing all functions accept his brain, and he blinked his messages with those whom he loved.  Endurance.

  I see the braveness and courage of those in the cancer ward, chemo dripping through their veins, valiantly facing their disease with dreams of health and family, and allowing their bodies to receive the worst to fight the worst, so they can be their best... that is endurance.

  It is the face of the mother or father who cares for a handicapped child - day in and day out, month after month, year after year, patiently loving, advocating for, caring providing... endurance.

  It is reflected in those who endure incredible grief... and there are many kinds... and choosing to get up and face each new day, day after day, when part of your heart is missing, wondering if you can ever feel any better, yet life goes on... that is endurance.

  Endurance is not always a choice.  It is looking at what is given to us straight in the face, and keeping on going, day after day, sometimes year after year.   Even when there are no answers.  When life isn't simple.

  The choice comes in looking for the joy, the peace, the love, even as we endure.  To find the gems in the desert, gifts for the journey.  They come in the kindness of others, the joy of a moment in nature; a rainbow, a bird, a flower.  It can come in a word; a word of encouragement, a smile, a gentle hug.

  I am always comforted by this verse from 2 Corinthians:  "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed."