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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, January 30, 2013

Embracing today

  As January has seemed to drag on (for me anyway), it has been a time of waiting.  We are joyously awaiting the birth of one grandchild, and had some concerns about health and well-being of another of our children.  The knowing, the praying for, the waiting; it simmers in the mind as we continue in the everyday... the continuing of the normal routines of life; work, sleep, play.

  I am so looking forward to sidewalks that are not icy and warmer temperatures so I can enjoy the outdoors again.  I find I am not motivated when I am cold, or when it is dark.  I tend to want to sink in and hibernate and think I would have managed just fine as a bear, thank you.

  So in this mood of waiting... waiting for news, waiting for baby, waiting for spring, I was thinking today about how to just love today.  Today is always a gift.  Today is the treasure I have now.  It holds the memories of yesterday, and the hopes of tomorrow, but it is all I have, right now.

  I came across an amazing quote today by Frederick Denison Maurice, from The Prayer-Book and the Lord's Prayer.  Maurice, who lived in the 1800's says: "God has brought us into this time;  He, and not ourselves or some dark demon.  If we are not fit to cope with that which He has prepared for us, we would have been utterly unfit for any condition that we imagine for ourselves.  We are to live and wrestle in this time, and in no other.  Let us humbly, tremblingly, manfully look at it, and we shall not wish that the sun could go back its ten degrees, or that we could go back with it."

  Well, the manfully part was a little outdated, perhaps I might use the word courageously?  But such challenging thoughts... for today.

  We often joke that we have been born in the wrong century.  In fact my husband and I had that conversation just this morning as we lay in bed sipping our morning coffee.  And then I reminded him that we would likely NOT be in bed sipping coffee, but might be out at the outhouse, or chopping wood for that fire that we would have to build to make our coffee... which certainly would not have been programmed to brew the night before!

  No, we live in a very privileged age.  As I trust myself to a God who is sovereign, who knows all, who knows my comings and goings, who loves me deeply, I also can trust that he knows my todays and my tomorrows.  There is peace in that.  In accepting today with all it's uncertainties and challenges, and with it's joys.  Today I was privileged to meet a little one day old baby in the Maternity Ward... and heard the story of her miracle birth.   As I looked on with awe, I was reminded again of God's plan...and know I can trust in that for all of my todays... and tomorrows.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hidden

   The word for the week that has been significant for me is "hidden".

  I've been picturing that all week... to hide, in my mind is a picture of safety, of protection from something, Someone greater than me.  One of my favourite Psalms in the Scripture is Psalm 91.  Verse 4 describes it well:  "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."

  It reminds me of the mother-heart of God - and I ponder that we are made in His image... male and female - and that tender heart of a mother is evident as she protects and even covers her children, especially in times of danger or unrest.  It brings me back to my own days as a young mom... I gave birth to my youngest just before my 25th birthday, and she was my shy one.  After having two children who were much more outgoing, I began to understand with this little one the meaning of hiding behind a mother's skirts, for she would do literally that; hide behind me and peer out under the safety of her mother.

  And now this lovely daughter is approaching her 30th birthday... where does the time go?... and a mom herself to two precious boys who look to her for all the comfort and safety a mommy provides.

  One of the hard realities of life is the realization that we cannot protect our children from all life brings.  It is instinctive for us to want to...no matter how old we are or how old our children are... but part of growing up is to realize that we are not in control.

  Which is why I was loving this picture of hiding this week.  When things seem rather out of control, where do I run to?  Where do I hide?  I love the picture of being hidden in Christ, of having that safety net and comfort place that I can go.  When I was newly widowed, in the winter of 95/96, I often lay in bed picturing a covering of our whole house, a covering and protection of God if you will... Psalm 91 speaks of God as a shield and I literally pictured Him that way... and with those thoughts, I could sleep, feeling safe and protected.

  It reminds me of one of my favorite old hymns, penned by the blind poet, Fanny Crosby, who inspired so many.  He hideth my soul...comforting words, healing words.

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
A wonderful Savior to me;
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
Where rivers of pleasure I see.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
That shadows a dry, thirsty land,
He hideth my life in the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand.

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord
He taketh my burden away
He holdeth me up and I shall not be moved,
He giveth me strength as my day.

  I love that line... He hides my life in the depths of His love... it feels like letting go, sinking in, relaxing, resting, in Someone who has my back, who loves me more than I can imagine.

 


Friday, January 18, 2013

Be Silent

  I woke up this morning with these words in my head, and they have been hovering ever since... "Be Silent, be silent, be silent before Him."  It turns out they are part of an old Hymn, "The Lord is in His Holy Temple" (William James Kirpatrick) , that I used to play often as a prelude in my church-piano playing days.  It comes from a verse from Habakkuk 2:20 in the Old Testament.

  I know now that Amy Grant also recorded that song, and we have played it many times.

  The words have not left me and I have pondered them all morning.  One of the devotionals I read earlier this week by Henri Nouwen talked of taking all our thoughts and turning them into prayers.  I was trying to practice that this morning, and sometimes it is like trying to herd a thousand cattle into a tiny coral... I can hear the baying of cattle, and really, it isn't silent at all.

  Even in the silence of the morning, my mind can be noisy.  The pressures of the day, the uncertainties of life, the cares we have for people we love dearly all can weigh heavily and chase the mind in all sorts of directions, not all of them pleasant.

  So as I lay there, at first light, I tried to practice turning those thoughts into prayers.  And this ancient verse turned hymn, kept singing in my head... "Be silent... be silent."  And it seemed to me God saying... I am enough just for today... so I lay in silence and thought on that for a while.

  So off I go... with those words in my heart, and I thought I'd share them for encouragement as well.  God is enough.  Be silent before Him.  Let His quietness and peace settle our hearts.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Living with Limitations

   As my mind has been wrapping around thoughts of possibilities, my body has been reminding me of limitations.  To live with a positive outlook, to live with hope and a sense of possibility is like a breath of fresh air.  I thought of that the other day when I was in a stale environment and "broke out" to the outside, taking in gulps of fresh clean, if cold air.  Life giving!

  I visit many in my work whose lives are affected by limitations,and it seems to me that I also need to face this head-on:  my limitations.  We can say "I can do anything", but the realistic way of looking at things is that I will never be a brain surgeon (some people are heaving a sigh of relief), I will never climb Mount Everest (and kudos to those who do)... there are some things that are beyond my limitations and wishful thinking.

  Today I was thinking I was feeling pretty good (I've had my share of health issues lately), and I bent over at the kitchen sink, and my back said, "Yikes!"... such a simple movement, but my back is out... at least for the day.  Thank God for heat packs and pain pills.  My mind might want to dance and I see the possibilities, but my body certainly has it's limitations.  No dancing for this girl today...

  Recently I visited a dear chap who has been wheel-chair bound for most of his life, and lately has been confined to a hospital bed for many weeks.  As I sought to bring him comfort, I wondered... what are his possibilities?  How can I bring him hope?  These are the questions I grapple with on a daily basis, and I know I am not alone.

  There is so much of life we simply do not have control.  What strikes me though is that I can live positively even in negative circumstances.  That I can choose joy and peace instead of grumbling. I can choose kindness over self-pity.   This is sometimes easier said than done... which is probably why they have support groups for people with chronic pain and depression... they just go together, and it is truly difficult.

  I read this devotional by Richard Rohr today and it really struck home.  He says: "If you keep listening to the love, if you keep receiving the love, trusting the love - even with all your limitations, with all your unworthiness, with your limited intellect or whatever you feel holds you back - you start to experience within yourself a sense of possibility.  Whatever life is inviting you to you have this sense that it still okay, and even better, and that you can do it!  As Mother Teresa loved to say, "The only real success is faithfulness".

  To live faithfully, with limitations, with trust in a God who cares... that is a life full of possibility.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Thinking in Possibilities

"The possible's slow fuse is lit by the imagination."  - Emily Dickinson.

 Sometimes I feel like I have a very slow fuse.  (Not in the temper department, don't worry!)  No, I am more sluggish in the possibilities department.  Shorter in these dark winter days.  I read another quote recently which said: "The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination." -Terri Guillemets.

  Which leads to, what sparks the imagination?  Perhaps it is more an activity of the mind.  I know I do this with clay.  Sometimes when I can't sleep my imagination creates the most artistic pieces, and I work through how I would build that.  It is seldom replicated, but it sparks my creativity... and gets me going.

  When I was growing up I happened to read books by Norman Vincent Peale and also a number by Robert Schuller.  They always inspired me, but I was skeptical too..  Oh I liked their happy thoughts, but mine were well rounded with a dose of reality.  "Life is hard, and then you die" - David Gerrold, resonated with me during some of the real hard stuff of life.  And when it is hard, it is easy to slip into a fear-based living that does not always embrace the possibilities.

"Change your thoughts and change your world",  Peale is quoted to say.

  When I was a teenager I suffered a serious bout of depression.  I know what it is like to feel such heaviness that it is like a cloud, a literal cloud you cannot wish away.  This melancholy can attack me, as I believe it does many, in the winter season, when we are more limited by cold and dark.

  I admire those who don't seem to be affected.. they embrace the cold and all it offers.  Me, I find myself dreaming of warmer climes, or counting the days until spring.

  Being acquainted with grief, I know there also seasons of life... and it is not always spring and summer.  I have deep empathy with those who find themselves in the winter of life.  It is difficult to think in possibilities.  Perhaps that is why when we began our little organization to encourage widows and widowers we named it New Hope.  Because hope is full of possibilities... hope that is often birthed in darkness and despair.

  Proverbs 23 says "for as he thinks in his heart.. so is he."  Thinking in possibilities, a good goal for 2013.













Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Scrabble and Butternut Curry Soup

   I'm writing this as I watch a steady pile of snow falling from the sky - you know, the kind that you need to be shoveling every couple of hours to keep up... I'm glad I'm inside and home from all my errands.

  Winter can be like that!  The other day I felt hemmed in; the snow certainly dictated our activities, or should I say, curtailed them.

  And yet, as I am determined to think in possibilities this year, I thought of what this invites me to?  The other day we had great fun making angels in the snow (well my husband did) and the grandsons were quite impressed.  But I also remembered the busyness of spring, the season that I love, and how we often long for what we do not yet have (more time).  Sometimes in the heat of summer, I fondly think of turtleneck sweaters and cozy fires and time for reading books... well all of that can be mine this week!!!

  I've enjoyed a lot of reading lately... I've taken a break from school, so this is enjoyable reading, leisurely, with a cup of tea and my new quilt wrapped around... (thanks, Mom!).  We've also taken to playing scrabble more often, and often spend a whole evening playing games and challenging each other.

  And it is always good to have a good pot of soup going!  I've had a few requests for this favourite soup of mine, so I'll share the recipe.  Soup is soul food, I think, full of nutrients, nourishing and warm; good for body and spirit.

  I've adapted this recipe over the years, and to me soup is never quite the same... you use what you have, and the results might vary from time to time.  That is just fine with me...

  So here is the basic recipe, to be adjusted to your taste and pantry!

  I start with an onion... and garlic.  Can't get more basic that that... and good for the immune.  Chop in big chunks and saute in a bit of olive oil at the bottom of your soup pot.  One medium onion;  I like sweet onions the best, and a large clove of garlic.  Peel and remove the seeds and pulp of one medium butternut squash (or two small)... Chop into chunks.. and add to the pot.  Depending on the volume of your squash, add 4-6 carrots, peeled and chopped.  Add 1 - 3 peppers (I prefer red), but whatever you have... also chopped in large chunks.

  After sauteing this mixture for a few minutes (until the onion is soft), add one to two teaspoons of curry powder.  I have been using a madras curry which is quite lovely.  The amount you add will directly relate to how hot you like it... and the type of curry you use.  Mix well with the vegetables and your kitchen will start to have a most lovely aroma!



  Add app. 8 cups of water (just to cover the vegetables).  Add a chicken bullion cube and a teaspoon of salt.  My latest choice is Himalayan salt (quite nice), sea salt is great too.  And my latest addition (which I love) is ginger.  I saw a cooking demo recently where they showed if you put fresh ginger in the freezer (I just peel it a little and stick it in a baggie), and then take it out as needed, it grates beautifully into whatever you are using.  So I have grated a little fresh ginger - 1 -2 tsp, and it adds such a lovely flavour.

  Let it all simmer for about 1/2 hour or until the vegetables are soft... let cool a little and then puree the works.  I use a hand immersion blender which works great for me.  Serve with a swirl of plain yogurt, and you have a fine meal.  Even better the next day.  My husband sprinkled a little dill on his yesterday (which I thought was weird), but he certainly seemed to like it.



  It freezes well too... so happy winter.  I pray for safe travels for all those who have to be out there, and happy soup making!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Dread... or Dream?

  It's just one little letter.  But a pretty big typo in the stuff of life.

  Thinking about possibilities has created all kinds of rabbit trails in my mind.  Possibilities is all about looking ahead, about daring to dream.

  Instead the mind can be a container for dread.  Tough stuff happens.  It is true.  But when the mind begins to fill with the what ifs, and we have insurance for every possible circumstance, and we live in a safety crazed society, it is hard not to live with dread on some level.  It is on the news, it is on the advertisements... don't fall off the ladder, watch where you are going, watch what you eat, are you really exercising enough?  ... perhaps I should just throw out the TV?

  I've done my share of fear-based living.  I know what it is to live in dread.

  I really want to drop the d and replace it with an m.

  Does that fit with reality?  The mind is a powerful thing.  Can I dare to dream, and yet live in the messiness of life?

  In this time of year where darkness is greater than light,  I see many people struggling... with illness, with viruses, but even as prevalent, with sadness and despair.  How does one offer the gift of hope?  The ability to dream?  To see beyond the this life to a Creator God who believes in us, who loves us as a father or mother loves a child?

  Perhaps finding the "m" in Dream involves loving oneself, and daring to dream that life can be good.  Today,  and tomorrow.  I recently was reacquainted with a friend I had not seen in years.  As we sat in the coffee shop today and caught up, we reviewed all the good things in our lives... the gifts of family and God's goodness to us, and it seemed so apparent.  Sometimes we just have to step back and see it from another perspective.  That there is goodness all around us.

  And it is good to dream and enjoy what is today... and to look forward to tomorrow with hope.

 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Tale of Two (Elderly) Women

  Once upon a time there lived two rather elderly women.  Both were approaching their tenth decade of living, and their bones were tired.  Gone were the days of cooking and cleaning, and in their day, ironing.  Their children, even their grandchildren were busy adults, busy, busy, with their own lives.

  No, their chief occupation had become to wait.  They both lived an institutionalized life, because their creaky knees could no longer hold their weight, and their vision had lost it's brightness.  Body parts could no longer be depended on.  Both had lost their independence, one of many losses that weigh heavily on the elderly.  So they sat, and they waited.  They rested.  And life went by, as it is apt to do.

  The cheerful visitor found them and introduced herself.  She found Agnes* sitting in a chair, gazing out the window, knitting needles busy in her arthritic hand.  "Lovely you can look out!" the cheerful visitor said, and gazed with her upon the winter-clad parking lot.  Agnes smiled and agreed.  "What are you making?", the visitor asked and Agnes proudly showed her the even stitches of the little garment.  "I knit for others" she said, "it keeps me busy!" 

  Her eyes, although gently shrunken into her frail skin, sparkled with life.  She was wrapped in a bright pink sweater.  They talked about life, and family, and God, and the visitor was quite cheered by the visit.  She thought she would come again.

  The visitor went to the next room.  With her back to the window sat Gladys.  "Good morning!"  the cheerful visitor declared with enthusiasm.  "What is good about it?" shot back Gladys.  "Well, it seems sunny out", came the next attempt... to be met with "It doesn't matter to me!  Can't go outside anyways!!".

   "I thought you were sitting all alone... and would like a little visit?" the visitor persisted.  "I'm quite used to being alone, it is the way it has always been!" Gladys retorted.

  The visitor pondered on the next course of action.  Perhaps Gladys was in pain?  "Are you OK?"  Gladys didn't want any part of it...Her frown penetrated the room.  "OK then... I'll see you again", the visitor said, having lost some of her cheerfulness.

  The visitor pondered the events for a long time.  She thought about the two elderly women.  Both frail, both  without many options.  Or could they choose?

  Because isn't love a choice?  Can one choose positivism over negativity?  One room radiated peace and joy, the other bitterness.  And the visitor thought, will the choices I make today, in the middle of my life affect how I will cope in my latter years?  For those who live long enough to have white crowns of hair - will their wrinkles spell peace and laughter, or will the frown lines dominate?

  Some of life we do not choose.  But we can choose how we respond.  Perhaps that is why the prayer we know as the Serenity Prayer is so encouraging: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."  - Reinholdt Niebohr.

*All names and characters are fictional, and only reflect some of the many experiences of the visitor, who chooses to remain cheerful and work on her laugh lines.