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Welcome to my blog! Of course if we were visiting in person, I'd have the teapot out and we could sit and chat.
I'm honored you stopped by to listen to my thoughts and ponderings - and if you have a minute sometime, let me know you dropped by!

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Whether Merry or Not, it is a Heartfelt Greeting of Love

I penned this poem in 2011, preparing for a Christmas Service at the hospital.
I searched, in vain, for a suitable poem that would fit the mood for those who might not be so merry, for whom the season is challenging.  So I wrote my own...

And it is the same, every year.  There are those who are very sick, or caring for those who are.  There are those who grieve.  Those who are lonely. 
Those who miss their families, or who long for closer relationships.

The "perfection" of Christmas can be a downer, for it never will or can be perfect.

So, although we sing "holly jolly", and "merry", I write this for the those who might struggle at times with the season.  And wish you Peace and Comfort in a broken world.

Christmas Poem

They say “Merry Christmas”
but not all is so bright

somewhere there are soldiers in terrible plight
somewhere there is a child 
who is hungry and cold
And doesn't know Christmas the way the story is told.

There are those who are grieving
for someone who has died
And the empty space in their hearts cannot be denied

Oh they say “Merry Christmas”
but not all are well,
There are some who are sick,
 either in body or soul
And Christmas can definitely take a great toll.

And yet, if you think to that first Christmas morn
Not all was that merry before Christ was born.
Mary and Joseph a long journey to take
A baby was coming, much was at stake.

No room to be found, no comforts of home
The Christ child was born in the midst of a barn
The mystery of Christmas, that God would be man
Could Mary and Joseph really understand?

We look back to that Christmas
 with awe and with wonder
And like Mary, we stop and we ponder.

Perhaps the true Christmas begins in the heart
Not always merry, but where hope finds its start

There is hope in the Christ child,
And faith, peace and love
May the true spirit of Christmas
Touch us from above.   


–Grace Wulff December 24 2011

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Christmas Gift Made with Many Hands

  A few years ago now, I came upon an idea to recycle old Christmas cards and turn them into little woven paper stockings.

  I loved the idea and this is the third year I have used them to encourage and cheer hospital patients and our elderly at the extended care.

 

  Last year I showed this idea to the lovely group of quilting ladies who also provide me with quilts to give away occasionally... which is another wonderful story.  Well, they took it to heart and last spring, I was given a LARGE bag, FULL, of Christmas stockings, each stitched together with love.  

  Last month, I attended another party of women, whom I love to hang out with from my own church.  They had decided to do a service project, so I asked them to help me fill these stockings.  So they came, armed with candy-canes and ribbon and together we put together 200 stockings, ready to hand out for Christmas giving.



Part of the work that night was to trim, add ribbon, or add punch art to the Christmas bookmark I had designed for this years gift.  

  What a fun evening that was, and in one hour, all was done.

  This week I asked some of the volunteers to join me, and we caroled on one of the floors at the hospital, and it was moving... the joy of the carolers, and the response of those who joined us, many in hospital for weeks and weeks.  

  And next week a larger group of carolers will be meeting in a couple of our extended care facilities... and again we will share the songs of Christmas and hand out these little gifts.  And the rest will go to other hospital patients, throughout this Christmas season.

  I'm not sure I'll even have enough... but that is easy to remedy.

  This has been a JOY project... in the midst of long-term suffering for many, we are able to infuse some care and joy, and even lift the hearts of those dedicated staff members who care for these people.  And it brought so much JOY to us, those who crafted, and sang.

  And it is an easy gift for anyone to make... even children!  Just take an old Christmas card, cut both the front and back together to shape a stocking, punch holes all around with a hole punch (I found it easier to paperclip it together to hold it in place), and weave together with wool or coloured yarn.  Tie the yarn on both ends together so it can be hung.

  A bookmark and a candy-cane fit in very nicely.

  Merry Christmas, and thanks to all who participated in this Christmas project for 2014!!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Frozen

Frozen

I live in a frozen world.
Brittle
Barren
Cold.

We adapt
Us Canadians
And everything is relative.
It is always colder somewhere else.

The current fashion
Features scarves, boots
Flannel is friendly

We boast about our heated seats
And dream of warm vacations

Sometimes I wonder
Why
I am born here
Not there
I am Caucasian
I am woman
I am relatively rich
Not poor.

Privileged,
If cold at times.

Do those who are born to the other
Wonder about my life?

The best gift of all
Is breath

Breath for all
Wherever, whoever.

I embrace the life I've been given

But choices can always be made.

To share of my abundance
To be grateful

Today, grateful for warmth and light
Even in the midst of
The coldest weather.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Waiting for Advent

   The gearing up has begun, the frenzy of to do lists, shopping, preparations, planning and parties.  And Advent is coming...

  I love advent, and perhaps this year, like no other, I've been waiting for this season... of waiting.  Because I want to be still, and listen, and take time to wonder.  To wonder in the sense of being in awe, of tasting the mystery, of paying attention to the Divine.

  This is not passive waiting... there is a purpose, an intent, to focus on the important, what really matters.

  Recently I spent a day in retreat with a number of lovely women and our topic that day was Psalm 130.

Psalm 130
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
    to my cry for mercy.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the Lord, my whole 
being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
  for with the Lord is unfailing love
    and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from all their sins.

  What struck me in this beautiful Psalm is the waiting... waiting for God.
  Five times, the waiting.

  What are we waiting for?  I see there is unfailing love.  And redemption. Waiting for God.  Isn't that what Christmas is all about?  Such wonderful gifts for a broken world.

  There are days where I just long to fix it all... and in my work there is lots of waiting, many waiting rooms.  And I see people wait differently... some are anxious, even pacing, or fidgeting, it is painful to watch.  Others cast down, heads low.  Others are watchful.  Yet others are peaceful, even being productive in waiting... reading, knitting, working on quiet projects.  Others taking the time to visit, taking interest in others around them, even making friends with strangers.

  It is not easy, this waiting thing.

  There have been periods in my life which have felt like months and even years of hard waiting... not knowing the outcome, praying, at times giving up, yearning, losing hope, then finding it again.

  It seems it is part of this journey we call life, and it is often in the waiting, in the stops along our journey, that we learn the lessons, the rich lessons that I believe God has for us.

  So Advent... to me, it is like a practical activity that reminds us to wait, to be expectant, to believe that there will be redemption, that there is hope, and always unfailing love.

  Practically, I want to play it out in a number of ways this year...in my own personal drawings and writings, and in creating Advent play for some of my grandchildren.

  This week I pulled out the old Advent Calendar I made for my children when they were little, and spent a good part of a day planning out how we would celebrate Advent together.  Our calendar has pockets, so yes, there can be treats, but there is usually an activity, something to do in this waiting season.  Making cards, creating nativity scenes, there are so many lovely things to do with children as we teach them the significance of Advent and waiting.

  So blessings to you and yours... as we enter this holy season.

 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Cozy

   I cleaned out my linen closet today.

  It was a good day to pull out all those quilts, Christmas linens, winter blankets.  Yesterday we ceremoniously adorned the bed with flannel sheets, an annual occasion.

  Going through quilts reminds me of mom.  Up went her Christmas hanging today, and the place mats she lovingly  made were brought out for the Christmas season.

  Tomorrow is her birthday.

  I've sat with a number of people this week at the hospital... some saying their last good-byes to their moms, and my heart always remembers as I watch their tears.  I want to wrap them in love, these holy moments, these hard moments, and know that this too is a part of our temporal lives.  One we don't always want to think about.

  It doesn't matter how old your mother was... you will always miss her, perhaps even more when she is gone.

  I long to call her some days... she was always so interested in my life, my stories, my happenings, keenly interested and caring.  I'd like to know how she is doing, up there in heaven.  Is there tea parties?  Is she having a blast hanging out with her own mom?

  There is something cozy about a wonderful mother.... I think about this sometimes as I cuddle my mom's namesake, now 14 months old, and this little one nestles into my chest and we just sit...all cozy and warm and contented.

  Sorting the quilts today brought me back to remembering mom.... she made many quilts in her last years, quilting room always set up, pieces carefully laid out, or pinned on the wall.  We'd talk about her projects, and for whom she was creating them for.  And we all share this legacy of love, wrapped up, stitch by stitch.

  So I lavishly have quilts everywhere, runners, hangings, quilts adorning our beds.  It warms the house, it brings cozy to the chill of November and the coming winter.  It reminds me of the love of a mother.

  I love bringing quilts to the hospital too... I handed out four of them recently... all lovingly made by the quilters group I know, each stitched with love.  There is something powerful about giving a quilt, about wrapping a person with love, and telling them how precious they are... to God, to others.

  There is comfort in cozy.  I think I might just wrap myself in a quilt tonight, have a cup of tea with my husband, turn on the fireplace and cherish the moment.

  Happy Birthday, Mom.
                                                            Our wedding quilt... lovingly made by mom.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Heart Aches - living with Tragedy.

  It has been a week of tragedy on Canadian soil... in our country's capital, and in our own little city.

  Tears, heartache, unbelief... all part of the fabric of living and breathing, and carrying on.  This weekend, as I watched Canadians in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto sing the Canadian anthem at 3 hockey games simultaneously, soldiers at attention; tears came to my eyes... we mourn collectively, we cry for those families who have lost so much.

  One second can change a persons life.

  We thought about that this week, as my work-place mourned the instant loss of a colleague, a care-giver.  A night gone wrong, and lives affected... forever.

  Not even two years ago, my hubby and I vacationed in S. Carolina, visiting our new grandson.  We traveled one evening in our rental car between our hotel and our children's home, down a country road... and out of the corner of our eye a car flew in front of us... crossing the street we were on, blowing a stop-sign, at a great rate of speed.  One second difference, we surely would have been broad-sided.

  We took a deep breath, and thought about the close call... and carried on.

  And I've thought about that this week... our lives could have changed forever... and affected those whom we love...and yet we were spared.

  And yet others are not.  Why?

  Vibrant, young, talented, so much to give.

  Although saying good-bye is hard, so very hard, at any age, it is when the young are taken, suddenly, tragically, senselessly... and there are simply no words.

   We humans like to make sense of things, to make it better, we long to take away the pain.  And this week as I've carried pain in my chest and ached for those I care about, and longed to soothe and comfort, there is such a helpless feeling... because this simply cannot be fixed.

  Last week I was impacted by a different story... I received a call.  A man was dying, very alone.  So I said I would go.  Not half an hour later, I checked my e-mail... an e-mail forwarded from my church.  A person, overseas, had contacted my church via e-mail, picking my church from the internet from a long list of churches... but there it was.  And my church contacted me.  A request to visit a relative who was all alone... would someone go?

  And yes, it was the very same man.

  So I went, and I was very moved... because I was able to express that God loved him very much, that I had received not one, but two messages to visit him...and so we shared those moments together, holy, God-ordained.  And days later, he was gone.

  And it made me think again... in this world of trouble... does God care?  I believe he does.  He doesn't take away the trouble, I don't believe He causes the trouble... but He very much is present with us... if we just pay attention.

  And I believe it is OK to cry and ponder and ask the questions... and some events are beyond understanding.  Sometimes there is just no words.  And as we hold space for one another, gently, listening and caring, we enter into the mystery of God's presence... and we don't need to understand the whole picture.  Sometimes it is good to just wrap ourselves up in the comfort of his love.

 
 

 

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Great Clothing Exchange

  Today is the day.

  You know the one... that one that contains the task that most sensible folk probably have already accomplished... the turning over the seasons of the clothing and closets.

  I am calling it the great late clothing exchange... because I feel very late..

  So on this drizzly Monday in October, it has come to this.  The packing of summer and unpacking of the winter apparel...not to admit that I have snuck into the clothing bins a number of occasions in the last month or so... to find that cozy sweater or long pair of pants.

  But I wasn't ready to relinquish the capris... still in my drawers, waiting for the last burst of warmth.

  And the hose... now that is another story all together, probably not suitable for blogs that could be read, but it is always a sad season when the stockings make their reappearance... a loss of freedom of sorts!

  And the sandals in the front closet lie strewn with the loafers and running shoes, a bigger pile embracing the change of seasons.  I have not been able to put away the sandals.  Nor have I been able to look at the boots.  They are firmly in the dark, and will only come out in desperate need.

  You might guess... I am not a winter person.  And you would be right.  I have always hoped that I could live happily in four seasons... Spring (my favourite), Summer, Autumn... and Hibernation.

  Although in my sorting duties today, I cheerfully marked one pile... southern holiday.  This sort of thing gives one hope, that there are dreams and  glimmers of warmth that might bring cheer to a Canadian winter.

  And of course if my Prairie friends should happen to read this, I feel somewhat wimpish.  The coldest it gets here is a few degrees around freezing... a hovering back and forth over many long months... and we are known for long gray skies and celebrate the winter sun whenever we see it.

  And taking my tea break in the midst of this larger task, I'm always drawn back to how much I HAVE.  Too much, I know, and I will have a pile for charity at the end of the day...

  I remember visiting  Peru, almost 30 years ago, and making acquaintances there with some of the locals.  One thing that always stayed with me was one particular lady who wore the same dress... day after day...always clean and presentable but it became obvious it was her only dress.  And yet she and others I met were generous to a fault... ready to share a meal, or send some token back with me to Canada.  That humbled me, and I have never forgotten it.

  So I often shop at Bargain Bins and have made a deal with myself... I will not buy anything not on sale.  And yet... as much as I love to "look good", I really have too much... and as I sort and exchange and clean, it is very, very good for me to remember that.




Saturday, October 18, 2014

Today was a Gift

  We just came in from sitting outdoors... I without a jacket, warm enough on this October day.  Amazing for the 18th, a real gift.

  Sitting with tea and reflecting with my hubby...

  We had started the day with a borscht project.  I think this is almost spiritual for my hubby... tastes and smells from his childhood, the fresh autumn produce spelling fragrance and nourishment in a pot.  Working together, chopping, shredding, stirring...

  We always have this little "discussion"... how much cream, how much butter... authenticity as the Russians made it, or heart-friendly as I lean to... and we usually come up with some compromise.

  Onions and garlic, carrots and beets sauteed in butter and olive oil... you can catch the smells... and then the profusion of cabbage and tomato and potatoes... and don't forget the generous helping of dill...

  Speaking of dill, we found some today... growing as weeds in the rocks of our back yard, looking quite healthy in spite of the time of year.  It will find it's way into the soup...

  The rest of the garden calls me to work this time of year... tired, dying leaves, grape vines gone wild (how did that happen), tomato plants withering, shedding their green fruit that refuses to ripen.  Sunflowers, so recently vibrant, bowing their heavy heads and saying it is time...

  I have not got to the dahlias yet... I know I need to store them for winter, as my mother did for many winters.  I planted them, to remember her, and want to continue that tradition.  Part of my fall and spring chores to come.

  We picked a pile of green tomatoes, and I'm wondering... do I have energy for green tomato relish?  Or do I just feed the compost pile... I've ripened some between newspaper and that works well for some.

  I'm always a little melancholy this time of year.  I think the dark creeping into the early hours of the day and invading my evenings, and last night the chill and dark of a cold October rain... hard to see, closing us in.

  So today is a gift... a warm, sunny day to pull plants, and sort tools, and make soup.  To share soup with a friend, lovely.

  And life is rich, like the dirt, the soil that feeds us, and the miracle of plants that grow, and give, and then die...to be reborn for a new year.

 


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Guilt

  Guilt is a powerful emotion.

  For some of us, it can determine our actions, affect our moods.

  There are two kinds of guilt of course... there are lots of things for which I need to say I'm sorry for...and it is said, confession is good for the soul.

  The churches I've been brought up in got away from confession, other than in our private prayers.  But it is a good thing, I think, to be part of a public confession, to join with others in that prayerful state where we come to God and say, we're sorry...

  And of course the private prayers are good too... and I find myself often praying... I'm sorry!  I messed up!  But I try to live by grace, with the knowledge that I have a Heavenly father who is loving and forgiving.

  But there is another kind of guilt that we often bear, one that is self-inflicted most often.

  I journalled about it this morning; these thoughts on my mind:

Guilt sings a song
Clamoring for attention.
The "shoulds" sound their chorus
Demanding.

And what song do I listen to?
Can I change the tune in my head?

Do I hear the sweet whisper
   of sacred love
           and affection?
Which comes from stillness?
   To be....
     To know...

For worth does not come
 from the doing

  And the shoulds will
     Always sound their cry.

Until I silence them.
With songs of peace and joy.

  False guilt - imposed expectations by ourselves or others - can take their toll.

  I sat at a doctors office this morning and heard the familiar... decrease the stress.
  Most of us need to hear it, but the question is often... how?

  And it brought me back to the demands I place on myself.  What I think I should be doing.
Feeling guilty for resting... and so on.

  This time of year I'm always a little "September-worn".  The Mennonite in me which preserves and freezes and cans and takes advantage of the harvest.  The yard calls. The dust builds.   Phone calls to make, people to see.  Things I love to do, really.

  And life can shift into high gear... the necessary meetings... too many on my calendar.  Appointments here and there... all important.  Time with family... precious, always.

  Today I had my house cleaned... and reminded myself not to feel guilty!!  What a lovely treat, and grateful for the clean.

  Like the clutter, I consciously choose to put any false guilt on a shelf... and realize again that life will always be somewhat messy.  But I can choose to sing a song of gratitude.  Instead of guilt.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ode to October



The early morning October sun
Shone brilliantly

Into my dust
Which danced
And whispered guilt

But I turned away.

I rather held on to fleeting sunbeams
Cooled down by October skies

And savoured the brilliance of a deep blue sky
Punctured by clouds

And dust
And spiders webs glinting in the sun
And leaves gathering,
Broken on my lawn

Call me to action

Yet, I want to
Stop
And savour

Life always calls
Work never done
Yet this moment

I cherish.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

You're Richer Then You Think

   We enjoyed a lovely dinner date last night - compliments from a couple of our children for birthdays past.  We chose to be extravagant - French wine, steak for my hubby, a fancy salad to start for me...

  And the ambiance was fine, very fine.  Our waiter attentive but discreet.  And we relaxed into the atmosphere, and enjoyed it immensely.

  And the thought came as we sat there, how nice this was... and wouldn't it be nice if we could do this more regularly... treat our family... without looking at dollar signs, or worrying about the tallied bill.

  And no sooner did that thought parachute in, that I checked myself... and shook my head at such absurdity.

  For we are far, far richer than we think, and we know it.

  And it was lovely to have such a treat, and we knew it would be enjoyed all the more knowing it wasn't a common occurrence.

  I thought about the conversations I had just recently... about the lady who couldn't afford housing... so she lived at the shelter and ate at the Mission... and about another conversation with a family who had to move... immediately... because their loved one had died and their income had dropped considerably.

  And I thought of how these and many others would see a fancy dinner out as a visit to a foreign country... something very unfamiliar indeed.

  Would it not be good to count my blessings... I have a car to drive... perhaps a little outdated, but workable, serviceable, and I can fill it with gas... and I don't need the latest model or all the gadgets.

  I bought new pillows today, just because mine were shabby, and lumpy, and thought nothing of it.  In fact I sleep with several pillows, just because I can.  And I know I'm rich...

  And though some months we sigh at the bills, and we think carefully about expenses, we know that we have so very much in material goods... so much that they weigh us down at times... the upkeep and the taking care of, and the clutter and the putting away...

  Yes, we live in a materialistic society, and this week I sighed at the pile of flyers, and wondered if I really needed to read them all, because I love a bargain.  Because, really, I don't need one more thing...

  So today as I plucked the beets from my garden, along with beans growing old, and tomatoes slow-ripening in the autumn sun, and created a quiche from fresh-picked zucchini and swiss-chard, and I sit here while it bakes in my trustworthy oven, working on a computer where I can send this post to many in an instant, and I realize, yes... I am very rich indeed.

  And this is in material goods... the real riches come in relationships, family, friendships, faith, a safe place to live, and each new day that I am alive... and the thankfulness wells within me.
 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Surviving September

   I used to subscribe to Martha Stewart Living magazine (and I can imagine thoughtful nods or surprised looks), but I looked to her for inspiration in some departments.  And although I admired her hard work ethic and creativity, there was a section at the beginning of the magazine with a "to do" list for the season... like carefully cleaning and disinfecting all garden tools before putting them away in carefully marked and labeled corners... and about 20 other reminders.

 I just couldn't measure up... even though I admire the well cleaned and organized.

  No, September has become more a month of survival... and this, the tail end of a particularly full week with extra meetings, lovely surprises like the printer completely breaking down and the purchase of a new one, a sore throat lurking, and a few sleepless nights...

  And I don't think I'm alone... I listened to a couple of clergy this week... who by the way describe their Septembers as the busiest month of the year, and it sounded a bit like a roller-coaster that had forgot to include the Sabbath rest.

  And being from good Mennonite stock, this is harvest season in full swing, and this morning as I picked 8 black blackberries, ripened to perfection, and 8 tomatoes that had ripened on the vine, and one huge butternut squash, I paused to give thanks, and tried not to think about the fact that I would NOT get to the weeding today, the clearing out of plants and debris, and just stopped to appreciate that my little riot of a garden has brought me great pleasure.

  And so I decided on this gift of a quiet Saturday to slow just a little in between laundry loads, and the tomatoes will be frozen for some later date instead of finding themselves in a sauce and I will find time to sit and read, and perhaps even enjoy a walk in the sunshine...

  Because surviving means taking time to breathe in the busy seasons.  And so I take a deep breath, I will take some honey for my throat, I will close my eyes and soak in the sun for 5 minutes... and I will be thankful for all in my life that brings me joy... for printers that work and blackberries in September, for healing conversations, for the joy of grandchildren...

  Talking about grandchildren... the highlight in the middle of a rather busy week was teaching my young grandsons to use the binoculars... the same ones we had bought for their mommy and siblings, and it was great fun to gaze across our little valley to Davison Orchards and watch the activity there... (we do have a lovely view of Davison Orchards!!)

  And the next day, a text in the middle of my work day... my little grandson, giving the message... Grandma, get out your binoculars and look... we are at Davisons right now!!

  And as soon as I got home, I ran out onto my deck, peered through the binoculars, and imagined their joy at the thought of me seeing them.  (when really, all I could see was cars... but does it really matter?)  And I waved like the dickens, and smiled a smile of joy, and got back to work.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A gift from the rocks

  This spring, as my husband prepared our rocky landscape for the permanent setting of our new gazebo he was building, I saw four sunflower plants emerging from the rocks.  And I decided I wanted to rescue them.

  Honestly, I wish I had taken a picture.  These little seedlings, gifts from seeds blown there from last year, were firmly planted in the rocks, not much soil to be seen.  I carefully moved the rocks and gently pulled, but they did not come easily.

  I then transplanted them into freshly prepared soil.

  They were NOT happy.

  They drooped, they shriveled, they turned an ugly brown color.  And I almost let them die, they looked so pathetic.  But I wanted to give them a chance... so I watered, and waited... and tried to ignore them.

  One day I saw a straitening of the spine, a little more green, and the plants began to grow.  They struggled for a while, but soon they began to thrive.

  I was looking at those plants today, four little dying stems.... turned into this:

 



  A miracle, really!!

  And as I've enjoyed their beauty, I thought of what they taught me and two things came to mind...

  It isn't easy to change.  Or to be transplanted from one phase of life to another...

  Being transplanted is painful business, and often we are bruised and broken, and some even lose hope.

  These flowers taught me that there is a process... a time period where we adjust, and sometimes it is simply not pretty.  But there was also a persistence!    Thankfully on my part, for I was tempted to pull those flowers!  But in real life, I also see how God brings healing and beauty out of our broken places, even in the waiting.... just as beauty emerged in my front yard, over a period of time.

  Sometimes we love the rocks.  They are all we know.  

  I thought about that today, in my own spiritual transformations where I have clung to the old, afraid of what God was opening up to me.  Those rocks seemed pretty secure.

  But God had work to do, so I was shaken... and moved... and transplanted.  

  And I'm seeing each day as I grow and learn that that process of trust and openness to the workings of God creates beauty.  And that is what transformation is all about... 

   The cocoon is not a beautiful thing, but the butterfly that emerges is a thing of wonder and beauty.

  And this is ongoing... in the seasons of our life.  These sunflowers will die, leaving seeds to find their way to be nurtured for next year.  Continual transformation, inspired by hope, fueled by trust, transformed into beauty.

  

Monday, September 8, 2014

Old Hymns and New Songs

  I often wake up in the middle of the night with a song in my head, or perhaps it is in my heart... and it might take me a few minutes to work out the words, as the melody plays.  But it is often a hymn, or a favourite song, or even a song I haven't sung in years, all of a sudden in my mind.

  This last week the song that surfaced was "Until Then"... an old hymn that we remember George Beverley Shea singing in his rich baritone voice.  And it was so appropriate because one of our precious friends was going home to heaven, and I sang this chorus of this hymn often last week as I thought of her.

But until then my heart will go on singing,
Until then with joy I'll carry on
Until the day my eyes behold the city
Until the day God calls me home.
composed by Stuart Hamblem (1958)

  And it was the title "Until then" that struck me the most... because it speaks of the now - the dash between our birth and death... what I do in the present.   Until then speaks about how I live my life now, even as I prepare for whatever tomorrow brings... do I carry on with joy?  It is a good question to ask.

  Today, at a memorial service I led at a seniors home, we sang the old children's hymn "Jesus Loves Me".  I've made it a part of every service I do there; and it always moves me... precious older folk, most of them, become more alert at these words.  They sing along!  It is like the room comes alive when the familiar words, comforting words, from the childhood of many, is played.

Jesus loves me,
this I know..
For the Bible tells me so..
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but he is strong..
Yes! Jesus loves me...
composed by Anna B Warner (1860)

  The truth is  that I am loved, and I know that I am loved... even in my humanness and weakness.  This is something very dear to my heart.  

  We sang another of my favourites yesterday in church... a newer song with a similar message.  "He knows my name" speaks truth to my heart... about a Heavenly Father who calls me His own... and He knows me intimately and loves me still... and He knows the joys and the heartaches and even sees each tear that falls.

I have a Maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in his hands

I have a Father
He calls me His own
He'll never leave me
No matter where I go

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call.
composed by Tommy Walker (2004)

  Music is a powerful thing.  It takes us to another place and can lift our spirits.  Many of the songs we sing are formed in scripture... sacred truths that are eternal, and always current.

   Music can fill us with joy, it can bring us to tears, it can create a place of peace.  It can make us laugh and move.  I love it when my little grandchildren hear a little ditty and want to wiggle to it... it is delightful.

  And while there have been many church discussions and divisions on the subject of how we should do music, I like to think of heaven being filled with music of all kinds, the wonderful spirituals, the music that swells within us and we want to dance and praise, the music that draws us to our knees in worship.  We cannot imagine the scope of it...

  We had a little taste yesterday when we celebrated worship with our Korean friends, and we all sang in our own native tongue... and as the languages blended in praise, it was a beautiful sound... a little taste of heaven.

    So until then... my heart will go on singing...

  

  

Friday, September 5, 2014

Art, Healing and Doodles

   I've recently taken up a new art form, which is probably one of the oldest art forms of all... doodling!  Playing with pen and paper has always appealed to me, and this time of year I love back to school sales, for it is time to stock up!

  Recently, a friend at the Vernon Art Center introduced me to a special form of doodling and I tried it... and loved the results.

  What I especially loved was that I could take my love of words and transform them into meaningful art images... and I often use this where I work, as the hospital.

 

Words are powerful and potentially life-giving...

  Art is also a powerful thing.  I have long joked that my Art is my Therapy... and I love the quote by Thomas Merton that says:  "Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time."  This has been true for me.

  And art can be different for all of us.... for some it will be music, or concocting wonderful creations with food, or creating a beautiful garden, or creating with knitting needles.    To me it always comes back to the Creator... and we are told we are made in his image... which is non-gender.  To create comes out of a deep place, that I believe is a gift from the Creator God.

  I was especially inspired this week when visiting a patient who had been at hospital for weeks... and she gave me permission to share this with you...

  Doodling has been on my brain lately and I was drawn to some artwork she had created and stuck on the wall next to her bed... and then she told me she had taken her pill containers - little paper cups and flattened them... and then created art out of the circles... amazing!

  
  Her materials scarce... paper cups and a pen... and she created a little oasis of beauty in her hospital setting.

   And again I was moved by how the human spirit can overcome, and we can be compelled to create, to be positive, to love, to find beauty,  even in the midst of very difficult circumstances.

  So if you're in the mood to pick up a paper and pen... join me and doodle... and it is the act of creating that can be healing, a rest for the mind.  Perfection is not the goal, but a moment of creativity and joy.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

at Heaven's Door

  It has been part of conversations lately... aware of those we love close to heaven's door, and the thoughts have turned heavenward, to that heavenly home that is waiting.

  I thought about it a lot this week, for those who wait and vigil and accompany those who are so close... just steps from heaven.  We don't all have that experience, because for some it is a sudden invitation, and they shed this life quickly, leaving those who love them in terrible shock.

  It is a blessing to be able to say good bye.  To say I love you.

  I was always thankful for that... when I said good-bye to Andy, my first husband, the dad of my three kids. We were all able to say good-bye.   And to my mom, lying with her in her bed, kissing her and hugging her more than I had in years, cherishing every moment.  What lovely conversations we had.

  And as I had a conversation with someone this morning, grieving the dying of a dear friend, I recalled that Jesus wept.  He wept over the death of his friend.  And in a new way that comforted me.  Because Jesus knew where Lazarus his friend was, heaven was familiar to Jesus; it was His home.  And He knew His own sojourn on earth was short.

  And yet, He wept.

  And I wondered, was he weeping more for his friends, the family of Lazarus, or even for his own sorrow in this temporary parting?  It was a question I pondered today.

  I wondered too today, as I thought about Mom, and Andy, and those who have gone before... and thought... do they see?  I know God sees all things... but does He reveal to our loved ones in heaven how we are doing?  And one can only wonder, but some things we will never know this side of the veil.  

  I thought too today about those who come close to heaven... and are sent back.

  Within the last few weeks I've had encounters with at least three people that should be there...in the life to come... but it was not their time.  And we've talked about it, their purpose in living, and how they have been spared from probable death.  And how it has significantly changed their outlook on life, their life here on earth.

  And I also thought about some very disturbing words I read this week, someone wondering how God could spare a doctor from the deadly Ebola disease and yet hundreds of others have died... and the question was, how could this doctor be thankful to God... when he had been spared and others had not.

  My wondering continued... did God in his mercy have other work for this doctor to do?  And for those who died... would they be pleased to find themselves in heaven?  Would they not too... be thankful?

  And yet I'm again inspired to pray for those who suffer from Ebola and other horrendous diseases and for those who risk to work with them in difficult conditions, and there are no easy answers.

  Except I do know that the God I love, loves them all... those he chooses for heaven, and those he leaves behind to wait.  And He is present with us, in the living, and in the mourning, and He will love us in the dying.  And He loves us all the same.

 

 

 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Inflated

  We were sitting on the deck this morning, having our breakfast, and I was staring at the little blown-up pool we have there for our grand-kids.  And I noted it had become somewhat deflated.

   "We should clean that thing up", I declared... thinking it was either time to put it away or inflate it for the last of the summer...

  Which got us into a very silly conversation about inflation.  No, not the money kind, or our economy, but our personal selves.

  What inflates us?  "Oh, I don't want to be puffed up", I joked... but thought about it some more... what builds me up, what encourages me, what inflates my spirits?

  What people in my life inflate my spirits.... or deflate them?  And how do I respond...

  The silly conversation continued... "that would make a good blog", my husband declared, and we thought we should add...

   Pass this on to ten people and be inflated.....

                        .....just kidding!!!!

  But it is true, there is a joy in spirit and a relaxation of the body when we are with someone who we are truly safe with, and it literally buoys up the spirits.  We just had a weekend like that... hanging out with new friends, enjoying meals together, good conversation, enjoying the wonderful outdoors.  It was uplifting, for sure!

  And I thought about my work as a chaplain, and I realized that there are so many people out there, broken, hurting, discouraged, and can I come alongside, and help to lift their spirits?

  I pray so, as I pray for them, praying that God would lift their spirits and touch their bodies, and meet their needs.

  And what started as a silly conversation became fodder for thought today, as I thought about those in our lives who encourage us, and we in turn hope to encourage others.

  Because there will always be those who unfortunately contribute to the deflation of spirits, and a critical and judgmental spirit can cause great damage.  And I've seen the damage, far too often, and it saddens me.

  I'm so thankful I'm not called to judge, that is God's business... instead He calls us to love, and love is the great commandment of the new Testament... to inflate with love, now that is a novel thought for today!!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

War and Peace... and Pacifism

  I grew up with strong Mennonite roots.  And my strong cultural heritage is strongly tied to faith and belief and convictions, and yes, pacifism.

  Because I love peace, I have been quite happy to identify with pacifism.  I had a great-uncle who went to prison because of his pacifist beliefs.  There was pride in that...

   As I grew up, this thinking became somewhat muddled.  I married a guy who loved guns, he was a sharp-shooter and loved the military, excelling in sea cadets.  Later, he worked with the RCMP as an auxiliary, and I know target practice was a favourite shared activity with his colleagues.

  Although I forbade my children when they were young to play with guns, (it was abhorrent to me), my son built them with Lego.  It probably helped there was only one son... and two girls at that time.  Some things just seem... well, inbred.  And probably for most boys, quite normal.

  But I remember my own inner conflict, and was rather grateful we lived in a relatively peaceful time.  It is easy to be a peacemaker when there is no war.  And I prayed that my children would never be affected by war.

  This past week we have been reminded of an important anniversary - one hundred years since the start of World War One.  The war to end all wars, they said.

  It seemed ironic that this very week I was engrossed in the eighth book of the Anne of Green Gables series, which I have enjoyed reading this summer.  "Rilla of Ingleside" by Lucy Maud Montgomery is the story of Anne's youngest and sixth child, and her growing up, in more ways than one, during the time of World War One.

  It was fascinating to read of how this family, through the eyes of Montgomery, faced their own fears and lived in those terrible war years on Prince Edward Island.  Anne, whom most of us know as the lovable orphan, is now, in this book,  a mother of six who sends three sons to war.

  Without the world of media we know today, their family hangs on to every telephone call, to every newspaper clipping, to every telegram, every precious letter.  They pour over maps and have strong opinions, but most of all, they bravely face daily the fact of life going on, as they only imagine their loved ones in trenches, fighting for freedom.

  "Lest we forget" became more real to me this week, as I entered this fictional family's life in a very real-time story that affected every Canadian, and the world's citizens one hundred years ago.

  I was amused at this family's disdain of the one pacifist in their community, although I think his character was rather opinionated and somewhat challenging!.  But as I thought of my own pacifist mindset, I too was challenged as I thought of the enormous courage that soldiers embraced as they fought for our country and freedom.  And perhaps even more so the families they left behind, those who loved them, who supported them, and too often, grieved for them.  And I am thankful.

   And in our time,  I think too of the soldiers who come home, many wounded more emotionally than physically, and how this also affects families.  Too often in the news we hear the stories of these brave souls who are deeply affected by Traumatic Stress, some of them even taking their own lives.  It is tragic for them, and for their families and those who love them.

  I still hate war.  Most of us do. I hate it with passion.   It is grim and dirty and horrific and innocent lives are lost.  I think of the Ukraine, and of the Middle East, and the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan.  And mostly, I am saddened, and if the truth be known, I try not to think of it at all.  Because it bothers me that life can be so messy, and tragic, and sad.

  But as I pondered all of this this week, as I sat with Rilla of Ingleside, I was inspired by courage and faith and the continued need to pray and pray and pray... To pray for peace, to pray for those who suffer injustice, to pray for those who are persecuted for what they believe.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Flawed

  Yesterday I was examining fresh pottery I had created with a critical eye; the fruit of my labor at the Art Center.  I love pressing leaves... God's creation... into clay.  An imprint from the Designer.

  And it made me think... how we are drawn to the flaws, and forget to see the beauty.  Perhaps this is because I have been considering whether or not I should submit my work to a sale now subject to a jury, which I have never done before.  And the works needs to be... perfect.

 

  ... and it is not.  (You will see the glaze missed a little spot).  

  And then I went into my garden.  My garden is a teacher to me.  It is far from perfect.  Perhaps it is the gardener, I'm sure. 

  But the butternut squash I planted has failed to appear.  An extra zucchini plant appeared instead.  The spaghetti squash looks very malnourished, in spite of lots of verbal encouragement from me, and bugs I have not invited seem to show up regularly.

  Lots of dill and cosmos have reseeded from previous years and provide a happy modge podge through my little patch,  I just let them be; they are joyful and wild. 

  The carrots seem happier this year, and the swiss chard positively healthy.  I picked a large tomato today, my first, which looked as if a bug had helped itself to first... but we will cut into tonight, and see...And one of the cucumbers I picked today seemed positively gimped... but I'm sure will still taste good.  Can you taste the greek salad already?

  
Today's harvest
  
Misshapen cucumber

  Why is it that we long for perfection?  

   Our imperfect world is fraught with flood and heat, disease, tragedy, and calamity.  

  On a much larger scale, I have been thinking about the war in the Middle East... the sadness, the horror, the impact on people's lives.

  And I read opinions, and try to understand what is going on.

  And in my heart of hearts, I think that Ishmael was Abraham's son too... and when will the killing stop.... and it is complicated for I love Israel, I grew up cheering her on, and yet my heart breaks over the fighting, and I wonder, does not God weep as well?

  And my little garden and world seem small indeed in light of the world's messiness.

  And I think, how do I make a difference? 

  Perhaps it is by being thankful for my own little corner, and tending the creation God has granted me for this time.  

  Perhaps it is by choosing love instead of hate.  

  Perhaps it is by listening, even to opinions that differ from mine.

  And I hold it all, gently, pondering.  I often think of the image a dear professor shared with us... To hold up our hands to God, fingers open, outstretched.  And in our imaginations we let what we don't understand sift through our fingers. And let it go... And hang on to the lessons He gives...

  Because in a broken, flawed world, there will always be questions, mystery. 

  And I can continue to trust in a Creator God who continues to work a miracle in my garden, and lushness grows out of tiny seeds, and spring continues to come, and each day is a gift.  And the old song "He's got the Whole World in His Hands", comes to mind... and I can trust Him with that too.  Even when I don't understand.  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Song in the Hospital

  I don't generally sing in the hospital.  In fact, I don't believe singing was one of the prerequisites to becoming a hospital chaplain.  Although I believe I wrote about singing in the elevator on one fine occasion!
(You can read about that story here.)

  But this day was different...

  I had originally met this couple, (later in years, but I suspected young at heart), in the back rooms of the emergency department.  I don't often wander back there in my travels at the hospital, but this day was delivering something to the nurses station there.  And spied their daughter, whom I know,as I glimpsed her face behind the hospital curtain.

  I always think these are God-encounters.  He knows where I should be, at any given moment, and I often pray He would direct my path... and then perhaps even more important, give me the words, or the knowledge when to just be quiet and present.

  We had a good visit, this precious couple and their daughters.

  A week later, I encountered them again, a different ward.  The woman sweet and frail, in her hospital bed,  the husband lovingly watching over her.  They reminded me of my parents...

  Again we talked, about life, about what they were going through.  And as I often do, I asked them..."How can I pray for you?"

  And she said, quite promptly... "Can we sing?"

  Now, this was a four-bed ward, curtains drawn, and I hesitated.  I usually don't break into song in public places!

  But I asked her... "What is your favourite song?"

  Without hesitation she replied, "Faithful One".

  Not the choice I would have expected, given their generation... and I asked, "Oh do you know of the author, Brian Doerksen?"  Brian happens to be one of my favourite song-writers and singers, and I can even claim that he is a distant relative, having common Mennonite roots and history, and his parents knew my parents... but I digress...

  No, they had never heard of Brian Doerksen.

  The husband then proceeded to tell me how they came to know the song... and it was a moving story... He had been very sick, some years back, and in a coma for some weeks and someone had played music as he lay there.  And this was the song, the words they had remembered from that time, written forever on their hearts.

  And they began to sing....

Faithful one, so unchanging,
Ageless one, You're my rock of peace,
Lord of all, I depend on You,
I call out to You,
Again and again,
I call out to You,
Again and again.

You are my rock in times of trouble,
You lift me up when I fall down,
All through the storm, Your love is,
The anchor.  My hope is in You alone.

You can listen to it here..."Faithful One".

  The words, so powerful, so true, so moving.  And I joined in to sing.

  And a nurse, hurrying by, was moved by the words.

  And it became a holy moment;  it became the prayer.

  I wrote a note to Brian that afternoon to tell him the story.  How God had used his song in a hospital room. How the song had penetrated the mind of a man in a coma, and he had never forgotten it.   This couple told me they had never even seen the words.  And yet God has used this song to encourage them, over and over again.  It was those words that brought them encouragement and hope.

  And I realized, later, that it was I that had received the blessing that day.  Of a older couple fully trusting God, demonstrating beautiful faith, and sharing it through a beautiful song.

  Yes, God is truly faithful.

This story is told with permission of the family involved.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

In the face of Tragedy

   It has been a difficult week.  No, not for me, personally, but the losses that I see, the tragedies of our greater community have been felt, deeply.

  I've followed and read the reports and blogs and heartfelt responses to the numbing tragedy of the murder of grandparents and their grandchild in Alberta.  I too have an almost 5 year old grandchild, and I cannot even imagine the horror and pain... and the changed lives and deep grief of their family left behind.  The sorrow of a mom who has lost her baby... and her parents, is unimaginable.

  In our own Okanagan, two tragic deaths of teenagers in our community of Vernon, and yesterday we are reeling from the news of three more fatalities in a horrific car crash.  Families are grieving.  They are numb with shock.

  And the community grieves too, as they absorb the news, many reaching out to help, others feeling helpless.

  Sometimes there is not a lot of words.  These are events that cannot be fixed, ever.  They are life-changing, somber moments where we realize that we all stand at the edge of eternity, and life is precious, fleeting, and meant to be cherished.

  My hubby and I were watching  a clip last night from Dallas Willard, a well-known theologian who spoke on the topic of pain and suffering.  I found it helpful, and you could access it here:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2iOlV0niBk

  I appreciated his wise words and was encouraged by it.  He said that without suffering there would be no caring.  I sometimes wonder what my own life would have been like without the suffering.

  And I would never compare my story to others, each story is our own, and how we process our grief is individual.  But the truth for me, is that I have been shaped by my suffering.  Being widowed young, watching my first husband suffer (but also blossom in his suffering as he came to terms with it), struggling with my own health, especially a heart attack, feeling depression and anxiety... these are all chapters of my life which have stretched me, shaped me, helped me to be more caring and compassionate.

  There are no simple answers.  I've come to believe that God does not cause suffering, but He is with us in the midst of it.  I have experienced this profoundly and felt it deeply.  His love and care does not change in the midst of tragedy and loss.

  There are some things we will not understand on this side of heaven.  So it is left to us to continue to live... to care deeply, to show compassion, to weep with those who weep, to cherish every day as the gift it is.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Yes face

   I stopped at an intersection this morning; the light was red, and glanced to my right to see a man on his bicycle, waiting, smiling. He was alone. A "yes" face, I thought.

  Relaxed, approachable, pleasant; these are the attributes of a yes face.  So much better than a scowl.

  Watching him for that brief moment inspired me.  And I felt myself relaxing, letting go of my petty worries of the day.

  We discussed it the other day, my hubby and I, about how good I was at worrying. I do it very well!!  My safety barometer goes into overdrive whenever I sense danger. Although I find it healthy to laugh at myself,  I have come to a place where I understand myself rather well.

  I've been burned a few times. Quite literally, I am afraid of the sun. Although I love it's warmth in the sun-starved spring, and adore the blue skies, the sun has not been my friend. Melanoma has hit our family twice, and the direct sunlight makes me feel ill.

  So I am a shade lover. I sit on my covered deck as I write this, thankful to be outdoors, yet out of the sun!  I preach to my family about sunscreen.  I am highly protective, and yes, I probably worry a little too much...

   But I ramble... Sometimes the worries about the sun, the heat, the bugs take over and I lose the joy of the day. And there are far worse tragedies that I encounter regularly. And I wonder if my face shows it.

  The goal is to have a face that radiates peace, love, joy. One has to practice peace to get there.  My face is happier when I am grateful, when I stop to soak up beauty, when I take deep breaths and let my body relax.

  And truly, I'm hoping that will transfer to some happier looking wrinkles... laugh lines are so much better than those produced by frowns!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Summer Rest, Reads, and Reflections

  I have just returned from a pastor and chaplain's retreat, with the theme aptly called "Rest".

  It was a worthy goal, and I entered in with some enthusiasm.  The speaker Mark Buchanan was inspiring and provocative, and I enjoyed all the aspects... the food, the music, a great hotel, beautiful surroundings.  And came away quite thankful!!

  Some of my reflection, while away, was on my writing habits.  I have not written as much as of late, I think for a number of reasons.  And I had to reflect on why I write, for whom I write, and whether the exercise has merit.

  And I came away with the thought that writing is good discipline, and good exercise for my soul.  So perhaps it is purely selfish, but I want to continue to write, here on this blog, and perhaps even start to work on another book...  aspiring dreams I know.

  My kind of writing is a reflection of the soul, although it can be interpreted as many ways as those who happen upon the words they read.  I speak of inspirational writing, not the textbook variety filled with facts, or the more academic writing that requires lots of research and isn't open to much heart or opinion.  Each has it's place, but I know the kind of writing and reading I enjoy is filled with word pictures and reflections.

  Books inspire me.  Last summer it was my goal to read the Mitford series again, and I delightfully devoured each one, lovely tales by Jan Karon, and I am so excited that she has a new story coming out this fall.  I find her books deeply satisfying, calling me to a deeper life of trust and faith and an understanding of everyday human life.

  This year, after a little Facebook exercise on "which Anne of Green Gables character are you", (I came up with Anne), and I thought.... I need to enter that world again!  And so I have, falling in love again with the honest, romantical, (a real word in Anne's world) very human, character of Anne, who loves the world around her, and has her share of escapades and adventures growing up.

  It reminded me again of our lovely sojourn to PEI a few years back where we traipsed through the Haunted Wood and strolled down Lover's Lane and imagined Anne and Diana arm in arm, with all her imaginations.  It was here I saw the beautiful baby ferns and for the first time saw fiddleheads growing in the woods and thought they were a most delightful vegetable.  I am ashamed I still have not had the opportunity to taste them.

  Yesterday, we had the opportunity to wander through a delightful little garden, just south of Penticton, BC, in the little settlement of Kaleden.  Linden Gardens is a little hidden gem that I thought Anne would be quite delighted in, or perhaps after being immersed in her awestruck delight of life around her, the gardens seemed rather magical to me.

 Hydrangeas overlooking Skaha Lake, a natural window in the gardens.
 I caught the light on this spectacular gerber daisy.
White day lilies, full-faced and shining in the sun.

  It is good to have summer goals.  Amidst the daily chores and regular life, summer beckons us to rest, to reflect.  I want to spend a few minutes each day with Anne, because she inspires me.  Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of these delightful tales has left a lasting legacy.  

  It is good to rest too... to stop.  I've appreciated again the value of Sabbath, to completely remove myself, without guilt, to a place of quiet and reflection which brings healing for the soul, and body.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Remembering Mom

  June 9.  Last year at this time, we were waiting for what we didn't want.  But what was coming.  And on June 17th, we said our final good-byes on this earth to mom.

  It has been a year.  Some days I long to pick up the phone, to share my day.  Last week as I adventured in the US capital, and roamed the beautiful neighbourhood my son and wife life in, I thought of how much mom would love it... she loved adventure.  How I wanted to call her and tell her all about it.  She always wanted to know when we arrived safely and was the first person I'd call when I got home... and then share all the news.

  Hey mom, I saw my first cardinal!!  I saw several in fact, I was so excited.  Beautiful, red, fleeting, and a beautiful song.  You would have loved it...

  And the beautiful rhododendrons and azaleas, many still in bloom.  Mom, who grew beautiful gardens everywhere, was a little sad that these varieties didn't grown well in the Okanagan sun.  They were some of her favourites, and she would have enjoyed them greatly.

  But even more than nature, which mom loved, and adventure, where she thrived, she loved family, and I can hear her encouraging me on... me who doesn't love adventure so much, well, at least flying, but when there is a little grandson beckoning.... well, you just get on that plane and go!  And the time was precious... the baby kisses, the giggles, the chasing of a toddler who has found his feet and wants to go places... And the moments pruning bushes with my son.  Well, he did the pruning, and I held the bag, thinking of how mom would have given advice... she was so good at that.

  I had good times sharing walks and good conversations.  And it was wonderful to exchange ideas and recipes and enjoy the good food my daughter-in-law created, and just to spend good moments together...

  Coming back to home, everything is exploding in the garden as it does in June.  Most challenging, my rose garden, where mom gave me advice year after year, recipes to exterminate the aphids, advice on pruning, just admiring the beautiful blooms with me.  Last year she received my first blooms, as she spent time in hospice.

  I have a new problem, this year, mom, and I need your advice.  A new bug, foreign to me, invading our beautiful roses.  Help!!

  Does one ever get over the loss of a mother?  I've heard not.  I think of my much younger friends, way too young to lose their mothers, and how I am sad for them.  It is another tearing of the umbilical cord, a splitting from a relationship that has many strands.  And even in that separating, that painful loss, we are still connected, and always will be...

  Today I spent time with a woman who was longing for heaven.  Her body tired, her voice weak, but filled with longing at what is to come.  It was beautiful.  As flowers fade, and seasons pass, life is fleeting.  And the beauty of today is a foretaste of joy in heaven's tomorrow... where there will be no more sorrow, no bugs in the roses, no fear of flying, and no more separation.  A balm for a grieving heart.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Living in Simplicity... and Extravagance

  This blog was written on May 22, three years ago.  In an effort to simplify my life, I thought I might repost some blogs that I have revisited.  The beautiful gazebo I talk about below has been enjoyed for three years now, and my little garden is planted.  Mosquitoes are extravagant this year and I'm learning to make repellent without deet...

And yes, still working toward living a simple life in an extravagant and complicated world.  <3 Grace


 How I love this time of year.  The very season of spring seems extravagant.  Color, smells of spring and flowers and dirt and fresh rain.  Blossoms of every kind.  Bugs emerging; all busy, amazing varieties.

 I will confess I killed one fly and two wasps today, and really it was my fault.  I left the screen door open, just for a bit, and in they came to explore.  And they met their end, rather quickly.  No, I love nature, but don't hold out a welcome mat for bugs in the house.

  I've planted my garden.  One can become overwhelmed with the variety of choices... even for one species.  I wonder how many varieties of a tomato there can be?  And what will grow best in my garden?  And I think, is it genetically modified, is it organic?  So many questions.

  Life is complicated.  And when I have a question, I plug it into Google, and watch the screen fill up with a variety of answers, opinions, and those who hope to market something through my quest.  It takes time to sort it all out...

  My husband is building a gazebo right now, and I'm thrilled about it.  He found the plans on the Internet, (of course!), and we will be able to spend even more time outside, enjoying the beauty of our yard.

  The other day we watched a video with Tony Compolo talking about our North American extravagances and our need to accumulate and gather. Stuff can be a status symbol.  How do we simplify our lives when our houses are full, our closets overflowing, and in our neighbourhood anyway, the paper brings regular reminders through the flyers of all the stuff we yet still need.  And the paper is just one source.... there is the TV ads, the Internet, even our phones flash messages we try to ignore.

  I'm feeling called to simplify, but not even sure how to begin.  And I know I am not alone.  The art of purging, and cleaning has become common because we need to make room.  For more.

  And as a follower of Jesus, I look at his lifestyle and he lived with little.  He said once that he had no place to rest his head.  Security as I know it, seemed to matter little to Him...

  And yet He also lived extravagantly!  He was touched by the gift of expensive perfume, poured lavishly on his feet, symbolic of days to come.  He told the fishermen to fish from the other side of the boat, on a day when fish were scarce, and when they listened, their nets overflowed...

  And the God I love is lavish with His love... and creation bears witness to the incredible artistry and imagination and extravagance of the Creator.

  I looked back on my last blog... and realized I have not written in a while... but when I looked at the last title it was about Unity and Diversity.  And I laughed...it is often about balance.  Holding two opposites and pondering the mystery of it all.

  And as I ponder, I do want to live simply, and not being chained or ruled by stuff.  I was struck by an amazing quote that Tony Compolo shares by Herbert Marcuse about the state of North Americans:  "People have been seduced into a comfortable, attractive, tasteful, fully enjoyable form of slavery".

  It made me ask... does stuff rule my life?  Sometimes, I think it does.  Addictions to gadgets, keeping up with what we feel is the standard of living.  It makes me wonder...

  And yet, there can be an extravagance that I believe is spiritual and lovely!  To embrace and enjoy life, to take delight in the many gifts of creation, to celebrate with family and friends.  To be generous with what we have, generous in love, grateful for the gift of life.

  Embracing both, living wisely, living simply... and with extravagance.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Diversity and Unity

  I love our children, all adults now.  They are a diverse group, smart and talented, full of promise.  But incredibility different from one another, holding different philosophies, ways of life, values.  And yet, we are family, some physical brothers and sisters, but all brought together by marriage, by the love my husband and I share.

  I was pondering that yesterday, me the mom of this diverse group and how I hold that close to my heart and love each one individually.  And it came to me, that God, my heavenly father, must also hold his children in the same tender way.

  It is my privilege, as a hospital chaplain, to work with diverse groups of faith.  And I have come to love and respect and learn from those who hold different points of views.  This is not always easy, and as I have my own points of reference, and strong beliefs, I have had to practice a graceful attitude and an open heart and a listening mind.

   And sometimes it is so heart warming to have wonderful deep conversations with those who have experienced and know God through a more quiet and liturgical way, and then experience the passion of those who are more boisterous in their faith.  I am privileged to listen to the stories of many who come from different walks of life.

  It reminds me of my time in Boston Bar, where we also experienced a large diversity of population, a large native community, and other strong-minded people that had retreated into this little community to live out their lives in religious freedom, although the religious groups clashed badly at times.  And this saddened me, and others.  And I was thrilled when we began to gather, first as a small group of moms praying for our schools, and then later reaching out to young moms in the community, and I saw some of these walls begin to break down.

  And there will always be those in any community that are those who will build walls; others will build bridges.  And I think of bridges as pathways of love and understanding, building unity and learning to understand one another.

  We read the passage on creation yesterday and I let my mind go, as we read of all that God had made, and pronounced it good!  Have you ever studied bugs?  They are so diverse and colorful, and even comical in their appearance; some of them, and there is such a vast variety of them, some dull, some colorful... and this is just a small part of creation!

  God's imagination, so vast and creative and colorful, and in all our living days, we will probably not have seen a portion of all that is created on this earth.

  And I think of how God created us, so diverse and unique, and yet He says we are in His image, and He loves us, and asks us to be unified.  And truly we will be, someday, in heaven, where there will not be denominations and petty arguments and strong opinions.

  And while we try to figure it out here on earth, I am so deeply comforted that I really don't have to know it all, it is enough to rest in God's love and say yes to him.  And daily we can ask for wisdom to live this life, and as we experience the love of God, also share it around, because this too is abundant!  It gives me a very grateful heart.