Welcome to my Blog!

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!

You can also find me on Facebook at Grace Notes, Thoughts and Prayers.

I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent is for Adults too

The phrase "a Sacred Pause" has resonated with me this fall, particularly as I've been enjoying the book by April Yamasaki called "Sacred Pauses".  A wonderful book, by the way.

And as we enter this busy season with to-do lists, many activities, social obligations, shopping, parties, concerts and much much more, I'm drawn to creating the quiet sacred pauses, to still the heart, to ready myself for Christmas in a thoughtful way.

Advent can be a gift to us in this season - because it helps us to slow down and reflect.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday of the Church Calendar.  Many churches will draw our attention to these holy rhythms, and today we sat with the word "Hope", hope for a broken world.

There is so much anticipation in this season.  We long for connection, for joy, for light in the midst of a dark world.  Often, in this advent season, we focus on four words: hope, love, peace and joy.  Over 2000 years ago there was great hope that a Redeemer would come as the Messiah, and his coming as the Christ Child is the reason Christmas is so sacred to Christians today.

And this Christ-child became the Saviour and is the embodiment of Love, of Peace, which brings great Joy. If you listen to the Christmas Carols that we know so well, you will hear this message over and over again.

So we celebrate in many quiet ways.  In churches many light the candle of hope today.  One church I know encourages families to get together to light a candle today, this first Sunday of Advent.

Or it can be in the quiet of my heart.  Perhaps you will doodle as I did, thoughts about the meaning of Advent, or you can list what you hope for, or what the word hope means to you.

There is always an anticipation, a longing, a hope... we hope for a better world, we long for peace and justice.  And in this waiting, it is good to sit, quietly, in reflection and give thanks for hope.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Preparing for Advent - for Children!

I love Advent.

The first year I remember creating Advent memories for my children was almost 32 years ago... oops, I date myself.  But I was pregnant with our third child, and preparing our children for the new addition to our family which was to come early in the New Year.

In the midst of that, I was given a wonderful book, now long out of print, about a woman who had created an advent time with her children - also around her pregnancy.  So following her guidelines, we created a simple tradition that helped us to prepare for the Christ-Child, a tradition that helped us to think about the first Christmas, and also taught the children to think of others.  And we also prepared for the birth of their little sister.

That little baby is now my beautiful adult daughter. and has just given birth to her fourth child!  So as I hold this precious new grand-baby in my arms, I'm drawn to those early Advent memories, and want to share that with our grand-children as well!

Today I found an old article I wrote for a Parenting Magazine in November of 1984, called "Spending Christmas Together".  I wanted to take a picture, but the quality of the old print is poor.  But what a treasure to find!

On the pages of this old article are pictures of my three little ones, gathered around the Advent Calendar, which then was made of old match boxes, decorated with wrapping paper and pasted onto a bell shaped piece of poster paper.  One match box for every day of December until Christmas Day.  And in each box was an activity for the day, whether it was baking Christmas cookies, or bringing some goodies to someone who needed cheer.

In later years I made a fabric Advent Calendar, complete with 25 pockets, which I still have to this day.  I put it away for a few years after the kids had left home, but lately I've been finding creative ways to bring it back into use.

 

Recently I saw a good idea on my Facebook Page which showed a felt Christmas tree, and there was an ornament for every Advent Day.  I knew I didn't have time to create this project, especially with all the felt ornaments, but I was inspired to try a paper one.  I was so excited about the project, I thought I would share it.  It is perfect for busy moms who don't have a lot of time.

Of course, the proof of the success will be how much the grand-kids like it, but I've fun creating this little Advent project for them - smaller ones for the little ones that live far away.

You just need green paper - card-stock or construction paper to create a tree which can be glued onto a white background.  I used letter card-stock size for the ones I mailed, and bought poster paper for the ones I will do locally. I found a tree template on-line and followed it loosely.  It doesn't have to be perfect!  And then have fun sticker-shopping!

I was looking for star stickers yesterday and remembered I had some sticker photocopy paper left from another project, so I actually made some of my own stickers which was fun, just using clip-art from the Internet.  You can buy sticker paper for printers and have a great time creating your own!



I had fun finishing this one to see if it would work out... but the whole idea is to create space in each day of Advent to talk about the coming of Christmas, and it is a fun activity for little hands.

For older children, I love the idea of including them in reaching out to others, whether it is bringing gifts to the Salvation Army, or to the Mission, or helping someone in need.  It is a good place to teach the love of giving, in this season of receiving, and these activities can be incorporated around an advent theme.

However you celebrate the season, may it also be a time where there is Advent Rest, and sweet times of fun with those you love.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fighting Terrorism

I woke up with a dream in the middle of the night.  A nightmare actually.  What was amazing to me was that I was able to fall asleep again, quickly, but this morning I remembered...

We had moved.  Our first night, displaced, in a cavernous house, and I was missing my home.  In my dream, I awoke to noises, and as I peeked through where I was sleeping I saw people in black robes outside, heads covered, with machine guns pounding the house with bullets.  I saw bullet holes in the outer walls.  And in my dream I knew I was not safe, and that they would show no mercy.

And then I woke up.

We are all affected by terrorism.  By the images we see, and the terrible knowledge that hate and killing and anger seem to have no boundaries.

Beautiful cities like Paris, where people now tread softly, and don't feel safe.  And places like Lebanon, and Beirut, and Syria, and many places in Africa where violence has become a norm.  And you wonder, how does one live in the midst of war like conditions?  Of never feeling safe?  Of attempting to live normal lives in the midst of constant threats?

I was very touched by one story I read yesterday, posted by my friend, where she shares the story of three women who came upon a piano in Paris, the kind that is there for the public.  And there they began to play, and sing, songs of hope, songs of love, God songs to bring courage. And many joined them to sing.

And perhaps that is how we fight terrorism.  By singing songs, and refusing to hide.  By showing courage.  By fighting with words of kindness, and deeds of love.

I think, with tears, of the young lads, and even girls, indoctrinated with hate.  How can this be prevented?  I believe hate often comes from a wounded heart.  How do we offer healing for those broken hearts?

Perhaps by reaching out to refugees.  By sharing what we have.  By choosing to be a safe place for others.  Fear gives way to anger, and violence.  Love is a much stronger weapon.

Today is a new day.  And even though I might feel despair over the violence in the world, I can be part of the choosing. I was inspired by the quote of Fred Rogers who talks about looking for the kind helpers in the midst of tragedies instead of being afraid.  And I can choose to be a helper, to show kindness, to share love.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Waste

Our printer broke down earlier this year, and we dug out our warranty and replaced it... again.  And I was surprised by my anger, for it seemed that these machines were not built to last.

And I specifically asked for a printer that would use the same ink, as I carefully removed all the ink cartridges out of the old one, wanting at least to save the very expensive ink I had bought.

So this week, wanting to replace ink in our hungry printer, I placed one of those old cartridges in... and it wouldn't work.  In and out, I tried a number of times, but the printer would not cooperate.

So off to the store... where they told me... the old cartridges had a bigger capacity, and wouldn't work.  Same brand, same ink, wrong printer.

And as I fumed (in a friendly sort of way of course), the lad told me that he had actually asked the company why they didn't keep things the same... but was told that they change things... so the customer will have to buy new.

So as I watched the computer guy feed his recycle bin with my very good ink, which wouldn't work on my now machine, I was completely annoyed.  And in good taste, he was annoyed with me and we agreed it was a complete waste.  Although I then handed over money for ink cartridges that would work.

This is not isolated situation. We replaced our stove this year as well... less than two years old, just slipped by warranty, because the computer panel was too expensive to replace.  It was cheaper to buy a new stove.

And we throw things away, big things, and buy new because we are caught in a system that we can't control.  Or can we?

My husband sometimes teases me that I have become an environmentalist, and truly, I try.  I know we can do better.  But I have to start with myself.  We are a nation that throws away a lot of food.  Do I use my left-overs well?  Do I recycle?  Do I try to fix what is broken?

I've learned to make my own laundry soup and hand-soap, and other things, but there is always this weighing of time and energy versus convenience.  And often, like many things in our culture, convenience wins out.

I will admit I often forget my cloth bags at the grocery store when I am in a hurry, and are thankful for the plastic ones they provide.  And my house-painter hubby is happy to use those plastic bags for wet paint brushes... but I know the truth of the matter is that we use far too much plastic, and we don't always dispose of it properly.

And so I am challenged to do better.  And perhaps a rant about ink is not a bad thing, I might even write a letter to the company.

And in the big scheme of things, in a broken world, I choose how to live.  To choose to be kind, to take care of this beautiful earth we've been given to live in, to give thanks to God for life itself.

And as someone said, these are truly first-world problems.  But as a citizen of the whole world, I want to live in a way that is responsible and caring.  Even when it comes to ink.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Remembering the Gift of Celery Soup

Today I was reminded of the gift of celery soup.

Cream of Celery, that is, and it is over five years ago that I made a rather large potful.  

This is not a soup I make often, in fact I'm not sure I have made it since.  But that day I had brought home a large bag of celery, leftovers from my dear nephew's memorial service.

The memory is a sad one, but also one of God's provision.  For his sudden death devastated our family, and a wide circle of his friends.  He is in our hearts and lives in our memory.

And as families tend to do, we gathered together and each were able to help in his or her own way.  I was faced with the challenging task of organizing a memorial tea for 1500 people.  But the provision was great, and many groups and individuals stepped forward donating food in remembrance of my nephew, Chris.  

So much food in fact, that after we fed the many people who came to pay tribute to his life, we had enough for two van-loads of food to deliver to the Salvation Army.  And we sent another batch of sandwiches to the East Side in Vancouver that night, food for the hungry.

But there was still leftovers, and I came back to Vernon, where I live, with a bunch of celery, donated by one of the farmer's markets my brother knows well.

And I made soup.  Comfort food.

That week I visited a grandmother who was grieving her grandson.  A Canadian soldier who had recently died in Afghanistan.  How sad she was, and we looked at pictures, and thought about this dear young man she loved.  And in my own grief, we shared the common bond of mourning... of young life ended too soon...and I was grateful for the visit we shared.  And was glad to bring her some soup, I had lots!

And then she told me her favourite soup was... cream of celery.  It was one of those "wow" moments, where a little thing like soup was a gift of God's presence and comfort.

Today, as we approach Remembrance Day, I happened to run into this precious grandma.  Five and a half years later, just as we approach this day we honour our soldiers.  And together we reminisced about the story.  We talked of her dear grandson, and our shared grief over those we love.  


And it was good to be reminded how a bowl of soup brought comfort that day, and how our meeting again brought warmth to both of our worlds, as we remember.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Aging with Grace

It's a topic that is on my mind.  We are aging.

All of us are,  but a large group, of which I am part of; the tail of the Baby Boomers entering retirement with hopes and dreams and ideals.

But the reality of what I see, often, is the losses of aging.  And because our society does not prepare us for that, often we are ill-prepared.  We struggle with loss, the loss of our own parents, the loss of hearing and vision and health, and independence, and we fight the progression like crazy.

And perhaps the fight is good, we live as well as we can, and take good care of ourselves, but how do we, with peace, also embrace the reality of loss?

I wrote a poem about it a few weeks ago, my thoughts on aging.

Aging with Grace

The masks are removed
The ground lays bare
No pretension.

I stare into my aging face
The wisps of grey
The cheeks that have begun
To sag.

No, aging
does not culminate
in perfection.

And as I let my
heart lay bare
allowing the questions
the mysteries of life
the unsolved problems
to surface in my mind

and I can lift them up
like prayers.

I let go of
what cannot be

And smile
into the face of
Wisdom.


In honour of my mom, who died in June of 2013.  Aging was a challenge for her, but she also embraced her home-going with grace and dignity.  Sometimes when I look into my mirror, or into the eyes of my beautiful grandchildren, I see glimpses of her.