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Welcome to my blog! Of course if we were visiting in person, I'd have the teapot out and we could sit and chat.
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I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Reflections

It seems appropriate as we close the year of 2017 to reflect.

I always find it fascinating at this time of year when media, especially in television and newspapers, recap the past year's events, and we get a picture of what just was.  Weather events, names in the news, and this last year of celebrating our wonderful country Canada come to mind.  Even Face Book is willing to do that for us on a more personal note, taking our pictures, and presenting them in a kaleidoscope of memories. 

Reflection and even analyzing has it's place, as we might review our goals and dreams.  Were there things we hoped for?  How did the unexpected impact us?  Was it a good year?

For some, it was marked by loss, and we hold that tenderly, as there are empty spaces at the table in our celebrations this year, people we  could not buy that special gift for, or create memories with.

For others it will be great joy, the birth of a child, falling in love, beautiful moments of life to be cherished.

I've made it a practice to choose a word each year to reflect on.  My word for 2017 was JOY.  As I thought about this word, and set out to practice the meaning of it, I have come to recognize that JOY cannot be manufactured.  No, rather it needs to be lived, it is a choice in the midst of life's messiness. 

And sometimes there is the great feelings of joy, and other times there is a decision to choose to be thankful, and grateful for the many blessings we share.  I am deeply blessed, and I know many of you feel the same.

As I was thinking about this word "Reflections", it can have another meaning.  We can reflect on the past, on our life, but we also are "reflections" of what we spend time with, whether that is positive or negative.  These are reflections of who we are.

We can reflect Love, or Peace, Hope or Joy.  I often think of the amazing fact that we are made in the image of the Creator, and do I reflect that?  This morning I was reading a devotional by Rob deCotes, where he quoted Colossians 3:10, which says, "Put on the new self, which is being renewed in the knowledge in the image of it's Creator."

That was a confirmation for me as I reflected on these thoughts, and gave me food for my soul today. 

I've been thinking about my new word for 2018, but first I wanted to spend time on what I've learned.  This is always a good meditative exercise, to honestly look at our strengths and weaknesses.

It is a gift to experience God's grace and mercy in the midst of it all, and do I reflect that grace and mercy in the way I live? 

These are my reflections for today, as we close this year.

May your New year be rich, with the gifts that last; with love and grace and joy.



Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas is all about LOVE

Our language does not do justice to the word LOVE.

I often say "I love something", but depending on what I'm speaking of that love can mean many different things.

By now, if you follow these posts (and thank you for reading them!), you'll know I love the season of Advent.  Because it draws me into the deeper longings of the heart, and the waiting for the coming...Advent means Coming.  It also means the "Arrival", or the "Appearance".

Because Christmas comes, as it came that first Christmas long ago....LOVE came down, the fulfillment of a promise, the answer to the longings of the people's cry for a Messiah, a Saviour.

And yes, we know the story well, and yet we long for a world that isn't broken, where people truly LOVE one another.  We are comforted by the miracle of this precious baby, whom we find out is the promised Messiah, the great fulfillment of years of longing and waiting.  And before He left this earth for heaven, He gives us this wonderful promise that He will come again.  With that coming will come a world without pain, without sorrow, without war, without trouble.  I rather long for that.

Just as that first Christmas, we cannot fully grasp what that all means.  There is mystery to it.  And yet I know that I can trust in a God who loves me, who has walked with me for many years, I can testify that I have experienced this love in so many amazing ways.

I heard an interesting story this week that relates to Solstice.  This is the darkest time of the year, in our hemisphere, where we long for light, we wait for that turning, for the days to stretch. 

I will admit to you right now I didn't research this well, but my understanding is that those who chose the date of Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus, saw symbolism in choosing a day, three days after the darkest night.  It reflects the Easter story of the earth dark as Jesus dies and his followers mourned... and then the resurrection three days later!  This is the promised fulfilled!

However the story goes, what is true is that Christmas is all about Light in the very darkest of times.  It gives us Hope, it promises Peace, and fills us with Joy.  And truly, it is all about Love, that God should choose to put on human flesh and be with us.  That is the miracle of Emmanuel, which means God with us.

That is a gift of LOVE that can't be put into words. 

I was looking for LOVE verses this week, and you will find a couple of them embedded in this week's Advent drawing, the last one of this series.

 For God so Loved the world... found in John 3:16, my favourite verse as a child.
And one of my favourite chapters, the last part of Romans 8, where we learn that nothing can separate us from the LOVE of God. 
And Jeremiah writes... "I have loved you with an everlasting love!"

If nothing else this Advent season, I want to sit with that thought... I am truly loved by God.  Not for what I do, or what I've accomplished, or my correct theology, or how people see me.  None of that...

No, I'm loved by the One who created me, who loves me just as I am. 

with love, and a blessed Christmas to all,
Grace

oh, an extra little tidbit, there is an excellent blog by this lady who takes the LOVE chapter (1 Corinthians 13) and translates it into a Christmas meditation.  Check it out here!  Posted tonight by a friend, and I thought it was great:
 https://sharonjaynes.com/1-corinthians-13-christmas-style/


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Songs and Poems of Christmas

It is snowing outside as I write this, and I hear the skiers and outdoor enthusiasts rejoicing along with the children, and children at heart, who are longing for a white Christmas.  I'm happy for you!

I'm never that enthusiastic about snow, it might date back to a car accident years ago, where we were hit by a car, head-on, sliding out of control in a blizzard.  We were grateful it was a slow slide and other than bruises we were fine, although the car needed extensive repairs.  So be careful out there, if you are driving!

A few years back I wrote a piece called "No to Snow", mostly for amusement, but most who know me, know I'd rather be safe indoors, with a book, by the fireplace.

One of the most favourite fun Christmas songs is "Let it Snow, let it snow, let it snow!"  As I've pondered life this Christmas Season, I have a new version.  I'm singing "Let it Go, let it go, let it go!"

And as I sing that in jest, I'm always drawn to pause through this Christmas season... to let go of expectations, mostly of myself, of "perfection", of that perfect picture Christmas where all the family gathers, we all get along, everyone is healthy, and no matter how much sugar or calories we consume, we are calm and joyful.

Most of us know this is a false picture, but we long for it anyway.  At least I know I do, for the image is sold to us everywhere.  These images come from the movies we watch, the Christmas cards we buy, and the advertisers who are convinced they have the perfect gift options. Many of us carry long to-do lists  with plans to decorate, bake, shop, and then find time to experience or participate in all the extra activities.   And some of them are quite wonderful!

It was my privilege yesterday to bring a group of people to sing at one of our Care facilities.  We had not practiced, but brought the old carols, and read the familiar Christmas story from Luke 2.  It was a wonderful half an hour with these precious folks.  They knew the words... many of them sang.  One precious lady who is very well in body, perhaps more clouded in mind, joined the singers with her beautiful voice.  I could tell she had sang in choirs, perhaps led them.  And the joy she exuded and I felt, along with others, was Christmas to me.

The words of the Christmas carols are so beautiful.  My favourite is O Holy Night... where the second chorus reads:
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King!  Before him lowly bend.  

I sing this and I often am moved to tears...yes, He knows our need, and came in human form to Be with us...

I'll leave you with this poem I wrote a couple of years ago, it still echos the sentiment of my heart, as we enter this Christmas week.  I pray you have time to pause and ponder, to enjoy the moments, to still your hearts, in this season of love.

Christmas Comes
In all the hurrying
In all the scurrying
For some even the worrying
   Christmas comes.

Right on time.

And as I let go
And shift
From the doing

To the being.

Enjoying the moments
cherishing each one
who enriches our lives.

May the love of Christmas
The hope of Christmas
Bring you peace and joy.

©Grace Wulff 2015


O Holy Night lyricist is poet Placide Cappearu 1909-1877, Adolphe Adam put it to music in 1847.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Rejoice, yes, rejoice!

The dark gloom of winter overtook me,
 the grey skies,
with cold slivers of wind that  threatened to shake the fabric of my soul. 

This is the voice of depression, and if the statistics are right, a great deal of us will taste it in one way or another.  Some will hold it in, and carry on, living in pretense.

Others will reach out for help.

Most will feel misunderstood and very alone.  "Shaking it off", or "focusing on the positive" doesn't always cut it.

For this is the happy time of year, right? 

Recently I read a very powerful interview by Parker Palmer who is known for his wise writing and speaking.   He openly talks about his own depression, and has had three clinical episodes which were very dark times for him.  His sharing helped me a great deal, to understand those I know, and those I work with, who battle the dark night of the soul.  (You can follow the link for this interview)

I too can suffer from depression, and I don't use the word lightly.  Too often we don't acknowledge each others suffering.  We gloss over it, looking for the happy, the light.  It is simply easier.  We don't want to see, we don't want to acknowledge.  It is too painful.

Writing these thoughts can be vulnerable, but I have to be honest about it.  I am prone to depression, aware of it, and sometimes even frustrated with my melancholy soul.  And yet, I realize that it gives me the deep gift of compassion, of being able to sit with another and truly "get it". 

I am not a fixer... none of us are.  But I can be a companion to others who hurt in this grieving world.

If you've read thus far, you might think I might have messed up the title. 

But when I was working through my advent devotionals, and faced with drawing about JOY, it was a challenge for me!  Depression certainly had been lurking at my door, and I could name various triggers. 

So I looked for another word, as I starting researching the word "JOY".  And the word "rejoice" came up, and then this beautiful verse from the ancient book of Habakkuk.  He writes "Yet I will rejoice"... the emphasis on yet is mine.

This was God speaking to me, and I soaked it in.  "Yet" implies whatever you are going through, whatever your situation, however you are feeling, whatever the state of our world... yet I will rejoice! 

This is not a denial of present circumstances, but a wonderful choice to make in the midst of it.  When we choose joy, choose to trust, choose to rest in the arms of a God Who loves us, our perspective can change. 

When you think of the circumstances of that first Christmas, the world then was in turmoil.  The people ached with waiting for a Messiah, for relief of their circumstances.  And then skies blew open and angels appeared and there was this triumphal glimpse of God revealing holy wonder and calling us to Rejoice! 

Rejoice, because Emmanuel, God is with us!  We are not alone.  This is an action verb, a call to action not based on feeling.  I can sing the carols and mean it.  This is not a denial of suffering.  No, it is a medicine for the soul, a lifting of the heart. 

I'm grateful for the gift of Advent... the yearning, the waiting, the conversations about peace.  And rejoicing that God our creator is a provider for all we need.  So, rejoice! 




Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Not So Silent Night

The blog I wrote a few years (2012) ago has become a favourite of mine, and I re-read it each year and it still rings true.  So I offer it again tonight, as an extra blog post for this week, as we continue to think about peace in our broken world...

Silent Night

   I woke up to the sound of sirens.  It happens often; we live on a hill, and the sounds of sirens often echo in the valley below.  It seems to happen regularly in the wee hours of the morning; and I start the day with a prayer as I wonder who might be hurting, who might be frightened, for the paramedics who rush in to help.

  Sometimes I drift off, but usually I am half awake until the radio alarm jars my half-dreaming, and mercifully my hubby reaches to turn it off.  I'm not quite ready for the days news and love to nestle in and enjoy the quiet.

  Most of our lives are not quiet.  The TV blares, and sounds of cell phones, and chatter and traffic and machines of all descriptions color our days.

  And I think about that much loved Christmas Carol, Silent Night, and wonder - was it really so quiet?  If you listen in your head, you can hear the donkey's braying and the sheep bleating, and if your senses are really tuned, the barnyard smells drift in.  Perhaps a rooster crows in the distance.  The sound of large groups of people gathering, taxes to be paid and a bustling unsettled community there to do Caesar Augustus' bidding.

  And then you hear it, the mother's gasps of pain, the baby's cry.  A Saviour is born.  It is romantic to us, looking back from the twenty-first century, etched on ornaments, painted on cards, sold in a million varieties, the nativity how ever you want it!

  But I think it was far from romantic that night.  It was sweat and tears and noise and smells, and in the middle of all of it... unspeakable joy.  So full of joy that the heavens opened and angels sang!  Hardly silent, I think!!

  So where is the silence?  In this waiting for Christmas, this beginning of Advent Season, I long, more than ever for the stillness of my heart.  To stop, to listen, to rest.  I was reading a devotional this morning by Rob Descotes from Psalm 46:10, which says  "Be still... and know that I am God."  I've been thinking about that all day... Descotes suggests that these words were given as a command in the midst of chaos, of war... and God was reminding them that He was in control...

   And I thought... how appropriate.  In the middle of the chaos of the First Christmas there was a far greater plan... and in my life, in all of life, there is a bigger plan.  God says to me... Be still...there is holy silence in the midst of all the noise and distractions.

  So, "Silent Night"... as we enter into this which can be the busiest of seasons, full of noise and hustle and expectations and spending, and overindulging... I just want to stop.  To savor the silence, to be grateful for all the gifts life brings, to be thankful for a God who sends a little baby to be human, just like us, so that we can be known and loved by a God who cares.  I quiet my heart... and listen.



Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Peace Offerings

Peace.

Unattainable in our world?

I'm still hanging on to hope, and with that hope
can I cultivate
the seed of peace?

I've been thinking about the gifts we bring, and I have always loved gift-giving.
When I was a young girl, one of my favourite Christmases was wrapping little gifts for everyone and hanging them on the Christmas tree. 

This gift giving and the hanging of gifts, even as a young teen, was symbolic of my faith... Jesus, who I loved, had given the gift of life, of love, and had "hung" on a tree... this ultimate gift-giving impacted my soul. 

Now, as a grown-up, I love that I can "give" the gift of words, or simple drawings to express my faith. 

I love the advent words, the words we focus on during this waiting season.  They too are gifts we can give to one another.

So many people need the gift of hope.  I know I do some days, when things seem hard.  And then someone gives me a loving hug, or a word of encouragement, and hope renews my soul, quickens my step.

We will enter the second week of advent with the gift of peace.  And yes, some days it seems unattainable.  But the choice to be a peacemaker, to live peaceably, to give the gift of peace is always mine to give. 

I've been drawing about peace, and ended up with two little pieces.  The first one depicts a globe, and the image of being held by God.  There is that hope of peace, peace that surpasses our understanding.  That is the kind of peace that produces calm in the storm, and brings quiet to the troubled heart.




Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Entering Advent with Anticipation

Last week my hubby and I entered one of our local drug stores, you know the kind which sell everything from groceries to cosmetics to drugs.

And we were greeted upon entry by a very large display.  It seemed that Advent had gone viral, in a commercial sense.  It was so blatant, I was shocked.  I could buy an "advent" calendar with a lego theme, an NHL theme, and a variety of Disney characters.  I went on line, and just in case you don't want to know, there is an advent calendar for alcohol, and even for marijuana.  This was even reported on the news. 

For tea lovers like myself, I can go to my favourite tea store and buy a calendar with a new tea for every day in December until Christmas.  This is a bit tempting.

But quite frankly, the commercialiation bothers me.  The time of Advent has always been a sacred one in my eyes, and it has become obnoxiously secular. 

I have participated in the Season of Advent for years, and written about it, if you look up past blogs.  I enjoyed creating an Advent time with my kids when they were little, the emphasis was on doing things together and looking for ways to bless others. 

Advent is a Latin word from the word "adventus", which means coming.  In the church, this word Advent was used to speak of "the coming of the Saviour".  Thus the origin of the Advent season is about waiting... waiting for this "coming".

When someone is coming, there is a waiting, and also a time of preparation.  I like to think of Advent in those terms. 

With waiting, there is also a "yearning" which I doodled about this week, as I began my own Advent preparation of the heart.  We yearn with hope for a better world, for healed relationships, for good connections with people we love. If you have an Advent wreath with the candles, the first candle usually represents HOPE.

Recently, I had a difficult conversation with a patient who had lost hope, and this person told me quite frankly that my prayers were not working anymore.

As I digested that information, I recognized the yearning... the longing for health and wholeness.  It is not easy to feel lousy much of the time and my heart ached with this person.



We live in a broken world, and encounter suffering all around us.  Sometimes that suffering is our own.  And I thought about yearning... and longing for the Advent of One who comes... and who also gives us the great hope of life beyond this broken world... where there will be no more pain or suffering.

We start advent with Hope.  With yearning for the coming of a Saviour who promises hope, the forever kind.  And as we live in that hope, it gives us courage to live each day with meaning and purpose.

I'm including some resources here for an advent season minus the chocolates.  Pray-as-You-Go has a advent devotional you can follow on-line, and I plan to participate in that.  This is a lovely reflection offered by the Jesuit community.  https://pray-as-you-go.org/prayer-resources/messengers-of-joy-advent-2017/

There are also many other advent devotionals on-line and in print, if you have a favourite, feel free to comment and share!

I've also created two art pieces where you can jot a word, a thought, or a verse for every day.  If you want the full jpgs, you can e-mail me at grace@gracewulff.com and I will e-mail them to you.  These can be printed on a sheet of paper and each have a space for the 25 days leading up to Christmas.  For the children, I found stickers to use, and they could participate that way.

However you participate in this season, may it be filled with hope. 











Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Song that Encourages

A couple of weeks ago, my hubby let me know we were to pick two songs for an upcoming worship event.  He picked this song that had meant a lot to him from a Promise Keeper Album, and though I was familiar with it, it had been a while since I had sung it.

The song comes from Psalm 3, verse 3.  It brought me back to the years when my dad, the pastor of our church in Harrison Hot Springs, bought song books for our congregation, all Psalms put to music.  The Psalms came alive for me when we sang them regularly, and really, they are songs, poetry that King David and others wrote, set to music for the people.

I love songs and Psalms that are prayers, and this one is no exception.  Psalm 3:3 says: "Thou O Lord, art a Shield about me, my glory, and the lifter up of mine head."  This is the King James Version, but somehow this language fits the poetic words. 

We sang the song, which came from these words,  and it has come to surface many times in my head since.  I'm learning to pray it.  I doodled it, which has become a devotional exercise for me, helping me to focus on the words.

Thou O Lord are a Shield about me:  When I think of God as a shield, we can go to the imagery of war.  To understand the setting of the Psalms, it was a tribal culture;  wars and protection of territory was the norm.  I'm glad we don't live in such brutal times... but again, maybe we do, just in different ways.

I love the visual of seeing this incredible image of God as a covering, a protection, a hiding place.  Then this picture came of a safety net... sometimes we can feel like we are leaping into the unknown, or entering difficult circumstances, and there is an assurance that God's arms are always ready to catch us, even when we fall.

"The lifter of my head.":  The last part of the verse also spoke loudly to me, when I think of the Creator as one who wants to lift my head.  "Why are you downcast my soul", the psalmist laments in another Psalm, and there are times where we feel bent over, misunderstood, weary, and are our heads can tell the story.

I see this especially with friends who struggle with depression, and I ache for them.  This week I shared with one... here is good news!  God, who loves us, desires to lift up our heads, to give us hope, to give us renewed confidence! 

Such is the power of one little verse, which is now a regular prayer and a song I can sing.  This is a verse and song that encouraged me this last couple of weeks, and I hope it will do the same for you.


The lyrics we sang are by Donn Thomas and Charles Williams, you can find the music on the internet.  







Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Grumpy Chaplain

Now that I have your attention, I'd like to assure you I'm actually having a pretty good day.

My hubby and encourager often makes suggestions about what I should write about and yes, the title is his.  I wonder why?  :-)

The truth is, yes, there are times I am grumpy.  It is pretty rare I would show that in my work, but it has happened.  Far more often it is my hubby who hears the brunt of my frustration, and I have to say, he is a pretty good listener.

For those who suffer chronic pain, or live with difficult circumstances that seem to have no end, they have my full empathy.  It is very hard to be up all the time when life is hard.  We need to acknowledge that.

We all respond differently to life's pressures, and I've always known I fall into the melancholy camp.  Most artists do, I think.  This time of year when the days are short, and the cold sets in, I can be prey to SAD, which is Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

Thinking about Grumpy made me think of Snow White and the seven dwarfs.  I loved that fairy tale.  There is Happy and Sleepy and Doc and Bashful, Sneezy, Grumpy and Dopey.

Apparently these were not the original names the Grimm brothers gave them, but that is fodder for another blog...I was thinking that I can be all of those at some time or another.  I also love the children's tale of Winnie the Pooh, where I very much like the character of Pooh, so easy going and kind.  Everyone wants to be his friend.  But I joke, I might feel more like Eeyore some days... a little sad, but I still show up.

And I have some wonderful friends like Tigger, who is crazy and energetic and frankly quite exhausting, and I admire all his endless energy and passion.  No, I was built to move at a slower pace!

So when I recognize Grumpy emerging, what do I do?

It is a bit like anger... really all emotions are not wrong, and it is good to be authentic and own how we feel.  It reminds me of what I used to tell my children when they were young... it is not wrong to be angry, but it is wrong to hurt others in your anger.  I still believe that.

If I walked around with a scowl, that could be contagious and not really conducive to caring for others!  I've discovered a smile is also contagious, and when in doubt, I practice in the mirror.  A smile can make all the difference in the world.  So can laughter.  I can choose to smile!

Gratefulness is another wonderful antidote to a sad state, because there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for.  So there is plenty of medicine in my mental cupboard to help turn things around.

Sometimes that takes time... and this time of year I am even more aware of practicing self-care, as I also encourage others I meet to do the same.  Getting exercise, drinking enough water, eating well, quiet moments, prayer, positive thinking... all can help, especially when we are in a crisis, or under a great deal of stress.

And I'm grateful for a hubby who makes me laugh... even if he might call me a "grumpy" chaplain at times.




Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Stacking Stones

I've had a love affair with stones and rocks for a while now. 

Perhaps it started with this one, as I began a significant spiritual journey, seven years ago.  This rock sits in a labyrinth on Bowen Island, and I found it again this summer!


Since then I've collected them, written words on them, even painted on them,  from the silly to significant.


I've read some great pieces and poems on living in the present... you know that saying where one shouldn't live in the past, or the future... but cherish today!

There is truth in that, but I want to offer the value of looking to our past.  Sometimes we need to revisit the painful places and ask for healing.  This can be a difficult task, easier said than done.  But it can be critical for our well being, and even understanding what shapes us, what triggers us, and understand the relationships that have affected us.  

While we can't live in our past, we can definitely learn from it!

There is another story that I love, which comes from the book of Joshua.  When the Israelites came to the Jordan after forty years of wandering in the wilderness... and some very painful experiences... Joshua was instructed to have them build piles of stones.  These stones were to be reminders of their past.  They were to look back and see how God had led them, God had never left them.  

When I look back, I can see how God has led me...  and I recognize that it is in the places of suffering that I learned the most.  I also see the goodness of God... the faithfulness of God... and as I build my own pile of stones, I can offer gratefulness with a very thankful heart.  

I had fun recently drawing my pile of stones, and named them.  These are the markers of my life, gifts God has given me, even through pain at times.  I called them teachers on my life's journey.

What are your stones?  






Monday, October 30, 2017

The Eve of Halloween Eve

I published this blog two years ago, and thought I would repeat it, since it is, after all, the eve of Halloween. 
It includes a poem I wrote when I was in Grade 11.  Praying for fun for the children, safety for all! 

Oct 30 2015

I've been cleaning out my closet today.  The study closet, full of old important papers, dozens of picture frames, and other assortments of things, and finding the most amazing treasures I forgot I had.

Old petit-point patterns, a half-finished piece, things I just couldn't throw away.

A pile of warranties, for things we no longer own.

And then there was the box of my writing.

So instead of cleaning, I sat, in the middle of the floor reading what I wrote in my teens and twenties...

I have always loved to write, and I remember an especially inspiring class, Writing 11. which inspired me, pushed me and prodded me to write in all different styles.  And among that collection I found of all things, tonight, on the eve of Halloween, a poem I wrote called T'was Halloween'en Night.

I actually found this highly amusing, because I have struggled with Halloween over the years, not enjoying the dark side, and as a young parent was fiercely protective of my children.  I am sure I voiced an opinion or two on this topic, and even wrote about it.  And while Halloween is still not my favourite holiday, the kids sure have fun dressing up.

And tomorrow, now grandparents of eight - can you imagine? - we will enjoy seeing these little ones have great fun in their costumes, on-line anyway!  I love seeing their little happy faces delighting in the dress-up fun.

So here is the poem, written in my Grade 11 hand, about Halloween:

Twas Halloween night,
The air chilling and bitter
The streets dark and damp'ning
And filled with the litter
Small groups of children
Were thronging the streets.
Or rather, some witches
And white ghosts with sheets.
There were old men and ladies
And gypsies with finery
Some cats and some goblins
And angels all shinery.
Clowns with all faces;
Some happy, some sad.
And a dear old professor
who looked very mad.

They all rang my doorbell
some shy and some eager.
"We've come trick 'r treatin"
Said one little beaver.
So I'd plop them some candy
In pillow or sack.
They'd say thank-you with wide eyes,
Their lips would go smack.
And down the long street
their small footsteps would patter.
They'd giggle and laugh
With child's endless chatter.
I'd sit back and smile
And recall way back when
I was a child
And had fun like them.
by Grace Friesen - for my writing class: Grade 11

It's as scary as I get.  :-)  Our little pumpkin display 2017.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Practicing Compassion

Most of the blogs I write percolate in my mind long before I start writing and this one is no different.

It is sparked by the on-going homelessness crisis in our community, which has become much more public since many of them set up camp not too far from where we live.  In fact, I drive by this camp every day, and my heart is moved...

I also drove by several signs last week advertising haunted houses - tis the season -  and the thought came to me:  what really haunts me is that we don't know what to do for the poor, for the marginalized, for those whose lives are gripped by mental illness and addiction.  Many of us feel helpless.

The conversations, the arguments, the protests, all rage on in our social media and newspaper.  It hits the news regularly, and has become the regular topic of our town counsel. 

I don't believe our town is alone in this crisis.  There is a drug crisis, a mental health crisis, and it has become a social crisis that affects all of us, whether we like it or not.  And I am well aware that I just used the word crisis five times. 

I don't want to become hardened to this... but the heart cry is that there is no easy answers.  I see those who are compromised, who are addicted, and I am so saddened by their suffering.  Each person has a story, and the need to be treated with dignity.

I  am careful.  I know what is like to be manipulated, and I will be honest... I don't always trust.  Sometimes I am afraid.  I don't always know what to do in a given situation.

And the truth is I also have compassion for those who are affected by illegal behaviour, loitering, even crime in some cases, and feel their sense of safety has been violated.  I recently went to a meeting I was facilitating in the area, and felt intimidated when a fight broke out near by.  I was perfectly safe, but wondered about how this affected the attendance of some of the support services offered in this building.  Our police force and town officials have the very difficult challenge of caring for all their citizens, providing safety and social nets for those who need them.

I have long believed that every person has the right to affordable housing and food.  I applaud agencies who are working in that direction. 

So what to do?  I think it is a question we all ask.  How do I practice compassion?

As a follower of Jesus, it is pretty clear to me that he had a strong commission for us to care for the poor and the marginalized.  This cannot be ignored.

But sometimes I need wisdom... and I find myself reaching out to those who understand and work with the homeless and marginalized.  Often these workers are discouraged as well, but they have a far larger understanding of what is happening.  We need to encourage them!  When I want to donate, I like to give to those agencies who already are established, and caring for this segment in our society.  That I CAN do.

We can all treat each person we meet with compassion.  Recently I had a conversation with someone who was very mentally ill, and if I was honest, part of the conversation was not easy for me.  And yet, I sensed that this was a person who needed to know they had value, they were loved, and that someone saw their suffering.  We need to acknowledge their suffering.

I'm grateful for local agencies such as the Salvation Army and the Mission who do so much in our community.    Every year they put on campaigns to help with food and backpacks and many other very practical items.  I am glad to support them, and to support local workers like our street nurse and local community Chaplain. 

Practicing compassion implies I need to DO something.  When we feel helpless, it can be easy to turn away.  But we CAN have the conversations, we CAN deepen our awareness, we CAN learn from the agencies who are actively helping.  Instead of complaining about the situation... something I've seen so much of in recent weeks... can I be part of the solution?  Even if my part is very small, we can all practice compassion.



Monday, October 16, 2017

Eternity in our Hearts

You might have noticed that I have been drawing in circles lately.  Today's art is no exception, but it was very deliberate.


We tend to think in linear ways, with a start and a finish, a beginning and an end.

A circular shape speaks of the never-ending quality, much like the officiant or pastor  reminding a bride and groom that their rings are a reminder of unending love - a love that goes beyond any limits we might give it.

Our bodies, on the other hand, seem to have more finite qualities.  I've spoken recently about people who have been given a "terminal" diagnosis, a diagnosis most of us have difficulty with.  I hadn't heard that word in ages, actually, so was surprised when it surfaced.

More often in my work we use the word "palliative" which defines a patient with a life-threatening illness, who might need more comfort care than curative care.  Whatever words you use, we all have the knowledge that our lives are temporary here on earth, we live in fragile shells.

I remember clearly my first husband saying that while he came to terms with his impending death, he was aware that any of us could be living our last days... and not even know it.  We don't like to talk about it, much less think about it.

But the incredible comfort is that our souls are eternal.  I believe that with all my heart.  The imprint of God the Creator is set in our beings, for it is said we are made in God's image.  Deep inside of us, I believe there is a longing for the eternal.  And with that there is the hope of eternity, of a peace we cannot even imagine in an unbroken world.

This can be unfathomable, beyond our imaginations.  While I don't understand the mystery of it, I do believe that the God who created us, loves us immeasurably and longs to have relationship with us. 

It is this knowledge that gives us courage and hope when we say goodbye to the dear ones we love.  Today I asked a dear friend if he was ready to go... and he is in that place of relinquishing the things of earth and preparing for heaven.  With tears in his eyes, he nodded... and yet it is not easy.  The earth, our bodies is what we know, and it is hard to say good-bye.

These are holy moments, when the veil between the earthly being ...and the eternal reality... intersect.  It fills me with wonder, with hope.  And with that knowledge it gives me courage to live well, to love well,  in my earthly home.





Tuesday, October 10, 2017

S-t-r-e-t-c-h-ing my Vocabulary, exploring the meaning of Eucharist.

I tend to be a plain-speaking kind of girl.  Authentic, I hope. 

When it comes to faith and Christianity, I will avoid a lot of "Christian-ese".  Large words usually don't impress, and even more so, are seldom understood.  In my world, working in a secular institution, it is not helpful to use theological terms.  Words like love and peace... and comfort... those are the words we need and understand.

I struggled with this when I was studying theology - there was an inner pressure to impress, to speak in academic terms.  But I have long appreciated the preacher who speaks in lay terms, who relates to the "every-day" man.

That being said, I was inspired by the author Madeline Le'Engle this summer, as I read her book "A Circle of Quiet".  She is a fascinating author and makes me think.  Part of this book is her experience with a word she sat with and ruminated on for an entire summer... and I will leave you to find out what her word was. 

I found myself stretched to learn to new words, to explore what they mean.

One of the words we didn't use much in our church circles as I grew up was the word "Eucharist".  It is used much more frequently in Catholic and Anglican churches, and many will know it refers to the sacrament of communion, or as we Baptists like the call it "The Lord's supper".  This ceremony is an ancient one, celebrated in remembrance of the last supper before the death of Jesus. The bread and wine (grape-juice in some cases!) are consecrated and consumed, as we remember his sacrifice for us, his presence with us.

This is a sacred ceremony, the Eucharist.  It is a remembering, an identifying with...and denominations will have different ways of celebrating it, or even understanding it. 

But the word itself is so rich, and I wanted to learn more... Eucharist actually comes from the Greek word Kharis, which means Grace.  Of course, I love that... not so much that this is my name, but we are called to live lives of grace... and God extends grace to us, just as we are. 

The dictionary goes on to tell me that Eukharistos means "Grateful", and Eukharistia means "Thanksgiving!"  How appropriate for this week, as our thoughts are turned to thankfulness. 

So as I think of this Sacrament (a religious ceremony or act of the Christian Church that is regarded as an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual divine grace, in particular), of Eucharist, I am thankful! 

I recently posted I am thankful for Family, for Friends, for Faith... and it is true.  How good to think about Eukharistos in our daily lives... to show grace to one another, to acknowledge grace shown to us, to be thankful.  Even in the midst of hardship, there can be thanks.  And sometimes, that can make the difference.

I look forward to participating again in the celebration of Eucharist - it will be even richer as I understand it more fully.



Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Heart of Gratitude

Ever since I read Ann Voskamp’s book on gratitude (A Thousand Gifts), I renewed my efforts to practice gratitude each day.
Thanksgiving is really the icing on the cake; it is such a good reminder to be grateful for the many blessings we enjoy.
Ann encourages us to list those thankful thoughts each day, and if I don’t do it on paper, I do try make a mental list.
Gratitude can make a huge difference.  I see it in patients all the time, in my work as a hospital chaplain.  The ones who can face the most difficult of situations with a grateful heart... grateful for the care they receive, the love they have for and from family and friends, the knowledge that God loves them... these are the ones who often face their difficulties with peace.   I am inspired by them!
One can even be grateful for pain, it is the body’s way of telling us to slow down, to pay attention.  I’ve come to the place where I can be grateful even for physical challenges because it makes me more empathetic, most of the time, anyway!
Because it is thanksgiving, I want to make a list... I’ve come to like lists, they are very helpful!
I’m thankful for my family.  For beautiful children and adorable grandchildren.  Each one is a precious gift.
I’m grateful for my community, who could ask for better?  One day when we were living in the foothills of our beautiful city, (we’ve since moved across town)...my dad declared: we live on the most beautiful property (with the best view!) of the most lovely city, in the best province, in the greatest country.... it’s all in our own point of view of course!  But we do live in awesome beauty, and as we enjoyed the lakes nearby us just last week in the late summer sunshine.  I was full of gratitude.
I’m grateful for our church community.  For praying and caring friends, for hugs when we meet, for spiritual nourishment and encouragement.  What a privilege to worship in freedom!
I’m even grateful for Facebook and the internet!  Although I have to know my boundaries, what an incredible gift to stay connected to family scattered around the globe, to friends from long-ago, to new friends we connect with.  It is truly amazing and when used positively can be wonderful.
I’m grateful for friends!  Each one a precious and unique gift – you enrich my life!
I’m grateful for words.  What would we do without communication, without being able to speak words or share our thoughts.  I'm grateful for art and beauty and gardens, vistas, and the vast ever-changing sky. 
I’m thankful for variety... it is everywhere we see, from the food we eat and enjoy, to the flowers that bloom, to the birds that live among us. 
I’m also mindful of suffering... of tragedy, that we live in a broken world.  I’m thankful for those who rise up to help, to bind wounds, to reach out to the hurting, to fight for the oppressed.  I’m thankful for the helpers.
It is a never-ending list. 
Happy Thanksgiving!

“I will give thanks to You, Lord, with all my heart, I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”  Psalm 9:1


Sunday, October 1, 2017

To Market We Go!

I love a good Farmers Market. 

Homegrown vegetables, fruit and other homespun creations warm my heart. I go as often as I can, taking in the sights and sounds and even the smells... it enriches my life. 

I don't take for granted the work behind the market.  The long hours in the fields, the bakers rising early to prepare their wares, and then the packaging, delivering, presenting, in all kinds of weather. 



I've been involved in a marketing adventure recently. Because I am one of 55 authors who have a work published in an anthology, we are celebrating the book release of  Christmas with Hot Apple Cider this week!

It has been exciting for me to be part of such a lovely project and I have enjoyed reading all of this book. The contributors are a varied group of lovely Canadians all sharing Christmas spirit through stories and poetry. 

The first time I wrote a book I went to my brother for advice, since he has a marketing degree and had a written a book himself. I never forgot what he said.. He shared with me that the writing was the easy part!
Then there is the production of the book, which has many facets.  Nowadays many authors are self published, and our online world has changed the way we read and assimilate information. 

I've spent countless hours with my son who has helped me to produce work that looks appealing and professional. It is a lot of hard work. 

The most challenging part, though, my brother said, was the marketing. And I have found that to be very true. It would be much easier (for me) to give it all away. 

I was reminding myself this week that I don't expect the farmer to give away his or her produce.  And the thought occurred to me that the farmer might also get more joy out of growing things then trying to sell them!

So how does one create space for a marketplace for things like art, music and books?

If you are still with me 😊, I have been on a sharp learning curve as I observe the very hard work of the editors of this anthology as they market this book. They make it fun. And as I enter into this week, I will also invite you to join the Facebook launch party as you are able. You could even win prizes!  

I'm also learning a great deal about the Internet and Facebook practices. I will confess here I really like things that are free!  I recently stopped playing a word game because I just couldn't stand the ads. They were long and loud and bothered me. But I get it... somebody needs to make some money for providing this service. 

I made a conscious decision some years back not to have ads on this blog page. One reason is that I was concerned I wouldn't always endorse their content. I was happy to share my thoughts if people wanted to take the time to read them. And I've been so honoured by the kind feedback I've received. 

More than once when I was ready to set down my pen, someone has come to me and told me not to stop writing. What an encouraging word that has been, and has felt God-sent at times. 

Another interesting fact I learned about Facebook recently is you wish to follow someone, or a page, just "liking" it (which is great) does not necessarily mean you will always see those posts in your news feed. But if you tap and hold on the "following" button on the right hand side of a page you wish to follow, you can choose an option to "see first", for up to 30 pages. And if you don't wish to follow, you have that option too!!

So... there is the market story. I'm much more comfortable at the Farmers market chatting it up with my favourite farmer. But here I am, marketing a wonderful product, a lovely gift.  I've revamped my website  (well, I hired a lovely lady to help with that), 
I'm ready to share my wares. 

You'll find information about the book and other resources at on my official web page.

I also welcome you to join me on my Facebook page Grace Notes, Thoughts and Prayers, and "like" it if you have not already done so!  There you will find information about this week's book launch party, as well as encouraging thoughts, prayers and art.

You can also visit the Hot Apple Cider Books official page and get updates from the editors themselves. 

Thank you to those who read.  Thank you for your feedback, your encouragement, and helpful ideas.  Happy October!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Flitting from Branch to Branch

We were having our morning coffee, my hubby and I, and he observed as he looked out the window, "look at that bird, just flitting from branch to branch."

I looked, but the bird was gone... just couldn't settle down, I guess.

Somehow the phrase stuck with me... maybe because I identify with it.  Sometimes I'm "flitting from branch to branch."

I've often wondered what it is like to have a boring life.  I know some people who do, and they are lonely.  Their worlds are small.  So as I have been examining my full life, with many things, I remember to be grateful for it all.

But I also want to be mindful.  Mindfulness is the latest buzz word (unless we've moved on to something else and I hadn't noticed).  No, I'm stuck on trying to be mindful.  What does that mean?

Some might think it is  New Age take on approaching life, but since I love words, I would rather just see it as this... my mind is full!  And how do I get it to slow down, to focus on the present?

I was at a seminar last week and the presenter shared that if we focus on breathing, really paying attention to our breath,  our thoughts will cease.  I'm not so sure about that, but I do know that when I am feeling anxious or overwhelmed it DOES help to practice breathing.

I take a deep breath now.... I breathe in peace, I breathe in Love.  Sometimes I imagine God's loving spirit enveloping me, like that wonderful prayer of St. Patrick... God behind me, God before me... God within me!  I breathe it in.  And I slowly exhale, my anxiety, my worries...

Another word I love to focus on... is focus!  Can I focus on the present moment, to the person I'm talking to, to the task at hand?  Or is my mind flitting about?

When I pray, this can be especially challenging, as I rein in all those thoughts.  What will I make for dinner?  Oh, I needed to make that phone call, and perhaps I should check the e-mail.  I find this especially challenging at night, when there is much going on and I can't sleep.  Sometimes I pray through the alphabet, or down through my family, by name.

I find art especially helpful in this area of my life.  When I pick up a wonderful blank sheet of paper or canvas, or whatever, and start to draw, my mind calms, and even rests.  I stop flitting.

I was challenged recently to record all the tasks and responsibilities of my life, so I did that.  I realized there are some that are imperative if I am going to face the rest.  The daily rhythm of praying, reading, stretching, and hopefully a good walk, preparing healthy food... all of these tasks help me to do the rest of life.

So this is a blog to myself.  Stop flitting... settle down.  Focus on God, on the present moment which is a gift.  One day at a time, Sweet Jesus... so the song goes, and I'm singing it as I sign off.



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Time for Those Fuzzy Socks

I sat on our deck Sunday afternoon and the air was chilly.

I went into my unused sock drawer and pulled out one of my favourite happy pair of socks.  These socks have a bit of a story.  Some years ago, my friend Christina, insisted we all would be happier if we owned... and wore... happy socks!  These socks were a gift from her.

In the Winnie-the-Pooh world, Christina was the Tigger... and we joked that where she was unconventional, I was rather staid and kept the rules.  (I believe I wrote about that recently!).  I am an Eeyore, a Winnie-the-Pooh want-to-be, and I'm OK with that!

And generally I wear boring black socks, if any at all, but once in a while I need to spice things up.  Or in Sunday's case create a little warmth.
I put my feet up on my deck, sharing the chair with this Teddy Bear, rescued from my stash at the hospital.  He needed a bath and was drying in the late summer sunshine.

The socks felt good on my summer-calloused feet, and this year especially, I am grateful for the cooling winds of autumn coming.

This time of year the quilts and sweaters come out, and it is time for the bi-annual closet shift from warm to cool.  The soup pot comes out and there is so much inspiration from harvest.  Last week I cut up a rather interesting squash I had grown in my garden, and we added ginger, carrots, onions and garlic as well as some peppers and simmered it all day.  A little cumin and turmeric added some zest and the blended soup was delicious.

This morning I heard of reports of snow in the passes, and am wondering if we are going to bypass autumn altogether.  Right now I'm hoping to put off the winter coats as long as possible and enjoy some sweater weather.

I'm thinking tomato season is done, and like many others I'm storing for winter.  For years I have roasted tomatoes in the oven, and there is nothing like that rich smell of garlic, onions and tomatoes simmering in my roaster, sometimes for a few hours.  I've added peppers and zucchini too, and cooked down and blended with basil, it makes a rich sauce that can be used all winter long.

Thanks to my new friend Hannah, I'm freezing my sauces in "pucks", how brilliant!  The silicone muffin tins work great, and once it is frozen, you can easily store in freezer bags, and just take out what you need.  In fact, I think I might try that with applesauce....

Life can be full... especially in September.  I'm reminding myself to slow down, to savour the moments, the smells, the sights.  Just walking through a market and seeing the colourful inspiration of harvest is food for the soul.  I met a dear couple at our local farmer's market recently, both now in a extended care home, but there they were out for stroll.  She in her walker, he carefully watching out for her, and they were enjoying the autumn sunshine, taking it all in.

So I'm inspired to pull on the socks, brew some Chai tea, and inhale... in the middle of a labour-intensive season, it is good to settle my heart and be grateful for the many blessings that abound all around us.



Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Help!

A couple of years ago I had a display for the chaplaincy work I do, and brought a basket of rocks.  I had written words on many of them, and encouraged participants to write their own.

We had written out words:  courage, strength, faith and love.  And on one rock I wrote the word "Help!"

It was quite popular!  :-)

Even though many of us appear to be well put together (sometimes), within all of us is a place where we know we need help.

Of course babies are the best at this.  They just cry about it!

But independence sets in early and my darling grandchildren are very quick to point out "I can do it by MYSELF", even though Grandma is more than willing to help.

It can take courage to ask for help.  It is a vulnerable place.  Recently in our community a father reached out on Social Media and asked for help.  His son who was challenged in a number of ways was having a birthday.  And none of the invited guests were coming.

It was heart-warming to read the story in the paper the following week, but the community responded to this cry for help, showing up, bringing presents and even a fire-truck got involved.  It was a wonderful birthday!

There is another funny fable about a man in a flood who was perched on top of his house, calling out to God for help.  There were offers, but none suited him, and he kept saying that God was going to answer.  Well, he drowned.  And the fact is God had sent all kinds of help but he didn't recognize it.

We can become overwhelmed by all those who need help.  Right now our eyes are fixed on hurricanes as they have pummeled the United States and Mexico.  Mexico is reeling from a large earthquake on top of this.  We are still recovering from a summer of flood and fire in the Pacific Northwest.

And then I saw a news-clip almost hidden in the hurricane stories of mass flooding in India and Bangladesh, and other parts of Asia, where more than a thousand people have died, and others and are crying out for help.

It IS overwhelming.

And yet I am amazed at all the helpers.  We need to pray for them.  People at the ready, responding to disasters all over the world.  I pray for strength, for wisdom to manage resources, for protection.

And how do I respond?  I think it is good to do some homework and see how the agencies we give to manage their money.  It is good to give, and it is also gratifying to see governments match many of those donations in kind.

Years ago at a widow's retreat I attended a dear elderly pastor gave the sermon.  I've probably shared this before, but it is worth repeating!  The title of his sermon was "Help!"

The message was about prayer.  It is the simplest of prayers, and the most heart-felt.  "Help!"

I find I pray it often, because I know I can't do life alone.  I pray it as a chaplain when I see the great need and I don't know where to begin.  And God gently guides my steps.

I pray it when my body fails me, and I ask the Creator who made it for wisdom for how to take care of myself.

I pray it when I struggle with relationships or schedules or work, because I know I need help.  And I have found God is faithful to answer that simple prayer!

I am grateful for a God who is personal, who I can reach out to and cry for help.  And I pray for all the helpers who are also responding to the many around this world who are crying out for help.  I pray those needs would be met, and know that God can use all of us to help, through prayer, through giving and through compassion.








Monday, September 4, 2017

A Post for Labour Day

I spoke on the topic of labour yesterday and how it relates to the faith journey.

For most of us, Labour Day is related to the last hurrah of summer, that last long weekend to enjoy with family.  Many are getting ready for back-to-school, and indeed this past week I admired the new shoes and backpacks of my grandchildren.  All part of the excitement!

Labour Day has traditionally seemed labour intensive to me.  Coming from Mennonite roots... and others will relate to this... it is the season for harvest, for canning, for preserving.  Peaches are just finishing and tomatoes need attention.  This time of year we roast our tomatoes with onions, garlic and pepper and I've been known to sneak in a rogue zucchini  Blend it all up with lots of fresh basil and it makes a wonderful harvest supper, with leftovers to freeze for winter!

I have two children born in September!  That was labour intensive!!  When they were little I often joked that this was poor family planning to have birthday parties in the midst of harvest and back-to-school.  It created a very busy September!  But today I attend my granddaughter's birthday party... and the tradition continues!

I looked into the history of Labour Day to better understand its roots and was fascinated to find that the initial movements in Canada were to shorten the work week to 9 hours a day.  This is foreign to most of us, except for some workaholics I know.  :-)    The Union movement was created to provide relief for workers and create more time for education and time for families.  It is worth celebrating.

We all need a balance of work and rest.  When there is no meaningful work to do, I believe we begin to whither and lose meaning in our lives.  Recently I was called to encourage two ladies in their nineties who had lost hope and were depressed.  We talked about their lives and what brought them meaning.  I encouraged them that their lives still had purpose... they could pray... which is one of the most precious things we can do.  They could smile and encourage others.  When I left them, we were all encouraged!

The apostle Paul talked about the meaning of work and how we do it to honour the One who gave us life and energy.  He was a tent-maker, supporting his missionary work.  He says in Colossians 3: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord."   

I like to think we find God in the ordinary.  When I am doing laundry or creating a meal, I can be praying or thanking God for the blessings we have received.  We have clothes and shelter and abundance.  When we tend the earth, we give thanks for the miracle of plants and growth and provision.  Not to mention the wonderful variety of food we enjoy.  When we stop to think about it, it is truly amazing.

I am grateful today for all, who by their labour enrich my life.  We think especially of fire-fighters in our province today and pray for them.  Their labour is intensive.  I pray for all those who are in the front-lines, the helpers, the government officials who make decisions, the community workers who provide resources.

We pray for all the teachers, who are preparing for a busy week!  We pray for health-care professionals, from those who clean our facilities (important work!), those who provide nutrition, for nurses, doctors, lab techs and so many more.  I am grateful for the service industry, for those who work in stores, we can go an buy anything we need!  And grateful for the factories and other warehouses where people work diligently to create the many things we need and desire.

I am thankful for leaders in the faith community, and others who work in the church and community.  Life would be difficult without those who work in sanitation, and keeping our community clean and safe.  And I am thankful for the many many volunteers who work freely to make our community and world a better place.

And you know, I could go on and on.  So Happy Labour Day!

May you be blessed by all you do today, whether it is rest or recreation or labour.  All are wonderful gifts, not to be taken for granted.





Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Golfing with Mother

I took a trip down memory lane this week.  I was jogged by memories as I shared about my mom last week and thought it was time for a fun post.

Mothers are precious.  They are not perfect, as we all know.

I talked to someone just this past week who was pained by how she had not always appreciated her mom .... her idiosyncrasies, her unique way of doing things.  And she realized that her mother's heart was motivated by love.  How well I know this... my mom had a way of connecting with all her children and grandchildren and was the glue that connected us... through her we heard family news, and felt connected as a whole.

We also loved to tease my mom, and she would react with her innocent smirk, and continue to be her own person.  I loved that about her.

Which brings me to golfing.

Last week I shared how I like rules sometimes.  When it came to golfing, mom played by her own rules.  After a while we just gave up, and said we played by "Friesen rules".  You might want to try it!

Mother loved golfing.  Not any fancy schmancy courses, but the little ones where we were free to be ourselves.  She especially loved Highlands Golf course, here in Vernon, partly because she loved the hills and this particular golf course is perched on a hill.

I always found this course challenging, because of the boomerang effect, the balls would bounce right back at me as I tried to shoot them up the hill.  Coming down was much easier.

But that mattered not at all to mom, who turned her golf club into a walking stick and walked spryly up the hill.  If we went every week in the golf season, she was happy.

Of course, dad loved to keep score, and mother dutifully kept the score pad and pencil in hand.  But (sorry, dad), it was hardly accurate.

To start with we could begin as many times as we liked.  I know (by being knowledgeable about "the rules"), that you count every extra swing - or mulligans.  But that didn't apply when we played.  "Try again, honey!", she would look at me sympathetically, and so I did.

I have to tell you about her swing.  I can see her shaking her head at me now, but it was a thing of wonder.  She swung her golf club like a pendulum... and it went back and forth, more than once often, and then she would connect.  She was amazingly accurate, and could hit fairly well.  It was wonderful to watch, but you did need to step out of her way!!

If the ball happened to land in an undesired spot, Mother would think nothing of removing the ball and carrying it to a more desirable location.  She did this for me on numerous occasions, and if I protested, she just gave me that loving look.  And we played on...

She didn't like to lose a ball.  She had a wonderful thing-a-ma-jig that would fetch balls out of water or difficult places.  More than once we had to encourage her to let it go... and to be safe as she perched in precarious places trying to rescue her ball.  And it was always a great game when we came away with more balls than when we had started with.

And then there was the counting... we were never that serious about it.  Well, perhaps the men were, but we always stopped counting at 6 strokes... and then, maybe was that 5?  It didn't really matter.  And if you were frustrated with your putting, you could just plop the ball in the hole and call it done.

Talking of putting, there were times when mom could see the ball was going too far... and she would help a bit.  She would put her feet in a V and catch that run-away thing.  She was so very helpful.

I do have to admit, my attitude wasn't always good.  I wanted to play a good game, and wanted to play by "the rules" at times.  But as I look back, my heart aches, and tears come to my eyes, and how I wish I could play with her again.

A year after she died, we went with my dad to play at Highlands.  The proprietress as always was so friendly and welcoming and told us how she missed our mom.  "Her laughter would drift down the hill" she told us.

And that is what it is all about.  Loving the times we had.   Good memories, chasing a golf ball, enjoying incredible views from the hill-top, laughing about our silly golf game, and just being together.

So... cherish the memories.  I know I do.










Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Breaking the Rules

I actually like rules.

In my early years, a preacher's kid, there were some that might have called me "goody-two-shoes".   Where that particular description came from I have no idea, but it wasn't flattering.

I think it comes back to my personality of being somewhat a perfectionist (ouch, it hurts to say that), and wanting to get things right.  Wanting to please.  Wanting to be liked.

Rule-keepers can easily shift to policing, and that isn't always pretty either.  One of my worst memories of this was in an uppity neighbourhood we once lived, where we shared a big house with my parents.  We were up, they were down. (in the house, that is!)  And someone down the street decided we had an illegal suite and reported us.

The day the city official arrived to investigate, we were all sitting outside, sharing a meal together, and it was very apparent that we all shared the house together.

But this blog isn't about suites, illegal or not!

My mom had a lovely take-charge personality, and although she worked hard at fitting into "her role" as a pastor's wife, she also took much leadership!  And she said to me, more than once, that rules were only rules if they made sense.  One late evening, we went to a convenience store together, and the parking lot was empty.  She parked in the handicapped zone.  I couldn't believe it, and told her so.  She couldn't understand my chagrin.

We had other such conversations around canning and preserving... I was a "by-the-rule" gal, she did it the way she had done it for a hundred years, and no one had died yet.... ah yes, she lived to her own rules, and we all loved her.

Recently I wrote about compassion. As I was thinking about compassion, I realized that sometimes this involves breaking the rules.  Because Compassion should be a compass for any rule!  I remember talking to a Parking Lot attendant once, about a ticket someone had received in the hospital parking lot, and we were trying to get it voided.

We asked for mercy.  And in all honesty, parking is a real challenge for those in a medical emergency. Compassion should rule!

We live within systems or bureaucracies which create rules to make things work.  To keep us safe.  To create order.  But sometimes those rules have to be challenged!  Or at least looked at on a case-by-case basis.

I was thinking of Jesus, who is the ultimate example of this.  He lived with a lot of rule-keepers, the Saducees and Pharisees who did their best to keep all the rules and make sure everyone else did too.

But Jesus challenged that, saying he had come to free us.  He healed on the Sabbath.  He mingled with the poor and those society had discarded.  He showed great compassion to the women in particular, who were often marginalized in those times.  There is a lot of Gospel stories where he demonstrated that compassion should rule!

I love the fact that we can't put the God who created us, who loves us, in a box of rules.  This is not neat and tidy stuff, but a God who loves a messy world, who dares us to follow the steps of Jesus and show compassion to those who need it most.

And when Jesus was asked what were the greatest commands, he gave these very simple instructions:  to love God with all our heart, soul and strength and love our neighbour as ourselves.

As I live out my life, it is good to refer back to those important rules, rules that trump everything.  To seek God with all my heart.  To live a life of love and compassion.  And when I mess up, I can go to my Heavenly Father, and I am grateful for the grace and mercy I receive, always there for the asking.