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!

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I'd love to hear from you.

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.








Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Rising Above Oppression

The air has been oppressive lately.

I woke up to gray, the mountains obscured by haze and smoke.

My  mood reminded me of SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is usually a winter issue here in my corner of Canada, when the clouds settle in for weeks on end and we long for the sun.

I try to pay attention to what my body is telling me... sometimes there are things I can do to lift my mood.

And I realized that the sadness was deeper yet... there is an oppression far beyond smoky skies and all that entails.

I realized the news had affected me too... news that has shaken many, as we have watched in horror what has unfolded in the state of Virginia.  I have family there and it hits too close to home.  I have written often against injustice and bullying.  I believe in kindness and love. I don't need to describe what happened in Charlottesville, you can read that in the news.  It has created a deep grief in my soul, a sadness that just won't lift.

I also realized this morning that I live in white privileged skin.

Really, I don't have much to say.  Unless I begin to listen to my brothers and sisters, also part of God's creation, and hear their pain.

When I am sad, I often turn to art.  I actually believe this can be a spiritual experience, for we are made in the image of the creator... all of us... and God has made us to be creative beings!  Of course we are inspired by the handiwork and beauty we see all around us.

Today I did something very unusual.  I was intrigued by a collaborative art project at the Vernon Art Center, something that is sponsored by various levels of government, a way of community building and showing respect to one another.

I was curious.  So I showed up.  A lovely young artist in Vernon has the vision of creating a mosaic river - created by many hands.  Today I became one of those hands, working with another friend and a lovely group of people, both children and adults.

The artist explained that she chose the visual of water, a river ... a source of life for all of us, and how we need to care for our water resources.  This fall, as part of RespectFest, this mosaic river will take shape in downtown Vernon, and it will be a lovely piece of art for years to come.  You can read more about it here,  at https://respectfest2017.com/public-art-workshops/,  and even sign up to create a piece of this beautiful mosaic.  Participating is free!

It seemed timely today.  To work with people I never met, to share creativity, to be part of making something much bigger than I would create on my own.  This was healing for me.

The blue and white tiles put together by my friend and I will be part of a much larger "river" of tiles that will flow in our downtown, this fall.

We all do our part.  It might be speaking out against bullying, or sharing kindness with a stranger.  It might be volunteering.  It might be writing a letter to a government official.  It might be as simple as getting to know your neighbour.  It might be sharing a meal, or creating art together.

This is how we fight against oppression.  By praying, by showing kindness, by loving, by acknowledging the many good women and men who make a difference in our broken world.  

For me, today, it was placing broken tiles, one at a time, and knowing there was a bigger vision.  And I know God has a bigger vision too.  I can trust in that.






Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Will that be a complaint or a word of compassion?

My hubby has found a new show we've been watching lately called "Brain Games".  You can find it on Netflix.

We watched an episode recently on the subject of compassion and I found it fascinating.  The premise was that most of us are born with compassionate genes and generally will respond with compassion to needs around us.

But... if we are treated badly, we are likely to respond in kind... and compassion goes out the window.

This is a simplistic overview, I know; you'll have to watch it for yourself.

But it had me thinking...how choosing to be compassionate can change me and the world around me.  And that spurred me into action.

Recently I have heard a lot of complaints.  Some of them were legitimate, I get it, but I recognize that listening to a complaining person is draining indeed if it is not balanced with the positive.  There are some people who look at life with dark shades indeed, and have no trouble voicing their dissatisfaction to anyone who will take time to listen.  This is exhausting.

I'm always amazed when I visit people at the hospital... some of them need to talk about their troubles, and it is my job to listen!  I get this. Interestingly I find that is often those who have the most difficult of situations who are the most grateful.  Even though they might be suffering, there is room to be grateful for the medical care, for a visit, for the support they receive, and some of them are very grateful to God in the midst of their circumstances.  I admire their attitudes, and their very countenance often reflects their inner life.

And then there are those who tend to complain, and find it hard to find the good in life.  I recognize it is much harder to show them compassion.

We live in a negative world... but when we find the positive, and recharge the serotonin in our brains, we are able to cope, having a much brighter countenance.  I have come to believe that gratitude is a key to finding that positive way of living.  Gratitude to the One who made us, gratitude for breath, gratitude for the beauty around us, gratitude for so many things... clean water, plentiful food, loving relationships.

The other day I was quite impressed by a video blog originally released on Twitter by Chris Hatfield who listed 25 positive things that were happening in our world.  It was inspiring!  He is not a complainer or someone who shouts doom and gloom....

I found myself greatly encouraged by that.  Not that I'm going to stick my head in the sand (although some days I'm sorely tempted to do just that), but one needs to counter all the negative press with some positive news.

So back to compassion.  The Brain Game episode we watched scientifically proved that the more compassion you show, it affects others to also behave in compassionate ways.   How cool is that?

It reminds me of those two words... react or respond.  When I react with my emotions and speak without thinking, there is often a negative response or outcome.  When I stop to think it out, I often can respond in a thoughtful manner.  And if we choose compassion as a way of life, it can change the way we think, the way we respond, the way we even feel.

Respond with compassion.... my new goal for this week!  And thanks for taking time to read my blog!


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Signposts and Billboards and Painted Rocks

I wonder if we would be surprised at the number of messages, both blatant and subtle that assail our brains every day.

From road-signs and billboards, to the television, to our ever-ready phones and social devices, and I'm sure I've forgotten a few.

These signs shape us and influence more than I would like to think.

In our North-American culture which has affected many parts of the world, beauty and youth is in.  It is big business.  My granddaughter told me seriously today that she hopes to be a princess when she grows up.  In her world of influence, this seems totally possible!

And it is wonderful for children to live in their imagination, but the world is far less kind as we age.

I viewed a new wrinkle this morning and fought the urge not to panic.  Age seems to be creeping up, well rather falling down as I get closer to the big 60.  I remember my mother's own angst at those wrinkles as we kept telling her how beautiful she was.  And truly she was, a beautiful lady full of dignity.

Another day recently I was with a group of women and one of them, slim and tall left for a minute.  And it was commented on how fortunate she was... and I found myself saying no.... we are all beautiful!  And I shared with them that when I need to convince myself, I tell it to my face in the mirror.  You are lovely... you are precious, you are valued...

I truly believe these words are from the Creator who made us, who delights in us,... who loves us all equally, and sees beauty in a far different fashion that we do.

Sometimes I feel we fight against the social current, but many voices do speak out.  I love the ads that help women to love themselves, no matter what shape, what background, no matter what...

And so perhaps we need to create new signposts.  I can often be tempted to see the negative and be affected by it.    It has become important to speak things that are true and right and good, and to tell them to myself, as well as to speak them to others in my sphere of influence.

There is a lovely movement in our city right now where people are placing rocks with lovely messages, and randomly people find them.  How fun!  I've been painting on rocks for a while now, and enjoy putting them out on my front porch.  Some are silly, but many have a message.  They are signposts and reminders to me.




Recently we repainted our bathroom cupboards and I asked my painter hubby if I could paint words on our on-suite bathroom cupboards.  If I botched it no one would see, but me!


And the words etched on those cupboards have spoken to me, again and again, as I leave the house.  "Be Strong and Courageous - The Lord is with you Always!!"  I drink in those words, and the truth of them, and they give me hope and courage for the day.


What signs have you created to feed your soul?  I'd love to see them.  Or perhaps you'll be inspired to hunt for rocks and create messages on them.  The possibilities, the encouragements are endless!



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Ditching the Busy Life

I've been noticing lately... how often I use the word "busy".

And I have noticed often I hear the word "busy" in conversation.  We are a busy lot!

I have been making a conscious effort to use this word less often, and since I've been noticing, I'm realizing how hard this really is!

I decided last week to write a blog about it, and was very amused when that VERY day I get an e-mail from a family member with the subject title "You are a very busy lady!".

Perhaps!

I wondered, as I reclined in my easy chair this evening, doing my computer puzzle, how I pull off that persona.  I have come to believe it myself.

And yes, my life is full.  It is rich.  And I am so grateful it is meaningful.

And sometimes, like this very week, I need to slow down, to rest, to savor life.  Yesterday was our wedding anniversary.  Nineteen years!  So I didn't write a blog, like I usually do on Tuesdays, we both took a day off any scheduled work, and scheduled play instead.

We had a lovely picnic at the beach - and I love picnics!  And then wandered around the Okanagan in the air-conditioned comfort of our car and just took in the beautiful scenery of our beautiful valley.

It truly was a lovely day.

I am grateful for every day I am well and have energy to do the tasks before me.  I understand so well when pain and lack of energy get in our way.

And so I'm ditching the word "busy".  Yes, my life is full.  Full of good things, of being with people, of ministry opportunities, of listening, of delighting in relationships with family and friends.My calendar is full of good things.

And it is also full of wondrous ordinary things, like laundry - I have lovely clothes to wear, like a simple garden to tend which produces beauty and food,  like a messy kitchen where we just concocted a lovely nourishing meal.

I am grateful for each new day, as I get up and shake off the aches, and I can thank God for fresh air, for beautiful scenery, for the gift of coffee, and so much more.  I am alive!

This year my theme word is JOY.  I have found that it is often a choice.  The more I see life as a gift, and practice gratitude I am nourished by joy.

There is no boredom here... another word to throw out!  There is life to live, work to do, loved ones to care for, and a deep gratitude for life itself.




Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Just Stay Calm

Just stay calm.  Easier said than done.

The other day I had volunteered to help at a center set up for fire evacuees and found myself swamped almost immediately with inquiries, needs, patiently waiting people, things coming at me from too many directions,  and the enormity of the challenge overwhelmed me temporarily.

I was on a learning curve, to be sure, but the sheer volume of displaced people in our province at the moment is staggering.  It was heart-warming for me to see the residents of our community stepping forward - the white boards that people could write down what they could do for the evacuees were full, full of offers for housing, pet care, places for live-stock.  Volunteers are amazing.

I'm reminded of the statement I often use when visiting with those in waiting rooms at the hospital.  It's all about hurry up and wait.

In our province, people have fled from the fires, some with minutes to spare, with little with them, to find themselves in waiting rooms, line-ups, and the waiting can be difficult.  The unknowing is the worst of all.

And yet, so many I've seen are grateful and taking it in stride.  Others are frustrated, and often, justifiably so.

How does one stay calm?

Breathing helps.  Deep breaths, breathing in deeply, letting out the tension.

Gratefulness helps. I believe firmly that there is always something to be grateful for, even though it can be very challenging.  I met with a person recovering from a stroke the other day, struggling with paralysis.  This is not easy to be sure.  But I could have a conversation with her, and I told her how wonderful that was, that she still had a voice.  Her demeanor changed... something to be grateful for in the midst of a trial!

Helping helps!   I love looking around me, looking at the helpers, the encouragers, those who give a cheerful smile, and a encouraging word.  I am inspired by them.  Helping gives us something to do, and there is always work to be done.

Praying helps.  "I lift up my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from?  It comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth."  A beautiful verses, a scriptural prayer that we can pray and it brings comfort.  Another new favourite verse is from Exodus 14:14 which says, The Lord will fight for you, just stay calm!



None of us are in control.  We do what we can, and it is a calm presence that also encourages others around who might be panicked or afraid.  I am inspired by this, can I be a calm presence in my world?







Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Finding Tranquilty

I wrote last week of returning to my roots, to Harrison Hot Springs, and to Bowen Island.

One of the joys of vacation is that I can lose myself in art, and there is so much to inspire!

My mother used to say that there is always a "re-entry" phase to coming back from a rest or retreat.  Sometimes it is literally coming from calm to a full life. So I write from that place, coming home and entering in, after my heart has been stretched and renewed.

In BC we are all on high alert right now with all the forest fires and thinking of all those who have suffered such a difficult year - first with floods and now with so many displaced.  It feels like we are in a tinder-box, and there is a fragility to life.  We are not in control.

So I go back to my art.  It brings me peace.  Merton said "Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time."  This continues to resonate with me.


Today I had much joy in creating art with some of my grandchildren, this is one of the grander things in life, to paint with a child, and all else that is on our mind ceases to have such a hold.

As summer continues to unfold - with challenging times for many, restful vacations for others, and just regular life, I pray that we can find times of refreshing.  Whether it be in creating something beautiful, or just enjoying some fresh fruit in season.  Whatever moment we are in, to cherish it to the fullest.  And then go play with some crayons.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Returning to Roots

Returning to roots!

This past week I've returned to my childhood home.
Scenes from my childhood bring memories I have not visited in sometime.
I grew up in Harrison Hot Springs, Idyllic , romantic, and full of normal challenges like everywhere else. It is the place of my roots, my first kiss, my first job, And all the awkwardness of a merging into adulthood.

One can keep growing up, all through one's life, stretching, renewing, and even unlearning. 

In my fifties there have been more questions than answers. Gone is any smugness of certitude, but new levels of trust. And knowing I'm loved beyond measure, we all are. 

This week I've returned to Bowen Island, a place where I have spiritual roots. Once again, things are stirred up, questions asked. And a sense of coming home. 

Roots are good.
Nourishment is good. 
Life is precious. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Thankful - not proud - to be Canadian

It is Happy Birthday time for Canada - and excitement is in the air!

I have to tell a story about Canada's 100th birthday.  I was nine then... which gives away my age, and my mom was expecting a baby - great excitement in our house!  And she was due on July 1!

My siblings and I got wind that any baby born on that day would receive special recognition and prizes, and we thought that was great.  Except my baby sister came two days early - and we are celebrating her 50th birthday this week!

We were glad for our little sister, but it took my childish mind a little while to get over the fact she had missed THE day to be born - but the amusing twist in this story is that my sister's first child was born on July 1st.   So she made it right, after all!  :-)

As we celebrate this week, and wear the red and white, I've been thinking about our country.  I'm so thankful to live in Canada.  When I've traveled abroad, especially to poor nations, I realize how much we have, how much we take for granted.

And so I am thankful.

Thankful that my great-grandparents had the courage to become refugees and come to a place where we could be free to practice our faith, a safe place for generations to come.

Thankful for the incredible vast beauty that we take in every day, it sometimes takes my breath away.

Thankful for resources, for water that comes from a tap, for heat and clean air.

Thankful for our medical system, and when I have a medical crisis, a financial crisis does not come with it.

I've come to dislike the word "proud".  Oh, I get it, there is a nobleness in patriotism.

But with it comes an air that we deserve this; a sense of entitlement and fighting for rights we claim as ours.

I didn't choose my parents, or where I was born, or the country in which I reside.
I didn't choose my economic status or the colour of my skin.
I didn't choose my genes or my gender.

I think of our Indigenous people who question some of our celebrations.  Their ancestors were here well before our nation was formed.

It is easy to become fragmented, and divided.

I believe listening to stories.   Every person has a story, if we just take the time to listen.  We all have a history and can learn from one another.  Recently I read "The Earth is Round" by Margaret Epp, which tells the story in novel form of how one family - a Mennonite family - immigrated to Canada.  These are my roots!

I'm so grateful we are opening our doors to new refugees.  I see Canada as a welcoming place, a place where all can come and create a home.

In an age of terrorism and much hate, we can be part of creating a neighbourhood - where we all belong; where we listen and value one another, no matter what our status.

So - thankful for Canada.  Thankful for our Canadian family, diverse and free.





Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What are You Reading this Summer?

Yes!  It is Summer!

Officially on the calendar, anyway.  When we picture summer, we see picnics, lake views, outdoor activities, and time away.

For me, it is an invitation to dive into books... without guilt!  Every year for the last few years, I have "escaped" into a world of reading, which is a true vacation for me.  Of course, book reading is not confined to summer, I also think of lazy winter nights by the fire.

When do you read?  And what do you love to read?

The last few years I have revisited the Mitford series by Jan Karon (my favourite for emotional and spiritual encouragement), and read through the entire Anne of Green Gables stories.

This year I was inspired by some book purging we were doing.  It gets me every time.  "I can't throw out that book!!"  These were companions and friends of long ago, dog-eared and precious.

So I decided to revisit some of these books before I decided to keep.... or discard.  One of them my daughter spied, and it disappeared into her home quickly - I guess it wasn't just MY favourite!


These are a few of my books I am re-reading.  Some have my maiden name still in them.

I was fascinated to read "Not Regina" again, since I had worked on an Anabaptist paper for my recent classes at Carey Theological College.   It is a story of a young girl during the time of the Anabaptist persecution, and part of my roots.

"The Earth Is Round" is another historical novel that tells some of the same stories my own great-grandparents experienced when they  immigrated from Russia.  This book is falling apart but I enjoyed every word.

"Star of Light" was a missionary tale, and I'm looking forward to rereading "A Man Called Peter", which was the story of Catherine Marshall's first husband.

And I have many more.  How could I throw them out?  But I could lend them, sharing is a wonderful idea!

I do have a Kindle device and read there too.  In face my own book "A Journey of Hope" is available on the Amazon Kindle Store.  I didn't think it was worth another printing which is costly, but it was a good way to make it available to those who would like to read it.

However, there is nothing like settling into a comfortable chair, or a lounge chair at the beach and settling into a good story.  Here's to happy reading, and wonderful escapes to places we can learn from and delight in.

And an addendum:  I'm so pleased to share that my story "The Christmas Ornament" will be included in the latest edition of Hot Apple Cider books, and will be published early this fall.  I will be posting more about this book - another book to read once our summer is over!




Friday, June 16, 2017

Those Pesky Mosquitoes!

Years ago I wrote a column for a little newspaper in Hope and one of my topics was the question "Why did God make mosquitoes?"

It seemed a valid question at the time, and I still ponder it now and then.  Certainly in the huger scheme of things, mosquitoes are a minor pesky irritation, bringing discomfort and generally stealing the peace of enjoying the outdoors.  Which most of us love at this time of year, particularly after a cold spring.

Complaining aside, I've been doing a lot of research into Essential Oils and alternative methods as to what I might put on my skin.  Most young moms I know are deeply concerned about exposing children to Deet, and I certainly don't want it on my body either.

So it was fun to get together with my daughter and a few others last night, and create some practical things we could use and try, including bug repellent and after-bug spray!

I don't believe there is any perfect method, bugs and ticks seem to prefer some body types to others, and there are the rumors that what you eat can also attract or repel creatures.  Some swear by home-made recipes, others say they don't work.

In the war against bugs, I think anything is worth a try.  I've been teased I'm a "hippie", and truly I don't mind... I honestly believe that God has provided most things we need in creation, we just need to be creative and learn.  And so I've started experimenting with Essential Oils and find myself loving them, and on a huge learning curve.  Not only are they good for repelling bugs, but for cleaning and many health remedies.

And this is no sales pitch, everyone needs to find what works for them.  What is important to me though is that what I put on my skin or in my home is as pure as it can be and I avoid chemicals or imitations as much as I can.  It is critical to do the research or learn from someone who has done so.

So, a few simple recipes today, a result of some creations we made yesterday!

In a 6- 8 oz. spray bottle (coloured is best), put 2 T. sweet almond oil (you can also use grape seed oil or fractionized coconut oil),  Add:  1-2 drops lavender oil, 1 drop grapefruit oil, 1-2 drops Eucalyptus oil, 1-2 drops lemongrass oil.  And if you have it 1 drop of Geranium.  Fill the rest with water.  Shake well before each use.  You might also want to experiment with citronella oil.

Here was another bug recipe put out by Young Living (where you can purchase essential oils).  In a small bottle, put 10 drops purification oil, 5 drops peppermint oil, 1 tsp. salt and fill the rest with water.

And if you've been bitten, try 5 drops peppermint and 5 drops of lavender into a small roller bottle or spray bottle.  If you are using the roller bottle, add a couple of tsp.of carrier oil (almond or coconut), and if you are using the spray bottle, fill with water and shake well before spraying.   I'd be inclined to add a little aloe vera too!  This cooling spray or roll-on will likely help the itching.

Please note!!  I am no herbalist, just learning what works and what doesn't.  If you have time to research, Dr. Eric Z has some amazing information on line, and there are other sites as well with a lot of information.  So research before you try - that is my disclaimer!  

Sharing our world with bugs is part of living.  Keeping them away from our personal space can be a little bit more challenging.

One final note... life can be hard enough.  You just have to watch the news, or walk through your local hospital.  Being outside is a healing and wonderful thing.  Creating with natural resources and plants can be therapeutic and besides, it usually smells good!  Here's to enjoying the beautiful summer that is upon us, bugs and all.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

It's the Little Things - & a little Rhubarb Secret!

I'ts the little things, the ordinary, the everyday, that makes our world go round.

Oh yes, there is a time to celebrate, and I think of many who are doing just that this time of year... graduations, music recitals, weddings... June should be called the month of celebration!

But in our flood-clogged region, it has been the acts of kindness lately that have moved me... kids giving up a gym class to fill sand-bags, neighbours helping neighbours.

The other day I was moved by our own ER department of the hospital where I work... I had been assisting a lady to find her way, and they told me she comes in often... for an appointment she doesn't have... and she is treated with kindness and dignity.  Those are the things not often recorded, or noticed.

There are faithful volunteers who come in.... they listen, they sing, they hold someones hand or give some reassurance.  I shared one story recently on Facebook of a woman who realized her mission in life was to care for her husband who was in a care home.  She came, daily, to feed him, to sit with him, just being present.  As she was there,t she noticed others who also needed encouragement.  And she began to care for others, caregivers, who also needed encouragement.  There are people like that in every facility, often unnoticed, but faithful.

Sometimes when life seems big and crazy and even overwhelming, it is good to go home and make soup.  This is the necessity of life, to create nourishing food, and where we are able, to share it with others.  It is good to go for a walk and smell the flowers, to take in the scenery, to notice the ordinary moments.

Today I picked rhubarb.  It seems like a rustic fruit to me... or is it a vegetable?  Chopping is good therapy!  It reminds me of my mom, always busy, always creative, and she would not have let rhubarb go to waste.

There are times when I'm too busy for rhubarb.  That is ok too!  But I'll let you in on a secret... I simply chopped it and cooked it in water... and I will strain that water, and make rhubarb ice-cubes... tangy, and a lovely addition to a cold class of water. Or sparking water if I want some pizzazz..  A little bit of joy.  A simple pleasure.

Today I saw the peonies had bloomed.  They are the prettiest they have ever been!  I rushed out with my phone, snapping pictures, all the while eyeing the stormy clouds that were threatening rain and wind.  And I brought some beauty inside, and made a simple bouquet.

Last week I was in a traffic jam, a sinkhole had affected our local highway and my commute.  As I sat amidst all the cars, a small deer, timid, stepped out into all that traffic.  Across the four lanes she came, and fortunately we were all at a standstill!  A lovely moment - and for a minute it was OK not to be going anywhere.  

These are the ordinary things.  Enjoying wild flowers on a walk, enjoying God's creation, smiling at those we meet.  The ordinary becomes the beautiful, it is the fabric of our lives.


peonies from my garden


wild flowers in Vernon

Friday, June 2, 2017

Politics and Loving the Earth

So there wasn't the plan to write a blog today.

But sometimes the words come, burning inside and wishing to be written.  And the thoughts will spill into words - words that might resonate, or not.

There is no lack of news these days in the political realm.  In BC, our election has dragged on, too close to count, and now we are faced with a coalition challenging the minority government.

Whatever your take, or personal preference, or party affiliation, there are no winners here.  Or could there be?

I was so interested in a newspaper story in our own Vernon Morning Star which highlighted a group of primary age children who were "practicing" to vote during the provincial election.  They became educated on issues and learned how elections worked in our province.

They, like all of us, had differing opinions about who they thought might be our best government leaders.

But what struck me the most was one child's observation of a debate she had watched, and had asked... why are the adults fighting?

Why indeed?

We preach against bullying, but it is all too evident in the bashing, the put-down ads, in the debates.  In my mind, it is completely disgraceful, and a bad example to our children and grandchildren.

So I have not been completely dismayed as some are at this election outcome.  In my hopeful mind, I think, isn't this an opportunity?  An opportunity to work together for the good of all?  I realize this is a highly unrealistic idea, but it is something I long for.

If governments and parties work together, we all win.

And then there is the Paris Accord...

As the leader to the south pulled out, I know he angered many of the world's leaders, and many leaders from his own nation.  I feel the need to speak out, a small voice, but an angry one.

When do we start taking ownership for taking care of the earth, the beautiful earth God has given us to live in?  What about future generations who will suffer if we don't do the right thing?

And I know I am far from understanding the whole picture, but we can all do our part.  So we can recycle, and use less plastic, and live simpler lives.  (Yes, I'm preaching to the choir).  We can be good neighbours, and care for the poor.  We can avoid pesticides and plant bee-friendly plants.  We can support local farmers and grow our own food as we are able.  We can encourage our leaders to make good decisions.  We can even choose to invest in those who have good environmental policies.   Oh, there is much to do...

And in all I do, I ask myself... am I a good steward of what God has allowed me to have?  Am I a good citizen, and do I reach out to the poor, the refugee, the sick?

There is no room for selfishness, for protecting ourselves over the needs of others, for bullying.  I often pray, Lord, can I be part of the solution, not part of the problem?  May God give us wisdom, love for others, and a deep concern for the earth which we have inherited and will be stewards of, for the next generation.




Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Finding Peace in a Fear-mageddon world

Growing up in the 70's we became familiar with the word Armageddon - describing the final battle many believe signals the end of the world.

Years later, I find the word still brings chills to me, and a haste to prepare for I don't know what...

Whatever theological debate is around this word, it is a place that is associated with a terrible time.

So I was amused (and somewhat frightened) when reading in my Facebook feed this past week that this word was used to describe other calamities to be sure to come to our neighbourhood, very soon.

One warning was about tick-maggedon, the other about mosquito-maggedon... and yes, this was the language used.  Other dire warnings this week have included recent reports about bed bugs infestations and one that is too close to home - exposure to the dangerous object in the sky, the sun.

I've looked forward to summer for a while now, but it has come fast and hard.  In our area many are experiencing the calamity of floods.  With the heat of the sun, and the melting of the snow, this late spring and feeling like summer is bringing a host of challenges.

A bad year for mosquitoes we've been told, and I've heard the same dire warnings about ticks.

Sometimes it feels like we live in an unsafe world from recent terrorist attacks to less insidious threats of disease from bugs and bats and the sun.  There is much to be afraid of!

Some of this hits close to home... and we do the best we can to live well, while taking great precautions.  Because melanoma has touched our family, sunscreen, and the shade are all part of our daily lives.

In this year where I have been deliberate about practicing joy, it has struck me how fear can rob me, and many others, of living relaxed, joyful lives.  And perhaps, in this broken world this is a daily quest, a choice, a deliberation to live in peace and trust in the midst of challenging circumstances, or perceived threats.

We can also suffer from compassion fatigue, as we hear story after story of calamities around the world, drought, terror, wars and refugee crisis.  There is a feeling of helplessness, as we seek in our own ways to help, and it seems so little.

As we deal with our own home-grown threats, I've grown to love using essential oils, which I believe are truly God's medicine, and if used correctly can be very helpful in prevention and treating things like insect bites and sunburns.  There are even oils for anxiety!  There are many resources available to us, and I'm thankful for them.

Some of us are more prone to fear than others.  Others seem to love living risk filled lives, and you wouldn't catch me among them!  No, I'll leave falling out of airplanes and racing cars to those with braver hearts!!

If you have a sensitive heart, like mine (which has wonderful and difficult qualities), we will be more affected by these fear-based forecasts.  Sometimes I just need to take a break from the news stories and find some peace by a lake or in a garden where I feast on what is beautiful and good.

I'm also reminded that there are 365 quotations from the Bible that remind us not to be afraid - that is one for every day!  I have always taken great comfort in this; that God knows my tender heart and our Creator reminds us that we are always assured of his love and care in any circumstance.

When I set my heart on these beautiful words, peace overcomes fear.  We cannot always control the challenges we face, but we know God will see us through.  And that is something I believe, with all my heart.




Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Time to Breathe

Breathing is the most natural thing we do... all of us, or we are in trouble!


But I've been more mindful of my breathing lately...paying attention, slowing it down, taking deep breaths.

Life can come at you, full and fast, like the rain today, and the floods so many are facing.  Sometimes the adrenaline kicks in, sometimes we live lives full of adrenaline, till our bodies are tense with the next thing, the to-do list, with the pressures of life, or the heartaches we face.

Last week as we were studying our Bible lesson from Ephesians three, I was struck by these words from the Apostle Paul, which is really part of a prayer: "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."  (3:20).  I pondered that prayer for a while, but more than thinking about it, God wanted me to put it into practice.

And the lesson I've been learning is... do I live life with dread or expectation?  Do I react to what is in front of me, or take time to slow down, to ponder, to ask my Creator (who is able to do immeasurably more than I ask or imagine) for divine assistance?

Sometimes we have to ask for help in this!  The very next morning with those words in mind, I woke up with my back in spasms... and I had a full day ahead.  Panic seized me, and I wondered how I would get through.  I phoned someone I trusted and asked her to pray for me... and the miracle happened.  My body relaxed, and my day went well.

 I say this carefully, because I am not one to demand things from God, and I see people... often... who are racked with pain.  But as I listen, or pray with them, or just hold their hand, there can be a relaxing, and an easing of the tension.  And God can help us to do that, I believe!  The prayer states, to the One who is able to do immeasurably more that we ask or imagine!  These are heavenly resources that help me to face life with expectation rather than dread.

And breathing IS important... I don't believe we were created to be tense.  And when I am, I find that breathing exercises can help me immensely.  One exercise is to take a deep breath, counting to four as I take it in... hold it for the count of one, and release it in another count of four.  It slows you down, and this has even helped me to go to sleep.

Breath prayers are also a wonderful way to practice calming the mind.  Simple prayers like "Help, Lord!", or "Have Mercy on Me", or "Thank you that you are with me", help us to focus on our source of help and strength.  I heard another prayer recently where I can breathe in a prayer, focusing on God's love filling me as I breathe, and with my exhale, I pray a prayer of thanks or love back to God.

Breathing in love, peace, calm, is another way to refocus the mind.  Breathe it in, and breathe out the fear, the anxiety.

Take time to breathe.  Today I am grateful for the gift of life, I am thankful for the air I breathe, for the beauty all around me.  There, that feels better already!


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

We All Have a Mother

This is the week our calendar reminds us to think about our moms - and we all have one.

It was once noted that Mother's Day is one of the busiest days for churches, for florists, for restaurants... because nothing can play on our heart strings like a mom...

After all, it was her heart-beat that was our first symphony...and the safe place she carried us was our first home.

It is a week I miss my mom, now in heaven almost four years.  And as I attend many bedsides, where death is imminent, where children of all ages say good-bye, those are sacred moments.  There is something primal about saying good-bye to a mom - a final separation of the emotional umbilical cord.  It is hard to explain, but the feelings can be intense, and even physical.

Everyone has a biological mom... but not all get to know her. I also think this week of those who never got to know their mom - through death or separation.

I think of those who grieve... and I've joined those ranks.  Remembering a mom in heaven!

We need to also remember adoptive moms... brave and courageous, often sacrificing much to have a child of the heart.  We need to listen to their stories.  I admire them greatly.

And others who released their children to be loved by others, bearing wounds and holding stories not told. Some, deeply troubled, some addicted.... we need to listen, to show compassion.

And there those who cannot be mothers but long to be... and the travail of the heart for those whose womb is silent.  Others choose to share their love through fostering or being a loving auntie or neighbour, or surrogate grandma.

I also want to remember mothers who grieve... and the children who have died; children they will carry forever in their hearts.  And there is the disfranchised grief... those who mother those in trouble... children on drugs, or in trouble with the law.   Their grief is silent.  We need to acknowledge their pain.

Then there are the mothers of those with great needs... and their children will always need a caregiver.  Sometimes the care is around the clock, and exhausting.  They need our support and care!

I've been grateful for spiritual mothers in my life... those who mentored me, prayed for me, listened with unconditional love and open hearts.  These are precious women I am thankful for.  And I pray I can also be that kind of "mother"... heart open wide to love those who need extra encouragement.

I've heard it said the greatest joy... and the greatest sorrow... lay in the heart of a mother.  We've just celebrated Easter and we think of the heart of Mary, blessed and chosen to be the mother of Jesus, yet her heart broke for him as she watched him suffer.  A mother's heart is a fragile thing...

Emotions are stirred when we think of our moms... they can drive us crazy, and as we have pushed their buttons, we can be triggered by them too!   Moms are human beings, flawed, needy, while they are generous and caring.  The older I get, I see the human side of my mother... striving, yearning, loving, giving, serving.  She longed for peace in her family, she wanted to know how everyone was, and she cared deeply for each one.

I am also called to remember that we are not defined by the labels we wear... although there is great significance in them.  We are human, we are loved, we are flawed, we are created in the image of God, (both mother and father) we have purpose, we are blessed.  And we are grateful that God created moms - the path to life here on earth.



Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Knit Together

I am not a knitter.  I crocheted something once, long ago, and it turned out fine, but knitting is beyond me, at least for now.  But I greatly admire the knitting of others... and my daughter has become a master knitter in a very short time, creating lovely creations that are well made and beautiful!

Last year, exactly at this time of year she sent me a parcel for Mother's Day and in it was an exquisite shawl that I will treasure always.  I was about to face an examining council and the timing was perfect... I felt wrapped in love!

Recently I was reading a post (April 17)  from a prayer App put together by Shane Claiborne, an activist and Christian calling for simplicity.  He always inspires me.  He uses a translation put together by the book of Common Prayer, I believe, and verse 11 of Psalm 86 reads like this:  Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth:  knit my heart to you that I may fear your name.

(if you are interested in the app, look up Common Prayer by Shane Claiborne)

I was struck by the words... knit together... another translation uses the word "united".  Isn't that amazing prayer?  To ask our God to knit ourselves to One who created us?

I've long loved Psalm 139, which also speaks of knitting!  Verse 13 says "For you created my inmost being: you knit me together in my mother's womb."  

This isn't glue!  There is no unraveling!  To think God creates... knits us together is a lovely thought I've been dwelling on for days!

And then I found another lovely reference... to encourage us!  We are to be knit together in love!

Love is the wool... God perhaps is the Knitter?  However you picture it... and I think God loves word-pictures... we are connected, by God, with the Creator, and also with each other.

We are called to love... and really this goes back to my favourite words of Jesus... to love God with ALL our hearts, minds, soul and strength... and to LOVE each other as ourselves.

So there is my knitting lesson for today!  Even though I can't knit, I can use my imagination!

Written with love... <3 Grace

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Quitting is not an Option - how do you label that?

Sometimes some honesty is in order.

Last week I said to my hubby... I think I'm going to quit.  I'm tired of writing and need a break.  Who reads this stuff anyway?  Definitely in a funk mood, I contemplated dropping the blog.

Until... the very next day I happened to meet someone in the hospital corridor...and she said, "by the way, I read your blog yesterday..." and with her encouraging words, and some heart-felt ponderings... I'm writing again this week.

I pondered even sharing this... and then I thought, we all need encouragement!  I am very grateful for those who take the time to encourage me, and I want to be an encourager to others!

And then there is the discipline... and if you are a writer, or artist, or a do-er, you know that anything worth doing takes discipline... the doing and practicing, and sometimes the result is wonderful and other times, you wonder!

I have a wonderful bookmark from a friend, now in heaven, that says, "Don't Quit"!  I thought about that again today... and really, quitting is not an option.  No sometimes our lives take a new direction or path, but every day we choose to live, to say yes to whatever God has called us to do.  And I truly believe God has called and gifted each one of us.

So in the midst of all this pondering, I was writing in the night.  This is quite hopeless, often, because trying to recall what you wrote in your mind in the wee hours of the night, mixed in with dreams, just doesn't quite translate to paper, (or computer)  even though it seemed rather full-proof at 3 in the morning!

I was thinking (and dreaming) about labels... how we are good at that... labeling each other, and defining what we do; who we are.  I am a woman, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a sister... all labels.  Lovely ones...

There are some labels that are not so pretty... derogatory ones that are difficult to shake... I think of dear folk I know who are homeless, poor, marginalized.  And then there are others with illness... the diabetic, the cancer patient, the schizophrenic.

I was totally impressed some weeks ago when we were having lunch with a new group of friends, and the man seated with us told us that he was schizophrenic.  What struck me was there was no shame; it was just a fact, his reality.  And he was an over-comer, and we were blown away with his story, his courage, and his ability to live life, a life not always easy, but one filled with hope and hard work and determination.

Sometimes we are afraid of labels, and I've heard the warnings... don't label a person!  There can be stigma, disgrace, and loss of social status.  And yet, on the other side of the coin, I've seen the enormous benefits of someone properly being diagnosed... say with a mental illness, and it creates new awareness and a host of supports and resources that were not there before.

What I believe is critical is that we are not defined by whatever label comes to us. Oh, it is true, I am a woman... a lovely label... but that does not define all of whom I am or limit me.  The much larger picture, I believe, is that I am a person, a creation of God; a God who loves me... and believes in me!

And whatever labels we might put on ourselves, or feel others put on us are only part of the story.  I am not defined by my work (which I love), or my age (which is just a number!), or my disabilities (which stretch me and teach me).   No, I am Grace, loved by God, loved by many, and my life can be rich and full, even as it can be challenging at times.  This is true for all of us!

So no matter what label you feel you wear today, remember you are loved!  And when it comes to living well, no matter what you are called to do, quitting is not an option!  And I'm preaching to myself of course!





Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hidden Things

It is Tuesday, post-Easter, in the Easter week.

As I look outside on this awesome spring day, things are rising!  The grass is green, the hills glow with life, and to my children's chagrin, I celebrated the arrival of dandelions this past weekend!

To be honest, I pluck them out, but God has purposes for dandelions... and I need to listen to that.  They brought much cheer to me, their sunny little faces sprouting with the warmth.

I started thinking today about hidden things... about the lessons of Easter time and spring.  Some years ago I drew about being hidden, and I found it again today:


We hid things on Good Friday for the children.  Treats, activities, chocolate of course.  :-)  And some fun balls I had made with balloons.  I was grateful for my daughter who hid them (and my other daughter for providing children to find them!) while I busied myself with dinner preparations... The hiding is fun, but the finding is delightful!  Precious grand-kids having a blast, creating memories.


Yesterday I did a different kind of hiding... tiny seeds: lettuce, radish, kale... all now hidden in the garden bed my friend and I prepared for them.... and we covered them.  And now we wait, for the miracle!

Good things come from hidden places.  And I think about what I hide in my heart... my hopes and my dreams, my longings.  

Sometimes it takes brokenness... and periods in dark places before we can see the light.  The seed is full of hope and life, and to me is a beautiful picture of how God prepares our hearts for things to come.  Sometimes the hard places are the places of greatest growth.

There is also beautiful places in the Psalms about God himself being our hiding place.  Psalm 32:7, a beautiful prayer says:  "You are my hiding place, You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance."  

And Psalm 27:5 says this:  "For He will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock."

At times our world doesn't feel very safe.  I love the images that we can run to God and hide... and with God there is safety, security and rest.  

I'm learning that to be there, I need to rest and trust... spending time with the Creator, in creation.  As I learn from the seeds, now hidden... and delight in dandelions, I can experience God's great love... love for each of us as we trust in our loving God to be our shelter and hiding place.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Relationship that Does Not Fail

Over the last seven weeks we've looked at a new word for every week of Lent.  I've thought a lot about these words... Invitation, Expectation, Contrition, Contemplation, Gratitude, Transformation, and today it culminates in Relationship!

Relationships are not always easy.  I see it every day in my work, in my world... and yet we long for relationship that is loving and kind.  I often have said that the best gift my husband has ever given me is the gift to be myself.  I flourish in that!  But that too, as in any relationship, has to be worked on.  There are the ebbs and flows, and the challenges that come our way... no relationship is exempt.

The  amazing thing to me... and I think of it often... is that the God who created the universe... more than we can think or imagine... from the farthest of the galaxies to the tiniest micro-organism... this Creator God desires to have relationship with you and me!



This comes back to the first word... Invitation!  We are invited into relationship with a Heavenly Father who loves us!  There is mystery to this... there are things we cannot grasp or understand... but there can also be a deep knowing... that we are loved deeply.  There is a verse that says God sings over us with love!  And Jesus has called us his friends!

This is the kind of relationship I long for, and delight in.


There are some other verses I love from Ephesians... talking about Christ dwelling in our hearts... so that we may be rooted in love.  In this spring-time, Easter time, I think of God's invitation to us. I send an invitation back in response... O Lord, I invite you and thank you for dwelling in my heart... may I be rooted in Your love.  Thank you for desiring a relationship with me!  

This is the heart of Easter... God, who in the form of His Son Jesus came to be one of us... to redeem us... that is what the cross is all about.  But Jesus didn't stay on the cross... Easter Sunday is coming!  Jesus was resurrected and provides us with the Holy Spirit to indwell us... to give us strength and courage and a purpose for living.

One of my favourite things in my work is to share with people that they are loved... and that God loves them deeply.  So we rejoice in the story of Easter, in the story of God reaching down to us, to dwell with us, so we can have relationship with our Creator!

You will note that in each of the word art pictures of the seven-part series, the T is drawn to resemble a cross... this was very symbolic for me in my devotions. 
 I have also created a little booklet with these art pieces about Lent... and it is available for a minimal cost if you are interested.  Just e-mail me at grace@gracewulff.com  Thank you for sharing these thoughts with me!!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Transformation!

I love this time of year.

I was convinced last week that one of my forsythia bushes had died over the winter; it was brown and brittle and lifeless.  Forsythia's remind me of my mother, she loved them and used them in her early spring bouquets.  And they are often the first bush to bloom in the spring.

So went I went out in the sunshine yesterday to do another inspection, I was thrilled to see the transformation... little bumps pushing out, promises of buds!  It has been so cold this year, and everything is late.  But in the dark and cold, life waited to burst forth... and soon I will see those beautiful yellow flowers!

When I was choosing words for this Lent season, it seemed so appropriate to include the word transformation.  Easter is about new life, renewal, hope of resurrection, and the celebration of the resurrected Lord.  But first there is the waiting, and sometimes groaning, and the learning, and the wondering... often in the dark.

I believe we can have seasons of transformation in our lives, as we learn and grow and move through cycles of our lives... I know that in my early fifties I experienced a deep transformation and renewal that was life-changing.  As I look back, this time was preceded by an intense time of brokenness, searching and surrender to the One who created me. There was a choosing to trust.

Life is never stagnant.  We are always faced with choices.  Responses to what is in our lives.  We can choose to react or respond... to grow, or to become stagnant.  

"Be transformed by the renewing of your mind", the apostle Paul says in Romans 12.  For me, transformation includes praying the prayer that never fails, "Your Will be Done.", knowing God loves us deeply.

As the butterfly emerges from the cocoon, do you think it is surprised by beauty, by freedom?  As we are transformed, renewed, there is new life!

I wrote this little poem this week as I pondered these things:

Today
is always
a new beginning.
 
Life doesn’t stand still.
Do I flow
with the movement
that is my life?
 
Allowing the Creator
to fill
   to renew
      to restore
           to gently lead
 
As I move forward...
   not alone!
      to the next step.

  <3 Grace