Welcome to my Blog!

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

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

I'd love to hear from you.

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


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!".


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.