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.

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!