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Welcome to my blog! Of course if we were visiting in person, I'd have the teapot out and we could sit and chat.
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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween or Hallowed Eve?

  I've never particularly liked Halloween, except for perhaps when I was a child, and was allowed to go out trick-or-treating for the first time.  I remember it very well, we were allowed to visit five or six houses in our neighborhood  and at one, the gentleman made us sing for our treats, which we did of course.   Mr. Henry, who owned the ice cream shop in town always gave the best treats - big O'Henry bars which were my favourite! 

  There has always been lots of controversy in our Christian tradition about Halloween - and I have to say I have never liked the dark side of this holiday.  I don't like gore, or blood, or ghosts or anything scary.  When "Fear Factor" was in vogue, and my daughter insisted on watching it, I left the room.  I couldn't stand that show, and couldn't see the point in it.  I never could figure out the fascination with it all.

  That being said, I have always enjoyed the joy the little ones have in dressing up, and love to see them at my door.  Indeed my childhood memories of dressing up and going to harvest parties where we bobbed for apples, and ate splendid sloppy-joe buns decorated in jack-o-lanterns made of cheese slices are quite delightful.  When my children were young, I had fun making costumes (nothing scary of course!) - my favourite being the year that my son Steve dressed up as Robin Hood, and my two girls were beautiful Indian Princesses, complete with black braided wigs I figured out how to make...

  A very different Halloween was the year my first husband Andy and I left for Peru - in fact our plane lifted off at midnight on the 31st.  I had some reservations about leaving my three little ones for three weeks; aged 11, 9 and 6 at the time... so I decided to made a pinata shaped like a globe, painted it accordingly with all the continents and filled it with candy.  I inscribed the words - "He's got the whole world in His Hands."... and really those words were for my comfort more than the children's.  They couldn't wait to break into the thing and get their candy!!

  As we flew out that night, our plane circling over Vancouver, we could see fireworks from the sky, all over the city.  It was quite the sight - one I will always remember.  The next morning as we arrived in a different world, a different culture and language, one of the first things that struck me were the crosses everywhere.  Dennis, my brother-in-law told me it was All-Saints Day - the day they remembered the dead.  Apparently in Peru, this was taken very seriously - little shrines everywhere, often with food and flowers.

  I was checking the web today about the traditions about Halloween and found this:  the Catholic church celebrates the Feast of All Saints over a three day period which includes October 31.  The word Halloween is a contraction of All Hallows Eve, a holy night which falls before All Saints Day.

  The most commonly held beliefs is  that Halloween was a Celtic tradition, that Jack-O-Lanterns are meant to light the way for wayward spirits and that scary costumes were used to scare away the "evil" spirits.

  It reminded me of a walk we had a number of years ago in the local graveyard which is particularly beautiful this time of year - stately old maples tower above the graves and walkways and are resplendent with color in the autumn season.  I was missing those who had gone before and was reminded of that verse in the Bible which says:  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 1). 

As I pondered those words that day,  I could literally sense those who had gone on before cheering us on in our life's journey and was comforted.  There seems no clear theology or interpretations about saints or those who have died - and I know there are very strong opinions about this subject.  But to me, it is clear, from this verse anyway, that there are things we cannot see...and understand.  The verse is one of comfort, not of fear.

  To me this is a beautiful picture of heaven reaching down to earth, of light, and life, and hope, from those who have ascended into heaven and are now cheering us on.  

 So during a very dark season, both literally and figuratively, I want to choose to celebrate things that bring me light and life.  Whether that is searching for the perfect pumpkin with my grandson, or watching the falling leaves dance in the wind, or enjoying the sweet aromas of apples and pumpkins baking in my kitchen, or enjoying the excitement of little children as they dress up in funny costumes.  Banish the dark, I say!  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's the little things...

  Murphy's Law visited this week with a vengeance... it seemed at times, if it could go wrong... it did!  It started on Monday morning; I chased to get out of the house to get some blood work done before a 9 am appointment, thinking my early arrival at the lab at 8:30 was more than sufficient.  As I settled into a chair in the very full waiting room I happened to ask the lady next to me how long she had been waiting... well over 20 minutes and there was no movement in sight.

  So I phoned my 9:00 and asked if I could be late.  No, that didn't work for them... so I lost my place in queue and left... remembering on my way that I needed quarters for the parking meters and realized I had none!  So I dashed into a grocery store and bought bananas - always need those - and was happy to see I had one quarter in change.

  Off to the 9:00, found a parking spot, inserted my newly acquired quarter - it ate it happily and told me I had 0 minutes.  I ran to my appointment, where the receptionist graciously gave me another quarter - ran back to the car - this time success.

  By this time, I'm a little cranky.  I finish my appointment, back to the lab I go, give my blood, and leave - almost to the car and realize I've left my keys behind.  Good grief!

  I found the keys on the lab's counter, just where I had left them, and told myself, it was time for a pep talk - I was getting steamed!  How could I turn this upside down and find my happy self?  Some days are just like that - it is the little things that get you down, that wear you out, that for me at least, make me want to crawl back into bed and start all over...

  Talking about beds... last night we discovered our phone was not working.  Completely dead.  My hubby had  made and received a number of calls last night and it was working then.  We tried a few simple remedies and nothing worked.  So we went to bed, thinking to remedy it in the morning.  About an hour later our alarm monitor started beeping.  We have the monitor in our bedroom, and remembered it was tied to our phone system.  On and on it went, keeping us very awake.  My husband tried a number of codes and shut it on and off, hoping to kill the noise.

  Four separate times he managed to shut it off and we settled back into sleep... to be awoken half an hour later by the beep... beep... beep.  I was ready to find a hammer!  We finally phoned the alarm company - in the middle of the night - tried their solution, and just as we settled down... beep, beep!  It brought me back to the sleepless nights when you just settle your beloved baby to sleep, and finally crash into blessed slumber, only to be jarred awake again by their little cries.  Young mothers have my complete sympathy!!

  Large catastrophic events can devastate us, render us immobile at times. I know this.   But it is the little things that can wear me down, and change my cheeriness into that of a grump.  So I thought... how do I refocus... being grateful came to mind...

  Having a lab to go to... medical services available to me... what a blessing.  Having a car to drive and get around... it is a gift!  Being able to use a phone, and having a cel and internet - I have access to my family, my friends at a drop of a hat.  When one breaks down, there is usually another way to keep in touch... how blessed am I?  Last night as we escaped to our guest bedroom to avoid the beep... beep... beep... and try to get some sleep, I was grateful for the second bed, for a bed at all on a cold autumn night.

  Yup, it's the little things that bring joy... the helpful receptionist, the encouraging words I heard yesterday, the help of a dear friend, a walk on a sunny autumn morning, a smile from a stranger.  Yes, I'm feeling better already...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Truth about Anxiety (as I see it).

  I've been thinking about this post for a number of weeks and felt a little anxious about talking about it.  It is a little bit like owning up to the fact that I could lose a few pounds, or that my life isn't all I wish it could be... ouch.  Denial is such a lovely friend, a more comfortable place to be.

  Anxiety, I know from talking to many friends, is a common companion that we would readily not admit to.  Certainly for me, it flashed in neon colors when I saw on my doctor's charts that I had problems with anxiety.  Now that just made me mad!  And in fact, I thought the label was well earned this spring after life challenges continued spilling over like a wild waterfall with no end in sight.  

  In fact, I just realized recently that it has taken me more than six months to really admit that having a heart-attack this spring was not my fault.  I wanted to own it somehow, and felt very responsible for not handling life better.  Isn't that what women do?  Hold it all together?  Becoming unglued is certainly not flattering and how quickly I wanted to patch up all the broken pieces and say, I'm just fine, thank you!!

  There is the guilt thing.  Being a "good Christian girl", I had strong feelings, that I should be an over-comer, and deal with life in a calm, peaceful manner.  One of my favourite Bible verses talks about anxiety...."Be not anxious!"... and so to admit that I actually was anxious at times felt very very wrong.

  I've been thinking and pondering (seems I do a lot of that lately), about what that verse really means... in fact when I think about reading through the Bible I am struck with two things... the first is how many times we are told to "fear not", "be not afraid", "have courage".... it is a common theme!  Perhaps the God who created us is not berating us for our lack, but knowing our humanity is encouraging us on, to not give up, to not be weighed down by our fears and the troubles in this life.   The other part of the Bible I love is that is shares the stories of real people, people who struggled, who were depressed, who were afraid, and in their struggles reached out to God.   Something I can identify with!

  Of course not everyone is prone to anxiety.  But I do believe it is common and not talked about; there is shame with it.  Sometimes it is a result of post-traumatic distress, or hormonal or chemical imbalances in the body.  There is the fight or flight response, the adrenalin rush that uses up our body's resources.

  And so I have deep sympathy for others who also struggle with anxiety, and depression.  It is important to me to be healthy in my mind, my soul, my body.  Getting exercise, eating right, resting, having healthy relationships - all part of the package.  

  I remember an incident when I was in the midst of putting on a retreat for New Hope, and an hour before we began, as people were arriving, everything that could go wrong went wrong.  I was trying to hold it all together, but it finally my emotions spilled out in the form of tears.  I was overcome, and so incredibly embarrassed.  It was then one of my fellow volunteers came to me and said, "well, Grace, now we know that you are human too!"  Perhaps that taught me that I don't always need to have it all together, maybe there is even pride in that.  Our humanity, our imperfections, our longings all speak to the fact that life is not perfect, and won't be this side of heaven.  

  So in the mean time, I'm looking at those verses differently - not as a guilt trip, but that of encouragement, to seek peace in the midst of all of life, in every challenge.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7


Friday, October 21, 2011


  I wrote a silly status on my Face Book page yesterday about the projects I had tackled yesterday - all half-done.  What I neglected to mention was that in starting those projects I left the bed unmade (oops... did I confess that?), the laundry was neglected, and I never DID get to the grocery store...

  I was thinking about how life is like that... so much is never done.  Before I feel accomplished with completing that pile of laundry it is creeping up again.  I barely wipe the dust away when it reappears with a vengeance.  Really dust is one of my pet peeves, it never really goes away!

  I think especially with women, we can be easily overwhelmed with the micro-management of the many tasks we face each day - what to cook for dinner, the endless lists of errands, the cleaning that never seems to end, and this time of year, the yard calls for attention too...and what is really important: taking time for people we care about, taking time for God himself...

  I've come to the conclusion that life is full of the half-done, and is simply messy at times.  Do I accept the mess as part of the process of living?  I often think back to when I was a young bride and an experience I had that shaped my thinking.  We were invited for the weekend, nine month old baby in tow, to visit some friends.  She was a pristine housekeeper, everything in it's place, not a speck of dust that I could see; this in spite of the fact she had a baby of her own.  As I proceeded to "live", she would follow behind me, cleaning as she went.  It was NOT a relaxing weekend, as much as we appreciated their friendship.

  Shortly afterwards we were invited to another family's home for a spontaneous meal after church.  The mom in this home, loved people, and it was evident.  She had not worried about having a perfect house, it was obvious that it did not concern her.  But I noted my own response - I was relaxed and I felt loved...

  I've often thought about that, in my own response to living.  Am I uptight about guests when my house is not perfect?  Can I let the dust fly when more important matters are at hand?  I'm not talking about being a slob, but I've often wondered how true that saying really is... "cleanliness is next to godliness."  Really???

  Perhaps it is part of being on a journey... we are not done yet.  It is a progress, we are in the midst of getting there.  I'd like to think I'm "half-done", although reaching 106 might be a bit of a challenge (scary for my children!!).  But I know that perfection on this side of heaven is not achievable, and can I relax with that?
This is a sermon for me... to enjoy the journey, enjoy the day, even appreciate the mess, for it means I am living!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Wow Factor

   One of my favourite words has become... Wow!!"

  I was taught this by my eldest grandson, before he was two.  It was one of his favourite words and he used it well and enthusiastically.  He would want to switch on a light.  Voila, the light would come on... wow!  (when you think of it... it IS really amazing - and we take is so for granted.)   He would spy an airplane overhead... Wow!!  He would gaze on a flower... wow!

  I wanted to capture all that wonder at life and take some for myself.  To see the world through the eyes of a two year old is a gift indeed.  Everything is so amazing!  I've tried to incorporate that into my life more this year... from simple things like looking at the fine design of a leaf - have you ever noticed?  And the amazing variety?  We've had great fun pressing leaves into clay at the Art Center where I play - the designs are so amazing and intricate; the tiny veins etched in beautiful patterns.

  It all speaks of the Creator who has an imagination without bounds and everywhere you look there is something new and delightful and interesting.  I've also been more aware of bugs this year... yes... bugs.  I still don't particularly like them, but when one really looks closely, you realize how weird and colorful and intricate, and how really wonderful they are, and again the variety is endless.  Wow!

  This sense of wonder can be carried on to our relationships, I think... When we meet and greet those whom we love do we have a sense of wonder?  So often I take those whom I love for granted, instead of appreciating the gift of their very presence in my life.  When my hubby comes home from work, do I great him enthusiastically?  Do I greet my friends and family with a sense of gratefulness?  Because I am truly happy to see them!  Some of my favourite greetings are little E's enthusiastic "Hi Grandma!!"... I just melt.  To be treasured by a little person gives me inspiration to truly show others how much I treasure them too...

  My sister Val had a birthday recently and my son Steve sent her a birthday greeting on Facebook - Happy Birthday, Auntie Wow!  I had forgotten that he had called her that lovingly when he was little; and she certainly deserved the title... still does.  

  I am often filled with wonder at what we can do electronically.  I am far behind my children when it comes to technology - it is so, well, technical!  But to think that I can type out my thoughts and in moments they can be read by someone else - sometimes thousands of miles away.  It really is mind-boggling.  

  It truly is an amazing world we live in.... Wow!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Power of Words

  It is interesting how prolific I can be when I can't sleep at three in the morning.  Ideas and words run together, and in my mind, the writing goes on and on... really, I'd rather be sleeping!  I'm not near as wordy at three in the afternoon.  In fact I was falling asleep into my textbook this afternoon and decided to have a nap.  Feeling much better, green tea in hand, I'm going to ignore that textbook for a while, and see if I can remember what I was thinking about in the middle of the night!

  I was thinking about the power of words, how they move us, how they can encourage us, and how they can bring us down.  We (my husband and I) were the recipient of a difficult e-mail this week which questioned our character and motives.  Both us reacted strongly; it was painful, really, and it affected our conversations, our thinking, and our very states of mind.

  Sometimes it is not worth responding; but letting go, and the thought of forgiveness and understanding certainly came to mind.  That in itself is a process; I'm not sure I'm quite there yet...

  But it made me think about the power words can have - words I speak and write.  Are they uplifting and encouraging?  I certainly hope so.  Is what I say life-giving, or does it bring people down?  Certainly there are times to speak difficult truths, but hopefully this can be done in a loving manner.  To think before I speak... that is a good one!

  I've been doing a lot of reading about actively listening - listening to God, listening to others.  Being present, stilling my active mind, learning to put my own frame of reference aside to truly understand others; all of this needs to be deliberate on my part.  Do I really set aside my own agendas and open up my heart to God, to others?

  The latest fad on Facebook seems to be inspirational messages (or not) put in the form of a picture and passed on to one another.  Some of them are quite delightful.  A word of encouragement is a powerful thing, a word to make someone laugh, to bring joy, to ease pain - these are all gifts worth sharing.

...from Facebook this week - posted by my friend Dawn.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Encumbered by Stuff

  I'm on a bit of a cleaning jag - yes, still working on that closet of memories which has spilled out into all the corners of the house.  In between I try to get out into the sunshine and clean up those plants as well... there is lots of sorting, discarding, deciding going on.

  Some of it is downright difficult.  I found a whole box of hard floppies with tons of pictures still embedded in their little plastic hearts, but I don't see the right receptacle in my computer to access it.  Sigh...

  I found delightful cards and notes from my children and my foster children of years gone by - they were so sweet and I couldn't part with them.  But I managed to pare one big box of memories into a tidy little box - so much better.

  I'm downright embarrassed about my collection of pens.  Anyone need a ball point pen out there?  I must have about 513 of them, and I carefully squiggled each one to see if it should go in the trash or if it wrote well enough to be a keeper.  Who needs that many pens?  I love pens!  They represent writing, and thoughts, and I love September sales and usually stock up.  Please someone remind me to stay away from those sales!

  It is the same with paper.  I have enough to stock the rest of my life, no wait - I have two children going to university, would they like any?  Free from mom!  No wait again... I forgot we are in the computer age, and I myself sent away my college assignment through the internet airwaves just this morning - no paper involved.

  I have art supplies squirreled away for those years when my grandsons will join me in art adventures.  There is a dish of old keys which I hate to part with - you never know when you might be looking for one, and forgot you needed it.

  Is it the advent of getting older?  Or that we haven't moved enough?  Or that I just don't know how to throw away?  I've thought a lot about these things lately, our consumerism and our debt and our stuff - it weighs us down and clutters our lives and attracts dust.

  I've flung open the windows and am breathing in fresh air, and enjoying a break from all this stuff - with a cup of tea.  We are so blessed.  We don't have to make decisions about where that next cup of water will come from, or is the water clean? I don't build a fire to heat up my water, and I have a host of pretty mugs to choose from.   I can run to the grocery store in five minutes and stock up on almost any item imaginable.  I don't worry about my next meal, or whether I have a warm bed to sleep in, and I think of my linen closet, piled to the top with blankets and pillows and sheets... perhaps another project?

   Sometimes I think instead of owning "things" it is the "things" that own us... they take our time, our energy, and use up our space.  I'm not even sure I'm that willing to change, but I'm become so much more aware of what I use, and those who do not have that same privilege.  Pens, anyone?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cleaning out Memories

  I decided to tackle cleaning my office closet today... I'm full of paper dust, and my mind is full of memories.

  I found a book proposal I had written 15 years ago, which was sent to a publisher on the topic of  grief and widowhood, with three sample chapters.  (I've decided to read that later...no, the book never did get accepted.)  I found mountains of receipts and invoices from a little business I ran in the 90's, which encompassed all kinds of work I did then, and had since forgotten about, bits of writing, working for a charity, starting the work of New Hope.

  I found a really great picture frame that someone had given us for our wedding with a picture of all our five kids in 1998 - great find; I had not looked at it in years!

  One of my biggest finds was an account book, a Hilroy spiral-bound little book where I carefully kept all my accounts when I was 18 years old.  It is quite telling seeing where my money came from... (my part-time job at the post-office; a little job for an elderly man in our community, an article I had written way back then, and some income from selling Regal!)   I dutifully printed what would go into my savings and chequing account, and there was a entry named "pocket", I'm thinking that must have been spending money!  All presents bought were recorded, and detailed shopping records, as well as money given to the church.

  What does one do with this stuff?  My shredder has been busy, and I'm faced with the decisions of what to keep, and what to let go of.  A common problem in our society, and I think my kids are much better at purging, and throwing away.

  And yet I cling to memorabilia like comfortable old shoes, it tells a story; my story! It is like travelling back to a land once forgotten and brought back to life.  My dad has been writing a diary since he was 18, and has a lifetime of notes and stories that line his basement walls; a history rich with story and detail and memories.  He has taken to re-reading his diaries and often shares snippets of his life, of our lives, which make for good dinner conversation.

  And so I'll get back to my closet, and sorting, and re-living memories.  And when the dust settles, perhaps I'll have a story to tell...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Things to Love, Part 2, October Version

  I wrote about things I love just last month, and thought it would be a good practice - for me - to think on these things on a regular basis.  So just like the lovely Cynthia in the Mitford series, I might pipe up with these things now and then!

 Things I love... 
  • Walking with my family, in the October sunshine - I enjoyed several lovely walks this Thanksgiving weekend!
  • Walking with my little grandson E, looking for "holes" and jumping over them; it was serious business and quite delightful.
  • Finding treasures in the garden in October - last Friday I picked several tomatoes, 5 squash, one zucchini, and a pumpkin, as well as a lovely handful of swiss chard.   (Found a great recipe for swiss chard tzatziki,which turned out quite well - great for dipping veggies and dips.)
  • I love the gift of family.  Getting together this weekend was delightful and meaningful - and even though there had been pain and loss in the recent past, there was meaningful conversations, warm-hearted laughter, good food shared together - all a gift.  It was a good weekend for making memories.
  • I loved watching my brother serve up "man-food" for breakfast for my hubby and his son... which I politely declined of course.  
And things I don't particularly love?
....driving in the pouring rain.
....forgetting to put out the sunshine salad I had lovingly made! (oops)
....saying good-bye...no I'll change that to... see you later!!

Friday, October 7, 2011


  At the beginning of 2010 I posted this quote on my Facebook Page as a motto for the year: "A heart of gratitude is the doorway into God's presence".  I don't know the original author to the saying, but I just googled it, and my profile came up!  I thought that was quite amusing!

  But I've often thought on that quote, being that 2010 was one of the most challenging years to date in my life; that and 2011 would certainly be up in the top 5.  Although, I must admit quite quickly that I don't spend a lot of time ranking the years of my life; not a place I would really like to spend my time!

  I often think of my heart, the physical and emotional and spiritual aspects of it, and the picture of a heart of gratitude in the midst of challenges is a good picture, I think, although if I am honest, it is not always that way...
Perhaps gratitude can be compared with contentment, with being thankful for what one has (which is immense), rather than thinking about what what one has not.

  I read an excellent book excerpt in this month's Reader's Digest on the Wealthy Barber, who has just released a new book - one on my wish list!  He writes about the chronic ills of our affluent society where we are never satisfied - which has probably driven us into our current debt loads and financial crisis for many.  He writes: "We obsess so much about what we don't have that it affects our ability to enjoy what we do have... Many Canadians are completely out of touch with how much our lives have improved over time.  These are "the good old days"...  It drives me crazy that people can't see that....Don't take it for granted.  It's mind boggling but true that the average Canadian lives a much better life than did the kings and queens of wealthy empires just decades ago."  (Dave Chilton in the Reader's Digest, October 2011, based on The Wealthy Barber Returns.

  My husband and I have the privilege, because of economic changes in our life, to live more simply.  I realize, more and more, that this is a gift, not a detriment.  I am increasingly aware of how we buy into the consumer way of living, consuming more and more, and thinking that this is our right.  I am learning to think through carefully about what I truly need, what is important, and to be mindful of the many in our world who have so much less.

  In ill health, which I have also experienced, there is also cause for thankfulness, as we have experienced the richness of friends, and gratefulness for the medical system, (and I know it is not perfect by any means), and yet there it is, mostly free of charge, and available.  We are truly blessed to be Canadian.  

  And most of all, I feel immensely grateful for how suffering (and I use that word carefully, so aware that so many suffer much more than I)... has stretched me spiritually, as I have looked more honestly than ever into my own heart and soul, and found it wanting... and as I look to the Creator God who lovingly formed and made us, I am so much more aware of how life is a gift, every day is a gift to be cherished, to be used well.  

  "A heart of gratitude is the doorway into God's presence" - it IS true, it is not stuff, or wealth, or even health that draws us there; it is knowing our own neediness and knowing God alone can fill those empty places in our hearts.  And for that, I am truly thankful.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I havelearned the secret of being content in any and every situation,whether well fed or hungry,whether living in plenty or in want.  Philippians 4:11-12

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An Open and Shut Case

 A number of years ago I listened to a Gary Smalley video on relationships (yes, the days of video), and he talked about what shut down someone's spirit.  The thought resonated with me; and helped me to understand some of my relationships at that time.  Basically, when a person is wounded by words, or thoughtlessness, or neglect, something closes in their spirit toward the person they are in relationship with.  

  As I ponder my life journey, and my faith journey, I've wondered, where is my spirit open?  And when does it shut down?  How much of this am I responsible for?

  In my readings the other day, I became aware that probably many people have a shut spirit with God Himself. By some He is perceived to be harsh, or not available, and the age-old question of how does a God allow suffering often frequents it's ugly head.  

  There is an interesting chapter in "Paying Attention to God" by William Barry, that is called "Grief, Rage and Prayer".  His premise is that as we close our spirits to God because we feel hurt or abandoned by Him, we also distance ourselves from the Creator.  Barry reminds us that the Psalmist was completely open with God, sharing his disappointments, and yes, even his rage.  Really, God knows it anyway, and in this honesty, we can actually draw near to God, and experience his presence in the midst of our troubles.

  In relationships with others, it is easy for me to withdraw when I feel hurt, or abandoned, or misunderstood.  How do I bridge the gap and create openness?  It was a good question to think about this week.  Certainly bridges can be built by forgiveness, by communication, by love, by accepting our differences.  And sometimes all we can do is offer that olive branch of peace, and then let it go...

  The wonderful thing about God, I think, is His immense mercy and love; I don't have to fear offending Him, I can run to Him like a child with my disappointments and cares.  He truly is a safe place for me to dwell.

  Michael W. Smith sings the song Open the Eyes of My Heart:

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You

  I love the language of the heart, to open my eyes of my heart to be with God, to be open to others, to see as God sees.  A good prayer for today.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

For those who grieve, for those who hope

  I have New Hope on my mind today.  Funny, I still remember agonizing with others about what to name our fledgling organization, now 14 years old, and New Hope seemed to fit.  New Hope for Widow/ers and their families, a ray of hope to shine into people's lives when grief was all-consuming.

  Although I am not so involved anymore, except for writing for their newsletter and being present at their annual retreats, I am so humbled and blessed that this little dream of mine - that others shared - continues to reach out to widowed people.  It is a "club" no one wants to join, and yet when you are in that very place, it is a powerful thing to be with others who also have experienced the death of their partner - you truly don't feel so alone.

 The challenge for any tiny organization is to stay afloat in an economy that is not particularly kind to charitable organizations, when money is tight, and the needs high.  I have been amazed that NH has continued to flourish on a shoe-string budget, and it is always a pressure for a board and volunteers to put their time and energy into raising funds, when it is truly helping the people that is where their hearts are.

  So I'm sticking my neck out and asking for help, because I know their financial needs are great at the moment.  They need funding to keep their little office open, their phone lines connected, to pay their part-time employee who does so much to help make it happen.

  They are having their annual fund-raiser on October 15, with the Cats and the Fiddle band - it will be a wonderful night of music and inspiration, along with a silent auction and scrumptious deserts.  If you are from the Vernon area, please consider attending this lovely event to support the work of New Hope.  I know they are looking for auction items - perhaps a business would like to donate an item, or maybe you have something new tucked away that has never been used - that they can auction off that evening.

  Or you can go to their website www.newhope-grief.org, and donate there, just follow the links.

  This is an organization that I wear my heart on my sleeve for, and feel passionately about, perhaps it was my own saving grace that helped me in my own grief, as I reached out to help others.  I do know New Hope has brought hope to others, and will continue to do so as long as they are able.  And I salute the many volunteers who have faithfully showed up and cared for others, listened to their stories, and been present to those who are hurting.  I am truly grateful.

New Hope Concert and Silent Auction:
October 15: 7-10 pm
Vernon Christian Fellowship Church
4509 - 29 St, Vernon BC