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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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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Saturday with Morrie - and Hank.

  We are back home again after a quick little road trip to Alberta.  We try to get there about twice a year to visit my husband's father, Hank, who is in extended care there.

  This year, we combined it with a little trip with my parents.  Dad had wanted to take in "Tuesdays with Morrie", a play based on the well-known book, being held in the tiny community of Rosebud, just outside of Calgary.

  Rosebud is a unique very tiny community, truly a bud if you want to picture it, in a large Alberta rosebush.  Quaint, full of history, restored, and ready to meet the tourist, this community of 100 residents houses a theatre company and school which produces quality productions, and also is a big part of the Passion Play, held in Drumheller every July.

  The draw for us, despite the price, was the subject.  We had all read the book, and very much enjoyed the play which was well done.  Tuesdays with Morrie is the story of a professor who has ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), who dying,  and his weekly encounters with a former student turned journalist, and the author of the book, Mitch Albom.

  It is a story about dying, but much more than that, it is a story about living, about relationships, about what is really important in life.  Morrie is a good teacher.  The importance of hugs, of touch, the acceptance of tears, the art of listening, all topics covered in this prof's most important lessons.

  The play seemed to take on new significance for us as well as we visited Steve's dad.  It is very difficult, at times, to parachute into someone's life every few months and re-establish connection.  Phone calls are not possible, or highly difficult, since Hank had a stroke 21 years ago which affected his speech.  When you are miles away, you cannot visit frequently.

  But as I observed father and son, there was communication with the eyes, the strong grip of the hands...

  I've thought about it.  Being there.  That was what was important.  Sometimes words are just not necessary, and the time for them has past.

  I see that in the hospital where I work...I visit those who cannot speak, and wonder about their lives... they are someone's father, or mother, and they hold stories they cannot tell.  And yet they have so much to teach me.  Do I take time to listen?

  We tend, in our society, to avoid the dying,  We tuck our seniors into extended care facilities and walk away into our busy lives.  It is part of our culture.  It is sad I think.  We miss so much... I was so impressed again, as we visited Steve's dad,  the amazing care of the nurses and care-aids who really become family to many of these dear folks.  They know Hank, his day to day habits, his routines.  They spoke to him with respect and humor and dignity.  One said "He's one of our favourites!"

  Sometimes distance keeps us from doing what we really want to do.  But I came away with new eyes to see those in my world that I can touch, that I interact with, those in my community whose families might be miles away.  And again, I'm inspired to make each day count, to live well, for life is short, and precious.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Wounded Healer

   Every once in a while, my husband turns to me and says "you should really blog about this!"  He had been reading Henri Nouwen again in his book "Home Tonight", which is a reflection of the story of the prodigal son.

  Nouwen, in this book, reflects on the famous Rembrandt painting, "The Prodigal Son", and he says "I stand in awe at the place where Rembrandt brought me.  He led me from the kneeling disheveled young son to the standing, bent-over old father, from the place of being blessed to the place of blessing.  As I look at my own aging hands, I know that they have been given to me to stretch out toward all who suffer, to rest upon the shoulders of all who come, and to offer the blessing that emerges from the immensity of God's love."  (The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Henri J.M. Nouwen, Doubleday, New York, p. 129)

  When I gaze on this picture, my first thought is of our Heavenly Father, and his loving, compassionate touch on our lives - loving and accepting us as we are, where we are.  He is the one who blesses, who heals, who forgives...

  I also see Him through the faces of my friends.... those who know me and love me, and listen and care.  I experienced this again yesterday as I met with two of them for a time of reflection and prayer.

  There are times where I just want to move on to the "healer" part... but get stuck in the muck of the "wounded".  Lately I have experienced much pain due to a shoulder injury that just won't heal.  After another sleepless night, I ponder these things.  I think about the man with the withered arm whom Jesus healed.  I want to insert myself into that Gospel story and reach out to Jesus... "pick me, pick me!!"

  And yet I know that even in pain, there is so much to learn.  Oh yes, I joke I am a slow learner.  But in visiting the sick, I too know what it means to have chronic pain.  I understand the sleepless nights.  I know the frustration of not being well.  And I know the blessing of receiving the love and care of friends.

  And being blessed, even in this place of weakness, I too can have compassion and empathy for others.  I love the phrase, the wounded healer (another title of Nouwen's many books).  I think of the famous line "by His stripes we are healed", and Jesus is our ultimate model, as He allowed himself to suffer on our behalf.  So again, I kneel at his feet, as in this beautiful picture, and want to rest in His presence, to experience His touch, His healing.

  And I pray that I too can aspire to bless others, as I have been blessed.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Finding Jesus in Vancouver

  As I quoted on a Face-book status a couple of days ago, I really am not an adventurous person, and often wish I was.  You will not find me leaping out of airplanes, or zipping down a zip-line. or hurtling down a mountain wearing sticks (oh, yes,... skis).  I tend to be careful, and I think out my steps, and I love feeling safe.  I've had my share of adrenalin in my life and it is not my favourite drug.

  Flying is a necessary evil, at times, and I will get on an airplane, fortified with the knowledge that people do it every day, they claim it is safe, it gets me from A to B in good time, and I try to not think about how far I am off the ground.  I also practice a lot of deep breathing...

  I am also not a city girl, so flying to Vancouver the other night, and figuring out transit was somewhat daunting.  I had tried to get a ride, but it didn't work out, and I understand... I am a big girl and people are busy...so I steeled myself for adventure and off I went, praying all the way for God to help me.

  As is my style, it was a bit of an adventure!  The flight was fairly uneventful, for which I was thankful, and Vancouver beautiful in the falling dusk.  I had to ask a couple of people how to get to the sky-train, and I managed that as well, thankful my little suitcase was on wheels.

  I've always loved to people-watch, and city trains are interesting places... but I was more concerned about where I would get off.  I asked one young girl who looked fairly safe where the Cambie station was - and that I had been told to disembark there because I was going to UBC (University of BC) ... she looked rather confused herself - and told me there was no such thing... I looked at the map - no Cambie station.  But then a rather handsome young couple with two little ones (reminding me of my own kids) overheard me, and told me, you really want to get off at Broadway...they seemed so confident, and I relaxed, and just before they got off they smiled at me and said... "yours is the next stop!".

  So off I got, and entered into the city.  I quickly spied the 99 bus, and thought great... and got in a line.  Maybe I should ask, a little voice told me, so I asked the gal in front of me... is the bus to UBC?  Oh no, she said... that one is across the street!

  Another line up - another wait, and there was the 99 going in the right direction - it was dark now, and I was glad to be on the bus.  I had not been on the bus a minute, when I realized there was a fighting match just in front of me, push and shove, and lots of shouting.  The lady beside me said... they've been at it for a while... The woman in the fight looked at me, and said - you saw that didn't you??  I just wanted to disappear...but the bus stopped, security appeared after some delays, and things calmed down...

  Are we really heading to UBC?  I asked another young girl...  It seemed a rather long ride... Just one more stop, she smiled at me... and then, there we were, and off I got, relieved, and somewhat turned around.  I had been checking my little phone for help, but when I am unsettled, I just can't seem to make it work.  This is very difficult for my children to understand, who simply see technology as an extension of themselves, and it comes so easy for them.  And honestly I did try, and will continue to practice my technology skills.  But sometimes, really, it just easier to ask...

  And so, again feeling somewhat lost, I asked a young man for directions.  He had the build of my son, and seemed safe, and he was so kind.  "Let me walk you to the intersection", he said, and I'll show you the way... lovely.  And so, in the dark, I walked the rest of the way to my dorm.  Once there, I had to figure out how to get into my room.  And, just as I entered, a girl came to my rescue.  Did I look distressed?  She knew the ropes, helped me to decode this box to get my room key, and I found my way, finally, to my room.  Exhausted and somewhat emotional, but really, very fine.

  I've thought about this little adventure of mine... for some, this would be no sweat, a fun adventure.  But I also remembered that I had asked Jesus to accompany me.  And all of a sudden I began to recognize Him, as He appeared in the faces of strangers... kind, gentle people, that helped me all the way.  I was never alone.

  Such a good lesson for me... to see Jesus in the face of others, to feel His love and protection, to know He cared about the journey as well as the destination.

  My husband just found this quote by Julien of Norwich, which I thought was so appropriate.  "If there be anywhere on earth a lover of God is always safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me.  But this was shown:  that in falling and rising again, we are always kept in the same precious love."


Monday, September 10, 2012

For the love of Art..and all Created things

   My hubby and I were at the Annual Art Walk yesterday, held annually in Winfield, just a half hour from our home.  I am always amazed by this show... hundreds of art pieces by many talented artists from our surrounding community, it is a feast for the eyes.  Painting, sculpture, glass-work, clay, photography, fabric arts... it was all there.

   I actually felt overwhelmed - it was so much to take in.  I was so inspired by the colors, the textures, the imaginations, the labour of love and time and creativity.  Dabbling in art myself, I can appreciate the time, and even the vulnerability that goes into each piece - and then is displayed to be enjoyed, critiqued, and sometimes even purchased.  There are very few wealthy artists.  Most of them create for the love of it.

  I have come to believe there is something deep in me, really in all of us, that has a desire to create.  I know the periods in my life where I did not have time to pursue the creative side of me, I was restless and something was missing.  When I am able to tap into that creative part of me, there is a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.  That is not to say I am always happy with my creations!  Far from it!

  But there is something amazing about the process... becoming lost in my work, which I believe is very spiritual.  After all, God is the ultimate Creator, who says that we are created in His image... it is hard to fathom.  And if we are created in His image, I believe there is something in each of us that has that desire to create... perhaps not art as we think of it, but the vastness of creation encompasses so many things... from creating food, to landscapes, to creating beauty in a home, and the list goes on and on...

  As we drove home yesterday, in the Okanagan sunshine, I continued to drink in the beauty.  Kalamalka Lake was shimmering and full of light, the rolling hills and surrounding valleys full of texture and colour.  It is easy to become inspired.  Last night I picked a sunflower for our table; it is like picking a piece of sunshine and bringing it inside.  I can't imagine a world without colour, without shape, without texture.

  The earth sings,
      The trees dance in the wind
         The leaves sway and bow
The intricacy and detailed design
    Of all created things
        Speak to us of love,
            given lavishly, abundantly,
The ultimate gifts of a Creator God
   Who indwells in us
       and allows us to reflect back
          His perfect gifts.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Back to School!

   I visited Staples yesterday.  I know this is odd, but there is something about wandering down the aisles and seeing all that fresh paper, and pens and markers and other school supplies that is just inspiring.  What will that paper hold?  How will that ink be used?  Lovely possibilities...

  I reminded myself that I have a closet full of paper, all bought on sale of course, and more than enough pens.  And the last two years of school at Carey I did not print one hard copy of any essays written - all written and sent electronically.  Amazing, really...

  So in a few days, I'm back to school.  It was fun to graduate last year but I know I have so much more to learn.  A lifetime, really, but right now, it is just a course at a time.  This fall I will be studying those ancient manuscripts - The Old Testament.  I have been reading through it this summer - as fast as I can - but it is easy to get bogged down.  The stories are fascinating, but I get mired in the genealogies, and the laws are sometimes baffling.  It should be a great course..

  It is wonderful to be able to study on line.  There are so many possibilities open to the adult learner in our culture.  But personal contact is important too... so next week, I'm off to Vancouver to meet professors and get orientated and begin my learning.  Wondering if I should bring an Okanagan apple for the teacher??

  When I think of it, really, we are all students.  Students of life, each day a learning experience.  My teachers are vast... my little grandsons teach me about wonder and simplicity.  My garden teaches me about abundance, and I see the great artistry of God in each leaf, vegetable, and even the great variety of insects that live there... I am a student in my work place, and the people I see regularly teach me so much about life, and about dying, and about what is truly important.

  So I feel blessed to enter school again... I might not be riding a big yellow bus, or carry a heavy back pack, but when I see the children walking by my house loaded with books and possibilities, I can relate!  It's that time of year!

Monday, September 3, 2012


  There is a blackberry bush in my back yard.  It is a mess of vines, really, untamed, and full of blossoms and fruit this year.  We tried to organize it on a bit of home-made trellis, but it has wrapped itself around the neighbour's bordering bushes and wanders down the rocks, in spite of my tidying it up now and then.

  I planted the bush rather nostalgically.  I grew up in the Fraser Valley, where wild blackberries grow in abandon, and every year we picked them.  Free is always good!  It was a prickly adventurous affair, with sweet results.

 Andy, my first husband, and the father of my children, loved blackberries.  They always make me think of him.  Every year, almost without fail, he would go off seeking the wild berries, and bring me a bucket or two.  Then my job began, and I juiced them and made our annual batch of blackberry jelly, a staple in our house.  I'd mix the blackberry juice with apple juice and it was a lovely blend.

  He has been gone, to his heavenly home, seventeen years this September, and this time of year always brings those memories to my mind.  Good memories.

  And so, because I love blackberries, and my children do too, I planted a blackberry bush a few years ago.  It seemed fitting, and being a rather thrifty Mennonite at times, I simply could not bring myself to pay over $30 a flat for Okanagan blackberries, the going rate here...  Last year we thought our little bush had died.  After a rough winter, only a stick or two remained, and I was pleased and delighted with it's revival this year!

  So now the tradition continues.  No, maybe my blackberry bush is not wild, and I did buy the thorn-less variety!  But hand in hand with my little grandson, we have picked blackberries together in the last couple of weeks.  And I hope his memories too will be sweet as we carry on traditions from the past and create new traditions for our future generation.