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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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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Everyday Miracles

  Because I believe that God is already at the hospital where I work (well, I believe He is everywhere!), but I feel so very blessed to watch the mercy of God in action on a regular basis.

  And I think it is because when people are at a point of need, such as a hospital setting, that the love of God can become more evident... especially in the midst of suffering and crisis.

  I was so blessed by a couple of situations that occurred recently, that it seemed appropriate to share them, because they remind us of how much God cares for us.

  I was visiting an elderly gentleman recently, and he regaled me with story after story; he has had a fascinating life!  But when I went to leave. I left this verse with him.  Now to explain, I have a lot of different scripture verses on cards, and prayers, and poems, and I pray about who should receive them.

  I've learned that leaving something like that can continue to encourage and brighten someones day, so I have them printed on colourful paper, or sometimes in an art form.  The staff were wanting to care for this man, so I hurriedly grabbed this card out of my binder, I picked it at random, and realized later it was my last one of that kind.

  And it was one of my favourites, from the book of Isaiah:

  "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

  He looked at the card... and paused.  It was an emotional moment.  And he said that I had given him the very verse that God had impressed on him earlier in the week, as he was struggling with his circumstances...

  And out of all the verses in the Bible... out of all the cards in my binder... God directed me to give him that one.  

  Another visit... another day.  My day was longer that usual, and it was two hours past my leaving time.  I realized I had not made it up to the ICU ward where I often attend... and I debated... do I still go?

  I thought... I should at least check my prayer request box in the waiting room, so off I went.... and again I asked... do I go into the ward?  Well, I thought, I'd just check quickly with the clerk to see if someone could use a visit.

  Well, Mr. __ could maybe use a little visit, she thought, not really sure.  Well, it didn't hurt me to poke my head in and say hi... and he looked at me and told me, he knew I was coming.  He had asked God to send me.... just an hour before.  I couldn't believe my ears...  He said, I know it isn't your regular time, but I thought you would come.....

   Yes, I came.  And I sat and listened, full of wonder, for a God who cares for each one, we just need to reach out to Him.  And listen.

  Today when I was sharing this story with some of my dear praying friends, one of them was so encouraged.  That is how I pray for you, Grace, she told me.  I pray that God would "go before you."  An answer to her prayers... I was so touched.

  I don't share these stories often.  And I am very careful not to disclose anything confidential.  But I find them so incredibly encouraging, and I am so grateful that the God I love, allows me to participate in what He is already doing.  And of course, He can do that for anyone.

  How awesome is that?


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Fill My Sails

  I hadn't planned to write today, this day of Pentecost, but on waking I realized that what I had been praying and thinking about and drawing about.... was about today!

  Growing up Christian, we were not so aware of the Christian calendar in our circles, and even today, some churches don't follow it closely.  But today is the Sunday we celebrate Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit to the followers of Jesus, after his ascension back into heaven.

  When I was a young girl, my parents experienced the charismatic movement and actively followed and became immersed in embracing the works of the Holy Spirit.  This was highly controversial at the time, and even now the theology of the Holy Spirit is debated.  And for those unfamiliar with Christian terminology or theology, the Holy Spirit is known as the third person in the Trinity:  Father, Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit, three in One.  It is a mystery that we accept by faith.

  But for me, even as a little girl, it was more simple.  I became aware of the Holy Spirit as a sweet comforter, a friend, a companion, and this was a beautiful thing.

  On Friday, this prayer came to me, and I've been sitting with it, and drew about it yesterday.  It is a simple prayer:  "Lord, please fill my sails today with the breath of your spirit, that I may reflect your love."

  I love word pictures, but this spoke volumes to me.  Sometimes we are in a place where we don't know where to turn, what direction to take.  Or we are stuck.  And God invites us to this special blessing, to be filled.  This is not some ancient story, or some weird occurrence, but a gentle, loving Creator, wanting to indwell in us.  Amazing, don't you think?

  So this Sunday of Pentecost, I share this beautiful verse with you, "And hope will not lead to disappointment, for we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with God's love."  - Romans 5:5

Friday, May 22, 2015

Living with Depression

   I'm acquainted with depression.  In fact, I know it all too well, my own experience of it.

  The heaviness, the feelings of hopelessness and sadness, the darkness have been a reality for me at times in my life.  Something that is not so easy to share about.

  It is not always this way, and for that I am very grateful.  And even grateful for the gift it gives me to understand others, some who experience depression in profound ways.

  I sat with a young woman recently, young, beautiful, who really wanted to die.

  She was profoundly depressed.

  It brought me back to my own teen years, when I vowed I would never forget that darkness and the sadness I felt.  I can give a message of hope, me, a fifty-something grandma, giver of hope!  And I can honestly share that there is much to live for.

  Because life IS worth living!  

  But the reality of depression and anxiety and a host of other mental-health issues are too real, especially among our young people.  According to media just this last week, mental health concerns among the youth are on the rise, and a group of wonderful young people from the Okanagan dramatized this recently in a play, creating awareness with their peers.  I didn't get to see the play, but read about it with great interest.

  I am no doctor, but as one who has experienced depression and as a chaplain, visited many who experience it. 

  One thing I do understand:  There is no quick fix!  

   I have come to believe that the physical, the spiritual, the emotional parts of our being all affect one another.  My own experiences of depression often had a physical cause, thyroid deficiency, hormonal imbalance... and it took research and time to figure that out.  

  Grief and loss, significant life changes, illness and chronic pain;  all have been triggers for me.  And it is different for each person experiencing this.

  Clinical depression or chronic depression, often needs medical intervention, and I admire the doctors who work in this field.  And it takes great courage to go for help.

 Here are some of the things that have helped me, things I often suggest as I try to encourage those who are depressed:

1.  I often tell people that they are loved.  They are precious.  God loves them.  I don't think we hear this enough, or even believe it at times.  It was at a low point in my life that I experienced this in a very profound way... that God loved me, fully, completely, not for what I did, or what I accomplished, but just for being me!!  And I had to learn to love myself fully as well - self-acceptance and love are important!
2.  Gratefulness is a wonderful healer.  My dad, who also experienced profound depression as a young man, helped me as a teen to explore ways to be thankful.  I remember writing ten letters of thanks to people I was grateful to, and it was a wonderful therapy.  A gratefulness journal also can be very helpful.  
3.  Walking and being outside!  I find a good walk, and enjoying the beauty of creation can really lift the spirits.  
4.  I am grateful to those people who have guided me to natural remedies... and there are many.  I always pray for wisdom in this area, but have learned there are wonderful natural remedies out there, and I am grateful for them. 
5.  Eating right!  One of my best investments has been a high-powered blender, and I often joke that I have spinach for breakfast, but honestly it is great mixed with flax seed, frozen bananas and other berries... natural energy!  Of course, there is tons of information out there, but what we eat can often affect how we feel.
6.  Art therapy:  I believe we all can create, in whatever way that appeals to us.  Right now, I love doodling, and I find it very restful and quiet, and enjoyable to boot!
7.  Puzzles.  Funny, when I was a depressed teen, it was the jig saw puzzle that helped me to quiet the mind.  I could work with the pieces, and it gave my brain a rest.  Today, there are so many puzzles, I enjoy a jig-saw puzzle on my I-pad.  
8.  Prayer.  Honestly, it can be hard to pray when one is depressed, but I grew to love the Psalms, and I think they are still my favourite Biblical book.  In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if King David himself struggled with depression and anxiety, and I love his honesty.  I think I learned to pray the Psalms back when I was a teen, and I especially loved Psalm 116... the whole Psalm is wonderful, but here is verse three: "The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow."  How is that for honesty?!   I have called out to God many times in my life for help, and I can attest that He is faithful!
9. Inspirational Reading.  There is a lot of wisdom out there, and we can learn from others who have walked the path of depression or mental challenges.  I talked about praying the Psalms.  I also found a wonderful verse from the ancient prophet Isaiah just this week and it spoke to me deeply as I pondered these things.  Isaiah 50:10, in part reads:  "Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God."  I loved that... it doesn't say that all who believe should think they should be in the light at all times... because it just isn't so!  But we can choose to trust... even in the dark.

  I felt compelled to write about depression this week.  It is real for many.  Too often it is a hidden illness, especially for teenagers, and surprisingly men, and yes, for many women.  It is seen as a weakness.  We are so much kinder to those with broken limbs, or those with a cancer diagnosis, or other diseases.  

  Part of living in community (and no man is an island, it is said), is coming out of isolation and truly caring one for another and sharing our stories.  When we validate all our life experiences and learn from what they teach us. we are stronger, more compassionate, more understanding, and truly can love one another.  Just as we are.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A smile to share!

 I love smiles!

 Lately, I've been practicing them more, because I was concerned the worry lines were exceeding the smile lines.  And that will never do...

  Although I've been trying to be honest about aging gracefully and naturally and not fighting it.... but exercising my smile lines can't be a bad thing!

  I was so inspired by a couple of flag people in recent weeks.  There has been a lot of street construction/repair work happening in our town as of late, and we have been stopped in a line of waiting cars on more than one occasion.  One lady flag-person whom I have observed a number of times is so incredibly cheerful, she always inspires me.  A little dance, a jaunty wave, a big smile to send us on our way.

  I think the job of a flag person has to be on of the hardest out there, in all sorts of inclement weather, either too wet, or hot, or cold, and standing all day... and safety challenges to boot!  I just admire those who not only take their job seriously, but do their best to cheer up the impatient, wanting-to-get-there-in-a-hurry public.

  Recently we were stopped, near our home, and had to wait for a considerable amount of time.  You could feel the tension rising among some of us waiting motorists... and then, the flag-person proceeded to turn his stop-sign sideways, turned it into a pretend guitar, complete with mock song and dance.  He had us laughing, and before we knew it, he was waving us on, as we cheered on his antics.

  People like that inspire me.  Because we all have stuff... challenges, heartaches, everyday worries... and I sometimes forget to smile.

  So I am just practicing more... have you ever done that?  Just practiced smiling?  I've been trying that lately!
I doodled it too... to help, and I'll share with you my very silly smile...

  Smiles are contagious... 
    they can melt a tense moment,
       bring cheer to a weary heart,
          Brighten someones day.  

  Here's a smile.... just for you!  Feel free to pass it on! :-)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Imperfect Beauty and Aging

  I was walking into work the other day, and the sidewalk is lined with beautiful rose bushes, and they had begun to bloom.  In early May of all things!

  So I grabbed my phone and started taking pictures, and then paid attention... to what I was doing.  I was trying to find the "perfect" shot... a "perfect" rose, and kept adjusting my view to block out the imperfect... the old branches, the faded flowers... no, I wanted the rose in it's prime.


  The roses are beautiful, but their beauty is fleeting.  The gentle buds reminded me of a little newborn I had visited earlier in the week, tiny, wrapped tight, precious little face, sleeping beauty.

  But we don't stay babies... and as I was drawn to the roses in their prime, I also begun to notice the fading beauties, and some of the imperfections of the bush, and they were all part of the picture.

  We live in a culture where we love perfection. We worship youthfulness.  We struggle with growing old, with fading, with the losses it brings.  I see this every day, and perhaps that is why I am drawn to write about it, often.

  How do we help our beauty- loving culture to age well?  To accept diminishment?

  Often I see those who have come to hospital in a crisis... not ready to face that they cannot go home again.  It is a terrible loss.  

As I wander through senior's residences and spend time there, I am often in awe of staff and their kindness to the residents.  I am also aware of the many challenges they face, as do the families of those in care.  The work load is heavy, often resources are few.  My heart breaks at times for the loneliness, for the fragile, for the forgotten.

  I'm a baby of the baby-boomers, and our time is coming.  I'm not sure how well we will do.  While I talk about it, am aware of it, want to pay attention to it; there seems to be no easy answers.  

    To see beauty in all stages of life might be a beginning.  We need to teach this, to model it, to be at peace with whatever stage of life we find ourselves.  Easier said than done, because getting older can be a bit of a surprise!  It came so fast!!

  I am convinced that we need to talk about aging.  To explore solutions.  To prepare ourselves for the inevitable.  We need to have a plan.  We need to support those who are going through these transitions, and listen to them.  

  Creation, as in a flower garden is a wonderful teacher.  I was thankful for the gift of the roses, the delight of the new buds, the appreciation of the full-blown beauties, the gratefulness for those that were fading away.  It is a cycle of life, renewed and repeated again and again.  

  And I'm reminded again of heaven's promise of a new heaven and a new earth, where things will NOT fade away... and we too are promised to be part of that beautiful new world, when we graduate to heaven.


Friday, May 8, 2015

A Prayer for Mothers Day - for all of us who have Mothers

This prayer is one of thankfulness for life... for all of us were created and placed in the womb of a mother, and we are grateful for this gift of life, for the gift of our mothers!

  So, while we are grateful, I also pray for all of those for whom this Mother's day - this day we have created to celebrate - also brings pain to many.

  And while many will celebrate with joy, and spend time with their mothers, we also remember those who cannot.

  For those women who have longed to be mothers and for whatever reason, this has not come to fruition.  We pray for them.

  For those women who remain single, but choose to love children in their lives, we pray for them.

 For the mothers of the very young, who don't always feel acknowledged and are often exhausted beyond words, for the mothers of busy families, who are often overwhelmed, for mothers of foster-children who give beyond themselves, for those who lovingly adopt and create homes for children who need their love, we acknowledge each one, and pray for them.

  For those women who have lost a baby through miscarriage or still-birth, we cannot even begin to know their pain, and we pray for them, and the memories they hold close, and the dreams they have had to bury.

  For those who have experienced the death of a child, the pain of this loss is with them every day, and we especially pray for them on this day we call Mother's Day.

  For those women whose children are no longer a part of their life... for whatever reason, we acknowledge their pain, and we pray for them.

  For those women whose children have made difficult choices, who may be on drugs, or in prison, or on the streets, or in difficult marriages... and the list goes on... we pray for them.

  For those whose mothers were not what they would have hoped for, perhaps they were abandoned, physically or emotionally, mothers who were troubled, and left a legacy of brokenness, we too acknowledge this deep pain, and pray for healing for the children, whatever their age.

  For those who have become caregivers to their mothers and see their mothers fading, either physically or mentally, we pray for them.

  For those whose mothers have departed to heaven, and we think of them on this day, and we remember them.

  We are a broken people, and we want to celebrate all that is good.  We are grateful for all the mothers in our lives, whether biological or not, who nurtured us, cared for us, showed us true love, and were an example to us.

And dear God, creator of mothers, creator of the womb, we are grateful for this gift of life.

My mom loved roses.... these were my last blooms of last season.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Dismantling Organized Religion... and an Apology

  There are days I WOULD like to dismantle organized religion - or what people perceive as such.  But I can't, so I'll write this blog instead...

  The other day, in my hospital visitation of people in health crisis, I heard the same sentiment not once... but three different times in one morning.  It was almost the same... "I left the church, I won't have anything to do with "organized religion", I'm done with that".

  These are not angry people.  In fact I meet them almost every-time I go to my place of work, and it makes me very sad.

  Because, really, I am part of organized religion.

  And usually these people are quite kind, just explaining why they are done with that.

  If  I pose the question, "so you were wounded by the church?", the answer is almost always an emphatic yes.

  I feel incredibly grateful that I get to have these conversations.

  Almost always, their faith in people, in organized church as they have known it, is done.  But they are still reaching out to God.  Most of them still pray.  And we talk about what that looks like for them.

  If anyone is concerned, I want to assure you that this isn't a post against church.  In fact, I love my church, and am grateful for the group of people I hang with.  I've come to think of us as a "tribe" (a borrowed term), and we are part of a larger group sometimes called a denomination, and our denomination is part of a larger group called "Christian"....

  But mostly I want to be thought of as a human being, someone created by God, loved by God, deeply flawed, but trying to follow Jesus the best way I know how.  (And I ask for Help, a lot).

  And when I get muddled, I go back to the first and second commandments God gave: to love Him, and to love each other...

  And its not about judgement or getting it all right, but it is about living well, and listening well, and caring for other fellow human beings on this journey called life.

  I too have been scarred by religion.  More than once.  But the story I'll tell is really my daughter's who came home one day (years ago) after visiting our rather young idealistic minister and what I heard her say was that this minister was far more concerned about her smoking and tattoos, than about her heart.   I was sad... I was angry.  And those careless words have stayed with me.

  It reminds me of that verse from the Old Testament where the Lord tells Samuel: "Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."  And I want to shout a hearty AMEN!

  If  you are still with me, and reading this, and have been wounded by the church, or scarred by organized religion, I just want to say "I'm sorry!!!" And if that seems trite, and empty, I know it doesn't fix it... but I mean it with all my heart.  My eyes are filled with tears for the wounds...

  Because we should be known for our love, and Jesus came to show us love and to set us free...and someday when we get to heaven, and discover that there are not a zillion denominations camped in different corners, each with the correct theology, we will be filled with joy and gladness and love for our Creator and for one another.

  I often pray for healing for the scars we have inflicted on others, because we need each other.  And the church CAN be a healing place, a place to learn, a place to love, even if deeply flawed.  There is that old joke... there is no perfect church because there are no perfect people... and I know that... because I am one of those people.

Friday, May 1, 2015

A buttercup for you

May 1.

A day always special in my memory.

For my sister Val and I would go in search of buttercups, often found in the crevices and corners of our old church, some of the first flowers of spring.  (We lived on the church yard)  There they would be, bursting in through the grass, their sunny faces uplifted in the early spring sun.

We'd gather them, and create posies... and hang them on our mother's door, early in the morning.  Surprise!!

At least that is how I remember it, a beautiful memory in my mind.

I looked for buttercups this morning.

Found scores of them on the internet.  Really I wished I had found some in the fields near by, but this day has not given me that luxury.  The luxury of a buttercup search.

But I needed a pause, in a busy season, as I prepare for yet another busy weekend. Our 18th annual New Hope Retreat is upon us, and I need to be ready for my part.

Perhaps it is because I am missing my mom... mother's day is upon us, and I think of every person for whom this day evokes deep emotion, whether it is out of loss or disconnect, or other sadness....

Mom always enthusiastic about New Hope and dug right in to help me, in her retirement.

Moms can be a grounding force in our lives.

Sometimes I can think of God as my mom, that maternal view of God as a comforter, a lover of beauty, a shield-er of all things harsh.  I love the picture of God as a mother hen, covering all those little chicks.

As I pause to remember, I gather buttercups in my mind, I drink in beauty, and can face the day.

So here is a buttercup for you- in whatever season you find yourself,  and a happy beginning to the beautiful month of May!

(I helped myself and picked this buttercup off the Wikipedia site).