Welcome to my Blog!

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

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

I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Thankful - not proud - to be Canadian

It is Happy Birthday time for Canada - and excitement is in the air!

I have to tell a story about Canada's 100th birthday.  I was nine then... which gives away my age, and my mom was expecting a baby - great excitement in our house!  And she was due on July 1!

My siblings and I got wind that any baby born on that day would receive special recognition and prizes, and we thought that was great.  Except my baby sister came two days early - and we are celebrating her 50th birthday this week!

We were glad for our little sister, but it took my childish mind a little while to get over the fact she had missed THE day to be born - but the amusing twist in this story is that my sister's first child was born on July 1st.   So she made it right, after all!  :-)

As we celebrate this week, and wear the red and white, I've been thinking about our country.  I'm so thankful to live in Canada.  When I've traveled abroad, especially to poor nations, I realize how much we have, how much we take for granted.

And so I am thankful.

Thankful that my great-grandparents had the courage to become refugees and come to a place where we could be free to practice our faith, a safe place for generations to come.

Thankful for the incredible vast beauty that we take in every day, it sometimes takes my breath away.

Thankful for resources, for water that comes from a tap, for heat and clean air.

Thankful for our medical system, and when I have a medical crisis, a financial crisis does not come with it.

I've come to dislike the word "proud".  Oh, I get it, there is a nobleness in patriotism.

But with it comes an air that we deserve this; a sense of entitlement and fighting for rights we claim as ours.

I didn't choose my parents, or where I was born, or the country in which I reside.
I didn't choose my economic status or the colour of my skin.
I didn't choose my genes or my gender.

I think of our Indigenous people who question some of our celebrations.  Their ancestors were here well before our nation was formed.

It is easy to become fragmented, and divided.

I believe listening to stories.   Every person has a story, if we just take the time to listen.  We all have a history and can learn from one another.  Recently I read "The Earth is Round" by Margaret Epp, which tells the story in novel form of how one family - a Mennonite family - immigrated to Canada.  These are my roots!

I'm so grateful we are opening our doors to new refugees.  I see Canada as a welcoming place, a place where all can come and create a home.

In an age of terrorism and much hate, we can be part of creating a neighbourhood - where we all belong; where we listen and value one another, no matter what our status.

So - thankful for Canada.  Thankful for our Canadian family, diverse and free.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What are You Reading this Summer?

Yes!  It is Summer!

Officially on the calendar, anyway.  When we picture summer, we see picnics, lake views, outdoor activities, and time away.

For me, it is an invitation to dive into books... without guilt!  Every year for the last few years, I have "escaped" into a world of reading, which is a true vacation for me.  Of course, book reading is not confined to summer, I also think of lazy winter nights by the fire.

When do you read?  And what do you love to read?

The last few years I have revisited the Mitford series by Jan Karon (my favourite for emotional and spiritual encouragement), and read through the entire Anne of Green Gables stories.

This year I was inspired by some book purging we were doing.  It gets me every time.  "I can't throw out that book!!"  These were companions and friends of long ago, dog-eared and precious.

So I decided to revisit some of these books before I decided to keep.... or discard.  One of them my daughter spied, and it disappeared into her home quickly - I guess it wasn't just MY favourite!

These are a few of my books I am re-reading.  Some have my maiden name still in them.

I was fascinated to read "Not Regina" again, since I had worked on an Anabaptist paper for my recent classes at Carey Theological College.   It is a story of a young girl during the time of the Anabaptist persecution, and part of my roots.

"The Earth Is Round" is another historical novel that tells some of the same stories my own great-grandparents experienced when they  immigrated from Russia.  This book is falling apart but I enjoyed every word.

"Star of Light" was a missionary tale, and I'm looking forward to rereading "A Man Called Peter", which was the story of Catherine Marshall's first husband.

And I have many more.  How could I throw them out?  But I could lend them, sharing is a wonderful idea!

I do have a Kindle device and read there too.  In face my own book "A Journey of Hope" is available on the Amazon Kindle Store.  I didn't think it was worth another printing which is costly, but it was a good way to make it available to those who would like to read it.

However, there is nothing like settling into a comfortable chair, or a lounge chair at the beach and settling into a good story.  Here's to happy reading, and wonderful escapes to places we can learn from and delight in.

And an addendum:  I'm so pleased to share that my story "The Christmas Ornament" will be included in the latest edition of Hot Apple Cider books, and will be published early this fall.  I will be posting more about this book - another book to read once our summer is over!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Those Pesky Mosquitoes!

Years ago I wrote a column for a little newspaper in Hope and one of my topics was the question "Why did God make mosquitoes?"

It seemed a valid question at the time, and I still ponder it now and then.  Certainly in the huger scheme of things, mosquitoes are a minor pesky irritation, bringing discomfort and generally stealing the peace of enjoying the outdoors.  Which most of us love at this time of year, particularly after a cold spring.

Complaining aside, I've been doing a lot of research into Essential Oils and alternative methods as to what I might put on my skin.  Most young moms I know are deeply concerned about exposing children to Deet, and I certainly don't want it on my body either.

So it was fun to get together with my daughter and a few others last night, and create some practical things we could use and try, including bug repellent and after-bug spray!

I don't believe there is any perfect method, bugs and ticks seem to prefer some body types to others, and there are the rumors that what you eat can also attract or repel creatures.  Some swear by home-made recipes, others say they don't work.

In the war against bugs, I think anything is worth a try.  I've been teased I'm a "hippie", and truly I don't mind... I honestly believe that God has provided most things we need in creation, we just need to be creative and learn.  And so I've started experimenting with Essential Oils and find myself loving them, and on a huge learning curve.  Not only are they good for repelling bugs, but for cleaning and many health remedies.

And this is no sales pitch, everyone needs to find what works for them.  What is important to me though is that what I put on my skin or in my home is as pure as it can be and I avoid chemicals or imitations as much as I can.  It is critical to do the research or learn from someone who has done so.

So, a few simple recipes today, a result of some creations we made yesterday!

In a 6- 8 oz. spray bottle (coloured is best), put 2 T. sweet almond oil (you can also use grape seed oil or fractionized coconut oil),  Add:  1-2 drops lavender oil, 1 drop grapefruit oil, 1-2 drops Eucalyptus oil, 1-2 drops lemongrass oil.  And if you have it 1 drop of Geranium.  Fill the rest with water.  Shake well before each use.  You might also want to experiment with citronella oil.

Here was another bug recipe put out by Young Living (where you can purchase essential oils).  In a small bottle, put 10 drops purification oil, 5 drops peppermint oil, 1 tsp. salt and fill the rest with water.

And if you've been bitten, try 5 drops peppermint and 5 drops of lavender into a small roller bottle or spray bottle.  If you are using the roller bottle, add a couple of tsp.of carrier oil (almond or coconut), and if you are using the spray bottle, fill with water and shake well before spraying.   I'd be inclined to add a little aloe vera too!  This cooling spray or roll-on will likely help the itching.

Please note!!  I am no herbalist, just learning what works and what doesn't.  If you have time to research, Dr. Eric Z has some amazing information on line, and there are other sites as well with a lot of information.  So research before you try - that is my disclaimer!  

Sharing our world with bugs is part of living.  Keeping them away from our personal space can be a little bit more challenging.

One final note... life can be hard enough.  You just have to watch the news, or walk through your local hospital.  Being outside is a healing and wonderful thing.  Creating with natural resources and plants can be therapeutic and besides, it usually smells good!  Here's to enjoying the beautiful summer that is upon us, bugs and all.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

It's the Little Things - & a little Rhubarb Secret!

I'ts the little things, the ordinary, the everyday, that makes our world go round.

Oh yes, there is a time to celebrate, and I think of many who are doing just that this time of year... graduations, music recitals, weddings... June should be called the month of celebration!

But in our flood-clogged region, it has been the acts of kindness lately that have moved me... kids giving up a gym class to fill sand-bags, neighbours helping neighbours.

The other day I was moved by our own ER department of the hospital where I work... I had been assisting a lady to find her way, and they told me she comes in often... for an appointment she doesn't have... and she is treated with kindness and dignity.  Those are the things not often recorded, or noticed.

There are faithful volunteers who come in.... they listen, they sing, they hold someones hand or give some reassurance.  I shared one story recently on Facebook of a woman who realized her mission in life was to care for her husband who was in a care home.  She came, daily, to feed him, to sit with him, just being present.  As she was there,t she noticed others who also needed encouragement.  And she began to care for others, caregivers, who also needed encouragement.  There are people like that in every facility, often unnoticed, but faithful.

Sometimes when life seems big and crazy and even overwhelming, it is good to go home and make soup.  This is the necessity of life, to create nourishing food, and where we are able, to share it with others.  It is good to go for a walk and smell the flowers, to take in the scenery, to notice the ordinary moments.

Today I picked rhubarb.  It seems like a rustic fruit to me... or is it a vegetable?  Chopping is good therapy!  It reminds me of my mom, always busy, always creative, and she would not have let rhubarb go to waste.

There are times when I'm too busy for rhubarb.  That is ok too!  But I'll let you in on a secret... I simply chopped it and cooked it in water... and I will strain that water, and make rhubarb ice-cubes... tangy, and a lovely addition to a cold class of water. Or sparking water if I want some pizzazz..  A little bit of joy.  A simple pleasure.

Today I saw the peonies had bloomed.  They are the prettiest they have ever been!  I rushed out with my phone, snapping pictures, all the while eyeing the stormy clouds that were threatening rain and wind.  And I brought some beauty inside, and made a simple bouquet.

Last week I was in a traffic jam, a sinkhole had affected our local highway and my commute.  As I sat amidst all the cars, a small deer, timid, stepped out into all that traffic.  Across the four lanes she came, and fortunately we were all at a standstill!  A lovely moment - and for a minute it was OK not to be going anywhere.  

These are the ordinary things.  Enjoying wild flowers on a walk, enjoying God's creation, smiling at those we meet.  The ordinary becomes the beautiful, it is the fabric of our lives.

peonies from my garden

wild flowers in Vernon

Friday, June 2, 2017

Politics and Loving the Earth

So there wasn't the plan to write a blog today.

But sometimes the words come, burning inside and wishing to be written.  And the thoughts will spill into words - words that might resonate, or not.

There is no lack of news these days in the political realm.  In BC, our election has dragged on, too close to count, and now we are faced with a coalition challenging the minority government.

Whatever your take, or personal preference, or party affiliation, there are no winners here.  Or could there be?

I was so interested in a newspaper story in our own Vernon Morning Star which highlighted a group of primary age children who were "practicing" to vote during the provincial election.  They became educated on issues and learned how elections worked in our province.

They, like all of us, had differing opinions about who they thought might be our best government leaders.

But what struck me the most was one child's observation of a debate she had watched, and had asked... why are the adults fighting?

Why indeed?

We preach against bullying, but it is all too evident in the bashing, the put-down ads, in the debates.  In my mind, it is completely disgraceful, and a bad example to our children and grandchildren.

So I have not been completely dismayed as some are at this election outcome.  In my hopeful mind, I think, isn't this an opportunity?  An opportunity to work together for the good of all?  I realize this is a highly unrealistic idea, but it is something I long for.

If governments and parties work together, we all win.

And then there is the Paris Accord...

As the leader to the south pulled out, I know he angered many of the world's leaders, and many leaders from his own nation.  I feel the need to speak out, a small voice, but an angry one.

When do we start taking ownership for taking care of the earth, the beautiful earth God has given us to live in?  What about future generations who will suffer if we don't do the right thing?

And I know I am far from understanding the whole picture, but we can all do our part.  So we can recycle, and use less plastic, and live simpler lives.  (Yes, I'm preaching to the choir).  We can be good neighbours, and care for the poor.  We can avoid pesticides and plant bee-friendly plants.  We can support local farmers and grow our own food as we are able.  We can encourage our leaders to make good decisions.  We can even choose to invest in those who have good environmental policies.   Oh, there is much to do...

And in all I do, I ask myself... am I a good steward of what God has allowed me to have?  Am I a good citizen, and do I reach out to the poor, the refugee, the sick?

There is no room for selfishness, for protecting ourselves over the needs of others, for bullying.  I often pray, Lord, can I be part of the solution, not part of the problem?  May God give us wisdom, love for others, and a deep concern for the earth which we have inherited and will be stewards of, for the next generation.