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, February 12, 2019

500 Club - Top Ten Posts

This is my 500th post.

It seemed a good time to pause, to thank God for words, and friends, and encouraging readers.

There has been an ebb and flow, but I am thankful for the discipline of writing, reflecting and this amazing platform of blogging which was an unknown not so many years ago.

I've almost quit a number of times and then hear such encouraging feedback that I keep going.  Thank you to those who have encouraged me!

I find it interesting that some of the top ten blogs are about people - the blog about my mother - Conversations with Mom - is number one.  So many people loved mom, and I write about her last days at hospice, almost six years ago.  She inspires me, and believed in me. 

I've been at hospice often lately, and I sense her presence there - so many of the staff remember her.  She was an inspiration and portrayed courage and hope in the most difficult of circumstances.

Number two spot goes to another of my role models, my paternal grandmother.  Part of her story is written in my book A Journey of Hope .  I wrote the story of my Grandma Annie a few years ago, on her birthday.  She will always be a special person in my life, and you can read all about it here:  A Woman to Honour and Remember.  

The third place blog goes to "God Cares about the Little Things."  This was written a year ago, and I share some of the every day miracles that I have experienced in my work as a hospital chaplain.  In fact, I'm thinking this one might make the cut for my next booklet of stories I'm hoping to produce sometime this year.

The other top blogs are these:
4.  Silent Night  One of my favourites, written in the Christmas Season, November 30, 2012.  One of the first of many blogs. 
5.  A Tribute to My Dad  Another role model, my dad, almost 88 - his birthday is this week!  He is going strong, and loved by many.  I think this attributed to the popularity of this blog!
6.  Things are not always as they Seem.   This was a piece I wrote about the labels we use, and how we need to be aware! 
7.  Living in the Land of Limbo  This is another blog about hospice, which I wrote during my mom's three month stay there.  I've been thinking about this much recently as I journey with those who wait for their final destination - a holy waiting that is not always easy. 
8.  On the Subject of Healing  This blog was written with much thought and preparation.  It was not easy to write, but generated a lot of good conversation.  I was thankful I was able to put the wrestling of my mind into words.
9.  An Invitation  This blog was written at the beginning of the Advent series in 2017, and also talked about the work of my sister Cathy who inspires other through her work of music and spiritual direction.
10.  A Grandmother goes Flying  Perhaps it is good to end with a humorous piece,  although the event of flying in this case was challenging to say the least.  But I lived to tell the story!

So there you are, the top 10 of 500.

If you are reading this for the first time, or have hung out with me in the last few years, thank you for dropping by.  I'd love to hear from you.

<3 Grace     

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Growing old is Beautiful

 Every so often I look in the mirror and am surprised... since I’ve reached sixty, there are certain changes I don’t always embrace. Sometimes it seems my mother is looking back at me, and I see the resemblance!

I remember mom well at age 65 mourning her wrinkles, and I was sad with her. I remember my own determination that I would ease into that stage... but I think, especially for women in our culture, it is a stage we avoid as long as we can. And we are fed all sorts of hopeful information to help us with that. 

Last week we came across this old window shutter and it spoke to me. 

Isn’t it beautiful?  Full of character. 

It sat in the middle of a historical site, and I wondered... if window frames could talk... what had this one seen?  Who had framed it; strong arms, wielding primitive-to-us tools to create this window covering, practical and protective. What family stories lie within these walls... and outside?  

It reminded me that we have all have stories to tell... and a life rich with story and memories and tales is a beautiful thing. 

This week we are celebrating the birthday of a dear relative, and it strikes me in the richness of his life, both difficulties and adventures , yes, and life-long physical challenges, yet there is this overcoming and joy that bubbles to the surface.  There is a focus on family and gratefulness and faith that God has seen him through. 

This morning as we listened to Pray as You Go (a lovely devotional site with daily prayers), the prayer of St Theresa of Avila was sung, one of my favorite Prayers. 

I like this translation of it:

“Let nothing disturb you
nothing alarm you
While all things fade away
God is unchanging
Be patient,
and you will gain everything.  
For with God in your heart
Nothing is lacking
God is enough.”

Yes, all things fade away. For those of us whose lives are long our bodies will tell the stories. 

And yes, our bodies will bear witness to our choices of living peacefully, and accepting our path with grace, or responding with bitterness. 

It reminds me of this encouraging verse from the book of Romans 5:3-4 which says 

“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  

This brings me hope!  

May the lives we lead produce character and beauty that comes from within. 

Our lives will tell the story. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Exceedingly Able

I’ve been meditating on this verse from Ephesians 3, one of the letters in the New Testament. 

These words about God are extravagant, full of hope and promise. Exceedingly, abundantly, these are words of a loving Father who is rich in mercy and love. It’s good just to stop and ponder it a while. 

The whole verse reads like this:  “now unto Him, who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us”.  

I have come to believe that we don’t ask or access that power enough ... we try so hard to do it on our own. God wants us to ask... just as a loving dad would want to care for his children. 

It would be wrong of me to say this comes easy. In fact I’ve wrestled with how to reconcile this loving all-powerful God with the suffering I see, and experience. 

I know the reality of chronic pain, and anxiety and depression can be close cousins. My own struggles diminish when I see the pain of others. 

So how does one have victory in the light of suffering and pain?  

It is those who suffer that teach me the most. Like the precious elderly lady, who ended up in the hospital after a bad fall and was the main caregiver for an ailing husband. She saw me and beamed. “I knew you’d come” she said, and went on to tell me what she was grateful for. 

She saw goodness in people caring for her, miracles in family who showed up to help her husband. She was grateful. She saw the goodness of God in spite of her circumstances. Her focus was on provision, not problems. 

One of the goals I have this year is to play with colour. So I’ve brought my water colours out and am experimenting. Creativity often helps me with pain, and I believe beauty can be an antidote for pain. There is beauty everywhere!

If I focus on pain, it seems to increase, when I focus on Gods words or the beauty of creation, there is a shift in my thinking. What we focus on can make all the difference. 

So these words speak to me,  Exceedingly, Abundantly able. A power source from the One who made us. 

I am encouraged to dwell on and live into the extravagance of Gods provision. Not in some name it and claim it sort of way, but living more boldly as a child of God.  May it be so. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Out of Rhythm

There is a comfort in rhythm.

A steadiness, predictability, even tidiness to ones life. 

There are some who live like this most of their lives, cheerful plodders, some might even acuse them of being in a rut. 

Change comes and rhythms change. Sudden, like an earthquake or similar shakeup,
or subtle, an unsettling of the mind. 

I’m seeing this as an invitation to step back, to re-evaluate, to ponder. 

We all face these junctions in our lives, often triggered by .a holy discontent. 

So should I keep blogging on Tuesdays?  It is one of a few questions I’m asking these days.   I’ve stepped out of that rhythm to examine it. I’ve long believed that there are seasons in life...and those seasons change. 

I also believe we are called,  and for me writing and ministry have always been part of the fabric of my life. We all have a calling. But the expression of that calling can shift and change. 

In the ebb and flow of life, we learn in the ebbs. We learn from the push and pull, the pain and the beauty. The discomfort of it all draws us to the One who made us, with our questions and our praise. 

I’ve taken a few weeks to rest. We all need that!  I’ve given myself permission to step out of rhythm and write more sporadically. 

Wherever you may be, may we all experience peace in this passage of life, in the dissonance and the melody... in the rhythm and the rest. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Into the Unknown with Victory

My message this morning was entitled "Into the Unknown".

I don't speak often, but very much enjoy visiting our local Presbyterian Church now and then and leading the service there.

Instead of my usual blog post, I thought I would post the message here.  You can also access it on the Knox Presbyterian website (Vernon, BC).

The message also talks about my word for the year - Victory!  A word I am exploring and dwelling on.

Into the Unknown –a message for Knox - January 13 2019

I realize that it is almost three weeks past Christmas time, and most of us have packed up the Christmas ornaments, put the Christmas tree away and rearranged our rooms which can often feel barren after all the decorations.
But today I want to go back to Mary, because her response to the angel has challenged me to think about how I respond to God as I look on a New Year. 

Luke 1:35-38 New King James Version (NKJV)

35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”
38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
In a number of translations, the simple words “Let it Be” are clear… a phrase the Beatles picked up on, as they sang these words:

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

We have, of course, the gift of hindsight, but I wonder what went through Mary’s mind as she stated those simple words of trust and surrender:
“Let it be to me, as you have said.”

This is so different from our usual way of thinking where we try to have a handle on life’s events.  We plan, we fill our calendars, we practice good health care for prevention, and maintenance,  but we often don’t stop to pause and say these simple words… “let it be”.

When we think of Mary, now revered among all women, we hold her up as having it all together.  But I wonder, what went through her mind as she swelled in pregnancy, even in disgrace with those who didn’t understand.

What did she say to Elizabeth, her cousin, as they pondered the miraculous and mysterious circumstances they found themselves in?  We know she was filled with joy, wonder, and perhaps some apprehension? 

What were the conversations she and Joseph had as they prepared for their future together in the shroud of disrespect and uncertainty?  How did she handle the hot dusty road, away from her familiar surroundings, to give birth in the poorest of circumstances?

Was her heart filled with wonder after giving birth,  to find visitors, strangers coming to worship this little babe? 

What were her questions?  Perhaps she felt fear as they fled to Egypt; wondering why, if such a miracle had happened to her, did she find herself fleeing for the life of her child?  Was she aware of the great grief of mothers everywhere in Bethlehem wailing for their children, as she and Joseph escaped?

We don’t know what the future holds, and Mary didn’t either.  I can only imagine her mother’s heart, filled at times with incredible pride and joy, and then the ache of suffering.  As we watch her life unfold in the New Testament, I can’t help wonder what she thought;  the scriptures say she pondered these things in her heart. 

As we are at the threshold of a new year, we too might wonder what is ahead.  Indeed our world is uncertain, the news is often grim.

We can make plans and preparations.  We fill up our calendars.  But we can’t predict the future, in fact we are told by Jesus not to.  Why worry about tomorrow, He said!  Today has enough trouble of its own!

As I pondered these things and the words of Mary, “Let it Be”, I wondered, was she passive in accepting what God had for her?  Did she have an inner struggle?  I am in awe of her deep trust and immediate response. 

Mary did not know how this would unfold.  We can only imagine what her next days were like, knowing her life had changed forever.  I wonder what her next conversations were like, with Joseph, with her family.      

Another patriarch from the Old Testament came to mind, (we read his story from Genesis 12)  Abraham too was on the threshold of change, a future he could not imagine.  He too might have said: “Let it be to me as you have said”. 

His journey involved action and obedience.  He said good-bye to his family and travelled to unknown territory.

I believe the common denominator between both Abraham and Mary is that they chose to trust, even though they did not know what the future held.  Abraham could not sit still; he was called to move forward, even into an uncertain future.

There was a deep understanding evident in both Abraham, and in Mary, that their lives were in God’s hands, and that is the safest place to be.  They demonstrate trust and obedience in a place of unknowing.

On New Year’s Day this beautiful prayer written by Minnie Haskins came into my news feed and it says it so well:

“And I said to the One who stood at the gate of the year,
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown’.
And He replied, ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand
Into the hand of God.  That shall be to you better than light
And safer than a known way.’”

One of the things I like to do at the beginning of each new year is to choose a word to focus on for the year.

This year the word that is standing out is the word:  Victory. 

Victory implies a struggle, or even a battle.  Sometimes those battles are in our minds as we choose faith over fear.  Our battle might be against depression, or pain, or even anger.

Victory comes when we say “Yes” to God, knowing that God knows it all, and will never leave us.  It is complete trust, no matter what our circumstances are.

It is in surrendering, and letting go that we can truly experience victory.  “Let it be”, we can say, “I choose to follow you, please show me the path of life.” 

“Please show me the path you have for me!”
It is a prayer I often pray when I work at the hospital.  I’ll share just one little story this morning, of God’s leading.  This story took place over Christmas.

We had some lovely gifts that had been prepared for me to give away, including hand-made ornaments made of beautiful fabric.  I walked by one of the hospital rooms, and saw a woman who looked like she might need some encouragement.

I didn’t know her, or anything about her.  But I took one of the ornaments and walked into the room, introducing myself as the hospital chaplain, and asked her if she would like a Christmas gift.  She looked at the gift I gave her, and tears came… it is a heart, she said.  True, I had picked the only heart-shaped ornament, without any thought. 
She went on to tell me that she was facing heart surgery, and she seemed afraid… she too faced an uncertain future. 

And here, I had given her an ornament shaped like a heart! 
I recognized we were in a sacred moment, where God had used a simple heart-shaped ornament to touch a woman’s heart when she needed it the most.  She allowed me to pray for her and her upcoming surgery.  And I rejoiced in this beautiful Christmas miracle.  It was a moment of victory!

1 John 5:4 says “For everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” 

What an incredible promise.  We might be uncertain of what will happen on our journey, but we know that God overcomes the world and this is victory!  We know the One who knows the end of the story! 

Romans 8:31 says:  What then, shall we say in response to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  And the next verse says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all… how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

When we are discouraged, and unsure, we can read these words from 1 Corinthians 10:12:  No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”  This is victory! 

Knowing that we have an all-knowing God who knows our name, we can also trust in His unfailing love to us.  1 Corinthians 15:57 says:  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And so we can pray this simplest of prayers, a prayer of Mary.  “Let it be, Lord… may it be as you have said.”  Amen.