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 25, 2019

It's all about Perspective

I've been thinking about perspective.  Recently I went on a walk and took some pictures, something I love to do. 

I was climbing UP this path and took this shot.

I realized after I was home that there was no way you could tell if you were walking on a level path, going down or going up. 

So I had to return and take one with perspective:

Same path, and yes, I was heading up.  Quite a steep incline, actually. 

It spoke to me of how we view things.  So often our vision is limited and we don't see the whole picture. 

We see things from our frame of reference.

One of my class assignments when I was studying counselling some years ago was to write down my frame of reference.  It was such a good exercise.  I realized that my thinking and way of being were very much shaped by my upbringing, my culture, my surroundings, and even the way I practiced my faith.

We were then told to put our frame of reference "on the shelf", as we listened to others.  In order to listen with an open mind we needed to hear other's stories without our own bias.

I have never forgotten that.  It is GOOD to self-examine, to have a strong sense of what we believe.  Sometimes we need to look at that, and I often ask in prayer, "God what is YOUR truth?, not my own" 

Because God sees a far bigger picture, and simply cannot be put into a box of our own understanding. 

That is where trust comes in.  Just like the steps above, we don't always know where they will lead.  But I can trust in a loving God who goes before me, one step at a time, all-knowing and loving.  And that is a good perspective to hang on to.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Hope: Fuel for the Journey

This week's blog is from a meditation I shared on Sunday about Hope.  I hope it will encourage those who read it!

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Hebrews 6:19

Lately I’ve been painting butterflies.  They are amazing miracles of flight, of beauty, of restoration. 
Did you know a butterfly can’t see its wings?  And yet it flies anyway, soaring into the skies.
Butterflies speak to me of hope. 

Although I’ve written about hope for many years, I’ve found myself pondering its meaning in recent weeks. 

I thought of the word optimism, and I don’t think that is accurate.  It is good to be optimistic, to look at life with a positive outlook.  But the truth is, no matter how optimistic we are, life happens, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

I do believe that when we approach all we do with a positive attitude, and a cheery outlook, it can affect how we see the world.  It can affect our mental health.
I love the story of Winnie the Pooh.  He was so amicable, easy going, and kind to his friends.  If I was to pick a character from his story, I’d want to be Pooh Bear.

Tigger, on the other hand, is a bit too much for me… far too bouncy, cheerful and in your face.  Quite exhausting, although I admire him from afar.  If only I had his energy! 

Quite often, I’m with Eeyore.  There is a great cartoon that has gone around on social media, depicting Eeyore as clinically depressed.  He's just a melancholy donkey.  But he is part of the story and his friends include him and love him.  He’s a sensitive guy!

The fact is, I really don’t want to be Eeyore.  I want to be optimistic.  The truth is many of us can be weighed down by circumstances; life can be challenging when we are ill, or grieving, or sad. 

When I need hope I often go to Scripture, which is filled with Hope.  At the hospital I give out Hope magazines…. a wonderful publication put out by the Gideons. It is filled with beautiful pictures and the Psalms, and I love to hand it out.  I always leave some in the chapel too.  It is a wonderful resource to use to encourage others.  The poetic words of the Psalms often filled with hope – and comfort. 

Psalm 46:1  God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 

Psalm 62: 5 -6 Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.  Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

From Psalm 71:   5  For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. 6  From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mothers womb. I will ever praise you. 14  As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.

I love the thought that as I visit people in hospital, one of my tasks is to give people hope.  Hope in the midst of despair, hope while they wait, hope for things to get better.  Hope even in the midst of grief.

It is easy to become overwhelmed with sad stories, our own heartbreak, with grief and loss and illness.  After experiencing a lot of trouble, we can become pessimistic… what else is coming? 

I love this verse from Hebrews which says:  Hope is like an anchor.  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  This is different than optimism which seems hinged on everything going well. 

Hope gives us an anchor, a firm and secure place to hang onto in the midst of life, no matter what our circumstances are.  In the midst of a raging storm, or a peaceful calm sea, the anchor remains.  Faith, to me is that anchor, my faith in God who stays by my side, and is present always…

Those wonderful words from Psalm 23 say it so well… Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,a
I will fear no evil, for You are with me;
In all of life… even in death, we don’t have to fear because God is with us.  This is the hope we can hang on to.

One of my favourite verses comes from Psalm 62, where it says: Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. 

Visualize with me a picture of a huge rock, a fortress where we can run to and be safe.  My friend puts it so well… we might be shaking, but we can stand on a rock that doesn’t move.  It is solid… this brings us peace and rest.

There is another beautiful verse that says “Though our bodies are dying our spirits are being renewed EVERY DAY!  2 Cor 4:16

Even though we don’t like to think that our bodies are dying, we all know it is going to happen… to all of us.  As we get older the aches and pains remind us we are not young anymore.  Our conversations start to go to organ recitals, and it isn’t very musical. 

But there is this incredible hope – that our spirits… our very souls are being renewed… day by day!

Just like the butterfly… who as a caterpillar curls up and could be left for dead… emerges into the most beautiful of creatures… free and light, soaring with hope.  
This is hope we can hang on to.  A hope that is as secure as that anchor we read about in Hebrews.

This is a hope that is solid like the rock that won’t be shaken.  A hope that brings freedom and joy. 

How do we live in hope?  Or bring hope to others?  It might be an encouraging smile, or a listening ear.  It might be a gentle touch or a short prayer.  It might be a quilt or prayer shawl, given to someone who needs hope, and these practical gifts are reminders of the fact that someone cares, God cares.

It might be a friendly exchange in an elevator or hallway and asking someone how their day is going.  We can all do that!  Hope can be delivered with a phone call to a shut-in, or a word of encouragement to a busy parent.  It can be a plate of cookies or a bowl of soup to someone who needs nourishment.  It can even be a smile to a homeless person, who just is longing to be seen. 

Hope is available for all of us.  When we are filled with hope, it doesn’t mean we are guaranteed an easy life.  It is those challenging lessons that often shape us, where we come to know how much we need God’s help. 

Rather, Hope is trust in God who is with us through all of our lives.  Hope is the knowledge of eternity, a time where we will have new bodies and our mourning will be over.  Hope is knowing that with God in our hearts, all is well, no matter what our circumstances.

There is hope for each one of us…a gift from our Creator, a gift of forever.  I love the saying Hope Springs Eternal.  Hope is eternal.  It is solid. 

We can be filled with hope.  How?  By reminding ourselves of God’s promises.  By singing about them, and reading words of hope from sacred and inspirational readings.  

This gives us fuel for our days, energy, if you will, filling us with hope to live joyous expectant lives. 

We can trust God knows the whole picture and He is faithful Phillipians 1:6 says, : “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  

There is hope in that, a confidence that God will supply all we need.

 May you be filled with Hope today!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Food for the body, Food for the soul.

Tuesdays are often a catch-up day for me.  I write, I catch up on errands, and there is always a list of what I should do...

Today I worked on a message I will be giving on Sunday... I'm thinking, it might be good content for next week's blog!

And then, I had salads on my mind.  On hot weeks, like this one, I like to make a variety of salads we can just help ourselves to at meal time.  I had five salads in mind... three were made, another one part-way.  There is always tomorrow!

There have been days where I've aspired to be a food blogger - but I never have enough time or energy for the kitchen.  (and I have a lot to learn!)  That being said, I love to create healthy food, and enjoy reading other people's recipes and ideas.

I've been teased, I'm happiest when reading a recipe book with a cup of tea... and certainly that is always enjoyable.

Food is nourishment.

So I was motivated to do some  pre-prep this week... Sunday I made a slow-cooker full of black beans, because I wanted organic and buying it in cans (which I often do) seemed expensive.  Really, it doesn't take much time... I soaked the organic beans overnight, rinsed them well and set them to cook all day in my slow-cooker.  By the end of the day I had six containers full for salads or whatever...

Food can conjure up memories.  Potato salad is one of our favourites, and it always makes me think of my mom and how she made hers.  Buttermilk mixed with mayonnaise was the way to go.  Lots of eggs and sliced potatoes, and always radishes.  To this day I love radishes in my potato salad, and was glad I had some in my fridge.

Another recipe always makes me think of my son.  Some years ago I headed to Vancouver where he was living at the time to attend a conference, and he made this delicious soba chicken salad for me.  I still remember the little chinese like take-out containers we put the salad into and headed to the beach to eat it.  It is one of my favourite memories.  And I make the salad to this day.

The soba noodles are buckwheat which I can eat and it has a lovely mixture of carrot and basil and a lovely sauce.  The original recipe called for a chicken breast cooked with a bay leaf, today I just chopped up a barbequed breast my hubby cooked last night... I think it will do.

My new salad to go is a beet salad, unheard of in my growing up days, but what a delightful way to eat beets!  You just cook the beets until barely tender, then cool and chop into cubes.  I add the juice of a lime (my latest favourite salad flavouring), some salt and pepper and a sprinkle of fresh parsley.  Add some feta cheese and mix together... quite yummy.  I decided to add a little maple syrup, which was tasty, but I think I'll try balsamic vinegar next time.

I also tried a kale/quinoa salad last week, which is half prepared now.  Kale always reminds me of my wonderful younger friend who taught me to "massage" kale.  How we laughed about that.  So I chop my kale and put in some beautiful flavoured olive oil and rub it in for about 30 seconds, creating a softer, bright green leaf mixture.  Add some cooked quinoa, and a lovely dressing and it is a wonderful summer time salad.

So... this blog has turned into a conversation about food.  Hope you don't mind, and that you will be as inspired as I've been lately to create healthy food for hot busy days.  What is your favourite summer salad?  I'd love to hear about it!

Every week I create a menu plan for the week in my bullet journal.  Sometimes I follow the plan, and sometimes I don't... life happens.  I also pick a verse for every week... food for the soul.

This week my verse is this one:  "I will sing to the LORD as long as I live.  I will sing praise to my God while I have being.  May my meditation be pleasing to Him, for I rejoice in the Lord. "  Psalm 104:34

Food for the body, food for the soul.  I'm so thankful for the abundance we have and the creativity to prepare wholesome meals.  We are truly blessed.

bean salad, a new recipe, so excited to include our first zucchini from the garden!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The sky is the limit

The sky is the limit.

Or, it might be more accurate to say, the sky is limitless. 

I love the sky, the artistic hand of God, a fresh canvas every day, often every hour.

On my early morning walk I enjoyed clear skies today.

A plane buzzed overhead, small yet visible, and I wondered what the pilot could see. 

Some years ago we listed to an amazing video about the vastness of the universe; how small our planet and home is compared to endless galaxies.  It is really beyond our imagination. 

In contrast when you think about micro-organisms, even the small bugs and life we can't see which make up our earth, it is mind-boggling.  When you think about the complexity of our bodies, with all it's cells and parts, I am awestruck. 

This morning I sat with a woman who is close to heaven.  The air in the room was sacred, it felt we were close to a veil that separated us from eternity.  These are holy moments, these good-byes, as children say good-bye to a mother whose life was well lived, whose love permeates the room.

I don't fully understand.  But I do know that God is there, and gives us the promise of forever.  When I look at the sky I wonder... where is heaven beyond that beautiful blue?  Sometimes, I think, it might be closer than we realize.

I've come to believe that as much as I don't know, I have become certain of a few things.  I believe that God is present.  Our Creator is much closer than we think.  And in this time of year, when flowers are riots of beauty, the trees raising their leafy hands toward heaven in praise, the birds singing with all their little beings, I see God everywhere.

I see God's hand in the ever-changing sky, a paintbrush of whites and greys and blues, ever changing. 

stormy skies over Vernon BC

amazing cloud formations, June 3

Ode to the sky

you are my covering
an ever-changing
ceiling of beauty
of storms filled with rain
riotous thunder
flashes of lightning.

And seas of blue - 

The clouds tell stories
some still, 
cushioning who knows what
others scurrying across the sky
in a hurry
crossing themselves with
jet streams.

You speak to me of
a vastness beyond my imagination
and even though I feel small
under your presence

I know,
yes, I know
that I am seen
by the One who Created it all
even me.

gw.  2019

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Bugs in my Roses

May is my favourite month, hands down.  The bursting of beauty, colour, green, vibrancy, new life... it is everywhere.  I love looking in the garden - the dahlias are up and doing nicely, the lavender has blooms, the peonies are ready to burst with colour. 

Dill is everywhere, and I love it.  We go and pick as much as we want and flavour our potatoes, our soups.  I need to dry it... if you live near by and need some, drop me a line!

And there are bugs.

Every year this beautiful old big rose bush gets invaded by these ugly black bugs - they look like ticks, and if I was to be authentically honest, I'd say they tick me off.  They want to spread to my other rose bushes, and I was tempted to create "not welcome" signs... as if they could read.

Out comes my remedies - although I could use a little help here - and my bush has been sprayed with a mixture of dish soap, vinegar, peppermint oil and water.  So far, the bugs are winning. 

And I will not use pesticides...

There are days, in the midst of life, that I just want to be trouble free.  I don't want to grieve or hurt, or deal with broken things.  I certainly don't want to deal with the neighbourhood cat who has been using my garden as a litter box.  But it is those things... cats and bugs and broken things that can rankle us... and we realize there are deeper hurts we need to address.

I don't want to hear about another cancer diagnosis.  I don't want to deal with my own fragility, aches and pains.  I don't want to deal with bureaucracy. (another blog, perhaps.)  I long for my grieving friends to feel better.  I want a perfect garden, free from bugs.

I spoke on hope yesterday.  Not the happy optimistic hope, but the hope we have in the eternal.  That we live temporary lives in a broken world.  And there is a promise of wholeness, of freedom, of joy, even in the midst of life.

When I am having a cranky day - and yes - I do have them at times, it is good to have safe places to talk about the heartaches of life.  And then remember the good things.

For the rose is still beautiful.  Yes, the thorn got me good the other day as I tried to exterminate the bug, but then I took time to smell the roses.  I sprayed myself with lavender and felt the calm.  I sat beside my fountain on my deck and admired the mountains, green with life. 

I had a great conversation with a friend.  I prayed with someone who was sad.  And like the butterfly - a bug turned beautiful, I saw the beauty. 

There will be bugs.  I am so very grateful for beauty. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

What does a Christian look like?

Every once in a while I'm confronted to look hard... to listen well... to ponder.

One of the things that saddens me is the widening polarization I see all around us... Liberal versus Conservative, Democrat versus Republican, etc.  Pro this and anti that.  The church itself is splintered in a thousand ways, some struggling to have honest conversations about very difficult subjects, others wrapped in certainty.

I love to be sure about things.  It gives me something to hang on to.

But the more I learn to love God, to desire to follow Jesus, to be aware of the Created earth, filled with the glory of God, the more I realize I don't know.  God is far greater than any box I've ever concocted, and full of mystery.  

In the book of Job, God speaks after Job cries out, and Job 38 is a beautiful poetic reflection of the vastness of God.  One small example from verses 34-35:

 “Can you raise your voice to the clouds
    and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
    Do they report to you, ‘Here we are? (God speaking to Job).

No, I can't.  

Part of faith is trusting in God who sees a much larger picture.

In these times of passionate debates, of swirling opinion, of cries for justice and mercy, I hear voices wanting to be heard.  Can we listen?

I was saddened this past week to hear of a pastor who became an abuser, and the church protected him.  This made me angry, and so it should.

The church at large (across many denominations) unfortunately has a history of violence from historic times until now.   It is no wonder many are disillusioned.  There should be no place for abuse, or protecting those who abuse.

I'm also reminded, wounded people wound people.  I am capable of this, and one of my prayers is that I would not get in God's way or bring harm... to anyone!  

Woundedness of course is a human problem.  Christians are not exempt.  

How do we bring healing to the wounded?  

I believe hearing their stories is a good start.  To understand my own story, my triggers, helps me understand myself.  This also gives me the tools of compassion to understand others, without judgement.  

I keep going back to the words of Jesus who said: "By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35)  We need to pay attention when love is lacking.

What does a Christian look like?  I hope and pray it is the face of love.  We also do well to heed the commands of Jesus who took all the law into these simple directives:  "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbour as yourself."

Life is messy.  I'm grateful to follow God who chose to be one of us, who promises to dwell within our hearts.  I don't have to know how lightening bolts work, or understand the miracle of a butterfly or bee in flight.  I can simple respond with love, and faith, and a thankful heart

Love is a choice.  It is a directive.  It is a way of life.  God is love.  

May we be known by love.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

To be Cured or to be Healed, that is the Question

There is this wonderful song which goes "I am the Lord who healeth thee."  It is written in old English, and the words have always been soothing to my soul.  I will sing it often, letting the message sink deep into my bones.

Do I believe in healing?

Yes, I do.

I've written about this before and have wrestled with this question.  I am a chaplain.  I would love to be a healer. 

To some extent I believe I am.  Words we speak, messages we give, our touch can all have a healing presence. 

The struggle comes when those who are very sick are not healed.  Rachel Held Evans, who died last week at the age of 37 is one of those.  Many people prayed for her healing.

Ironically, we happened to listen to one of her videos where she spoke of this very thing.  And she had come to the place where she believed healing was for everyone, but a cure was not.

This spoke to me, and I think of where I work, where the goal is to cure, for people to get better, to go home again.  The curative model is one doctors learn well, and they work hard at restoring physical health to the patients they treat.

But one doctor said it well to me in recent weeks... we are all going to die, I don't think we will get out of it.

In fact, Doris Day died today at the wonderful age of 97.  I don't think anyone was particularly surprised, and she will be honoured on the news tonight, and we will remember all she contributed to society. 

A cure, and yes we pray for it, is always temporary. 

But healing is for all!  Healing is for the soul, for the spirit, and yes, sometimes for the body.  Healing washes over us, like a soothing ointment, healing the heart. 

I looked up Bible verses today on healing and there are many.  I think this is where the confusion comes in because there are groups of people that truly believe that if you believe, if you have enough faith, you will be healed.  (Physically!)

And yes, this happens sometime.  God is a God of miracles!  I've known those to be at the brink of death and come back to live wonderful lives.  But not all.  Even Jesus, who healed the sick, did not heal everyone.

What is far more important is trust and surrender, as hard as those actions can be in the midst of a devastating illness, or uncertainty.   Even Jesus asked for mercy, before he died... he was overwhelmed with what lay before him.  He gave his life... and showed us the way of suffering. 

There is a much bigger picture that gives us hope.  When my mom was dying there were those who told her she would be healed.  She understood that they didn't want her to leave, but she was more than ready to go.  She looked forward to her heavenly home, where she would be truly healed and suffer no more.

I am grateful for the miracles, for the cures.  It is good to live well, to live fully, to live joyously with every day we are given.  When I think of all the natural medicines our Creator has provided to help us feel well... this is an area which really interests me... I am grateful!  I use lavender to sleep and for calming, and peppermint for headaches.  I found a wonderful tea that helps with joint pain, made locally.  There are many resources and wonderful teachers out there.

I am grateful for medicine, and for those who spend years learning to be doctors and nurses to help those who are sick.  I am grateful for cures for polio and measles, and we all pray for a cure for cancer. 

I am also grateful that I can participate in spiritual care - providing care for people's souls and hearts.  This is a wonderful privilege.

And so today's picture, a beautiful verse which says it all:

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Ps. 73:26

May you know that healing touch, today.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Influenced by Those who Lived the Questions with Compassion

I know it is a long title.

This week I have been impacted by two writers, followers of Jesus, who have deeply impacted my life and who died in the last few days.

I struggled on the weekend to understand (I don't) why a young woman of 37 with two young babies would die so soon.  This is the cry of the human heart.  When tragedy comes we are shaken.

Rachel Held Evans died on the weekend, an author, speaker and leader.  I wondered why I was so affected by someone I didn't know personally.  I had read some of her blogs.  I admired her courage. 

Relevant Magazine said this about her in a post on Monday: "Rachel Held Evans was a singular soul; a refuge for the disenfranchised and doubtful.  She saw the millions that had been harmed in Jesus' name and assured them she didn't blame them for their hurt and anger."  

Rachel dared to ask questions out loud that many of us won't voice.  It is too unsettling, because it shakes our faith.  My faith was very shaken some years ago when I dared to ask myself some of the questions I could not find answers for. The God I knew could not stay in the box I had carefully crafted, and I became undone.

As I wrestled with my faith, I came to a place where I could be ok with questions.  I could be ok with  not having all the answers.  As I get older, the more I know that I don't know.  I am usually good with that, but if I were to be honest, not always.

I take great comfort in the scriptures where the writers also asked the questions.  Where are you, God?  Why have you forsaken me?  King Solomon was surely having a bad day when he wrote: "Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart."  Ecclesiastes 7:3 

God is a God of mystery.  There is much we don't understand, that I believe will be made clear when we get to heaven.  Or perhaps it won't matter then...

There are a few things I am certain of, in a world of uncertainty.  That God is Love.  God loves me, and loves everyone.  I believe there is always hope.  These are the things I cling to when I'm feeling sad. 

Another precious man we have long admired died this morning.  Jean Vanier has been a steadying influence and mentor for both me and my hubby.  His gentle ways, his heart full of love, his ability to care for the most marginalized with grace and humour, his great love for Jesus; this has impacted our lives.

As I think of both of these precious people, one young, and one who lived to be 90, I am thankful for their words and lives, the influence of which will live on and continue to inspire many. 

To live with the questions, to me is a honest life.  To know I am loved is a cherished life.  To respond with compassion for others who suffer is a privileged life. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Restore, Reboot... Rest!

Recently I attended a wonderful retreat which focused on returning to rest.

It was wonderful.  It was a time of renewal and restoration.

As I doodled, I was struck by all the delightful words that start with RE, have you ever noticed this?

I've already used eight of them right here!

As I continue to think on these words, I am drawn to return to rest.  There has become an urgency to rest, if that makes any sense, before I get too tired or overwhelmed. 

This is easier said than done, and I'm finding I must be very intentional.

One of the new practices I have created is to set little reminders on my phone...can I stop, pay attention, say a prayer at those times?

My fit bit... or as my hubby likes to tease me, my guilt device, reminds me every hour to take some steps.  I can also use those reminders to pray as I get up and move.

Our worlds are filled with distractions, pressures, and demands.  So many of those I love are going through difficult challenges.  We live with grief, with loss, with brokenness. 

We long for the soothing rhythms of rest and reassurance that All will be Well.

Recently (another RE), I read a book about Jillian of Norwich, who coined those words...  she had lived a life of immense suffering.  She came to a place of rest, in trusting in a Saviour who had also suffered and suffers with us.  The theme of her life became "All Will Be Well".  There is a deep rest in that statement. 

So I determine to keep coming back to rest.

To reboot, to restore, to renew.  It might be a few moments in my busy day, or an intentional day off once a week where I rest.  It is planning time away for restoration. 

Blessings as you find moments of rest.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Consciousness - I'm Awake!

You know those first moments when you wake up and everything comes into focus... you think about what day it is, and what it holds. 

I'm very slow to wake up in the morning.  I've learned to be ok with that, to take my time.  I love gazing out my bedroom window, sipping my coffee, and to be quite honest, I'm probably still somewhat half asleep. We've made it a practice to listen to scripture, or read a devotional thought, to say a prayer.  It is a good way to start the day.

Consciousness is to be aware.   Awake. 

Sometimes this works against you.  I recently had to get up and speak in front of quite a few people, just for a minute.  I felt self-conscious.  Beforehand anyway.  Some people shine in the limelight; for me, it takes courage.  I've learned I can do it, and I was thankful for the words whispered in my ear that morning "Just show up."

One of the wonderful gifts of aging and maturing is that we become more comfortable in our own skin.  I can be who I am, thankful for another day.  I am not perfect, but I am loved.  We all are. 

Consciousness is noticing.  We had a early morning drive today, dropping off our daughter at the airport.  The world was waking up, the sun shafting light through clouds, creating shadows on the lake.  The balsam daisies were in bloom, everywhere.  Tree blossoms had burst in some of the orchards, so beautiful.  On the way home, a blanket of cloud rested on Swan Lake.  So picturesque.   We live in a very beautiful world. 

This beauty draws me to the Creator.  As I thought of consciousness, God-consciousness came to mind.  Do we see God - in beauty all around us?  I am learning to sit, to notice, and just soak it in. 

One of my breath prayers lately has been:  "I am here.  God, You are here."  And we can be together.  I need to notice this, to draw my attention to the One who is with me, who has promised to never leave or forsake me.  (Deuteronomy 31:6). 

In the midst of a full life, where I can be distracted by many things, it is good to practice God-consciousness.  To slow down and notice, taking a deep breath.

God is as near as our breath.

We are loved.

I am awake to the presence of the Creator.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Woven Together in Love

I enjoyed drawing this simple celtic cross, woven together. And I thought it was appropriate I use it for a blog this week leading into Easter.

It's not a typical cross, I know, but it spoke to me about connectedness.  I wear a cross, almost always.  It is a symbol of where I belong, of Whom I belong to, of Whom I love.

Jesus, who died on a cross, came to bind us all together.  He talked a lot about love and how we are to live in love, to love one another, and that He embodies love.  He spoke of his love for all.

So much of our lives can be lived in separateness.  Even as we are unique, we are also all connected by our heritage, by the One who loves us, who created us. 

Much of this is mystery, and theologians have been trying to explain it for centuries.  Which in many ways has splintered the church, many of whom feel they have found "the way", and in their "rightness" have lost the love for one another. 

One of the events I love at Easter-time is that some of the churches come together to celebrate this Easter story.  It is a bridge building time that draws different denominations together.  We experienced this in the Lenten services, and many will gather together on Good Friday.

In my work, in hospital chaplaincy, I see this on a broader scale.  I love the fact that different denominations of all kinds are called to work together to provide spiritual care.  We are also called to open our hearts with friendship to all... those with faith, those with a different kind of faith, those with no faith...to all people regardless of race, gender or religion. 

We are called to love.

We are all part of God's creation.

We are all woven together.

This week, we have reacted in horror to tragic events in our Okanagan valley, acts of violence that have taken lives.  This is hard to understand.

Something is broken.  There is tragedy to broken lives, to those who have not known love, or lived by love. 

The helper in me asks, "how do I make a difference?' 

I keep coming back to love.  And I ask the Creator of Love, Jesus who came in Love, how do I respond? 

In a complex, broken world, there are no simple answers.  Except for this:  I choose to live my life in love.  To love all I meet.  It is love which heals, which binds us together. 

There is that old song we sang as children:  Bind us together, Lord, Bind us together.. Bind us together in Love. 

May you know this love in this holy week.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Living with Grace

I can't seem to escape it, I live with Grace.  My hubby does too, and there are days where he has my sympathy!

My name is an easy one to joke about... how often have I heard, "Now could Grace say the grace?", and other variations. 

Living up to my name is another matter altogether.  For truth be told, I love my name.  It is what I want to be.  Graceful, gracious, showing grace to others.  It is good to aspire to. 

Recently one of my kind co-workers asked about how I got my name... I looked back on previous posts, and found I had written the story in March of 2016.  So here it is...

I do love my name… and the story goes I was not always named Grace.  No, my mother named me Dianna Grace, and apparently even baby announcements went out with that name.  But my maternal grandmother was dismayed, thinking that such a beautiful name might go to my head, and Dianna was the name of a goddess you know.  So the legend has it anyway, and my name was dutifully switched… to Grace Eileen.  Much more sensible.  J

And to all my friends who are named Diane or Dianna… beautiful name, glad you got to keep it!  (smile).

Eighteen years ago I fell in love… for the second time in my life.  Not quite forty, widowed, and into my life entered a wonderful guy named Steve.  We both thought it was hilarious that he had the same name as my son… and the same birthday, eighteen years apart.  And Steve is such a great name. 

We met at First Baptist… our current church, at a potluck Christmas supper hosted by a group called Singles for Christ.  He had noticed me before, and it is an interesting tale, too long to share here, but we came to believe that God brought us together in a lovely way.  That December night I invited him to sit by me (he looked lonely), and the rest is history.

That Valentines, our first together as a dating couple, he decided to buy me a present.  The present was a newly released book by Philip Yancey called:  “What’s So Amazing about Grace?”.

It was meant to be a sweet joke, but really, this book had an amazing impact on both of our lives.  We both were recovering from traumatic events in our lives, and anticipating starting a new life as a blended family was daunting as well as exciting.  We had a lot to work through.

And God’s grace had everything to do with it.  We needed grace for ourselves, grace for each other, grace for our families, grace for living.  If you haven’t read the book, I will say, it is one of the best I have ever read.  Phillip Yancey is honest, challenging and dares to ask the difficult questions we are often thinking but don’t dare to say out loud.

So there is my story on grace  God's amazing grace that has touched me so deeply.  It is from this well of grace that gratitude comes, grateful to God for His amazing provision in my life.  And I've learned that grace is to be passed on... in abundance!

Grace and Peace… beautiful gifts we can share with each other every single day.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Looking Back to see How Far You've Come

I'm very good at self-analysis.  Well, let me rephrase that. 

I over-analyse, can be critical, even frustrated.  The target?  Usually myself.  Do you relate?

We live in a land of perfection, of lofty ideals, of reaching for the top.  We always want to do better, get thinner, be in shape, and do it all.  We want to be the ideal parent, the doting grandparent, the conscientious gardener, and prepare meals that are healthy in every way.  And taste good as well of course. 

If you are an idealist like myself (something I have tried to ditch since my youth), there is always this striving to be better, to do better...

And even though my name is Grace, there are days I show little grace to myself...

With this comes the sin of comparison... I see others doing well in a certain area and think... I should be like that.  What is wrong with me?

There is nothing wrong with working hard and doing our best.  Although I'm learning this also needs to be balanced with rest and play.

It is GOOD to strive to be healthy and live well. 

The reality is all of us are getting older, and as we age, there are declines... very unlike those golden years all of the magazines promise.  We don't do well with losses, with aging, with grieving our broken parts. 

It can take an accident, or the onset of disease, a diagnosis, and everything changes.  Or it can be the constant presence of chronic pain that takes its toll.  There are unseen ailments others carry that we have no clue about.. Lupus, MS, arthritis, and many others.  We need to show compassion to each one we meet, for we do not know their story.

We did an exercise recently in a study we are participating in.  We listed all the challenges/griefs/losses for every decade of our life.

I was surprised as I started writing for there were significant events in EVERY decade of my life... childhood illness, concussions, the death of my first husband, a heart attack. 

I looked at the list, and was surprised by the emotion I felt.  And then I felt something I was also surprised by - compassion toward myself.

And I thought, you've been through a lot, and look how far you've come! 

And yes, I'd love to be skinnier, but I recognize I've dealt with significant hormonal issues... I'd love to have more energy, but I live with chronic pain... and so on. I won't go into a organ recital I promise.

As I felt this compassion and understanding, I came to this conclusion. 

We can be our own worst critics.  I am guilty of being hard on myself.

And that is wasted energy.  Instead I want to focus on being grateful.  I want to focus on how God has helped me through really hard times.  I want to focus on being thankful for the gift of today.

I do ask wisdom for how to live, for we all want to live well. 

There is joy in this!  And gratefulness for life itself.  There is grace for today, just as I am.  Which reminds me of one of my favourite verses from 2 Cor 12:9:
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power if made perfect in weakness."

May this grace be yours in abundance today!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Grief and Cream of Celery Soup

This past week we marked the ninth year since my precious nephew died, suddenly and tragically.

The passing of time does not diminish our memory, and we think of him often.  He was a cheerful lad, quick to hug, full of smiles and dreams.  We miss him.

When we heard the news, we left almost immediately to be with our family.   The grief you hear about happening to others had now happened to us.  Those times can be surreal… you keep breathing and moving, and yet your mind is trying to process what happened.  

I was given a task when we arrived at the coast where my family lived.  We realized that many people would come to the memorial.  He was popular, and loved.

And so my brother asked if I would organize the food… for 1000 people. 

I said yes, without hesitation.  Because that is what you do in times like that.  You all chip in. 
I started phoning a list of contacts he gave me… and offers of food came pouring in.  He had business connections with a Vegetable Grower, and we asked for fruit and veggies to make platters.  A cupcake business donated dozens of cupcakes.  Sandwiches, cookies, squares, you name it were promised and delivered.

So much that the little kitchen at this rather large church was overwhelmed… but here too, on the day of his memorial, volunteers stepped up to the task of organizing platters and putting them out.
And 1000 people were fed, many of them his high school buddies and team mates. 

Somehow, the outpouring of food helps… I can’t explain why in such tragic moments… but it is something people can do. 

That evening we cut up leftover strawberries and filled my brother and his wife’s freezer.  We sat, surrounded by food, just glad to be together.

We called a charity that gives food to Vancouver’s Eastside, and they took the rest of the leftovers, feeding the homeless that evening.  Later we found out that more food had been delivered to the Salvation Army.  And that too was comforting. 

Just weeks ago, our friends received the devastating news that their daughter had died in a car accident.  She was loved, and well known by many.  We ached (and still do!) for her husband, her children, the large extended family. 

We were told at her memorial about the generosity of food… to feed well over 700 people.  Businesses, individuals, others impacted by her life wanted to give… and so they did.

Again, the leftovers fed people on the streets… a gift of love that brought comfort to the family.  It was a beautiful outpouring of love and compassion.

After my nephew’s funeral we prepared to come home… that is the hard part of grief.  Life goes on, people return to work and life, there seems a semblance of normalcy, when in reality everything has changed.

I so dislike the saying that grief gets better with time… it is time that changes us.  A death or loss changes us forever.  It becomes part of our story.  And yet we see so much love and glimpses of good even as we mourn and cry.

We came home that day nine years ago with a lot of celery.  It hadn’t been given away, and needed to be used up.  I couldn’t bear to see it wasted.

So I came home and made cream of celery soup.  Making soup is very therapeutic.  I had never made this kind before, and I honestly don’t know where I got the recipe. 

Later that week, I went to visit a dear elderly grandmother who was deep in grief – her grandson, a soldier had been killed in Afghanistan.  I decided to bring her some soup.

We looked at his pictures and we talked about grief.  “You made me soup!” she said, pleased.    “Cream of Celery” I said…
“Really?” she replied.  “That is my very favourite kind!”

I couldn’t believe it… but God knew…  I have come to believe with all my heart that God enters into our suffering, God cares, God shows up.  We felt that presence and peace in little ways and big ways: like mountains of food to feed the hungry and cream of celery soup to comfort a grieving grandmother. 

We were shown much compassion... I was looking for a graphic and found this in my files.  I think it fits.  

With that compassion we were able to pass it on... for that too brought comfort and healing.  

Cream of celery soup, anyone?