Saturday, 17 June 2017

The Best Legacy


A good friend passed away this past week, we celebrated her today, a sweet friend who will be missed.

As often as it could work, once a week, on Wednesdays, she sat at my dining table joining in with other sweet friends in discussions of faith and love and family and struggles and overcoming and being content and loss and stories of life…she was wise and sweet, unassuming and brave…she wore her heart on her sleeve…she could be trusted, she was never shocked, but listened…she did not judge, she thought deeply and she shared her thoughts with intention and with passion, she held secrets close to her heart …she lingered in silence and was steadfast in her faith.

Annie, the sweetest friend.

Annie, the first friend that we have lost in this way. 

Annie, the brave friend who showed grace and compassion…a woman of kindness who worked at justice and walked in humility, she had an open mind to let people into her space and to walk into theirs; serving people, her family, her friends, her neighbours and strangers…in the strength of her faith she shared her whole self, this was her legacy.

I read somewhere that a legacy is not how we have succeeded or what we have accomplished but rather it is found in the people we have touched. Today Annie’s legacy was loud and clear, one after another stepping up to speak of how she served them, it was an honor to hear the stories and to know that I was one of them.

The next time that my friends all gather around my dining table to share words of faith and love and family and struggles and overcoming and being content and loss and stories of life, there will be something missing…it will be Annie and her sweet soul, yet her heart will surely be felt in our midst…the best legacy. 

Loving you Annie.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
John 15:12


I love that.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Nothing Ever Stays the Same

Somethings will never change…that’s what people like to say.  But the truth is nothing ever stays the same.

Aron Martens, the Father to my husband, Grandfather to my children and Opa to my grandchildren…I have watched him change.

When he was first  moved to a care home,  He was not sick, he didn’t need all sorts of medication, he didn’t need any type of life support… he simply needed help to do the basic things, necessary things to make him comfortable.  He was different and changed. Before the home happened my son brought him out for a visit and we saw him changed…”Mom something is different about Grampa”

When a man changes it is noticed.
 
Dad was known to all of us as a man with a definite outlook; he was steadfast in his views, holding them tight; whether it was the views of his faith, politics or family life.  He was a hard worker, always on the lookout for a job to do, sometimes to make money, sometimes for importance, sometimes just to live.  He very often was outspoken, stating his views to the world… not always but sometimes he looked out for the other guy and stepped in to help...

When John and I bought our first farm, on the day of possession we found the house to be unsuitable for living; the floors were sloped, walls were crooked and holes gaped in the foundation.  I stopped by to tell him and mom our news, he laughed. But when I told him the devastation of that news to our souls    …that very next morning there he stood next to John and my Dad, the three of them working side by side as they undertook measures to resurrect that house, him putting aside everything to help us…I loved him for that!

He was a man of pride and strength, steel and iron…he had a hard knocks life but he also was the father and grandfather of many blessings.  Sometimes he didn’t know it, at least he didn’t speak it, but deep inside I believe he always knew it. He was a hard boss, a hard father and a hard husband for most of the years that I knew him… but I saw him change. 

When John was dying, he came near and touching him, asked “is there anything between us?’

“No Dad.”

He asking for forgiveness, a hard thing to say, a hard thing to do…a father changed. 

Before John, he lost other loved ones, his grandson, his youngest son, his wife, his brother…more; a lot of loss, a lot of tears…tears soften the soul. 

Dad changed, a soul softened, I saw that. I know that.

Once he moved into the home Dad changed again, after suffering a small stroke, his heart softened more, along with his soul.  He was sweeter, I don’t think he knew that he became sweeter, it might even have made him mad if he did, but the truth is he became a sweeter soul; he didn’t complain, he simply accepted.

He didn’t know everyone anymore, some he called by the wrong name, some names he didn’t recall at all…but his face lit up when he saw a face he knew.  He smiled at remembering something, and sometimes his eyes glassed over and a tear would fall.

He forgot that he could play the piano, no one there even knew that he could…one day on one of my visits, I walked in to hear beautiful music and I thought Dad is getting a treat today someone is playing in the hall, as I got closer I could see people stopped in their tracks; nurses standing, servers watching, visitors admiring, fellow patients listening…and there sitting at the piano was Dad, playing song after song. With my little dog in tow, feeling proud and privileged, I sat on the bench beside him.
 
He could still play the piano.

As far as I know, he never played again, but that day I received a gift and those that were there listened to a miracle.

I’ve been gone for a time, I wasn’t here when he passed but on the morning before I left, I stopped in to say goodbye, for a while he lay there as if asleep, but when he heard my voice, his eyes fluttered open, his arm reached out, I held his hand and I am pretty sure deep inside I saw him smile…

A man changed…nothing ever stays the same.

One of the places…the only place, I found underlined in my husband’s childhood bible was this…

1 Peter 1:3

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you - who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes… though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

You are there now Dad…a man changed.


Nothing ever stays the same.  Rest in peace.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Growing Up

When I lost John someone said something profound to me.  She said “This must be such a loss, after all you grew up together.”  A profound thought; not just a loss but also a growing.

I have enjoyed growing up with your family. 

Both of you have taught me so much…about living life and modeling it, not only as a family but also as a faithful Christ follower.  From being in your midst I have learned much about prayer and teaching and loving and leadership … and showing grace.

I have listened to many Pastors and there have been a few with whom I have felt like raising my hand, wondering about some of their words, but not with you…well only once… I had to make an appointment and come to your office…that was hard, for both of us, but both met with grace…that memory is an honor.

But there is more…

I have been on quite a journey these last few weeks…a journey that has taken me on your road.  Your journey…me along for the ride, it’s been a privilege; emotional and an honor!

I have been going through files on sticks, files on CD’s and envelopes of photographs, baskets of them…fourteen years’ worth…all about Arnold Church…and you.
 
I saw how you came as a young man (you had more hair then) you came with a young wife and a sweet baby, your small family…and as I perused all these images I watched you grow up right before my eyes.

When I say ‘you’ know that I include Leanne too…because walking beside every good man is a great woman.

While I devoured image after image, it was like I could feel the emotion they reflected…I saw the tracks of tears and heard the sounds of hearts breaking…the sound of that sadness deafening…but more than that I heard the sounds of laughter, not only from you but from those around you. I was inundated with the cacophony of unrelenting happiness!

I saw the toddlers that walked within the walls of Arnold community church, the ones you called by name, chased and held hands with.  I saw you sitting on the edge of the stage praying over them.  You took a special interest in all of them.  You were at hand when they were born, many you dedicated, you wept over them and laughed with them as they grew.

Those young children you sat with (your children included)… I saw them climbing the stairs into crazy youth years and then to young adulthood; some of whom you picked up at Upper Sumas School in that big yellow bus, some whom you baptized and some whom you united in marriage, counselled and have been modelling life for.

I poured over memories of people who stood at the gates with you, elders, deacons, ministry leaders, I saw their compassion for you and for one another.  I saw the general congregation, fellow sojourners on the road with you; none of them general but special in their own way, serving out grace and mercy, joy and laughter.  I saw them all being the hands and feet of Jesus.

I saw worship happening, I could hear the different instruments resounding and I heard the voices singing out praises with the assembly…musicians echoing sacred moments often with your family in the midst of them.

I scrolled through images that were overcome with the saints, ranging in age from Granny Neumann who was on the journey with us until her old age of 102 to the three youngest new borns, triplets of whom I am sure you have already prayed over and touched each tiny hand. 

I saw the saints lost… Kristy Tolsma who inspired you to stand on the hill at the edge of the tracks, praying; sweet Mary Neumann, who most likely taught you much about prayer; both Mary and John Rempel, of whom shared immeasurable wisdom and integrity.  You embraced the family of little Brady Pauls; you mourned Josiah Haak and his struggles, more than anyone could bear; you offered strength to Neil Ens and comforted my own John whom you called precious.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful servants…”

I saw hard times, not so much visible to the eye but in the background and around the edges...decisions being made, roads blocked, plans laid out, visions coming to pass. Words penned and spoken, boards and brick all broken, crumbled in blood, sweat and tears….but love too.  

Fourteen years of winding dips and turns, of uphill climbs, of open road and clear sailing…fourteen years of travelling a road that God sent you to navigate; to guide traffic and to repair bridges…a road that you put us all on…a road that has spanned a life time.

 Here is a trustworthy saying that is worthy of acceptance…

You have been an amazing part of our lives, a man of God who has enriched us beyond measure!
And though we are filled with joy for your new adventure, we are going to miss you with tears…

And these, not my words…but a fitting end
“There is sacredness in tears; they are not the mark of weakness but of power! 
They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. 
They are messengers of overwhelming grief… and
Unspeakable love.”

We will always love you…

And I love that!

Monday, 2 January 2017

Going Beyond


Somethings that I read, somethings I felt, somethings I thought …somethings I know.

“The soul is the energy that goes beyond the confines of the physical body.”

It seems at every turn we are confronted with and surrounded by problems, situations that eat away at our soul; we listen to the lies of negativity, we get stuck in old stories, we disconnect with our own people, we resist, we don’t wait, we put our expectations on pedestals, we think we are not enough, we waste our time and though our physical body looks “perfect” on the outside, on the inside we believe we are imperfect…we have begun to believe the lies and our soul suffers.

 “To feed your soul, find the rhythm of your breath, the life force that air brings.  Live in the moment, be conscious of what you are doing and experiencing, as each moment brings about the full appreciation of the present moment.”

Pneuma…feed your soul…Breathe.

“Breathe in, breathe out and notice the air flowing in and out of you naturally...
It’s as if you are being breathed into.”

Pneuma…the breath of God.

I’m trying to appreciate these words and I’m going to work at feeding my soul.

I’m going to start a project, cleaning out and de-cluttering, first my kitchen cupboards, then my office.  I’m going to put up some wall paper and cover up the words written on the wall and while I’m at it, I’m going to do it for me, I am going to change my mind-set, clean out and de-clutter me.  It won’t be easy..I know that.

So; Today I will be the best version of myself… and then I will say it again the next day…Today I will be the best version of myself.  And then I will say it again.  Today I will be…

“It’s a journey that doesn’t always add up, make sense or go in a straight line. 
It’s not about getting rid of…it’s about letting go.”

So, here’s what I’m going to work on...I am going to:

Support release …be okay with letting go
Cultivate stillness …slow down, simplify, sense, surrender and self-care.
Remove stuck energy…stop doing that!
Release old stories
Connect with home, family and friends…be confident
Be enough…
Lean into resistance …it’s ok to be on a hard road.
Live imperfectly …like no one is watching
Wait it out
Embrace mystery …be okay with not knowing
Forgive
Be kind.
Be brave.
Show grace …because grace is the greatest brave.

It’s going to be a journey; I won’t be travelling in a straight line… I know that already.

One more thing I already know, God’s grace is sufficient for me.

Going beyond... feeding my soul, starting today, the best version of me.


I love that

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The Children Have Stopped Crying

I have a friend who came from Syria; I met him nearly three years ago when he left his family and his home and everything he knew, with his wife beside him to start a new life here in B.C. He told me stories and I have an understanding of what he left behind.  I was in Israel months before meeting him, I stood on the barbed wired border where Syria stretched out on the other side, and smoke rose in the distance from gunfire. I have tasted some of the stories of this place.  I have walked the beaches of Tel Aviv; an eight hour drive from Aleppo… I have stood that close.

Aleppo has been in the news a lot lately and this morning I woke up to more news about Aleppo, hard sad news.

Last night we talked about it at our Christmas party, mostly about the devastation to humanity and a little about how we simply have no understanding about that kind of suffering.  As I lay in my bed wrapped in my covers I felt such loss, I felt an unworthiness to have such comfort when small children were suffering in this faraway place.  Certainly we have suffering here too, in our seemingly safe corner of the world, we do.  All suffering is hard, especially when it concerns children.  Here I have bought presents for the children in my life, beautiful fun presents wrapped in bright paper tied with bows, all in anticipation of laughter and fun and joy.  What else would there be in my small part of the world; joy.

But this morning a bit of heaviness…the headline read “Aleppo is a place where the children have stopped crying.”  My heart stopped for a moment… and I wiped away a tear.  Actually it was a news video on Facebook that I was watching, a small child, dishevelled, traumatized and in shock…no tears.  The story went on to explain the loss.  One of the speakers called it a “Melt down of humanity” and she went on to ask the powers at hand “Have you no shame!” They are calling it genocide and they are calling it a holocaust…and it is.  In this world when we have instant information, we are seeing it true, moment by moment, loss by loss and shameful acts one after another and we can do nothing about it but watch.

It’s so hard to watch.  One of the news casters quoted Albert Einstein who said,

“The world won’t be destroyed by those who do evil
But rather by those who watch them without doing anything.”

Aleppo, a city devastated, more than that lives unashamedly lost and more than that… we are all watching.

Unbelievably sad!

Words are inadequate to comment on the devastation and the suffering loss...loss that we have absolutely no depth of understanding other than a stab to our heart and soul ...and a tear we wipe away.

At this time, this Christmas season, in your small part of the world, wrap your arms around your children… then look further to those children who you see running around in the parks, in your neighbourhoods…then look further in to the poor sections of your city and be reminded that life is hard all around, this Christmas more than ever show love and then…be reminded that there is love all around.

For God so loved the world that he sent His only son that whoever believes in Him
shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16


Merry Christmas…I love you.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

What a Ride!

This has been a year of travel for me;  I have enjoyed the jungles of Panama; diving in Roatan; winter in Ontario; the winding roads to Disneyland; navigating BC’s highway to Northern Smithers; strolling Kelowna’s waterfront; enjoying friendship in Osoyoos; more diving in Puerto Morelos and Cozumel;  communing with family in a rented cabin on the shore of Cultus Lake; ferrying to Victoria and on to Mount Washington; loving living and diving in Roatan, again... and just now, I’m home from two weeks loving on family in Ontario…a sweet ending to my year of travel.

I travelled home on the day of the US election, which of course added to the experience.   I listened to many points of view on screen and off, waiting in airports and flying the skies, at times right over some of the United States.  The air itself was thick with opinions, gasps and outcries.  As the evening wore on one unbelievable thing began to be clear…the Donald would be the next president of our neighbour, the United States.  Not that Hillary was any better, but still.

During my travels, speaking with Americans, most realized that they were between a rock and a hard place…most people from other countries agreed…but how did it get this far?  What to do? It seems the Americans that voted and even those who didn’t wanted change…but this?

Unbelievable.

Some friends ask why Canadians even care.  We care because Canada is connected to the US in more ways than just borders; we are connected by culture, economy, trade, tourism, shared heritage and this being Remembrance Day...we share war stories.

I don’t pretend to know a lot about politics, but one thing that came to mind during all this commotion of campaigning and electing was this - since the beginning of time God has let the people choose a king even when He didn't want them to.  He has let some pretty cruel ‘kings’ stand. In hindsight we can sometimes see the why of it and sometimes we can see how people persevered and endured through the suffering of it…being Daniels in the midst of Nebuchadnezzar’s.

Frederich Beuchner stated it well…

“Here is the world.  Beautiful and terrible things will happen.  Don’t be afraid.”

To say the least, the next few years will be interesting...

"Finally, all of you have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart,
and a humble mind.  Do not repay evil with evil...on the contrary, bless,
for to this you were called; that you may obtain a blessing."
1 Peter 3:8-9

Anyways, I had a fabulous year, what a ride…


I love that!

Monday, 24 October 2016

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice and everything nice.
That’s what little girls are made of.

In this day and age more than ever it seems, we are putting girls in places where there is nothing that they cannot accomplish…if you can dream it, you can be it.  We are encouraging our daughters to follow their dreams.
 
We are also very aware of teaching them that they are beautiful…not always sugar and spice and everything nice, but beautiful.

These are good things to tell our daughters but there is more to tell from a mother’s heart…

Tell your daughter to be kind, not only to others but to herself…the world will be hard enough on her; she doesn’t have to add to it.

Tell her to be brave, to show grace and mercy to those around her because God has done this for her...tell her that grace is the greatest brave.

Tell her to be adventurous, to take chances, to enjoy this world God has given to us, to live in the world but not of it, to be courageous and confident…confident in who she is and confident in who God is.

Tell her not to be afraid of failure, tell her to get up and start again, every day is new with no mistakes in it.

Tell her to be glad, to be thankful…to show joy, to love life; to see that love is all around…and tell her to look out for the million little ways God is all around…tell her to live with wonder.

Tell her she is precious, priceless, prized and perfect…that you love her and that God loves her…just the way she is.

Tell her to love Jesus…to pursue holiness, to be humble and to love justice…tell her to be content in Him.

Tell her there will be trouble. This is God’s promise…He says “You will have trouble.” Tell your daughter that wherever trouble takes her or leaves her, she has this audacious hope, that though there will be trouble she has an amazing God who sees her.

Tell her that He weeps with her and will lift her up and carry her when she doesn’t have the strength.

Tell her there is more to know…that you don’t know everything. Tell her to trust God, to taste and see what is good. 

Sometimes…and this will be hard…don’t tell her anything at all…sometimes the best words a heart can speak are tears.  And sometimes the best words a heart can speak are held there…pondered…like pearls on a string.

“And Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Sweet mother…hold your daughter lightly, God is holding her too.

Congratulations for receiving one of the most important jobs God can give…loving a little girl.

What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
and everything nice;
kindness, bravery, grace and mercy.
They are made of courage, confidence, humility, adventure, gladness, joy and wonder.
They are made of God’s love and they are filled with His audacious hope!
That’s what little girls are made of.


...I love that. 

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Turning Left Instead of Right

I just came back from three fabulous weeks in Roatan…one of my favorite places to be, doing one of my favorite things, diving in the sea; breathing in and out, slow and easy...personal, intimate, I love that...just breathe.

I stayed my first ten days in a small cottage in the jungle, I was surrounded by almond trees that dropped their nutty fruit on the roof of my cottage intermittently as they were willing to let go.  Small green geckos climbed my walls, inside and out, little crabs scampered in the bushes along with other critters that I never saw but heard, two or three resident cats  slept on the warm path stones that led to my jungle home and one morning I woke to find a rather large brown dog sleeping at my door, all curled up taking sanctuary on my quaint, hammock strung deck.  All of these…gifts from God reminding me that I am not alone.

Well, I knew I was not alone, this Island is overcome with people; characters, fellow travelers, musicians, locals and expats who are simply open to encouraging one another.  Each one has a story willing to be shared, loved, taken in and held close to heart and soul...in turn they take yours and wrap it up for another sweet time.

I moved to the far side of the West End for my last ten days …to Paradise.  Ten days in a cottage held up on stilts, resting on the edge of the sea, there were stairs formed of cement that dipped down into the shore of it; I merely had to take the steps down and swim off into the blue, it somehow felt like something out of a James Bond movie.  Glorious.

My long dock stretched out over the salty sea and I walked the length of its slats each evening before bed and every morning at sunrise.  On the very first morning I received my first gift and the next day another and after that another one…every morning God giving me a present.  Sometimes He left the present there for me to see right now, other times I had to look long and deep, left and right…of course not everything is given easily, don`t give up; keep looking.  My sweet morning gifts…a billowing Octopus, a yellow tail Parrot Fish, a sweet Angel Fish, a juvenile Trumpet Fish,  a small yellow and black striped Sergeant Major, a hovering Stingray, a teeny Butterfly Fish, a school of striped Grunts hugging the pilings and a Blotched Swimming Crab tucked into the broken corner of the stairs but on the  day before leaving, my last full day nothing new… I guess He was saying it was time to go home.  On the last morning again, not the usual present, but still… perfect.

I loved my time in Roatan, it was a myriad of experiences; celebrations, Gods creation above and below the sea, His people and sweet time… each one its own secret singularity… all gifts for my soul.
``What would you do if I didn`t come here...`` ``But you were always coming here…God long ago drew a circle in the sand exactly around the spot where you are standing right now!  You were never not coming here.  This was never not going to happen.``                                                                                                                                                Liz Gilbert
God gives gifts in amazing ways…you simply need to keep your eyes open, look around, look long and deep and sometimes turn left instead of right.

Thank you for the gifts…

I love that!




Friday, 12 August 2016

Intimate and Personal

I read these words the other day and they felt like mine…

“I have been feeling very clearheaded lately and what I want to write about is the sea.  It contains so many colors.  Silver at dawn, green at noon, dark blue in the evening.  Sometimes it looks almost red.  Or it will turn the color of old coins.  Right now the shadows of clouds are dragging across it, and patches of sunlight are touching down everywhere.  White strings of gulls drag over it like beads.

It is my favorite thing, I think, that I have ever seen.  Sometimes I catch myself staring at it and forget my duties.  It seems big enough to contain everything anyone could ever feel.” 

~Anthony Doer, All the Light We Cannot See

I went for a kayak on Cultas Lake today, such a beautiful, amazing, lovely day.  Mountains towering ahead of me, blue sky above with a sliver of moon stationed there waiting for night to fall, standing to the edges where the waves kiss the land were varieties of cedar, oak and maple bending in the breeze…just a light breeze but together with the sun and the reflection of the water I was touched with a rosy glow….ah summer.

I like summer, but more than that I love the water, how it reflects everything around it, sparkling in the sun, dancing in front of the boats and swirling rushing behind leaving wakes of foam and caps causing small boats like mine to bob and dip…I love how my paddles slice through the water, this side and that side, dipping in and pulling me forward over the wakes left by the boats and other times gliding over the smooth and glass like magic…water.

I live by the water, I vacation near it, I float on it and I dive deep down into it…God’s creation isn’t that just like Him, to offer us such beauty to enjoy; to live in, to love.

Water, whether lake or ocean, whether completely in it deep down or floating gently on the top of it is at the same time freeing and personal…and intimate, I think that is what I love most about it.  It’s beautiful if you can share in it with another person, but it’s beautiful alone too.

Today as I glided along I noticed a couple on a paddle board…she was sitting on the back, legs outstretched, propped with her arms behind her and he was at the front standing, dipping the paddle this side and that side.  They were watching me as I was watching them, he smiled and waved.  I smiled back and said “that looks nice” and they said to me “that looks nice too.”

Intimate and personal, big enough to contain everything anyone could ever feel


I love that.

Monday, 18 July 2016

In a Song...Parting the Waters


When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand
Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood.

I love that...





Friday, 1 July 2016

A Regulator

He... took a deep breath and just let it go.

The last few days of life John had on this side of eternity were hard…hard to breathe.  Any regular apparatus' that were normally used for supplying oxygen were not capable of providing enough air for him to perform this basic need. The respiratory specialists team had a terrible time fitting together a contraption, a regulator that could give him the ability to take in enough oxygen, I struggled to watch him fight to breathe…to just breathe.

To just breathe…how we take this for granted… until a situation arises giving us reason to panic.  

I have been in such a situation myself when I was first learning to scuba dive; 20 feet under the water, hanging on to a line in murky water not able to see those who were with me let alone my instructor.  Every time someone skimmed the bottom with their fins the soft lake bottom sent up swirling clouds of debris and silt.  Somehow in my struggle to see and to gain balance the regulator came out of my mouth and I took in some of that murky water. Fumbling to replace the regulator, still I couldn’t breathe; panic set in and I felt the fear that John must have known when just breathing was so elusive, struggling to just breathe. 

For a time after this, even on dry land when a struggle came my way this panic would come over me…like I might forget how to move, how to stand, how to breathe…drowning.

I overcame my fear from that seemingly terrifying moment,  I’ve learned how to control my breathing, to relax, take it slow and to just breathe. When any situation presents itself, especially deep in the sea, I've learned to slow down, breathe in, breathe out…the control of it is addictive.
 
Another thing I have learned about breathing is how it has a healing effect on the soul, heart and mind. Breathe in as much air as you can, sending it into areas of your body, your liver, kidney, back, neck, heart, any area that needs attention and then let it go; I learned this while undergoing the preparations for my kidney surgery…I actually enjoyed breathing into my pain…just breathe.

Now here’s the thing, when we find ourselves in any kind of stress, anxiety, fear, betrayal, sadness, unfulfilled dream or any loss…and you know what, even in joy and excitement...just breathe; it’s a simple exercise to gain control, to relax, to take in the situation and realize our basic need is to just breathe…all else will fall into place.

God gives us a contraption, a regulator that is fully capable of supplying us the air to breathe…His word, His peace, His grace all fitted together to save us, to give us hope and a future…a reason to live, to just breathe.

“Just breathe,
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be.
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe
Just breathe”
                                            Jonny Diaz, in a song

Me…she took a deep breath and just let it go.


I love that.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Carbohydrates and Conjugations...

I’ve been reading a book that I have never been interested in reading, I’ve enjoyed the movie but the book has never appealed to me, mostly because of what I’ve heard from friends who started it and didn’t finish, certain reviews and in general not my usual read…until now.  A friend I met on my holiday to Roatan, Pastor Dave, was telling me how he enjoyed some of the quotes, he couldn’t get enough of some of the author’s words and how she used them;  Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert, I found myself interested.

I have already been agreeing with my friend, though I am only in the ‘Eat’ section…Elizabeth Gilbert says, “Say it like you eat it.”   I liked that...savoring words; in the movie she calls it ‘Carbohydrates and Conjugations.’ I liked that too, sweetness and energy to the body and the rules of changing words, which of course I get because I have just finished six weeks of conjugating in Spanish.  Accepting change, that’s the idea of it.

My life has been filled with change these last six and a half years, me trying to figure out where I belong, what to do, where to stand, how to move ahead…probably you are thinking I should be over it by now, settled, steady; but change is hard, just when I think that I have a handle on it another 'tense' of  change shows up…like conjugating a word, how it happens entirely depends on the circumstance of the word or the rules of the language that is speaking it.  Ya, so I'm not used to it, conjugating is hard...change is hard.

In her book Liz talks about the Augusteum in Rome, a mausoleum built by Octavian Augustus to house his remains and those of his family for eternity; how could he know that the city of Rome would lie in ruins empty of citizens, that it would take almost twenty centuries for the city to recover a version of its former glory.  The Augusteum falls to ruins, the remains stolen; it is renovated as a fortress then assaulted by warring princes.  It is transformed into a vineyard, then a garden, then a bullring, a fireworks depository and then a concert hall.  In the 1930’s Mussolini restored it for his remains, which never happened as he anticipated.  Today it is the quietest loneliest place in Rome buried deep in the ground waiting for its next change…but still beautiful in the hindsight of its stories. 

Hindsight is beautiful…

At the end of April I went on a road trip to Smithers, twelve hours of driving through landscape that for hours seemed all the same.  Driving home something changed…as  I glanced into my rear view mirror I was amazed at the views, the beauty of the landscape; rolling hills, evergreen trees, trees budding out in all shades of green, lakes, curving highways, dips and turns, all edged by mountains in the distance, framed in my mirror.  I wanted to stop and go back.  But I was on a highway, there was no turning around, I was going forward …sometimes the beauty is in the rear view mirror.

Keep going forward…

There is a quote I have framed on my desk, it says, "Just because something doesn’t last forever doesn’t mean its worth has been diminished.”

Sweetness and change, beauty and worth…going forward; accepting change, that’s the idea of it.


I love that.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

The Thing is...

“What is the worst thing that you have ever done toward someone?”  This was the last thing Rob asked at the end of his sermon Sunday morning, which was actually the first thing that came to my mind when he introduced his sermon with the first question, which was “what is the worst thing that someone has done toward you?”

No hurt is worse than another…I have been hurt but what have I done to another?

We all mess up, we all fall short, make mistakes, hurt others, sometimes in horrific ways, sometimes not so horrible but still, hurtful in ways that break friendships and break hearts.   The thing is…the thing is that we don’t keep the circle of hurt going, stop.  Forgive.  Carry on.  Live your life.  Live with joy, keep short accounts, and believe the best about people, forgive…because after all, we all mess up.

Forgiving is hard…especially horrific hurts.  But small things hurt too.  And this is the other thing, God does not play favorites with forgiveness, horrific hurts and small hurts are on the same page, whether it’s slander or whether its violence; murder or betrayal; lies or something stolen…one as bad as the other and none better than the other. 

Rob talked about Joseph and his brothers, how Joseph forgave his brothers for all the hurts they inflicted upon him and how he wept when years later, even after all he did for them, they came to him and asked again.  Joseph wept because his brothers doubted his forgiveness.  Isn’t this what Christ does when we ask again for forgiveness for something we were already forgiven for?  It’s as if we doubted His forgiveness…and Jesus wept.

The worst thing I did to someone?  It falls into at least one of those categories, but the thing is God forgave, He knew it at the time…later when I asked for forgiveness I was forgiven; mercy and amazing grace.  There is nothing anyone can say or do to make me feel undone about it, I have been forgiven and I never have to ask again…thank God.

Yet, I know this, even though it hurts Him, even though I fail at other things in other ways, again and again (because on this earth I will never be perfect)  Even though I mess up because after all, if we’re honest, I’m a mess and so are you…confess the mess. He will forgive.  How many times?  Seven times?  No. Seventy times seven times.  And then, more than that…mercy and amazing grace.

This much I can do for someone who has hurt me…forgiven people forgive.


I love that.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Have Courage and be Kind

I just came back from a road trip with one of my little families…entertaining is a small word for what I experienced; fun, laughter, sights, sounds, commotion, being lost and being found…so much joy!

I’ve heard it said “Nothing is more important than family, family is all that matters.” I think it true, of course I do.  My little families are so amazing, they love me unconditionally; support and encourage me; offer me comfort; feed me and they are such an entertainment for me…sometimes so funny!

Today was Good Friday and I went with another one of my little families to our church service where we had to interact with certain stations… each station telling a different part of the story of Christ and the cross.  It is amazing what the small ones took in and understood...what Christ sacrificed for us, the cost...His suffering of betrayal and the next thing He did...He loved our heart to death.

Love.  Family is important, what they contribute to our lives…each one something different, mostly love, teaching lessons of commitment, endurance, patience, loyalty but sometimes families have hard moments, disobedience, anger, hurt.  I know a family like that, no kindness, no forgiveness…hard.

Betrayal by family is hard.

Friends are important too, they can also show as much love, compassion and consideration as family… sometimes more. The expectations are not so…expected; but sometimes they are. Disappointment, hurt and suffering happens.

Betrayal by a friend is hard.

One of the things that happen is; circumstances are seen through eyes that have gone through experience, even though the circumstance may be the same, each person sees it through their own eyes.  Everyone has a story, their experience has an effect on their circumstance and we don’t know those eyes.  Everyone has a story…just like you. Just like me.  Everyone has a story, be kind.

Still, stories are misunderstood, hurt happens, betrayal happens.

Betrayal: an act of deliberate disloyalty
    An act of being silent when you know
    An act of inconsiderate hurt
    When someone you love hurts you 
    An act to deceive
    An act of revenge out of fear
  
Jesus experienced it.

"In the midst of the darkness, in the midst of the pain, in the midst of the loss, in the midst of the grief, in the midst of the impossible, Christ meets us there, because He has been there."

Any betrayal whether by family or friend is hard…tears; blood, sweat and tears hard.

Recovering from betrayal is hard, but we have to do it.  Sometimes doing the hard thing and doing the right thing is the same thing.  The hard thing to do when you have been betrayed is to remain strong; remember what is true; be brave; be kind and then do the next thing… just breathe and… do the right thing, forgive.  From then on be loyal, share words, be considerate, be honest, do not hurt those you love, be brave.

I was just in Disneyland…Cinderella says “Have courage and be kind.” This is the hard thing but it is also the right thing…even in circumstances of betrayal. Now if only everyone would take in these words, betrayal wouldn’t happen then…would it?


Have courage and be kind…I love that. 

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

I am not in Charge

You’re not alone, and you are not the one in charge.”
The Nightingale

Words from a few days ago, found in the novel I am reading...the last few days it has proven true…I am not alone and I am not the one in charge.  Surprise.

I have spent the better part of February in Ontario, Atwood, a small town in an amazing corner of the world; at the time blanketed in snow, not too deep, crystal bright and crispy cold.  I spent time with my grandchildren, living, loving, laughing; watching movies, playing games, hockey…sometimes fighting.  We baked, read stories, wrote them and had adventures. I walked the dog, crazy running wild, jumping dog, up the snowy field, turned left on the ski-do trail and into the fairy sprinkled forest, stepping through hunters’ trails, over smaller foot prints left in the snow; fed the chickens, defrosted water and collected eggs, sometimes cracked and sawdust coated; drove to school in a windblown, snow flying morning; gymnastic meeting, got lost searching, for just a moment…turn left…right, here; visiting family, friends, listening; hilarious stories, fun times, adventures; Kenzie, Riley and Gracie.  Too much fun.

My daughter and her husband were going on a tropical sunny beach holiday, hoping to be warmed, tanned, kissed by the sun and she asked if I could come out to help take care of her ‘life’ on the farm, not all of it just some.  Of course I can.

I spent the better part of the last day, of my daughters’ world, in the hospital; being checked, blood taken, probed, connected, and scanned.  

We had other plans, my daughter and I; a bit of fitness, shopping, sipping coffee, eating lunch, meandering to the airport…to send me home…that was my plan.  But I found out pretty quickly plans can be changed and I am not the one in charge.  So, I found myself enveloped in the hands of others, those who know about things I don’t; those who have the talent to search and re-search; people helping; Doctors, nurses, daughters, sons and praying friends…I am not alone.

Plans change, stuff happens…this is how easy it is for us to realize that our plans are not so important; life is…love is.  For a moment I thought I was in charge, but in a blink I knew; not me, it is Gods hand on me…me; only trusting.
 
Trusting, that’s all any of us can do really, life unfolding…ask for help when you need it and give help when you can.

Friends, family and God.

I am not alone and I am not the one in charge…I love that.

Friday, 29 January 2016

January in Roatan...Changing My Mind.


January flew past…I loved my January and I can hardly wait until February, it’s going to fly by too.

This past November I had an opportunity to go to Panama and an invitation to go to Honduras…I said yes to both, why not?  I made a commitment to myself at the moment of saying that yes; I would also say yes to going somewhere once every month and to date...I have said yes until July…so far so good!

My January was filled with Roatan, one of the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras; a beautiful, quaint, diverse and tropical location edged by white sands and surrounded by an azure sea, it’s waves rolling in and out over and over, taking a layer of the sand out and bringing it all back again swirling it around the feet of those who walk there.
   
There is a stretch of land at the tip of the Island called West Bay, here the resorts, restaurants, and bars line up just beyond the sand offering up live entertainment, fresh food from the sea and refreshing drinks, it is a stretch that follows the shore for nearly 2 km ending at Las Rocas, the bungalows that I called home.  If you walk from this point along the shore for 45 minutes, slipping your toes into the sandy beach as you go, climbing twenty stairs up a tall walking bridge, across and down again, through the waves that rush in to the small coves, hiking over water ravaged rocks clearing once more to the sandy shore, onto the path along the Sueno del Mar and turning on to the dirt road…there you find yourself entering the West End.
 
The West End is itself its own little world, a fishing village of sorts, one street lined both sides with places to eat and drink and watch the sun set…some on the beach and some off the docks. There  are outside barbeques that grill the catch of the day or chicken, even puerco; there are vendors selling T shirts, fruit, local art and jewelry at makeshift tables, shops too, selling dresses, hats, crafts and beautiful gifts to bring home, there are places to sleep, to rent by the month, or stay for the week, hotels and cabins and up stair rooms.  There are boardwalks and docks and boats are everywhere; cruise ships passing by, cargo ships in the faint distance and nearby are the water taxi boats, glass bottom boats, sail boats, boats for excursions, fishing boats ,  and my favorite…diving boats.

The people in the midst of this village are just as diverse as the West End itself; all of it a jumble of escape, adventure and tranquility…true.

The whole length from West Bay to West End is dotted with dive shops.  I came for the diving, thinking that this may be my last diving holiday… but something changed my mind.

Roatan, I landed here at 11:30 am and by noon I was already in the sea…

Before I left for this trip, I had prayed for something or someone to change my way of thinking about what consumed my thoughts…that while I was in Roatan my mind would be changed, diverted, that I would find something new to be infatuated with…providing me a new lease on life or at least the way I thought through it. 

I got that!

I got that in Gods amazing creation, above, below and on the sea; I got that through the two books I devoured while lying on the beach; I got that from the amazing people I met here, kind, generous and playful... and I got that from diving into the depths of the sea…teasing life; drifting, breathing and learning to go slow, eyes wide open for God’s teeniest creation.


Sometimes it is the smallest things that can change a mind…I love that.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Panama...Saying Goodbye


Saturday, November 28, 2015

What Then Shall We Say?

God had us all thinking, some together but not entirely, we were months of searching out this thing to do for God, something intentional; all, interestingly enough, to do something for the Fosters in Panama…we were being prepared for what would soon happen…for something big, for something amazing.

We have worked well together, steadfast and unified; we have so accomplished what was set before us at the beginning of this journey...we came to deliver  cases and boxes filled with tangibles, but more than that; we came with words of encouragement, eyes open to learn, ears to listen and hearts to love.

We have all been amazed and touched by seeing God in a million little ways but also in great big ways, we will never be the same and certainly Panama will be changed as well.  We know this because our eyes were wide open...we saw children willing to be loved, their families all around them caring, working, hoping and more than that; we saw where we could do something more.  We saw the camp, where it was, who worked and loved there and more than that; we saw what we could do to help them accomplish more.  We saw how Alan and Colleen lived with their little family, we saw their passion and dedication...more than that; we could see there was something we could do to help them invest even more. 

We have said our goodbyes and in just a little while heading home...what then shall we say?

In the beginning and in the ending... there is always more to think of, more to say, more to add to the story, to our coming and going, it is never just how we are or what has happened, or what was lost, or what was gained, there is always more to it…yes more than that; the wonder of listening, learning and loving.

So, what was about to happen has happened and we find ourselves here…last steps, last words, last looks.  Bitter sweet; our days here are coming to an end but really it is just the beginning...

God is doing amazing things, with amazing people; Alan, Colleen, Einer, Girlaca, Robinson, Delacio, Oberlin and more, ordinary people that are passionate for what happens in their part of the world...Panama; a country of rivers and jungles, thatched roofs and glass towers, school uniforms and parumas...contrasts and God's love abound.

“We give thanks to God always, for all of you constantly mentioning you in our prayers remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  For we know brothers loved by God, that He has chosen you…not to please  man but to please God who tests our hearts.” 

God, what more shall we say?

…my heart knows what Yours knows.




Thursday, 17 December 2015

Panama Day Ten

             
Friday, November 27, 2015

Amongst the Ruins

We had breakfast in Torti one week ago on our way into the Darien, today we are waking up here, a beautiful oasis on the edge of a highway that is now taking us out.  When we arrived here last night we took our luggage down a flight of tiled stairs, through a garden of exotic plants, flowers and coconut filled palm trees, we walked past a beautiful pool that was already beckoning our names.  Our rooms were surrounded by a covered   walkway, and edged with a wrought iron railing, white walls, large windows all sparkling with the reflection from the pool below…I could hardly wait.  After going up for a long awaited meal we made our way back down for a swim, the moon was shining down through the palm branches; all magic.  Dive in, head first, breathe, just breathe.

Kalea settled into bed, all snuggled up with Samson, the baby nestled nearby and the rest of us gathered for a debrief, chatting and taking in our last days…amazing days.  Those were the thoughts that danced in our heads as we slept that night.

Today we will be heading in to Panama City, we are looking forward to seeing the other side of this beautiful country, coming away from the indigenous jungle villages on the one side and entering the economically rich on the other.  Alan and Colleen were to take some of their load, including Samson, home and would meet up with us along the highway at Catrigandi. 

Travelling the Pan American Highway back into Panama City we find the scenery to be what we have come to know; rolling hills, jungle edges dotted with huts and sunny skies.   Coming in to Chepo, we stop at the Rio Bayano Bridge to take a few pictures and enjoy the view.   The bridge is a tangle of geometric meccano like construction reaching up in stages of crosses and steel.  The waterway under us is setting up magnificent views, stretching out to the North and to the south.  Close to the water’s edge just under the bridge nestles a piragua where the occupants have stopped for lunch and further on stretch out arms of jungle that hug the shores and beyond that the hazy shadows of rolling mountain ranges.

Soon we are entering in to the city, fabulous, all glass and steel, high rises, towers and a maze of roadways; on and off ramps twists and turns.  In the midst are scattered the ruins of ancient buildings, the Santo Domingo church for one plus many others that are now being restored.  Repairing destruction that happened during the Spanish American wars in the 1800’s to the Columbia drug catastrophes to the urban warfare during the US invasion in 1989…beauty in the ashes.  Alan leads us in and out of sections of the city, along the harbor into the old city and back into the new, definitely a city of contrasts.  We pass by makeshift shelves loaded with fresh produce, cartloads of baked buns, umbrella covered lunch carts, conglomerations of electrical wires all jumbled and hanging from poles tucked up close to buildings and standing guard on many of the corners are stiffly uniformed police officers.  Then as simple as rounding a turn we enter once again in to the high walls of glass towers along the harbor.

The city is beginning to celebrate Navidad; amongst the palm trees in medians and parkways  are large Christmas trees decorated in red balls and tinsel and there a stadium set up for a Christmas concert.  We stop for lunch at a coffee shop where we enjoy conversation with the people sitting around us, they are interested in our jagua tattoos, but we are only a few in the midst of gringos here.  We step out into the narrow streets to walk past beautiful and colorful architecture some of it in restoration but much of it already accomplished.  Walking around the corner we find Obdulio’s tienda de Artesania and enter through a tall wooden door into the indigenous crafts he sells; local artisans, basket weavers, wood carvers, and jewellery makers, colorful woven scarves and hats…all beautiful.  The money he makes here is rerouted to support the communities he sponsors.

Checking in at the Riande Aeropuerto Hotel, a resort in the middle of the city, we settle in…after a swim in the grand pool and a drink of Panama cerveza we gather for a wonderful meal and share words of confirmation, affirmation and encouragement for all of us; Jason, Deanne, Robin, Marlis, Loralee, myself, Alan and Colleen...a sweet ending to this last day of an amazing time in Panama.

“God created you to do amazing things”
Ephesians 2:10

What then shall we say in response to these things...