Saturday, December 11, 2010

Catching up...

Well I have pretty much sucked at blogging lately :) so here is a glimpse of my life over the past month or so...

Work, work and more work...back in October, provincial government departments were asked to come up with scenarios on how they could reduce spending by 5% and 10%.  At the moment, I am acting budget manager for my department, so my director and I have been working with the senior executive team to gather, review and compile the divisional submissions into various spreadsheet and power point templates provided by Treasury Board.  Super tight deadlines meant lots of extra hours.  Which was fine, I really don't mind spikes in workload (in fact I thrive more under pressure than in the midst of routine.)  Except in this case it impacted my ability to do my best on...

The provincial United Way campaign...a few months ago, I agreed to be the Account Executive for my department during the annual fundraising campaign for the United Way (NS government's charity of choice.)  Of course that was before the aforementioned budget reduction scene arose, and in the end I wasn't able to put as much time and energy into the campaign as I would have liked.  But I am delighted to report that we reached 90% of our goal anyway - $28,000 - woohoo!!  Several of us also participated in the United Way's Day of Caring - we painted Our Thyme Cafe, a social enterprise initiative of the Elizabeth Frye Society.  I am grateful for all the wonderful people who gave of their time, talent and treasure to make our campaign a success!

(Photo from last July..didn't get one in Nov)
Flashback to last spring...many moons ago Valerie had asked if I wanted to lead worship on Nov 21 because she was going to be away guest preaching at another church's anniversary service.  Both terrified and excited by the idea, I agreed.  I subsequently agreed to lead worship in July as well, as some of you may remember.  But this was all still very new to me, plus was the first time I was doing two services back to back, so I had many moments of feeling overwhelmed through the planning stages, and felt rather stressed during the week leading up to the 21st.  I had lots of fragments in mind, but didn't write my sermon down until the Friday beforehand (partly because I excel at procrastination and my creative juices flow best with a deadline looming, and partly because I knew if I wrote it too far in advance, I would second guess myself and waste a lot of time and energy on endless unnecessary rewrites!)  Sunday came and I headed out the door with a few butterflies in my stomach.  I arrived at Wellington (the first of the two services), got myself organized, chatted with the organist and other choir members until close to 9:30...then I took a deep breath, opened myself to the Spirit and away I went.  The service was wonderful (if I do say so myself), but I didn't have much chance to reflect on it right away since I had to zip right along to St. John's for the second service at 11:00.  I offered a silent heartfelt prayer and again put my trust in the Spirit as I preached and prayed and sang with joy.  I was also uplifted by the presence of family and friends who came to share this with me.  What an awesome experience!  I feel more strongly than ever that ordained ministry is the path on which I can truly be all that God is calling me to be.

I got to revel in the glow of that deeply spiritual and profoundly uplifting experience for one day...the very next evening, we were in a multi-vehicle car accident on the highway.  The roads were icy, a car in front of us lost control and spun out.  We couldn't quite get stopped on the ice and struck it lightly (no real damage to either vehicle at this point).  But we before we could move off to the shoulder, a minivan hit the front passenger side of our car, and then a light truck slammed into the rear passenger side of our car...which collisions drove us down into the ditch, where we came to a halt, shaken but not broken.  Well at least WE were not broken...the car was damaged to the extent that the insurance company wrote it off.  (Hard to tell in the photo, but the front wheel is bent in, the door is buckled so much it won't open, etc.)  But, although we all have whiplash and assorted aches, pains, bruises and nightmares, we are all essentially ok and for that I am very thankful!  It took our insurance company two days to return our phone calls (good service there, eh?) but eventually the ball was rolling, and we got a rental car.

The Friday night after the accident, Valerie and I went out for dinner and then to see Mamma Mia - great show, especially since we had free tickets.  The performance was a little lacking in energy, but there were some powerhouse vocals...and hey, it was Mamma Mia so it was lots of fun!!  I stayed at Val's for the night...which seemed like a good idea at the time.  Until the next morning when we were sitting in her living room having coffee and the woman across the street backed into the rental car which was parked in front of Val's house.  Ugh.  I took the car back to the rental company, who switched me to another car and said they would take care of everything, including follow up with the third party.  However, today we got a repair bill in the mail from them with no mention of having followed up with the third party.  Double ugh.  So we still have that to sort out, fortunately I kept a copy of the woman's info when I gave it to the rental company.

We had quite a time finding a replacement car for a reasonable price.  Especially since I had to use part of the insurance money to payout the balance of the loan on the smashed up Vibe and we don't want car payments when I go back to school next September (assuming my discernment process doesn't lead me off in another unexpected direction, that is.)  But after searching and viewing and searching some more...I came across an ad for a 2009 Suzuki with about 43000 kms on it for price that was in our ball park.  We took it for a test drive, the salesman dropped the price without our even having to haggle, so we signed the papers and are now the proud owners of a shiny new (to us) Suzuki SX4!!

And one more item to bring things up to date - last Tuesday I had my third meeting with my Discernment Committee.  Outline from the Handbook:

Meeting 3: Ministry and Call

The focus of this meeting is understanding what ministry means to each person and how each person is called to use his or her God-given gifts to fulfill God’s mission for the world. Refer to "Considering Call and Vocation" on pages 6–7. Some topics and questions to guide the meeting are:
• Discuss your understanding of the call to ministry for the whole people of God.
• Discuss what you understand God is calling you to be and do.
• Discuss how you know and discern God’s call.
• What is the difference between each person’s call to discipleship and service and a call to be ministry personnel in the church?
• What are the challenges of fulfilling God’s call to a specific leadership role in the church?
The section on Considering Call and Vocation refers to Four Elements of Call:
• The call to be a Christian
• The call from God to a specific leadership role
• The outward or provincial call
• The call of gifts:
- Deep spiritual life
- Integrity of self
- Understanding of human behaviour
- Scholarship
- Commitment to and longing for justice
- Capacity for critical reflection
- Capacity to be a lifelong learner
- Appreciation of administration
In addition to the above gifts, the potential to develop certain skills is important. Leadership in ministry requires the ability to develop skills in preaching, counselling, outreach, education, leadership, administration, and group dynamics.
I can't really talk about the discussion itself, since it is meant to be kept confidential, but I can say it was a bit grueling because I was drained from the accident and therefore struggled to articulate my thoughts.  Not to mention that I feel very self conscious in these kinds of under the magnifying glass type situations at the best of times!  But I think it went fairly well nonetheless.  Next meeting is in early January.

And I believe that about covers all my news to date.  Lots of choir practicing lately, since I am singing with both church choirs on Christmas Eve, including one song in which I am singing the solo part.  It's a song called Light of the Stable. Here's a version I found on youtube with a montage of paintings. I notice the image at the 0:13 point in the video is The Adoration of the Shepherds by Ghirlandaio, which is in the Sassetti Chapel of Santa I want to go see it again in person...sighs of longing to be in Florence! :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Singing thanks for my sister!

Inspired by Barb's recent post celebrating her is a celebration of my sister!

"Sweet, crazy conversations full of half sentences, daydreams and misunderstandings more thrilling than understanding could ever be."
- Toni Morrison, Beloved

My sister Lynn knows me inside and out...she has seen me at my best, at my worst, and everything in between!  She is one of the rocks of my foundation and I know - with absolute certainty - that she loves me no matter what.  We are very different and don't always fully 'get' each other's passions.  She is fact and science and I am faith and religion.  But we also have much in common, including a lifetime of shared memories and experience, and a history of being there for each other through thick and thin.  I often find myself thinking "I must share this with Lynn", and without hesitation I pick up the phone to relay a silly experience I know will tickle her funnybone the same way it did mine, or when something has ruffled my feathers and I am in need of her ear to listen to me vent.  Yes, of course sometimes we fight, as do all sisters, but it doesn't pull us apart or have a lasting effect on our relationship.  So I sing thanks for my amazing sister, for her strengthening, uplifting, challenging, comforting and oh-so-familiar blessed presence in my life...

"There were once two sisters
who were not afraid of the dark
because the dark was full of the other's voice
across the room,
because even when the night was thick
and starless
they walked home together from the river
seeing who could last the longest
without turning on her flashlight,
not afraid
because sometimes in the pitch of night
they'd lie on their backs
in the middle of the path
and look up until the stars came back
and when they did,
they'd reach their arms up to touch them
and did."
- Jandy Nelson, The Sky is Everywhere

I end with The End from the Beatles' Abbey Road album...growing up, Lynn and I spent many an hour with this album...singing at the top of our lungs with glee and gusto to the medley of songs like Polythene Pam, Mean Mr. Mustard and She Came in Through the Bathroom Window...and trying (always unsuccessfully) to predict the jarringly abrupt ending to I Want You.

"and in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make"

I love you, my sister.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The many faces of Anne...

"There's such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I'm such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn't be half so interesting."
(from Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery)

"I am a child of God,
I am a glimpse of
    God's new creation"

(And I will never
outgrow swingsets!)

I am a beloved daughter
and a baby sister

un'amica stretta

Mother of two amazing girls



Sara calls this one
"momma's emo picture" 

Reflecting on the holy mystery...
or maybe I just have a secret...
...I'm not telling ;)

 Because it's all about ME!!!

Aglow with Christmas cheer

"Boler chick"

My inner party girl still
makes an appearance
from time to time!

What is at the end of the rainbow?

Oh look, it's ME! :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Firenze on my mind...

For us to go to Italy and to penetrate into Italy is like a most fascinating act of self-discovery—back, back down the old ways of time. Strange and wonderful chords awake in us, and vibrate again after many hundreds of years of complete forgetfulness.

~ D. H. Lawrence

The traveller who has gone to Italy to study the tactile values of Giotto, or the corruption of the Papacy, may return remembering nothing but the blue sky and the men and women who live under it.

~ E. M. Forster

(Masaccio's Expulsion from the Garden of Eden,
part of the fresco cycle in the Brancacci Chapel
in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine,
"sometimes called the Sistine Chapel of the early Renaissance")

Thursday, November 4, 2010

You've Got a Friend

A couple weeks ago, my friend Valerie shared the following story in her weekly email to our congregation.  (I am going to assume that since she herself broadcast it in a mass mailing that she'll be ok with my sharing it here!)

Have you ever had one of those days when your soul is heavy and your nerves are thin?  The kind of day that comes every now and then perhaps as a result of some life event or perhaps as a result of things that have been accumulating for a while.  Well that is where I found my self yesterday.  Everything felt heavy and uncertain and my energy was at an all time low.  When I arrived in the office a voice inside me suggested I pick up the phone and dial a friend.  For me this was a nudge from the Divine that happens every so often and I try not to ignore it when it happens.  I left the office and picked my friend up.  We went for brunch and then sat in the park on the shore of the Bedford basin.  The scene before us was touched with holiness and the presence of my friend beside reminded me that we were indeed on Holy Ground.  Sometimes it is not the words that are spoken but the blessed silence between two souls that can bring a sense of light in darkness and calm in chaos.  Here in this place there is healing and hope renewed.

My prayer for each of you is that you have that ‘kindred spirit’ with whom you commune on those days when life needs a lift.  Take the time to sit and share the beautiful silence that speaks of a journey shared.

Isn't that an amazing and beautiful connection?  Valerie has told me about this friend before, and I hope to meet him one of these days.  A few evenings later, she and I were at a concert at our church.  A Nova Scotian musician, Rachel MacLean, was performing.  I highly recommend seeing her perform.  She is warm and friendly and has a gorgeous voice.  I am really glad we went, although disappointed at the low turnout.  (Alas, supporting such events is not a strength of my congregation.)  But those of us who did go got quite a treat!  Rachel shared stories of her family, sang some of her own compositions as well as a few songs written by others.  One of the cover songs was Carole King's You've Got a Friend, which is one of my all time favourite songs in the world.  As Rachel sang, I was thinking of Valerie's story and how blessed she is to have such a friend to call when she's down and troubled, as the song goes.  I found this video on youtube, and post it here for Valerie and her Kindred Spirit! ♥

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Two steps forward...

My Discernment Committee had our second meeting this evening.  And I am singing thanks to God for a Spirit filled evening!!  The meeting followed the outline suggested in the United Church's handbook on Discerning a Call: 

Meeting 2: Faith and Spirituality
This meeting focuses on sharing experiences, beliefs, and questions about faith and Christian spirituality. Using the meeting outline that was decided when you first met, you might consider these ideas and questions to start your conversation:
  • Take a moment of silence and think about those moments in your life when you have felt very close to God and when you felt the absence of God. Share your reflections with the group.
  • How are your faith and your relationship with God affected by these moments?
  • What do you do to nurture your spiritual life?
  • What helps you have a sense of God’s presence in your life?
  • Is there a particular place or time that draws you nearer to God?
  • Reflect on the practice of prayer, reading the Bible, or meditation in your life.
  • How have your views or beliefs in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit changed during your faith journey?
  • Agree to try some different spiritual practices in the time until the next meeting. Keep a journal or some notes about your reflections that you might share with others.

It was a bit difficult for me to explore and explain my own thoughts in depth since the forum wasn't so much conversational as it was a round table for everyone to share their individual reflections.  Probably I should have more intentionally dominated the discussion, although that is easier said than done.  But we did have some sparks of deeper conversation, so I definitely feel like my formal discernment is finally moving forward.  I am hopeful the others on my committee now have at least some sense of what my faith looks like.   And now, it's late and I'm going to bed.  Filled with gratitude myself, I leave you with these words from the United Church of Canada's Song of Faith:

Grateful for God’s loving action,
   we cannot keep from singing.
Creating and seeking relationship,
   in awe and trust,
we witness to Holy Mystery who is Wholly Love.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Free the Children's We Day 2010

I just watched CTV's broadcast of We Day 2010 event held recently in Vancouver.  18,000 young people gathered on October 15 for a day of inspiration and motivation and celebration.  A similar event was held in Toronto in September, and there is an upcoming one November 12 in Montreal.  The website says about the day:

Free The Children’s We Day is more than just one day of celebration and inspiration. It’s a one-of-a-kind event and part of an innovative year-long program created to celebrate the power of young people to create positive change in the world.
The event kicks off a year-long program of action, called We Schools in Action. We Day is free of charge and open to any school that wants to be part of the experience. In exchange, each school group that attends is asked to make a commitment to follow the We Schools in Action program, which includes taking local and global action throughout the year.
Since 2007, youth from across North America have come together to discover the passion they have in common, to celebrate their successes, to become aware of new challenges, and to build lasting friendships. The We Day events feature speeches and performances from global leaders and social activists, cultural icons and entertainers.

Free the Children was founded in 1995 by (then 12 year old) Craig Kielburger.  Kielburger had read a story in the paper about a boy named Iqbal Masih, who had been sold into slavery at age four and spent six years of his life chained to a carpet-weaving loom.  Somehow this boy found a way to speak out.  Iqbal lost his own life defending children's rights, but in raising his voice, he inspired others to take action.  From the website:

Craig gathered together a small group of his Grade 7 classmates from his Thornhill, Ontario, school and Free The Children was born. Free the children from poverty. Free the children from exploitation. Free the children from the notion that they are powerless to affect change. These were the messages that fuelled Craig's mission. The idea was a good one. And it caught on. Today, Free the Children is the world's largest network of children helping children through education, with more than one million youth involved in our innovative education and development programs in 45 countries.

I first heard of Kielburger a few years ago through my church's participation in his Operation School Bag.  Church members were asked to fill a school bag with specific items, which bags were distributed to students in empoverished countries, who would otherwise be without school supplies.

The We Day 2010 event included many speakers, including Al Gore, Craig and Marc Kielburger, Martin Sheen and Jesse Jackson, as well as musical performers such as Barenaked Ladies, Colbie Caillat, Hedley, Greyson Chance and K'naan.  What an uplifting show!  I found these words by Jesse Jackson particularly powerful and thought provoking:

It is often said you are our future.  I do not accept that premise.  You are our right now.  You are right now.  Whether you choose dope or hope, you are right now. You must do the right thing right now.

To me, that call to action in the here and now feels far more empowering than telling our youth they are the future.  It occurs to me that perhaps speaking of our youth always in terms of the future is diminishing.  Are we blinded to their dedication, passion and ability to make a difference now if we are always thinking of them as being the change agents of the future?  I witness the amazing ways in which our youth speak out and stand up for what is right...and I think we have as much to learn from them as they do from us.

The We Day show ended with a performance of Wavin' Flag by K'naan.  Apparently at the Toronto event, the youth began chanting the words to this song at 8:30 am and didn't stop until K'naan took the stage five hours later!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Magic skills

To sit patiently with a yearning that has not yet been fulfilled, and to trust that, that fulfillment will come, is quite possibly one of the most powerful "magic skills" that human beings are capable of. It has been noted by almost every ancient wisdom tradition.
- Elizabeth Gilbert

Hey, I'm magic!!  Ok, not so much...but I am sitting smack dab in the middle of that place whereof Ms. Gilbert speaks.  Yearning in the depths of my heart and soul to answer God's call to ministry...trusting that fulfillment will come, in spite of the slow moving wheels of church process.  I cannot move forward in my formal journey until my official 12 month discernment period ends and my Discernment Committee recommends me as a Candidate for Ministry.  Nearly 9 of my 12 months have gone by already and we have only met once so far (and that was basically just an initial meet and greet).  Argh.  Did I mention the wheels of the church move slooooowly??  I must admit, I was unprepared for my naivity, I imagined the Church would be far more Spirit led than process driven.  Oh silly me!  Which makes this a good learning experience, to be honest.  Best to know the world I am getting myself into by seeking to become a minister within said Church.

In the I sit in my place of yearning...swirling with light and longing.  Perhaps not with patience, but certainly with trust.  Trust that the Spirit is present in the midst of all the delays and bureaucracy, trust that my journey will eventually lead me to wherever God is calling me to be.  And what could be more fulfilling than that?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Leading a life uncommon

Life Uncommon by Jewel has long been one of my favourite songs.  I find the lyrics inspiring and moving and full of hope.

And lend our voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend our strength to that which we wish to be free from
Fill our lives with love and bravery, and we shall lead a life uncommon.

The chorus starts out using the pronouns you and your but by the end, we hear the more inclusive our and we throughout.  I love that movement from the individual to collective.  The acknowledgement that we cannot just tell others how to live, we must live our own words.  That whole practice what we preach idea.  Which, as most anyone can attest, is easier said than done!

In her book Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, Anne Lamott wrote:

Why couldn't Jesus command us to obsess over everything, to try to control and manipulate people, to try not to breathe at all, or to pay attention, stomp away to brood when people annoy us, and then eat a big bag of Hershey's Kisses in bed?

I laughed when I read that.  And then I read it again and thought about what we - those like me, and like Lamott, who name ourselves Christian - are called to be as disciples of Jesus.  Certainly we are not called to live lives of selfishness and indulgence (although eating chocolate in bed on occasion is not a bad thing!)  We are called to love one another.

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  John 13:34

And that is not always easy.  Loving as Jesus loved requires that we stretch ourselves way outside of our comfort zones.  It requires that we take risks, physical and/or spiritual, as we stand up for the powerless, speak out for the silenced, practice radical hospitality.  It requires a shift in attitude, leaving behind our individual wants and instead focussing on the needs of our community, both local and global.  Such a shift can be challenging, especially in our western culture where we are bombarded with messages to consume and accumulate more, more, more.  An appendix on the context of the UCCan's Song of Faith describes our market economy thus:

We live in a culture in which economics (commerce, commodities, consumption) governs what we count as important. The economic world view is so pervasive that we are barely aware of its impact on our relationships, values, identities, and understanding of church. Many find their spiritual hunger co-opted by the culture of consumption. The dominant mindset commodifies the world, reducing it to objects merely to be manipulated and controlled. Many find themselves feeling impoverished in a society of affluence, leaving them indifferent to real poverty.

Impoverished in a society of affluence...I believe that truly is a pervasive feeling in our society.  It's hard to avoid under the weight of the debt loads many of us carry.  I feel that way myself when looking at the state of my own finances!  But I keep reminded myself that I am, in fact, very wealthy compared to much of the world's population and indeed, even compared to many of my fellow Canadians.

Valerie and I attended a film screening a few weeks ago, of a film called
Poor No More.  It was eye opening to hear the stories of Canada's working poor, and learn that this is a growing problem in a country so teeming with abundance as is ours.  One of the stories was of a woman named Vicki, who had to go for her chemotherapy treatments on her lunchbreak because, even after 12 years with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (a corporation with revenues of $4 billion), she still did not qualify for paid sick leave and couldn't afford to take time off for her treatments.  I found that shocking and deeply disturbing.  The film offered some ideas around fixing the issue of working poor and the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots in our country, including an overview of the Swedish economic model, which appeals greatly to me.  (There's an interesting article in The Swedish Wire about Americans' view of this model.)

Of course, I don't have the answers to poverty or the other problems in our world, but that doesn't mean I will stop trying to do what I can, even if that means stepping far outside the boundaries of my own comfort zone.  
Fill our lives with love and bravery and we shall lead a life uncommon.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Holy curiousity

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.
~ Albert Einstein

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Vincent...for Kathy

This video is for my blogfriend Kathy (TrekCapri), who is soon travelling to Amsterdam and wrote here of her plans to visit the Van Gogh Museum.  She captured his style and energy beautifully with this sentence: "His unmistakable tumultuous style of swirling brush strokes and vivid use of color is full of passion and emotion."

Kathy and I share a love of music.  Her profile includes the line "Music energizes and soothes my soul!And, like me, she frequently posts videos and snippets of lyrics, so I recently called her my song-sister! :)  As I was reading her Van Gogh entry, I was reminded of the Don McLean song Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)...which is a beautiful tribute to an amazing artist.  So I looked on youtube and found this lovely video of the song set to a slideshow of his art.

(Sidebar...did you know Don McLean's mother's family - the Bucci's - came from the Abruzzo region of Italy? Seems there's always an Italian connection whenever I start looking into things...)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Vacationer wanted - Transat Holidays

Vacationer wanted - Transat Holidays

From the website:

Transat Holidays is currently seeking a vacationer to act as foreign correspondent and brand representative for a 1-year period. The main duties of the vacationer will be to visit some of the most beautiful travel destinations and share his/her experiences with the public, using web videos.

  • Be a worthy brand representative in dealings with Canadian travellers
  • Visit 12 dream destinations over a period of 12 months (Caribbean, Central America, Europe)
  • Share adventures and experiences with the public in an entertaining fashion by producing content for the web
  • Produce regular features, including videos, articles and photos on the destinations visited

  • Annual salary of $40,000

  • Travel and destination expenses paid, including transportation, hotel, meals, excursions and travel medical insurance for the duration of the contract.

  • Seriously?  How cool would that be??  Not that I plan to apply since I'm already on a completely different life altering journey these days - a journey I wouldn't walk away from even for the sake of a year's free travel, but...this sounds like an amazing opportunity for someone!

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    A particle of the Divine

    May your journey through the universal questions of life bring you to a new moment of awareness.
    May it be an enlightening one.

    May you find embedded in the past, like all the students of life before you, the answers you are seeking now.

    May they awaken that in you which is deeper than fact, truer than fiction, full of faith.

    May you come to know that in every human event is a particle of the Divine to which we turn for meaning here, to which we tend for fullness of life hereafter.

    Photos by me
    Words by Sister Joan D. Chittister, Benedictine Sister of Erie, from Welcome to the Wisdom of the World

    I came across Sister Joan's words recently while rambling around online.  They speak to me in the place where I am right now in my journey.  Discerning where God is calling me to be...opening myself to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the midst of a process that does not yet feel as Spirit led as I anticipated.  In many ways, I feel like my true discernment has taken place, and continues to take place, outside of my formal Discernment Process.

    Surrounded by mystery and grace...enlightened by moments of deep awareness...filled with the power and presence of God...I take deep breaths and pray.  I seek answers and understanding...and move forward in my hopeful journey to ministry.

    And I thank God for my very dear friend Valerie, with whom I can have deep and challenging conversations about our shared faith that go beyond the (so far limited) discussions within the formal process.  Our friendship is itself a particle of the Divine.  My heart sings with joy and gratitude for this amazing blessing in my life!

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    What shall we have for supper?

    That is the question!

    My typical response is: well...what do we have?  I never know what I want until I have a look around and something strikes my fancy.  Having to decide in advance is a horrible chore in my mind!  In fact, when Dave is going to make supper and asks what I want, I usually growl if I have to figure out what we're having, I may as well make it myself!  And I'm not even sad is that? :)

    Happily my habit of dishing up whatever catches my eye is quite often very successful.  My concoctions are (almost) always edible, and frequently very tasty.  Like this evening...

    I open the freezer and peer at the choices.  Aha, those little pork tenderloins look good.  Hmm,but what to do with them.  I open the refrigerator and spy a splash of, yellow and orange peppers.  Ooo, pork and pepper stir fry sounds tempting!  I also grab out a honeycrisp apple and an onion.  Long grain rice seems appealing as a base, so I get that started while I chop up the rest of the ingredients. While the pork is sauteeing (is that a word?), I remember a pork stew recipe that had prunes in I toss in a few of those as well.  Once the pork is cooked and the veggies tender crisp, I add the chopped apple and pour in a mix of water, corn starch and cider vinegar to make a bit of a glaze.  Finally I round things off with a large dollop of my home made red pepper jelly (which contains jalapenos for a little kick).

    Yum, said Dave.  I agree, said I.  And - get this - I even thought to take photos (clearly the Slow Travel food obsession has seeped into my consciousness on some level! lol)

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Happy Thanksgiving!!

    This beautiful pheasant stalked around my yard this afternoon.  What a gorgeous splash of colour he added to my day!

    I had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.  We had a family gathering at my mom's on Saturday...we stuffed ourselves with free range chicken and a delicious assortment of veggies fresh from the garden, topped off with squash pie - oh MY - what a feast!!  And in addition to an abundance of food, there was also much merriment and frivolity!

    After church yesterday, Moira and I headed out to the camper.  Dave popped in town to get Sara, and they joined us a little later.  Valerie and Mark arrived in the meantime, followed shortly thereafter by Kaleigh and Sarah.  We cooked pizza and pork tenderloin over the firepit, and had a grand old time.  Another crew of campers had a massive bonfire going down by the campground's rec centre, so we joined their revelry for a bit, and then drifted back to our own smaller fire to end off the evening.

    And now I am home, feeling the very epitome of that "tired but happy" cliche...and filled to the brim with thanksgiving!!

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    Awake and give thanks

    Wake at dawn with a winged heart...

    and give thanks for another day of loving.
    ~Kahlil Gibran

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    My heart stops when you smile...

    Before you were conceived I wanted you
    Before you were born
    I loved you
    Before you were here an hour
    I would die for you
    This is the miracle of life.
    - Maureen Hawkins

    Moira and I heard this song - Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars - on the way home from the movies last night (Valerie and I played hookie from choir practice in order to hang out with the girls...because, well, sometimes that just feels like the thing to do.)

    When I see your face
    There's not a thing that I would change
    Cause you're amazing
    Just the way you are
    And when you smile,
    The whole world stops and stares for awhile
    Cause girl you're amazing
    Just the way you are
    I said to Moira that I love this song because it makes me think of her...that my heart stops when she smiles.  Her reply: "that is so SO cheesy, mommy!"  I try... :)

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    A perfect ending to a not-so-perfect day

    My day ended with this beautiful sunset and an evening spent with my daughter Moira.  (Dave is away, so it was just the two of us.)  I made fish chowder for supper, and Moira baked biscuits, which turned out great!  We are now settled in watching the remake of Escape to Witch Mountain.  Now I must admit, the Rock is amusing in this flick, but I still prefer the original...Eddy Albert in a flying motor home just can't be beat! lol

    I am grateful for this happy ending, because my day got off to a lousy start.  I was just getting ready to head out the door for work when the phone rang.  It was a member of my discernment committee, letting me know that tonight's meeting was cancelled because another member couldn't make it.  Now I already knew about the person who couldn't make it, but hadn't occurred to me that the meeting would be cancelled altogether.  I figured the reason for having three reps from my church and two from presbytery was so that we could still meet even if one person was absent...because all parties would still be represented.  Unless of course I was the one who couldn't make it. Since it's my discernment committee, there wouldn't be much point in the others meeting in my absence!

    Now one cancelled meeting wouldn't normally be a big deal, but considering how long it took to get started in the first place, I must confess I am rather frustrated by yet more delays.

    [To recap the journey so far:
    Last February, after a lot of personal discernment and conversation with family and friends, I decided to answer what feels like God's call to ordained ministry, so I wrote a letter, asking that a formal discernment committee be set up, and gave it to Valerie.  She brought it forward at our congregation's annual meeting in early March, where it was approved at church council level and forwarded to presbytery.  In mid April, I heard back that my request has been approved by presbytery.  Three committee members were named from my church, and two members from presbytery.  They had a training session to familiarize themselves with the process, but didn't meet with me until June.  And we didn't even get through all the housekeeping items in that first meeting...a couple things had to be parked until the second meeting. I was incredibly and intensely frustrated at the time!] we are, another four months have passed, and meeting #2 has been cancelled. Sigh. I wasn't even consulted, the meeting was just cancelled without my input.  Not that I don't highly value the person who couldn't make it, because I do, but I see no reason the rest of us couldn't have met as planned, and filled her in later.  (Deep breaths...prayer...more deep breaths...let it go, I tell myself, just let it go.)  As I said to her, I think God is testing my patience!  Which is not a bad thing, to be honest, and I know the Spirit is present in all of this somehow...I just need to hang on to the knowledge that if it's meant to be, it will be.  No point in wasting my energy fretting over that which I cannot control.  I don't actually feel anywhere near as frustrated as I did around the first meeting...I am definitely getting better at trusting that I will, in fact, end up precisely where God is calling me to be (even if that place is not where I myself currently want to go!)

    And now...back to the end of my day.  I rejoice in the uplifting beauty of sunsets and the heartwarming sound of laughter on my beloved daughter's lips!  For this and so much more, I feel deeply blessed and profoundly grateful.  Hallelujah and amen!!

    By grace multiplied...

    Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space.  It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe.  It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.
    ~ Michael Strassfeld

    Not only are we not diminished when we give of ourselves, in fact we grow.  That has certainly been my experience.  As I share my time, my talents, my treasure, I learn to embrace and celebrate what I have to offer.  Then I find I have even more to offer than I previously imagined!  Our gifts are by grace multiplied...

    Like the fish and the bread, by grace multiplied
    What we share will increase, gifts of love magnified...
    Let us sing with joy and thanksgiving,
    As we bring our gifts to the world,
    To the one who has given, we give in return,
    Let us bring our gifts to the world.
    ~ Paul Rumbolt

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Mental Illness Awareness Week - October 3 - 9 2010

    From the Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) website:

    Stigma is defined as a mark or stain that is a permanent part of a person’s appearance or character and which sets him or her apart from society – what is normal.

    Discrimination means doing things that actively deny people opportunities or target them for abuse. Discrimination also means not doing things such as inaction or neglect that causes harm. 

    People with mental illness and their friends and family often say that the stigma and discrimination they face is worse than the illness itself.

    Self-stigma occurs when people with mental illness and their families internalize society’s negative attitudes towards them, leading to self blame and low self esteem.

    Aside from being personally painful, stigma is dangerous.

    • It prevents people from asking for help in the first place.
    • It leads to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness – when, in fact, people can and do recover from mental illness.
    • It impedes investment in necessary mental health services and research as governments and granting bodies ignore this most important area of population health.

    I urge you to check out MIAW and learn more about mental illness and mental health.  Their goal is "to end the stigma associated with mental illness, and ensure better understanding and access to diagnosis and treatment."  Amen to that.

    I also highly recommend the website mindyourmind, which is "an award winning site for youth and emerging adults. This is a place where you can get info, resources and the tools to help you manage stress, crises and mental health problems. Share what you live and what you know with your friends."  The image above came from the mindyourmind website.  They have a collection of downloadable images on the site, plus an album of images on Facebook, which they encourage people to print, distribute, share, use as their own Facebook profile pic, etc.  Please also share this website with any youth in your lives who might benefit from access to mental health information, resources and tools.

    As some of you are aware, I have two daughters who suffer from depression.  My older daughter has also been diagnosed with ADD and BPD.  Which means mental health is an issue very close to my heart.  We speak glowingly about our Canadian health care system, but I have to tell you, when it comes to mental health, our system fails miserably.  The individuals within the system are fantastic, but the funding simply isn't there to support an acceptable level of health care for those with mental illnesses.

    In Nova Scotia, the waiting list for youth to receive psychiatric care is about two years...two years!!  In our case, just when Sara finally was about to see a psychiatrist at the children's hospital, she had her 19th birthday and we were told, sorry now she has to go through the adult mental services.  But did she get a priority placement on the waiting list in light of having already waited in the children's mental health services line-up?  No, she did not.  We eventually got help through my employer's excellent Employee Assistance Program (EAP), but so many people do not have access to such a program.  So how do they receive the care they desperately need?  The answer is that they don't.  They live with untreated mental illness.  And in the case of illnesses such as depression, going untreated far too often has fatal consequences.

    Consider the following from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA):

    Who is affected?
    • Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague.
    • 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.
    • Mental illness affects people of all ages, educational and income levels, and cultures.
    • Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
    • About 1% of Canadians will experience bipolar disorder (or "manic depression").
    How common is it?
    • Schizophrenia affects 1% of the Canadian population.
    • Anxiety disorders affect 5% of the household population, causing mild to severe impairment.
    • Suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds and 16% among 25-44 year olds.
    • Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women from adolescence to middle age.
    • The mortality rate due to suicide among men is four times the rate among women.

    And now consider this excerpt from a Quick Facts sheet (2nd ed) from the Mood Disorders Society of Canada:
    Not in any way to diminish the importance of medical care for physical health, but...these statistics are shocking, or if they're not shocking to us, they should be.  "Suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds and 16% among 25-44 year olds", and the portion of a $300M federal funding allocation that went to mental health was 1.5%???  There is something seriously wrong with this picture.  There are a few steps being taken in the right direction.  For example, the Nova Scotia government has named the development and improvement of the NS mental health system as one of its strategic priorities, and is currently working to develop a Mental Health Strategy.  But there is a long way to go before the gap between the level of care needed and the level of care funded is closed, or even narrowed to a minimally acceptable level.  We need to keep reminding ourselves, our governments, our communities, that mental health is a priority.  We need to be vocal and persistent in our demands for adequate mental health services and care.  And now...if you'll excuse me, I must go write to my Member of Parliament...
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