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Archive for April, 2013

Yesterday the community gathered to say farewell to a lovely man who had lived a very good life. The last couple of years were not good ones, his health was fragile and he lived in constant pain. About three weeks ago he told his wife he was ready to die…not in a morbid way, but because he felt he didn’t want to live in pain anymore.

We used to get together for coffee about three times a year. We went to the local coffee shop and his friends would be there, watching every move he made. I enjoyed talking with him as he often shared stories of his family, beaming with pride at his three children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was proud of each and every one of them, and made each and every one of them feel like they were special.

The church was overflowing with people. We ran out of bulletins, and worship space, so chairs had to be brought in and set up. A friend and colleague who is in a wheelchair co-presided the service with me and he was a tremendous source of strength during the service. As the eulogies were offered, I sat on the chancel steps to be closer to my friend. Two of the great-grandchildren, ages 2 and 4 came and played on the chancel steps. I got to play too. It was awesome.

As the grandchildren and children got up to speak they each spoke of the legacy their grandfather/father left them. The legacy of stories. The legacy of practical jokes. The legacy of witty sayings and pithy statements. The legacy of family. The legacy of service. The legacy of love.

When I was preaching I made a plea for someone to pick up the ministry of service that my parishioner had done. He had volunteered at a soup kitchen in the city and that is how he met my colleague and friend. At the graveside his brother and sister-in-law tapped me on the shoulder and said they wanted to pick up the mantel of legacy – the legacy of service.

And so, as we interred the remains of one of the kindest and gentlest men who lived, his brother picked up the mantel of service. The shoes he will fill are quite large. But he will do it, his way.

The longer I say in this community, the closer I become to the people. The more our stories intertwine, the greater the honour of the journey. I have been present as couples exchange vows, as children and adults are baptised, and as a soul leaves this life for the next one. We have celebrated lives, cried bitter tears of loss, laughed at silly jokes, and known through it all that we are richer for lessons we have learned. Lessons of legacy.

Rest in peace my dear friend. May you feel the arms of Jesus surround you. May you enter into the heavenly choirs of angels and be amongst the saints in heaven who watch out for us mere mortals, here on earth.

Thank you for the legacies you have left for us. We will do you proud.

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Today I presided at a Celebration of Life for a feisty, spirited 84 year old woman. She was a member of the local Legion for decades and was a hardworking member of the Ladies Auxiliary. I had never met her, but her reputation was fierce. I think, had we met, we’d have hit it off.

I met with most of her six children earlier this week and talked about what they wanted/needed from the service. We discussed scripture, prayers, eulogies, reflections and then I sat and listened as the stories began. Many were humorous, some were poignant, and the image that began to develop became quite clear.

Today I met with the family prior to the visitation and I was overwhelmed with the number of children, from newborn to a dozen years old, they were out in force. It was a brilliant collection of noise and excitement, with children playing tag, hide and seek and generally avoiding their parents. A little girl and I chatted about the best shoes (sparkly of course) and whether or not her grandpa should wear hair do-dads like she was (we decided he’d have to grow out his hair first).

About half an hour before the service was to begin, a little boy, about 7 or 8 years old was sitting in the chapel looking at a stained glass image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. I knelt down next to him and asked him if he knew who the man was in the picture. He shook his head. I introduced him to Jesus and he asked question after question about the picture. “Where does he live?” “How do you get to be a shepherd?” “Did he get to take his staff with him?” “Is Grandma with him now?”

When we had finished the chat, and I had answered his questions as best as I could I turned around and there were two dozen people standing there, listening to our conversation. I smiled and went to check in with the funeral director and organist. It was time to get on with my “job”.

The youngest daughter sought me out and gave me a big hug. “Thank you” she said. “I wanted to hug you the other day, but lost my nerve”. I smiled and said I’m always ready for a hug…to give or to receive. She said to me “Mum would have loved you.” The comment threw me off a bit, but I smiled again and thanked her.

The service was very well attended, with many familiar faces in the congregation. I chatted with a group of three ladies who are at most all community functions together. And they will be at the Celebration of Life for a parishioner who passed away last night. His celebration will be on Monday morning.

We finished the service and I led the family outside. The weather had changed from sunny and cool to downright miserable with rain. The temperature continued to drop and the rain continued to fall as we headed to the cemetery. By the time we got there, the heavens had opened fully and we were all soaked to the skin.

Umbrellas were turning inside out, and there seemed no escape from the cold, the wind, and the rain. My service book was sodden so I had to wing some of the prayers as I couldn’t see through my fogged up eyeglasses.

I had gathered the great grandchildren around me and asked if they wanted to place a handful of earth in the grave. They did and we huddled together as their great uncle lowered the box of his mother’s ashes into the grave. The wind picked up and howled as I said “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust”. The children and I dropped our handfuls of soggy muck into the grave and then it was time to go.

I hitched a ride back to the funeral home, then took off my soggy vestments, put on my suit jacket and headed to the Legion to check in with the family. As I pulled into the parking lot the sun broke through the clouds and the temperature began to rise. And I started to laugh.

The oldest son of the woman who died arrived at the same time I did. He got out of the car and started to laugh as well. Well played Elva, well played!

Inside the Legion I said the blessing over the food and the crowd began to eat. I chatted with the children, as they showed me their video games and said they liked the part with the dirt. So did I.

I checked in with each of the children and their spouses and they are all doing quite well. Each of the three daughters said to me, “Mum would have loved you. You are just like her”.

Wow.

That has to be one of the greatest compliments I have ever received. And when the days become long and challenging, I try to hold on to these moments. To remind myself of what God has called me to. To be present in the moment. And above all, to never lose my sense of humour.

Tomorrow is my traditional day off. Far too often I’ve been doing “just one little thing” on my day off which ends up being half or all of the day. Not tomorrow. I have a list of things that will wait for Saturday. I have an appointment in the city at 8:00 a.m. and will spend time after that doing things for me. Some shopping, maybe get my hair done. And then lunch with a good friend. After that an afternoon nap.

And then wait for my daughter at the bus stop before lurching headlong into the weekend.

Today was a day of journey and blessing. And tomorrow will be a day of rest and rejuvenation. Because I have to say, this vessel is dangerously empty, and needs very much to be refilled.

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Yesterday was an emotional, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of day. It was a day with shifting priorities hour by hour. I made a couple of decisions relating to self-care and that is something that is still very new to me. Listening to my body and responding positively, rather than ignoring my body and paying the price for that.

Dinner last night was awesome. The atmosphere was gorgeous, the crowd was friendly, the food was amazing. And I didn’t have to eat it all. I had a glass of wine, the first glass in weeks. I savoured every bite of my supper and I ate slowly. When I noticed my dining companions finishing their meals, I stopped eating. And felt sated. Thankfully my husband finished what was on my plate so I wouldn’t be tempted to overeat.

The conversation was delightful, the company was terrific and I even decided to indulge in dessert. And I ate the whole thing. We got home and were just letting the dogs out when my cell phone rang.

The parishioner who has been in Palliative Care for the past week had slipped peacefully away. I got changed and headed into the city. When I arrived the family was gathered around his bed and he did look peaceful. He was still warm, so with the families permission I anointed him and we held hands and prayed. We gave thanks to God for his life, we thanked God for the time we had with him. We asked God to continue to support the family during this difficult time and remain with them as they adjust to life without their grandfather/father/in-law/husband.

We then gathered in a quiet room and talked about his celebration of life. Then we emptied the few things that were at the hospital, including a certificate of appreciation for volunteer work he had done in the city. We walked collectively outside to our cars and drove in our respective directions. One grand-daughter was driving grandma home. Her parents were going to meet her there and get grandma settled and then they were going home.

The entire family looked exhausted and relieved that his suffering is now over. The funeral home was called, the dates were set for visitation and funeral and now we wait.

As I was driving home I reflected on the number of times I have made this drive. Thinking about the families who have invited me into their family to comfort and to support. The blessed sacredness of being with someone at the time when they leave this life for the next. And giving thanks to the Creator for the gift of their life.

I had also received news while we were out at dinner that an 84-year-old parishioner had survived open heart surgery and was in recovery. Her recovery was considered amazing, and her daughter-in-law was convinced it was because of the prayers that surrounded her mum. I agreed as well as giving thanks for the skill of the surgeon and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

On Sunday afternoon we are to have a community event that would have brought three congregations together for a service of story and song with a potluck supper to follow. The initial response was quite positive from all three congregations, but as the event date was chosen, the interest seems to be waning.

Most of the choir from one church won’t be in attendance. Half the choir from my church won’t be attending. None of the choir from the third church will be attending. I’m meeting with a colleague and friend this morning to look over the details of the service, and a still small voice in my is getting louder; telling me to postpone the service until the fall, and concentrate on walking with the community through this period of loss.

Postponing the service would be for mostly selfish motives, as it would save me a great deal of work. And yet I also feel it would be honouring the family of the man who has just died.

An executive decision will be reached this morning and we will go from there. I know in my heart where I’m leaning. And if my colleague still wants to do it, we will. And it will be what it will be. I’m too tired to be concerned about what happens next, I’ve got many other things on my mind.

And so today will be compartmentalised with a box for celebration, a box for mourning, a box for administration, a box for housework, a box for motherhood and a box for wifedom. And with the sure and certain hope of the resurrection, there will be an afternoon nap or a very early bedtime for me.

Tomorrow is a day off for me. And I believe it will be able to honour that. Going to spend some time with myself tomorrow, and do a few fun things. The rest can and will wait.

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Over the past couple of weeks I’ve experienced a great deal of firsts. I attended my first protest march in many, many years. I received fashion advice from a Drag Queen (which was really kind of awesome). I received a drawing from a little boy and because of him I now know what God looks like. I have sworn off artificial sweeteners and being more mindful of what, when and how I eat. I’ve started taking vitamins to help promote better health. And I’ve begun an exercise program.

Tonight there is a special event in the City with 25% of funds raised from participating restaurants go to HIV/AIDS in the community. My beloved and I are going out with a very fun couple and looking forward to it. As as I prepare for this night out, I follow generally, the same routine. Have a bath, exfoliate, do my hair, deep clean my face, apply makeup, perfume and get dressed. I have this fabulous dress that I don’t get to wear very often. It’s hanging proudly in my room, waiting to be worn.

But I’m afraid it won’t fit.

You see, I’ve been backsliding quite a bit in the past couple of days. I’m still drinking water, but not as much as I should. I’m spending too much time on my laptop doing, well, not much of anything, really. And I’ve been eating. Girl Guide cookies. By the box. And as I eat them, I hear, loud and clear “Put the cookie down! You KNOW that’s not good for you. You KNOW you won’t stop with a couple of cookies. PUT THE DAMN COOKIE DOWN”. And then there’s the other voice that says “you’ve had a really crappy couple of weeks. You’re overtired, you’re doing all the housework. You deserve to have a cookie. It’s not going to hurt you. Go on. YOU DESERVE IT.

I have a lot of trouble with the word “deserve”. When I was growing up that word was thrown around in a very hurtful way. I thought I deserved to be punished. I believed that I deserved to be disregarded. And when something awful would happen, I’d hear “you deserved that”. For me “deserve” has a very negative connotation. And that concerns me. I’m still not sure how to deal with that word. Maybe I will not be able to reconcile it to a good meaning. But maybe I will. At this point, I don’t know. Truly I don’t.

I’ve been struggling with a migraine on and off for about two weeks now. It’s left me exhausted and somewhat short-tempered. I pushed back an appointment I had this morning to tomorrow morning, and went to lie down before I was to meet a friend that I’ve not seen in way too long.

I overslept. My cell phone ringing woke me up and it was my friend. Thankfully everything is close at hand where I live, so I was able to splash water on my face, get dressed and meet him in ten minutes. We had coffee and chatted. We made arrangements to meet again. And I came home. And finished a box of Girl Guide cookies.

Right now I feel disgusting. And if it wasn’t a special event tonight, I would cancel going. The reality is I’ve blown any good I could have in my diet for the next week. And I have to face that.

So I’m going to go upstairs and see if my dress fits. If it does I will be surprised and a bit shocked too. And if it doesn’t, there’s an outfit I reserve for just such occasions. I’m hoping I won’t need it tonight, but if I do, I know where it is.

Tonight is producing a great deal of anxiety already. And maybe that’s why I overate again today. I don’t think anyone is going to care what I eat or don’t eat tonight. And so I should relax, breathe, enjoy the company and the fabulous new restaurant. Eat slowly, chew, swallow, breathe, chat, smile and enjoy.

And now I have to go and rinse myself off as the dogs were just outside and came in covered in mud. I’m so glad I’m not yet fully dressed for tonight. The floors will need cleaning again too, but that will wait for tomorrow.

For now, I’m going to march upstairs and get ready for an awesome night out…

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On Sunday afternoon I drove into the City to participate in a solidarity walk. It was an event that had been organised through social media and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I contacted the organizer and asked her if it would be appropriate to wear my clerical collar. She told me to do what I felt was right. I appreciated her answer.

So I parked at the Cathedral and walked to the park where we gathered. I had arranged to meet a couple of my friends and was delighted to see them on a chilly but beautifully sunny day. I wandered around looking at the chalk art and the signs that folks had made. I felt disconnected from the group and couldn’t really put my finger on why.

An absolutely gorgeous Drag Queen came up and asked me to hold his sign while he adjusted the seam on his fishnets. I asked about his tattoo and he freely shared the story. A transgender friend of his came up and I admired the flower in her hair. We chatted about the beautiful spring day, the lack of police presence and wondered how far we would walk.

My friends introduced me to several people I had not met before and we all chatted easily about nothing in particular. Then I saw an adorable little girl who was called Willow. She had on a dress and sneakers that flashed. She was running around with her arms out, being an airplane. Then her daddy scooped her up and she flew in his arms. He put her down and she ran to mommy who asked her to lay down on the sidewalk with her so daddy could take a picture. Willow would be about 3 and I suspected this wasn’t her first protest march.

She and her daddy got down to some serious sidewalk colouring, creating a rainbow from the sidewalk stones. I watched in awe.

A while later the speeches started and they were all very different in nature and tone. Some were filled with gratitude, some with anger; some used words that I don’t often use, and yet every one of them was empowering. I began to feel that it was okay for me to be there. As a LGBT ally, as a woman of faith, as a priest in the church. I felt it was appropriate to march alongside this amazing community that I had been accepted into.

We chanted as we marched, and again, one or two of them made me feel uncomfortable, so I didn’t chant them, but I did chant the others. My already sore throat from two full services became raw but I didn’t stop. I didn’t have to talk to anyone when things were over. I would go home, see my husband and likely be ready to wind down for the night.

So we marched, and we chanted. And I made some new friends in the LGBT community. I received some fashion advice, had my rainbow scarf admired and one person said “OMG, I just noticed your collar. Are you a priest?” I said I was and she was pleased. She said “thank you for walking with us”. I said “thank you for welcoming me” and she said she would “friend” me on social media, which I am delighted to say, she has done.

As we marched I thought of my mother, I thought of my daughter and I hoped they would never experience the kind of hate that many of my friends have experienced. By the end of the march we felt we had accomplished something in taking back the right to wear what we choose, to say what we need to say. That no means no and silence does not equal consent. We were mocked by one pocket of men, but otherwise, the march was well received.

I felt empowered by the end of the march and as the festivities continued, I thanked my friends, said goodbye and walked back to my car. Everything around me seemed clearer, sharper, I noticed more than I have before. I threw my shoulders back and walked tall and proudly to my car. Confident in my femininity and proud to be part of the ever-growing community that surrounded me. Proud to be a woman. Proud to be an ally to the LGBT community. Learning more about both while standing up for something.

It was a very good day.

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Lately in the media there’s been a lot of body shaming. It’s likely always been there and its only recently that I’m noticing it. There’s the magazine cover shaming where the headline teaser is about losing weight and being the best you can be. There’s the unhealthy images that exploit women, regardless of size, to be thinner.

Dove has recently launched a series of ads touted as “real beauty”. True confession time…I sent in a head shot of myself nearly a year ago. I got an email asking to send more photos of myself, which I did. Then I was called and asked to attend a photo shoot. The date that was chosen was the same date as a wedding I was presiding so I politely explained, and withdrew from the contest.

I wondered, for a long time, if I had been chosen because of my profession…as an Anglican priest. How cool would it be to give a face to “real beauty”. I was extremely flattered that I made it to the final 50 and I received a lovely gift basket with Dove products that the entire family was able to enjoy.

And now the most recent ad, featuring a forensic artist, is being touted as both excellent and exclusive. I like the message, that we are all beautiful. And I do believe that, I preach about it often enough. But the ad featured young women, the only women who were shown in the final cut of the ad were white. There are a few faces of beautiful women of colour, but they don’t get to speak in the ad. That concerns me.

This Sunday in the city next to the village where I live, there is a “Slut Walk”. While the title of the event makes me cringe, it is something in which I will participate. I have friends who are transgender, both men and women. Recently one of my female friends was walking with her partner in the city and they were jeered and heckled. Both women felt frightened, but maintained their dignity through their fear.

NO woman or man should have to feel this way. NO man or woman has the right to judge those who are different.

I am participating in the Walk on Sunday afternoon. I’m thinking about wearing my clerical collar in order to show support as a woman of faith. I have been uncomfortable walking to my car after an evening meeting. Not so much in the village where I live, but definitely when I am in the city. And it’s not right. And it’s not fair.

So I’m going to stand with my sisters and brothers in solidarity. I will wear my clerical collar and comfortable shoes. There will be pants and a jacket, just not sure which ones. I will walk for those who have been hurt. I will sing for those who feel their voices silenced. I will dance with those who have lost the joy in their lives.

I’m going to speak out against body shaming. Regardless of how much we weigh. Regardless of how we choose to dress. Regardless of what we might have said or done. Nobody deserves to be hurt.

In the wake of the Boston bombings people are more anxious then ever to join in a crowd. As a strong introvert I have a hard time being in a crowd, but I will be there with my friends. And we will look out for each other.

Because it’s time to put an end to the violence. It’s time to stand together, shoulder to shoulder and speak out for those who cannot speak. To remember those who have given their lives. We will dance, we will sing, we will laugh. We will remember. Always.

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I had been doing quite well in my detox. I’ve got two more weeks of colon detox and then I should be able to continue eating healthier from there.

My mother has been staying with me for a few days. I’m taking her back to the retirement residence where she’s currently staying; trying it out to see if she wants to move in permanently. My mother is underweight and needs to put some weight back on. Her appetite is small and she dislikes wasting food…can you see where this is going?

I took her grocery shopping with me and she wanted some treats. So she bought chocolate. And I was able to resist…for half a day. She likes to eat out and when she’s finished eating she pushes the plate towards me and says “eat that, will you?” Most of the time, nowadays, I’m able to push it back and suggest she bring it home for later, or leave it altogether.

Recently I’ve had great anxiety about eating out. Panicking about choices, wondering about fat content, and whether I’ll eat something that triggers a bout of overeating.

The good news is, I’m almost completely clean from artificial sweeteners. I’ve not had pop for nearly a month. I carbonate water and find that quenches my thirst beautifully. I’m drinking about 4 -5 litres of water a day. And I’m enjoying that. I’m finding my clothing is fitting better. I’m finding that my skin looks better. And my bladder is functioning well 🙂

I’m committed to eating healthier, that I may live healthier; but right now I feel scared. Going to the grocery store produces a great deal of anxiety. If I send my husband with a list he comes home with stuff not on the list that is more or less “garbage food”. Trying to get my daughter to eat unprocessed food, especially in her lunch, is proving a challenge.

So for now I’m going to concentrate on me. I will make up snacks that are grab and go. I will eat healthier every day. I will stop beating myself up when I make a bad food choice.

I’ve introduced vitamins into my daily routine and it’s only been a week, so it’s too early to tell. I bought myself a days of the week pill sorter so I can make sure I get everything I need. I’m hoping the healthier food with the vitamins will help me feel awesome.

The next step will be exercise. I reckon once I get the body processing better, exercise will be a natural addition to the healthy regimen.

I will always be a plus sized gal, but I want to feel and look better. I’m experimenting with different colours in my beauty routine. I’m trying to grow my hair longer to try a different hairstyle. All things to match the exterior changes to my interior changes.

I’m down about falling off the wagon, but I’m committed to getting back on again and being better in myself. I deserve to be healthy. I want to be healthy. I will be healthy.

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