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Posts Tagged ‘hope’

I’ve been interested in zero-waste living for a while now. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go completely zero-waste, yet I am making strides. One of the first things I switched over from was from plastic to bamboo toothbrushes. I used to have a subscription which delivered a new toothbrush to me every two months. Then I started figuring out how much pollution was being caused with a single toothbrush shipped every two months, as opposed to ordering six toothbrushes at a time…a year’s worth, if you will. The other day I came across bamboo toothbrushes with removable heads. That needs more investigation…

Today I took my last plastic bottle of laundry detergent to the Transfer Station for recycling. I’ve got some pods to use and then I’ll be starting laundry “strips” which are organic paper-like matter that you throw into the washing machine with your clothes and voila! I’ve been using wool dryer-balls for awhile, and I love them.

My goal is to reduce single-use plastics from my home as much as possible. With COVID-19, it’s a little bit difficult because we aren’t yet allowed to use reusable produce bags at the grocers. A benefit though, is I use the disposable produce bags when I go to the gas station.

A few months back, I switched to shampoo and conditioner bars and they are amazing. I’ve switched out body wash for artisanal soap. When I finish up the remaining face wash I’ll switch to using bar soap on my face.

This week I ordered zero-waste deodorant. It’s called “No Pong”. The name itself made me laugh out loud. The skin under my arms is very sensitive and reacts easily. I’m hoping this deodorant that I apply with my fingers will do the trick.

So now, instead of a bunch of bottles in the bathroom, I have one. Face wash. The rest are all bars. Soap, shampoo and conditioner. The razor I currently use is a metal and plastic handle with a removable/replaceable head. I don’t know that I will be able to handle a Wilkinson-style razor with razor blade…my hands shake and my balance is bad, I don’t want to inadvertently cut an artery.

In the kitchen, my storage plastics have been replaced (as they lived out their life expectancy) with glass bowls and silicone lids. I just bought a microwave popper to keep excess packaging out of the landfill/transfer station.

I use beeswax cloths instead of plastic wrap. I buy milk in glass bottles. I’m going to buy juice in a frozen concentrate rather than a plastic bottle. I use parchment paper instead of aluminum foil whenever I can.

Toothpaste. I’ve tried tooth tabs before and I can’t stand the gritty sensation. I’m not a fan of carbon toothpaste and am looking for tooth powder that is healthy for my teeth and gums and zero-waste. I don’t love brushing my teeth, so I need something that doesn’t suck…and doesn’t taste like garbage.

My cat’s litter is made from a recycled corn byproduct which makes it biodegradable. I’m still putting it in plastic bags to get it to the garbage, but I’ll figure out something to address that.

I buy pop in cans instead of plastic bottles when I’m traveling, or better yet, I bring a reusable water bottle. Again, with COVID-19, where I would bring a re-usable mug when I bought tea, they aren’t permitted currently.

I used to bring my prescription bottles back to the pharmacy for re-use, but right now that’s not allowed. So I’m amassing quite a collection. I’ll find a use for them, I’m sure of it.

One step at a time. One choice at a time. One item at a time. I’m very mindful of packaging. And of shipping. I try to buy local wherever I can, or if I need to go to the next city to buy something, I’ll combine errands to save on unnecessary trips.

With everything that is going on in the world, it may seem silly or unnecessary to be concerned with single use plastics. What I do know is I can make a difference. Even though I am one person.

I have paper towels but rarely use them. I have tissues, but also have ladies handkerchiefs which I carry when I’m out. I have washable dusting cloths and cleaning cloths. I try to buy with the least amount of pollution wherever possible. The mop I use has a removeable, washable pad.

Now, I love the dishsoap I use. And I’ve used the same bottle for the past 3 years, buying refills for it. I know there are solid bars I can use for dishes, but I’m not at that point.

I no longer colour my hair. It’s not to say that I won’t ever do it again, but right now I’m enjoying watching the Artic Blonde come in. I love the silver highlights. And I’ve earned every single one of them.

When I’m out and about if I stop for a cold drink I politely refuse the straw. I have bamboo cutlery and glass straws for when I travel.

It’s not everything, but it’s something.

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Since lockdown began, I have lost and gained the same seven pounds. Well, I cannot be absolutely certain that it is the SAME seven pounds. Let’s just say they’re not far away from my body at any given time. I am walking every day. I am stretching, eating mostly good food, and spending time outside most every day.

I have tried changing what/when/how I eat. No difference.

I’ve tried intermittent fasting. No difference.

I have tried two different “eating plans”. No difference.

If I read or hear one more time that I need more “willpower” someone will get hurt.

The reality of the situation is this: I am an addict. I have very poor impulse control. I cannot eat one cookie or one potato chip. I eat them all. Maybe not in one setting, but most often. So I try not to keep junk food at home. The cravings get awful.

I have made the conscious decision not to drink alcohol. I used to love drinking alcohol. Like, REALLY enjoy drinking. And, like junk food, if I opened a bottle of wine I would drink all of it. Sometimes I’d open a second bottle. I’d buy a growler of beer. Then I’d drink most, if not all of it in short order. Then I decided I didn’t need to do this to myself…so I stopped.

When I was recovering from surgery at the beginning of the year, I was offered a glass of wine. I agreed. It tasted awful and it wasn’t the wine, it was me. I went out for dinner and ordered a beer. And again, it tasted awful. Ick. So I made the decision to stop drinking, aside from communion.

I’ve not craved alcohol since. Yay!

Before lockdown, I had significantly lessened the amount of sugar/stevia/aspartame that I consumed. I would have a small treat every now and then. I was on the way to kicking the sugar habit. And was really proud of myself.

Then lockdown happened. My grocery bills started increasing because I was determined to eat healthy foods; fresh foods. No processed food. No junk. Excellent plan, not fully realised.

The problem with being a food addict is that you cannot abstain from food. You will never hear at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting: “Hello, my name is Andrea and I’m an addict. It’s been 45 days since my last bite of food.” Food is a very social part of who we are and what we do. If we don’t eat, we die. It will take a long, harrowing time, but we will die.

Eating is a central part to the sacrament of the Eucharist. We gather to share together in the body and blood of Christ. Not literally the body and blood, but a small, round wafer and a sip of red wine. Or a cube of gluten-free bread and a Jesus-jigger of grape juice.

I say often, of the Church, that we gather at the table; either the Lord’s table or the kitchen table. Except right now we can’t. We are unable to gather in our buildings and share these expressions of sacrament and commitment, because it simply isn’t safe to do so.

In the grand scheme of things, being addicted to food isn’t the worst thing, right? Wrong. You can eat yourself to death. You can damage your body, mind and soul from eating the “wrong kinds” of food and abusing food. Many people laugh when I tell them I’m a food addict. Because it does sound funny. How can you be addicted to something that is meant to fuel your body? Impulse control…or lack thereof.

I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day and we were chatting about how I’m struggling with the food addiction. Food carries a tremendous amount of shame for me. I have difficulty eating in front of other people. When I go out to eat, which I haven’t done in a long time, I carefully manage how much I eat.

I am capable of eating mindfully, and when I do, I feel great. Yet when I am under stress I “fog eat” when I sit down to eat something and before I know it the bowl is empty, the container is empty and I have no recollection of refilling the bowl or emptying the container.

Almost immediately I feel profound shame for my lack of control. Why am I so weak and powerless to food? When I keep junk out of my house I’ll be fine for a few days to a week, and then I’ll start craving and it will be horrendous. I can’t function until I tend to the craving. I try all the tricks; drinking water, counting to 10, breathing deeply, having something as a substitute. But none of these tricks work, especially when I’m craving mashed potatoes or cheezies or chocolate cake.

Mashed potatoes are comfort food to me. I make really good mashed potatoes. And I can portion control them, most of the time. But when it comes to potato chips and sweets, I will crave and eat them until they are gone. I’ll make a list and stick to it at the grocery store. I’ll be really disciplined, I’ll be really “good” and then I find myself waiting in line…and the craving begins…just a small bag of chips. You’ve been good. Oh go on, get the big bag, you’ll have a serving and put them away. You can do it.

Except I can’t.

No matter how well I justify “earning” the treat, I cannot stop until they are gone. Not all at once, but within a 24 hour period I will continue to go back to that treat until they are all gone. More shame and self-disgust.

My friend told me, in the grand scheme of things, that overeating, at this point in time, is not necessarily a terrible thing. Yes, it’s self-soothing. Yes, it’s not ideal. But we are living in a time of heightened stress. We are living in a time which is unprecedented for most of us.

I’ve decided to keep a food journal. Not to judge myself, not to punish myself, but to see if I can find a pattern to the cravings and overeating.

So, to that seven pounds that I keep losing and gaining, I say this: “it’s been a slice. How about you go away and stay away? I have no further need of you.”

If only it were that easy…

Wish me luck. Imma need it.

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Both are very important to me. I feel my best when I know what my schedule is. I function best when I know what is expected of me. Rituals help calm my mind and help me to focus. So, as you can imagine, the last month has been a great challenge as my schedule is in constant flux, there is an influx of emails demanding attention as well as phone calls, Zoom meetings, text messages and many more distractions.

I’ve never been good at managing boundaries, yet I am determined to come through the other end of COVID-19 with my marbles intact. Wish me luck.

I was lamenting with a friend that I’m feeling overwhelmed with the amount of contact that is demanded these days. I’m quite certain that I’m receiving at least twice as much email as I did before. And I’m attending 1000% more meetings by Zoom then I did before (that may be a slight exaggeration).

When I came back from medical leave I created a workspace in my flat so I could separate my home life and my work life. With the increase in Zoom, I’m finding there is a very blurry line between the two.

So what I (attempt to) do every day is turn off technology for part of the day or at least not respond to everything immediately. Constantly re-prioritizing is tiring, but necessary so I don’t feel too overwhelmed. I have discovered a feature on my mobile phone that when I place it face down it goes into Do Not Disturb mode. So texts, phone calls (unless from a specific list) and emails do not make any sound until the phone is turned back over.

I will be taking Friday and Saturday as my Sabbath Days as of next week. This week is Holy Week and I have Worship every day. My Sabbath Days will be marked with no electronics. No email, Slack, Facebook, Instagram, Zoom or Skype. Disconnection. An opportunity to be intentionally outside for more than half an hour.

If I need to sleep the day away, I will do so. If I want to clean my flat from top to bottom, I will do so. If I want to pack a lunch and take a drive, I will do so. With no guilt.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a waterfall about an hour’s drive from here. When I arrived there was not a soul in sight. I walked around to the other side of the falls and on the way back I noticed a dozen cars arriving. Everyone kept physical distance, we waved and smiled and got out of the way of each other. It was a lovely sunny day and I put the windows down in the car.

On the way home I stopped at one of my favourite hikes. There were three cars in the parking lot. I started the hike, realised after about 20 minutes that the trail was icy and not safe for me. So I turned around. I met a couple who stepped off the trail and asked how it was further along. I told them it was icy and with safe distance, they turned around as well.

I’m doing my best to take one day at a time. I’m doing my best to eat well and drink lots of water. I’m doing my best to go to bed early so if I have a rough night it’s not as bad come morning.

And of course, there’s the menopause, which will be a reflection for another day.

I hope you are all doing your best to take care of you.

We will get through this. And I do, truly believe, we will be stronger for it.

Take one day at a time, unless that feels too hard.

Then try one hour at a time, unless that feels too hard.

Then take one minute at a time. We’ll get there.

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I received this prayer yesterday and I think it’s beautiful. We have been asked to come together in prayer today, 31st March 2020.

I invite you all to pray whatever time is right for you, a National Prayer for Canada.

O God, We gather together separated by life-saving distancing, but united more than ever in spirit;We know we are in a war against COVID – 19 together, and the more together we are, the better and stronger we will emerge:

We know the challenges are enormous, yet so are the opportunities;That whether we are in isolation with loved ones, or alone, we will have abundance of time;

We commit to using that time to the max, to help those in greater need in whatever way we can;We know we all have the opportunity, and time, to be life savers and life enhancers;

We give thanks for those who are on the front line taking care of those who are not well;We give thanks for the researchers who are working at breakneck speed to find cure and vaccine;

We give thanks for our leaders, federal, provincial and local, for their dedication to all of us;We give thanks for the providers of our daily needs who go to work in spite of the risk;We give thanks for those who have ramped up their ability to produce life-saving supplies. We pray for the well-being of all our life savers;

For those who are not well, that they recover fully;For those enduring difficulty, that they may overcome their challenges.We pray that a cure and vaccine will soon be available, And that we all – family, friends, all Canadians, the entire world may be healed in body and spirit.

We ask you, O God, to bless our leaders, our front line care givers, our life savers and life enhancers.

We ask you, O God, to bless Canada, to bless the world, to bless everyone. Amen.

Composed by Rabbi Dr Reuven P. Bulka & Archbishop Terrence Prendergast

Thank you to everyone who chooses to pray this prayer. In whatever way we choose to pray, God hears us. And I truly believe, when this pandemic is over and we are able to gather again, we, as Church, will emerge with a greater sense of self. We will imagine and realise life in a different way. The same with worship.

Regardless of what the calendar date is on the day we return to worship together, that Sunday will be our Easter…the day of Resurrection for our Parishes.

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I am a hugger. I’m a great hugger. And I’m an introvert. A BIG Introvert. Since COVID-19 we went from small gatherings to social distancing and I reckon we will soon be house-bound. Right now I’m going, alone, to the Churches at least once a week. It helps me retain a sense of normality in a world that seems to have gone mad.

Last Thursday I spent 10 hours on various screens dealing with phone calls, emails, texts, and Zoom meetings. By Saturday I was feeling completely overwhelmed.

It felt as though I couldn’t finish anything.

It felt as though I was running as fast as I could, simply to stay in the same place.

I couldn’t focus. Then my head started to hurt. It’s still hurting. To the point its distracting.

Last night I had a hot shower and focused the jets on my neck and shoulders. That helped. I’ve tried meditation, drinking water, walking outside to get some fresh air. I’ve tried medication, acupressure, and caffeine. I’ve tried stretching, self-massage and sleep.

What I think I need, no, what I KNOW I need is a time to disconnect.

I was speaking with a colleague earlier today and he said he feels as though this time of isolation has created more demands for connection. I absolutely agree. Working with two denominations has been stressful and enlightening. Both want to ensure that clergy feel connected. Both want to assure us that we are doing our best.

What I need most right now, is not connection, but disconnection.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my parishioners. I love my community. I love my friends and family. I also love my own company. And complete solitude.

I’m now trying to work out a new routine. When I wake up I open an app called “Pray as you Go”. It’s a 20 minute reflection on scripture with some music and a calming image on which to focus. As I listen a breathe, sip water and give thanks. Then I say my morning prayers. THEN I get up.

I am going to take time every day to go outside. I’m going to restrict the amount of time I spent in front of a screen. I’m going to nap when I’m tired. Feed myself good, nutritious, food. And do something every day that brings me joy.

In my heart I believe this physical isolation is going to last for awhile yet. Which means I need to get myself into a routine and treat myself better than I have been.

We are having our 5th Sunday Joint Service on Sunday and we’re going to use a Zoom platform. It will be interesting to see who is able to attend and whether we continue to use the platform.

We, as Church, have not been in this position, of physical isolation, for hundreds of years. And while we cannot reach out and touch our friends, parishioners and neighbours, we can reach out and connect. I have recorded one homily and posted it online to incredibly positive feedback.

My hope is that the technology we are figuring out, will be a short-term solution and once the virus is in check, and the isolation is relaxed, we will gather in person once again. Time will be the measure of that story.

So as I watch the sun set behind the snow-covered mountains I give thanks to God for the blessings of this life. I ask for a restful, pain-free sleep which will enable tomorrow to be a beautiful day.

My wish is the same for you. Deep, restful sleep. Rise to a beautiful new day. Experiencing things which bring you great joy.

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Three long days ago I had a total hysterectomy and oophorectomy. I have no ovaries or womb left. I have many friends and parishioners who have been through these procedures and they have given me wonderful advice. Combined with the advice from the surgeon there is one thing in common – breath.

I remember sitting in the post-operative area. I’d walked there from the surgical screening area (Day Care) and was visited by the Anaesthesiologist who was wearing a Nascar cap. Also, my surgeon came to visit me, wearing a plain blue cap. Finally the surgical nurse came to see me, wearing a floral surgical cap. All three of them talked about what they were going to do, and at some point I’d have an oxygen mask on my face and I’d need to take deep breaths. Okay, I thought. I can do that. I breathe every day!

I walked into the operating room and it was chilly. I sat down on the table, then lay down and there was a lot of activity as IV’s were inserted, surgical stockings were installed, instructions were given, checklists were shared. One of my favourite moments was when the surgeon asked what was happening to me and I replied “hysterctomy and oophorectomy” and the Anaesthesiologist said “oophorectomy or Oopsorectomy”. I laughed. Nobody else did.

Tough crowd.

I remember a mask placed over my mouth and nose and being told to take deep breaths. Then a medicine was added to my IV which I was told would take me to the Land of Nod. Took one more deep breath…

and then…

I was aware of an alarm sounding and a nurse telling me “Andrea, take deep breaths”. The alarm was an apnea alarm. I wasn’t drawing enough air into my lungs and I would stop breathing. I wear a device at night so this doesn’t happen at home. As I said I’ve been breathing my entire life, yet for some reason I had difficulty drawing a lung full of air.

I’d doze off for what felt like half an hour and the alarm would sound again “Andrea, deep breaths” I’d hear and respond and then look at the clock…usually only 2 or 3 minutes had gone by. That was worrying and frustrating. Had I forgotten how to breathe?

Eventually I made it to a room for the night. Surgical day care was deserted of all other patients when I was ready to go upstairs, and I didn’t mind staying where I was. It was quiet. The nurses were lovely and I was quite prepared to spend the night there. But no.

Up to the second floor I went to spend the night in a ward with three other women. I’ll share more of those stories later on.

The night nurse found and filled my CPAP machine so I could breathe while sleeping and I slept on and off all night. Waking about every two hours for pain medication or water.

At 4:00 pm I was finally discharged by my surgeon who gave me a list of things to do, milestones to watch for, and a reminder to take deep breaths.

It’s funny, our life begins with a deep breath and then often a cry. I’ve found lately I’ve found myself crying and then searching for deep breaths. One of the promises I made myself, is that as I move through six long weeks of recovery, I will take things slowly (I’m down to measuring one day at a time), I will be aware of my body and my surroundings. I will listen to my body and it’s needs. And I will breathe.

I will take deep breaths when I’m uncertain.

I will take deep breaths when I’m afraid.

I will take deep breaths when I’m not doing anything in particular.

I will take deep breaths before I attempt to exert myself.

All in all, I’m extremely grateful to the surgeons, nurses, doctors and staff who cared for me so beautifully. I was treated as a person, as a member of the family. My night nurse spent time talking to me as I shared my fears with her at my first overnight stay in hospital. She listened carefully. She responded thoughtfully and she reminded me “Andrea, you’re not bothering me when you ask for something, you are allowing me to care for you and help you get strong enough to go home. When you tell me what you need, I can help you get well. It’s not a bother, it’s my job.” This coming from a nurse who graduated in April. She’s a Rockstar!

So as I move through the next days I will remind myself to take deep breaths. As I snuggle in for the night, pulling on my CPAP mask. Deep breaths, clear your mind.

Deep breaths, clear your mind.

Deep breaths.

Thank you God for breath.

Thank you Ruah, breath of God.

Deep breaths.

Ruah…

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A common thing to do this time of year…where have I have been…and where I think/hope I’m going to…

This time last year I knew there was going to be a significant change in my ministry, yet wasn’t quite sure what that was going to be.

I was experiencing a significant emotional and spiritual crisis and thankfully there are terrific mental health services for me to tap into which got me through the “holiday” season and referred to receive help in a timely fashion. I started working with a counsellor, changed my antidepressant and eventually worked with a group on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

It was good to be a in a room with people who understood what I was feeling. It was good to be in a place where I didn’t feel it necessary to pretend how I was feeling. I could be honest and every one understood how I was feeling, and not try to fix it.

I finished the class, and brought the reference materials home, which I referred to from time to time. I continued working on my mental health, my physical health and my emotional health.

We moved through the Season of Lent, then Holy Week, then Easter. All this time there were discussions about entering into shared ministry with our local United Church. It was exciting and terrifying. There were meetings, conversations, committees, sub-committees and lots and lots of prayer.

Eventually a vote was held in both congregations and it was decided that we would step out in shared ministry and that I would be appointed for a two year term. Joy and terror filled my life. Mostly joy.

And as we entered summer there were teleconferences, meetings, conversations, sermons, laughter and tears as we ventured into the unknown with great hope, expectation and fear.

As I reflect back on the past three months, it’s been a time of great professional and personal growth. The Congregations are beginning to see that there are new ways of entering into ministry. One of the congregations is experiencing growth and great hope. The other is experiencing grief.

To be honest it did not occur to me that there would be grief because I’m still with the congregation…but I’m not there as much. I may not be as available. Yet I’m still here.

So as we move into 2020 I’m going to spend more time listening and asking questions, to see if there is a way we can work through the grieving into something tangible and meaningful. To see if we can move through grief and loss into resurrection.

It will take time. And we have time. This is a season of joy and celebration; Epiphany, which will then be replaced by the season of preparation and anticipation; Lent.

We will walk through this together, with my deepest desire being a greater understanding of who we are; individually, as two Congregations and as a Parish. With a greater understanding of Who’s we are. And who we are to each other.

Thanks be to God.

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I’ve been trying to write a blog post for awhile…apparently a few months.  From the last time I blogged time has flown.  There’s been a wonderful community event called Chautauqua, the adoption of an 11 year old Domestic Shorthair cat called Buddy, the Ordination of our Deacon, a terrible tragedy that claimed the lives of three men, a Memorial Service for those men, and a surprise birthday party for my 50th.

Chautauqua took on a life of it’s own this year in a new format that had all events taking place in the historic downtown core.  The Fall Fair took place the same weekend and the grounds at City Hall were filled with animals of all shapes and sizes, vendors showing their wares, artists and crafters showing their trades and a community out to enjoy a beautiful Autumn celebration.  My little parish hosted the Community Ecumenical Service and it was an absolute success.  Folks started coming in just before the official event time and kept coming in for the first 20 minutes.  It was glorious.  We finished the service in time to get to the Senior’s Centre that was hosting a High English Tea.  A Harvest Supper at the Catholic Church rounded out a weekend filled with activity, history, wonder and joy.

Buddy is a cranky black cat, missing one canine tooth who was looking for a forever home.  The other cats on the SPCA website were all cuddly and adorable.  Buddy looked at the photographer like he could care less…or if he had pose-able digits would have raised his middle finger.  He’s cranky, he hisses a lot, has a mean meow and reminds me of my late father.  So of course, I was hooked.  He doesn’t like being picked up…or touched…I am allowed to pet him within very strict parameters that I have not yet learned.  He’s not particularly patient with me, hence the hissing.  He likes to hide under the dining room table.  He likes to be in the same room as me, but not too close.  He’s afraid of the mop and the vacuum and doesn’t climb.  So far so good…but I’m unsure of his assessment of me as his staff.  After all, they say dogs have owners and cats have staff.

Ordination is one of the great celebrations of the Church.  A faithful woman of God was Ordained in Christ’s Holy catholic Church and we gathered to celebrate.  We sang her favourite hymns, surprised her with an Anthem.  She was feted and celebrated and the parish commissioned a red Deacon’s stole for her which she helped to design.  An absolutely gorgeous design featuring flames and doves in shades of red, blue and white.  Absolutely spectacular for an absolutely spectacular child of God.

On the 17th of October my brother was returning to Calgary after visiting me overnight.  I took him to see the Church and he signed the Guest Book.  I went to a meeting at a Retirement home across the street from the local Arena.  Little did I know that our community would be rocked to it’s very core that day.  The winds were high and sky was a strange colour.  The atmosphere around town was eerie.  Hurricane force winds blew the power out twice and we were in the dark for a couple of hours the second time.  I was checking my Facebook feed and saw that there had been an accident at the Arena and the surrounding neighbourhood had been evacuated…including the residents I had visited earlier that day.  I went to the evacuation centre and tried to provide some comfort, some humour and a few hugs.  Three men died that day.  They went to work and didn’t come home.  And even now, months later, there is still a void in the community.  The residents returned home within a week, but there is still a sense of unease.  However, this community did what it does best and came together in a show of support.  We will always remember those who died, but too will we remember the community that showed support and love to one another.  The road is long before us but we will get there…together.

A Community Memorial Service was held on the 12th of November on the grounds of the high school.  It was damp, overcast, chilly day but there was an air of hope.  The community choir sang, my United Church colleague and I offered prayer at the beginning and ending of the service.  Three eulogies were shared, many tears were shed and a group of strangers gathered as family.

I don’t like surprise parties…especially when I’m the one being surprised…but that’s exactly what happened on the 25th of November, the day before my 50th birthday.  My congregation decided that I needed to celebrate this milestone and so I was duped into leaving town for the day with a friend who needed to run errands and I was there to be company in the car, navigate and carry stuff.  We got back at 5:30 and the street was lined with cars.  I thought my Roman colleague was having a larger than average attendance at Mass.  And then I saw a parishioners car parked where it usually isn’t.  Then I looked at the lawn of the Rectory and saw 50 pink flamingos…and a sign notifying all and sundry that is was my 50th.  I walked into the Church, down to the parish hall and opening the door heard “SURPRISE!”  I was shaking and smiling and unable to remember my name at that point as I saw friends, neighbours, parishioners and colleagues gathered to celebrate a half-century.  I was presented with a “birthday girl” pink sash, pink star sunglasses and a birthday tiara.  Many of the guests wore pink.  And everyone knew I was surprised…  We feasted on potluck fare, a birthday cake that read “Happy Birthday Princess Flamingo”  I took many photographs and opened many cards and gifts, one of the most special being a painting a parishioner and friend painted with birch trees and a winter sun…it is spectacular.  There was a trivia game with 50 questions related to my life…and those assembling the game had help from my brother, my spiritual advisor and friend.  It was great fun…and while I still don’t like surprises, it was a blessing to celebrate with so many wonderful people.

When the tragedy took place in October I realised just how much this community has become home for me…and how the folks that live here are my family.  Seeing such a large collection of people at the birthday party reinforced this to me.  I am loved very much here and I love this place very much.

If the rest of my 50th year is anywhere near as awesome as the first few weeks, I’m in for an absolutely AWESOME year!

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Tomorrow is the 25th of January, Bell Canada’s “Let’s Talk” initiative to help quell the stigma of mental illness.  Celebrities have recorded brief interviews and have stepped up in raising awareness of depression, anxiety, OCD, Bipolar disorder, etc.

As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety the past couple of months have been scary.  I am a Canadian, and proud to be one.  Our neighbours to the south elected a new President and it seems the world has been in a tailspin since.  Every day the rhetoric increases, the attacks get more personal and social media is reaching a frenzy status on who is right and who is wrong.

What scares me is the increasing vitriolic hatred that both sides of the debate engage.  There is hurt and anger and a decided lack of respect.  There seems to be no acknowledgment of the other side as a human being.  Memes spring up everywhere and there are veritable twitter wars and Facebook battles over who is right and who is wrong.  Over who is telling the truth and who is lying.

We seem to have lost the respect of basic human dignity.  Regardless of whether you are a supporter or protester of POTUS, we need to come together in unity.  He needs to be held accountable.  We need to ensure our voices are raised in unison.  Can we please, please stop with the division and hatred.

I don’t like being told that as I woman “I must” feel a certain way or behave in a certain manner.  I don’t appreciate being told as a Christian “I must” say certain things and if I fail to do so I am a disgrace to Christianity.

I am a child of God.  So are you.  So is POTUS.  So is our Prime Minister.  So is everyone we meet.

I’m tired of the anger.  I’m tired of the hurt.  I’m tired of the hatred. I want to join the revolution of love.  I want to change the world with respect; with words of empowerment and love.  I can and will change how I view the world by looking through lenses of love and respect.

I short, I refuse to hate.

My mental health is always fragile in January…I’m not really sure why…but it is and I tend to cocoon more than usual, trying to stay warm and safe.

I am blessed in being surrounded by people who love me.  Who hold me when I cry, who bolster me when I struggle.  Who check in because I am on their mind and in their heart. I am blessed to love many of those who surround me.  And lately, I’ve begun to fall in love with myself.

I know I am not perfect.  I never will be.  And that’s okay.  In God’s eyes I am created in perfection and that’s more than good enough for me.

There is a South African word, Ubuntu, that means “I am because you are”.  In other words, I can’t be who I am without you.  It doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree and think the same.  It means we have the right and even the responsibility to disagree and hold one another accountable for our words and actions.  It means we are all in this life together.  It’s a way of living, an understanding, that is both powerful and profound.

If we embrace Ubuntu, perhaps we, together, can change this cruel world in which we live?

As always, I live in love and in hope.

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You don’t have to look far to stumble across Year in Review articles, posts and memories.

For a lot of the world 2016 was a bad year.  For me, it was a year of new beginnings.  This time last year I knew I was moving to British Columbia, and only about 10 other people did.  A handful from both congregations.  It was not an easy decision to make, to leave my parish, my friends and family behind.

God was beckoning me to something I had never experienced…I had always imagined if I was going to leave Ontario, it would be for the Maritimes, not the Mountains…and here I am.  The province of British Columbia is different.  I live about as East as you can and still be in BC.  I live about a south as you can and still be in BC.  The closest neighbouring “city” is an hour away (West).  I can get to the state of Montana in less than half an hour.

The climate here has reminded me of Northeastern Ontario.  Nearly two weeks of bitter cold, and bright sun.  A part on the furnace at the Church froze and we were without a furnace on Sunday.  So we all snuggled together on the side of the Church that still had heat and it was grand.

I’ve not written as much as I thought I would over this past year.  It’s been a year of firsts and yet my 9th year in ministry.  I’ve reflected on times as a student, a lay pastor, a summer pastor, a Deacon and a Priest.  It’s been wonderful participating in the life of the community; both of the Church and of Fernie itself.  I’m becoming “known” in the community, and in (mostly) good ways.

I am blessed to have made some friends here and one or two very close friends.  I have experienced a deep, abiding love from this congregation.  I’ve heard a few times “we’re so glad you came” and I feel very much the same.  2016 has been a year of transition, a year of anticipation, expectation, participation…moving with what could fit in my car plus another 20 or so boxes across the country to a furnished house.

Slowly, I am making this house a home…personal touches, hanging artwork, acquiring little things for the house.  I am able to keep in touch with my family and friends “back East” thanks to technology and even letter writing.

In speaking with a colleague and friend who was worried about me living so far from family and friends, he asked how I was doing.  I told him I was happy; truly happy for the first time in a very long time.

I am content in who I am.  In who God has called me to be and where God has called me to serve.  I am part of the LGBTQ+ community in Fernie and beyond.  I am part of the Arts community in Fernie and beyond.  I am joining the Symphony of the Kootenays Chorus in January.  I am a patron of the Arts Station, the Library and the Museum.

I have met people who love me and who I love.  And for that I feel incredibly blessed.

My Mam turned 80 in 2016 and I was able to be with her for her birthday in August.  I saw friends I had not seen in decades and it was wonderful.  And yet I found myself pining for the mountains.  When I flew over the Rockies towards home I felt a catch in my chest.  Is this where I was meant to be?  Driving from Cranbrook to Fernie, I saw the mountains again and felt as though I were home.  It was a wonderful feeling.

This winter I am going to learn to snowshoe.  I am going to explore hiking trails.  Some days I will stay inside, wrapped in a blanket and sip tea.  And some days I will laugh until my sides hurt, or cry until I can’t breathe.

Here, in the Elk Valley, is where God called me to be.  I am a child of God, created in God’s image, which is one of perfection.  I am waiting with baited breath for the birth of the one who will set us all free…waiting to receive the perfect gift.

I am nervous about my first Christmas in the West.  But I will continue to put one foot in front of the other and know I am loved.  I will look through the windshield more than the rear view mirror because 2017 will be my best year yet.  I will turn 50, I will savour every moment of every day.  I will continue to love and be loved.  I will continue to work towards the coming of God’s kingdom, knowing that together; heart to heart, hand in hand, we can and we will change the world.

From my heart to yours, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, a Happy and Healthy New Year and a Blessed Epiphany.

 

 

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