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Posts Tagged ‘hope’

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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I struggle, at times, with depression and anxiety.  Most of the time I can cope with medication, relaxation, proper diet, exercise and rest.  Lately I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed, and it’s completely understandable why I’m feeling this way.

On Friday I’m having surgery.  For the second time in my life I will go under general anesthetic.  I’m not afraid of the surgery.  The surgeon has reassured me that he anticipates the procedure will go well.  The procedures I’m having are minor, taking 20 minutes in total.  The anesthesiologist has reassured me that all shall be well.  She asked if I was nervous and I said I wasn’t and smiled.  She asked why I was smiling and I replied “if things don’t go well, it won’t be my problem…it will be yours.  As you’ll get to tell my congregation”. And we both laughed.

What I fear is the unknown.  Which is truly a silly thing to fear.  And I participate in mental gymnastics…what if I get an infection…what if it takes me hours to come out of the anesthetic…what if something goes wrong?  All legitimate questions, all with unknown answers.  Try to explain that to my anxiety.

I’m not worried about the congregation.  My Wardens and Licensed Lay Ministers will take care of everything in the parish.  My Regional Dean will look after any pastoral emergencies.  And still my innards flutter.

So, between now and Thursday morning when I find out the actual time of the surgery I will keep myself busy, which isn’t difficult to do.  The difficult part is remembering to take time to breathe, to care for myself…to do everything I can to release the anxiety I feel.

I’m staying with a good friend in the community where I’m having the surgery to make sure that I properly rest and don’t overdo things.  Left to my own devices I would push myself too hard and too soon.  I’m told it will be approximately 10 days before I can return to work…I’m giving myself 14 days.  And I fully anticipate returning to work at a bit slower pace then I am maintaining right now.

If you are a person who prays, I ask for your prayers for myself, and also for the doctor’s, nurses and support staff who will take care of me through the surgery.  I ask for your prayers for those who will care for me after the surgery until I am able to care for myself.

Thanks!

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My newsfeed has been flooded with devastating news…attrocities happening around the world, children snatched from their parents and injured or killed, senseless violence continues to happen and it feels overwhelming…

I’ve spent less time on Social Media than I usually do because the majority of the news I read is upsetting.  Hate crimes seem to be rampant; one of the most devastating was the nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.  A gunman opened fire and killed 49 people, injuring another 50.  Mainstream media are having difficulty naming it for what it is…a hate crime.  A man opened fire in a gay club because he had seen two men kissing and it had enraged him.

He was called mentally unstable.  He was called an Islamic fanatic.  The truth is, he was a man filled with hate.  And the crime he committed was not a crime of passion, but a crime of hatred.

All around the world there have been demonstrations of solidarity; the Tony awards paid tribute to the victims of the senseless crime.  A showing that love always wins.  A barrage of pride flags adoring websites, and being flown from flag poles all over the globe.  One man’s hatred is being overshadowed by many people’s love.

And yet, I have seen three separate instances of “Christians” saying that the 49 killed were not enough.  Of celebrating the gunman as a hero.  In the name of God.  In the name of Jesus.  That is NOT okay.

I am a Christian.  I am a proud Christian.  And the God I worship is one who is about love…not hate.  The Christ to whom I pledged my life gave us two commandments; to love God, and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.  There’s no room for hate when we love.

So to my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, I stand beside you.  I walk with you.  I love you as God loves you and please, don’t let ANYONE take that from you.  These narrow minded pastors are not of God.  They don’t speak for God.  They are not Christian.  They are hatred.  And love always wins.

Please, if you disagree or don’t understand “alternative lifestyles” don’t think you have the right to kill someone.  You have the right to your opinion.  You have the right to not understand.  But you do NOT have the right to hurt someone else because of your ignorance.  Sexuality is as biological as eye colour, nose size and handedness.  And for the record, there is more written about left-handedness then homosexuality in scripture.

Stop taking the sacred word of scripture and twisting it out of context to support your bigoted and hateful ways.  Love always wins.

There are people who don’t believe I should be ordained because of my gender.  They hate me because of it.  I can’t do anything about that hatred, but I can love.  And I do.

Take heart my sisters and brothers; we will not forget those of you who stand up to hatred and violence every day.  We will speak up for those who fear to walk alone at night.  We will hold the hands and march alongside those who only want to live their authentic life.

There are those who will live in fear and will lash out.  Our reply must to be respond with love.  It’s not easy to turn the other cheek.  It’s not easy to stand up to bullies, but together we can.  We must.

Because, in the end.  Love always wins.  O Lord, hear our prayers.

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I’m exhausted. I’m not really sure why…but I suspect it has more to do with emotional than physical exhaustion. Usually I’m up to date with emails and phone calls. I’m terrific at keeping up to date with filing, correspondence and all that kind of stuff. And yet lately, I’m finding myself getting behind, and while aggravated, I’m not worried about getting it done…as I guess I know it will get done.

I decided a week or so ago that it was time to put the paperwork together to file for divorce. As an educated woman I thought the process would be relatively simple…and after spending far too much time on the provincial website, only to discover that the jpg reader was out of date on my laptop, I debated about spending the $1,000 to get someone else to file the paperwork.

I had a cup of tea, a frustrated cry and started again the next day. And much to my amazement, I was able to navigate the forms with relative ease. This afternoon I took the carefully prepared forms to the court hours in the next largest city to the one where I live. The Registrar was very helpful and found a couple of mistakes. She also told me I needed to present her with 4 copies of all the documents. So I went to a friend’s home and made the corrections, then made copies of the forms and took them back to the Court House.

I now have a court file number that needs to go on all the other forms. As soon as I can arrange it, my soon-to-be ex-husband will be served with the primary document. The challenge of that is he lives in a different province…but it is doable.

Tonight when I got home I realised just how weary I was. I had an hours sleep and was supposed to meet with a couple for pre-marriage planning but I was simply too tired, so we’ve rescheduled for next week. Easy enough.

I’ve been looking at short hairstyles on Pinterest. I’ve decided I need a change in my appearance…and hair is the ultimate fashion accessory. I’m going to see my hairdresser tomorrow and hopefully either get it cut or make an appointment to get it cut. It’s time for a change.

My summer wardrobe is flowy dresses, capri’s and sandals. When its necessary to wear a clergy shirt, I wear one with one of the dresses. Definitely built for comfort this time of year.

As I reflect back on who I was before I came West I can see a significant shift in me. I’m more confident that I was before. I am far less afraid. I am as good a preacher as I ever was and as skilled a liturgist as I’ve ever been, but I feel, in some ways, as though I’m seeing the world differently.

I’m excited to be who I am. I’m excited at who I’ve become. I’m claiming back my identity and I will not surrender it again. Nobody will prevent me from being me. Not even myself.

With a shiny new haircut and a “go get ’em” attitude, I will have a new lease on life.

But right now it’s time for a cup of sleepytime tea and an early night. The only thing I’m after right now is my pillow…

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For many years I have closed off parts of myself…parts that held secrets or had been damaged.  Parts that I felt were no longer a part of me…that impeded me being who I have chosen to be.

Until recently…

Moving West has been, in many ways, a re-birth for me.  When I was packing up the myriad of books that have traveled with me for decades, I came across my old sketch pad from the early days at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary.  The pastels were dried up and useless, and yet the drawings held as much emotion as they had when I first drew them.  I must admit, at first I wasn’t sure what some of the images represented…and then I read the titles of the pieces…and a switch flicked.

I adore the mountains…and I’m feeling a creative part of myself awaken to capture them.  I’m not artistically talented in any way, and I have no idea what the images will look like when they are finished…but I do look forward to the creative process once again.

My wardrobe consists of predominantly black and neutral pieces…the occasional burst of yellow or orange.  I liken my wardrobe to that of a female robin…subdued.  However, I do have one dress that is my favourite…it’s a subdued rainbow tie-dye dress that I absolutely adore.  I bought it because it was on sale, and because it made me smile.  And yet I didn’t wear it much because I was uncomfortable attracting attention to myself.

When I was paring down my wardrobe I had to keep the dress, which actually surprised me.  That dress and a very feminine summer dress that I’ve had for decades made the cut.  So far it’s not been warm enough to wear the summer dress although I have worn the rainbow dress a couple of times.  In fact, I’m going to wear it for my induction with a light coloured clergy shirt.

I feel as though I am shedding the extra winter layers for the bright and beautiful promise of summer.  I’m wearing dresses with shorts instead of tights, and I’m walking a little bit straighter, head a little bit higher.  I’m stopping to smell and admire flowers and ask to pet dogs.

After a long, long, dark moment of grief I have emerged and reawakened — as a flower pushing against the newly warmed ground, seeking the sun and the promise of warmth on my skin…the feeling of rain refreshing and washing away the doubt and debris.

I am coming alive in ways I thought were finished for me…in ways I never imagined were possible, never mind wanted…and yet – here I am.

The colours that surround me seem brighter.  The sun and sky clearer.  The air sweeter.  The water cooler.  The grass smoother.  After a long, hard hibernation, I am daring to push my head against that which has held me down and embrace the new life which flows from within me.

I am alive.  And it is grand.

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I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  It is not who I am .  It does not define me.  And yet there are days when I really feel it.  Since moving west I’ve moved my body more than ever and I’m loving how my body is responding.  My skin is glowing, I’m drinking lots of water, eating fresh foods wherever possible, getting outside into the sun or rain and walking most everywhere.

When I first got here I was absolutely exhausted.  The Archbishop asked if my soul had caught up with my body from all the traveling, and when I stopped to ponder his words I realised that it had not.  And that was sad.  So I rested myself more than usual, took things slower and generally listened to my body.

One of the challenges with CFS is chronic pain.  It’s manageable…I’ve lived with it for 18 years.  Most days, once I get moving, it’s barely noticeable and so, I’ll admit, I get a bit cocky…and then that’s when my old friend returns.

Late nights, early morning, poor nutrition choices, overloaded work schedule, stress, etc. etc. etc. and soon the dance of fatigue becomes more complicated.

Last night was one of those nights.  I found my body getting heavy.  I found my ability to concentrate diminished. I fought to stay alert and when I started to lose my horizon I lay down.  It took me a little while to figure out which way was down, but once I did, gravity did the rest.  I slept deeply, heavily for a couple of hours.  Woke up refreshed and needing the bathroom.  Returned to bed and slept deeply again…glorious, restful sleep.

So today as I look at my schedule for the week, I’m going to be a bit more gentle with myself.  I’m still going to walk, but not push myself…life is a marathon, not a sprint.  I’m going to eat food I enjoy, and savour it.  I’m going to begin to journal again, noting the joy and challenge in my life.  And I’m going to live.

Slowly, I’m learning to reframe my language into something that is positive.  A wise friend recently commented that language and words define our power…define our reality.  And it’s so true.  “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me” is a fallacy and a damaging one at that.

My biggest critic is the negative self-talk that permeates my being.  Instead of building walls to keep people out, I’m going to build walls to surround the negative self-talk.  I will acknowledge it, dismiss it, and move on with my life.

A challenge?  Most definitely.

Do-able?  Absolutely.

Because I choose to be happy.  The only actions I control are my own.  And so I will choose to come from a place of love — always.  I will choose to come from a place of peace, of hope and of joy.

Oh there will be bad days…but they will not define me.  Like my CFS does not define me.  Right now we’re dancing the CFS is leading, but not for long.  And when that dance concludes, I’ll send him home.  Then I’ll continue to dance the dance of unbridled joy…perhaps even dancing in the rain.

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Before I moved west I was a basket case.  There were specific reasons for this, mostly involving my home life, but I was also struck by how incredibly tired I was.  Perpetually weary, I dreaded mornings and longed for my bed…sweet escape of sleep.

I still served my congregation and I was still pretty good at it…but I felt overwhelmingly empty.  I would work, and work, and work.  And never seem to finish anything.  I’d be filled with guilt if I didn’t return a phone call or respond immediately to an email.  It was frustrating and soul-rendering.  And I could not, for the life of me, figure out why.

I made a promise to myself when I made the decision to move parishes, that I would establish good boundaries, good life balance and try to be better at this whole life thing.  That began with the drive.  My traveling companion and I stopped every day, at some point during the trip, to discover something…and usually to laugh.  We stopped as close to dark as we could and explored wherever we were.  We would take a swim, find something for dinner, and otherwise decompress from the day.

When I got here I was conscious of my time.  And so was the rest of the congregation and community.  When I met with my Regional Dean he offered to be part of my self-care team.  He would hold me accountable to taking day(s) off and caring for myself as much as I care for the community.  I readily agreed.  And, for the record, he does make sure I take my days off.  And that at least once a week, I do something fun, just for myself.

In all fairness, the respect in this is mutual and I encourage the same from him.

Usually Easter Monday I’m exhausted.  I take to my bed and stay there, completely worn out from over-extending myself during Holy Week.  This year that didn’t happen.  I was intentional in taking time during Holy Week to focus on what was most important and didn’t fill my calendar with “should do” events.  Everything on my calendar was “must do”.  And that made a huge difference.

Easter Monday I had an opportunity to take a day trip south of the border…somewhere I had never been before.  I went and the experience was amazing.  There was a great deal of sightseeing.  There was laughter, conversation, music, prayer, absolute joy.  When I got home from that near perfect day I felt relaxed, refreshed, peaceful.  I felt peace-filled!  I felt unadulterated joy.  BALANCE!

If you’ve looked at the word cloud, one of the largest words is Balance.  It is something I seek and something for which I am very mindful.  I don’t always achieve balance.  I do my best.  Lately, I’m getting better with it.  And that makes me feel like I’m on top of the world.

For me, one of the biggest lessons learned is that I don’t have to do it all *gasp*.  And it will still be okay.  Another of the lessons is that if I don’t take care of myself, I cannot take care of others. *shock*  Taking time for me, sets a good example for the congregation.  Taking time for me means I can be happy in myself and therefore of higher service to my congregation, friends and family.  And especially in right relationship with my God.

My routine lately is to wake a bit early, give thanks for the day, say morning devotions and prayers.  Get up, dressed, and walk, sometimes to the chiropractor, sometimes to the post office.  As part of every day I get outside, whether it’s raining, sunny, windy.  Even if just for 20 minutes I get outside.  I’m drinking more water.  I’m consuming less caffeine.  I’m moving my body more.  I’m slowing down and savouring everything around me.  I’m aware, I’m mindful.  I’m happy…I’m peaceful.  I’ve found balance!

Everything around me looks brighter, clearer, more awesome, every single day.  And for that I am eternally grateful.

Thanks be to God.

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