Sunday, July 30, 2017

A prayer for an understanding mind (and heart)

there is so much
that my small mind cannot fathom.

This world
with all its intricacies
and your created beings
with all our complexities
are more than I
will ever comprehend.

Some of the black and white judgments
I was taught to make in the past
have turned out
to be so many shades of grey
that I am just beginning to embrace.

So, like Solomon,
I ask for a wise and discerning mind --
not so that I may judge
things or people to be right or wrong
but so that I may hold the tensions
you want me to hold
and remain open,
leaving judgment to you alone.

I trust that
as I embrace life and love in all their many forms,
you will lead my heart
down paths of beauty and goodness,
truth and simplicity.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

As I Am #9 --19 paper cranes

L'Arche Internationale's little videos about the beauty, goodness and truth of people with disabilities and their caregivers never disappoint. The most recent comes from L'Arche Japan and features Sachiko, a woman who lives a beautiful life and creates beautiful paper cranes to carry beautiful souls to paradise. If you haven't seen this yet, I highly recommend it.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Grandma, it's not as easy as you made it look...

Last night, my sisters and I reminisced about picking the raspberries in Grandma's garden. She had approximately 100 rows of bushes, each of them stretching at least a mile to the back Saskatoon berry hedge. Or so it seemed to us three little girls. And no matter how fast we picked, we couldn't keep up with Grandma, who always seemed to have a full pail to our scant handfuls (and I don't think we were eating more than we were picking...)

Today I made my first-ever batch of raspberry jelly. Yesterday I picked a lot of backyard raspberries, and though I usually freeze them for breakfast smoothies, I thought that people might want ice cream and raspberries for dessert at our family barbecue last night. But my mom brought a bee-eautiful rhubarb/apple/saskatoon berry crumble, and my raspberries were forgotten. In the middle of the night, I remembered the pail on the counter, and decided that today I'd have to try a batch of raspberry jam or jelly.

Realizing that my family would probably prefer not to have raspberry seeds stuck in their teeth at breakfast, I started researching how to make jelly online, and as I did, some dimly lit corner in the back of my mind flashed that I had inherited some cheesecloth for straining juices. When Ruby, my oldest-ever neighbour -- who lived in her home until she was ninety-seven and kept on for five years after that -- moved into seniors' housing, her niece passed me a lot of Ruby's canning jars and a few other things. So I went hunting in our cold storage room, and glory be! There was a whole forgotten collection of berry juicing equipment from Ruby in the far back corner!

Once I washed everything and figured out how to put the antique WearEver aluminium strainer together, it was just a matter of time before I would have enough raspberry juice to make a beautiful batch of jelly. I was so excited! But of course, I had forgotten two important things:

#1 It's a good idea to reinforce the seams of ancient cheesecloth bags before using them.

#2 It's an even better idea to wear dark colours when making raspberry jelly.

Somewhere at the halfway point of the juicing process, as I was squeezing the raspberry pulp left in the cheesecloth bag, a seam gave way. Raspberry seeds and pulp sprayed across the room and my lovely flowered t-shirt. A passing stranger looking in our front window could have easily called 911 to report a mortally wounded woman standing over a berry press because it certainly seemed that way. My left side looked as though I was a victim from a chainsaw massacre.

Fortunately, no one looked in at that moment. I changed my clothes, scrubbed the floor and walls and fired up the sewing machine to reinforce the damp cheesecloth bag's seams, and the rest of the canning process was uneventful, thank heavens. The jelly set beautifully, and it tastes like summer. So if you're in the neighbourhood, drop by and we can have raspberry jam on toast anytime, at least for as long as it lasts.

Some days, I swear I can feel my Grandma laughing with me as I try out the things she used to do so effortlessly. And I suspect that just as she would chuckle with me over the big red blotches on my shirt and the floor, she'd also be pleased with this first attempt at raspberry jelly.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sunday reflection: Sighs too deep for words

Reflection based on Romans 8:26-27

O Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Maybe it's not so much 
that we don't know how to pray as we ought,
but that we are unable to find words 
to express the inexpressible:
or a feeling of hopelessness --
or a strong sense of hope.
It's just good to know
that when we stand, tongue-tied,
in the chaos of our lives,
you intercede for us
with sighs too deep for words.
Really, that's all we need --
and to trust 
that you've got our backs.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Mary, mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

Not with silver bells and cockleshells and pretty maids all in a row, but I prefer food with my flowers, don't you? And I can't complain about the growth -- it never ceases to amaze me once we reach summer solstice!
June 21 
July 21

June 21

July 21

June 21

July 21

June 21

July 21
Thus far, we're enjoying lettuce, cherry tomatoes and snow peas, and it won't be long, God- and weather-willing, before we can start eating even more organic, 50-foot-diet vegetables. The squash are blooming, and it's just amazing how things change, even overnight. A garden is a good place to be this time of year, but if you don't have one, try a farmer's market because it's awesome too! Or visit me... I have more lettuce than I know how to handle! You've heard of crazy zucchini ladies...???

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Everything's a miracle

As you may have guessed from the changes in the look of my moodlings, we're back from our summer vacation... a trip to Waterton Lakes National Park, a visit to Lee's parents in Lethbridge, and a week at Radium Hot Springs. The weather was great, if a bit too hot, and we enjoyed a lot of outdoor time, appreciating our beautiful environments. The smoke from the terrible forest fires a couple of valleys over in BC wafted across occasionally, reminding us that not all is well everywhere in God's gardens.

On our way home, driving past some of the most beautiful places in the Rocky Mountains, we listened to my favourite tune by Peter Mayer, Holy Now (if you haven't heard it, click here) that reminds us that really, everything's a miracle.

Here are some miracles from the past few weeks...

Lundbreck falls near Pincher Creek...

Hanging out with my gang at Waterton Lakes National Park...

This "living lawn ornament" in the town of Waterton...

Wildflowers and a newly engaged couple...

The view from the heights...

Wildflowers as the sun sets...

The strength of the wind...

Natural hot springs...

Roads (extremely bumpy!) into the wilderness...

Emerald green lakes... (White Swan Provincial Park)

How nature rejuvenates itself after a wildfire (2003)... (Marble Canyon)

And the love of a good man for 26 years (today's our wedding anniversary).

I've never quite understood people who don't believe in a Higher Power of some sort. Yes, there's a lot of trouble and pain in our world, but there's also so much beauty, goodness and truth, and not everything can be rationally explained by science. Miracles abound. As Peter Mayer sings, "the challenging thing becomes not to look for miracles but finding where there isn't one."

I hope you're finding many miracles around you in these summer days...

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A prayer for rain

We've been away since July 1st, and in that time we have been following the situation in BC's interior with increasing concern. The smoke from the forest fires that are threatening communities in the Cariboo region is drifting across the western provinces now, and there's an out-of-control blaze near Banff, reminding us that all is definitely not well with our environment if large swathes of forest are burning and adding greenhouse gases to our planet's already overburdened atmosphere. And for most of us, there's nothing we can do about it, really, except pray for those most affected by the fires, for the fire crews, and for our earth as a whole.

So I offer, once again, a prayer for rain:

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Simple Suggestion #266... Sing with a friend

I think it began on my 17th birthday. My best friend, Cathy, happened to be in town, and we went for a long walk together. And somewhere on that walk, she taught me to sing "When I first came to this land." I still remember all of the words, I think. I probably taught her a song, too. So there we were, two seventeen-year-olds, walking along the North Saskatchewan River, singing two part harmony.

And it grew from there. In October, the day our trains got all messed up, we unexpectedly found ourselves at a train station in rural France... learning another song in two parts. We've got several duets that we like to sing together, and one evening not so long ago when I was really missing her (she lives 1284 km away), I called her up. When she said "Hello?" I launched into this song, and of course she joined right in:

I have been fortunate to have sung with many friends through the years. I'm particularly pleased to have reconnected with a fellow I used to sing with in a youth group as a teenager. We're both three decades older now, but somehow our voices still fit together like lego blocks. It gives me so much joy to sing harmony with him at church once a month because somehow I can just feel in my bones when he'll begin and what my next note should be, thanks mostly to our early years of collaboration, I think. And there are other friends whose voices are imprinted in my soul from other times, people  with whom I'd like to think I could pick up a tune at the drop of a hat.

Then there are my sisters. We sang together in the car on long trips when we were little... and learned a few melodies in three part harmony in our teens. I loved singing with them, but our regular monthly gig at church ended about ten years ago and has never been replaced by anything else. Sisters, if you ever want to sing non-church music together, just the three of us, I'm game! A capella if you want!

Today's simple suggestion to sing with a friend doesn't mean the music needs to be high quality or aired in public. Even if you don't consider yourself to be a musical person, it can be fun to find a friend and sing along to the radio or attend an in-home karaoke night. All that's needed for guaranteed mood improvment is a friend, a fun little ditty, and a willingness to sing your hearts out. Singing along with Sharon, Lois and Bram or Charlotte Diamond with our kids when they were small made a lot of car trips a lot more pleasant!

Sing with a friend, just for the health of it. And if you have a favourite song that you like to sing with a favourite someone, I'd love to hear about it!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sunday reflection: I will give you rest

Image borrowed from a lovely blog
called A Glimmer of Sunshine
This Sunday's gospel reading seems like it's chosen to go along with summer vacation mode. Jesus says, "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

A yoke isn't something we understand very well in North America with our mechanized farming and John Deere tractors. But my grandpa used yokes on pairs of animals... and this reading suggests to me that if I am yoked with Jesus, he's carrying the large ox share of the weight. A perfect image for summer relaxation, just walking along beside the One who lifts my burdens.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The #holyroodbenchproject - An update

One recent sunny morning, I decided to ride my bike around my neighbourhood to discover how the #holyroodbenchproject had turned out (click here for the original moodling on the subject). And I have to say it was a wonderful ride because of the anticipation I felt with every corner I turned. Coming across a bench I hadn't yet seen was like finding an unexpected present under the tree on Christmas morning. Thanks to all the wonderful woodworkers at SEESA, and to my neighbours who took responsibility for giving these benches homes -- and some creative paint jobs!

Let's start with the original bench, the one that 
spawned the idea for the #holyroodbenchproject.
Note the lovely curved armrests and the shape of the back pieces,
plus the message to indicate that anyone is welcome to sit:

Below is a bench in its original state,
awaiting a coat of paint or varnish...

Then there are the simple beauties, 
finished with lovely stains...

Some people gave a bit more thought to colour and design...

The bench above goes with a red-and-white themed flowerbed 
for Canada's 150th anniversary, I'm guessing...

I'm happy to see these bright colours above on display...
as I'm guessing members of our LGBTQ community might be...

Above, the butterflies are padded decals...
and there are a few benches below with well-designed messages...

Including the special bench above, which sits right outside 
the South East Edmonton Senior's Association building...

Above is a closeup of one that says 
"Break time -- enjoy the day from your friends at SEESA"
and the flamingo is having a wonderful vacation, 
visiting Alberta's golden prairies and snowy mountains...
or at least that's how I see it. See the ducks?

Below is a brilliant activity bench,
with a ziplock bag of chalk included.
Clearly the kids' choice!

But I think my heart's favourite is a bench purchased and painted 
by a neighbour for her neighbours down the street...
with piano keys for a piano teacher,
 and see the beloved pets in the trees?

The bench outside our house appears on my original moodling... and counting it plus all of these, I'm still a couple short of the 20 that were built for the #holyroodbenchproject. I know that the SEESA seniors have had quite a few extra orders, so if you would like a neighbourly bench of your own, they're now selling them for $100, a great deal. A friend of mine bought two, one for her boulevard and one for her children's school. 

If you have a bench that I missed in this moodling, let me know, and I'd be happy to come take its picture too. I've never ridden my entire neighbourhood on my bike before, and I found that tracking down benches made it even more enjoyable. And if you're looking for a walkable neighbourhood with big trees and shady benches for rest, come visit us in Holyrood.