Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Fixer

I have sat this evening with my shoulders scrunched up, neck stiff and jaw tight. Not even the tender silliness of Tom Hanks' roaming around JFK airport in his bathrobe could quite dispel the tenseness in me. It is an occupational hazard. Understand, I'm a fixer. I fix the world. I interpret dreams. I arbitrate family disputes. I offer recommendations about pastoral care problems that occur half a continent away. I mean, in response to Bobbie's current blog I emailed an American politician to encourage him in his stand on nuclear non-proliferation. AND I'M NOT EVEN AN AMERICAN. If there is a responsibility anywhere within my reach, I seize it, add my two cents worth. Try to fix it.
Not that I believe my efforts can alleviate all the worlds ills. I know I'm just a piece of the puzzle, a small cog in a very big wheel, a rung on the ladder, a link in the chain. But I try. I'm a fixer by profession; helping people tape together broken pasts and disconnected relationships. I'm a fixer by avocation; renewing old furniture, making curtains and cushions for tatty looking rooms. I'm a fixer by designation, having been assigned that role within my family. Let me tell you, it is a hard role to relinquish.
As a member of the Sandwich Generation, I find myself squeezed between responsibilities to young and old.. My elderly mother, now in a senior's residence, is ill and her state of mind and her bodily health are a daily concern. My children, both girls, treat me as a best friend, and I rejoice over that, but it doesn't mean I don't worry when they are ill, or their spouses are ill or stressed, or their children suffer in some way. I want to fix it all. I want to make it better. And the raw truth is that I can't. I can't alter the fact that my mother is 86 and frail. I can't change the fact that my children and grandchildren are living in a world which is more complex socially, morally and politically than the world in which I grew up. I can't fix it.
It is a relief to write this out. To say it to myself and to say it out loud, in a sense through this blog. It holds me accountable only for letting go. And that is distinctly what I am called to do.
Recently at a retreat at Linwood House I developed a mission statement:

"To express my gifts by conceiving and giving birth to Beauty."
There's nothing in that mission statement about fixing at all! I can't tell you the peace that gives me. My shoulders come down, my neck unkrinks. I stop gritting my teeth. I can pray now.
Creator God, who out of chaos, formed dry land.
Still now our ever straining hearts and trembling hands.
Dear Brother Christ, who saved the best wine to the last,
release us to rejoice in life, let go the past.
Oh Spirit, who with Presence comforts all our ills.
Speak wisdom where our chatter ends, our knowledge fails.

Thursday, November 25, 2004


I had an accident this morning. Not much. Just a fender bender really. No one was hurt, which was a very good thing since I had a three year old in the backseat, strapped in, of course. It happened mid-turn...left. Another car decided at that moment to pass me. Soft crunch. Tinkle of glass. The other car curled sideways down the highway like a well placed rock.
My sweetie was saying, "There's Granma's house. There's where she lives." Then it happened.
Those thoughts you know. Oh God. Not an accident. Yes. Can't avoid it. Impact. Never mind screaming, it's all over. Replay. Replay. REPLAY.
Breath rising in -15C. Other driver claiming responsibility. Get the cars off the road. Get the child to safety.
Crunch of tires. Warmth in the senior's building. Telephone calls. Shaking. Wanting to cry. Not now. Kind words. Waiting.
In the back of the cruiser. Packed in. Never have my legs felt so long. A GOOD THING. My legs press into the front seat. How do tall people manage? My feet get trapped. I eye the bars on the sides. Locked in. We talk. Long pauses. Writing. Can't these guys have laptops connected right to the station? Pencil scratches slowly. Time passes. I think of sleeping.
Released. I can't extricate myself from the cruiser. My feet are stuck under the front seat...size 6 1/2. Really. I sort of fall out bum first, my legs and feet slithering after me. No charges. Hah. Not even for silliness. GOOD THING. Later I am 25% to blame as far as the insurance company is concerned. But no court. Thank God. No anxiety of waiting. No trying to remember in a year and a half what happened on an icy highway in November, 2004. No revising my memory to suit the circumstances.
But most of all. Our precious little one is unscathed. Not a whimper. Not a cry. Didn't even know what hit her. Entertained the seniors and her great-grandma like the little trouper she is. It could have been otherwise. Thank you God. Thank you. A sobering reality. A heartfelt Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Lamb Wins

Last June I had an opportunity to travel with Global Action Canada to visit women (and men) in the church in Bulgaria. I think I wept for the first three days. It wasn't that I was sad. The services we participated in were lively and praiseful. The people were welcoming and generous and loving. The team was open and eager to be present in every situation. No, it was the sense that Christians I met had come through persecution and suppression. They had endured and prevailed.

I prayed with one elderly couple at our first service. They were so dignified, having the composure that only a lifetime of faith can give. We held eachother, all three weeping, and took turns praying in foreign tongues, not understanding a word of eachothers' prayers, but knowing the gist of the matter: the love of Christ and the sustaining presence of the Holy Spirit. I knew, without being told, of how they had worshipped for fifty years, in secret, in the underground church. I knew the risks they had taken, the cost of their discipleship. This knowledge just brought me to my knees.

Today was the Sunday of Christ the King, the culmination of the church year, the celebration of the victory of Christ over sin and evil. Not by coincidence, it was also the Sunday of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. It was with new ears, then, that I heard the words of St. John from his exile on the Island of Patmos. John, part of the persecuted church was writing his vision of just what it meant to be Sovereign. And I understood what these words of scripture mean. Out of the depth of persecution, imprisoned, silenced, tortured John sees with clarity. It is the Lamb that wins, the wounded Lamb, the crucified Lamb. It is not the Lion who is worthy to read the scroll but the Lamb. It is not the mighty but the powerless who are worthy. Victory is not triumphing by force or even by ballot.. Victory is laying down one's life for one's friends. Victory is a cup of water given in His name, the widow's penny offering, the little child leading, the faith of ordinary people tested by adversity. Bless them. They walk in the footsteps of Christ the King.

" Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, 'Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?' But no one in heaven or earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, 'Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.'
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: ' You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation...." Rev. 5:1-9a

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Dawsonwood Cottage

I bought a picture of a door today. The door is solid and closed, but has that sort of invitation one finds in doors painted blue, or yellow or red. This one is blue, with a gothic shape, and large blue bricks at its apex, like a halo. It begged to be opened. Inside, I saw a place of rest and peace, a place of stimulation and challenge.

Divine paradox. The closed door invites change and movement, daring and venturing, the coming into a new place both physically and spiritually. That is where I find myself, beginning to shape the plans that will open the door on a new reality.

My house is taking a new name, Dawsonwood Cottage, and will open its door for retreat and revisioning in the new year.. It's the dream of decades...a heart cry, for community...my own need speaking perhaps more than the needs of others. Yet I expect to entertain angels unawares.

I bought a picture of a door today...symbol of hospitality and opportunity. If in our Father's house there are many mansions, O God, let this cottage be one.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


I stumbled on grace in the garden last Sunday. My search was for pansies and roses, before the sun was fully up, before its warming rays could crack the frost and melt those few remaining petals. I found a yellow pansy, still intact, sheltered beneath its dying sisters, and a tiny red rose bud, no bigger than your pinkie nail, tucked up in the arbour. But the grace, that most surprising and undeserved of gifts, was a full stem of delphnium, as blue as the sky in July. I have seen jumping jacks in January, cornered between a rock and a hard place, their hardy faces smiling beneath a lacey melt of snow. But never, never, delphiniums in November. This is, after all, half way to the North Pole! Exactly, they tell me. We've already sunk to 10 below zero (Celsius, of course!) It was grace, Grace, GRACE. Personally, I need a lot of that these days.
Blessings, all, Connie

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Home Again, Home Again Jiggetty Jig

All hell broke loose while I was away. My mother was hospitalized with unexplained bleeding. My son-in-law, suffering from an inflamed pericardial sac, joined her. It was my daughter, my brother and sister-in-law who ferried them in wheelchairs, dragging their respective intravenous poles, back and forth between rooms for little family cups of tea.
I felt quite redundant when I returned. However, the malevalent case of flu I contracted on holiday as my penance for having a holiday in the first place was adequate to assuage the guilt of "not having been here." They are both recovering, thank you very much, however, I am still suffering from surges of adrenaline which have no outlet except for vacuuming up fur balls, reading mounds of mail, doing laundry, uncovering dusty furniture and watering thirsty plants. This, of course, is a perfect chance to close the door on important activity and open it on crucial, vital, necessary and inescapable activity, such as writing.
This is my first blog...something which would never have happened if Lisa hadn't run ahead and created a site for me. Thank you. Truly. Once I get a feel for this space, it will be such fun. It's fun already. Imagine my surprise when several of you had "posted", if that the term applies, before I'd written a word!
I had thought my first entry would be elegant, full of deep wisdom and sonorous phrases. Instead, it's just about the eternal struggle to wrest meaning out of the common stuff of life. Tomorrow I will spend many hours doing things I'd rather not do in places I'd rather not be. Perhaps you will too, or perhaps you'll find youself briefly in divine space and time. To redeem my time, I shall try to find a pansy still blooming in the garden, or a rose, up close to the house. I shall watch November light play on bare branches and sparkle off the river. I am quite confident it will be enough.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The door faces the world

...and when I close it, this place, Narnia-like, is bigger on the inside than out.
I have always been captivated by the notion that some things are both larger than they appear and larger than imagination. So the magic of a water droplet over eons, reduces a rock to a beach. Prayer, without wires or keyboards, can warm a heart across the miles. And someone typing random heartthoughts into cyberspace might contribute to change in the world.