Sunday, November 27, 2005

It's the map...dah, dah, map...dah, dah, map

Being a visual person, the map idea, stolen from Cindy, seemed really good to me. And I am surprised I managed the negotiations to set one up for Dawsonwood. Go to Sign in. Come on you who lurk here. Humour me. Send a picture, a word. You sign in with your email, which won't be used for anything else. I trust the process. And I trust Cindy, who is brilliant and not frequently given to frivolity.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Guest Blog

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Here is an insirational blog from LoveBarbara. Barbara's link can be found by clicking on the title above. I really identify with a lot that she writes, and this is not just because she is my daughter.

Fear can haunt me, too. All those things I can't control about the future are frequent companions. My prayer: "Dear God,
Let faith answer." Amen.

So here is what Barbara says:

"Fear knocked at the door, Faith answered and nobody was there."

This is a quote often said at my meetings. I am not sure where it originated from, but it is a quote that has worked for me these past few months while I haven't been well enough to go to them. When I first heard this said I thought it sounded crazy, I didn't get it. I get it now though. When I am fearful, I am pushing faith out of my sight and out of my thoughts. For me, fear comes in many forms. Fear of more illness, not only of myself but for the people I love. Fear of abandonment, financial insecurity, not knowing what lies ahead in tomorrow, fear of yesterdays' skeletons falling out of the closet and so on.

When I focus on fear, it rules my life. It tears away ambition, kind actions or thoughts. It creates resentments, jealousy and anger. I begin to doubt my life, my friends and my family's intentions. It can change how I feel and react about most things, which under normal circumstances would not bother me. It throws me in a deep, dark well with no way out. The incessant droning of negative thoughts drives me mad.

Then it comes. Like a gentle wave, or a soft breeze. Renewal of faith. A phone call from a friend in the program, a kind word, good news from the doctor, relief of symptoms left over from an illness, ability to hold my children, laugh, cry, accept and feel at peace with what is going on around me. Faith answered when fear was pounding down my door.

This is my life lesson. Everyday I need to remind myself that God has laid down his plan for me that day. All that is required of me, is to ask God for acceptance, courage, wisdom and especially the strength to carry it out. Today, I have a choice. It can be a good day, or a bad day. I can choose to look at my yesterday's as failures, or lessons. Tomorrow is too uncertain for specific plans, but for today I know God will give me the strength to endure as long as I am willing to ask for help.

This is a piece of prose read at most of my meetings, it helps me when I feel overwhelmed. I wanted to share this with anyone who is interested. It has helped me many times to stay in the now, in today. As Ray Charles delicately phrased it "Live everyday like it's your last, because one day you'll be right."

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
author unknown

"There are two days in every week about which we should not worry,
two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension.
One of those days is Yesterday, with it's mistakes and cares it's faults and blunders, it's aches and pains.
Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control. All the money in the world cannot bring back Yesterday.
We cannot erase a single word we said we cannot undo a single act we performed.
Yesterday is gone.
The other day we should not worry about is Tomorrow, with it's possible adversities, it's burdens, large promise and poor performance.
Tomorrow is also beyond our immediate control. Tomorrow's sun will rise, either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds but it will rise.
Until it does, we have no stake in tomorrow for it is yet unborn.
This leaves only one day, Today.
Anyone can fight the battles of just one day.
It's only when you and I add the burdens of those two awful eternities,
Yesterday and Tomorrow that we break down.
It's not the experience of today that drives us mad.
It is remorse or bitterness for something which happened yesterday and the dread of what Tomorrow may bring
Let us therefore live but one day at a time."
posted by Barbara 7:03 PM 2 comments
Monday, November 14, 2005

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Intentional Eating

I was troubled with stomach pains. Pain when I was empty. Pain when I was full. Discomfort with spicey food. Distention with bland food. The doctor said I probably had an ulcer in the making. I was to eat small meals, several times a day. Sit down. Savour my food. Stop rushing. Eat peacefully. At table. Never eat on the go, and never do anything but eat when I was eating. It sounded easy enough.

Intentional eating. No distractions.

Do you know how often people call the pastor at meal times? When else is she home?
How peaceful is a family meal table when adults need time to share the day, and two middling girls need focused attention?
Cups of tea and boxed cookies consumed while I visited shut-ins? Surely that was not what the doctor ordered.

Mid-morning seemed an appropriate time for my first small meal in solitude. It was an effort to put aside my current book, The Alphabet of Grace. When eating alone I always read. The side of the cereal box in French, if nothing else were available. I reluctantly relinquished Frederick Bueckner, and chose herbal tea in a china cup, a tiny bunch of grapes and three dry crackers.

I sat for a long time looking at these offerings. The task of eating anything seemed impossible.

I plucked a grape. Weeping. What was this? Tears for a grape? It felt heavy in the hand. Gigantic in the mouth. More tears, silent, streaming. I would choke on this one grape and be found dead at the dining room table. The need to chew and swallow was growing. The body responds with saliva when food is placed in the mouth. It’s natural. But it is one of the things you don’t notice when you eat on the run.

Something holy was happening. A singular sacrament. With an effort of will, finally, I bit into the grape. Brought body, mind and spirit to the task. Felt its skin. Tasted its juice. Saw its deep purple colour in my mind. Sensed the other half dozen grapes waiting on the plate would be a surfeit of blessing. Reverently, prayerfully, I swallowed the grape.

What a struggle food had been for me all of my life. Too much. Too often. Too hurried. With a flash of parallel insight, I saw my whole life as a banquet, consumed but not savoured. Awash with tears, I choked down the grapes, the three dry crackers and the tea. There was a necessity to go through this ritual. To taste and see.

The intentional meal was a life altering experience. I marked it by writing a poem and offering that poem to Frederick Bueckner, in my first ever and only fan letter. He wrote back, by hand, some time later. And I still have the poem.


Life is a large grape,
hard to swallow whole,
tough as chicken,
big as a balloon in my mouth,
but insignificant enough
to make the necessity of chewing it,
an embarrassment.
The task's to get it down.

What holy hesitancy is this
to bite, bear down and masticate,
chew it up with clenched teeth,
let the juice run down over my chin,
empty myself of saliva in the living of it?

I distract myself from my devouring,
read a book,
write stories in my head,
dangle from the chandelier,
I have managed half a lifetime of grapes
in this manner,
some sustenance,
no substance at all.

Now this one grape,
commands me to taste it,
know it for itself.
I fasten on it,
will not let it go until it blesses me,
my first and last supper.
It bleeds between my teeth,
and I weep my grace,
anger and reverence,
and glory.

C.K. after Frederick Buechner

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Antidote to Anxiety

One of the antidotes to anxiety is a thankful heart. Tonight I am reminding myself of the things I am grateful for.


I am thankful for a roof over my head,
and not just any roof but a solid, newer, softly spreading roof,
with broad eaves.

I am thankful for a tolerant, understanding, forgiving and kind husband.

I am thankful for answers to prayers:
  1. Robbie's health and his continued growth and development; his constant urge to stand up and push with his legs and try to walk; his ability to shake off this cold without a visit to the doctor's.
  2. Spencer's silly antics, loving heart and fast feet. For his energy, his friendliness and tender feelings. For his passions for mechanical things, his boyish playfulness.
  3. Rachael's voice, her growing ability to communicate the subtleties of her feelings, her observations of the universe (when seeing the moon behind fast moving clouds..."Oh, look the moon is flying home.")
  4. Sobriety in my family, hard won and stalwartly maintained against all odds.

I am thankful for:

Humour. For the ability to laugh out loud when my cell phone set off a thrum in the organ...even played a note all by itself, before it rang in church this morning! Wrong number.

A place to write this

People who read it.

The passage of time which heals all wounds.

Being understood.

Enough money for now. Enough money to give to others.

The joy of words.


God's love experienced in peace and in turmoil.

New handles to replace the one's Rob constantly fixed with crazy glue on the old Toyota. A detailed cleaning on the same motley vehicle. It looks like new.

A kiss.

Being treasured and appreciated by a loved one.

Seeing my mother enjoy my grandchildren at play.

Robbie pretending to be a frog and laughing. Rachael being a friendly tiger. Spencer talking to me basso profundo on the phone. "Love you."

Good sons-in-law. Dylan helping Rob take the paddle boat out before the river freezes over. Jeff helping me with my cell phone ignorance.

Daughters who are good mothers.

Roses in November.

A good book at bedtime.


Clock chimes.

The end of a day.

For all these blessings and those not named here, I am grateful. My cup runs over and I can face the future with less anxiety knowing that I am so richly provided for in this day.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Kitchen Renovations Z to A

Okay, so everybody knows there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything. Let me tell you, with these kitchen renovations you can work magic in any direction. Start with Z and work through to A, or do it the other way round, more conventionally. Either way, the results are sure to command another reno in a year or two.

Z. Assemble fabrics you really like in large amounts when they are on sale and keep them for as long as possible before beginning the project.

Y. Pull down the overhead cupboards, leaving a shortage of storage space. Buy a couple of overpriced painted black pine bookcases to make into a faux armoire.

X. Smash the microwave moving it from A to B. Rob a bank. Buy a new one.

W. Take off a little wallpaper. Fade fast.

V. Prime a few cupboards. Decide to use STP and sand the cupboards first the next time.

U. While taking off the doors of cabinets would be a good idea, do them in place. Dab paint on the hinges and hope no one notices.

T. Hack off a little more wallpaper.

S. Cover some crumbling wall in beadboard.

R. Reline a few drawers and refill them. Throw out one or two things.

Q. Use the odd tea towel for a paint rag. Notice the pile of tea towels is growing precariously small.

P. Clean out the fridge if it smells.

O. Scrape off a few more shards of wallpaper. Bits of wall may come off with the paper. Daub on some crack filler.

N. Take the window screens into the shower with you for a really good clean. This is an amazing time saver.

M. Paint a bit of window trim. Hope no one sees the excess paint on hardware bits.

L. Clean freezer if something still smells.

K. Do a second coat on something.

J. Get a special tool for scoring old wallpaper. Soak walls and floors with warm water and wallpaper stripper. Scrape off the grease which has loosened up under the stove.

I. Clean sides of stove while they are exposed.

H. Put a few new handles on a couple of unfinished doors to see how they look.

G. Line a shelf or two.

F. Scrape off a bit more wallpaper.

E. Disconnect ambient lighting. Show off. Buy new fixtures. Check them out it the space. Take them back. Get more. Take them back. Do this for as long as it takes to get the fixtures right. Beauty is in the details.

D. Order counter top on the pay next year plan. Pretend you know what you are doing when the guy comes to measure the space.

C. Scrape off a bit more wallpaper.

B. Ignore family, friends and blogging for weeks on end.

A. Get a cold.

A. Do not let this stop you from continuing with the project. Advil Cold and Flu medicine should keep you just well enough to scrape off more wallpaper.

B. Don't forget to get the paint off your hands before going to church, but look as dirty as possible when on an outing to Home Depot or Northern Buildall. It's expected.

C. Buy new baseboards and hope someone else will put them in.

D. Get a more handy partner.

E. Scrape. Scrape. Scrape. And Pray.

You could start these directions in the middle and work out to either end and the results would still be stunning.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

For All the Saints

November First. All Saints Day. One of my favourite days in the church calendar. It was of little importance in the tradition in which I grew up, which paid no notice to the movement of the church year, that dignified process from the Sunday of Christ the King, through Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and so on.

Much more importance was given to November 11. The lonely tones of The Last Post. The two minutes of silence. (An eternity to a child with frozen feet, and an inability to see anything but trousered legs and the bottoms of women's heavy winter coats.) A brass band pondering Abide With Me . Pipers lamenting. Slow and measured steps. The laying of wreaths at The Cenotaph. (Cenotaphs and Pyramids were about the same thing in my mind then...and when you think about it, I wasn't far off the mark.) Poppy wearing. There were huge crowds of still young sainted veterans, amongst them my father, who always refused to wear his medals, despite my mother's pleading. He was ever a self-effacing man. No doubt we honoured a few sinners too, both living and dead, who were also beloved by man and God. It escaped no one's notice that their courage had preserved the way of life we were privileged to enjoy.

But All Saints Day a few brief days earlier. Hard on the heels of Hallowe'en. It had passed without note. Not so now.

My list of saints has grown extremely long in the last years. And this year my heart has been deeply moved by the recent loss of two friends, both men, still in their prime. One was a lifelong friend, who with his wife, was generous of heart and lively of mind. He was, in Nouwen's terms a "spiritual strategist," someone whose visionary planning raised millions of dollars for charity and for the major educational institution for which he was head of planned giving. The other was a "quiet" man, with a pastor's heart, whose steadfastness in sickness and suffering brought him much admiration. He was my parents' pastor when my father was dying. He was at Dawsonwood Cottage the day they brought us a hospital bed and he helped Rob set it up in the dining room. On the day my father died, he dismantled that same bed, and trundled it out to the garage. A practical christian.

I copied this from Henri Nouwen (click on title above for link) and saved it for November 1.

The Garden of the Saints

The Church is a very human organization but also the garden of God's grace. It is a place where great sanctity keeps blooming. Saints are people who make the living Christ visible to us in a special way. Some saints have given their lives in the service of Christ and his Church; others have spoken and written words that keep nurturing us; some have lived heroically in difficult situations; others have remained hidden in quiet lives of prayer and meditation; some were prophetic voices calling for renewal; others were spiritual strategists setting up large organizations or networks of people; some were healthy and strong; others were quite sick, and often anxious and insecure. But all of them in their own ways lived in the Church as in a garden where they heard the voice calling them the Beloved and where they found the courage to make Jesus the center of their lives
Thank You God For All The Saints.