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Archive for the ‘life’ Category

I thought that I was done with this subject … then … more words flowed out onto the screen. I guess the ripples are still in motion …

It is akin to floating, or maybe I just long to feel the motion of the ripples on the water. I long for peace …

Nope, that doesn’t do …

Most of time I live and move through my days as always, then something jogs my memory, or I bump my knee and like the pain of an old injury resurfacing, I dissolve in a puddle …

No … still inadequate …

I’ll see him in one of my kids and I almost burst with a combination of joy and sorrow …

Nope …

How does one describe walking through the first 365 days without a loved one? How does one, adequately, define the experience of great loss? How does one say, at the same time … the pain of loss is always there and life goes on? How does one meander through year one with everything the same, yet every first a reminder that everything is different?

Short answer …

I don’t know.

This experience of year one without my/our dad, my mom’s husband, the next generation’s grandfather, a friend, neighbor, cousin does not make us experienced, experts. It just leaves us longing for what was, for time snuffed out.

Not only do we feel the void his death has left, we feel and know that it has changed us, our relationships with each other, for his empty space has removed scaffolding in our relationships with each other, causing us to either be stubbornly unmoved (a fallacy, as Seismic Shifts move us all) or completely unmoored, bounced around by every wave, every ripple.

Every ripple … the ripples of his life, breathless for almost a year, are still moving.

I saw it when my younger daughter filled my kitchen with biscuits from his biscuit recipe, when my nephew worked in his garden in spring and when my niece showed up to help clean his garden as summer was fading. I see it when my older daughter calls her grandmother to check in on her, when my son wrapped his arms around me, offering wordless comfort as I melted into a puddle. In how all the grands love their dogs and cats.

I saw it in the stubborn, in the drop everything and run, in the sadness and the frustrations and the avoidance techniques of my brothers … of myself.

He is in our risqué humor, our desire to help each other, our love of music and movement, in the colors of fall and the earliest maple syrup and pussy willows in spring. He is in the late night game, the local hockey team, eyes closed, but don’t you think about turning the channel. He is in the beauty and fluttering of a hummingbirds wings, the enjoyment of an ice cream cone or a meal surrounded by one another. He is in the contradiction of our striving and contentment. He is laughing … that deep belly laugh that often ended in him coughing up a lung. He is on the swing in the cool of a summer evening, reminiscing with our mom.

 “In the Ramtop village where they dance the real Morris dance, for example, they believe that no one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away—until the clock he wound up winds down, until the wine she made has finished its ferment, until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of someone’s life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.”

Terry Pratchett – Reaper Man

Dad,

the water still ripples.
the clock is still wound.
the wine is still ripening.

and dad … the crop you planted … it’s growing strong,
and the bounty of it will never come to an end.

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It was a Thursday morning, just like today.

Just like today, the sun shone brightly that day, after days of grey and gloom and rain.

At a glance, one might say that it was the calm after the storm … for me, a year ago, it was the beginning of the storm after the calm.

Twelve months later it is still a mix of calm and storms, everyday life and everything is changed, laughter and tears, stability and wobbling.

Twelve months of grief for my dad, followed by grief for his sister and her husband, a cancer diagnosis and treatment for a brother, the diagnosis of chronic disease for a daughter as well as illness for another, the loneliness of our mom and a world pandemic to round it all out.

Grief doesn’t happen in isolation. Life, with it’s joys and horrors just keeps happening, with little concern for our pain and processing.

There have been times when I have felt, metaphorically, buried alive with grief, disappointment, fear, tragedy and sorrow. Days when I got out of bed, but stayed on my dung heap from morning ’til night. Days when I didn’t have anything left to give … to anyone, even myself.

And the one who I had previously gone to, when there was no other … he was gone too. And I felt it. I felt the vacuum of his absence, the loss of the undergirding he had always provided.

And what have I learned?

  • I have learned that life is short … too short for regrets, excuses. We have today, this moment … that is all we know we have.
  • I have learned that speaking of your pain validates the pain felt by another.
  • I have learned to say I love you instead of good bye … to family, to friends … it will one day be too late to speak them, don’t save them like fancy china … throw them around like confetti.
  • I have learned to lean into my sadness, to cry when the tears surface, to say the words, “I am sad today,” to feel the feels of grief.
  • I have learned that it’s okay to take a break from helping others … saying no or not volunteering to help someone else is okay when your cup is empty.
  • I have learned that even helpers need helpers … from my husband, to a couple of friends, to my counsellor … these people have been the ones throwing me flotation devices when I was taking on water.
  • I have learned that even though I have struggled to write during this year, I have managed to continue to practice this daily discipline.
  • I have learned (again) that God never leaves us in the valleys of life, including grief … and he shows himself in people and wonders that can only be of him.
  • I have learned that grief is not something one can go around, but we must go through it.

It has been a year … started with a beautiful, sunny morning and ended the same.

Though the void left behind will never again be filled, I am hoping that this sunrise was the calm after the great storm.

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In the Pacific Northwest it is storm season. The torrential rains and the strong winds appear usually from November to December. Some years the impact is barely noticeable, whereas other years they provide enough impact for headlines such as STORM OF THE DECADE (or CENTURY).

While listening to the weather forecast this morning I heard about successive storms expected to hit our coast over the next few days …

and I got so excited!

Just like last evening, while out with a friend for a walk and coffee. When we started walking back to where our cars were parked (three or four blocks away) the heavens opened up and lightening flashed brightly in the distance. We sought temporary refuge under an awning, enjoying the light and sound show until the rains eased.

It was spectacular.

Just like the ones to hit our coast, just like all such storms, it eventually passed.

The next morning I awoke to a bright sunrise … the calm after the storm.

Storms in our lives … the kind that flatten us, leave us with more questions than answers, the kind that can skew our hopes and throw our future plans and dreams up in the air … those storms aren’t as delightful or entertaining as a thunder and lightening night sky performance.

Yet, like thunder and lightening, like wind and rain, these storms of life come and they eventually touch us all.

I don’t have wise and life-changing words for such storms. I cannot say that the loved one will be healed, that the money will be there, that the stress and anxiety of your life will dissipate.

I can tell you, from my faith and experience of the storms of life and of the God of all … you are not alone. Even when it may feel that you are out to sea in a dingy, paddling with all your might (or curled in a ball in fear) … you are not alone. He is with you.

When you pass through the deep, stormy sea, you can count on me to be there with you. When you pass through raging rivers, You will not drown. When you walk through persecution like fiery flames, you will not be burned; the flames will not harm you.

Isaiah 43:1-2

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“Just linger for a moment or two” I heard myself say. “Carole, you’ve gotta learn to linger.”

Five years ago, life was different.

Our oldest daughter was preparing to her first apartment, next daughter was living at home while studying at a local university and our youngest was still in high school, where I worked. We lived in a large home, on a sizeable property that demanded of us constantly. Hubby worked nowhere near just a forty hour work week as a pastor in a local church and his job trickled down into seen and unseen responsibilities for myself. It was our first year in a few with no International students as part of our home and family.

I was tired, perpetually tired.

It seemed that I was constantly in demand, in motion. I was either cooking, or driving, or working, or weeding …

and now …

life is different.

Our oldest two daughters are out on their own, our son still mostly living at home, sometimes working out of town, currently working locally. I still work the same hours, but it’s different. Hubby no longer working over full time as a pastor, now working a couple of part time positions. We sold our large property for a townhouse close to everything.

Life is … simpler, quieter, less demanding.

But, learning to linger … it does not come natural after years of living based on the urgent. The growing pains from a life of busy to less slow are very real.

In my adjustments to this new way of life and living, I am beginning to learn to linger … but it is a learning, a process of slowing oneself down.

It means pausing to smell the flowers, to listen, to ponder, to wonder.

It also means pausing in my day and lingering in the awareness of the presence of God. To put the book, the phone, the keys down … maybe even closing my eyes, and letting God know that I know he is right there, with me.


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At the funeral of Sister Margaret Lowe, 1918

Today, as Canadians, we remember those who gave their lives and youth in service to their country, their communities and to the pursuit of peace in other countries, around the world, in various conflicts in odd … virtual services of remembrance due to the pandemic.

It is not something I can personally understand, the idea of leaving the safety of my home, family and community to travel into an unfamiliar place filled where one’s life could be snuffed out at any time.

I wonder if I would be so selfless.

Military members and numerous volunteers have been, and continue to be so selfless.

One group of individuals who have given in times of conflict and world struggle are nurses.

Predominantly (but not exclusively) women, these nurses who cared for the wounded in field hospitals and even close to the front, risking and even losing their lives in their service.

Days that were long and resources that were often short was their wartime nursing norm. In a place of the horrors, fear and death all around them, they had to have steady hands, clear minds and the ability to dole out what must have seemed a daydream … encouragement and hope.

There are countless stories of servicemen in WW1 and WW2 who credit their lives to nurses who cared for them after injuries. They tell of having rediscovered their desire and purpose for living from the steady, patient and encouraging voice of one at their bedside, in their darkest hours.

This current pandemic is a close-to-home reminder of the selflessness, commitment and sacrifice of those who serve their communities as nurses.

As I bow my head, this Remembrance Day, my thoughts will be specifically, of those who gave in wartime as well as those who continue to do so.

They were young, as we are young,
They served, giving freely of themselves.
To them, we pledge, amid the winds of time,
To carry their torch and never forget.
We will remember them.

We will remember them.

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I think that one of my favorite chapters in the Bible is John 15. It begins with the vine and branches, migrates into how the world hates the disciples and ends with the work of the Spirit. Though they may have three different titles, they are all about abiding.

Charles Swindoll says that to “abide” with God (the vinedresser) is being at home with him. I love this translation for it feels warm, connected … it feels like a choice.

Indeed, abiding is a choice.

Often the verse of focus is John 15:5 :

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you are at home with me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing …”

But verse 8, where Jesus says how it will be known if we are at home with him is equally important :

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

An apple tree cannot produce oranges, A grape vine cannot produce tomatoes. And a branch that is intwined with others, but not attached (not at home with) the vine, produces nothing of the fruit of that vine.

Though we may produce fruit in our lives, it is only because we are attached to the vine … at home with God.

I was remembering recently at time when, as a teenager, I met someone, who was sure he knew me from somewhere. He asked where I worked, and I told him I worked at Tim Horton’s. His eyes lit up, as he then named the location where I worked. He said that he went there frequently and always knew I was a Christian because of how I treated the customers.

As I remembered that story I found myself wondering … is whose I am still evident to a stranger? Can strangers identify me by the fruit of how I live my life? can family and friends?

is it obvious that I am at home with Christ?

I can only hope that the fruit of my living is Him. This comes only as I allow Him to produce the fruit of my connection to Him.

There are many who claim that name of Christ, but the fruit of their lives does not indicate that they are at home with the Lord. Our fruit is in what we say and also in what we do. We know this, because we can easily see the contradictions in their lives.

The most evident fruit of the spirit of God is love … if what we see from ourselves or others who claim the name of Christ is not love … they are not at home with Christ.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

“God didn’t want me to do more for Him.

He wanted me to be more with Him.”

― Bruce H. Wilkinson, Secrets of the Vine: Breaking Through to Abundance


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Remember, remember, the Fifth of November

That is the start of a poem, a nursery rhyme from the seventeenth century about religion, politics, treason and an impassioned ‘guy’.

this post has nothing to do with any of those things …

I heard the line a few weeks past and, in an instant my mind raced to the significance of the fifth of November.

On November 5, 1943, with the miraculous simplicity of the birth of a baby, the baby boy who would become my dad, breathed his first breath … and like a rock dropped in the water, ripples spread out, forever changing the lives of so many.

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November

As I remembered the fifth of November, it was a memory of that date last year. I didn’t want to forget to wish him a happy birthday, so I called as I was driving home from work, speaker on full … so that I could hear him not hear what I said (yes, he had hearing aids. No, he didn’t wear them).

“Hel-lo” the phone came to life quickly … my mom not picking up calls that day, knowing that most would be for him, wishing him well on his birthday. He loved birthdays and relished the attention on his.

I don’t remember what we spoke of, though I am certain that he told me about who else had called him, where he and mom had gone to dinner, and how whatever he had eaten was “some good.”

What I do remember for sure is that it was our last conversation and … I was miffed at him.

It was so clear that he did not hear much of what I said (damn pride about those hearing aids). And … he just wasn’t right, not himself … and I longed for something better.

As we said good-bye, I rolled my eyes, wondering if he had heard much of what was said. I was miffed at him … and that was our final conversation.

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November

This will forever be my final memory of talking to my dad. Within days he was not feeling well, then taken to hospital by ambulance, then …

If I could have a redo, I would have called him back the next day, been more patient, asked more questions, said I love you until I was certain that he heard it …

But, there are no redos … we only have today, this moment.

Thankfully, I have a lifetime of good memories with my dad, far more good and warm and positive than this last humdrum conversation.

Death is a part of life and we cannot live in relationship with other humans thinking that we have tomorrow.

Do it, today. Say it, today. Live with no regrets.

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November

November 5, 2019, was my dad’s seventy-sixth birthday. Twenty days later he breathed his last, but, like a rock dropped in the water, ripples are still spreading out, forever changing the lives of so many.

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November

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It was raining here the other day … like constant, cold, heavy rain.

Whenever rain like that comes my way I find my mind drifting back to a Sunday School song I remember singing as a child about houses built by the wise man (on a rock) and the foolish man (on sand).

And, did you know, realize or remember that it is not just a cutesy little ditty, but is based on a passage from the sermon on the mount (that’s a big deal):

“Whoever hears these words of Mine and does them, will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain came down. The water came up. The wind blew and hit the house. The house did not fall because it was built on rock. Whoever hears these words of Mine and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down. The water came up. The wind blew and hit the house. The house fell and broke apart.”

Matthew 7:24-27

My life … my actions, and words, and behaviors … not perfect … not one bit. But … since the age of six, I have been residing, while slowly building my life on the rock of Christ. Sometimes I have not appreciated it, sometimes I have doubted it, sometimes I have even resented it … but always I have had the firm foundation of the Word to guide my life, to give me comfort and a hope.

This truth I am standing on.

It has kept me steady when life has presented me with heartaches, questions, embarrassments, loss and instabilities of all sorts.

Because I have seen the evidence of God in my life, I can trust him when I cannot trust loved ones, medicine, finances, employment … because of this I can have hope and peace where the unaccepting world would see nothing but darkness.

Standing on the wisdom of the Rock of ages, for all my days …

“Right now I’m choosing to believe
Someday soon I’ll look back and see
All the pain had a purpose
Your plan was perfect all along
This is the truth I’m standing on”

Scared, oh I thought I knew scared
Now I’m so filled with fear
I can barely move

Doubts, I’ve had my share of doubts
But never more than right now
I’m wondering where are You
I’m on the edge of fall apart
But somehow Your promises
Find my troubled heart

Good, I believe You’re still good
Even when life’s not good
I will not loose this hope
The God who parts the sea
Promises He’s gonna
Make a way for me

This is the truth I’m standing on
Even when all my strength is gone
You are faithful forever
And I know You’ll never
Let me fall
Right now I’m choosing to believe
Someday soon I’ll look back and see
All the pain had a purpose
Your plan was perfect all along
This is the truth I’m standing on

My rock my shield my firm foundation
I know I will not be shaken
You remind me
Where my help comes from

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A tired and sleepless night …

How can one be so exhausted that their eyes burn, even when closed?

Yet … sleep evades.

The mind races in directions and to places that … how and why does it go there?

And you toss, and you turn and you wonder why? why can sleep not take you away to that place of rest and refreshment?

And your body is tense, it aches with exhaustion, only encouraging more and more tossing and turning with nary a place that provides a position to loosen, relax.

And the man next door (the next pillow over) is tossing and turning too, or snoring … either way, the noises and movements jar you from the entry of sleep’s door.

And so you pray (because, why not). Yet your prayers lead your mind to even more places and you begin to feel as though your mind might explode for all the places it is wandering in these wee morning hours.

And you rise from your place of no sleep … wandering, trying a cozy chair (devoid of present coziness), the sofa (with the attractive, but not so pillowy, pillows). In frustration you recline, close your eyes …

wet … my fingers are wet …

My eyes open into the stare of my furry buddy, to the lightening of the room. I smile, not because I am rested, but because I am glad it is over that light has come, that there is one nearby to lick my weariness …

day has come, the long, dark night is over.

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Old Man in Sorrow
(On the Threshold of Eternity),
by Vincent van Gogh

I remember years ago hearing of the delays of children who had been in orphanages in Romania (known as dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu’s children). They spent their days in cribs, where they were kept alive with bottles and diaper changes. What they were deficient in was physical contact, stimulation, love.

The impacts of their growing up in that environment went beyond the fact that these rooms full of babies and toddlers were without cooing or crying. These little souls were impacted in their physical, mental, emotional, social and probably every other area of their health and development … all because they were deficient in that which all humans need … human contact, interaction and love.

Now, thirty some years later, another group of humans is experiencing a type of failure to thrive, brought on, not by a nation’s dictator, but by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The news this week had been of a report finding that loneliness is impacting the mental health of Canadians (no doubt others as well). But if we, who are able to go to work, who have the ability to get out of our homes, who have human interaction every day are struggling with our mental health due to loneliness …

what about our seniors?

what about those who are living in isolation?

I have been reading lately that loneliness is a greater fear to those who are alone than Coronavirus. Read that again …

And, some studies hint that during our current pandemic more people may die of the effects of loneliness than of the virus itself.

For those who are isolated from human interaction, stress of this pandemic as well as the the loneliness that accompanies it can mean that they may be at greater risk of heart attack, stroke, depression and even premature death.

“I very much feel my solitude.”

Renata Cafferata (87, Italy)

What that says to me is that this is a need human need that we need to address … and I don’t mean that we need to write to our government officials.

What we need to do it to check in on our neighbors, friends and family who may live alone. Offer to pick up their groceries. Stop by for a visit on their porch or deck, or in their garage (make sure they are bundled up warmly). Take them a meal, drop off flowers, make a call to them, write a note, a letter … make contact with them!

These connections could save a life! This is important … it could be life or death for them!

In an article in The Atlantic, Charles H. Zeanah, a child-psychiatry professor (who was part of a study of orphaned children in Bucharest in 2000), said,

“Imagine how that must feel—to be miserable and not even know that another human being could help.”

He was speaking of babies, or children, who knew no better. They had been born into a world without their need of human interaction and attachment being met.

During this duel pandemic of Covid19 and loneliness, those who are miserable DO know that another human could help … but they are alone.

It is up to the rest of us to ensure that they do not feel the weight of that loneliness … that it does not reach down to the depths of human despair.

This, my fellow humans, especially to those of us who claim the name of Christ, is our opportunity to be the hands and feet of God.

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