Wednesday, January 17, 2024

One Word 2024

One Word 2024:

It’s taken me a while to hear what’s been rising as a focus for 2024. Doing this in previous years brought me words like: good, depth, trust, love, heal, listen. 

The One Word challenge was originally created by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton, and Jimmy Page, the authors of “One Word that Will Change Your Life.” The idea behind one word is “to overcome distractions and bring more focus, purpose, commitment and success” in the coming year. 

Overcoming distractions is a significant challenge for me. This past year, as some of you know, I was officially diagnosed (finally!) with the ADHD I’ve had my whole life. I have realized numerous benefits from adding medication into the  wholistic healthcare approach I’d already been practicing: healthy nutrition, enjoyable exercise, necessary vitamins and supplements (since early 2012); therapy (since 1994); education, service, and spiritual practices (since childhood).

During 2023, both solitude and community were places of stunning revelation.

In community, I was stretched, challenged; collaborative partnerships for service were formed, and I gained an expanded perspective on our complex societies and this fragile earth.

In solitude I heard my own voice, defined preferences, acknowledged longing, made way for joy, recognized lack, cultivated playful creativity, purged some foolishness, sought wisdom, and discovered  contentment. 

In bringing all this to my Creator—who is, to me, the very essence of love, truth, and beauty; the origin of humanity, nature, and the universe—I begin to scratch the infinite surface of why I am here. 

Because I want to engage all this with even more intention, my One Word for 2024 is “communion”. 

Not “Communion” as in “the Eucharist” but rather an alternate use of the word from Oxford Languages: the act of sharing or exchanging intimate thoughts and feelings, especially on an intellectual and/or spiritual level.

As I set goals, engage in new projects, and schedule my days, I will apply this word as a criteria: “Will this help me to commune with myself, others, or God in ways that bring more focus, purpose, commitment or success?” 

Stay tuned. Share your thoughts.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Airport Security: 2010

Since few of us our traveling by air these days, here's a little piece from the archives about clearing airport security.

I'm sitting at the gate, fully clothed and in my right mind, earlier than my normal wake up time. I've been up since I woke on my own at 4:40 am. While clearing the security screening, I was invited to choose full body scan or a pat down from a jovial salt-and-pepper haired woman about my age.

Psychologists say we need seven significant touches daily to stay mentally healthy so I picked the pat down. When I bumped into her later at the Tim Horton's coffee lineup, we chatted like old friends. Told her if the security thing didn't work out she could always consider massage therapy.

My bags were thoroughly hand-searched. The "one bag" restriction is in addition to a purse, a laptop, a camera and other personal items. I didn't bring the camera.

You can recognize the frequent flyers. One tidy roll-aboard. The resigned expression at security. The detachment from other passengers. The realization they have exchanged personal privacy for a tenuous level of pseudo security. High price to pay, IMO.

Next time I think I'll take a road trip. Wanna come?

Friday, May 22, 2020

Unseen God

"Unseen is not unknown."

For years now, I have been asking, praying, about why our church was not birthing original music. Over the decades I have been involved in music at this church, I've sung under four different music pastors. Two years ago, I finally sensed God asking me to put down the microphone and step away from the platform as a musician. But I continued praying and asking God for the dream of our congregational voice rising up in new and creative ways, even when I didn't see how it would be fulfilled.

In the past year, I have begun to see this prayer answered. One of the women whom God brought to our church wrote many original songs which were produced by a multi-congregational collective in two different genres. These are beautiful and transcendent.

Today marks another milestone in God's answer to my long-lived heart cry, as our church's music team have released their first collaborative song, which I've embedded below.

God knew. God worked. God brought all the people together to make this happen "in the fullness of time." His time. Not mine. His way. Not mine. His way may be unseen, but he is not unknown.  As God's word promises, when we ask, believing... God will answer.

Take a listen, then share if you like what you hear. (Lyrics follow)

Unseen God (Lyrics)

Waiting, waiting is the hard part
Learning, learning to find where You are
You find me torn
As one less door gives way for me

I am willing, Spirit take me 
Deeper into Your wind 
This is mystery, this unveiling 
Faith in the unseen God 

Hoping, hoping it all goes alright
Living, living the stories you write
Come what may
I pray you make them beautiful

I am willing, Spirit take me 
Deeper into Your wind 
This is mystery, this unveiling 
Faith in the unseen God 

I tread anointed ground
Found in Your purpose now
Your Presence calms my fear
Unseen is not unknown

I am willing, Spirit take me 
Deeper into Your wind 
This is mystery, this unveiling 
Faith in the unseen God 

Unseen is not unknown

Songwriters: Odum Abekah, David Klob, Jayne Luy, Grace Young-Travis
© 2019 (Shared with permission)

Purchase on any platform: Link here

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Portuguese Kale Soup

I don't normally share recipes, as I am definitely not a domestic guru. In fact, this is only the fourth time in the 15-year life of this blog. However, my dear friend Jean has been supplying me with Farmer's Sausage from an anonymous Saskatchewan source and shared this soup recipe with me. It tastes so much like my momma's hambone soup that I had to share. The secret is the depth of flavor drawn from the Peri Peri spices and the lemon juice, which adds a high back-note. The beauty of this soup is you can toss in any vegetables, but these are my go-to. Reduce quantities if you don't have freezer space for all the extra, but don't skimp on the spice!

Portuguese Kale Soup
(Makes 8 litres)

1 pkg Bacon (chop finely)
1 large Farmer’s sausage link (remove casing and crumble/chop to consistency of ground beef)
1 large onion (medium dice)
5 cloves garlic (minced)
6 large potatoes (peel, cut bite-size) or use a 1.5 lb (680g) bag of baby potatoes
5 carrots (cut into coins, peel optional)
1 28oz (796ml) can diced tomatoes (not drained)
2 cans 19 oz (540ml) can white kidney beans (drained)
2 bunches fresh kale (remove from stem, slice into thin ribbons or chop small)
4 32 oz (946ml) cartons chicken broth*
3 Tablespoons Peri-Peri Spice** (to taste)
2 tsp. Black Pepper (to taste)
2 bay leaves
Juice of one lemon
*I use Costco’s Kirkland brand organic chicken broth
**Peri-Peri is available at Superstore but I made my own from this link
  1. Heat a drizzle of oil in a large soup pot on medium-high heat
  2. Sauté onion and garlic for 1-2 minutes, if it gets too dry, add a bit of broth
  3. Add bacon and sausage, sauté until browned, stirring often
  4. Add potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, kidney beans and peri peri spice
  5. Stir to combine and sauté for 30-60 seconds.
  6. Add chicken broth and bay leaves, stir and bring to a boil.
  7. Lower heat and simmer for 15 min.
  8. Add kale. Stir to combine. Cook 5 minutes more.
  9. Remove from heat, remove bay leaves and add lemon juice, stir.
  10. Serve and enjoy. Great to freeze.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Is This True of Me?

Though I am retired from paid work, there is a persistent (perhaps innate) sense that I have not, and will never be, retired from fulfilling my calling. This is different from being productive. Productivity is measurable, task based, checklist of duties and accomplishments. While productivity is good and necessary, being faithful to a calling does not necessarily see measurable results.

Being faithful to my calling does not mean
I will see measurable results. I must still be faithful.

In this seemingly interminable interim of isolation, quarantine, physical distancing, my time is occupied with basic tasks and simple diversions. The removal of normal social and recreational engagements has given opportunity for more contemplative time, reading and reflection. This is an in-between space, between What Was and What Will Be. A "normal" routine, if it ever returns, is likely to look different than before.

How should I then live?

This reflection from Oswald Chambers speaks into that question. I hope you find it helpful. It is from the YouVersion Bible App reading plan, "My Utmost for His Highest: 30 Day Edition" available here.

Is This True Of Me?

It is easier to serve or work for God without a vision and without a call, because then you are not bothered by what He requires. Common sense, covered with a layer of Christian emotion, becomes your guide. You may be more prosperous and successful from the world’s perspective, and will have more leisure time, if you never acknowledge the call of God. But once you receive a commission from Jesus Christ, the memory of what God asks of you will always be there to prod you on to do His will. You will no longer be able to work for Him on the basis of common sense.

What do I count in my life as “dear to myself”? If I have not been seized by Jesus Christ and have not surrendered myself to Him, I will consider the time I decide to give God and my own ideas of service as dear. I will also consider my own life as “dear to myself.” But Paul said he considered his life dear so that he might fulfill the ministry he had received, and he refused to use his energy on anything else. This verse shows an almost noble annoyance by Paul at being asked to consider himself. He was absolutely indifferent to any consideration other than that of fulfilling the ministry he had received. Our ordinary and reasonable service to God may actually compete against our total surrender to Him. Our reasonable work is based on the following argument which we say to ourselves, “Remember how useful you are here, and think how much value you would be in that particular type of work.” That attitude chooses our own judgment, instead of Jesus Christ, to be our guide as to where we should go and where we could be used the most. Never consider whether or not you are of use—but always consider that “you are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19). You are His.

O Lord, by Your grace open my vision to You and Your infinite horizons, and take me into Your counsels regarding Your work in this place.

God is not limited by time or distance. Grace opens my heart to respond to the Spirit's prompting large and small to do now, the next thing, right in front of me, and leave the results to God.

Photo: Christmas Cactus Bloom at Easter
Credit: Personal collection
Text Design via WordSwag app

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Lorica (for St. Patrick's Day)

The Lorica
Music and Lyrics by Gayle Salmond
adapted from The Lorica of St. Patrick

I bind unto myself today
The gift to call on the Trinity
The saving faith where I can say
Come three in one, oh one in three

Be above me,
as high as the noonday sun
Be below me,
the rock I set my feet upon
Be beside me,
the wind on my left and right
Be behind me, oh circle me
with Your truth and light

I bind unto myself today
The love of Angels and Seraphim
The prayers and prophesies of Saints
The words and deeds
of righteous men

God’s ear to hear me
God’s hand to guide me
God’s might to uphold me
God’s shield to hide me
Against all powers deceiving
Against my own unbelieving
Whether near or far

I bind unto myself today
The hope to rise
from the dust of earth
The songs of nature giving praise
To Father, Spirit, Living Word

Watch Steve Bell perform  this song on YouTube.

Think of the Children

I passed two women chatting in the grocery aisle last week. One had her son with her. He was, perhaps, ten years old. She was speaking angrily in catastrophic terms about the crisis. His face, I noticed was pale and strained.

For kids, it's important to remember if we aren't paying attention, they will draw their own conclusions without the maturity and experience to be able to discern what is real and what is imagined. Fear can be an overwhelming burden that expresses itself in stomach trouble, headaches, acting out and more.

Disclaimer: I'm not a mental health professional. I used to work in an elementary school. I raised one son of my own. I grew up with seven siblings in a busy family. I lost my first husband to mental health issues. So I have read and implemented a number of coping strategies. In my own growth journey, I continue to untangle and debunk a lifetime of fear-based lies I assumed as truth from my childhood experiences. While I had a caring family upbringing, it was a big family and being the youngest, I often was overlooked and heard things not meant for me. I gave these out of context remarks inappropriate meaning and import, misinterpreting them because I didn't have an adult perspective and the adults had no clue about what I was thinking and feeling.

So, I offer here a few suggestions you may find helpful in navigating this already challenging time. I want to especially highlight the simple but important blue section above for those of you who have kids. Let this be a springboard for your own ideas and research.

1. Reassure your child(ren) that they're safe.

This is not about just spewing platitudes and clichés to get past dealing with their Big Feelings. Hold your child, comfort them. Avoid unloading your own fears onto them. Look them in the eyes, speak kindly, promise your care, your presence, your help, your protection. Use words like "I'm here for you. I'm looking out for you and I'll do everything in my power to make sure you are safe." Then live it out!

2. Let them talk about their worries.

Affirm that you hear them. Don't discount what they're feeling or shame them by saying "You shouldn't feel that way." Use words like "I know it can be hard. These are really big feelings sometimes, when we're going through something brand new." Ask a simple question or two to draw them out, and listen carefully, rather than just talking at them or telling them facts. Get involved in a craft with them. When children are doing something with their hands, sometimes they can more easily talk about what's going on in their mind. Be available and be present.

3. Share your own coping skills (for starter ideas, see the yellow and green squares).

What works for you may not work for the kids you love. Try different strategies. Ask them what helps them calm down or solve problems. Explore the Understood website for solid advice on navigating this current Covid-19 crisis.

4. Limit their exposure. 

And your own. Too much news, too much discussion, can be overwhelming and many news reports border on the dramatic and unusual, sometimes downright fear-mongering. The situation is changing every day. Screen the news by yourself (or just leave it off) and let your kids be kids.

5. Create and routine and structure.

Have regular mealtimes and bedtimes. Quiet times. Chores. Outdoor time. Baking. Board games. Yoga. Exercise. Game time. Make lists. Make "laughing a lot" the first goal. Here's one place to start informing yourself on how to create structure with children.

Like I said, I'm no expert and this is a small potpourri of a few small ways to make a difference. I'd love to know what you're doing and what works. Comment below.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

A New Ambition

 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

I used to enjoy writing. Spilling truth from my fingertips like water for a thirsty world. Teaching as one who had authority. Then social media came along and now everyone’s an expert in everything. Always right. Always certain. Oblivious to grammar and spelling.

I used to enjoy photography. Capturing reality and beauty frame by frame, sharing it with the masses. Editing and post-processing like a boss in Lightroom and Photoshop. Then smart phones, filters, and Instagram came along and everyone’s a photographer, uploading an indiscriminate barrage of unedited, blurry images. Selfies ad nauseum and grotesque facial expressions. On purpose.

I used to enjoy singing. My first solo in front of a congregation at age three to people intrigued by a family with seven boys, and then one little girl. Competed in high school. Obtained my university degree in the discipline. Directed ensembles and choirs, and took groups across North America and Europe. I did my best, but as is true of all of life, there’s always someone better (and someone not as good). I am generally somewhere in the middle.

I used to enjoy games. Scrabble in particular. Always competitive, often triumphant, but finally realized ridiculously high game averages eventually didn’t hold a candle to nearly losing friends who didn’t like losing. (Who does, really?)

Running on the adrenalin of constant competition meant I was forever fearful of losing place, losing face, and it left me at loose ends, running on empty. Criticizing others became the rule of life. They just weren’t doing it the right way (my way). And yes, I realize there’s still an edge of that in this piece. What you may not see, is that, like many, I am most critical of myself. (That’s a whole other post.)

I’m pleased with what I’ve experienced and been able to accomplish, but now, well into my 63rd trip around the sun, it all begins to fade. The years reveal that winning, being the best, standing in the spotlight, only for the sake of ego? It is an empty well. A cracked cistern that can’t hold water.

I'm tired. Tired of sharing, tired of shouting, tired of needing everyone to look at me, listen to me. Tired of falling short. Tired of alienating others. As I look at the list: writing, photography, music, games… these are primarily hobbies. Only a few people are able to maintain successful careers in these fields and even they are continuously scrambling, marketing, striving. The rest of us do stuff we don’t enjoy from 8-5, then we fly and do what we love till the wee hours. Most never realize that dream of “Do what you love and you’ll never ‘work’ a day in your life.” Because there are just some things that have to be done. Like eating and paying the hydro bill.

Now I’m retired and have more time but less energy to engage. The bills are paid. Most days I have no need to be seen. Prefer to stay home. New to the idea that wholeness isn’t about perfection, but rather an acceptance of all that I am: the healthy and the broken. I remain a strong witness to the fact that relationships trump everything, so I’d better keep them healthy.

Relationships require me to give and receive, collaborate and cooperate (not compete), realizing we have all been gifted with something to bring to the table. And it’s a very big table. Look at the one beside you and carefully cultivate. Listen. Ask questions. Draw out.

“Bigger, better, best” is no longer the measure. “Fight, flight, or freeze” is no longer the response, but rather in the years, days, or moments I have remaining, I’m leaning more toward “bend, tend and befriend.”

Bend my head and knees in prayer. Bend to lift another. Bend my ear to listen.
Tend my heart, my home, and my own business. Tend to my friendships.
Befriend the outcast and the incomplete parts of my own life.
This is the invitation to awaken to all of life.

This I shall enjoy.