Earth Beauty, Ever Ancient, Ever New

For the Beauty of the earth, Ever ancient, ever new …

IMG_2877

It’s International Earth Day … and I recall an answer I have given to people:

There are many things in my life that I would not have chosen, but there is still much beauty in this world.

 

IMG_1583

The most universal gift is the beauty all around us. In my travels I have never come to a place bereft of beauty. Even though garbage littered, the dusty less than desirable path on the way to my grandchildren’s school in N Africa … it had been named the secret garden. After a spatter of rain, it burst forth with yellow blossoms … Dump turned flower garden! The eyes of children opened mine to see beauty in the midst of ugly.

Everyone has stuff, something that could be better … a deviation not chosen, and the heart grows weary with constant struggle. John O’Donohue, an Irish poet/theologian has written about beauty:

Much of the stress and emptiness that haunts us can be traced back to our lack of attention to beauty. Internally, the mind becomes coarse and dull if it remains unvisited by images and thoughts which hold the radiance of beauty. … Beauty offers us an invitation to order, coherence and unity.

IMG_2879Although my home province Manitoba claims the prairie crocus as its provincial flower, I saw very few wild ones there … but here in Alberta, perhaps with more uncultivated soil, they are more prevalent. I have been admiring them since Easter Monday … they are my current heroes. While snow lingers they push through dead grasses and debris of winter to breathe hope into the soul. The fragile flower displays an inner strength  adding its blue lavender beauty to the landscape, the first delights of spring.  Other wild flowers soon follow suit.

To behold beauty dignifies your life; it heals you and calls you out beyond the smallness of your own self-limitations to experience new horizons. To experience beauty is to have your life enlarged.   John O’Donohue

This is the 45th international Earth Day … a reason to celebrate. Get out and enjoy the beauty, dig in the dirt, pick up some garbage, be barefoot, look for signs of spring, go for a walk. Smile.apollo8-earthrise

Earth rises above the lunar horizon against the backdrop of deep space on Dec. 24, 1968. the image, snapped by astronaut Bill Anders during the first manned mission to the moon, evokes both a sense of solitude and intimacy. From livescience.

Beauty The Invisible Embrace by John O’Donohue, HarperCollins, 2005

 

Pushing Through to Pushing up Daisies

Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes that see reality.IMG_0001

Nikos Kazantzakis

Daffodil tips have poked through dry ground outside my front entrance. My first robins were spotted today, and this past week the early skies have debuted with fifty shades of sunrise on at least five separate days. As I type this a mourning dove perches on my patio, seeking a quieter spot out of the wind. A video clip sent yesterday with my grand children waving palm branches; all the above tell me that spring and the Easter season are here.

For the past few weeks my mind has been debating ideas for an upcoming talk I have been asked to give to college age students … What do I have to say to them on the topic of Through Thick and Thin, that they can connect to? My guess is that the majority of them have not been through major life difficulties, yet … or have they?

At this point they are busy pushing through their studies to get on with real life. A misconception … real life is wherever you are, at the moment, now. It is not in the future. The dilemma is—how do I prepare for the future while living /keeping the focus on the present? This is a never ending debate, and for them it would come from someone considered to have more years in history, than in futures. And yet both the young and the more mature—I can’t bring myself to say old—have only this day. I hear the challenge repeatedly to live in the now … and still I find myself pushing through this moment, in order to arrive at the next. Only to find that the next thing is what I then push through.

Childhood offers a reprieve from the tyranny to push through, largely because the parents do the pushing. The goal to get through teething, sleeping through the night, toilet training, talking, starting school, getting through junior high, and so on and on. Adults perpetuate the myth that the next phase will be better, forfeiting the joy of today. And the cycle continues … as we live in anticipation or dread of the next thing.

At the local garden nursery this week on a no wind, fifteen degree sunshine spring day, I made a comment to the owner as he packed up my purchase –Isn’t it a gorgeous day? Must be good for business, it gets people thinking about gardens early. Without a smile, it was “Well as long as we get some good weather, when we’re supposed to get it, doesn’t help much now.” 

Before I start to push up daisies, I want to smell and plant the roses.primaryImage_opt

The one time I recommend pushing through is in grief, or a very difficult time, even though much can be learned in hardship. We long for spring to push back the winter of the soul. Pushing through doubts and disappointments make it possible to discover a foundation of faith and food for the soul.

Sunday morning I heard the question asked—why was much hype made over Christmas, while Easter was played down? Wasn’t this the final exclamation point the followers of Jesus had? Yes it was … what the resurrection did was It pushed through death. And that has made all the difference, especially for those who have experienced grief.  Easter week Blessings!

Daisy image from:  http://isleofwight.com/whats-on/pushing-up-the-daisies

Jocelyn is the author of Who is Talking out of My Head?  Grief as an Out of Body Experience

Hope is a Choice

Whoever you hold in the heart of youIMG_1970

Is forever and always a part of you.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Ps 116:15 NIV

Ten years ago … the world lost three wonderful young people, my son, my daughter, my future daughter-in-law … leaving a massive vacancy.

This morning, my still-on-the-planet daughter called to remember the day of loss … she told me how she and her husband had been at a cafe and were speaking to their three children about the remembering. And the sadness felt because the children never got to meet their auntie and uncle … My daughter was getting teary and her five year old asked “Why are you crying Mom?” She explained the loss, and my granddaughter(8) spoke up to say … “Oh we’ll meet them already.” “Really?” asks Zech (5) “when?” In heaven,” his sister explained confidently. “Oh,” he said, down cast, “That’s like in a hundred years.”

I can tell you Zecher, I feel that way too, sometimes. But, for me, having two treasures in heaven, makes the prospect of eternity, that much more tangible.

I know there are many others that carry the weight of sorrow, and loss … May you be blessed this day.

Hold on to Hope, it is a gift.

Hope is a choiceIMG_1969

Hope has given me my voice

to question to doubt, to scream to shout

Hope has been in the midst

as a spark, as a river

a cause to shiver

Hope behind, hope before

Hope surrounds as it opens and shuts the door

The taste of hope and I want more

More of the source, more of the truth,

more of the grace it has given

I want Hope on this earth

And a taste of Heaven.

The edges of God are tragedy. The depths of God are joy, beauty, resurrection, life. Resurrection answers crucifixion; life answers death.     Marjorie Hewitt Suchoki

IN remembrance of Brittany Jane Marie, Jordan David Isaac, Jamie K, all three shone like the stars of heaven … you are missed more than words can say.

 

Jocelyn is the author of: Who is Talking out of My Head – Grief as an Out of Body Experience  

 

Knocking on Heaven’s Door

The Power of the Ask

Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.  IMG_4745   (Matt 7:7 NIV)

I had arrived in Perth, Australia, the day before, time-zoned out by fourteen hours.

Still in the excitement phase, I tried not to think of the new realities that I: was on my own, did not know a soul here, was to start a new job in ten days, and had no place to live. I had booked into a hostel for two weeks, hoping that would give me enough time to find an apartment, before my nursing  job began.

A sense of expectancy, filled me as I headed downtown under the vivid blue Australian skies—I had come from a prairie winter, where minus twenty was the norm. This felt beautiful, warm and friendly. Two things I remember clearly that welcomed me. Next to a brown brick church with large wooden doors, a group of teenagers stood over the green grass carrying “Free Hugs” signs. (I had a video of my youngest daughter holding a same message.) I went to receive my free hug. The unwrinkled arms that wrapped my traveled soul, had no idea that I believed that my daughter had orchestrated this hug from heaven.

Wiping the tears from my eyes (I never saw those free huggers again) … I explored further down the road and chanced upon a young woman busker with a guitar of dreams. Cross-legged, she sang two songs while I stood near by—Knocking on Heaven’s Door, and I can see Clearly Now the Rain is gone … I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind, it’s gonna be a bright, bright sun-shiney day. I looked all around to nothing but blue skies.

“You must be very brave to move half way around the world.” people said …. or desperate, I thought.

Perhaps that is the best approach to the Father. I usually come desperate … hungry for the blessing.

IMG_2327_2

The power of the ask … I had asked, I had knocked on heaven’s doors, I had been a regular at the gate … “Should I go, or should I stay?”

That was five years ago. Although I have returned to Canada, that move changed my life. I am forever grateful that I responded to the inner voice that said Go. Ask for direction.

The response did not come in a type written detailed memo—oh I wished it had. But in hindsight I can see that many doors opened for me as I continued to search, and I met some wonderful people along the way. It did not come easily. Seek and you will find.

Sometimes, I don’t know what it is I seek … but, I know there are questions that the soul propels me to ask and to explore. Simone Weil has said it well:

DSC_0878The danger is that the soul should persuade itself that it is not hungry. It can only persuade itself of this by lying.

Oh I can see clearly now, the snow has gone … but I know rain and snow showers will return, and I will experience more storms, but, I will keep asking, and the spirit will guide. That really is the best.

Photos by author, painting of woman by Kristen N D.

Owning My Story

Brené Brown

From an email sent to a friend:
If you are reading this now … I hit Send
If you aren’t reading this, you won’t even know this conversation almost took place.
I am chuckling as I started this email four hours ago ….
Sometimes I feel incredibly young at heart, sometimes I feel like the vulnerable little girl, wanting to be accepted, sometimes I feel as though I could be a hundred years old.
And I fear I might hit send, and regret it … or hit delete and regret that even more  …..  Well, it’s coming your way.

It seems whenever I meet up with someone new, I have to play the little “how much do I want Vuln-imagesthem to know about me?” game. This is the mental jockeying done with new encounters. Will they be a small part of my life, a work connection, a friendship, deep, superficial?? The mental assessments happen very quickly. In a recent conversation, I realized I said something that would lead to revealing more of myself than I might have wanted … I said, “they contacted me after having read my book.” As the words tumbled from my mouth, it registered in my head that in all the conversations we’d had, I never mentioned my book. The reluctant author in me, does not want patronized sympathy in place of genuine friendship.My grief story is generally not the first thing I share with others.  And yet, I have had the most meaningful connections with people, because of the willingness to be vulnerable. But the little voices in my head warn me, as I verge near the precipice of letting someone in on the painful parts of my story, that when I let my guard down I risk getting hurt. Vulnerablility Stephen Russell has said that “being vulnerable is being open for wounding … being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset.” (I can’t say that I am in complete agreement with him—my greatest asset?)
Now I know I don’t want to be, or need to be a jellyfish, exposed to everything, self-protection is needed for survival, but I also know that I want to be willing to risk. I’m still working on the risk plunge, but I am further in that direction in the wanting of it, of trusting my instincts of when to risk. I have not yet succeeded, but I’m taking great aim towards this thing. And then when I get hurt, as inevitably still happens … recovery time is lessened.
I try to keep a soft shell around my heart, it allows for more expansion.

IMG_1537Madeleine l’Engle said: When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown up, we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability … To be alive is to be vulnerable.

I also used to think, I would have the answers as I got older … instead I see the number of questions increase.

 

(Jocelyn has published a book on grief; Who is Talking Out of My Head – Grief as an out of Body Experience,  available at DWFriesen Press, and through Amazon)

Decemberings from North Africa

10858643_920087051336803_3751427569910810232_n

This is the land of the Nativity Card look alike, and I am closer to the bread and olive oil world that the baby Jesus entered, than when I hang stockings by the mantle in the winter wonderland of the Rocky Mountains. But there is little evidence that the major holiday of the western world is upon us.

So why does it not feel like Christmas? And what is Christmas supposed to feel like?

Here in North Africa, near the edge of the Sahara, the mother part of me desires to recreate the atmosphere that my daughter grew up with, on the Canadian prairies, so I can give my IMG_0066grandkids a sense of what “Christmas is about.” So Ernest Saves Christmas-our family movie from 25 years ago and the Cabbage Patch Christmas album, even older, have journeyed with me to share in this sandy land. I have brought ornaments to glitter and glue, chocolate chips for the baking. I brought my own wrapping paper. A part of me wants to do the something old, something new, something borrowed from this culture and the something blue comes naturally post grief. Throw in my daughter hosting a  community Christmas party, and the age old dilemma of Christmas Martha (Stewart) versus Christmas Mary (who ponders everything in her heart) takes shape … and I fall into the trap of performing.

And is it something I need to do in order for Christmas to happen? Ann Voskamp’s words challenge me … to become a space for God.  Immanuel-God with us … in order for that to happen, I have to make room in my crowded life for that filling, that presence.

It is only three days till Christmas, and my 5 year old grandson asks if we could please, please open one of those presents that magically appeared under the tree last night. I have forgotten how hard it is for children to wait for the day to open gifts. I feel my own impatience with waiting for the gift of fulfillment.  And I ponder again the concept of becoming a place for God.  Making a space for beauty, life, and joy to enter. May it be so.

IMG_0550

Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas. – Peg Bracken

Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts. – Janice Maeditere

 

Travel Tips from A Broad

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. ** SaintAugustineIMG_2383

Trains, planes and automobiles … all in a day, plus bumping carry-ons over cobblestone streets. A privilege to be reading pages from the book of Four Great Cities of Eastern Europe: Dubrovnik, Budapest, Prague and Vienna. The destination is only a part of the journey. Four weeks of travel and what have I learned:

Communication, communication, communication.

The barrier of language,

The connection of smiles,

but precise words can direct you to the correct train platform.

A face tells a story. (Be in charge of its cover.)

Titles are deceiving, and customer service does not guarantee anything,

Information desks may or may not dispense accurate information.

Travel with a friend is joy doubled.  IMG_2706

Be prepared, travel light.

(Prepared for what?)

Be prepared to be flexible, and always have tissue in your bag.

Judgements over differences can arise quickly,

Open travellers practice seeing the world with the eyes of the heart,

Culture bleeds into opinions, even when we feel we are open-minded.

There are countless ways of living life, the wise traveller practices

Giving up the need to be right.

Smiling faces at arrival gates dissipate travel weariness. (Especially if they are grandchildren)

“This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.” (And I want to pass through as much of it as I can.)

The 3 minute egg versus the 5 minute egg:  “Would you like a 3 minute egg or a 5 minute?” The blank look on my face gave evidence that I did not understand my Austrian host’s question, so she repeated it. I opted for the 5 minute, egg … we are called to breakfast 6 min later, with a boiled egg in a white egg cup, a white plate for bread, a white bowl for fruit. Cheese, meat and jam set on the table alongside fresh squeezed orange juice. We began, and as I approached my 5 minute egg my host corrected my angle of attack with an expression of horror. (There is in an egg cup for a purpose.) When I confess that we usually shell our 8 minute eggs in Canada, I am informed that 8 minute eggs are eaten only at Easter. I like to think that I carry the hope of Easter all year round, perhaps that explains my egg eating habits?  With an outer smile and an inner grimace I recognize there are numerous ways of getting egg on one’s face.

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends. **

Maya Angelou

**Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_travel.html

Food Drives … Us All

And when she got there, the cupboard was (not)bareIMG_7499

Things I learned while collecting for the local food bank …
Not to be confused as scientific research.

1. Kraft Dinners: the #1 stale-dated item donated. (I confess my own guilt to giving items that I thought I’d use, but didn’t)  Does best before date honestly apply to Kraft Dinner?

2. Good Weather is a bonus for the door to door walkers! (Volunteers collected 30,000 pounds in our town of 18,000.)

3. Dogs greeted me more often than people, 85% of homes I went to had dogs, 50% of those had more than one. Perhaps their bark was worse than their bite, but I was very thankful for any barrier between myself and them. I don’t think any dog food was collected, but cranberry sauce and left over stuffing mix were.

4. How to catch an escaping Chihuahua dog – as the owner put her phone down to get her food donation.

5. Betty’s friend just had her breast removed. (Not knowing either of them, I don’t know that I needed to know that)

6. Austin, age 7, claimed he could whistle-but apparently not, however, he was impressed with my whistle. He also claimed the white truck parked on the road was his, and that he was working with his grandpa. Grandpa did not come to the door, but Austin’s friend contributed four cheese string snacks to the food drive.

7. Teens in charge of the house will donate a can of sardines.

8. Hot dogs are better Hot. (Note to volunteers, go early for complementary food.)

9. I know which houses to return to for the Halloween collection. They look like fun.

10. Top benefits: Satisfaction of Volunteering, renewed awareness that Many small contributions make a BIG difference.IMG_7455

I was not sure how to interpret the above sign, but when a large dog echoed this greeting, I applied it to my immediate situation, and vacated the doorstep.

Things I learned while writing this blog: World Food Day is Oct 16 and was started in 1945.

Consider these Canadian figures from – HungerCount 2013:

36.4% of those turning to food banks are children and youth

4.3% of adults helped are over age 65

11.3% of people assisted are Aboriginal

50% of households helped receive social assistance

11.5% have income from current or recent employment

16.4% receive disability-related income supports

8% of food banks ran out of food during the survey period

50% of food banks needed to cut back on the amount of food provided to each household

Many modern countries experience both hunger and food waste on a large scale. Last month I attended a film that featured Jen Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin, a Vancouver couple and their concern about the amount of wasted food. Their award winning film Just Eat It, documents their challenge to live six months on waste/outdated food.    Below is the link to the movie trailer – absolutely worth the click to preview, less than 2 min.


None of the above information is intended to induce guilt, in fact I had a snack while typing.

Not Set in Stone …

BUT CAST IN BRONZE
IMG_0471Does the clay speak back to the potter?

You bet your wrought iron she does!!
(She likes to think of it in terms of having conversations)
And has she been struck by lightning?                                                                                                                                                              Not yet, but she is considering a weathervane as an early warning device.

This past weekend, I discovered that my new hometown boasts Western Canada’s first and largest artistic bronze foundry. Studio West is located in what looks initially like a small building, but then you see add-on, to add-on, like the little house that added a bedroom with each new baby. Karen Begg, the grand-daughter and daughter of the original founders, was my tour guide. She explained their success story of steady growth and right time expansion. Their humble bronze pour beginning in a Calgary garage had the neighbours talking.
Karen’s passion for the creative process is evident in the stain of the hands, the caress of the finished products, the excitement in her voice as she shares the history, the process, and the Canada to Europe locations of their finished IMG_6732pieces. From concept to larger than life, she provides the short version of how to create a lasting monument.  The quality of their works have garnered numerous awards, five of their pieces have been unveiled by the Queen.
It is Karen’s explanation of the Lost Wax foundry process that intrigues me. In a nutshell, they cover the original sculpture with rubber, then a layer of hot wax is poured over top, cooled, and then the outer  mould is crafted from the same material used in the space shuttle tiles.  The wax is lost-or melted out. Space the wax occupied, becomes bronze. Experience has taught them to make a small model before the full size. The final statue is poured in sections approximately 325-500 lbs at a time. Pieces are welded together, after which smoothing out the joints and fine detailing takes place … always going back to the original model as their guide. (Note-this does not happen overnight.)

IMG_1134In the back room, we met a pair of one hundred year old dogs,  to be refinished and given a new home.
“What turns the parts of the statues golden?” one of our group asks.She replies, “when they are loved, see the tips of the nose, and tops of heads.”          I wonder  if I develop any golden character when I am brushed up close and personal with people.

So many comparisons to ancient words … about, a Creator that has crafted artistic works, being made in His image, always going back to the original, the potter’s hands.
I forgot to ask Karen if any of her monuments ever talked back to her …. or were struck by lightning.

An interesting book I recently discovered is: Conversations With Monuments in Winnipeg                    by Kathleen Francis. Photography and thoughts around some of Winnipeg’s bronze characters.

Studio West Bronze Foundry & Art Gallery – Galleries West