Learning to Live the Loss

IMG_1410If there were a day to strike from the calendar—Feb 27 would be that day for me—a day three of the most beautiful young people on the planet departed, eleven years ago. Every day in the news, I hear of events that would make others wish to erase another day.

As I type, a reminder pops up in the corner of my computer screen- A day to get through. A month ago I typed those words on this day. Now it asks me if I want to close or snooze—could erase be an option?

I find that the dread of a day can be worse than the day itself. As I was writing in my journal the day before, I decided music should be a part of this preparation. “All right, God—you can select the songs.” I put the setting to random. I never know what will play, usually a mixture of spiritual, folk, John Fogarty, Christmas carols, and my foreign language lessons. I had the sneaky suspicion I was trying to put God to the music test,  just to see if He was listening.

The first song takes me back to when my now-in-heaven-daughter was thirteen. This was a signature song for her that year. Through the register vents Twyla Paris would sing: God is in control, we will choose to remember and never be shaken, there is no power above or below. Oh-oh-oh God is in control. That is a great start. I could not have picked better.

The next song is from the Christmas album given by that same daughter her last Christmas, and Sue Chick sings … Heaven comes down, the hearts of men rise  do we dare take a chance … and the heart longs for more. Then Steve Bell tells me that Into the darkness we must go, gone, gone is the light.

And I notice increased number of age spots on the hand that holds the pen. I sit there thinking this is kind of silly and any moment the Arabic lesson would come through. I was interrupted by a call from the florist for a delivery. But, song after song encouraged me. At song 14, I thought perhaps I should get on with my day. Johnny Reid finishes the set of fifteen with I left my hometown years ago … to let all this love surround me. I would have said, to let all this beauty surround me. And I realize Love and Beauty often feel synonymous. Both are heavenly gifts. I contemplate the power of the words, and the themes of love, loss and suffering … songwriters capture the struggles we have. Music soothes and inspires, it reminds me that I am not in control, I am not alone on the journey, and I must continue. Sauntering in sacredness is an option.

I sent my sister-in-law a thank you for the flowers, she responded with an email about an image she had of new green shoots coming forth. Later that afternoon, I went for a walk … and found a likeness of her vision:IMG_1961

Never before have I seen shoots in February. These green and burgundy shoots brimmed with hope of new life. For this day, I head to the mountains, to contemplate the gifts of the journey … and to sit in the beauty, this is what I left my hometown for.

From John O’Donohue’s book Beauty, a poem by Dietrich Boenhoffer:

The Unfilled Gap

Nothing can fill the gap                                                                                                  When we are away from those we love and it would be                                    Wrong to try to find anything                                                                                      

Since leaving the gap unfilled preserves the bond between                                   Us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap.                                                           

He does not fill it but keeps it empty, so that our communion                          With another may be kept alive even at the cost of pain.

Love & Windshield Wipers

f6798d30fd0625f6e1e9d364172acfe9_ft_xlLove is a Many Splendoured Thing.

My friend said I needed new windshield wipers. She is the friend who changes the oil on my car, so I listen to her. She is my only female friend who is more interested in what goes on under the hood, than what we wear. I have confessed to her that I have never changed a tire, and I don’t want to.

Tis the cupid weekend … where we could buy into the notion that love is equated with chocolate, red roses and wine.

Love is a many splendoured thing.

This same friend told me where to get new windshield wipers and she offered to change them for me. She said, “If you don’t know what to get, the guys at Costco will help you find the right ones.”

I go immediately to the automotive desk … “Can I help you?”

I say, “I hope so.” He types in my vehicle specifications on his computer, and match.com tells him what I need. He points me to the aisle they are located, looks at my hair colour and confused eyes, and decides to personally escort me to the windshield-wiper spot. I had no idea that the driver side of my window calls for a 22” wiper while the passenger side is 3” shorter.

Who would have thought there were this many options. “These are the best,” he says, “and they’re on sale” … My ears perk up with the word sale-I am a well trained female shopper. A momentary bright spot in the search. Alas, my sizes are not included in the sale.  (I am wondering whether I should buy the ones on sale and try to make them fit? What difference does an inch make? In fact two of the sale size would almost equal the original sum?)

He hands me two top quality ones, top non-sale price.

It’s almost spring, do I need these that will work at minus 40?”

He tells me I’ll want to swap them out in summer. I say I don’t plan to. Well then I don’t have to, these will be good in summer. Likely overkill. Mr Sales-guy moves on after I thank him. What about all-season ones?  f6798d30fd0625f6e1e9d364172acfe9_ft_xlI compromise and buy top end for the driver side, and all season for the passenger. What does love have to do with wipers?

Is there an all season love? Or do I have to switch out for a new season? Recently on a ski excursion with my neighbours … she said that most of us will experience three major loves. The first love, the most passionate, the one we have children with. I forget the specifics of the middle one, and finally the one to grow old with. She looks at her husband, and says I guess you’re him.

I’m fortunate to come from an area where many couples do not switch out for a new season. My older sister married out of high school and has been married for 50 years. And they still do the best rockn’roll jive I have ever seen. At this stage I have also discovered the splendour of love with grand-children.

Love is a many splendoured thingIMG_1335

And whether you have experienced it for a life-time or a season, I wish you love in your life. And good wiper blades which like love: clear the view, open your eyes to beauty, and improve the quality of the trip.

Two love songs to share for Valentine’s Day …

One from jjheller—a beautiful song that asks Who will love me for me?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vw_x99vyIC4

The other from the group Mashmakhan from 1970. True love will never die.

New Beginnings, New Shoes

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.  IMG_2377          C S Lewis

How’s the class going?” I ask my friend.

It started last week, but I didn’t go. I never signed up. I wasn’t sure I’d finish it.”

(you won’t finish if you don’t start, I thought but didn’t say) I bet you finish all the books you start as well.”

Yes, I do,” spoken with a grimace.

I don’t anymore. If I don’t like it, I move on. Some books I plug through for awhile, hoping for it to redeem itself, and sometimes it does. If something isn’t worth the time, I don’t finish. Having said that, I call myself a great beginner … I begin a lot of things, and don’t always finish. I used to chastise myself for that, but I realized if I didn’t start, I wouldn’t have finished the things I have.” 

IMG_0997My brown suede boots gave out this week … The zipper was catching and I knew the day would come when I’d not be able to get them on or off. That day came Wednesday. I had them on, but could not unzip them. So here I type with one brown suede boot, and one barefoot … just kidding. First, I waxed the zipper to see if it could overcome the catch point, no luck. Then I took a plier to to grab hold of the zipper pull as I held the teeth together and tugged … and in the opening of the zipper, it came apart. I looked at these lovely boots, and wondered what else I could make of them. The reality was: nothing. I will carry my boots to the garbage, I guess.

Sometimes it is hard to let go of the past, of ideas, of ways of doing things, even if they aren’t working. New beginnings are always opening up,but they ask us to step forward and try. Am I willing to risk, with an unknown outcome?  Jennifer Dukes Lee expresses this dilemma well: IF you never go, you’ll never know. There are always good reasons for not walking through the doors of this life. There are always risks in crossing those great thresholds. True enough: Sometimes, our worst fears come to pass. Sometimes, things break. Sometimes, we ourselves are the most broken things of all. But that’s the thing. To live a beautiful life, we have to take the risk. To live a beautiful life, we have to lose the fear of stepping across the threshold. (Jan-Incourage@dayspring.com)

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Shoes For the Curator of My Soul

 Cement blocks, ill fitting shoes

  Doubt on the left,  Fear on the right

     Laced with guilt,  It is hard to walk

       Harder to dance, Impossible to fly

        Barefoot she skipped ahead      Jocelyn

 

Love of Advent-ure

4thadventimagesIf, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each one of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life.  (Anonymous, but quoted by Sarah Ban Breathnach in Simple Abundance)

What does it feel like to be loved?

The question is asked of my daughter who lives with her husband and three small children in a N African Islamic country. The lady who poses the question is heavy with her third child. Last December I joined my daughter to invite neighbours to attend a Ladies event to experience the flavour of a Canadian Christmas. In this country they do not celebrate December 25th, they do not get caught up in ribbons and bows, in getting the right turkey, the right gifts … they do that for other cultural events. As we spread the word about the party, one of the ladies said “everyone wants to be at her house.” It is a house of welcome, of lightIMG_0456 and love. This year, I could not be there and encouraged my daughter in whatever way I could, mainly prayer from wintery Canada. She is eight hours ahead, it was early Friday afternoon that the first details came through: “a house full of women, rich conversation, laughter, fun, food.” Via WhatsApp she said “And one pregnant woman who did not have the two dinars (about a dollar) for a taxi ride, walked seven kilometres to come.” I was moved to tears to read that. That woman walked seven kms because she felt loved and accepted by my daughter. My daughter does not preach, she invests herself into their lives … she cares, she also gives this woman a ride home.

What does it feel like to be loved? Three weeks ago, I heard a fable by Max Lucado. This is now my retelling of his telling … As the prince rode throughout the land, he took note of a peasant woman, he fell in love with her … he proposed marriage. She wanted to refuse … how could he love her, he lived in a castle, she was just a common woman. He insisted that He loved her for who she was, and he wanted to marry her. She still responded in doubt, but as he seemed quite persistant, she said,  she could cook and clean for him, and bear his children … He said, “I do not want you because you can cook and clean, and bear children. I want you to be my wife because I love you” …. They married; she cooked and cleaned and bore his children, but somehow she never trusted his love. In the end she left him, and said to one of her friends, “I never really felt that he loved me.”  

IMG_0419Something stirred my heart at this story as I have often wondered IF God, who says He is love, could love me? What does it feel like to be loved by the creator of the universe? I have learned that grief does not feel like love …. but the question hangs in the air. Do actions speak louder than words? I do believe that Christmas is Love in Action.

How will I spend the final advent hours? May I take time to feel the desert wind, to gaze at a star and to ponder the birth of new understanding. The final word is Immanuel, God with us, through each season of life, through the longing and the filling, in the journey through the desert. 

Why settle for tinsel, when we are offered the kingdom? 

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Jocelyn is the Author of Who is Talking out of My Head-Grief as an Out of Body Experience

The Advent-ure of Joy and SAD

I bring you good news of great joy, that will be for all the people.

joy-does-not-simply-happen-to-us-we-have-to-choose-joy-and-keep-choosing-it-every-day-joy-quotesAfter three days of thick fog, and pondering thoughts of joy, for the third Advent-ure, I realized that England or Vancouver are not ideal places for me to live. Three days of fog was enough to diminish the joy I’d been working on.

Is my Joy up to me? While I believe I have a part to play, surely I cannot be sole source of my joy. What is joy? I combined my ideas with Kay Warren’s and Theopedia’s to define joy as a (positive)state of mind and orientation of the heart,(theopedia) brought about because of the settled assurance that I am not in control of all details of my life (God is); this brings a confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright. (Warren)

Joy is hard to find and easy to lose.

What are the big joy snatchers? We each have our own as our individuality plays a part. Over time, I have learned which things trigger me, but oh these thieves are deceptive sneaky little buggers. And then guilt tags along to remind me that I should be more joyful, I should be more grateful. And I want to tell him where to go, but initially his familiar voice lures me into guilt’s downward spiral.

That negative list is easy to focus on. Richard Rohr says that “True joy is harder to hold onto than anger or hatred.” I can attest to that, even shallow joy passes that test.

Stress, which for me includes technology glitches, erodes my joy.

Relationship glitches/misunderstandings between people I care about is another joy thief.

What are my Joy Practices?

Walking is a good antidote for me.

My Mop/Mind of Peace helps me get to where I want to go.

Looking outward and inward to find joy.

This week I had several joy moments, the little moments of daily joy.

Listening to great music with a friend, getting outdoors, and the greatest gift of Joy this past week came through a Christmas drama Friday night.

I had to drive a half hour in barely-could-see-the-lines fog to get to the theatre. Had I IMG_0285not invited two friends along, I would have stayed home. When we found our seats, we wondered if we had carried the fog inside. Machine produced haze created the ambiance. The drama was one of the most creative, artistic re-telling of the Christmas story I’d ever experienced. Moved to tears several times, as the dancers, actors, narrators, and musicians carried me along the backdrop story to show the birth of love and mercy at Christmas. The phenomenal opening and closing scenes included an aerial ring acrobat, a mini Cirque du Soleil style performance. The artist changed from a silver body suit in the opening, to a red one in the finale, while the chorus sang about Unspeakable Joy. Something in my heart shifted.

IMG_0274Simone Weil has said that two things pierce the soul, beauty and affliction. This red dancer was beauty in the midst of suffering. This pictured for me the Joy that comes in both the morning, and the mourning. It comes as the spirit is invited in.

Saturday, as I set out for my walk, the local fog finally lifted, revealing stunning hoarfrost on all the trees. This reminded me of the people walking in darkness metaphor, of seeing a great light. When the fog lifts, joy like the hoarfrost covers everything in its path … even the garbage.

And I am humbly reminded of my fridge magnet –Take my advice, (apparently) I’m not using it 🙂

Peace of Mind Advent-ure

imagesThe slip of the moon shines through the slats of my window blinds, and three lines below – the morning star bright and clear. December days lack in daylight, but the advantage is that the pink sunrise arrives at a respectable 8am. A sense of peace prevails, as I smile back at the moon.

Peace defined as: stress-free state of security and calmness; a freedom from disturbance, war or violence. Peace, a word we toss around this  season, as we light the second Advent candle and wonder how does this message of Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men, pair against the late night newscast and our own videos that play in our heads.

Just over six years ago, I met Mitch (not her real name) at the drug clinic I worked at. Dr George, the founder, asked if I would spend some time with one of his most inspirational-quote-peace-2challenging clients, a young woman with a  troubled past, and an addiction of mass quantities of her current prescription choice. Perhaps I could take her out for coffee, now and again. Little did I know … Over many coffees and conversations and trips to the emergency department, I got to know Mitch fairly well. At one point she told me that there was a constant battle going on in her mind between an angel on her right shoulder and a little devil on the left. Clearly the left was winning. She illustrated for me what Paul wrote in Romans 7: I can will it, but I can’t do it … I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it. I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. She is not alone in this mind battle; it is one thing when I am fighting the extra chocolate cheese cake in the fridge, or an overdose of barbiturates. 

It has been said that time heals all wounds, it can also be said that time wounds all heals. Unless we come to terms with what has happened in our lives, we GMPOMimagescannot stop the whirling activity of mind. I thought I would be celebrating Christmases with a large family, three children, and the grandkids   adding the extensions so all could fit around the table. It was not to be. And the voices in my head could whirr on …. It has become my daily choice to accept that my life has not turned out as hoped or expected, but there is still much beauty in life. There is a depth of beauty I had not known before. There is a peace that comes when I realize that I am not in control.

I have long said that you can get scriptures and statistics to support any cause. I also have the gift of misinterpreting the ancient words. (It is not mentioned in most spiritual gift listings.) In the NKJV, Phillipians 4 says: Be Wayne_Peaceindexanxious for nothing … I took that to heart. For many years I would be anxious for nothing, wondering if I’d said the right thing, got involved here, donated to the right cause, and the anxious for nothing list went on. This Advent as I ponder the candle of Peace, I am reminded that my great battle for peace is for peace of mind; and I need to practice my Mind of Peace-my Mop. With my Mop I sweep the doubts away.  *I choose to accept my life as it is, not how I wish it was, *I choose to see that there is much beauty in this world, and *I choose to believe I need help in this war. I practice this Mop, this mind of peace with the help of the Prince of Peace.

Peace – one of the greatest gifts of Advent.

Jocelyn is author of Who is Talking out Of My Head, Grief as an Out of Body Experience

Recently someone reminded me of Simon & Garfunkel’s version of Silent Night with the newscast as background; 48 years later it still haunts.  Here are 2 links, the first one with the newscast visual, the second with only the 1966 cover album.  the links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1X_a9o4ezw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgYFXCUEL4Y

The Advent Adventure

IMG_8685Even before the Hallowe’en masks disappeared, Christmas merchandise appeared in the stores. Every time fresh snow fell the song, It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas jingled in my head; and we had snow in September, so it’s been awhile. Thinking about the season of advent, I wondered if adventure shared the root word. With the ease of Google search, I found out that  advenire ‘arrive’ meaning the arrival of something is at the core of both.

Advent is defined as: the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event, while adventure is an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity. For many children Christmas is exciting, while parents can dread the season. The expectancy of something big happening fills the air. But, for people in grief, or challenging life circumstances, it is not the most wonderful time of the year. And if Santa Claus is the only one coming to town for December 25, I’m not sticking around for it. (Bah, Humbug!)

In the far past, I thoroughly enjoyed December, and more hope-beach-sunset-quotes-quotesrecently I have rekindled a love of the Christmas season, coming out of a ten year mark of a world turned upside down, with personal catastrophic events that made the Christmas of 2005 my most dreaded ever. The Christmas that mocked me with All hearts come home for Christmas, the first Christmas that two of my three children were not on this planet, the first Christmas without my husband … I feel a strong kinship with the Biblical descriptor of  The people walking in darkness have seen a great light, on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned …   The dawning of light, is the beginning of hope. The beginning of the great adventure of Emmanuel … God with us … through thick and thin, through darkness and light.

This year as I light the first candle of Advent, the candle of Hope I reflect on the Hope that has carried me through a passage of grief, to a new shore. A stumbling towards beauty and grace.                                                                           

Hope is a choice, Hope has given me my voice                                                                 to question to doubt, to scream and shout                                                                           Hope has been in the midst as a spark                                                                                 as a river, a cause to shiver                                                                                                      Hope behind, hope before as it opens and shuts the door.                                                The taste of hope and I want more …                                                                                      More of the source, more of truth, more of the grace it has given                                 I want hope on this earth   …   and a taste of Heaven.

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Emily Dickinson says, Hope is the thing with feathers/ that perches in the soul. Does that make hope flighty? Or does it means it visits, when I need it most? Hope is a choice I can make. For me the source of the Hope is the litmus test of its worthiness. It is easy to miss the meaning of Christmas; it has been turned into numbers of shopping days left, and pre-Christmas boxing day sales.           May you also have some adventure in your advent season … we settle for tinsel when we could have eternity … 

A favourite Advent song of mine is Ready My Heart by Steve Bell. My apologies if the link does not work.

http://redmp3.cc/13011993/steve-bell-ready-my-heart.html

Jocelyn is author of Who is Talking out of My Head, Grief as an out of Body Experience