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 🙂

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

Keep Moving Annie

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“There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.” I can still hear those words as each episode of NYPD’s 65th Precinct came to conclusion. I realize the series ended in 1963, likely the time a black and white television arrived in our home.

Earlier this week I heard a story that would not have made the Naked City episodes as there was no official crime involved, unless neglect and regret count.

After swimming lengths in the overcrowded lanes, I met a woman as we headed to the showers of the local pool. We started with weather chit-chat, of how nice the January chinook was and we ended with her sharing the story of her under valued mother-in-law, whom they had buried about ten days earlier.

She just stopped moving. She didn’t have a real disease, it wasn’t like she had cancer or any real diagnosed illness. She didn’t move.”  Sheila expressed guilt, that had she lived closer she could have been of more help, could have helped Annie up, taken her for walks, out shopping. She was convinced that her mother-in-law would be alive if more care had been shown. She expressed the group guilt they felt for having missed out by not knowing who this incredible woman truly was.  More of the story spilled out as  warm shower water washed over her sadness.

Annie had three sons, was a registered nurse, as well as a co-owner of several business she and her husband started. In the sixties, Annie was ahead of her time in that she worked alongside the men in the oilfields. She was tough and swore with the best of the men in the field. And yet according to my shower friend, Annie had a heart of gold, and only after she passed did they realize how much they would miss the woman who’d hidden behind the gruff facade. Annie was only forty-five when she lost her husband to a work related accident. In spite of that, she carried on and expanded the business with her sons, but it was always referred to as her husband’s business, even years after he died.  Sheila held her tears as she expressed the sadness that they had never recognized mother-in-law as someone who wanted or needed affection. In order to survive, the tough exterior was presented, if any man tried to make advances, the sons made sure it did not happen. Annie never again experienced the power of a romantic love in her life—regret filled this daughter’s voice over the missed opportunities.

At 79, Annie just quit moving.

I think Annie decided to shut down her business,  got tired of running it … got tired of feeling the need to be tough, the need to push hard, to pretend it didn’t hurt to live without love.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
 another Annie said that―Annie Dillard, (The Writing Life)

A few things I ponder: how to let my heart be open, before it is too late.  Never presume the tough exterior is the true one, what is the story beneath it?  The importance to keep on moving. Doing does not replace being or knowing.

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I never met Annie, but I wished I had.

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)

Door # 2,0,1,5?

Only dreams give birth to change  … Sarah Ban Breathnach

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.  Zora Neale HurstonIMG_8658

What does 2015 hold? Like the North African doors that call me to enter, the New Year is inviting me to step through and discover the beauty that awaits. And not seen in the picture is the garbage that was scattered throughout much of the land … Life is not pristine, I will encounter garbage in 2015. But does that keep me from dreaming? (Sometimes -yes) As I think ahead to the plans, dreams and goals I have (I focus on themes instead of resolutions, less binding.) I am aware that the Trust issue is a big factor in my life. I do not know what will happen, life has taught me that not all dreams and hopes will materialize, no matter how reverent my outlook on life is.  A poster above my son’s bed said: I don’t know what the future holds, but I know WHO holds the future  I am challenged to place my trust in God. Too often I feel I have to do it all myself …

I am also aware that the Becoming is important for me … becoming more of the person I want to be, have potential to be, becoming aware of the Sacred in the daily, aware that I have choices in the doors I open and close, aware that no one can make me more miserable than I can myself.  Aware that even though my grand-daughter, all of 8 years old, tells me that my legs jiggle when I swim, I will continue to swim.  My isn’t she becoming?

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Many women today feel a sadness we cannot name. Though we accomplish much of what we set out to do, we sense something is missing in our lives and—fruitlessly—search out there for the answers. What’s often wrong is that we are disconnected from an authentic sense of self.  Emily Hancock.

I am also aware that being a woman in the western world, I have many more opportunites than the veiled women I met in North Africa and I am grateful for that. The doors that open in some cultures are much smaller, and often closed or difficult to push open. They may not even be aware that things could be different. I pray that I will knock on doors, even when I am intimidated by their size.IMG_7091

As you go through the door of 2015, begin this new year by trusting your inner, authentic self, and trust that there is a loving Source, a sower of dreams … May this year provide some answers, and may you enjoy the  journey of the question. In the end, I wish to become more authentic, more trusting, more connected to myself and my God, and more becoming.

It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth—and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up—that we will begin to live each day to the fullest as if it was the only one we had.                      Elizabeth Kübler-Ross

Pictures taken in North Africa by J Faire

The Waiting Place

Sometimes-I-feel-like-Im-waiting-for-somethingThe Waiting Place

According to Dr Seuss, it is a most useless place … the waiting place where people are just waiting.”

The place where plea bargains happen, oaths to the Creator made, and life priorities re-evaluated.
But when your back is up against the wall, desperately wanting an outcome …
The messages kept coming back as prayer requests …
Mom’s not well, she’s being admitted.
It looks like endocarditis
(an infection of the heart’s inner lining)
Antibiotics not effective …
Medivac’d in the night to a bigger cardiology centre

(They are all displaced-this is not even their home province)
Surgery scheduled, cancelled, then rescheduled
Twelve hours in surgery …
Bleeding, she had to go back to OR …

With those texts as background, I picked up a book … Moving the Hand of IMG_2878God, by John Avanzini(1990). The book disappoints, and I argue my way through the introduction, I don’t see God as Formulaic, as one who cannot see through this as attempted manipulation.
My friend’s life hangs in the balance. She is younger than I, she may not know she is in the waiting place … where is one’s spirit when drugs render unconsciousness? Her family gathered are also in that waiting place. Waiting for good news, waiting for improvement …. waiting for the rain to stop.

The sign should read: WELCOME TO THE WAITING ROOM…
Waiting feels helpless, we are geared to do something.
Pause, Breathe …
When Life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear.
Lamentations 3:28, 29. But how does one wait with hope?

Can I Trust You?
Dear God
I woke with knots in my stomach … so many questions whirling my head …IMG_0001
can I trust You with the knots?
Heavy heart as her life hangs in the balance … machines breathe for her
Can I trust you with that?
Life not being what I or they thought it should be or would be…..
Can I trust you with the future?
Despair and doubt want to hinder any Bold prayer
Can I trust you with that?
Even as I speak these words I KNOW without a doubt, I have no one else that I could trust these things to, so why do I hold back?
Can I trust you with that?

And your answer is a Resounding—YES YES YES!

I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope,
And gather dust and chaff and call
To what I feel is Lord of all,
And faintly trust the larger hope. Alfred Lord Tennyson

Quack-grass like Apathy

DSC_0527After fourteen hours on the road, across two and a half provinces I arrived at the memorial garden dedicated to my son and daughter, in what has become my annual trek to plant the garden. It did not help that dark rain clouds hovered, and cold north winds blew, or that the harsh winter had killed off perennials of a half dozen years. Quack-grass had spread like apathy and despair, it crept in to take over where a lush garden thrived. As I stood shivering all I could feel was the extreme loss that had brought this garden into being. I felt like the lone still-grieving mother doing battle against the universe. In my tiredness, I saw the garden as unkempt, impossible to clean and full of weeds. And the beauty was hidden from my eyes.
I paused, and breathed a prayer. Surely the quack-grass should not dominate!
After the next morning’s rain and a good night’s sleep, I returned in the sunshine to discover, there was still much beauty here, the fountain was flowing, as was the offer from camp staff to help dig … spirits lifted.

Today the garden lesson for me was in persistence for beauty, that joys fought for are worth the battle, that passion for beauty nourishes the soul.
People have come alongside. Unearthing beauty and joy is my challenge and delight in the garden and in my day … so let me laugh in this moment, let me keep the weeds at bay … and let me use Round Up wherever I need to.
In preparation for this year’s garden trip, weather worn signs needed replacing and rewording.
What can you say as an epitaph for two vibrant young people?
In my search for words I came across this poem, and knew it was the one.

I Will Not Die an Unlived LifeDSC_0508
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
To allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
More accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

Dawna Markova

Photos are from previous years at the garden, evidence that beauty is present, and needs to be fertilized.

Hope Springs a Leak

IMG_2833Is Hope more than wishful thinking? … more than the carrot dangled? … waiting for spring to arrive after the long winter?
The dictionary defines hope as: the state which promotes the desire of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or in the world at large.
The news on the TV screen at the Winnipeg airport, while waiting for my flight to Calgary explodes with the story of five young people stabbed to death at an end of term university party. Shock, disbelief!IMG_4352
The city of Calgary’s worst mass murder ever.
The grey clouds of mourning have hung over the news, the city and the skies. One more tragic read for the masses, but a lifetime of dashed hopes for the families and close friends of the five.
Where are the spring flowers for this situation? Delayed, due to an extension of winter.
Feeling along with the heaviness of the loss of a child, the clock radio woke me to a strange mixture of music. In the one ear I could hear the Third Day song Nothing Compares, and just below that a rap artist was going on about the strife, misery and hate that seems a frequent topic of rap. The mixture confused me, momentarily as I had not knowingly set my alarm. Then as I recognized the first song, I thought it was brilliant—the words of hope, of the greater good written/sung over top the disappointment in life. And then I realized it was a tuning problem … I was on the airwave border of two radio stations that were competing to outshout each other. What an image of what is happening every day. Listen to the news at night and we can get the overwhelming sense of despair … watch the National Geographic or Discovery channel and I sense awe as I view the incredible beauty and strength of whales breaching in the ocean, or time lapse photography of flowers unfolding.
Simone Weil has said that there are two things that pierce the heart, beauty and affliction(sorrow). Restated as moments we wish would last forever, and those we wish had never begun.

IMG_2836This is the Easter weekend, and this is the ultimate story of the resurrection of hope over the sorrow of death.
The promise of new life erupting after the long winter.
May it be so for the families in sorrow.
I am waiting for these crocuses to return.

Link to the Third Day song that played … I didn’t recognize the rap song, so cannot give you that link—you get to play it over your own selection of disappointment.

MAKE YOUR LIST & CHECK IT TWICE

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I received a serendipitous gift at a coffee shop recently.  I couldn’t help overhearing as Eddie read to his partner, and when he asked her “What do you think?” I joined in the conversation to say I thought it had been a great little article, who had written it? It was his own …. for me it was a chance encounter–to meet a fellow writer further along the road. (His website is listed below) Writing, like life is a process, and I learn as I go and grow. These little gifts come at the most wonderful of times, so I practise keeping my spirit open to them.

The line that caught my attention was–to make a list and check it twice. He was referring to a dream list, although I immediately thought about a gratitude list. It is easier to see what is not going well in my life, although I want to practise gratitude. As I walked home the world looked brighter, I was writing the things-I-was-grateful-for list. Being thankful is a mood changer.  87791726-person-making-list-photos-comTry it– make your list and check it twice, make two lists, one of gratitude and one of dreams.

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas here, we just received what I dub the “Christmas Eve snowfall”–three inches of soft white frosting on the entire landscape, including my mindset at the moment.  You can get on my gratitude list easily, by leaving a comment–what are you most thankful for this season?

DSC_0053Richest blessings of the season to you and yours!

Jocelyn

Eddie Lemoine is an author and motivational speaker, to visit his website go to  http://eddielemoine.com/

More Humbugs-Tis the Season to Fa la la

DSC_0047Tis the Season when you deck the hall, or perhaps you want to deck someone?  What if you don’t like Christmas?  What do you do then?

Sales people love an early December snowfall—it makes the cash registers ring. The “Holly Jolly” songs have been piped over the PA systems for a few weeks, adding to the urgency to run the card through the machines to show people how important they are. The new math equates amount of dollars spent with amount of love expressed. It’s a time some people love, and some people hate. (Is this another best of times, worst of times?)

For people grieving it truly is the worst of times. My first Christmas after the loss of my two children, is one I would never ever want to repeat. Although there were some incredible God-moments, I dreaded the season for months in advance.  The constant reminders and family photo-card images reinforce for those in a tough situation,  the feeling of loneliness and despair, causing many people to want to pack up and ride away for the season. Be kind to all, you don’t know what they may be going through. May the spirit of love covers all aspects of your Christmas, like a gentle snowfall.

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It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on         Sarah McLachlan