Faith from the Edges

Faith and life from the perspective of me.

Archive for the tag “gratitude”

Bye, Bye 2016! Hello 2017!

A lot can happen in a year as we all know. 2016 for me has been all about the recovery. Recovery from cancer treatment and then recovery from the depression caused by having cancer. Seeing my hair grow and finally being able to get it cut and then needing another cut and getting a colour! The two pictures above were essentially taken a year apart. I am so grateful to have made it through all the cancer rigamarole and to mostly be feeling more myself.

There has been much that was good about last year and I don’t want to forget that as we say farewell to this past year.

I am grateful for all the family time the dear one and I got in this year. Time with his folks, time with my folks, time with our adult lovelies, time to take an extra special holiday to the west coast with two nieces and a nephew. How much fun did we all have on our adventures each day! We celebrated his parents 60th wedding anniversary – have to admit that is a life goal of mine. We got almost three weeks with our younger daughter before she headed off on her big adventure overseas.

I am also grateful that this year has been a good one as far as my ministry within the church. I have met many fine folk in this diocese who are committed to the work of reconciliation between Indigenous and settler in Canada and in particular our part of Canada. They want to educate themselves, they want to build up relationships, they want the church to become part of that story. This work keeps me energized in so many important ways.

The dear one and I celebrated 30 years of marriage this year and that really is a high point for both of us. We have been through so much together – both good, bad, silly, humdrum, fantastic and boring. We still look at each other and are amazed by the others love and are ever so grateful.

Here’s the tough stuff. No one warns, or at least not in my hearing, cancer survivors of the high rate of depression following treatment. I mean, really, you don’t think that someone’s emotional and mental health are as important as their physical health. I have to say that throughout this I am extremely grateful to the dear one for supporting me through that and for my family doctor and my therapist – they both got me through the worst. So a shout out to all of you dealing with cancer and its treatment, make sure that you get the help you need to deal with the mental and emotional bits as well as the physical bits.

The rest of the tough stuff is the part of the world I have no control over. The state of politics in the world, the rise of racist, right wing ideologies that just freak me out! The state of our environment – if you are a climate change denier please do some honest to goodness research and let’s all work together to leave a better planet for future generations. The state of so many women’s lives – please hear this men, feminism is not out to destroy you, it’s out to make the world a better place for all of us. I honestly think we can all do better in this regard.

Here are some of my goals for 2017:

  1. To write here more often – it does me good to write and so I am going to commit to at least two posts a month. Oh my goodness, I just put that out there.
  2. To move more – generally this means walking for me, but I also need to get in the water more. I have to get over my ‘they will be looking at me’ fear and just move more.
  3. To drink different beers – so many good beers out there.
  4. To laugh as loudly and as often as I can.
  5. To support those dealing with cancer. It is those of us who have gone through it that can be the best supporters for those going through it.
  6. To pray each day – I know right, you’d think a Christian woman living out her faith would already do this- but you know I really need to dig down into this.
  7. Find a way to deal with my chronic pain that doesn’t spoil every bit of my life – those of you who live with chronic pain will know what I am talking about.
  8. Have more people over for meals, drinks, whatever and spread the hospitality around – it is good for me when I can do this.
  9. I am going to work hard at speaking my truth, standing up for justice, reminding others that reconciliation is necessary and possible, that a healthy environment is our gift to the future.
  10. To find beauty wherever I can – because my goodness this is a beautiful world and there are so many creative people out there, it won’t be hard to find – for me a big part of that will be found in my garden. Oh yes, I am already dreaming of spring.

Thanks dear readers for hanging in there with me. You have brought out the best in me and I appreciate that. Got any goals for 2017? I’d love to hear them. Going to leave you with some final thoughts from a hero of mine Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

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Happy New Year to one and all!!

 

 

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#AdventWord #WakeUp

#AdventWord #WakeUp Some of you may remember that last year I took part in the worldwide building of a daily Advent calendar. This Advent we can all experience it together. If you go to Advent Word you can find out more information about it. I am going to be posting here on my blog and on my Instagram account, so you dear reader can follow along in two places if you so want.

Today’s word is Wake Up. I took the above picture just as the dear one and I were having our first cup of coffee. Here in Wetaskiwin it is dark early in the morning. The sun doesn’t rise until nearly 8:30 am, so we wake up in the dark every day. Waking up here at this time of the year takes effort and coffee – because, really who wants to get up in the dark.

Waking up means a lot to me this year. As my faithful readers know the last 6 months have been hard and difficult. I feel like I am now waking up and getting ready to once again do the ministry that God has called me to do. The ministry of neighbourly reconciliation with the indigenous folk of this good land. A ministry that is hard, challenging, energizing and so rewarding – like any good ministry should be. I am waking up to take up that challenge again. I am coming out of my deep introvert time and moving outward with my life again. Wake up is the perfect phrase for me to start this year’s Advent.

 

55 Times around the Sun

55 Times around the Sun That’s right, I  have been around the amazing sun of ours, on this wonderful earth of ours, 55 times. It seemed to me, that given everything that has happened this year, I needed to find a way to mark this event. Here goes, 55 gratitudes. learnings, events in my life I want to share with you. This may take a while to read so go grab a beverage and when you are done reading, raise your glass and send me a virtual toast!

  1. For being born to a strong mother, a not always there biological father, and, he didn’t know it at the time, also to a man who became my dad.
  2. Learning how to welcome – new Dad, new sister, new extended family – at such a young age that it now has become part of who I am.
  3. That we moved to Canada and didn’t stay in England – sorry England family, but it really was one of the best decisions my mother ever made.
  4. Steaming vegetables really is better than boiling them!
  5. Grateful for so many good books that I have read for all the ones I haven’t discovered yet.
  6. For all the beautiful places in Canada that I have been and for those yet to be discovered.
  7. Being a woman and recognizing that means I need to be a feminist and call out for the equality of all.
  8. Having lived in so many different places in this great big country and that has meant I have friends in so many different places. Grateful for all those communities.
  9. That my faith has been part of my life, challenged me, strengthened me, pushed me, hopefully made me a better person.
  10. Dark chocolate is so much better than milk chocolate – just sayin’.
  11. Canadian health care for all its faults is still one of the best systems in the world.
  12. Moving to Saskatchewan with my family is one of the best things that ever happened to me – for there I met both my bestie and my dear one.
  13. Drink water when you’re thirsty and even when you aren’t – hydration is essential!
  14. Good friends and family will get you and yours through almost anything.
  15. A good cry or a good laugh are essential to living well.
  16. Look for beauty everywhere – it is everywhere – enjoy it, let it feed your soul.
  17. Be thankful everyday for something, even if it has been a horrible day, find something to be thankful for.
  18. Community whether a church, a book club, a team, friends, is life giving and should always be nurtured.
  19. Good food is such a blessing and making good food for others is a treasure.
  20. My mother’s death at such a young age shaped me in ways I am still discovering.
  21. I love mornings – get my best work done then – afternoons, not so much.
  22. Sleeping next to someone you love is the best!
  23. Cake, there is always cake.
  24. Camping is always a good thing and best done with people you love.
  25. Being a Girl Guide prepared me to be a good woman and a good neighbour.
  26. Baby giggles, there is not much in the world that is better than baby giggles.
  27. Marriage is about love, yes, but also about communication and honouring the other in your life. I am so grateful for my good marriage to the dear one.
  28. Good, strong, fair trade coffee is so worthy of praise!
  29. Singing, music of any kind, is good for the soul.
  30. Being a mother has been amazing, frustrating, gratifying, sometimes disastrous, always full of love. Wouldn’t change this at all.
  31. Travel of any kind to almost anywhere is a good thing. I need to do more of it.
  32. When the dear one and I got married we had no idea of the adventures life would throw at us both good and not so good. We are still doing it together which is wonderful!
  33. Cheese! How good is cheese and so many different kinds to enjoy!
  34. Learn as much as you can about as many things as you can. Keep on learning new things and new skills. It is important!
  35. Enjoying your adult children as friends is a blessing in so many ways.
  36. Drink good wine, don’t drink bad wine – there is so much good wine in the world to enjoy.
  37. Try as hard you can to be respectful to others and work at understanding their points of view – hard, but necessary work for all of us.
  38. See beauty wherever you go. There is so much of it to enjoy, but you need to see it.
  39. Be kind to those you know and those you don’t know. Random acts of kindness should come as naturally as breathing. Be kind.
  40. Board games with family and friends are such excellent fun!
  41. I am so grateful that i have found a passion to guide my life, find yours, do it if you can.
  42. A good cup of tea is something to be cherished every day, especially during my downtime in the afternoon.
  43. Creativity feeds me regularly, through writing, sketching, photography.
  44. Living with cancer has been hard, but the way friends and family have reached out and supported me is amazing. I don’t even have words.
  45. Hanging out with people of different ages has stretched me in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. This has made me a better person.
  46. Volunteer if you can. Being able to serve different organizations in different ways has made my life richer.
  47. Naps, I love naps. Don’t take near enough of them.
  48. Hot chocolate after being outside on a really cold day – so much goodness in that cup.
  49. Sharing little joys as well as big joys with others is so important.
  50. Justice seeking, peace building, reconciling are all hard work, but so necessary in this broken world of ours.
  51. A kitty purring on my lap is just so happy making I don’t have enough words to describe it.
  52. Gardening continues to be a love of mine. Getting my hands in the dirt, watching things grow, bloom both inside plants and outside ones makes me feel so connected to God’s creation.
  53. Good conversation around the dinner table with good friends, life doesn’t get much better than that. So grateful that I have been part of so many and looking forward to many more.
  54. A good belly laugh or laughing with others does me so much good. It is so restorative.
  55. Hugs with ones you care about are the best comfort we can give each other sometimes.

Thanks for reading this far. I am looking forward to many more times around the sun before I leave this earth. I am so grateful to be coming out the other side of chemo. Bless you and here’s to birthdays!

Thanksgiving

As you know dear reader I have been going through chemo for ovarian cancer for the last 3 months. I had chemo session number 5 yesterday and it is now Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada and all of that got me to thinking about what I am thankful for. I decided that I would use a series of photos to share with you what I am grateful for this year.

Gratitude #1

Thanksgiving I am so grateful for our Canadian Health Care system. A system that does not see us paying crazy amounts of private health insurance, a system that moved into high gear when it was realized that I might have cancer and when my diagnosis came through got me into chemotherapy right away, a system that has trained such good people at all levels – from receptionists, to lab techs, to nurses, to my amazing doctors. So even though a lot of going through chemo can be quite crappy I am grateful for it because I know my life is going to be better once I get through it.

Gratitude #2

ThanksgivingMy dear one, my love, my husband, my dearest one. He has hung in through all of this journey called marriage with me – through our best times, through our worst times. We have been through sickness and health, better and worse, richer and poorer over the last almost 30 years and we still laugh, enjoy movies together, good food, travelling adventures, intellectual discussions, prayer time, snuggles, being with family and friends. My life is richer, stretched, and oh so much more delightful because of him. I give thanks everyday for him.

Gratitude #3

ThanksgivingThese four! My lovelies – my own adult children and the one who married into our family. I can’t imagine our lives without any of them now. They have brought me so much love that my heart often feels like it is overflowing. They love and care for each other in delightful ways, they enjoy each others company and they enjoy our company. We play board games, drink beer and wine, cook and eat good food, laugh together. They have been so supportive and there during this rough time. They make me so proud and I am so glad to call them family. They are the heart of my heart always.

Gratitude #4

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving This gratitude gets two photos, because unfortunately I don’t have a photo with the three us of together. The first photo is with my sister and the second one is with the sister of my heart. These two women are the ones who keep me going on days when nothing else will. They listen to me moan, vent, cry, laugh whenever I need them. They are always there. I am so grateful for that. I don’t see either of them often enough, because of distance, but they are always in my heart, prayers and thoughts and I know that it is the same for them. My life is richer because of them and I want to say publicly here thank you and love you both so much. Don’t cry now you two!

Gratitude #5

ThanksgivingThe dear one and i have had cats our whole married life. There have been 10 of them altogether, including these two. They have brought us laughter, comfort, grace and so much more. These two in particular have been my buddies through all of the last several months. They seem to know when I need an extra cuddle or just quiet lap time. I am so grateful for them and I know my/our life would be less without them.

Underlying all of these gratitudes is my faith. Faith that God lives in, through and acts through each of these gratitudes that I have named today. I have seen God’s grace be present in all of them sometimes when none of us were expecting that. I would be remiss not to give a honorary mention to all the church communities that I have been part of for over 40 years – they have fed me, strengthened me, encouraged me and given me some lifelong friendships. I wouldn’t be who I am without them. If you are part of one them still know that I give grateful thanks to our God for you all regularly.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian readers and to those of you who aren’t know that we here in Canada will be giving thanks that we all live in this world together!

Pain Days or Hope Days

I had hoped that my first post of 2015 would be the words that I am going to use to inspire me through the year (it is coming just not ready yet) but life has a way of throwing curves at you. My big curve has been this ongoing flare I am having as a result of my rheumatoid arthritis. I am so tired of pain days, of not being able to function as well I would like, of limiting my activities because everything hurts. Today is one of those days.

I read this article today about how it feels when you live with RA. It made so much sense and I have shared it around so that others may understand. I have been in flare mode since early June of last year, nearly 7 months. I finally get to see a new rheumatologist next week. I am so ready to be over this and living more normally again. The dear one is so ready for that to happen as well.

I posted this photo on my Instagram account today which I always share on my Twitter and Facebook accounts as well. I described it as pain face, because that is what it is.

2015-01-22 13.14.51What continues to surprise me, and really shouldn’t at this point, is the love and care that comes from my friends when I share with them how I am doing. I am so grateful. It is what keeps me going. It is what gives me hope.

I am hoping that next week I will have good news to share with everyone. That I am on a new treatment and that things are looking up in that regard. It is hard on days like today to have hope, but I am doing my best to do just that, have hope.

Even though today has been hard and thinking creatively has been even harder I am going to hang onto hope, because without that this would be even harder.

Where do you find hope when life throws curves your way?

Why Give Thanks?

I recently wrote this piece  about why I give thanks for the Anglican Journal – the newspaper of the Anglican Church of Canada.  Seeing that Canadian Thanksgiving is coming up soon, I thought I would also share it with you the readers of my blog.

Thanks-a-lot

I know that I have written a lot lately and that has much to do with factors in my  life, summer laziness, holidays, and general I don’t really think I have anything to say at the moment. Other writers will get that. So I am trying to get back into the habit of more frequent writing – not all of it will show up here, but some of it will – and therefore more frequent posting.

I ended the piece I did for the Anglican Journal with a gratitude list and I am going to do the same here:

1. I am grateful for the ability to write, to edit and to be able to share my thoughts with others.

2. I am grateful that God is big enough to take my doubts, my anger, my trembling and turn around and give it back to me as love.

3.I am grateful for my family, my friends, those who pray for and with me (you all know who you are).

4. Today I am grateful for you, my readers, who hang in with me despite my sporadic writing. Thank you all.

As we approach Thanksgiving what you are grateful for? What makes your heart beat faster? What fills you with so much joy you can hardly speak?

I am more than my RA: Arthritis Awareness Month

A long time ago and in what seems like a land far away, I lived without daily pain. I lived energetically, enthusiastically, full of ideas, creative thoughts and plans. Every now and then I still get to visit that place and I feel so grateful for that.

Then back in 1997 I got the diagnosis I was dreading. I have rheumatoid arthritis. I had been having almost daily stiffness in my feet and hands and then pain for about 2 years before my doctor was able to successfully come up with this diagnosis. It has now been 17 years since that time. There are days when all I can focus on is the pain and how to manage it. If I get one task  that I have set for myself done then I feel like it is a victory.

EN-AAM2014-Facebook-Cover-851x314_webSeptember has been a month of dealing with pain every day. I seem to be more affected and have my RA flare when we go through seasonal changes and the change from summer to fall has been quite erratic here in central Alberta. We have had temperature and barometric swings almost every day. I am one of those with RA that is affected by my environment – both the physical and emotional environment.

One of the effects of this recent flare is that I have fallen into a bit of a dump emotionally, a mild depression. This is not unusual when you are dealing with chronic pain but  obviously not a happy place to be (yes, the pun was deliberate). It is hard to get moving physically when everything hurts and you are hurting on the inside.

No one told me that with a diagnosis of RA I needed to take care of my mental health, although you would think that doctors would now recognize that chronic conditions and the state of one’s mental health are intertwined.

Here’s me today:

Arthritis AwarenessOne of things I am doing to help boost me out of this state is to dress with the style that I love and can rock by the way. It is also a way to remind myself that I am more than my RA. I am a beautiful, savvy, faithful, full of gratitude, rocking middle aged woman who has lots of great ideas. I am more than my RA. I am more than my RA.

That is my my mantra for the moment. That I am more than my RA. I know how easy it is to get defined by the chronic condition that you live with and I have to remind myself and others that I am more than my RA. That can be difficult when you step on to the floor from your bed in the morning and your feet are screaming with agony. That can be difficult when you have to take frequent breaks from typing your blog to give your hands a stretch and a rest. That can be difficult when you are so fatigued with pain that you can’t even put a full sentence together coherently. I am more than my RA.

I am more than my RA. What do you need to be more than?

Pine Channel Pilgrimage

Every year On Eagles Wings takes teams of two to five people to remote northern communities to run a Vacation Bible School/Bible Camp for a week. These communities are scattered throughout the Northwest Territories, northern Alberta, northern Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba. The volunteers come from both the United States and Canada. On Eagles Wings is an ecumenical ministry made up of Lutherans, Anglicans, Roman Catholics and many others. They only ever go into a community if they have been invited by the church leadership of that community.

I was given the amazing privilege of joining their Executive Director, AnnE Zimmerman, to go to a remote community in northern Saskatchewan for the week of July 7-14. We flew up to Fond du Lac from Edmonton in the On Eagles Wings plane. On that plane was our luggage, sleeping bags, and all the craft supplies we were going to need. No running to the store if something was forgotten. Then we travelled from by boat to Pine Channel, which is an island in Lake Athabasca about an hour by boat from Fond du Lac. All in all in took us about 4 hours of travel from the time we left Edmonton to the time we got to Pine Channel. If you want to find out how the Bible Camp went check out my blog on The Community. The rest of this post I am going to share how I felt and what I learned while there.

On Eagles Wings Plane

Pine Channel is the holy gathering place where Dene from communities all around the area come to every year. Everyone set up their camps from one end of the island to the other. A new community was built and we became a part of it. This was a time of spiritual and social pilgrimage for all of us.

Pine Channel Pilgrimage

My time in Pine Channel was healing, invigorating, strengthening, fun, stretching of my faith, and so much more. I have not been as physically dirty as I was there for a really, really long time. That’s what limited electricity and no running water will do to you. In fact, I am still getting the dirt out of my toes. 🙂 That may have been too much information but that was also part of my experience at Pine Channel.

I didn’t realize when I said yes to AnnE to this trip that I was going on pilgrimage. That I was going to a holy place, a healing place. Many of you know my story of feeling abandoned by the church at a time when I really needed the church to be there for me. I hadn’t worked with children in the church directly for almost 3 years. That is the longest time of my adult life. It was heart breaking and in some ways so unnecessary. Last week I was with children from about 9 am to 11 pm each day. They wanted to share their stories, they wanted to show me what they had made, they wanted a hug, they wanted help in making something. They wanted me around and were grateful for the attention that I could bring them. They wanted to know that God loves them and God does. So much healing provided by so many younger people. I am full of gratitude, full of blessing and full of joy for this past week.

I went on a pilgrimage and I met God in the faces of the children, the faces of the elders, the faces of the priests, the face of my friend AnnE, the faces of the young people from London and in my own face.

My favourite photo from the whole week.

My favourite photo from the whole week.

I was asked if I would go back next year and I gave a definite yes! I fell in love all over again with children’s ministry. I remembered how much I love northern Canada. I had time to heal a really broken part of my soul. I met God in holy pilgrimage. Of course I said yes. Thank you AnnE, thank you Pine Channel, thank you all the new friends I made.

Painful Couple of Weeks

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I started this post while in the midst of a rheumatoid flare up, fortunately that has abated but I decided that I needed to share this with you anyway.

This has been a painful couple of weeks for me. I feel just like that red sad face in the midst of all those happy yellow faces. Like the rest of the world is enjoying life and I am left behind. Now I know this is not true and that there are many people who are in worse situations than mine but that is how I am feeling at the moment. As I have explained before I live with the chronic pain of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It is in all the small joints of my hands and feet and I think now my elbows. When I am the middle of a flare, like now, my joints swell and cause the muscle tissue around it to hurt as well. It gets painful to walk and it gets painful to type (this post may take me a while). My hands also lose their grip on things and I get the dropsies.

It has been hard for me to think, to write or to plan anything. I have felt like a complete invalid and have felt mostly useless. It got me to realizing that pain is something that I have to work through everyday. This is not a new learning but it is one I seem to have to learn again and again. It is hard to work through pain and sometimes I just have to give in and let the pain be what it is. Other times I need to get medical help so that I can function. Sometimes you just need to break the pain with medications so that you can sleep and the inflammation can calm down.

I am not writing this to look for sympathy or care. The dear one, other family and friends give me lots of that. I am writing this as a way to share what many like me go through. RA is mostly a hidden condition. You can’t tell immediately that I have RA just by looking at me. You only know if I share that with you. It is like many other conditions that are mostly hidden.

RA has been with me for so much of my adult life that it has become my companion. A companion that has made me see the world with gentler eyes and pay attention to things that I never thought as a young adult I would pay attention to. Issues of accessibility – steps and stairs are hard when you are in the midst of a flare. Issues of work – how do you get it done when you are dealing with pain? Issues of appropriate medical care – I will never take for granted the good health care we have in Canada.  I am full of gratitude for having my eyes opened in this way. I wish that it didn’t have to happen because of this condition,  but it has and as I said RA is now my companion on this journey of my life.

Unless a cure or better managing drugs are found I know that I will live with pain for the rest of my life. It doesn’t stop me from smiling or enjoying the little things and the big things. It may put a crimp in my plans from time to time, but I will continue to be upbeat because that is who I am. I will take what I have and do the best with it that I can.

What do you live with that has changed your perspective on your life? How have you changed the way you live because of it?

Canada Day, my Mum and Me

This is one of my favourites of my Mum and I. Taken in England before we immigrated to Canada.

This is one of my favourites of my Mum and I. Taken in England before we immigrated to Canada.

Today is Canada Day – the day we celebrate the birth of our country. A really good day in many ways.

Today is also the anniversary of my Mum’s death, so today is day that has an edge of melancholy about it. I am not going to say much about this, just that I am full of gratitude for my Mum, for her ongoing presence in my life through her grandchildren (all 7 of them) and that days like today I am remembering her.

I am also grateful for this country called Canada – it is not perfect but it was a great place to grow up and to be an adult in. I am grateful to all those who have built this country and are continuing to do so.

So tonight with the dear one, I will raise a glass and give thanks for Canada and for my Mum.

Happy Canada Day everyone! Miss you Mum!

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