The Woods Between the Worlds

“I feel like I’m in the woods between the worlds” reflected a friend of mine a few months ago. She was referencing her up-coming move. It was an easy concept to relate to. Haven’t most of us moved and dealt with all the upheaval of boxes and changes of addresses and tearful we’ll-stay-in-touches? However, as we chewed over her words further, it soon became apparent that this concept encompasses more than we originally thought. After a year and a half enmeshed in a global pandemic, does this phrase not apply to us all? Here we are in the summer of 2021 basically standing in the woods between the worlds. After months of captivity to the Covid 19 virus, many countries are starting the process of opening up. Here in Canada, a slow-to-start but ultimately robust vaccination campaign is heralding new hope for the future. And we are standing at the threshold between our past lives and new ways of being. As hard as this pandemic has been and through all the losses that most of us have endured, there has also emerged the Gift of Renewal. We have the opportunity to step out into a renewed life – into a new world. The question is, what will this new world look like? Ultimately I believe a lot depends on our choices and attitude. I want to embrace the future with a positive mindset.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved my pre-pandemic life. There was so much to see and do and learn and build! I do have to admit, though, there was a sense of life going faster and faster and faster each year. Society seemed impatient and “instant” became the order of the day. Although the screeching halt of the initial lock down was shocking, it was not all bad. It came with the removal of distractions which has afforded many of us time to contemplate on what is really necessary to our lives. What things truly enrich our days? What is best left in the past?

My youngest daughter decided to settle down and get married this past June. We were still in the latest lockdown which meant this wedding was to be basic. The venue was outside at her new Mother in Law’s ranch. The dress was obtained by curb side pick up from a local shop (I’m still giving silent thanks that it fit so well). Food was simple and delivered from the couple’s favourite coffee bistro. And guests were limited to close family and a couple of friends totalling 10 of us. It was a very simple wedding, but it was also everything the bride and groom wanted. They are now a little over a month into married life and it’s exactly the same as if they had a larger wedding with all the trappings. There is a lot to be said for adopting a simpler path in life and the pandemic has offered opportunities to see this concept played out in different ways.

In the coming days of re-emergence into this post 2020 world, I want to carefully consider what my new life will look like. I reflect on how my friend prepared for her move. She used this time to declutter. Some things were packed and others were let go of. Likewise, in the days to come there will be parts of my life that will accompany me on this life-journey. And, with love and gratitude, there will be things to let go of. My friend shares photos and stories of her new home and community. She is blossoming in it all. Like she has, I hope to build new things in the future and am excited to move forward in faith and joy.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11)

(For more on “the woods between the worlds” check out the book The Magician’s Nephew by C.S Lewis)

My Garden is still Magical!

During these strange days of the pandemic where everything seems to have changed overnight, I wondered if my little tulip would return. I am overjoyed to say that yes it has! And it has returned in an amazing way. There are now four little tulips growing. Four!

20200420_1536554231974562301367738.jpgTo me, this little flower has symbolized unexpected blessings – something unplanned
 and unanticipated that brings such joy! This year, it’s return means so much more. In a world fraught with sudden change and chaos and stress, those small faithful consistent little things bring hope and peace. Plus, this is a sign that spring is here! The gardens will soon be full and lush! Something to look forward to.

 

 

Faith of a Lioness

FB_IMG_1587329147584.jpg

When I was about 9 years old, my Grandmother gifted me the box set series of the Chronicles of Narnia for Christmas. How I have loved and cherished these books over the years. When the movies came out a decade ago, I was overjoyed. I purchased all 3, and have watched them repeatedly. For those who aren’t familiar, the author C.S. Lewis created this series of books to enable young children to grasp the Christian faith. It’s filled with delightful talking animals and children who meet them in a make believe world called Narnia. Aslan is a lion who represents Jesus. This series has served to bolster my faith many times over the years. I especially love the relationship between Aslan and Lucy, particularly how it plays out in the book called “Prince Caspian”. Long story short, Lucy feels small and throughout the story she slowly develops confidence in herself and in her relationship with Aslan. She realizes that she must follow his lead no matter how things appear or where other people and circumstances are pulling her. Eventually, Aslan meets up with her and, after a heart to heart, tells her she’s as brave as a lioness! And then this little girl walks to a bridge across from which is a myriad of very frightening monster-like creatures who are intent on taking over Narnia and destroying anyone in their way. Which she is. She is standing in their way! She takes out a small dagger from her pocket. They stare in amused disbelief believing that there is no way she will stop them. They move forward and suddenly there beside Lucy was Aslan. They halt! And he roars them away.

FB_IMG_1587329398087.jpg

In life, when I face those challenges that seem insurmountable, I picture this scene. I remember Lucy and when I can’t think past the moment, I simply do the next right thing, trusting that when I do my part, Jesus will meet me at the impasse. Sometimes it takes a while, but in the end, I surrender the outcome to Him trusting that He will bring me to where I am meant to be. This has helped tremendously during this Covid 19 season.

Easter in the Shadow Lands

847Easter has always been my favourite holiday. Both my daughters were baptized on Easter in matching flowery dresses and little girl sandals. Wonderful joyful memory! Easter is the light that banishes a cold frozen Winter-world. It is tulips and crocuses peeking out of the ground. It’s longer days and warmer winds. It’s sunshine and the promise of New Life. The dawning of Spring -no wonder Vivaldi was so inspired with his classical piece! It goes without saying, though, this particular Easter is vastly different than any of us have experienced before. With friends and family scattered to their own homes due to Covid 19, aren’t we all experiencing everything differently?

This Easter is definitely going to be minimalist. It has also occurred to me that this weekend may be the most accurate portrayal of the First Easter that I have ever experienced.

Less than 6 weeks ago, weren’t we all moving along in our lives as normal? Suddenly, overnight, life changed. Everything screamed to a halt. And here we are, many of us sequestered in our homes. A good amount of us are afraid. The direction we thought our lives were going has come to an abrupt end. Truthfully, who knows what our lives will look like post Covid 19? I’m an optimist and consider perhaps life will be better. But who really knows? Our future is a mystery in these unprecedented times. I can’t help but compare this to the disciples whose lives changed in a night that saw them scatter and hide away in fear.

There are those of us who are brave souls working in essential services and facing the threat on the front line. These are the heroes. I compare them to the faithful few who, despite the fear, stood by Jesus as he was crucified. God bless all these special people. There are also some unlikely heroes emerging and going out of their way to help others with groceries or sewing masks. I liken them to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who stepped up to ensure Jesus’s body would receive respectful Jewish rights. The more I ponder it, the more I see the similarities between those biblical times and now.

And here we are. Saturday. Waiting. Wondering. Trying to quell the waves of anxiety, and “what if’s”. Trying to be the best version of us in an unsettled time. It is, as it probably was, daunting.

Yet, we have an advantage the disciples did not have. We know Easter is coming. We know about the empty tomb.

I know my Lord lives!

He brings me Hope in the midst of chaos and fear.

He leads me out of confusion into the Peace of still waters.

He Restores my soul and provides me with all that I need.

Through all my troubles, He has and He always will walk with me.

This is my grass roots, back to basics, First Century inspired Easter. I pray it finds you all healthy and well

 

 

This Is Us in 2020

So, how are you all doing?

What a couple of weeks we’ve had here in Canada! What a year this has been for the world as a whole! And it’s only just the end of March! Whew! We have watched this novel virus sweep from an exotic sounding place in China, fan out through Europe and the Middle East, and descend into North America, its tentacles far reaching to many humble locations, including my little village here in Ontario.

Wow! What a time to be alive! And I say this with reverence. I am as frightened of this virus as anyone. Covid 19 is wreaking havoc on our human race, threatening everything from our daily routines, to our economy , to our friendships, to our health. Robin Cook could not have created a better plot line for a medical thriller. On the flip side though, we are witnessing the whole world united together in order to overcome this common enemy. We are no longer a country or a race. This virus does not discriminate and neither can we . This current situation hammers the truth that, no matter how distant or remote we feel a place is, what happens anywhere in this world truly affects us all. Make no mistake, we are interdependent on each other, and on nature. I truly believe that globally we will all emerge from this pandemic vastly different from when we stumbled into it.

On a personal level, how are you managing? I am so grateful that my work can be done from home. I get to stay in and help “flatten the curve” of transmission through social distancing in this manner. The hubby’s work is an essential service that he must attend. I’m thankful for the strict health screening procedures that have been put in place there. I am humbly grateful that we both can continue to work. I know many who have been temporarily laid off as some businesses have been forced to close during this time. I’m so relieved to live in a country that has immediately responded to this and is providing financial means to those in need. Not to mention our free healthcare…

This moment in history heralds a topsy turvy world where health (not wealth) is the true form of richness, where not visiting others is how we show our love, where gas is cheap but we are not able to travel, where streams suddenly run cleaner and wildlife continues as usual with nary a glance at the humans fretfully gazing out from behind their windows. Each morning I pull back the curtains and open the windows and I hear the birds singing joyfully. They seem to be belting out songs of praise to our Wonderful Creator. My heart joins them in this, for I am convinced that, despite the current events, God still walks with us. I do not believe God caused this virus in any way. However I know that God can and will redeem this. I see evidence of His spirit everywhere. I see it when governments step in and stop those who would price gouge for necessities. I see it when our little community has come together sharing supplies. People have spent their new-found extra time to sew masks for medical workers. Restaurants have offered up meals for those in need.

It seems that society suddenly skidded to a halt and has turned from the direction we were headed. Frenzied lives have slowed down. Gratitude for the simple things of life has become the order of the day. Perhaps the world as we know it is being reset. Maybe this is all a part of our evolution towards being a kinder, more thoughtful and grateful humanity.

I wish you all health and wellness.

 

2020 Visions

Winter Scene

Yes, I know. You’ve heard multiple references to “2020” and “Vision”. But I just couldn’t help myself. The dawn of this new decade has me pumped! The last decade heralded the beginning of a journey for me. 2010 started with a game changing rock-my-world crumbling down of the carefully planned follow-the-rules quiet life I was leading. Fast forward to New Year’s Eve 2019 and all I wanted to do was “dance this new decade in!” Which I did. Plus, I won a tv. Which was awesome! In the last 10 years I accomplished a lot like, passing the big “5-0”, becoming a Grandma, and progressing in a really great job. I let go of things like perfectionism, fear, and people pleasing. Setting boundaries and acceptance became my new repertoire. I saw that this imperfect life is absolutely beautiful. Not bad for a decade.

In 2020, I would like to journey further. And I want to inspire others to do the same. Maybe this list of  “New Year’s Resolutions” will do just that for you.

A big theme for my 2020 is “Self Care”. As I think upon this concept, I realize self care does not mean self indulgence. In fact, sometimes it means making the more difficult choice. Perhaps one needs to remove oneself from unhealthy social connections, even though it would be easier to simply “go with the flow”. These last few years I have greatly reduced my social contacts. I focus more on authentic friendships that are healthy, even if that means I have less people in my circle. I would highly recommend this. I can honestly say that my emotional and mental health along with happiness have increased exponentially without making any other change. Self esteem and self worth have soared! I’m planning on continuing this.

Another self care strategy is to remove unhealthy habits. This is not necessarily easy. I’m talking about habits such as binge watching tv, “treating” myself to junk food, or even that “well-deserved” glass of red wine after a “hard days work”. Yes, I said that. Even the glass of wine. It is interesting to me how for years that daily glass was marketed as “healthy”. The latest findings have turned the tide and it is now recommended to reduce how many drinks one imbibes per week. Personally I have replaced the daily glass with herbal teas. There’s a great variety available, like lavender, mint, chamomile. I have also created a lovely recipe for homemade apple cider which offers beautiful comfort for any winter evening! In this vein, I have found it useful to ask myself why exactly do I need a particular unhealthy habit. What is happening in life that I would feel the need to dull my mind each evening with tv, unhealthy food or alcohol? One big tip is to replace each unhealthy habit with a better habit (which hopefully is healthy!). So, I’m thinking of adding things like walks, yoga routine, book reading and even lovely bubble baths to my nights. Continue reading “2020 Visions”

That which we call a Rose

There has been a lot of excitement around the Flexibly Blessed household! BabyOnesieBlack

Our daughter has blessed us with a new little grandson, born on Good Friday (after 2 days labour!) Mom and baby are doing very well. And we are all thrilled!
Last September  daughter J announced she was pregnant. Okay, I guessed and caught her off guard, and the look on her face was … well … an announcement! Anyway, from the time she shared the news, one of the overriding questions was, “what will you name the baby?” She was very good at keeping this a secret as she and her Partner B wanted it to be a surprise revealed only after the baby was born. Okay, I did manage to get the news a couple months early (apparently that’s what I do!), but kept my vow of silence. The new parents believe picking the name is a sacred thing, not to be taken lightly. In fact, the new little one’s name has a very distinct meaning. 

This last week, I have been thinking seriously about names and their meanings.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” (William Shakespeare)

Names! From the moment we are born we are given one. And as we grow, we get additional ones. Daughter J became “Mommy” when Baby J was born 6 years ago. And before that, she was “Daughter”. Oh, and I became “Nanny”, and hubby “Papa”. Year after year, we gain more names – student, graduate, doctor, crossing guard, hair stylist, etc. These revolve around what we do. We also derive names from relationships with others, like the ones mentioned earlier, as well as ones like friend, neighbour, husband and wife. These are the good names. These are ones we can be proud of, and that lift us up.

But there are other kinds of names too though, aren’t there? Ones less edifying. Sad names. Sometimes these are called “labels” as they are often linked with how we have been perceived. Maybe it was something we did, whether purposeful or accidental. Often these names come from misunderstandings that grow and fester. They can be hard to shake. Sometimes we give these names to ourselves. I know I have. Maybe we are embarrassed about something we did, or disappointed in our choices. Unfortunately, these names keep us stuck in the past. We are locked and chained in a tiny box. Personal growth becomes stymied with this thinking. I have realized that if I want to grow and be healthy, I have to leave these types of names behind (which is why I have not offered any examples). I have to turn my eyes off of other people’s opinions and judgments (even my own!). I need to turn my focus on to God.  This is what I have been doing. For myself. And for others too.

So, if you need a reminder (like I often do!) these are some of the names our Wonderful Creator gives us:

He calls us Friend (John 15:15) and Chosen (1 Thes. 1:4).

Ephesians 2:10 calls us God’s handiwork, created to do good works which were prepared in advance. I’ll take that one!

My Grandma used to remind me regularly that I am God’s temple, a residence of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19)

Other names are: His messenger (Matt 28:16-20), His Child  (Galations 3:26), and Brand New (2 Cor 5:17)

Here’s two of my favourites: Greatly Loved (Romans 5:8) and Free, Free Indeed (John 8:36).

With Him I am Glad (Psalm 92:4) and the Singer of a new song (Psalm 40:3-5).

He even transforms my ashes and makes them into beauty (Isaiah 61:3)

And may I suggest Isaiah 62:1-5!

This list is not exhaustive. Our Beautiful Creator calls us many more names all of which lift us up and help us to reach new levels becoming who we were born to be. They free us to become our true selves!

My daughter J and Partner B took great care and pleasure to name new Baby O.

God does the same for all of us.

Now this, is a very good thing.

Decluttering Your Life With Love

cottage

These last few years seem to be a process of decluttering for me. Lately, this has extended to my social life. I have always been one to believe that being positive, respectful and kind to others will result in them extending the same to me.  But then I hit my fifties and I realized that this is not always the case; that there are some social connections which are just not healthy. And I have been disconnecting from them. I no longer attend functions that I am not interested in or excited about. I finally feel free to simply say no. Over time,  this backing away has created distance with certain acquaintances which is fine with me. In truth, I never really clicked with them in the first place. I just thought “nice” girls were … well … always nice. But “nice” can be over rated when your own emotional health is sacrificed.

Don’t get me wrong. I still believe in being kind and loving. This is not about “hating on” people, or jealously or judgment or anything else along those lines. Sometimes it’s just a matter of chemistry. Sometimes certain people just don’t mix well together. Maybe it’s because we are all broken in one way or another. And, perhaps, certain variations of “brokenness” are not compatible with others. In fact, I would say, some combinations are toxic. Now let me be clear: People are not toxic. But some relationships are. And the best thing one can do is to excuse themselves from the whole narrative, then go and focus on more positive connections.

Look, at fifty something, for the first time in my life, I really think about Time. I want to spend the rest of my time doing positive things with positive connections. I still care about people. I still want to help others. It’s just that some people are best loved from a distance.

I have warned my daughters about the type of people who are highly competitive. These are the ones who are only satisfied when they feel they have outdone others. Heaven help you if they set their sights on you. They will absolutely, heart-breakingly put you  down to their own satisfaction. Your words will be twisted, facts will be slightly altered, comments will be hurtful and “jokes” will be anything but funny. These are the type who encourage a mind-set of their superiority and your inferiority. And if you stand up to them?  Forbid that you actually treat them as they treat you! They will tantrum and attempt to cause all sorts of drama. How sad for them that the only way they feel good about themselves is by putting the rest of us down. Interestingly, in the end, these people are actually a slave to others. Because without feeling superior to every one else, they have no self esteem at all. They need prayer. From afar. Very far.

In reality, there is no place for competition among people. We all have our own individual backgrounds, talents, gifts, phobias, etc. So, the priorities and challenges of each life are individual. For example, I had a traumatic first few years of life. This is nobody’s fault or failure. This was just some tricky circumstances for a little girl to maneuver. I remember being an anxious child. I also remember being well loved by my Grandparents, especially my Grandmother. However, it took me to 16 years of age before I finally started smiling and laughing. I know this because some close adults at the time mentioned the change in me and made positive comments. Well, since this time, as an adult, smiles and laughter have defined my life. “You have a beautiful smile” and “I love your laugh” are the two most popular compliments I have received. Now, this – smiles and laughter – are a great success for me, given my early years. I would say, for my Grandma, this would be considered a little “miracle”. But to others, hey, it’s just some smiles and some laughter. Easy peasey. This highlights my point that there is no valid competition against others. We each have our own struggles and success for me is not necessarily success for you. And vice versa – you may have struggles that I just breeze through without thought. This is why relationships work best when people encourage and help each other reach their own personal potential. With no judgment. With no comparison. With no winner/loser mentality. But with love.

I have let go of relationships that are unhealthy like I have let go of foods and habits that are unhealthy. This is not necessarily an emotional thing. It doesn’t even have to be a “labeling” thing. I compare it to my daughter who can’t eat bread because she is allergic to the gluten in wheat. In reality wheat is not toxic; gluten is not toxic; bread is not toxic. But to my daughter who is celiac, these items are toxic. Now, my daughter does not crush the bread, or stamp on it, hurl it in the garbage or scream at others who enjoy bread. She just recognizes that bread is toxic for her. And she lets others choose for themselves.

So it is with some relationships and some people.

Love without limits.

But set boundaries that show your love extends to you too.

 

Hello, My Friends

It’s been a long time since I have written – since May, I believe. We have a lot to catch up on! I hope the spring and summer months brought many moments of joy and happiness to you and that those moments have turned into treasured memories now!

Hubby and I had a summer to remember as well, although ours was bittersweet. We spent our moments taking care of his Mom who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last fall. The disease progressed quickly, and by late spring, she needed someone with her every moment. She moved in with us while hubby searched for a nice senior’s residence for her that included memory care. One was found, and she has been there for just over a week. The months spent caring for my Mother in Law were precious, though overwhelming. I would compare it to the first few months of caring for one’s first baby – exhausting, life changing, and definitely a sacrifice made only out of love. I ended up referring to her as “my little girl”, as she reminded me very much of a toddler who is very sweet but also needs constant coddling and attention. I feel for families dealing with a loved one diagnosed with this disease which alters the life of not just the patient, but the surrounding loved ones.

I learned a few things during this journey that I would like to share with you.

  1. You never know how much time you have left to do the things you are dreaming of, so do not put these things off! What comes to mind for me is my plan to take writing more seriously. When I am retired. In 10 years. But, what if I can’t? What if, within those 10 years, something unexpected happens that renders me unable to write? I’m thinking that if we have a dream, we should live it to the best of our ability. Right Now! The future is not promised.
  2. It really is true! Joy IS found in the small things that occur naturally each day. I will never ever take these little things for granted again. One example is how much the hubby and I love to share a series on Netflix together. We find one that interests us and spend evenings watching 1 or 2 episodes together. I never realized how important this little ritual was until Mother in Law moved in and (I say this with love) took over the television. Other little things include: spontaneously going for dinner and movie together, having friends over, going on motorcycle rides … There are so many little things that we missed this summer and I have realized how important they actually are. I mean, it would be great to do something really big like travel around Europe together! But, in the end, it’s the small routines that serve to bond us together and ground us.
  3. It’s not selfish to put yourself first sometimes and, in fact, self care is necessary. As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty bucket! Again, I’m saying this with love, but the Mother in Law required a lot of care and attention. This summer there was a point where hubby and I ended up absolutely exhausted! I had to step back and say “no” to a few things in order to tend to my own needs. And I have emerged from this with even more respect for my own self care. I am an introvert that needs time alone. I replenish my spirit when I spend time laughing and goofing around with some close female friends. I require quiet times to read and ponder. I am out of sorts without my daily brisk walk and yoga routine. My body is nurtured through simple whole foods prepared at home. The life changing thing that I have realized is that if I don’t set time aside to put myself first and tend to my own needs, then I will get lost in all the other pressing needs of the world. I will disappear. I have a friend with a schedule so busy he has to use a daily planner. He told me years ago that he pens in the times reserved for himself each day. In his own words: If I don’t schedule time for me, then nobody will.

There is so much more I have in mind to share with you. But I will leave these for future blog entries. After all, I have made a commitment to myself to stop by here more frequently!

The door

Footprints in the Snow

Home 1

Just over a week ago, our little neck of the woods experienced what was probably the worst snow storm of this winter. Actually, ice storm is the best description. So many of us wondered when will this winter ever end! After all, it was late April!

Yet, here we are today, the first day of May, and that snow and ice is a distant memory. I see a robin in one of our oak trees as I write this. The sun is still shining where, a couple months ago, we would be enveloped in darkness. All the remnants of that late ice storm have melted away! We thought winter would go on forever. But it didn’t. It left as quickly as it came.

And this got me to thinking about life.

This past week-end my Wild Child, along with my darling Grandson, moved into an apartment of their own. They have been living with the hubby and I for over 3 years now. The Little Man was only 1 and 1/2 when they first arrived to stay! And now he’s almost 5. And, though I am so thrilled for them and proud of my daughter, suddenly this home is very quiet (I hear the clock ticking madly). Things are a little less tussled and becoming more and more adult as each day passes. Wow! What a change!

I have blogged about my wonderful Wild Child before. One thing this family can always count on, is that life will never be boring with her in it! Things change suddenly! Flash back three years ago, and we had little warning before she moved home again with her baby boy in tow. A couple weeks to be exact! I recall rushing around (at Christmas time, no less!) preparing the place for a little one; thinking about what is safe to leave out and what must be stored. I had an adult home and it was going to change in a hurry! In the end, adjusting to the full house and toddler-fun came easy.  We all settled in and it seemed like these circumstances would last forever (or at least for a very long time!)

That’s not how it happened though!

Suddenly, with less than a month’s notice, things have changed. But isn’t that how life goes? Circumstances change the way winter quickly gives way to spring. When the time is right, things fall into the place that is right.

This is a good thing.

I’m happy for my daughter. She’s 25 and ready to have a place on her own. And the Little Man has grown to be a strapping young lad of almost 5!

It’s just that today, I feel in a ruminating mood. I’m thinking that we should never take for granted, our circumstances, or the people, or the time of life we are in. At the end of the day, count it all joy. Because when things change, they will change quickly.

Early this morning (this very quiet morning!) I awoke and wondered about my Magical Garden that I have blogged about here. Specifically, I was wondering about that wonderful tulip that appeared suddenly, unexpectedly, and from I’m-not-sure where. I questioned: would it still be there? In that moment, it was so important to me that it would be there again this year. So, I rushed to the garden and – Yes! – it has pushed it’s way up through the soil and is starting to grow! I silently said a prayer of gratitude. That little tulip has brought me joy for many years now, right around the early spring. I’m so pleased it’s still with us!

I wish you all joy in your individual journeys

and

I wish us all balance in the ever changing constancy of life! 2018-05-01 18.32.46