Tag Archives: gratitude

In the great white expanse ….

It snowed like the dickens, yesterday, about 12 inches worth.  Thank goodness, most of it light, with only the bottom two inches heavy with moisture.  You see I (mostly) shovel by hand. I’ve never bothered to buy a mechanized snow blower – partly not to consume more fossil fuel than required, partly so I can shovel for exercise, partly ‘cos I’m cheap. Whatever.  I faced the expanse of snow that is my driveway, about 130 ft in length.

In that great white expanse, I heard chickadees singing, saw a solitary crow black on white. Liminal light promising a lovely sunny day.  I was full with gratitude to live in a place that is so beautiful, even (especially?) in the snow.  To have the health to be able shovel.  To see and hear the light and birds.  To have enough warm clothes covering me that it’s pleasant to be outside.  I realized none of this “should” be mine, I’m not “entitled” to it; it is a gift for no reason, and with each lift of the shovel, my  gratitude unfolds.

I am grateful that I live in a place that is peaceful. My soundtrack is birds, and trucks, not jets and drones, nor explosions and screams of frightened people. That gratitude makes me want to work towards a world where everyone has what I have.

I have a comfortable, warm and dry, home that I can afford, that I could stay inside during the 24 hours of snow. That gratitude reminds me that I live in a province where many do not have this; this inspires me to work until other people have the same as I.

I am grateful that didn’t have to venture out to buy food or clean water because I have more than enough in my house. That gratitude compels me to work until this is same for other people.

I did not have to get to a particular place to work, or stay the night in another place so that I could get to work, nor ‘pull a double’ because staff couldn’t get there.  It brings me to a new, deeper level of respect for those who do, because missed hours means missed pay.  That I have income without this pressure makes me more than grateful.  It makes me want to work towards a system of employment so others aren’t put in under that kind of pressure.

I am grateful that I didn’t have to worry about my livelihood getting buried under snow, or having frozen ears and tails, or not having access to open water.  That gratitude leads me to be more mindful of where my food comes from, how it is produced, and to reconsider how much of that my dollars cover (or don’t cover) those costs.

I grateful that I am able to live here at all, here in Treaty 2 territory.  It was home for others for thousands of years; I only get to live here because they agreed to share this land with the newcomers and entered into nation-to-nation treaties of peace.  I have an obligation to respect that, to uphold that, and to live and work so that all the nations in this territory can live here for hundreds – maybe thousands – of years to come.

And I am grateful to neighbours who feel for this woman with her shovel, and offer to bring their snow-blower to rescue her from a further 3 hours of exercise in this great white expanse.

 

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Only in the Very Cold…

This week was frigidly cold, but the sky was deep blue, the sundogs were short but brilliant….and we even had moondogs. Who knew?

(For those who’ve never lived west of the Great Lakes -I’ve never saw them east of there…- sundogs are these parenthesis-type brackets of rainbows around the sun.  On Really Cold days, I’ve seen them so they almost form a circle around the pulsating globe of yellow.  Moondogs are the same…except at night.  And, as Tom Hanks’ character, Larry Crowne, would say “Spec-tak-u-lar!”

To me, they feel like a prize for enduring the extra-deep cold.  Because (I think) they only come with the bone-chilling cold, they are an unexpected gift.  They pull me out of myself, making me notice the beauty, and fill me with awe that such beauty can only come after the very cold.  (I suppose that after a walk outside a great mug of fair-trade hot chocolate has a similar effect.)

It’s a reminder to me, too, that the tough bits of life will pass, like a cocoon.  Life always pushes through, coaxing good out from the bad.  We can’t appreciate the good, the beauty, the light, unless we’ve endured the pain, the ugliness, the darkness that we all experience from time to time (or more often then that).  That’s a hope I hold onto through those times in life that feel like I’m mired down in take-your-boot-off mud; fearing the one slip that will take me under.

My faith tradition has these images of hope as a recurring theme: rainbows after floods, return after being exiled from that place we call ‘home’, feasts after famine, resurrection after crucifixion, the world made new overcoming one so corrupt and violent.

What images and stories do you find yourself drawing on to maintain hope during those times in life that make you feel weighed down or drowning?

Those stories and images, and the moondogs, come to me as gifts to my soul when I have those days.  This is all a kind of grace; and yes, it is amazing.

I’ve seen it work from the other end, too.  When you listen to someone’s story and validate their humanity.  (That’s sort of behind #MeToo), or do something very ordinary for someone unexpectedly, or smile at a stranger.  Hmm another grace: we are not alone.

I’m starting a 6-week block called Lent.  It’s a time for nurturing the soul, noticing these everyday gifts of grace. How each day lengthens by a mere 2 minutes…but it feels like a weight being lifted as sunrise comes earlier and sunset comes later.   For me, Lent’s a time of making space in the busy-ness, and the business, of daily living to stop and notice.  It fills the soul, this awareness.

It reminds me Life is a gift.  It is a source of immense beauty, and awe.  And if I stop long enough, and respond to that grace, I find I am in relationship with the Holy, and am Beloved.  The second gift of Lent is that it makes me to wrestle with this question: what does it mean that I am God’s beloved?

 

Found the feature image on Google Images; it’s from fineartamerica.com

Hope in small lights

The other day I was working in my office with a lovely west-facing window and wondered why “all of a sudden” the room was so dark….”Must be a cloud over the sun, after all it’s not even 5 o’clock yet”.  Ah, yes. The final weeks of November and first ones of December always catch me off-guard.  How can it get this dark this early??

Yes, I know it’s about orbits, axis shirts and seasonal cycles, but it still holds my imagination and wonder.  And Awe.  And truthfully, not a little fear…I admit I’m intimidated by rural driving in the pitch black.  Then I turn on the coloured lights on the evergreen outside my front window.  Ah, yes.  Small lights make big differences.

Those lights often encouraged me in my spiritual life this week.  I was so frustrated by the news: dwarfing of remembrance of some events (like the 28th anniversary of the intentional hunting of women at École Polytechnique in Montréal) in light of others (the Olympic Committee’s response to athletes of only one nation who cheated to win). That got more airtime than reports of ongoing bombing and fighting in the Levant.  There was more efforts to downplay the claims by those targeted for abuse and harassment because of gender – 1989 all over again.  Then there was That Announcment by the USA formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel – despite international law about occupation, UN policies on “international cities”, not to mention a seemingly flagrant indifference for consequences in terms of disregard of general human and minority rights in the occupied part of East Jerusalem, not to mention geo-political consequences.   It seems that the clouds of reason have darkened the sun…it is too early for “all hell to break loose” – again.christmas lights

 

And that’s when those little coloured lights start to remind me of the underlying truth of all festivities this month: there are little pricks of light in the darkness, and taken together can make something beautiful.  Whether that’s in Romeo Saganash’s speaking Cree in the House of Commons on behalf of Bill C-252, or groups that gather to encourage one another in the hope and vision that if we all were treat every person in our community (and globe) as if they were family, kin, there would be no greed or need and peace would reign.  Or that with a birth of one child a new world order of justice and peace begins.  Or that through unseen collaboration one small vial of oil can light sacred space for 8 days.  Or gathering enough food for many families to make merry, one can, one box at a time.  Miracles of light in a world where darkness casts its pall.

We may curse the darkness.  But we can also show the small light of Hope that each of us carries.  Together we can make a beautiful place, and “say to the darkness ‘we beg to differ.’”*   So thanks, Spirit, tonight, it’s not quite so dark.

 

*quote attributed to Mary Jo Leddy, 1990 book of that title

Thanks to smithsonianmag.com for the photo.

 

Friends on the road

Some lessons we get to learn over and over….and over and over.  This week I’ve had the 2 fish jackdrawsanything comsame lesson 5 days… in a row: not only are you not alone, you need to be in community.

For me, this isn’t geographical community (although proximity is a consideration), but about places that are safe enough, respectful enough, open enough, to have conversations that we can’t have in other places.  We risk something in opening up about our fears about aging; our concerns about developing children; about financial pressure.  Where do you go to share the issues you have on your heart? With whom do you make your community?

I think it’s even truer when we are sharing the intimate details of our interior life, about our belief systems, sharing our questions about life and purpose and meaning.  It’s been my experience that when I have drifted from my community that level of vulnerability, my sense of isolation, and so my questions, become monster-size, and threaten to overwhelm me.  But, opening up about these topics that touch the core of our being makes us particularly vulnerable.  We (I) don’t want to unzip our souls just anywhere; we want, we need, places where we know our story will be held with respect, and in confidence.   Where do you go with the questions about meaning, purpose, valuing self, our place in the world, what happens when we die – those big spiritual questions?

Where do we go when our questions, or our answers are different?  Where do you go? Community becomes even more important when we want to ask questions about what is on our heart, but we’re not sure the answers we are discovering are the “pat” answers, the ones we think “everyone” shares.

Even though I am well-rooted in the answers that have become true for me, I still feel vulnerable sharing them.  I need to know there is a community that is safe Graphic1and respectful, a soul-full community, which is willing to honour not only the process of asking questions so vital to this spiritual task, to this soul-work, but who are willing to listen when the answers I have discovered aren’t “the usual ones”.  What would be important for you in creating a safe, respectful community?

So this week I have been reminded of the value of this kind of community.  I have been truly blessed by being part of several, and varied, communities of support where asking the questions together is more important than arriving at one answer.  It’s been life-giving water to a dry and parched heart.  It’s bread to a soul who’s hungry.  It’s oil for my lamp.

In these experiences of community – not necessarily of like-minded people but of pilgrims on the same road — I have been reminded I am not alone in asking, and that being part of that flow of seekers is part of what it is to be fully human.  In these experiences of community I have encountered the Holy. Thank you, Friends.

~ ~ ~

Thanks to jackdrawsanything.com for the picture!

 

 

On Postcards from the Valley*

As part of my morning practice, I was reading an entry from a book called Postcards from the Valley.  The author, David Giuliano, offers the collection of reflections as a gift of encouragement for when we feel overwhelmed.  It’s even more profound for me as I read it from a place of feeling well and solid.

He writes about having “dreamed of leading our church for a time from a place of strength….Instead I have been offering my weakness to the church….I would not have chosen it but I cannot deny that it has been a gift to me and others….There is fear and there is faith in the valley and surprising encounters with the Holy One.”

I’ve had those experiences too, of being unexpectedly “accompanied in the valley”.  When I felt overwhelmed and someone called with a message of encouragement. Or leaving a meeting feeling ineffective, and lifting my eyes to find an amazing Aurora Borealis before me. In those moments, I am reminded of my insignificance in the Universe (in a good way) and my ego-talk is humbled out of me.

But when I have this kind of experience when I am in “good space”, I am, unexpectedly, taken aback.  This entry — in which he shares what it felt like to be far from home, reflecting on being intentional about nurturing particular relationships, how sometimes he feels like he is living “a long way from the centre of who I was created to be” — pulled me up short.  Feeling quite capable, confident, carrying on business-as-usual, I was called out to remember: who has helped me get to this place?  I had to call to mind, and heart, the relationships in my life, who has helped me to know what my centre is.  And, more pointedly, how do I nurture these relationships so they continue to grow?  With what do I feed them? Do I offer real nourishment, or superficial junk food, or left-overs past their best before?

As David reminded me, rather than praise myself in moments of strength, perhaps it is in these “good space” times when I carry on as if I’m invincible, that I need to keep myself in perspective and remember who has helped me get here. While allowing myself pride in what I do well, maybe I need to roll my eyes at my ego-thinking I was just “born this way”. The gift is in recalling that I have been nurtured and nourished along the way by many very patient people.   My spiritual journey is made deeper when I am called to be humble, because that is when I sense my connectedness most fully.

So from “good space”, I call to mind what relationships are important to me, who has supported me on my journey, and who still is. I am grateful to David who reminded that relationships don’t grow on trees; they take effort and time to be nurtured to be healthy.

I give thanks for the relationships that help  me (and have helped in the past)be my best self, who confront, challenge and support me,  and commit to nourishing them with my best self.  My heart is filled with gratitude.

__

*Postcards from the Valley, by David Giuliano, Toronto: UCPH, 2008. Available as an e-book from ucrdstore.ca

 

being Home

bird rock tripadvisorLast week I was on the Avalon peninsula visiting two amazing places.  Witless Bay and Cape St. Mary’s are home to the largest colony of puffins and nesting shorebirds, respectively, on the continent, perhaps the world.  Between them more than 500,000 seabirds return from 8 months at sea to find their lifelong mate and together hatch their egg(s); they “come home”.  At Cape St. Mary’s most of the 60,000 Northern Ganeek pairs make their home on a 100 foot column of sandstone.  It amazes me that they know where to go, instinctively, like homing pigeons.

Me, I tend to call “home” wherever I happen to be sleeping that night.  When I’ve toured enough for the day, I’ll say “I’m going home now” — whether that’s the guest house I’ve been in for 3 days, the overnight B&B, or my back porch in Pierson.  I told friends I’d be “coming home” this week.  On the other hand, I’ve lived in apartments and houses for as many as 12 years without it actually “becoming home” for me.  I don’t define “my hometown” by one place.  So this “homing device” I saw in the birds fascinates me.

What makes “home” for you?

Is it the place where you “hang your hat”? “where the heart is”? (and what if your heart is divided among several people and places?) Is it the place where you can “let it all hang out” and leave socks on the floor?  “where they have to let you in whether they want to or not”?

In early September, I was at a conference at which we sang a refrain “return to the home of your soul”.  That got me to wonder if “home” is a place, or a way of being.   And after seeing the bird flocks, I wonder how does a person know when they are “home”?

Don’t get me wrong, I easily feel comfortable in many places and among many people, and that’s a form of “home”.  But not capital-H “Home”.  I’ve also had experiences, usually on solitary walks or in meditation, where I feel so “Home” I don’t want to leave it.  In those moments I feel completely not-alone, not fearful, whole and holy.   Often though, even knowing I can’t stay in that place, I feel I am being ripped back, like Velcro®, to the tasks of cooking and attending to email. ….and then I feel those everyday tasks becoming home again, but differently; somehow they are more precious and fragile, and I am full with gratitude.

What are your experiences of “home”, or “Home”? Can you describe that to others?  When, and to where, does your “homing device” bring you?  How do find the “home of your soul”?  How does it affect your interaction with the everyday tasks you face?

 

Ruminate, Recalibrate, Renew

compass wendybattino comI know I’m not the only one, but I have times when a day is so “busy” I can hardly remember what I’ve done in it, which end is up; times when I wish I slow down the pace of life so I can take a deep breath and take stock.  Sometimes I wish I had the time and the energy – at the same time – just to chew on an idea that’s been floating in and out of consciousness.  I want to step out of “regular time” with all that “has to be done” and be in a different kind of time,  in which I can just Be.

I do have those moments – when I remember to make time for them, when I am willing to let go of what I have become convinced are “have-to-dos”.  They give me a sense of connection to all that is; touch the infinite.  In these moments everything is whole and balanced, (sometimes it’s called ‘kairos’ time)*.  You probably have them too.  That quiet of the very early morning, sitting at night watching the stars, a child sleeping.  It’s that moment at the end of yoga, the ‘resting’ pose.  In kairos time, I remember, as a colleague once put it, that I am “a  human Being, not a human Doing”.

Lots of images: compasses need to be re-calibrated to True North. Wilderness time to let go of distractions that hold one captive. Leaving a field fallow to give the land a chance to renew.  Making Sabbath – a time to “do no work” – those chores that lead us into that go-go-go pace – and reorient to the vision of how the world could be if Compassion was our guiding principle for our actions.  Steeping oneself in Living Water, being nourished by Bread of Life.  A time to understand the holy message: Do not fear.

So this leave I am on is your gift to me of time away from “regular duties”.  It am offered the freedom to make space for this kairos time.  It’ll be like slowing down the merry-go-round – not because the ride isn’t enjoyable, but to see who else is on it, explore what other features there are, be fascinated by the tune of the calliope. A time to reboot, to nourish my spirit, mind and body which (like most other people) the run-of-life interferes with.

The “plan” is to ruminate on ideas I’ve only had a chance to skim; literally to chew on ideas that are trying to germinate.  To renew some disciplines in order to harness my energy differently so I can use it more effectively in my service here. To clear out some of the physical and internal detritus that makes me feel separated from the Holy, that inhibits me (or at least makes me unsure and unsteady) “shining my little light” in a good way. To recalibrate to my call of being here.

You folks of Cornerstone have given me this gift of sabbatical time; I do not take lightly.  I am profoundly grateful for this time to renew, to reboot, and be ready to come back to the work that I am called here to do.  Thank you.

~ ~ ~

*Mckinely Valentine has a great blog on “Kairos time”, which she describes as “the moment  after you’ve inhaled and are just about to exhale”; check it out mckinleyvalentine.com/kairos

** Image from: wendybattino.com