- Listening to our lives with writing prompts: Amur Maple Flags and Fortrel Quilt Forts
Writing prompts helps us to listen to our lives.
Listening Practices are about listening to our lives and to what the Divine is saying to us in the midst of our everyday lives. Writing prompts, journalling, and conversation are a significant way to do this.
Practices of Listening can be like the reading practices that we often record to share. Those Listening Practices often include a piece of sacred text, attention to a word or a phrase, and listening for an invitation to do, be or become. For more information you could read about formal Listening Practices or Lectio Divina here.
Even more broadly though, Listening Practices are about being present in this moment, noticing what is happening in our experience and our emotions, and letting God speak to us, here and now.
The following entry is from my writing practice today. It expresses my raw feelings, the interplay with some physical details I am noticing around me, and a conversation that took place in the sacred space of prayerful imagination. The entry begins as a response to the writing prompt, “Write what you see…”
Have you ever written out your prayer conversation with God?
What do you notice in your physical environment that might lead you toward connection with what matters most to you?
What do you hear the Divine Family speak to you as you dialogue?
18 October 2020 12:05 p.m.
The final five crimson leaves hang at the top of the tiny amur maple in the backyard.
It’s a small tree, freshly transplanted this fall from the space between our fence and the neighbour’s garage. It started its growth in that narrow, between space, with hardly any moisture, hardly any sunlight. Just a seed, some soil, plucky determinedness, and the blessing of the Divine Family.
Today, it looks both pathetic and brave, like it is waving a flag for all of the people out there who are just barely hanging on.
I feel like I am just barely hanging on. Tears fill my eyes too often right now. I catch myself in an internal fight with the accusatory, judgmental critic who looks at my history and says I made all the wrong choices and that is what has gotten me to this moment of what I fear will be humiliation and defeat.
How did I get to the place where I listen for your voice Spirit,
and what I hear is,
i’m working on a break through
but what I feel like I need is intervention, a miracle?
Or is this current situation the result of decisions I’ve made along the way? Wrong decisions? Decisions that have led me down a garden path where I focused on the call I thought I was hearing.
You, Spirit, have over and over called me to be your person. Sometimes I feel like it’s been a pathway of pain.
A pathway of patience.
A pathway of waiting.
A pathway of fortitude.
A pathway of compassion.
A pathway of beauty.
A pathway of growth.
A pathway of listening.
At times it has been a pathway of delight.
Did I take the wrong fork in the road?
Was it the decision to stay with spiritual care, when maybe I should have ventured off into management or into policy work?
Was it that choice where I could have picked science and instead followed the pathway into formation, theology, and developing people in their ability to lead lives of relationship in their own homes, and have a healed relationship with what is divine inside themselves, and with the Divine outside themselves?
Was it the choice to come back to Saskatchewan when Vancouver or Toronto or Calgary called?
Was it that moment this past week where we chose to go to a second, further away grocery store and pick up some of the supplies that we only get from time to time?
Or maybe the moment Saturday morning after “Writing Down the Bones” group when I reached just a little too far without engaging my core and hurt the part of my back that cries out on account of the sloppy ligaments in my hips?
The part of me that is still healing from broken images of you, Divine Family, says that my choices have sucked, and this is the punishment I deserve for living so day to day, so extravagent, so laissez-faire. “You keep on saying, ‘God will provide’ and God has gotten you out of a thousand scrapes so far, but who’s to say that it’s God’s responsibility to get you out of this scrape this time.”
So, I sink down deep to the part of me that knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that she’s loved, that she is provided for from before the beginning of time, that this moment in this uncomfortable-in-between space is not the final reality.
What does the Spirit say here, in the Beloved space, the we’re-about-to-be-swept-up-in-resurrection space?
I love you.
There is hope that’s worth finding, unearthing.
And I know that even though it’s been years upon years of living from this liminal space, and you feel like you should be more grounded and steady, it’s okay to feel like a little child afraid of the dark.
I’m offering you hope in the hard time.
I’m staying with you in the darkness.
We’ll come through it, together.
I want to stay here in the womb of warmth. It feels a little like hiding in a fortress made from a fortrel quilt, all texture, colour, shape and fabric that wears like iron.
Spirit, can you wrap me up here and let me be safe with you?
Is it okay for me to escape from the space of uncertainty for a while and just hang out with you here?
Be with me.
Let me be with you.
Here’s good, nourishing food.
Here’s the warmth of a home.
Here’s the support of a community, and a family.
I am the life-giving Spirit, your mother, and I’ll never leave you to sort this out alone.
No matter what, I’m not going back on my promise to always be with you, to always love you.
You have, with faith, paid your bills every month of the pandemic, and every month in the ten and a half years since I called you away from the security of the work that was taking you away from your children, away from me.
You have, with faith, provided a home and a vehicle for your family.
You have, with faith, offered your children a life with bicycles, music lessons, and the healthy rhythm of rest and playfulness.
You have, with faith, stood with Reade in relationship and in prayer.
You have, with faith, built relationships with those who have come before you, offering them forgiveness and kindness when what they expected was accusations and brokenness.
You have, with faith, done the work that I have asked you to do each day — listening for my leading, sharing the Psalms, comforting the anxious, tending the spiritual seeker, walking thousands of steps with the elderly, hearing the cries of those maturing in relationship, companioning the ones moving from fear to faith, writing and editing, speaking and loving.
I will pay your bills, again, and I will make the margin that you need for a life that shows that the Divine Family care for their beloved children.
Just wait with us another moment.
Watch for the sunlight of our love to dawn again.
Feel our love wrapping around you like your grandmother’s quilt.
Here, there is warmth, protection, provision and reprieve.
Here, there is hope.
In the abundance that comes next, share the glory of our goodness and reputation with the world, and wave the flags of amur maple leaves that say we love you, we are blessing you, and we are waiting, compassionately, to bless everyone else too. In the narrow spaces, we are nurturing growth and beauty for all to live.
Okay, Divine Mother. I wait, we wait, on you. You are our safe space, our provision, our promise, our hope. You are all we have. We listen for your invitation. And at the same time we shout the truth that you’ve been our hiding place all along. You have been so good to us.
I’m waving a flag made of amur maple leaves on a cold autumn day. I’m wrapped in the quilt of your love fashioned by my grandmother.
- What is a Listening Practice or Lectio Divina?
Perhaps you’ve connected to one of our videos or podcasts where we welcome you to join us in a Faith at Home Listening Practice. If you haven’t yet, you could listen to Faith at Home on your favorite podcast player or you could browse here. There are lots of episode to explore.
Where do Listening Practices come from?
Our Listening Practices are a form of Lectio Divina (this means “divine reading” in Latin).
Listening Practices one of the tools in our toolbox for paying attention to what God might be saying to us. The are a way of paying attention to our lives and of deepening our sense of meaning and connection.
The pattern of a Listening Practice can include reading a scripture, a prayer or a poem up to four times. With pauses for reflection and sharing, a Listening Practice takes very little time, but brings big benefits.
Our Faith at Home Listening Practices have focused on just two readings of the Scripture text.
- In the first reading we listen for a idea or a phrase that stands out to us.
- In the second reading we pay attention for an invitation from the words that call us to do or be or become.
Why only two readings instead of four?
We wanted these Listening Practices to be something that you could include in your lunch break or on a walk. We want them to be something that you would feel comfortable sharing with your children or grandchildren.
We want them to be a practice that is like a little meal of nourishing food. And if you practice along with the Faith at Home Listening Practices, our hope is that you’ll eventually feel comfortable walking through the process with the people in your life, uncoached.
We’ve been reading the Psalms out loud almost daily to our children and to one another for almost ten years (since 2010). Reading scripture and asking what we notice and what we want to do about what we hear have helped us in so many ways.
Listening Practices (along with other bite-sized Spiritual Care Practices) have been a part of our spiritual, emotional and physical healing. They have changed our relationships with God, with one another, and with the world around us.
Listening Practices are a repeated process that helps us to calm our nervous systems. They help us to find threads of encouragement and direction for our daily experience.
Listening Practices are inclusive and can be done by people of any age or background. A Listening Practice requires no special abilities, except a willingness to engage in conversation with God and with another “safe” person.
Reade weekly joins a small group of men to practice Lectio Divina, work through an examen together and pray for one another. It’s a highlight of his week. They practice a pattern of 4 readings.
- A first reading to settle in to the space and to prepare for the experience. Often followed by silence.
- A second reading to pay attention for a word or a phrase that stands out. Often followed by silence.
- A third reading to listen for an invitation from the Divine from the text. Often followed by silence.
- A final reading to honour the gifts of the practice and let it seep more deeply into the spirit.
If you are looking for more information about Listening Practices or Lectio Divina, we’d love to hear from you. And we’d be delighted to hear about your own practices of listening to what the Divine is speaking to you today!
With gratitude for you,
Jennifer and Reade
- Sacred Imagination helps us discern good choices
We went to the beach today.
With the foresight to wear my swimming suit under my dress, I had the option to swim if that seemed pleasant.
The water was cold.
The shoreline was rocky until the point were it became muddy.
The water smelled like a Saskatchewan lake in summertime, but only a 1 out of 5 lake smell instead of 5 out of 5.
I watched people and critters.
It was a genuine stop and rest moment.
Then our daughter Angeline wanted to talk about maybe swimming.
“I sort of want to and I sort of don’t.”
I asked her to imagine the moment at bedtime where we review our day. “Which will you regret not doing? Will you regret that you got wet and swam to the white buoy? Or will you regret that you didn’t try?”
“I think I would regret that I wanted to swim but I didn’t do it.”
So we swam and tapped the white buoy three times and did it again.
And shivered all the way home.
The only regret was not packing extra towels…
What are the invitations that came to you today that you would have liked to accept?
How might the Life-Giving Spirit be speaking to you through those invitations?
- Faith like a dill seed?
What might it mean to have faith the size of a dill seed?
“Plant a little dill one year, let it go to seed, and you will have dill in your garden year after year,” my step mom said as we worked in the garden when I was a kid.
I know the classic Scripture text suggests faith the size of a mustard seed can cause movement in our lives. The other day while singing and talking about faith in a weekly spiritual care/music therapy group, I used dill as the faith seed example because that’s what I had easily accessible.
When Angeline and I biked through the community gardens that evening, the dill plants, in so many of the gardens caught my eye. Some in straight rows, others mixed in among the other plants — volunteer dill encouraged to grow again and again.
For me, faith is relationship with the Divine Family and accepting their invitations toward life and breath in the midst of our everyday reality. This week faith means saying yes to new bikes and a new vehicle that fit our growing kids when it feels like everything in our world is shouting to get small, to hide away, to hold on tight.
Small seeds of faith, planted and nourished, will keep on giving, keep on bearing fruit in our lives. For me to nourish those small seeds of faith today, I am practicing thankfulness, reading the Psalms, and dialogue.
What is faith to you?
How are you nurturing your faith today?
- Growing faith in challenging situations
The roses are in bloom in our yard.
These varieties are hardy in our zone 2 yard and have survived a great deal of freedom to live without much interference.
Some of our other roses haven’t made it through the hard winters, but these ones seem to like it here.
These are all roses developed for Canadian prairie winters at the Morden Experimental Farm (left to right: Cabot, Centennial, Ruby, Snow Beauty, Campfire). Roses, developed in challenging conditions, can continue their thriving even when life gets harder.
As we grow our spiritual lives at home, we too can grow in challenging times.
We are designed by our living, loving Creator to make it through hard times.
What helps you to grow deep roots, to reach for support, to grow and be nourished in challenging times?
The things that I see being the most helpful for growing faith in challenging times are:
- Community — people, and a Divine Family, who compassionately receive us as we are and encourage us to live into the truth of relationship with the Divine Family, other humans, and creation are a basic level, human need.
- Dialogue — give and take in safe, human conversation helps us to know ourselves, our hopes and dreams, our spaces of pain and anguish, our griefs and losses.
- Prayer — out of the experiences of being loved and heard, we can learn to listen to the Divine Family and we can grow a meaningful experience of prayer as we hear the Life-Giving Spirit prompt us.
Community, dialogue and prayer, turn our whole day into an invitation to grow our relationship of faith with the Divine Family, from preparing breakfast to completing our tax returns, from sharing our work to changing diapers, from pulling weeds to pitching a new idea.
Roses may be able to survive benign neglect. Our spiritual lives need more intention and attention than roses. Our souls suffer from isolation, so keep on finding ways in the midst of physical distancing to develop spiritual supports!
How are you growing deep spiritual roots?
How are you reaching for support in challenging times?
How you letting the Life-Giving Spirit pray in you?
The Life in you is beautiful. Your soul is worthy of receiving belonging, compassion and support today.
Thank you for being you!
- Observing Birthdays and Anniversaries — A Family Grief Video
Over the last few weeks we have honored the anniversaries of birth-days and death-days of many people we care about. We know there are more to come.
We don’t get too caught up in those anniversaries, but if we don’t acknowledge them, they can actually catch us off-guard.
Part of our family practice of spiritual care is to take some time to thank the Divine Family for those people who have died, who have gone on to the heavenlies before us, especially on the anniversary of their births and the anniversary of their deaths.
I recorded our experience on the anniversary of my Grandpa Fred’s birthday. It’s been tucked away in our Patreon video vault, but today seems like a good day to bring it out and share it with the wider world.
What do you do to mark significant dates?
How do you braid your grief and your faith together?
- How to Make Watermelon Cake
We are celebrating Pentecost today!
Today, Sunday, May 31, marks the end of the liturgical season of Easter and the beginning of Common Time, the time for all things growing.
I always notice the wind moving on this day. It always seems like a physical representation of the Life-Giving Spirit and her activity in the world. These words from the Message have changed my experience of the wind (and trust me, we know wind in Saskatchewan!).
With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2 (The Message)
Thank you Life-Giving Spirit for clearing the air, for freeing us from a life of tyranny.
Our world is in turmoil at the moment with a pandemic and with our mainstream North American cultures becoming aware of a racism problem that has been hidden in plain sight.
My heart aches for those who are aware of the hurt, the grief, that has been done to them. My heart burns against those who continue to perpetuate an imbalance. In diversity, life grows!
Our community needs to see and own the truth of the destruction and fear that are part of the lives of too many. I hope that by being out in the light, by being on camera, we start to see with honesty what is real. In the experience of confession, apology and practices of repair, the healing just might begin.
Traditionally, this Pentecost day is marked by the liturgical colour red. We have connected the red with flaming, fire of the Spirit, with power to raise Jesus from the dead and comfort to help us in our bereftness. We connect this Pentecost day with people speaking in the languages of the people who had gathered from around the known world so that they could hear the fantastic, healing news of a Divine Family who LOVED EVERY ONE OF THEM.
No colours left out. No languages left out. No cultures. No abilities left out. No genders or non-genders left out. No socio-economic stata left out. Everyone belongs. Everyone got to hear about freedom and love for themselves.
Sweet, strong, sweeping Life-Giving Spirit, we need you today! We need you to strengthen our voices, call forth the work of our hands and the bending of our knees, to amplify the listening of our ears and our hearts, so that we can support those who feel like they are on the edges of safety.
May our tears water the seeds of a future that is diverse, challenging, messy and beautiful. May we never use our tears as a weapon, but as a gift from you to bring the healing that you invite us into.
One of the great gifts of the Divine Family is diversity and creativity.
I stand for that diversity and for the ability of each person to name for themselves what makes their lives meaningful and valuable.
And I stand against those who devalue, by their actions, their inactions and their words, those who are different from themselves. I stand against the part of myself that discriminates in big and small ways.
Spirit, make me aware of the plank in my own eye before I point to the speck in the eye of another. May I treat each person, each creature with dignity and respect and listen to their story with honour.
In the midst of the chaos and the turmoil, I choose to work toward a future of equality and complementarity, choose to have faith that there will be growth and change. May it begin with me.
Part of choosing hope in these days, is continuing to live with bite-sized practices for contemplation and creativity.
Our Angeline is creative through and through.
Today she asked if we could turn old crayons into a candle (flame is another great metaphor for the Spirit).
She also wondered if we could turn a red watermelon into a Pentecost cake.
So, without further ado, a watermelon cake, so that you, too, can enjoy creativity and a glorious mess. Share some Pentecost food, keep engaging in this meaningful conversation, and thank the Life-Giving Spirit for clearing the air — and our hearts — of tyranny. One bite-sized practice at a time.
All the best to you and bon appetit!
Angeline’s Watermelon “Cake” Recipe
- Wash your seedless watermelon.
- Cut off the stem and bud ends of the watermelon. (Use the red fruit inside those ends for making melon balls or eat it up as a yummy treat. There is lots of extra watermelon and lots of messy juice.)
- Set the watermelon on one of the flat edges. You might need to trim it so it’s flat.
- Cut off the green rind by slicing straight down just inside the white part and then turning the watermelon a little bit. Keep going around in a circle.
- Divide the large cake shape into three. We made three different tier sizes by repeating the same kind of cutting that we used to cut off the rind.
- A skewer can hold your tiers so they don’t slide.
- We decorated the cake using fruits and flowers we had around the house.
- Mistakes, shame and recovering
It was a warm day several years ago when I set the car keys on the side steps of our house. Then, without engaging my brain, I tucked them into a basket in the top of the closet.
A few days later, when my Dad arrived back from his business travel, his keys were no where to be found, and the last I could remember they were sitting on the steps at the side of our house.
I was a 40+ year old who felt like a teenager who lost the keys to her Dad’s car. Not because anything he said or did took me back there. In that moment, Dad was gracious and kind. Still, I felt ashamed, foolish and small.
I’d searched everywhere that I could think of to look.
I apologized. I made a mistake and I could not find the keys. I would keep looking for them, and if I found them, I would return them. And if there was anything else that was necessary for me to do to repair my mistake, I’d do what I could.
Dad was gracious and kind. Mistakes happen. He had an extra key in his wallet.
I had to dig deep and calm my fears, breathe through my anxiety, and settle my smallness. Through the intervening years, I have had to do the same again and again, because when I recall the incident, the storm of shame would begin again.
In our house, my kids say that something’s not lost until Mama can’t find it.
So today, I was looking for another lost thing. Emptying baskets and sorting through winter gear that is still in my front closet. Today’s lost thing is not found.
But I finally found the keys for my Dad’s vehicle.
And every experience of calming my shame storms rather than spilling them out onto my family has built my skill through the years of becoming aware of my emotions and breathing healing into them.
So, maybe it was worth it…?
Sorry, Dad. I’ll bring you your keys when we can leave the city…
- Praying with Mandalas online workshop
We are preparing for the Faith at Home online workshop this week on Praying with Mandalas.
I’m practicing praying with mandalas. And I’m noticing the basic circular shape everywhere.
One of the things I love about the option of praying with a mandala is that everything belongs. Everything can become a way to grow our experience of being loved by the Divine Family.
Words. Colours. Patterns. All in the context of a conversation. These can become a tool in our studio to help in our growth towards love.
Have you created a Mandala before?
Would you like to join us in an online workshop?
- Faith at Home Podcast enters Season 3
Oh my goodness!
Have you ever started a project and been unsure whether you’d have the gumption to stick with it? Or whether it would fly at all?
When we started “Faith at Home” as our little studio for bite-sized practices for everyday faith two years ago, we had a little hope in our hearts, some ideas for retreat, some shared audio Psalms and some energy.
Next came a little wonder about whether we could actually create a podcast where we shared our experiences as we worked through the Psalms, steady bit by steady bit, to listen to the Divine, ourselves and our families.
And now, a year into providing twice weekly recordings (75 so far in two “Seasons”), we are set to press “go” on Season 3 on Saturday morning.
As we explore the next set of Psalms, we’ll be listening with the New English Translation. Are you familiar with the NET version of the Bible?
I can’t see into the future, but I have every bit of hope that we will be able complete what we’ve started (all the way through the Psalms!), and that we’ll be able to share some other bite-sized, faith growing practices.
Thank YOU for being with us on the journey!
- 5 Spiritual Wellness Practices for CoViD19
1. Wash your hands with soap and water (or alcohol sanitizer), wash your brain with deep breathing and wash your spirit with a breath prayer.
Breath prayers are short phrases that you can repeat that will help your being to rest. Hooking a Spiritual Practice to the physical practice of hand washing weaves a bite-sized practice for spiritual wellness into our day over and over (and over and over) again.
You might try, “I am loved by you,” “When I am afraid, I will trust in you,” or “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.”
Cough or sneeze into the Bend of your Elbow
2. Cough/sneeze into the bend of your elbow and turn it into a microritual of letting go of anxiety. The forcefulness of a cough or a sneeze (well contained by the bend of your elbow), can become a call to let go of that which no longer serves us.
Today, as I think of it, anxiety seems like a thing I want to let go of. It’s not serving me in good ways. It’s possible that you will have something else that you want to let go of. Sneeze it out. Cough it away.
“Thank you Divine,” seems like an appropriate response to a cough or a sneeze. Perhaps even more so than “Pardon me,” or “Gesundheit!” Saying “Thank you Divine” over and over and over will have some very profound impacts.
Don’t touch your face
3. Don’t touch your face but do find ways of offering positive physical touch to your body.
Many of the natural calming techniques that we have developed over our lifetimes involve touching our faces. Think of the forehead hold, the ear lobe rub, the cheek caress.
Because of the easy access for viruses to our beings through the mucous membranes of our eyes, noses and mouths, we are encouraged to stay away from touch our faces.
Explore a little bit with what else might be a calming touch for you. Gently pat or rub the back of your hand, your forearm, your knee. Rub your own feet.
The part of your brain that receives the signal that gentle touch is offered and then releases the hormones of relaxation, is generous with its sharing. Wherever you are, whether you have a companion or are retreating alone, touching your skin compassionately can help to bring calm to your body.
Is it possible for you to share this gentle touch with yourself and receive it as the Divine Family’s comfort for you?
Stay home if you can
4. Choose a compassionate physical retreat while staying connected in ways that work for you.
The language we use matters. When we talk in terms of social distancing, self-isolation and quarantine, we might be tempted to focus on negative.
What we are seeing around us is a glorious expression of community care. We have lived in cultures largely focused on independence and we’ve made a grand pivot, if only for a time, to choosing to act in solidarity with one another, with the weakest among us, with those who get to provide support in health care.
We are moving into an intentional space of retreat for the good of the community. Watch your words and your thought processes in this time and choose wisely! And reach out for the connection and support that you need. Let us be part of that if you wish by scheduling an appointment for a Discernment Call.
5. Nourish your spirit, your body, and your mind.
We have space to do some things right now that we might not regularly think that we can do. With a little practice, we might discover that we love them so much that we’ll find the way to keep them in our lives.
What would be most nourishing for your spirit today?
What makes you feel most alive, most free?
How can you weave that into your day in ways that help you to be a welcoming host to the treasure that is in you?
Maybe it’s going for a walk, or creating art, or reading a book or talking to a friend.
Maybe you finally have space to practice praying in five minute bursts through the day.
One of my favorite ways to nourish my spirit is to steep myself in Scripture.
I like to write out verses and add my situation into them. We read Psalms out loud every day. They have become part of the process of acknowledging our thoughts and feelings, while listening for the voice of the Divine Family and their invitations to us day by day.
We’ve got a whole stack of Faith at Home podcast recordings that could be part of your own Psalm listening. These conversations between Reade and Jennifer are genuine experiences of listening together for what the Divine Family speaks as we read through the Psalms.
The Faith at Home podcast can be found here on our website or by connecting to your favorite podcast app through GooglePlay, Spotify or Apple.
- Ash Wednesday 2020
Through Lent we are joining in a retreat in daily life. Taking steps toward inner peace and being at home in our lives, and in the love of the Divine Family is the goal. If you’d like access the retreat material, send us a quick message!
- The Spiritual Wellness Check Engine Light
The Check Engine light came on and stayed on.
The photo above is from our car this weekend.
We had so many other plans.
And so many darling, flexible people who adapted with me us on appointment times or switched to Zoom.
Sometimes we do Spiritual Wellness Care for ourselves as part of the rhythm of our lives (like our regular appointment for an oil change and check up).
And sometimes the “check engine” light comes on.
In our Spiritual Wellness the following things might be a flashing, neon sign that we (or our companions) could use some Spiritual Wellness Care.
💡Complaints or blaming
💡Restlessness or requiring rigid rituals
💡Unable to cope
💡Disconnected from self, others or the Divine
The help for my car is an appointment at the repair shop. Skilled people will do their job and the next steps will become clear.
The help for our Spiritual Wellness often is a conversation with a skilled and compassionate Spiritual Companion.
So the car goes to the shop today and they will give us some options for “what next?” It’s pretty straightforward.
I wonder about how you might get the support you need for your Spiritual Wellness when the warning lights come on?
I’m grateful to be able to be part of the process with the folks I work with through multi-faith Chaplaincy in hospital, hospice, home, and long term care and through Spiritual Wellness Coaching in person and online.
What are your signals that your spirit needs attention? That what matters most to you is crying out for help?
Is your Spiritual Wellness Warning system lit up right now?
Would you like to connect to see if working together might be a good fit?
Send me a message today if your Spiritual Wellness warning system is lit up and you’d like to talk about working together to figure out the next steps.
- Practices of Repair — Redemption not repair (Part 6)
In the midst of knitting a sweater there are lots of opportunities to notice the mistakes I’ve made and to reflect on Practices of Repair.
The process of noticing a mistake and figuring out what to do next gave me the opportunity to think about Practices of Repair.
Here are a few things that connect to Spiritual Wellness that I became aware of in the process. Links to earlier reflections are here:
6. Sometimes things cannot be fixed!
The consequences of some mistakes cannot be scrubbed out of our lives. Some things cannot be undone.
The knitting example that comes to mind is the sweater knit too small and too slowly for the quickly growing child or the lovely woolen item washed and dried and shrunk beyond flexibility and its intended use. Or the knitted garment thrown into the fire. Yes, with dialogue and curiosity, there may be hope for some error-filled knitted items to become useful for something or someone else. Perhaps the best thing that can be done is to pull the string until we end up with a ball of wool to begin again.
We are aware that our lives are not so simple as a knitting error. Every metaphor eventually breaks down.
Some things change our lives forever. We can’t necessarily unravel the mistakes that have been part of our individual experiences, our relationships, or our cultural choices. There are many things that break our hearts and for which all we can do is humbly repent and ask forgiveness and leave the situation in the hands of the Divine Family.
Sometimes certain steps in the healing process need to be worked through the inward spiral before there is a hope of stepping onward.
We cannot control other people and their reactions or responses to what has happened.
We cannot make other people apologize for the trauma they have inflicted.
Some things cannot be healed in the ways that we long for them to be healed.
Into the pain and the grief and the sadness, we ask for the Divine Family to redeem what we cannot repair. We pour the pain into their lap and we listen for the next right thing with compassion and curiosity and grace. And we speak our gratitude that in the messy, in the in-between, the Divine Family walks with us step by step to pour healing balm into the pain of our everyday lives.
What do you notice as you reflect on Practices of Repair? What would you like to add to or change about the things shared here?
- Pushing or pulling? A story of apples
A story of apples
In the fall we bought three boxes of delicious apples (Macintosh, Salish and Ambrosia) straight from our favourite growers at The Fruit Thing (that’s clear, descriptive naming). The apples have been enjoyed fresh, turned into juice and apple sauce, made into muffins and apple crisp. And this week, the last 20 apples were starting to sag.
We chopped them up to stew them with cinnamon.
What a delicious smell.
And all of a sudden fruit that was no longer acceptable to the children has become a delectable treat.
When it seems I’ve run up to the end of my ability to make things “go,” I can breathe deeply, and pay attention for a pathway that doesn’t require pushing.
P.S. It only makes me want to make marmalade now, but I don’t eat sugar so making delicious foods with sugar and having them in the house seems like a bad idea. Because if I make marmalade bread is an obvious next step. Unless you can promise me that you’ll come over to eat lots of marmalade sandwiches…
- Getting back into the groove
Do you have a sense of being off-kilter in these days?
We’re just finding our feet after our Christmas break and a unfriendly virus that staggered its holiday visits to our family members to get the most possible time in our house.
Today Reade and I took a few minutes to record our Listening Practice for Psalm 42 and in preparation it felt like I was a little bit off balance.
How comforting to come back to a practice that is so healthy, so life-giving and in it find acknowledgement of my feelings and a call to live into what is truer than true. The Divine Family is present to listen, to love, to speak and to bless — this very day!
Would you join us for a little podcast listen? Let us know in the comments what you are noticing as the Divine Family speaks to you…!
- 4 Ways that “Thank You” makes our lives better (and a playful Gratitude Practice)
When we say “thank you” we grow our well-being by:
1. resetting our spiritual compass. “Thank you” acknowledges the Divine Family’s love for us and their initiation in our lives. Sometimes we don’t know why we are grateful yet, but we can choose to say thank you with the hopeful awareness that what is present could become an opportunity for us to deepen our relationship with the Divine Family.
2. rewiring our brain chemistry. “Thank you” sets us on the pathway of gratitude. Focusing on three things that we are grateful for every day for 21 days builds deeper riverbeds of gratitude in our minds. What we practice thinking, and then repeat, becomes easier and easier.
3. calming our nervous system. “Thank you” helps our physical body by helping us to breathe more deeply. Thank you can be a powerful tool towards our own calm.
4. rewriting our internal story. “Thank you” helps us to tell our stories about ourselves and the people around us in re-framed ways. The stories that we tell ourselves have a profound impact on what we feel, think, and do.
We created a playful Gratitude Practice
When we engage creativity by writing, doodling, or imagining, we can allow gratitude to grow in us. When we can share the conversations in our own homes with family, friends or spiritual companions, our gratitude can flourish!
Questions can act like keys to unlock new insights. The “Fruit-filled Gratitude Practice” asks
What do I have to be grateful for right now? What has already happened in my life that I can be thankful for? At the very least if you are reading this, you have breath to be thankful for, and maybe some other things to be grateful for too. Depending on the day, we might feel like we have to dig. Ask the question and let the question do its work.
What do I want to be grateful for in the future? When we say thank you and live into our gratitude for what is yet to come, we start to activate the future goodness of the Divine Family in our present circumstances. Our desires are gifts from the Divine Family to us. Especially when we carry those desires into dialogue with skilled, trusted companions, our desires can help us to understand ourselves and the Divine Family better.
The Fruit-filled Tree Gratitude Practice is a bite-sized practice that you can use today to grow your experience of Faith at Home. Use it for yourself. Use it with your companions or your children or grandchildren.
You can print out the attachment for a simple process. Or print the attachment for the instructions and go all out and create your own art.
What matters most is that you start filling your tree with gratitude so that you can have harvest baskets filled with the blessing of relationship with the Divine Family. The process is not about “stuff” but about growing a relationship and a life of gratitude!
To download the Fruit-filled Tree Gratitude Practice click the link below:
- Recovering from feeling guilty
How do you let go of guilt?
Tomorrow is the last day of school for our kids for the year.
“Mom! You know what would be the best idea? Making donuts and decorating them with pink and sprinkles because pink is my teacher’s favourite colour and donuts are her favourite food.”
We had a week to prepare. Okay! Let’s get it going.
Except in the midst of carrying out the plan, I made a mistake, had to retrofit, and the timeline went all crazy.
So now it’s past bedtime. There are undecorated donuts and I feel guilty for my crummy attitude in the middle.
Guilt can be a good incentive for change but it can also be a dirty, rotten joy stealer.
Sabbath — moments spent in meditation, meaningful conversation, silence and stillness — is the practice that helps me to clear my arteries of feeling guilty. And it allows me to reset after challenging experiences. Then the energy and life can flow again!
How do you reset?
What are your practices for letting go of guilt?
- 15 questions to ask about your soul’s health in springtime
Spiritual Spring Cleaning
We’ve been working away in the yard. The process has led us to ask a few questions about our “soul gardens.” If you’d like to reflect on a question or two, we’d love to hear back from you about what these questions stir in you.
- What is growing well in the soil of my soul? How can I share from my abundance?
- What am I most grateful for that is growing in my life right now?
- As I look ahead to the future, are there things that I want to plant?
- Is now the time to plant some seeds?
- What might need to be given more sunlight?
- What needs more water or attention?
- Are there spaces in my life that need pruning?
- What are the weeds that are choking out what I most want to grow?
- What gets in the way of me working in my soul garden?
- How can I add nourishment/fertilizer to my soul garden?
- Who works alongside me to nurture this spiritual garden?
- How might I answer these questions differently if the context was not just my soul garden, but my family’s?
- Or my community’s?
- Or my workplace’s?
- Are there any other questions that come to my mind?
Soaking up the changing seasons along with you,
- Loved. Blessed. Forgiven.
Pull up a chair. Get a warm drink. There’s something so important that we need to talk about.
Love. And the most important thing that I can tell you about love is that the Divine Family loves you. First. Most. Your inheritance from before the beginning of time is to be loved, blessed and forgiven.
So, when we talk all this Lenten practice stuff, all this spiritual health stuff, it comes from a place of being loved. When we pray Saint Ephrem’s prayer and ask for the spirit of prudence, humility, patience and love, it’s because we so deeply need to know that we are loved. First. Always. In a foundational way.
A metaphor that is helpful for receiving love from the Divine Family is the ocean. Sometimes we stand, at the edge and just let the waves touch our toes. As we become more comfortable with the water, we can paddle and splash and play. We can wade out until the waves can pick us up. We can float in the love of the Divine Family.
Spending time at the world’s oceans is best done with skilled guides. Where is a safe place to start our exploration? Wading in to the ocean without someone alongside can be dangerous. Where can we explore that is safe once we want to go a little deeper? We need skilled guides. We need companions. For our spiritual health and wellbeing. To help us as we navigate this vast ocean of love in ways that are sustainable.
Of course, every metaphor can break down, so don’t push the metaphor too far, but do explore it a little.
During the first full week of Lent 2019, we are going to soak up the images in Psalm 23 as our Lenten practice.
Maybe you have already been practicing the prayer of Saint Ephrem.
Starting on Sunday March 10, for the next week, we will add Psalm 23 to our practice of Saint Ephrem’s prayer. Set aside a few moments each day to read/listen/pray Psalm 23. If you notice that you are distracted, write out Psalm 23 with your name in it. If you notice that you are blaming someone else for something that’s happening in your life, try Saint Ephrem’s prayer! One day at a time we’ll make our way through Lent, and we will rest each day in the providing love of the Divine.
As always, we are filled with gratitude for being able to share these Lenten experiences with you! Thank you for being companions on the journey!
Jennifer and Reade
- A Lenten Invitation
Lent is coming!
Lent is one of the retreat spaces in the liturgical year. A time to reflect, nurture our internal selves, and pause.
Traditionally, it has been a time of fasting. You might have heard of it as people “give up” chocolate. A dear non-smoking, tee-totalling friend used to joke each year that she was going to give up cigarettes and alcohol.
It has become helpful to us to not make major decisions during Lent. That has been a fast that has brought great spiritual fruit.
We also pray the prayer of Ephrem (a 4th century Syrian Orthodox believer) each day in Lent. The most popular title for Ephrem is “the Harp of the Spirit.” He loved to write hymns and his prayer may help our spirits, our lives, to sing!
O Lord and Master of my life
remove from me the spirit of sadness,
despair, thirst for power and vain talk.
Instead, grant me, Your servant,
the spirit of prudence, humility,
patience and love
Indeed, O Lord and King,
grant that I see my own sins
and not judge my sister or my brother,
for You are blessed unto ages of ages. Amen
Through Lent this year, we’ll be providing a “Lenten Retreat in Daily Living” over in our Patreon Faith at Home community (https://www.patreon.com/FaithatHome). Each week there will be a video available for everyone and additional resources for subscribers. We’ll press pause on stress for a few minutes and soak in a retreat.
So you are invited to take a Lenten Journey this year. And if we can be your companions on that journey, we would be so grateful!
- Energized by Conversation
A new perspective often helps me!
Last week Reade and I had the (amazing and fantastic) opportunity to travel to Victoria, British Columbia, for a week of learning and training.
In this work of offering supports to people as they seek their own Spiritual Health, it’s SO important to have time to deepen our own Spiritual Health.
What did I appreciate about Victoria Hospice’s “Psycho Social Care of the Dying and Bereaved” course?
- Days in a row of learning,
- Animated conversation as we sorted through the experiences, teaching and practices,
- The sheer gift of a room full of people who understand how important offering whole person care is to living, dying and grieving well,
- Affirmation that continuing down the path of providing Spiritual Care and Spiritual Health supports is important and worth while,
- and the beauty of a different view.
When we work with people in the ways that are necessary to provide Spiritual Care, our primary “tool” is ourselves. That makes it absolutely imperative that we take good care of our Spiritual Health through being accountable to a Spiritual Director, through Peer Supervision, through learning, and through ongoing Spiritual Practices.
How are you planning for your own Spiritual Growth and Formation in the next six months?
Where have you found moments of energy and conversation over the last few weeks?
What is of greatest value and significance to you today?
- Facilitating Pallium LEAP Courses
In one of the parts of my life, I coordinate educational events for our local health authority.
These are courses in support of an integrated approach to Palliative Care.
Whoa! Jennifer, did you just say the word “palliative?”
Yes. It comes from a root word that means to offer comfort, to cover with a blanket, to bring comfort. Palliative is an amazing word and a great concept.
In my coordination role, I set up a number of Pallium LEAP Courses each month. I consider myself an adequate administrator. I like learning new things, connecting with people and helping them get some of the experiences they need to provide a good, generalist approach to Palliative Care. I like making spreadsheets that are more about people’s names than about numbers. I like supporting the teams in this province who want to support people as they live with chronic and life-limiting illnesses.
I also have had the opportunity to train to be a Pallium LEAP course facilitator. I consider myself a very good facilitator! A year ago this month, I started the process (you can read about it here if you like).
This past week I finished the certification to be a Facilitator for Pallium LEAP Courses. Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! I love these courses. I love the other Facilitators I get to work with. I love the way these courses blend group process and theory bursts. I love the kinds of people who are attracted to these courses.
Mostly, I love the opportunity to support something that means so much to me. An integrated, general approach to Palliative Care means good supportive care, pain and symptom management, from the time of the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness. It applies no matter how old or young a person is. All of this in addition to supportive end of life care. It means multi-disciplinary teams who help to care for physical bodies, minds, and spirits. It means attending to the whole person and to the support people (the family and friends and volunteers and medical staff) in the process of life as it changes. I think everyone deserves that!
I hope that people can have access to Specialist Palliative Care teams when they need them.
And I hope that building relationships and sharing education about how to provide good Palliative Care will allow people to access to Generalist Palliative Care the rest of the time.
I think that an integrated approach to Palliative Care makes a better community, a better world!
So, I am very excited that I get to be part of helping to share this education. And I’m very happy to be done the certification process. Thanks to all the helpers along the way!
Grateful for you, as always,
I see a Spiritual Guide (or Spiritual Director) regularly. I am so grateful for a dedicated space to tell the stories of what is happening in my relationship with the Divine Family and explore how my everyday life impacts my faith, and my faith impacts my everyday life.
This month, my Spiritual Guide read these words of Patrick Carroll’s to me, “If I can really discover what I want at the deep level, God wants exactly that. God is creating me out of my desire and my moving toward that.”
Could it really be true that the desires planted deep within our hearts, souls, cores, are planted there by the Divine Family and that we can listen together to those desires?
As we listened together, Guide and Seeker in companionship with the Life-Giving Spirit, something reverberated inside me. An Ancient Poet in the Psalms said that the Divine gives us the desires of our hearts. I’ve come to believe that the Ancient Poet didn’t mean that the Divine gives us whatever we want, whatever we set our minds on, but rather, that the Divine plants seeds of desire in the deepest parts of us that will call us into meaningful relationship with the Divine.
But when my Guide set me a repetition spiritual exercise of “sitting in prayer” with my desires, I was pleasantly shocked. What fruit might this exercise bear?
Repetition is an Ignatian way of returning to an exercise again and again, to go a little deeper, to weave the practice into daily life, to get so comfortable in the practice that the mind relaxes and the spirit opens.
As I sit with my desires I hear
…deep wanting for still time to soak up the love of the Divine
…a heart cry for rhythms of work, celebration and rest
…a longing for home, family, belonging and meaningful connection
…a call towards time to nourish my relationship with my spouse
…an honest to goodness desire to parent my children with loving presence
…and gratitude for the hope of work that blends together my heart cries to support people in their relationship with Divine and provision for our family’s needs
What matters to you at the centre of your being?
Can you believe that God is not against your deepest desires but for them?
Where are you sharing your sacred story?
All the best to you, Jennifer
- House Blessings
Each year we take the opportunity to bless our home.
Walking from room to room with a lit candle, we pray and read sacred texts, and put action to our belief. We say “God is everywhere,” but it’s easy to live as if God lives in a box somewhere else and doesn’t touch our everyday lives.
The truth, truer than truer, is that the Divine Family goes with us everywhere we go. The Divine Family is present with us in the mundane experiences of our everyday lives. Whatever our circumstances, the Divine is with us!
So, we bless our home and in the process we live into the truth that there is presence and provision and healing and vision for our family and for our everyday lives.
This year we created a little intro video about house blessings and a work sheet. If you are interested in more information about house blessings, the work sheet has a bit more written about it. The work sheet also has a process for creating your own personalized house blessing if that is something you would like to do.
And always, there is the option to have Jennifer walk with you through the process by web meeting! Set up an appointment through our appointment scheduler at the top of the page, if you would like to schedule a house blessing. A 30 minute space usually works will for a web based blessing.
You can get the worksheet by signing up here.
May your experience of 2019 be one of blessings!
- Listening to our Lives: Spiritual Direction
Bookstores and libraries are perennial favourites of mine.
Almost twenty five years ago I was in Oregon to visit my Aunt and Uncle. Gracious and generous people, they took me on a little trip to visit a favourite bookstore of theirs in Portland. Powell’s City of Books. Oh my goodness!
We barely scratched the surface, but I left with a few books.
In the process my Uncle shared his love for Frederick Buechner’s non-fiction works with me by quoting from memory the passage that follows.
“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
― Frederick Buechner, Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation
These words have danced inside me over and over and over again.
I want to listen to my life. The parts that are glorious and beautiful. And also the parts that are tender and shy and angry and tight. The moments of triumph over fear, emotional paralysis, awkward kindness and snotty blubbering are all spaces for questions and clarity and grace.
They have so much to share with me. So much to seed in me.
As I listen to my life, having a companion and a community has helped me to not get stuck.
I want to listen to my life. I want to have my life listened to in safety by people who can help me wind through the pathways and not get lost. And I want to listen with you to your life too, if you will invite me in!
Clarity. Healing. Transformation.
Those are the things that are coming for me through the long work of being companioned by a Spiritual Director who has given me set aside time to listen, to question, to support and to offer a compassionate presence.
Through the years I have had a number of official Spiritual Directors. I have also had many spiritual conversation partners. And the abundant gift of teachers in the form of those who sought me out as a Spiritual Companion, Guide or Director.
The process of listening to our lives and finding where the spaces of joy and sorrow, boredom and pain, lead us is a gift!
Everyday there are pieces of life that can be gathered up. And as we collect those pieces in conversation with another, they can be placed together towards energy, peace, wholeness and healing.
Healing and transformation have come for me through the process of listening to my life in Spiritual Direction.
Spiritual direction is a sacred space for listening to our lives. With attentiveness and skill, in an environment of compassion and non-judgement, we can become people who are free to be our truest selves.
Becoming our truest selves!
Our world, our communities and our families need us!
Deeply loved. In process. Present. Becoming our truest selves.
Listening with you,
As you think about your most recent day, are there any parts of it that draw your attention? Were there strong emotions or repeated thoughts? Were there glimmers of peace, flickers of sadness, flares of anger?
What stories have you encountered lately that are touching you?
How do you process the experiences of your days?
Have you ever seen a Spiritual Director (Companion, Guide)? What was that like for you?
- Removing the burs…
“Forgiveness is to let go of our hope for a different or better past.” Richard Rohr
The other day a dear friend texted me and welcomed me into a conversation that has been stirring within me ever since. The idea that forgiveness is not to let another person off the hook for what they have done. Or even to let myself off the hook for what I have done.
Forgiveness is to let go of the what ifs and the blame and recrimination and let the past rest.
It makes me wonder what I might do if I allowed hope and vision to be for the future rather than using them up on the past…?
For some time burs have been my physical image for the work of forgiveness. Removing burs from my shoe laces and fleece jacket sleeves requires attention and focus. I take off one bur at a time and put it carefully into the garbage so that I do not seed more burs.
So with the forgiveness conversation and the image of burs dancing inside, I headed out to my children’s summer camp for a fall retreat with some folks from our local faith community. We took along our fluffy, (formerly) white dog who snuffled around in the leaves and brush and found the most prickly burs I have yet touched. It was almost as though he was a magnet for these prickly seeds.
Trying to pull these burs from his fur was painful for the fingers, uncomfortable for the dog and a pretty constant reminder of the work that it is to let go my hope for a different past.
Yes, it is work. Yes, it is painful. Yes, I would rather be doing something — almost anything — else.
Yet, having removed the burs and contained them in the safety of the garbage, those same burs did not come back to hurt the dog or me again.
We managed to find new burs every time we went outside.
That might also speak to the truth that having let go of the hope for a different or better past in one part of our lives, we may have to let it go again, and again, and again. With the way that I have been living, it would not surprise me if I have let my un-forgiveness, blame and hurt seed many generations of plants with prickly seeds that have yet to be found, removed and let go.
Having conversation partners from spiritual companions, through to a Spiritual Director, and ultimately conversation with the Divine Family, makes this forgiveness process do-able.
What does it mean to you to forgive?
Where are you at in the process of forgiveness and healing? Where would you like to be?
Does Richard Rohr’s definition of forgiveness stir something inside you? Does it bring a feeling of release? Or does it ignite more questions?
What might it look like in your life to do the work of forgiveness in small, burr-sized pieces?
Who will you invite into a conversation about your ideas and feelings?
- Heart 2 Heart Family Grief Retreat
I spent today with an amazing group of participants and volunteers at a day long Family Grief Retreat. As I left the air was calm enough for a beautiful hot air balloon. It seemed so big and drew my attention so sharply. In the photo it seems so small, but I assure you it was big. Beautiful. And a welcome ending to a day full of connection and grace.
I had the honour of bringing a message of hope during the memorial service honouring those who have died and their impact on our lives. These are the words I shared:
We have had such a day together! There has been time to give focus and attention to our feelings, time to do some things for our self care, time to build relationships. There have been tears and moments of laughter. Wonderful moments of being sprayed with the hose from the fire truck. Broken pottery that with the help of many hands was pieced together, never the same, but brutal and beautiful and meaningful nonetheless. There has been nourishment for our bodies, our minds, our hearts and our spirits.
Take a moment to look around you.
Breathe deeply. Let the experiences of the day seep deeply into your being. We honour and acknowledge the people, who have shared their hearts and their stories today.
It is good to be reminded physically that we are not alone.
There are, at least, these hundred people with whom we have shared a special experience of non-judgement, encouragement and hope.
In this community today we have honoured the stories of those we love who have died and we have explored how they inhabit our lives and nothing can take that away.
As we keep on learning to live in our new selves, learning to sort out what it’s like to have a relationship with someone we love who is no longer physically with us, as we keep on doing the work of acknowledging our person, our people, our grief, and asking for help, we are doing the work of mourning.
And I think that there is no way out of this wilderness except through.
Alan Wolfelt sometimes uses the imagery of wilderness for our grief. Vast. Inhospitable. Mountainous. Uncertain. Though the path isn’t straight forward, or orderly, there is a pathway. And there are touch stones along the way that help us to move through the wildness, the wilderness of grief, to heal, to feel our feelings and respond, to keep on looking for hope or finding people who can help us find hope on days we struggle.
As you go out from this sacred space where we have remembered, where we have had the gift of time and people with whom to share this safe space, we will be given a package of stones as a keepsake.
When you take those stones home and sit with them, the experience of getting still and holding them in your hands may speak to you.
You may not take them out of their bag. Ever.
You might choose to take them out.
Because your experience of grief is your very own, you may find nuance and depth that we cannot even touch in our brief time here today.
You may notice the weight of these rocks. Perhaps the ways they are the same and the ways they are different.
I wonder if they can represent our time in the wilderness and the ways it might change us.
I wonder if these stones might speak to us of the hope that we will move from carrying this weighty stone of grief that is sharp, to still carrying a stone of grief that either gets less heavy with time, or that we get stronger to carry.
I wonder if we might ponder how jagged rocks, tumbled together, rub the sharp edges off one another. They bring….
I wonder if we might hear the call of hope, that over time, we might find healing.
May your experiences here today be part of rubbing off the sharpness of grief. May you be encouraged in the work and play of mourning. And may your experiences become smooth, touch stones that mark the path through the wilderness toward healing.
So, you might want to go out and find at least two stones. One sharp and rough and one smooth. And listen to what those stones might have to tell you.
Feel free to send me a note to let me know!
The other day would have been my Grandpa’s 99th birthday. This is the first of his birthdays that we’ve observed without him physically being present. For many years, we’ve gathered on his birthday and headed out to the restaurant of his choice. Every year since his 90th birthday bash, he would comment that he wasn’t sure how many more of these birthday parties he would come to…
He has been a big part of my life and my family’s life.
The morning of her Great-Grandpa’s birthday, I came to the table to find our daughter busy with markers and paper to create a birthday card. And then with her creativity and leadership shining brightly, she organized us all to create a card and collection of birthday wishes.
I sent a photo of the card to my family through our family chat. A conversation grew about all the birthday celebrations we had shared together and then a wonder about getting together to observe Grandpa’s birthday in his honour.
While we were together we laughed about Grandpa’s likely meal choice (steak!) and remembered the ways that his life impacted all of our lives. Maybe we’ll meet yearly to celebrate. Maybe the ways that we live and love and grieve will change as the years pass.
Every relationship is so different. Every process of grief so different.
How have you honoured the birthdays of people you care about who have died?
How have you cared for yourself on significant days that remind you of the change in your relationship with important people?
- New connections
A week ago today I was in Saskatoon.
It was cold, as February in Saskatchewan often is. The cold was only outside!
Almost 50 people from across the province met to take another step towards helping the people of Saskatchewan, near and far, have better access to a palliative approach to care.
Good, general skill in palliative care in all the communities and networks across our province will allow people with life limiting illnesses to be whole people — body, mind, emotion and spirit — and to have the supportive care they need.
And building the connections, providing the spaces for insight and education, means that good generalist palliative care providers in the communities (nurses, doctors, pharmacists, social workers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, spiritual care providers, care aids and all the others I didn’t list) can have relationships with specialist palliative care teams for those times when there are questions arise. For the times when symptoms of disease and distress are challenging to manage.
A thousand thanks to Kim Martens and the rockstar team at Pallium Canada,
…and to Elisabeth Antifeau and Lori Teeple, Master Facilitators in name, heart and action,
…and to the waves of champions (new and experienced) for a palliative approach to care in Saskatchewan!
Working alongside each one of you is a privilege.
- How do I navigate grief during the holidays?
During the holiday season, we can become acutely aware of our losses and griefs, of our sadness and pain. We ask, “How do I navigate grief during the holidays.” On the one hand we can feel pressured to pretend everything is happy-clappy. On the other, the awareness of who and what is missing in our lives can increase. There’s no one “right way” to make it through the experience of grief, especially during the holidays.
Being clear about what matters most to us while we grieve can help.
Do you most want quiet?
Would you prefer small groups of people close to you?
Is it your preference to have someone with you as often as possible?
Do you want to repeat favorite traditions or create new ones?
Sometimes we do not know the “right” way for us to be in grieving until we walk several steps in the “wrong” direction.
Learning our new selves and coming to our new normal might take many tries. Let’s be gentle with ourselves as we explore what it means to be ourselves in today’s reality.
One of the practices that is helpful to me is to attend a small gathering that acknowledges the mixed nature of living the holidays. All of our lives have circumstances that are different than we want them to be. When we gathered the other night we lit candles, shared our stories of loss, read comforting words and sang songs that focused on hope even in dark times.
There’s no one “right way” to make it through the experience of grief. Acknowledging what is real and meaningful, bringing the darkness out into the light, helps us navigate the grief precess. Sharing the truth with trusted people reminds us that we are not alone.
What has helped you to navigate the holiday season given the realities of your circumstance?
How are you taking care of yourself in the midst of the expectations of this season?
What are your plans over the next few weeks?
If you are in a place of health and peace at the moment, what would you have offered yourself as words of grace in another holiday season of grief?