A Good Home, Celebrations, Family Moments, Happy new year, Inspiration, Poetry, Wisdom

A New Year

Blog Photo - New Year's Poem Birthday Cake

We measure a year in months and milestones

Birthdays and other anniversaries

The goals achieved, honours received

And various victories.

Blog Photo - New Year's Poem Sunset

These things we dream of, yearn for, live towards

The dates forecast in calendars

And marked off by celebrations

Of our lives.

aunt Rose with her son, great niece, and great-great niece

I wish you all that and more.

Blog Photo - Garden - Butterfly on Mint

But when I wish you a happy new year

I know there will also be struggles

And challenges and dirty dishes

Because this is life.

Blog Photo - New Year's Poem Maple Leaves

And so I wish you:

**

Laughter

For when things turn out crazy

Blog Photo - flowers with alium closer

Faith

On days of loss or disappointment

Blog Photo - New Year's Poem CR Thinking

Wisdom

In times of uncomfortable change

Blog Photo - New Year's Poem Hydrangea in Rain

Delight

In the small things, not just the big ones

Blog Photo - Doggies in window

blog-photo-dawson-up-close

Gratitude

For the gifts you have and will receive

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Photo by Hamlin Grange

Hope

For tomorrow and the morrow after

Forest Tunnel

Health

To do the things you most enjoy

Blog Photo - New Year's Poem Skiis on Snow with Trees

Blog Photo - New Year's Poem Cyclist

Blog Photo - Playing guitar 1

Peace

In the fact of your humanity.

Book launch cynthia and rev claire

**

Dedicated to my Family, with love.

**PHOTOS COPYRIGHT OF HAMLIN GRANGE**

A Good Home, Faith, Family, Family Moments, FEar, Life Challenges, Life in canada, Love, Words

NO WORDS

There are no words.

*

One speaks to God in frightened silence

Broken only by jagged breath.

One reaches for faith

And reaches again.

*

Before faith,  the lurch in the belly.

The gasp from the chest.

The hurt in the heart.

And sighs too deep for words.

*

Shock. Denial.  Floundering.

The waves of fear, threatening to drown.

We must not drown.

We search for a fixed point.

*

The heart glimpses the rock

Rising up from the water.

The rock shines with promise.

Strong, fixed and charcoal-dark.

*

The deep water swirls and obscures

So confident in its massive power.

It carries threats of death and echoes of loss.

And loud whispers of nevermore.

*

Quick now: shut it out.

Do not give it the power it craves.

Focus instead on the fixed point.

Look again and find the rock.

*

There are no words.

I speak to God in silence and jagged breath.

My arms thrash, thrash and thrash

And touch solid stone.

*

I hold on, hold on

Fight to hold on to its solid-ness

The waves of fear, and drowning waters

Are all around.

*

One thrashes and fights

And struggles with all one’s might.

And speaks to God, in silence and jagged breath:

Let my beloved live.

*

Let him live.

Let us get to the hospital in time.

Let the doctors and nurses know what to do.

Please let my beloved live.

**

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Easter Lilies and Ringing Bells

On Easter Sunday I’ll be in our historic village church, singing my head off.

First built in 1869, it’s Anglican (aka Episcopalian or Church of England).

Photo by Hamlin Grange
Photo by Hamlin Grange

For our church community, Easter Sunday is the happiest day of the year, happier even than Christmas.  It’s the day of the miracle of the resurrection.

Photo by Hamlin Grange
Photo by Hamlin Grange

When our priest  Claire (a Guyanese-Canadian woman who joined us a few years ago)  says “Christ is risen”,  I ring my hand-bell till my husband begs me to stop.

When the time comes to sing hymns (singing is a rare thing in this contemplative Anglican service), I do so more loudly, more off-key than anyone else.

Image via wikipedia

My husband is probably embarrassed.

But I’m too busy singing to notice.

I’ll be ringing and singing along with about 35 or 36 other souls at the 8:30 a.m. service.

“ONLY 36 other people?” you ask.

Actually, 36 is huge – for the 8:30 service.

Photo by Gundy Schloen
Photo by Gundy Schloen

When I first entered the tiny board and batten building for the 8:30 service, only 9 people attended, and sometimes — if the weather was bad  — only five.  Then the village grew and the little building was suddenly bursting at the seams — well, at the 10:30 service, that is.

The whole parish – 8:30 and 10:30 folks  together — raised funds to build a bigger church.  We love our big new church and are grateful that it accommodates newcomers and old-timers alike.

Photo by Hamlin Grange
Photo by Hamlin Grange
Photo by Stephen Clarke
Photo by Stephen Clarke

But we 8:30 folk  – there are more of us now — still worship in “the chapel”.

**

If you’ve read my book, “A Good Home”, you know that I arrived at this church full of doubt.  In fact, one of the things that drew me? The name. It was named for the Bible’s great doubter: Thomas.  He could have been the patron saint of journalists like me — who are taught to doubt everything and everyone till proven otherwise.

Photo by Hamlin Grange
Photo by Hamlin Grange

But I found peace.   In the pastel-coloured stained-glass windows, the timeworn wooden pews, the threadbare carpet,  the small carved wooden altar, the communion rail overlooked by a simple cross.

Photo by Hamlin Grange
Photo by Hamlin Grange

Peace. 

In the warm welcome from everyone I met.

In the words of the priest and the small, burgundy cloth-covered Book of Common Prayer, beautifully written.

Even in the glorious confusion called the blessing of the animals. On that day, dogs, cats, gerbils, horses — and strange things under blankets — come to church. Rev. Claire’s voice gets drowned out by yapping, yelping, barking — and  strange sounds from things under blankets.

Photo by Hamlin Grange
Photo by Jack Herder

“I’ll hold anything but snakes!” says our priest loudly, prompting a fresh round of laughter.

Even then.

The people here have supported me in bad times.. They’ve helped lessen my doubt and build my faith – in God and in myself.  They’ve made our family soup, given us flowers, helped me up the stairs. When my husband and I miss a service or two, someone always calls. I teasingly reply: “Is this the church police?”

No-one seems upset when I question parts of the Old Testament that I don’t understand or believe in. Not even when I ask, just before the service, “Should I take a walk when it comes to this horrible part of the reading, or just plug my ears?”

Smart woman that she is, Claire uses the opportunity to share more insights with all of us.

But at Easter and Christmas, my questions take a hike.

I’m too busy rejoicing.

And ringing, or singing ,or both.

Photo by Gordon Wick
Photo by Gordon Wick

Dedicated to the people of St. Thomas’.

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Every Day, A Gift

A couple hours north of Toronto, the winter has been harsh. For days on end, my friend Deb and her family were snowed in.

Blog Photo - Snowed IN

“This week it was minus 36 degrees celsius,” she wrote, “not counting the wind chill! It was so cold that the trees sounded like they were exploding; like shotguns firing nonstop.”

But something sacred is taking place inside this home.

Deb’s mother Gladys, who lives with her, is declining in health. Week by week, something else fails. Two weeks ago, her feet swelled to the point where her shoes couldn’t go on. Gladys is getting weaker.

“Every day is a gift”, Deb wrote recently.

I know what this means. When time is limited, when every day is a gift, one uses time differently.

Every day, mother and daughter try to create – or simply appreciate – moments that bring joy.

Joy comes in many forms.

It comes from listening to music that Gladys enjoys. “We try to fill the house with her favorite songs from opera to Frank Sinatra.”  She particularly enjoys  Maria Callas and Andrea Bocelli.

Blog Photo - Gladys Painting 2

Doing things together brings a special kind of joy. Gladys, an accomplished artist, still loves to paint.  “Sometimes,” Deb says, ” Mom has enough energy to sketch with me or show me how to paint a picture. Sometimes it means just sitting quietly together in front of the fire and reading.”

Blog Photo - Gladys paints

Joy comes from simple things like deciding what to cook. “I pore over the recipes and ask her opinion. Then I try to tempt her to have a little, though her appetite has waned.

“I still offer her a glass of wine or a hot chocolate spiced with something special.  And Mom still enjoys her peanut brittle, though she has to suck on the pieces rather than bite them (90 year old teeth)!!!!”

Blog Photo - House overlooking Lake

They take joy in nature. Gladys often sits in a comfortable chair beside a large window. On the other side of that window is a bird-feeder and beyond that, acres of woods and a snow-covered lake.

Blog Photo - Bird at Feeder

“We watch for the many different birds that come to the feeder right by her chair,” says Deb. “We watch the snow swirl around the house and whistle through the trees. We are amazed at the snow sculptures — also known as snow drifts!”

There’s also joy in laughter. The two women watch funny movies together.  Like “The Heat”, with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. They laughed so hard, they cried.

When friends drop in, they enjoy tea, cookies  – and laughter.

Blog Photo - Tea time

And then there’s the kindness of others. “The nurses that come every second day have been so kind and are gentle in spirit.”

Gladys faces each day with a mixture of hope and acceptance. She points out that the doctors are experimenting with a new injection that seems to be helping to give her some strength back. And she also says: “My bags are packed and I am still waiting for a clearance on the runway of life…… That is what snow blindness can do to you.  Illusions??? Think positively! Spring is coming!”

Indeed, there are signs of rebirth in the air. Just days ago, a new baby was born – Gladys’ third great-grandchild.  It’s a joyful occasion, and Gladys looks forward to meeting the newborn soon.

There’s much sweetness in this time. And sadness. And wonder.

Deb notices that, whatever they’re doing, Bailey, the family’s pet retriever, “spends a lot of time at Mom’s feet as if he knows something.”

Blog Photo - Bailey in Snow

As her mother nears the end of her life, Deb finds herself reflecting. “I take Bailey out for a walk every day to breathe….to catch my breath, and pray. To find solace in nature….. to marvel at the snow. I spy two moose in the forest, a mink sliding across the driveway. I tell myself that all I can do is my best. The rest is up to God…the when – and the how –  of how this will come to an end.”

Blog Photo - Moose in Snow

She says Gladys is “calm and brave”, her sense of humour and memory still sharp.  She surprised Deb recently by reciting a quote from a book she received on her tenth birthday, 80 years ago:

“Deem it not an idle thing

A pleasant word to speak

The words you use, the thoughts you bring

A heart can heal or break”.

It’s moments like this that bring tears to Deb’s eyes.  Some days, all it takes is “a word, a song, a story Mom tells.”

But there’s a lovely sense of grace in this home, perhaps reinforced by the words from a prayer by St. Francis which Deb frequently recites: “Make me a channel of Your peace”.

Dedicated to Gladys and Deb, and to all those who’ve had a similar experience.