Birthday Gifts


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What is filling my soul this morning, the anniversary of my birth, so long ago;

Well, finding this silly picture that makes me look like a birthday fairy queen, I guess…

And this…grounding me, confirming I know nothing, but…

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: 1999), 79.

And this;

  1. relationships that continue to ask of me…and give to me…and the beauty of discovery within the complexity of life with people, these gifts that I will never truly understand and yet there they are, talking, breathing, working, living alongside me and I get to be with them all…
  2. anticipating the arrival of my son, and the intersection of 5 lives over several days…oh the anticipation of all that…
  3. a unexpectedly delicious poem, written by my lover, posted to Facebook.
  4. the dog, coffee, porch, quiet, sunshine, bluebird day, time, space, lingering…
  5. messages of love on social media
  6. challenges and considerations…each day to choose what is important, what is vital, what is life giving, and what adjustments must be made to live with integrity
  7. creative energy…that vast stream of Creator God’s creative DNA that flows and overflows in me with thoughts and ideas and possibilities and just enough courage to try something new…
  8. health, dreams, desires, all those elements that make up a life and are often taken for granted and yet are foundational to living well…
  9. writing, always writing, listening to the inner voice speaking and writing, playing with writing, writing with people, reading and writing, writing, writing, writing…
  10. the audacious pink thread of The Trinity woven through the simple fabric of my life …often hidden, sometimes apparent, but there…oh yes, there!

Gift. Gift. Gift. All gift.

Undeserved. Thankful. Gifts held with the knowledge that this may be for a day, a month, a few more years. Breath held for a few seconds, then breathing, breathing, wondering…what happens next?

Lesley-Anne Evans, July 29, 1962 – ?

 

 

 

Small


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My faith is small, or maybe the way I live my life is small, and ordinary. In small things I find God: his presence, his provision, his orchestration, his glory, his love.

When I recognize God in my life, it usually comes in the form of just enough rice or just enough flour, or sun breaking through cloud before sunset after several days of depressing grey, or a poem just right for the moment, or the colour of a pair of mittens matching a child’s snowsuit I’ve never seen before, or the heart shape of trembling aspen leaves strewn along a creekside pathway. God is in the shade of orange kelp on sand. God is in a small child spinning in a pink tutu. God is. I have come to notice God in all the details.

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I believe my Grandfather taught me to see God in this way. When I was very young, Grandpa walked me around his garden on summer evenings, our hands clasped behind our backs, each flowering shrub like an offering, a miracle he had discovered and wanted me to see. “Look at that” he would say, gazing deep into the centre of a Hibiscus bloom “have you ever seen a design like that?” “Rosa, Spiraea, Forsythia, Weigela, Hydrangea…” he repeated over and over until I knew them. Name these plants, see these small miracles. He was the same about song birds. His curiosity and joy of creation spilled over and captivated me. Little things. Seeing small. Seeing God.

Not that I don’t dream big. I love to dream and drink wine and talk about ideas. Not that I don’t dive into big things, because I do. But the dreams and projects and ideas must quickly settle into a series of little steps to realize the bigger picture. And maybe it’s not the big thing that matters as much as the little things that take place along the way. Usually, that means the people, conversations, conflicts, resolutions, and love. Each little interaction, each small encounter, mattering so much more than any end result. God is in the details of people too, I find.

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My faith is small, and wildflower and honey bee sized. My faith is my search for tracks to hang gallery hardware on the wall and finding them no more and no less than I needed, and my faith is the width of several old doors that now cover windows, in exactly the right width for the openings. My faith is sometimes the size of these three words…”I don’t know”. My faith is the sound of my daughter’s joy that she drove stick shift for the first time over the winding road to the Pacific Rim, and back. Safe. Back. My faith is light and shadow, juxtaposition of words on a sign against audaciousness of spring blooms. God is in each one of these small and sacred things.

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My faith is small.

My faith is small, and simple.

My faith is small, and ordinary.

God is there.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said “God is in the details.”

God is.

Lesley-Anne

I’m not one to pray out loud


DSC_0763That hasn’t changed for me ever in my life, and sure I could say the same thing about how I feel when I have to speak in a group about anything, but praying out loud is somehow heavier. So what happened today may be God doing what he always does, or God doing specifically what he had in mind when I prayed what I prayed, or God doing what he was going to do aside from anything I prayed. I wonder?

There’s more to it… I struggle with the repetitious nature of group prayers, the competitive feel of it sometimes, the limited vocab we use, the way I believe God might find what I say trite or redundant given he already knows everything there is to know. Still there is mystery in prayer, and I have been reading a book lately that points to a way of being with prayer that is quite attractive to me…to live my life as a prayer…everything matters…everything counts…when my heart is in a posture of reverence and gratitude before the Father. These days I am leaning more into a contemplative way of being in prayer. It’s a learned way. It’s a way I want to learn more about.

But prayer can also be specific, and at a given time, alone or in groups. And as the various members of our group prayed around the circle today I wondered, what on earth can I offer with integrity?

All I know is this…sometime between 2:15 and 2:45 pm today I prayed a short prayer out loud in a group setting. Very short. Pretty much these words;

God, we have so many needs here. And you are a God with lots of connections. Could you please send people to help us?

And when I was done praying I began to do what I always do…self analysis, critical dissection of my choice of words and how odd and how silly and really, couldn’t I have said something a little more eloquent than that? Condemnation…yes!

Fast forward 30 min to when a member of our community joined our meeting with a huge  smile, and we soon found out why. In another meeting that kept them late from ours, a meeting where our representative often feels unheard; today tangible and wide support was offered up to us in ways that left our representative dumbstruck. A shift occurred this afternoon. Between 2:15 and 2:45 pm.

Coincidence? Reading something into nothing? Or, could a short prayer offered up in earnestness count for something in the spirit world that changes something in the real world?

I wonder…

Someone at the meeting said maybe I should pray out loud more often… :) I’m not convinced yet.

 

Everything is holy now…


I’ve only heard this song twice, the first just a couple of weeks ago as I sat mesmerized and crying while David Wilcox sang it over me and the rest of the Northern Ireland 2014 pilgrims. The second time right now, as I find it on Youtube and share it with you.

That first time I heard Peter Mayer’s ‘Holy Now’ in Belfast, I felt opened and washed by the lyrics and deeply understood in a way outside the music. I felt truth echo back to me around how I’ve been living out my lifelong version of a complex and oft times frustrating faith, a simple way that has seeped into my life and my writing for many years now. Glory in all it’s profound abundance, this sense that everything is holy now, has slowly seeped into my soul and grown into how I behold the world, it is the under girding of my poetry, it is how I find God.

So while I listened to Peter Mayer’s song, it broke over and through me with a deep thankfulness for having been opened to see the whole earth is full of the glory of God and in it to see Him, to be awestruck, and in my own way, say WOW! Everything, EVERYTHING IS holy now.

Yet as I write to you, my neighbour is cutting his lawn, large machines are hard at work digging and scraping and beeping and preparing what for 14 years has been an apple orchard behind our home, and my attempt at a time of contemplative silence has been cut off abruptly by science. Can I say this disappointment I feel today is holy now? Can I say the dog nudging me while I’m trying to pray is holy now? Can holiness be found in the sink full of dirty dishes and the piles of laundry and the weeding and watering and bill paying and dog nose prints on windows and spots on the carpet? My version of this truth about glory and holiness involves space and time and silence and proximity to rural landscapes and natural beauty. Not this version I’m experiencing right now… at least I don’t think so.

So how might God want to transform my heart to see holiness in noise and dirt and to do lists? Is that really who God has wired me to be? Or do I need to adjust how I live my life to line up more closely with the ways I see him and his glory best? Do I need to find new ways and new places of silence and contemplation and communion? Is it both and?

I think that’s closer to the truth of it. The more we know of ourselves, the more responsibility we take for how we live and the choices we make to be healthy and whole. And for me I know soul health and wholeness requires holy contemplative and life giving places and spaces and times. And the more we learn about God, the more opportunity we are given to be open to his ways of doing things, sometimes contrary to how we might naturally choose. While I know silence sustains me, I also know it’s also good and soulful for me to be stretched, to be opened to seeing holy in, as they song says, EVERYTHING. Not just the beautiful, but the ugly too. Not just the silence, but the noise.

As an introvert I find crowds and social events depleting. Oh, I love a good party, but I need time to gear up for it and to recover from it. The same is true for family holidays or other times with groups of people. I crave alone time, because in the silence I find myself and God coming together into a comfortable way of being and it is there I process and listen and fill up again ready for the next social interaction. Noise depletes me, and Northern Ireland taught me a new level of silence that, by comparison, makes living in Kelowna seem loud and brash. What was my happy place before I left, my garden porch in the shade of a quiet summer morning, is upon returning disturbed by things I have no control over yet offend me. Even the sound of my air conditioner grates on my ears and I’m longing to return to that remote rural Irish cottage with the sounds of sheep and lambs communing in the dusk. But I can’t go running back there… not yet. So how can I recreate what I have discovered is needed for the sustaining health of my soul? How do I accept what I cannot change and find good in it as well?

The settling in to everyday life after experiencing trips like Northern Ireland 2014 with potential life impacting new revelation, takes time. As I ask myself these questions of what now shall I do and recognize some shifts may be required, I also remember the wise warning of our retreat leaders who said, give it 6 months, don’t rush into anything, don’t go out and start a new business with someone whom you’ve met here, just allow what you have learned to settle in, find its place in your life. This is my life… this version of everything is holy now. The lessons must settle in here. I keep reminding myself of these words when visions of green walled fields and mist covered mountains call me back to that place of deep quiet that calmed me all the way down to my guts. And this from a woman whose guts are usually twisted up in knots!

For today, let me simply see holy in something I haven’t seen before. Let me see and hear and understand something new about where I am, this place and these people, this noise and this version of silence, this life. Help my heart to settle into my life here and all its holiness.

(And just now I realize the sounds of construction haven’t changed but I have been paying less attention to them. As I wrote to you the sounds blended into the background.)

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What we are thirsty for…


This Lenten season I have been working through an amazing and meaningful experience called Beloved, an online journey into Lent and Easter with Jan Richardson leading us. Each day for the past 5 weeks leading into this, Holy Week, I have received by email an image of Jan’s paintings, a poem blessing, a few paragraphs of prompting and insightful considerations, reflective music, and many questions. Deep questions. Soul searching questions. I know I will continue working through them for a long time.

I tell you this because when I chose to undertake this journey, I suppose I did so with an agenda. I didn’t voice it, write it down, or even consciously think about it, but my hidden agenda was that this Lent I would draw closer to God and he would in turn, draw closer to me. I’m not entirely certain either thing happened. Although I wrote about my experience briefly HERE, still, today, I’m feeling rather disconnected and sad and even a little guilty for feeling this way.

Now I could be feeling rather vacant because school is over and I no longer have anything to put my mind to, or it could be because the season of life I find myself in is with young adult children still in the nest but wings ready for flight. It could be because my husband’s new job has taken him to a neighbouring community which makes connecting for coffee or lunch much more difficult these days. It could be my age. But, in concert with all of these is this soulful hole inside me that is God shaped (or so they say when they talk of spiritual longings such as these, and I do believe mine is spiritual) and I haven’t managed to find a lasting way to fill it or to feel like it has been filled.

And, as I with my heart/soul ache messing about inside me always do, I try to make sense of it. I try to solve it I guess, yet I think that may be impossible. I write to God on my prayer blog, I mess about with thoughts, and as usually happens, I write poetry. Rough draft, rough ideas, still working through. You will find my poem posted just below…

INSERT:  a short time later after posting this blog, I find, “Many a quiet, ordinary, and hidden life, unknown to the world, is a veritable garden in which Love’s flowers and fruits have come to such perfection that it is a place of delight where the King of Love himself walks and rejoices with his friends.” ~ Hinds Feet on High Places

Which makes me wonder if maybe my ordinary life presenting me with rather ordinary things to do and take care of, maybe my life with quiet times such as this one right now is the one God has prepared for me to blossom in. Maybe I’ve become greedy/thirsty for… busyness… being needed… experience… accomplishment… status… acknowledgement… rather than truly longing for God? I’ve been given my quiet and hidden life, and the hardest thing for me to do is to see it as a gift.

I’d love, I’d REALLY love, to chat about these things with you if you are willing to engage. It can be through email at mygracenotes@gmail.com if you’d prefer. Do you ever have these thoughts, these feelings, and what do you do with them?

Here are some questions that might guide our conversation;

What do you thirst for? Are you spiritually thirsty, or for something else that could be met by making a change?

What steps are you taking, or have taken, to identify what you are thirsty for?

In your relationship with God, do you find your thirsts are quenched? Do some thirsts remain?

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I thirst

 

I thirst.

After all is done

and all is accomplished

yet that the scripture might

be fulfilled, Jesus says

I thirst.

 

And I come

not to a cross

but to His wellspring

of life, not for the first

time, but again and still

not knowing what it

means to drink. I long

with a black hole

of need, desire for company,

significance, meaning, chat,

answers. My prayers fall

on thin air, his presence,

his ever expanding mystery

perplexes me, angers me

keeps me asking for what

I do not know. He

is often silent, so often

delivered up on tongues

of men in ways I cannot

digest. We sit around

comparing our notes

patting one another

on the back for discerning

his plans and his will

and I critique the words

as they leave my lips. I want

to bite my forked tongue

into silence. I am wet eyed

at the terror and wonder

of this world and most days

I don’t get the point of it

don’t get God, don’t hear

God, don’t feel like I’ve

come closer to God

in imperfect trying. Peace

does not last. Grace

is fleeting. Words

just words, so many words

my head spins, soul

ache remains. No matter

the long years

of limping toward you

the hole is here.

I am bono-fied ~

cause I still haven’t

found what I’m

looking for. And I’m

looking, I am looking

and I’m asking

and I’m here.

Where are you?

 

Jesus says I thirst.

Jesus does not preach

yet is not silent in his agony.

Jesus states his need,

his simple need

for quenching. He knows

what he will get

yet he exposes his need

that scripture would be

fulfilled. What does

this mean? Only after

they respond, only

after they offer him

the tainted wine, only then

Jesus says

it is finished.

 

You know what I need, God.

I want to know. I want to ask it

if I could just find it.

The words that mean

I am thirsty.

 

 

It Is Finished

28 After this, Jesus, knowing[e] that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” 29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

Gospel of John, chapter 19

 

 

 

Life is a prayer, and God hears yours.


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Bench with a view, Fort Worden, Port Townsend, WA.

It’s been 82 posts since I started my prayer blog… my online prayer journal. And I tell you this because what I will tell you next might surprise you. I don’t feel any different. I don’t feel any closer or further away from God. What I feel is a more relaxed way of being. I now feel quite natural about writing God a note that could be an angry outburst or a thank you. But I don’t feel like I’ve tapped into a deeper way, nor do I feel enlightened. I just feel more… dare I say… peaceful, about it. And I thank God for that.

Prayer has haunted me since I was a young adult. In fact, one of my big hang ups leading me away from the church and faith was prayer… how one could justify whatever the outcome of prayer as a yes, a no, or a maybe. That really bugged me… God didn’t bug me, but the way people approached prayer did. I found prayer inconclusive, not to be trusted, and without proof. So, I walked away.

Fast forward 15 years to when I became a mom and with that life change came a renewed interest in the faith. That began a process of years of establishing a new way of living my life with God, healing the old painful ways, and acknowledging God in my life choices. But prayer, I stumbled over it, was embarrassed by it, was overwhelmed by feelings of prayer inadequacy. Did I believe prayer worked? Yes, but I also knew I was walking a thin line where I hesitated to ask for much, and remained privately understated when answers came. Did I have faith… yes. But prayer confused me, upset me, eluded me.

I have always hesitated when someone asks me to pray, I still do. I know me too well. Not only do I struggle with prayer, but I also forget. How can I have integrity in what I say if I make promises and don’t keep them. So, I am very conservative about offering to pray, and when I’m asked, I usually make a point of writing a prayer down right then and there so they know and I know I really did pray for them.

I’ve learned over the years that prayer and trouble with prayer is part of my life. When I try to have a dedicated prayer time, it’s hard. I get distracted. So I try to pray as things happen. If something comes to mind, I mention it to God. If something bugs me, I get it off my chest. If something is amazing, I say so. I’ve written my prayers. I’ve taken large chunks of time away to work through things with God in what could be called prayerful encounters. I’ve found God in nature and in music and in poetry and in people. And my response to any and all of these is, in my opinion, prayer. I still don’t ask for much, and I still need to put more emphasis on asking God to forgive me for all the stuff that stacks up in my heart. I can be a hoarder like that.

My prayer blog is just another way of living in conversation with God, God as purpose and passion and for and because. I want God in my life, in the details. And I want to share my thoughts and concerns with him because I believe that’s what he wants too. God loves me, therefore he cares about all the silly, angry, jumping for joy words I speak to him. And he has things to say back… but I’ll leave that for another blog post.

I share all this with you because maybe you are a bit like me, maybe you wonder and stumble and feel like a square peg in a round hole about prayer, and I’m here to say God knows and he doesn’t have a checklist for must do prayer this precise way. The Lord’s prayer (Jesus answer to his followers when they asked him how to pray) is found HERE the gospels, and is the ultimate prayer guide we can revisit often. But I believe there are other ways to talk with God. God is creative and open to your own creative way of welcoming him into your life, in the language that you understand.

Life is a prayer… and God hears yours.

Lesley-Anne, SDG

Give yourself a break!


LA in bookstore photoI’ve been deeply focused on creativity this week. Preparing and presenting a talk that I gave on living a creative life @ Purple Vine Club in Kelowna last night. A written version of my story is scheduled to be published in the Sage-ing Journal in March. Stay tuned.

But the just of it is this: We are ALL born creative, we ALL have the divine thumbprint of creativity upon us. I believe it is true.

At the Purple Vine Club meeting last night, creative juices were flowing as guests participated in some fun exercises and also in more introspective ways. I shared my life story, and then invited the guests, at some later date but soon, to take the time to be still, listen, ask, consider and then respond to what it might mean for each of them;

… to engage in a creative way of life, a “poi-eh-ma” with God, by inspiration of this verse;

For we are God’s “poi-eh-ma”/masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Ephesians 2:10 New Living Translation (NLT)

…to engage in a transformative lifelong process, a spiritual pathway of communion with the Creator, by glorying in the fullness of the created world all around us, through expressing our unique acts of creativity, and the resulting beauty spilling over into the lives of others.

Now this is a big ask. It is. It is difficult. For those who wonder about God, about what he is up to in this world. About his very existence. About his relevance. Or, for those who have lots of big questions that remain unanswered. For those who struggle with things that they can’t seem to make peace with. And ones like me who attempt to live in a paradoxical tension of not knowing, everything, but just enough to keep on keeping on, most days. And that is the spiritual side.

Then there’s the creative side, the difficulty of finding the time to be still and listen. Or the thought that maybe there is no creativity to tap into. Or for those who have not been doing anything creative for a long time. Maybe never. For those who forget how.

So, my post today is to encourage you with a wider scope of what creative living might be. Because I’m talking about a way of seeing, and sometimes seeing requires our glasses to be dusted off.

Here are a few words and then some images of what I mean when I say creativity has a WIDE scope in our lives. Perhaps one of these is the language of your CREATIVE life:

music, tattoo ink, concrete finishing, cabinet making, play writing, finding a cure, making a way, attacking a cliff, lighting design, designing new soccer plays, photography, canning jam, cooking, carving, baking, cleaning, organizing, ideas, decorating, gardening, writing, dancing, videography, cake decorating, sewing, knitting, scrap booking, singing, drawing, sculpting, metal work, thinking, sand castles, putting up a tent, grooming a dog, philosophizing, building lego, putting on makeup, refinishing old boats, renovating houses, architecture, engineering, electrical circuit building, dog training, interior design, propogating plants, setting out a race course,  model making, making money, building a business, investing, having a family…

are you beginning to see

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My point is, don’t be so hard on yourself. You have something good to offer up. A creative language that is yours alone to speak into the world. Like the rest of us do. Sometimes it takes time to find it. But you will. Don’t give up.

For me there is a clear connection… Creator God, Creation, Creativity, Creating… it is simple and yet it is profound. I’m not certain I really know what it means or ever will. Please share your thoughts with me on this. I’d so appreciate if conversation breaks out!

It’s always a new year, and each new day is alive with potential. Can you see it? Hear it?

On the same way, looking…

Lesley-Anne