Saturday, January 25, 2014

MUG SHOTS AND MEMORIES



I dislike doing dishes. No matter how often I determine that I’ll not let them pile up, they always do.

Today as I was catching up on a week’s worth…

(Hey, I eat out a lot, remember?? So there weren’t THAT many!)  

 Anyway… as I was catching up on my dishes today, I realized that what I do find joy in when doing them is the memories it brings to me. 


You see, a number of years ago I began collecting coffee mugs from places that I travel to

             As I wash them I’m reminded of the people and the stories behind them. 

 I’d like to share just a couple of them with you. 



Alaska’s state flower…the Forget-Me-Not. 

In the mid 1990s or there about I was a last minute add on to a group trip with my mom and her friends as they came out to Vancouver from Ontario for a cruise to Alaska. What a great seven days. 

If I were to do this trip again with people my own age I’d do a longer hike on the Alpine Meadows in Juneau. I’d kayak. I’d check out the ice fields.  But this was a Mom trip with wonderful memories of time spent with her.



In 2004 I visited a friend and her husband in southern California. They met on an online dating site, dated wisely, and are still happily married today. 

I took my first hot air balloon ride that ended with the traditional Champagne. We zipped down to Tijuana from San Diego. Then afterwards we visited the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Another day we visited the Mission in San Juan Capistrano and stopped by the Hotel Coronado. I have beautiful photos of both.

After detailed mapping instructions from her husband, my friend and I drove to Hollywood for a day. We were the typical tourist taking in all the usual stops.

We’d also booked to see a Dr. Phil show. All our friends and family knew that we were going to be at the show so they of course wanted to know the air date. 

When Dr. Phil came out he said, “Today were going to talk about the Big O.” Uh huh, the topic of the day was Orgasms and Sexuality. A woman behind us gasped and said, “I told my gramma I was going to be on the show.” 



In 2011 I took my mom’s car on a road trip from her place in Southwestern Ontario. I went through Buffalo, New York then between two of the Finger Lakes down to Ithaca. Here I met my cousin’s daughter and her husband. She was, and still is, studying and teaching at Cornell University which has a beautiful campus to explore. 

Even though we’d never met physically, only on Facebook, there was that instant family connection. I love that! I was a little terrorized by one of their two black cats but I was glad to be there.  They are an interesting couple with many stories to share. I enjoyed them. 



The next year, I again took my mother’s car on a road trip to Ottawa and Montreal. You’ll notice by now that I typically meet up with people where ever I travel. This trip was no different. 

I  do work via a website and I phone or Skype my clients. I have clients worldwide.  On this trip I had to privilege of meeting face to face with three of them. 

One I met up with in Kitchener where I enjoyed  lodging with one of my nieces, her partner and their three dachshunds. 

Another client showed me around parts of Ottawa, which is Canada’s capital city.  I stayed two nights with a cousin whom I’d not see since we were children in Manitoba. We quickly got reacquainted and both enjoyed the renewed relationship.  We are still in touch today by email. 

Next I met up with a client in Montreal where I stayed at a Bed and Breakfast for a couple of nights. 

I walked around much of the downtown area of this great city with the daughter of a friend who lives there.  On another day I was toured around by a retired NFL/CFL player whom I’d met when he came to Mexico with Athletes In Action while I lived there. 

I wished I’d had more time in each city! 



Early 2013 found me on an impromptu trip to The Big Apple when a friend mentioned that she’d booked a trip with  a great deal on flights and an equally good deal for nights at an international guesthouse. I joined her.

We did all the typical things that a first time NYC tourist would do: Brooklyn Bridge, Staten Island Ferry, Times Square at midnight, Empire State building, and so on. One night as we were walking the streets looking for a Jazz venue we accidentally happened on the season finale of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’. They were asking for seat fillers and we were happy to oblige. 

One day my travel partner and I met up with a friend from New Jersey whom we knew from a blogging experience. She and her partner wandered through Central Park with us. We felt like we'd met each other before because of blog times we'd shared. It's amazing what the world wide web can do!

 It was a whirlwind week of activity and we still only scratched the surface.  I’m ready to return. 


My last Mug Shot is one that was brought to me from Australia by a young man who came to Canada to woo my ‘daughter’ after they’d been chatting via Skype for awhile. He did so successfully in the two months that he was here. She went with him when he left.

 The relationship didn’t last, but she has now settled down under. Sometimes I want to break this one because he took her so far away and then broke her heart. But I’m happy for her in her new life. One day I’ll make the trip to visit her there.  . 

The Australia mug always reminds me that my daughter used to do my stack of dishes in exchange for meals that I’d cook. Sigh. Did I just say I’m happy for her? Forget that…She really needs to come back!! 

In the meantime, the memories that all of my travel mugs evoke make my dish washing more bearable!

Monday, January 20, 2014

“Keep this kitchen clean - eat out”




I did this cross stitch many years ago.  The frame has changed to a black one from the original powder blue. But it's been my motto ever since…more and more so as of late it seems. 

These days, my excuse for eating out is the fact that I’m an extrovert working from home. I need to get out of the house and to be among people to maintain my sanity. That’s a good enough excuse, right? 

Fortunately for me I have a neighbour whose mother taught her to never say no to an invitation which means I always have a lunch or dinner partner if I want one. Other times I meet up with friends. I’m limited in what I eat for optimum health so I’ve learned exactly which meal I can have at each place I go to! 

Many times I just take a good book and go on my own. Perhaps it will be my book club book of the month or a spiritual growth book that I’m meditating on. I also take a notebook in which to scribble the things that strike me as ‘aha’ moments or quotes I want to refer back to. 

Each restaurant or coffee place, I’m realizing, has its regulars. 

I know where to go when I want to read uninterrupted and I know where to go when I don’t mind people sitting down to talk. One particular coffee place I used to go for reading became more of a place to chat with the regulars. But in some places the regulars may just nod a hello in recognition then leave you to your devices. So before I leave the house I need to decide whether it is a day in which I want serious reading or if it’s a day where I’d love to have people interrupt me to chat. 

An older man whom I’ve only known when chatting at the coffee shop has helped me to plan trips in Ontario, Canada because he was from the area that I would be travelling in. He’s also directed me to where I can get a good cell provider. I in turn helped him learn how to use his new cell. 

Other relationships have been built because my reading material has opened up interesting and deep conversations with both staff and patrons. 

The two books I slowly digested in 2013 were “Experiencing God” by Henry T. Blackaby and “OneThousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. Especially the former book had people talking to me about God and spirituality upon seeing the title. Some shared their stories. This gave me permission to share my life and to share some of the insights that I gained from the reading.

There are some who stay on my heart when I return home and who become part of my prayers as I think about things they’ve revealed to me. Others cheer me up with the banter that happens between us. 

So, yup, I eat out. I ‘coffee’ out. Some may think otherwise, but I think it’s time well spent even though it ends up being a big chunk of my monthly budget. 

 I just wish it really would keep my kitchen clean!!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

“Doh!” moments in the "Ya, buts" of Joy!







My mind wandered as I was sitting on my bed preparing to read my evening devotional. I thought about how I’m not in touch with either of my ‘daughters’ very regularly anymore. I miss them. 

Throughout my 20's I lived with someone but I’ve never married. And while I’ve not borne any children there are  two great young women to whom I am Mother.  So last night I was about to let the sadness of this change with my daughters get me down. I was hearing myself say, “YA, BUT how can I be joyful when they’re both living so far away and communication has become so irregular?” 

In my mind I immediately  heard, “My joy is not in my circumstances; my joy is in Him.” Clear as a bell.

Doh! I know this! 

I’ve heard variations of this so many times that it’s become cliché. But something about this time felt different. I think it finally sunk in. 

I’ve known this but I didn’t KNOW this! 


As you may remember, my One Word for 2014 is JOY ! I am asking the LORD to help me find joy in those areas where I have difficulty seeing Him. So, yes, I’ve known this but this time it resonated! 


“In His presence there is fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11)


My joy is not in my circumstances; my joy is in Him. 


Right after I heard this statement in my mind, I was looking up the Scriptures related to my devotional when my eyes landed on Isaiah 54:1: 


"Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child;

burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor;

because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,"

says the LORD.


“Burst into song!! Shout for joy!!” He says.

Further on this chapter in verse 4 it goes on to say: 


"Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.

Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.

You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.


I’m not a widow obviously but I’m going to count being unmarried here if I may. 

I don’t particularly feel any shame about not being married. Nor do I feel shame about not having borne children. I more so can tend to feel shame about how I am pigeon holed by others because of this. I can sometimes feel shame about being marginalized and pushed aside as a single woman.


God’s word says I will not be put to shame. This is one part of what my journey in learning joy is about this year. It’s about learning to see Him more fully in this scenario. It's about learning to find joy in Him regardless of how others view me in my singleness.

Verse 5 says:


For your Maker is your husband-- the LORD Almighty is his name—

the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.


 My joy is not in circumstances; my joy is in my Husband.

I still miss my daughters. And my circumstances will continue to change for the rest of  my life. If I base my joy on them I’ll be on a roller coaster ride. But if my joy is in the LORD then I will walk on a more level path. I’m getting better at it. I’m catching myself more quickly when I go to the "ya, buts".

My joy is not in circumstances; my joy is in Him. 


P.S.  I don’t know how God speaks to you, but I have a sneaking suspicion that that clear voice I heard in my mind that night was the Holy Spirit giving me my catch phrase for 2014. 


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Life Stories are Hope Stories

I was trying to decide how to present my writing about hope when I happened upon the TV show “Tribal Trails”. A young woman, whose name I missed, was talking about how they take their life stories to the youth of reservations in Canada and the USA. She called them “Hope Stories.”

“Hope Stories” Yes! Life stories are hope stories.

When we share what we’ve gone through. When we share what we have learned. When we shared how we've survived. These are hope stories for another.

Many times we hesitate to share them because we are afraid of what someone will think. More often than not people are encouraged when we share. Things in our story may resonate with them. They no longer feel so alone. They hear something that may help them to move forward. They are encouraged.

I remember when I first went to a healing group here in my hometown. It was scary to walk in and to identify myself as one of them. But in the end it was liberating. It was freeing to hear others share their stories because I recognized myself in them. This lifted the feeling of isolation and shame. Others had been there. Others felt the same thing given the same situation. I was no longer alone.

One of the life stories that gave me the greatest hope while I was healing was Jesus’. I held on to the verse that said, “For the joy set before Him He endured the shame of the cross.” He endured shame.

There were stages of my healing that were incredibly messy. Extremely humbling…I’d probably even say humiliating. Times where there was much room to be misunderstood and I was misunderstood. I knew though that if I wanted to get well, emotionally and spiritually, I had to go ‘there’. I knew that ‘joy comes in the morning'.’ It might be dark for awhile. It might get confusing. But I had to persevere.

I held onto Jesus, my hope and my salvation. He endured the shame, a much greater shame than anything that I was experiencing, so I could too.

I also gained hope from the written stories of others who had gone through similar things as I had. I’m very glad that they shared their stories so that in hearing them mine could be ‘normalized.’ It gave me understanding and knowledge that helped me believe that I could make it through. Their stories were hope stories.

After awhile, once I was strong enough emotionally and spiritually, I began to share my story with others. To share about our deepest wounds too soon can be counterproductive so I was careful who I shared with initially. Then the audience became larger and larger. Today, the basics of my story are up on the world wide web.

The basics are on the web because I currently contract my services to a website where all of us working at this site share a bit of our story. The individuals who come to us for coaching/counselling feel hope when they see that we’ve been there. If we’ve come through it then there is the hope that they will as well. I confess that I felt quite vulnerable at the thought of having it there for all to see. But it is part of who I am. It is part of what makes me me. And if my story can give others hope then I am willing to share it where it is needed.

Occasionally, someone who feels no hope comes to me. They don’t believe that they will ever get past whatever it is that is holding them back, or that they will never heal from the depression that currently has them in it’s grip. I ask them if I can lend them my hope until they find their own. If they say yes then I share this poem with them:

BORROWED HOPE

Lend me your hope for awhile.
I seem to have mislaid mine.
Lost and hopeless feelings accompany me daily.
Pain and confusion are my companions.

I know not where to turn.
Looking ahead to the future times
does not bring forth images of
renewed hope.
I see mirthless times, pain
filled days,
and more tragedy.

Lend me your hope for awhile,
I seem to have mislaid mine.
Hold my hand and hug me;
listen to all my ramblings.

I need to unleash the pain and let it tumble out.
Recovery seems so far
distant;
the road to healing a long and lonely one.
Stand by me; offer me your presence.
Your ears and your love
acknowledge my pain. It is so real and ever present.
I am overwhelmed with sad and conflicting thoughts.

Lend me your hope for awhile,
A time
will come when I will heal
and I will lend my renewed hope to others.
Eloise Cole


Life Stories are Hope Stories. I’m thankful for the stories that are shared in the Bible. I’m glad for those who shared their stories during my healing. Whenever appropriate and with appropriate detail I will share my Life Story to bring hope to those who are open to hearing. I hope you will too. You never know who needs to hear exactly what you have to share.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Stories last forever. Only if you write them down.

Mr. H, the father of a long time friend, prepared a delicious breakfast for us this morning. It’s a standing tradition that the adult children and grand children are welcome to come on Saturdays. Mr. H. was bringing out photo albums and telling us stories of the past. Some went to the living room after they’d gobbled down their food, while the rest of us stayed to converse with him.

At one point, while Mr. H was talking about something that happened in the 30’s, his son came back into the room. When he heard the discussion he turned around and said, “Call me back in when you get to the 70’s”. Everyone laughed. Apparently Mr. H tells his stories often and repeatedly. My friend and I talked afterwards about how others who’ve lost their parents wish they were still there to repeat the story one…more…time.

In the past couple of years I’ve made it my goal not only to be patient in hearing them but also to write them down for posterity. While my mom is still on this earth, I can talk to her to get every detail of the story written down as she recalls it. She has difficulty with her speech now and tires easily which means it’s slow going. A few things she’s written down for me.

My dad died of a massive heart attack just at the point where I was ready to ask him about his childhood, about his growing up years. I had a list of questions ready. He was a man of few words so he may not have volunteered much information. But I will never know.

Someone on Facebook just shared a post that said: “They say stories last forever. But that’s only if you write them down.”

There are stories that my maternal grandfather told years ago when I was in my teens that I wish I would have written down. I wish I had asked him many more questions. He felt that we would not want to hear the stories of an old fool but I loved his reminiscences. He’s been gone many years now but I still vividly recall the day he sat at the end of the picnic table in the park sharing his memories.

One of my mom’s brothers did a genealogy of both my grandfather and grandmother’s sides of the family going back to the generation that left Russia to come to Canada. These are thick volumes partially because the Mennonites had large families but also because many of those living today sent him a synopsis of themselves to put in print along with a photo. Thus we know the overview. But not the personal stories, the hardships and what was learned, the joys shared.

So,yes,we hear our parents tell their stories over and over. Those of us that are baby boomers are much more tolerant of this these days since we ourselves are becoming more repetitive in our own stories. Let them tell their stories. Encourage them. Write them down. Your children may be young, showing no interest at this point. One day they will want to know.

Stories last forever only if you write them down. I’m working on it! How about you?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

3 Types of People in every group, Changing Focus...

Just before I started blogging about my OneWord365, I wrote to a friend to tell her that I’d been somewhat blocked in my writing for awhile. She shared with me that she has been as well. We prayed for each other. I don’t know what is blocking her. I’m speaking here for myself. But it sure helps to share with a friend.

Near the beginning of 2013 I read something that writer Jeff Goins said about not writing for others, to not be concerned about who the reader is. He encouraged us to write for the joy of writing. Rather than encourage me, it had the complete opposite effect. I’d never really stopped to think about who was all reading. I was suddenly a little intimidated.

Next thing I know I’m thinking of all the various and sundry people on my Facebook friends list. There are people from work situations over the years. There are fellow professionals. There are diverse cultural backgrounds. There are those that do not share the same theological views as myself. There are those that are of different faiths and beliefs. There are those that primarily only know me from my speaking and teaching gigs in years past. Some are conservative thinkers. Some more liberal.

When I post a link to Facebook for one of my blogs I have no control over which friends see it. I seem to have the kind of blog where people talk to me about it privately rather than leave comments directly to the blog. And the people who talk to me are usually the ones who are blessed by it or have appreciated something I’ve written. I see by the stats that many come to see the blog but I have little idea what most think of when they read.

I enjoy writing. I want to bless, inspire and entertain those that read. I want to write for the glory of God. I want to be true to myself in writing. When I’m so concerned about what people will think I’m not doing that. I begin to write with specific people in mind. I then write for the approval of man rather than for the pure enjoyment and fulfillment of it. I’m writing for the approval of man rather than God.

In my work, I tell my clients that they will encounter 3 types of people in life: those that like them and their ideas, those that tolerate them and their ideas and those that dislike them and their ideas. We have to expect all three in any group of people whether that is at work, in the family or in a social grouping.

It will be no different in writing. Some who read will love what they read. Others will be indifferent to it. Still others will criticize and dislike it. It’s easy to spend the majority of our time focusing on the latter group, trying to get them to like our ideas, rather than focusing on those that enjoy us and our ideas. In the process we can miss out on building mutually beneficial and encouraging relationships.

A few days ago, I signed up with Jeff Goins to a 500 word a day writing challenge for the month of January. With his daily tips, and the motivation of the others who are part of the challenge, I’m beginning to get back in the habit of writing.

You, my dear reader, may dislike what I write, you may be indifferent to it, or you may appreciate my writing. I invite you to read regardless. I also invite constructive criticism of anything that I write. I don't know why I let Jeff's comment of last year impact me the way I did but in 2014 my goal is to get back to writing from the heart regardless of who will be reading.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

JOY: It's not a Pollyanna thing.


My One Word for 2014 is JOY.

One of the first things I think of when I hear the word joy is a chipper childhood song: ‘I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart! Where? Down in my heart…”

Then I think of conjured-up-gritting-your-teeth smiles that say “I will be happy in the midst of everything”…a kind of forced joy where the insides don’t match the outsides.

I’m not talking about that kind of joy. No, this JOY thing I’m committing to for this year is not a Pollyanna type joy that refuses to acknowledge anything negative.

I’m talking about the ‘joy comes in the morning’ kind of joy that the Psalmist talks about in Psalm 30. It comes in the morning. What’s before the morning? Night. It’s dark out. It’s a struggle to see. Many times we want joy but we don’t want to have to go through the darkness to really find that true joy that comes in doing so. Many times we deny or attempt to rush through that darkness. Or we try to force light before The Light is turned on.

It’s about a Jacob-wrestling-God-through-the-night-for-the-blessing kind of joy.

Ann Voskamp says “...the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.”

So when I’ve committed to JOY for the year I’m not talking about incessant smiling, I’m not talking about a happy-happy-joy-joy-clapping-the-hands kind of thing.

I’m expecting to do battle. I’m expecting to wrestle with God in a couple of key areas where I still have difficulty seeing Him. I’ve opened the doors for Him to take me to those places.

It’s a process. I’m so far from where I was a few years ago. For that I am truly thankful. But I still have a couple of ace-in-the-hole places that I’ve held on to; that I’ve not released.

God began showing me clearly this past year that I’m in my current situation because He is teaching me total surrender. He’s teaching me to come to a place of true humility…not humiliation, not shame…but humility.

The places where I’m still stuck are partly because of pride. They are also about me wanting control because I don’t fully believe or trust Him to take control in these areas.

I’m seeing that much of it is about surrendering; a letting go of my plan, my agenda and being open to hearing and accepting His.

JOY is what I want in these areas where I still hang on to the illusion of control.

JOY is what I want in those areas where I have given intellectual assent to believing but when push comes to shove I don’t really act as if He is in that place.

My loving heavenly Father has prepared me well to come to this place at this point in time. Over the past year He has shown me just the right Scriptures and books to meditate on. I’ve heard the exact sermons needed to be able to hear His heart for me in all of this.

I don’t know how this year will look. I don’t know how the battle will go. I do know my God. I am so thankful that He is gracious and that it is His kindness that draws me to repentance. (Romans 2:4)

J-O-Y...I can't wait to see what the morning brings!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Discipline: One Word review for 2013





One article I read said to “…look up by asking God for your word and listening. Don’t stress about your word. Receive it from your maker.” In looking back over 2013 I realized that even after getting the word, I didn’t need to stress. My Maker knew exactly how to orchestrate events to bring about the growth I needed in my OneWord365 of DISCIPLINE. Most of it happened in community, being inspired by or initiated by people in my life.

The first I wrote about in a previous blog where a friend’s Facebook post inspired me to download a gratefulness app. What a great discipline that’s been in beginning to retrain the neural networks of my brain. Partway through the year, I began to read and digest Ann VosKamp’s book ‘one thousand gifts’. She says this discipline only comes with practice and that it is a practice of the eyes. The remedy for ingratitude is in the retina. We don’t have to change what we see. Only the way we see. So basically, she’s saying that while my situation may not change, the way I view it will change as I practice being grateful. It’s been fun at times to work at entering all that I’m grateful for into my app. At other times it’s been a struggle to see something to be grateful for in the midst of difficulties. But I love how my mind is beginning to note these things and get excited about remembering to enter it onto my daily list.

Secondly, in March a friend asked me if I would do a Whole30 clean eating time with her. Since being unwell from 2006 to 2008 my body had been letting me know that there were certain foods I could not handle well anymore. While I tried to stay away from those foods, this invitation from my friend was just what I needed to discipline myself in these areas. The mutual support and encouragement helped me stay on course. I chose to stay on the Paleo eating plan even after 30 days because I do so much better on it mentally, emotionally and physically. I see it as a way of life. (Since I do better emotionally on this plan it has also helped me in my gratefulness discipline.) For the past month I’ve gotten a little off plan but have gone back to strict clean eating as of the beginning of 2014!

I’ve also been disciplining myself to go more to God’s Word, the Bible. I’m thankful to be attending a church where the Pastor regularly directs us to it and where Bibles are provided for those that do not have one. If I’m reading a book or a daily devotional it’s easy to skip over the scripture references. I so appreciate good writers but going directly to those biblical references helps me to hear directly from God in the area that the author is writing about.

There are other areas but these are the key ones that have contributed my growth in Discipline this past year.

Now, on to my One Word for 2014...