Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Blessings are the Clouds' Silver Linings

I can't believe a month has elapsed since I last posted!!  Where did the time go?  It's been a month of warm blessings and challenging times.  On April 5, my senior public school held their 50th Anniversary.  I attended with my husband and my brother and sister-in-law.  What a wonderful weekend this was!!  I saw old pictures from almost 40 years ago!  I saw acquaintances and friends that I had lost contact with.  It was absolutely wonderful to meet up with an old friend that I hadn't seen since 1989!!  We had lost contact with each other and to meet up again was such a source of warmth and love!  We've exchanged contact information and I'm hopeful that we will be able to stay connected over the miles.  It was a great day which brought back many memories.  The school hadn't really changed over the years and it didn't take long for me to find my bearings and remember the classrooms that were mine in those 2 years of Grades 7 and 8.  I even found a room that had the attendance records all the way from the beginning!  What a treasured visit this was.  After open house at the school, we went to a local restaurant for more connecting over dinner.  It was a fabulous day and as always, I had the warmth of my brother and sister-in-law's love as we stayed at their home.

The day after the school reunion, we went to visit my mom.  We started going through old toys and books in her basement.  What treasures we found!  I found a Children's Prayer Book that was given to me for Christmas from the church Sunday School in 1967!  My mom then mentioned that the church was celebrating it 60th Anniversary on April 27.  Hmmmm....I had just enjoyed a warm and fuzzy day at my old school, why not  make the trek to Kitchener again for my childhood church's anniversary!

Of course, in between these events there was the Easter too.  My son came home from university for Easter but had to return to his school for one last exam before coming home for the summer.  We enjoyed our Easter weekend with him and I was able to fuss and create a feast for 4 our Easter dinner.  He did return to school, wrote his exam and he is now back at home for the summer.  I am enjoying having my whole family under one roof again.

As the title of this post suggests, there have been some very challenging times in April as well.  My health is still really good.  The challenging times have been difficult.  Sometimes, I've been questioning God on why.  Why can't I have some long term peace in my home and around me?!  I've met the challenge of cancer and still relied on You.  I've continued my daily prayers and enjoyed the warmth of knowing You.  I've continued to praise, worship and be thankful for this world around me.  Why do You still send me so many challenges?!  As I've asked these questions of God, I've also realized that throughout these challenges my family is there beside me.  I am still surrounded by not only God's love but the love of family and friends.  These are the silver linings of the clouds or storms in my life at the moment.  And....not only have I been faced with some major challenges, but God has also given me many blessings.

Twice now, in April, my husband and I have gone for some motorcycle escapes in the surrounding areas.  They've been great fun and another way to enjoy God's world.  We were driving on a back county road when I heard a waterfall.  Over to my left was a  huge waterfall pouring down the rock face beside the road on my left.  All the snow melt was causing this rush of water.  It was beautiful!

This past weekend was the church anniversary.  I made the trek to Kitchener on my own as my son was helping a friend move from her apartment, my daughter was working and my husband was supervising the home front.  Once I had heard about the church anniversary, I had made contact with a lady that I used to sing in the church choir with.  I made arrangements for my sister and me to sing in the choir for the Anniversary service.  In that process, I was asked to provide some memories of my time at the church which I would present during the luncheon after the church service.  I agreed but then in the midst of the busyness of life, I forgot.  On Saturday night, I was at my brother's home and the phone rang.  It was the lady from the choir asking about my participation in the memory portion of the day.  OOPS!!!!  I had forgotten!  I agreed to do it and then promptly got a piece of paper from my brother so that I could write down some key points to jog my memory.  I have forgotten to mention too, that when I had been home and going through my mom's basement, I had come across an old mobile that she had hanging there.  It was a mobile I had made when I was a child of 6 or 7 (I think).  My memory isn't that clear of the age.  Anyway, the Anniversary service was very special as my sister and I sang in the choir just like we did as teenagers.  There were a few choir members from those years and we met many new choir members who opened their ranks and allowed us to join in.  The anthem and the hymns spoke to my heart!  I felt the warmth of the Holy Spirit as I sang.  As I looked out over the congregation, I recognized people from my childhood.  What a special day it was!  My mom, my siblings and their families took up a whole pew.  It was so nice to be together for the day.  After the service, there was the luncheon and then the sharing of memories.  I made sure that I ended my contribution with heartfelt thanks for the support of my church family from afar when they sent me the prayer shawl while I was going through chemotherapy.  The church building has been there for 60 years, but the church is more than just the physical building.  The church really is the caring human beings who taught me that the building is God's house and as such we can laugh, cry, grieve, disagree and learn that it's OK to agree to disagree and move on in love just like we do in our friends' and families' homes.  My childhood church truly did give me that foundation that God likes to hear us laugh in His home.  God is very much willing to comfort us as we grieve and cry in Her home.

My challenges are still very much here but the silver linings of these storms are definitely the blessings of reconnecting with old friends and having the support of my extended family and church families.  Despite the current storms, life continues to be great!  I pray each day that God will see me through these challenges.

As I write this, I am also getting ready for a fundraiser this weekend for my Relay For Life team.  Each year it is harder and harder to raise the funds.  The first year as I entered the team while I was still in chemotherapy and many friends and family donated.  As I remain in remission and the duration since my illness lengthens, it is more difficult to reach the same monetary goal that was reached in that first year.  I would ask that you please consider donating using the following link to help us reach our goal.  The money goes towards research which gives more people fighting cancer the opportunity to  beat this terrible disease.  The money raised also helps run support programs for cancer patients and their caregivers.  The link is as follows: http://convio.cancer.ca/site/TR?pg=team&fr_id=14852&team_id=308559

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Materialism....Is it stealing from the Earth?

It's interesting (maybe a Godcidence) that two of my three Lenten reflections today talked about materialism.  The first reflection made the connection between the commandment (of the ten commandments) "Thou shall not steal" and how materialism can steal from the earth and future generations.

As I quietly sit this morning and ponder this, I realize that yes, materialism does in fact steal from the earth.  As our society strives to acquire more inspiring wall hangings and plaques, more furniture, bigger houses, more clothing, more make-up, more cars, bigger cars, etc., the resources we are using and abusing to keep these "things" is depleting our earth.  I really like the idea of Mother Earth and how we are to respect her, love her and take care of her just like we do (or should do) our own mothers.  I think of all the wood, stains, paints and chemicals that are used to manufacture the "trinkets" we hang on our walls or the decorative furniture that's not really used but is there for "show" so that our homes can look like something from the many magazines that we see.  Everything we own and do has an impact on Mother Earth.  We have bigger homes that need more heating and use more water for cleaning.  Many people use more chemicals to clean the bigger homes and bigger cars.  Our society is so affluent that we don't even think about how we impact the earth.  So are we stealing from Mother Earth?  I think so!  Are we depleting her resources?  I think so!  I think of all the stone tiles that are used on the floors, walls, outdoor entrances of these big homes. This also means we are stealing from the next generations as well.

"Thou shall not steal".  Hmmmm....I always thought I didn't steal.  I don't go into stores, conceal items in my clothing or purse and walk out.  I don't steal.  I don't take things that belong to other people.  I don't steal.  But....do I own "trinkets" and inspiring sayings that hang on my wall?  Yes I do!  Are these made of wood?  Yes.  And there is paint and colour stains on them.  Which means that I have thoughtlessly and carelessly contributed to "stealing" from Mother Earth as the chemicals that have been used in the production process most likely have made an impact on Her.  How can it not have?  I have bought these items at a "reasonable" price thinking that I was being frugal and responsible.  Maybe not so much.  Maybe I need to rethink what I do?

I always thought that I didn't contribute to the abuse of Mother Earth because I don't buy makeup, perfume and lots of body lotions.  The reason for this is really that I am allergic to all these beauty products.  But regardless of the why, I kind of felt a little superior in that I didn't contribute to supporting that industry which uses a lot of chemicals which then get washed back into the water system of Mother Earth.  I'm also sensitive to cleaning chemicals so I use vinegar and baking soda but I do resort to using mild cleaning products for disinfecting.  These do have chemicals. So I am contributing to the destruction of Mother Earth.  The second reflection this morning from my "Lamentations for Lent" mentioned "What is spent on cosmetics annually in North America would supply all the water needs of Africa."  So although I don't use cosmetics, my daughter does.  I buy some of these things for her.  So I am contributing to "stealing" from Mother Earth and from future generations.

I don't think of myself as a materialistic person.  I try to reuse items or at least recycle them.  I wear my clothing until they are so thin and ragged that they then go into the "rag bag" to be used as cleaning rags or squares to make a quilt (I still have to learn how to sew and make a quilt).  I take clothing that my family has outgrown to a local second-hand store which sells items to raise money to help residents in the neighbourhood who have fallen on hard times.  I feel good and think that I am not contributing to the garbage dump.  And yes I am doing something good.  But....when I buy items of cheaper quality which are made in third world countries by underpaid workers in unsafe manufacturing plants, I am stealing from the workers and I am also stealing from Mother Earth.  This is because the cheaper items end up breaking and what can't be recycled ends up in the garbage and then I buy another to replace it.  Then it is a cycle which includes some waste.

I once tried to make sure that I bought items made only in Canada.  I remember I needed running shoes as mine had been worn down and there were holes in the soles.  I tried looking for good quality running shoes made in Canada.  I spent gas and emitted exhaust fumes as I drove all over the city looking at the various shoe stores.  I could not find one pair of running shoes made in Canada.  So I ended up attributing to the greenhouse gases with the exhaust from my van.  I ended up wasting fuel and natural resources.  I ended up spending money supporting a big global company that had the shoes made for cheap prices in a third world country.  I stole from the workers.  I stole from Mother Earth.  Thank goodness I don't have lots and lots of shoes.  Thank goodness I don't have lots and lots of clothing.  And then I think of all the people that have big homes stuffed with furniture, with big walk-in closets stuffed full of clothing and shoes and "stuff".  I think of our society with multiple big cars in the driveways.  This is when I feel sad.

I also feel sad because our teenagers "need" all these things that society pressures them to have.  I remember when we lived in a rural setting while our children were preschoolers.  Every year at this time, we used to walk up our road with the kids' wagon, rubber gloves for all of us and garbage bags.  We used to collect all the garbage that people would throw out of their cars as they drove down our country road.  We did this in an effort to do our part in keeping the environment clean.  We did this as a family activity to teach our children to respect Mother Earth.  I feel despair as I see my children fall for society's pressure for "having more".  Materialism is alive and well unfortunately in our society and amongst our teenagers.  Just think if we reduced what we spent on "trinkets" and cosmetics (which includes perfumes, sprays, body lotions, etc.), how much money could be used to help repair Mother Earth.  These items wouldn't be going into our sewers and ultimately back into the earth's water table.

This is just a thought-provoking reflection this morning.  I guess the next step is to act upon some of these ponderous thoughts.  Will I?