Posts filed under ‘faith’

A Women’s Retreat

Could it be two weeks already since our women’s retreat. I look at my planner and it most surely is. Last year our retreat was cancelled when the church camp was closed for the winter and until May. Our retreat, originally Mount Zion Lutheran Women’s retreat, is always held in late April and has been held at Camp Edgewood at Eden Mills, ON, for many years. This year we were in for a treat because we were at Stone House at Hidden Acres near Shakespeare, Ontario.

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We ate, gathered and learned in this building, and the accommodations were good too. We had time to explore the camp in free time as well, so we weren’t indoors all the time.

Our theme for the weekend was “Seeing God in Surprising Places.” We arrived early evening on the Friday, unpacked our gear and food contributions, dug out our Bibles for worship and greeted each other. It had been two years since our last gathering so it was good to see each and catch up on what’s happened in others’ lives. Among them were two newcomers to the group, and they came with musical instruments.

Friday evening’s questions for pondering included these questions:

What’s the dream/project or vision you feel called to in this time of  your life?

What is one tangible part where you can start where you are?

In small groups we talked about seeing God not only in church, but also in the community and where we’re asked to serve.

A really interesting question that we carried with us in our conversations for the weekend:

Where do you see assigned seating?

In the world there is assigned seating, but in the kingdom of God, there is not.

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Saturday morning, we gathered again for discussion and worship. And we changed our seating arrangement often that weekend.

 

As women, we  are called upon for many roles. We’re often wives, mothers, sisters, care givers. Add in work commitments and we may be business owners, employees, and in my case, a writer too. We often have many identities. We talked about identities that we carry around.

Some of the questions we were asked included: Which ones need to shrink? And which ones need to grow?

Pastor Anne kept adding on layers of questions for us to discuss in our small groups: When does one identity fight for prominence (my own words) over another?

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Pastor Anne Anderson, our spiritual director for the weekend, handed out nesting Russian dolls for us to open  until we reached the smallest one. The last one was indeed very tiny.

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Most dolls of this sort that I’ve seen before were similar to this one, where all the dolls are modelled after women and they get tinier and tinier as we open up one layer after another. I had never seen the kind that housed different characters within.

One question on Saturday morning for us to ponder on our own:

If Jesus could talk with you personally today, what is the message he would give you?

Consider that question any time and come up with your own answer.

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We followed the discussion about identities with an activity.

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some of our results

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After lunch we did a craft directed by Helen Weber. Here’s one example of our journal and jar with journal topics.

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We ate, we laughed, sometimes cried as we shared things in our lives, knowing that what we said in confidence in the group stayed there. We enjoyed each other’s company. During spare time, we went outdoors for a walk and enjoyed nature.

 

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One of the other buildings at camp

 

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A new person to the group. We sat on the swings and chatted. We both love to take photographs.

 

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And some of the time we just sat and visited.

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Here are a few questions that we contemplated that you can too:
Where do you encounter God?

How do we celebrate who we are? And how do we live that out in a diverse society?

 

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May 5, 2016 at 12:32 pm Leave a comment

Turning us upside down

Gayleen and Frank, 25th anniversary - Copy

Two years ago today, we were preparing to attend the funeral of my childhood friend, Gayleen. Since then, I’ve endured the loss of friends— Kathy, Susan and Pat— this year, and others, and of course, Samantha, who died much too soon at the age of 16 years old. Today I dedicate this blog post to anyone who has lost a family member or friend in the past year, because I know I am not alone.

Turning me upside down

“It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth — and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up — that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Life is a strange thing. Just when we think we’ve got things sorted out and life is ‘humming along,’ there comes a change. A boss says, “We don’t need you anymore” or a change in economic times makes us reconsider our spending, and even where we live. Along with that sorting and packing up of our belongings come feelings of bewilderment and sometimes anger and a lot of sadness.

Big events change things and force us to make new decisions that we might not have made otherwise, such as when a tornado turned the barn on our family farm into a shambles of wood and cement and broken beams. We were fortunate that no one was in the barn at the time and that the animals were in the field that August day when the storm passed through. It was clear that the barn had to come down afterwards for safety reasons, but my parents had to decide what to do next for their farming operations.

There was no death on account of the tornado, but there was some trauma for the house got a good shaking too. Everything my parents had worked for had changed. If there were any blessings, it was the way people in the community worked together to help out those affected by the storm.

Grief, as a part of life, is even stranger. We get settled into a lifestyle, while knowing we won’t have forever, but someone close to us dies and it sets everything we know on end. Time is marked ‘before’ and ‘after’ the event. Before the tornado, before the cancer diagnosis, before the accident… and after.

When friends offer their condolences or bring a meal for a family upended without their beloved, those are difficult times, but healing begins with those comforting hugs and help.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, author of On Death and Dying, named the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. What was once was believed to be an orderly pattern, people soon learned that there’s a back and forth, not necessarily in that order. Still it’s helpful to know what feelings are part of the terrain.

I don’t pretend to know how it feels to experience the death of a child or spouse, but I do know it in relation to the death of a good friend or close relative outside my single family unit. There’s an empty place where that person once was, and even when we know the person has believed in God, and whom we presume to have gone to their heavenly home, there’s the ache that’s left—an emptiness.

In a conversation with a fellow church member this past year after yet another death of a friend, I said, “We’re never ready.” She was quick to agree and cited two examples from that very week, one of them being Samantha, who at 16 had already shown much promise.

We cry ‘too soon’ or ‘it’s not fair.’ We may plead and bargain, but this is our new reality and our life is thrown out of its routine by something so large that’s beyond us.

Society, at least in North America for the most part, would have us rush back into living, to try to forget our trauma, to keep busy and move on. While there is a comfort to routine, even that has been upset, whether in job loss, tornado’s destruction or the death of someone close. The grief moves with us. Ross says:

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”

Christians believe that the person, loved by God and accepted as his child, will go to that perfect home where there are no more tears and where Jesus wipes away those tears. Hard as it is to go on without the beloved, we believe that Jesus walks with us through that grief and that if we’re crying, it’s quite likely he sheds tears with us as he did for his friend Lazarus.

This may not be overly theological, but I’d like to think of Jesus as having one very large handkerchief that he uses to wipe away our tears, as well as a big warm hug to help us along the way. He`s gone to prepare a place for us, a place where there will be no more tears.

The ‘hanky,’ as my grandmother would have called it, may very well belong to a friend and the hug from those around us, in his stead. And I might ask, as I did in this part of a poem I wrote this fall for another storyteller whose grandson died in October:

 

“Is that handkerchief big enough

for our tears too?

for Mom’s, Dad’s, Grandma’s and Grandpa’s

my tears

and those of all our friends?”
May you be comforted this day by someone’s love and not be afraid to call on God for his love and peace as you grieve.

 

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a bouquet for you today

January 31, 2016 at 4:13 pm Leave a comment

Bringing in the New Year

Once a month I post over at the Canadian Writers Who Are Christian blog. Here’s a taste of what I wrote this month, so early in 2016.

22581694128_cdbe97abd6_z                                                                                        At the Fall District 86 Toastmasters conference in Blue Mountain

 

Bringing in the New Year—Carolyn R. Wilker

 

We’re nearly two weeks into 2016, but for a few moments I want to reflect on the old year that we’ve just put aside.

This past year was momentous in so many ways and sad in others. Three people in my circle of acquaintances and friends—some for as long as 30 years—died in 2015, plus one young teen who attended our church. As I mourned the loss, I also felt grateful to have known Kathy, Susan and Patricia, and Samantha. I reflected on the blessings they brought to my life. Susan was part of my early writing life and edited my first book, Once Upon a Sandbox. Kathy had invited us to her place when we were new members at the church and then to the Bible Study she often hosted. Patricia was a kind and generous neighbour who became a friend, and Samantha is gone too soon at the age of 16.

Even while I mourn the loss, there were good times aplenty. My husband and I gained a new granddaughter, an addition to the two small grandchildren we already have. I had new publishing credits (Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon and Tower Poetry) and requests for a column in our national denominational magazine, Canada Lutheran, and publication therein, but also invitations to do my memoir workshop in new locations to new organizations. There have also been new friendships in the making and a fabulous writer’s critique group in my corner.

Read more here.

 

 

Canadian Networker Fall Business Expo Fall Business Expo in Kitchener, Ontario

January 12, 2016 at 12:37 am Leave a comment

This is Christmas

Another of my favourite performers. Enjoy and Merry Christmas.

 

 

December 25, 2015 at 12:36 pm Leave a comment

A fine Christmas concert

 

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Yesterday afternoon my husband and I, and our friend, Judy, attended a choir concert at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Kitchener with Inshallah (a group numbering 130)and the St Peter’s choir and all the musicians involved. The church was filled and so was the front of the church with singers and musicians.

The choirs sang pieces from around the world—England, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, New Zealand, Latin America, Brazil, USA, Korea, Germany and Poland—in English and in other languages. A few selections were: He Came Down, Helpless and Hungry (Paired with What Child is This?), Come Now, O Prince of Peace. We as audience members were invited to join in on traditional carols as well as the refrain of several choir selections.

Senior pastor, Mark Ehlebracht delivered a moving message on who Christmas is intended for and how we often want to set aside the troubles in the world to enjoy a Christmas for children, when really Christmas is for all of us.

As well we heard from Judy Nairn, Executive Director of Hospice Waterloo Region. That organization is recipient of all donations from the concert. Nairn spoke of how the organization provides services to those diagnosed with cancer and their family members. She said people often think of Hospice as the “end of the road” when it’s so much more than that.

Directors for the choirs were Debbie Lou Ludolph (Inshallah) and Peter Nikiforuk (St Peter’s Lutheran Church) with Bradley Moggach on piano, Bill Gastmeier, Ian Sommer and Don Neville on guitar. Playing percussion were Julie Hill, Don Neville and Daniel Corrigan. Kristine Lund of Wilfrid Laurier University  Seminary, played violin and Joshua Ehlebracht and Peter Nikiforuk on organ for carols sung by the congregation. What a joyful sound and a reminder of  God with us in a world that’s not always so welcoming.

We were delighted to hear that portions of this concert will be used for the Christmas Eve broadcast this year and again on Sunday, December 27th at 10 am EST via CTV Southwestern Ontario and will include vignettes and Christmas greetings from around the world.

The last, a favourite—Silent Night— with candles lit and lights turned down, was our closing carol before the postlude.

Perhaps you’ll tune in for one of those broadcasts and enjoy the music as much as we did.

 

December 14, 2015 at 1:35 pm Leave a comment

The Shedding Christmas Tree

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My granddaughters, aged 4 & 6, each made one of these for their tree a few weeks ago when we were doing a craft. I made one along with them.

 

Pets shed their fur, people lose hair upon combing it, and trees eventually lose needles when they’re brought indoors too. But our tree is not a real one and it’s shedding too. Pretty badly, I might say.

We take our tree out of its storage box each December, assemble the poles that are never really hidden and put them in the stand, then stage the branches according to colour sequence from top to bottom. Then at the end of the season, sometime in early January, I take it apart and put the branches and all back in the box.

All of this came after a year or two of having a real tree and then needing to put them all out of the curb each January with all the others. That was before they were collected for environmental purposes, at least that I knew of. I worried about all those trees cut down for a short season indoors and decided to do something different. And so we bought our first artificial tree.

Once the pieces are out of the box and on the tree, we, rather I, spread out the compacted branches and then put on the lights. By the time I have done this, the living room carpet is full of those fibres that are meant to resemble needles on a pine tree. I complained about the fall-out last year when I put the tree up, and this week I said, “At the end of this season, this tree goes out.” Next year, it means we get a new one.

It was a White Rose special, a moderately priced tree, and for a lot of years it served us well. By the time we get the lights on and all the decorations, it’s passable, apart from the spindly topmost pointed branch that always leans when I put on my hand crafted angel, though it’s not very heavy. She looks like she’s had one too many celebrations. Unless you compare our tree to a real tree or one of those with hinged branches—much fuller branches—with the lights already on them, it doesn’t look too bad.

Usually my husband hauls out the boxes—tree and decorations—and hands over the rest of the job to me. When I’m done assembling and decorating, he vacuums the room because every year it sheds. This time I gave him the job of sorting out the lights since he had wrapped them carefully and completed the job on each bundle with tape as he does with all electrical cords, in a neat and orderly fashion.

By the time I returned home from an errand, he not only had the lights sorted, but he had assembled the three strings of green lights and put them on the tree, after a fashion. He said, on my return, “You can rearrange the lights how you like them.” I did some rearranging, but he’d done not such a bad job of it himself. And the bonus, he had the lights turned on. That was to check that all the lights worked, he said.

 

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This ball was a gift from my friend, Amanda, last year. Love it!

 

This morning I began to decorate the tree, putting on my myriad collection of ornaments, snowmen, Santas, angels, pewter ornaments, some of those coming from various parts of the world. In previous years our children helped decorate the tree, but they have homes of their own and have their own ornaments—some collected throughout childhood. Last year it was my granddaughters, Evy and Ana, then 3, 5 years old, who helped me with the finishing touches. This year the lower ornaments on the tree are ones a baby can take off and hold without the fear of breaking.

 

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one of my Nova Scotia ornaments

 

I’ll put on Christmas music while I decorate—this year a collection by Michael Cavan Kelly—and remember the Salvation Army brass ensemble that played at the grocery store last evening. Then we’ll move the tree into its place, wrap the tree skirt around it and my husband will vacuum again, because as sure as the tree needs to be decorated, more of those green fibres will be on the carpet and on my socks and all through the house. After that, and only then, I turn off the rest of the lights, and sit back and admire my work.

 

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our tree, all decorated

 

I’ve already begun my shopping, in fact, I have a good chunk done. And this weekend I’ll finish writing the last of my Christmas cards and get them in the mail. What we all do for a holiday such as Christmas! And only then will I get out the white stone crèche and figures and arrange it somewhere out of reach of our eight-month-old grandchild, who’s seeing Christmas for the first time.

And that’s our preparation for Christmas, besides preparing our hearts for the Saviour we will celebrate.

May your hearts be filled with joy and peace this holy season and may health, healing of relationships and love of family and friends be yours this Christmas.

 

 

 

All  photos on this blog are my own unless otherwise mentioned.

December 10, 2015 at 2:00 am 2 comments

Beyond our resources

This morning I posted to The Word Guild professional blog, Canadian Authors who are Christian, as I do once a month.

Today, being Remembrance Day, I wonder how many of the returning or wounded soldiers relied on resources beyond them to get through active duty. It certainly would not be an easy place to be, despite claims of heroism and passion to serve one’s country.

To appreciate their effort and sacrifice, I dedicate my blog piece today to all members of the Canadian military in whatever role they played, whether front line or behind the scenes, such as mechanics and chaplains.

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Here’s the opening to that post:

It’s rare that I go to the movies or even watch one on television, but recently I went to see one at the theatre with a friend, 3-D glasses, giant screen—the whole deal, except for the popcorn.

The Martian opens with a group of astronauts on the planet of Mars. The captain decides to abort the mission when a sandstorm comes up, and the team is in agreement—except that one of the six was hit with flying debris, and they believe him to be dead. The remaining crew members leave the planet without him.

On their return to Earth, the chief scientist at NASA announces sombrely that the crew has returned from the mission to Sol except for the sixth member, Watney (played by Mark Damon). They hold a funeral service for him back home and the other members of the crew go back to their duties. Sometime later, as NASA explores the planet by satellite, they discover movement at Sol and discover that Watney is very much alive, proven when he begins sending messages back to Earth.

Read more here.

Photos on this blog are copyright to C. Wilker, unless otherwise noted.

November 11, 2015 at 3:39 pm Leave a comment

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