Tuesday, November 29, 2011


tell them that life is beautiful

there is so much around us that is a mystery.  This week as I took time in quiet with my daughter....we just sat and 'breathed together' and enjoyed being together.  Then she said -  'air is strange.  You can't see it but you need it to live.  This whole room is filled with air, but we can't see it or touch it.'  a moment of beauty.

i had a dream last January.  I dreamt of many that I have known and not known - but people that had died and were no longer here on this earth.  And they filled my dream.  And in the dream they spoke to me a message.  They said, Cathy, tell them that life is beautiful.

I have held this message all year in my heart.  I have held this message as I have walked through some of the most painful moments of my life.  and as this year comes to a close, I finally feel ready to share this with others - this dream.....the message - that life is truly beautiful.

In the midst of all my dark moments, I have seen shafts of unbelievable shining light.  I have tasted wonder, I have drunk of deep friendship, I have touched mystery, I have heard laughter.
and this morning, once again, I am reminded that life is a gift.

We are breathing
We are here
right now.
We are given life
at this moment
Do we have eyes to see today
the gifts before us?
In spite of tragedy
and suffering...
can we notice the gifts of beauty?

There is so much we will never fully understand, but if we can rest in the tension of not-knowing and embrace the wonder of beauty that is all around us, we will taste joy.

In the weeks ahead as we are all surrounded by consumerism, demands, and the fast-paced surge of 'more things', my hope is that we will take moments to pause.

To pause - so that
we can see
we can hear
we can touch
we can taste
and we can know

that life is beautiful.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

poem for Advent

I wrote this poem during Advent 2007
I found it again this week and decided to share it at a retreat I was leading.
I was surprised when I found out that someone remembered it from a blog I had shared a couple of years ago and was surprised again as it helped someone to express in poetry their own state of heart.

So, I decided it was worth sharing again in 2011 on this first day of Advent:

it has been hard to say
         'i did what i could' ....when that means
               that i have to admit
                    that i can't hold everything 
                                  all the time

to allow 
 to fall and crash and break
to allow
   to get lost and not found
to allow misperceptions to be - without freaking
to allow
my carefully laid plans to
    fall apart
to allow
the feeling of emptiness 
    to come close to me
       when i feel that things are slipping through my fingers

to allow my heart to say
       to You
in the midst of these moments
    and not lose heart
to be willing to be turned upside down
and shaken
of my firm grip 
so i can rest
in my poverty
and humanity
    and celebrate the mystery
the paradox
   the miracle
of Emmanuel - 
    God with us

Cathy AJ Hardy 2007

Monday, November 21, 2011

a story from the song journey

Thirteen years ago I was part of a community choir in Atlanta, Georgia.  It was the beginning of my journey back to reclaiming my voice.  After a profound experience on the corner of North Decatur Road and Clairmont, (another story I will tell soon)  where that longing to sing bubbled up from my hidden soul, I wondered how I could begin the process of singing.  As I pondered this dilemna, I remember sitting at a playground watching my daughter Brianna play with a group of 4 year olds and I became involved in a conversation with another woman there watching her grand-daughter.  This woman told me about a community choir that she was involved in.  I wondered if this was the place to start and I asked her for the information of who/when/where.
I found out that to be part of this choir you had to audition.  It seems that this is always part of the process in saying ‘yes’.  You become aware that you have a longing, a desire, a dream.  And you start to believe that maybe you can go in the direction of that dream, and then you are given your first task.  Oh – I thought this might come more easily.  You mean, I might have to work toward this dream?  You mean, I might have to take risks? 
The dream can end right there.  There is a choice I had to make in that moment, do I make myself vulnerable and audition and sound like crap?  Or do I just tuck that stupid idea of a dream back into the abyss and push it down so like a bobbing apple it will keep popping up the rest of my life only to remind me of what I didn’t try?
So, I auditioned.
To me, I sounded horrible.  My voice was frail and weak.  It sounded like thin paper.  Lots of cracks.  Lots of whispery sounds where there was no ‘tone’.  But I did it anyways.
And by some bizarre chance, I got in.
Tuesday nights became my night to go to choir.  Many Tuesday nights I was tired and didn’t want to go.  But, it was the ‘next step’….the given task in front of me at that present moment. So I went.  I learned to sing Faure’s Requiem, Mozart, Bach, Mendelsohn and many other classical choral works.  I learned the beauty of music and that I could be a part of it.  I also learned to run to the bathroom as fast as I could.  Somehow the music evoked a lot of pain in me.  It was so beautiful, the music that is.  The music touched my pain and I would become short of breath and would struggle to stand straight.  So, in those moments I would run.  Run to a bathroom stall and sob.  Then I’d wash my face and go back.  No one said anything.  There was just a quiet understanding and feeling of love in the room.  I will always be grateful to those people for the gift of quiet presence they gave me in those raw moments.
So, needless to say, I didn’t feel very ‘together’ during those times.  I was incredibly vulnerable and a bit of a mess.  I felt insecure with my voice, insecure with new friendships, insecure with learning musical scores that were beyond me, and insecure with my pain.
And then this happened.
We were a ‘white’ choir.  Mostly.  There was one black guy.  A gay, black guy!  You’ve got to understand. In Atlanta the percentage of the population is more than 50% the black community.  However many parts of the city are very segregated and I found myself in a largely Caucasian crowd.  But in our choir there was this one black, gay guy.  A very good looking, funny, energetic and engaging human being.
Normally the men and women sat in separate sections – bass/tenor/alto and soprano.  But one night, our conductor mixed us all up and I ended up sitting by this beautiful man.  I do not remember his name, but I remember his presence.
We had never spoken to each other before that and we didn’t really speak to each other again after that night, so it still remains somewhat of a mystery why he then did what he did.
As we were all taking our seats and when he found out he was sitting next to me, he stood up and faced the whole group, about 60 people.  And he loudly proclaimed, ‘I am sitting by the most beautiful woman here.’  Needless to say, I was very stunned, embarrassed and shocked.  What?  Hello?  Excuse me?  The woman who is a complete mess?
And then half-way through the rehearsal, he not only did it again, he did it two more times.  Three times in all he stood up and proclaimed that he was so happy to sit by the most beautiful woman that night.
As I drove home that evening and the van came to a stop at a red light, I began to shake.  My body shook and shook and shook.  And I had one of the most transformational moments of my life to that point.  I heard a whisper…the beginning of many whispers that would transform my whole life.  The whisper said  …   that was me....  That’s how I feel about you.  I wanted you to know.  And I wanted to tell you 3 times.
You are precious
You are valuable
You are so valuable that I would proclaim you to strangers
I would stand up for you
I would defend you
I treasure you.

In that moment, and I know I could never explain this or defend this in any way, but I felt a physical transformation in my body – like the very chemicals that made me me – somehow shifted.  That as I received and embraced the basic truth of my intrinsic value as a human being, I was changed.  In that moment of for the first time believing in my value, I was changed.

That moment became the centre of my soul.  The truth that all other truths were built upon.  It has been the epicenter of the past 13 years.  It has been the core value from which I see now every other human being.  The wonder of a life.

The blessed irony of that moment was also from whom the message came.  Someone that perhaps represented those our culture has put as a minority, the ones on the outside of the circle.  And that was the one who spoke my greatest truth.  Somehow that has always made me laugh……and reminds me of the beautiful ways of Love.  Ways that I began to learn to recognize over the following years, and I felt like I began an adventure.  And adventure of listening.  An adventure of listening for the impossible, the wondrous, the magical, the mystery, the whisper of the One who makes my heart sing.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The gift of song-writing, a reflection

A few weeks ago, I shared some of these thoughts about song-writing in a concert and I was asked by someone to write them down....that these thoughts needed to be shared with other artists.  
So, here they are.....

The gift of song-writing, a reflection

Songwriting is often a solitary experience.  
It is something you do when no one else is around, in the quiet places of your heart.  
And one day the song is so powerful in you that you dare to share it with one other person.  
And you expose your soul.
To sing your song for one other person is to expose your heart and you don’t know what to expect.  
And so you share it, and then you want to run really fast in the opposite direction.
Will the other person run away too?  
Because it is so terrible?
Will they be indifferent?
Will they laugh?
Will they cry?
What will their response be? – that is what you are first concerned with – what is their response?
But as you grow as an artist and deepen, something happens inside you 
and you know that to NOT WRITE, 
something in you will die.
You get to a point, where to write and to compose – is to live.
It is part of choosing life, it is part of why you are here on this earth and you are compelled to write and if you don’t , a part of you will die.
And so, you choose life and it doesn’t really matter any more how people respond…
because you have lived.
And one day, you find yourself sharing these songs and you become surprised
Because people are actually resonating with your songs.  They are in the room and singing with you.  And one day they tell you that your song has become their song
And you realize that you did not just write your song, you wrote a human song
And we share  our human songs
These are our soul songs
Our human songs
And you’ve been a part of expressing our human story, which resonates with others
This is a gift to you, because it is a way you are to be alive
And it is a gift to them because you help them express their human story in soul language
This is the gift of song-writing.

Friday, November 11, 2011


what do I see?
what do I hold in my hands?
the emptiness,
the loss?
or the beauty,
the blessing?
every day is a choice
what do I see?
what do I hold in my hands?

this past weekend
the blessing
and the beauty
spilled over the edges
filled the days

what I don't deserve
came to me
gifts of time
gifts of service
gifts of energy
gifts of practical help
in so many beautiful faces
through so many beautiful hands
in the sounds of laughter

what i could not afford
came to me
what i did not invite
came to me

there are moments that are painfully empty
there are moments that are deeply lonely
there are moments when fear grips me

But what do I see?
What do I hold?

I see blessing
I hold gratitude

may the gifts I have been given
spill over into
for others

written with deep gratitude especially for Howie Thiessen, Kevin Boese, Arv Dueck, Ray Dueck, Steve Klassen, Jadon Peters, Dillon Peters, Brian Thiessen and many others

Thursday, November 10, 2011


As I read through an old journal
from 12 years ago
I found this prayer
'I ask for courage...
I ask for courage...'
I was in a time of deep distress
and facing my day to day life was not what I wanted to face
It takes courage to face the realities that lie before us
to really see things as they are
and not lose hope
has meant for me
to stay awake
to life
to keep my eyes open
and to stay present
and engaged.
has meant for me
to listen deeply 
to my soul
and to not be afraid 
to live from 
the truth of who I am
not to please others
but to respond
to the life
I have been 
has meant for me
to listen to the dreams
of my heart
and to take risks
in pursuing 
the light 
of these dreams.
has meant for me
to trust
in friendships
to reveal the
fragility of my heart
to another
to risk being misunderstood
or unloved.
has felt so 
beyond me
so many times.
It has felt like a gift
that comes when I am broken
and weak.
I feel my humanity
I feel my vulnerability
and yet I want to say
to Life
So I pray
Give me courage
Give me courage
and in the words of this song.....
"Love strengthens me
and gives me
for today"