to accompany and give back hope

Parish Nursing Health Tips



Your Parish Nursing Health Tips are prepared by
Margaret Black, RN EdD, PN


Parish Nursing Health Tip
posted for the week of January 16, 2022

“I am SAD”

Several years ago a nursing student walked into my office, sat down, and said “I am SAD”. I waited a moment for her to explain, but then realized she was referring to a condition that affects many of us in the northern hemisphere at this time of year - Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is caused primarily by the decreased amount of light (shorter and often cloudy days, longer dark nights). After the joy of Christmas, this can be a difficult season. Compounded by the cold weather and especially the COVID restrictions and uncertainty right now, I expect many of us are experiencing this to some degree now. 

The good news is that there are things you can do to make it better.  First, take Vitamin D, 25-50 micrograms daily. This is the “sunshine vitamin” that our bodies are craving in this time of limited light and no skin exposure when we are outside. It also helps our body to absorb Calcium, important for bone strength.
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to mood changes, bone loss, muscle cramps, back and joint pain. Foods high in Vitamin D include salmon, herring, cod, canned tuna, egg yolks, mushrooms, and some fortified foods (e.g. milk, orange juice, cereal & oatmeal).

Other things include starting a gratitude journal. Write one thing each day that you are grateful for. There is so much we take for granted in our lives (warm, comfortable houses; clean, drinkable water at the touch of a tap; fridges and cupboards full of food; phones and computers to keep us in touch with friends; TV programs when we’re bored, etc.) that so many people; in our city and the world do not have.  I even remember a child who was asked to list the wonders of the world and she said: “I can see, hear, taste, smell, and feel when I touch something”. Then review the journal when you are feeling down. 

Look at some of the photographs around your home that remind you of happy days and wonderful people you love in your life. Think about one special experience you have had recently.  Yesterday I was invited to visit very special friends that I don’t see often. I was treated like royalty, except for the family dog who was sure I was up to no good and didn’t want to let me in. After we got acquainted, he sat on my knee and didn’t want to let me leave.  Their beautiful 13-month-old son kept us all entertained, as he played with his toys and told me what sounds all the farm animals in his book make (moo, oink, baa, neigh, etc.). That visit will give me good memories to last a lifetime. And finally, think about someone you know who might be lonely and feeling down, and call them.

God, our greatest blessing, is always with us. Remember and rejoice! You are never alone and you are always loved.

Margaret Black
Parish Nurse

Parish Nursing Health Tip
posted for the week of December 25, 2021

Christmas - The Season of Gift-Giving

The question on everybody’s mind right now is “What shall I give …for Christmas this year?   Choosing Christmas gifts can be very stressful at any time but especially in the midst of the pandemic. I think that is because we envision gifts as things (toys, clothes, etc.) and we don’t know what …wants or needs, what will bring smiles to their faces. But there is a different way to consider gifts. 

Of course the quintessential Giver is God and the Christmas gift was Jesus, God’s Spirit born in a human baby, a baby who grew to manhood and offered Himself on the Cross to take away all our sins. No other gift can ever compare to this and we need to remember what Christmas is really all about and be eternally grateful.

God is not a one-time Giver. He gives each of us gifts to enjoy  and to use in service to Him and to others. Think about yourself.  What are you passionate about? What can you do that is special? What do you love to do? These are your gifts from God. And they are meant to be enjoyed and shared. We serve God by using our gifts to help others. I recently watched a concert by the Amadeus Choir of Greater Toronto, an excellent group of singers, many of whom are friends of mine including our own Laura Hope. It was a joyful Christmas concert that was really uplifting and fun to sing along with. I know others who have gifts in many different areas. They are excellent cooks & bakers, organizers, fixers, helpers, etc. Even if you think you can’t do anything really well, you can always be a friend to someone who is lonely, afraid, depressed, having difficulty coping with things in their lives.  A friendly phone call can make a huge difference. It may seem a small thing to you but might mean so much more to the recipient than you will ever know.

And sometimes the most important gift we can give someone is an action, doing something for them that seems unimportant to us, but matters a great deal to them.  That is a gift of love and that is what Christmas is really all about.

Let us give thanks to God for all His amazing gifts to us, and use those gifts to help others and work to bring God’s Kingdom here on earth one person and one day at a time.  Merry Christmas and enjoy all your gifts!

Margaret Black
Parish Nurse


Your Parish Nursing Health Tip 
posted for the week of November 28, 2021

The Right Question

This week I met a woman walking a small dog with sunglasses on.  I had never seen this before. So I said “Cute dog but I’ve never seen a dog with sunglasses before”. She answered, “My dog is blind. Can’t see a thing.” What sprung to mind immediately was the usual “What’s wrong with this picture?. Isn’t it supposed to be sighted guide dogs leading blind people?” Then the answer came. Nothing is wrong with it.  It’s just different. Different doesn’t mean wrong. This is a picture of love. Then I realized how often we bias ourselves by focusing on what we think is wrong and not seeing the positive aspects of a situation.

We often feel uncomfortable with things that are different because we don’t understand them and fear they may require us to change. But differences are valuable because they give us opportunities for growth and increased understanding. Growth and change are vital parts of life. For example, getting to know people of different cultures and learning from their experiences and wisdom as we also help them learn how to adjust to our society can be an enriching experience for all of us. So maybe we need to start asking ourselves, “What’s right with this picture?” That will enable us to see the positive potential in a situation.

That being said, there are many aspects of life in which “What’s wrong with this picture?” is the right question. Police removing homeless people from their encampments but offering them no place to go is a good example. I understand the fears of neighbourhood homeowners and the importance of police doing their job but as a society we need to come up with a better answer.  Homeless people need their own community for social support as we all do. Destroying that just makes everything worse.

I think the right question in this case is “Why, in a city as wealthy as Toronto, do we have so many homeless people and what can we do about it?” Some people think, “If they would just get a job they could afford a place to live.” Unfortunately it’s almost impossible for homeless people to get a job. They have no address, phone number, social and other skills that are necessary to access the job market. I don’t have answers but a few ideas. We need to find places to rehouse them while providing them with mental health help and other supports as we help them learn how to reintegrate into our society. This is a long-term, expensive process but God wants us to help the most vulnerable in our society. We can at least pray for them and give as we can to the organizations that work to help them.

On a smaller but easier note, think about how you can help someone you know, maybe a friendly call. a small gift of cookies, or a smile to brighten their day.  It will also brighten yours!

And let’s learn to ask the right questions.

Margaret Black, Parish Nurse

Your Parish Nursing Health Tip 
posted on October 14, 2021

No Longer Alone
Written by Ulla Mia

"I spent years at war with my heart and mind. Anxiety lived like a free renter in my mind while depression overtook my heart. This has made it so hard for me to draw near to God. He offers peace, but I left no room for such a thing.

It seemed impossible to trust in a God who ... "

Continue reading here


Your Parish Nursing Health Tip 
posted on October 2, 2021

Truth and Reconciliation -
How Did We Go So Wrong?

The God I worship and serve is a God of unfathomable love and forgiveness for all His children. When the graves of the children at the Kamloops Residential School came to light, I couldn’t understand how all of this could have been happening for a long time without any of us knowing.  I was appalled at our government for their hidden policy but also at our churches for accepting their edicts without apparent objection.  Then I learned from a monthly newspaper, “Presbyterian Connection”, that I had it totally wrong! It was the churches that initiated this process centuries ago!

As early as the 14th century, a series of Papal decrees gave European monarchs explicit permission “to forcibly take land not occupied by Christians, to exploit and abuse non-Christian peoples, to invade, conquer…and subjugate pagans and to lead their persons in perpetual servitude, and… to appropriate their realms…possessions and goods…to you and your use and your successors”. So it wasn’t the government forcing the churches to do this work, but the churches who led the government into this policy of colonialization.  All I could think of was “Jesus wept”!  Jesus who came to love, forgive, and save us all from our sins must be heartbroken.

What can we, as Jesus’ disciples, do now to right these terrible wrongs?
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but clearly I need to learn as much as I can from the standpoint of our Indigenous brothers and sisters.  I am blessed to have wonderful Metis family members, but they have been reticent to talk about these issues until recently. My niece (nephew’s wife) told me that her aunt and uncle were residential school survivors, but that they were reluctant to talk about their experiences even with their own families because they were ashamed.  We are the ones who should be ashamed! So much damage we have done in our ignorance. We have lived in a society of systemic racism without recognizing it.  There is a lot of work to be done going forward but with true humility and with God’s guidance, I believe we can work together to acknowledge the wrongs of the past, make recompense as we are able, and start to treat our Indigenous brothers and sisters and people of all races and cultures with love, dignity and respect.

This way we can build a society where all of God’s beloved children are helped to grow into the people He created each to be.  We all have gifts that will help us to bring God’s Kingdom here on earth. Let’s use them.

Margaret Black
Parish Nurse


Your Parish Nursing Health Tip 
posted on August 22, 2021

An Important Life Lesson

At the end of our worship service on Sunday, August 15, Rev. Victor Li asked if there were any announcements for Iona. I responded with an update about Iona’s Search Committee. Then I went on to say that my prayers are with both Iona’s and St. Cyprian’s Search Committees, as we seek to “replace two irreplaceable men”. Victor thanked me but continued, “Everyone can be replaced. No one is indispensable”. My answer to that is “Yes and no”.

Several years ago a very wise person said to me that when a beloved pet dies, we grieve the loss of one of our family members, but after a period of time, many people get another pet to keep them company, cheer them up, just be with them. Does that mean that you stop loving the previous pet? No! It just means that we make space in our hearts for the new pet, but the new one doesn’t take the place of the previous one. And so our hearts grow larger to make room for more love.

The lesson I take from this is that when someone leaves a position, we can find a new individual to fill that position, but that person doesn’t replace the previous person in our hearts. We just grow bigger hearts to make space for the new person. For us, Victor and Robert will always remain as beloved spiritual mentors and good friends.

This is good news for our Search Committees and congregations.  We need to think about God’s mission for us in this community and the wider world, as we pray for others each day. Both congregations will grieve the loss of these two men, but we need to listen to God, as he seeks to lead us into the next chapter of our lives in His Kingdom. We must not be tempted to give up and think that there is no point in going forward. We need to believe that God will eventually bring the right person to lead each of our congregations so that we can continue and hopefully grow our ministry. The world around us is full of pain, grief, loss, anger, hopelessness, poverty, violence and injustice. God calls us to fight the things that are destroying our society and help to bring others to Him and gradually help to build His Kingdom here on earth. Even if it’s one person at a time, one day at a time, everything helps.

Together we have a strong, loving community at Tri-Church, which can enrich the lives of so many others. We can give them hope, a sense of belonging, support, comfort, and love.  For those who are alone and afraid, these are life-changing gifts. This is God’s will for us and a lasting testament to Robert’s and Victor’s ministry with us.


Margaret Black
Tri-Church Parish Nurse


Your Parish Nursing Health Tip

posted on August 1, 2021

Another Lesson in Gratitude
A Special Tribute

No doubt you’re tired of hearing me talk about gratitude, but it is one of the healing things in our lives. We so often take things for granted, including the people in our lives, assuming that they will always be there. Then suddenly they are gone and so are the opportunities to tell them how we feel and do the things we want to share with them. The pain and grief of loss can be overwhelming.

This week, like many of you, I attended a beautiful online service for Dr. Peter Heyland. As always, I learned many things about him I didn’t know. I knew him as a member of St. Cyprian’s Anglican Church, a very strong bass in their choir and a wonderful husband to Margaret Heyland, my friend and supporter in the Parish Nursing Ministry at Tri-Church. Although I knew he was a doctor, I didn’t know he was an anesthesiologist at North York General Hospital for many years. Anesthesiology is a difficult specialty as there can be a fine line between keeping a patient “asleep” during surgery without overdosing him/her leading to death. We were blessed not only to have Peter’s expertise in this art, but also to have NYGH as our local hospital. According to an article in the North York Mirror, “NYGH has been ranked as the No. 1 community academic hospital in Canada and one of the top five hospitals overall in the country”!  When you think of the major hospitals in Toronto, not to mention others across Canada, that is truly an amazing tribute! Dr. Peter Heyland through the years contributed to that rating.

During the funeral service, I also learned many things about Peter as a husband and father that I didn’t know.  The very moving and sometimes very humourous tributes of his two older sons, Geoffrey (“Goof” thanks to autocorrect) and Brian gave wonderful insights into this sometimes demanding, but always very loving father. Margaret, his beloved wife of 66 years, and Peter between them raised a family to be so proud of and grateful for. This legacy of love is being passed down through the generations leading to many more loving, giving people in the world.

At this time of grief and loss, let us also be grateful for the memories we have of our times with Peter, in the family, at church, in combined choir presentations, and many other areas. And let us learn not to take for granted all who are important to us in our own lives. Whatever we want to say to them or do with them, let’s do it now. We are all busy, but things are not as important as people. Connecting with the people in our lives enriches us as well as them. Thanks be to God who is always with us.


Margaret Black

Tri-Churches Parish Nurse

Your Parish Nursing Health Tip
posted on June 12, 2021

A Different Pandemic

As if COVID-19 weren’t enough, we now have a new pandemic of hatred and destruction.

Within 2 weeks we have learned of a mass grave at a former Indigenous residential school containing the remains of 215 unidentified children, and a family out for an evening walk murdered by a 20-year-old white man with a truck due to Islamophobia. I feel as if I am swimming in an ocean of grief for those who have been irrevocably hurt and guilt because I am a white person with a British heritage. 

So I am seeking answers and a way forward.

First, I am very grateful for family members and friends from different backgrounds. In my family are children who are part Asian, part Black, and Metis and they are all wonderful people whom we dearly love. And I have Muslim neighbours who are very good friends, always bringing me food when they have a family BBQ and waiting to invite me over again when COVID is gone. Having all these people in my life is a truly enriching experience. The residential school system is a more complicated matter that weighs all of us down.  The fact that these things were happening at the direction of the Canadian government without our awareness, and worse still that the churches were involved, is beyond terrible.

How can these things happen?

I believe that hatred is the offspring of fear. We are afraid of things we don’t understand, of changes that may negatively affect us, of not being in control. So we build up terrible negative stereotypes in our minds and seek to destroy the things we feel threatened by. Hatred and discrimination destroy not only those who are the objects of hatred but also the haters. Regardless of whether they ever face legal justice, the haters live in self-imposed prisons for life.  This is not the Canada I understood as I was growing up, and not the Canada I want to  live in now.

So how can we change things for the better?

I think the key is working hard not only to recognize our potential hidden biases, but also to ensure we open ourselves to learn about those who are different. Under the skin we are all children of God. The Bible is full of stories about helping others (e.g. the Good Samaritan). Jesus summarized all the law and the prophets into the Two Great Commandments: Love God first with all our heart, soul, mind, & strength: and second, Love our neighbours as ourselves. This may not be easy but it is the way forward.

Even if we have never had negative thoughts about others, terrible wrongs have been done in our society and we need to acknowledge that to the victims and to work hard to change a culture that allows these things to happen. Only then can begin to heal and go forward in unity.

Let us all pray for God’s guidance, strength and patience to help us.

Margaret Black
Tri-Churches Parish Nurse

Your Parish Nursing Health Tip 
for the week of April 25, 2021

Life in Pandemic Times

As I have mentioned before, 50% of our tendency to be optimists or pessimists is genetic.  We have no control over that. Of the remaining 50%, 10% is due to external circumstances (e.g. COVID-19) and the other 40% is something we can work on.  Right now I think COVID has managed to turn all of us into pessimists! We are awash in grief, fear, anxiety, anger, loneliness, depression - the list goes on.  When we are in this kind of state, even trying to summon the willpower to think about possibly changing our outlook is too much effort.

However a family member recently sent me an email with a poem which made me think again.  Here it is. I hope it helps you too.


Today, upon a bus, I saw a very beautiful woman
and wished I were as beautiful.
When suddenly she rose to leave,
I saw her hobble down the aisle
She had one leg and used a crutch,
but as she passed, she passed a smile,
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine
I have two legs; The World Is Mine

I stopped to buy some candy.
The lad who sold it had such charm
I talked with him, he seemed so glad.
If I were late, it'd would do no harm.
And as I left he said to me
"I thank you, you've been so kind
It's nice to talk with folks like you"
You see, he said "I'm blind."
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine
I have two eyes, The World Is Mine

Later walking down the street,
I saw a Child That I Knew
He stood and watched the others play,
But he didn't know what to do.
I stopped a moment then I said
"Why don't you join them, dear?"
He looked ahead without a word
I forgot, he could not hear
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine
I have two ears, The World Is Mine

With feet to take me where I'd go
With eyes to see the sunset glow
With ears to hear what I would know
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine
I've been blessed indeed
The World Is Mine

"If my poem made you feel thankful,
Just forward it to your friends.
After all, it's just  a reminder that
we have much to be thankful for.
Give the Gift Of Love, it never comes back empty!
I have been truly blessed with my awesome friends".

By Joy Lovelet Crawford


Like this author, I have also been blessed with AWESOME FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS including you who are reading this. Most especially I am blessed with the knowledge that God is always with us and loves us unconditionally.  When you feel too overwhelmed, tell your loving Heavenly Father and open yourself to feel His Presence in your life. Together we will get through this.

Blessings to all of you.

Margaret Black
Parish Nurse


Your Parish Nursing Health Tip 
for the week of April 4, 2021

The Incomparable Gift

Holy week and Easter weekend:  I have been thinking about “the incomparable gift” this week, but struggling with conflicting ideas.  Originally the answer was “Life”.  Then I thought about the homeless, the prisoner, the sick and grieving, the lonely, etc.  For many people life is NOT a gift but an en endless, meaningless struggle.  Then “Love”  suggested itself to me.  So important, but somehow incomplete.  Today, after the Maundy Thursday & Good Friday services, the obvious answer came to mind. 

Where do Love & Life intersect? 

In Jesus on the Cross. As others have noted, it wasn’t Roman soldiers, Jewish rabbis, and nails that put Jesus on the Cross.  It was Love. And that Love gave all of us Life, both here and in eternity. Life filled with God’s Love is God’s “incomparable gift” to us. Like all gifts, we are meant to use and enjoy it.

But how do we live this “incomparable gift” in our own lives?

When we are sick, in pain, grieving, lonely, afraid, we don’t feel joyful. And that’s OK. These are normal human experiences which we have to acknowledge and live through, but we will get through them.  When I think about what Jesus must have gone through on the Cross and on the days leading up to it, whatever I’m experiencing, pales in comparison.  But Jesus accepted it as God’s will and that helped Him to fulfill it.

Although sometimes our problems are self-inflicted, other problems are just part of living. Whatever the source of our problems, we also have to accept God’s will and follow where He leads us. Reading and talking about it is not enough. We have to allow ourselves to experience God’s Presence on a daily basis. For me this may happen in seeing a beautiful sunrise, receiving a call from a loved family member or friend, or in recognizing the abundance of my life (a roof over my head; a full fridge; heat when I’m cold; clean water, hot or cold, for a shower or drink at the touch of a tap). Having spent a couple of months in Kenya on a mission trip has made me acutely aware of things we accept here as a normal part of life. 

How then do we live in a way that helps others experience God’s Love in their lives?

Right now we are limited by COVID restrictions, but there are still avenues open to us.  I might call someone I know who is lonely, or offer to pick up something at the store for a friend who can’t get out, or donate to a charity for the homeless.There are many possibilities. Just pick one thing a day that can help someone else and you will have made a difference in their life. That is the Living God’s Love.

Wishing you a Blessed, Happy, Healthy Easter.

Margaret Black
Tri-Church Parish Nurse


Your Parish Nursing Health Tip 
for the week of February 20, 2021

Life in End Times

My microwave beeps when it has heated my food and I glance at it to check the time. Instead of giving me the time, it simply says “End”.  That reminds me of the biblical passages in Revelation dealing with the “End Times”.  There will be wars & rumours of wars, plagues, darkness, etc. before the End.  Many of us may feel right now like we are living in these dark times - COVID-19 and its new variants that keep us in isolation, loved ones with serious health problems, job & business losses, loneliness, depression, anxiety, climate change that threatens our future on earth. It is a difficult time for everyone.  How are we meant to get through all of this?

First we can remember that our parents and grandparents survived their “end times” experiences - World Wars, depressions, previous pandemics (Spanish Flu, SARS, etc.) and other dangerous infections (Ebola, polio, measles, mumps, and so on). And they did it without the technology that helps us to stay in touch with each other now. I suspect each generation has its “end times” experience at some point. Maybe that is an important part of our earthly experience. It can help us to grow and seek new ways of dealing with difficult challenges. We can care for and support each other even at a distance.  We can learn healthier ways of living on earth that don’t threaten to destroy it. God gave us a Garden. Hopefully, with God’s help, we can learn to be good stewards.

Next we can remember that every night eventually ends in a morning filled with light. The Bible reminds us that we may spend the night weeping but joy comes in the morning. The challenge is to get through the night. Gratitude can help. There are many things in our lives that we take for granted - warm, comfortable homes; abundant food & fresh water; the love of family & friends, etc. We tend to focus on what we are losing and forget the many things we have to be thankful for. Every day find at least one thing in your life that gives you comfort & joy. That becomes a ray of sunshine to help you through the darkness.

Finally, remember that we are not alone. Jesus said, “Bring your burdens to Me”. Instead of carrying our fears and troubles by ourselves, we can leave them at Jesus’ feet. He didn’t promise us an easy life but He did promise to be with us always. I often find myself trying to “run the world”. Then I am reminded that is God’s job, not mine, and thankfully I can let things go. Together, with God’s help, we will get through these difficult times and find we are stronger, better, more caring people as a result. Thank God for His blessings each day and watch for the morning’s light. This is not The End.

Margaret Black
Tri-Church Parish Nurse



fever, cough, difficulty breathing, pneumonia in both lungs.

How does it spread?
Through respiratory droplets spread when you cough/sneeze;
close personal contact (e.g. touching or shaking hands);
touching something with the virus on it,
then touching your mouth, nose or eyes
before washing your hands.

Protection of yourself and others?
Wash your hands often
(after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose,
touching common-use areas,
such as door handles, elevator buttons, etc.)
with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
(back and front, special attention to nail areas);
use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available;
avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
avoid close contact with people who are sick;
cough or sneeze into your sleeve instead of into your hands;
stay home
to avoid spreading the illness to others.




A new year… a clean slate…
Abundant Life

Caregivers Also Need Care
Christmas Hope
Dreaming of a BLUE Christmas…
Emergency Preparedness

Faith and Values

Fall Savvy Promotes Winter Safety
Fraud Protection
Fun in the Sun
Health and Well-being
Health Problems 1: Type 2 Diabetes
Health Problems 2: Type 2 Diabetes in Children
Health Problems 3: Coronary Heart Disease
Health Problems 4: The Cancers
Learning to Listen
Lessons from the Past
Let it Go
No Excuse Sunday
No Other Gods
Palm Sunday - Passion Sunday
Season of Lent
Self-Defence 1: Healthy Nutrition
Self-Defence 2: Healthy Activity
Sleep and You
Stress 1: Do You Have Balance in Your Life?
Stress 2: Ways of Managing Stress
Stress 3: Stress and Disease
Stress 4: Post-Traumatic Stress
Stress 5: Factors Influencing Our Perception of Stress
Stress 6: Making Changes
Understanding Grief
What is Health?

© 2021 Parish Nursing Ministry