Living in troubled times

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Unsettled….this is the word I would use to describe my general feelings the last couple of weeks as our country has been addressing and acting upon the threats caused by this global crisis called the Coronavirus.

Sing and rejoice you children of the Day and of the Light. For the Lord is at work in this thick night of darkness that may be felt. Truth does flourish as the rose, the lilies do grow among the thorns, the plants atop of the hills, and upon them the lambs do skip and play.

Never heed the tempests nor the storms, floods or rains, for the Seed, Christ, is over all and does reign.  EXCERPTS FROM The Letters of George Fox

 

All dear Friends everywhere, who have no helper but the Lord, who is your strength and your life, let your cries and prayers be to him, who with his eternal power has kept your heads above all waves and storms. Let none go out of their habitations in the stormy time of the night, those whose habitation is the Lord, the Seed, Christ Jesus.

In this Seed you will see the bright and morning Star appear which will expel the night of darkness, by which morning Star you will come to the everlasting Day which was before night was.

So, everyone feel this bright morning Star in your hearts, there to expel the darkness. [Letter 280] (Abridged and revised for the modern reader by Howard R. Macy.)

Letting myself feel…

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Sometimes, grief just shows up. I’ve experienced this off and on for years since my dad passed away in 1987, a brother in 1989, a sister in 2013, and another brother in 2015, as well as close aunts and uncles , both sets of my grandparents and my dear step-father-in-law. Naturally, grief has been closer to the surface these last couple months since my mom passed away.

This week was my sister Anne’s birthday, though she passed away in 2013. I went to see one of my other sisters that day and we watched some old family videos while drinking hot tea.

The videos brought back a flood of of memories, and not just of Anne. My dad, his brother and sister, were in the videos , my two brothers, two nephews and grandmother, as well. All have left us here in this world. My heart has been heavy since.

My MaMa, mom’s mom, has been gone since 1985. I barely knew her since I was so young still at 18. What would it have been like to have known her once I was an adult?

I miss my dad and brother who’ve been gone long enough that I’ve forgotten what their presence was like. Thoughts of my dear sister, who lived through stage 4 cancer and fought to survive for 24 more years, follow me daily as she intentionally participated in my life for all the years she lived since I came into her world. Her presence is palpable at times.

I watched some more family videos last night with my nuclear family. Allowing myself to feel the depths of grief while also laughing with my husband and kids as we watched these was good for my soul , helping me wrap up this difficult emotional week. To quote one of my favorite movies, Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias, “laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”

A legacy of love…

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Since my kids were little, I always made sure to get each of them something special for Valentines Day, and we tried to love them extra and be sure to express it fully, specifying what was special about each of them, and so on. From my perspective, the point behind honoring St. Valentine’s martyrdom was always meant to be about showing love intentionally and purposefully to all others in one’s life, to love unconditionally with the love of God. Yes, a day was picked to specifically celebrate St. Valentine, and yes, our culture has romanticized it (partly due to some of the legends about St. Valentine).

Regardless, for me, it’s a day for me to tell my immediate family that I love them and why I love them, and it’s a day to be more aware of God’s love and my desire to show that in my life in all that I do.  Do I always accomplish that, no….I don’t always show others the love of God in the way He would desire me to do.  I’m human and I fail miserably in the realm of being loving, at times.

My hope is that the overall viewpoint of my life, when people look back to survey it after I’m gone, will be that I was loving, kind, compassionate, accepting and welcoming, to friend, family, stranger….to all.  This was the legacy of my mom, I believe, that she passed on to me, through some of her words, but mainly through her actions, her day-to-day consistent, intentional way of living and loving.

As you may know, mom passed away December 27. I have been very quiet on social media since that time, including my writing in this space. I’m still feeling that I would prefer silence for a while, as I grieve, as I transition and move forward.

However, on this Valentines weekend, I wanted to share a bit about my mom and her legacy of love. 💖 She sacrificed for others as a habit, probably to her own detriment at times, though she wasn’t perfect. Yet, even in her imperfect, human ability to love, she showed love by asking forgiveness and apologizing, even before the other person realized she had wronged them in any way.

I could go on for hours about her, and perhaps I should write a book to honor her… Yet, for now, may it be sufficient to say that her love, and way of loving, shaped me and will continue to guide me as I live out my life on this Earth. I’m so very thankful for the love of my mom, and I’m at peace with her passing as she can finally rest and be held in her Father’s arms.

 

An open Christmas letter….

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We didn’t really do cards (or pictures or a letter) to mail this year. Life has been …. unexpected … this past year, and we have had to wisely choose to let go of some chores, some traditions, some ideas, and some ways we spend our resources of time, energy, and money in order to focus on absolute priorities. None of this means we love less , nor does it mean we have no time to think of others, hold you in our hearts, and pray God’s blessings, provisions, healing, peace, love and joy for so so many whom we hold dear.

If you follow me or any of the family at all, you know we’ve grown in numbers this last year, with Noah marrying Legend, and Michael visiting Jenna every couple of weeks. Taylor drives down for many weekends throughout the year, as well. Tom’s mom often joins us and sometimes we are blessed with visits from our dearest friends and family.

We are making new traditions and growing closer as a family with adult children. Each of us is working hard for every dollar we earn , and when we have downtime we try to squeeze as much life out of it as possible.

My heart is filled with gratitude for God’s love this Christmas Day , with an amazement for the ways He works and moves in my life and the lives of my precious family. His graciousness, merciful provisions and presence are the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. I have reflected on and celebrated all He is to me in this month of Advent, and I long for His love to pour out more freely from me in the year ahead.

I pray you and your family have had a joy filled Christmas. If you haven’t , if you’ve struggled with grief and loss or just been frustrated with consumerism and our culture, I hope for greater peace for you in the days to come.

May God bless and keep you and shine His face upon you, and give you peace.

Being transformed….

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Being transformed….

There is a trend I’m sure you’ve noticed the last week or so. People are posting pictures from ten years ago and comparing them to who they are today.  It makes sense given that we are about to enter a new decade. So, I jumped on that bandwagon as well, and I’ll share a few comparison pics at the end of this post.

For me, this past year is much different than ten years ago, yet oddly similar in the fact that life has been hard of late. The last few months have been a struggle for me, and frankly, for our family.  Tom’s job change and my working full time has taken a toll on my spirit.  Many days I fight inner battles to see all the good and positive blessings in my life instead of being dragged down by the ideas and illusions that life isn’t like I want it to be, and this has been an issue for me for many years in the past, but for a couple of recent years, I felt more on top of it than I have the last 8 months.

Here we are in the middle of our lives with unsettled careers and still challenged by our finances. I often see I’m still fighting the same old lifelong battles within myself, wondering when I’ll ever overcome those areas that hold me back. Yet, in reality, much has been defeated of the old me, the false self, and I live more authentically out of my true self than I ever imagined.

When I walk in truth, I see all the blessings and provisions in my life, in the life and individual lives of my little nuclear family.  The truth is that God is at work in me constantly and that I’m more aware of His presence on the daily than I was so many years ago.  I can even now recognize how His presence has been with me since I was very young, that back then I talked with Him all the time and that my current relationship with God has actually been growing since I was born.

In my heart of hearts, I can grasp that my current work is actually something I held as a desire for many years, in the back of my mind and when I would apply for jobs during my times of unemployment.  No, it isn’t what I envisioned for myself when I was in the midst of my Masters program, but it is God given and I believe it is a passsageway to whatever is next that will bring me closer to my purpose, my vocation, my calling.

Other areas of my life that remain a challenge can be summed up with my lifelong battle with discipline and sloth.  Do you know the actual meaning of sloth?  It means more than laziness [see this link – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sloth_(deadly_sin) ]. Sloth is about choosing the easy, comfortable way, instead of making the difficult choices to do the hard work that Love (loving God, loving others, loving ourselves) requires.  Yet, “to whom much is given, much is required”, and I have been given so much of Love, and so much more than comfort is required of me.

I’ve asked God to move me through His Spirit to begin making more disciplined choices, to desire more to do the hard work of Love…..and to discern what this means for me, when I should say “yes” and when I should say “no”, knowing when I actually should act versus when I simply feel false guilt about something.  The areas where I lack discipline are obvious and not-so-obvious.  One is eating coupled with physical exertion, which would be the obvious area.  Another area has to do with surrendering my energy and time resources in trust that if I give myself away to help others that God will supply my needs for time, emotional, mental and physical energy.

My hope is that I will become more able to say yes to serving others when opportunities present themselves to do so, and that I will choose to give my “free” time in this way, instead of choosing whatever else is more comfortable to me, more relaxing, and so on.  I also hope to begin again to choose to exercise consistently and eat healthier, whereas the last 8 months have seen me eating comfort foods and avoiding the effort it takes to go to Planet Fitness.

As I write, I realize we are headed into Thanksgiving week, not New Years, and that what I’m writing seems more like a resolution post.  However, I see it more as an opportunity to begin reflections that lead me into the Advent season and on into a new decade that begins with Epiphany, with Light and Truth shed on my heart and life, starting this season of the year with a grateful heart and awareness of God’s provisions, God’s goodness, God’s gifts in my life.  This awareness is the springboard which then can point me more towards giving to others, at Christmas, yes, but even more so in the years ahead, allowing God to change me more, once again, continuing His transformation in my spirit, remaking me from the inside out.

(Romans 12:1-2  So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.)

 

 

Fall family fun ….

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Spending time with our adult children to celebrate mine and my husband’s birthdays was wonderful and exhausting! We tried to cram as much of Fall into three days as we could …

Take care of yourself…

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From The Upper Room daily devotional emails:

Today’s Reflection

IN CARING FOR OTHERS we use up a great deal of physical and mental energy. If we do not replenish these limited resources, we run the risk of compassion fatigue. We cannot fulfill our God-given callings to be compassionate human beings in bodies that are constantly neglected and overextended. How we feed, exercise, relax, listen to, and nourish our bodies are matters relevant to faithful discipleship. As Francis of Assisi lay dying, someone asked if he would have changed anything in his ministry. Significantly he responded, “I would have been more kind to my body.”

—Trevor Hudson, A Mile in My Shoes: Cultivating Compassion (Upper Room Books, 2005)

Today’s Question

What do you do to relax and rejuvenate? Share your thoughts.

Today’s Scripture

“You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.”
—1 Thessalonians 2:9 (NRSV)

Prayer for the Week

Give me the eyes to see when others hurt, the ears to hear when others cry, and the courage to bring light into their darkness.

 

WE ARE NO GOOD TO OTHERS IF WE AREN’T GOOD TO OURSELVES….but, we must learn how to take care of ourselves, not simply to indulge ourselves.