A Trip to the ER Prompts Some Serious Soul-Searching

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matthew 5:13)

First of all, I have to say that anyone who is still in denial about climate change in the face of this present heatwave, needs to have their head examined. It no longer matters the why it is happening; it IS happening. Period. If we can, we need to slow it down because temps of this magnitude are killing people and animals and the earth. If you have children and/or grandchildren, this should matter to you. Because they are the ones who will suffer the consequences of our inaction to address this issue…

I do not handle heat well. I jokingly tell everyone that my dream home is in Alaska. That is partly true. “Partly” because my stereotypical vision of Alaska is of snow and ice and cooler temps; I’m a fall through spring kind of gal. Give me crisp, fall temperatures and I am unstoppable. Three feet of snow outside? As long as the woodstove is going, the animals safe and snug in their barn, and I’ve got a good book, a cuppa tea and a couple of felines to cozy up to and it’s the ultimate. But I don’t fly–at least if I can avoid it–so such a move would mean an almost total separation from me and the many people I care about. That’s the part of the statement that would be untrue; I would not like to be that far away from those that matter most. I have enough family and friends scattered about the world that I seldom, if ever, get to see. While I might consider relocation from time to time, Alaska would be a bit extreme. We’ll save it for the bucket list of places to visit in the future; I’m not sure I would want to live there. (wink)

But that’s neither here nor there and getting a little off topic: the ER (Emergency Room)…

I do not handle heat well. I never knew how accurate that statement was until two weeks’ ago.

What has become an ordinary day for me started with the usual protest as the alarm went off. I don’t remember if it was a good night of close to 7 hours of sleep, or the more common 6 hour squeak. My body craved more, but I finally dragged my butt out of bed, wincing as the plantars fasciitis worked itself out along the hobble down the hall. Meditation, blogging, some early morning gardening have all gone the way of the Conestoga lately; yoga only sporadically entering into my morning routine. I may have done some yoga that morning; it’s a bit hazy right now…and probably always will be. I do remember running–literally–through the morning feeding/watering routine, yelling at chickens, ducks, goats, etc. to get out from underfoot because I’m running late as usual…and then the now-routine guilt trip that ensued, making me pause at least long enough to scratch a few heads and apologize for my mad-dash through life. The usual hour-long drive into work and also now-routine soaked-to-the-gills-standing-before-the-fire-cooking-in-three-layers-of-period-clothing-in-90+ temperatures followed. Only this time, I kept catching myself as the room spun a little before my eyes. My co-worker, a lovely volunteer named Diane, kept suggesting maybe I should sit down for a minute, drink some water. I did. Frequently. But more visitors would come and I’d be up again. This was the fabric of my day. And has been since this heatwave started. When the day finally ended, though I had been careful to keep drinking water throughout the day, I could definitely feel the effects of heat exhaustion. Another co-worker–this one a junior intern (high school student working at the museum for the summer) hailed me as I walked to the parking lot. I turned to greet this young lady and nearly toppled over; I barely caught myself in time. When I got home, it was blessed relief to feel the AC running. I took my time with evening chores, getting an early jump on feeding so I could get to bed a little earlier. My body needed rest. And I knew it. I’d be okay with a good night’s rest. Really, I would.

After 9 hours of sleep–a luxury for me and usually unheard of–I awoke to the alarm and sat up in bed to shut it off. The room spun completely out of focus. That’s not good. Carefully, I reached over to grab my cellphone and turn off the ever-increasing volume of a mechanical rooster crowing. I sat for a moment to get my bearings, head pounding. Then, hobbling down the hallway again, I found myself holding close to the wall to keep my balance. The stairs were a nightmare; I clutched the banister tightly and went down one step at a time, stopping to be sure my foot was firmly planted with each step. I considered calling into work. Then, stubborn, I persisted in getting ready for the day; I can’t afford another day out. I ate breakfast. The room kept spinning even while I sat to eat. I clutched counters, tables, chairs, whatever was in reach as I fed cats, rabbits and Smoky the Cockatiel. I zigzagged across the barnyard with buckets of water and feed, a different sort of panic entering the surprisingly gentler requests not to get underfoot this morning. I clutched the rooster tractors for support as I fed them. And finally made up my mind that maybe I’d better go to the ER because this dizziness was not going away and this was a bit more than mere heat exhaustion.

When I got back into the house, a whole half hour had passed in what would normally be a 10-15 minute job and I wasn’t even dressed yet. Running late? That would be an understatement. I made the call, pulled a skirt on over the cut-off leggings I wore to bed and got in the car.

Yes, you read that right…

Probably not the brightest decision I’ve ever made…

Don’t try this at home, kids…

When everything spun out of focus at the foot of my driveway while I was looking back and forth to make sure no traffic was coming, I probably should’ve pulled back in and called someone to drive me (an ambulance??). Again, do NOT try this at home, kids. Amazingly, and only by the grace of God, I managed to drive to Day Kimball Hospital all in one piece…and without injury to anyone else. Their parking lot became a bit of a challenge though. I found a space right next to the staircase leading up to the ER doors. Again, I clutched tightly to the banister, this time with two hands and pulled myself up each step. Like the barnyard, I zigzagged across the road that runs between those stairs and the sliding doors of the ER, and hugged the walls to the check-in desk.

Day Kimball Hospital has never moved so fast. There was a wheelchair behind me before I’d even finished telling them I thought I had heat exhaustion. I can also tell you that allowing orderlies to run you down to triage when all the world is spinning crazily before your eyes is a little like when Captain Kirk orders, “Warp speed, Scotty!” Just this blur of lights flashing by and before you. I’m not sure how I managed not to toss my cookies. They hooked me up to an IV and then another when that one finished. In between, they did a CAT scan to make sure I wasn’t having a stroke. At some point they fed me juice and graham crackers. I slept most of the day. I did a lot of praying, too. When I wasn’t sleeping, or praying, I was answering texts from my supervisor, who had messaged me as soon as she got the message I’d left on the call-in line, saying that I was heading to the ER for heat exhaustion. I was also doing a lot of thinking…as much as anyone can when their butt is burning from reclining on one of those wonderful gurneys for 7 hours’ straight (chuckle).

But it’s no laughing matter.

I am lucky.

I am lucky it wasn’t a stroke. I am lucky not to have passed out coming downstairs, feeding livestock, behind the wheel. I am lucky not to have hurt anyone in my travels. I am lucky to be alive.

I lost all of my electrolytes. Though I drank plenty of water, I did not replenish things like potassium and zinc; instead, they were getting flushed and sweated out. A sports’ drink, or Pedialyte, or even some orange juice from time to time would’ve helped. Not having incurred an incredible amount of sleep-deficit and stress would’ve also helped.

Those 7 hours, plus the 5 days’ enforced convalesce that followed, gave me a lot of time to reflect and think…as well as bear the brunt of family and friends’ fury that I didn’t wake, or call, someone to help me. Asking for help from time to time is not a sin passed bearing. It does not make me weak. Or a failure. Or any of the other insults the Adversary whispers through my brain. In those 5 days, and all of the days that have followed, as my body has rested and my equilibrium slowly restored (almost), inside, has been another sort of re-calibration.

“Those that matter most,” climate change and the environment, my homestead and all of the creatures who share it with me, this blog and my writing, herbs and natural health, my faith–these are the denizens of my attention and care. This is what matters most. This is what makes me, me. This is what brings me joy in this life. And I’ve been neglecting all of them…while also being a bear when dealing with all of them, human or humane. This infernal heat has only excerbated the bear-like personality; stress, sleep-deprivation, and living life like an out-of-control robot created this grizzly. Adding to the stress has been the incredible guilt that my reaction to even the simplest pleas for my time and attention has elicited. Changes need to be made. Better care taken of myself so that I can be here to share this life with family, friends, and pets, so I can write those stories, paint those pictures, work this homestead and worship the God of my heart is what needs to be changed. I can no longer keep this breakneck pace–especially in this heat–without serious consequences.

So I am slowly, painstakingly, removing the stress-causing entities in my life while my body still struggles to find that balance again. What matters most? My therapist and I have been working closely on this ever since. I’m learning to say, “no!” to some of the demands on my time that are not necessary. I’m learning that it’s okay if I finish that homework assignment a little late. I’m learning to even say, “no!” to that serpent-like voice that pushes me beyond endurance to be the perfectionist with everything…and snickers more guilt into my consciousness for a day off spent relaxing with a book, or watching a few videos, instead of working outside in the heat. My health is more important. And filling my time with those I love, and doing what I love, will go a long way towards improving that health and well-being.

This “salt” lost her flavor in more ways than one. Though my faith cautions against selfish behavior, in this case, selfishness, in the form of doing what it takes to be healthy again, is necessary.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Heart’s Desire

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” (Ephesians, 2:8-10)

I am struggling to put words to the page this morning. I gave up social media for Lent, not my blog; I don’t consider them the same thing. The idea was to give myself a little more time for writing. And, for the most part, it has worked. I’ve been able to put those 3 pages of my book together each night and I’m starting to see some real progress. That pushes me forward. And yet, the enemy of my soul keeps tempting me with those little pop-ups that say, “You’ve been tagged in a photo, a video, a post on Facebook by so-and-so.” What photo, video or post??? Inquiring minds want to know. And what further proof of how addicting social media really is!

I am determined not to break my Lenten vows this year.

No, it won’t make a difference in my salvation (please read the bit of Scripture at the start of this blog post). But it is a vow made to God. It’s like when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane and some of his apostles, who were supposed to be keeping watch, fell asleep. I don’t want to fall asleep on this watch.

And so, I carry on.

However, the enemy certainly has some persuasive arguments. Like, it’s okay if I peek at that message as long as I don’t proceed to read the feed on my Facebook page, or someone else’s Facebook page.

Nope. Not working.

I’m still resisting…even if the temptation’s still there.

Ditto for the 3 pages of book each night. Last night was a push after spending 8 hours working on my final paper for class. The night before I actually fell asleep a few times over my notebook. I don’t have the time I used to have at the dealership so I have to squeak my book, blog posts and even quality time with the animals here on the homestead in around a 2 hour daily commute.

But still, I carry on.

I’ve been good about the music videos, too. In fact, I haven’t watched even one since the Lenten season started. I do miss that. As most of the bands I watch on YouTube are contemporary Christian, listening and watching their videos can be a nice little pick-me-up at the end of the week. The saving grace–no pun intended–is that I’m not getting so immersed in them that I neglect everything else.

Like writing.

Or homesteading.

My two heart’s desires.

Of course, for someone whose religion doesn’t follow any Lenten obligations, it may sound as if through these Lenten vows I’m still hoping to earn my way to salvation.

Nope.

If that were the case, we’d all be doomed. Lenten vows are often like New Year’s Resolutions; they keep for a week or two and then, as the struggle becomes too great, we often allow them to fall by the wayside. However, it is a good means of incorporating more awareness of Him in our daily lives. And that’s the best habit we can cultivate of all.

By the way, I have broken my vow to abstain from sweets: I had a frozen yogurt frappe on the way home from work the other day (complete with a single-serve plastic-lidded container and a straw; bad me!) and I couldn’t resist the free maple popcorn being offered for grabs at work. That doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying to resist future sweets; one can always readjust and reaffirm one’s resolve.

However, the measure of this broken vow may not necessarily be on the scale of one’s faith, or dedication to one’s vows, but on the scale of a different sort. Talk about your addictions.

May God bless you & keep you!

Lenten Vows

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash you face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matthew 6:16-18)

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. I took my turn at the altar in church to receive the ashes that seal my promises to the Lord throughout the 6 week season of Lent:

1. I will write 3 pages every day of my novel. (This is a discipline-building vow; I’ve grown lax)
2. I am giving up all forms of social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) except for the link between this blog and my social media accounts. In other words, people will still receive my posts through these mediums but I will not be checking my accounts for any messages or reading the feeds for 6 weeks (and I hope all of my friends see this so they’ll know I didn’t fall off of the face of the earth; call or write the old-fashioned, real connection way!)
3. I am limiting my music video viewing on YouTube to only 2 hours per week; some weeks I spend several hours on a rainy Monday afternoon instead of writing the aforementioned book or finishing up a homework assignment…and I won’t mention all the myriad chores piling up about the home and homestead.
4. No sugars outside of my daily cuppa tea

May God bless you & keep you!

Christian Support for LGBTQ

“The wrath of God is indeed being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickedness of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness. For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what He has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord Him glory as God or give Him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes. Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for perversity. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to the their undiscerning mind to do what is improper.” (Romans 1:18-28)

Yesterday was one of my patented “Oh, crap (G-rated version of expletive), I’m running late again!” mornings. It was Sunday and I didn’t have to be at church until 8 a.m. instead of the usual mad dash to be on the road before 7:30 like most Wednesdays through Saturdays. Of course, that was the problem. I had “plenty of time,” or so I thought. But that is neither here nor there and I’m getting off topic. To keep the long story short, I got to church about 10 minutes late. With many blushes, I slipped into a back pew, got down on bended knee and then settled myself to listen to the next 40 minutes or so of the homily. Of course, being late, I was still working through that last minute adrenaline rush. For those first few moments, my mind continued to race and dart about, unable to focus.

And then I was brought up short.

Did Father Ben just say what I think he said? Did he just ask us to love our brethren…yeah, I’m used to hearing about loving and praying for our brethren regardless of the color of their skin or economic status, etc., etc., etc., but…regardless of their lifestyle? He didn’t label it as a choice (because it is not); he simply said lifestyle. I confess, it is the first time I have heard any member of the clergy utter anything that might be loving towards anyone identifying as LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (or Questioning)). In fact, I’ve even heard horror stories of some clergy (and it extends across many denominations) refusing to give even a eulogy for someone who is LGBTQ.

I smiled. This sermon’s been too long in coming.

Father Ben is new to my parish. Father Elson left the parish last December to return to India. I miss him, as do many other parishioners, for he breathed new life into our parish in so many ways. Well, it seems Father Ben is doing likewise. And, to confirm that, yes, I did hear what I thought I heard, he went on to ask us to extend the hand of fellowship to all of God’s children…from every shade and tone of skin, walk of life, culture, country of origin and, yes, even if homosexual. (Yes, he uttered the word)

I felt this warmth settle over me. And I’m sure Father Ben knows the passage of Scripture I quoted at the beginning of this post even better than I do. If I’m not mistaken, I believe Catholic priests spend something like 12 years in seminary (maybe more). So, yes, he knows this passage that so many quote to malign and ostracize those who identify as LGBTQ.

How many plantation owners used biblical passages to “justify” the ownership of another human being before the American Civil War?

This is also the second “nudge” I feel He has given me in as many weeks to write this post. The first was last week’s anthropology class reading about how many Native American tribes refer to LGBTQ as people “gifted with ‘Two Spirits'” and have a third gender identified in their culture for “those born with both the male and female spirit”(MindEdge, Inc, 2016, 5.26). Rather than reviling someone for their orientation, they hold them in very high regard. These people of “Two Spirits” often become holy men and women within the tribe because it is said that they have a deeper understanding and empathy towards others, having the body of one but the inclinations of the other. This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve looked at my Native American heritage with so much respect and admiration. Despite being termed as “savages” by early settlers, and having had no formal teachings, or readings of the Bible before Europeans arrived, our First Nations’ people have/had a deeper understanding of the Lord and His teachings than many more “learned” members of the clergy (and I believe the first part of the above passage would explain that, being so close to His creation (nature) as they are/were…). Would that the values and beliefs our native tribes held for each other have been embraced by greedy European settlers who saw instead a land of great wealth and sought only to cheat and rob them of their land…and even their culture, in some cases. But that’s a different rant for a different day.

I’m procrastinating.

You see, this blog post has been written and re-written numerous times. And I’m still dipping that proverbial toe into those turbulent waters and pulling it back out again repeatedly. I confess, I have shied away every time before hitting “Post”. This is a controversial subject. Oftentimes, it leads to heated discussions. It has even escalated into acts of violence in some instances. And I avoid conflict like the plague. If you accused me of timidity, I’d probably turn on you like a viper; you’ve hit a nerve. I could blame it on a childhood where violence and abuse were re-occurring events but I can only blame the childhood so far. It may have left me with a bitter taste for conflict but it is no excuse for not standing up for what I believe is right and true. I believe God is telling me that He can’t use me if I’m going to play it “safe” and avoid the conflicts. If I’m going to follow Him, I have to be brave. I have to trust that He’s got my back. And that He knows my heart, knows that this post comes from a place of love. His love. He isn’t asking me to go looking for the conflicts; He’s asking me not to shy away from them. When they matter.

I am hetero. I don’t say this out of any phobia. It’s simply a fact of life. And there’s a point to it if everyone stays with me here…both Christian and non, hetero and LGBTQ. I was born with this orientation. Both ex-husbands were male. And any dating has also been with men. That’s not going to change today, tomorrow, next week, or next year. It is as natural to me as breathing to date men. And I have to believe that for anyone who identifies as LGBTQ, the same is true…but yet the opposite. I.e. it is as natural as breathing, for example, for a homosexual male to seek another man when dating as it is for me to do the same…even though I am female. In other words, again, it is not a CHOICE. We are born with our orientations, whatever it is for each of us.

And I firmly believe that.

I have two cousins who are in same-sex relationships, one male, one female. In fact, they are both in what our society terms “civil unions” with their partners. They were also brought up in Christian homes. I can’t imagine the courage it took to open up about themselves, and the people they ultimately fell in love with, but I can tell you one thing: not a single member of our family was the least bit surprised. You see, though one is female and the other male, biologically, they each had certain…I’m going to say “elements” of the opposite gender. (Or maybe I should borrow that Native American terminology and say they had ‘two spirits’…) The female cousin is of my own generation. We spent our early childhoods together but then my family moved out West. When we returned to New England, that first Christmas home, my grandmother hosted a Christmas party in her basement. I was looking forward to seeing my cousins again; it had been many years. And then my eyes settled on someone behind the bar, someone I didn’t recognize at first. I remember asking one of my other cousins who the boy was behind the bar. It was my female cousin. She hadn’t opened up about her sexuality yet; she was still only about 15 and, doubtless, finding her way, coming to terms with it all…maybe building the courage to speak up, as her parents had left the Catholic faith and become born-again. I imagine their church may have taken a harder line on homosexuality. The other cousin, a boy, is closer in age to my much-younger brother. I never mistook him for a girl but, even as young as 4 or 5 years old, the age he was when we first returned home, you could see the two spirits lighting him up from within. And at 4 or 5 years of age, I seriously doubt he was even thinking about his sexuality yet. Yes, each chose their life’s partner, just as I chose my ex-husbands. But the orientation that pointed them in the direction their dating life took was not a choice.

What was a choice was for past generations of LGBTQ to marry someone of the opposite gender, even knowing their attraction was to the same gender (or maybe both…or maybe they just liked wearing the traditional clothes of another gender–we could go on). I’m going to guess that maybe some thought there was something “wrong” with them for this preference. And sometimes their religion (if any) rained fire and brimstone down on their heads, quoting passages like the above, so that they were too afraid to open up about their orientation. Because such things weren’t talked about in past generations (I’m a 50-something woman). Being openly LGBTQ 30, 40, 50 years ago was a serious taboo. You could lose your job or your career; be denied housing; be denied the right to serve your country in the military; be beaten…even killed for something that is inherently a part of each of us and cannot be changed by something as limiting as a “choice”. Our orientation is like our hair or eye color. Sure, I could open up a bottle of Clairol and dye my hair red or blond (and I have done both in the past) but, when my hair grows out, it will grow out brown again (okay, brown with lots of silver highlights…). I can insert a contact lens to make my eye appear brown but, underneath that lens, the iris is still blue. It’s an illusion, a lie.

Much like one hetero and one homosexual person marrying and trying to make it work.

Perhaps, in past generations, some have managed to make it “work”; I’m sure, though their orientation was towards their own gender, they still loved their spouse…much like I might love a sister, a mother, my best friends. But, if we could talk to those people, what would they say? No, this isn’t about fulfillment or completeness; that’s a fabrication of our instant gratification society. This is about something that, for the person experiencing it, feels dreadfully wrong to them. It’s something that must surely have made these past generations feel very uncomfortable…as many of us who are hetero would feel with someone of our own gender. That’s just not how we’re oriented…and the shoe fits on the other foot, so to speak. It takes courage to open up about your orientation…even in today’s world where it has become more commonplace and accepted.

But what about the above Scripture I quoted in the beginning? There’s some pretty specific stuff there against being with someone of the same gender. Granted, it implies that these were adults who chose to start worshiping idols and following the adversary…and so He punished them by making them “burn with lust” for their own gender. It doesn’t say anything about children growing up with one body but having the mannerisms, or “spirit”, of the other. It doesn’t say anything about orientation. Of course, it also doesn’t say anything about these people loving each other. It says they lusted after each other. That may be the key word here. But, to play a bit of devil’s advocate here, why would God create a person with an orientation towards their own gender if He would also consider it a punishment to burn with lust for such? And therein lies the slippery slope that a lay minister, such as myself, with only two semesters of theology, does not have an adequate answer for. So maybe I’m wrong about the “choice” thing. (Again, everyone, please stay with me here…)

However, what if I am wrong? What if it isn’t a choice? In my heart, I don’t believe that it is a choice, based upon both the strength and confidence in my own orientation, and what I have observed in others–both friends and family members alike–who are of the LGBTQ community. But I am willing to explore both sides of the “debate”.

If I am wrong, and our orientation is a choice, how does ostracism and bigotry against someone who makes a “choice” that doesn’t fall in line with our own, show Jesus’ Light and Love? How does pointing the finger of judgment awaken a conviction in people to walk with Jesus? Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. This statement qualifies: it doesn’t quantify. It doesn’t say only to love those neighbors with whom we agree or approve of. How would we feel if someone looked at something about us, a lifestyle, a skin color, or any other thing and rejected us in His name? That may be why our churches are half-empty each week. Whether a choice or not, our brethren in the LGBTQ are children of God, the same as us. And, in almost every one I have had the grace to know–and love, I have seen His Light in them. If there is sin in their lifestyle “choice”–and we are all guilty of some sin; no holiear-than-thou attitudes allowed here–it is a choice to love another person. Despite the above biblical passage, I’m having a hard time equating “love” with “sin” and calling it “wrong” in the same sentence. Sure, we could argue that the person we love–even if it’s not an orientation thing–is all wrong for us but, if this were a hetero relationship where we felt the two individuals didn’t suit, we wouldn’t condemn them for loving each other. We might point out our observations, our feelings, our opinion…and hope they might come to that realization themselves in time…but, most of us, wouldn’t condemn their feelings for each other. We may not see it but they see something in the other that speaks to their heart.

Again, I may be wrong. But it is not a choice. It is how a person is made. Perhaps our orientation is one of those crosses we have to bear in life (i.e. because of others’ intolerance and discrimination). Perhaps people are being created with so many different orientations to teach us to be more loving and tolerant. And, yes, I’ve heard that the word “tolerant” isn’t in the Bible. However, it’s meaning is: love your neighbor as yourself.

Father Ben said to extend that hand of fellowship.

To everyone.

Regardless.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

MindEdge, Inc. (2016). Introduction to Cultural Anthropology. Waltham, MA: MindEdge, Inc.

A Day for Nostalgia…and some Postponed Mourning

“Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.” (Isaiah 35:10)

Yesterday started out as a bit of an early spring cleaning day. I spent the earlier part of it dusting, chasing away cobwebs on the ceiling and just some general tidying up.

Until I got to the cedar chest in the downstairs hallway.

Originally, the cedar chest has been a place to display family pictures. The wall behind it has a montage of photographs in mixed-and-matched frames; so, too, the top of the chest. Everything of real value that, once Mom, pets and I were safely out of the house, I would run back in to rescue before the flames overtook it (heaven forbid). In more recent years, it has also become the depository for the beloved remains of departed pets, the artwork done by a beloved aunt of special needs and even a few cat toys left in the lane of traffic from the stairs to the rest of the house.

I’ve been avoiding it like the plague.

Dust? You ain’t seen nothing, honey.

Feeling ashamed and full of sorrow, I took a folding chair and sat down in front of it, duster in hand, and carefully, painstakingly, began dusting off each and every item. The canisters of Bear and Trooper’s remains were tough. I’m not really a fan of cremation, despite my environmental leanings. I hate the thought that a tiny canister of ashes is all that is left of this beloved St. Bernard and mischievous feline, respectively; it seems a sacrilege of some sort. Granted, the countless cats, dogs, chickens, rabbits, ducks, birds, rats and guinea pigs buried behind the house are just as unrecognizable to the lively and lovable creatures who once shared this home with me…and a bit of “hold” for this property that, in my more honest moments, I would love to sell. As this is rapidly becoming a more commercial area of town, the thought that they might be dug up or paved over for the next strip mall horrifies me. So I stay. And continue to struggle…but that’s another blog post for another day.

The beloved aunt was also cremated. However, her ashes were buried behind her parents’ graves in Providence. Still, pictures of her smiling face stared up at me…along with the framed pen-and-ink drawing of an elephant she’d created years’ ago; she had so much talent.

A part of me wanted to abort this mission but I carried on, lifting the lid of a keepsake box atop the chest, and feeling a bit of bittersweet delight in the treasures contained therein: an old felt hat worn by either my paternal grandfather, great-grandfather–or both! It’s a child’s hat. If my grandfather’s, he was born in 1905 so at least 100 years’ old; my great-grandfather was born in 1878. I have photos of both wearing a similar hat as young lads. The crystal candy dish that always sat on the end table between my paternal grandmother’s chair and the sofa, always filled with starlight candies. The…I’m not sure what you would call it…I’m going to say little yellow goblin that my maternal grandfather purchased and sent home to St. Louis with my mother after she’d visited RI for her sister’s wedding…or, perhaps, her brother’s funeral, I’m not sure which. It used to hold a little plastic sign that said: You and Me, Me and You, That’s the Way It’ll Always Be. One of my dogs did away with the sign; amazing that I still remember what it said. But it’s imprinted on my heart. A carefully wrapped Hummel given to me when my maternal grandmother died; it used to grace the shelf in the window by her front door. An Indian necklace of silver and turquoise, also given by my maternal grandfather as a reminder of our Native American heritage. And, for some strange reason, my cap and now-faded tassels when I graduated high school.

After setting it all aside, I finally lifted the lid of the chest. At least a dozen photo albums and countless envelopes of photos greeted me. My heart wrenched even as I picked up one of those envelopes. I took these photos. My photos tend to be predominantly of my pets. And I’ve lost quite a few over the last several years.

Yup. There’s Ariel, younger, healthier, livelier, sprawled out on the kitchen floor, looking up at me with those bright eyes and a smile on her little kitty face. I could hear the echo of her very distinctive “Me-o-ow!” Trooper hanging nearly upside-down on the kitchen chair. His was more of a “Rr-i-owww!” with the mouth doing a little arch as he uttered it. Picture Chewbacca’s voice but somewhat muted. (Chuckle) Megan, Woody, Alice, Roxy and Bear. Tessa, all white-faced in the later years of her life. The almost twin photos I took by the back gate first of Tessa and Hooch when I first moved here; then of Roxy and Bear shortly after they arrived. Rueben the Rat, poking his little twitchy nose out, looking for treats. My first 6 chickens: Rusty, Ruby, Rouge, Copper, Penny and Amber; Delilah Duck. Other chickens, too: Pierogi, Wiggy, Lil’ Peep, Flame, Autumn, Beauty, Charity, Linen, Flax, Patience, Blessing, Black Velvet, Squire, Winnie & Mannie. The budgies: Nigel, Jamaica & Skye. Guinea pigs, Harry, Ron and Hermoine (Yes, a Potter fan!); bunnies, Gizmo, Choo-Choo, Jillian, Isabella, Tango & Cindy Lou, Moxie, Splash, Mr. V, Violet, Rose & Lily, Orion and Lemony Snicket, Rainy. Mom’s dog, Max, lost three days before Christmas; he wormed his way into my heart pretty quickly. And, I confess, my heart started feeling a bit heavy. I realized that some of the depression and lack of motivation in recent years is simply grief. I’ve been in mourning yet, somehow, unable to really let it all out. Sure, there’s been tears with each loss but I’ve tucked most of it away somewhere, where it’s festered and scraped and left this raw, aching hole.

Worse, seeing pictures of that beloved aunt and hearing her tell me yet again how something is “too much like work”…or asking me “Wasn’t I darling?” when I looked at her baby pictures. The step-father I never wanted to claim as “father” because of his abuse. I’ve blogged about how forgiveness is more for ourselves, how it’s not about condoning the actions of the individual–and I could never condone that; I know how much it hurts, how difficult a hurdle it has been to overcome through life–but a means of letting go of something–hurt, anger, etc–that hurts you more than the person you’re holding that emotion towards. Yes, the forgiveness has been there. But I haven’t really allowed myself to grieve. As if grieving the passing of this man would somehow be hypercritical. And maybe to some people it would be. But without him, I also wouldn’t have a brother, whom I love more than life itself; beautiful nieces and sister-in-law that I wish I lived closer to, had more of an opportunity to know better; another family of beloved grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I lost that third grandfather, my stepfather’s father, a year after my stepfather. Raw, aching hole…

Hypocrisy be damned.

But, you know what? Even with all the sorrow, the grief that I’ve been holding inside, bottling up, there was also a bit of healing yesterday. Despite the losses, I could look at these photos and, oftentimes, laugh. I could watch Trooper’s funny face hanging upside-down from the kitchen chair and remember his antics with real joy and appreciation for the years I got to share with him. When he showed up on my doorstep that night, my life was truly blessed. Ditto for every other pet, family member and friend. And, along with faces that I will no longer see in this life, there were photos of baby showers, and trips to the Big E Fair; of fiber fests, Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations. And, suddenly, over the grief slid a sort of wonder and awe at how richly my life has been blessed. I’ve been focused on the negative: the losses. Instead of looking at all the goodness that has also been part of my life.

Of course, I shared the laughter with Mom. Mom’s not good with grief. She understands it, probably better than most, but she’s quick to mouth platitudes that I’d rather not hear, platitudes like how this pet or that is no longer suffering and in pain, or how I should think of all the little children in hospitals with cancer (I’m not sure the logic behind that one being of comfort…whether we’re talking beloved pets or family members or good friends). She means well. But she also gets anxious, as if it is a sin past bearing that one should openly exhibit emotion. But I have to. I have to let it out. Finally. Because I do mourn both human and humane. But I also rejoice in the memories. And was able to share those memories with someone else I love dearly. And that was the greatest healing of all.

May God bless you & keep you!

Manifesting my Dreams

“And we have this confidence in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14)

I struggle to know His will for me versus my own hopes, dreams and aspirations. Did He put these dreams on my heart because this is where He wants me to go? Or am I hoping to super-impose my will over His simply because He provided the grace, the talent, the desire…whether we’re talking writing, art or homesteading? I guess, in some ways, I’m trying to read God’s mind. It’s almost as if I’m looking for permission to be a writer, artist and/or homesteader. And, in the long run, I don’t think He minds what avenue we choose to spread His word, to do His will. His will is that we love Him with our hearts, our minds, our souls–in short, every ounce of our being, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Last Sunday this awful cold–which is turning into bronchitis, I suspect–kept me from church. Mom and I sat and watched some daily devotional videos with Mark Hall from Casting Crowns. I am going to paraphrase him but we’re not writers. Or artists. Or bankers. Or whatever our profession. We’re Christians who write, draw/paint, or work in a bank. In other words, being Christian, serving Christ, should be first. That should be our identity. I like that because it puts us all on the same playing field. We’re all the same in God’s eyes.

So today I am a Christian who writes. And I finally finished the mural I blogged about many months’ ago. I’m also a Christian who paints:

The ultimate symbol of Christ’s sacrifice for us shining down on all of my dreams. I’ve spent a lot of time in holistic health, which tends to have a crossover with New Age beliefs. There’s a lot of talk about manifesting your dreams. In short, in many ways, it is a feeble attempt to superimpose our own wills over God’s. But His plans are greater than any that you or I may have. And, if it is His will, His means of getting there are much more effective. Still, it was rather nice to pour all of my longing into this folk-art rendering of where I hope to be one day.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Hall, M. (n.d.). “Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall Daily Devotional”. YouTube. Retrieved January 5, 2018 from: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9E60B7BC20898E21

A-a-a-Achoo!

“Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh He rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20: 8-11)

Inevitable, I guess, that I should catch the same head cold as is floating around the museum. Also inevitable that it should be slowly evolving into laryngitis. “Inevitable” because laryngitis seems to be the plague of all singers.

You sing.

You get sick.

You lose your voice.

Granted, I’m not singing “pro” anymore. Or even semi-pro. So this doesn’t really affect me on any professional level. But the vox always takes the hit. Regardless. You’d think, given my voice doesn’t get the same routine workout it received when I sang in bands, that I might avoid the laryngitis once in a while. But, apparently, it doesn’t work that way.

And all of this nonsensical gibberish has nothing to do with the fact that I’m sitting here on the Sabbath using my “other” voice, the voice of a writer…and, technically, WORKING.

It doesn’t feel like work. It feels like fun.

Does that count?

Probably not…

However, I am rejoicing to be back at the keyboard. Blessed be the Name of the Lord. And, while I lament this illness that keeps me away from serving Communion this morning (I am scheduled), I also appreciate that His plan is greater than mine. He knows I have a cold. He knows some part of me is rundown and has been ignoring that “rundown”, stressed out state for quite some time now. He also knows that my heart is rejoicing to be back serving Communion–and Lectoring–again but, I believe in my heart, He is reminding me what happens when we neglect our health–mental, emotional, physical and, yes, spiritual. We get hit with dis-EASE. (You can take the girl out of the holistic health sector but you can’t take the holistic health out of the girl…) Just as each of us is a part of the body of Christ, so, too, does our own physical body have many parts…parts that need care, rest, and respect. When we neglect any part of ourselves, it causes a breakdown on all of these levels. Time constraints, and the current compromises of some core values, have caused this breakdown. It is time to put it right. And come up fighting.

But He says rest for right now. We’ll fight this together…whatever “this” is..in His time.

Not mine.

I think He’s trying to tell me to stop chasing my own tail. Give it all to Him: the financial burdens; the looming debts; the dreams and desires that always seem to get further away instead of closer; the feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and unworthiness; the perpetual square-peg-in-a-round-hole existence. Give it all to Him. Because, without Him, none of it matters. Those dreams just keep getting further away. And it is more important that He not be pushed further and further away by the pressures of the world.

Because I’ve neglected to put Him first in my day.

Letting go, giving control to anyone–even God–has always been my biggest struggle in life. I grew up in an abusive home–not beaten physically but verbally, mentally, emotionally and sexually abused. Staying tight-fisted, and playing it “safe”, has given me a very false sense of security. Every time I decide to step into the waters of life, take a step out of line, I expect fire and brimstone to rain down upon my head. Such stinking thinking is probably my biggest burden of all. And yet, I let the Adversary lure me with it. I stop just before making that final leap of faith, not trusting that Jesus is there to catch me. Each and every time.

I’m tired of that “standard of living” that “somehow got stuck on survive” (Kilcher, 1998). “We were made to thrive” (Casting Crowns, 2014). And, the only way to do that, is to let go…and trust in Him. All of my own efforts just keep burying me deeper.

These last two months, besides being somewhat of a tedious task in re-reading and editing past posts, have also been a time of reflection. I can almost trace the path of how I got into this human survival mode…instead of a spiritual thriving. I also see where I’ve often shared mostly the positive, the upbeat, the hopes and dreams, but seldom the failures. And He uses the failures, the imperfections. It is the down-trodden that He uses; He lifts them up, performs small (and some not so small) miracles through them. And in them.

To further His kingdom.

I keep chasing my tail, doing the same thing over and again…and expecting a different outcome. They say that’s a definition of insanity. I invite God to take control. Then, when everything is going smoothly, I push away from Him and try to take hold of the reins again. “I’ve got this now.” As if I can do a better job this time than He can. When has that ever proved true?

Definitely a definition of insanity.

He really does work in mysterious ways. I set out on what I thought would be a tedious task, intent only on removing any and all specific mentions of my current employer, so that their brand may not be compromised by anything written in this blog. I’ll confess even to some rebellion in the act: a refusal to give free advertising to that brand as well. More stinking thinking, of course, but He uses even that…and brings it around to more right thinking. No one person, or entity, is right or wrong…or perfect. It is our imperfections that make us whole…and beautiful. That doesn’t mean we quit trying to do right, to make right, or perfect; to alleviate suffering; feed the hungry, etc. But if we take that right or wrong, that imperfection, that suffering and hunger, and place it in His hands, the fight is already won. Sort of appropriate that I should finally complete this “tedious” task, this unexpected reflection and awakening, on New Year’s Eve day. I may have laryngitis but my fingers are singing across this keyboard. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

What a great way to start a new year.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Casting Crowns (2014). “Thrive.” Thrive. Beach Street/Reunion.

Kilcher, J. (1998). “Deep Water.” Spirit. EMI Music Publishing.