An Unexpected Gift

“There is a right time for everything: A time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant; a time to harvest” (Ecclesiastes 3(1-2)

This is actually one of “those” posts again. The cycles of life and death are never more apparent than when working the earth, working close to the seasons, as one does as a farmer or homesteader. I have been eagerly anticipating the birth of a few ducklings as Dixie Duck has been setting some eggs over the last few weeks. She hatched one yesterday morning. I found the tiniest but most perfectly formed duckling lying on the floor outside of the nest. I wanted to weep. After all this time, with Dixie and I both worrying and waiting and, again, eagerly anticipating.

A stillborn.

It is surely one of those “Why?” questions I hope to ask God someday. I know I’m not supposed to question His wisdom, His plans. But seeing such a tiny life that never got the chance was heartbreaking. Moments later, I also said “Goodbye” to Connie, my New Hampshire Red hen. Truly, Connie was only 3 years old and should have been in the prime of her life. She snuggled down in the hay the night before last, tucked her head under her wing as always and simply went to sleep. I suppose I couldn’t have asked for a kinder end. But I wonder what sort of illness or injury might her stoicism been hiding for she exhibited no sign of either. And there were no signs of having skirmished with either a fellow chicken or even the hoof of a goat.

(Miss Connie is in the lower right corner of picture)

I’m going to hold in my heart that she went to care for the little one, Little Duckie, as I christened his/her remains, on his way to eternal rest. So little and cute, he/she needed someone to care for them. And Dixie, being the only female duck on the farm, elected to stay. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Of course, I also said “Goodbye” to a human acquaintance this week, too. A gentleman who used to greet people at church and also serve as an usher was found on March 21st on the floor of his home. He had suffered a coronary; his 86 (I think; give or take) year old father found him. And my heart goes out to him. I worked with Don at the dealership (the father, not the son); we also share the same parish. I can’t imagine the pain of losing one’s child, no matter how old (Stephen was in his early-60’s). To make matters worse, his mother recently broke her hip. My heart, my thoughts and my prayers go out to this family. When I see the loss and the struggles of others, I often wonder what I’m complaining about in my life.

And yet, there were two unexpected gifts during the memorial service for Stephen on Monday. First, the strength and apparent serenity displayed by his mother. Oh, I’m sure inside a storm was raging over the loss of this child she sheltered for 9 months in her womb, raised to be the fine gentlemen so many of us were blessed to know. But the joy on this woman’s face…it was easy to see that the eulogies given by both Father Ben and Father Elson were of great comfort to her. Again, I don’t know what was truly going on inside but, to be able to display such grace outwardly, when all of your world is crashing down around you, is a faith worth striving for.

And, yes, Father Elson. That was the other unexpected gift. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that Father Elson was transferred out of our parish back in November. I had been away from church for some weeks due to a conflict with my work schedule and came back with a shock to realize that Father Elson had left. I tried hard not to mind that Father Ben now stood on the altar. And, in truth, Father Ben is proving to be as much of a blessing as Father Elson. However, my heart broke just a little thinking I had never gotten the chance to say “Goodbye” to him and wish him well on his future endeavors. He gave so much to our parish, breathed so much life into it, that he will be forever missed. So it truly was a blessing to see him standing on the altar again, giving this eulogy. His first words were that he had loved Stephen. You could feel the warmth and gratitude such words meant to all of Stephen’s loved ones as it was apparent that he meant them. Though it was a sad occasion that brought him back to our parish for the day, it was good to see him, to talk with him and, yes, to wish him well as he journeys back to India today. Though he was just getting over the flu, his trademark smile still lit up the church and the altar. In finally saying, “Goodbye” in another way, I realized just how much I have grown to love this young man…as a friend, as a brother in Christ, as a priest and spiritual leader in our community. Father Elson is not the reserved and somewhat distant priest I remember from my childhood. He’s warm and welcoming and as down-to-earth as anyone could wish. Whatever parish that receives him in the future will be truly blessed, indeed. And I give thanks to our Father in Heaven for the many years we were graced with this man…and for the new chapter that is beginning with Father Ben. In all fairness, he seems cut from the same cloth.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Happy 40th, Shaun!

“There are ‘friends’ who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

I was an only child almost until my 12th birthday. I used to envy my friends, cousins, etc. who had siblings; romanticize my mother’s family of 11 kids and my maternal grandfather’s ginormous family of 18 kids (yes, 18!). I even went to high school with a brother and sister who were 2 of 19. And I thought that was awesome. But, by then, it was because I finally had a brother, who I thought was awesome, so multiplying the number would be even better. Surely, a bit of Americanization there where more, or bigger, is better. Perhaps having a little brother was really so awesome because he was the only one and we were able to form a more loving bond with each other without the extra competition for each other’s time. Needless to say, I oscillated between spoiling him one minute and losing patience trying to keep up with him when the parental units took full advantage of this built-in babysitter the next. My teenage self grumbled with the enforced responsibility; today I miss the friend my brother has always been sharing trips to the Quonset Air Show; visits to King Richard’s Faire and even the perpetual viewing of “A Christmas Story” every day in December and “Short Circuit” the rest of the year.

My brother, Shaun, has made a career in the United States Army so visits are few and far between. He and his wife, and my two nieces, currently live in Tennessee. We’ve missed so much of each other’s lives in recent years but I couldn’t be more proud of him. And I love him more each and every day.

And, yes, Shaun, if you’re reading my blog post this is a bit “mushy” for a “macho” soldier turning 40 years old today. But, always remember, I changed your diapers. And now it’s gone public.

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!

I love you, “Little” brother (at more than a few inches over 6 feet, you’re not exactly “little” anymore…).

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!

My Apologies for the Delay…

Good morning (or whatever time of day it is in your part of the world…)

In the middle of some major “renovations” here on this blog. As soon as they are completed, I will certainly include more information about them. For the time being, I thank everyone for their patience. New content will be added soon.

In the meantime, keep working towards that faith-filled, sustainable and compassionate future. We CAN be the change we wish to see in the world.

May God bless you & keep you!

Leap of Faith…into a Bright, New Future

“These trouble and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessing upon us forever and ever!…I was given a physical condition which has been a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to hurt and bother me, and prick my pride. Three different times I begged God to make me well again. Each time He said, ‘No. But I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people.’ Now I am glad to boast about how weak I am; I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ’s power. Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite happy about ‘the thorn,’ and about insults and hardships, persecutions and difficulties; for when I am weak, then I am strong–the less I have, the more I depend on Him.” (2 Corinthians 4:17; 12:7-10)

Letting go…that has always been my biggest problem when it comes to faith. I lack trust. Sure, I can–and have often–blamed many of my trust issues on my childhood. And I’m not belittling the effects of childhood trauma when I say this but, what am I doing with this lack of trust? Am I continuing to point that finger of blame at another person and thus staying mired in the pain…and in the past? Or am I turning it around at myself, asking what can I–or You–do with this pain for the highest good and taking responsibility for that lack of trust? Choosing the latter option really can be a leap of faith…

I took that leap of faith last week. And here I am in an entirely different world all of a sudden…a world of hope, of joy, of faith.

For many of you reading this blog, you may or may not know that I have been a volunteer at a local museum since 2012; two summers’ ago, I had to request that I be taken off of the schedule for awhile as a return to academia (as I work towards my degree in Creative Writing with an Emphasis in Fictional Writing, and a minor in Environmental Science), a massive landscaping project here on The Herbal Hare Homestead, work on two separate novels, and part-time work at a local car dealership to make ends meet, overwhelmed me time-wise. Something had to give. But I always planned to eventually return…Someday.

God had bigger plans.

Friday, out of the blue, I received an email from the Coordinator of Volunteers (and I sincerely hope that is the correct title of this wonderful lady…) telling me about a position that had opened up at the museum. This was not a volunteer position, but a paid one heading up their extensive Herb Garden.

I hesitated. Two years’ ago, when I had asked to be taken off their schedule for a time, their long-time Horticultural Lead had left, partly, because the pay scale was so low. As many of you know, though this is a homestead where I am attempting to grow most, if not all, of my fruits, vegetables and herbs, I am still in the early stages of development. It will be some time before this is producing enough to be even semi-self-sufficient. So salary isn’t something I can readily compromise on. There was also the matter of being transportationally-challenged. Mom’s vehicle is still “grounded” as we have yet to get it registered again (see past blog posts on the whole story) so how do I get there??? I’ve been walking nearly everywhere since mid-May.

I called the United Way. I called Unemployment. There is a ride-share program and a reimbursement program if one must take a cab, or some other temporary means, and I found I qualified for both but, they are extremely temporary–as in the “help” would only last a few days because of the distance. I didn’t want to apply, get it, and then have to quit again in three days’ time. Our transportation issues may not be resolved by then.

Or so I thought.

While I was hemming and hawing about all of this, about an hour after the first email, I got another email. The C of V touched base with the Agricultural Lead. I was told to get my resume in yesterday as they had extended the window for getting in said resume just for me and recommendations were already given.

“Lord,” I thought, “You dropped this into my lap; You must have a reason. I don’t know how on earth I’m going to get to this job, if I even get it, but You must have something in mind. I’m going to trust You in this…and not worry about the ‘how’ of it all.”

So, last Monday, I submitted my resume before 8 a.m. and, by 10 a.m., I had received the call to set up the interview. The young lady on the phone sounded enthusiastic about everything so we set the interview for Thursday. I contacted a friend of mine to see if she was available to take me up for the interview and I put a call into my rep at the Unemployment office about the reimbursement program. While I waited for the returned call, I tried not to think about how much a cab ride, twice a day at 37.5 miles each way, was going to cost up front…and fought to suppress the shudder that threatened to erupt in that contemplation. The chorus to Lauren Daigle’s “Trust in You”: “I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You...” echoed through my brain over and again.

The first ray of hope occurred. Mom put in a call to the bank that holds the loan on the car. We had avoided this for weeks, fearing they might repossess the car instead and she would lose all of the money she had invested in it. But she said they were wonderful. She explained how she has cataracts. She gave up her driver’s license as she fears harming another on the road driving with such blind spots in her vision. She told them she also owed back taxes (something we are still struggling to remedy) but the biggest hurdle is that the Connecticut DMV refuses to renew the registration because of her loan and her not having the valid license anymore. She lives with me. I am a licensed driver. And I’ve been the one driving the car, not only to work, but taking Mom to her doctors’ appointments, to the store, to visit family, etc. The DMV wouldn’t put me on the registration because Mom still has the note on it…despite having put me on the insurance policy as the main driver of the car. The bank sent a letter authorizing the DMV to transfer my name to the registration. Once the back taxes are paid, we should be able to re-register the vehicle.

Thursday came. I donned my favorite garden gnome attire (my period-correct costume that I always volunteer in) and waited for my friend to arrive. We stopped for coffee (her) and tea (me) and, along the way, the second obstacle was blasted out of the way. My friend bought a “new” (pre-owned) truck; she offered to let me use her current vehicle until we can get Mom’s vehicle issues resolved. God bless this woman! Now, the only two hurdles left were the salary questions…and the actual hiring for the job.

The interview went well. There was a good, instant rapport. We toured the Herb Garden together while we talked. She asked about my education. I told her I had received my certificate in Herbalism from Michael Ford and Joanne Pacheco, then Apollo Herbs, now Mike heads up Apollo Botanicals. I also have a Master Gardener certificate from the University of Connecticut; my minor in Environmental Science with Southern New Hampshire University also stood me in good stead. I shared my experience with beekeeping as the museum now raises honey bees.

She had another person to interview.

I breathed a sigh of relief after we parted; I hadn’t realized how nervous I had been. I thought even then that it had gone well but, of course, we always second guess ourselves. I thought about all of the things I could have mentioned, the questions I could have asked and then forced myself to quit stressing about it. He was in charge of the outcome, not I. Thy will be done, Lord. I realized, as I went back to the car where my friend was waiting, that salary had never come up. I hadn’t asked, not wanting to blow the interview, but knowing if it was too low, it might be a game-changer.

The next day passed in a sort of fretful struggle not to fret. I considered calling. Then rejected it as I remembered a friend of mine who used to do hiring that today’s employer doesn’t want skeighty-eight hundred calls from hopeful employees. Before I went to bed that night, the idea came to me that she hadn’t asked for references. I sent her an email with three. She called me two days’ later, thanking me for the references and said she was waiting on one of them to return her call; she would let me know one way or another on Monday. She also realized she hadn’t mentioned the salary.

The third miracle. It was much better than I expected. Another sigh of relief. While it won’t make me rich, it’s enough to live on.

Monday morning I got the call. And the position.

How quickly a life can change! After over seven years of first unemployment and then under-employment, I now find myself not only in a full-time position, but in one that utilizes most of my formal education, and I get to do something I absolutely love. A more perfect job could not be tailored for me. And every obstacle that could have made me hesitate too long and lose this opportunity, He removed.

That simply.

How is this even possible? I have been in complete awe since Monday. Yes, there’s the usual jitter of nerves; that’s natural. I’m going into new territory…almost. I have been a volunteer there so I know most of my co-workers already. That certainly helps. My awe is in Him. Again, this position won’t make me rich. But I can’t help thinking how all these years of struggle and strife have molded and shaped me…for this??? This is wonderful. This is incredible. This is better than anything I could’ve ever imagined. I mean, I’m working in a garden most days, playing with and instructing about herbs; I’m steeped in history; I’m surrounded by antiques and farm animals; I get to wear beautiful, period-correct clothing on a daily basis. Not only am I using my certifications in herbalism and master gardening, but even the two semesters of acting I took at the Community College of Rhode Island back in the mid-1990’s. No, we don’t role play at the museum but, trust me, you become another person anyway when you don such attire and move amongst the public. How cool is that? I almost want to ask, how did He know?? But this is God we’re talking about. Of course, He knows.

Looking back over these last several years, while I’ve railed and cried and growled in frustration as yet another thing goes wrong, another something breaks, another vet bill, another something crops up, when I look at my very limited income over these years, really, I shouldn’t still be standing with a mortgage intact and surviving as well as I have. He’s been with me all along. And, though there have been times when I’ve doubted along the way, deep in my heart, there’s been this little mustard seed of faith that maybe, just maybe, He was grooming me for something bigger and better.

Wow. Was He ever.

I’ve been singing His praises along with the rails and cries and growls; now those praises are shooting straight to the moon and back, Alice, to the moon. Because this is all Him; it always has been. And I know, in this heart of mine, that He truly is with me…and always has been. I know that whatever storms or ripples may come up in my future, if He leads me to it, He will lead me through it. The key is, and has always been, for me to let go of that “how”; to let go of the outcome. His plans are so much bigger than mine. Or yours. Such gifts are here for you, too…if only you let go and trust in Him:

When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You”

May God bless you & keep you!

References

Daigle, L. (2015). “Trust in You”. Centricity Music. Trust In You Lyrics (n.d.). Lyrics.com. Retrieved July 27, 2017, from: http://www.lyrics.com/lyric/31688835.

A Pipe Dream

“For I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me strength and power.” (Philippians 4:13)

This morning I arose early, unable to get back into a deep sleep again after Paz’s not-so-rude awakening. I mean, how can you resist when your butterball of a tuxedo cat wants cuddles? At 17 years old, Paz is my geriatric buddy so, while he’s hale and hearty, and I’m definitely not writing him off, everyday we have together is precious. Though “Mommy” laments a bit of lost sleep, I was happy to scratch him under the chin and cuddle him close. When he’d had enough, he took my hand between his paws–much like a child would a stuffed toy–and went to sleep…typical Pazzy-style. I dozed but it wasn’t long before the knees started aching and I noticed a faint line of pink gracing the horizon. As soon as the first birds started twittering, Paz leaped down in search of some dry kibble.

It was a productive morning. Yesterday Mom and I were graced with a visit from an old friend from my corporate days. She had seen my plea for more cardboard on Facebook and, also being a resident of northeastern Connecticut, she offered to bring some by. Christmas came early in the form of an SUV loaded to the gills with huge cardboard boxes. I am so grateful! I managed to build the largest of the beds I will use to plant my herbs into just as the sun was coming up. Now I just need to make some more compost to fill it. Again, I am grateful.

And still on a quest for more so I can landscape the rest of the garden…(hint, hint) (chuckle).

All of this was before 7:15 a.m. I did some yoga and then headed back downstairs to start feeding time here on the farm. And, for the more traditional farmers reading this, yes, 8 a.m. is a little later than most for feeding time but, as I work until 7:30 p.m. off site, it’s a good 12 hour balance between feedings this way. Anyway, I fed and watered ducks, chickens, goats and cats; dosed the goats with some B-12 as some anemia had set in with the recent worm issues. The worms have been eradicated but, Domino, in particular, took it hard; I am happy to say that he seems well on the mend, with his appetite returned (thank God!). I spent the rest of the morning in the rabbit room, giving them some playtime outside of their cages, feeding and grooming them. Of course, I also spent some of the time in prayer (rabbits are restful creatures) and reading one of the chapters due for this week’s homework assignment.

Now it is 1:30 p.m. and I’ve already spent some time writing my book, now this blog and will soon begin the trek to the dealership.

I love what I do at the dealership. More importantly, I love the people I work with; it’s like a great big extended family. But, as much as it’s needed, there’s a part of me lamenting that, once the midday heat passes over, how much I would love to be back out in the garden, working this farm, working to make it into a working herbal, apian and fiber farm.

That is my dream.

Other people do it. But I am definitely not in a place financially where this is even remotely viable. So, for now, this is my little pipe dream: to earn a living, both as a writer and a homesteader, and not have to rely on the insecurity of working elsewhere.

And, yes, everyone read that correctly: insecurity. There is no such thing as job “security” anymore. In fact, there never really has been. The economy, sales–or lack thereof–affect every single industry in some capacity or another…at some time or another. That’s why achieving a measure of self-sufficiency is so appealing. No, not self-sufficiency away from God; He’s at the heart of every endeavor, whether it’s planting some seeds and watching them grow, trimming a goat hoof, or greeting someone on the phone at a local car dealership, I can do nothing without Him. This is the self-sufficiency that doesn’t rely on the traditional 9-to-5 (or, in my present part-time scenario, 3:30 – 7:30), or the energy grid, or the fossil fuel industry but a self-sufficiency that relies on faith in God, and on the wit and capable hands He blessed me with. To know where my food comes from, to make it all from scratch, to spin my own yarn, weave my own cloth and sew my own fashions…that is the dream.

And, as I bask in this feeling of satisfaction from such a productive morning and early afternoon, I hold onto this feeling, memorize it and allow it to motivate me into making it more than just a pipe dream. A reality, where all of the goodness of the Earth gets purposed to God and abundance is shared with a smile.

May God bless you & keep you!