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Stay tuned…

…our regularly scheduled program will be back as soon as I’ve finished my final exam this week! =)

Stay safe, stay healthy…May God bless you & keep you!

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Sunday Cyber-Service

“Remember to observe the Sabbath as a holy day. Six days a week are for your daily duties and your regular work, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest before the Lord your God. On that day you are to do no work of any kind, nor shall your son, daughter, or slaves–whether men or women–or your cattle or your house guests. For in six days the Lord made the heaven, earth and sea, and everything in them, and rested the seventh day; so He blessed the Sabbath day and set it aside for rest.” (Exodus 20: 8-11)

So this feels just a little awkward…so I guess I’m on the right track. God loves to take us out of our comfort zones. He wants us to trust Him…even in the midst of coronavirus. Actually, I should amend that: especially in the midst of coronavirus. And, while this isn’t exactly a traditional service, I’m going to start by sharing a song by Christian artist, Zach Williams, called “Old Church Choir”. Though I can carry a tune myself, just for today, I’m leaving it to the pros. Let’s lift the somber mood of these past few weeks just a little bit:

For everyone reading this today, I hope that the prayers and Scripture I offer, even the music I share, will enrich your day, your week, and bring you solace and hope in a seemingly chaotic situation. Truly, faith in Something–Someone–greater than one’s self is the only thing that does bring hope in the face of chaos and adversity.

And the adversities we face today are unlike any that we have seen in 80, 90 years.

I don’t share that to overwhelm, or to spread further terror. It’s to bring this situation into perspective. There’s been so much anger masking fear and uncertainty, so much finger pointing–something of which yours truly has been guilty–and it only excerbates the situation…both in our hearts, and in our communities. Yes, we are seeing who the *true* leaders are, and those whose hearts the Adversary’s lies have settled into as well. And, no, they’re not the ones closing down even the churches. The officials that have closed nearly every door are doing so to save lives, to prevent the spread of illness. However, the Adversary is watching this, wringing his hands together at the opportunities he sees before him now that so many of us are not coming together in prayer, to receive Communion and fellowship, to confess our sins of the previous week(s), and to seek forgiveness. I say we pray without ceasing, giving praise to the One who is truly in control and has our backs in all of this, effectively binding those wringing hands from doing their dirty work. We have enough to contend with in Covid-19. That’s enough chaos for one community, one country, one world. And, without God, without a belief in Someone greater than ourselves, where will we find the strength to get through the weeks ahead and their endless challenges? Or to resist those adversarial lies?

Yes, you read that correctly: give God praise during this epidemic. He knows what He’s doing, and why. It is our job to trust Him, to believe Him, when He tells us He loves us, that He has our best interests at heart. Though it may not seem apparent at the moment, He does. He truly does. If we give in to the doubts, and I know it’s difficult not to at a time like this when so many are sick, scared, dying, but this is where He needs us to follow Him ever more closely. He needs us to be steadfast and stand together in solidarity with Him, to root out the lies and bring them into the Light, to bring comfort to those who are afraid, or have suffered loss.

You know, we talk about pulling together during this crisis. And yet, we are being asked, for safety’s sake, to stay apart. It seems a bit of an oxymoron but, while we may not be together physically, we CAN be together in our hearts, in our minds, in spirit…in Spirit. It is, in my opinion, the only way we will get through this crisis.

And that brings me to another point of this post. I’ve talked a lot in previous posts about being an introvert. Truly, it’s not all that difficult being an introvert in America. Our society encourages distance even when things are “normal”. Look at how we are structured. Most people travel to work solo. In fact, I know of plenty of people who look down their noses at people who carpool, or utilize public transit. The auto industry touts independence, freedom of spirit, etc. to sell their products. If you don’t have an automobile of your own, people are scandalized (I have first-hand knowledge). In short, we’re encouraged to be alone in our commutes. Though “tiny houses” are all the rage today as sort of a grassroots’ movement that is gaining some traction in the mainstream, our housing/construction industries push the mantra of bigger being better. Our streets are lined with countless McMansions, surrounded by acres of well-manicured status symbols of lawns that rob us of clean air, clean soil, clean water…even home-grown food so, if for no other reason, we do not starve during an epidemic. We’re disconnected from the earth, from our food, from the animals that sacrifice theirs that we might have life (oftentimes under horrible conditions). More importantly, we’re disconnected from each other. Again, in short, I see millions of “islands”. I get needing elbow room…and we don’t always find “good” neighbors, but in these Islands of Suburbia, we might never know. How many of us, when there isn’t a pandemic, have walked across those acres of useless grass to extend the hand of friendship to those whose multi-acres of McMansion border ours? And, sadly, even within the walls of those McMansions, we remain islands of humanity. Every child must have its own bedroom. We must have a man-cave, or a she-shed. Every human in the house must have their own bathroom, too. I suppose during a pandemic such as this one, we might conclude that the distance between us, even within our own communities, is a good thing to help slow the spread of infection. But do we know how to sit down as a family and share a common meal? Do we even know how to cook a meal without zapping it in a microwave? We’re not running off to countless after-school sporting events, clubs, extra-curricular activities right now. How has that changed the dynamics? Do we know how to entertain ourselves as a family? When was the last time we pulled out a board game? Or a deck of cards? When was the last time we prayed together as a family…outside of our church, temple, synagogue, or mosque? For those of you who have been sitting down together as a family to share a meal, a game, or a prayer, you are truly the wealthy during this crisis. And that’s something we can all appreciate, whether introverted, or extroverted.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I praise you in this “storm”. We truly are at “war” with an enemy we cannot see. But I know that Your Eyes do see this “enemy” and You’ve got this! I praise You for that knowledge. I praise You for the knowledge that You are giving to doctors, nurses, first-responders, scientists, etc. to help heal those who are ill. I praise You, too, for protecting these healthcare workers from contracting the Covid-19 virus themselves; we need all of their expertise. I praise You for lifting every healthcare worker up, relieving their fatigue, and for giving them clarity when it is most needed.

I praise you for every grocery, pet and/or feed store worker, for every pharmacist, for every essential worker who is also on the front lines during this epidemic. I praise you for protecting them also, and the families that they go home to each night.

I praise You for our government officials. I pray that sound minds and compassionate hearts will prevail in this crisis. I praise You for guiding the hands of those who would lead…and showing us just who those people are. I praise You for touching the hearts of those who would profit from the sufferings of others that they might repent and seek You in all future endeavors, bringing Light, instead of the darkness that our world has become.

I praise You for lifting up the hearts of all people everywhere during this epidemic. Where hearts are hungry, provide them Your sustenance. Where hearts are frightened, give them courage. Where hearts are angry, bring them peace. Where hearts are in doubt, fill them with Your grace. And, for those who have lost a loved one to this illness, I praise You for comforting them in their hour of sorrow and loss. Help them to remember that when we are a part of the body and blood of Christ, we are never truly alone. I praise You for the hope that is forever Your name, in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom Come, thy Will be done.
On earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses.
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power,
And the Glory, forever and ever…Amen

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Casting Crowns (2008). “Praise You In This Storm (live).” Lifesong (2005), producer by Mark A. Miller, Beach Street/Reunion Records. Neyolov. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ype1xE0wzsg

For King and Country (2015). “Shoulders (Official Music Video).” Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong, producers Ben Glover, Matt Hales, Seth Mosley and Tedd Tjornhom, Fervent Records alongside Word Records. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfiYWaeAcRw

Williams, Zach (2017). “Old Church Choir (Official Music Video).” Chain Breaker, producer Jonathan Smith, Essential Records. Vevo. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOEviTLJOqo&list=RDyOEviTLJOqo&start_radio=1

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It’s Definitely NOT Like the Movies

“A man that strays from home is like a bird that wanders from its nest.” (Proverbs 27:8)

In my last post, I mentioned how seasonal allergies had left me feeling blehck! Well, over the last couple of days, seasonal allergies morphed into a little something more than just feeling blehck!. Tuesday evening post-nasal drip, headache and plugged ears added fever and chills to the mix. No, I don’t have coronovirus (don’t get me started on that one!). However, I do have some kind of virus. I went to bed early Tuesday evening, around 9 p.m., and slept through until 8 a.m with only one bathroom break around 2 a.m. I got up, took care of the farm, sank exhaustedly into the easy chair in the living room afterwards, and dozed some more. Needless to say, when I went back to bed Wednesday evening, I became the insomniac. And I did exactly what sleep experts say you shouldn’t do:

I picked up my cellphone and web surfed (blue light is supposed to trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime and actually wakes you up, making it harder to fall asleep).

I was good. I stayed away from Facebook, one of my Lenten vows. Instead, I opted to do some genealogical searching. In times’ past, I’ve typed in the names of grandparents and great-grandparents and found some pretty cool stuff. Like, I always knew my maternal grandfather was one of 18 children (yes, 18…) but I never knew all of their names. I once found a census record that listed the names of all my great-aunts and uncles. I found a great-aunt Doris (now one of three great-aunt Dorises) who died in infancy. I knew my maternal grandfather had a sister named Viola (I also knew her; she died when I was in my early-20’s), but there had also been a Violet who died when she was just a little girl. In fact, later scrolling had led to a confusion of these two great-aunties, though two very separate dates of birth existed. Another time, I googled my paternal grandfather’s father’s name and found this really cool article on The Outlet Co. in Providence, Rhode Island that talked about Mortimer Burbank’s history with their radio station…and the elephants he arranged for a parade through the streets of Providence. My great-grandfather eventually became owner of The Outlet Co., which in turn, passed to my grandfather. Before his passing, my Poppop (my nickname for my grandfather) liquidated everything to put into a trust for my Aunt Marjorie, who was a lot like Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie, Rainman. It served her well until her passing several years’ ago.

I’m not sure what made me google my father’s name Wednesday evening but I did.

His obituary came up. He died a year ago, March 6, 2019.

Now, before everyone starts scratching their head in confusion, I have not seen my father since my paternal grandmother’s passing in 1976. He pretty much severed all contact with his family after her passing, except for a brief visit to his sister, my Aunt Nancy, down in Mississippi that ended with that tie also severed shortly thereafter.

Anyway, Wednesday evening, after more searching to ascertain that this obituary really was my father’s, and not another man by the same name, I called his one surviving sister, my Aunt Sandy, to tell her the news. Like so many other times, I wished we lived closer. I wanted to reach out and give her a big hug. Words can be awkward things at times like these. We expressed regret that every attempt at reconciliation had been rebuffed over the years. And acknowledged that what were the chances of finding out about his passing in such a way. Then we moved on to other topics (my new job as librarian; my cousin’s successful kidney transplant–praise the Lord!) before circling back to the original intent of the call.

Again, I really wanted to hug my aunt.

I’ve been grappling with telling this story ever since.

My father was a late child for my grandparents. He was the youngest of 5 children and the only boy. He was also 10 years’ younger than the youngest of the girls–my Aunt Sandy–and, by everyone’s admission, terribly spoiled. My grandfather, sadly, was already an alcoholic by the time he was born and didn’t have a lot of time for my father. My grandmother overcompensated by often giving my father what he wanted. And, of course, he had 4 older sisters doting on him.

He was also an extraordinary guitarist.

I don’t consider my own playing ability “extraordinary” but I get my love of music from him. One of the few childhood memories I have of my father was creeping into his room to listen and watch him play. A few times he put the guitar in my hand and tried to teach me. The first time, I was still too small and my arms wouldn’t even go all the way around the guitar. Later, tender, young fingers protested the necessary pressure needed on the strings to make a clear, ringing sound (Ouch!). Such quality father-daughter moments were few and far between however.

My parents were wed in August of 1966; I was born in November of the same year. My mother had been in an accident as a young girl. She had been riding in the back of a pick-up truck when it collided with another vehicle. She flew. The doctors said she’d never have children (she should’ve sued). Doubtless, she told my father this, and so, he was unprepared when he found out that she was carrying me. From Mom, from both paternal and maternal aunts and uncles, he turned abusive, obviously resenting this forced responsibility (in those days, folks didn’t have a couple of kids and then get married…). In his defense, he may have felt “trapped”. But it does not excuse the many horror stories I have heard throughout the years of my mother being knocked down flights of stairs, having her stomach burned with a Zippo lighter, etc. all with the intent of forcing a miscarriage.

Before I go further, if my Aunt Sandy, or any other family member is reading this, I don’t write these things to hurt, or embarrass, anyone. And I apologize here and now, with a full heart, for any pain that reading this causes. It’s just that the hurt from someone does not stop with the grave and I need to acknowledge it to let it finally go. And, I promise, there are also some good memories and anecdotes as well. Nobody is all good or all bad; we each have a little of both in us.

I don’t remember my father living in the same house with me at all. He and my mother legally separated 4 months’ after I was born, though their divorce would not be final until 1974. There were a few attempts at reconciliation but they never took. I saw my father in passing on the weekends I spent at my paternal grandparents’ house, which were loving, magical times because of the love I received from them, my Aunt Marjorie, and from my other aunts, uncles, cousins who came visiting. “In passing” because, though he lived with his parents again after he and my mother separated, and though I ran shrieking “Daddy!” joyfully every time he came in the door, I usually received a non-committal acknowledgement of my greeting. If I was lucky, a pat on the head as he quickly ran upstairs to his room and shut the door.

Obviously, by one of the earlier paragraphs, the door didn’t always stay closed. He never chased me out when I came to listen to him play and he even talked to me sometimes…albeit in the same monosyllables as his greetings. He did put together a dollhouse for me once.

By far, my fondest memory comes from a weekend afternoon when I was about 6 years’ old. My father, grandmother and I squeezed into his little MG convertible sports’car and traveled to a farm up in Rehoboth, Massachusetts where my father boarded a couple of horses. Bourbon was magnificent. To the perception of a tiny, 6 year-old girl, I would wager he was a Percheron. But, again, I was a lot smaller than him. He may have just been a large, white horse of some other breed. But, to my young eyes, he appeared much larger than my Uncle Ernie’s Palomino, Sundance, so I’m going with the draft horse. My father picked me up so I could pat his nose, which was beyond my reach (Sundance’s was not). Travis was smaller, dappled gray in color, and incredibly fast. My grandmother stayed in the MG because she was deathly afraid of horses. My father knew this but it didn’t stop him from riding Travis right up alongside the MG, Nanny (my nickname for my grandmother) shrieking my father’s name in terror as the horse drew closer and closer. I remember laughing because I knew he was teasing her (and now, looking back, acknowledge the maneuver as rather cruel; she was terrified). Then my father did an incredible thing. He reached down a hand for me and pulled me up in front of him. He held on as we galloped all over the barnyard for quite a length of time. Nanny said afterwards I looked ready to burst my buttons with joy.

Sadly, that’s all I’ve got for truly happy memories of my father.

My mother remarried in 1974. We moved to Missouri, then Oklahoma, and came back to Rhode Island less than 6 months’ later in early-1975. It was just in time for me to see my Poppop one last time in the nursing home where he was being cared for when his alcoholism finally took its toll. He smiled for me. Nanny said it was the first smile she’d seen from him since he’d been admitted. Unlike my father, I have loads of happy memories of my Poppop. And then, a year later, Nanny was gone, too.

My family moved to Missouri again in 1978 some months after my brother, Shaun, was born. I found a new family in my stepfather’s parents, brothers, sisters, etc. but I still missed my Nanny and Poppop, my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc, with whom I had lost contact after my grandmother’s passing. When we returned to Rhode Island in 1985, I looked up my Aunt Marjorie, knowing that she had become a ward of the state through The Trudeau Center in Warwick. Through her, I was able to get mailing addresses for Aunt Sandy and Aunt Nancy (the 4th aunt, Janet, had died before I was born).

My father, however, continued to elude all of us. None of his sisters had heard from him since that unfortunate visit to Mississippi some years’ earlier. Eventually, I would meet friends of his, people he had worked with, etc. who would tell me about what a wonderful sense of humor he had–great guy–and I would find out where he worked. Ironically, it was at a manufacturing facility on Jefferson Boulevard that an inexperienced teenager had applied to some years’ earlier and gotten the position…only to have to turn it down as my friend, who applied with me, was also my transportation and she did not get the position (they were hiring for several). I sent a letter. No reply. I saw him once when I was dating my first husband. We were driving down Route 1, just passing through Apponaug and into East Greenwich, when I saw him getting into a car. My boyfriend turned around as quickly as late-afternoon traffic would allow but, by the time we reached the house where we’d seen him, he was gone. I found out later that he lived on the second floor–almost across the street from The Trudeau Center, though he never attempted to see my Aunt Marjorie. I sent more letters and cards. Still no reply…until, in the late-90’s, my Aunt Nancy passed away. I sent a letter through the manufacturing company, hoping he still worked there, and told them who I was, that my father’s sister had passed and I didn’t know how else to tell him. He responded. Not to me, of course, but my Uncle Lou in Mississippi received a sympathy card.

My father moved. I don’t remember how I found the new address but I sent another letter, inviting him for coffee at the Dunkin Donuts across the street from his apartment house, my treat. Though he didn’t reply, I went to Dunkin Donuts anyway and waited for over an hour. A car pulled into the apartment complex across the street. A man got out. This was years later. The hair was longer, grayer, and there was a definite paunch but I wasn’t entirely sure…until he took a step in the direction of Dunkin, searched the windows, zeroed in on me and then turned away and went into the house. I waited a bit longer, still not 100% sure it was he…except the shaking hands that fumbled with the keys as I attempted to drive home afterwards. I wonder now if I should’ve walked across the street and knocked.

Some more years’ later, I actually paid a search company to find him. The apartment complex where he had lived had been torn down and I didn’t know where he had gone. The company provided an address. My Aunt Sandy and Uncle George (her husband) came up to visit. Along with my Aunt Marjorie, we all drove to the mobile home park and found his unit on the organization’s map on the wall in the office. We drove to his unit and knocked on the door. Nobody answered, but the house was dark, and there wasn’t any car in front of it, so we assumed he was still at work; it was in the afternoon. However, the ashtray on the porch was full of butts…and the little matchstick figures he used to make…and, through the window, we saw a couple of guitars in stands. We left a note with all of our contact information. And, nearly every year since, I have sent a Christmas card, sometimes a birthday card, too. Always the same, inviting him to call, to visit, giving my address and telephone number. I think I even left an email address once, though I was never sure if he used email. I randomly searched his name on social media, too. I never found him there.

This past Christmas, however, I didn’t send any card. It came as almost an afterthought after I had already filled out the cards I would send to other family and friends. I was out of cards in the box that I had bought but considered buying a more personal one the next time I went to Walmart. And, unusual for me, I rejected it with an angry little voice saying he never answers anyway.

Little did I know he wasn’t there anymore to answer…even if he had been so inclined. I guess some part of my heart knew…even without the obituary found three months’ later.

I’ve grappled with writing this but I’m still not sure how I feel right now. All these years I’ve held onto that afternoon with Travis and Bourbon, and wondered if my stepfather hadn’t been right: that it only happened because my grandmother had poked and prodded him into it when I wasn’t there to see it. Had riding Travis up to her side of the car been a challenge? Or have I read too many novels? Could he have been capable of such? And how do I justify such thinking…especially now when I can acknowledge that I never really knew my father.

And I never will.

It’s hard to truly mourn the loss of someone that you’ve never really had in your life, never really known. It’s like that movie star, or rock star, that you’ve always admired from afar. And, like the movies, I’ve always held this little spark of hope that one day my father would knock on my door–or at least call–and say, let’s not waste anymore time; I want to know you, see you. Like on the Hallmark Channel. And now that hope is gone.

And, yet, I can’t even mourn that. It was false hope. If his sisters, with whom he had had relationships with, who doted on him throughout his childhood and cared for him, no longer existed in his world for him, how could the daughter he hadn’t wanted in the first place rank any higher?

It’s his loss. It truly is. Like all people, I have my faults. I’ve been spoiled at times, too. I can be selfish, the veritable loner. I tend to be a control freak at times. I’m impatient. I procrastinate…horribly! I’m also willing to lend a helping hand if you need it, an ear to listen and keep your secrets without ever sharing. I have a hope chest filled with family pictures (even two of my father from my maternal grandfather of when he and my mother were dating) and keepsakes that I would risk life and limb to rescue if there was ever a fire or flood…because they all matter. I’m smart and talented and I share my father’s love for horses and guitars. And I acknowledge this unwitting gift to me from him…that, and the grandparents who gave a lonely little girl a safe place to spend her weekends, and the aunts, uncles and cousins, who have been such an important part of this 53+ years of life. We could’ve had fun jamming together in impromptu music regales. We could’ve gone horseback riding…or simply chatted on the front porch, or over a table in Dunkin Donuts together. As someone who wanted a house full of children and didn’t get even one, I struggle to understand how someone can refuse such a blessing as family. Period. But, again, it’s his loss.

Despite everything I’ve just said, I am not bitter or angry at my father. The only emotion I can pinpoint right now is a sadness, a sadness for what could’ve been. I know he lived with a woman in common law marriage. Did she know about me? Is she the jealous sort who didn’t want him to have contact with his family? Some of the cards sent were returned “addressee unknown”. Others never came back. Did he throw them away? If he saved them, why? Did he always intend to respond at some later date that never arrived? Or is there a chance he never got them at this last address? Even the note we tacked to the door…despite verifying it at the main office of the park that it was his? He died without any other family there by his side. I can’t imagine anyone wanting that. Seems like most people I know want their loved ones near when they pass. Did he die suddenly? Or had there been a long illness involved that maybe, for genetic reasons at least, I should know about? I’ve considered contacting his widow; I’m not sure if it’s the right course of action. If she doesn’t know about me, how much hurt might I do to her memories of my father? And yet, if she does know about me, maybe she thinks we’re all a bunch of insensitive clods who didn’t give a damn about him. It is something I will be weighing carefully over the next few days.

I wish my father well, as I always have. I pray that his spirit is finally at peace. I pray that he’s happy; I pray that he was happy in life all these years…even if he couldn’t share that happiness with his sisters and their families, or with me. I pray, if there was an illness, that he didn’t suffer over-long with it. He had been suicidal in the past; it runs in the family. I pray he was not driven to such despair and that his passing was a natural one. In short, I would like to say “I love you” to him…even though I never heard those three words from him…and I forgive him for whatever it was in him that could never reach out to me, to my aunts, to family in general. I pray he’s finally the rock star he always dreamed of being…and that Bourbon and Travis were waiting over that Rainbow Bridge for him to ride another day.

May God bless you & keep you!

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A Song for the Year

“Play joyous melodies of praise upon the lyre and on the harp. Compose new songs of praise to Him, accompanied skillfully on the harp; sing joyfully.” (Psalms 33:2-3)

I probably should’ve written this post on January 1st. However, as we enter the Lenten season this week, my resolve to stay a particular course is tested and strengthened. This is my “new year”, my time to find something in my heart that I feel needs attention.

This time around it’s a growing awareness–an awareness that has been with me for many, many years (not just the last 3 or so)–of how divided we are in the U.S. And in the world. We see people who look differently than us, worship differently, love differently, dress differently. And we judge. I don’t think deep down inside that we’re inherently racist or filled with hate. I think we’ve become indoctrinated with a lot of racist rhetoric and assumptions about each other, rhetoric and assumptions that cause us to fear and mistrust…instead of reaching across an invisible aisle, or line, that we have drawn in the sand. Of course, it doesn’t help when our leaders continue to reiterate those assumptions. Or that we’ve been fed American history from a biased perspective.

What would American history be like if our history books told about slavery from the perspective of the men, women and children who were trapped in it for centuries?

What would our curriculum be like if it included the oral histories of the Cheyenne, Sioux, Cherokee or Iroquois’ (etc) nations?

Do we realize how many Hispanic and/or Latinos have contributed to that history, to the building of this country, from its very inception? Ditto for Asian, Indian, Jewish and Muslim/Middle Eastern peoples, etc.

And how many of our most revered authors, artists, etc from centuries’ past would identify today as LGBTQ? Does who they love(d) make their contributions any less?

What truly makes America–and all the world, really–great is the beauty of that diversity. And I think it’s time that we focused on what brings us together, not what divides us. As my choice for “song of the year” by Mandisa (feat. TobyMac and Kirk Franklin) says, “We All Bleed the Same”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVKuA1s5I3o

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

Mandisa. “We All Bleed the Same.” Out of the Dark, Sparrow Records, 2017.

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Gratitude for Community

“Is there any such thing as Christians cheering each other up? Do you love me enough to want to help me? Does it mean anything to you that we are brothers in the Lord, sharing the same Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic at all? Then make me truly happy by loving each other and agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, working together with one heart and mind and purpose” (Philippians 2:1-2)

I’m feeling so grateful today. My church community is helping out with my situation and words cannot describe how grateful I am. There’s been an onslaught of emotions: hope, joy, relief…and, yes, even a little shame and embarrassment. The last vestiges of an attempt to hang onto pride…or maybe the adversary’s feeble attempts to keep pride’s hold on me.

But Jesus will always be stronger. God’s got this. So, take that, adversary!

There’s something to be said for community. Maybe that is the lesson He wants me to learn (above and beyond the pride thing…).

I’ve always dreamed of living like a hermit in the woods, the whole “Walden” thing. My dream home is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature, and living like it’s still the 19th century. Maybe there’s something to it. Solitude and simplicity are needed for a healthy life balance, but without fellowship with others, what’s the point? And even Henry David Thoreau wrote about visitors to his little cabin in the woods. We need both. If I can hang on to this place, or if He wants me to sock this money away for a potential move, either way, I want my homestead to be a welcoming place: for family gatherings; for friends sitting around a campfire at night; for prayer meetings; for knitting, sewing, quilting circles; for clients to have their treatments; for hosting classes about herbs, 19th century skills, and no-dig gardening…and even a refuge for those caught in the eye of their own personal storms.

I’ve blogged before about how I crave solitude like flowers crave the sun and rain. And it’s true. I’m the classic introvert. Too many people, too often, and I start to feel a little sick at heart. I retreat inward. Not because I’m anti-social, but because that’s how it is for an introvert. For an introvert, too much social time quickly becomes overwhelming. We enjoy time with our loved ones, and even strangers, but the introvert greatly needs that balance between solitude and socialization to keep recharging.

However, over the last decade, I’ve taken solitude to a whole new level. Some of it has been the 2 years of unemployment, followed by 8 years of severe underemployment. When socializing equals an event that requires an entrance fee, I’ve often had to reconsider. Some of it though–most of it–has been the depression that often comes with that same unemployment/underemployment. Due to a lack of steady and adequate funds, the house, the grounds, even myself, have started looking neglected. There’s also a lot of emotional baggage attached from the last “romantic” relationship I was in, that was anything but romantic, that has had me drawing the curtains tight and shutting out the world.

And, boy, does the adversary feed on that!

In many ways, though I’m not living in the middle of nowhere, I’ve allowed myself to become almost as isolated as if I was living in the middle of nowhere. And isolation is defeating. The neglect becomes indifference becomes more depression becomes more neglect becomes more indifference…until the effort to dig yourself out of this vicious cycle becomes so overwhelming, you don’t know where to turn, where to start. That’s where the hopelessness sets in.

And loneliness.

Despair.

Even bitterness.

Thank God, literally, for the fellowship He’s blessed me with! It started with certain friends and co-workers reaching out with a helping hand over the last several months. This time, it was a church member who saw my Go Fund Me campaign and brought it to the attention of our priest. And, truly, though the financial help is a blessing and appreciated, the true blessing is knowing how many people out there care enough to help. I’m overwhelmed…but in a good way.

I’ve been sitting back here, feeling sorry for myself, indulging the adversary with my “cares” and “woes” and getting nowhere in life. Today I’m feeling hope for the first time in a very long time. Yes, there’s still a risk of losing the homestead. I still missed the deadline for the second installment on the modification trial period and I don’t know where that leaves me. However, I’m that much closer to meeting the back payments owed. Or to engaging an attorney who can help me get back on track again. It’s help to tide us over until I’m working again…or to help us start over on a new homestead. I’m leaving it in His hands to decide, praying for His guidance regarding the best course of action.

Our God truly is an awesome God. Thank you! To everyone who has been moved to help, to share, to pass along the information. I don’t feel quite so alone anymore. And that’s the greatest blessing of all.

I hope everyone reading this is as blessed with community as I am.

May God bless you & keep you!

gofundme.com/9fymzf-medical-leave

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Down and Out

“I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27)

I want to believe those words. I want to believe His grace is sufficient for this particular trial. I want to believe that He has something special planned at the end of it all.

But, today, I’m down and out for the count.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll find the way to bounce back up again. I hope so. Right now the fear and anguish in my soul is almost more than I can bear. Proof that there’s still fight left in me that I can feel such emotions, such protest, but, if I’m meant to go through this, if there’s something He means for me to learn that I didn’t learn the first time around, there’s a part of me even fighting that.

So much for laying it at the cross. But what other choice do I have? All of my efforts have gotten me nowhere. But where do I go from here? What does He want me to do? To go?

Losing the house, the land, I can bear. It’s potentially having to re-home the animals if I cannot find a farm where I might board them until I get on my feet again…and, of course, for a fee that I can manage in my current situation. My heart is breaking at the thought. And, at the moment, I’m not feeling God’s love. I’m feeling His anger. I’m feeling the punitive “father” that reflects the neglect of my biological father and the abuse of my stepfather. “Father” for me has always implied mistrust. Is He trying to heal this once and for all? Or is this going to cement it once and for all in my heart that the word “father” is equivalent to a dirty swear word?

No, I don’t hate men, and certainly not fathers. There are good ones in the world. I’ve just never known that love…at least not without personal cost. And you’re never too old to need that love–His love.

Right now, I really need a healthy dose of it. And as many prayers as I can get.

May God bless you & keep you!

https://www.gofundme.com/f/9fymzf-medical-leave&rcid=r01-156707024092-4fb3fb58787b443d&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

19th century, Abuse, Addiction, Alcoholism, Animal Rights, Animals, Appreciation, aquaponics, Art, Bereavement, Biodynamic, Birthday Wishes, Books, Brothers & Sisters, Christianity, Chronic Epstein Barr, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Climate Change, Compassion, compost, Cooking, Creativity, Culture, ecosystems, Emergency Preparedness, Enlightenment, Environment, Exhaustion, Faith, Family, Fashion, Fiber Arts, Fleece, Forgiveness, Friendship, Frugality, Gaia, gardening, Ghosts, Global Warming, God/Jesus, Gratitude, Greenhouse, Grief, Gun Control, Hauntings, Healing, Heavy Metal Music, Herbs, History, Holidays, Holistic Health, Homesteading, illness, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Lasagna Gardening, Lent, LGBTQ, Love, Memories, Minimalism, Mother Mary, Music, Nature, No-dig Gardening, Nostalgia, OCD, Open-mindedness, Organic, permaculture, Politics, Potted Plants, Prayer, Reading, Recipes, Reflexology, Reiki, Religion, Rock & Roll, Scripture, Self-esteem, Self-improvement, Sleep Deprivation, Social Media, Sophia, Spices, Spinning, Spirituality, Straw Braiding, Supernatural, Touch for Health, Understanding, vermicomposting, Weaving, Wicca, Wool, Worm castings, Worm Tea, Writing, Yoga & Fitness, Zero Waste

Laying Everything at the Cross

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be His afterwards; and now He sits in the place of honor by the throne of God” (Hebrews 2:12)

After Saturday’s widely-publicized meltdown, I went outside and attacked the giant multi-flora rosebush climbing over the back fence. And “attacked” is definitely a good word for it.

I pruned ruthlessly.

It pruned me of blood just as ruthlessly.

I look like I’ve just narrowly escaped a particularly nasty cat fight but I can now walk under the multi-flora rosebush without losing even more blood…and a thorny branch’s worth of hair. This particular stretch of fence line has been a problem “child” as the ducks and chickens know I can’t get underneath the rose bush to check the fencing. Now I can. I found an almost-duck-sized gap in a low spot underneath; I shoved an old cage in front of it for now and will find something more permanent going forward.

I also found several bird’s nests in the upper reaches of the bush…and delighted in them. I should probably add that this bush has been allowed to climb up and over the 6 foot chain-link fence. Despite its invasive nature, I allow it to stay as it does provide shelter for the birds, shade for my chickens and ducks in summer, and beauty for all of us when it blooms. And my goats had a feast on the leaves I pruned off (Really guys? There’s THORNS!!). It simply needed a good trim to keep it manageable.

Somewhere along the way I lost the anger and angst that so overwhelmed me earlier that morning.

Maybe it was finding those bird’s nests in the bush. Maybe it was watching the new ducklings exploring the world outside of the pen they and their Mama have been in since they hatched for the first time; they’re finally big enough that I don’t have to worry about them slipping through the gate jamb or even the chain-links(!). Maybe it was marveling over the goats’ delight at the new “treat” awaiting them with each cut of the loppers…thorns and all. Maybe it was retrieving a few dozen eggs from the nests and watching Miss Opal, one of my Buff Orpington chickens, streaking across the yard, squawking loudly, in celebration of those eggs. Either way, I found myself laughing often, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, and the warm company of my beloved pets. Such a sense of peace settled over me. It was bittersweet, in light of my current situation but this is home.

And I’m not losing it.

It may not be this particular plot of land in the end but the farm and I will survive, together, intact, some way, somehow.

I may sound determined. I may also sound unrealistic and delusional. But I’m not giving up.

I bought this property with a husband, now an ex-husband. Two incomes can handle it; one income will always struggle…unless I can find a way to pull in enough income to equal what two could do. Maybe that’s out there somewhere. Or maybe He’s giving me a much-needed shove to look elsewhere. If this was where I was meant to be, I’d be thriving.

Or maybe He’s telling me I need to learn how to thrive wherever I am, however I am.

Either way, God has this. He knows where I am, what’s happening in my life, in my heart, in my thoughts. God has a plan. There’s a reason He’s brought me around full circle to this place of uncertainty and fear. I don’t know what it is. And I haven’t stopped being scared shitless. But I’m surrendering my will to His. He’s brought me to this place one more time; I’m trusting Him to carry me through it.

May God bless you & keep you!

PS I would also be delighted, and ever in your debt, if you would share the Go Fund Me campaign link below in your blog, your social media sites, etc. The wider I cast my net, the greater chances for that miracle I’m so in need of. 😉

https://www.gofundme.com/f/9fymzf-medical-leave&rcid=r01-156682970061-1e1042ab1d164daa&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w