Lenten Vows

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

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

Advertisements

Cycles of CFS

“I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old, since the time I appointed judges over my people Israel. I will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord also reveals to you that He will establish a house for you.” (2 Samuel 7:10-11)

Rest.

When you’re dealing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, the need for rest, or the ability to sleep on a dime, can creep up on you at any given moment. Changes in daily routine, work schedules, etc. can wreak havoc very quickly. And it takes forever to “catch up”, as if we ever can.

Knowing better, I still stayed up a little later than usual last week. I think I went to bed around 11:30 Sunday evening. For someone who habitually gets up between 3:30 and 4:30 each morning, that is definitely NOT enough sleep time. So, as I was off work Monday, I slept in until 7:30-ish. It’s been a few days of insomnia, trying to get back on an early to bed routine…and a struggle to get out of bed even before 5 a.m. Of course, then there’s the frantic push to get goats, cats, rabbits, chickens, ducks and Smoky the Cockatiel fed and watered for the day…while “skating” across the rink that is my barnyard in this week’s deep freeze.

Why do I torture myself this way???

I had my second lesson in textiles this week, too. Thursday was weaving. I loved it, loved everything I was learning. And both instructors made it interesting and fun. Every time we sat down to go over something in our binder of notes, whether it was terminology or learning to read weaving patterns from the 1830’s, I was struggling to stay awake. I hope neither instructor thought it was a fault of her teaching; far from it! A part of me was pumped to learn everything and anything; the sick side of me dealing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and the brief moment of insanity that decided to play Pyramid Solitaire for an extra hour or two Sunday night, left me nodding. It’s the nature of the beast.

There are days when I can’t help but cry out, “Lord, please slay this beast!”

But, if I had listened to that little voice that said, “Hello? It’s time for bed” a few hours’ earlier, the beast would’ve never reared it’s ugly head. Praise the Lord for this storm; there’s a lesson in managing this beast better.

May God bless you & keep you!

Rockin’ Religion

“John said to Him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in Your Name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.’ Jesus replied, ‘Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in My Name who can at the same time speak ill of Me. For whoever is not against us, is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea’.” (Mark 9:38-42)

You know, I totally “get” why some people steer clear of organized religion. As a 50-something-year-old woman, I have certainly seen my fair share of hypocrisy and over-zealousness. And in more than one church. In my case, it seems to be centered on my choices of music:

The minister and his wife who visited our apartment in St. Louis when I was 14 or 15 years old, saw the posters of Kiss and REO Speedwagon on the walls of my bedroom…and came back a few days’ later with holy water to sprinkle around my room??!!? It’s a wonder I wasn’t traumatized away from any church right then and there (although I do remember refusing to go to that church again after they left…)

The Iron Maiden/Twisted Sister concert my Uncle Brian and I attended when I was 17 or 18 years old. Young Christians approached us, as we waited for my stepfather to pick us up, with pamphlets and warnings of fire and brimstone. They even questioned the hoop earrings I wore because one had a star and the other a half moon on them; they thought there was some “hidden” meaning to them. Nope. I spotted them in a booth at the local flea market one Sunday afternoon and thought they were pretty. End of story.

The uncle who had a conniption fit seeing “DOKKN” (shortened variation of DOKKEN) on my license plate because they were a metal band. He asked me what they sang and I made the mistake of listing one of their latest singles at the time, Kiss of Death. He immediately jumped to the conclusion that that was devil worship…until I calmly explained that they were terming HIV/AIDS as a “kiss of death,” a warning against promiscuity and what it could lead to (Brown, 1987; Hunt, 1988).

In later years, the minister who stated emphatically in a sermon that there was “no such thing as Christian rock”. I beg to differ. If the devil can quote Scripture to suit his needs, then surely God in His infinite wisdom and mercy can use even rock and roll to further His Kingdom.

I also “get” the excitement one feels being a Christian, especially when one first accepts Jesus as their Savior. You want to share your faith with the world, which is what we are called to do, but I am reminded of the words of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:2: “I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were unable to take it. Indeed, you are still not able, even now.” Too often over-zealous Christians push and poke and prod because they don’t really understand that it is just that pushing, poking and prodding that often turns people away…not just from that particular congregation but from God altogether. It’s standard Psychology 101: the more you protest, the more they want it (whatever you’re deeming their vice); if you push too hard, or hold on too tightly, people sense a trap and run away. No, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t correct our brethren if we see them going astray; certainly the Bible tells us that is our responsibility. However, when we hammer incessantly, especially on a “new” or “young” Christian who is still finding their feet in the church about their lifestyle choices, we often close the very door we are trying to open. They’re still drinking that milk St. Paul tells us about.

And, yes, many in the rock and roll genre do glorify things like promiscuity, infidelity, drug use and alcoholism. There are many, especially in the metal arena, who flirt a little too much with the adversary when indulging in their theatrics, looking to shock and garner a bit of free publicity for themselves. I am certainly not defending their actions. And, yes, a young person, especially one with no religious background whatsoever, might be lured by the “coolness” of that theater aspect. It’s the same mindset that compels people to read thriller novels or watch horror movies. For the young, and often impressionable, that might not be a good combination. However, let’s also give kids…from 1 to 92 as the old Christmas carol says…a bit of the benefit of the doubt. For many, they’re just looking to relax, unwind and enjoy a bit of music.

I mentioned earlier about an uncle who initially freaked over a song title but calmed down and apologized when I explained what it really meant. I think that’s the key. If we’re going to pick apart every word, every movement, every nuance of entertainment, searching for the negative, we will find it. But, for the average person listening/viewing, is that what they’re getting out of it?

For me, though I’m pretty all over the place with music today (i.e. I listen to most styles of music, not just one genre), when I was a teenager, it was strictly metal (REO Speedwagon being the one exception; I was in love with Kevin Cronin…both as an artist and as a teenage girl with her first attack of hormones). I was growing up in a household with alcoholism and a stepfather who often became violent after imbibing and who wanted a bit too much to do with me, if you take my meaning. The loud, blistering guitars and earth-shaking drum sequences reflected the anger and confusion and the feelings of injustice churning inside of me. Banging my head to the music in the privacy of my own room; in the car; at a concert with friends seemed a healthier way to express that anger and confusion than acting out in some way…like hurting others, or hurting myself.

As for the lyrics, I really listened to them. I can honestly say, there were very few that I found “questionable”…even with a Christian background. And those that I did find questionable, I stopped listening to.

Despite everything that was going on in my home, I had a great-grandmother place a tiny Bible in my hand when I was born. Years later, I used to sneak into my aunt’s CCD classes to listen…because I wanted to know Him better. I remember receiving this pink rectangle of wood in CCD that had a pewter bust of Jesus mounted on it. It hung on the wall in my bedroom for years. Whenever things got really bad in our house, my 8, 9, 10 year-old self could be found kneeling before it…praying for the scariness to end, praying the only way I knew how; it’s the only thing that gave me strength to keep on keeping on. In short, I had a foundation of faith from a very young age. And I have always maintained that if my faith is so small and weak that a mere song lyric can tear it away, it wasn’t much of a faith to begin with.

Granted, there are many who do not have that foundation of faith. However, again, what are they hearing? What are they getting out of the music? Sometimes it’s not the lyrics but simply the music itself that lifts a blue mood or helps us to relax and focus on a task. And it means nothing more than that to the listener. In other words, maybe sometimes in our quest for saving souls, we take things a little too seriously. And that’s what pushes people away…instead of bringing them into the church, whatever the denomination. In short, whatever our religious beliefs, we cannot substitute our version of holiness and worship for someone else’s. Your time or method of prayer; the passages of Scripture that speak most to your heart; the religion you practice (Catholic, Baptist, Congregationalist), etc., are what work for you. They are a part of your personal relationship with Jesus. These are the paths God has led you down to worship Him. If there were any one perfect religion, then we would only ever have a Catholic church, or a Baptist church, or a Lutheran church. Not a Catholic church AND a Baptist church AND a Lutheran. We fight amongst ourselves about whose version of dogma and/or doctrine is correct and wonder, yet again, why so many turn away.

And now that I’ve had my little rant, let me get back on subject…

Music and ministry…or a rockin’ religion. Why is that a bad thing? Why would I not be able to maintain a close relationship with Jesus Christ just because Within Temptation CD’s sometimes spin in my CD player? We can substitute WT with Megadeth (Dave Mustaine’s born-again, btw!) or Ozzy Osbourne or Doro. And, these days, I’m listening more and more to some of those “no such thing” Christian rock bands: Casting Crowns, For King and Country, Francesca Battistelli, Lauren Daigle, Barlow Girl, MercyMe and Big Daddy Weave, for starters. Regardless, music lifts my soul. If the lyrics sung to it are messages of love, and especially God’s love, then I say, “Hallelujah!” If some of these artists are hitting mainstream audiences, crossing over into rock, pop and/or hip-hop genres, sharing messages of the gospel to those young ears–young ears who may never hear about Jesus from their parents, grandparents or any other traditional role model, then I say, “Amen!” They are not against Him, they are for Him. And we need the seed of hope they are planting for tomorrow.

A seed.

ONLY.

But what a seed! By singing about Jesus, and reaching millions through the medium of rock and roll, maybe, just maybe, it’ll bring some of those young ears into the church. And guess what? Once they are there, those vices–if, indeed, rock music could really be considered one–will fall away all on their own as Jesus touches their heart and they open themselves to the Holy Spirit.

My love for rock music, even metal, has never fallen away…no matter how great my faith grows. In my youth, we really didn’t have a contemporary Christian, or Christian rock, genre. I do remember being in my early-20’s when I first heard Chritian metal artists, Stryper. I remember them being extremely talented artists but, to combine Christianity and heavy metal was unheard of before them. Instead, in those moments of scariness, when I knelt before that make-shift altar at home, and prayed, He often sent those answers to my heart in the form of a song lyric…because music always brought me joy.

I plan on having this one sung at my funeral someday. It is REO Speedwagon’s “Blazin’ Your Own Trail Again.” They do not mention God or Jesus at all but these lyrics helped to bolster a young, impressionable girl…who believed she might be going to hell for the fornication that was never her choice at all:

Sooner or later you will find a way
To feel like sunshine, even on a cloudy day
To feel like morning in the dead of night
Sooner or later it’s gonna be all right
Now don’t go thinking your life’s a mess
Rather start thinkin’ in terms of happiness
And it’s gonna happen
Just decide were you’re goin’
Get out in the open
And start blazin’ your own trail again
It takes time sometimes to figure out
That there’s nothing to worry about
And that there’s plenty to be thankful for
It takes time sometimes to know the score
See, everybody’s got a smile inside
So put it upon your face and wear it with pride
And it’s gonna happen
Just decide were you’re goin’
Get out in the open
And start blazin’ your own trail again

Songwriters: Kevin Patrick Cronin
Blazin’ Your Own Trail Again lyrics © Hori Pro Entertainment Group

Sometimes that loud, blistering guitar and earth-shaking drum sequence is the only thing loud enough to shut out the pain and loneliness and confusion long enough that one can get “quiet” and listen to Him speak.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Brown, C. (1987). “Kiss of Death.” Back for the Attack. Sony/ATV Music Publishing, LLC.

Cronin, K. P. (1978). “Blazin’ Your Own Trail Again.” You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can’t Tuna Fish. Hori Pro Entertainment Group.

Hunt, D. (1988). “Dokken & Co. Is Back for the Attack.” Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 6, 2018 from: http://articles.latimes.com/1988-01-31/entertainment/ca-39417_1_don-dokken

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!

Embracing the Imperfect

“Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish, for I would be telling the truth. But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me than what he sees in me or hears in me because of the abundance of the revelations. Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” (2 Corinthians 12:6-9)

We all have things that we could boast about without looking foolish. Maybe you’re one of the most brilliant surgeons in the country and have helped heal countless other people…or animals, if a veterinary surgeon. Maybe you’re an awesome cook. Or have a beautiful singing voice. Our gifts are countless. And, yes, since He gave you these gifts in the first place, He also uses them to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and bring joy to many.

But, guess what?

That surgeon is also late to every appointment. The cook is nipping the cooking sherry while whipping up the filet mignon. And the singer is dyslexic. Sort of makes all of their accomplishments that much more awe-inspiring, doesn’t it?

And that’s the point.

God doesn’t just use our gifts. He uses our imperfections, too. If everything ran smoothly all of the time, would we notice His miracles? Would we understand that it’s all about Him and not about us? If we were all perfect in every way, would we even think to worship God? So He uses our imperfections. He uses them to further His Kingdom. When we, who are broken, are made whole through Christ, it forces the unbeliever to take notice. Sure, they may scoff and sneer, especially if we give the credit where it’s due for our success. But they notice the accomplishment. And are amazed at the adversities overcome to achieve that success. They may not suddenly become believers. But there’s a seed planted. And God will cause it to bloom in His own time.

Do you notice something though? Despite whatever He helps us to accomplish in our lives, those thorns never really go away. I may be a minister, a writer, an artist and a homesteader. But I am also a survivor of child molestation, an eternal procrastinator and I’m perpetually running late, running behind. I’m terrified of flying. I deal with depression and anxiety, low self-esteem and confidence issues, acid reflux, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Psychological Disorder, and Chronic Epstein-Barr. I’m showing you my brokenness…and thanking Him for all of it: the gifts and the thorns. But especially the thorns. Because that’s what people need to see. Those thorns are blessings in disguise. And there are others with those same thorns in their sides who need to hear that they are not alone. So, whatever adversities you are working with, thank Him.

Because there’s a silver lining behind that cloud. There always is.

May God bless you & keep you!

Patience

“And consider the patience of our Lord as salvation, as our beloved brother, Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, also wrote to you.” (2 Peter 3:15)

As I wrote yesterday, I am the most impatient patient. I don’t think anyone likes being ill but, this enforced convalescence, leaves me stewing about what I could be/should be doing. Really, I should be focused on getting well again.

Enough said.

And yet, my mind swirls with tasks undone, goals not reached, bills to pay, etc. etc. etc. I am the eternal worry wort. Where is my faith in all of this???

I’ve never really thought of myself as a Type-A personality but I guess I am. The over-achiever…it’s a wonder I don’t have ulcers. However, I do have stomach muscles so sore from coughing that it feels like somebody’s been pounding on them with their golden gloves. My fever broke last night but it crested at 104 degrees–a fact that my doctor gave me the riot act for yesterday for not heading to the ER after taking said temperature; it was still 101 in her office yesterday. And, while some part of me knows I should be in bed right now–the fever may be broke but that doesn’t mean I’m out of the woods yet–I guess this enforced convalescence is teaching me that I really don’t know how to relax.

Even when I have to.

Totally Type-A.

I actually feel guilty whenever I *try* to relax. Mondays and Tuesdays, my usual days’ off from work, are often spent with Mom watching YouTube. A good portion of it is music videos (Casting Crowns, Blackmore’s Night are some common favorites) but I also watch a lot of how-to gardening channels: BBC’s Gardener’s World, No-Dig Gardening with Charles Dowding, Growing your Greens with Jon Kohler. In other words, even my “down” time is spent at least educating myself. It’s not 100% “down” time. And yet, despite all of this, one would expect The Herbal Hare Homestead to be this immaculately kept place.

It’s not.

I read a great article yesterday from Treehugger. It was about imperfection, about how allowing the imperfect is actually healthier for us. In the article, Melissa Breyer talks about these benefits by actually describing the side effects of trying to obtain perfection. She could’ve been describing me: “exhausting” “higher levels of depression, anxiety” “failure is catastrophic…for sense of self…emotional well-being” “vulnerable to distress, often haunted by a chronic sense of failure; indecisiveness and it’s close companion procrastination” “low self-esteem” “guilt and its fellow travelers, shame and self-recrimination”. I would add a feeling of perpetual overwhelm…and the inability to act that comes with it.

Because always trying to be Supergirl, leads one to a mountain so exceedingly daunting that I’m often defeated before I even begin.

I think that’s where this impatience with illness comes from. It’s a feeling of failure. I’m not working, contributing, etc. (other than this blog post…haha) I’m ill. Ergo, less than perfect at the moment.

As if perfection were obtainable in the first place.

Again, where’s my faith in all of this?

It’s more important than ever to pay attention. The fever may have broken but here is where the battle is either won or lost. If I push myself now, I’ll be laid up yet again. Worse, this is the flu; pneumonia is the next stage if I’m not careful.

So, maybe there is a lesson to be learned from this enforced convalescence: a lesson of patience. It’s a lesson long overdue…and, yes, as the Scripture states at the beginning of this post, salvation.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Breyer, M. (2018). “The Beautiful Benefits of Imperfection”. Treehugger. Retrieved January 13, 2018 from: https://www.treehugger.com/health/beautiful-benefits-imperfection.html

Walking by Faith

“So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-7)

Walking by faith isn’t easy for someone with my background. It means trusting someone other than yourself…in this case, Someone. In the past several years I’ve been robbing Peter to pay Paul; oftentimes, finding Peter’s pockets empty, too. This is true financially and equally true where time is concerned.

Maybe more so.

It’s not easy being a homesteader, working towards that day when that homestead might also be a source of income; a full-time college student; a writer; blogger; minister–while also working a full-time job with a 2 hour round-trip commute. I’m not complaining, mind you. I love what I do. And I won’t always be a college student. But there are plenty of days where I wearily look at that alarm clock, that commute, the mountain of homework due by week’s end and think, “I can’t do this anymore!” Burn out happens more often than not.

The week before Christmas I caved in to that burn out. I had a two-part final paper due on plastic pollution. It was due Sunday evening by midnight (online degree program). I started working on it a couple of weeks’ in advance, researching, gathering data, pictures for the PowerPoint presentation that was due with the paper…and found myself on Sunday night thinking, “Damn! This is another all-nighter.” Exhausted, I looked at the work again, the time; my body was trembling, my head swimming with fatigue. And I made a rare decision for myself: I went to bed early, got up in the morning and handed in the assignment a day late, knowing it would mean a 10% loss of grade.

But I didn’t care. I was that tired.

Some part of my weary mind gave it over to God. He knew I’d been working on this steadily. He knew this wasn’t a case of my usual tendency to procrastinate. And, suddenly, though the lower grade didn’t sit well (I tend to be the Hermoine Granger type…), I found something in me that was willing to accept it.

Because a good night’s rest was more important.

I got a perfect score anyway. The professor’s comment started off with a “Wow!” and a “this deserves full marks”. (Okay, so I’m bragging again but, truly, it is only by His grace that I managed to get such a high mark when class policy is set for a 10% loss of final score…unless previously arranged otherwise with your instructor; this wasn’t pre-arranged.)

Anyway, I am sharing the PowerPoint presentation here. (I hope it plays okay…I’ve never tried attaching a presentation to my blog before) Though Environmental Science is my minor, each class has inspired me more in reducing my carbon footprint…and is giving me yet another direction to take this blog. Concern for the environment, for all the many species of life that are becoming extinct–or at least are classed “endangered”–due to global warming, is one of the main reasons why I homestead. I want to be part of the solution, not the problem. And, if I can raise greater awareness of the problems Mother Earth is facing today, maybe more people will take a stand and start lowering their carbon footprint, too. Enjoy!

And may God bless you & keep you!

SNHU Eliminating Plastics Presentation

PS If it cannot be opened/run via this blog, please someone leave a comment below; I will try to remedy. Thank you!