And so I muse… comings and goings…

“He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.'”            Job 1:21

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven”    Ecclesiastes 3:1

I have been musing over many things lately. The Lord’s providence in my life, for sure. I see blessings all around me. And I see the empty places, as well. Sometimes we wonder why we “end up” where we are. I have had some interesting conversations recently with a disparate group of people; some friends, some acquaintances. And I have come to realize that the “empty places” in our lives are sometimes there for our blessing. Even if we notice them and they become bothersome or we become sad for the noticing. 

cartoon-lady-closet

I often see people struggling with their “things” – and our “things” can be literally junk we pay to keep in storage. I had a friend who had a storage unit for all her “seasonal decor” because she was over-the-top at decorating and had no basement space to store her decorations for every holiday. So she paid for a storage unit, where she kept each season’s/holiday’s decorations. She always had her house perfectly decorated for every holiday, often using a professional to assist her. But I never got over the fact that she spent money on a storage unit to keep all that stuff. I have friends who are constantly “cleaning out” or “organizing.”  I completely get that. When we left our large home and downsized in California, and then when we left California for Washington, we got rid of a lot of extra furniture, and decor.  We simply had no place to put it. When we finally relocated up to Alaska in a 30-foot U-Haul truck, I downsized in a large way. We live very simply, but I am constantly getting “the urge to purge”!  Our things, or attachment to them, can weigh us down in so many ways. I love that saying, “You can’t take it with you” and the quote from Job at the beginning of this post sort of brings that out – “Naked I cam from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there.” Our things are here to assist us, to make life easier, and to bring us joy.  Have you ever walked into a museum and been brought to a hushed silence in awe of what you are seeing? Oh, I have.  On several occasions.  A memorable one was a trip to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles for an exhibit of Icons and Illuminated Manuscripts from Saint Catherine’s in the Sinai Desert. I could not even speak, but just whisper in the presence of some of these original icons, holy artifacts, and manuscripts. That is a case of storing things for a purpose!

Illuminate manuscript

The Lord allows us to experience the fruits of creation throughout our lives. Being in the presence of those who are creative, for me, is overwhelming at times. I am not very good at things “artistic” and am in awe of artists. I have wept at ballets, especially when my very gifted daughter-in-law danced in a production in college. I have wept at plays and operas. Once the “Phantom of the Opera” began and Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman sang, I started weeping and did not stop until it was over. What an experience to see them in person, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles! So, so blessed. We are given people and things to make life especially joyful and to bless us in a special way.  But there are times for all these things, for all these people, and all these experiences.  And there is also time for simple, quiet, and unadorned. “For everything there is a season.” 

Take people out of your life

I have come to the conclusion that sometimes we hang on to people, and have them in a sort of “storage unit” just in case. It is not fair to ourselves, nor them. Because of social media, the word, “friend,” has been highly – ridiculously – over used. There are, in fact, very few friends in our lives. We have acquaintances by the score through social media sites like Facebook, but how many friends?  I mean, real, honest, “lay-their-life-down-for-you,” friends?

No one at funeral

Why do we place such emphasis on Social Media? Is it really necessary in our lives? It has come to replace real-life interaction, in so many cases. I have seen wedding invitations only on Facebook. Birth, graduation, divorce announcements, only on Facebook. Communicating with friends, only on Facebook. So many not commenting at all, just watching everything on Facebook (how creepy is that?). The ability to be that much removed from someone gives people a lot of leeway in their communicating. Some people revel in the anonymity of Twitter and Facebook and Snap Chat. They are removed from directly interacting with people, allowing them to say some of the most outrageous and hurtful things. And it’s one of the profound ways I have seen my “Christian” friends behave very, very un-Christ-like. How easy it is to cut people down and be cruel, without having to look them in the face and see the hurt you cause them. In addition, the milieu itself is completely artificial. It is not real life. Just like reality TV is not real. (Cannot believe how many people don’t get that whole premise). We are playing to our worst selves, by allowing this computer I am using and the screen I see to be the sole way we know one another, or communicate. And do not even get me started on cell phones, especially “smart phones.” It’s one of the ways we disconnect from people, even in a crowded room. I am guilty of this and is one of the myriad of reasons for my musing, and posting, today.

High Tea

One of my most-favored places for communicating is a local coffee house. Not Starbucks, because those are more for the computer-using workaholic/college student. No, I mean a real coffee house, or tea shop. I love high tea. (If you’ve never gone to a real, British High Tea, try it sometime. It is delicious and wonderful and one of my most treasured memories with my dearly departed Grandma). These days, I love choosing a delicious scone and trying a new brew concoction, and then sitting down with a close friend and gabbing away the hours. I have friends I have moved away from and we have reminisced that those are the times we miss the most – coffee around my kitchen table, often with bread baking in the oven (especially when we lived on dairy farms!). I have realized that people and things are put in our paths for our enlightenment, our joy, our appreciation, by a gracious God, Who loves us. 

I cannot save everything I have ever owned, and everyone cannot stay my friend. Perhaps we don’t share the same activities, the same lives, any longer. It is okay to say goodbye to a friendship, just like that comfy sweater or favorite pair of jeans. Some relationships are formed out of camaraderie and convenience. When either support is removed, the friendship falls apart. And it is okay to lose a relationship that way, most especially if it was based on things like soccer schedules and living next door, or carpooling and church attendance. When we move on, we take aspects of these people and things with us. We have grown because of them, and hopefully learned from them. We move on. 

cartoon-coffee-cup-clip-art-196859

When I was younger, my grandmother gifted me with her tea cup collection. God bless her. Each cup had a story, and I remember them distinctly. I have been blessed with sons. Sons do not care about tea cups. What am I going to do with these tea cups? I chose to gift them, a couple at a time, to people who mean something to me. Sharing my Grandmother’s tea cups became a way I could leave a part of myself with others who have shared my life. And each tea cup I give away, I write down the story my Grandma told me about that cup. I cannot keep all these cups and saucers. There are so many of them, as in literally dozens of them. Some of them appeal to me and I will probably hold onto them longer, but some are not my particular “cup of tea” and so I can gift them a bit easier. I am planning on each grand daughter, and daughter-in-law, receiving tea cup sets. Some have cookie plates with them, that are for enjoying high tea. But I am slowly gifting them all away, as I know I cannot take them with me (as in the quote from Job above). The same holds true for friends. It is okay to give them up, to let them go. Each person, each thing, has a time in our lives. It is difficult sometimes to let people go; we mourn that particular relationship and we miss the person. But it is healthier to allow the relationship to wither on its own, and allow God to work in our lives by allowing new people into it.

And I am feeling more and more confident that as I age (and hopefully mature) and my circles tighten and shrink, that it is okay. It is also okay to become quieter. Sometimes keeping silent in the face of harsh words, whether spoken or written, is the “better part of valor.” (To paraphrase Shakespeare). Discretion, being that better portion, can be said to be silence in many instances. We can be discrete in how we handle ourselves insofar as friendships, both the making and letting go. As I was perusing my “friends” on social media, I came to see that the ones I hold especially dear are not a part of the social media frenzy, and it is not how we communicate. Several on there I also communicate with through emails, and shockingly enough, actual conversations. My closest friends will stay my friends whether or not I post my status on Facebook for that day. So as I ease into my 60s, I am seeing that my life can quiet down, can be even more simplified through the purging of social media outlets, as well as too many “things” in my life. Simplicity is something I think God appreciates. A simple, direct approach to life is actually freeing. Keeping your schedule simple, your “appointments” simple is also a way to be more in touch with God. Less time with others is more of an opportunity to spend in quiet contemplation. Do not get me wrong, I will still go to museums, plays, concerts when I can. I will attend school plays and productions for my grandchildren when I can. I will continue to dine with friends, and meet for a “cuppa” at the local coffee house. I am not locking myself away. But I am being more discrete in more aspects of my life. Sometimes all this “stuff” out there just gets to be too much.

sit with you lord

“…who is truly reliable?”

Everybody friend

I have been pondering this subject a lot lately. I have been forced to think about it over several months, through several occurrences and conversations. And it has been an instructive adventure, to be sure.

Over the course of more than 30 years of marriage, my husband and I have had a myriad of “friends.” We have friends we brought with us to our initial dating relationship. I have friends from elementary school with whom I still correspond. My husband has one particular friend from his childhood who still means the world to him, even though they have not lived near one another in over 35 years. We have made friends as a couple over the years, as well as made friends as individual adults through life experiences. I am friends with an old boss, a couple of friends made through our dairy life, and my husband has many friends throughout the USA because of work and through his diaconate program and training. There are some people who you will be close to throughout your life. And then there are those who do not stay with you. And that is where I am at, on this fine, rainy, and very fall day in Alaska.

 “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

We have come to realize that “friend” is a term that is used very loosely. With the advent of Facebook, you can add friends at the push of a button, and you can also “unfriend” someone just as simply. People often brag about how many Facebook friends they have, and I have heard of some people who have a thousand or more! That’s is almost inconceivable. Last night, our grandson was jumping up and down in front of our window, and so excited because “his friends” were coming over. We had to explain that they were friends of grandma’s and grandpa’s, and also friends of his daddy. He then yelled, as he continued to jump up and down, “Daddy’s friends are here. I see them!” (He’s 3 years old). Friends mean so much to people, and quite often it is our friends who save us from drowning in our lives.


“Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable?” Proverbs 20:6

As our children grow, friends come to mean something very much to them. Our youngest son is in high school and friends are quite the topic in his life. And as teenagers, we know how up and down moods can be, and how very fickle friendships can also be. I’ve seen teens be “besties” for a month or two, and then become total anathema towards one another the next month. And it causes such anguish in their lives. If we are honest, it can also cause anguish in the lives of adults. There are those we have been friends with for years and years, and the next thing you know, they are no longer a part of your life. This has happened to me quite often over the past 5 years of moving around. And because I have experienced it recently, and my son has also been subject to “drama” within his circle of friends, it caused me to write this out, to help myself get a handle on it.

I truly believe God places people in our paths at certain times, and for a specific amount of time, for our edification and for our education, as well as for our presence in their lives. But not perhaps to stay for a lifetime. Letting go is one of the hardest lessons in this process towards maturity, and hopefully, wisdom. I believe that my maturity – not just aging – has been deeply affected by the people placed along the pathways of my life. And for all those experiences and relationships, good and bad, I am profoundly grateful. Because of these people and experiences, I have come to know myself; and I am getting more and more comfortable with myself. Different influences by different people brought me to be who I now am. And I am a daughter of God; a child of the Most High. And I am blessed. We all are blessed. I have a few bumps and bruises; even some scars. But the Lord has brought me to this day, and for that I am eternally grateful.

As we have grown older, and our children have aged and moved out on their own, our friendships have changed. We had groups of friends we hung out with when we were all dating. Some went on to get married, as we did, but some did not. Hanging with single friends while married is not conducive to staying married, so many of those relationships fell away. As our children grew, we gathered friends with kids the same ages and with similar interests. As schooling started for our children, we garnered an entire group of friends surrounding our homeschooling and parish activities. We still have many of them, now sharing grand-parenting together. But most of them have fallen off. Our interests changed and we moved away. Convenience is a huge factor in maintaining relationships.  It is very hard to maintain deep friendships while living so far away from one another. There is no daily interaction; no morning coffee or park days. And I miss that very much,

I realized that people I thought were friends were not. They were people we engaged in the same activities with. Once we were “geographically undersirable,” our relationships flitted away. I thought this past year was a good example of that – Christmas cards. In past years, we received stacks of cards. This year, I checked to see who sent cards. Very, very few of the people I considered friends. And it made me sad. As I have aged, my circle of friends outside of family has shrunk. And I am completely okay with that; truly I am.

This summer, in fact just a few weeks ago, we visited our son and his family in our old stomping grounds. We saw very few friends. Some people were a little hurt we did not see them, or make the effort to see them. But I thought about it, and a very close friend also verbalized this: When you work and have just a short amount of vacation time/money to spend on travel each year,  and your children live thousands of miles away, you have limited time to see family – and our family is priority #1 for us! And so my circle has become quite small and exclusive. We stayed with a family, our youngest son’s godparents, for a couple of nights when we first flew into town. I had the best time. We dined with them and another couple and I was content – I was happy. We saw another family while connecting our teen up with some friends and he spent a couple of nights with them. It was great to reconnect. We also interacted with some other friends who happen to own a gathering place of sorts where other friends met up with us and we had the best evening! However, we spent the majority of our time with our son and his family. It was where I wanted to be – holding on to each moment I could, making memories with my grandchildren. I hugged and cuddled as much as I possibly could. And my smaller group of friends totally understands this; most of them live it, too.

“Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.” Proverbs 22:24–25

I have tried to explain these different aspects of friendship to my youngest son. I have often told him that people who are in your life should make you a better man. Friends should bring out the best and enrich our lives. They should not drag you down, nor make you a lesser person. There are so many pressures on teens; we’ve all experienced that. Who in our group of teens were an occasion of sin for us? Who pushed us to break the Commandments of God, the rules of our parents, and even the law (for me it was under-age drinking)? Are they friends in the best sense of the word? Do they pray with us, and for us?  Do they gossip about us behind our backs, or do they discourage evil words? Do they encourage our faith and stand beside us as we try to fight the tide in our culture? Do they lead us to that wide, simple pathway to evil? Or do they hold us up as we traverse that narrow road of righteousness and truth? And with all the pressures in each age that young people face, how are we as parents helping our children? Do we encourage the right relationships and help them navigate the teen years with Christ as the Head of our Families?

“Whoever loves a pure heart and gracious speech will have the king as a friend.” Proverbs 22:11

This has been an arduous practice in discernment for me. It has been painful, this process of letting go. But I also have learned that I am blessed beyond measure by the people I have in my life. I am making new friends, people who “hang around you and laugh with you.” They may not be “friend” in the truest essence of the word. But I am okay with that, too. Because I know who my friends are. I have held them and wept with them as we have parted. They have shared life and death with me. They have held me up as I have tripped. They have comforted me and brought me joy and laughter. And as I recently read, “Friendship has to be an exchange. It cannot be a one way street; that’s self sacrifice. As someone recently told me “if someone wants to be a part of your life they will make the effort to be in it, so don’t reserve a place in your heart for someone who doesn’t make the effort to stay”. Harsh? A little, yes. But ultimately, the Lord of All places people in our lives when they are needed to be there. Or perhaps when we need to be in their lives. When they don’t stay, we need to let go and be thankful for the enrichment that experience gave us. I know I am rich; I have my faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And, I have the love of my life beside me, an incredible family I love more than life itself, and a handful of people I can honestly call, “friend.” I am so very blessed.

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” John 15:13–15