“…but the greatest of these is love.”

Clinging, clinging, clinging. The world is all about loss today. It seems like things happen in 3’s, as they say, so I am holding on.

It amazes me how we ignore the needs of some portions of our community. And that is not a judgmental statement. Not at all. Unless you are exposed to the need, quite often we don’t know it even exists. I am not all that familiar with things outside of my experiential life. There are some things I know about that seem random, but it is because somewhere along the line I was exposed to it. And I learned. But we all go along in life, noting what we need to note to survive our days, and pretty much ignoring the rest of it. Because of time.

My major in college was Anthropology. We study what was, about a culture, and what is. We study the remains of older cultures through Archeology. And if we are blunt about it, archeologists are the world’s dumpster-divers. We dig through trash left behind by cultures that faded away, or moved on. Today, dumpster diving is sadly a way of life for many of our indigent and poor. But something else that is happening is that we are becoming a throw-away society. A transient population. Ever moved? Trust me when I say, I have. Too many times that I am almost embarrassed by it. But with moving, you learn to get rid of stuff. We had an enormous garage sale prior to relocating. I sold literally boxes of paperback books (it turned out the buyer owned a used book store! LOL!) and all sorts of outdated toys and tools, and a myriad of other supplies I no longer needed; oh, and furnishings; tons of “furnishings” (love that broad-base descriptor). It amazes me what people will and will not buy. We are moving again. This weekend we made our first dump run and a run to the Salvation Army. We are, once again, purging. We realize we need less of this stuff we have somehow accumulated. Heck, I have boxes I have not unpacked from our last move, four years ago! LOL! And furniture we have never used, and it looks like we won’t need it again, that has been in our shed for 4 years, too! And we have to get rid of our “stuff.”

But what about the other, more precious things, we have in our lives? We warehouse people. We find it too hard to care for them, so we warehouse them. They call them “nursing homes,” or “memory care facilities,” or “senior centers,” and “long term care facilities.” There is pretty much a name for whatever/whomever we are housing. But when you try to keep family members home with you, what help is there? It is hard to come by. Most medical professionals don’t even know what is out there. How sad. You have to work in some branch of social services to appreciate what is out there, that can assist you. We don’t have to experience loss several times when it comes to our elderly or infirm (the first loss is when you separate them from you by warehousing them; the second loss is when they pass away). But it amazes me how few people acknowledge the needs of our elderly population. We are now living longer. There is going to be a shortage of professionals to deal with our senior population, and we are going to see, increasingly, situations where multiple generations are once again living together. We need to stop and think about how we are educating our children, and what they are being taught. Compassion? Caring attitude? Serving attitude? Do they know how to put others first?

Today is the Feast Day of St. Joseph the Worker. My husband took him as his patron when he was ordained, and this icon was magically placed on the cake I had made for him, by an amazing baker. It was created from rice paper and edible inks. I still marvel at it. What a talent. St. Joseph is such an incredible role model for us all. He epitomized the ideals of selfless service. He married the Theotokos, Mother of God, knowing She was carrying the Son of God. And he put his life into the service of Mary and Jesus. He was a background saint…not much detail is known of him. But he taught his Son, Jesus, the skill of a master carpenter. Jesus worked until he was 30 years old, as a carpenter. He took care of the needs of his community, quietly working with wood. In those days, the skill set to work in wood was special. Things were made to last, to be passed on from one generation to the next. It was not Ikea furniture. And Joseph excelled at it.

Today, I was recently informed, we have the generation of kids who register at Ikea and Target. They are mobile and they are not particularly drawn to the old, the antique. It has to be something pretty special for today’s young adults to appreciate it. We have become this “throw-away,” transient, people. Look at me! I have moved so many times in my life, it is ridiculous. This next house? I am fondly calling it my “casket” house – because that is how I want to move out of it – in my casket. I am done moving. I am tired of the transience in my life. I want to stick to a place and stay there.

My parents, my mother-in-law, are all aging. They require care. They require someone to take care of them in their home. And they require a lot of care. Coordinating that, organizing that, and implementing a plan is taxing on those left to care for our elderly. Today I spent hours on the phone and internet trying to coordinate, from clear across the country, care for my dad. Only because I have been involved in social services did I know what terms to use, and how to search, for help. They had no clue. Never thought they would have to ever look for it, either. It was completely outside of their experiential lives. I had previously cared for my elderly grandmother and had waded through these waters before, as well as working in the social services world. So terms were familiar and google did it’s thing, and I connected. But how many others have no clue where to even begin?

I began with this post saying how I was clinging…I am. To my sanity. Today is the end of homeschooling for me. Senior grades are due. A phase in my life is over. My youngest child will graduate later this month. That’s 25 years of the homeschooling lifestyle I will no longer have. And it is a mixed bag of emotions for me. And I dealt with my dad. And tomorrow, we have to euthanize our 15-year-old dog who is snoring right now at my feet. It seems like life and death are circling around me and it makes me agitated. I need a good laugh. I need a good night out with friends, who will make me smile. I need a good hug from a granddaughter or grandson. I need to smell a newborn and hold a wiggling baby, to ensure myself that life indeed goes on. I’d love to cuddle a puppy, you know?

Mr. Chet has been my buddy for the past 15 years. I remember the day we picked him out of his litter; and the day we brought him home, six weeks later. He’s never been a simple dog to own, but most terrier breeds are not simple. Miniature Schnauzers can be particularly stubborn and constantly take the lead of their own mindset, rarely listening to their owners. They are trainable, but you have to really work at it. And they are funny, too. Chet has provided many hours of laughter. He will cuddle when I ask him, but he is content off by himself, on a soft surface of some sort. That photo of him is when he was sitting on top of the back of our couch, in the sun, on a blanket. He always chose his spots, regardless of the dog beds available. He is also a runaway! He has kept us on our toes for 15 years. He is also not the smartest dog in the bunch. But it has become increasingly obvious that he no longer enjoys a quality of life. He sleeps constantly and enjoys very little. He is always lost, wandering around the house. He has little pep, exhibiting interest in mostly breakfast and little else. And so we are preparing to say goodbye to our little buddy…and my heart is breaking. Death is just so final with our animals. Thanks be to God we have eternity to look forward to.

With all the aging and dying in my life right now, my advice would be to get all the snuggles you can with whom/what you love. If your furry friend wants a snuggle, let them. If your son wants to give you a hug, take it. If a friend needs a long chat, chat. If your mom needs you to help her out, help her out. Time is marching on, whether we realize it or not and our days are numbered. And the quality of our days definitely wanes as we age. So be good to those you love. Hold on to them; enjoy the unexpected moments of their company, and bask in your shared love and relationship. God knows how things will work out, each day, for the good of us all. Cling to love like it is a cliff, connecting you to this world. It is all we really have. And we ought not to throw that away, like old books at garage sales.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.               1 Cor 13:13

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“You shall rise before the gray headed…”

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Many of you who have read, or have been reading, my blog understand that I have elderly parents. Of course, I could never say that directly to them, because they would vehemently deny it! My mom (87) has Alzheimer’s and is now suffering with basal cell cancer at the site of her 40-year-old mastectomy. She is a trooper, that is for sure. With her new cancer showing up, the doctor offered to make it “look better” in the sense of presentation. He offered some options and one of them was to remove skin from mom’s cheek to place over the site. Her response? “You’re not taking skin off my face!” Ha-Ha. When she was initially diagnosed with cancer all those 40+ years ago, she told me, “This is not what is going to take me out.” And she meant it. She doggedly took her radiation treatments, even if they made her weak and ill. And she soldiered through them. My dad had recently declared his marital independence at the same time (his timing was not the best) and she was left with just me there, to pick up the pieces. (My younger brother had recently gotten married and I was the sole child left at home). Some of those days were particularly rough. Some were filled with laughter – trying on prosthesis after prosthesis for her mastectomy often left us breathless and crying with laughter. Coincidentally, I just happened to work at a department store in their lingerie department at the time, and had actually been trained in fitting them. We used to have one on our counter, and we used it as a pin cushion. I never looked at it the same after my mom’s surgery.

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My dad called me this morning…with his current list of ailments. Mostly he is concerned with the affects of aging. Dementia, slurred speech, dropping things. He’s 90 years old. We discussed his continued driving. Boy, did his dad hate it when he had his license taken away at 80 years old. But I don’t think my dad sees it as that “line in the sand” issue of once he crosses it, lights out! But he does realize he is old school. I teased him that he can barely boil water to steep a teabag. He’s always had the women in his life take care of him – since birth. And he realizes his days of contributing to this world are winding down. He feels superfluous and I can understand that. We laughed that I am 60 years old and we were chatting about some of my adventures from childhood and high school, where he swore I would be the death of him! We also discussed how our society reacts to older people. As someone who has allowed her gray hair to just be there, without hiding, I can attest to this. It amazes me how people treat you when they see your gray hair. (Not to mention a tattoo!! Oh my word!!)

“You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:32

Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old. Proverbs 23:22

You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:14

A gray head is a crown of glory; It is found in the way of righteousness. Proverbs 16:31

The glory of young men is their strength, And the honor of old men is their gray hair. Proverbs 20:29″

There are so many verses in Scripture where we are admonished to honor our parents and our elderly who reside among us. Unfortunately, very few people do. We house the elderly in nursing homes, basically feeding them and giving them a roof until they die. I wish we could return to the days where extended families lived together, tripping over one another as they grew older together. I was blessed in that I spent a lot of my free time in the presence of my paternal grandparents. As a child, I spent weekends there on a regular basis. As a teenager, I would drive out just to visit them, eating dinner or taking a swim in their pool and chatting. As a college student, I would go and stay weekends with my grandparents. They were my friends, not just my grandparents. My grandma came to live with us in the last days of her life, and my children knew her, and loved her very much. We were all together as she passed away. It was a quiet and lovely death, as I held her hand. She knew she was loved and treasured.

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And today these things made me think. Someone we know was just diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, out of the blue. Time is constantly ticking and our quality of life can be limited, severely, by things outside of our control or influence. As we age, our health become precarious, at best. My biggest fear is falling in all this snow and ice. I am scared to death I will break something. As I have quoted many times, a priest friend of ours once said, “We are not guaranteed our next breath.” And it is becoming more and more a stark realization. I am getting to the age where my parents and my friend’s parents are dying. We are going to become the oldest generation living. (Well, there are always a few, wonderful, exceptions!). But overall, we are moving towards the wall every, single, person we know hits. Death. [A weird, bright spot (squirrel!) is that our new president is 70 years old. My dad and I marveled at how full his days must be. And the mantle of responsibility many young people would never want, let alone a successful businessman who could, very easily, have retired and taken life very easy for the rest of his days. But I don’t think he’s wired like that! Ha-Ha!]

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As so, after conversing with pretty much my entire family today, I am reminded that life is, indeed, so very short. I am intimidated about the world ahead of me, with family and friends passing away. I am tremulous in my heart at having to face these things, in the not-too-distant future. But I also know My God has my back. He knows when I need His strength, when I just cannot take another thing. He also knows who He needs to place in my life, to assist me through these rough times. In the same vein, He also knows who He needs to remove from my life, in order to help me maintain my peace. And I am very okay with that. Life is fleeting and drama is highly over-rated. I am content to be at home, enjoying the snowfall, and seeing my kids and grandchildren grow and mature around me. Occasionally I love a nice cup of coffee in a cafe with a friend. I enjoy some alone time with my best friend – my husband – and preferably not in a ditch (sorry, had to tease you). Life is pretty good. Fleeting and shorter than it was, but I know how Blessed I am.

My prayer for you is that you can come to understand that life is personal. I need to stop reading all this political and social stuff. I need to pick up my laundry and cook my meals. I need to ensure my family is cared for, and that each one knows my heart and how very much I adore them. I need to work on bolstering all these long-standing, but long-distance, friendships I treasure. We all need to take care of our own, private, little orbits of life. Just think of the peace we could share if all our own worlds were in order!

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“Do not conform to the pattern of this world…”

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I am sort of all over the place today. My hubby is off on a business trip again. He is gone 2 weeks of every month. Lately he has chosen to take them back-to-back so he has more of a steady time at home. The house felt sort of empty this morning. Getting old is weird. Hormones are all over the place. Squirrel. My hair is gray. I am trying new products to tame the frizzes. I tried the method where you wash just with conditioner. Not pretty. Tried for a week and could not stand it. Discovered my hair needs keratin. Who knew? Conditioning today. We got 18″ of snow the past 3 days. We are using either our wood stove or floor heating and it makes the air so dry. And my hair flies all over the place. Lovely when you add wool scarves and sweaters. Not. See? All over the place.

I just reconnected with a friend from High School. She and I were so close, for so long. I am not sure why we stopped being in touch. Perhaps me getting married and having kids and she was seriously in school and having a career…and we moved away from one another, too. But it is so good to get connected via Facebook, and to relaunch our relationship. I was so excited!! It gave me a spring in my step today.

So I blow dried my hair and it is still so fly-away-ish. Had to re-apply the leave-in conditioner. We will see how this formulation works for me. Gray hair is so picky.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

My hubby and I have been dealing with issues regarding our parish and the practicing of the faith we have come to love (and were so well instructed in, by an amazing priest and many friends – priests and monks among them). And it has caused a little friction. Nothing like damaging to our relationship, but in our 34 years together, our faith journey has always been a joint one. Perhaps friction is not the right term. It’s more like there was a pea in our mattress and we just were not comfortable. We always walked together in faith. Our journey has amused many, and confused even more! And over the past 6 months or so, we have sorted of marched to a different drummer. And that is never good. I was always cautioned to not marry outside of my faith practices because people who are “un-equally yoked” do not work out. And I experienced it once, in a long term relationship. I was even engaged to him. He was Jewish. (Reform, not Orthodox, or it probably would never have happened in the first place). But eventually, especially after having developed such an amazing relationship with his rabbi and knowing I was firmly a Christian woman, his cultural adherence to many Jewish traditions, and me not fitting in well with his family, caused me to call things off. He was a great person and I did not wish him ill. I just realized we could never work. His rabbi and I remained friends, up until his death, often meeting for coffee and chats, long after my relationship had waned. I knew I needed a good, strong, Christian man in my life and was wise enough to call the wedding off. And when I met my husband, he lit up my life. And the more I got to know him, the more I wanted his faith. I wanted that relationship he had with God. I used to watch him pray, and while kneeling next to him, prayed that I could be like that. He has been good for me. I often tell him that he saved me from my worst self. He dragged me into a more pious life and I loved it. Over the past 6 or more months, that has waned. And I admitted to him that I miss it. At this same time, my husband realized our relationship with our faith practices needed to change. We spoke and realized we felt the same way about things. About some pretty important things. Whew. A good talk is sometimes all you need to realign your northern star – in my case, that is my piety and sense of faith permeating everything; my relationship to Christ and His Church.

 

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I have taught my kids that it is better to be that lone person, standing for what is right, rather than going with the majority. I believe that to be so in pretty much everything. You can apply it to your chosen career – be the best you can be at whatever it is you do, even if you are not a part of the crowd. In politics, for me, I rarely follow what the majority is calling for. I am conservative – socially, financially, spiritually, and pro life. Period. It permeates even the voting booth. In my faith, I prefer historically connected, profound, and deeply rooted worship. Throw in beeswax candles and icons, and I am there! I was raised next door to Russians, whose parents immigrated from Russia. They had such an interesting spin on life. From the father of the family, I learned to fence, using rapiers from the Royal Court in Russia. I learned to drink Russian tea made in a Samovar. And I learned about Russian tales and foods, traditions and history. I fell in love with Russia, reading everything I could find on it. The old, the traditional, the historically connected has always grabbed me. As an adult, I found myself learning all about my faith at a secular university, funnily enough. I converted to Catholicism as an adult. Coincidentally, about this time, I met my husband. (When I was dating my Jewish boyfriend, I was Geneva Presbyterian – until I converted to Catholicism at age 27). Over our 32 years of marriage, as we have journeyed through a very “orthodox” Catholic life, we discovered the Eastern Catholic Church. It was then that I truly began to breathe with both lungs. I was hooked. We moved over to the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, which is culturally Arabic, but Byzantine/Greek in worship style. My husband became a Deacon, after attending the Melkite seminary. We made life-long friends we dearly miss, during this time period. I literally fell in love with Church. I was there 2-4 days every week. I helped with our homeless kitchen and soon found myself transporting donated food weekly in my suburban, dragging my homeschooled kids with me. I loved working in the kitchen with all the Arab ladies. We had so much fun. And they taught me Arabic traditions, histories, foods, clothing styles, and how they raised their kids and the many faith traditions they held precious. When we moved to Alaska, we discovered there was no Melkite Church up here. We have been adapting. Our youngest son found a youth group he loves, at the local Roman Catholic parish. We support him in attending their “young men’s bible studies” and trips, and youth group every week. (He is well-known in the local parish and usually brings up the gifts on Sundays at Mass. He’s quite the popular teenager. We joke that he knows more people in Alaska than any of the rest of us does). We attend there as a family and it has been good. It is not our beloved Eastern tradition, but it is Church.

Kneeling Prayer.Orthodox Church

 

 

We’ve adapted to this culture up here. (It’s cold and white everywhere these days, because we have so much snow!!) We have become sort of bland. Ha-Ha! And I got pulled away from the practice of what I love, into a rather generic sort of Christian expression. Even in these posts, I was more inclusive, even of the photos I would use to illustrate my posts. I have stopped explaining about my faith practices, letting people just assume I am a generic “Christian” woman. Which I am, but I realized that I have been compromising myself. It is not all of who I truly am. I cannot please the public; I cannot continue to “pose” as something I am not. And I was caving into the pressures I had warned my kids about all these years. I was not being true to who I really am. I am an Eastern-rite Catholic woman. I love the smell of incense. I love the Divine Liturgy. I love chant. Not Gregorian, but old world, eastern chant. I love icons. I love being in a church where you can scent the incense from a previous Liturgy, and light the beeswax candles and be transported to a holier place; a place of oneness with God. It eases my soul. And even if I am “all over the place” and a tad bit scatterbrained today, I am also more at ease because I have realized these things about myself. And it comforts me.

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I realize that many of you do not worship this way, nor understand why people would. Our democratic ideals have permeated our styles of worship, and that is okay, if it sits well with you. I have always been a history-oriented person. I majored in Anthropology and minored in Biblical Archeology. History – church – faith. It has alway been a part of who I am. When I walked the parapets of a castle in Wales as a 16-year-old, I felt those walls speak to me. I would run my hands down them, marveling at how ancient they were and how connected to that antiquity I felt. I was walking the lands of my ancestors and I felt truly at home and very welcome, in among all the artifacts and tapestries, old walls and artwork. Walking through Churches and Cathedrals while we visited England, I constantly had a backache because I spent the entire time bent over, looking at all the engravings on the stones. I took so many rubbings. I felt rooted. I could really breathe at some of these places. It is the same for me in the way I choose to worship. I love tradition and the fact that I can historically trace my Church back to the Apostles. We have songs that are so old, there is no written record of them, just references to them by the Church Fathers, talking about how old they were back in the Apostolic days. Those of us who are Melkite like to tease our Roman/Latin Rite friends that we had St. Peter before they did, because he established the Church in the east before he meandered his way to Rome (wink-wink). And so I have decided that I am not going to hide who I am any longer. I am not going to water things down. I am not going to represent an American Jesus for the palpability of my newer friends. (And those in my business world). I believe in Jesus Christ and I do that in communion with them. However, I also believe in the traditions that brought Protestantism its lifeblood. We had the traditions long before they were put into a book – the Bible – the same one we all read, before all those pesky books were removed out of it. And we were an oral people – sharing our faith and our traditions with others through the practices passed on to us from the Apostles themselves. This is not a haughty or conceited viewpoint, nor is it meant to put people off. But it is the Church I choose to worship in; it is the tradition which gives my lungs breath. It is part of who I am.

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[By the way, my hair feels amazing right now. The blow drying has cooled and it feels like silk. Still gray, but not so much frizziness. Maybe this stuff is working!?!?! Keratin – who knew??]

And so my friends, from here on out, I will be sharing honestly about who I am. I will share through an Eastern lens, through the faith I practice. I am ecumenical because I believe we all hold the same God in our hearts, but I won’t apologize or hide that I prefer icons and a Jesus prayer, Divine Liturgy and incense, the iconostasis and beeswax candles, confession in front of an Icon of Christ the Pantocrator, and cantors with no musical accompaniment, to pretty much all the rest of it. It just fits me and I will no longer apologize nor hide it from you. It is part of what makes me, me. And it is part of who I am when I communicate with all of you, on this blog. I hope you will continue to read, if you do. I am still who I am! It’s just me going back to the me I was a few years ago.

May the Lord grant you many blessed years.

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Quiet Extrovert….

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Today I took a personality test. It is free and online. (16personalities.com). What an eye-opener. I do think it is the first time I have participated in one of these where I felt like I was accurately and succinctly described. It sort of threw me for a loop. Today became a benchmark day for me, because I learned so much about myself. Well, I know myself, but someone who doesn’t know me accurately put into words what I think about myself. And that can be a tad bit unsettling.

Most people presume that I am an extrovert because I am a good talker. Ha-Ha. I love to chat. For hours on end. And I have an ability to strike up a conversation pretty much anywhere I am. However, I can be superficial about it, too. I can talk weather, or sports, or social media garbage all day long. And then I can leave it at that. And although I can participate in society at that level, anything more can leave me completely exhausted. Emotionally exhausted. When I feel like I can connect to someone on a deeper level, I will extend my emotional feelers and delve into deeper subjects. But that doesn’t happen too often. As I have aged, it happens less and less.

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I am an avid e-reader. I will read a traditional book off and on, but my Kindle Paperwhite goes with me everywhere. If I have a spare moment, I am reading on it. I take it to bed every night and read until my eyelids have gravel in them and it is hard to focus. I prefer, more and more, books to social situations. I prefer a certain genre and through this personality test, I understand why I love the genre I love. I have found that I can go entire days, if no one else is home, without sounds coming through iTunes or the TV. I can be silent. I can tap-tap-tap on my laptop (which I love so much. It’s a new MacBook…with a delicious purple cover – thanks to my DIL!) and that can be the only sounds in my home, aside from my snoring dogs. But I am still communicating, like now, only it is still being a “quiet extrovert.”

Another thing that this test showed me was what is important to me insofar as relationships and career/workplace needs go. I realized that I blog about issues important to me. And most often, there is a spiritual connection. Spirituality and morality are the most important attributes I seek in friendships and workplace environments. Boy, I wish I would have learned this sooner in life. I had it in me, but this test laid it all out so nice and concisely. My nature is to be diplomatic when I can, but I also will not compromise my beliefs. I am always seeking authenticity from others – quality trumps quantity every time.

blcoked on social media

Why do I address this? Well, today several things happened. Someone got through a “block” I had for one of my social media accounts and somehow was able to put a call through to me. And it took me by surprise. My safety net has a rip in it somewhere. So my sense of quiet and alone was attacked and I found out I really don’t like that. And secondly, I learned why so much of what is going on in the world insofar as violence and this ugly, ugly election process truly bothers me. Why I prefer ignorance about some of it. The process for delegates to the convention? Who knew all that? Who knew votes could be disregarded? Who knew prominent party members could opt out of the convention? Who knew there could be so much disregard for human life that simply shooting police officers purely because they are police officers is seen, by some people, as a viable option to fix their situations???? And I realized this bothers me because deeply rooted within my personality, I have a need to contribute to humanity on a personal level, all the while valuing honest, integrity, and morality above all else. Where are those attributes in this political climate or in the culture of violence we see out there even today? And it hurts me, on such a deep level. It is almost like I am realizing I am too soft in some ways, to deal with it. Which I also realized today is another reason why I prefer my Kindle time to socializing, more and more.

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I think that just a little kindness is needed. I posted yesterday about touching people, one soul at a time, one person at a time, just person-to-person. We need, I believe, to shut down all this noisiness and spend some time thinking about our neighbors. Our neighbors who may not exhibit kindness to us, but to whom we need to always be kind. This can be quite literally the person next door to us, but it can also be the idiot who cuts us off on the highway and who we realize needs way more driving experience. It can mean the clerk who is rude to us, or a waiter who messes up our order. It can be some jerk on the TV we see who obviously needs some attention or care. We need to show kindness to “the least of these” –

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed.’ Matthew 25:40

I do not want to be separated from the love of God, ever. Some theologians say that hell is not some hot place with demons attacking you, but rather it is the knowledge that God has removed Himself from you, and the absence of the love of God for eternity is what hell truly is. To come to that point in your personal salvific story line to realize there is a God, and that you did not believe nor accept Him, and He has removed Himself from you for eternity. Wow.  We come to many realizations in our lives, and my continued prayer for others is that they will come to acknowledge God in their lives and accept His will for them. I do not want anyone to be without, or stand outside of the love of God. And I see that lacking kindness towards others (we need to always struggle to be kind to everyone), to be fearful for your own safety, and to want to retreat away from others is sort of something that leads to a further decay of our culture. Those of us who recognize the shortcomings around us are the only ones who can affect a positive change. We sometimes have to fight our inner selves in order to help our society. Yes, I might have to pay attention to this ugly election thing we have going here, where no one tells me what they can do for me, but they sure can tell me what the other guy cannot do! I have to keep myself current in order to be a participant in the process, although I would love honesty and forthrightness within our political climate. As for the violence, I think that will only change when we fundamentally change how we all view the sanctity of all human life. When we can so easily abort the unborn or kill the sick and dying, people will not value one another. When we extend kindness to others, with no expectation of recompense or deservedness, but purely to be kind, we teach them that they have value – that their lives matter – that all lives truly matter.

sanctity of life

One of the traits this test showed me was that I need to feel like I am constantly improving myself, and am inspiring others, convincing others to passionately and altruistically improve the world around them, on a personal level. And to me, that means I need to touch someone positively each and every day, to be sure I am contributing. Right now, I am blogging, and hoping to share with more than one person, so perhaps they will be inspired to reach out, too. I have comforted another person today, and that makes my heart sing. I am trying to make it a personal goal to touch one other life, each and every day. Together, we can reorient this culture before it becomes so warped, no one would recognize it. Together we can grasp one another’s hands and literally pull each other towards a better tomorrow. Yes, I am a quiet extrovert, but even I can affect change.

Flag people

 

“Life is fragile…”

Life is fragile

Each and every opportunity we are given to embrace life at its fullest is a blessing. And life is so fleeting. I’ve quoted my former pastor many times on my posts and he used to say, “You are never guaranteed your next breath.” It is so very true. Each breath is a gift from God. Each and every one. So what are we doing with those precious breaths we have been given today?

I live near a military base. I actually really like it. I love watching the huge jets fly over the house. Even the Huey helicopters can make the walls rattle and dishes fall over. But we all jokingly say, “It’s the sound of freedom.” This week (and last week) they are playing war. The large booms have our cat scurrying for cover. Our walls rattle, the dishes shake in the cupboards, and pictures bang on the walls. We are near the artillery range and also near where the huge rounds land. At night, if you get the right angle, you can see the tracers. But it’s loud and it’s 24/7. I jumped out of my skin about 12:30 am, and laughed, saying, “Ahhh…that was freedom booming” and promptly went back to sleep. But during the day, since they are so random, I am on edge. It makes it hard for me to focus on getting done what I need to accomplish. I am a SAHM, but I also homeschool my son, maintain this blog (among other writing projects) and I am taking an online business-building course. The snow today is muffling the booming a little and my oldest dog is over on the couch snoring, so it’s not too bad. And I had to type because things are, as usual, weighing on my heart.

Life is precious and precocious, and full of amazing turns, twists, and alternatives. We shared the joy of a grandson’s birthday yesterday, celebrating his life, all four years so far. And coincidentally, there was a horrible accident on our only highway (yes, this is pretty rural) where an 18-month old was ejected from the car in the carseat, because another vehicle hit them head on with such force, the side of the car was ripped off. Our whole community was praying for the families involved (the 18-month old is okay as of this morning; just some broken bones – a miracle, really). Several pregnancies were announced, as well as some deaths. The ambiguous nature of life really hit me yesterday.

Seat at your table

There have been several people in my life who have sapped me of energy. They are energy-suckers who seem to create a sort of “Pig Pen” of chaos around them. (I am referring to that character in Peanuts, who has a cloud around him all the time). They also seem to bring with them a cloud of drama. Honestly, as I get older, I am less and less likely to want to deal with drama. Life has its own ups and downs, without adding to it. Some people love to gab about everything, and everything is dramatic. I don’t need more of it as I get older, I need less of it.

Friend.FB

I had someone ask me why I had “de-friended” them on Facebook. It was not meant as a slur or a slight. I tried to explain that social media is a construct; it is not reality. Just because someone “friends” you does not mean they are your friend. “I am not sure that word means what you think it means,” to quote from the Princess Bride movie. So many people derive their sense of worth by how many friends they have on Facebook, what sort of purse they carry, type of car they drive, how big their diamond rings are, what the logo on their jeans are…and they assume all those selfies posted online are a reflection of real life. Ha! I sit at my table, watching my son do school, as I type away. I am no way posting a selfie right now! It is snowing outside. I have on a nightgown, bathrobe, big socks, slippers, and my hair is pulled up into “I don’t know what” hairdo (basically a “get it off my face and out of my sight hairdo”). You think I want anyone to see that? It is my reality, but not what I share with the greater world. Most of what is on social media is what people wish for themselves; what they wish their lives were like. Some friends and I sat at a restaurant in California a few years ago, people watching. We were wondering how many who drove by in Cadillac Escalades and BMW’s were living debt-free? How many had tons of cash in the bank? Which ones were living paycheck to paycheck? But that’s not the image they were presenting. They were projecting what they needed to be, in order to feel accepted. Facebook is so much like that. There is far too much drama associated with friends you make there. To me, de-friending or unfollowing someone is sometimes the kindest thing we can do for ourselves, and for them.

Calvin and Hobbes. Friend

I value life and I try – more and more – to surround my life in prayer. To buffer myself, my family, and my friends with prayer. Adding someone to my prayer list is investing in that relationship. It is enlisting God to assist me in my concerns for that person. Of course, God already knows and has probably been waiting for my heart to soften for this person for years, but still, I love knowing God and I are tackling someone together, for their blessing. True friends are so precious. One of the gifts of my life is that I have a couple of people I KNOW, without a doubt, are my friend. I could call them and no matter the cost or inconvenience, if I needed them, they would hop on a plane and come to my side (or drive across town). That is so very rare in this self-oriented culture of ours. We need to nurture those relationships and we need to seek God’s blessings for our friends. We need to cocoon ourselves in God’s centering love and focus on that. And I do not think that everyone needs to be at my table. A table only seats a few people. We can think of the Last Supper as a great example. Christ invited only the 12 to sit with Him. We know through Apocryphal writings that there were family members there. There were women cooking and serving. There were children running around. But at the table were just the 12 – only those Christ invited to sit with Him.  For me, there are lots of people in my life. I have groups and subgroups of friends I have made from here and there (school friends, college friends, work friends, church friends, neighbors, etc – and even Facebook friends). The total of my Facebook friends number over 300. Would I want all of them seated at my table? Of course not. There are degrees of separation and there is practicality. There are also affairs of the heart. Most of the women I count as friend, truly friend, have shared emotional journeys with me. We have married, birthed, and buried together. I have a friend who showed up when my grandma, who lived with us, died. She was not asked to come; neither was her husband. But they came and held my hand and put an arm around me as the mortuary came and took grandma away. They stood with me as witness, as friend, as ally when my grandma passed from this life to the next. That is a friend. She and her husband will always have a seat at my table. They are also people I know who would rush to my side, regardless of my geography, should I ever need them. I am blessed. But when I compare them with some of the people called friends on social media? No; there is no comparison.

Realones

Life is becoming more and more precious. As we age, we start getting a solid look at the end zone; the final door; the end of this life. And those we have around us, those we choose to walk this path with, become more and more special. I will continue to unfriend on social media. I will slowly pull away from those platforms entirely. Because as we get closer and realize our days are numbered and there are far fewer of them left, we become aware of the priceless role a true friend plays in our lives. We become aware of the transient nature of life and how it can be taken in a moment. Through my faith in God and His infinite love for me and for others, I know that I will reunite with loved ones and share in that glory for eternity. Right now, my goal is to make life as precious and celebrated as possible, for all those who are in my life and those I may touch. My life is open to making new friends. I enjoy meeting new people. But I have also come to see that I am a better person because of the people I surround myself with. I am better because they are in my life. They are a part of my life. They are also not all on social media platforms, and you know what? It’s fine with me. The less I can be present out there, the more I can be present to those sitting next to me, at my table.

Phones to conversate

Today, as I take that next breath, I promise to be true to my commitments to my family and friends. I vow to always view the next person I meet as a potential friend. I vow to place relationship and substance with friends above pretense and convenience. I also know that God and I will continue to hold in prayer those who need it. I will try to be the kind of friend that people need me to be. I love this life and feel blessed in those who have managed to find a place at my table. And there is always room for more. But I also will not feel guilty when I need to “unfriend” someone and move forward. God is watching; I am praying, and I am breathing still.

“…lift up our hands and bless him.”

baby-feet13Today is the first of May.  Spring is really here!  There is a small patch of snow under our front window, trying to hang on.  But I think the grass will win…we have a whole week of sunshine predicted!!

Yesterday was an awesome day.  I had the car…so that is a huge thing for me! I was all over town, having been to three places, before 9:00am! Whoopee!  And then we got texts from our middle son, which totally made our day.  His wife is expecting baby #2 and it is a GIRL!!!!  Having raised three sons (well, #3 is almost done), I love having little girls around. It just melts my grandma heart.  I love all things girly – except on me! Ha-Ha!  I love the little outfits, the socks, the cute and frilly undies that cover their diapers, the shoes, the BOWS!!  They never had bows like this when I was a kid.  My mom used to use Caro’s syrup to glue a ribbon on my head so people knew I was a girl – I was pretty much bald until I was 2 or so!!  The two granddaughters I have so far have such different hair…one is looking a sandy blonde (leaning towards brunette) while the other is a strawberry blonde (leaning towards outright red!!).  Both of their smiles just take my breath away; they melt my heart (I know I keep saying that).  I absolutely adore my grandkids. My grandson, being two and the oldest grandchild, occupies a special place in my heart, too.  He was the first and he opened the floodgates of my heart when he was born.  Who knew??  I think I was created to be a grandma. It is the best thing – ever!!!  (I think the meme below applies to grandmas is such a special way…)

PreciousJewelsYesterday was also a day when I just could not stop crying.  I got some news that a friend we were close to many years ago passed away from cancer.  It devastated me and my husband, too.  We have such fond memories of their family and some great times spent with them.  And I have been praying for his soul and for his family.

HolyOilCandle.HolyBookAnd there have been some other things going on and I am trying to juggle all of them.  I usually fall back on what I know and I rely upon – my faith – to help me make sense of things.  I try to listen to others, and to see where perhaps they are coming from or to understand why they would communicate in the way they do.  But sometimes I feel like people already have a response in their head; it’s almost like a previously written and prepared litany they have to get out, that comes out in spurts between what I am trying to say.  They aren’t really listening at all, which becomes obvious by their responses. I pray that I am not like that; I really do.  If I could glean anything from what I have learned, observed, and been taught it is that each life is precious. Each person has a divine right to be here, and as such, they deserve our attention.  In an earlier post, I spoke about leaving people out of our lives, and not paying attention to what people are saying is exclusionary.  I pray, pray, pray that I do not do that to anyone.

Intent to replyI majored in Anthropology at a major University. I received an amazing education.  I minored in Biblical Archeology.  What an eye-opener that minor was!  Through that education, I came to look at the world a little differently. I am not set in my ways as some assume.  I love learning about new cultures, ways of doing things, and traditions.  One of the most annoying things about us converts to other faiths is that we come at them from an adult perspective.  We come to our faith with our eyes open, having experienced some of life, already.  We are exploring, digging, learning about this new thing we have found.  You know how annoying former smokers are? Or people who were fat and are now thin?  People who used to be couch potatoes but are now marathon runners?  People who were liberal but are now conservative? (Or, egad, the opposite??)  All of those things are annoying to those who were born and raised in it.  Why?  I think it is because those born into it are somewhat complacent about it.  They take much for granted.  But another issue is that when people who are born into it, stop learning about it.  Whatever “it” may be.  In the area of religion, I came to my faith after quite a few stops along the way. I have been baptized more times than is even sane, and have experienced worship for some time as a Protestant (and a few versions of that, too!), Mormon, Jewish (Reformed), Roman Catholic, and now Melkite Greek Catholic.  And all of that was accomplished in just 50 some years.  I have been Melkite well over 10 years now, pushing towards 15.  And I am still learning.

Don't compareI endeavor to make sense of the patterns shown to me of this life. And I try, really try, to give people the benefit of a doubt.  Sometimes people try my patience and I loose my cool.  On Facebook today, a young person challenged me, in a very rude and obstreperous way, and I lost my cool.  I have learned to remove myself from the string when things like that happen, but I allowed this kid to get under my skin.  Why?  Because I have all these other battles I’m dealing with and this kid was an annoying gnat flying around my face. I just could not be bothered with the comments any longer.  And I find that is, as I said to a new friend, “my bad.”  I need to be more tolerant because faith is not about who “wins” or who is “right.” Salvation is each of us, reaching out to help our fellow sojourners to God.  It is not being first across the finish line or being able to turn around from some higher place, sneer and say, “Neener-neener, I was right!”  How many of us will absolutely not give in to someone simply because we don’t want to hear the comment, “I was right?” And quite often we allow people who are raging at us, or persecuting us for what we say or believe, or who completely disagree with us, get under our skin.

“Bless them that persecute you.’ If our enemy cannot put up with us any longer and takes to cursing us, our immediate reaction must be to lift up our hands and bless him. Our enemies are the blessed of the Lord. Their curse can do us no harm. May their poverty be enriched with all the riches of God, with the blessing of Him whom they seek to oppose in vain. We are ready to endure their curses so long as they redound to their blessing.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

And I strive for this; I really do.  And so even though battles wage here and there in my life, I do endeavor to shrug them off and replace them with love and blessing.  It is difficult some days, and today I tripped, yet again.  God is just so good and teaches me from my knees, where I have fallen before those who hurt me. I did not raise my hands in blessing today; I should have. I chose to react and for that I seek God’s forgiveness.

But then again, God blesses us in so many disparate areas of our lives.  I lost a friend yesterday, but I found out I am blessed with another granddaughter.  One of my oldest son’s friends and co-workers was hurt very badly yesterday, but today he texted my son from the ICU and said, “I’m going to make it.” What a blessing.  I worked on an issue that I thought had become a lost cause, but was encouraged enough later in the day, to be very hopeful.  These “givings;” these “taking away”…they balance our lives; they give us character and strength; they motivate us to keep going, keep learning, to keep our journey of Theosis pointed in the right direction – towards Him Who saves us.

Elder PaosiosAs of this afternoon I have already faced some demons in my life and in my little neck of the woods. I also dealt very poorly with a particular young man, but out of that experience, I sought forgiveness and I grew another step in learning patience to raise my hands in blessing when someone opposes me.  This morning, lolling its way into this afternoon, has produced some awesomeness of its own! I have had very productive talks with two different sons about a variety of subjects, thrown in a couple of loads of laundry, worked on some issues with friends, and if I can just produce an evening meal, I will feel really blessed!!

God is working in me today and I rejoice in God my savior.