“But understand this….

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of Godliness, but denying its power. Avoid these people.

2 Timothy 3:1-5

Good Advice…

I have had a rather rough week. My mom passed away a year ago on Monday. It bothered me more than I thought it would. I can hear her voice and see her smile, and the way her eyes would crinkle up at the corners when she had a big grin on her face. I recall my stepdad telling us a story and mom leaning in and quietly saying, “Like I haven’t heard this one before.” And chuckling at her husband. He was an awesome story teller and even though he told them with great embellishment, we all enjoyed them, laughing all the while. He truly made my mom happy. Now they are both gone and I miss them being in my life so very much.

My dad is still with us. He is 95 and lives in a memory facility on the other side of the country. We chat now and then. This past weekend, he told me he was moving and was busy, and out of breath, packing his room up. I texted my brother, and he confirmed dad was going nowhere that he had been told. I texted my stepsister and her response was, “These are the delusions we live with. This is why he is where he is – we could not handle him any longer.” I had thought it was because of dementia and did not realize his dementia included delusions. It was a hard pill to swallow, as I have been enjoying what I thought were many lucid conversations with him. I spoke with him today and he had no memory of moving anywhere. He lamented that he had lived a good life, is making peace about death, and told me he is lonely. Told me no one comes to see him. And he misses me and wishes he were with me. (I have not seen my dad in person in about 20 years. So this was sort of a shock). He told me he wants me to come and get him and bring him to my home. He realizes I live across the country, but he said he is lonely for family. My stepsister told me that he tells her he does not speak to his kids, just his step kids. Sigh. Dementia. The long goodbye.

Dad’s under the impression that he has led a good life and that he is going to heaven. He also told me that after he hugs Jesus, he’s going to tell Him all the mistakes dad thinks Christ has made. Oh boy. Head-slap. His impression of himself fascinates me. And he knows he is in his last days, and he is beginning to realize that he may not awaken in the not-so-distant future. But he really has no concept of humility, nor of being subservient to anyone – especially if they don’t have the correct credentials. Dad doesn’t respect people very much who are not degreed or wealthy. Where he lives, there are at least 200 other people. He says they lack the education and only talk about farming, fishing, and hunting. None of those subjects interest him. So he sits alone, being miserable, watching birds outside his window and putting together jigsaw puzzles. Alone. In his misery.

The Ladder of Divine Ascent Icon

The icon above is one of my favorites. This is just a portion of it. I have a replica hanging next to the sink in my bathroom. Odd, do you think? Well, I chose that place so that each time I brush my teeth, I contemplate this icon. There are many rungs and there are pitfalls all along the way. Not all of us can hang on until we make it to heaven. Many are heading up there, but demons and choices yank us off. Before we die, if we are aware, we can make better choices and climb up that ladder, having a firmer grasp on our choice of heaven. Everything we do is a choice. And every choice moves us closer to God, or further away. It may just be a tiny step, but the direction is firmly one way or the other. Every, single, day we choose our steps. Every, single day.

In the world right now, life is chaotic. There are so many people making poor choices over and over again. Some people are at the ends of their lives; some are still so young. As I have aged, I have become more tolerant of people whose lifestyles do not align with mine. I choose to worship so differently than most of the people I have in my life, including my children, and other family members, and most of our friends. I do seem to be drawn to like-minded people in the areas of general faith, politics, economics, home life, etc. but they often worship differently. And that is okay. As long as their aim is upwards, towards God, I am good. Some of my friends dye their hair, whereas I do not. Some prefer trucks, while I drive a grandma sedan. Some are vegans, whereas I love my red meats. It’s okay to be friends with those different than us. However, as things get dicier and dicier, I return to the admonishment of St. Timothy above, “Avoid these people.” And in a way, it’s funny because my lifestyle precludes me from associating with many of those exhibiting those traits. Except for some family members. And there is the rub.

Sage advice,,,

I am deeply grateful for my life. I love my husband more than I thought I could love anyone. He is my best friend. He is who my world revolves around. We have amazing kids and grandkids. We live in a gorgeous place among the trees and mountains, streams and lakes. We have two amazing dogs that are accompanying us on this last journey. I have Medicare and just applied for Social Security. Times are slowing down. The glory days are behind us; peace is ahead. And still I ache over issues from family members. My dad is a case in point. We have not been close since I was in my early 20s. Once he left mom and chose to live apart from his family, that’s been his path. And it took him to the opposite side of the country. My youngest son only met him twice – once as a newborn and once as a 4-year-old. He is now 23. My kids have no relationship with their grandfather and he laments that – now. It never bothered him, up until he really started to age. (My kids adored my stepdad, so the roll of grandpa was fulfilled on my half. Their relationship to my in-laws was wonderful. They adored them. So that was great).

My thoughts center around the demented, aging population. How do they reconcile with God? My mom had no concept of God near the end of her life. Dad just thinks he knows better and would like to lecture God about the world. He has always been like that, which is why he flitted from denomination to denomination throughout his life. He could not abide preachers, thinking he knew more than they did. (He also thinks he has multiple doctorates, but that is part of his delusions). I had an Alzheimer’s counselor tell me once that the demented are at peace in their minds. They just don’t communicate out loud very well, and that God knows them intimately, and He knows their hearts. I was somewhat comforted.

Clinging to this for myself, and my loved ones.

And so I am trying to let this go. I seem to be on the verge of tears a lot. My granddaughter is getting three fillings in her teeth today – I wish I could be with her. I wish I could be out of my head some days and find peace. I am going to my grandson’s ball game later this evening. I will endeavor to find joy in the ballfields, amongst the sounds of the game and the children playing all around us. I will suck up the joy and youth and spirit and the life! God knows the hearts of His beloved. He will care for those I cannot care for. He loves us because we love Him. He knew us before we were even born (“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…Jeremiah 1:5) and He will take care of us, as Isaiah reminds us above.

I leave all these thoughts with you because my brain is so busy and there is just so much rambling going on!! May the Lord bless you with peace…

This is for everyone in our lives, but especially our family and friends with dementia.

“Then the King will say to those on his right…”

So, it’s getting real. I am making travel plans and arrangements for rental cars and return flights and packing boxes and getting medical care…my mom is actually moving in with us. For sure. The end of August. My mom has Alzheimer’s and dementia. It’s a mixed bag of symptoms and I would say she is not your average Alzheimer’s patient. If you did not know she had it, you would not think she had it. Unless you chat with her for more than 10 minutes, and then you will know. She takes great care with her appearance and pays attention to fashion. She always wears make up and matching jewelry. My mom does not look 87 years old. She’s a tiny woman, at barely 4’10”, but she is an amazingly strong woman. She left everything she knew and was familiar with, and as an only child, left New Zealand to come to America to follow my dad’s dream. She made a life here, for herself. She loves America and her family. She would do whatever it takes for any of us, who are lucky enough to have her love and devotion. And now she needs our help.

Why do I have this pit in the center of my stomach??? My son said, “Grandma won’t take over the family here; she’ll just be another one of the kids.” Boy, I sure hope so. We are all a little nervous about the impact of having her here. I haven’t lived with her since before I was married. I have been married 33 years this year and with my husband for over 35 years. So, its been awhile since she and I were roomies. And trust me, the moment I turned 18, I moved out! I was back and forth over college a few times, but since my 20s I have not lived with my mom. This is going to be a huge adjustment. But I also know this is what is right and what will be the best for us all. I trust God and His plan for us.

And when this pit develops in my stomach, I continually think back to these words from the Book of Matthew, Chapter 25, verses 30-45:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “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, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

In the old days, families lived together in multiple generations, with grandma and grandpa around all the time. We now opt to warehouse our senior population. But we need to concern ourselves with the fact that more and more people are going to need our help as they age. Watching a recent “TED Talk” I learned that the statistics show that more than 70 million people will have Alzheimer’s in the coming decade. Do you realize how many people that is??? There are 210 countries in the world with less than 70 million people. Karachi, Pakistan is the most populated city with 14.5 million, followed by Shangai and then Mumbai, India. The three together do not equal 70 million. New York only has 8 million, and Los Angeles just over 3 million. I don’t think we are prepared for 70 million people to have Alzheimer’s. And when there are 70 million people with Alzheimer’s, I fear for their very lives. Because the culture of death is all around us. There have been more than 22 million abortions worldwide so far this year (according to the site, NumberofAbortions.com).

22 Million abortions in 2017 – so far. Staggers the mind. 70 Million with Alzheimer’s in the next decade. Hard to fathom. And I am preparing to care for just one life. One life. I think it is the least I can do.

“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.’”

 

 

“And just like that…”

It’s so interesting how our minds work. I had a horrible nightmare last night..well, technically it was extremely early this morning…and woke to my 15-year-old dog barfing his guts out at the foot of my bed (luckily into his dog bed itself). To tell the truth, it was almost worse than the nightmare. Reality can do that to you, every once in a while. Your mind has you reeling and you’re breaking out in a cold sweat, thinking life is pretty bad, and then your dog throws up at your feet. And this morning, it was so very dark. It was black as night, which is why I was so confused.  It’s just week one of Daylight Savings Time – I really dislike the time change – and I am exhausted. Not only that, it is pitch black at 6:30am. So I had to find my way to a light to see what I was dealing with. Meanwhile, I was sweating over my nightmare and not fully aware of what was happening. And to be honest yet again, I think dealing with a sick dog is preferable to my dream, in many ways. In this particular case, once I was fully awake, I would much rather deal with my sick dog.

You see, in my dreams, I lost one of my sons. He snapped; he became someone he never was, nor anyone I had raised him to be. He exhibited behavior I had never expected of him. I was begging him. I was yelling at him. I was losing him and there was nothing I could do to stop his decisions. In my dream, I was cowering in my closet, crying and inconsolable. I think losing a child to poor choices is probably the worst thing I can imagine. I know people who have children who have struggled with addictions and who have served time in prison, or who have been admitted to rehab over and over again. I have seen families split apart who have not returned to a cohesive unit. And I have seen the pain in a parent’s eyes over their lost children.

And I cannot help but think of the world, and our country, right now. It feels like we are turning our backs on God. We have walked away from the basics of our faith. We have allowed the world in, so much so, that we have forgotten God. We have chosen to live life as we choose, away from His Word for us.

In the Ladder of Divine Ascent (the Icon depicted above) St.John Climacus exhorts us to pay attention. If you look at the icon you can see how decisions are affecting the eternity of those climbing. There are many ways in which we can see how, as a culture, we have chosen the world over its creator. The creation has become the master of the creator. It is usurped and upside down. And it can only lead to disaster. It can lead to each of us falling off the “Ladder of Divine Ascent,” our own pathway to heaven.

I read an article today by a young woman who was raised by her German grandmother. Her grandmother warned her that war was coming to us. As a young girl, her grandmother had tried to warn her own family in Germany, prior to World War 1, of an upcoming war, but none of them listened to her. So she fled to America via Ellis Island. She saw the “writing on the wall” (Daniel 5).  And she raised her children and grandchildren to be aware of the world – the history, culture, and markers that signal disaster is coming. And she believes we are, once again, headed for international disaster. Quite often, I feel that God needs a 2×4 to get my attention; I see these markers and yet I disdain them and blow them off. This dream, which was making me extremely upset, was stopped by my dog, before I could take the imagery further. Why did I dream about my son like that? I think it is because I realized his entire school experience, the sum total of all my years of schooling my children, is due to our homeschool by May 1st. The final grades for his last year of homeschooling. And that is so very close. As in 6 weeks close. As in my entire brood will have graduated from High School and be making their way into the world. And it scares me. For a variety of reasons. My babies are all adults. All of them. And here I sit.

You know, God experienced the “empty nest” syndrome, too. He had to expel Adam and Even from the Garden of Eden. As a parent, we sometimes have to make those tough calls. Of course, God knew that He was setting mankind on the pathway back to Him. He granted us free will, which allows us to follow or reject Him. Our children have free will. Eve was easily tempted by an apple, because of her free will, and the demonic presence whispering in her ear. She then infected Adam with the need to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, the one plant the Lord asked them to not eat. Isn’t that how it goes? What we are told we cannot have, we want all the more??  God gives us ample opportunities to choose Him. He allows us the opportunity to experience what the world has to offer. He allows us to feel sated by the world. To our “in the moment” minds; to our “if it feels good do it” mentality; to our “it will be fine, you will see” logic, we choose the pathway that is easier, wider, simpler. Being a follower of God, of Christ, is the single, most difficult thing I have ever chosen to do. But I cannot deny the pull of my heart; that emptiness that no amount of anything in this world fills, but God. The fear of my son making poor choices for his life? Isn’t that the fear all parents share? Most especially our God? He saw how our poor choices mounted, again and again. And He sent us His Son, to lead us each to salvation. Each of us. I can worry all I want about my kids; in fact, I always will. I may have sleepless nights until my eternal sleep, worrying about my children and grandchildren. Because as a parent, we never, ever stop worrying.

Once again, God has directed us to Him through the gift of Lent. He never stops worrying about us. I will never stop worrying about my family, or my friends. It’s part of who I am, as a woman, and as a mother. Each year, we are given a wonderful opportunity to re-direct our lives away from this crazy, inviting, world and direct ourselves towards God. We have this chance for more prayer, for reflection, for a metanoia of the heart, mind and soul. So even if this world is careening out of control, we firmly stand on the Rock, the Church. We have our faith to ground us, prepare us, to set a wall around our hearts. We don’t know when things will occur. And we need to always stay prepared. God has our best interests at heart as the Creator of all of us. He will never stop welcoming us Home to Him. And that one thing helps me sleep at night, and helps keep most nightmares at bay.

I know my kids are growing up and moving on. I know it. It’s just hard to deal with it some days. But facing these fears, in the light of day, and the Light of Christ, gives me strength. And just like that….

Golden moments stolen out of time…

baby-feet8

This month, my 5-week preemie turns 30. I am blown away. When I concentrate on solely that one life, I am filled with memories, like a kaleidoscope of short films. My pregnancy was a difficult one and I was hospitalized for most of it.  Once the doctor sent me home, still on bed rest, I waited. It didn’t take long; just 5 days and my water broke. My husband was so funny, prepping in that new-father sort of way. He laid large, black, yard-sized trash bags on the seat of our car, with a towel on top of that – just in case. Our drive was uneventful, but about 30 minutes in traffic, with me sitting on plastic trash bags!  When I arrived at the OB’s office, they tested me and said that yes, my water had broken and to walk down to labor and delivery. I took a few steps outside the office door and grabbed onto the railing and went to the floor – my first real contraction! After he was born, I shared with my husband how tired I was. I asked him the time and he said, “It’s 4:30.” I replied, “Wow! 4:30 in the morning! No wonder I am so tired.” He corrected me, “It’s only 4:30 in the afternoon – you were only in labor 4 hours!”  Ha-Ha.  Felt like forever; I was taken, for 4 hours, out of time; I had experienced kairos. And so began our life as a family, 30 years ago. I just cannot believe that little boy is now a married dad himself. So much has happened. But every so often, time stands still and we are given moments of insight and memory. This morning, when I gazed at the foggy trees in our yard, I was swept back in time to a precious moment with my newborn son, and it seemed like I was there. I could smell him and feel the weight of him in my arms. And my heart was swollen with renewed love for him.

Hand on baby's back

I was thinking on this today and was brought up short when it hit me – this is exactly how Church is sometimes. Chronos versus Kairos! Our firstborn seemed to love being in Church. He would pay attention and was quiet when we needed him to be. Our middle son was so funny as a baby/toddler, because the moment we would enter the Church, he would get drowsy. He always slept on the pew, through the entire Mass. I was worried he would never participate in the Mass, that he would not know what was happening. One early morning on the freeway traveling to Church, he started saying the entire Eucharistic Prayer I, in Latin, from the back row of the van. He was about 4 years old, I think. I guess I was worried for nothing! Our youngest regularly slept on the floor under the first row in Church, while I sat in the second row with the other deacon’s wives. He would awaken in time for the end of Liturgy, happy as a clam. I was worried he had no concept of being in Church, but when he began serving on the altar, he required very little instruction. He’d been mystically as present as his older siblings, absorbing the things of God, even in sleep.

Orthordox Church.interior

The Church offers us “other” when we attend Divine Liturgy. An opportunity to leave chronos behind – the worries and pressures of our lives, our day, our hours. We enter fully into kairos – the moment, the perfect experience of God. The ancient Greeks gave us these words for time – chronos and kairos. We still use chronos, when we measure the passage of time, in words like chronology, anachronism – when we do we speak in seconds, minutes, hours, years, centuries. Chronos is quantitative, whereas kairos is qualitative. Kairos is something apart from chronos. It specifically speaks to moments; to the perfect moment, the right moment, the opportune moment. It is when the world stops and takes a breath and life is changed. Forever. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, in Ecclesiastes, “to everything there is a time” and kairos is this moment in time; it refers to the perfect moment of God. In Church, we are transported into the moment of worship with our Supreme Being, surrounded by the Heavenly Hosts. This is from the Anaphora of the Eucharistic Canon:

“For all these things we give thanks to Thee, and to Thine only-begotten Son and to Thy Holy Spirit; for all things of which we know and of which we know not, whether manifest or unseen; and we thank Thee for this liturgy which Thou hast found worthy to accept at our hands, though there stand by Thee thousands of archangels and hosts of angels, the Cherubim and the Seraphim, six-winged, many eyed, who soar aloft, borne on their pinions, singing the triumphant hymn, shouting, proclaiming and saying:

Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord of Sabaoth! Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory! Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

I love that our Liturgy reflects the action of the angels and that while we enter into the sanctuary that is Church and the Divine Liturgy, the angels are surrounding us, constantly singing to Our Lord, in Divine Worship. And I love to lose myself in Liturgy. I’ve had people experience a Divine Liturgy for the first time and one of their reactions is usually to the length of the service. (And the singing and the incense…) And for me, it passes in a moment. As the mother of young children, it can take much longer. Getting children to experience kairos only happens when we expose them to it on a regular basis. It’s hard to expect infants, let alone adults who have never been to a Divine Liturgy, to not have questions or get antsy because of the foreignness of it all. Babies are just short adults; we need to be present to their senses in how we share our worship. It can be confusing for all of us and we ought to encourage the experience of kairos for others. So many adults are annoyed by the noises and wiggles of infants in Church. Personally, I rejoice with the angels, because those children are our future.

St. Nikolai

There is a beauty to experiencing kairos. Chronos ages us. Chronos makes us tired. Chronos gave me gray hair! In mythology, Chronos was always depicted as evil, or as Father TIme and an old, decrepit man walking with a cane, barely escaping the Grim Reaper. Kairos is always young, handsome, and full of love and happiness. Kairos brings joy to people. Kairos lives in the perfect moment. Our souls soar in kairos, when we give ourselves over to the experience of God in His Liturgy. And God gives us glimpses of those perfect moments, moments of kairos, throughout our lives. It is just hard to recognize them sometimes. As I typed this, I remembered the first time I felt my firstborn son move in my womb. I recall placing my hand over him and reveling in the gift of life. I cried with an overwhelming sense of gratitude, that I was allowed this divine gift of life. And that moment was a kairos moment. Time, as chronos, stopped for me, as I felt my child wiggle in my womb. 

Miracle baby toes

So I pray for more perfect moments in my life. I pray that I can stop, be still, and experience more perfect, sublime moments. God moments. Time loses its hold when we step into karios and live with God. The angels are singing, miracles are happening, and life will never be the same. The world holds its breath in kairos. Eternity is glimpsed. The miracles all around us are a part of the complete experience of God. We can find those kairos moments, and we want to treasure them. God gives us kairos to raise us up, for those perfect moments, moments we forget time itself and live fully in that golden moment.

Trust me, moments come and moments go. Some are hard to get past and cause us intense misery. Those are the moments when we live in chronos, hoping beyond hope that they are over and done with. With a moment of kairos, we are transported outside of our own timeline and we come truly alive – for the sole moment. I related in a previous post how I cried at the Phantom of the Opera – that is a kairos moment. I completely let the angst of the traffic, of feeling harried, fall away in that moment of bliss. That moment of bliss erased all the other chronos I’d spent getting there. Those are golden moments. Golden moments that are not repeatable, nor should they want to be. We relish them because of their uniqueness. Spending time, outside of chronos, in the presence of God, refreshes us and quite often brings us to our knees. We are separate, we are apart. We are alone, and yet with the choirs of angels, worshipping God.

BVM Laundry

When I look at my dirty laundry, I long for those moments of kairos.  And yet I know that if I dedicate myself to the task at hand, even washing clothes can be golden moments, if we use them to pray and offer our labor for the good of those who need it. And I can often lose myself in menial tasks, being transported in memory to those moments that spur me on, that guide me in my chronological march through life. Kairos is our gift from God, but it is also His invitation, to seek Him out.

Kneeling Prayer.Orthodox Church