“Therefore, do not worry…”

I awoke in full panic mode. I was having a hard time breathing, my heart was pounding, and I was sweating. “How are we going to do this?” This is the third night in our new home. It is an amazing house. The situation of the property is incredible. I feel like I am in a park. Our dog is having a hard time adjusting to eating and going potty. She is intimated, I think, by all the wildlife around her. We have no fencing – just an acre of green – trees, wild roses, and all sorts of birds – a frog hopped across my foot as I got out of my car last night. When I took the dog out for her morning poop, she squatted and looked all around her, eventually poo-ing in a circle. I think she was worried a moose would pop out of the wooded area in the back. It was hysterical to watch. And our cat? She is just all messed up. Meowing all through the night, off and on, wandering all over. She loves to watch the wildlife outside the windows. I just wish she would let me sleep. I am exhausted. And so panicking seems on par. Ha-Ha!

We have been praying for a place to put down roots, where we never have to leave, and where we could gracefully grow old together. A place where we had room to entertain our family and friends, where my husband could “putter” and where I could just relax in nature. And we never thought, after all the issues we have had financially because of poor economic health in our nation, that we could buy a house, again. We really thought we would rent indefinitely. And we also thought the American Dream was a dead idea, whose day had passed. But somehow we qualified. Somehow, the lenders had faith in us and our ability to care for this property. We attended a course offered through our state housing authority and that qualified us for all sorts of programs, and it also informed us about the process of buying a home. The laws have changed since 2008! Not only have we lived in 3 states since that time, but the world of home buying changed a lot. Far more protection for the buyers! Yay! And there is a lot of grant money to be had out there. (Go check it out!).

As I ponder the view from my window – sorry for the poor quality – I know that because we have prayed for this, and because so many people have approved this move, we are going to be okay. Somehow we will make this work. I panic every month, wanting to be sure our bills are all paid and it has finally paid off – stellar credit and our dream home. So why worry? “I keep waiting for that other shoe to drop” is what I keep telling our realtor. He laughs and says I need to stop and just enjoy our home. I guess he is right. Maybe once I get past all these darn boxes, I will feel better. There are just so many of them!! LOL!

My kids (keep laughing, Kathleen and Bryce) have given me such a hard time, as have my friends (I am so grateful, Tina) and even my brother (thanks, Mark) for saving boxes. Not just any box, mind you; the boxes all the things I own came in. Like coffee makers, the computer, our phones, a rice cooker, etc. I keep them all, just in case I need to return them, or to use when we move. (“Mom, you have a Nokia phone box? They don’t even make phones anymore!!!”). The kicker is that when we came across these boxes, we had already packed the item, or it was 2-3 versions ago (notoriously go through coffee makers!!). And so I have vowed to finally get rid of them all, because this is my last move. Ever. I have resolved that this is my dream home, and I am calling it my casket house. I will be taken out of here in a casket…but not with boxes.

I am learning to purge things from my life I have hung on to, for some weird reasons, and just let them go. I am not sure why I have some of the stuff I do have, and why I kept what I did. Kind of makes me laugh. And a bright side is that when I was setting up our trash service, the gal told me about how they recycle all the cardboard and paper and bubble wrap right next to the dump. She said, “Why pay to drop it off when you can get paid to drop it off?” Sounds good to me – even more incentive to get rid of boxes I have held on to.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his lifespan?

And why do you worry about clothes? Consider how the lilies of the field grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans pursue all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6: 25-34

And so I am trying to let it all go and let God handle my anxiety. Because I do trust Him. When I try to take things back into my own hands is when the panic appears. So I take a deep breath and I unpack another box, adding it to our recycling pile. We can do this. We are settling in, making this our home, and praising God we have this little corner of the world for our own.

 

 

“…burst out in songs of thanksgiving…”

SOOOO much going on!! We are in escrow on a new house. Always seems to be a few bumps in the road. Trying to be organized and diligent. But sometimes my stomach just cannot handle the stresses assailing us right now. And today, it is not happy – my stomach that is.

Yesterday, our youngest graduated from High School. We homeschool but use a system here that is amazing, and is called IDEA. They put on a very nice graduation, combining three districts, which means we had 110 graduates on the stage. Some of these students had to FLY in to be here. We have a large state. Coming from a public school background myself, I know that 110 students is not a large number; I think we had 300+ in my class. But they do something really cool – they have the parents award the students their diplomas (the fake ones) and each student gets to say a little something if they want to. Then the family poses for photos. This was done at our performing arts center downtown. On a stage. With 110 students. Yeah. It was over 2 hours. The speeches were short and sweet; the musical performances were amazing; the student’s receiving their diplomas was …. long. Even the Master of Ceremonies (the Dean) was ready to get that show on the road! LOL! My stomach had been upset as we were rushing out of the house to get there in time for rehearsal (they do it before the ceremony) and to find a parking spot. I still get lost going downtown, much to my family’s amusement. I had a map the school provided with me, so that helped, but I am still not used to where I am going. Once we parked, all my nerves settled. I wasn’t even that nervous going up on the stage. As I went up, I reminded myself the hard part was over. We completed 12 years of schooling and he was done! All that was left was a hug and handing him that fake diploma…and photos. LOL. But it wreaked havoc on my system…the nerves, then eating out and far too much, and now this escrow hiccup this morning…my tummy is letting me know enough is enough. And I need to listen. Sometimes too much stress is NOT healthy.

“The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Psalm 28:7

“So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you!” Hebrews 10:35

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22

I found these quotes in a lovely article on the Proverbs 31 site by Linda Evans Shepherd, the author of, “The Stress Cure.” She has a blog, too. And her thoughts were great. And then, as I read in my Proverbs for today, “A house is built by wisdom.” (Proverbs 24:3) and then I read…“If you fall under pressure, your strength is too small.” (Proverbs 24:10). And these verses spoke to me. And to my stomach. I keep trying to rely on myself. And with so many things up in the air right now in our lives, I am letting the evil one whisper in my ear. And I need to shut that down and focus on God’s promises to us all.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1Corinthians 10:13).

That quote is where we get the adage, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” And I know I am tempted to give in to the negative, which is what my stomach is trying to remind me of. I cannot rejoice in my blessings if I am constantly focusing on the minor things going awry in my life. The way out that the Lord gives me is my faith. And to trust in those around me, working for my good. Rushing to appointments and getting lost in traffic, or not being able to get a parking spot, those all things common to everyone. And the Lord did not let me down and I believe that is where my peace came from. As soon as I pulled into that parking spot yesterday, my soul was at rest. Today, as my stomach roiled against me and I had to fight the urge to actually throw up, I was able to calm myself by reaching for my faith. And for me, it is currently the Book of Proverbs, and my Bible Journaling. And guess what? The Lord did not let me down, again. He is always there to buoy us against the “wickedness and snares of the devil”….

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle,
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil;
may God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, cast into hell
Satan, and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

I am not alone. The angels and the saints are doing celestial battles for me. I have prayer warriors all around me, that I can call on to pray for me. And when I focus on my many blessings, I realize how foolish I am to get myself all worked up about things. I certainly have far more blessings than trials. And it is almost turning my back on God when I allow my stresses to override my sense of well-being and blessings. That, my friends, is our stupid free will inserting itself into our lives. It is a blessing, to freely think for myself, but my head often gets in-between me and my faith. I need to reign it in and rely more on my inner heart, or the nous, the place where God resides within me, to lead the way.

“Mind is invisibly engaged in battle with the mind––the demon’s mind with our mind. And for this reason it is needful for us to cry out of the depths at each moment to Christ, that He will drive away from us the demon’s mind and give us the prize of victory, as He loves men.”  Hesychius of Jerusalem, Writings from the Philokalia On the Prayer of the Heart, p 289

And so I am declaring myself to be a “stress-free” zone! I am choosing to focus on the Word of God for me, and not that other guy…the bad one who only seeks to destroy. The future is God’s…the end of the story is that God wins. I need to remind myself of that and just relax in His promises for me, for all of us who believe. Won’t you join me?

“See how they love one another?”

2Thessalonians3-3Sometimes in life, we have to step out in faith.  And sometimes we are called to go a little further in our steps than we are comfy with.  I know it’s happened to me more than once.

I had an awesome conversation with a friend I have known since I was 14 years old the other day.  My son sort of freaked when I talked about how long ago that was! (My 40th HS reunion???  Agh????   When did that happen???).  My girlfriend and I can chat and it’s like we’re back in the bathroom at her parent’s house and sixteen years old, shoving each other aside for mirror space, or arguing over a curling iron, as we get ready to go to “the game.”  We giggle insanely at things that happened more than 40 years ago.  She is one of the few people in my life who I hold up on some sort of pedestal (which I know she would totally hate me to do) because life has been incredibly cruel to her, insofar as her health (and love-life) have been.  We joked about her hearing aids and remember our parents yelling at us to turn down our music.  But we laughed.  She hates the disease that has changed her life, but we can still laugh with each other.  She is in between church homes and she is lonely. She wants a vibrant faith experience and something that will equal her excitement about God, and she has been unable to find it.  She is looking, and even though she cannot drive, I admire her for still seeking ways to be out and about and engaged in life.  I admire her because regardless of what is handed out to her, she keeps moving forward; she keeps loving everyone around her, and she maintains her joy.  She is always and ever stepping forward in faith.  I love her so much and mourn the fact we are literally thousands of miles away from each other.  But she encourages me in so many, many ways.  I know I am blessed because one ugly day in my life more than 40 years ago, she reached out to a shy, new girl in a high school gymnasium and literally took my hand and dragged me out into girl’s field hockey!  And we have been friends ever since.

FriendsFriends, family, and our faith community are who we reach out for when life hands us conundrums and conflicts.  And when those steps we need to take are big, we do reach out and we try to learn before we leap. I believe that when you step out in faith, you need to do that with your eyes fully open. Being an informed person does not mean you don’t trust God or trust that people have your best interests at heart.  What it does mean is that you do your due diligence in seeking all the facts before jumping in with both feet. This can be applied to pretty much everything.  There’s a saying I wish I would have heeded more times than I have and it goes like this, “Just because someone says you can, does not mean that you should.”  Boy, if I would have listened to that a few more times, I am sure my struggles would have been fewer!  And even though the decisions we are facing do entail someone telling us we can, we need to be sure that we should.

Trust GodIn our culture, it is becoming more and more obvious that God is being thrust into the sidelines, if present at all. I recently read an article by a Protestant author who stated that “in the Bible, God points to several things that will signify the End Times, including a godless culture, senseless violence, rampant immorality, and falling away from a true faith.” (Jeff Kinley, “As it was in the days of Noah”).  And in speaking about the new Noah movie starring Russell Crowe, he said, “We’ve basically pushed God to the margins, we’ve shoved Him out to the edges of our society and in fact we’ve written Him out of His own story as ‘Creator,’ God’s not even allowed to be the Creator anymore. So there’s rampant godlessness, not just in our country but in the world as well.”   Just today there was an article about a TV show on HGTV being cancelled before it even aired because some pro-abortion activists described the stars as being “Anti-choice extremists” for espousing a Biblical view of marriage and life.  One man, one woman; abortion is murder.  And this is bad??  I wrote on my friend’s FB wall, “The world is truly going to hell. Gird your loins.”  And I believe that.

All Merciful Savior Vashon Island Abbot Tryphon (All Merciful Savior Monastery, Vashon Island, WA – photo above) posted on his blog today, “In this age where secularism is on the rise, and materialism has become a major distraction from spiritual pursuits, Christian friendship has never been more important. The pursuit of personal fulfillment, entertainment, worldly pleasure, and the acquisition of material goods, has become the dominant theme of our age. Families that once placed the life of the Church as the center of their week, have drifted away from God. Having made idols of worldly pleasures and pursuits, their family life has become focused on transitory goals, leaving them in a state of spiritual bankruptcy.”

He then further says, The life of a Christian has never been easy, but in an age that is proving to be hostile towards the things of God, Christian friendship is all the more important. We need each other. We need the encouragement that Christian friendship can give us, as we face a world that has rejected Christ. The unity we have when we receive the Body and Blood of the Saviour, during each and every celebration of the Divine Liturgy, gives us strength to withstand whatever may be coming. When all else has failed, and our culture, economy, and material world has fallen into ruin, only faith will have the power to sustain us.”

And ending with, It is only our faith, supported and strengthened by our fellowship in Christ, that will have the lasting power to keep us from falling into despair, as our world enters into a darkness that will seem unconquerable. Hiding from the reality of a world that has lost it’s way, will in no wise make the future brighter. Lifting each other up, as we share our faith in the Christ Who came to make all things new, is the only hope we have. Let us not waste this life God has given us, but let us move forward in faith, together, knowing that ultimately, the gates of hell will not prevail against those who love God.”

Abbot Tryphon has been a wonderful source of wisdom, for me and for all of us who regularly read his blogs or listen to his podcasts (Ancient Faith Radio).  And today he once again hit the nail on the head for the issues in our lives, and the choices before us. (The Abbot has a habit of articulating what is happening to me, or those around me.  God is awesome like that!).

Taking a step in faith requires having faith, or it is just a step.  Going headlong into an unknown is something anyone can do, and many often do.  If our forefathers had not ventured forth, wanting new trade routes and ways to get around the conquering Moors, we’d all still be in Europe.  Most went with the blessings of their country, their Kings and/or Queens, and in the company of the Church in the person of her priests.  We conquered the unknown through the blessings and reliance on the known – our faith.

Sail-Boat13It is good to rely on our faith and our faith community in all things.  The Bible is rich in stories of the nascent Church and how believers supported one another. (Galations 6:2) “Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Acts 2:42-46)  “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart..”  (Acts 4L 32-25) “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.”

In other works about the early Church and its history, there are many other examples and one of the most famous in the history of the Church are in the writings of the North African theologian, Tertullian (160-220AD). “Tertullian imagined pagans looking at Christians and saying, “Look . . .  how they love one another (for they themselves [pagans] hate one another); and how they are ready to die for each other (for they themselves are readier to kill each other).” (Christian History Institute, article on Tertullian).  There are so many examples of why we Christians need to maintain our Christian fellowship and how we should strive to keep within Christianity for many of the things in our daily lives.  We tithe to support our Churches, our priests and religious, and we work to ease the suffering of the captives and the poor.  It is what Christians have done for centuries. Our culture, unfortunately, is becoming less and less a place of Christian ideals or values.  It is becoming less and less a place we need to spend the majority of our time mixing in.

inground-sprinklers-toutXIn this era of modernism gone absolutely mad, I believe we are called to strengthen these ties with other Christians, and called to make our Church the center of our family lives once more.  Sunday should become, once again, the day of prayer and celebration with our families and our faith communities.  It is hard to remember how quiet it was when I was a kid.  On Friday evenings, the city shut down and did not open again until Monday morning.  The freeways were empty on the weekends (I remember when the freeways were empty after 9:00am and until after 3:0pm!!).  There were no traffic jams.  People were at home.  Malls were closed.  Most restaurants were closed (the fancy-schmancy ones were open on Friday and Saturday evenings, but no one was open on Sundays).  Movie theaters, live theaters, and drive-through dairies were open (the era of fast food was still an idea.  People did not eat out of paper bags – you ate off plates).  Perhaps a “mom and pop” market on the corner would be open portions of the weekend, but generally, business and public life shut down for two days every week.  You could hear kids laughing and sprinklers going on everyone’s lawns on the weekends, broken by the sounds of lawn mowers and birds chirping.  You could actually nap on your front lawn, under a tree.  But on Sundays, we had Church.  Everyone went to one of the Churches in town.  The parking lots were full.  And we spent more time with our friends, enjoying barbeques and good times in our backyards.  We worshiped together, we brought food to people who were sick, we watched friend’s kids when they were sick or needed our help, and we played and vacationed together.  It was a different time and I am feeling called more and more to re-engage in that sort of lifestyle. In a lifestyle where I trust in my faith community and immerse myself more in it, rather than in this craziness we call our world.  And taking a step in faith is almost easier, in some ways, surrounded by your community.

When our communities really gel, and we all know where we are and who we are, then confident, we can reach out in faith and assist those in need, bringing them closer to God.  When we can come together regularly, holding one another up in faith and in our trials of life, we will truly be a Christian community.  I don’t think of it as going back to the glorious 50s or that I want to turn back the clock.  But I do believe our early Christian brethren were looking at life through the lens of faith more than most of us now do.  As far as decision making goes, in all things, I am going to trust God.  “See how they love one another?”

Problems big God