Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ten: Blunders

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

So often yesterday intrudes on today. Mistakes - both our own and others' - stay with us through the night and follow us into the next day. And sometimes the day after that and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things a...well, you get the point.

How does this serve us? The baggage of our past missteps only helps us to doubt our abilities and to stumble even more. Forgiving ourselves and being done with it is the best thing we can do for ourselves and those around us. 

This goes for those in our lives who make mistakes as well. Their mistakes - the ones that involve us that we hold onto - meddle in loving relationships, causing resentment and stifling love. Leave their lapses behind and start anew each day.

It is only when we let go that we can start again, free to move forward in love and joy. 

Today, and throughout Lent, I intend to finish each day and be done with it; to dwell in the present, not on the past; to begin each day serenely and with high spirit; to forgive myself and others; to live each day anew. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Nine: Love

Some days I feel more lovable than others. Some days other people seem more lovable than others. Some days love is just plain difficult. It's on these days that we need love all the more. 

I have no idea how my husband has done it. By "it" I mean loving me all these years. When we met I was an incredibly broken person, in body, mind and spirit. He helped put me back together. He's stuck with me through mental illness, emotional ups and downs, miscarriages, and diagnosis after diagnosis. He's loved me at a size 8 and a size 24 and every size in between. He has loved me, truly, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad. He loves me exactly the way I am, right here and now, just as much as he loved me exactly how I was with a functioning body and a not-so-addled mind. I've loved him all the while as well, but I suspect I've had an easier go of it.

It seems that the more I talk to people about love, the more I realize they think love is something you have or your don't, or that you're in or you're not. But it's not. Love is a living thing. It needs to be nurtured with understanding, tenderness, and forgiveness and grown with time, attention, and communication. 

Some days it comes easily, and some days it takes work. If you don't tend to it, it may wither, but if you cultivate it day by day, it can grow into something wondrous. 

Today, I intend, to cultivate love in all my relationships; to love when it's easy, and to love when it seems impossible; to not just feel love, but to express it to others; to carry love with me in all my interactions; to love myself. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Eight: Forgive

Someone cuts you off in traffic. Someone misinterprets your words or actions and holds them against you. Someone bests you or bullies you or beats you. How do you respond - with anger, or with forgiveness?

Forgiveness is often difficult, even challenging; sometimes painful, and always the right thing to do. Always.

Holding onto anger and blame becomes a burden too difficult to bear - and only serves to punish the bearer. Forgiveness sets you free. Forgiveness doesn't condone wrongs, it admits that Love is stronger than any hurt. Forgiveness can only be given no strings attached - with true Grace. 

This Lent, I intend move through life with forgiveness in my heart and on my lips; to forgive myself as well as others; and to breathe out anger and breathe in peace before responding to a situation, that I may more readily bestow forgiveness. 


Forty Days In Thought, Word, and Deed

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Seven: Beautiful

My house used to be filled with stuff. Things I thought were important, needed, that I couldn't live without. With mementos, we-might-need-this-somedays, and other seemingly useful objects. Weeks before a birthday party or overnight guests arriving, we'd start to clean the house. Weeks. It would take that long to find places to stash everything that didn't have a place, to catch up on the seemingly insurmountable mountain of laundry that dwelled in our basement, and to make room for places to sleep or for fun to be had. Even then, we'd often end up throwing a bunch of stuff in boxes and stashing it into our basement. Our stuff owned us more than we owned our stuff.

Now, I move through my house and enjoy what's here. 

Over the past few years, as my mobility has decreased, my need to let go of expectations, wants, and stuff has increased. We've given things to people in need, donated to thrift stores, rehomed items with friends who can use them, and bartered our stuff for things we need. As I go about my day, I often find things that aren't bringing me joy and plunk them into the donation bag.

No longer is there a moment of panic and lots of frenzied cleaning when a friend says she's going to stop by. Nor are there boxes of miscellany cluttering our basement. I no longer have the urge to escape my house to get a break from seeing all the work that needs to be done, as it takes very little time to return things to their proper spots so I can relax. If only the laundry and dishes would cooperate in the same manner!

As I continue my Lenten journey, I will continue to remove from my house things that don't serve me in function or in pulchritude. 


Forty Days: In Thought, Word, and Deed

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Six: Relax

What I'm trying to do here is get you to relax, not to be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God's giving. Luke 12:29-31
We fill our days with to do lists, wants, needs, and worries about tomorrow. We need to make more money so we can get more stuff and do more things. Realistically, many of us our concerned about paying the bills and putting food on the table and not so much about keeping up with the Joneses, but that is always there, too. Wouldn't it be nice to have this? Wouldn't it be nice to go there? Do we have enough? Do we do enough? Can we get enough?

We watch tv and want to get all the things and go all the places. We flip through magazines or pinterest and wish our living spaces looked so coordinated, organized and clean

Why? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why is it so difficult to believe, to know, that our needs will be met? To have faith in God's giving? 

We work ourselves up over bills and groceries, wants and needs. We need to make sure we have more than what we need, just in case. 

What would happen if we stepped out in faith that God will provide for our needs? We might just experience some everyday miracles. 

In my life, it seems, when my needs are the biggest, so are my blessings. 

When a need arises or a crisis happens in our lives, an abundance of blessings flows our way. From finding a replacement item in a thrift store for only a few dollars;  to a family member blessing us with a loan to rebuild the outer wall of our house; to a friend mentioning they have exactly what we need, whether it be an item we're looking for or a skill that will help us out, God always sends us what we need somehow. We just need to relax and let God work in our lives. 

In my experience, the less I stress, the more open I am to God's bounteous giving.


Forty Days: In Thought, Word, and Deed

Monday, February 23, 2015

Five: Generosity

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults — unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back — given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”    Luke 6:38 MSG
Today I will Live Generously - I wear my t-shirt as a reminder. 

I will be generous in my actions and reactions, assuming the best of all I encounter. 

Instead of seeing cranky children, I will see children in need of attention, time, food, or rest and act accordingly.

Should someone cut me off while speaking or driving, I will assume that their need to express themselves or get where they're going is more urgent than mine.

When I inevitably find dishes, laundry, or countless other items strewn about the house, I will resist grumbling and choose to take care of them with joy, thankful to have people in my life after whom to clean up. 

Although bickering may be inevitable among siblings, I will not criticize or condemn, instead encouraging productive conversation or offering a kind and helpful resolution.

Answers to myriad questions will patiently leave my lips and the yeses will vastly outnumber the nos. 

My work will wait as I read books, play games, listen to stories, and watch performances. 

I will give generously of my time, my joy, my love, my encouragement, my talents, and my faith. 


Forty Days: In Thought, Word, and Deed

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Four: Center

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians 4:6-7 The Message

My MRI was Wednesday. My follow-up appointment with the neurologist is this coming Wednesday. I should be obsessing about test results, possible diagnoses, and all such things. Instead, I'm reading this passage from Philippians over and over and finding peace. Whenever I find myself worrying, I turn the worry into prayer and thank God for the blessings of modern medicine, supportive friends and family, and for the good I know will come from this journey. 

At one point in my life, I was consumed with worry. I found out I was pregnant; my husband was in a car accident that totaled the car, but thankfully not him; and I lost my job all in one week. It was difficult to be excited about the pregnancy as I felt I should be because I was consumed with worry about how we could afford another mouth to feed and a car and ... and ... and.

Dragging my three young children and myself to church the following Sunday, I wasn't expecting my life to be changed forever. Pastor Wayne Gollenberg's sermon that day was about worry and the harm it can do in our lives. He talked about God and grace and having faith that God will help us through anything we may encounter in life. It was as if he was speaking directly to my heart. It was then that I felt an internal transformation - no longer would worry consume me. Instead I would accept things as they come and see what good God would make out of whatever situation I found myself in. 

That pregnancy was a rough one, but a blessing. I would have had to quit my job, as most days I found it difficult and incredibly painful to walk. We changed our lifestyle even more and saved money in the process. I learned to make do with what we had on hand and get what we needed through thrift stores, freecycle, and barter. With four children, we needed a larger vehicle, and were blessed with family help in getting a van that would meet our needs. There wasn't one thing I worried about that didn't turn out better than I could have hoped for in the end. 

I do still tend toward worry at times. My husband can attest to my infrequent, but anxiety-driven freak-outs. I do my best to then turn my worries into prayer and see what God has in store.

Centering my thoughts on the knowledge that God will help me through whatever is to come helps me see life through eyes of gratitude and joy. 


Forty Days: In Thought, Word, and Deed

Friday, February 20, 2015

Three: Normal

“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.”  ~Albert Camus
The energy my two children with Aspergers put into acting normal in public would blow your mind. Even when they are seemingly a bit wild or incredibly reserved, they are doing everything in their power to hold themselves together and act appropriately. 

Some mornings, getting out of bed is akin to running five miles for me. Making it out of the house takes tremendous energy and an ability to move through incredible pain. Then, it takes even more energy to appear as normal as possible. Most people don't realize the severity or extent of my illness because of the cloak of normal that I put on as a matter of habit.

Then there are those who use their energy to appear happy with life, when inside they are being eaten up with anxiety, depression, or other mental illness. Their life can be minute to minute struggle, yet their appearance deceives most.

Many people we encounter on a daily basis are struggling in some form while exerting themselves in body, mind, or spirit in an attempt to simply be or act normal. If we could just hold on to this thought and keep it in mind through all our interactions, perhaps there would be more compassion and less need to be normal in the world. 

One of my family's greatest blessings is the Epoch Arts Homeschool Co-op community, where normal is over-rated and yourself is the thing to be. It is here where I can curl up on a couch and be miserable all day, not feeling badly for not running after children or helping clean up - although I do tend to gather other people's children on the couch with me to read or talk or play. It is in this place that my children relax and are themselves. It is here that who you are - whoever you are - is normal. It is in this place we find rest. 

Many people appear normal. Appearances can be deceiving. Please don't judge a person until you've walked, or hobbled, or jumped up and down repeatedly in their shoes. Better yet, don't judge others at all. From what I've experienced, normal isn't as normal as you'd think.


Forty Days: In Thought, Word, and Deed

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Two: Journey

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”  ~ Douglas Adams 

We are all on a journey. Much of the time, we may think we know where we're going. We are moving toward a goal. We're going somewhere. Our path is laid out before us. Plans are made and we tick things off of our list as we get closer to where in life we think we should be.

Sometimes our bodies or our bosses or life circumstances have other plans.

Sometimes God has better plans.

I had a plan. When my kids were old enough, I'd go back to work. Bring in a real income. Help to support our family. And hopefully make a difference in the world somehow or another.

My body had other plans. Instead, I work part time scheduling tests and appointments, researching options for treating my multiple illnesses, and work toward getting myself as healthy as possible. My second part-time job is spent searching out bargains, clipping coupons, scanning thrift stores, and doing everything I can to make ever penny count so that my family can survive on one income. And then there's the main full time job of raising, homeschooling, loving, and caring for my children. They've decided to throw some challenges my way in the form of Aspergers times two, autoimmune issues times one, mood disorder times one, and OCD to the tenth power times one.

You do the math - that's a lot of being not where I intended to be.

Life was supposed to be easy, wasn't it?

But here's the thing. I wouldn't trade any of this, including the pain, the challenges, and the heartbreaks for the life I had envisioned. After all, they come along with an overabundance of love, inspiration, joy, and laughter.

I am where I need to be, doing what I need to be doing - for myself, for my family. God has given me the gifts that help me navigate life's hardships and a sense of humor that serves me well. It's difficult at times, and at times I thought I must be headed in completely the wrong direction, but I trust God that I've ended up exactly where I need to be. 


Forty Days: In Thought, Word, and Deed

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

One: Dust

Ash Wednesday. The day we hear "remember you are dust and to dust you shall return" as the ashes are imposed on our foreheads in the sign of the cross.

But this is not the dust I'm thinking about today. For some reason this morning, I noticed the dust in my house - on the bookshelves, the pictures, the tv. And the cobwebs! It's really out of control. Someone needs to do something about that. But I hate dusting. I don't like it one bit!

And then, this...

Humans and animals come to the same end—humans die, animals die. We all breathe the same air. So there’s really no advantage in being human. None. Everything’s smoke. We all end up in the same place—we all came from dust, we all end up as dust. Nobody knows for sure that the human spirit rises to heaven or that the animal spirit sinks into the earth. So I made up my mind that there’s nothing better for us men and women than to have a good time in whatever we do—that’s our lot. Who knows if there’s anything else to life?    Ecclesiastes 3:19-22
Have a good time whatever we do? 

Even dusting? 

So I put on some tunes, got out a dustcloth, and got to work. 

I dusted a magic box that emanated music even though moments before it had teleported me back in time through sights and sounds. This same device can tell me the weather, exhibit family memories, or just sit there collecting dust, which it's very good at being a big black immobile box and all. Then I moved on to photos and paintings and shelves filled with books. All these wonderful things we love to have around because they add joy to our lives. 

Along the way I found myself dusting things that were just that- dust collectors. So I found a bag and loaded them in as I came across them. I'll drop them at the thrift shop later. 

Through the simple, yet admittedly still tedious, task of dusting, I was able to marvel at modern technology, appreciate the things that bring joy and beauty to my surroundings, and let go of things that are no longer serving my needs or wants. 

And I had a good time doing it.