Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Thirty-six: Special

"I feel like I'm missing something very special." ~ Haley Steyer, age 5

We were at church, as we were most Sundays. I was wrangling a horde of small children and doing my best to pay attention to worship. Beckoned by the usher, we made our way to the Communion rail to share in the Meal. Haley watched with eager eyes as Pastor G placed the host in my hand and moved on to her. He placed his hand on her head and blessed her, "Defend and protect, O Lord, this your child and the covenant you made with her in Baptism."

Upon returning to our seats, Haley climbed up in my lap and started sobbing. Upon asking her what was wrong, her tear-filled eyes met mine, "I feel like I'm missing something very special!" I knew then that she was ready to make her first Holy Communion - that her heart knew what her mind couldn't yet wrap around. She felt that this Meal was set apart, sacred, and something special in which to participate.

I was thinking about this as I was figuring out our Easter preparations. So much to do to prepare for Easter, you know! Such a special day - lasagna at Gramma and Papa's house; cheesecake; Easter eggs and Easter egg hunts; chocolate ... and the Resurrection of our Lord - let's not forget about that small detail!

Holy week is special, too, come to think of it. At our church, we get to take time out three days in a row to attend one worship service. It begins on Maundy Thursday with Jesus' "New Commandment" to love one another and a new meaning given to the Passover meal. During evening worship the altar is stripped as the choir sings Psalm 22 and everyone leaves in silence. Worship is not yet over, but life goes on. Worship continues Good Friday with the service of Tenebrae, and the worship room gradually goes from light to dark as a reminder of Jesus' death on a cross for us. Everyone leaves in silence, awaiting the continuation of worship on Saturday night. Easter Vigil worship begins in the darkness of Good Friday and ends in light and celebration that "Christ is Risen! Alleluia!" That special word - Alleluia - returns, having been "put away" for the duration of Lent. Worship concludes. 

This special Holy Week worship is a journey in itself. Leaving worship in silence gives you a feeling of being unfinished, unresolved, compelling you to the next service and the next. If I miss one worship service, or all three, I, like Haley and Communion, feel like I'm missing something very special. Resurrection Sunday - Easter - doesn't feel the same if I haven't made the journey to get there through Holy Week worship. 

What will be included in your special preparations for Easter? 


Monday, March 30, 2015

Thirty-five: Pajamas

There should be a law that there's a pajama day every few weeks. ~Alyson Hannigan 

Pajamas is a good Lenten word, isn't it? 

What about Sabbath? Does that sound more Lenten to you?

As we enter Holy Week, and following a long weekend that was anything but restful, it was decided that a Pajama Day was in order. As much as my ocd wants to unpack from the Conference, get all the things done, and have the kids get their rooms clean, we all need a pajama day, a Sabbath. No work, except for what feeds our souls or is absolutely necessary. No major cleaning projects. No forced labor. 

Reading, board games, dreaming, sharing, creating, singing, and playing are all excellent pajama day endeavors. Napping is good, too. 

As I type, I've already accomplished sleeping in. Well, sleeping until 8am, which seems like sleeping in some days. And I've watched Pirates of the Caribbean bloopers with my kids and laughed a lot. Eventually I'll actually get out of bed. 

It's wonderful to have a day of rest, of calm, of time to just exist and do what most calls to you. Everyone should have a pajama day every once in a while. 


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thirty-four: Superpowers

I make milk. What's your superpower? ~bumper sticker seen in parking lot at La Leche League conference today

We all have superpowers.

I've had different superpowers at different stages of my life. 

As a child, I had the power to make my mother laugh when she was mad at me. 

As a teenager, I had the power to make my mother laugh when she got mad at me.

As a young twenty-something, I had the power to make my husband laugh... well, you get the picture.

And then I became a Mama.

My body nourished my son for over nine months, and then continued to do so through breastfeeding. It amazed me every single time he latched on. My body was making milk that was sustaining this little life. Astounding. And I continued to use this superpower to nurse my next child, and the child after that, and so on for over fourteen years. My youngest child weaned long ago, but I am still agog at the superpower women (and a few men!) have to fully nourish little human beings with their milk, not to mention protect them from illnesses and the myriad other benefits of breastfeeding.

I no longer posses the breastfeeding superpower. I've moved on to more complicated superpowers, like the power to dislocate arms and legs without even trying or the power to forget something just seconds after knowing it. I also have the power to make my children laugh when they are mad at me. 

Among my other superpowers are: coming up with craft ideas from stuff that's laying around the house; getting other people's kids to nap when their own parents struggle with the task - and for that matter, getting kids to potty train while in my care, and to give up the pacifier while in my care; and last, but not least, the power to survive on very little sleep. 

People I know have superpowers as well. One friend always calls, texts, or drops by just when I need her to (and she doesn't even know it!). Another has the power to inspire me with her compassion for other people. My husband has the amazing power to be both helpful and unhelpful at the same time. Coren has the adorableness superpower (it's in his cheeks!). Alia has some sort of brilliant creepiness thing going on, while Haley has a child-whisperer type superpower. Zachary's superpower is his awesome and brilliant, yet punny, sense of humor and I'm sure Alex's has something to do with him being the most chatty silent person on Earth. 

I was talking the other day with one of my kids (my lack-of-memory superpower doesn't permit me to reveal which child) about superheros and such and the child mentioned that God is the best super hero. When asked what God's best superpower would be, the answer was Grace. Jesus: Love. The Holy Spirit: Gifts. Smart kid. I just wish I could remember which one!

What's YOUR superpower? And how are you going to use your powers for good today?


Friday, March 27, 2015

Thirty-three: Celebrate

Sometimes my body wakes me up and says 'Hey, you haven't had pain in a while. How about pain?' And sometimes I can't breathe, and that's hard to live with. But I still celebrate life and don't give up. ~Mattie Stepanik

It's going to be a crazy weekend, guaranteed. My body doesn't seem to care or wish to give me any type of break. Alarm set for 4:30AM to be out of the house by 5:15AM wouldn't be so bad if the pain wasn't so bad I couldn't sleep. Today is going to be an interesting day. 

Setting up the silent auction shouldn't be a problem ... after I get some coffee and medication in my system. Haley will be there to help. Sitting and listening to interesting speakers should be great. Lunch that I don't need to prepare will be wonderful. Tallying up everyone's auction winnings and getting the proper items to the correct people in a timely and efficient manner after a long day and no sleep should be interesting. Thank goodness for a daughter to keep me on track. 

But I'm not complaining, really. It is such a blessing to be able to do any or all of this. And to relax in the pool afterwards! It is going to be an awesome weekend full of gained knowledge and experience combined with one-on-one time with my nearly 13 year old. Besides, I should be so exhausted by tonight that I sleep like a log. I better, as Haley has plans to be up again at 4:30 or so to get some swimming in before breakfast and setting up the next silent auction for day two of the conference!

This weekend I shall celebrate: my ability to contribute to the Conference by running the silent auction; the opportunity to learn and grow; making memories with my daughter; good food; amazing people; a bed all to myself; and my body's ability to get me through the weekend - and the medicine and mobility devices that help me do it. 


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thirty-two: Spring

Spring won't let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again. ~Gustav Mahler

Spring. Ah, Spring. It's above 45 degrees here in Connecticut. Spring!

Today I'm opening windows, letting in the fresh air. My children can complain all they want that it's cold. That's what sweatshirts are for. Deal with it - it's Spring!

It's also supposed to rain on and off all day. I'm hoping the rain will wash away what remains of the snow. My yard could use a good cleaning, and I yearn to see green.

I can barely wait to go outside just to breathe. I want so much to pack a backpack and take off for my favorite local hiking trail. I yearn to sit on the rock and watch the pond come alive. Hopefully in a couple months my body will be healthy enough to comply with my longings.

Until then, I'll celebrate the greening of the world in my own way, drinking in fresh air and marveling at all the little miracles in my own back yard. 


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thirty-one: Breathe

For me, it is OK as long as I can breathe, as long as my heart is pumping, as long as I can express myself. ~ Ai Weiwei

It's been a long couple days.  Oh, wait, it's only been one day. 

On Remicade, my immune system is compromised, so when Alia uttered the words, "I'm going to puke," I had a moment of panic. Then I woke my husband and he dealt with the mess. I had slept maybe two hours at that point, and it was nearly 5AM. We got out the vinyl-encased camp mattress, sheets, blankets, the small washable pillow, a puke bucket, and water to sip and set Alia up in the dining room for the little time that remained of the night. Her bedroom upstairs and the bathroom downstairs, our dining room is the nightly sick room.

My husband returned to bed while I helped Alia settle in. He was sleep in seconds. Upon returning to bed, I tried to sleep once again and failed, my mind racing with the what-ifs of everyone getting sick. So I did what I always do. 

I took deep breaths. I prayed. I thanked God for a husband who cleans up puke and a child who handles herself so well despite her belly not feeling so good...and that it was one puking child. Only one. Please, only one. 

And I started writing. I wrote and wrote, about a lot of things. I got out and worked through my concerns. It helped calm my nerves and put things into perspective. 

Just when I was sleepy enough to drift off blissfully, the alarm went off. If I hadn't needed to make it to an appointment, I would have ignored it and slept, but I willed myself awake and reluctantly and quite slowly began a new day. 

Throughout the day, whenever my OCD kicked in about the what-ifs, I took deep breaths and centered myself in the present. I took naps. I watched Into the Woods with my children. I communicated to my children what I needed to get through the day and listened as they told me what they needed.  I pretty much ignored my to-do list. 

I gave myself an afternoon to simply breathe. 

Sometimes we just need to take some time to breathe. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Thirty: Clean

Sunday mornings are hard, especially after unusually late Saturday nights...

Every one of my children was grumpy, whiny, or just plain out of sorts. They were treating each other badly, feeding off each others' anger or lack of patience. 

I was exhausted. I was in pain. I had very little sleep. I also had very little patience upon getting out of bed and that was used up trying to drag five tired children from their warm, comfy beds. I had a house to clean, preparations to make for a gathering that afternoon - and little time to do it after worship and Earthkeeping Team and feeding a horde of ungrateful children lunch. 

My children's horrible behavior evoked anger and resentment. Why couldn't they just suck it up so we could all have a good day? Why were they doing this to me? I got up early to make french toast for breakfast and in exchange got grumbling and procrastination. I spoke nicely and kindly and in return received arguments and children throwing things at other children. I was ready to give up. 

I felt my blood pressure and stress levels rising by the second. 

Finally in the van and on our way to church, I had to sort out a squabble between siblings once again. I'd had enough. I made a declaration that behavior needed to improve or else. 

As frustration spilled over into the silence that followed, I realized things needed to change. I needed to change. 

Or else? Or else, what? Any "punishment" I could give my kids would end up punishing me more. And then the words of Psalm 51:10 wafted through my mind...
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. 

I realized quickly that if I wanted attitudes to change, I needed to change mine first. I needed a clean heart with which to carry on my day. I needed empathy and compassion, rather than frustration and self-righteousness. I needed to meet each child where they were - and where they were was in a place of too little sleep.

Too little sleep produces unique symptoms in each child. One reacts in anger and a need for isolation; one in the compulsion to control and manage everyone and everything; another in pushing everyone's buttons; and the list goes on.

So I left one child in the Fellowship Hall to have some alone time to regain his composure and adjust his attitude while the rest of us went to worship. I listened to the kids' needs and did my best to meet them. I cuddled and snuggled. The kids explored sensory bags and wrote on church bulletins. We sang. We prayed. Everyone's attitudes improved, especially mine - how could it not when the Psalm of the day was Psalm 51?


Monday, March 23, 2015

Twenty-nine: Arrow

Your children are not your children.They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.They come through you but not from you,And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.You may give them your love but not your thoughts.For they have their own thoughts.You may house their bodies but not their souls,For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;For even as he loves the arrow that flies,so He loves also the bow that is stable.~ Kahlil Gibran
I read this at a Women's Circle in celebration of womanhood. During the circle, we honored and celebrated my almost-13-year old daughter's transition from girl to woman. A couple Summers ago, she was part of a Red Tent Woman's Circle at a friend's house and loved it, so I thought I'd gift her with a Red Tent of her own, to honor her new status as woman. 

In our house, coming of age is big. It's important. And it deserves recognition. 

We gathered, women and girls, in a room adorned in red. We shared our maternal lineage and what we find fulfilling about being a woman, along with some words of wisdom. before bestowing small gifts upon the newest woman among us. We ate nourishing foods. And chocolate cake.  A very talented woman adorned those who wished with beautiful artwork done in henna. We talked, laughed, shared, and enjoyed the sacred atmosphere of a gathering of women.

What I loved most about this gathering was the thoughtfulness and meaningfulness of the gifts, the sharing of experiences, and that Haley now knows she has a group of caring, strong, inspiring women to call upon should she ever need to talk, to ask questions, or to seek sanctuary should she need it. 

As Haley’s Mama, I hope to always be the bow, the stable place where she can rest. And I look forward to seeing the path she, as arrow, will take in life.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Twenty-eight: Explore

“Kids are naturally curious about the world around them. Everything is fascinating and holds their attention as they explore their new surroundings. Adults however, have grown up hearing the word ‘no’, ‘don't do that,’ and ‘quit daydreaming so often, they create their own little world, a world with lots of limitations. What then do most adults teach to their children? ‘No’, ‘don't do that,’ and ‘quit daydreaming.’ So, what can you learn from a child today…?”   ~James A. Murphy
I'm about to head out the door with two of my children to explore the Children's Museum. Most people consider this a wonderful learning experience for the children. I consider this an amazing opportunity to learn from my children.

You see, I've forgotten most of what I intrinsically knew as a child about exploring. I need them to teach me, once again, to be fascinated with things I would tend to consider mundane or miss altogether; to explore things in the same way I encourage them to explore.

I love exploring with my children. They have rarely been told no or don't when it comes to exploring the world around them. They have often been told yes! please! do! go! 

We tell our children DON'T...
...pick mushrooms until and unless they've been properly identified as safe
... get so far ahead of us that we can't see or hear you / you can't see or hear us
... get too close to the edge, which means about twenty or thirty feet from the edge, because your mother has a fear of heights, not for herself, but for her children, and you don't want her having a panic attack at the top of the mountain ... do distract her with something first and go with Daddy
... touch things that clearly say do not touch or climb on things that say do not climb

We tell our children DO...
... stop and examine things - look from all angles
... touch, see, feel, listen
... take the path less traveled, or make your own
... look up! down! near! far! 
... ask questions of parents, docents, curators, experts, friends, siblings (but don't expect everyone or anyone to have all the answers!)
... discover answers on your own
... explore and learn about what you enjoy for days or weeks or months or a lifetime afterwards
... keep in mind where you are and what the "rules" are - some places require quiet, other places celebrate children being children
... encourage your parents, siblings, and friends to come and see
... share what you've learned
and so many other things.

I wonder what I'm going to learn today...


Friday, March 20, 2015

Twenty-seven: Teach

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate and if they can learn to hate then they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite." - Nelson Mandela

In my family, we seldom use the word hate to describe something, and never to describe someone. Hate is a very powerful word and a formidable emotion. Hate can ruin your life.

In my family, we often use the word love to describe something, and almost always to describe someone. Love is a very powerful word and a compelling emotion. Love can save your life.

Be careful with your words and emotions. Be careful what you teach your children, through words and through actions.

Teach love, not hate.
Teach peace, not hate.
Teach kindness, not hate.
Teach acceptance, not hate.
Teach forgiveness, not hate.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Twenty-six: Joy

“There were thousands and thousands of forms of joy in the world, but that all were essentially one and the same, namely, the joy of being able to love.”   - Michael Ende, The Neverending Story

I thought I knew what joy was.

I really thought I knew what joy was. Then I fell in love. 

It was then I thought I knew joy. 

Then I got pregnant.

This must be the joy of all joys, I assumed. 

Holding my child in my arms for the first time, I knew - I just knew- that this was the ultimate joy. What joy is greater than bringing a child into the world? What brings more joy than a baby's smile? 

I thought I knew what love was.

I really thought I knew what love was. Then I fell in love. 

It was then I thought I knew love. 

Then I got pregnant.

This must be the love of all loves, I assumed. 

Holding my child in my arms for the first time, I knew - I just knew- that this was the ultimate love. What love is greater than one's love for their child? 

And then it happened. It was during Easter Vigil worship seven years ago. I held my newly born baby girl in my arms and took in the moment. Water was poured over her head and the Pastor's words echoed in my heart:

"...called by the Holy Spirit, trusting in the grace and love of God..." 

"Sustain Alia with the gift of your Holy Spirit; the spirit of wisdom and understanding; the spirit of counsel and might...the spirit of joy in your presence, both now and forever."

It was then that my heart felt the impact of what my brain had been trying to wrap itself around forever - the complete joy of God's grace, God's love, God's presence...for this little life ... for myself ... for us all.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Twenty-five: Laughter

You grow up the day you have the first real laugh at yourself.  ~Ethel Barrymore

Laughter is my favorite companion, my best weapon, and a true lifesaver. 

I've been using laughter my entire life to disarm people, especially my Mom. As hard as she tried, she found it difficult to remain angry at a child who was making her laugh. I use the same ninja laughing techniques on my children when they're doing their best to be angry, much to their chagrin. 

Laughter has gotten me out of lots of tight spots. It has saved my life more than once. Laughter finds its way into the cracks of depression and overpowers the darkness with its bright light. It brings people together, initiates and renews friendships, creates bonds.

But laughter can be brutal as well. Caustic laughter directed at someone's perceived deficit can wound one's soul.  It eats away at the one laughing perhaps just as much as the one made to feel less than in some way.

As children we find it easier to laugh at others than we do to laugh at ourselves. Missteps and differences produce embarrassment and self-consciousness. We strive to belong. 

At some point in each of our lives, we've had a really good laugh at ourselves. Perhaps it is when we stop taking ourselves so seriously that we are able to more fully accept our brokenness and our humanity - to develop a more mature sense of self. Admitting, accepting, and finding the humor in our faults helps us to embrace our true selves and, hopefully, be more accepting of others' imperfections.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Twenty-four: Potential

“Just when you think it can't get any worse, it can. And just when you think it can't get any better, it can.”  ~Nicholas Sparks, "At First Sight"

Each day holds great potential: potential to get worse, or potential to get better. Often the direction of my day depends on my attitude. 

I started out yesterday with a bad attitude. I was up much too early. I had to navigate icy roads and horrible traffic to get my daughter to her 8:00AM camp physical / seven year check-up. The trip took fifty minutes instead of the usual twenty-five. I was exhausted before we even left the house due to waking up countless times throughout the night in pain. 

My ever-cheerful and very talkative seven year old did nothing to improve my mood, as cheerfulness is excruciating to this grumpy non-morning person. To add to the mess that was my mood, I was trying to act like a nice and pleasant Mama, and nothing annoys me more than fake happy.

Sitting in the parking lot that was the highway, I didn't think things could get any worse. And then my leg started spasming. My left leg burned with pain as muscles spasmed for no apparent reason. In my husband's car instead of my twelve-passenger van, there wasn't much room to stretch and try to work out the spasm. It was then I realized that I'd only brought my cane with me - not my crutches or my wheelchair. If my leg didn't improve by the time we arrived, I wasn't sure how or if I would be able to walk. A string of expletives made its way through my mind, but luckily not out of my mouth, as I mentally cursed the day. I became certain that the doctor visit would go badly as well, if we ever made it there, and once there, if I could walk - and the rest of the day after that. I just wanted to go back to bed and try again tomorrow. 

Still at a standstill, my mind raced with questions for the doctor about my concerns regarding Alia's incredible flexibility. Worry about the possibility of something being wrong combined with worry about getting to her appointment on time. My already foul mood was getting worse, if that was even possible.

Thank God my leg situation let up soon after the traffic started moving. We even arrived with five minutes to spare. And then something amazing happened. Or perhaps I should say someone amazing happened.

Dr. Cliff O'Callahan walked into the exam room, greeted Alia, and began asking her questions. In response, she relayed how she was feeling, issues she's been having with her foot and other joints, what she does for exercise, what she eats and drinks, and how she keeps herself safe when she's riding bikes and such.  He then turned to me to ask about her schooling, any concerns I might have, and such while he did her exam. Knowing her love of anatomy, he named the organs he was checking as he checked them. He asked for a demonstration of her extreme flexibility and examined her joints. 

Dr. O'Callahan's wonderful, respectful, genuinely kind treatment of my daughter and myself changed my day. His care for his patients is evident in the way he approaches them and connects with them. His patience and calmness created an atmosphere of peace contagious to my gloomy being. 

The news was good - she's incredibly flexible, but nothing medically concerning. She's a healthy child. Healthy. What a magical word - music to my ears! 

The drive home was full of loud music and singing. And the day just got better from there. I organized homeschool co-op classes. I chatted with a friend online. I snuggled with children. I enjoyed Confirmation class with my not-yet-13-year-old (she says almost, I say not yet).

Whether it's just normal bad day blues, ill health, or horrific news, life often throws us challenges. What's important is that we have faith that we can get through whatever comes our way - even when worse becomes worst. If we look at life with eyes that see the potential for things to get better - and hope that better becomes wonderful and wonderful becomes unimaginably magnificent - worse becomes a little easier to bear. 

Life is good, my friends. Even when I'm in a bad mood. 


Monday, March 16, 2015

Twenty-three: Prayer

I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or do that, but now I pray that He will guide me to do whatever I'm supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I pray for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us, and we change things. ~Mother Theresa (with thanks to Hannah Myjak for posting this on facebook!)

There is a young woman whom I have come to greatly admire. Her giving spirit and big heart are evident from the moment you meet her. Her passion for life, for helping others, and for following her dreams not only inspires me to do more and be more, but implores me to. Hannah is an amazing artist, a wonderful teacher, a compassionate caregiver, and just an all-around amazing teenager. I find myself inspired by her daily, as she posts on facebook amazing quotes that echo her heart (such as the Mother Theresa quote above) along with artwork, snippets of amusing and heartwarming conversations, and some pretty deep thoughts for a person her age. She doesn't just see things that are wrong and hope someone comes along to make them right, she does what she can to right them herself through theater, art, photography, fundraising, using her many other talents and gifts, and by simply going out and doing, whether in her own home, her community, or in Africa. Her light shines brightly in this world, and by its very nature inspires others' lights to shine. 

Hannah posted the above quote several days ago and I have carried it in my heart ever since. Prayer changes us - we change things, has been like a mantra the past few days. I seem to be praying a little differently: for guidance and acceptance rather than outcome; for the ability to help things change, rather than simply a prayer for change. 

Thank you, Hannah, for being an inspiration. And for posting some amazing words just when I needed them! 

Photo by Zachary Steyer (student of Hannah Myjak)


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Twenty-two: Example

Our eyes are a lot more open to examples than our ears are to advice. ~posted by Chris in the infusion room at my rheumatologist's office

We are an unschooling family as opposed to a homeschooling family. We do not do school at home. We don't do lessons at home. We do learn a lot. We learn by doing. We learn by discovering things on our own or together. And we learn by example.

At the moment two of my children are arguing over one child cleaning more than their fair share - it appears mopping and de-cobwebbing the house are much-sought-after activities. My daughter asked if she could add a task to the cleaning list this morning because she felt like washing windows. People are amazed that my children help clean the house. I'm not surprised at all, as the example we've set is one of everyone helping to keep it tidy. 

We set the example of being kind to one another, of giving with joy when and where we can, and we try our best to model the behavior we hope our children emulate. We can talk and lecture and advise all we want, but what really sinks in in their developing brains are the myriad examples we set daily.

We make mistakes. We learn from them. We apologize and make things right. We forgive. We dream dreams. We follow our passions. We share what we learn, what we love, what inspires us. We encourage each other. We learn together to navigate life. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Twenty-one: Talk

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. Ephesians 4:29

Each word a gift? I think I may have given some bad gifts lately.

Overtired, overmedicated, and just plain worn out, angry words flew from my mouth. It was if I was taken over by some mean, grumpy beast and I couldn't stop myself. I immediately regretted flinging such bile at my children. I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer, and apologized. Really apologized, being specific in my regret, asking forgiveness. 

I don't like it when my mouth reacts more quickly to a situation than my brain; when negative emotions overrule love. It's something that doesn't happen often, but doesn't need to happen at all. Reacting in anger, complaining about a situation, or criticizing a person's actions only serves to promote negativity and cause our moods to wither. Reacting with helpful words, figuring out how to be improve a situation, and reserving your judgement of others can only bear fruit. 

Today, I intend: to think before I speak; to take deep breaths before reacting; to package each of my words as a gift to its recipient.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Twenty: Confession

Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. James 5:15-16

Silence can be awkward. Most people don't deal well with public silence, whether it's a moment of silence in remembrance of someone or that silence that comes during worship when we are to confess our sins in the presence of God and one another. Have you ever taken notice of the amount of fidgeting, coughing, whispering, and shuffling of feet that takes place during "silence?" 

I, however, love the silence. I love times of quiet reflection. I take seriously the time during worship when we are to confess our sins, and often find that the presiding minister must think highly of the congregation to make that confessional time so short. Either that, or I'm a very very bad person. 

I have a confession to make. I used to lie to priests. While in Confession.

You see, I was a good little Catholic girl who really didn't do lots of wrong things, but I felt like my list of sins wasn't long enough for the priest to believe I was confessing everything, so I'd make up some stuff. Then I'd confess that one of my sins was lying to cover the lying I'd just done. Maybe I am quite the warped person after all. 

But anyway, back to Confession. I really feel like, if we could all confess our sins to each other and to God every day, we wouldn't carry the weight or the energy of them around with us. The world would be a better place if we shared our missteps and our brokenness with each other. And we wouldn't have quite the list come Sunday.

And if we could readily offer forgiveness to those who confess their sins to us, and pray for the person that they may accept and live the forgiveness, what wonderful relationships - and a wonderful world - we would build!

From now on, I intend to: confess my sins to and ask forgiveness from those against whom I sin, as well as God, as soon as possible after the sin is committed; to learn from each transgression; to pray for God's guidance; and to forgive as easily as I seek forgiveness. 


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Nineteen: Receiving

It's funny. Quotes on the blessings of giving are abounding, but quotes on the blessings of receiving, not so much.

Many of us are good givers. We like to help out where and when we can. We find it a blessing to do for others. Giving comes with ease. The Bible talks about giving. Most religious texts talk about the blessings of giving. Lots of people talk and write and live the joy of giving.

Receiving should be easier than giving, right? We always welcome gifts and kind words. Well, usually. Maybe? 

Sometimes a compliment is difficult to accept when we're not feeling so hot about ourselves. Often times help is difficult to receive when we are the most in need, when we are at our most vulnerable. A job is lost, someone gets sick, a car breaks down ... something happens to tip us over the edge from doing ok to being in need.  We try to explain our situation, to validate the person's assistance further, when they are simply trying to help- to do what comes so naturally to us when we are in a position to bless someone with what they require. We feel somehow less than as the recipient. Perhaps we feel judged. 

On the other hand, maybe we find ourselves in line at the grocery store noticing all the "unnecessary" or "overly expensive" items in the cart of the person paying with food stamps or judging the panhandler for not cleaning himself up and getting a job. What does this say about our views on receiving - or on giving for that matter?

There's this...
“Until we can receive with an open heart, we're never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.”  BrenĂ© Brown
When we receive, we should do so with joy and count ourselves a blessing to the giver. When we experience someone in need of help, we need not judge, instead celebrating the opportunity to give. 


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Eighteen: Moments

Oh, if life were made of moments, even now and then a bad one - But if life were only moments, then you'd never know you had one. ~Baker's Wife, Into the Woods

 I've seen the movie Into the Woods twice in the past two weeks thanks to interested children and a discount movie theater. So many thoughts are running through my mind based on the words and lyrics and circumstances in the musical. Today, the lyrics above were running through my head. 

We all find ourselves wishing that life could be good, that every moment could be better than the last. That we could capture moments and hold onto them. That we could create endless amazing moments for our loved ones and for ourselves. 

Seeing Into the Woods for the first time - or should I say attempting to see Into the Woods for the first time - produced just such moments. Crazy traffic and detours on the way there mixed with wacky conversations with my fourteen-year-old about the strangest things. We obtained tickets and munchies, and proceeded to sit, alone, in a pitch black  theater, for ten minutes being totally silly before other movie-goers joined us. In the dark.

Ten minutes after the movie was supposed to begin, I ventured into the lobby to inquire as to whether or not the movie was going to play. They said they'd look into it. Although we ultimately left without seeing a movie due to a broken projector, we will treasure the memory of that crazy evening for a long time. 

I do enjoy the moments. Well, the good, fun, and out of the ordinary moments. The bad bits I accept as a part of life, but could do without so many, thankyouverymuch. 

I've learned to slow down so I can recognize and appreciate the more wondrous moments as they're happening. But I don't want a life filled with moments. I want quiet times in between to relish the memories, to reflect on life's joys, and to learn from the not so good times. It's in between the moments that gratitude lives. 


Forty Days In Thought, Word, and Deed

Monday, March 9, 2015

Seventeen: Value

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival. ~C.S. Lewis

As much as art enriches our environment, friendships enrich our lives. My life is a very rich one thanks to some wonderful people who bless me with their presence, their prayers, and their caring.

My life is better with friends who stop by to say hi and don't care that I'm still in my pjs and my hair is standing on end. Or friends who bring me gluten-free Chinese food because it comes from So Very Far Away and they were there so why not. My life is enhanced by friends who send me messages and don't freak out when it takes me hours, if not days, to get back to them. My life is saved by friends who offer gentle hugs, understanding words, and let me know that they care - and that, when concerned, tell me like it is, not matter how difficult it may be for me to hear.

I could survive life without friends, but would find it sorely lacking.  The love of friends turns the simple tune of life into a symphony. 

I intend to: see the value in every friendship; nurture every friendship; and let my friends know their value to me as often as possible.


Forty Days In Thought, Word, and Deed

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Sixteen: Share

Don't you do too much? 

This is usually asked of me as I mention committee meetings, planning sessions, teaching classes, projects we're working on, and all the things that I do on a volunteer basis.

The truth is, these things feed my soul. If they didn't, I wouldn't be doing them. They get me out of the house, give me an opportunity to interact with others, and bless me with a chance to give of my time and talents. They are things I can do in small bursts, as my physical ability permits. Doing these things fills me with joy and leaves me with more than I gave. 

Wouldn't it be better if you sold that stuff and made a little extra money?

This is usually asked of me as I talk about making another run with donations for the thrift store or clothing drop-off. 

The truth is, a little extra money would be great. But what's even better is spending the time and energy I'd use holding a tag sale or listing things for sale online, instead doing something much more entertaining with my family while knowing my donations will be put to good use. The making of memories is a much more valuable thing. 

For me, there are miracles in the sharing. The more I share of myself, the more I receive in joy, in love, in connection. The more I share, the more open I am to receive the gifts life, love, and others have to offer. 


Forty Days In Thought, Word, and Deed

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Fourteen: Poem

Photo by Zachary Steyer
Every single soul is a poem.   Michael Franti

They are found in the most unexpected places. People enter my life, sometimes for a moment, sometimes to stay, their poetry in some way leaving an indelible mark. 

Just the other day, as I was sitting in a surgical center waiting room, there were two souls that captured my eye and then my heart. The were a father son duo, waiting for the child's brother to get out of surgery. The tattoo-covered Dad and his rock star son seemed to be ruling the waiting room as I approached. One glance my way, and Dad respectfully requested that his son move the pile of dinosaurs out of my way so I could crutch my way to a seat, and the rock star of a boy did so without hesitation. 

This boy had energy, going form dinosaurs to slushie to Daddy's lap to climbing on the chairs. Dad used few words when giving directions: "Sit, please." "Come here." He used many when his boy was in his lap, "Yes, we'll see brother soon. The doctors are helping him feel better."  "He's not going to be happy, so we're going to need to help him feel better. Can you help me with that?" "Yes, the doctors are helping him to feel better. We can help him be happy." The boy seemed more concerned with his brother's well-being than the toys and Dad was doing an amazing job having patience with and concern for his rambunctious little one. 

The duo helped bring me peace as I sat, praying and trying to distract myself. The poetry of their souls and the poetry between them, made all the difference in my experience. It was love in action. Love between father and sons. Love between brothers. Concern for others. Genuine Love.

Today, I intend: to see the poetry in all I encounter; to celebrate the unique poem of the individual; to encourage the poem that is my soul to uplift others. 

Forty Days In Thought, Word, and Deed