Category Archives: Faith

Mary and the Teeth Gnashers

Mary and the Teeth Gnashers

 

It seems to me that if there is a bad taste in your mouth, you should spit it out. You don’t constantly swallow it back.”  Amazing Grace, Michael Apted, 2006

 

Hours on end we sat on those hard pews looking up at the minister.  We listened, my girlfriends and I.  Week after week we learned and prayed and wondered why.  And, why not?

The Good Book was read to us and by us, stories that left us out. We felt less than. God was male, disciples were men, preachers were all men, deacons were men, and choir directors were all men. We felt less than.

So few examples to look to, to emulate. Women were revered because they were obedient and docile. From the bible, it seems the only way for a woman to redeem herself as worthy was to give birth multiple times and preferably to male children.

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I am grateful for the bible stories that do tell other stories of women.  We see the perseverance and divine insight of Anna, the faith of Mary Magdalene which lead to healing of her chronic illness, Pilot’s wife warning her husband of her powerful dream about Jesus, “this innocent man”(which he ignored).  The story of Priscilla was encouraging, as she was chosen by Paul to shepherd a church he left behind, and Miriam who questioned authority and helped Moses lead the Hebrew people to the Promised Land.

There were too few of these stories and unless you excavated them, you never even heard them.

It’s sad when you remember where value was placed when many of us were girls. It was accepted as just the way things were. Girls grew up understanding their worth, and later as adults hid the hurt because mentioning it brought on not just opposition, but wrath. Not only from men, but sadly from other women.

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Clouds, Go Figure

Clouds, Go Figure

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ― Rumi

 

The first hours of daybreak are not my finest. On the very rare occasion I am forced into wakefulness as the big shining orb begins to rise, my surly attitude can be transmuted by a spectacular sunrise.

Do you know what it takes to see a beautiful sunrise? Clouds. It takes more than just a couple higher clouds. Fall and winter months produce the best sunrises because the angle of the sun is lower. More violet and blue light scatters, causing the sky to be very blue. The sun’s rays pass through the cloud layers for a longer time and this enables us to see those glorious melons, blues, reds and yellows.

Clouds, go figure. Without clouds, there is nothing for the sun’s rays to reflect off of, to show us the beauty in our world. Struggling and suffering are clouds in our lives that can propel us toward strength and growth.

If we spend our entire lives doing everything in our power to avoid suffering we miss completely the power we e-a-r-n from the process. People go to such great lengths to avoid pain and suffering that they end up with lives lived on the surface. You know them, people who avoid having difficult conversations and allow their relationships to remain superficial, are so afraid of a job interview that they stay in the same job their entire career, never learn to swim or ride a bike, or never speak up for themselves at work. You never get what you really want out of life like this do you?

I When I was a kid in South Dakota I was scared silly to graduate from the “Tadpole” swimming class to the “Minnow” class. When it came time for the next class I spent a second term in “Tadpoles” because I was so afraid of what might be expected of me as a “Minnow”. Finally I put my big girl panties on, tried the next class and turned into a Mermaid, jumping off the diving board, turning flips off the side of the pool, diving into the water, and swimming laps with confidence.

Had I not moved through the suffering I would have missed the joy of the process, not to mention the mermaid stage of my life and that little green swimsuit that earned me the moniker of “pear butt”! The only way to get to the other side was to suffer.

Look around you. Those who do the work, earn the gifts. They have learned the dire truth of letting go of the safety net or moving outside their comfort zone to gain something much better.

Cheryl is no morning lark either. In spite of this, for as long as I can remember, the first thing she does in the morning is stretch and do some light weight bearing exercise. She makes no big production of it and few know she does this. (Well, up to now, sorry Churl.) Her reward for this dreadful morning sacrifice is some fairly chiseled arms, and more upper body strength than most women her age and size.

Lorna forgoes spending on unnecessary household items. Her gift is enough discretionary money to travel all over the world, and wonderful memories to take with her. She just chooses memories instead of things.

There is pain involved in good decisions more often than not. These decisions make our lives better, markedly better.

The safe way we have always done things is not always best. I might have remained in just one career and perhaps been closer to retirement than I am now. In no way do I regret the changes I have made. The gifts from my tenure at ten or so post college jobs over forty years are tremendous resilience, courage, friendships, communication skill, travel, an expanded world view, expertise in various fields, and the confidence that I can do most anything I intend to do.

Fear generally is the thing that halts the growth process, fear of suffering. We fear failure, rejection, embarrassment, financial trouble, loss, physical pain and the unknown. And yes, we have all experienced these. They are the real deal. Being rejected is humiliating, failing is frustrating, having your heart broken is devastating, changing jobs can scare the blonde off your hair, but suffering is the place we begin to earn the gifts.

Not particularly to my liking, suffering is also one of the ways we gain self-knowledge. We all know folks who have allowed themselves be taught by suffering, instead of immobilized by it. In her memoir “The Hiding Place”, Corrie Ten Boom recounts being held in Ravensbruck, a notorious Nazi women’s concentration camp as a Dutch Jew who aided other Jews during World War II. That desperate time taught Corrie who she was and who she was not. Most of all, it taught her gratefulness. What she had suffered during the war gave her the knowledge and empathy to run a rehabilitation center for concentration camp survivors after the war.  Like Corrie, we also learn reliance on God from suffering. Corrie was able to share with thousands how God’s love brought her through the ordeal.

A different type of suffering is that which we must allow. When we do not allow these sacrifices, not much life happens either. Want energy? Exercise. Want financial stability? Do your homework, seek the advice of a financial advisor, and follow it. Want to meet someone wonderful? Do the interior work to become someone wonderful. Want to love your work? Quit that job that sucks you dry of creativity and do something you have passion for!

Our spiritual lives are no different. 

We want to feel close to God, to have discernment in our choices. But will we do the spiritual work to know God? I love my church, but just going to church on Sunday morning and expecting to grow in spiritual wisdom is like standing in the kitchen each day and expecting to become a great cook. We all know how that turns out. . .

You have heard the phrase “fruits of the spirit”. I believe those fruits of the spirit are earned gifts developed over time with consistent effort.

When I was a kid I turned to absolute stone when my Dad used the word “discipline”, the dreaded “D” word. Oh, he wore that tired word out! Talk about suffering, I wanted to just lob off my ears as he yammered on. As I have matured however, I have come to understand that applied discipline yields growth. This is also true in our spiritual lives.

Spiritual practice takes so many forms, prayer, meditation, reading and studying spiritual material, writing, sharing our faith lives with others, attending church or spiritual groups, going on retreats or quiet time in nature listening to God.  We utter a litany of prayers but we do little listening. Whatever path we choose, growth takes place when it is done with intention, consistency and discipline.

Here is the dismal truth folks; we must suffer to get to the really good stuff in life. Yes it is generally uncomfortable, painful, and sometimes downright frightening but the sweetness on the other side is like no other. Pain and sacrifice can mean a step closer to our dreams. People who do not make the leap suffer too because of their indecision; they just never reap the reward.

 

“Thirty-nine years of my life had passed before I understood that clouds were not my enemy; that they were beautiful, and that I needed them. I suppose this, for me, marked the beginning of of wisdom. Life is short.” ― Iimani David

 

 

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That Long Trip Home

That Long Trip Home

“The long and winding road that leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before, it always leads me here
Leads me to your door”

 John Lennon, Paul McCartney

 

The God of full moon watched over me all evening as I drove southeast through the rolling hills of Oklahoma. I welcomed her presence, kept looking up and grinning at her, enjoying her luminous beauty.

It was that long trip home to see Dad.  At eighty-seven he worried about me traveling. So I hated that my work, rather my obsession with work, caused me to get a late start and drive in the dark.

Preferring the comfort of home at night, I’d rather just hang out with my pet family and read.  And, I can’t see squat in the dark anymore, so I don my distance glasses when I drive at night, and the heart thumps a tad faster.

Seventy-five miles from Dad’s thin fingers of white fog began to float by me. I thought it would simply ebb and flow from low-lying areas to higher ground, but this fog lingered-much like the new ache in my spirit.

As I meandered through the hills and the threads of fog, I wondered how many times I had made this long old trip. It began when I first left home for college at seventeen; the years blew by so quickly.  I am sixty-two now, so many trips. As I drove, I thought of Robert Frost’s words, “miles to go before I sleep.” They seemed prophetic to me as I felt my life spiral down.

The further south I drove the thicker the fog became; I slowed down to sixty miles per hour. That last stretch of road is just a two-lane state highway for the most part;  it bends and twists along, lined with pine woods on either side.

My feelings about this old trip also meandered back and forth; I hated it, and I loved it.  When I was young and full of myself, I drove waaay over the speed limit to get it over with. (A grand collection of speeding tickets confirm this.) Back in the day, I could finesse my way out of one from time to time.

The self-absorption of my youth made me resent the trip and having to make it. I would hurry back on Sunday only to find that I had left behind those who would always stand with me. With passing years I was more likely to drive back with tears in my eyes, wishing I could stay longer.

I hated the physical distance the trip placed between my parents and me over the years.  And, the panic I always felt when one of them was sad or in the hospital, knowing it would take me at least four hours to get there. Every celebration, every holiday, every funeral, and every conversation that needed to take place had to wait, for that long trip home.

But now I loved the solace of the trip, time to collect my thoughts, to record them, and to sing-loudly, and very badly.  It also opened the door to silence so I could hear God. The long trip home was illuminating more often than not.

On the last leg of this trip, I was so weary; the fog had become thicker and thicker.  This was exactly where I hit the deer a few years ago. She came out of the woods on the right side; I saw her stop, stand there, and look right up at me.  I uttered a telepathic prayer, hoping she and God would both get the message for her to stay put.  Why she jumped right in front of me, I’ll never know.

Remembering that dreadful day I slowed down to forty miles per hour.  By now visibility was greatly reduced and I switched to fog lights. I could only really see about twenty yards ahead.

I stopped and called Dad, whom I knew was looking at the clock and wondering.

At twenty-five miles out I was white knuckled and driving through dense cotton candy. The woods I could typically see to the left and right had simply vanished; I could only see about ten yards ahead. Even the familiar country homes that I knew lined both sides of the road were invisible. I was exhausted and driving on faith.

So many times life requires driving slowly through the mystery, living in the unknowing. Did the interviewer think I was right for the job? Will the sale of the house go through? Will the next commission check be enough? Can our marriage survive this calamity? Will my body remain healthy enough to enter the 10k?

As the God of full moon watched over me that long night, I thought back over my forty-four-year relationship with the trip,  the weariness, and mysteries it brought. And, I knew I’d miss this long old fatiguing trip home when I no longer had a hug awaiting me at the end of the road.

“We had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” – Jack Kerouac

 

 

 

 

Secret Blessings of Muscadine Jelly

Secret Blessings of Muscadine Jelly

“Remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted.”  ― Sylvia Plath

 

Aunt Helen’s muscadine jelly is all gone, even the emergency jar I kept in case I needed consolation. This generates a pang of deep loss in my gut. But, there are two tiny containers of Mom’s muscadine jelly left! This morning I lathered it on my biscuits. I refuse to share this jelly, ever. Maybe with my sister Jan, if she was here. Maybe.

This is my holding on to Mom and Aunt Helen, who have both passed. I reserve this jelly for hard days when I need their help, days when I can find no inspiration. When there are no more shoulders to stand on, no more jelly, what will I do? These two women, resilient each in her own way, helped light the path for me.

But, the disparities between my mother’s life and mine were significant. She had a way of nesting comfortably at home, right from the get go. She married at eighteen and started a family before you could say “Nuthin says lovin like sumthin from the oven!”windowIMG_0139

Mom and Aunt Helen both knew the art of domestic flourishing. Me, not so much. I can sell thousands of dollars’ worth of darn near anything, but could not make an edible Italian Crème Cake if you threatened a flogging in the town square.

The way Mom nested so deeply at home was always a mystery to me. I could not grasp, not only her satisfaction with her life of domesticity but her enthusiasm for it.

Did I on some level back then believe my world of career advancements and adventure held more value than Mom’s world of domesticity? That her world of being at home was not as significant as my world of exploring?

Mom had dreams of having her own career; she was very bright and capable. She possessed uncanny knowledge, with the most remarkable intuition regarding physiology and disease states. She used to muse that she would like to have been a surgeon. But, times were different back then. And beyond that, she knew that achievement out in the world was not her focus.

Mom consistently encouraged me to go for it; she lived vicariously through my recounted adventures. I imagine she yearned for the level of freedom I enjoyed. Back then women had so many limits on their lives, some self-imposed out of a sense of duty, but also imposed by society, spouses and children.

Mom was brilliant in the kitchen, whipping up something that made your toes curl in delight, a natural at it. When she brought sick neighbors a peach cobbler, they were almost glad they got sick!

She was an authority on tending home; she could do it all. Like a new dress? She’d create one on her Singer. Want advice on minding your garden? The woman had a super green thumb.  Need art for your living room?  Dale could paint one for you in oils, watercolor, or charcoal you would be proud of.

Compelled by a strong desire to be “out there”, I was birthing success in my sales career, exploring yet unrecognized talents, expressing myself creatively, traveling, riding bikes, volunteering, writing, walking for hours on end, and seeking ways to deepen my spiritual journey. In addition, I was single for many years and making a living had to be a priority.

As the wrinkles collect though, the more I nest. I long to see all my little critters at the end of the day. I have been able to rest in myself through prayer meditation for many years now. Domesticity though, is pretty much a messy struggle. Still.

I can see this is how my Mom’s spirituality showed up. It was a lovely gift wasn’t it? It was given often without thanks or ceremony. Mom was very guarded with her true feelings; (but certainly not her opinions) she was not one to verbally express her faith in God. It was always implied, always there, just under the surface-lovingly expressed in gifts of home for her family.

“When did the choices get so hard

with so much more at stake.

Life gets mighty precious

when there’s less of it to waste”

Bonnie Raitt, Nick of Time

 

Blink, and One Year is Gone

Blink, and One Year is Gone

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ― Anaïs Nin

Begonias are fading, the little button plant’s eyes are closing, enormous elephant ears are going back to the earth and we already feel a chill in the morning air-way too soon.

I love the now and savor the Holy in it.  I walk out in the garden touching each plant, thanking them for their perseverance, their strength – their contribution to my world full of soft summer.

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Is it dread of change I feel with the fading of the summer, some dying some holding on? Always I am trying to make more of the present, and yes holding on with great thankfulness.

Time creeps up and it’s been a year since I started sharing my heart with you.  I thank those who just drop in from time to time, and much gratitude to you weekly followers, my patient tutors who comment, encourage, disagree, and suggest.

The year of blogging has shown me much.  Posts I thought were not so special turned out to be favorites of yours.  A handful that meant more to me had lower readership. The most private one I wrote and the most difficult to write is still the one read most often.

Most of you find delight in the same silly things I do, many thanks for comments that gave me the ear to ear grin.   I know some of your heartaches and stresses; I am sad with you and you have my prayers.

From across the globe, Costa Rica, Germany, Vietnam,  France, Russia, the UK, Bolivia , Brazil, South Korea, and here in the US, you teach me that what we share is larger than what we do not.

On this showy pre-fall morning after a remarkably gentle summer, not doing the work that pays, but pulled always to this exercise in expression, I am humbled by the year past. IMG_0703   A wild love for the written and spoken word prodded me and keeps me here.  I can feel and taste each phrase.  I tuck them away to pluck out later when my spirit runs dry.

These writings, little meditations with God, are only crude thanksgiving. The title I chose for my observations, “Holy and Not so Much”, has proved true. Has my writing caused God to start stress eating?  Are the church elders tearing their clothes and gnashing their teeth? In spite of these possibilities, I carry on.

The  gifts  I  receive  from  the  writing  are overwhelming. The gift is in the writing-the crafting of each sentence, acquiring a new depth of honesty, birthing a willingness to be transparent, the assurance it has been time well lived, and recognizing the Holy in each day.  I am grateful to you for sharing your lives and for this opportunity.

Special thanks to Monica, my daughter in spirit, for illuminating the path and believing I had something worth sharing.

The look and format of the blog have changed. You will see it is very much a work in progress.  When we imported the archived blogs to my site some of them turned out a bit—woogity. We will eventually correct these issues, I think. For now, it is easier to sign up as a follower, I’ll suggest great reads, share more of my dodgy photography, there is a new a search feature, comments should be simpler to post and my new site is full of livin’ color!

And a few surprises. .   There may even be an occasional post from the Sweetie!

Head in the Oven?

Head in the Oven?

“They don’t seem to understand, I’m too far gone to try. Now these lonely memories, they’re all that I can do. And I’m down to seeds and stems again too.” –Bill Kershen

Sometimes life is difficult. Days stretch out ahead with unrelenting demands, some you care about, others not at all. Somehow you will yourself to put one foot in front of the other and keep trying. I have the urge not to.

Drained from years of striving I want to sit right down and refuse to do anything, it’s too much stupiddamnshitty work! You know other people do it-give in to consuming weariness and forget how to try. I want to fall in the floor and whimper like a four year old who’s been told they can’t have McNuggets. This is not the same valley I always crawl out of but a deep trench that has me trapped.

While I’m at it I’ll stop choosing to keep myself emotionally stable. It’s my turn to go round the bend, just veg for a while, refuse to communicate, live in my own self-absorption. I’ll stop digging down to the bottom of my soul to find something worth salvaging. Get in the car and go-just anywhere! Other people go that route, why not me?

I won’t vacuum either; I loathe vacuuming. You push a heavy, deafening, incredibly awkward metal sucking machine around until you jerk your arm out of the socket and ten minutes later the floor looks just as it did before you sacrificed your rotator cuff. I’ve run out of parts to injure. Maybe things are looking up.

Weariness strains your endurance repeatedly to combat a new symptom, new syndrome, new injury, or another body system gone awry; unwept tears flow unrestrained. Coming so frequently that your lashes fall out, you are truly the bluest girl on the block.
“The tide you never valued has gone out.And you are marooned on unsure ground.Something within you has closed down;And you cannot push yourself back to life.” –John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us

Life has not been a tidy pleasant picture. It’s been the full catastrophe complete with struggle, omissions, grand mistakes, fear, poor judgment, lies, resentment and anger. But, for twenty two years now I’ve come out swinging time and again if only in the twelfth round. Why? Because of the gifts.

Living with years of unrelenting physical pain gifts you with tender gratefulness for good days. Loss of control gifts you with reliance on God. Years of heart breaking physical struggle gifts you with uncanny empathy for the struggles of others. Inability to continue treasured activities gifts you with new talents. And shared feelings shine the brightest light on those who truly love you.

Years ago after a painful back injury I cried (whined actually) to my ever supportive loving sister that no one understood my physical problems. Her response was one of the best gifts I have ever been given. She said “I want you to start at the beginning and tell me-all of it. Don’t stop till I understand”. I did.

Those who reach the finish line in a car or on cycle do not earn the distance walker’s lessons. I am blessed, not everyone gets gifts like these and there is no short cut that allows it-just suffering.
‘Meg’ Magrath: “Why’d you do it, Babe? Why’d you put your head in the oven? Babe: “I don’t know … I’m having a bad day.”— (Crimes of the Heart, 1986)

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.”–Mary Jean Iron.

Yoga mat on the floor, I peered up at the room from a Chihuahua’s vantage point and stretched my arm far over my head just as instructed. A large window faced me with an enormous Schefflera in front of it. Each long stem stretched out in a different direction; the huge leaves seemed to grin back at me saying ”It was your idea to try Yoga, miss healthy pants.”

A restorative Yoga session, so not much was required of me-a good thing since this was my first ever Yoga class and I had widespread arthritis pain and multiple disc pain to contend with. My mind traveled back to when I did not have this level of pain constantly and sadness covered me. I wanted to curl up on my mat and weep; I longed for a miracle.

But lying on my Yoga mat I had my miracle-that I was able to be there at all. In fact, I am stunned that I am able to do so many of the things I do. There are magnificent things in my life, many that I am aware of and certainly those I have been too dull-witted to see.

At a concert I heard Amy Grant say that one morning she was getting coffee when her young son came in. She picked him up and put him up on the kitchen counter in front of her. She was stroking his hair and reflecting on how much she loved him and the miracle that he was, when he said “Mommy, you have really bad breath!” There it was, the extraordinary right next to the commonplace! This is life.

Do we perceive the beauty in the everyday sun filling the room on an icy winter’s day?

The wonder of lunch with friends we’ve shared life with for over forty years?

Playtime with the precious bright little dog that learns any trick you teach her?

That first cup of coffee in the morning, knowing the journey the coffee took to you?

A road trip with a treasured niece and the gift of good conversation with her?

The miracle of meeting the right mate whose flaws equal yours in just the right design, when you had not been interested in y-e-a-r-s?

The significance of everyday occurrences distills and the closer we draw to God, to spirit, the wider our eyes become. The film dissipates and we can finally grasp what was there all along. The thing is, God uses these events to give us an opportunity to wake up . . . an opportunity.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ― Albert Einstein

Culinary Nirvana

Culinary Nirvana

“I read recipes the same way I read science fiction. I get to the end and say to myself “well, that’s not going to happen” ― Rita Rudner

It started as far back as junior high school. My brother and I baked a cake for Mom for mother’s day; we chose angel food because it looked easy. When it began to rise we were horrified, would it run over the pan getting gooey cake all over Mom’s oven? We would surely incur her wrath for that, so we took a fork and pushed the cake back down into the pan-hard. For those of you who have never done this, I can tell you that it produces a white rubbery disc that doubles as an bowling ball. We all knew the sad truth then, I would never be admitted into Le Cordon Bleu.

Besides, kitchens will hurt you-damn near every time you go in. Before Sweetie and I got together the kitchen and I had an agreement, I would use it only for storage and it promised never to hurt me. After thirteen years together my kitchen terror has lessened, but I still don’t trust those sinister jagged objects! I typically emerge with a singed hand, scraped knuckles or sliced fingers and to add insult to injury, there is something very wrong with everything I make. I was quite content when the items in my refrigerator consisted of a few containers of yogurt, fruit, nuts, vegetables, wine, milk and cookie dough! I’m no Donna Domestic, but I got along quite nicely—until I met Sweetie.

The dilemma is, my husband is a chef. He insists I didn’t cook a thing for him for six months after we met. He’s probably right, I was panicked to cook in front of him much less FOR him! There is no end to the litany of culinary disasters! It is soooo much less expensive to dine out- when as much goes into the trash as into the tummy!
I don’t get it; my Mom was arguably the best cook in the county. My entire life the woman was stocked up for impending famine; she could have fed the entire Lewis and Clark expedition crew at a moment’s notice. People from everywhere called her routinely for culinary advice. My brother is a super Cajun cook, my sister performs one culinary feat after another and my nieces and cousins are great cooks too-evidently the cooking gene is recessive and not uniformly passed down!

It aggravates the snot of out me to hear “Anyone can follow a recipe!” Folks, I am living proof that everyone cannot! I try to emulate Mom’s cooking skills using her recipes, follow each step and focus. To my chagrin these efforts produce miserable concoctions. It seems to be cyclic; for a couple weeks I am totally frustrated with my efforts and resolve never to cook again. Then I’ll rally, channel Mom for a few weeks and cook five or six things in a row that don’t give us indigestion.

All this commotion does not go unnoticed by the Sweetie. He is very tolerant of my culinary inadequacies and God bless him, he’s appreciates the effort. But the man has actually eaten some absolutely dreadful things, like enchilada pie that tasted more like wet tortillas and tomatoes. There was the Key Lime pie that produced an instant pucker the minute you put it to your mouth. And, then there was the time I cut the end of my finger off. I started with a large Band-Aid, progressed to several Band-Aids with gauze and ended up walking around the house with a mini pad taped to what was left of my finger!! You can’t make this kind of thing up!

When it comes to culinary arts, yes to some degree you can acquire skill. But for the most part it’s like boobs, either you got em or ya don’t. Well, I guess you can procure those too. So it’s more like singing, which I can do quite nicely, either you have the chops or ya stink. In the kitchen, I’m as stinky as they come.

“I ate her cooking for eighteen years,” he whispered. “You get used to it.” “Oh yeah, when?” “I think it happened around the seventeenth year,” Henry said.” Michael Buckley, The Everafter War

Close Your Eyes and Think of Me

Close Your Eyes and Think of Me

We met at school over on the rock ledge when we were kids, new friends who had surprisingly known each other forever.

She gave me then what she offers to all-an open heart, she meets you where you are.

She rubs up against life hard and often, and it hurts her. Authentic always, when her days end she will have the grace of knowing this.

As enthusiastic as she was in younger years, there’s a gleam in her eyes as she shares her plans for the summer. Her weeks stretching into years, she does not want an idle life and has never had an idle mind.

She is such a talker, not one who relishes silence. Even the chatter is worthy your attention, this is an intelligent engaging woman.

In a world choked with indifference she illuminates what needs to change in our world. She starts with herself.

A deep loneliness dwells within her and really always has-but even more so now.

Her trust in me shines through her kind eyes; I am blessed. She knows she is safe with me in all circumstances, and I with her.

What she gives to those she serves is remarkable; she has a vision they can’t have for themselves. They are lucky recipients of her perception, attention and action.

A lover of animals, she protects those she can, giving her time and love to them. She mentors others about their care.

Heart on her sleeve; her wounds are plenty and relived. There is no debridement; the scar tissue seems to multiply.

Deep friendship is her talent, her gift. She’s not as good at casual friendship-always wanting more. Never cunning to conceal her love, she is effervescent in the presence of friends and family.

Bearing gifts from everywhere she brightens a mediocre day-just when you really needed a little surprise. And, she seems to have no idea the sweetness of this.

If you are lucky enough to know her well you have a partner for pizza, a confidant on the phone at two am, a warm honest hug when you are weak, straight forward words when you’re a fool, her prayers when you are lost and the most beautiful smile when you were sure there wasn’t one to be found.

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered. “Yes, Piglet?” “Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the Pooh

Interstitial Anxiety

Interstitial Anxiety

“Mattie sat at the table, obsessing, orbiting around herself. She was sick of her worried, hostile mind. It would have killed her long before, she felt, if it hadn’t needed the transportation.”  ― Anne Lamott, Blue Shoe

I could be having a sweet dream about Jude Law right now, but no. Instead I’m lying in bed wrestling with an unwelcome visitor, worry. I’ve about reached the grand mal hissy fit level-over things that will resolve without this trauma. I feel like I’ll spontaneously combust. There is no word in the English language that adequately describes how I hate this sporadic reoccurrence. Evidently there is a genetic predisposition in the Valentine clan for my reaction to this; it was also passed on to my eldest niece. When she was little Gramps bought her a tiny dapple Shetland pony whom we named “Hissy Fit” in her honor. Is it just me, or some manner of collective anxiety passed down to me through generations, or passed down to women, or to Americans?

Each time I wake in the night and worry myself into heartburn, headache and enough generalized anxiety to warrant a high dose cocktail of anti-anxiety meds I ask myself, why are you doing this? Again? What we give our energy and attention to grows, multiplies. If we study something we are interested in most likely our attraction to that subject will increase as our knowledge of it does. Similarly, if we dwell on problems they will take on lives of their own. Unless you are extremely fortunate and your life has been a bed of roses or you are the grand puba of peace and all things spiritual, you know what I mean. Worry raids our quality of life, steals our moments, makes us ill and complicates our relationships.

Even as a grade-schooler I had the worry cloud over my head at times. I remember our speaker at sixth grade graduation saying “The past six years probably went by very quickly for you. The next six will go by even more quickly and the six after that even faster.” I think I’ve obsessed about how I use the time I have on this earth since then. There is a condition that affects the bladder causing tremendous inflammation called interstitial cystitis. This occurs when the area between the cells becomes inflamed. I believe many of us have interstitial anxiety, worry that creeps in between the fabric of our lives, between our thoughts, between our moments.

But how do we move past this habit of worry? I use the word “habit” because I do think to some degree our brains become trained to worry. I know this because when I wake in the middle of the night unworried my brain seems to search the database to FIND something to worry about! Jesus, who was spectacular at cutting to the chase, said “Therefore do not be anxious about your life. . . but seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:31-32)

In 1998 through 2000 I gave particular time and focus to deepening my spiritual life; I placed this above everything else in my life. About this time I had a dream that I was seated upon a huge pile of paper and wondering what to do with it all. As I sat there I realized I was seated on a stack of worries! It finally dawned on me that they were just paper and I could burn them.

What do you think happened during this three year period? Worry just about ceased and life fell into place in astounding ways. I know this, lived this and still fall into old habits. I don’t mean to channel Pollyanna; my life has not been without tremendous struggle and this process is not easy. But if we heed the advice of Jesus and keep refocusing on God, the nights and the dreams can both be better. I’ll see you on the other side Jude.