Uncertainty and . . . . Eventual Acceptance

I find myself humming an old  hymn refrain quite often these days – “It is well . . . it is well. With my soul . . . with my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul.” It is, to put in liturgical terms, a “call and response.” For me, it is a questioning of how I am doing. I ask my self, “is my emotional/psychological conditional okay?” And I answer myself,  “status quo, as good as it’s going to get. And then I consider the question from a spiritual perspective, “how is my spiritual condition?” And I can answer, “Spiritually, I am doing just fine.”

And that is saying a great deal. Since the beginning of the year my health has been declining. And when I became unemployed, it took a quicker nose dive. I have come to realize that or so long I was forcing myself, day in and day out, to get up and get going. I didn’t have to time be sick and so was forcing my body to perform. But when the lull came, my health fell further apart. That was hard to accept.It’s kind of sad, I think, not to realize how ill you are. Or more exactly, to not have enough insight into one’s self to realize you not well. For a person who tries to be insightful about myself, and about others, that is a painful admission.

And lately I have been re-visiting the question of Divine healing. Or more precisely, why I have not been “storming” heaven’s gates with prayers for myself for healing. Heaven knows, I have been praying for others. And I hear from others that they have been praying for me. And while I appreciate their thoughts and prayers, I have never “coveted” for myself Divine healing. Even way back, when I was diagnosed with diabetes and the first of a string of autoimmune diseases (Meniere’s) I didn’t ask the Lord for total healing. I would ask for strength for the event or occasion, asking the Lord to make me well enough to do this or that. I would ask and plead for enough health to get through certain times of my life. But I don’t ever remember asking for the Lord to take away my ailments. Because, gentle reader, getting sick never really shook my faith.

Sure, I asked why me, and how I was going to do what I felt I was called to do. How I was going to be able to cope with all that was in my life. I asked the Lord how I could get so sick when I felt there was so much I was called by God to do. And asking what I should do if the strength and ability to do certain tasks was not there. But my faith in the Lord was never shaken, but in fact deepened.

Lately I have tumbled that question around in my brain, and have thought on it for some time; and basically waiting for an answer. The answer came to me as I was giving solace to a friend who was also going with a rough time coping with her autoimmune issues. She too has some faith questions. As I replied to her, it clarified the question in my mind – why I have never in a deep and petitioning way asked for healing. It is because I can, actually, do more good for people when I am in the midst of my own health issues. And that is kind of revolutionary in a way. Let me explain.

One of the firm tenets of doing spiritual and faith counseling is that one has to be on firm ground. During my years at seminary I voluntary withdrew from a class because it had become clear I was not in a good and right place to do the practicum that the class required. So I withdrew and waited a year. It was good to wait, and when I took the class again I was much more ready to complete it. My professor actually commended me on my decision. The class was on spiritual direction; interestingly enough, a fellow seminary student asked me to counsel with her soon after I withdrew from the class; and so we did, and essentially I was doing with one person what I would have been doing with several people. The Lord opened up another door and give me a foothold for the year I waited to do the class and practicum. And the year of counseling depending just on the Lord’s guidance prepared me for taking the class the following year. But, I digress.

My point is, to do spiritual counseling you need to be in a “good” place in as far as your own condition. But here I am, speaking out of a very “shaky” place to people who are equally “shaky”. It is that exact “shaky” place of ill health and uncertainty, though, that makes me qualified to speak to others and support them in the journey I am also on. It may be contrary to the usual tenets of spiritual counseling; but when one is deathly ill, it is the voice of experience that comes through clearer than the well-meaning but “chirpy” voice of health.

So, I do not ask for healing on my behalf. In a way regaining the health I lose would be like turning away from the people who I have this disease in common with. Do I think that the Lord gave me this illness so that I could be a more relevant voice for other suffers? No, not at all. Do I think healing is being withheld from me by the Lord? Again, no, not at all. Would I forgo and turn down treatment? For a final time, no, I would not and have not. What I do believe and place my faith in is that from the consequences of this disease a ministry has formed for me. Where that ministry will go, I do not know. But I will continue on the path that is before me.

Jesus told Peter three times, “feed my sheep”, and Peter did so. The people I share this illness and disease with are not less the Lord’s sheep than anyone with full health. And so if I can share and commiserate with my fellow sufferers, I will do so, and willingly. Let me be numbered with them rather than with those who have good and firm health. I have a good idea what these “sheep” of the Lord’s need, and I am grateful and humble that I am called on to provide it.

From uncertainty to acceptance. From strength to weakness. The first is certainly the way of the Lord. The second is no less so. Shalom!

 

 

The Cadence of My Days

The unemployment department reminded me the other day it has been one month since I started unemployment. Pretty close – on the day they reminded me, it was exactly one month ago that the local office I worked for closed. I had known about it about a month before that. But I still was not ready emotionally/psychologically for it. I floundered the first week or two; applied for jobs and tried to come to grips with it. Felt lost not having a schedule of when to get up, go to work, come home. For seven years I kept the same sort of schedule; up by 6:30 am and in the office by 9 am. Now my days are somewhat different.

At first that felt strange, to not be up and moving by 6:30 pm. Now a days if I wake up that early, I just roll over and go back to sleep. At first that felt too indulgent. After a week or two, it started to feel more natural. I am afraid though, once I get another job, it will be very hard to get up early again. And if too much more time passes, I may struggle greatly to get moving at all by 9 am.

It is not just the mornings that are different. My whole day seems to spin out before me like an unending river. Now, this is good and bad. My days are more leisurely, that is true. But they also seem much fuller. Being home I am much more on call to my children. Suddenly when they would fend for themselves and get around on their own, I am here to take them hither and yon, fetch them again, and clean up after them. So the things I planned to do in my day get pushed aside or canceled all together in favor of their needs and agenda. It is not that I mind so much, but I had naively assumed that without an outside job, my time would be my own. Now it is divided up among many needs and tasks, instead of the “simple” task of working at one job.

And it is not only my children that take up my time. The unemployment department has their own ideas of what I should be doing – namely finding another job! And I oblige them because, well, quite frankly I need the unemployment check. So I spend a good chunk of the week applying for jobs. Not that it has been difficult to find jobs to apply to. I have signed up with a job search engine (no, I am not going to do free advertising for them) that delivers to  my inbox at least 9 or more potential jobs each day. It is my task to sort through the jobs and then apply for them. The unemployment department also gets their bid in my sending me job referrals as well, and since I depend on those checks, I am obliged to apply for those jobs as well.

And if that were not enough, I have also determined that with all this “free time” I should be doing more writing. Unfortunately that keeps getting pushed down the list of “things to do.” Each day I see time for doing that shrinking, until I am forced to squeeze it in at odd hours of the day and night. I tell you gentle reader, it is just about to the point that I am just as busy now as I was a little over a month ago!

I suppose I should not complain too much however. It has been over seven years since I had more than one week’s break from getting up to go to work. And I do enjoy the time with my children. In addition I am much more rested than I have ever been. One of the perks of being home is being able to take more time to cook meals. I have missed doing that. While I have not been able to up my writing on this blog, I have had more time to write for my other blog, “A Simple Desire”. So the minuses have not ganged up on the pluses altogether.

Lastly, and the thing that keeps my sanity firmly in tact, is that now I am able to wait and see what turns up in a job. For the last year, all of 2016 I knew it was time and past time for me to leave my former job. It was sucking me dry. As I said, I have been feeling more rested and renewed. And have the giddy awareness that I can actually pick and chose what I want to do next – as long as the  unemployment department is assured that I am really out there trying to find work. I have to admit, it has been kind of nice to see all the jobs I might qualify for. Have not landed another job yet, but maybe as I feel more in step with the cadence of my days I will be increasingly glad of that. Knowing my luck, just as I get my life fine-tuned and balanced in keeping with not working, I will be offered a job. And then my cadence will change again.

This whole thing, though, has taught me the importance of finding joy and value in one’s work. And how important that is in being happy and contented in life. I hope you, gentle reader, have already learned that lesson and have measured and mastered the cadence of your days! Shalom!

Has Spring Sprung?

When I was a youngster, the first sign of spring was the robins. Where I grew up robins went . . . somewhere else during the winter, and returned when their instincts told them spring was coming. We didn’t set much score on Phil the groundhog. Growing up in southern Ontario, groundhogs had more sense the to come out when they still needed their burrows to keep them warm. No, the best reliable sign was the robins. But that was then. Now, especially living in Eugene, Oregon it is hard to predict spring. Phil still is not the most reliable predictor around, and the robins don’t seem to have the same cutting edge technology. So here we sit, waiting for clear blue skies and the infernal unstopping rain to finally stop. With spring the temperature stays in the 60’s until summer hits and we can complain about the “unseasonable” heat that we have had the last few summers I have been here. All things considered, the change of the seasons has not been as enjoyable as it was in my childhood. But today I saw something that lifted my hopes and spirits.

Flying across the sky was a large bird, and in its beak it had a long thin twig. And I knew somehow that it was carrying this treasure to wherever it was building its nest. Spring is the time of growth and new growth, a beginning of the life cycle. And a taking up where we last left off. Spring is hopes reborn and found again. Spring is rebuilding to sustain us in our day, and to look toward the future. Seeing that bird soar across the sky with a twig reminded me of nests, eggs, and fledglings experiencing soaring for the first time. There is something wondrous also about taking a simple twig and making a secure home with it.

So you can have the the predictions of Phil, the first robins of spring. For me, I will look forward to the birds of the air filling the trees with new and rebuilt nests, laying the future, and watching it hatch. There is hope yet that spring will come. Shalom!

Theology in a stack of pillows

I have on multiple occasions considered the lesson on Christian living and spirituality that can come from common ordinary things. Take, for example, my husband’s pile of three pillows. On the bottom of the pile is a long large pillow that is slightly too big for the pillow case. It seems to me that is just like some Christians. They try to live within the Christian life with its disciplines and practices, but worldly things and human agendas & priorities tempt them out from beneath Christian cover. And they must again “stuff” themselves back in to the call of Christian living. It seems by their very nature they just can’t resist the lure of worldly temptations. It is not that they are “bad” or sinful; they just can’t resist!

The pillow on the top of the pile is a different “case.” The pillow underneath/inside the pillow cases has seen better days. It is slightly smelly and discolored. It is old. But still a good serviceable pillow and does a good job. In order to retain its place, however, it is wrapped in plastic and then encased in two pillow cases going in either directions. that is, the open end of the inner pillow case is stuffed inside the seamed end of the outer pillow case. And with the lubricate of the plastic, the inner pillow case gets twisted around and out of alignment of the outer pillow case. The seamed end of the inner pillow case will slid out of the open end of the outer pillow case, and periodically it needs to be re-aligned. Just like some Christians. On their outer parts they look fine and good, but inside they are wrestling around trying to cope with their past and their unseemly urges. They can’t rest but are constantly twisting about. There is no peace in their spirit. Because they cannot shed their past and have not re-made themselves, they are destined to need continual intervention.

The middle pillow of the pile, and the last of my metaphors is a good pillow; not old but not brand new. It is holding up well. It too has two pillow cases. The inner pillow case is a faded version of the outer one. They are both of the same pattern, but the outer one is stronger and of a brighter color. This is like many Christians. They know that their human will, priorities and agendas need to fade and be covered over by Christian practices and disciplines. They do not want or crave worldly things but are content to be within the Lord God and Jesus Christ’s plan and guidelines. When people look at them they see the Divine in control of their lives. We should strive to be like the middle pillow. Not at the bottom of the heap looking for a way out. And not at the top of the heap, living backwards lives and looking to slip from under the Divine’s tenets and statutes.

Simple, common, ordinary things. But there is a lesson in all of life, if you will but look for it. Selah!

 

Promises to ourselves, and to others

I had hoped to write and post here more often, but it must be pretty obvious that has not happened. The reasons are complex, and I am not going to go into them just right now. But that lack of follow through does coincide with something I was thinking about lately.

Let me frame this by saying that some days I need motivation to get my day started; to get up, to get showered, to get dressed, and go about my day. Often this starts the night before, when I think about what I will wear the next day. I find that it helps with my planning and motivation to think of what I want to wear, and tell myself how happy and pleased I will be when I wear it. I think over what is in my closet and what jewelry I can match it with. If the combination is appealing enough, I find the prospect of getting up, showering and getting dressed much easier to contemplate.

One particular evening I thought of a wonderful combination, and it just thrilled be to think about how comfortable and stylish I would feel wearing it. As it turned out, I did. In that moment of joy, I thought “what I promised myself last night really did turn out well.” I hugged that truth to myself, and thought further, “I came through on what I promised myself.” And I was struck by that. If we cannot follow through on the promises we make to ourselves, how can we ever think about following through on the promises we make to others. Or the promises we make to God!

Sit with that for a moment, gentle reader. Those New Year’s resolutions – have you kept and followed through on them? Were they firm promises, or plans of good intentions? Did you plan them and commit to them for your own sake? Or were they commitments to/for/with other people? And did others make promises/resolutions to/for/with you? How are those going? If the answer is, “Not so good” don’t berate yourself. You are in good and large company. New Year’s resolutions have gotten a pretty poor reputation of not being carried out. But, it is worth thinking about your lack of success.

So as to take the spot light off your own self, gentle reader, let’s talk about my not following through on writing entries for this blog. I had good intentions, had a plan that I thought would work. Had every intention of carrying it out. But other life events got in the way. My plan, you see, depended on circumstances working out in a certain way. Turns out I was not as in control of the circumstances as I thought I was. And may plans fell through. All things considered, it was not the end of the world. I am still here, and making up for my lack of writing by writing now.

So, let us look at the time my plans for what I would panned out. Rather than being a long term plan, it was a plan that would come to fruition in a short amount of time – less than 12 hours. I was in control of all of the circumstances, and I had made sure everything was in readiness. The morning of, I put the steps in motion and was able to complete my plan fully. The success and the good feelings from the accomplishments carried me through what turned out to be rough day. Every time I looked in the mirror, however, I was reminded of my success early in the morning, and the completion of the promise I made the night before. It meant a lot to me that I kept that “promise” to myself.

Let me list what I think were the helpful steps that allowed me to complete what I intended that morning. Preparation – I knew what I wanted to wear, and I made sure it was hanging up in readiness. Visualization – I imagined how the outfit would look, and how I would look in it. Memory – in the morning I remembered what I wanted to wear, and where each piece of the outfit was. Timing – by knowing what I wanted to wear, it took less time to get ready, and made it easier to adjust to the other challenges in my day. Comfort – what I picked out was easy to put on, easy to wear, and made it easy to go about my day. I don’t think most people put forethought into New Year’s resolutions. But I think people do put such thought into other tasks of their life. At least, so I have read, successful people have.

I think these key points would work for other things too. But don’t get me wrong! I am not writing a discourse on how to be successful, influence people or any other such “pop” life hacks! What I am saying is that if we indeed to keep the promises we make to ourselves and to other people, we can’t just dash into it willy-nilly! For example; my good intention to post on this blog more often, and why it did not happen. Preparation – I had no idea what I was going to write about. Had not thought ahead on it at all. Visualization – didn’t do that either. Didn’t imagine myself sitting down. Memory – some evenings I even forgot that I was even going to write more often. Timing – I let the events of the day rule instead of planning my day hour by hour. Comfort – never took the time to sit and think but kept busy rushing around until the end of the day was upon me. It’s no wonder I never sat down to write!

When we fail to keep the promises we make to others, there are consequences. Others are sad or disappointed. They may think less of us. Relationships may suffer. And we have to do more or work harder to make amends. When we fail to keep the promises we make to ourselves, there are also consequences. It is only within ourselves, however, that we realize and know those consequences. Our self-esteem and self-respect suffers. We may become sad and depressed, disappointed in our selves, and feel unworthy. We have to work hard, then, to build ourselves back up.

However, when we fail to keep the promises we make to God . . . oh gentle reader! Such suffering! It defies description.

I hope to write more, as the weeks and months pass; but I may not. I do not promise it. I have long known not to make promises I cannot keep. To myself, to others, and especially to God! Shalom!

 

Coming back to pondering

They’ve been slow in coming, but I am trying to make some changes in my life. Not major changes – except for one, finding a new job. But other smaller changes. Not new things, but going back to some old things, old ways, that I have left behind for one reason or another. One of them is writing more on this blog. I started it as a way to talk about more general issues, not so much scriptural as my other blog is. With one thing or another, I had gotten away from coming here and writing about just whatever comes into my head – secular or spiritual or something in-between.

And when I would check in here, on the administrative side of things and see how long it had been since I had posted ANYTHING I would feel guilty. And resolve to write more. Which never really came about. It’s not as if it’s a New Year’s resolution that I am only just starting. Now won’t that be sad! Around the time that many resolutions have withered to dust, I get mine up and going! No, it is just a growing feeling that I should be keeping up writing here.

Actually, thinking about it, a good part of this feeling that I should come here and write can be traced to Trump! Now there’s a surprise, even to me! I have been thinking though that never (at least for me)  has the time between an election and an inauguration seemed to have stretched out so long. Christmas notwithstanding, the time just dragged! Not because, however, I was impatient! NO, far from it. Count amongst those who was not looking forward to January 20th! And when the day came, I kept myself busy so I would not think about what was happening on east coast time.

Now I am not Trump bashing. Which seems to have become a national past time. Nor am I Trump supporting, which seemed to be the national past time November 8th! Nor was I even in the Hillary camp. I had decided that political agnosticism was the best choice for me – I know there is a political system but I just can’t put my faith in it. When Trump was elected, I was glad I didn’t. But that’s the point – that’s not where my faith lies, in politics and government. But I digress (which actually could be called MY national past time!).

My point was, if you remember, that Trump’s election and now his presidency has become a motivation for me to write. Because I can see that the more there is the “pro Trump” and the “anti Trump”, the wider the gap for calm and common sense. But slap my typewriting fingers, gentle reader, if I talk to much politics!

In the days to come, I hope to talk more about my perspective about this. For now, just know that I am trying to be back! Shalom!

Deck the Carole with “Boughs of Holly”

Some years back, actually many years ago, I was given a pair of Christmas themed earrings. I loved them, and loved the idea of “decorating” myself for Christmas. And then I saw another pair on after Christmas sale, so I bought. “Next year,” I thought, “I’ll have two pair, one for each family Christmas gathering.” The idea grew, and then took on a life of its own.

This year I started wearing my Christmas earrings the day after Thanksgiving . . . and did not have re-wear a previous pair all the way to Christmas!

xmas-jewelry-ii

An impressive display, is it not? Our cat thought so too! Although she did not get a chance to try any one! There is also a variety of necklaces and bracelets. And several Christmas pins. I am not sure now if I have a picture of everything, actually. Seems to me there are a couple of angel earrings not pictured. But you get the idea.

I love decorating for Christmas. Or at least I did until the presence of cats made it inadvisable. And my own energy level prevented me from doing more. But I can still dress myself. So, in the spirit of the season I choose to wear variations on red and green, with occasionally some Christmas blue. It would never do, according to my own sense of  style, to not match jewelry color to clothing color.

Each year, the day after Thanksgiving, I bring out the box that houses all my Christmas jewelry. Over the years I have gone from a very small box to a larger box, and then last year moved to a craft supplies box. And in all that time there is only one set of earrings that I no longer wear – some silver bells that look like they have seen much better times and years. I don’t remember when or where I bought them all. None of them have an attachment to any specific place, time, or person. They are all a merry mishmash of color and style. But I enjoy each one of them.

Most probably in the post-Christmas sales I will get one or two more pieces of Christmas jewelry, something to look forward to wearing next year. Although at this rate, I may have to retire one or two pieces. In the meantime I enjoy the variety that is available to me now, and look forward to planning which ones I will wear next. Did I mention that someone once gave me a pair of Christmas socks?! Oh gentle reader, what fun I have during the Christmas season!

May you this season find color and joy in your life! Shalom!