Welcome to my Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Allison at Eclecti Ali. It is a coffee day for me, though three days a week it is Matcha green tea. And my coffee today is half-caff. I believe this is better for my health and ability to sleep, and the Florida weather is very sweat-producing lately, which disagrees with my age. 🙂 Half-caff seems to be all I need, though I am pretty tired in the evenings now. We’ll see how that goes when we have less daylight.
My focus is all over the place. I brought home work to do last night and still have some to do this morning. Tomorrow there’s a drive through Trunk or Treat in the afternoon at church and I’m taking pictures. It should be fun.
Focus being as it is, let me just pick a word and ponder on it. Random Word Generator says: Heal. Gosh, if that isn’t the word of the year for me, then I don’t know if words even exist. Take a gander at what I’ll call a free-flow poem:
Mudflower, by Pamela Schloesser Canepa (c) 2020
If you heal, you are a flower growing out of the mud.What matters is not that you were in the mud, but that you are a flower. Should one forget the mud? It was a cool, nurturing place for you. Maybe forget the bugs. Mud grew you into a flower, and not just any flower. You may be a tiger lily or a wildflower but with thorns along its side. You are not easily plucked, friend to the bees, protecting itself, yet opening to flourish and receive the sunshine. Do not feel ashamed, but empowered. What matters is that you are a flower.
True story. My life. I think I’ll try these sorts of poems more often. After all, I grew tired of griping about my health, the state of politics or education budgets, or my temporary writer’s block. This could start a prolific trend…dare I hope? Virtual hugs, my friends. Have a great week!
From Matthew 26:36-37, ESV: “Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘“Sit here, while I go over there and pray.’37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.”
In the Christian faith, we are nearing the end of Lent, which means the story of Gethsemane is near, a telling of the hours leading up to Jesus death as he prayed and prepared himself. It is a dark, somber story, which tells of: the evil that men do, the weakness of someone who is supposed to be a friend, violence, betrayal, suffering, death, all of which happened to Jesus. Sadly, all of these stem from the human condition.
Yet, something else is at the heart of the human condition and this story of Jesus and Gethsemane: the desire of mankind to strive towards spiritual nurturing and enlightenment, to find our way to the light. To believe, when times are darkest, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, a benevolent power that will calm us and give us what we need to sustain such dark and painful times.
Jesus’ disciples were hitting rock bottom. Betraying their Lord and leader is certainly at rock bottom, and I just imagine how that felt when he actually died. But the whole Easter story does carry a light of hope, a promise of spiritual gifts, forgiveness, and resurrection. I used to want to avoid the story of Lent. I studied it in depth throughout my whole childhood in Sunday school and parochial school. But the truth is, you have to go through Lent before you get to the joy of Easter. Otherwise, you really don’t know just what it’s all about. It’s sort of like childbirth. The pain is 100% worth it.
We are bottom feeder humans. Many of us would deny our Lord or our faith when it is more convenient. But even we can ask and hope for forgiveness. This is the story of the contrast of dark and light and of rebirth. Many might say it simply represents Spring. But it is the epitome of faith, belief in things not seen, and things that we once believed impossible.
**The AtoZ Challenge theme for my blog is “Who I am.” Yes, it’s wide open. In April, I will blog from A to Z to include little tidbits about me, poems I’ll share, and stories. Each day I will write something based on the next letter in the alphabet. It’s been fun so far, yet it has really given me a chance to pause for reflection as well.
This time of year brings back all kinds of memories. I volunteered to take a Bible verse and write a devotion to go in my church Advent devotional. The memories were easy; the challenge was training my thoughts around a scripture as well. Here’s the result.
Scripture- Psalm 16:11 “You show me the past of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Advent season is a time for many memories. Opening the door to the past, I think of my first Christmas memory. Mom gave me a new red, velvety dress and pressed my hair in curls. I was seven and we lived in Virginia. Well, she dressed me up all pretty but it seems I caused her some embarrassment, plugging my ears and yawning a lot during the musical service. Maybe I just wanted to be in the nursery with my little brother. Despite my lack of decorum, we went home and Mom, Dad, and my little brother spent time listening to the record player together as I fell asleep watching the candles flicker, waiting for morning. As close as I am to Mom, it’s odd that this is my first Christmas memory! Yet what matters is that we enjoyed our time together as a family, my immature behavior was forgiven, and the occasion was still joyful.
Then there is the memory of two years later being allowed to go into the ICU on Christmas Eve to see my dad through the glass. *He’d had surgery on his esophagus and was in critical condition, but ultimately, lived. It was a rough Christmas, but friends and neighbors all over shared their Christmas joy and cheer with us for the weeks he was hospitalized. I was overwhelmed; we’d only known many of them for just one year. Years later, as an adult, Dad said he saw me look through that window, and it felt as if he was visited by an angel giving him assurance. Being told this made me feel really special. I didn’t realize I could be so important to him.
While I recall many who have given over the years to share their joy and Christmas spirit with my family and with me, it is as deeply rewarding to do this for others. I had a few opportunities to do so when I worked in retail. I missed church service working late one Christmas Eve, and was anxious to get home to give three-year-old Austen his new tricycle. Yet, I found joy in making one customer so happy when I found her a sought after TV in the stockroom, that she hugged me, saying, “God bless you.” This was two minutes before closing time. I talk about how retail zapped my Christmas spirit year after year, but this woman’s happiness and relief truly warmed me spiritually, and my son was still happy when I got home!
Prayer: Lord, when I look back, please help me to see the good in all that I have endured, the lessons learned, the moments when I was someone else’s light in the dark whether I knew it or not, the many times that I was shown how much I was loved. Help me to share that love and joy with others, for there is no greater pleasure. Please help me to see that the goodness you have bestowed on me all my life will continue, for with faith in you, dear Lord, comes the knowledge and assurance that I will always be loved.
*Addendum: If you were wondering, my father’s esophageal issue was due to a history of binge drinking and alcoholism. He sought sobriety and finally, it stuck, after he stayed in a 30-day rehab when I was 20. Almost thirty years later, he is still firm in his recovery.
Light at the end of the tunnel. Photos courtesy of Pixabay.
When life is hectic and people are dumping too much on you, and you’re not getting enough sleep, you just want to escape or at least get your hair done, but there is not enough time…..What can you do?! Short of pharmaceuticals, that is, which are wrought with their own problems… I have to try a “cocktail” of strategies to keep myself from cracking. Here is my recent mixture:
* I am strengthened by biblical scripture and have tried to get closer to this since the beginning of the Lenten season. I believe my pastor discussed this scripture at the beginning of Lent, and it is a staple of my spiritual diet lately.
Matthew 19:26: “But Jesus beheld [them], and said unto them, With men [it is] impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.”
I have lived through parenting a teenager and being faced with realities I did not want to be a part of. He has been in the E.R three times in his life due to his playing with danger, and I prayed furiously, fighting the worry. Yet, here he is. After wavering and wallowing over his confusion after high school, when it seemed impossible to motivate him, he is taking a test today that will determine if he can get into trade school. It involves some Algebra, and yes, I want to worry, but instead I’ll write my blog entry, which is actually a sort of prayer. I am going to have faith, even if things don’t turn out the way I want, that things will work out just fine.
*I am rewarded when I look to Literature for an escape. It is fairly inexpensive, and there is no hangover. To believe in impossible things, one must be an optimist, and may even be a scientist. I am probably a dreamer. But guess what, someone has to dream up the ideas in the first place! And it nourishes my soul. From Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass:
Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
I had abandoned this book long ago, because it seemed so out there, it just lost me. Well, it must be just what I need right now, because it is sticking to me like a well-balanced meal sticks to your sides. I lick my lips in delight like a full Cheshire Cat after reading a chapter of this outrageous masterpiece of wordplay and riddles. It’s the escape I needed from worry over my son who is a grown-up now, and over my job where I sometimes feel I am given an impossible task, where what I do is never enough. But guess what, I am doing fine and I need to remember that.
*Music. It relaxes me, it awakens me, it pumps me up, and helps me forget the little nit-picky things that can really bother me. I especially need it when driving in traffic to get to work in the morning. Case in point, horrible traffic on the way to work yesterday. I was playing Coldplay’s “A Rush of Blood to the Head.” Just the right song makes me not care that I am getting to work later than I had hoped (For Pete’s sake I am always there before my contract time anyhow)! So, I sat in a line of cars at the light yesterday jamming to Coldplay’s Politik, enthralled in the notes that went higher and higher, trying to sing with the notes (I was singing “eyes” in every note up the ladder while Chris Martin was holding and breathing through that word….Eyyyyyyessssssssssssssssssss). I hope I looked as crazy to those around me as I felt, since I truly did not care what they thought.
*It has been too long since I had a true vacation, and I am feeling that one will be in order pretty soon. Therefore, my photo with this entry is of another time, in another place, when I was on vacation with family, including my nine year old son who was amazed at the beauty of the mountainside he had never seen before. It was a place where you think of the silence or the birds singing around you, and what beautiful wonders are just ahead as you make your way through the trees or up the hill. That is the best. Those memories also help me to hang on, but they are certainly helped along by prayer, song, and a steady diet of just the right reading at the right moment.
So, I sit here after dropping my son off early for his test, knowing he just wanted to get out of the car and away from my questions or reminders. I know how my worry bothers him; I dealt with the same thing from my mother. I am working on it, as I know it is to my physical detriment, in other words, not very good for my health. Heck, my worry bothers me too. But I have sent out my prayers for things to work out, and for him to never give up, which I hope he has learned from me. Now I think I can fill my mind with something else. It is a beautiful day, and there is still more to read about Alice!
As I sit here sipping coffee, to go along with my Advil-to-chase-away-my-wrist-pain, I am grateful. Here is a new morning, and my little dog Bixby is as spunky as ever, chewing on his miniature toy by my side. A part of me wants to feel old, but a much needed good night’s sleep has renewed me. I have come to a good place in my life, started saying yes to things I formerly wouldn’t, the dog being one of them. These things have brought such rewards and my life is full, not empty, and not lacking, but full of goodness. So I’ll take a moment and be grateful. I realize there must be a Bible verse that communicates all of the hope and gratitude I am feeling. Thanks to the internet, (which makes so many dubious things available, so why not just the right Bible verse), here it is:
It being Lent, I wanted to do something selfless. The fact that I have not given up much because I am so sporadic in my asceticism, (meaning I have practiced it as a response to anxiety or extreme emotion, never on purpose, so choosing to do so is hard for me lately), leads me to try other ways of being selfless. I just in the last six months have started feeling healthy again after an extremely emotional year in my family. As a result, I’ve decided to give things away for Lent, donate things more, and to actually study the Bible more. So, I looked in my long untouched Bible to verify the verse the internet brought me at my request before I shared it. It’s officially verified.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The Bible has been unused for a while, yet I am a woman of faith who attends church and likes to stay involved in many of the good things happening there. I have read probably 80-85% of the whole Bible in my lifetime, due to a religious upbringing that included four years in a religious private school. Having said that, what people use the Bible for at times frightens me. The many possible interpretations unnerve me. People who interpret the Bible and have no give or compromise on what they think it means are scary. The fact that the Bible contradicts itself in many places is quite confusing. How many different men were involved in its production? What can a person in search of spirituality do with all this? I don’t know,but I do think attending church and listening to the sermons of a person well-educated in the Bible is helpful. Bible discussion is helpful, though I would probably run the other way when someone takes the Bible literally and argues until they’re red in the face because, for example, I don’t think women have to be subservient to men. What my love for the Bible comes down to is the story of the New Testament. The story of Jesus is touching, redeeming. Someone once said to me, but it’s only a story. “Is it, really?” I asked.
“Well, no one can prove it,” he replied.
“That’s a definition of faith, isn’t it?” Even something unproven is still possible. Believing in the possible makes my world grow. That makes sense in this expanding universe. Studies show that faith, which is akin to positive thinking, is healthy for the soul and the psyche. I may slip at times, but I am finding my way to appreciate each morning of a new day, and the possibilities it brings.
His mercies are “new every morning.” When I believe that, I can feel the sun’s rays on my face at daybreak; it is a glorious feeling, of a power far beyond mine. I am glad there is a power beyond mine, because sometimes I am week, and I like knowing there’s someone I can rely on and ask for help. This gives me comfort, just like the sunrise that comes and gives us the promise of a new day.
Sunrise, my son, and the birds he loved to chase. Circa 2008.
“There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
people won’t feel insecure around you.” Marianne Williamson
The dream goes like this: I am sick. I cannot speak or make a single sound with my mouth. I hear beautiful music and it frustrates me, yet pleases me at the same time. I open my mouth and feel pain, but cannot produce any expressive noise or words. I move closer to a plant that is growing beautiful flowers; they are orchids or lilies. I take the outer petals of the flowers and eat them. Suddenly, I am singing beautifully. I am growing, and I am life.
In a training session for elder duty at my church I was asked to look at this poem in relation to my faith. The first thing this line reminds me of is the term “shrinking violet.” While my reasons for being a “shrinking violet” were probably not to protect others feelings, my role as shrinking violet certainly was not enlightened. Digging deeper into my faith has caused me to dig up a lot that I haven’t thought about in a long time. There are dark spaces inside, but there are also places that filter in the light.
Among the dark spots on my faith journey are the many times I stuck to being a shrinking violet, not to prevent others from feeling insecure, but to avoid conflict. Avoiding conflict was a constant goal of mine, or perhaps we should say it became more of an instinct. Needless to say when avoiding conflict is your ultimate goal, one is not living fully to their potential. There is also a saying “Don’t squander your talents”, “Don’t hide and your light under a bushel.” Evidently people do this all the time, and I’m not so unusual. But when we were singing that song about this little light of mine in Sunday school, I suppose I didn’t get the metaphor. Or maybe survival was more important to me.
My upbringing in a household with one alcoholic parent and the other frustrated and constantly the peacemaker taught me that I should be the person to avoid conflict. Maybe because the peacemaker was the woman? Perhaps that’s how I learned my role ? Maybe I took the role of man to be “rules the house with anger.” To this day I can’t stand sitting at a table when someone pounds it in excitement, anger, or frustration. Fortunately, my dad went on to rehab when I was 20, and was no longer a drinker. By that point, my habits and misconceptions were set. However, I must give my dad thanks for strongly encouraging me to go to college, because when I went through high school, my life was not geared towards that. The only honors class I took was English, because I just love that subject and wanted to see if I could do it. It seems that drying out helped him become more supportive and encouraging, even if it was through long-distance. So I have to say, I went to college and excelled because he told me I could do it, so I wanted to prove him right. He even funded my first two years.
Flash forward to age 25. I am about to get married to an attractive guy I met at a party. He blew me away with his ownership of me. How he could not live without me or bear to see me with another guy. I actually did have second thoughts the day o f the wedding. I did not heed them. I am a sort who usually sticks with a choice I have made. Abandoning the relationship would have hurt him. Calling off the wedding would as well. Everything seemed to hinge on preserving his feelings. What about mine? They were on the back-burner. I had to be the peace-maker. His heavy drinking did not help matters. But I was still the peace-maker. I had earned a college degree and a professional job in management, but he overshadowed and made me second guess every decision I made. Saying certain things at a party could set him off as well. I obviously wasn’t growing as a person. My spiritual growth was stunted. Sunday morning would be a hung-over day just as much as Saturday. Then came my pregnancy, and the birth of our perfect baby. Keeping the peace was more important now.
Let me tell you, that only lasted so long. Knowing my son would one day understand all the horrible things my husband was saying to me, the accusations, the name-calling, even thinly veiled threats, made me fear the way his perception of a mother’s role or even a wife’s role might turn out. Would he one day believe all those things his dad was saying TO MY FACE and I would just try to go into the other room, being a survivor, never a fighter. My only way to fight back was to preserve my dignity and my sanity and leave. Looking back, it is apparent that I was forever shrinking so that he wouldn’t be insecure around me, or because of me. But this was also motivated by fear. Insecure people grow angry, they manipulate, they try to cut you down to size. I would allow that so his anger would JUST STOP. I did not want my son to grow up in that household. Sadly, he later came to see his dad as the outcast family member, cut-off. For years, he would fight to defend this perceived “underdog.” But that is an entirely different battle.
For the most part, I have raised my son as a single parent. There were some relationships. They grew stale or were revealed to be the wrong situation, for one reason or the other. I pride myself on the fact that I did not get married prematurely again. I did not jump into another family situation or have another child, thus making myself dependent on a man. I can’t see how some women go through pregnancy alone, my hat’s off to you. I have often used my gifts as self-therapy, not always to help others. But I would like to share them with the world. It still purges my spirit to produce something with my gifts, words, a song, prose or poems. The world may take it or leave it. And I still have my voice. I feel an increasing need to speak out with this voice. I want to speak and plant seeds with my words. Ideas will grow, and there will be no more shrinking.