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Posts Tagged ‘Wisdom’

Kudzu Season

Erm, what road are we on?

Reaching for Heaven

No stopping it!

Even the little signs

The kudzu growing over the fence blends in with the peanut field behind it.

Thanks, God, for unexpected and exponentiated growth. Let us cling to Your Vine and be unafraid of new heights.

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Sometimes we ask, “How does this end?”

But does it really ever end? Or are endings really new beginnings?

Here are some of my favorite “endings” that actually opened the most amazing doors to new beginnings:

The first evening of my mother’s “running away” from dementia, that helped her feel both at home and free from home, all at once.
Soiled toes after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. We thought our beaches would never be the same, but God was gracious to restore in due time, as He always does.
What sea stars do when they free themselves from their captors out of children’s beach pails and escape back to the sea, alive and free again!
The end of a rum runner schooner from 2 centuries ago…nobody has the $ to rescue it, so it just keeps eroding on a remote beach, a treasure to the few who frequent the far reaches of the peninsula, a legend to those from afar…

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The end of a virtual fantasy and the beginning of an indestructible, eternal bff-ship.
The end of life as we knew it pre-Katrina…once the grief passed, the rebuilding was mostly emotional, projected onto the current landscape should you visit NOL.
The end of David’s life, 6 weeks in a coma and no hope…but the doctors had us sign papers to authorize unorthodox treatments and I stood glued to the wall praying as they applied said treatments in the form of laughing gas and yelling at him to hang in there and stay with us….and he did, and turned 19 last month.
Hurricane Ivan’s destruction, 2004, year before Katrina – rocking my baby in my lap singing hymns as our ears popped when the winds hit 130 and we could no longer hear trees falling around us, but had to trust totally in the Lord..our kids remember that night and our faith and serve God with gratitude to this day.
The ending of a century-old era, my Cubbies losing. Oh, ye of little faith! God delivers if You sit tight and see what He has in store!
Elizabeth died some days after this 93rd birthday…but her death was the beginning of a new legacy of strength, courage and untold creativity….Just open your heart to what lies ahead.
Death of hips – yeah, finished the marathon in David’s honor, but was sidelined early in life with titanium and polyurethane shortly thereafter….pace thyself!

The end of anonymity – red flag hair day unexpectedly revealed last Sunday. God reigns in all things!

Thank You, God, for endings, which usher in brand new opportunities and beginnings. You are the Omega and the Alpha, and everything in between. You’ve got this! May we all embrace endings as we would beginnings….both bring new life and growth.

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A masterpiece may drop into your life unexpectedly, or it may be right under your nose – unnoticed, unaccepted, ignored or even cast off.

True masterpieces are to be studied, marveled at and most of all, appreciated.

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But, we can never really know a masterpiece until we give it our time, patience and unconditional attention.

It requires an understanding that masterpieces don’t necessarily start out as masterpieces.

Like a disturbingly elusive shadow limited to periphery, their process begins with a wisp of will to grasp the ethereal.

Their evolution is often fraught with seeming disorganization, struggle, and sometimes with a goal very different from what was originally intended.

They may not even look like a masterpiece from afar, or even when we’re too close.

It seems that perspective is the salient factor in being able to see something as the masterpiece that it really is.

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A masterpiece infuses our very being with

Inspiration.

Hope.

Energy.

Purpose.

And limitless joy.

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It demands that we stretch ourselves further than we ever thought ourselves capable.

And yields untold blessings well beyond what we, in our finite reasoning, could ever fathom.

May you be inspired by the masterpieces you may find in the unlikeliest places in your world, my dear friend.

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Hey, God…may we seek beauty in everything and in everyone with whom our paths may cross.

Give us humility to esteem the least as greatest, the last as first and the poorest as rich.

Thank you, Lord, for the multitude of masterpieces with which You bless us daily. May we comprehend that they are as numerous as the grains of sand on the beach…if we only pause to look – as well as to see.

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I am humbly reminded that no matter what storms threaten, no matter what waves force me to swallow salty water, the sun still steadfastly sets…different, every single time,

Never in vain and never the same….

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(And I just couldn’t resist the rest of the periphery, life doing its thing as the universe does its thing: )

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These images were only possibly by a complete whim, upon resisting my better judgment to stay within the lines of my schedule today, as I hit the pause button on the demands of daily life.

They came from a guttural force, a sharp turn of the steering wheel and will, and by following my soul toward the Glory.

And look – just look! what was there waiting, there, literally around the corner, to be enjoyed!

What will YOU discover if you pause to break from YOUR routine?

Is it safer (“easier”) to stay your course, or will diverting yield even greater returns, risk that it may seem?

Will you steer straight on the course you believe He has for you, or take a chance that big ol’ God may be outside the box you created, on a totally different course than l’il ol’ you ever envisioned?

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The other day I heard a piece on the radio about melancholy; how melancholy can be as prevalent during the holidays as holiday cheer. The reflection included the sage suggestion to give honor to those people or things associated with the melancholy, but then give way to and give thanks for the present and future.

As I reflected on this on my run that day, I pondered a pair of points:

1.) God gave us melancholy, along with all other emotions. These are not wrong. He also instructed us to maintain moderation in all things. I believe to allow any one emotion or state of mind to dominate our being to where it interferes with our ability to honor Him and His will for us, turns into coveting.

To be melancholic is to pine away for something that is not, was not, will not be or cannot be. It is the sadness that accompanies wishful thinking, or lusting after the imagination of what was not intended to be so. This, I perceive to be covetousness. To covet is to break a Commandment. Therefore, we must be circumspect as to how we give time and energy to our emotions.

2.) Last week while leading a group therapy session, I pointed to different expressions of emotion and asked the children if each one was “good” or “bad.” Instinctively, most of them ascribed “bad” to feelings such as anger, sadness, fear, anxiety and grief. “Good” emotions included happy, joyful, excited, surprised, loved and calm. As you, dear reader, already surmise, the point of the group content that day was to teach the children that ALL emotions have worth and place in our lives, all emotions are okay, all of them are GOOD. It’s what you do with them that matters.

That being said, we often tease that we can tell when a child is ready to leave our hospital when the little Butterball thermometer pops out of their side and they’re “done.” The thing that pops out for me, as their therapist, is how well they’re able to COMPARTMENTALIZE their emotions, how they organize their emotions, both in their heads and in their actions.

Can anger or sadness, grief or melancholy be tolerated and even embraced as a legitimate source of forward movement in the natural process of growth and change? (remember, I’m working with little ones who have no families, or who have families who’ve rejected them or chosen drugs over them, or with families who will never have the capacity to love).

Can you find room in your heart to allow the natural discomfort of difficult emotions, and find a way to organize them into your psyche, give them their place use them as a springboard to move forward?

Can you find gratitude for the way things must be? I ought to change the title of this to “finding the silver linings,” but I may have already used a similar title, I believe. Silver linings are just my nature, and I have a soft spot in my heart for those whose nature gravitates toward having to monitor their melancholy.

It’s all good, baby!

I was tremendously grateful for this snippet about melancholy, since it pertains to us all in various ways, but in much greater proportions we often overlook. And it’s true for all emotions. To spend too much time in positive emotions, we’d neglect our duty to feel sorrow for those without or to feel guilt for our transgressions. Negative emotions propel us to betterment, both in ourselves and in loving our neighbors.

There is a time for ashes and sackcloth, and there is a time to move on. To remain stuck is to become stagnant (refresh thy iPod regularly!). To move on is to discover the future.

Yes, I embrace the melancholy, and even relish it for a moment, here and there, even moreso when something occurs to me down the road that I neglected to realize…but I am moved by the current down the rapids, which does not allow me to wallow and wade in the waters of what was or wasn’t. I am moved forward with wonder into the excitement of His will.

May we all be.

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Perhaps the only plans we can make in life are those we formulate inside of our heads – not what we intend to do, but how we will choose to think and feel when things change; when adversity, challenges and unforeseen events encapsulate us. How will we assimilate and accommodate those changes?

Control (and the illusion thereof) is finite (albeit on a spectrum), and limited to our inner being. Everything outside of ourselves is not under our control, much as we would like to believe otherwise.

Even our inner being is not in control of its fate.

I propose that praying for wisdom is quite possibly foolishness at best. How would we ever possibly know we had achieved wisdom? Is it some finite thing that can be achieved?

As long as I am a sinner, I cannot exercise wisdom, nor should I buffalo myself into believing that wisdom is mine to exercise. I must be completely and utterly dependent upon Him. Life is an unplanned journey with twists and turns that no one can predict.

Naturally, it is important to have some plans in place to get from moment to day to year – goals, if you will. These keep us focused and on track, and we are instructed to be planful to a degree. But change is inevitable, and if we are focused on the goals and plans we ourselves set, we are not planning for God’s plans – plans He doesn’t reveal until the appointed time. We can plan all we want – but ultimately, it is not in our control.

It is almost as though making a plan – business plan, short- or long-term goals, financial plans, family planning, career, when, how and if to retire, whatever – is an invitation to allow God to show us who’s Who and what’s What.

Planning is an exercise in submission and an invitation to trust in the unexpected and unforeseen.

God is our Remote Control. And not remote at all, actually, as He is with us every step of the way, whether we choose to acknowledge His presence or not, whether we remember His presence or not. It is us who make Him remote. All of us, from the pre- to over-religious.

Do you have to dig deep in the cushions of your heart and soul to find the Remote? Or do you keep it front and center on the end table? Or are you just as easily inclined to get off your tush and go directly to the Box and push the buttons directly to get where you need to be? Do you know What you’re looking for?

Do you know Who’s looking for you? Can you find the Remote and change the channel, or are you willing to get up and meet It where It’s at, or somewhere in between? Are you ready to watch what you didn’t intend to watch?

Since the day always seems to come when we can’t change the channel and other Factors dictate our entertainment, I’ve decided instead to pray for things like acceptance. Flexibility. Courage. Perseverance. Resilience. Without these things, we could not face life’s curve balls. (That is my plan for how I will wrap my head around His plan for me, anyway).

Yes, these are the things that allow my arms to both embrace and let go, whichever the circumstance calls for, and to discern when it’s time to do either.

When I am afloat at sea and cannot possibly have infinite perspective, my only choices are to watch the swell of the waves which cause the horizon to disappear or to hope for the glimpse of the reality of the horizon; to cling or let go and drown, to trust or take matters into my own hands. Either way it is a leap of faith, and simply perceiving that I cannot fathom the depths or the heights or the distance to the horizon, I will have to cling and trust within the confines of that finite perspective.

God, may Your will for us wash ashore at our feet, that we know it is You guiding us – that we might be refreshed and pleasantly surprised by each new wave of change, each one being different and unpredictable, never knowing what hidden treasures will be revealed in the withdrawing ebb before the next wave. Let each one be cleansing, cooling, soothing…let us be not dismayed, but joyful in the discovery that Your plans were different from ours all along. Bless us with the resiliency of a child, a child who knows that they needn’t have wisdom, only trusting faith that things will go precisely as they were intended – by You, right here with us.

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Did you ever have something happen in your life that made you realize that it wasn’t God that was bigger than a problem, but it was YOU that got bigger, and God had stayed the same as He always was? He is, after all the Rock, they say. He doesn’t shift and grow. We do.

I, in all my self-imposed Christian wisdom (along with self-righteous Biblical interpretation (which justified my self-imposed Christian wisdom), was taught a huge lesson this week in spiritual perspective.

I had always thought, believed and “known” that “my” interpretation of God’s way was right (or pretty right, anyway), and that others were just blind to the truth. Poor them. Poor me.

This week God put a child in my path who has shown me that He has not, is not, and will not change. It is I who must change.

Today I spent 6 hours in a classroom/lab and learned how the Gulf of Mexico has a current that goes from southeast to northwest, which is why it always appears that my family has moved their encampment on the beach way to the right, after I’ve been boogie boarding the waves for more than 15 minutes.

And this week my sands shifted just a little bit, thanks to His righteous current.

I had the sensation I sometimes had riding the “L” in Chicago, or a roller coaster when slightly disoriented. Your brain knows it is you moving, but for a brief sensation of a moment, we are buffaloed into perceiving that we are not moving, but rather the contents outside the car appear to be moving…concrete sidewalks, walls and all.

Or like when I couldn’t even see my family, much less any strand of beach, once I’d swam all the way out to the border-buoy.

Or like when we find ourselves gazing up at the stars on a clear night with no earthly interference. We see the stars so clearly; their winking twinkle is comforting…like a baby strapped into a baby-contraption. There is security in knowing our place. All is well when we are dependent on One who is greater, stronger. That primal feeling then gives way to the realization of how SMALL we are…and the insecurities of our insignificance quietly simmer and bubble forth as we gaze.

We are so miniscule!

How we strive to jockey for our perceptions of greatness on this tiny planet! No wonder we think size matters.

And yet, there is so much more beyond, in the universe and in the unknown dimensions.

I, who have always advocated for X, Y and Z in my Christian walk, was introduced to a little fellow – and I mean LITTLE – this week, who has seen all, done all and been there done that. No child should ever have been exposed to what he has come to know as normal and right. So I now find myself in a position of having to help this child, and the only way to help him, to bring him closer to half a chance at a decent life, to bring him closer to God, is to help him in ways that I had previously been indoctrinated NOT to do.

How confusing is that?! The ways society and Christianity says are “right” and “good,” and now a child is so messed up, that the only path for him to have a crack at right and good flies directly in the face of what man dictates is right and good?!

Yes, God is SO much bigger than any box we put Him in. Just when we think we have it all sewn up and figured out, God will set us straight….

Self-righteousness sux.

Perhaps the walk closer to Him means taking a more circuitous route. They say the path is narrow, but that doesn’t mean that narrow path doesn’t meander around and venture near the lapping flames of Hell, rendering one parched and singed, making the reward all that more refreshing.

How much more meaningful is meaning, after a desert of meaninglessness.

Cold water only feels good when you’re nice ‘n hot, baby.

Thank you, God, for expanding the puny universe of my pea-brain…thanks for greater perspective…and for helping me to color outside Your lines.

What has rocked your spiritual plumb?

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~Diaper-changing exacerbates any early-onset arthritis you may be in the process of acquiring.

~The Jehovah’s Witness that comes to the door and wakes everybody up at naptime comments, “I see you have a lovely grandchild!”

~Grabbing the child by the back of the OshKosh overalls while they’re attempting to escape, causes a pulled muscle underneath your rib cage. For eight days.

~You look forward to their nap time not so you can get the dishes and laundry done, but so that you can nap too, to gas up for the next round of their shenanigans.

~Your back goes out while bending over to pick up toys.

~You are eternally grateful to Pixar for making movies that you probably appreciate more than the child, since most the humor goes over their head.

~You’re rather appreciative of their willingness to pick up and eat dropped Cheerios off the floor; one less thing to have to sweep up.

~The only things you bother to discipline are the big ticket-things: non-flushable items flushed down the toilet, jumping on private parts and locking you out of the house or car.

~Make and stay friends with a nurse. It’ll save you hundreds in copays.

~There is no guilty conscience whatsoever in donating toys which require batteries, make noise or otherwise interfere with your increasingly-slowing thought process.

~They can actually outrun you now. And you just watch them recklessly fly down the street, as you rock in the rocking chair on the front porch. We’ll hook up sooner or later….

~They learn to be more creative and just as smart since you don’t have the energy to shove all manner of trendy sensory input down their throat. The metal spoon whacked against the pot makes just as fine (if not better) a drum, than the latest retail electronic Fisher-Price equivalent with all the bells and whistles. And the pot drives everybody just a hair crazier anyhow.

~No pants, no shirt, no problem: toilet training made easier…

~You are grateful he learned the hard way (but not too hard!) about why you kept telling him not to touch the stove…one less thing to have to harp on. He gets it now.

~You know the ropes, so you have 5 full years to prepare your argument to the school district as to why your child, born just two days after the cutoff, should be allowed to enter Kindergarten earlier than according to the letter of the law. Besides, it wasn’t your fault…the induction date was a hotly debated issue of negotiation due to an approaching hurricane at the time. Aw, c’mon…

~The line between naughty behavior and experiential learning has become more profoundly blurred.

~It is easier to appreciate the preoperational line of thinking: you understand that the act of charging Daddy unexpectedly from behind with the toilet plunger is an act of securing love, not a derelict violation of household protocol. After you holler at him.

~Maybe french fries in the car seat and animal crackers in bed ain’t so bad after all…they love running the vacuum “all by myself,” anyway.

~Accidentally dumped kitty’s water all over the kitchen floor? Needed mopping anyway. Thanks, kid!

~What goes in, must and will come out, by hook or by crook.

~No one can really tell which side of the debate one’s parents were on when it came to issues like co-sleeping, diapering or pacifiers…we all wind up being a little neurotic anyway.

~You hope they never notice that theirs is the only baby book of all the siblings that only had the first few pages filled out and everything else haphazardly jammed in the front flap, with no pictures because by the time they turned 1 everything was on memory stick anyway.

~Whoops! Who let him out to ride on his Very Noisy Little Tykes Motorcycle at 6 am after the neighbors kept everyone awake till 3 am with their too-loud party?

~You recognize the value of using the baby as a key accessory in the embarrassment of his middle school brother when warranted, until the middle school brother recognizes that the baby can be used as a chick magnet.

~Screen saver pictures at work effectively serve to elevate your status as a Wise Elder, since no one else can claim parenthood at such an old age, and you and your body have endured something they won’t. (Insert audio of Toy Story aliens: “Ooooooooh!”)

~Neither you nor child are quite of the age to really give a rip about too much. Let’s just see how things turn out…

~People are divided into 2 camps: those who assume, and those who can tell but don’t dare to ask.

~You are more inclined to let the crayon scribbles on the wall remain as a sentimental memento, so you can show his future spouse when you are introduced. Besides, the house would be so terribly dull and lifeless if every wall was perfectly maintained…

~All you can do is helplessly turn away and laugh instead of registering appropriate horror when the baby tries his hand at doing what his disabled brother was just admonished for doing in rapid succession at the Fall Festival: coming up behind women with disproportionately and outrageously gargantuan back porches, and losing his hand somewhere in their butt by trying to pat it, angelic smile upward when they generate an updraft by whirling around in shock to see who dared. Let ’em wonder which one in the crowd is the urchin’s mama…

~Beautiful women strike up conversations with Daddy in the grocery store, after cooing over the small, human lure strapped into the buggy.

~It is equally risky to use paid time off for anything but infirmity, since your body has entered its second childhood, and either of you are at risk of requiring sudden medical attention at any given moment. Falling out of a tree is about as easy as dislocating a hip by landing wrong on a meandering Lego.

~You’re the perfect cross between Willy Wonka and Andy Rooney.

Thank you God, for Your perfect timing in all things, for perspective and love. Do we keep You on Your toes, too, God?

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Could I…

…if homeless, take pride in how quickly my cardboard box dries after a rain, when the sun shines again?

…if disabled, keep dancing, like doing the mental rehearsals the director had us do before each performance?

…if penniless, find something else to give another?

…if blind or deaf, still see beauty and listen?

…if shot and left for dead, forgive my assailant before I passed?

…if silenced, find ways to be heard?

…if betrayed, still trust?

…if insane, not drive those around me insane, too?

…if trapped, make peace with my condition until the way out is shown?

…if lost, creatively find and use resources?

…if starving, sufficiently distract myself until the pain subsides?

…if hopeless, fearlessly dream anyway?

…if terminally ill, embrace it with grace and courage?

God, bless those who show us how to direct our gaze upon the silver (or crimson!) linings, so we know where to focus when clouds overtake our sky.

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She was carefully applying her mascara in the rear view mirror, stopped at the red light at a busy intersection. The turning of my head to notice caused her to notice me, and with her wand frozen in mid-air, we exchanged one of those only-girls-can-understand smiles. Then, just as quickly, the light turned green and each of us took off into our respective universes.

Today, like a pent-up quarter horse bursting out of the barn into a vast green field, I broke my month-long illness-induced hiatus from running, and could not stop. I had set my sights low, thinking I’d walk part way and stay close to home, but the bright rising sun beckoned me out of one universe and into another, and before I knew it, I awoke, still running, a little unsure how I had gotten that far from home. In the middle of Nowhere I was, but I knew this nowhere far from home. Now I had to figure out what possessed me to get so far away, and get myself back to Somewhere.

The thing is, the trip to Nowhere was such a blast! I hated to drag myself back to Somewhere. Following the white reflective strip on the opposite side of the road, the morning traffic on the busier stretches forced me off the white line, less for my sense of safety and more for the drivers. Veering off my straight line caused me to reckon with tall grasses and morning dew, soaking my shoes and socks. The steady rhythm of my pace allowed me to shake off the highly irritated fire ants whose piles I had pummeled with my unseeing feet deep in the tall grass. Stopping for nothing, I savored and ran through each cramp, flash of joint pain and finally, the rogue pebble that made its way into one shoe. Damn, I can feel the sear of the blister-to-be. The calendar says autumn, but this area defies such man-made seasonal designations, and the sweat signaled victory in endurance.

There was comfort in the discomfort, endorphins in the pain.

Arriving home, the swing under the welcoming giant oak tree called out to me as I transitioned universes yet again. Walking it out, I circled around and took the oak tree up on its invitation to join with it. Mounting the swing, “Enya’s Caribbean Blue” was up next on my iPod – I’d forgotten I had that song on there still. I immersed myself in this universe now, gaining momentum and, once high enough, alternately assuming a reverse-planking position. I gazed upwards into the canopy, spotting bits of blue sky through the trees outstretched arms which hugged me close underneath. The child in me dared to tilt my head backwards once at the peak of height, seeing the world upside down in a deliciously dizzying moment.

The man watching me from behind was upside down, too. So were his two little dogs. I hit pause and allowed myself to come back to earth so I could greet the surprised onlooker, who appeared to be trying to figure out if I was trespassing, and if it could be considered trespassing when one was clearly enjoying themselves in one of life’s little pleasures typically reserved for children. My self-assured explanation that I was cooling myself after a long run, getting the breeze in both directions by swinging, caused him to laugh and wrap up the pleasantries and move on.

Thus I was awakened out of another universe and catapulted into yet another.

I find myself traveling between and among many parallel universes throughout the course of any given day. And yet, I am supposed to believe that only one universe, one reality, exists.

I have gradually over time began to suspect otherwise.

We are finite in our ability to sense what we perceive. An inquisitive, wide-eyed child knows, but is trained by “trusted” adults to deny what is so apparent to the child. Where the child seeks validation for their very-real experiences, the adult makes the other dimensions simply not exist.

Thus with nothing more than a bold statement, there are no monsters under the bed. Or, as the little one says, “Yi-yons in the woods” across the way. Fierce lions, from his account. No, he is told, no yi-yons in these parts.

But the child is not so sure, not so easily convinced. If we can talk ourselves into or out of anything, can we also talk other things into or out of existence? The mind is such a powerful thing.

Sometimes while mentally in one universe and physically in another, I ponder whether I am imagining things, or if it is really real. I fool myself into believing that it is not real if it is appropriate to do so, and later my mind wanders again and I am forced to reckon whether it was really real and I suppressed and denied it at will, or if it is pure figment of imagination.

Maybe I am thinking too hard, as I have been accused, and as also being accused of using this to communicate in other dimensions. Guilty as charged, on both counts. Have we not all slipped into a dual existence between our online habits and our non-online habits?

What is real, anyway? I would rather expand my mind and entertain the possibilities of things I can’t prove, than pigeonhole myself into one dimension. I would rather acknowledge the monsters under the bed and give credit where credit is due, than spend energy and a lifetime being foolishly self-assured of falsehood. I would rather enjoy the painful process of risk than waste away in comfort. I would rather be damned for trying and doing, than damned if I don’t.

Hey, God…thanks for the trip. Thanks for multi-dimensional universes and for the generous samplings of each one despite our limited awareness. I pray that the monsters under the bed, and yes, the yi-yons in the woods, can someday know the joy of reverse-planking on the swing. Maybe they’ll come out at night when we’re not looking and party under the oak tree.

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