Just to drive the point home that I certainly AM NOT ALONE! Yes, our situations are a wee bit different, but my sentiments EXACTLY! Wow, the blogging world sure is a gift to me! Thank you! Thank you for your courage to put this out there!

A Gripping Life

My husband, Neil, was supposed to arrive home yesterday morning on the red-eye. His plane usually gets in around 6:00 am and he’s home by 7:00 am. That hour had come and gone so I called his cell phone to see if there had been a delay. He answered and said he wasn’t coming home, he was still in California. Then he added, “I think we need to go our separate ways.” Mind you, he’s done stuff like this before and my stomach usually turns somersaults. But this time was different because he added the bit about, “separate ways.” After that I just heard bits and pieces — something about wanting to live an honest life. I remember feeling like I was gonna be sick, my breathing became heavy, and I started feeling dizzy. Oh God, I thought, is it possible I’m bleeding?

Maybe my mentioning “The Perfect Storm” the…

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Travel not alone

But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.  John 3:21

share-a-secret1 I ran into a friend yesterday who has not seen me since the early days of when my world turned upside down.  In fact, while my world first started to unwrap, the two of us had a couple of heart-to-heart conversations. During these vulnerable moments, we allowed the pierce of truth to cut open that yucky stuff inside the hollow of our hearts, deeply embedded like pulp in a cantaloupe.

Ironically, the yuckiness that we are so resistant to share and, instead, try to hide and drown in things like a gallon of pistachio ice cream, turns to unhealthy mold if we keep it buried in the dark. When we open ourselves up, we turn the light switch on our secrets and hurts.  Light is vital for our existence from illuminating our physical worlds to providing a sense of wellbeing to our mental states. Without light from the sun, plants would die and our food supply, short changed. Metaphorically speaking, I think, generally, people who are masters at hiding major parts of their lives, whether they are in a crisis or not, are not spared the consequences of darkness.

I do believe that sometimes by constricting our deepest and darkest secrets, they manifest instead as physical ailments, such as stomachs and headache.  We are like rugs that need to be shaken out regularly to avoid being embedded with difficult to remove grime and dust! We were not created as untouchable, unemotional beings; to live a life void of connectivity is a life in solitary confinement.  This said, we have to have a little faith that whomever we “expose” ourselves to will provide a listening ear, understand, not judge and certainly continue to love us—yuckiness and all!

Of course, this is where it gets tough. Typically, as social beings, we want to attract people—not turn them off! No one ever said having faith was easy. For me, fortunately, the friend who I saw yesterday was there during one of my darkest moments. She had allowed me to not only shed every bit of dirty lint with her that I needed to at the time, but as it turned out, she related fully since she too suffered from similar circumstances in her younger years! Isn’t God good? I mean, what’s the likelihood of that? Trust me, even though you might think that a person’s outsides look so different from yours, you’d be surprised how his or her insides duplicate yours! I have found that most people, no matter how “put together” they seem, cannot escape this life without experiencing some sort of brokenness at some time in their lives.

DSC02859As I shared my innermost feelings and secrets to this friend, and she with me, we connected through our own human element and then we were better able to move forward…as least until the next round of curve balls that life would likely unleash. Fact is, if we take and risk and dare to share our secrets and vulnerabilities, I have found that the process not only bonds us with others, but also connects us to ourselves. Risking our inner selves with others reaffirms and reminds us that we are human and we are as good as good gets.  The icing on the cake is although my friend and I are very busy, and we do not see each other as often as we would like, our common yuckiness that we shared so long ago will always form a fine (as in deliciously fine!) bond between us. This alone reminds me that I do not travel what can at times appear to be a solitary journal—unless I decide to not pick up any passengers for the ride, which can make for an awful lonesome ride.

Until next time….Faith forward!

(Where’s) Wear your joy

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Ecclesiastes 9:7

thJoy

Lucinda Williams

I don’t want you anymore
cause you took my joy
I don’t want you anymore
you took my joy

you took my joy
I want it back
you took my joy
I want it back

Over two years ago, when the relationship that I had for 21 years started to peel apart like old asbestos-laden paint (hear a tad of anger in that statement), lip-syncing Lucinda’s words loud when I was alone in my car was one of the most healing cathartic tools. It is a rough song with rough lyrics. And the Yankee rebel in me, my alter ego, just had to, short of shooting a gun, had to have rough. Rough never felt so good.

Man, justified anger can beat out a scoop of thick and creamy vanilla ice cream any day. The truth, of course, is no one or nothing can rob you of your joy. I know that. Victim, however, is such a nice unaccountable spot to park yourself in. When you are a victim, you don’t take responsibility. The world revolves around your bellybutton, and there is great safety in living a couch potato status where the greatest question of the day is, “What TV channel should I turn on?”

Okay, so there I was with the bag of chips…a head full of woes and an earful of Lucinda’s blasting lyrics. After a while, I knew I had to put, like someone told me, my big-girl panties on. Sitting around feeling sorry for myself can be a dangerous place. So I discarded the chips, shut the head-knocking lyrics off and flicked my living switch on.

How do you find joy in the midst of heartbreak and crisis? First, you have to know that it is not a rare commodity. Every living being possesses it organically.

Oprah Winfrey said it best, “Joy is a sustained sense of well-being and internal peace—a connection to what matters.”

joyoftheLordTo me peace and well-being are synonymous with faith. In other words, God lives in me. I just have to want that state of God being. Anything we want in our lives starts with, duh, desire.

My God, fortunately, has a sense of humor that is contagious. Humor inspires me. Humor saves me. When all else fails, being able to see the humor in everything sustains me. It is my joy. Even during the darkest moments, I share a joke with a friend and, suddenly, my gust of laughter is like a breath of life; it sustains me.  Laughter gives me faith like nothing else, saying, “I am your oxygen, and I will see to it that your organs not only survive, but thrive ‘cause I’m going to tickle them pink!”

Every day, I make a very conscientious decision to take back my life. It’s not easy to wear the big-girl panties, but when I do, it’s so worth it. Every now and then, I slip back to the stinking thinking that someone or something took my joy away, and that’s okay. These days, I have a drawer packed with an assortment of big-girl panties to choose from, so my flimsy excuses not to have joy—even in the eye of crisis—cannot breach a carefully selected pair of briefs.

Until next time….Faith forward!

Jesus was not a Debbie Downer, so why should I be?

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Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

 Sometime while in post-trauma, I can allow crisis to define my thinking and emotions.

In a nutshell: NO GOOD. NO GOD.

When I feel myself slip into emotional turmoil and upset, instead of focusing on friends and family who have been by my side, the cloud over my head cripples me to believe that I am alone.

Instead of focusing on the monetary wins that I have received especially after a financial downslide, in a split second, I can reawake the vision of the wolf at the door.

Instead of trusting, at least sometimes, after suffering a divorce, a new romance in my life is not necessarily going to kick me overboard, but maybe, in actuality, help keep the float above water just a little more.

Negative thinking destroys me. It lies to me and tells me there is no promise of a tomorrow.

If ever there was a promise of tomorrow, it is the theme behind Calvary. However, swallowed by the darkness of Calvary, Jesus was not a negative thinker and not one to throw a pity party.

I mean, did he say, “Hey, wait a minute, I’m a good guy. I got a lot of charitable acts to prove it. I don’t deserve this. It’s not fair. It’s not fair!  It’s not fair!”

Did he cry uncle?

No, he had said seven things, which Christians emphasize especially during Lent, Holy Week and Good Friday.

As quoted from Wikipedia, “Sayings of Jesus on the Cross”:

  1. Father forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).
  2. Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43).
  3. Woman, behold your son: behold your mother (John 19:26-27).
  4. My God, My God, why have you forsaken me, (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34).
  5. I thirst (John 19:28).
  6. It is finished (John 19:30).
  7. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46).

(Traditionally, these seven sayings are called words of 1. Forgiveness, 2. Salvation, 3. Relationship, 4. Abandonment, 5. Distress, 6. Triumph and 7. Reunion.)

On Cavalry, Jesus experienced abandonment and distress; juxtapose that with forgiveness, salvation, relationship, triumph and reunion, and you know these are not the ingredients for a robust pity party.

The thought of Calvary helps me turn my thinking around and abandon the pity party grab bags.

the-star-sun

To me, God is light not darkness. Birth not death. Resurrection. During this Christian time of Lent, it is good for me to reflect upon this especially when the old negative gremlins attack.  If I set my sights on my Higher Power instead of my brainpower, then I am guaranteed that the beam of light will bleach out even my most tar-soaked moments and absolutely bring me the hope of tomorrow without compromise.

Until next time….Faith forward!

What greater test of faith than death?

John 14:16 “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.”

Christmas Eve 2012 Celebration at our home

Christmas Eve 2012 Celebration at our home

(Written 02/25/13 @ 2 a.m.) 

My dearest friend’s sister, who was diagnosed with ALS less than a month ago, died a little after midnight this morning.

My friend Pat, I believe (and I’m not alone in my opinion), is the closest thing you will ever find on this earth to the Blessed Mother. Although her now deceased sister Maureen permanently resided in Georgia, Pat, at first clueless to her sister’s failing state, had opened up her Connecticut home to her on and off since 2010 after her younger sister had become a widow. Her last “visit” stretched on for months. This past month, 75-year-old Maureen’s health declined rapidly. Over the last couple of weeks, Pat spent the core of the day pureeing foods and hand feeding her sister.

Prior to the official diagnosis, Pat had exhaustively researched the condition after another doctor, who had evaluated Maureen, had suspected the condition. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is the most common degenerative disease of the motor neuron system. As motor neurons die, patients lose the ability to control their body and, eventually, become paralyzed. When the muscles in the throat deteriorate, ALS patients begin to choke.

It is a fatal condition; median survival is 3-5 years. According to Medscape Reference, “Aspiration pneumonia and medical complications of immobility contribute to morbidity in patients with ALS.”

Upon final diagnosis, Pat confided to me that she realized that her sister would likely choke to death on her own saliva. Leaving the neurologist’s office, even though she knew the sad reality of the situation, she still uttered these three words: “I’m at peace.”

In fact, Pat’s second set of words was “God will take care of it.”

“God?” I wanted to say. “I mean, really? I mean this is a job for professionals. Big time professionals.”

I was the fear talking. Pat was the faith. When crisis arises, that’s how it is; the pendulum can swing either way—faith/fear/faith/fear…sometimes repeatedly, erratically back and forth. In Pat’s case, there is only one way to swing, faith. This woman, among many other things, teaches me that religion and spirituality can live in the same house. She also teaches me that, despite some bad press in the past, some practicing Catholics rock. I am one hundred percent certain that if everyone in the world were living as unselfishly as Pat, her acts of kindness would bridge heaven and earth so much closer.

When I first met Pat some thirty years ago, she was part of the Catholic Charismatic movement. Outside of the church’s door, she, along with her now deceased husband, inspired me to step back into the church—first with one foot, then two. Over these many years, the way most people work at their jobs, Pat works at her faith. Now well into her seventies she still goes to daily Mass and takes on numerous commitments at her church with the stamina of a thirty year old. In her mid-seventies, she formally became a Third Order Carmelite, a layperson who is committed to God through daily, prescribed prayer, retreats and religious meetings while living an active life in the world.

When she first started her venture as a Carmelite, I was a little irked. So much going on, I said to her and here you’re wasting all this time praying; despite my critical response to her decision, I have watched in awe Pat’s progression in her spiritual life.

Any battles that she has had in life, she has surrendered to God; just like the one with Maureen. In these last few weeks and months her calm is rare in our world. A few hours before I found out about Maureen’s condition, which had taken a complete downhill turn within twenty-four hours, I spoke to Pat over the telephone. She was at the hospital at her sister’s bedside, awaiting her nephew, Maureen’s son, to arrive and give permission to stop life support.

“I’m at peace.” I heard her familiar words again.

About an hour later, around 11:30 p.m., spontaneously moved by the Holy Spirit, I picked up Pat’s other sister and drove to the hospital’s ICU. Pat, who stood next to her sister’s son, radiated when she saw her other sister, the eldest surviving sister in the family.

“I had just wished you could be here.”

From that point on, we prayed; near the end, the Catholic chaplain arrived and jointed us. Afterwards, he said it was nice to hear such faith-filled people pray so loudly. When you have faith, I guess hard rock stars aren’t the only ones who can shake the house down.

Shortly after he left, in the eye of death, during a time of crisis, I witnessed the Holy. The family let their sister and mom go with the unquestioning, unfailing faith, certain that she went over to an eternal life with God. They had let go and let her step gracefully home. The transition was so flawless that I knew that all there was beyond the confines of this world was heaven, and, so it was, the perfect finale to a story that was so faithfully lived.

Until next time….Faith forward!