Tag Archives: God

Hebrews 13:2

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This is a true story.

After dealing with LabCorp today and getting nowhere, I decided to run errands. It was sooo hot I wore a tank top and my tattoo sleeves.

I found a penny by the car, money side up. This has happened to me so often when I’ve been concerned about my finances that I’ve taken to calling it angel money.

In Tuesday Morning, I was a little annoyed at having to wait on the cashier to finish her story. So I eavesdropped.

She said to the customer in front of me, “And then this little boy sitting behind me pulled three roses out of the arrangement and handed them to three different women. I took it as a sign that meant everything is just going to be OK.”

In Kroger, I was a little annoyed at having to wait on a woman talking on her cell phone at the salad bar, who was dawdling over the romaine. So I eavesdropped on her, too.

She said, “She’s got about two weeks to go on her treatment. There’s a whole list of people praying and pulling for her.”

At least half a dozen people stopped to admire my tattoo sleeves and were shocked they weren’t ink. Young men smiled at me and stepped politely aside. Young women asked where they could get them for themselves.

A guy more my age followed me around the gourmet section and asked me on a date.

I told him I was expensive.

He said, “I’ve got Mama’s money until they cut me off.”

I laughed and kept walking, but in hindsight I should have asked him to pay my lab bill. I’m sure Mama wouldn’t mind.

This is what happens when people like you offer prayers and healing energy. A flock of angels arrive with messages of hope and joy — and even romance, or something like it. And they seem to be in no hurry to move out of my way.

Thanks for your contributions of love and money. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Forget not to shew love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. ~ Hebrews 13:2, English Revised Version

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windows

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I dreamed that I was on the phone with a nurse, trying to complete the information necessary for Dad’s hospital stay.

I dreamed that my brother and I went to a group therapy session where Mom said that I was not actually born in January and that she had two other children that we did not know about.  We looked at each other while trying to decide if this was the truth or delusion.

I woke suddenly, my desperation and confusion as vivid as it was nearly a year ago, when it was real and daily for almost three weeks.

In the recovery community we are well aware of the emotional tides that an anniversary brings.  And while some brush it off as folklore, others of us invariably have a using dream around the time of our sobriety date.

When I was a young woman, a beau took me to his aunt’s beach house for a holiday.  The sea was rather rough on our first day out.

“If a big wave comes along,” he said, “just duck down and let it wash over you.  That way it won’t knock you down.”

That advice has been a metaphor for me throughout recovery, reminding me that humility and surrender are not evidence of weakness, but of courage.  They are also the biggest windows one can open to allow grace to enter one’s life.

So this morning I am letting the waves of grief wash over me.  I am giving myself time for my heart to slow down and my panic to subside, reminding myself that it’s over.  I got through it.  And I am OK.

I am remembering I have more than a dozen friends who’ve lost a parent, a sibling, a child, a grandparent, even an ex-spouse in the past three years.  From time to time they reach out to me, surprised by the intensity of their sadness.

This is for them.  I love you.  You will get through it.  And you are OK.

triage

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when Faith is a well-chewed pencil point breaking mid-page,

on the periphery, Hope quietly burps and squints through a frazzled curl.

The skyline returns to its place in the distance
while Love finds a spot not far from the marker,

merrily beaming and resolute as the greening wood.

~ for Rachel

slamming doors

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When my neighbor goes out, I hear him.  This building has heavy doors that have to be slammed shut.  So last night around 8 pm I felt the familiar vibrations in my room.

Good, I thought.  I hope he’s going someplace fun.  Earlier I had heard him singing downstairs.  His car has been in its spot a lot lately, and I was afraid maybe he was ill.  So I was glad to know he was getting out.

He wasn’t gone long.  Maybe dinner out and a movie in.

I heard him leave again around 10. Time for the bands to start.  I imagined him laughing and dancing in a club downtown.

But he returned in less than an hour.

And then left again.

And came back.

And left again.

During the times I was trying to go back to sleep, I made up a story about this charming and lovely young man.  He simply went to the store for cookies.  Got home, decided he needed milk. Forgot his wallet and had to make another round trip.

I remember someone telling me about buying 8 balls all night long, one at a time, until the money ran out.  I don’t remember the figure, just that it was several months’ rent.

I don’t know if the money ran out for my neighbor.  The last time I heard the door slam it was followed by a loud thud, just the sound a large chair makes when it’s knocked over.  Or just the sound a healthy male body makes when it hits the floor.

I got up this morning and put in my half-day at work. I made lunch, loaded the dishwasher.  I sat by the open window to write.

The rain has begun.  It is the only sound on the street.  There has been no singing downstairs.

Mentally I review Chapter 5 of the Big Book.  I am glad my neighbor is single, that he has no children at home.

I ask God to help him, and me, and all the homes with slamming doors.

Bill

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Bill

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. ~ I John 4:18.

In J school we were taught not to bury the lead. But this is my blog and I can do what I want to because I am a grownup.

I remember a sermon decades ago; the minister was saying that John was the Love Apostle and in his gospel account of Jesus’ life, John was just getting warmed up.

The intro in my Bible to I John says his gospel and three books were all written around the same time and that II John was written to a Chosen Lady, who may have been a person or who may have been the Church.

Times were tough and there was a lot of double-speak in the fellowship because, well, you could get killed just for knowing who Jesus was.

So when in I John 2:10 he says, “Whoever loves his brother lives in the light,” he was probably talking about the disciples, but for me this verse is about the other child of my parents, Bill.

He was named for my dad’s dad, William, and for my dad’s favorite ball player, Stan Musial. He showed up in our family a week before Christmas on December 17. His birthday was like the pre-party for Santa. I’m trying to remember if Bill ever had a gift that wasn’t wrapped in red or green.

I was not yet 2 when Bill was placed in the car seat (yes, we had them then) next to me in the back of our ’53 Plymouth. I wasn’t sure what he was or why he was there, and I promptly smacked him on the head.

What ensued was a lot of yelling and crying from the front seat of the car. I have been viewed with suspicion and alarm by my parents ever since, and rightly so.

Bill and I haven’t been a big part of each other’s life for the last 30+ years. We’ve made up for it over the past three weeks, I think.

What has been remarkable has been our ability to work in tandem. On July 21 and 22 when my dad and mom respectively went to the ER, we chose to trust each other, in spite of what we’d been repeatedly told was the truth about us.

For myself, I sent up a short prayer right about then to God, asking Him to please help me to keep my gnarly ego quiet. If I could play nice, that most certainly would attest to the power of prayer.

I tell folks (when I can remember to do so) that in every tragedy lies a blessing. We may not see where the blessing falls, but if you’re lucky you can get some on your shoes.

So my blessing today is that I know Bill has my back. I hope he knows that I have his. I love him. And I am in the Light.

lovebirds

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Last night my daughter called. There doesn’t seem to be a flat rock in the middle of our lives where we can just sit in the sun and be still for a while.

“It’s an icky place to be,” I said.

“It’s icky,” she replied.

I woke this morning with a familiar flutter in my chest, about two degrees of stress away from a panic attack. It sort of feels like too much caffeine, only I haven’t had any yet.

Last Sunday afternoon my brother called. Mom was afraid and had called the police. Dad was angry and combative.  About six hours later he was admitted to a hospital room.

On Monday Dad’s nurse called me to come get Mom. About five hours later she was admitted to a room around the corner from Dad.

They both have some form of dementia. It doesn’t matter which kind, they’re impaired. Their bodies have outlived their minds and that just doesn’t seem fair.

On Wednesday I went to their house to remove anything that burglars might want and to bag up what might need laundering. I filled the hatch of my car with boxes of files, anything that looked like an important document. I left the four leaf bags full of laundry on the living room floor. I put two leaf bags full of ruined bedding in the trash.

On Thursday I went back and removed boxes of photos, more documents, stacks of mail, folios of papers: my dad’s military records, my mom’s notebooks.

I went home and began looking for the money. A memory care facility for both of them is going to be expensive.

By Saturday afternoon I had it all sorted. I had discarded enough paper to fill the garbage cart: junk mail, magazines, empty envelopes. Mom’s carefully collected recipes are on the kitchen table. Boxes of cancelled checks and insurance policies and medical records litter the living room floor.

My parents never owned a computer. My dad has an Underwood typewriter that uses a ribbon. Among his stuff I found a box of typewriter erasers and brushes and several packs of carbon paper.

As I type this I am thinking that some of my readers will not know what these things are, and I can feel them Googling now.

st.francis

Grammy & Grampy are both patients in the hospital. Both have dementia. She doesn’t remember why they are there, and she keeps trying to take him home. Doc says they are trying to keep the #lovebirds together. ❤️

“Have they ever been apart?” my brother asked.

“In the ’60s Dad went on active duty for two weeks,” I replied.

I took my parents some clothing during visiting hours. They were sitting in the hall with another patient, in chairs lined against the wall across from the nurses’ station.

Mom now talks of nothing else but caring for Dad. His welfare is her only need.

She asked me to help her find a place for them to live. When she began to weep, I cradled her. She rested her head on my shoulder like a little girl and quieted. Her body felt like delicate glass that might shatter at any second.

Gently prodding Dad awake, she said, “Look who’s here.”

Dad slowly brought me into focus and smiled. He was too groggy to speak, but he winked at me. To this day it thrills me when he does that.

Mom rose from her chair to wipe his lips with a corner of his blanket. She smoothed his hair and kissed him on the mouth.

“We want to keep the lovebirds together,” their doctor said.

Yes. As long as we can. #lovebirds

witness

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heartfull_choose_love_-5587Sometimes you have a day in which you feel everything is falling into place.

You didn’t do anything; you’ve just been putting one foot in front of the other, trying to do a little better with your diet and exercise, maybe taking five minutes to meditate, reaching out to a friend who’s struggling and telling her that she matters.

Maybe it’s because your doctor tweaked your meds a little. Maybe it’s because the rain cleared the air and it’s easier to breathe. And maybe it’s simply grace.

Whatever the reason, those days have been few and far between over the last several years, and I am grateful for this one. And I want to tell you: don’t give up. You can have one, too. It’s my belief that God wants us to have an abundant life and that our struggles ennoble us. And with a little gratitude, I can see that my life is already abundant, that I have more than everything I need.

That’s all. I love you and I know that you love me. We can’t help it. It’s how we’re made.

loveliness

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Rarely if ever have I remembered my time before recovery with wistfulness. Today was an exception.

Spotify may be the best investment I’ve made in many moons. A few keystrokes and “Layla” is streaming through my headphones.

Something about the late sun striping the bedspread in the tender angst of Friday afternoon takes me back some decades ago, when I knelt before my cheap little speakers, strained to cracking with Derek and the Dominoes.

The ache of all my hearts, the one in my mind and the one in my soul, the ones past and present, poured out as I howled away some murky loss, too deep for my own understanding. Today I marvel at how I was able to release the deep cold keening from my guts to the accompaniment of Duane Allman’s wobbly blues guitar.

I loved being that drunk. I loved the ability the wine gave me to smash through the restraints of society and discipline and shame and just wallow in my pain. I never felt more alive than when I was intimately in touch with the thing that hurt me, that walked every step with me, that never seemed to abate without the blessedness of alcohol roaring in my ears, drowning out my thoughts.

This is how I know that I am an alcoholic and that I will always be one. This is how people who are like me immediately identify with what I’ve written. Booze gives us a religious experience like no other. It puts us in touch with the God within us in no other way because it provides a visceral awareness of our own blood and the mayhem of our lives.

As a recovering alcoholic, I am mindful of the power of these thoughts. I try to refrain from glamorizing that time when I am in AA meetings, because I well remember sitting on a hard metal chair, teeth chattering from anxiety, wishing I could do it any other way.

But nothing else worked, and until I could touch the God within me through grace and mercy, I would recite the words and say the prayers and hope like hell no one talked about how glorious it was to be potted like a plant by means of some chemical.

I go tonight to be with those like me. Many of us are artists, writers, chefs, creators of lovely things, and we are giving of our loveliness to raise money for people who are also trying to do it our way, finding God within themselves. There will be alcohol there. That’s a big puzzle for some.

The truth is, we find that the harder we try to obliterate the fact of alcohol, the more likely we are to drink. I personally have found that shaking hands with my demons and calling them by name is more likely to keep us in a civilized partnership.

And interestingly, in spite of my nostalgia for the past, I have no desire to drink today. The price is simply too high, and the extremes of emotion as consequence of it are exhausting. Most of that deep cold keening has faded and crumbled, and in its place is the quiet knowledge that I know where I’m going, even when I don’t.

trinity

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Sometimes the time just seems magic.

It has been a time of reconnection for me, of quiet conversation over food with this friend and that one, some spent alone in the quiet, clearing away the clutter in my environment and in my head.

I recognized some years ago that my recovery requires three things: prayer, writing and sharing thoughts with another person. This trinity makes itself evident most when I am seeking or providing help in our most practical and pervasive challenge: that of understanding the people around us.

My daughter is on a beautiful beach somewhere in the southern U.S., navigating a romance. One friend is walking her Path with family passed and present. Another friend is sifting through the lingering messages of addiction recovery.

Mulling over the conversations of three days in a row, what stands out is that life is a lovely wilderness with exciting obstacle courses that test our acquired skills and teach us new ones.

For those new to the Path, it is like Marine boot camp. The instructor is harsh and the tasks required of us are strenuous and unfamiliar. What I have learned is that the instructor has one goal in mind: teach us how to survive. The insults and bullying are not personal; they are edifying. The pain sustained will pass if we do not resent it.

For those of us who are challenging the negative inner voice, it is like boarding school. The voices strike at our soft underbelly, the tenderest parts of us. Here we learn to thicken our skin, to run the gantlet that sometimes brutally attempts to distract us from our goal, that of freedom.

For those who are trying to live outside ourselves and our comfort zones, it is marshaling our allies and agreeing to a battle plan: we must march in the same direction. We cannot always be on the front line, and it is important to have comrades who will allow us to fall back and even retreat when we are weary.

This requires trust, a gift from God, I am certain, because mine is in short supply at times. Yet it refills itself from some divine Source that I cannot comprehend.

The lesson I have learned is that I must not punish myself for my mistakes.

In “The Four Agreements,” Don Miguel Ruiz says, “…it is important for you to master your own dream.”

This is the basis for my role as sponsor, medium, channel, friend and partner. Easy to say, hard to do. As always, I depend on grace as my ultimate rescue when I am stuck. But I find I can access grace more abundantly if I pray, write and share.

the freedom to be outlandish

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outlandishI am up early; the house is quiet. My editors don’t need me yet so I can sip my coffee without a file waiting in my queue. It’s a nice feeling, unpacking a brand new day at my leisure.

I cruised by Julia Cameron’s blog for a bit. She’s bookmarked in my ARTS folder. It’s the place where I park important sites related to creativity. There’s lots in there about knitting but also about spirituality.

My rationale goes something like this: if God is the Great Creator and we are made in His image, then we must be creative as well. Julia says that in all her years of teaching she has never met a totally not-creative person.

Personally, my creativity is not limited to what I do with my hands. When I was an art director I learned how to think creatively, to find interesting solutions to common problems, to turn a thing on its head, to view life through a prism. Even at the time, I knew I was living in a gift, being paid to have the freedom to be outlandish.

We’ve had a break in the weather. The sun sets sooner and comes up later. I quit knitting a tank top and started knitting a shrug. The neighborhood yard sale is this weekend: it’s a good time to take inventory and divest myself of stuff.

I’m still married to the notion that I have to hang onto things because I might have a need for them someday. There’s also the pile of objects I keep because I just like the way they look. But occasionally I play a mental game in which I am packing to move into a new space. It sort of helps me determine just how much crap I really need to take with me.

This is true of my inner residence as well. Stubborn myths and contracts remain attached to my heart even though I have chipped away at them over the years. But others have become mushy and friable and I am relieved to realize that I am no longer bound by the peculiar catechism of my childhood.

Being outlandish can be lonely. But I find it attracts people of like-minded pursuits, those who find joy in service, those who are tired of their rut, those who are pioneers. These are the ones I depend on to lend me an arm when I am limping.

So down the path I go, probably the one less traveled. Surely treasure awaits.