For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power and love. 2 Timothy 1:7
It’s the news that changes your life for ever. It either illuminates your faith or nullifies it – it strengthens your friendships or dissolves them – defines your character or distorts it. Nothing is the same–the familiar is no where to be found and “normal” no longer exists.
While awaiting a liver biopsy, my friend and I sat in the waiting room- she explaining the steps that brought them to this point and me understanding the familiar journey all too well. Holding back tears–I listened. The results came at the end of the week–stage four liver cancer.
People call times like these “defining moments” and for some, this is the case. It is also the commencement of questioning. Why? Why is this happening to me, my kids, my family? Why is God allowing this to happen? Why, after all we’ve been through…? Why….? It is the natural human response.
I personally believe that the “whys” matter little. If, by some inexplicable means, we were able to know the reason, would it matter? Would we then be able to say, “Sure God, now I get it. That makes perfect sense to me, no problem.”? – of course not! No answer would be sufficient.
The obstacle lies when “why” living begins to bog us down, when we allow the “whys” of life to stifle our ability to live fully in the here and now. Dwelling in the “why” causes us to drown in our circumstances, leaving us depleted of energy and faith.
To transcend living in the “why” is a choice, albeit a difficult one–a choice to put faith above doubt, hope above despair, and gratitude above pity. Perhaps it is even an opportunity to see God through the pain, to know God more fully – to experience His grace and love even when we can’t comprehend the “whys”.
“Time has no meaning in itself unless we choose to give it significance” -Leo Buscaglia-
I have survived almost two weeks without Facebook. I haven’t checked my status, your status, your photos, my news feed–you get the idea. Guess what I have found? TIME! Yes, I have an unexpected amount of extra time on my hands. I do miss “socially networking” with friends and family, but the residual blessings have been worth it.
When I exited Facebook I did so with wordage similar to “now you will have to contact me in the old-fashioned way: phone me, email me or text me”. Who would think “texting” is old-fashioned (chuckle)? I had no idea that so many would take me up on my request. I have had more folks call to “check-in”, email to share a story or simply connect, of all things, in person. I have thoroughly enjoyed it.
Part of the decision I made when giving up Facebook was the promise that with the time I normally spent “networking”, I would use more constructively – writing, praying, reflecting etc… I had no understanding of what this change would entail or look like in reality.
On my first day without Facebook, I walked into the house, plopped my book bag on the kitchen counter and thought to myself, “Now, what are you going to do?” Seems that I normally spend a good deal of my initial “down time” after work networking on Facebook. Only a moment passed before a friend came to mind – one who lives far from me, but who is going through an amazingly trying time. I sat down to write her a note. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a handwritten letter to someone. A few days later, a friend called with grave health news. She needed someone to just listen and asked if she could stop by. I not only had the time to spend with her, I had the energy and focus to lend an ear. Just yesterday, another friend called to say, “I miss you on Facebook (I had to smile) and want you to know about this great decision I am making for my life (extra big smile), so I decided to call.”
I wonder if I would I have made these same decisions even without the Facebook “fast”? I would like to think so, but I am not sure if that is the case. This act of self-denial has not only provided the time to contemplate, it has caused me to become more intentional in the use of my time. My aspiration is to live more in the present, to find a way to reach beyond the “noise” of life, and to learn to tame the “hurry”.
I just finished a book by Ann Voskamp entitled One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. The entire book was a blessing, but her words particularly resonate when she articulates the frenzied life we sometimes live.
Hurry always empties the soul….I speak it to God; I don’t really want more time; I just want enough time. Time to breathe deep and time to see real and time to laugh long, time to give You glory and rest deep and sing joy and just enough time in a day not to feel hounded, pressed, driven or wild to get it done– yesterday.”
This is where I often reside–robbed of my joy and strength because my life is too hurried. I understand that Facebook is not the reason I feel drained of time, it is simply one of the many diversions which exhausts my energy each day. Only by reducing the life “noise” am I able to hear, enjoy and experience the now. I am learning to live fully in these moments of life when God is ever near–these moments that allow me to slow down the pace, get my breath and live fully with thanksgiving (eucharisteo).
As a disclaimer: My blog is set to automatically post to Facebook (even though I am not on it right now)–ironic isn’t it? So if you wish to make a comment on this post that you would like for ME to see–then you will have to view it from my blog and comment there.
How many of these 100 books have you read? Copy and paste the list on your blog, highlight the books you have read and then post a link here to your blog.
I am not sure what criteria was used to compile this list, but it seems fairly complete (with the exception of The Five People You Meet in Heaven and Bridget Jones Diary) The BBC says the average person has only read 6 books on the list. Looks like I better get reading…
1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen 2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien 3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte 4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling 5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee 6 The Bible 7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte 8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell 9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman 10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens 11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott 12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy 13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller 14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – read some, but not others… 15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier 16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien 17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk 18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger 19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger 20 Middlemarch – George Eliot 21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell 22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald 23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens 24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy 25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams 26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh 27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky 28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck 29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll 30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame 31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy 32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens 33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis 34 Emma – Jane Austen 35 Persuasion – Jane Austen 36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe 37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini 38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres 39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden 40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne 41 Animal Farm – George Orwell 42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown 43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez 44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving 45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins 46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery 47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy. 48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood 49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding 50 Atonement – Ian McEwan 51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel 52 Dune – Frank Herbert 53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons 54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen 55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth. 56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon 57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens 58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley 59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon 60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez 61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck 62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov 63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt 64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold 65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas 66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac 67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy 68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding 69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie 70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville 71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens 72 Dracula – Bram Stoker 73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett 74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson – No but I just finished his new book AT HOME and loved it. 75 Ulysses – James Joyce 76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath 77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome 78 Germinal – Emile Zola 79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray 80 Possession – AS Byatt. 81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens 82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell 83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker 84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro 85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert 86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry 87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White 88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom 89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton 91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad 92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery 93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks 94 Watership Down – Richard Adams 95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole 96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute 97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas 98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare 99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl 100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
So how long can one keep up the charade of having it all together? How long can one pretend to know things for sure? Because tonight—-I don’t know much. I have little together and life seem to be in several stages of disarray. I am pulled in more directions than Gumby. Overwhelmed would be a gross understatement of how I feel as I sit here at my computer. It is in these times when I cry out—where I am the most vulnerable.
Sometimes I cry out and all I hear—is silence. Sometimes I cry out and I have unbelievable support—that I am unable to acknowledge and sometimes I cry out and find the hand of the Father where it has been all along – steadying my walk caressing my face and calming my spirit.
That “hand” can come in many forms. It can be a song, a poem, a phone call even a thought. It can be a friend stopping by on her way for a walk or an earthy father calling simply to say that he loves you. In order to experience the “hand of the Father” you must reach for it and embrace it. Action is required on your part.
I don’t know who Willerd A. Petterson is. I have actually never heard of him, but a fellow widower posted this beautiful poem on a website tonight and it became the “hand of the Father” in my life.
Slow Me Down, Lord
Slow me down, Lord Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind. Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal reach of time. Give me, amid the confusion of the day, the calmness of the everlasting hills. Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the soothing; music of the singing streams that live in my memory. Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep. Teach me the art of taking minute vacations— of slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to read a few lines from a good book. Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life’s enduring values that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.
At a moment in time when there is little I know for sure, the one thing I DO know is that the hand of the Father waits to be clasped within mine.
I just watched Dateline and the special “Football Wives” (see: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032600/ ) Now, I am not usually condescending or even sarcastic (ok, I am sarcastic but…), PLEASE GIVE ME A BREAK. As I watched these women with their husbands, I found myself yelling at the television and thinking “WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM???” I know I come at this topic from a totally different viewpoint, but let me put things into perspective for you. LADIES, IS YOUR HUSBAND BREATHING IN AND OUT—IS HE LIEING IN BED WITH YOU IN THE EVENING???? THEN PLEASE STOP YOUR SNIVILING ABOUT A STINKING BALLGAME AND GROW UP!!!!
Now granted, I never had a husband who was so into sports that he had a room dedicated to the Fighting Illini—HOWEVER, I did have a husband, who like many in this report, worked hard during the week and was a fabulous father and husband, but when the Illini came on, he was lost in the moment. OK—for 2 to 3 hours a week he was unavailable to me—SO WHAT????
I found these women to be—well—whimpy. I would venture to guess, if the truth were told; these men, for the most part, take care of the kids while the wife ventures to the latest Talbot’s sale or Ann Taylor Loft promotion. These wives should be thanking their lucky stars that they #1 have husbands at all and #2 have husbands who OBVIOUSLY love and adore them. Have these ungrateful women give me a call. I am sure that within a few minutes I can put things into perspective for them. Do I sound a bit bitter—well of course I do, I would give my right arm to have my husband sitting in my living room—cheering on his sports team and paying little attention to me—knowing that within a few hours he would be sharing life with me again.
I guess my point is that LIFE IS SHORT. Make sure what you think is important—really is….
Wednesday of this week was incredibly busy for me. It is on these days I tend to add tasks to my “to do list” because I just work better under pressure. I know it sounds crazy, but I become more focused and I seem to accomplish more. So, after school, along with the five other errands I needed to complete, I went to the cemetery to replace the flowers on Don’s grave. I drove up to his stone, got out of the car, glanced at my father-in-law’s monument (who died less than a year after Don), I said a prayer then grabbed the flower containers from both stones to take to the florist to be refilled. When I arrived at the florist, I told the designer what I wanted in each container. It was as if I were picking out a new centerpiece for my dining room table. I was very “matter of fact” – devoid of much emotion; yet, I seemed compelled to complete the task perfectly.
When I got back in my car, I realized that I had just accomplished an undertaking that a few months ago was so emotionally ridden that I was unable to drive out of the parking lot for 20 minutes until I finished weeping. It was in that moment I realized I was experiencing healing. I actually smiled on the inside on my way home, knowing that Don would be very proud of the progress I have made. He would love the fact that I have been able to move to a new home, keep my church commitments, be a mother to the boys, maintain a semblance of dignity and begin to live again. He would be proud that the boys are excelling in their pursuits and that they are content and even happy.
Next week, I will go pick up the finished arrangements and take them back to adorn the monument marking the life of a great man. The actual physical stone deserves to be maintained in his honor, but the stone in the cemetery is not my husband’s legacy. The heritage of love and integrity he left for his family is a more appropriate monument to Don’s life.
Ever look into the mirror and wonder whom the stranger is staring back at you? Usually this is after a major life event or traumatic experience. Life seems to create in us this quandary as to who we are and what our purpose should become.
I have always been an independent, stable woman with a career I love and a zest for life and living. However, when I look in the mirror I no longer see that woman. Oh I get glimpses of her here and there, but the general essence of who I was is veiled. It isn’t that I am a totally different person; it is that those aspects of who I am, which I found familiar, seem absent. I find this disheartening, or should I?
Just because the person staring back at me in the mirror is unfamiliar, doesn’t mean she is unwelcome. It simply means I need to become comfortable with her again. I need to explore what makes her tick—how she lives, makes decisions—how she loves and how she takes on life.
We evolve and change constantly. Life events and circumstances influence this change. I am not the same person I was before I was a mother.That experience molded me. I am not the same person I was before I experienced great loss, that event has shaped who I have become.
As I work through this process of re-acquaintance, I am not sure if I become more content with who I am or if it is that I begin to understand myself better and thus begin to accept and even become fond of this “new me”. I believe it becomes a choice.
I refuse to lose my sense of self. I refuse to allow this unfamiliarity to create within me insecurities that are cause for rash decisions or a sense of uncertainty. On the contrary, I embrace this new person and realize she is a collection of her experiences both past and present and is being fashioned to move forward into the “chapter two” of her life with a newfound appreciation for the outcome of life’s experiences.