Transcending the “Whys?”

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”.

Life Without Facebook Part I

“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.

Brush With Greatness!!

I have been a member and contributor on the Young Widow Bulletin Board since a few months after Don passed away. It has been a lifeline, as well as an opportunity to communicate with and meet other widows and widowers who share the same journey. It is through this venue I have met and developed friendships with some amazing individuals. Recently, a member of the bulletin board contacted me regarding a thread to which I had contributed. One that she found particularly interesting.Seems she is writing an article for a well-known weekly publication on the topic and wanted to interview me for the article. 

Along with the email, she sent a link to her web site to authenticate her interest. 
(https://jacquelynmitchard.com). With a click of my mouse, her web site came up and I immediately recognized her, Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of Deep End of the Ocean, Oprah’s first “Book Club Book”. I was excited and a bit timid (I know, hard to believe) that this famous author would be interested in anything I had to say. Jacquelyn and I began communicating via email a couple times a day for several weeks. We’d share tidbits about family, “the widow experience”, and life in general. We often would send one or two line blurbs, but at other times it would take paragraphs to express our thoughts. I have to say that I felt a connection with her right away. 

Last week I received an email from Jackie stating that she was going to be in Bloomington with her son (he was auditioning for musical theatre at Illinois Wesleyan) and wanted to know if we could get together for lunch. I couldn’t have been more excited to meet someone. Not only to bask in her literary knowledge, but also to meet, in person, this new friend I had made. I anxiously responded that I would love to meet with her whenever she was available.

While sitting in Biaggi’s with a very special friend awaiting Jackie’s entrance, I suddenly realized that I wasn’t even nervous—excited, but not nervous. When she walked into the restaurant her presence was sensed in the room—she had a strong, confident persona. I gave her a hug and she sat down. I introduced her to my friend, and we began to talk right away. It was a comfortable exchange. We spoke freely about our history and life story. She was a widow at a young age, so conversation logically turned in that direction. There we sat, the three of us with this shared experience of loss and an instant bond was created. It still amazes me how collective life experiences create immediate friendships. 

We listened as Jackie shared her life journey from widowhood to remarriage; how she had survived as a single parent and successfully blended and created her current family (seven children—wow!!). She was honest about the difficulties, struggles and ultimate triumphs of creating her “chapter two”. 

We discussed her life as a writer. I was interested in how she researched books, how long it took to write, and in her writing processes. Jackie shared the plot of her next book due out this summer and of the young adult book to be released at the end of this month. She brought copies of her new book, Cage of Stars and a copy of Deep End of the Ocean, to autograph for me. They will be books I will treasure. As we sat enjoying each other’s company, it seemed like we were simply old friends meeting to “catch up”.

Jackie spoke of the cheerleader competition that was being held at the college where her son was auditioning. She told of the girls sitting in the front of the building speaking, as teenagers do—about whatever it is teenagers converse about. As she relayed the girls’ conversation to us, it was as if we were listening to them ourselves. It is this writer’s eye that makes Jacquelyn’s writing resonate. She sees the world through the eyes of a writer. Conversations and life activities surround us on a daily basis. We pay little attention to them, yet to a writer each incident is significant—an opportunity for expression. I made a mental note to share this with my students.

Was this a chance connection with a famous author? I don’t think so. I do believe Jacquelyn Mitchard was one of those brought into my life to dance with me (see blog entry: http://www.breathingsoftheheart.com/2006/08/26/lord-of-the-dance ) and I with her; partners on a journey of shared experiences, yet living diverse lives. I am thankful for those who continually are symbols of hope; those who exemplify that through pain, joy can be found—Jacquelyn Mitchard is one such beacon.

This I know for sure….