Love, Holy Week, Time Travel

When you love someone, you know them, and you want to know them more and more. When they are suffering, you want to know their pain. When they are happy, you want to rejoice with them.

What is faith? Some do faith as a list of laws. Some do faith as an ideology. Many exploit a certain faith for the sake of controlling others. Some do faith as though we are following a distant God who set the earth in motion and watches for our every mistake.

My Faith is a relationship with someone that I often forget is right here. It is not a distant memory of someone who lived 2,000 ish years ago. It is not a system of sacred ceremonies to hold to ancient wisdom and divine revelations (well, a bit). At its core is a relationship with an actual person, the maker of the universe who creates and wonders and laughs and needs and feels pain. (Needs and feels pain, you say? See below.)  My faith is a relationship with someone who is present with me here and now… who I can reach out to behind, into, and through this veil of matter — beautifully created but often confusing matter – to find an ever-present heart which never imposes nor leaves me on my own. The hero of the universe is right here.

Saturday morning, listening to Fr. Tim’s homily, I was struck. John 11:45-56: The chief priests and the Pharisees were immensely afraid – the Romans would certainly crack down on them because of Jesus.  They did not like new religion nor fervor around anyone who seems to be a leader. Caiaphus said that it was better for one man to die for the people, and they planned to kill Jesus. So Jesus “no longer walked about in public.

Jesus had, indeed, been out and about.  He was teaching; he was healing. People could find him, touch him, listen to him. Then he went into hiding; he “no longer walked about in public;” he went to Ephraim in the desert and stayed there with his disciples.

Holy week is about walking with Jesus through his experiences. Have we been out in public then stuck hiding? Absolutely we have. This year, we absolutely have. When Fr. Tim spoke this, it hit my heart.

Holy week is a time to walk with Jesus through his capture, through his agony in the garden, through his betrayal and abandonment by beloved friends, through his torture and death. Jesus is right here with you, in your trials, gazing with love and bringing wisdom and help. Holy week is a time to be there with him too. And this year we have been given a chance like no other.

But didn’t this happen a long time ago?

Those who have studied the Mass know that the Mass isn’t simply remembering what happened a long time ago. It isn’t redoing it either. It is a time machine in a way. We go back and enter in.  Sure, it still looks like we are in a church (or lately, watching one on a screen), but with God there is no time. And at Mass, we are part of what happened, what is eternally happing. The lover is sacrificing himself for his beloved. Jesus, the Godman, is dying, then rising and conquering death.  At Mass, we are spiritually present there. When we are not at Mass, we can still join with him there in a different way;  we can let God bring our hearts to his at that eternal moment. We can be there with him because this person is someone we love.

Shared experiences create intimacy. The circumstances we are in, the Ephraim/hiding in the desert aspect of our lives, whatever fear and suffering and loss we have can be united to our beloved Christ. We can enter into his passion. We can hold him on the cross and let his wounds bleed into ours. We can let the death of a lot of things that matter to us be what bonds us to him more and more and then rise with him too with a heart full of triumphant graces for celebrating life.

God may not have needs and feel pain, but Jesus needed food, water, clothing, shelter. God with skin on definitely did. Paul said that we “Make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” which makes little sense to so many.  If Jesus is God, how could anything be lacking? But he had one human body. And we have more; the Church is called “the Body of Christ.”  So we unite with him and unite our sufferings too.

We don’t make ourselves suffer except to responsibly fast, but the world gives us trials and we can use them for good. This year, we’ve been handed a unique circumstance. Though sickness is not a good, aspects of this are a gift, and we have been exhorted not to waste it.  Let it bring us closer to Jesus, Yeshua, God incarnate, The Christ. One with him, amazing things await. We love him. Let us not distract ourselves but enter into Ephraim. This year, the road is easy to find.

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Laetare? Finding Peace Part Three

Hello everyone.  My friend shared this link on mental health in crisis, and I thought it was excellent. I want to share it with you. Click Here

I am working on a blog with health information from sources I trust as well as a blog listing a number of experiences available online that are pretty amazing.  For now, I want to share a bit about a spiritual side of all this.

Sunday we sent up candles, icons, statues etc. to make a sacred space in the living room apple-1122537_640in preparation to watch Mass on TV. The Gospel was John 9: 1-41, and I was struck by the line: “Night is coming when no one can work.” That is what it feels like right now. It feels like night when no one can work. It feels like a dark time in so many ways.

Sunday was Laetare Sunday for Catholics and many others.  “Laetare” means “rejoice.” The fourth Sunday of Lent is a time to rejoice in what is to come. Father Sean gave an amazing homily (click here and then click on Fr. Sean, March 22, 11 AM).  To inadequately paraphrase: It doesn’t seem that we have a lot to rejoice about.  Catholics (and some others) are deprived of the one thing that is the most important to us; the Eucharist.  We can receive Jesus in our hearts at all times, but we hunger to receive God physically again. We hunger for it like we never have.  Father Sean amazingly shared – I wish I had his words – how that hunger is increasing our prayer life. It is increasing our faith.

This time has already increased my prayer life. I had not been good at mixing prayer and busyness. These days, though I still have many things to do, staying put while I do them is so different. Daily, I am saying the Divine Mercy Chaplet with a friend, and  I pray with a rosary group most evenings. I have prayed with my immediate family as well, and we have more time to sit and talk. I can walk around the back yard and pray in quiet. I can do my writing and take time to find who I am again, along with opening my heart up again to the Source of my Strength.

One of the reasons I am praying more is because I have to. I could do all that is possible to help others, to reach out, to inform, to serve and support, and still so much of this would be out of my control.  There are people suffering for whom I have not the bank account nor medical expertise to help.  I believe in prayer.  I have seen miracles happen before my eyes. I know it works. The need is moving me to action.

I also don’t want to miss anything. This is a hard time, a difficult time. This is a time in which people are suffering. Even in this, there is a gift here that has been given to me, and I need to adhere to it. There is life in front of my eyes. I went to our forest and gathered Usnea, an antiviral, off of the fallen branches. I am in the planning stages of a garden which is something I’ve never done before. And I am taking time to go outside and soak in the Vitamin D and the wonder. I am living a balanced life more than I have in years. It is a gift.

Stress isn’t good for the immune system. And we should all do what is ours to do to help, but there will always be a huge aspect of this in which we have no choice but to trust in God.  I exhort everyone to let it make you a better person and to open up your eyes and see again. Most of you have been doing this, I know.  I am reminded of Joe in Joe Versus the Volcano, almost dead with little hope of rescue, shakily standing up and saying, “Thank you God for my life.”

May you be surrounded with blessing, healing, and love. May God bless your day.

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Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

An Order to the Day; Finding Peace: Part Two

Tuesday I got hit with the information that schools are out until April 29th.  Honestly, it could be a lot longer.  Since I’m a substitute teacher, I’m out of work. I did get some excellent leads, however, and Tuesday, in my existential dread, I didn’t work on them. Wednesday was different.  I saw what some people were sharing about finding peace through time organization, and I tried it out. I also read what some people posted about how it is better not to have schedules. The two seem to contradict.  But do they? A summary of various thoughts is below.

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Schedules

With a stay-at-home life that hasn’t been done before, the human mind can feel like it is floating in the air with no way to ground itself to the earth.  A schedule helps a person deal with anxiety. It gives structure and a way to ground oneself. Studies have shown that school kids who play outside will use the whole field if there are fences and stay in the middle of the playground if there aren’t; the fence gives more freedom. Indeed, humans need structure in order to truly be free; just as if we didn’t have gravity, we’d simply be floating without the means to do a thing. Without any sort of boundaries, one can get lost in the void of Netflix of Facebook and feel like mush afterward; the human spirit doesn’t thrive there.  Children push for boundaries naturally;  there is something to the human mind that needs it, and kids need a sense of normalcy, a sense of what to expect in order to avoid anxiety.  Grownups do too; without it, many feel lost. Nature sets the days and seasons. There is a reason for having compartments in our lives. one can be freer with them than without. Having productivity makes sure important needs are met, and learning helps the mind exercise.

Freedom from Schedules 

It is better not to worry about schedules right now. Forcing one’s kids to learn math when they are sensing crisis might not be the best thing — just play with them.  It is not the time to focus on productivity; give yourself a break.  Use the time to teach your kids to plant, cook, etc., and don’t restrict the time. Children are scared. Hug them and spend time with them right now; don’t worry about when you do what. For those who aren’t parents, give yourselves a break as well. Watch TV if you need to. Rest.

Balance

Scheduling is a way some people are finding freedom from anxiety. Freedom from schedules is another way people are finding it. I want to share a few things that I’ve seen in schedules friends have posted, that show me a way to have peace in this scheduling category.  These are shared with permission.

The first one is from Cirra. I’ll put the link to this at the bottom of the page if you want to read more about her philosophy; she has a lot of wisdom here. If you look at the list, you’ll see something: Recreation time. The family has two small children, and they make sure they have time just to spend with them. Later, the couple makes sure they have time to spend with each other.

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This one here is from Trista. I love how bright it is! I also love how, in amongst the education (which is not just necessary, it can be fun) is a lot of free time. What large school gives you an hour of recess and snack in the morning and two hours of free time and recess in the afternoon?  Even in preschool, the breaks weren’t that long.  The kids know because of the schedule that free time is coming.  I love this one.

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I’m guessing that most people will do it the way you see below from Artie. The whiteboard makes sense, the materials are probably already there, and it can be changed per day.  I love again how much free time there is in this. The kids have structure and education, and a lot of fun stuff too. Not pictured is the family menu for the day, which is posted at their house and adds to stability for the kids. The kids in this family are older so the mom can say, “Play and don’t fight,” and do what she needs to do as well.

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I also saw a schedule with time in it for taking those virtual field trips, zoo tours, etc.  There is so much available for free right now! I am working on compiling a list.

My Experiment 

Tuesday night, there were things I wanted to do, but I was much too tired to do them. Instead, I made sure to make a schedule for the next day.  In that schedule, I had a hoped to video chat with family members  (I need outside interaction daily, and I missed them). I went through the day, I found that certain things weren’t happening as planned. What did I do? I changed my schedule. There was a different job that it was more important to apply to first; the other would have to wait until the next day. I had scheduled story writing time, but the blog ideas were in my brain and needed to come settle on “paper,” so I switched one for the other. I was hungry later, so I moved lunch later, and I moved outdoor time a little bit later too as I was pretty focused.

I forget this a lot, but I do enjoy having a plan. Having one, I wasn’t stuck in that, “I am lost on FB now, but I really must be doing something” mode. I don’t lose hours of time just clicking.  If I got done with something, I rested without any guilt or worry, knowing that I had scheduled the things that need to get done; I would get to them; it didn’t have to be right now. And when it was time to do something important but difficult, I felt better, knowing that I had planned rest time.  It is also nice to have an order to the day. I feel more at peace.

At the same time, things happen. My household needs to verbally process COVID19. My 11-year-old nephew could use some one-on-one time with Auntie and vis versa. It is important to have that freedom. And taking it, and moving things I need to do around, I don’t have that, “Oh but you need to do this…” in my head persecuting me. It’s on paper and my brain can be free.  Neither do I have the guilt of, “You didn’t follow your schedule…” The schedule is there to help me. I am not here for the schedule.  As needs change, it can change. I don’t find rigidity helpful right now. But I do find frameworks very helpful.

I have found this in Substitute teaching as well. If the schedule gets interrupted by a fire drill etc., kids are ok with things changing a bit; they just want to know what is happening.

Thursday was a holiday. I prayed the rosary and made a pie, and watched a movie with my family. I put things I knew I needed to do on the schedule for the next day, freed them from my mind, and I rested.

If you’d like to share what approaches to time you find helpful, please comment below. May your day be filled with beauty and healing and peace. May God bless your day.

Resources

Cirra’s post: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10158304567258816&set=a.10150297374773816&type=3&theater

Related Blog:  A checklist approach: Doing the Thing https://facethedayok.com/2016/01/17/doing-the-thing/

Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

Finding Peace in Quarantine: Part One

I’ve been gone from this blog for a long time; I made an announcement that I was going back to school and then pretty much disappeared. Well, school is over. I am just waiting on one big test to be returned in order to graduate.  And here I am.

The world seems crazier than the last time I wrote. Public Masses were just canceled for weeks; I never thought I would see this in my lifetime.  Last night was the first time in all of this that I really felt physical anxiety. had been concerned before, and nervous. But when I heard that public Masses are canceled, it was a tremendous blow.

There are so many people doing amazing things that help with anxiety, and these will take more than one blog. Here is the first.

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The One Thing

If you are a person with an overdeveloped sense of responsibility like me and most of my friends, knowing a bunch of things that are wrong with the world has been anxiety-producing for a long time, and now it is more so.  It is very hard to know what is asked of you in particular, and sometimes I personally freeze up and stop trying anything.  But one thing that helps me to remember is that we are in this together, so none of us is responsible for more than our part. For me, I have to look at the situation.  I live with elderly family members.  That means that I am not called to be a delivery driver or to help hand out lunches to poor kids.  I can check those off the discernment list.  I am called to not bring viruses home to them. I also have a strong desire on my heart to maintain community for the good of everyone (including myself), so I’m reaching out to people via video chat.  Yesterday I got to talk with a friend I haven’t visited with in a really long time. I really enjoyed it. Others are doing this too. One friend organized a weekly video chat community party. Another group I’m in is having a nightly rosary together to pray for the world.

Many people I know are focusing on taking care of their families. A friend of mine is babysitting her nephew so her brother can work.  Some are posting advice on the internet or sharing where you can find resources such as virtual museums and symphony concerts which help both old and young alike. Some are giving support to others who are medical workers and grocery workers.  Some are buying gift certificates from restaurants and ordering takeout to help keep those businesses afloat.  And some are able to get out there and deliver food to others, especially elderly neighbors. And they are doing it.

I’ve also seen people share how many good things are happening in order to give us hope. China is almost over this ordeal for one.  Our governor here is making sure that children who relied on public schools for food are still getting free lunches.  In a city in China, people were reporting that the smog was gone and they could hear birds.  Hope is a good thing. The heart matters.

Saving the world isn’t up to me. We are all in this together, plus there is a Higher Power who really does love us and bring good out of evil. None of us are alone. Some people might choose to find a societal ill that they will fight to change, and begin to do research on what they can do when it is time. Some will use this time to write – Shakespeare wrote King Lear during a quarantine. Some of us will paint. Creating art really is doing something. Art lifts the soul.  Reaching out to just one person is doing something, and our kids and our parents count.  Prayer and Sacrifice and suffering offered up as prayer makes a huge difference.

How To Discern 

We can ask God what is that we need to do, and do that one thing, or those few things.  Verbal prayer helps, a prayer journal helps, making lists helps and reasoning out what makes sense or not helps. Paying attention to who you are and the desires of your heart helps.  The silence can help us hear what is resonating in our hearts.   If you don’t know what to do, I know a lot of people who are simply reaching out to someone to make sure they aren’t isolated. I am not sure that they discerned their role, but phone calls and video chats and checking in and conversing with isolated elderly neighbors makes sense (you can talk to them from three yards outside and still keep them safe). Sense matters. A friend wrote today, “I can only do what’s in front of me right now.” It is absolutely true.  Sometimes what is right in front of us is rest. Rest matters too. And if someone is still able to work, working is doing something. It matters.

For me, doing something, but knowing it isn’t my responsibility to do everything, makes a huge difference in anxiety levels. The “shoulds” tend to attack.  If I know I’m helping, I can rest in the few things I am called to do and not let the “but you need to save the world” paralyze me.  I can make sure to pray. I can make sure to write. I can reach out, and I can share information. And it is OK if I just do one a day.  I see a lot of people making jokes, and honestly, laughter can be healing. That is their way and there are a lot of people out there who are helped by it. It matters.

Wishing you peace in your heart to go with the prudence in your mind. May God abundantly bless this day.

 

“It is a lesson we all need – to let alone the things that do not concern us. He has other ways for others to follow Him; all do not go by the same path. It is for each of us to learn the path by which He requires us to follow Him, and to follow Him in that path. ” – St. Katharine Drexel

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Image by Ajay kumar Singh from Pixabay

Lessons From a Child

I sat on the living room floor and commented on needing a nap as my niece brought a yellow wooden puzzle designed for a two year old. As she is smart and newly three,  we took turns and finished quickly. She then went and fetched another, this one a little bit harder, and after we had finished that one, another. Cooperation was moving like clockwork until I looked up and saw her with an interlocking 50 piece wooden puzzle with no sample picture – a puzzle even an eight year old or middle-aged auntie would find challenging. She dumped the pieces on the floor.

What is she going to do now? I thought to myself.  I began working on the edges, and trying to help her find things that go together, but she wasn’t having much luck. Entirely undaunted, she picked up a few puzzle pieces, and looked at me.

“Puzzle fight!”  And my head and arms were hit with slightly stinging pieces of wood. I laughed. I gathered them up and redirected, and we worked on the puzzle a little more, me trying to give her pieces that went together after my own hunt for them. I began noticing that piles of puzzle pieces were suddenly in the way;  she was making puzzle piles and knocking them over, again, with a smile on her face.  After a bit I redirected again (the only way to put the thing away was to finish it). Then I heard that little voice.

“I will make a bed for you to take a nap,” she said, and instructed me to keep working on the puzzle as that little girl with the long brown hair went over to the couch and proceeded to straighten out the pillows, lay down the fuzzy cranberry blanket, and make it all neat and ready.

I told her we had to put the puzzle away first and we did finish, but I had to laugh at the whole thing. This girl was amazing. She found a task that was too tough for her, and, caught by surprise by this, what did she do? She came up with creative ways to still have fun. First the puzzle fight, then the piles, then making the couch as a bed, she kept the play up despite an overwhelming task at hand.

When babies are over-stimulated by the gaze of someone, they look away.  When kids below a certain age don’t know the meaning of a word, they simply ignore it.  When toddlers fall, they crawl away or get back up. And when children are grieving, they take reprieves of play between the sadness.  Though kids need help, there is a part of the very little ones that instinctively knows how to deal with things that are, “too much.”

Part of growing up healthy is to learn to deal with the overwhelming emotions that all children have. Another part is to not lose those natural ways to go easy on ourselves that seem to be programmed into the human person. My newly-three year old niece didn’t say to herself, “I dumped this puzzle out and I have to put it back, and I can’t, and I hate myself…” She was too young for that thinking, and no one was scolding her for being caught off guard as children often are.  I want everyone to be too young for that thinking. I want everyone to say, “Well look, this is over my head.  Let’s tackle it, maybe get some help, and know that it’s just a problem. It isn’t the gauge of my worth.”

Sadly, the world comes in, and many kids develop perfectionism much too young. Maybe you are one of them who did. This is a reminder to you and to myself: It’s OK for some things to be too difficult. Finding things that are too difficult means that we are reaching out for new experiences, becoming open to learning, and really living life. Sometimes, the best way to conquer self-debilitating perfectionism is to look at children. How do they give themselves a break? It’s naturally a part of us. Let’s relearn that.

May God bless your day.

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To Ask For Help

I ran a day-camp-like event for a few years running.  This past year, on the last day, when it was all over, I found out that the small group leaders were struggling with their kids. Now these are quite young small group leaders, and they aren’t expected to know parenting or classroom management skills.  That’s what I’m here for, but I didn’t find out until it was too late. I’ve got a note to remind them next year to ask for help and a note to remind myself to spy, but it got me thinking, why do so many of us try to face problems alone? Younger children do this too; I’ve seen it many times, and I did it myself as a child. I tried to face so much alone. There is something to be said for autonomy but it’s got to be age appropriate; kids should know someone is in their corner. They don’t seem to always know that naturally; they have to be told, and we see evidence of this in the classroom. We have to keep reminding children that when someone is bullying them, tell a trusted adult. In so many people that I know, of all ages, an overdeveloped sense of responsibility runs rampant.  

Looking at my experience leading this event, I was more stressed than I needed to be in the preparation because I felt that I needed to run it alone. There are several people that came through; we really were a team. But for much of my preparation I didn’t see it. I had the attitude, “I need to do this,” and it was a thing that was too big for one person. But I took it all on anyway. There is a tendency to think, “it’s me against the world,” and forget that there are people in my corner. Even as adults, we can try to do too much alone.   

How many movies and TV shows have a dilemma because a husband and wife or other unit  aren’t communicating with each other, each is trying to face the problem solo? How many people are lonely because they don’t want to put their burden on others when there’s someone else feeling lonely and wishing they could do some service out of love and friendship, knowing that this gives life meaning? Or perhaps the other person would benefit from knowing that someone shares the very same thoughts and feelings they themselves have. There is a sense of isolation in Western culture that we can feel is imposed upon us and it may be, but many of us are also doing this to ourselves. How do we break out and get true intimacy in which we support one another and know we are supported? It took a lot for me to break down and ask a friend for a ride to the airport. I bet it took a lot for another friend of mine to ask her friends to help watch her kids. We need to do those things. We are less lonely and much healthier if we are here for one another.

I challenge everyone reading this to ask someone for help today. If you are someone with an overdeveloped sense of responsibility like most of my blog readers, ask someone for help. It makes them a better person too. People are lonely. People have a lot to give and they need to be needed. If we want community, giving and receiving is a big way we do this. So let’s do this. Today, just ask one person for help and face the thing together.

May God bless your day.

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Ivy to the Brick

For years now, I have been discerning becoming an English teacher, and I recently began my group of prerequisites. As I delved into both American Literature and Cultural Communication, something happened to me. It was as though I were standing in front of myself and always had been. I walked forward and was whole.

I was the student who took both Creative Writing and AP English even though they were at the same time. I was the student who poured ten poems out of my head after finishing a report on Emily Dickinson. I was the student who began a B.A. in English at my first university. I was the student who wrote stories, poems, and songs above anything else. But somehow, I forgot. Now, as I began to study, something in me recognized myself.

I am who I have always been.

As we mature, we unfold and become more and more ourselves. We grow in security and courage. I know that sometimes we don’t feel this; we feel less ourselves and grow in insecurity and fear. This can be a response to cruel experiences or even a way of life that focuses our moments on busyness over and over until we forget ourselves. Yet who we are is still in there, deepening.  

Who I was, and still am, isn’t simply around one topic as it isn’t for any of us.  I was also the little girl who told her dad, “Look at this! Look at this!”, the bob-haired kid who loved to make children laugh, the teen whose favorite thing was to wade in the ocean or conquer rocks on a river.

I have continued to delve into those other amazing things that are also me. But the part of me to which writing is first and foremost – I somehow forgot her. It may be because teaching, and teaching English, run in my family. I wanted to be my own person. Ironically, coming back to it is where I feel whole. I can sense myself being planted in the earth. I feel like English ivy attaching to an ancient wall. It is a coming home.

People are interested in personality theory; it is a clue as to who we are. People are excited about ancestry testing; it is a clue as to where we come from and ties to an ever-deepening past. People are watching the shows they watched as a child, visiting playgrounds and climbing-trees, collecting former toys. People care about these things. They ground us somehow.

Who am I? Where do I come from? These are huge questions. And both of them can be answered in part by exploring this one: “Who was I?”

We are who we have always been. We can see insights into brilliant and delightful aspects of ourselves when we look at our past. And we can feel roots – stable, interesting, secure, connected.

What did you love as a child? Can you go there again? There is a peace that I am finding in studying literature and returning to who I have always been, yet gaining more depth. Maybe there will be the same peace for you too.  

May God bless your day.  

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A Forgotten Friend

I noticed something a little over a year ago when doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  Every November, people all over the world set a goal to write 50,000 words in a month. I love it.  I turn off the perfectionist button and get together with other writers and just write.

Before NaNoWriMo last year, I was lonely.  After NaNoWriMo, I was lonely. During NaNoWriMo, I was extremely fulfilled.  I thought it was perhaps because of spending time with the other writers, and that does factor into it. But this year I wasn’t able to go to so many meetups. Much of my writing was at home.  And I still experienced a profound joy.

The other day, my nephew and niece visited. The four year old wanted to sing “Guava Hunt” and we did, but he decided to lead. Before you know it, we weren’t even singing “Guava Hunt;” he was talking about how all the Guavas followed us into the house and showing me where they are.  He was telling me that he was using his Sonic Metal Armor (whatever that is) to fight them because they won’t stick to that, which was our only hope because they are monsters covered in slimy sticky stuff, and if you touch them you’ll be stuck to them forever.  Meanwhile he was jumping from the couch to the chair to the other chair because there are Gauvas on the floor.

The thing that most amazed me was how concerned he was at seeing all these Guavas everywhere. “Oh No! There’s one!” He was more into it then I ever realized he’d be.  But that concern was part of his joy, his excitement at being fully immersed in this adventure, this story coming out of his mind.

I know that some people feel they are “in their own head” too much and don’t interact with people enough. We all need community.  I need to be able to be helpful, and I need the support of other writers and friends, those on earth and those in Heaven. But I often am too reliant on others to make me happy, and when my heart says “write,”  another part of me says, “Who’s available?”  When I am brave, when I risk loneliness to pull away from child-2887483_640people-seeking for a while and embrace my creativity, the fears are unwarranted and the experience is beyond satisfying.

We all have different experiences as children, but for most of us, they were overflowing with some form of creativity. Some painted, drew,  or built with Legos, blocks, Playdoh, branches or pillows and blankets. Some made stapled books, some worked on playing an instrument, some baked various sweets, or designed clothes and rooms, or conquered free throws. Some made friendship bracelets, some designed foam-covered swords.  And some found new ways to play with a slinky or created mazes or secret codes for our friends.

Children from healthy families often have the safety of engaging their creativity while knowing that they can come out of their rooms any time and be supported.  Children from unhealthy families can find creativity to be a sanctuary.  Even growing up somewhere in between, creativity was there.  As adults, however, we can get so caught up in busyness and responsibilities, or in trying to find someone with whom to connect, that we leave creativity behind.

Creativity is a gift that we have all been given, whether we are building something from instructions or making up plays. But it is more than a gift.  It is a companion of sorts, a way to learn to be friends with one’s own mind. As a child, I’d spend hours making poems and interesting valentines. And I can still choose to do this. I can dive into the mind that God gave me and find what is beautiful there.  We were made in the image and likeness of the greatest creator of all time. Let’s not abandon that.  What is it that you do? Do it. Who you are is such a gift, and we often forget that gift.  Sure, the mind can turn inward and attack itself with horrible ideas, but when you engage in creativity, you make a point of using that same power to build beauty. Remember being a child and embrace that part of your humanity once again. It brings a very special kind of joy.

May God bless your day.

 

 

 

To Save the World

A while ago, a gay man living a celibate life shared something with me.  He said that, in the congregation he was from, men were not supposed to be alone with women they weren’t married to. Because he was gay, though committed to celibacy, he was not supposed to be alone with a man either. I was shocked. That group had destined him to a life of loneliness because of their view that people were like rabbits and could not refrain from sex.  It was the first time I’d heard of anything so extreme.

A different young man that I know said to me once, “Our culture is defined by Puritanism and the reaction against it.”  He said that both sides have the same problem: they are way too focused on sex. That statement rang so true in my heart that I could feel the bells for weeks. There are people who want incredible restrictions against even being human because they think that everyone will sleep with everyone else if not prevented from it.  There are others who agree but find this a good thing, thinking everyone should give in to lust and “be free.” This is causing much pain and abuse.  But really, both sides are causing pain.

There is an answer to this. Part of this answer is friendship and restoring the human.  I was amazed the last time I was deeply interested in someone.  I realized that if we remained only close friends I would be OK.  So much more than a desire for physical intimacy was a desire to talk, a desire to take walks, a desire to share all my thoughts and a desire to learn the thoughts of the other. There were amazing conversations about science and beauty and story. I didn’t know before then that life was like this.  It opened my eyes.

At the basis of romance is friendship; and whether you are married or celibate, what is really important — that friendship intimacy — can be a part of your life. An author named Eve Tushnet wrote an article for Commonwheel magazine about a movie where there is only extreme loneliness or romance. There is either romantic love or the desert; there is nothing in between. So many movies are like this.  Much of the media paints a picture that sex is everything; and of course they do. It makes them money. If you can convince someone they need something and that they won’t get it without your product, you make money. A culture is defined by its stories. And this has been going on for decades at  least. People think of it as normal and many have gotten so addicted that they don’t know that there is any other way. They don’t know that there even exists a free fulfilling life where one is free to choose sex or no sex, and that no sex can also be beautiful.

There is a deeper richness to life. Google famous single people and you will see that these are great artists and scientists.  A spouse is amazing, but there is a richness still without it. There is thought, art, science, story, creativity, logic, community, friendship, intimacy of the heart.  We just celebrated the feast of Saint Pope John Paul II who was committed to celibacy and one of the best examples of pure love in someone only human.  He had the best intimacy there was, intimacy with the person who is love itself, and he gave to others from that. He spread joy and moved the world.  There is a deeper richness to life.

I have been grateful lately to see people from both liberal and conservative camps (though I don’t really ever know what those words exactly mean), having the conversation. This world is too focused on sex. Everything has come apart. How can we change this? People who you’d think would be fighting are both waking up to the same truth.  The focus on sex has gotten dangerous and depressing on the free-love side. It is keeping people in isolation and from being truly human on the almost Puritan side. The focus on sex from either viewpoint (or is it really all the same thing?) isn’t working, and people are waking up to it.  There is an answer.

What can we do? It is easy to get lost and depressed isn’t it? We see violence and using and it seems it will always be this way, and we begin to want to give up. But there is a lot we can do.  We can teach the value of friendship. We can bring culture back into our lives, not just a culture of looking good and being successful but a culture of learning about truth, beauty, and goodness through science, literature, art, music, theater games, play, hard work that accomplishes something. Tell the stories of your ancestors. Sing the songs your mama taught you.  Well-loved children know what it is to be truly human. They know that life is amazing in and of itself. They know that family and friends are enough. So many teens are obsessed with looking good and dating to the detriment of friendships and their own joy. (I like the way “Girl Meets World” pointed this out and chose something different.)  Somewhere in growing up, something got lost.  We can learn a lot from young children.  We can rebuild culture, we can support friendship, and we can pray, connecting with God and fighting the darkness.  A family that teaches their kids theater games is teaching them that life is about more than social status and hooking up. A family that passes down family recipes is doing the same thing.  Families and single people can be friends and share culture and community with one another. There is so much more to life than romance and sex.

In the midst of what seems to be a depressing world outlook, I see people coming together and discussing friendship and social change from a culture where things are loved and people are used, into flipping that over again and saving what is truly human. It gives me hope. There are many points in this blog, but the main one is this: people are having the conversation.  I praise God for that. Come join us.

May God bless your day.

 

 

 

 

The Path of Totality

Two weeks ago I saw the eclipse.  I wish that I could find online some photo to do it justice; when the moon was directly in front of the sun with no direct rays shining on us, we took off our glasses and we saw the moon. It wasn’t a black circle as in all the photos I can find. We saw the moon’s roundness, its textures, its color. It was the beautiful moon surrounded by the corona of the sun.

I almost didn’t make it to Salem. I had heard that traffic would be bad, and I almost didn’t go. But I did go. I went to my sister’s house the night before, and watched it with her family. It was a wonderful time spent together and, though the way home was long, I’m glad I didn’t miss it. It was life-changing.

For me, this was an example of diving into really living. It was a moment for me of not taking the lazy way, of embracing beauty and life. A  woman I know did not travel into the shadow of the moon, for her husband had to work that afternoon in Portland. She embraced the time with her husband. Another woman’s children weren’t able to travel south and she witnessed the event in Lake Oswego with her children.  Others had to work and work gave them an eclipse break. They all watched it together.

For those people too, they were diving into life. It isn’t necessary to be in the eclipse’s path of totality to dive into the totality of the experience. There are other ways to live than to look at the moon. There are other things to embrace. For me, chasing the moon was the thing I needed to do. For them it was something else.

active-1807533_640I was speaking with a friend about pain.  I was going through that cyclical loneliness of being forty-something and single — not involved in the young adult groups of the past, wondering how to make community.   This happens periodically. There is joy in the single life, and there is struggle.

She told me that she wished she’d stopped giving me solutions and just sat with me in it. I didn’t feel un-sat with, but I understand, for I often do the same thing with friends.   I’ve found out that to listen, to hear, to sit with someone does more than any solution.  Sometimes a solution is helpful, and sometimes it makes smaller the other person’s experience. Healing comes from being heard and loved through and in our darkness.  And when I do this, I am struck by the beauty of the friend in the darkness, honestly facing their pain.

I made a joke about dealing with pain by Netflix bingeing; she said that is what most people probably do.  It is what I often do. But the world isn’t changed by constant streaming. We aren’t each made more human by giving our lives to the internet.  We grow closer to people by experience joy and pain together, but sharing these things. We grow closer  by caring about something … and doing something.  We grow more human by noticing and pondering what we are experiencing and letting it grow us. Hiding away not only lets the world burn and drown, but it reduces us as well.

It seems like friendship is underrated quite in Western culture.  There is a depth of love and commitment inherent to friendship that people forget about, and this needs to be it’s own post.  So many are afraid. We have other fears too. I met a man who does homeless ministry and makes sure to see the humanity in each person he meets.  I know a woman who meets refugees at the airport and helps them get settled. But others are afraid of these.  Some are called to other things, but some are called here and don’t respond.  I know that many people in nursing homes are lonely.  It seems that the young who are lonely could meet with the old and all could be well. But there is a fear here for so many.  Maybe we could face that. With people at home, or people in society; maybe we could face that.

What I am trying to say is this: Let yourself really live. Let yourself be human. Feel the pain; chase the beauty, be with people in connection. Let them be human too. This is coming alive, this is the beginning of change. This is your path of totality.

May God bless your day.