Monday, February 12, 2018

Into the quiet

The penitential season of Lent is upon us.  These upcoming forty days are important for me to prepare for the Glorious Resurrection.  Each year I approach this sacred season with intent and purpose of deepening my relationship with Christ.   That being noted, I am going to fast from unnecessary social media.   I am choosing not to be involved with Facebook or Instagram.  I do not have a twitter account so that is easy.  Lol!   

 If you wish to contact me, please do so via email or texting my cell.  And yes, if you so desire to write me a letter, by all means do!   Hand written cards and notes are still beautiful to receive.  

Living with chronic M continually teaches me the value of quiet and simple.  The world says be louder, bigger, faster, consume more, and run to get to the top. I get weary trying to keep up with the world’s standards.  I am thankful that I no longer wish to do so.  God has given me that gift.  

 I wish to tune out and tone down this Lent.   

I desire to dig deeper into God’s Word as well as dig deeper into my prayer life.  

I will resume blogging after Easter.   

Wishing all of you a most blessed and grace-filled Lent.  

Thursday, January 18, 2018

In need of Light

The “taking down of Christmas” (as people say) always depresses me. In our home, we leave the decorations up at least through Epihany, and I might even stretch that out a bit.  I feel the sacred season of Christmas is just getting started when the whole taking down part and wrapping up the manger scene, lights, and ornaments get packed into boxes and bins.  Now for the commercialization of the holiday, that seems like a different story.  The day after Halloween the stores display all the “holiday stuff” so that by December 26, I guess we all become weary of the tinsel and blow up plastic Santas and reindeer.  

I am not trying to be judgmental because everyone has their preference of displaying the season according to their belief system. However, for me, just mentally gearing up to “take down” special keepsakes gets a bit harder each year.  

One of my biggest losses that I feel is the loss of light. We string lights on our Christmas tree, display outside lights, and put candles in the windows.  This is wonderful here in New England where our Winter days are so short and one feels like going to bed at 7pm practically!  Lights help to set a smooth rhythm and flow to the dark Winter days and evenings.  It is also fun to notice as the days get a tad longer after the Winter Solstice and the sunsets grow even more beautiful.  

My body and soul crave light (even though I do wear dark sunglasses a lot for protection due to chronic M).  I love the twinking of the soft Christmas tree colored lights and the dimly lit (non smelly candles) on our mantle.   Sipping my morning coffee in the family room with just those lights on starts my day off on a positive and peaceful path. The glow is comforting as the natural light of daybreak peeks ever so sweetly in my windows.  

This year I am trying a slightly different approach.   I just couldn’t bare to strip everything down and pack it away, so with a twinkle in my eye, my hubby knew I was up to something. I suggested we bring in our white winter tree from outside and place it in the same spot as where our traditional Christmas tree was. I just added white lights and wrapped it in some colored garland.   It has more of a winter affect I guess.   Hopefully I will be ready by Easter to take it down only to put up Spring and Easter lights! Lol!  

The physical lights help keep my mood uplifted, but they also remind me daily of the Light of Christ who is our Savior of the world.  

I am in need of light.

I am in need of Light.   

Saturday, December 30, 2017

I purpose to...

This is the time of the year when most of us think about new year’s resolutions.  It becomes the topic of a lot of conversations as well as blog posts.  It seems as though many people have some wonderful ideas about their own resolutions that can provide deeper reflections about our own.  Each of us has our own special suggestions based upon our individual experiences over the past year.  Resolutions can be fun to share, but they can make us feel somewhat uncomfortable.  We can easily fall prey to the “comparison” game which is not very uplifting.  All of a sudden old man guilt appears and he sends up down a slippery slope of negative feelings with no happy ending.  

For example, traditional resolutions can be full of expectations, that after awhile, we fall short of succeeding.  You know the drill—- Better eating, weight loss, younger looking body, getting more rest, less crazy work hours etc, etc, etc.  Resolutions tend to drain us of our energy in many ways and leave us feeling “less than”.     This isn’t helpful.  Expectations of others or those we make upon ourselves also send us down a negative slope of disappointment.   This doesn’t serve us well at all.  

So, I am going to offer another way of looking into the new year that is upon us.   As much as I would like to take credit for thinking of this, I cannot.   However, it inspired me last year and worked out beautifully.  

My inspiration came from one of my favorite Christian authors, Ann Voscamp.   She proposes a fresh outlook upon the resolutions idea. 
She likes to use the key word “purpose” which seems to offer a different perspective.  She calls it “SOULutions”. 
Her idea is to say
In the year ——- I purpose to... fill in the blanks.  
Let go

I put mine on a 5x7 card and framed it.  I refer to it frequently, and it can remind me of my thoughts and actions in reference to what I wrote. 

I feel these words guide us into more of a year’s journey and process more than having hard and fast rules of do’s and don’ts.   

Wishing you all a very happy and healthy new year and my you live with gratitude and joy in your hearts.  

Friday, December 15, 2017

Miracles in our muddled messes

“‘Tis the season to be jolly fa la la la la, la la la la”!   Well, maybe not all the time.  Can you relate?  Sometimes our emotions are not all happy and joyful and jolly this time of year.  We may be carrying heavy burdens that certainly aren’t apparent to others.  Invisible difficulties may or may not be shared.  Between the hype of the season’s commercialism and all the expectations surrounding it, true Joy and Hope can seem a bit illusive at times.  

Maybe we are searching for a special, hidden miracle right in the middle of our muddled mess.  This Advent season finds us waiting and watching...

Maybe we can be extra kind to the weary store clerk who just needs a simple smile.  How about slowing down a bit from the frantic rush and breathe. Breathe in the beauty of the Christmas tree lights twinkling.   Could we listen to a friend or family member who needs a kind ear with no intent to “fix” a problem?  Breaking away from the normal routine and stepping out to enjoy a fun activity of the season might just cheer us up!  Better yet, ask a loved one to join!

May this sacred season of celebrating the Hope of the Incarnation be upon all of you.  

May your hearts be filled with Peace and Joy that the world cannot give.   

May you discover a miracle within your muddled mess.  

Merry Christmas.  

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Humble hospitality

From Thanksgiving until the finish of the Christmas season and  into the new year, we all have a laundry list of places to go, people to see, and food to bake (and eat) in preparation for the holiday season to commence.  November and December are busy months that can drain us rather quickly.  It is a never-ending cycle of self-imposed stress and expectations which can take down a person’s body, mind, and spirit quicker than you can shout,” Santa Claus”!  Yikes!  “This year will be different” we all may say, but alas, it usually never is.  Sigh. 

Do we really enjoy those eight consecutive weeks or so of hyperventilating and catching colds and other viral infections due to pure exhaustion?  I know I DO NOT.   The gift we can all count on that “ keeps giving” is the nasty Holiday Cold.  Ugh. Then, unfortunately, all the places we want to go, people we want to see, and food we want to bake becomes a little less doable and enjoyable.   
Upon reflection, I would like to offer a different perspective. The past seven years have taught me what it is like to NOT be in control of those “to do” lists  and expectations.  I am grateful for the opportunity to adjust and adapt accordingly without feelings of undue pressure or guilt.  I want to enjoy with my whole being what the true meaning of each Season has to offer.   For me, Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, and Epihany are all worth slowing down and sharing with others.  For you, it might be different traditions that are expressed and shared with your loved ones.  These celebrations can be meaningful only if we are fully present with one another and focusing on what is important.   

I truly enjoy having family and friends  popping in and out of our home all through those two months.  I accept that my home may look neat and tidy one day and rather messy the next.   Yep, it is!   It means more to me to sit down and share coffee, tea, hot chocolate and other treats (freshly baked or not) around our sticky kitchen table because this is our reality.  And more often than not, our reality is a messy one both exteriorly and interiorly. We are who we are.   I want our home to ALWAYS be a place of welcome to others.  To me, this looks like humble hospitality.   We, at times, have a full house when all of our family visits. Bedrooms are eschew, and we play musical chairs looking for places to sit. Lol!  When my sons and their high school friends come back to visit, and the house is full of laughter and cheer, my heart melts a thousand  times over.  Even if my body is not feeling too well, my soul is certainly uplifted.   Offering hospitality to others, in turn, heals me. 

I love decorating and baking, but I give myself permission to do it only when I have some energy and not in much pain.  Otherwise it becomes a burden, and emotionally I become irritable and even resentful.   The same reasoning can go for anyone.   If you aren’t up for the task for one reason or another, then no worries.  You can find another time that will help you focus better.  Save your energy for being with your loved ones even if that means store bought treats and paper plates.  If your sharing is done with love, that is all that matters.  

“Entertaining”evokes perfection and stress, at least to me.  It seems to feel formal and fussy.   Not that there is anything wrong with formal parties and fancy gatherings, but they lack spontaneity and simplicity.  It is not a “come as you are” type of thing—- it is finding that right little black dress!  Ugh! Talk about stress.  Lol!  Entertaining involves detailed menu planning, gourmet cooking or catering, and meticulous decorating.   That also stresses me out because we never seem to have ALL the lights lit simultaneously throughout the season.  It just never happens.  So,we laugh and go on.  

Humble hospitality invites intentional connection.   The end goal is certainly not perfection.   Loved ones and even new guests come around to just “be” with each other.  You can come in your reindeer pajamas if you wish!  Heck, just come.  Sitting, talking, smiling, eating, and laughing are some of the greatest gifts we can give one another.  They don’t need to be bought and wrapped in fancy paper.  

I am greatly anticipating this most Holy Season of Promise, Love, Redemption, and Joy.  It is my favorite time of year in which to share and celebrate the Good News.  In order to keep my heart and body in balance, I won’t be formerly entertaining, but I will open our door and warmly invite all who wish to come to gather for conversation, connection, and communion.    Come.  

Have a blessed Thanksgiving. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The road to freedom

As I walk out my front door on a daily basis (well, almost), I feel nothing but deep gratitude within my soul.  I take a few cleansing breaths in and out and start on my way. Sometimes I feel pretty strong and ready to tackle my neighborhood full of hills, but other times I don’t have much energy, so I take the shorter paths which are a bit easier to walk.  Each day is a new normal for me, and I must allow myself space and patience to adjust and adapt. There is no longer getting out of bed quickly and running out the door in a hurry without hesitation or being lead by wild abandon—sometimes I secretly miss those days because they felt like freedom to me.  Instead, I no longer take for granted the healing that comes from planting one’s feet solidly on the ground and intentionally stepping forth.  

It does not matter how far I go nor the pace of which I travel.  I could care less.  No, I do not clock my daily steps with a Fitbit or some other device.  To me, this is a hinderance to my own progress.  I walk quietly and purposefully without the noise of music or podcasts straining my ears.  Why?  Because each step matters.  My story matters.  My freedom matters. There are days when I am struggling with a lot of pain and fatigue so I might only jaunt briefly around the yard.  I call this a success.   Dropping my competitive yearn as in years ago gives me the freedom from comparison which does not serve me well. It is refreshing to just walk, observe, ponder, and pray.   I call this my “gratitude walk”.   It is a sacred time to commune with God and feel His peace wash over me. 

Sometimes my path might be an evening stroll on our boardwalk at the beach with my hubby.  We walk hand in hand and just talk about our day while connecting with one another. If we are lucky, we run into friends who are walking as well and we stop and chat and share some laughter.  This brings some levity into our souls which is appreciated after dealing with the stressors of the day. What a blessing for me to continue to gain strength to physically walk more than I have in several years.  Michael reminds me of how far I have come and to celebrate what I can do on any given day and not focus on what I can’t.  Once again, freedom. 

There were many days and weeks over the past years that I was so completely debilitated that I was unable to walk outside.  I could only manage shuffling around the inside first floor of my home. Sometimes I couldn’t even manage that alone.  I had to have help from my caring family or my dear sweet friends.  What blessings they were!  God was certainly caring for me in those times when I felt the most vulnerable.  Those were dark, depressing days that definitely did NOT feel like freedom.     

This year I am celebrating more milestones of actually putting one foot in front of the other and finally getting somewhere!  WooHoo!  My strength and hope are renewed, and my Heavenly Father is paving the way before me.   I continue to walk in His Love and Light.  When I surrender to His will, I know His perfect plan will be worked out in and through me.   Not my way,  but His.   Freedom. 

The road to healing is not a straight one.   I am sure you are well aware of this yourselves, no matter your circumstances.   I veer off to the side of my road many times and end up in a ditch.  Presently the ditch isn’t so deep , so I am able to get out and find my path which leads to freedom once again.  It seems to be a continual process of our lives.  

Can you think of areas of your life that you might have fallen off the road and into a ditch?  Is it possible to regain your strength and reset your GPS to guide you to your destination?   My hopes and prayers are with you on your road to freedom, and may you discover sweet joy in your journey as well. 

As Henri Nouwen says,
      “ In everything keep trusting that God is with you, that God has given you companions on the journey.  Keep returning to the road to freedom.”  

Monday, October 9, 2017

To breathe or not to breathe

‘‘Tis the season of smellies and artificial scents all over the place.  Ugh!!  I dread just stepping out of my scent free zone and into the not so subtle aromas of candles, poupori, sprayed cinnamon sticks and pine cones, smelly floral arrangements of Fall.  Sadly, on top of the everyday bombardment of artificial smells, I am now dealing with the worse two seasons of all—Fall and Winter.  I am tired of being polite or politically correct on this issue, so bear with me while I make my voice (and nose) heard. 

I suffer from extreme chemical sensitivity which is only one of the many annoying symptoms of chronic M.  This symptom is difficult to manage due to the fact I must live in the world and not stay contained in a bubble which is fragrance free.  Unfortunately, if I just wouldn’t have to breathe, I might be better off.   Lol.   All kidding aside, breathing in toxic chemicals which are so offensive is not healthy for anyone.  This is the truth. What ever happened to “natural scents”?  Why do we attach artificial scents to the air filter systems, cleaning products, room deodorizers, etc etc?  Most are completely unnecessary.  The smell of real baked apple and pumpkin pies is sure better than a yankee candle.  Simply placing fresh citrus in bowls works well to add a fresh odor to any environment.  

It seems like I can’t go into stores, office buildings(medical included), public restrooms without potentially entering a mine field.  I find that most store changing rooms smell so badly that I can’t even try on the clothes. I must take them home for that process. Those scents not only trigger an awful M, but I physically get respiratory distress which is another whole level of sick.  And yes, I carry scarves with pure peppermint oil or apply Vick’s vapor rub to my nose.  I certainly do everything to help myself, but sometimes it isn’t enough.  I not only speak for myself, but I am advocating for my fellow sufferers as well.  

If I visit someone’s home I need to ask them ahead of time to please “de-scent” their place.  For my dear friends and family I don’t feel embarrassed but for people whom I do not know, I don’t say anything and then just “hope for the best”.   If their house doesn’t waft with artificial smells, someone undoubtedly will be bathed in strong perfume!  I can’t win.  Even staying for a short time is not really a viable option for me.  It is not that simple. Church can be a disaster zone—- perfumes and incense will send me running for the door.  I can walk in feeling pretty well and leave feeling pretty sick.   

Since chronic M is mostly an invisible illness, how I may look is not a true indicator of how I may actually feel.  Dressing up nicely to appear in public with a smile on my face doesn’t mean I am not bothered by my surroundings and ready to head straight on ino a sick attack.   I do my ever-lovin’ best to participate in every way I can to enjoy life and all its blessings, but my overly sensitive nervous system has different ideas.  If you happen to see me with a strange look on my face with eyes glazed over, you will know I am headed to go down soon.  So, get out of my way!!!  

I kindly ask consideration, tolerance, and understanding of my heightened chemical sensitivity even though it may seem awkward or strange.  Please don’t be offended if I ask you to not wear perfume or give me lotions and soaps for gifts.  It is nothing personal against you. Not at all.  It helps me to navigate my surroundings a bit easier so that I can enjoy stepping outside of my comfort zone.   It would be much appreciated. 
So this year at the Thanksgiving table, please pass the turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, but not the artificial cinnamon pine cones around the centerpiece.   Thank you.