Archives for category: Spirituality

Walk the Walk

Photo by K. Farwell

I’ve been going through this weird thing where all I want to do is crochet. Reading and typing seem more like a chore than anything else. On top of that I’ve continued to have headaches and upper leg and hip muscle pain. I chalked it all up to just growing old and started to get on with my life. Then, Friday, I went to my annual eye appointment, and, after my eyes  were examined,  I was told “You just made it by a thin margin—-you are just one point above not being able to drive legally.” I did not realize how worried the doctor was until he dilated my eyes, checked my right eye, and said, “The good news is you’ve not bled into your right eye.”

Talk about a kick in the stomach that wasn’t expected! My deteriorating vision explains why typing, reading, and driving are no longer enjoyable. Crocheting I can hold up close to my eyes. My  right eye is usually my good eye, and, indeed, it is the left eye that most needs cataract surgery. The doctor and I both couldn’t understand why the right eye got so much worse all of the sudden. But he decided it was because I am a diabetic. He pulled the “shaming authority” gig on me, and proceeded to lecture me on how I couldn’t ignore being a diabetic, how I always needed to check my blood sugars even if my A1-Cs were all good, etc……that if I didn’t I could go blind before I figured out something was wrong. Talk about a bummer.

My first response was denial——I told him I’d just renewed my driver’s license after passing the vision test. He said that didn’t matter because if I were to be in an accident any good lawyer would go to my medical record. The doctor gave me two choices—-I could opt to have cataract surgery right away or I could wait a couple of weeks, take my blood sugar levels twice a day, and keep a food diary and then come back to have my vision re-checked.  I opted for the two week choice because I watch my diet fairly closely and I don’t think diabetes is causing the rapid eyesight loss. If it is diabetes, it will need to be “under control” before any surgery to promote healing after the surgery. Besides, while I  am waiting  I can hang on to the fantasy that Friday’s “readings” were just a fluke and I’ll pass the vision test with flying colors in a couple of weeks.

Now that a couple of days have passed I can ask myself what is God trying to tell me. Obviously, I need to focus on acceptance of my own mortality and medical conditions. But maybe God is trying to tell me something more. Maybe he is trying to tell me to be careful before I hurt someone when I am driving. I am going to stop driving at night—–especially in the rain. And, now that I know why I hate driving in traffic, I am going to stay out of it as much as I can. I will drive more slowly.

All this time I thought floaters” were intermittently messing up my vision, but now I know it  is actually cataracts and some unknown factor. It is the unknown factor that scares me. What I am realizing as I write this is I am being given yet another opportunity to trust God and have faith——you know, to walk the walk and not just talk it. God bless and keep you.

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Cup Photo compliments of K. Farwell

I  recently started reading a wonderful book (Joyce Rupp’s “The Cup of Our Life”) that has started me looking at cups very reflectively. Perhaps that is why at a Centering Prayer Workshop this weekend one of the phrases used by the speaker stuck with  me: “You have to form a reservoir before you can be a channel.” You see, for many years my waking prayer has often been, “God, let me be a channel for your love and your wisdom.” This comment about the reservoir made me step back and look at myself a bit differently. I have often told students during my many lectures given through the years that you must love yourself before you can love someone else—-that loving others as you love yourself starts, naturally, with how you love yourself. So this reservoir snippet really caught my attention. Almost exactly a week ago I had a “bad day” full of pain, grief, tiredness, depression, and the need to isolate. I realize now that in addition to having a tooth/jaw ache after a trip to the dentist I had actually let my reservoir “run dry.” I had been so busy going to meetings, leading meetings, running errands, etc. that I hadn’t taken time to nurture and love my spiritual essence. I hadn’t been getting enough rest; I had been forgetting to take some of my prescribed medications; I wasn’t drinking enough water; and, yes, after almost five months, I was still grieving the loss of my father.  I stopped writing. I stopped all the things that were good for my spirit but my “crocheting” which is very good for my soul, but by itself is not enough.  And yes, I still went to church and I still went to centering prayer meetings, but I don’t think my consent was really there. What did I learn from this? Sometimes, you just need to stop and take care of yourself. You don’t have to be around people or “doing for people” all the time. Sometimes you just need to rest; sometimes you just need to cry. The wonderful thing is that during those times God is there too. Creator is patient and understanding and still loves me even though I don’t particularly love myself at times like that. So I am drinking water now—both physically and spiritually. I am filling my reservoir, and judging from the reactions of others around me, I think I am functioning as a much better channel now that I am not running on empty. God bless and keep you.

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Needlework by S. Staples; photograph by K. Farwell

 

Once again I feel that urge to write. This morning’s sermon got me to thinking—–which is sometimes a dangerous thing. Usually I either think “rebuttals” and “disagreements” (when I am in my critical persona, one I learned from my mother) or I find myself embellishing one of the ideas presented. Today was an embellish day. The sermon itself was a wonderful one that did an excellent job of explaining what Lent is all about. I had not thought of it as an opportunity to exercise and strengthen my temptation resisting skills until I heard this morning’s sermon by Rvd. Edie.

She explained that temptation is a process. First, we become aware of an idea—-you know, those ideas commercials, for instance, are always planting in our heads. The second step is entertaining the idea—–this is a crucial step where the idea/temptation builds its strength and attractiveness to us primarily by us actively focusing our attention on it. The last step, of course, is to act on the idea. She discussed how we need to exercise and strengthen our attention skills and our ability to  intentionally re-focus our attention away from the idea that tempts us so that the last step of the process for us is choosing not to give into the temptation.

This is where I started embellishing as I listened to her sermon. As a person who practices the 12 steps of recovery I am quite familiar with these steps. When I see a commercial for a candy bar I can focus my attention on that and even begin to taste it with my imagination. Then my mind can build on the idea by telling myself, “Oh, come on, one little candy bar” won’t hurt you.” If I keep my attention going down that road, it won’t be long before I act on the idea and actually find myself eating that candy bar—-and another, and another until I make myself sick.

For a long time I have been telling myself and others in recovery to “follow it through” when the idea of having a drink comes to you—-not with thoughts of how wonderful a drink would be but with memories of what really happens to us when we take that drink and keep drinking. I have to do the same thing with thoughts of eating foods with flour or sugar in them. Giving in to either obsession has the potential to kill me. I wish I was exaggerating—-but I am not.

So, here’s the “kicker.” Those of us in recovery get to exercise “healthy attention” every day of our lives one day at a time. There is no magical end after forty days when we can go back to having what we’ve been practicing avoiding without facing deadly consequences. With all that exercise, you’d think we would develop immensely strong will power. Instead of exercising my “self-will” (which has, historically, been what has always gotten me in trouble) I have learned I can only be empowered to make healthy choices if I turn my will over to God and let God focus my attention and guide my actions.

I don’t always do so perfectly. Letting go of self-will is sometimes a daily struggle especially with food.  After all, I have to eat every day to live; therefore,  food triggers in my life are much stronger because of my daily consumption than they are with alcohol because that daily consumption ended for me over three decades ago.

I am learning to let fleeting thoughts of “wouldn’t it be nice to eat….” float right through my crowded mind. Contemplative prayer has helped me with that because I am learning not to fight my thoughts—-just to acknowledge them and to let them “float by” without giving them undue attention. I am learning to focus my attention on consenting to God’s love—–in my prayers and in my daily life. And that includes focusing my attention away from tempting food or alcohol thoughts.  It is not that I have given up certain foods or alcohol for Lent—–rather I have given them up for life and for living. I can only do that one day at a time by turning my will and my life over to the care and love of God as I understand Him/Her. May God bless and keep you.

Daddy's Poinsettia

According to Teleflora (http://www.teleflora.com/poinsettia/flowers-plants/poinsettia-detail.asp), “… in today’s language of flowers, red, white or pink poinsettias, the December birth flower, symbolize good cheer and success and are said to bring wishes of mirth and celebration.” In my church, it is an annual tradition to purchase Poinsettias in honor of someone who has died or in celebration. I have never purchased one or taken one home. This time I did so to honor the memory of my father who recently died. Now, if the Teleflora folks are right, I can hope that in addition to honoring my father this magical flower will also bring laughter and happy times to those of us who mourn his passing.

However, the time spent at church this morning focused on something much more important than magical symbols. A group of us attended a class on forgiveness and reconciliation. My  12 step involvement has repeatedly focused my attention on making progress in the areas of forgiveness and acceptance. Therefore, I  thought I was coming to this class with a good deal of “advanced work” that might give me “an edge” over some of the other participants. But of course, as every good “evolving elder” should be able to do, I was able to open my mind and heart so I could encounter some new ideas about forgiveness.

This morning I was introduced to a new take on the forgiveness/memory continuum—-and that was the suggestion that one of the pathways to forgiveness is to work at being able to experience a memory without simultaneously experiencing associated  emotional entanglements such as anger and hurt.

Another highlight of this morning’s class was the fact that forgiveness is not about fairness, justice, or apologies from those who have hurt and/or wronged us—-and that the process of forgiveness evolves over time. This process is nurtured by being part of a community that understands what you are trying to do and supports one’s involvement in this process.

This hit home with me because I realized that this has actually been my experience. In the past eleven years or so I have been actively supported both by my 12 step community and my church community in making the journey from a very painful divorce through hurt, blame, and anger to my current level of moderate acceptance. I can now think of what happened as a memory; I no longer get bombarded by waves of hurt, anger, or blame.  I can remember the important lessons I learned, and I can honestly say I am truly moving on. This could never have happened without my faith, my church, and my recovery program. Hopefully, I’ll get a bit quicker at my “forgiveness participation” as I continue on my life’s journey.

I want to close by wishing all my readers love, peace, and acceptance of God’s grace, love, and blessings during this year of 2015. In the past year this blog has been viewed about 2100 times with visitors from 39 countries, mostly from the US, Iceland, and Canada. Thank you, my readers,  for helping me believe in my writing.

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Photograph courtesy of K. Farwell

Funny how you can have one dream—or a similar variation of the same dream—over and over again. For about a year now I have been having a repeated dream involving trying to live in the home of my childhood leaving it to find another place to live. The characters in the dreams are sometimes my parents, sometimes my ex-husband, and always friends whose names I cannot remember.

This morning I had an “ah-ha” moment when I finally realized what these dreams have been trying to tell me. I was on the way to pick up a friend to take to church with me when I realized I was singing along with the radio, and the words I was  singing  were: “I’ll be home for…..” . That is as far as I got. I couldn’t finish singing the song. I realized I no longer have a home to go home to for Christmas or any other time. My dreams have been trying to tell me I am truly “emanicpated” from my childhood. I am an adult; I have no living parents.

Instead of being sad, I started smiling. God has been kind to me; I now have a home…..my own home…..and I don’t have to go any further to “feel at home.” I can stop looking for the “dream home”—-the home of my childhood and/or the mystery home I have been seeking in my dreams. Realizing I am exactly where I am meant to be—-that I am finally home is like taking a deep breath and relaxing. I don’t have to “go out and seek my fortune” or pursue any other material goal. I am home. I can rest. I can take time to nurture my soul. I can be at peace. The antagonistic characters in my dreams are just figments of my imagination who no longer exist in my current reality.

Have I come to the end of the “fairy tale?” You know, the part where you live happily ever after? I doubt it. Accepting where I am as I am is a bit more realistic than believing I can find the perfect person and/or the perfect place to make my life complete so  I can “live happily ever after.” My happiness is my own responsibility, and I know I will continue to have “good days” and “bad days.” However,  I am very lucky indeed to have a comfortable home, good friends, a church family, and a loving God  to walk with me through those days. May God bless and keep you.

 

Advent candle

Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

It is time to write again. Everywhere I go I seem to run into what I think of as “Christmas Frenzy.” I have come to believe how we celebrate Christmas is more pagan and commercial than Christian. That is OK, I suppose—–but that just turns it into another commercial day off from work.

I grew up in a church that never used the word Advent. Now I am a member of a church that makes a big deal out of Advent. Up until now, I just thought it was all “pretty.” You know, the lighting of a different candle every Sunday, special music, a bit of greenery sprinkled here and there. But I always wondered why they made such a big deal out of it.

This time I get it. It is about nurturing our soul so that “Christ” can be born again in our inner being and manifested in our interactions with each other. I have been learning about the benefits of going inward and listening in the silence expectantly for several years now. Now I am able to see Advent as a way of celebrating this activity. I am grateful it is, for the most part, not commercialized. Sure, you can buy Advent calendars or sign up for online, expensive “spiritual” courses on the topic of Advent. But the real Advent is a recurring “Event” in our souls and in our lives. This particular season reminds me to give “God time” to my inner being so I can “feed” the “infant God-oneness” that I am allowing to become part of me so that it manifests “inside-out.” Meaning if I nurture God’s will in my inner-self, then it follows, I hope, that God’s love will manifest in how I think and how I behave.

That is all theoretically very impressive. But what does it mean, really? Does it mean remembering to  mediate, to  immerse myself in centering prayer,  and/or to practice yoga each and every day? Does it mean praying my rosary? Does it mean being friendly and giving to others—-considering all persons as my family because we are all one in God’s family?  I don’t have the answers, but I do what I can.

However, as for putting my newly discovered meaning of Advent into practice, I have to confess that I do not remember to nurture the “infant” within my soul as often as I should; nor do I let its trusting, child-like love manifest in my thoughts and actions as I should. But, at least I can toss out that word “should” and realize that whatever I do to feed and share that “infant” is progress.  That progress, however small, is my personal “birthing process” that will allow me to celebrate Christ in my life every day—–and yes to appreciate the true meaning of Christmas.  God bless and keep you.

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

 

I’m doing it again. Crying. I read somewhere this week that grief is like a spiral—-you think it has gotten better, and then it suddenly and unexpectedly  washes  over  you again. It hits your soul like an arrow. I want something to make the pain go away. I know it can’t be alcohol, food, drugs, gambling, buying, sex—–no one thing can make it go away. I am stuck with it. I know God is with me in my suffering, but I still get angry from time to time at him/her for letting it happen. And, yes, I am grateful for all the happy moments, all the hugs, all the “I love you” messages exchanged, and all the shared prayers that God gifted me with when he gave me my relationship with my father. I am grateful for what my father taught me and what my father has given me.  Of course I know the stages of grief and that all I am going though is “normal”—–but that doesn’t make it any less painful. There is this big hole, this big void, in my life. My father is no longer there. I cannot pick up the phone and call him. I cannot get in my car, drive seven hours, and walk into the house I grew up in and be engulfed in his loving, welcoming embrace.

My program tells me to focus on creating an attitude of gratitude when I am feeling down. So, today, I will share with you what I am grateful for. Doing so seems appropriate on the eve of Thanksgiving. I am grateful for my faith and for my spiritual journey. I am grateful for my dogs who constantly share their love with me. I am grateful for all of the wonderful friends I have who accept me as I am and are always there to give a helping hand, to offer their support, and to share their thoughts, observations, and beliefs. I am grateful I have a warm home to live in with food in the refrigerator. I am grateful that I have an adequate retirement income. I am grateful that I have appliances in my home that make my life easier and more enjoyable.  I am grateful I found a program of recovery because without it I would not be here.

When you weigh the pain of grief against all the things I have to be grateful for, it becomes apparent there is much more in my life to be grateful for than there is to be sad about. But  this grief is not a matter of  quantity or even quality. This grief is not comparable to things, and what I find most effective in dealing with the waves of grief I experience is not tangible. It is not measurable;  it cannot be named, described, or defined. It is grounded in the realm of spirit and truth. When all else in my life is gone; it will be with me wherever I am and in whatever form I exist. I cannot tell you what this mysterious “it” is. Perhaps naming it is not important; what matters is the absolute truth and strength of its existence now and through eternity.