Archives for posts with tag: God

 

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Photograph courtesy of K. Farwell

Finally. Time to write again. Have been going through an emotional wringer——one of those life passages that grabs you, kneads you, and reshapes you, hopefully, into something better. This is about life after death—–my life after my father’s death.

My father died on Oct. 22 at the age of 92. As I like to think of it,  he left his “shell” behind and entered  into what I’ve come to call the “cloud of unknowing”—-that place where we all are in close relationship with a God that loves us. I have caught glimpses of it during prayer and meditation, and once with a chemically induced ticket. When I focus on centering prayer, I slowly die to what is around me that holds me to this plane, and that is what I watched my father do for months. Unfortunately, they were months that were physically and emotionally very painful for him.

Dementia is not a fun process to watch or to experience. It would be different, I think, if you just woke up one morning and had no memory, could not think clearly, and could not participate in conversations because your mind no longer could keep up with things. Instead, for my father,  it was a slow process that grieved my father until the end because he was aware of what he was losing and had lost. The greatest sacrifice dementia demanded from him was his independence. First, he allowed caretakers to enter his home several times a day to help him with meals and medicine. …and operating both the television remote and the telephone.  But as his dementia progressed, he needed more and more assistance.  It wasn’t until the last few months of his life that we confiscated the keys to his vehicle. To him, I know, that symbolized one of the final straws in his fight to maintain his independence.  When his last surviving sibling died, his younger brother, he voiced his realization that he was ready to die, and we gave him our permission.

Shortly after that, there were multiple hospitalizations for a variety of physical conditions, and I was privileged to spend time with him during most of those times. I am grateful I got to feed my father and to hug him and say the Lord’s Prayer with him as we embraced—-something we did several times a day during his last long hospital stay. Those were special moments for us. In the end, he was too sick to go home, even with care-takers. When he left the hospital in September, as health power of attorney and with his permission,  I admitted him to a facility that provided rehab services.

My sisters and I hung on to the fantasy that his strength would return and he could return to his home. This never happened, and rehab became skilled nursing care. And I felt very, very guilty because one of his strongest desires was never to be in one of “those places;” he was always adamant about wanting to die at home. In less than two weeks after transferring to skilled nursing care he was admitted to a hospital with a diagnosis of pneumonia; he died the next day. I was driving over 300 miles to be with him, but he died before I got there.

My grief has been fed with unrealistic self- expectations and guilt. I am a nurse. I was supposed to help him get better. In spite of everything I did, that did not happen. My dreams have been filled with thinking of things that would “make Daddy well”—-only to wake and realize he was already dead.  But I think I’ve finally started getting better. A friend helped me realize my dreams of repeatedly trying to save my father’s life are actually my way of trying to “re-image” myself as a “successful savior.” With that insight came the realization that I have been trying to do God’s job, and now I am starting to let go of what happened and my need to constantly re-play it and fix it in my dreams. I have been using an Anglican rosary to pray to “Almighty and Merciful God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” to bless us and keep us, to have mercy on us, and to grant us peace. It is working. I am starting to accept and move on. Those prayers are saving my sanity and restoring my ability to engage in living my life once more in a way that lets God drive the bus. May God bless and keep you.

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“Circles” photo courtesy of K. Farwell

Well, I’ve put it off as long as I can. I can’t hide it anymore, and I have to write about it. I am obsessed with circles. I notice them now when I didn’t before. Circles are everywhere and in everything.  I look up in the morning, and, if I am lucky, there is the sun. At night there is the moon. Of course, the earth is round as are the other planets.  My dogs run and play in circles. My steering wheel is a round circle. We close twelve step meetings standing in a circular formation holding hands.  The Cape area has at least three “round-a-bouts” I can drive my car around in a circle. If I crochet a doily, it is a circle. If I crochet a mandala, it is a circle. The “paper-plate weaving” we did in a craft group I am part of produced woven circles. The two “creations” I wove  look sort of like bow and arrow targets—–there you go, even more circles. When I set my coffee cup down it frequently leaves a ring of moisture where it had been sitting. My bird bath is round. The wheels on my car, the clock on my wall, and the medicine wheel on my wall are all circles.  King Arthur reportedly had a “round table”—- when placed in a circle everyone is equal. Perhaps our society needs to re-visit the power of the circle in promoting peace and equality.

I don’t want to put you to sleep listing all the circles in my life. But I do want to talk about them and what they mean to me in spiritual terms. To me they symbolize how all of creation is connected with one another and God (Creator). To Native Americans, the circle is sacred, and I realize much of my thinking comes from their ideas. They often look at sacred circles as symbolic of the four directions which can, in turn,  symbolize important milestones in our life from infancy to death. I am increasingly aware that humans travel “full circle” as they mature and age. I do not think it was an accident that Christ told us to  “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14, KJV). I believe children have a closer link to the kingdom of God than we adults—–because I believe that is where they were before they joined us in this reality.

I cannot say I am planning on turning senile and becoming child-like any time soon, but if and when I do, perhaps, rather than dreading the final stages of aging I should begin to consider the final stage of my life as  another “link in the circle” that connects me to God —-one that brought me from God’s kingdom and one that will take me to God’s kingdom.

Yesterday a dear friend brought me some lovely zinnias and heritage tomatoes.  The zinnias themselves are circles, and they have circles at their center. Needless to say, I am enjoying the flowers, and the tomato I had for lunch was indescribably wonderful—–so, you see, today I am enjoying circles around me, in me, below and above me. God bless and keep you.

 

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Photograph courtesy of K. Farwell

For over a week now I have had “writer’s block.” I think I still do, so this  may not be worth reading. Then, again, it may be. During this time I have been thinking about how I often tell people to have a blessed day and remembering how decades ago a couple of friends who were into Wicca would always say “Blessed Be” when we parted. One would think Christians and Wiccans would be at polar opposites, but I believe both groups truly want people to be blessed, peaceful, and loving. A thesaurus will tell you that blessed means to be holy, sacred, sanctified, hallowed, consecrated or set apart. When I wish people blessings I am wishing they will be in relationship with God, but often, if I am not careful, I can fall backward into my more child-like practice of thinking “blessed” is a magical word that will keep the person safe. Maybe it is.

If I am living in a way that receives and expresses Creator’s love, then I am doing my part to help create God’s kingdom on earth—-you know, sort of “as it is within, so it is without.” If I am truly living according to the instructions God and Jesus have given me, then I and those I influence may have a better chance of being safe. I have to remind myself that being safe and loved in God’s kingdom does not necessarily mean being alive and safe in this world as I know it. It means, for me, being safe in my relationship with God in this reality or the reality I will join when I die.

Too often, though, I think many of us in our current consumer driven capitalistic society may believe that being blessed means being  apart from, different, and better than others. Blessings in this connotation often mean seeking materialistic gain, luxury at the expense of both others and the environment in the process. I cannot help but notice all of the postings on Facebook that loudly and sometimes rudely proclaim why they and what they believe in is right and  how they are different than, better than, and set apart from that which they are condemning. You know, the conservatives versus liberals, the Democrats vs. Republicans, those that need to condemn Moslems, refugees, immigrants an anyone else that threatens their perceived set apart superiority.

I have one dog that does everything he can to take away the other dog’s treats so he will have all of them; I presume he then feels superior—-and, dare I say it “blessed.” I have another that willingly shares his foods  and treats with the other dogs I have. At first glance, he seems to be the “underdog”—-weak, submissive, and “introverted.” I think he is truly blessed; he is able to share good fortune and to do unto others as he probably wishes they would unto him.

Enough. I am rambling about Wiccans,  capitalists, self-centered perceived superiority, and dogs—-all in an attempt to simply say being blessed is having and sharing God’s love and not trying to horde it all for yourself. God bless and keep you.

 

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

There is a lyric on Leonard Cohen’s “!0 New Songs” CD repeated over and over again in one of the songs:  “May everyone live; may everyone die.” Yesterday I was involved in a conversation about the cycle of life and death —–and that we cannot have resurrection/life without death. We talked about how we go through certain developmental stages as we grow—in our minds, our emotions, and our spirituality.  We also talked about how the developmental stages seem to be reversed as we grow older. Two of us in the group discussed how our experience of almost dying brought us to experience God’s presence fully within and around us—-and that these experiences have helped us see life differently. It is as if accepting and surrendering to our inevitable death brings us a new mindfulness to experience our precious moments more fully. In addition, death,  while not sought,  is no longer feared as much as it once was when one realizes dying actually connects us to full immersion in God’s presence.

One of the members mentioned hearing  a comment when he was in India which went something like this: “When you great someone the only alive part of the person you are greeting is the gleam in their eyes—-everything else is already in the process of dying.”  I had to admit the truth in that—-our cells age and die repeatedly. However, our body is also making new cells to replace them.  So, again, I was confronted with the concept of life being a continuous cycle of life and death. When I stop and think about it, I realize both life and death constantly surround me and they are both part of the same continuum—–if they are not actually different expressions of the same thing.  When I first heard Mr. Cohen’s lyric, I thought of wanting the gift of life for all and how, when I am honest, there are, as a nurse,  times when I welcome death as the end to someone’s suffering— I view death as the ultimate cure or healing in those instances.

Oddly enough, or perhaps not, when I came home yesterday afternoon I began to obsessively crochet mandalas—-beautiful and intricate concentric circles of bright vivid colors unfolding in different patterns. It wasn’t until I came home from church this morning and looked up the meaning of the word mandala that I found out it is a spiritual representation of unity, wholeness, and completeness. I had always known mandalas were sometimes used as an aid to  meditation, but now I realize they are  much, much more than just an attractive tool. For me, today, they represent the cycle of life and death that is in all of creation—-so connected that one cannot exist without the other. In this sacred circle I see God’s promise that aging is actually a reverse “developmental  cycle” leading to our “birthing” —–a birthing back to God where our sacred circle begins and ends—-perhaps repeatedly. I hope all of this made sense. And now, I am going to return to crocheting mandalas. May God bless and keep you.

 

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

I awoke this morning from a very insightful dream.  In this dream I was once again married and being ignored by my husband. As in life, he was very self-absorbed. However, in my dream he had asked me if I “minded” something. I started to answer with a truly co-dependent response, “only about what it might do to you.” I caught myself mid-sentence in this scene and instead had the courage to tell him what I really thought without holding back so he “wouldn’t get upset.”  Of course, in this dream scene as I was talking my husband stomped off totally ignoring my answer to his question. In the dream I got angry enough to follow him around as he tried to evade me and  forcibly communicated my feelings and thoughts. Not surprisingly, they poured out of me——a veritable flood of emotions centered on abandonment issues and my anger and hurt over always be ignored.

You see, my life used to be like that. And this dream showed me, after all these years, the part I played in contributing to the sad state of affairs our marriage was in. I grew up in a family that taught me at an early age not to communicate feelings and to expect those around me to intuitively know what I wanted without me having to tell them because it was wrong to “want anything for yourself.”  This was the perfect upbringing to create a nurse who married a Viet Nam veteran with PTSD, depression, and a vast array of other “take care of me” issues.  I thought I was careful to avoid the role of care taker, but indirectly, and some times directly, I did so any way. I bought property in the middle of of the woods—-a cottage that was secluded and would feel more safe to him than a home in town would.

I started a pattern of living my life centered around meeting his emotional needs and neglecting my own. I got to the place where I wasn’t even able to acknowledge what I was feeling—-denial worked. I learned early into our marriage that I had to walk on egg shells and that the slightest comment or action that insinuated challenging what he said or wanted could trigger his anger. I was very afraid of his temper although he never struck me.

I am ashamed it has taken almost a decade for me to realize, thanks to this dream, that in never telling him what I was feeling or what I wanted I was setting myself up to be a doormat.  I did tell him sometimes, and fights usually resulted.  My childhood taught behavior of silent martyrdom was further reinforced. I have to take responsibility for contributing to and maintaining the dysfunctional communication patterns in our marriage.  Before this morning, I tended to blame him for all the problems we had, but now I can see I set the stage for what happened, and then I played my part well.

Where was God in all this? Definitely not at the center of my heart and being as He currently is but, instead, more on the “fringes of my soul” where I went to pray  automatically and superficially most of the time. At times, I viewed God as just another male authority figure that intimidated me. I am very grateful that as my life has unfolded I have discoverd that perception of God was totally wrong.

God is now with me every moment. God is a part of my being so interwoven into my essence that all I have to do is think the word “consent” and I know his love is engulfing me, guiding me, and is always there to help  me handle life’s challenges.

Those who knew me then and now know I am now much more assertive about saying what I think, feel, and need—–sometimes abrasively so (I’m working on my sarcasm). They also know the part my faith plays in my life now because I write, talk, and hopefully act in a way that reflects that.

So, the lesson I learned from this dream is no one can know what I’m feeling, needing, or wanting unless I tell them. God can, of course, but my fellow human beings cannot. If I want my relationships with other humans to be healthy, then I need to communicate my feelings and thoughts directly—-implying them or communicating them non-verbally with my facial expressions or tone of voice is not an effective means of communication.  Putting the needs of others first over my own is also a threat to building and maintaining  healthy relationships. When Jesus told us to love one another as we love ourselves I believe he was also telling us that we need to love ourselves. There is a lot of wisdom in the recovery slogan “to thy own self be true.” God bless and keep you.

God Boxes Sept 26 13

Photo by author of God Boxes made in group she co-facilitates.

The ideas discussed in today’s blog were triggered by listening to Father Al Jewson tell a true story in today’s sermon about something that happened to him and his grandfather many years ago. The story was about what we in twelve step programs often call a “God Box.” In the twelve step tradition, such a box is viewed as a receptacle for concerns and problems that we deposit in the box to symbolize letting them go and turning them over to God. We put things (our problems) in this box and literally give them to God.

But in this morning’s story the box in question acted quite differently. It was still a receptacle, but this time it held the Spirit and love of God (God’s Kingdom) and people who are  gifted with such a box are held responsible for sharing the box’s contents with others and eventually passing the box on to someone else even though they continue to “keep”  and “share” the gift the box gave to them.  With this sort of God box we take from God and give to others rather than just giving to God.

So, here we have two boxes symbolizing our communication with God—-with one box, we send things to God so He can solve the problems here on earth. With the other box, we receive a gift from God —-and it is our responsibility to share that love and grace with others.  It is as if one box is saying “Here, God. I can’t handle it—-I have to turn this over to you to handle” and the other is saying “Here is my essence, the only tool the world needs to prevent and solve problems. Here is the solution, share it with others.” One is a taking box and one is a giving box.

However, like all true communication, there needs to be both a sender and a receiver. We actually are responsible for practicing both roles. We need to be able to receive God’s love and direction, and we need to be able to share that gift with others. We also need to realize that we are not God, that there is a power greater than ourselves, and surrendering in love to that power is often necessary if we are to survive to be able to spread God’s grace and love.

So, in closing, I think the “take home” thought from this comparison of “God Boxes” is that we have a give and take relationship with God; we work in partnership as our lives unfold.  We let him “drive the bus” and we, in turn, receive and share his gifts with each other. We don’t try to run and control things, but we do help establish his kingdom on earth by being living messages of God’s gift of love and grace.

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Photograph:”Easter Sunrise;” courtesy of K. Farwell

How many nudges do I need before I start doing the things I know I have to do to be healthy? So far, I’ve had foot pain, back pain, headaches, clothes fitting tighter, and now…..my fasting blood sugars are starting to creep up 2-4 points above what they should be. My blood pressure and pulse are fine, and I am not experiencing any pedal edema. But I think I recognize this road I seem to have detoured onto. I’ve been on it before…..only then I tried to deny how bad I felt or how big I’d gotten. That time I didn’t know I was developing diabetes. That time I had to be hospitalized with my lungs filled up with water and the scales tipping over an unmentionable poundage before I realized how seriously ill I had become. Years ago I let go of the fantasy that I could ever drink alcohol like “normal’ people……but it seems I am still hanging on to the fantasy that I can eat like “normal people.”

I’ve been telling myself if I just eat what I know to be healthy foods with no flour or sugar listed in the ingredients that I should be able to maintain both my weight and my health. There is something about having to weigh and measure these “healthy foods” that my stubborn “I want to be normal” ego resists—–and keeps resisting.  I delude myself into believing I can accomplish adequate “portion control” without the aid of scales, measuring cups, or measuring spoons. I seem to have been seeking a “middle way” that was easier than totally disciplined eating and yet healthier than compulsively eating unhealthy snacks whenever I desire to do so. I am a slow learner, but it is beginning to sink in that, for me, there is no “middle way” when it comes to what I eat.

If I compare pros and cons it seems logical that weighing and measuring what I eat is a small price to pay for being healthy and feeling good…….and staying alive. I am writing these words this morning because for the first time in months I weighed out 2 ounces of meat, 1 cup of fresh sliced strawberries, and 1/4 cup of cottage cheese for my breakfast. Having a fasting blood sugar of 94 scared me into “following the straight and narrow” pathway to my own health once again. Then after I slowly ate this delicious breakfast, as is my habit, I began perusing what my friends had posted on Facebook.  Here I encountered these encouraging words Bishop Charleston had posted this morning, and I want to share them with you because I think these words may help some of my readers free their minds from whatever trap has ensnared them:

” Like a beam of sunlight the energy of the Spirit can come to you, warm you and renew you, enlighten your mind with brighter visions for your future, bring you to life, lift you out of the shadows and give you strength to take the next step. Turn to face the sun. Do not look down into the same swirl of dark water that has captured your imagination for too long, but look up to see possibilities grow around you like a field of flowers. Even if your movement is limited, your mind can fly to any corner of reality. You are free, like sunlight, set free by the gift of the Spirit, touched by the mind that first dreamed when all the world still slept, made of grace and wonder.”

Did you get that? We are all set free by the gift of the Spirit——and we are part of God’s creation—-we are part of the grace and wonder. One day at a time I will, with God’s help, lift myself out of the shadows and be given the strength to take the next step. May god bless and keep you!