Special Delivery

When you begin listening for the voice of God in your life, he speaks in many ways.  Sometimes, it is that “still, small voice” in my head during a meditation.  Other times it is looking up to see a sunbeam playing across the floor bringing just a little light into a dark moment.

When I pay attention to “living, instead of existing,” God manifests.  Perhaps you will say that these moments are simply coincidences.  I choose to view them as the breadcrumbs left behind to show me that I am still on the right path.

God sent two messages to me last week via “special delivery.”

I adopted “comfort and joy” as a little personal theme, brand or motto a year or so ago.  I post photos of teacups or flowers, bright colored yarn or even close-ups of my dogs. If it brings me comfort or joy, it’s a likely candidate for my instagram hashtag, #comfortandjoy.

I have an eye condition that makes it difficult to read sometimes.  I do as much of my reading on a screen as I can because I can tweak the contrast and the font size to make it easier to see.  As a result, I rarely look at “real” books anywhere anymore.

Last weekend I went on a little shopping expedition to two of my favorite thrift stores.  At the first, where I have never even glanced at the used book rack, I was forced to stop a moment by the shelves because a couple of people were admiring objects in a curio and blocking my way.  I turned to the bookshelves to pass the time, and my eyes lit immediately on a daily devotional about “Simple Abundance” with “Comfort and Joy” in the title.  I picked it up and paid for it.

At the next stop, I was waiting for my son to try on some clothing.  I had already checked out the dishware and found no teacups that called to me, so I walked to the book shelves.  Just the day before, I had reviewed my Amazon “Wish List.”  On it was Regina Brett’s book, “God Never Blinks.”  I’ve enjoyed reading Regina’s newspaper columns for years.  She has inspired me on many occasions.  I “follow” her on Facebook, and although I frequently have considered buying her book, I just haven’t gotten around to it.

Just as at the previous shop, the first book that I saw “called out” to me.  Its bright orange cover drew my eye, and into the cart it went.

Those books sat on my coffee table for several days, untouched.  I opened the cover of “God Never Blinks” and saw an inscription from a daughter to her mother on Mother’s Day 2012.  It made me a little sad to know that a carefully chosen gift had made its way to the Salvation Army store.

I turned the page, and saw that the author had autographed the book, and my amazement that this little book had found its way into my hands was magnified.  I turned to the Introduction section, and as I read the words, I knew that I had discovered a soul sister.  Tears streamed down my face.

I’ve been reading from these two books for a week now, with no hint of discomfort – no visual distortion.   Now, I read a lesson each day.  I want to keep turning the pages and consume the entire book in a single sitting, but it would be over too quickly.  Instead, like a box of expensive chocolates, I will savor just one each day, letting the words sink in slowly.

God didn’t just send me a message.  He sent me an autographed copy.  Thank you for your words, Regina, and thank you to unnamed “favorite daughter” who bought her mom and autographed book in 2012 that would be delivered into the hands of another mother nearly 5 years later.

 

Day 6/365: Prayer and Meditation

I spend a period of time each day in prayer and in meditation.   I set aside time each day for each of these practices.  I am not a theologian or a guru.  I have found, though, that prayer and meditation complement each other and add a great deal to my life.

I have heard it said that prayer is talking to God, and meditation is listening for the answers.  That may be an oversimplification, but I like the sentiment.

The first thing I do in the morning, before I get out of bed, is to give thanks for another day of life.  If my husband is in bed, I check if he is breathing and give thanks for that, too.  I (silently) say “this is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it,” and then I wake up my 16-year-old son and round up the dogs.

I go to sleep at night (literally) counting my blessings and giving thanks for the many people and things that bring joy into my life.  I don’t view God as a vending machine in the sky that doles out favors in exchange for prayer tokens.  I don’t spend much prayer time asking for specific blessings.  I do, however, seek answers.  I ask for inspiration, and I receive it.

I attempt to spend 15 – 20 minutes each morning in meditation.  I have some recordings that i like to use to get into a meditative state of mind.  It seems my mind is always working on one question or another, and it is difficult to reach a place where I can just “be” instead of “doing.”

I have learned to keep a pad of paper and a pen handy when I meditate because ideas just pop into my mind.  Without my mind planning projects or worrying about details, I am free to simply breathe in and out and listen for inspiration and answers – or just to relax and enjoy life.

There are many free meditation apps for iPhone and Android that are useful tools to help you learn to meditate.  Although it’s cold in Ohio as I write (1 degrees F, brrrr), when the weather is warn, there is nothing that I enjoy more than sitting in nature with my eyes closed and just simply observing the sounds of nature and the sensations of the sun and the breeze as they touch my skin.  In these moments I can truly disconnect from the wear and tear of life’s distractions and allow God to speak.

 

Oh, the weather outside is frightful (but do it anyway)…

As a child, my brother and I would ride in the back seat of our parents’ station wagon and sing “Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house, we go…”  We literally would cross a river (more like a creek) and there were woods on the way, so I felt like the song was written just for us (except for the horse part…).

As an intact family, we had one set of traditions to worry about.  Christmas Eve would be at Grandma and Aunt Betty’s house.  Christmas morning would usually be back at home in Kidron, where the presents awaited under the tree.  It was two days full of fun and traditions.

When I married and had my own family, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were generally divided between my family and his.  Christmas Eve would still be a Aunt Betty’s (Grandma had gone to heaven by then), Christmas morning and Christmas Day would be at my in-laws.  It worked.

When my oldest son was six years old, his father and I divorced.  Now we had visitation schedules to worry about.  The schedule said “alternate holidays” and that meant that someone’s traditions suffered.  That was more than two decades ago, so I don’t remember the details of when J’s dad and I finally figured out that we could divide things up as best suited our various family traditions instead of according to a piece of paper, but we eventually got there.

Today, I’m writing as the wife and mother in a divorced and blended family.  I’ve had a lot of years to get it together, and I do some of it right.  I’ve also had a lot of years to reflect on where I got it wrong, and I’m sharing both of those with you.

  1. Be mindful.  Your children come first in this.  They want to please both mom and dad.  if you ask them what they want to do, they’re likely to tell you what they believe  you want to hear.  Instead, try asking them about their favorite parts of Christmas celebrations.  Share that conversation with your ex.  Work together to try to find a solution that will allow your child to enjoy time with both sides of the family.

    I remember many an early Christmas morning or late Christmas Eve night on the road through snow and ice to meet my ex-husband and his wife somewhere “half way” so that our son could enjoy as many celebrations as possible, including those of his stepfamily.  Looking back, it was so worth it.

  2. Be generous.  Your child wants to give both of you gifts on Christmas.  I can remember neglecting this because I felt it wasn’t my job to buy something for my ex and his spouse.  Perhaps it wasn’t my responsibility, but I regret not doing the generous thing and making sure that my son had something to give to every important person in his life.

    If money is tight, help your child create something – an ornament or a plate of special cookies.  You may receive nothing in return from the “other side,” and you need to be prepared for that.  You’re doing this for your child – not for yourself.

  3. Be firm.  Although I encourage you to be giving and open-minded, don’t be railroaded, either.  If sticking to the visitation plan in your court order is what keeps peace in the family, then stick to your guns.  Just make sure that you are doing it for the right reasons.
  4. Be inventive.  Sometimes it is just impossible for your child to be included in all of the celebrations.  Technology makes it possible for them to be included in your celebration.  Facetime, Skype, or Zoom are all great ways for distant family members to be included in any holiday.
  5. Be courteous.  If your co-parent is being cooperative, don’t overreach.  Don’t monopolize “their” parenting time with phone calls and Facetime.  Keep your calls short and simple.  Don’t stir up emotions for your child and leave their other parent to try to calm them.  Keep it simple.  Keep it positive.

    Along the line of “courtesy,” be on time.  Your child needs that predictability, and so does your co-parent.  You all have plans for this holiday season, and sometimes things need to run like clockwork for everything to happen smoothly.  Don’t be allow your failure to plan be an additional stressor for your child.

Remember that once you have created a life with another person, you are linked to them forever.  Once your child is grown there are still graduations, marriages, birth, deaths and other important milestones.  I was moved to tears when my ex-husband and his wife came to my father’s calling hours to be there for me and our son.  We are not close, but we are cordial, and that is what matters.  Holidays are an opportunity to forge a different kind of relationship that will help you to be civil and supportive through all of the important times in your child’s life.

 

 

Let your light shine

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

I remember being about 5 years old and singing this song in Sunday school at the top of my lungs.  I can still picture the room in the basement of the Orrville Christian and Missionary Alliance Church where I attended Sunday School.  I remember the little chairs and the tables.  I remember the upright piano in the front right corner of the room.   I remember the motions to the song.  I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Jumping forward to third grade or fourth grade, I remember singing the song “One Little Candle.”  My Dad played the piano to accompany me.  “If we all said a prayer that the world would be free, a wonderful dawn of a new day, we’d see and if everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world this would be.”

For years and years I have been troubled by mucky feelings about myself.  I’m too fat, too slow, too messy, too simple. Yet, when people meet me, it’s not uncommon at all for them to tell me that they are drawn to my light.

I spend a lot of time hiding my light.  I’m afraid of what “this group” or “that group” will think.  I worry far too much about the good opinions of other people instead of letting my light shine.  Don’t’ like it?  Don’t read it.  Don’t like the gift?  Pass it on.

scatter-joyThis summer I found a sign that attracted me in a thrift shop in Breckenridge where I was shopping with friends.  Several of those friends took the time to point the sign out to me.  Somehow, they knew that I would love it.  Although I didn’t end up buying it because I didn’t want to tote it around town and back home, I snapped a picture of it.  It said, simply, “Scatter Joy.”  I have adopted that simple message as my personal motto.

“There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m learning, bit by bit, to uncover my light and to share it.  I make things (mostly crocheted scarves, hats, or blanket) to share with people who I feel could use a dose of friendship.  I receive the most amazing little thank you notes.  While I cannot see my light in the mirror, I see it reflected in each of you, and for that I am weeping with joy as I write this.

Someone important to me told me this summer how broken he believes me to be.  I’ve spent a lot of emotional energy in the five months believing him.  I saw myself through his eyes instead of the eyes of the people who choose to see the good in me.  I would wish for that time and energy back, but I’ve learned an important lesson.

I listened this week to a podcast in which the presented gave a message which I am paraphrasing here.  She said something that I internalized as,  “there will people who will not like your authentic self.  They will not respond to your light.  They will not accept you as you are.  Those are not your people.  They are not your tribe.”

That resonates with me because I am being the best person that I know how to be.  I am in contact with God as I know him.  I am trying my best to treat people as I wish to be treated.

I have been struggling with anxiety and depression since that dark day last summer.  I convinced myself that I was that broken, horrible person.

In the past weeks I have done little things for people.  I will scatter joy, and I will spread kindness.  I will send comfort and I will wear purple or electric blue to the office when the spirit moves it.

“Hide it under a bushel? NO!  I’m gonna let it shine.”

I’m not broken – I’m just cracked, and dear one, that’s how the light gets in. (Apologies to Leonard Cohen, may he rest in peace).

Love, Be

 

What’s in a Name?

If you’ve followed my little blog for any time, you’ve read before that I am an adopted person.  I was born in June of 1967.  I didn’t go home from the hospital with my family or origin, but my birth mother didn’t sign papers to give me up until September, so I entered a kind of legal limbo as ward of the State.

When the legal documents allowing it were finally signed, I went home with a family where I was given a name, kind of like when you take home a puppy, I suppose.

I arrived with a handwritten note about things I liked and disliked, but nothing about a name.  Nothing about the names of the people who gave me up or the people who cared for me for those first months.  I was devoid of history – and identity.

I’ve given birth to three children.  Each time one of them has reached that e-month mark, I’ve marveled at their budding personalities.  They’ve known me.  They’ve trusted me.  They’ve listened to me coo their names thousands of times.  They have known who they are.

My mom and dad gave me a name.  They named me after my mom’s sister.  We shared both first and middle names.  She was called by our first name, and to distinguish us I was called by first and middle names.

As an older adolescent, I asked people to drop the middle name.  It sounded too “country.”  I imagined myself more sophisticated than that name – think “Petticoat Junction,” if you’re old enough to remember that kind of thing.

My Aunt and I had a special relationship growing up.  She had no children of her own, and so having a child named after her was an honor that she seemed to really enjoy.

As I’ve aged, I’ve used that middle name more often.  I long to be more “country.”  You can take the girl out of the country and all that jazz.

My birth mother and I found each other on the internet around 20 years ago.  I asked her for my birth name, but she didn’t think I had been given one. I didn’t think much about it at the time.  That chapter of searching for answers brought more unanswered questions, and I eventually found it too painful to continue.  I sent her a birthday gift this year but she never acknowledged it.  It was kind of sappy.  I bought two teacups in a second hand store.  I sent her one set and kept the other so that we could sip a cup of tea together, but apart.

I turned 49 a few weeks ago.  I’ve lived nearly half a century with the name I was given at the age of 3 months and until today, it never bothered me that I didn’t know my “first” name.

Ohio passed legislation a couple of years ago that allows me to request a copy of my adoption file with my original birth certificate.  I downloaded the form this morning. It will only cost $20.00 to see if I ever had a name.  I filled out the form, but it requires notarization and I haven’t decided if I ‘m motivated enough to go to the trouble.

I have a feeling that when the documents come, I’ll discover that I’m the original “Baby Girl,” (eat your hearts out Criminal Minds fans).  I’ll still be me. The diplomas on my wall and my driver license will still match the identity that I have formed. It would be nice, though, when that inner child cries out to know what name to coo to her to bring comfort.

My cousin told me today that I wear my aunt’s name well, and that made me very happy.  She was a special person, and sharing her name is an honor.  This longing isn’t about her death, I don’t think, although that event brought it to the surface.  It was a catalyst, not a cause.

I don’t know a lot about many things, but I know a little about a lot of things.  I just write what I know.

~Be~

Perfect Sense(s)?

12983773_10154170302648223_4397169664801694898_oOver the past six months or so, my life has been enriched through the use of essential oils.  I’ve read some of the science behind them, but to be honest I really don’t understand *how* they work.  I just know that for me they *do* work.  This post isn’t really about that, though.

I’ve been fighting a cold / sinus infection for a week.  The essential oils have been helping me feel a little better than I usually do, but yesterday, something changed.  I made a batch of essential oil-laced bath bombs to share.  I opened my favorite essential oil – the one that I call happiness in a bottle – and took a whiff.  Nothing.  I held it up to the light to see if perhaps the bottle was empty.  It was half full.  I opened the next bottle and again, nothing.

Although I was feeling congested, I was still able to breathe in through my nose.  I opened the cinnamon and the peppermint – odorless.  I opened the peanut butter.  Nothing.

Confused, I ran to consult “Doctor Google.”  He said that anosmia (the absence of the sense of smell) has a number of causes, not the least of which is sinus infection and nasal congestion.  I flushed my sinuses with my neti pot.  Still nothing.

i lamented to my husband that the I wouldn’t be able to taste the dinner that I had planned.  Graciously, he suggested that I save my labor for another day and offered to feed himself and the “boys.”  I ate my flavorless baked potato and a salad. If not for the varied textures, I’m not sure that I would have been able to differentiate between them.

Back to Dr. Google, I wondered if perhaps my neti pot could damage my sense of smell.  I came upon a discussion thread filled with individuals who had been living without their sense of small (and sense of taste) for long period of time.  One professional chef related how she had battled depression.  Life just wasn’t as vibrant without tasting and smelling.

I thought back to my essential oils.  After battling anxiety for years, I’ve found something that really helps me.  My emotional aromatherapy is something that I not only enjoy – it helps me feel and think “better.”  If this anosmia were to persist, how would I go back to “before?”

I ate some flavorless popcorn as I watched television with my husband.  At the suggestion of a friend, I stuck some basil essential oil up my nose.  It cleared my sinuses, but I couldn’t smell it.  I gave a longing look at the essential oil diffuser in the bedroom and debated as to whether or not I should turn it on.  Would it help me drift off to sleep ifI couldn’t smell it?

I woke up this morning and still couldn’t smell a thing.  I couldn’t “wake up and smell the coffee.”  I started feeling pretty sorry for myself, to tell the truth.

If I had to give up a sense, which would it be?  I couldn’t imagine not seeing a sunrise or hearing music.  Without touch, how would I avoid injury?  Before this experience, I suppose I might have said “smell,” but I find myself rethinking that position.  Taste protects us from consuming spoiled foods and makes life richer.  Smell and taste go together, I have discovered.

We depend upon our sense of smell to warn us of danger – fire, smoke, spoiled food.  what a marvelous creation the human body is.  These five senses work so perfectly together to keep us safe – to enrich or lives.

As I pondered the senses, I doused the tiny ants that had made their way into my kitchen with a spray of white vinegar and peppermint essential oil.  Suddenly, the acrid smell of vinegar penetrated my head and I smiled.

I ran to unmold the bath bombs and my head was filled with the odor of “joy” (yes, joy has a smell).

Today, I give thanks for a world filled with smells and tastes, touches and sights and sounds.  It all makes perfect sense.

Just write what you know.

love,

~Be~