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Dainty, white tea cup on a white table. Pink flowers in a glass vase are blurred in the background.

As I was meditating this morning, the soothing voice of Yoga instructor, Selena Lael, made it seem as if all was right with the world. 

“Exhaling fully,” she said, “and emitting a humming sound will activate the Vagas nerve.”

Well, I don’t know if I inadvertently activated the “Vegas” — as in Las Vegas — nerve instead somehow, but suddenly I was amped up and anxious. Alarms were blaring in my head. Oh no! I forgot there’s a bill on auto-pay! Is there enough money in my account to cover it?

Also, I’ve got a stack of emails to reply to. Plus, I just dangled my preposition at the end of that last sentence. Aaaah!

So many things just seem so…unfinished. You tackle one situation and another one seems to spring up in its place. All these things are really just tasks on a to-do list, and we’ve all had moments where things have slipped through the cracks, haven’t we? But, looking back on the ledger of your life, you’ve handled such things before. You know how to plow through this pile of problems.

Eyes up. Gaze forward. Hands together in prayer. Shoulders square. One foot in front of the other.

There’s no need to gear up for a fight and “take on the day.” Put down your arms and take IN the day. The battle’s already been won. Do what you can to address what needs attention, and then, stop running in place. Be still, and breathe.

Settle into your comfy armchair with a fresh cup of coffee. Cover your lap with a soft throw blanket. Sit by the sunny window in the living room and pet the cat. Drink in the day that is right now, not the chaotic mess-fest you fear it may become.

It’s okay to stay in today and let tomorrow germinate in God’s garden. Who knows? Maybe the muck and mulch of fear and uncertainty will magically morph it into a beautiful, burgeoning blossom. But for now? Just be here.

Just in case I’m reincarnated as a silverfish in my next life, I never squash any bugs I find in the house. It’s just not worth the risk!

So I spotted a multi-legger this morning in front of my computer table and stopped in my tracks. “Whoa!” I said. “You’re a big boy. Not to worry! I’ll take you out.”

I always clarify, “Mind you, I mean take you outside. Not take you out, like Tony Soprano would take you out.”

Oh yes, I do talk to all my rescue bugs, just in case silverfish speak English. Well, English with a New Jersey accent. So, Inglitch. Yo.

Youse guys, I bent down to scoop Steve (the standard name I give to spiders and silverfish) into a plastic cup and realized it was just a giant mass of matted cat hair. Oh! Oopsie. 

I thought about feeling embarrassed even though I was alone in the living room, but gave myself a break. I’ve got low vision. Honest mistake.

So instead, I scooped Phyllis the Furball (as she was now christened) into the cup dramatically and announced to no one in particular, “Rescue Accomplished!” and started to whistle the theme song to Mission Impossible. I deposited her into the garbage gingerly and said, “Glad to help, ma’am! Just doin’ my job.” 

You might as well make light of times when you make a mistake. Give yourself a break. God made you just as you are, flaws and all. 

He made me quirky and loyal and extra at times. He also authorized my low vision, so I know it’s nothing to be ashamed of. 

If you stumble a bit today, don’t worry about it. No biggie. 

Instead of agonizing, put your heart and soul into the things you love to do. That’s where you’ll find your calling. When you really get your hands on a project that lights you up from the inside, you won’t even sweat it when you mess up. You’re too busy getting stuff done and feeling good about life. 

I’ll tell you what else: when you find your calling, that’s where you’ll find your tribe, too. Writing about faith and prayer led me to my sisters of the soul, Lori and SueBE. I know that if I’m reincarnated as a bug in their house, they’re going to take me outside. Not take me outside, mind youse. But they’ll scoop me up in a plastic cup and help me find my way. 

So the least I can do in this life is love them from afar, wherever they are. Just as they do for me.

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

“God is God. You are not.”

Following this opening line from today’s sermon, my friend and I glanced at each other. “All righty then,” she whispered.

No, the pastor didn’t stop, but this could have been the shortest sermon ever. Instead he spoke about how we humans try to draw connections where none exist. We want to connect the dots. We want answers and explanations. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do good things happen to bad people?

This reminded me of something that I read last week. We are primed and programmed, as human beings, to make connections and recognize patterns. It is how understand the world around us and how we have survived for so many thousands of years.

Think about it. Many years ago, Bob ate the bright red berries. That night, Bob had a horrible stomach ache. He got sick. While he is recovering, his friend stops by. The friend says that he is only now feeling better. He ate some bright red berries. He had a stomach ache and got sick. Bob and his wife connect the dots. Don’t eat the bright red berries. They tell their neighbors. These people learn from the pattern.

People are really quite good at recognizing patterns, but we get a little full of ourselves. If we can figure out what to eat and what not to eat, surely we can figure out why X event happened to those people over there and not to us. Because, if we can figure it out, we can be safe.

Sigh. If only it were that easy. This idea that we can figure things out and be safe isn’t new. In Luke 13, a group of visitors asked Christ about a party of Galilieans who had been killed by the Romans. Why did this happen to them? How could it have been prevented? Christ’s answer probably wasn’t reassuring because he simply responded that it had nothing to do with them being bad or wrong or somehow deserving.

It isn’t the answer that the people wanted. I imagine that they felt let down and out of sorts. They were stressed and worried and had troubles sleeping. Sound familiar?

Christ assured the people that God, the gardener, was at work. God had not given up and neither should we. After all, we are God’s and he is working all around us even if we cannot always make out the patterns.

–SueBE

The phone started ringing at about the same time the floorboards caught fire. There was smoke and voices, and I was walking into the bedroom and suddenly someone was telling me that my mother was dead. I’m not really sure what happened after that: Presumably, the plumber put out the fire he’d started while working on our pipes in the crawlspace. Presumably, I said some things, like, “When did it happen?” and “How can I help?” I do recall thinking that ordinarily, I would not have picked up a call at that hour. Any other week, I would have been on the phone with my friend in Chicago, chatting as we do every Friday. But I was sick, and my throat was sore, so I’d cancelled the call.

But of course, the hour didn’t matter. My mom had died in the morning, hours earlier, and whatever it was I should have felt at that moment — a sudden rushing of light and sound out of the world, a seismic shift in my soul — I didn’t feel it. I didn’t know. I should have known.

Since then, I’ve been reading a lot of books that deal with the death of loved ones, and in every one, the main character reacts sharply and immediately. She screams or falls to the floor. Something fragile is often dropped precipitously. For me, it’s like reading about other people visiting a country to which I have never been. They might talk about the scenery, the contours of the sand dunes, the bustling marketplace, and all I can think is: None of this relates to me. It is not at all like my own experience with grief. They are in Lichtenstein or Lebanon, someplace with a flag I would never recognize, and I am in my home, only something very subtle has changed. Were the sheets always that color? Didn’t we use to have curtains there?

Grief has been like stumbling through a fog. I’ll see something on TV and think, “I should tell Mom about that” at exactly the same moment I also think, “There is no Mom to tell.” I start crying at church, my nose running into my mask. I keep expecting something to happen (just as I did when my father died) — that she will come to me in my dreams with a message or appear to me in the form of a faun outside my window. But nothing like that happens. She’s just gone.

People say a lot of comforting things when they find out your mother has died. But my father-in-law said the best thing: “The hardest part of growing older is the loss of those you love.” That felt real to me. I want to believe (do, in fact, believe) the comforting phrases about where my mother is right now and how she is at peace, but it’s hard when the only empirical evidence I have is a void. Empty space. Trinkets: her patent leather purse, her jet earrings, a sweater that does not fit. Like me, my mother hated taking photos, so I only have a few. Not nearly enough.

I have her letters, written to me throughout my life, though I can’t bear to read them. Some day I will. But when I try to imagine the woman who will do this, she does not look anything like me. She looks like my mom. And that’s someone I’ll never be, or I wouldn’t miss her half so much.

Red, heart-shaped lit candle on a shiny, grey granite counter. A bouquet of pinkish-red flowers with deep green leaves are blurred in the background.

Dear friend enduring dark days: I am here for you. Beloved sister of my soul, you are not alone. If only I could send an angel to enfold you in its sheltering wings. Cover you with a prayer shawl infused with golden light to cast out bleak thoughts. Send a forcefield to protect you from enemies without and doubts within. Send you my heart so you feel how loved you are in each beat. Lend you my shoulder to carry the weight of all you have to bear. Lend you my ear to listen as you tell me your troubles.

But all I can do from afar is pray for you, remind you that you’ll weather this storm. Quietly help you heal with the age-old elixir of listening mixed with loving-kindness. Dear heart, with the tincture of time, with a foundation of faith, you will survive. Holding God’s hand, trusting your heart, you will come back to life again. And when you’re ready to fly again, spread your wings and wend your way skyward.

Till then, do what you know innately to do. One foot in front of the other. Chin up. Eyes ahead. Call on God to carry you through. And let me walk with you as you do.

With the Lord a day is like a thousand years…

Yea, though, with a contractor, a day costs like, a thousand dollars.

Now, this may not actually be (said in Chandler Bing’s voice) in the Bible, but maybe it ought to be.

Birds gotta fly. Fish gotta swim. Let me add to that list: Sales reps gotta sell. The trick is finding a sales rep who won’t rook you. This was on my mind as I listened to the basement waterproofing sales rep give me his spiel.

“So, with all the issues this basement has, we’re looking at…” (pretends to do quick calculations on his notepad). “Ten thousand, five hundred. Are you onboard?”

I want to say: Oh sure! I’ll pencil you in for next Tuesday, cuz I’m having tea with the Queen on Monday. Then I’ve got to buy the Brooklyn Bridge, mm hmm, let’s see… (pretends to check calendar on phone) and then I’m scheduled to buy a used turnip truck, and will proceed to fall off the back of it.

But what I say is this: “Thanks for your time.” And I usher him to the door. I wasn’t born yesterday. Or the day before, sonny! I know I shouldn’t get mad at people who try to sell me a bill of goods, but this is ridiculous.

In the actual Bible, in Ecclesiastes, it says:

“There is a time for everything,

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:”

It even covers home improvements!

 “…a time to tear down and a time to build…”

So what this saga tells me is that it isn’t the time to get those renovations done. It’s better to put buckets under leaks than to pay a shady outfit to do a half-hearted (or half-lower-extremity’d) job. Time to get back to my blessings and put the problem in God’s hands.

Picture of my tiny basement window, with a yo-yo next to it for scale. It is rectangular in shape, with two sliding sections. The basement is sparsely finished, and there is a pole lamp to the right of the window.

As I exercised in my basement the other day, I wandered over to the tiny window near my stationary bike and checked to see if it was locked.

Strangely, it wasn’t. Huh. That’s unsettling. I’ve lived in this home for 26 years and can’t ever remember checking that window to ensure that it was locked.

I stood there for a moment in disbelief. That’s a safety risk! Granted, you’d have to be downright Lilliputian to squeeze through that window, but I felt it was my duty to make myself worry retroactively. An unlocked (albeit diminutive) window for all these years! That’s very troubling! 

For some reason, I’ve always felt that part of my job in life is to worry. I should’ve been on the ball about this! I considered standing there in the basement and worrying retroactively. But for how long? For the equivalent of 26 years? Where’s that blasted “panic” button when you need it?!?

Deep breaths! Okay.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” a wise sage once wrote. Every problem is a project in disguise. My worry about that tiny opening that only a leprechaun could fit through was really a window of opportunity. A learning experience, taught by the Great Teacher.

It’s not my job to stress over problems I didn’t know existed. My job is to do my best in this moment, grateful for the grace that has kept us covered through the years.

“Anxiety in a person’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad,” Proverbs 12:25 NASB.

Here’s the good word: whatever is too heavy a burden to bear is not yours to carry. Hand it off to God and bask in the blessings of each new day.

Picture of a cup of brown coffee in a small, white, ridged mug, and a pink, puffy pastry on a dainty, flowered plate next to an open book.

Thank you for meeting me where I am, even when I forget to be present. 

As I lumber up, into the day, I feel as if I need to plow through a massive to-do list to earn my keep in the world. 

And, inevitably, every day, it’s the same old thing. Too much to do. Not enough (insert one: time, money, resources, etc.). Crisis du jour appears. 

But today, I received a reminder that every good and perfect gift comes from above. Somehow, even when I feel I don’t have everything I need, “enough” always seems to find me.

Every dollar that comes to me was routed through the Bank of Goodwill/God’s Will. Every time I see a number on my phone that makes me exclaim, ”Well, hello there, dear heart!” — that’s a bonus. 

And when I’m too focused on challenges, I flip the script in my head. There’s a pile of innovative solutions (neé “problems”), and a folder filled with “unpaid bills” that’s actually a map/manual of finding a way. 

Looking back, when I had too much, I used it all up; still, I wasn’t satisfied. Now that I have just what I need, I appreciate it like nobody’s business. 

Thank You for giving me the good sense to be grateful for what I used to take for granted, like the heat in this home. Also, the warmth in this home. A cat who sits next to me as I knit, fascinated by the ball of yarn. Family and friends who check in with me “for no reason” when I just happen to be feeling blue. Food on the table. Bear claws from the bakery. Coffee perking. A tiny pitcher with real cream for that cup of Joe.

Sometimes you just need to look at your life in the clear light of day to see how blessed you really are.

green ceramic mug beside book
Sepia-toned picture of an open Bible next to a coffee mug on a wooden bench. It is situated next to a peaceful body of water that is shimmering in the sunlight.

So I was wondering aloud what the latest ache on my body meant…arthritis? A fissure in a bone? Some kind of new mystery malady that hasn’t yet been discovered and will have to be named after me?!? It could be anything! 

Luckily, I was with my physical therapist, who’s got a good head on her shoulders and her feet firmly planted on the ground. (Let’s explore those phrases for a moment. Who has a bad head on their shoulders and is levitating? I’d like to meet them. Hm. Or maybe I wouldn’t!) 

Anyway, she said, “Always start with the simplest thing first.” So it turns out that I slept funny. Another phrase to explore. Since I consider myself an undiscovered talent in the world of comedy, ladies and germs, I always sleep funny! Ba dum bum. Is this thing on? I’m here all week!

I’ve come to realize that experiencing trauma as a child can imbue your worldview so that you end up seeing catastrophes in every minor event in your life. How’s that for an abrupt change from a light-hearted blog post to an in-depth exploration of the psyche? But so much of life is a combination of light and dark. Joy and pain. 

Somehow, the muscles you tone while lifting heavy burdens are the same ones that help you hold onto what brings you joy. You come to appreciate the people who light you up when they walk into a room. You realize that small comforts (your cat, old movies, fresh-baked muffins) are a big deal. You learn that if you don’t loosen your grip on the injustices you endured, your hands won’t be open to reach for blessings that want to find you.

You have to clench it to carry it. What if just for today, you loosen your grip on it and leave it in Higher Hands? When the past crosses your mind today, just say this: “That was then.” Today, all is well.

white house under maple trees
Picture of a white house with forest-green and red trim, with a tree in front on the right side, and a white picket fence. There are autumn leaves of gold strewn on the ground.

If home is where the heart is, why do we spend so much time away from home? Most people are at work all day so they can make money to feather their nests. And then they’re never there!

Even with all that effort, they can end up feeling at loose ends, as if they still haven’t “arrived” yet — even when they’re home.

So I wonder: is there some kind of metaphysical map somewhere that tells us how to get “there” — wherever “there” is?

What if you could order “the good life” online?

e-Bay’s “You Complete Me” Package:

  • Neat and tidy house in the suburbs
  • White picket fence
  • Perfectly-coiffed spouse
  • 2.5 semi-well-behaved children 
  • Fluffy the dog, optional

“Best You Yet” Medical Makeover:

  • Liposuction is first, then we’ll strategically remove internal organs you’re not using (appendix, a rib or two, spleen). 
  • Next, that portion of your brain you never really put to good use will be trimmed. You know, that part with “logic” and “reason” in it.😉 
  • Act now and we’ll throw in a free set of Ginsu knives!

But the truth is “the good life” is closer than you think. 

My friend, Tina, said to me, “Enjoy this day. It’s the only one we have.” And she was right as rain! The past is a ghost and the future is a fantasy. So what should we do on this only day we have? This one right here, that the Lord has made.

Well, the Biblical answer is “Rejoice and be glad in it.” 

What if that was the key to life? Here’s a hint: it is!

No matter what’s piled up in front of you, just remember Who’s behind you. God’s got your back, so keep looking ahead. Travel at Godspeed and you’ll arrive “there” right on time.

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