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It isn’t like I’m a narcissist.  I don’t think I’m universally beloved, but I do manage to get on okay with most people. That said, I know I rub some people the wrong way.  One woman in my yoga class makes a point of inserting herself into whatever group I’m in that particular day.  And then, when I annoy her, which I invariably do, she visibly clenches her hands into fists.  Sometimes she even makes a face.

I have to admit that I have no clue how to deal with this woman.  On a good day, I just take a deep breath and let it slide.  On a less good day, I’m tempted to ask her if she’s having a seizure.  Do we need to call an ambulance?  But that’s also poking fun at her which I know is wrong.

I know it, but I sure do have a hard time remembering it.  Today I simply turned and walked to the other side of the room, taking my place and doing some deep breathing exercises.  Pause, inhale. Pause, exhale.  Pause, inhale.  Pause exhale.

This is definitely better than asking about seizures but better still would be to pray.

I know, I know, I could ask her what is wrong.  But I’m seriously still really tempted to be a smarty pants and I’m pretty certain that actually trying to discuss it would be more than my weak will could withstand.  Pause inhale.  Pause exhale.

I know I’m not universally loved.  But I also know that I have extreme smarty pants tendencies.

Pause inhale.

Pause exhale.

And pray.

–SueBE

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Trees are powerful things.  They take root in our emotions.

A fallen tree makes me sad.  I always want to pat it and try to make it feel better.  “There, there.”

Having to cut down a tree?  If it is sick, I can just barely tolerate the necessity.  If it isn’t . . .  Even if it has to be done for safety purposes, it is simply better if I’m not there.

Maybe this is because trees are slow to grow.  Plant a tree today and you aren’t going to have shade in a week or even a year.  This is an investment of decades.

Not that this should surprise us.  God is a long-term thinker.  It takes time for things to build, to grow, to mature.

Maybe that’s why we so often think that God isn’t listening to us.  Perhaps God is on tree time.   The next time you need to go to God in prayer, find a tree to lean against, sit on a shaded bench, stare up through the branches.  And talk to God who made both trees and human kind.

–SueBE

Be patient. You never know what someone else is going through.

Not long ago, a group of us were together and one friend lost her stuff.  Full on, grown up lady-tantrum. Yes, we were stuck in a frustrating situation but wow. The rest of us exchanged looks and wondered what the heck had set that off.

Later that evening she messaged me to tell me how stressed she has been.  Um, okay.  As we messaged back and forth, more and more came out.  Everything made more sense. Then a few days later, her husband told me something else that was going on in their lives.  My husband heard about yet a third stressor.

Add it all together and we wondered how they were keeping it together.

Be patient.  You don’t know what someone else is going through.  And they may not be able to discuss it with you.

Be gentle.  Situations are often made worse when we decide a solution has to be found now.  Now.  NOW.  You need some space?  Too bad, my friend.

Be humble.  Maybe you’re made of mellower stuff than I am.  But I know that eventually I’m going to lose my cool and I will be the one in need of patience.  It may be today. It may be tomorrow.  But it will happen.

Christ charged us to love one another.  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Maybe it’s just me but I suspect that patience, gentleness and humility were at least part of what he had in mind.

–SueBE

It’s a new year! Well, sort of. Advent marks the start of a new liturgical year in the Catholic Church. I suppose it is apropos that the new year begins with waiting. We spend such a vast amount of time doing it, after all: waiting in line (or “on line” if you’re from the Midwest), waiting for doctors and plumbers and cable repair persons, waiting for mail to arrive and children to get dressed and pets to do their business. Waiting to eat, to sleep, to give birth, to die.

All of life is waiting, in a way. Advent merely provides additional practice. But what are we waiting for? For a child to be born into a manger? That already happened. For that child to come again? Yes, but that’s constant, not necessarily Advent-specific. I think we’re really waiting for a change of heart.

Remember how you felt at Christmastime when you were a child? Remember when just seeing lights strung on houses and carols being sung could lift your heart right up to your throat? Somewhere along the line, we lose that sense of wonder. How can we get it back? Maybe that’s the challenge of Advent.

My father-in-law was manning the bell and kettle for the Salvation Army one Christmas, outside of a store, when a little boy — obviously disabled — came struggling up to him. In his mittened hand, he held a clutch of crumpled dollar bills. His mother explained that it was his Christmas money; he wanted to donate it to people who really needed it. My father-in-law still tells this tale with tears in his eyes.

This advent, I am waiting for that little boy — his spirit, anyway — to rise up in me like a tide and wash away my grown-up skepticism and wariness. I want to receive Christmas as purely and joyfully as a child. And I want to give away that pure joy as rapidly as it spools into my heart. I think that’s a worthy thing to wait for. Don’t you?

Not my will but thy will, Lord.

I pray it because I know I should but on my more aware days I realize that truly I want things on my time-table.  God’s stretches out too far.  I don’t want results in 40 years.  I want them now.

But even in my own life, I sometimes feel like things have stalled.  I want to push.  I want progress now!   And I have to remind myself that some things, even if they are God’s will, take time.  After all, a 40 year time-table is not unheard of.

–SueBE

Have you ever had one of those days?  You know the kind I mean – no one can do anything at all to make you happy.  The trash men put your garbage can down behind your car.  The mail was laying all over the porch instead of in the mailbox.  And don’t forget that cup of coffee – the one that was too bitter, than too sweet, too hot and later too cold.  Nothing but nothing is right.

Put the coffee down and take a deep breath.  Nope.  Don’t pick the coffee up.  Now take another deep breath.  You can do it.

And as you breathe so deeply, think about it.  Why are you being such a crank?  Does it have anything to do with the many people you’ve griped at or is it something else?

I know that in my own life, it tends to be someone or something else.  Someone I can’t crab at or something that is entirely out of my control.  When that happens, I put myself in time out.  Adult time outs are very important.  You can do a wide variety of things.  Enjoy a cup of tea.  Read your Bible. Spend some time knitting.  Or you can just breathe.

When you’ve spent some time decompressing, you’ll probably find that you see the world differently and, most likely, the yardstick is a bit more generous.

–SueBE

 

Travel guru, Rick Steves, tells the story of why he decided to donate his retirement “nest egg” to house homeless women and children. In the 90s, he decided to buy a building complex to help the community. In time, the buildings became uninhabitable due to mold.

“To me, this was actually good mold. God was in that mold. After much thought the right move became clear. I’d tear down the duplexes and replace them with four­plexes, doubling the people I could house and creating a little community I’d call Trinity Way.”

God was in that mold.

Today, I had to contact a company’s customer service about an issue, and I felt myself tensing as I was talking. I had to remind myself that the outcome would not have been improved had I screamed at the representative on the phone.

In the end, I’d say that I wasn’t completely calm, but I didn’t blow my stack. The best I could achieve was to be tight but polite. And that was enough in that moment. Tight but polite.

In Don Miguel Ruiz’ The Four Agreements, he writes:

“Always Do Your Best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.  Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret.”

In the case of Rick Steves’ vision to house the homeless, maybe that mold was an obstacle that led to a miracle. A blockage that turned into a blessing. Things may not always go as you’ve planned, but sometimes detours lead to a better destination.

Heading into the new year, just a gentle reminder that, no matter who we meet, we’re always talking to God in human form. Sometimes, he even morphs into mold.

I know.  I know.  I talk about change a lot.

I’m more than willing to admit though that I’m not always a big fan.  I like to know what is, what was, what will be.  Change?  It makes that whole knowing thing pretty iffy.

Today’s quote wasn’t chosen simply because I’m more comfortable with slow gradual change.  Think about the changes in this world that our worked through persistence.  That’s how wind and water erosion work.  That’s how toddlers learn to walk, speak and eventually, as preschoolers, to read.  Persistence.

God knows that.  It is why he’s so patient with us.  Thankfully.  Because we aren’t always (ever?) quick to catch on.

It takes 6 weeks to build a new habit.  Why not pick something small that you can do that can help make a big change.  Post something positive online.  Recycle.  Walk around the block.  The possibilities for improving something in this world are endless.

–SueBE

Take a deep breath. Let it out. Take another deep breath. Then respond.

This is something that I really need to work on lately.  I’m crabby enough at this point that I’m starting to annoy myself.  One key thing for me to remember?  I don’t need to respond at all.  Silence is, for very good reasons, golden.  Especially if I can’t come up with something kind to say.

Take a deep breath. Let it out. Take another deep breath.

–SueBE

Take a deep breath and smile.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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