Lenten Musings-Drafts From the Past

Often I feel I should be praying in tears and with much weeping.  This is true, for I should be coming with sorrow over my persistent sin. But today it strikes me that I should go running to His house to pray with joy! For even in this season of Lent, I am grateful.

So many are hurting.
But God is faithful.
The world is aflame–
God is faithful.
Men are cruel–
God is gracious.
I am caught in the grip of sin,
He is gentle and merciful when I repent.
While the world may groan,
it also sings forth His praise.

Joy comes forth as the redbuds bloom.
The forsythias praise with golden voices.
The humble finch sings forth,
his crimson breast aflame with joy.

*****

I wish I had read this during Lent 2018. It was a difficult time for me. My stomach revolted. I lost even more weight. I struggled to participate in Lenten practices and services. I needed to remember these words.

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Love and Longing – a Portfolio

The themes of love and longing run through all of life; in the essays enclosed in this portfolio I explore what love looks like at birth, in the trials of life, and after the death of loved ones, as well as the love and longing inspired by the natural world. These essays were composed for American Military University course

Table of Contents

  1. Essay 1: The Look of Love
  2. Essay 2: Smoke and Candles
  3. Essay 3: Partings

simple days-Drafts From the Past

This is another Drafts From the Past from July 2017.

Today, I should have taken another Algebra test. I could have studied ahead for my final. I should have vacuumed the apartment. I could have gone for a swim. I’m actually sitting here in my swim togs ready to go, but the wind has kicked up. There isn’t supposed to be rain today, but it sure looks like it could.

What I did? I cleaned out the bathroom cabinet, tossing a 12 gallon bag of excess and expired stuff away. I reordered things and labeled a container for bandaids and one for lens wipes. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was fairly productive, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. There are always so many other things to do, you know? I filled a bag with DVDs and books to go to Goodwill, and puzzled over a book I read, trying to figure out if the author is speaking over my head or is speaking nonsense, or the most profound wisdom. Perhaps he is trying to express the inexpressible.

*****

Looking back on this post, I don’t recall the book, don’t recall the test, don’t remember the vacuuming being done or undone, but I am still benefiting from the cleaning and organizing. Those small items made a lasting difference. The test? It got done. The vacuuming was done. But sometimes we need to do something more long-lasting. Like finding the right containers for loose bandages and lens wipes.

The Upside of Drowning-Drafts from the past

Drafts From the Past are posts which were started some time ago, but were not completed. In some cases I will attempt to complete them, in others I may leave them unfinished. I hope you enjoy them.

*****

Redbuds in bloom.  Crepe Myrtle, cherry trees in masses of pink and white, forsythia in bright yellow flowers waving cheerily, wisteria hanging from the pergola, dogwoods.

And bird song.

Fresh green grass, lush with new life, thick underfoot while I walk the dog, the finches nesting above the patio, sparrows singing to himself in the mirror that is my office window, seemingly puzzled and entranced at the same time…

The geese are laying by the retaining pond, and the woodchuck out by Walgreens has the most beautiful, rich, chocolate brown coat.

I am trapped, for the most part, inside, watching as my windows are coated with pollen, wishing for strong rains to wash these tiny authors of my torment away.

Would that someone would power wash my windows, the screens, the patio, my car…

I was talking to a friend last night, as I arrived at home, trying to determine whether I could go to church. I got off the phone in time for a massive coughing fit which ripped through me, setting my torso on fire with a hundred stabbing burning pains until I was sure I would find a ring of broken blood vessels all around. No outward evidence of this horror show exists. But it did something else to me, it took my muscles and joints and tendons and awoke a deep intense ache that nearly drove me to the ground. I needed help to get inside, at which point I just stood under a warm shower hoping some of the pain would subside. The deep ache is one of the blunter tools of fibromyalgia, not one of her most subtle assailants this one, but effective, if she wants to drop me to my knees.

It is humbling to think that such tiny things can wreak such havoc on us, isn’t it? We, the powerful, the strong, felled by pollen so small we cannot see it with the naked eye unless it is massed together with others. When I am the large one cut down by the microscopic it is astonishing. But it also makes me think what we can do when we band together. I’m not one for large group projects, mass demonstrations, huge protests and the like (there is historic evidence of people doing horrible things when grouped), but groups of people together may take down an evil dictator when one may not make a difference. It’s something to think about.

Facebook “Friends”

Originally written: October 27, 2014

I’ve made serious mistakes in my Facebook world, taken in by the labeling of contacts as “Friends”.

I’m a little too old to have fallen for this, so this is totally my own fault, letting my guard down, and not using the thinking, rational part of my brain to review this form of social media.  I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook at the moment, and have deleted and re-installed Facebook on my phone over the weekend.  I hate that I caved and re-installed it.  And I’m seriously debating getting rid of the whole thing.  I need to make sure I have saved off the photos, the notes, the postings of import, the phone numbers and email addresses of actual, real friends.

I will miss seeing the pictures friends post of their growing children.  That’s sad.  But perhaps it is a sign that our lives have diverged and become Christmas card friends.  People I love and care for, but whose lives are no longer intertwined with mine.  That’s okay, right?  I’m not sure it is okay.  .

Hermits and Monks

Hermits and monks may be the most lucky people on earth. Alone with their thoughts, a cell of their own with their own space and belongings sacrosanct, it seems to me a most excellent way to live.

Perhaps that is why God has repeatedly called me to open my home and sanctuary to others. (This is all speculation at this point, mind you.) We each, as Orthodox Christians, have our own form of martyrdom. Some are called to give their lives in torture and death. The rest of us are called to a living martyrdom. What form that takes is tailored for each of us.

Mine includes the repeated sacrifice of my private spaces for needy family who cannot (and likely would not) reciprocate the favor. It means giving up my office, my library, the quiet place to read, study, and write. It means sharing my kitchen with those who rearrange my things, put my carefully alphabetized spices in disarray, use up the hot water, run the TV remote, use my special towels, borrow my car without asking, and then leave without a backward glance.

I grumble and complain, but am reminded again and again how my behavior toward God is so much the same. I come to Him again and again, in need of rescue. I cannot repay. And I have no comprehension of the cost or how irritating I am.

I rearrange things to suit myself. Do I interfere with God’s first, best plans?

Is it possible for me to submit to God’s plans sooner? To be like the Theotokos and to respond, “Be it unto me according to your will” the first time?

I suspect we romanticize the monks life, forgetting how mundane their lives are. Most monasteries are small, and even the larger ones have no greater population than a small town. Small towns have their own trials. The same faces day in and day out; the same people who know everything about you. Can you imagine? The schedule is monotonous and imposed upon you. The routine is part of the peacefulness, I suppose.

Hard Mercy

The once immaculately dressed man has the detritus of a beard trim and several meals on his dark sweatshirt. His voice is weakened and high- pitched from pain. He stumbles, slightly off-balance, as he moves down the narrow hallway. My heart catches, and stumbles on. I am sick with fear watching this once proud, well-groomed man become elderly, frail. Even his once handsome smile has changed, the victim of age and the poor dental plan offered the elderly in this country. My heart aches to see it as I scan for other signs of decline.

Part of my fear is the thought of losing him, but part of it is for myself, wondering if this is what my own future holds. Will my children one day be scanning my face for signs of decline and find themselves horrified by my loss of dignity? Is this inevitable?

I long to scream in the face of death as an affront, yet I acknowledge it’s inevitability. I believe there is some lesson in humanity and in love that is taught through caring for the frail and failing but I’m not sure I’m learning it. I believe there is also some value in our own failing frailty.

I think our horror has more than one side. One side of it is fear, but the other side is a recognition that it wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were created with the possibility of life without death until sin. And death is now a blessing in a way, in that it allows us to slip into eternity with God, rescued from our depravity, from our frail bodies, and from that which separates us from God.

Our ever-increasing frailty keeps us from clinging to our earthly lives, keeps us from thinking we can do it all by ourselves.

This decline in our physical bodies and in the mind, when that happens, is a hard mercy, preparing us to slip these bonds and to prepare ourselves for meeting our Creator. Lord have mercy.

I can scarcely count the friends, the family who have passed, unwilling to reduce them to numbers. They have names, these precious ones, and instead of counting them I name them: Max, Steve, Grandma, Grandpa, Jack, Jack, Robb, Pat, Bertha, Bob, Craig, Fred, Rich, Tiffanie, Betty, Frank, Jared, Peter, Glenn…oh, I could continue. It’s a blessing the list isn’t even longer than it is.

Proverbs says that it’s better to go to a funeral than to a party because death is the end of every man. A wise person will take that to heart. I believe that. I make it a practice to go to funerals both as a reminder and as a sign of loving respect for the families. It is far more important than heading to a wedding, as much fun as those are.

Such is the end of us all. It is a truly hard mercy.