Monthly Archives: October 2013

I Do Believe. Help Thou My Unbelief.

The thing about miracles is that they happen so that when you are called to tough it out, you know that there’s a reason, even if you don’t get to see what it is in this life. I’ve experienced miracles, so you’d think I’d be cool when I’m facing a challenge. NOT! A spiritual counselor once told me that I have spiritual Alzheimer’s. I was very distressed over that at the time, but I have to admit, it’s true.
Life is hard. PERIOD! And different kinds of hard defeat different types of people. Most of the time, when I’m faced with a serious life crisis, I pray, gather others’ prayers, then focus, rally my inner resources, and stay functional at least until it’s over.
But when faced with a string of challenges, particularly ones requiring the handling of a lot of details, I get scattered, constantly distracted, and overwhelmed. I forget all the miracles, even God’s obvious interventions in similar circumstances in the past. I end up a basket case.
Now once again, I have let my present challenges stress me out, forgetting God’s miracles in the past, doubting His grace, and allowing myself to become paralyzed by imagining worst case scenarios.
So, I’m writing my memories of similar past challenges and God’s visible hand in them to nurture my mustard seed of faith, praying it will free me to trust God even if He doesn’t rescue me from my circumstances this time. So hopefully, I will be able to be open to what God is teaching me or calling me to through these particular challenges.
I grew up living in apartments in large cities. From eight years old until I was thirteen, I actually lived on the seventh floor of a ten story apartment building near downtown St. Louis. After I met and married a Tennessee boy at Rice University in Houston, Texas, we moved to Nashville where his parents had both a downtown apartment and a house in the country. As our own family grew, we spent many weekends at Birdsong, their lovely hundred year old log house that now had all the modern conveniences, but still radiated the warmth and beauty of a bygone era. It also had a two hundred acre rural setting of forests with a river like creek, a water fall and swimming hole, fields of peonies, horses and barn, a pond, and a historic ruin of a civil war powder mill. At first I had followed my mother-in-law on explorations to look for Jack-in-the-Pulpit and tiny wild Iris with a city dweller’s trepidations, “snakes and ticks and poison ivy, oh my!” But eventually I fell in love with nature, from its obvious glories to its fascinating hidden world of tiny treasures.
When I was expecting my fifth child by Caesarian section which would include a planned hysterectomy, my in-laws decided to sell Birdsong. They offered to trade us the main house, barn, tenant house, and thirty-five acres for whatever we could make from selling our house. Not only did I covet Birdsong, this was an incredible financial offer. Our home was a pleasant four bedroom two-story house in an area of wonderful public schools, but Birdsong was twice its size, beautiful, historic, and unique with a wonderful thirty-five acre setting on a creek. After prayerful discussion, we decided this was the chance of a lifetime and we put our house on the market a month before Thanksgiving when our baby was due. While in the hospital recuperating from my surgeries, our house sold with the agreement that the buyer could take possession in a month, which was the week after Christmas. To say the least, it was a somewhat daunting prospect in my post operative condition, with a new baby, and four other children under ten. But again, it seemed a miracle to sell so quickly and I wanted Birdsong more than I had ever wanted any thing. To top it off, one of my husband’s brothers hired a baby nurse to help me for the first two weeks, so it seemed meant to be.
Unfortunately my new son needed a hernia repair shortly after we had come home from the hospital. The night before his surgery, the doctor discovered that he also had a heart valve defect. The defect didn’t appear life threatening and it was one that sometimes is outgrown, so they only did his hernia surgery. The day we brought him home, my in-laws came to visit and announced apologetically that they had accepted another offer for the whole two hundred acres and Birdsong. So, we ended up two weeks before Christmas having to be out of our house in three weeks with nowhere to go. I was pretty much in shock. At that day and time there were no condos or apartments in our neighborhood. Checking the papers and calling realtors turned up nothing to rent until we could figure out what we wanted to do. I didn’t want the children to change schools unnecessarily, but there simply wasn’t anything available. At that time the house market in our area was no better. I sat on the couch after I had called the last realtor with tears running down my cheeks. The kind baby nurse, a middle-aged black woman with seven grown children, sat down beside me and put her arm around me.
“What do you need exactly?” she asked.
I thought about not being able to drive or climb stairs for another month and answered, “A five bedroom, one story house in walking distance to our school to rent for nine months. That would give us time to decide where to live without our children having to change schools.”
She responded with a smile, “All right, we’ll pray for exactly that and a can of oil.”
“A c c c can of oil?” I stuttered.
“Yes, we have to take the baby back to the doctor tomorrow and I’d rather drive my car, but it needs a can of oil.”
I tried to not look incredulous, as she began to pray specifically. When she finished and we said “Amen” together, she smiled cheerfully and went to get me a cup of coffee. As I sat there stunned, the doorbell rang. It was Sarah, a woman I knew from our school’s Parent Association.
“Eileen,” she said. “I’m sorry to bother you, but my car has stopped running at the end of your driveway. Can I use your phone to get the mechanic to come?”
“Sure,” I replied, “If you’ll ask him to bring a can of oil.”
After her phone call, she joined me for coffee as we waited for the mechanic and the oil.
“I hear you’ve sold this house,” she said. “And you’re moving to the country.”
“Well, not now. That fell through and though I don’t want to move the children from their school until we figure out what we are going to do, there’s nothing available to rent around here right now. I’m kind of in a panic.”
“Do you know about the Keck house?” she asked excitedly.
“No. Where is that?”
“It’s one street over and two houses down. You can see the back yard from here. They are going as missionaries to the Philippines for nine months. They are supposed to leave the first week in January if they can find a renter. They are trying to do that by word of mouth, because they don’t want just anyone to move in since they are leaving all their belongings.”
“What is the house like?” I asked, almost holding my breath.
“It’s a one story with four bedrooms , a study, and a nice den. It also has a wonderful yard and patio.
I couldn’t believe my ears. “We have a large basement at our office where we could store their belongings, “ I said excitedly. “With our having five children, that would probably be safer for their furniture and happier for our kids.”
Three weeks later, we moved a block away and after several months of looking for land in the country, we bought our own hundred acre wood, my husband designed a marvelous house for our family, and nine months later  when school was starting, we moved to a county with a much better school district than the county where Birdsong was. We lived there for twenty-seven years.
Another challenging selling and moving story with surprising happy results will follow soon along with the parallel challenges we are currently facing.
I should believe! I do believe. Help Thou my human fears.

Depression, Aggression, or Acceptance

I learned something important about myself this week. When I find myself frequently getting hyper irritated with those I love, it may be my way of handling depression. I am much more comfortable with anger than pain. Recognizing that and accepting the discomfort of a temporary situational depression has freed me from a terrible spell of being a super (b)witch. For which my family and friends are undoubtedly extremely grateful!

Accepting depression is different from wallowing in it or fighting it or projecting blame. A surprising benefit is that accepting a reality, even an unpleasant emotional one,  lessens the pain and crippling side effects.  My energies are no longer sapped by fighting myself or others, so uncomfortable or not, I am able to function much better.

Another important truth that has been a challenge for me is that need is not the same as love. And that those we love not only cannot, but should not be, whom we need them to be. Our challenge is to love people as God loves them, not because they fill our needs. Only God can do that.

Spirituality distinguishes education from transformation. Being informed is different from being transformed.

Unresolved Conflicts are the Termites of Relationships

We are wired differently in how we respond to conflict. Some of us avoid the pain involved in open conflict by peace faking. While others provoke it to escape feelings of failure through blaming others.

The quality of our relationships depend on how we deal with conflict. Unresolved conflicts are the termites of relationships, undermining them until they explode. Piles of resentment grow until the dam breaks, often over something petty.

But with grace, conflict is an opportunity to demonstrate the love of God.

Here are four ways to approach resolving conflict:
1. Seek to glorify God by trusting God through dropping our own agenda. Focus on what we contributed to the conflict.

2. Ask God for the gift of mercy. Mercy frees us from the need to fix others. Mercy helps us recognize that we are both unholy and need grace. We give up the right to be right. Four words that can heal if said sincerely, “You may be right.”

3. The best way to resolve conflict is to listen. Listening is not just waiting for our turn to talk. It is giving our time and full attention. It involves hearing the other’s feelings along with their reasoning.

4. If they give you the opportunity, very gently help the other take responsibility for their part in a conflict. Hurt is not the same as harm.

These are notes from the sixth part of a series on How We Sabotage Relationships. They can be found on the Crosspoint Church in Nashville, Tennessee’s website under the section: Messages.

You Aren’t Who You Thought You Were, Are You?

Quote from The Zen of Cats by Bernard Gunther:

“Who you think you are can’t survive, but who you really are can’t not survive.”

In my fifties I worked with a Spiritual Director in an attempt to find out who I was.  I had always been a chameleon, adapting to fit relationships, any relationship, even someone chatting in the  line at the grocery.  I’d done this since childhood, but finally decided that I was tired of  not being sure who I was if no one else was around either physically or in my head.

To discover my whole real self involved looking at shadow parts that I didn’t admit to, even though they were obvious to others. One of the ways to do this was to work with my dreams.  If we start writing them down as soon as we wake up remembering them, we can begin to discover what they are saying to or about us.   Some of the characters in my dreams and therefore in my psyche, weren’t very nice.  They were, in fact, very different from the persona I considered my ‘self.’

One day, after a  somewhat disconcerting session with my Spiritual Director, I went to visit my mother in the nursing home.  Mom was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s and didn’t even seem to notice me, never-the-less recognize me.  So, I sat next to her bed and just held her hand.  I was in inner turmoil over the possibility that I wasn’t  just the friendly, generous, caring person that I liked to think I was.  As I sat there,  I was trying to convince myself that this negative side of me wasn’t real.

Mom had a roommate who had only been there a few weeks, but in all that time she never seemed to notice me come in and never responded in any way when I spoke to her.  She seemed pretty much comatose.

As I sat there silently, rationalizing about my feet of clay, the roommate raised up on her elbow in her bed, looked straight at me, and said clearly, “You aren’t who you thought you were, are you?”

As I stared at her dumbfounded, she lay back down, closed her eyes, and never said another word in my presence.  About two weeks later she died.

So much for denial.

Obviously, even when we are psychologically jamming our fingers in our ears and singing Jesus Loves Me at the top of our voice, God can speak to us.

It would also appear that He can  use any of us right up to our last breath.

Try to listen.  It will save you a lot of time and grief.

Me First, by Myself – For Real

Written by Cathy, a single, childless, only child describing how it feels to lose both parents in a nine week time period.

Me First, by Myself

Grad - mom and dadI lost both my parents in the course of the last 9 weeks .   As an only child I’ve often felt alone and somewhat isolated, but with the loss of both my parents, I feel that loneliness and isolation in a most keen way.  Like an encroaching seedling has been planted inside me and left to take over every available space in my heart, mind and soul filling me with sadness, despair and an aching that seems like it will never ever fade.  This seedling has illusive roots that can’t be completely found or eradicated.

This loss and level of aloneness has left me feeling completely unanchored. That piece of me, the touchstone of my entire life, is gone.  And there is nothing else in my life that has that kind of strength, that kind of history. It often feels like a stiff wind will just pick me up and…

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