Glorious Easter: He is risen!

Sunday morning comes, bringing hope to a weary world, to those who can hear, who choose to hear.

Hope is the engine of life. Without hope, we have nothing.

Hope motivates us, sustains us, teaches us to have patience, and gives us joy. Hope gives us anticipation of good to come, of a reward and rest at the end of all things.

Easter, and in fact, every Sunday, is a reminder, to those of Christian faith, that hope is secure…that we are secure.

One of my favorite Bible verses is Hebrews 6:19, with these beautiful words:

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

The hope we have is Jesus, our “forerunner.”

Sunday morning comes, and Jesus gives us hope.

I often doubt myself. I don’t live up to my intentions. I’m in good company, I think. In fact, the rest of the world is right there with me…some days are better than others, but I fail as often as I succeed.

Where would I be without hope beyond myself?

Another of my other favorite verses is Mark 9:24.

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

I don’t have hope in myself. I don’t always believe in myself. I fall down, I let myself down.

But I have hope in Jesus, and he is the anchor for my soul, not me. He is the one I believe in, not me.

When I know who I’ve believed, I know where to put my hope.

He makes it easy. His burden is light.

What about you?

Happy Easter, as you think about this wonderful, solemn, joyous, amazing day!

May you find hope for your soul, and an anchor to hold to.

 

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Merry Christmas!

Beautiful!

Merry Christmas friends!

~ Sheila

My new Kindle book is done!

I posted about attending a Vipassana meditation retreat last November, and it was such an amazing experience I decided to write about it. Life has been full of ups and downs, starts and stops, and it took a while to get it done. But I finally posted it to Kindle today, and tomorrow and Monday it is free as an introductory promotion. If you’re interested in grabbing a copy, please do so, and it would be even better if you’re able to leave a review. It’s an overview of the experience, designed to share insight into what it was like to sit and meditate for 10 days, the things that were good, the things that were hard, and my personal point of view as a practicing Christian, attending a retreat inspired by Buddhist philosophy.

I also share some of my relationship struggles and the story that prompted me to attend.

My bottom line? It was very worthwhile, and a surprise that I didn’t expect…I had no plan to attend a meditation retreat at the beginning of last November, yet a few days into the month I was on my way. If you’ve ever wondered about taking a time out to do something like this, maybe this read would encourage you to put it on your bucket list.

I hope you’ll check it out!

Here’s the link: Vipassana Meditation and the Sound of Silence

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Sunday Inspiration

Found this beautiful song a few weeks ago…I love the words, and the ending is a reminder of a song I grew up with, “It Is Well With My Soul.” Brave encouragement!

Hard days

It’s December 4th and I’ve not been able to raise any Christmas spirit to welcome the month. Too much disruption of life, too many unanswered questions fill my thoughts.

These are hard days.

I’ve had some of these in the past, but mostly I’ve lived a life of joy and simplicity, and I’ve been grateful for what I’ve had.

But I’m learning…still, or again, I’m never sure which it is…I’m learning that hard days have a way of making life worthwhile when you let them do their work.

The hard days make you stop, help you know what is important and what is irrelevant.

I just want to go shopping for presents under the tree, stop for a coffee and enjoy the Christmas lights, sing the old favorites, and snap photos of everyone. I want that, but that isn’t the rhythm for this year.

This is a year of digging deep. I ask myself every morning: what good thing will happen today? What’s already happened that I didn’t notice because I was too busy feeling anxious?

Wouldn’t it be nice if the anxieties of life took the month off, and just let us have the holidays in peace?

But there’s something important happening, even when it doesn’t feel fun, doesn’t feel right.

I am growing, and changing, not because I’m focused on myself, but because the time is right, the student is ready, and the teacher has appeared. The teacher is experience, and the knowledge that comes from hard days.

Something tells me I needed to get to this place…a place without the noise of decorating a house or getting caught up in the usual round of holiday traditions…I needed to stand without my props around me. I need to face my challenges, and without the distractions, it’s easier to do that.

Meditation teaches me to be still, to find balance, to accept. Experience teaches me that life will sort itself, right itself, and that there will be richness I can’t begin to imagine that will come from my uncertainty.

Uncertainty is where the answers of tomorrow are forged. When you’re in the in between, the options are all before you. You can’t see the way things will work out, but you know they will.

Like an adventurer, I try to tell myself…I’m like an adventurer, wondering what amazing thing is around the corner.

I’m learning that uncertainty can be a fuel to help me look for possibilities. If I knew the answers, I wouldn’t be searching. And if I didn’t search, I would accept life just as it’s been…no opportunity for the new, the exciting, the beautiful that will come out of the questions.

If this seems like a philosophy to comfort myself…it is that. But I’ve seen it work in the past, so I know that it will work in the future.

This is a time to trust: life will work itself out. I have a role to play in that, but for now, my role is to be open, to be a student of the process, to be expectant, and to keep faith.

Aahh, I feel better already. I feed myself the words of hope, the words of expectation, and those little seeds flower as soon as they touch.

Yes, it will be a quiet season this year…family and a few traditions. But this is not a year for all my usual festivities. It will be a season of quiet, and a season of gracious expectation. And that is a good place to find myself.

My truth

Truth

Are you a truth-teller? A truth-seeker? I like to think I am. But while there are “real” truths…facts like 2 + 2 = 4, and forces like gravity, that will not be denied, at work in every moment…so much of what we believe to be true is shaded by perception, or intention, or seeing a chain of events unfold from beginning to end.

Is truth in the eye of the beholder? To a certain degree, yes. Though I don’t believe in a relative morality, things are not always what they seem at first glance. Context and understanding are critical factors in determining truth.

I’ve known some people who use truth as a weapon, a kind of battering ram to be fearlessly used and proudly claimed. Honesty and truth are closely interwoven. And sometimes truth hurts. But I’ll admit I’m always on guard when I sense this is happening. Someone who uses truth as a way to plow through life and over people needs to ask some questions about motive.

And that begs the question: who determines truth? All of us do, at least so far as we are able. Isn’t that what just happened this week in the election? Voters evaluated candidates, the economy, national security, healthcare, etc., etc., etc., and judged the truth of the candidates’ claims for themselves.

There’s another way we determine our truth, and that is by the words we feed ourselves.

Oh, I don’t mean that we change objective truths…telling myself I live in Florida when I live in Alaska is not going to take me very far. I’m not going to wake up in Disney World tomorrow.

But our version of truth in matters of the heart, in opinion, in assumptions about others, their motives, their intentions, their efforts…our version of the truth is dependent on our specific view of life, and how we interpret it.

This is the “glass half full” meme, or the optimist/pessimist struggle.

Only it’s bigger than that.

Words and thoughts are so powerful. They can literally change the world. They change the way people view themselves, each other, family…words are critical to truth.

I read words that build me up, inspire me, help me reach to become, and I do become. I become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It can work the other way too.

And if it works for me, or against me, when the words are my own, the impact is even stronger when it comes to the things I allow myself to believe about others.

Why?

Because I’m the only person in the world that I can get into. I know my motivations, my intentions. I know when I make a mistake that I tried my best. That allows me to see my truth…I did the best I could. My heart was in the right place.

It’s not always so easy to see that truth from the outside. I don’t want to feel suspicious, or doubtful, or assume the worst about someone just because I can’t know the whole truth about them. Because when I do that, I create my version of their truth. Whether it is really “true” or not.

So why do we do it? Why do we let our assumptions get the better of us? Why do we let them color our views?

Drama is more entertaining than unvarnished reality. Sometimes prettier too.

I’m trying to be an honest person, trying to pay attention to those moments when I rush the story, mistake perception for reality.

It’s not easy, because I get in my own way. It’s a conscious battle, every day, to let truth come out without my assistance. It’s really tough.

Truth is universal. But it’s also personal…at least the version we tell ourselves. Finding the real thing…now that’s priceless.

Think the best of each other, especially of those you say you love. Assume the good and doubt the bad. ~ Jeffrey R. Holland

What we see depends mainly on what we look for. ~ Anonymous

 

 

Bare necessities

I’m wandering around in the little apartment that is a temporary home, looking for things I know I brought over, wondering how anything could be lost in this small space.

There’s nothing like a move to put me in perpetual hide and seek mode. Why is it I can see exactly where the thing I want was stored in the house? And I have no idea where it landed when I unpacked boxes two weeks ago. But I knew to expect this…I’ve been through all the games before. My favorite is the one when I begin to question…could I have left something behind? Or did a box really get lost between the last address and the new one? Even though I did the last walk through the house and know there was nothing there, not one thing…still, inevitably, I’ll wonder.

You know the feeling when you’ve looked everywhere twice, and you know you put it in…some item that wasn’t even that important, until it’s nowhere to be found. And now it’s an obsession. Must.find.IT!

I once lost some little collectibles for about a decade, didn’t find them for two moves. They had been so carefully wrapped and stored in a little cedar chest that they lived, quite safe, but totally lost to me, until I was doing a sort for a third move. Well that was a mystery solved! I had long ago thought they fell off the moving truck and given up looking for them.

Another thing I find happens with a move…I almost immediately begin to forget what I own. Not the big stuff…I can certainly remember the big items. And some of the little things…sentimental stuff, or sometimes just random odds and ends. One good thing about storing most of the things from the house…it will feel like Christmas when I open the boxes.

I’m always surprised when it comes to unpacking, how out of sight is quickly out of mind. In some ways I feel good…maybe I’m not too attached to the stuff if I don’t carry a mental imprint around, waiting till I see the real things again. On the other hand…maybe I’m not as attentive as I like to think…if I could forget about half of what I own so easily, maybe I’m not paying enough attention to the details of life?

Well, that hardly seems right. In fact, sometimes I feel consumed by detail. That’s the effect of a move…I feel reduced to lists and to-dos, to the tedious chores of the day-to-day.

I’m ready to live simply for a while. Good thing, because it will be a while before I unpack the bulk of the boxes, make a new nest.

For now, I’m a minimalist, and I think I’m enjoying it.

This apartment is furnished with a hodge-podge of furniture…bits and pieces that are functional and practical, but not gathered into a cohesive look or style. The kitchen is basic too. With a variety of folks coming through to work at the clinic, and this apartment being one of the landing spots for the temporary help, the kitchen is outfitted to work camp standards but little more. There’s a crock pot, a toaster, a basic cook top and oven, a basic fridge and microwave. No dishwasher. The cookware is a combination of left-behinds and inexpensive non-stick pieces. The times I’ve been in this apartment in the past have been for a few days or a weekend here and there. No ongoing need to cook or make the kitchen functional beyond a few meals.

But since I may be here for months, I needed to do a little better than that. So I brought a few things.

I chose some favorite sheets and a quilt for the bed, and my own pillows. Nothing sleeps like good linens that are just the right weight. A few other homey touches made the list…scented candles for the coffee table, some favorite books, my Rowenta iron, some glasses and plates.

I brought a few of my cast iron pans to see me through.

The cast iron pieces, and my Kitchen Aid mixer…yes, I hauled it over, and it will drive out with me eventually. I brought favorite utensils, a couple of good knives, a sharpener, my coffee maker, a small blender. I brought my herbs and spices…well, what good would they do me to in storage? NO food items can go to storage.

I must admit, I likely won’t need a lot of them. But I figured I could leave those behind for someone else to use. (This is an apartment that benefits from past users’ leftovers, and I’ve been fortunate to find a just-opened bottle of olive oil or other pantry item I freely used because I didn’t have my own jar of whatever…a convenience of sharing a community space. The rules? If it’s yours, put your name on it. If you’re not coming back, or you don’t mind sharing, just leave it in a common space.)

Moving creates these crazy conversations in my head…keep or get rid of, what to do, what to do, what to do?!

So now I have a ton of spices on the shelf here, just in case I’m inspired to whip up anything exotic, and this week I had to buy a hook to hang on the bathroom door…one of the things that I can’t find, even though we had several at the house, and I thought they were in one of the boxes I hauled over.

Silly, really, but when I’m feeling a bit displaced, it’s the little things that begin to irritate…like not having an easy place in the bathroom to hang a robe, or drape a towel.

I hung my plastic hook on the door last night and put my morning robe on it, and felt a little better. It was a familiar sight, and that feels good. However small, a sight of home is still a sight of home.

In the past when we’ve stayed here, I’d fall back on a combination of soup and sandwich meals, simple warm-up dishes, even stocked up on some of the more upscale frozen pizzas. But now I’m doing my style of cooking, making real food that satisfies more than the quick and easy stuff of call weekends.

That’s not to say I’m whipping up gourmet fare. No, this kitchen isn’t inspiring heights of creativity. But a few familiar dishes, along with the other little touches that add comfort, and I find myself relaxing, de-stressing, catching my breath.

I find myself feeling grateful for an easy place to transition, never mind that the look won’t be featured on Pinterest.

It’s not a forever home. But even a temporary spot can be a shelter from the storm, and in the mornings, drinking hot coffee and wrapped in a cozy robe, I know it will do for the in-between time.

And maybe, before I’m done here, I’ll find what I’m looking for.

When life knocks you flat…

It’s been a week. Short weeks always work out to be long in the end. I don’t know why or how, I only know it’s true. And this one has been no exception.

I knew it was a long shot. Usually I’m built to be positive. But this house offer…just didn’t feel right from the beginning. On Wednesday the buyers decided to walk away. It was disappointing. And it was a relief, oddly enough. I didn’t feel good about the offer, and the whole thing felt too rushed. Well, I may have time to regret that one if I sit with a house on Water Street for a long time to come. But when it’s right, it will be right…no forcing it. That’s never a good feeling.

So, in the spirit of cheering myself up and putting myself back on track I thought about the steps forward. What do I need to do to right myself? That’s the image I always see in my mind…my body upside down, somehow needing to find the way back up, back to hope, back to future.

It would be a lot easier if I wasn’t sitting surrounded by empty shelves and dreading unpacking a house I just rushed to pack.

When has my efficiency ever backfired so spectacularly?!

But there are silver linings. I got a free inspection and a free appraisal out of the process, thanks to the would-be buyers. And though the appraisal cost me the sale in the end, at least it helps to price more in line with the current market value. I tell myself things work out in the end. Isn’t that what you tell yourself when you’re disappointed?

I am disappointed, but there’s nowhere to go with that. The best cure for disappointment is action. And since I love the word “grace,” for all it’s meanings to my life, I created a little acronym to help me get going:

Grace

Happy weekend! I’ll be unpacking a bit, staging the house for future showings, and finding grace. And if you’re feeling in need of that gift, I hope you’ll find it too.

~ Sheila

Monster in my head

I’m fighting a battle right now, and I don’t know how it will end. It isn’t a battle for health, but it is a battle that rages within me. It’s one of heart, one of spirit.

There are choices I face, struggles I face, that need answers. And I have to do the sort…what is my true nature, and my true desire?

Am I strong, or am I weak? Am I brave, or am I scared?

Yes, I’m scared to death…but can I overcome that?

When life is changing around you, it’s easy to get a little sea-sick with the waves of uncertainty and doubt that wash over every decision. Did I set a good price for the house? What will life look like if I move away? Will I know a good decision when I meet it? I’ve sometimes thought I was getting just what I wanted, only to realize later…uh… that was a mistake.

Though I’ve loved this house, now I think it was a mistake to buy here. And yet, when we bought it, I was so sure. Funny how time has a way of changing your view. And what you want so desperately, so badly, one year…why, a few years later, I would go back and change that if I could. I would actually give a lot to do that.

But mistakes can turn out to be blessings in disguise, if you learn the lessons they teach, and I’ve learned more about life from some of the choices that I deemed “mistakes” than other decisions that looked perfect and seemed to work out just as expected.

I have to admit though…when I hear people say “trust your gut”…well, I must not have a very smart gut. Mine has misguided me on more than a few occasions.

But each time I’ve come to feel that a particular decision was a mistake…you know, the sort of “what was I thinking??!!” variety…just when I’ve reached a point of despair, or disgust, or some feeling of helplessness, suddenly, an amazing thing happens.

The light breaks through, in a way I couldn’t have imagined. Couldn’t have dreamed, or hoped.

I’m not saying I’ve always gotten the answer I wanted. I’m saying I got what I needed.

Is this God working in my life? Is this life just working itself out? To be honest, I don’t know the answer to that question. I am a woman of faith. But I don’t see faith as a magic pass to give me all the things I ask for. Maybe it’s just more complicated than that…I tend to have a simplistic and linear view…”if this, then that.” But there’s always a longer trajectory of events at work in life, and certainly that’s the case with major decisions.

I know there’s no magic formula…and I can’t say that I trust it will always work this way. And there are sorrows in life that can’t be fixed, or reversed. But those are of a different nature anyway…my dad’s death from cancer, for instance. At some point, each of us face things that can’t be solved, or made right, ever again.

But the twists of life I’m talking about…those are not the life and death issues. Though it may feel like it at the moment, they are not of that nature. I’m talking about choices that are in our control. And in an odd way, the decisions that we control…well, don’t they haunt us more than the ones we see as fate? I can mourn the deaths of loved ones, but I couldn’t stop it, and I certainly don’t blame myself for their loss.

But when I choose a path that leads to unhappiness…how can I feel anything but responsible for my predicament?

And so I wonder, and I try to listen to my heart. I’ve given up listening to my gut, that doesn’t work for me.

But my heart….now that’s a different story.

My heart has sometimes led me to make choices that look foolish, seem unwise. But you know, when I’ve listened to my heart, I’m usually rewarded. I’ve learned that just because something seems smart, or obvious, or even right…it may be none of those things. Sometimes the road less taken really is the right one.

I’m mixing metaphors and breaking all sorts of rules of grammar…but you know what I mean. Don’t you?

So this is my monster. It looks like indecision, but that’s just the disguise. What’s underneath is the root of the thing. Fear and uncertainty, paralysis and anxiety…all facets of the monster, the thing that holds me hostage when I need to step up.

I have flashes of brilliance, confidence, even power. But why, oh why, can’t the certainty that I feel at 8:00 in the morning be with me at 3:00 in the morning when I can’t sleep and everything I was sure of a few hours earlier seems foolish, or risky, or just plain wrong?

This is another part of the cycle of life, another pattern that repeats. When you make a decision, whether you believe it is a good one, or you come to feel it was a mistake…give time a chance to work its miracle, let the story write itself. That flies in the face of my instincts. I want to take action if I’ve messed up…and shouldn’t I? Well, it depends on the situation. There are obvious mistakes that are simple, and easily fixed.

But I’m talking about the times when I’m in over my head….can’t rescue myself, can’t be my own knight in shining armor. For those, I’ve learned…sometimes it is best to stand still, and watch, and let events unfold.

If action took me to a bad place, maybe inaction will take me where I want to go. Seems so contradictory, and hard for my impatient spirit.

Await the unfolding of events, breathe. Control what you can manage, but recognize: there are always going to be forces at work in any situation other than ones immediately obvious to you. And often, you have no idea what is happening outside the realm of your own vision.

So the house? In the realtors’ hands, and beyond my control, for today. And the nexts of life? Location, and work, the big questions? Also beyond me for now. But today, I can meet my commitments, go out of my way to do the right thing, look stronger than I am. I can be patient and hold on. The monster hasn’t defeated me yet.

And it won’t. It won’t.

Happy Easter!

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and I’m excited to spend the day with our little ones, Riley and Jack. Riley, turning four next week, and Jack, 16 months, are too young to grasp the real meaning of the day. They’re just old enough to hunt for a few eggs and enjoy some treats from their Easter baskets. And at their ages, that’s enough.

But for me, and anyone of Christian faith, the day is a reminder, among all the Sundays of the year, that grace is a tangible gift. Forgiveness and mercy are available to everyone, freely given, and found through the choice of belief and obedience.

My use of the word “grace” in the title of my blog has nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with displaying an understanding and gracious attitude when we’re confronted with difficulties in life. I use the word to refer to many of the little joys, the things that make life a little better, a little happier…the grace notes.

But the grace that we celebrate on Easter, the gift of savior and healer and friend…that’s the real thing, the real joy. Happy Easter, and may you know the meaning of the grace of the day, and the giver of joy.

~ Sheila