Monday, September 27, 2010
Children have a limited view of their parents' relationship with one another. After all, Mom and Dad are seen through a child's filter and perspective. My relationship with my Mom and Dad was no different. They were married for more than 50 years, both came from complicated childhoods, and at times seemed at once loving and also in desperate conflict with each other. They danced in the minefields of life... together. They navigated the depression and lived through an unthinkable separation during WWII.
Recently, in doing a deep clean of our basement and sifting through old, old boxes...I found an unexpected treasure. A new glimpse, if you will, of who Dolores and Mark were to one another. I found their old love letters and the cards they wrote to one another on birthdays and anniversaries.
I almost felt like I was intruding to read them..yet I had to know an age old question. Did they really love each other deeply?
Was that the foundation that held them together in spite of all the fighting and Dad's drinking. Did love keep them together as they tried to navigate life, even in times that seemed like all out war?
As an only child I watched them. I learned. I knew what set my Dad off, and I also knew that my Mom needed a protector. I was the one caught in the middle. But I also saw glimpses... Moments when there was so much kindness.
Who were they... really?
The letters are short and filled with such admiration and sincerity. I can almost hear their voices as I read the words through my tears. And then when I saw this clip on You Tube, I was once again reminded that all relationships from time to time are tested. It feels like a marriage may not make it. But years later, those battle wounds and scars make it stronger. I love in this clip how couples show their wedding pictures and then dance together...holding one another tenderly.
My Dad died first. My Mom never truly recovered from losing him. Neither did I. All the irritations and old issues subsided with his passing. The missing never ended. We forgave him.
And then she, too, was gone. My heart broke in a way that only God's grace could help put it back together. I miss her every day.
The letters tell the story. She did love him. She signed them.."Love always, your Dolores" He did love her..."You were the best thing that ever happened to me."
When I was little I used to see them dance together in our living room. Now I love to imagine them both, dancing together in Heaven.
Love and blessings!
Sunday, September 26, 2010
The first week of school has come and gone. WOW! That's all I can say.
I am thrilled to be back in the classroom. I am honored to be working with students who are dedicated to improving their lives. That part of the week warmed my heart and made me realize why I LOVE teaching. I loved seeing my friends and colleagues. And once again, it is inspiring to team-teach with Amy.
However, if I'm honest (and I am trying to be truly honest with myself and others), the outside-of-the-classroom climate at the college was CRAZY...and I do mean like the TV show "Saturday Night Live" crazy. One unthinkable event after another. These weren't small events mind you. Any one of the events was detrimental to SCC as I know it. We needed Betty White to show up, just like she did on Saturday Night Live, and give us some comic relief!
Yes, the week was stressful outside my classroom. The details of that stress really don't matter. What matters is that...
I forgot, again, to take a breath and rely on God.
Yikes! And the physical and emotional consequences of that "forgetting" were noticeable.
This morning I re-read an encouragement email Amy forwarded to me this last week. Granted, I did read it before but I was so sucked into the "vortex" of the week, and holding on to my sense of well being, that the message didn't sink in... until now.
The email described a Mom in a kitchen preparing a meal with a sleeping baby leaning into her. The Mom clattered and clanked as she whirled around to make dinner, with the baby nestling into her hip. The outer world of activity and whirlwind didn't phase the baby because she leaned into her Mommy.
And the message suggested that I need to lean into God just as that baby leaned into her Mom.
Ah....THERE'S the truth of it: When I just rely on me, I take in all of the stressors I can't change. When I lean into God, I'll find peace and serenity in the midst of the whirlwind.
I have learned this lesson before, but why oh why is it so easy to forget it.
I guess I'm a slow learner when it comes to turning everything over to the Lord.
My "I can fix it if I just try harder" mentality kicks in and the vicious cycle begins.
It's almost a predictable mathematical equation:
Want stress to sink in...rely on just me.
Want peace and serenity in the midst of chaos...lean into God.
I am breathing easier as I take in this message. I remember that God is in control and can fix all things.
This morning I am grateful for the reminder!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Simply put, this summer changed me. I have, for years, longed for a more balanced life, but I felt helpless to make the core changes to facilitate that change. I just got used to rush, rush, rush...work, work, work.
True, I was (and still am) incredibly productive. At almost 64 years of age, I joked that I could work circles around many of my younger colleagues. I came from a family background where hard work was in our bone marrow, and I was following that coveted tradition.
The thought of being a "slacker" was repulsive to me. Still is.
Yet, where was contentment?
It somehow got lost in all of the hard work.
What is contentment to me? It's loving being where I am at any moment and finding the joy, serenity, and peace in the little things in life. It's creating moments where the whirlwind stops so I can be centered , creative, and faithful to the God I love and the people I cherish.
It's taking time to relish making and drinking a cup of coffee. It's appreciating the joy of cleaning my counters instead of being irritated that they aren't clean. It's finding old black and white photos of my loved ones and starting to frame them and create a family wall. It is personalizing a home we have been in for a long time and creating a living environment that reflects my heart and soul.
It's "nesting", not decorating.
What's the difference? For me, decorating is an exterior process of quickly getting a room in shape with a new look and update. It may mean a new coat of paint, new slip covers, or a trip to a store that refreshes and revives a tired, old living space. Don't get me wrong. I love decorating.
But "nesting" is just a little different. It's not just an external process. It's an internal change of heart. It is reflecting who I am into where I live. It is finding cherished items that reflect precious memories and surrounding ourselves with them. It is "authentic living" that enhances our spirits and our souls. It is a deeply felt reminder that I am not all that I have, but I am God's child. It is the beginning of the process of internal examination into who God means me to be.
It is the next step of going deeper as I get older.
For me, authentic living is peeling back the superficial layers in every area of my life. It is relishing the time I have left on this earth and REALLY making the best of it.
And it all started with the basement...with getting rid of "stuff" and changing a space I couldn't stand into a peaceful and esthetic place I love to be in. That basement is a "work in progress" and so am I.
So as fall starts to change the leaves in the trees and splashes new colors of orange, green, amber, red and yellow in our garden, I am puttering in our home...to my heart's content.
I am getting more rest for my body and rest for my soul. I am finding my old art supplies and beginning, in my mind, to imagine drawing this year's Christmas card. I am going through boxes of old photos and revisiting those memories. I am smiling more and worrying less. I am placing my hand in God's more often and letting Him guide my day. I am crying more at the suffering I am seeing and feeling because my heart isn't wound quite so tight.
Yesterday I was back at school hugging old students who had returned and appreciating colleagues who have done this sacred work for years and years. I felt honored to meet new students and wanted to give them a safe home at school where they could let down their overwhelm and stress. And then I came home, left school behind and took a nap. That's right a nap.
I woke up, felt rested and happy, and made a delicious salmon dinner for my hubby.
I felt "content", happy through and through. I felt alive!
I guess you CAN teach an "old dog new tricks"!
Sending love, contentment, and blessings your way!
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
I am in awe of God's handiwork. In His perfect timing the air starts to cool, mornings are crisp, colors start to change, and fall is once again in the air. As a new season approaches, and the best summer ever draws to a close, I find that I am at once grateful beyond words, mixed with a teaspoon of sadness, at the end of this SPECTACULAR summer.
Lately I have heard myself say that "This was the best summer of my life!"
Strong words, even for me.
What made this summer so memorable? It wasn't fancy trips to exotic locations. It wasn't buying something or DOING something. It was relaxing into my life so that I could have precious time with those I dearly love.
I know, most people don't associate ME with the word RELAXING :) Truth be told, I didn't either..until this summer.
What did relaxing look like this summer? Here are a few examples:
* I relished my first cup of coffee in the morning and had long and drawn out conversations with my beloved hubby as we sat on the sofa sipping and sharing. No gulping and running... just being.
* I slept in, often until 6 or 7 am. To the average person this might not seem like a big deal. However, I am normally up at 3am every morning during the school year. This summer I worked on changing that life-long habit. I got rest. I was intentional. When I woke up at 3, I told myself (the way you would a small child) that all of the birds are still sleeping and it's not time to get up yet! :)
* I laughed and chuckled until it hurt. I giggled and took delight in playing in a sprinkler in my work clothes (with Emma) or just looking with loving and playful eyes at Jenna's "crazy hair" when she woke up. My time at Cannon Beach with my dear friend Sharon was hilarious. We laughed until it hurt!:)
* I puttered and cleaned my home. I nested and completed some projects that might seem small to most people, but they were HUGE to me!
* I wrote in times on my calendar for "self-care"...that's right, self-care, not work. And what's more I committed that time to caring for me with as much diligence as I would an important consulting appointment.
*I had wonderful and important "Nana Time" talks with my darling grandchildren. Not the kind of talks about just activities, but the "Updated Postcard" kind of talks about what is going on in their hearts. I adore my grand babies, all of them, and I am passionate about knowing what makes them "tick"!
* I took time to breathe, take naps, read great books ("Fly Away Home" was my absolute favorite) and have my quiet time with God. Like the old spiritual says, "It is well with my soul."
I focused on "soul-time" and time with the Lord this summer.
* I kept up my "Gratitude Journal"... a reminder of my multitude of blessings. I focused on what I could control and asked God to help release me from worrying about what I can't control.
* I got tickets to take Bert to the musical "South Pacific", Nutcracker Ballet tickets for Jessi, Emma, and me for our annual Christmas tradition, and await the Women of Faith Conference and Beth Moore Christian Conference with Amy. I love, LOVE, LOVE having events on my calendar to look forward to.
* The list of summer delights goes on and on....life-changing moments as my pace of life shifted from "turbo speed" to a "slow down and enjoy it all" speed.
I am grateful for this relaxed time and as school is about to start I want to take these life-changing lessons with me. To everything there is a season...and I am "blessed beyond measure"
by this one!
"If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old." ...