When I think over the years of my life the one thing I know that I could never do without is my faith. Not just faith in God but faith in many things. I have faith that there is love in the world, faith that there will be seasons and that the sun will rise. Faith in things that happen regularly and are provable don’t seem to lie in the area of faith but to me they do. Science says that we can believe things that can be proved. A lab test that comes out each time is a scientific proof. Faith is not scientific.
Part of our problem with the word faith is we see it as something that we “have.” A noun. Faith is not a noun. It is action, it is a verb. Faith is also not a feeling. Feelings come and go….they are transient. Feelings are not an accurate judge of faith. Instead faith is a choice. It is something that I must do. Each day when I wake I have to choose to believe in something. If that something is God it is my choice. I may waiver from time to time and question my belief but I can continue to chose to believe.
I will never be able to prove that God exists just as I can’t prove that love exists. I don’t have to. Belief is the choice that I make and it is not necessary for me to justify it. It is what has supported me through my life. Making a choice of belief each day allows me to absorb the winds of change that pummel my world. It gives me a safe shelter.
I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without this. What is there to hold on to when there is no safety anywhere? God did not promise that we would be free of trouble….only that He/She would be with us. I give heartfelt thanks that God has been in my life. “Amid all the changes and chance of this life I rest in your eternal changelessness.” ( from “The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer: Compline)
Yesterday I wrote about long term commitment and the benefits of it. When I think about it I left out something important. It is the ability to be yourself. No mask, no costume. nothing to hide the real you.
Most of my life I have been adaptable. It is something I learned early on from my father. He felt strongly that we should do our best to not make people uncomfortable. …..especially in social situations. This required not making anyone feel out of place by what they were wearing, how they spoke etc. I was a genius at adjusting language and conversation to fit my audience. I sought out people who seemed on the outside and tried to help them feel included. This is not a bad thing and it certainly is a kind thing.
This kind of thinking also led me into being the peacemaker. I do’t like conflict or discord at all. It can be very hard to always try to keep the peace. I’ve realized that this made me very tired. It is a lot less enervating to be yourself.
Somewhere along the way I forgot who I was. I was always wearing a mask, always being part of the group. I never voiced my own opinions if they were contrary. I wanted everything to go smoothly. … everyone to be happy. When my children were growing I smoothed most arguments. I was still playing a role.
Managing children at home led to more peacemaking and avoiding conflict. As our marriage grew I began removing the masks and the other personas and was free to be me. Total acceptance of who you are frees you. Unconditional love allows you to be totally open. It’s not that we were not ourselves in the beginning but now there are no closets unopened. Time has opened them all.
I often think about the song “what a difference a day makes.” The song is not talking about all of life but it is so true. One day everything can be fine and in 24 hours your life can be totally different. That happened to me at the beginning of 2017 when my job was done away with. The problem for me was it wasn’t a job but a ministry. I lost my identity.
A lot worse things have happened to others. Loss of a loved one among many things. When this kind of thing happens we are blindsided and have to restructure our thinking. I am beginning to realize how long that takes. I know that at some point the pain of this will lessen. It already has some.
There are people who seem so strong that nothing can rock their world. I am not so sure that they aren’t vulnerable as well. It is possible that nothing has ever happened to reach their core. There are some people that I am sure have strength that doesn’t come from themselves. People like Gandhi and Mother Theresa. They are what Quakers call “centered.” This is kind of strength that we all need. This comes from seeking something more than ourselves. My only experiences with this kind of centering have been fleeting. I know that the way to connect in that way with God (or whoever works for you) is to spend time with him. In the kind of rushing world that we live in it is so easy to do other things. It requires the kind of life change that (for me) started this thinking.
Now, again, I am focusing on the things that matter. I have no idea what the future will bring but my only way forward is with God. I have to reach out and seek the connection that never fails.
It is very difficult to raise children and let go when they become adults. Sometimes we have to stand by and watch as they make life changing mistakes. This is probably one of the hardest things we face when we have children. It is easy to deal with the mistakes that are made when our children are small. Usually those are small mistakes and easy to deal with. Mistakes made when we are adults can be more serious and have long reaching effects.
We can’t fix things for our children even when they are small. If they don’t learn that actions have consequences when they are small it is too late when they are grown. That is why we must let them feel the results. Too often we want to help so that they have no unhappiness but that doesn’t help them as adults. When I was young if a teacher called my parents about me it was already understood that I was the one with the problem. Now parents are quick to blame the teacher. Children are rescued from all wrongdoing by parents who really think they are doing the right thing.
Raising children is no easy job. Most of us have little experience when we begin. Most good parents do what they think is the best for their child and yet later children can confront us with our flaws. They will not understand unless they face raising children of their own.
When I was working in the church every fall I wrote an article about the importance of taking your children to church. Some people think that they should let them grow up and choose. How do you choose when you have nothing to compare with? If you have a faith why would you not let your child know about it?
Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.
Life is a puzzle. Sometimes I wonder what it is all about and why we are here. What is my purpose? Am I here for a reason? I have spent my life raising a family, being involved in church and being a nurse. I hope that those things have made the world a better place. Not in some grand way but by trying to be a good person I have made a contribution.
I think we expect that in order to make a difference we have to be someone important – some sort of celebrity but I don’t think that is it at all. I am a believer in the butterfly principle. What each of us does makes a difference for good or ill. Everything that we do has an impact. This makes me strive even harder to learn all that I can so that I can change the world for the better even if in a very, very small way.
Sometimes I catch myself saying something that will impact someone in a negative way and I think about it later. Recently I met a nurse in a doctor’s office who is about to have her first baby. I made the comment that I used to work in Neonatal Intensive Care. She responded that she hoped her baby didn’t need to go there. I answered that she seemed healthy and that I was sure all would go well. Then I added: we used to say nurses babies were the riskiest. That was a bridge too far. The remark was true but she didn’t need to hear that. I have thought about it ever since and regret it.
Every day is a chance to be kind. To say the kind thing. A chance to help. I have decided that doing the right thing is why we are here. Nothing else is as important.
Matthew 25:37-39New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’
Today we put up a Christmas tree. Like the Scrooge story I started thinking about Christmases past. Most of my memories are good but not all. There were two Christmases when my husband was in Viet Nam. There was one Christmas when I was in the hospital and not home with my children. The interesting thing is that I remember the happy years more than the sad ones. Our memories are selective. It’s funny how one person can remember an event clearly and someone else who has the same memory remembers it so differently. It has made me think about how our brains pick and choose which things to make easily accessible and which things are hidden away. We know that the memory is there somewhere. Why can’t we access it? My daughter says that our RAM memory is full. She may have a point. If only I could remember everything that I have learned.
I am grateful for the memories that I have and glad that some of the bad memories are less clear. I wonder if this is our way of living with the bad things. People who have PTSD can’t shake those bad memories and relive them over and over. That is living in a nightmare. I know that many people have bad memories that are so traumatic that they are vivid and color their days. That kind of memory produces pain that most of us can’t imagine.
I think that mental pain can be so much worse than physical. The torture that our own minds can produce is far worse than what someone else can do to us. That is why so many more suicides are committed by those in mental pain. There is no way to get away from it. Our thoughts rule out lives so we have to create ways to escape from that pain. The treatment of mental pain is so much better than it has been in the past. Now if we can just remove the stigma that accompanies it.
Christ cast out demons. I am sure that they were the same kind of demons that afflict us today. His healing is still there for us. We just need to be able to accept it.
If we are blessed with a good family when we are young we don’t worry much. As we reach our teens we encounter social issues and worry about how we seem to others. For some teens this can encompass their whole being. Social media has made this worse.
If we are blessed enough to find a partner and start a family our worries grow…..will there be enough money?….Will the job work out….etc. Then we have children and the worry increases exponentially. As we age our children grow up, find partners and have children of their own and then we have a larger group to hold close to our hearts. I guess the law of large numbers (out of my area) means that the more people involved the more potential for problems.
One of my children lives in the same town. One live 3 hours away and one is an 18 hr drive. We talk frequently and I am glad they also talk to each other often. No matter how old we get our children are still our children and when something crops up for them they call mom. I am glad they can do this. I see it as my place in life to be there for them.
This allows me to utilize my skills at worrying. My grandmother used to tell me to sit in a chair and worry as hard as I could….then get up and see if anything had changed. She was so right. Worry doesn’t help anyone but I am so good at it.
Worry can turn into anxiety as we magnify the problems and think of all the things that can go wrong. I am good at crossing many bridges before they are anywhere in sight. My husband says do what you can and then stop thinking about it. He is right. It is time to let this go. Jesus tells us:
Matthew 6:27-29New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.