Dark Nights Of The Soul -Thomas Moore

“And so we are left with a great battle, not between good and evil, but between really living and just pretending.  Both the righteous and the evil avoid life.  They don’t have the subtlety to understand that good and evil are the yin and yang of existence. Anyone passionate about life is neither all good nor all evil.”

“Perhaps the dark night comes upon you from inside or outside to wake you up, to stir you and steer you toward a new life.  I believe this is the message of most religions, and certainly it is the gist of Christianity and Buddhism.  Your dark night may be a bardo, a period of apparent lifelessness that precedes a new birth of meaning.  Maybe your dark night is a gestation, a coming into being of a level of existence you have never dreamed of.  Maybe your dark night is one big ironical challenge, just the opposite of what it appears to be– not a dying, but a birthing.”

Sometimes

Sometimes a Mama can’t be there for her son or daughter.  It’s a big day…something important…and your heart is there…but your body has someplace else it has to be.  I’m finding as I grow older this is more and more the case of my Momhood.  I live near three of my six children and two of my nine grandchildren and still I can’t be there for those who are right in the same town I live.  I hate that.  Sometimes I think I was born to be a mom.  To me it came naturally.  I grew up loving my dolls, dressing up my Thomasina cats in doll clothes and strolling them around in my carriage.  I taught all my dolls and stuffed animals on the couch lined up like little students.  I adored Momhood.

Nancy Reagan died this week.  What a wonderful woman.  She said, “My life really began when I married my husband.”

I thought a lot about that today.  In many ways that was true.  I often speak to my husband of almost 35 years of “my other life” before him, or when we were first married, or when the children were little.  They all seem like such distinct lives.

My oldest daughter, Christine, talked this week of watching her children when they weren’t looking and thinking how beautiful they are.  I remember so clearly of doing the same thingmany times…it was like time stood still during those moments.  They were in deep concentration coloring or thinking with their head in their hands and their tongues hanging out of their mouths.  And I’d smile and think how perfect they were.

I have beautiful children.  They are sweet, and cordial and courteous.  They love God and each other.  They are my glory that I pass on to my Savior for His glory.  If it were not for Him and His grace and His coaching and His parenting and His love and His mercy and His forgiveness and His strength and Him – period- we would have nothing.

He is the reason I can be okay with not being there for my daughters or my sons when they need me or want me.  I heard something the other day about how “My mother taught me everything except how to live without her.”  In a lot of ways that is true and will always be true.  I lost my own mother at 19.  I can’t imagine and my heart aches for what she went through that couple of months when she knew she was dying and her little girl, her youngest, was just barely nineteen and not ready for her to go.  What pain.  She was brusque.  She was harsh.  Now I understand.  She was heartbroken.  She was helpless.  She was dying inside way before she died outside.  I didn’t understand then.  I just knew I needed my Mama and she wasn’t there.  But she did “teach me how to live without her” in that she gave me my best friend.  She could die knowing that my Father, and His Son and His Spirit would guide me and love and me be there for me every step of the way in this life for all those times she couldn’t be with me…graduation from college, wedding day, every birth, every day I needed to call her and she wasn’t there to call, every birthday….I’ve had an ongoing conversation with the Father and Jesus over the years … I don’t know if they have given my messages, but it’s made me feel better to know that Mama knows that I know … now….that she wanted to be there for me.

So, children, know your Mama wants to be there.  Your birthdays I can’t come to, Easters, Christmases, Thanksgivings, births, graduations, certifications, every special day and every hard day.  Look at your own little ones and when you stop and wonder at their beauty and perfection…remember that is how I look at you.  You are perfect.  You are loved.  You are successful.  You are doing a wonderful job at life.  I pray for you.  Tears stream down my cheeks in the middle of the night for you.  My heart breaks for you…over and over and over. You are Dad’s and my legacy and we are so very proud of you.

Footprints and Sand and Friendship and Restless Emptiness

Ever have those days (or nights) when your soul just seems to be crying out for more?  You aren’t exactly sure what is going on inside, but you know there’s something deeper going on…you pray, you dig, you try to wipe away the cobwebs of your mind and inner being…but you just know you can’t sleep…tears run freely and you are sad but you aren’t…you are happy but you aren’t…your soul is …searching.

Allen and I had the wonderful privilege of a few days off in Myrtle Beach this past weekend through Tuesday.  I think this may have started it.  I had the “week from hell” at work just before we went.  Things are extremely busy.  No one is happy in their job.  Everyone is finding fault and blaming and there are many smiles and surface conversations…but no true friendship…no meeting of the souls.

We met friends there.  In Myrtle Beach.  They are from Vermont.  We were from Vermont.  We used to call each other up, go to dinner, tour cheese factories, go sailing, go boondocking, share moments.  This past weekend was a re-entering into that friendship that seemed to be put on hold when we left Vermont for North Carolina to find work and be near children.  As we walked down the beach …step, slide, step, slide…our footprints left dents soon filled in by water and sand…we passed there, but only moments later you could not tell it.  In many ways I feel that way about life.  I am so grateful that I am on this side of the inner turmoil of even a year or two ago…but there are still many questions.  Life is so friend-less now.  We have people here who love us and enjoy time with us…but we have no one who seeks to be with us like Brett and Amy did.  In many of our new homes I would pray for friendship….should you have to do that?  Shouldn’t people want to be your friend?  Life is lonely on this side …

At work I watch as other ladies go to lunch together…or go shopping or antiquing…I’ve always been on this side of it…watching.  I always thought it was me.  There must be something wrong with me.  I’ve been to counseling this year…I’m learning that it’s not me.  I am a good person.  I love people.  I am pleasant and good company.  But I think sometimes people don’t know what to do with me.  I don’t crab a lot (just to Allen…poor man) so when they crab to me I am silent.  Not because I don’t expect them to crab…but because rarely does crabbing help and I often don’t know what to say.  I’m not a good empathizer, I think.  I need to say, “I’m sorry you are having a rough day.  I understand.  I’m here for you.”  But I don’t.  So maybe my silence is misconstrued as judgment…maybe I come off as too good to be true.

My friend crabbed to me this weekend and ended with “Okay, I’m done venting.”  I did tell her it was okay to vent to me.  Sometimes we just need to vent.  Often I don’t feel I have anyone to vent to…except Allen…again poor man.  I wonder sometimes if he thinks I don’t like any of life.  I do.  I loved loved loved this weekend.  I should have been rich.  We talked about that.  What happened?  (smile)  I love being busy at work when no one else is around.  I love doing a good job in my work even though I could care less if another cleanroom wiper were manufactured or sold when all is said and done for the day.

I love my garden.  I love my roses and flowers.  I love my children and grandchildren.  I love love my church at The Summit.  I love counseling.  I love Jesus…my Savior, my God, my best friend Who loves me in spite of me and because of Who He is.

So see, soul….we have a lot to be thankful for.  Don’t be in turmoil.  Even if your footprints on this earth never amount to much…Jesus’ footprints did and have meant everything in your life.  Friends like Brett and Amy have meant the world to you.  Your children and grandchildren continue to speak to you even though you desire for more of them.  You have had some wonderful times with each of them…they have given in to your growth and abundance over the years…the tender times…the hoopla times of rowdy abandon…the quiet times…the dancing in the kitchen times.  Even if you never have another time like those…you have had a lifetime of memories with each one to fill you in the dark recesses of you and get you through those nights of no sleep and restlessness.

Yes, that’s it…it is a restlessness of my soul tonight.  There must be more.  There must be friendships out there like we had this weekend…somewhere….someone to speak life into us…someone to speak life into.

Be still my soul and trust in God.The Lord is on our side.  He will prevail.  He will not let you be consumed with this life…but will fill you and give you purpose and strengthen and give you peace.

Hebrews 13:4-6

Hebrews 13:4-6 says “4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?”

The writer of Hebrews continues his letter to Hebrew Christians with last minute instructions.  These are bullet points he wants to leave with them kind of like the talk someone gives to their children and grandchildren when they are going to die soon.  Not that the writer was going to die, but Christ’s coming was imminent and he wanted to leave them in as good a position as he could.  He was probably uncertain as to when or if he would have the opportunity to exhort and encourage them in their walk so he was leaving the most important things to them as he wrapped up his letter.

Marriage should be honored by all – this is not something we see in our society much anymore.  People “test drive” their mates like buying used automobiles.  Jokes and cutting remarks are everywhere.  When you meet someone who honors marriage you know it.  They are open and appreciative of those who have stuck with each other over the years.  Sometimes we skip over this part of the instruction to get to the next part that deals with sexual sin.  But marriage is more than sex.  It is a one-ness that should be honored and celebrated.

The Complete Jewish Bible says, “Marriage is honorable in every respect; and, in particular, sex within marriage is pure. But God will indeed punish fornicators and adulterers.”  There is the word “and” here…marriage is honorable in every respect … one thought….and in particular, sex within marriage is pure.  Or in the NIV “and the marriage bed kept pure, “…other translations say “undefiled.”

I looked up the word defile. It means to make foul, dirty, or unclean; pollute, taint, debase, violate the chastity of, desecrate, sully.” Think of all the ways this can be done.  Look around you.  Watch people.  This is done everyday…in work places, in churches, in groups and organizations, in friendships….if not physically acted out…it is done emotionally.  It’s so easy to allow ourselves friendships with the opposite sex which come pretty close to defiling our relationship with our spouse.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:28 “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  The writer in Hebrews is concerned that in their weakened state of their spiritual hearts … in the persecution they are a part of that they will find solace in someone else’s arms….someone else besides their spouse.  

The next part of this is a warning. “for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”  Often we think these two things are one and the same.

An adulterer is someone who is married and involves themselves in extramarital affairs.

The sexually immoral are those who take part in sexual activity outside of marriage.  This includes pornography, homosexual relationships and a host of other sexual sins one can be a part of outside of marriage.

The writer is covering all bases…inside and outside of marriage…any sexual relationship not sanctioned by God…God will judge.

It was suggested in one website I read that the Hebrews were in a culture where there were two schools of thought.  One was that it was expected that a man have a mistress or two on the side because marriage was too restrictive.  The other was that marriage was not restrictive enough…that you needed to deny yourself in order to be spiritual.  Both were wrong.  Our culture believes that you “can’t” be faithful and that “everyone” is either unfaithful or sexually active outside of marriage.  Thankfully, this isn’t true.

But let’s remember the warning God gives the Hebrews and us through these verses.  We must align ourselves with God’s thoughts on marriage and the marriage bed as being pure and holy.

Verse 5 says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

In trying to see this from the Hebrews point of view…I believe we need to go back to what they were dealing with in their world.  They were being persecuted for their faith…this included not being allowed to buy and sell like they used to when they were following Jewish Law.  Their income capacity had changed.  The writer is reminding them here that God will never leave nor forsake them.  He is their provider.  He is reminding them to be content with what God has provided.

I need this reminder often.  Our world values more and more things and bigger homes and more stuff and better things and better stuff.  Living simply in our day and age is not looked well upon.  I love my home.  It’s a two bedroom apartment that meets our needs.  Yes, it’s cluttered because there is very little closet space for the “things” we need, but it’s ours provided by a loving Heavenly Father for His children.  I can be content in that or I can kick at the goads.  It is my opinion, that some of the Hebrews were probably kicking at the goads.  I’m sure they had much less than any of us here have tonight, yet the writer believed they could be content and remember that God had their backs and that He was providing and He would

never leave nor forsake them. Dr. Greer says the word never here means “Never, never, never, never, never, never.”  I need that.  When I go into work everyday and I feel like I am alone…that I am once again in Jr. High with everyone around me gossiping and making life unlivable….I need to hear that my God will never, never, never, never, never leave me.

Verse 6 says, “So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?”

Again, another reminder to the Hebrews that what they are going through is temporary.  What is the worst the world can throw at them?  Death?  But that means Eternal Life.  So even in death…the world’s worst for us…God has our best waiting for us.  He is faithful.  The writer is reminding the Hebrews and through them us that God is faithful.  He will see us through.  We can be content…we can know that He will never leave us and we do not need to be afraid.  We can live confidently.  Jesus calls the Holy Spirit our Helper in John 14:16 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,to be with you forever,”  And best of all our helper, the Holy Spirit, lives inside of us living out His life through us…we don’t have to do a thing…just let Him life through us.  

O Christmas Tree

Christmas 2015For some inexplicable reason I love my Christmas tree.  Every year we traipse out somewhat close to my birthday (December 9th) to find the perfect one.  We walk around dozens of trees coming back time after time to one or two that “might fit” wondering if it will look horrible once we get it inside….worrying all to no avail since every year it is “just right” and beautiful.

Some years I find myself twirling the lights around by myself or putting finishing touches by myself.  Other years I have more help that I can deal with graciously.  The standing back taking it all in squinting session is always fun …making sure there are no holes in the lighting and everything looks just right.  Each ornament has to hang just right…not lying on a branch so it can’t dangle amidst the glittering balsam.  Each year we buy or make one ornament for each of the children (and one for us as a couple).  Sometimes the ornament speaks back to the year before. An ornament in memory of a beloved pet, one made in Sunday School for mom with a child’s scratchy printing or funny picture of when they were younger, years and years of fun and sweet ornaments to put on the tree year after year.  Then one year several ornaments were missing…one child left and started their own tree with their ornaments.  Each year or so more and more ornaments were missing…it seemed like we still always had enough ornaments.  What memories each one holds.  Stockings each year with an ornament hanging out the top…little fingers hanging it awkwardly on our beautiful tree each Christmas morning.  Every year…every tree…listening as it were to the real story of Christmas.  Mom reading tear jerker stories of families celebrating Christmas, Dad reading Christmas morning before opening gifts from Luke 2 and thanking Jesus for coming and the Father for sending His Son for us.

As I take the tree down this year, well into the new year 2015, I am thinking back to the dozens of trees we have had…each one different and holey in its own way…imperfect yet perfect for us.  Never the same.  Hours of putting up, taking down, decorating, re-fixing…rehanging ornaments, placing presents just right under the tree each year, listening to squeals of laughter, wiping tears on soft little cheeks, sleeping under boughs once each year in order to enjoy the lights all night long and the love and companionship of loved ones and family….these are all reasons I love my Christmas tree.  O Christmas Tree.  I can’t wait for next December just to pick that next one.

I often wonder if Allen goes before I do how I’ll do it.  I never have wanted to have a fake one…an artificial one…there’s enough fake and artificial in the world.  Even when my allergies to pine acted up…I was more willing to get my sudafed out and enjoy.  Bringing a little bit of the forest inside for a month seems so silly…but it speaks to my soul.  It reminds me of other trees.  The one which made the cradle for a baby boy from Heaven, the one that became the cross where He died 33 years later…and many trees inbetween in my life.  One REAL tree growing up where it was potted and in the spring we planted it in the front yard…now 30+ feet tall in a small town in New York.  I love trees.  I had a Grandma and Grandpa tree in CT because I never had a Grandma and Grandpa.  A walk in the woods…in December….in my living room…for a month.

O Christmas tree…you are a bright spot in this life.  You give beauty in years when there is little or none.  You give hope when there is no hope.  You remind me of the real reason for Christmas when there is no reason to celebrate.  I love my Christmas Tree…see you again soon…in a different wood…with a different aroma…with different branches…and different wood…but the same joy and the same emotions…

So if Allen goes before me I will still get a real tree…for me…for the years of memories…for the tree.

A Letter of Promises To My Grandchildren

Dear Ones,

Someday you will read this and understand why Grammy was the way she was.  I can see it in your eyes today that you don’t understand.  You desire for Grammy to be all fun and games and always giving in to your every whim.  You see even as tiny babies I didn’t give in to you.  I love you too much for that.  It is my desire that some day you will be such bright and shining stars reflecting the love of the Savior that you are a wonderful addition to His kingdom and bring many with you.

I promise you that I do love you…more than life.  My tears have often been prayed to my Savior for your salvation and for your obedient lives to Him.  I promise that when you refuse to take a nap, I’ll make you…because you need one whether you know it or not.  I promise that when you abuse your mama and daddy that I will reprimand you.  You are not God and the fact that they don’t give in to your worship is your first step to realizing that and that you need a Savior much bigger and more able to meet your needs than you ever will be.  I promise that when you disobey me I will be swift and final with your rebuke.  You must learn to obey the authorities in your life.  This is why our world is in the state it is in today.  Even grown ups must learn to obey someone…and many don’t…and we all suffer.

So, yes, I do love you…and we will have tickle fights.  I will read you books because TV will suck your brain cells out of your head and especially what they have on today for children’s shows.  Will we watch movies together?  Yes.  But be prepared for lessons along the way of the truth and untruth of what you are watching.  I will not allow you to believe lies as much as it is in my ability to keep you from them.  I will play good music for you…about Jesus…from the Great Composers…worship music…fun music…because to love music is a wonderful part of life.

Right now…Grammy is the bad guy most of the time.  That’s okay.  It’s because I love you too much to allow you to stay babies and not grow or mature or call out the best in you.  You have abilities far beyond who you now desire to be…and I will call out your best qualities.  You will get tired of hearing me say the same things over and over because you didn’t listen the first time.  I will not nag…I will teach and train and teach and train.  Come to think of it that’s why your mama or papa are who they are today.  I spent endless hours training and they have become wonderful people who love Jesus.  Learn to listen…you’ll be listening the rest of your lives.  Learn to be kind and think of others before yourself.  Learn to tell yourself “no” so others don’t have to.  Learn to distinguish between good, better and best…and choose the best.

I love you little ones…and even when it seems like Grammy’s the big meany…know my heart.

Gram

Fitting In

It seems my whole life I’ve been trying to “fit in.”  As a child I was the youngest in the class beginning Kindergarten when I was four…a whole three months before I would turn five.  I thrived in school; except socially.  I think I’ve been stunted in that area the rest of my life.  I was shy around boys forever it seems.  Now, I prefer talking with men.  Let me rephrase that.  I usually prefer to talk to men. I don’t feel the judgment or the attitudes that sometimes us women throw around at one another.  From time to time I sense being “set aside” by the male company like my opinions don’t matter, but unfortunately, I find that most in church settings amongst male leadership.

Tonight at my Counseling training class we broke up into groups…teams of four we will be with for many months and years ahead.  We had to share about how we came to Christ.  That was easy.  He’s done so much for me and has been my all for so many years.  Our team of four was only three tonight and the other two women have had very different lives from mine.  I could tell they clicked with one another.  I trust that my counseling pastor and Holy Spirit know who I need to be in a group with so I’m tentatively hopeful that at some point God will show me my part of fitting in.  I can see areas I’ve struggled in that I could help them with…but they are fellow counselors…not Life Care Recipients.  They haven’t come to me for wisdom or help…just friendship.  That’s the part I find difficult.  All of my friends over the years have fallen away.  My best friends from high school gave me up a short two years after graduation.  My best friends from college it took a bit longer…but other than facebook stalking me…they don’t really have any input in my life and haven’t been there for me for many, many years.  One of the statements made tonight came in the form of a question and answer.  “How do you know who your real friends are?”  “They are the ones when you are hurting who stand at your door and knock.”  I looked sadly at my husband and said, “Wow…that doesn’t bode well for us, does it?”

I wonder sometimes if it’s me since so many have left me over the years.  I mean, I see women laughing and chatting together in stores and restaurants all the time.  But I’m incapable of empathizing and small talk that other women enjoy so much.  I’m pretty serious.  I love a good joke and chuckle a lot to myself.  Maybe I’m insane. 😀  But life is so short I have a hard time not being real with people and most women don’t like that I guess.  I’ve mentioned before that I take a lot before I say anything…but there comes a point when someone is bellyaching or constantly harping or gossiping that I have to say…enough….and that’s when it comes.

I wonder if the same will be true of these women…my team.  Will they come to love me?  Will we come to love each other and our differences and gifts we bring to the table?  Will I ever fit in?  Am I really made for this counseling thing?  I am a truth sayer.  I must trust that God knows that and is able to bring just the right people my way who need my gifts.  I was once kicked out of youth group leaders (as the youth pastor’s wife) because other leaders didn’t want me in there … my friends….my peers.  I cried so hard that day and went to the pier to contemplate whether life was worth living if I couldn’t minister where my heart was.  I learned another hard lesson…in that death of my dream and vision…that God’s journey for me …if I submit…is much easier to bear and worth far more than my dream…but if I fight it….He will still take me down that road…with me kicking and clawing all the way…but with no peace for me.  If I desire peach…I must trust…and I must listen well to His voice…and submit to His plan…whether or not I fit in…ever.

“Human tragedies:  We all want to be extraordinary and we all just want to fit in.  Unfortunately, extraordinary people rarely fit in.” Sebastyne Young 

haha  You read things like that and it gives a reason…so I must be extraordinary because I don’t fit in…oh my….I wish it were true…I think it is more that God knows if I were to fit in…I could not give Him glory quite as well.  I must trust that He knew that when He made me.  I am extraordinary to Him and that’s all that matters.

John 14:14-16 “You are My friends if you do what I command you. “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.…”