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Archive for the ‘oblate of St. Benedict’ Category

I suspect that I am not the only one with health issues who struggles with handling practical things. In this case, I refer to so-called routine dental visits. I say “so-called” because they are anything but routine for me. In fact, the only part I can take for granted (allocate to “routine”) is that I am afterward going to be pounded in every way by this disease.

Make an appointment six months ahead of time? I can’t predict six minutes in advance let alone six months!

About a year ago, feeling bad about taking advantage of the good nature of the entire staff of my dental office by being forced to repeatedly change appointments (sorry, but no way can I go if the myoclonus is breaking through and going with a migraine is beyond masochistic) I presented the problem to my dentist and the hygenists. I know – why didn’t I think of that sooner?

They weren’t at all upset at the way I was doing things, but when I said it didn’t seem fair to anyone they offered a solution we all felt better about. I don’t make a routine appointment. They offered to put me on a “call if there is a cancellation and see if she wants it” list. So, beginning the month I am due in, if there is a cancellation for an afternoon slot they call and ask if I can make it that day. If I am in good enough shape, I go. If not, I pass and they call someone else. It’s as close to spontaneity as can be managed for me, and doesn’t waste their time if I’m not well enough to go that day.

It’s a simple idea that I don’t remember sharing here. I hope it’s helpful.

Peace.

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Drought.

*

Pond recedes

Cold depths remain

Lives flourish

unaware

of larger

 concerns.

*

Boulder tip revealed

Sign

rarely seen

We need

rain.

*

Surface concerns

Depths undisturbed

It was always

 there

unseen.

*

World drawn back

Hidden  revealed

Sun graces

cold

stone.

*

Turtles rise

leave darkness

Claw and muscle

strive for

warmth.

*

 Radiance or cloud

rock is comfort

Between worlds

turtles

 know.

*

Peace.

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You might think that as I approach yet another anniversary with this disease and that since I’m no spring chicken either (I’d have to make the Guinness Book of Records to still call myself “middle-aged” though I’m sticking with the label anyway) I’d be smarter.

Yes, you might think that – but you’d be wrong.

I’ve written here and spoken many times to others about making the tough choices to live well with chronic illness. Hang on a sec, what’s that in the mirror? Whew, I thought my forehead had “doofus” written on it! I’m pretty sure that I deserve the label even if it’s not showing up in the mirror at the moment.

It took until very early this morning to make me see more clearly that I cannot live well with this disease, be true to my beliefs and still drive myself crazy when what I usually view as a choice or decision comes into play. Okay, I know, I’m rambling again – here we go…

The day before yesterday was pretty rough in terms of strength. I had none. So yesterday when I woke feeling even worse, I wasn’t too surprised to end up in the stinky embrace of the Migraine Monster. September was a relatively easy month in terms of migraines so I tried hard to just go with it and not think too much about the loss of what little up-time I get in a day.

I do have at least some appreciation for how fortunate I am even in the midst of the monster attacks.  I count my many blessings backwards and forwards and they are breathtaking in their expanse.  You might think that would make me humble and again – you’d be wrong.

In the grip of the stinky Migraine Monster’s embrace, I realized that it was Tuesday and that meant I’d probably have to miss the Scripture study group at church that I’ve been going to.  It meets once a week in the evening for two months at a time and then is off for two months.  Take note, please, of that word in italics “probably.”

At the best of times the physical toll of going to that group is almost more than I can bear.  Yet there I was, wondering just where to place the drop cloth to catch the mess when my head would finally explode through my eyeball (gross, eh?) and I’m thinking I would PROBABLY  have to miss it?  Granted, I have the blessing of triptans to abort the attacks but they work only about 50% of the time if I am very careful.  Going out to a meeting that involves sitting  upright in a sadistically designed metal folding chair for an hour and a half is not being very careful – not ever  – let alone on a migraine day!   I know that.  I knew that.  Yet I still felt I had to make a choice.  Until the very moment it would have been time to leave I still thought “maybe I should go – it’s not that bad right now.”

Credit my husband with common sense, not me.  I don’t want to think about how many times I asked his opinion before I let him go without me.

Credit God and knowing I’d just posted here that I wanted to be accountable for better integrating my spiritual life with this disease for doing what I could do; praying Evening Prayer (aka Vespers) instead.

And then the kidney stones began to move.

Yep, this disease will truly mess with every single system.  Neurological, endocrine, immune and whatever else I can’t think of at the moment.  Lately, it’s been messing with them all at one time but those stones really topped it off.

I was going to go that meeting despite a migraine attack.  Unbeknownst to me, the chills I’d developed in the later hours were the foreshadowing of kidney stones, but no matter what the cause, I was going to go to that meeting because I had a choice!  I had to make a decision!

At 3:00am as the kidney stones became only occasional zings, I finally understood the only decision I really have in life with this disease and I committed to it long ago.  I understood it thanks to the wisdom of a priest who recently submitted to being pummeled by my Niagara Falls of words and anguish about “am I trying hard enough.”   I heard him at the time but it took new life in the wee hours after a really hard day.

“Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

It’s a balance – again with the balance!

I don’t actually have choices and decisions in these matters beyond that.   All these years I’ve sought  permission to see to what I need. Yet all that time I not only had permission, I was actually commanded to love myself, too.  I would not do to a neighbor what I do to myself.  Where is the balance in that?

There was no decision to be made yesterday, no choice.   Only that sweet voice of invitation saying I am loved and telling me to extend that love to everyone else;  including myself.  I have been making it all so complicated and so muddled.

It is all so simple.

 

Peace.

 

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That’s what I’ve been asking myself during this long period of time away from this blog.

“What would I write?  Have I anything else to say?  Can I say anything new of value to anyone?”

That last question was the biggest one and, as I have just now realized, the most arrogant.  Who am I to think anything I have to say has value?  Rather, isn’t the truth that I learn from everyone else?  Isn’t the truth that in the act of writing it is I who receive the gift?

Ah, there’s the truth!  I am the one who benefits by writing here.  And I’m  in need of those benefits.

You see, thanks to this disease and thanks to my personality which  is filled with shortcomings and tends to the solitary (I don’t think I ever really learned how to be a good friend) I am fairly isolated from what I think of as the world and live way too much in my chattering mind.

Now, in some respects that’s a good thing.  I’ve learned strengths that help me deal with this disease for example. I’ve been able to respond to my spiritual call.  But (there always is one, isn’t there) to keep it up for the long term I also need community.  With this disease, that’s a huge challenge.  How does one fit into a community when generally unable to leave home?  How does the community even know one exists?

Another less-than-humble aspect there!  “I want someone to know I existed!” she whines.

Oh, I have so much to learn!  Sometimes I imagine God as someone shaking their head and saying “HL, I’ve given you everything you need in umpteen (yes, God as I imagine this says “umpteen”) different ways – WHAT MORE CAN YOU NEED?”

Apparently, I need this – this non-existent place of electronic communication.  It keeps me honest with myself and gives me perspective.  It takes me outside my own tiny world, my own head.

For what it’s worth to anyone willing to spend precious time reading here, I guess this means I’m back. It definitely means I apologize to those I’ve neglected without explanation.  Please forgive me for that.

I don’t yet fully know where this new era of writing will take me.  I imagine it more as my days of trying to be more accountable for my spiritual life as it integrates with my life with ME/CFS. For those who dislike reading about the spiritual life of another, I can’t separate myself into sections but can say with all my heart that I respect everyone’s path to God (name Him as you will) and do not seek to tell anyone what their path should be!

I hope it will be worth reading – I know it will do me good to write.  I’m thankful to the folks behind WordPress for the opportunity!

Peace.

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Lately I’ve been getting slammed more than usual by this disease.  I’m fairly sure there’s no pain in my eyelashes 😉 but the level of pain, exhaustion, immune system uproar, migraine attacks and other neurological nasties have left me breathless – oh, wait, that’s the asthma kicking in.

 

I’d say I don’t mean to complain, but I suppose that’s not entirely true, I’m SICK of this!

 

Whew, that felt good and yes, I see the pun 🙂

 

I’ve smiled my way through several important events that brought me great joy even as I knew I was getting much worse.  Balance, it always comes back to that.  Now it is time to begin to tip the scale back to where I do best – living each moment in quiet spontaneity.   Healthy or not, it only makes sense; we are not promised a next moment and, while reflection on the past can be fruitful, moments in the past are gone – we have only this moment.

 

Okay, I’ll admit, that even at the least demanding of times, it’s not completely possible to be without thought of the next moment, the chore that can’t wait any longer, the appointment that must be made and kept, the commitment to my spirituality that strengthens me in every way, but the more I can build that quiet spontaneity into my life, the better I do.  Yes, it takes a conscious effort to choose – to build – that peaceful place, to recognize an opportunity; even the busiest lives have them.

 

Yesterday was one of those precious spontaneous days. 

 

My husband asked me what I was going to do with my day.  I smiled and recited one of our family jokes, “I don’t make plans that far in advance.”  I asked him what he was going to do and he said he might cut the grass.  Now, the last time he cut the grass I’d compromised but this time I knew I desperately needed the quiet and that lawnmower makes me feel driven as I try to escape the noise and the allergens.  We have a small parcel of land here, so cutting the grass takes several hours on a riding mower.

 

So, I did the unthinkable; I asked for what I desperately needed.

 

Luckily, my always-has-to-be-busy husband is also very good to me so he agreed to find something else to do and joked about someone calling the Grass Police.  (We live in a semi-rural area, I’m not sure anyone would do anything about it if we let the whole place go wild.)  So I looked forward to my quiet and a day with absolutely no obligation other than the times of prayer in which I find peace and solace. (See the Divine Office link to the right of this page if curious.)

 

After a morning spent “going slow” as I think of it, I was finally dressed and ready to spend some time on the screened-in porch.  I set my favorite pillow on the lounge chair and stretched out; I read for a time, I listened to the birds and thought about what I’d read.   Just being able to do that – retain what I’d read long enough to think about it – was huge!

 

When 3pm came, I went upstairs to pray Midafternoon Prayer as is my custom, and came back to the lounge chair.  Then the weeds began to call.

 

They did.  Honest!

 

Several years ago, my husband built a two-tiered flowerbed just outside the screened porch.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can contain the growth of mint if you plant it inside a pot in your garden!  I think I’ll be pulling it out for the rest of my life and much as I like mint, well, email me if you ever need some 😉 

 

So, the mint and friends were calling and I, in that moment, felt I could clear a little section.  With my cane for balance and my trusty trowel, out I went.  After a couple of minutes, the lessons began to form.

 

I set my sights on clearing every weed from the midst of an Autumn Joy sedum that has gotten quite full and lovely.  Just that spot, I thought, let me get that one spot completely cleared.  I began with a few inches leading up to the sedum when the first lesson came.

 

My husband and I had done this already earlier this spring.

 

What we had not done was put something in the place of the weeds.  Pull something unwanted out, the careful gardener puts in something that is wanted – lest the weeds grow back.  Clear a space within myself, something better needs to take its place lest I end up back where I began or worse, grow an even bigger crop of weeds.

 

I moved forward, still determined to perfect that one little area.   I began to work on my lovely plant, carefully separating the sedum stalks to follow the weed to the roots when the second lesson came.

 

No matter how carefully I pull out the roots, I can never get every last little strand; the weed will grow back eventually without vigilance.  What progress I make must be carefully watched and nurtured.

 

I moved to the other side of the plant, having cleared the front and looked back.  Wait just a minute!  I just cleared that!  I’d swear there wasn’t a single weed left in the front half when I moved to the back!  But there they were, waving merrily in the wind, weeds I hadn’t seen though I’d thought I looked so carefully.  I’d felt pretty proud of myself for my thoroughness and yet I completely overlooked these taunting flags!  Therein lay the third lesson of the weeds. 

 

The weeds in me require my vigilance, my effort, my patience, and my perseverance but I will never clear my garden of weeds.  There is only one Gardener who is able to see and completely root out each weed and it isn’t me! 

 

Peace.

 

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A great saint said God could be found amidst the pots and pans.  I thought I understood what she meant until I realized I am the pot.

 

The dinner fails.

The pot sits too long alone.

Unscrubbed, scorched,

Ruined.

 

Hands take it up,

Fill it with warming water,

Soothing soap,

Set it aside to soak.

 

Time passes.

 

The pot poured out,

Residue drains,

Hands begin to scrub,

Harsh steel wool.

 

Time passes.

 

Water rinses,

Harsh splinters slide away.

Spots fewer but

Stubborn, stuck.

 

Time passes.

 

Hands determined,

Pot can be cleansed,

Useful again,

No matter what.

 

Time passes.

 

Soothing soak,

Bliss of being still,

Soap and water working,

Pot unaware.

 

Time passes.

 

Taken up again,

New water, same soap,

Same hands.

Steel wool only on spots.

 

Time passes.

 

Pot has shiny places now.

Rinse and rinse again.

Spots grow smaller,

These most stubborn.

 

Time passes.

 

Hands keep working,

Scrub, rinse, soak.

Pot will be useable,

Scrubber knows.

 

Time passes.

 

Steel wool put aside,

Shine never marred.

Some spots remain,

Accepted for now.

 

Time is future.

 

Rinsed, dried, back with others.

Dinners will be new,

Pot used again,

Hands ready to cleanse.

 

 

“Let us fall into the hands of the Lord

and not into the hands of men,

For equal to his majesty

is the mercy that he shows.”

Sirach 2:18 NAB

Peace.

 

 

 

 

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Fair warning –  this is a happy announcement of a religious nature as well as a request for prayers 🙂

I thought about labelling this as OT, or Off Topic, but since there is no separation of my life from my spiritual life – they are not two different things – that seemed inappropriate.

 

 

Last Saturday evening at the 5:30 Vespers service,  I had the blessed privilege of being received as an Oblate of St. Benedict Monastery!

(For those interested in knowing what that means, there are links to the monastery and to information about oblates to the right.)

Do I present myself now as some holy person?  Far from it (though we are all called to that.)  I am what we all are, another soul walking with God always near, stumbling often over my own shoelaces.   I am still wife, mother, grandmother, and all too often, pain-in-the-backside.

Part of the ceremony asked me to respond to the question of whether I promise to persevere in this path for the rest of my life.  My answer (the answer of my heart and of the formula of the ceremony)  “With the help of God’s grace, I will.”

I ask for your prayers for my perseverance.

You are all part of my daily prayers!

Peace.

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