Advent: Comfort

paul Feb 2012 10_837678809_8834739_2072075477_nAbraham Lincoln gives great comfort:

 

“In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all;

and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares.

The older have learned to ever expect it.

I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress.

Perfect relief is not possible, except with time.

You can not now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so?

And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again.

To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now.

I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once.”
Abraham Lincoln

Advent: A Call to Renew Lost Sabbaths

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“Emily’s Reel” by Yo-Yo Ma and friends are my companions this morning.

Many of us suffer from a wide range of blues at the holiday season – anything from grumpiness to a bit blue to downright depressed. One of the kind of nice things about being older is being able to predict these things. Pretty much as soon as the turkey is in the frig and hopefully starting to thaw, I know. It’s not the flu. These waves of strange emotion have a pattern and a reason. Same patterns, many reasons.

This year I am anticipating an easier season though.

Easier not in the sense that I can predict how sad I’ll be. The news is horribly grim near and far. But, I’ve let myself trust some friends of late in a Deaf bible study and it is having a grounding effect on me. I’m more willing to try my wings and more aware that being open to a shift in my relationship in God is the most wise path among various choices on my horizon.

Easier because I’m determined to not lose my sabbaths.

My “can do” attitude has been renewed of late.

Edgardo Ramerez~ photo by Elgardo Ramerez


 

All this was to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah:
“Until the land has retrieved its lost sabbaths,
during all the time it lies waste it shall have rest
while seventy years are fulfilled.”

2 Chronicles: Chapter 36

Here’s hoping….

 

 

Wendell Berry: Everything is Here

Everything is Here

Geese appear high over us,

pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,

as in love or sleep, holds

them to their way, clear

in the ancient faith: what we we need

is here. And we pray, not

for new earth or heaven, but to be

quiet in heart, and in eye,

clear. What we need is here.

~ Wendell Berry

Last Spring I Became Smitten, and Was Forced into Happiness

Aside

1452562_10152012126498810_283704191_n (1)Did you read the snippet I found on the internet yesterday?

I put it in this post:

Does Change Have to Happen All at Once?

How does change look in your world? This is a topic that my husband and I have always differed on.

Actually. I drive him kind of crazy.

I say no, all at once can be good…but not as a rule.

He says  yes, all at once is the rule…and is good.

Another difference between us is reflected in my unwillingness to talk about this or to have a debate.

I don’t care. Seriously. I have other fish to fry at the moment. If sweeping change is what floats your boat, then keep on truckin’! Bully for you!

Same token, I’ve done some serious thinking of late and have sobered up to the fact that if I don’t grab these last several “working” years that my body will hopefully give me, I will have missed an awesome boat ride indeed.

When we first moved to Iowa I was certain that I was interested in anything that did not include working in a school. My years as a sub, and various teaching jobs of many sizes and colors never left me disappointed in the magic of children or the power of falling in love with an idea or a letter of the alphabet. (Seriously? You’ve not had a conversation or contemplative moment about the bold roundness of the letter “O”? Odd.)

1477677_10152061644043810_1326140848_nI arrived to our new city life sorely let down by the adult world though and it’s bitter, whining approach to what we as educators should feel lucky to be doing each day.

Iowa being a writing mecca, I wrote. Day after day, blog post after blog post. I read, fed the dogs, wrote, deleted, read, fed the kids, and reread my way into being ready to step out the front door and actually talk to people.

And then there was the mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater, soon after at a religious temple, and shortly after at Sandy Hook.

I went from afraid, to sad, and continue to feel intensely angry about these events.

During that same time period my family was saying: “You seem bored, how about a job?”

No change.

And, “You seem cranky, how about a job?”

No change.

Then, “We can’t take it any more – get a job!”

As luck would have it – a ruby of a job I landed indeed. I’ll spare you the details of how I stumbled into the one I had in the Spring, and the one that I have now – but lucky I am indeed. And, now I know that the computer dying as the spring blossomed was a gift as well.

I had no time or way of processing how happy I was to be working with the hard of hearing Kindergartener for whom I was a communication coach. Being unhappy became a most boring and lonely consideration. Written, or even spoken words not needed.

480201_10151552955388810_1938698632_nI was trapped, smitten, and humbled by his eyelashes, wit, and ornery moves. And, I’m now eagerly re-enrolled in school to help increase the odds that I can keep on working in a series of best jobs ever.

As my cousin said on the phone the other day, “This is my last job, and I plan to make it the one that is the most fun!”

Eeyores Advice to the Gloomy: ‘Brains First, and then Hard Work’

I’m not the first one to think this, but let’s pretend, just for the day, that I am the first person to decide that Milne’s World of Pooh is an ode to friendship. I’d like to add though…that it is also all about cherishing quiet, and imagination. Is this not what the world sorely lacks in many of our eyes?

And, the lack of patience in every corner of the kingdom?

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“I didn’t want my picture taken because I was going to cry. I didn’t know why I was going to cry, but I knew that if anybody spoke to me or looked at me too closely the tears would fly out of my eyes and the sobs would fly out of my throat and I’d cry for a week. I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full.”
― Sylvia Plath (from Good Reads)

A quick read of some pages of The World of Pooh is helping me process how I feel about reconnecting with some of my best friends of my college years. I can’t decide which Milne character would have been who at the time.

Right now, with no question, I am Eeyore and am quite fine with remaining in that role forever more. If you don’t love and appreciate Eeyore…I ask you to turn your head and go play else where. This kind friend is the Abe Lincoln of the kindly woods of Pooh.

I am no Abe. or Molly Lincoln, but I do continue to plod along. With the gift of modern interventions, I am gratefully stocked with a lighter set of brain games and my load has lightened indeed.

The chapter I just reread is titled:

IN WHICH A house Is Built at Pooh Corner for Eeyore

On this “one day,” Pooh is wandering around as usual looking for someone to hang out with for a bit. Sound like college and young adulthood yet? Yuppers.

So he checked on his fiesty little pal Piglet, “…and the more he looked inside the more Piglet wasn’t there.’ “

Sound like waning connections to old friends because of the busyness of work, family life and “real adulthood?” Yes sirree Bob.

” ‘He’s out,’ said Pooh sadly.”

“That’s what it is. He’s not in.

I shall have to go a fast

Thinking Walk

by myself. Bother!”

whole wrld

My oldest son John, at three against the world.

That’s what two of my college roommates and I miss the most. I don’t even need to text, Facebook, snail mail or tweet to them to inquire: we miss going for walks together to our playground. The pace and stress of college often made no sense to any of the three of us. Nor does the current world of noise and rush make what should be very common sense amidst the buzz that we are plodding through that many years later.

Sadly, the cost of travel and the commodity of time stands in the way of “in real life” connection. Not so sadly, we manage quite well to keep in touch. Never enough, but we try. Not so much in person, yet the genius of the invention of virtual connection provides some fun in between gaps of “real” exchanges of voice and better thought out exchanges such as email or instant messages.

Now: Back to Pooh, Piglet and Eeyore.

In this part of the story, Pooh’s social dilemma increases as he decides to cheer Eeyore with a song and invites Piglet. Piglet is impatient as Pooh drags him through a windstorm to find Eeyore:

‘Pooh,’ he said at last, and a little timidly,

because he didn’t want Pooh to think he was Giving In,

‘I was just wondering.

How would it be if we went home now and

practiced your song,

and then sang it to Eeyore tomorrow -or-or  the next day, when we happen to see him.”

No go. Pooh dragged that poor pig through snow and sleet singing “Tiddley-Pom” the whole way through.

Meanwhile Christopher Robin is trying to talk some sense into Eeyore who won’t leave his “gloomy place” of no cover from the snow storm.

Eeyore justifies to his human friend:

” ‘I don’t know how it is, Christopher Robin,

but with all this snow and one thing and another,

not to mention icicles and such-like,

it isn’t so Hot in my field…In fact Christopher Robin,’

 

he went on in a loud whisper,

 

‘quite-between-ourselves-and-don’t-tell-anybody,

it’s Cold.’

 

‘Oh, Eeyore!’

Now. Here comes that attitude and thought process that I’ve yet to give up, which on one or two occasions, has driven my family to hysterics:

” ‘And I said to myself:

The others will be sorry if I’m getting myself all cold.

They haven’t got Brains, any of them,

only grey fluff

that’s blown into their heads by mistake,

and they don’t

Think.’ “

And on Eeyore discerns and plods about, in a snow storm, thinking about the snow on top of his very back. Meanwhile, not one, not two, but three friends are milling about the woods trying to resolve his gloom by rebuilding his house and trying to lead him to a more comfortable place.

Pope Francis should be proud indeed of the humble scene in which Eeyore returns to the house that he thinks he built:

” ‘ There you are,’ said Piglet.

 

‘Inside as well as outside,’ said Pooh Proudly.

 

‘It’s a remarkable thing,’ he said.

 

‘It is my house, and I built it where I said I did, so the wind must have blown it here.

 

And the wind blew it right over the wood,

and blew it down here,

and here is as good as ever.

 

In fact, better in places.’

 

‘Much better,’ said Pooh and Piglet together.

 

‘It just shows what can be done by taking a little trouble,’ said Eeyore.

 

‘Do you see Pooh? Do you see Piglet?

 

Brains first and then Hard Work.

 

Look at it!

 

That’s the way to build a house,’

 

said Eeyore

proudly.”

I was thankful for my college friends then, but I am more so now. Communication gaps or no, they mean a lot to me.

 

 

Forgiveness Friday: Sometimes It Takes Going Through the Roof

Maybe the reason that life puts pebbles in our shoes and smudge marks on our eyeglasses is that we are living in a cosmic comic strip with only five windows, and the last one always contains dialogue that says: “I can’t do this alone.”

I mentioned the other day that I wanted to find something to put on my desk as a tactile reminder that self-doubt will keep me from experiencing what someone described to me in a letter during last year’s Lent.

The letter says:

“God is present in all things and “everything is grace.”

I found a perfectly snarky reminder to continue this work of allowing myself to experience what is good and real, rather than to spend my whole day in repose due to my pebble injuries and blurred vision. Here is JerkFace in full glory.

Perfect if I do say so myself. What a snot, eh? The fellow at the store said “you can keep him at your desk and at least one of you will be relaxed.” Exactly. JerkFace hasn’t a care in the world, and is full of high falutin’ criticism, smack talk and derogatory sass.

The only problem with my find is that this little thing is so stinking cute and so me. This is the version of me that turns my family blue in the face. One of them told me in no uncertain terms just this morning:

“You just check out and we can’t even figure out

anything about you.”

It’s true. Much of the time I am enveloped by some sort of dark struggle, or recovering by way of a triple blanket bed cave with a book. Anne Lamott describes this need to give pain a full-fledged examination:

“And I felt like my heart had been so thoroughly and irreparably broken that there could be no real joy again, that at best there might eventually be a little contentment. Everyone wanted me to get help and rejoin life, pick up the pieces and move on, and I tried to, I wanted to, but I just had to lie in the mud with my arms wrapped around myself, eyes closed, grieving, until I didn’t have to anymore.”
Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year

Thankfully, SweetCheeks, my desktop compass toward grace in the form of a desk decoration is much bigger than silly little JerkFace.

What would I do without my family who is willing to forgive me and call me in out of the rain time after time, cartoon strip after cartoon strip? Just like in this weekend’s Gospel story, they are always there the next day, ready to haul my sorry can to some new spot in the sand as the tides ebb and flow.

With absolutely no exception, this weekend’s Gospel story is my favorite. In the story

3 …four men tried to bring in a paralyzed man on a stretcher, 4 but could not reach Jesus because of the crowd. So, they removed the roof above Jesus, dug through the ceiling, and lowered the man.  (Mark 2)

Can you even imagine this? Oh come on, don’t be a jerkface, let go and imaaaaagine the drama of being that guy on the stretcher. Or the people underneath trying to follow the rules and wait in line, and then someone cuts in line by way of the roof?

I have a painting in my office made for me by an Appalachian artist name Charley Kinney. He made it for me when I told him that this healing story was my favorite gospel tale. At the bottom of the painting Charley wrote: “Christ healen peple.”

The drama of the story is epic, but what is transformative is the message.

Jesus says to the man:

9 “What’s easier to say: ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up, pick up your stretcher, and walk.’ 10 So you’ll know that the Son of Man has the power to forgive sins here and now,” Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and told him, 11 “Get up, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”

That is faith.

That, is faith.

“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had

a better past.”
Anne Lamott

Speed bump after speed bump, fall after fall, stupid pebble after stupid pebble, faith is the confidence that we are worthy of the tender care given to us in the oddest ways, day after day after day.

And then again, on another day.