Category Archives: Contemplations

Chinese Finger Trap


Chinese Finger TrapWe all know those crazy little wicker-y things that we would get in birthday party loot bags as youth.  Chinese finger traps.  You would stick a finger into each side of the contraption and BAM!  You were stuck.  If you tried to pull your fingers to free them, the trap would tighten itself like a boa constrictor.  The more you tried to break free, the more it would constrict and hold captive your fingers.

The only way out of the terror was to LET GO.  Let it go loose and stop pulling so hard.  Put your fingers at ease and you could then gently break free.

I am not sure how my thought process was directed to Chinese finger traps…truly there is no telling.  Then I got to thinking…

In my many struggles lately I have found that the more I try to do to pick up the pieces of life or to fix what is broken, the more broken things seem to become.  I have a best friend who keeps reminding me to let God do the work and for me to sit still…that is something I have never been good at doing.  But it makes sense…like the Chinese finger traps.

The more I am pulling the strings of my life trying to put things back together, the tighter life seems to be constricting around me.  It is frustrating…overwhelming…disappointing…maddening!  (Just like those stupid little wicker-y torture contraptions!)

Let GoIt is my time, once again, to LET GO and LET GOD.  To surrender my intents to the will of God.  It is His plan anyways…not sure why I keep trying to take control.  It is my human habit to try and take control, especially when I feel like I have no control over anything around me.

But God has a plan for me (AND for YOU).  In order for me to be free of my own finger trap, I have to relax, have faith, and let go of my own futile efforts.  I have to let God take control.

When I relax in His spirit, His Divine Presence will come into my life and fill me.  The binds of my own traps will fall free from me and I will not feel constricted…I will feel free.

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Packing for War


large-3Once again, the flap on the backpack is ripped open and the packing begins.  The battle has been smoldering; the war just under the surface.  My mind is gearing up with defenses in place and a wall of protection quickly building up around me.  Protective isolation, a fallacy in its own right, offers false sense of security and peace.

My initial instinct is to grab for one of my comfort vices: food, cigarettes, nail-biting, acceptance and love from certain individuals; any of my past vices.  You know, those moments when you can no longer face the moment and you need to bury yourself in someone or something?  When confronted with a challenging obstacle, I seem either to grab the bull by the balls and make things happen, or (more recently) I melt away in fear and self doubt.  When did this happen?  More importantly, how did it happen?i_don__t_know_what_to_do____by_viva011-d4t2b6g

Even if we leave the past in the past…how do I move forward?  How can I grab the situation (or crisis) and tackle it with confidence?  Manipulate the negative into positive flowing energy?  How can I move past a “scary” potential consequence to live for the journey?  Consequences are negatively charged thoughts anyways, because the preparation for a consequence typically means you are planning for something to fail or go wrong.

At the apex, like a sweet cherry on top (yes, facetious roll of the eyes), there awaits admittance of failure and or weakness.  That is always my favorite life lesson to tackle.

I am faced again with a life decision; one that affects me and my son in a relatively big way.  I feel like I am alone, but I know that I am not.  I still want to bury my face in his shoulders, but I know I must put on my big girl panties and face the unknown and unpredictable.

I need to have the courage to stand up to my own mind and thoughts.  I actually successfully did this Saturday to prevent an anxiety meltdown.  I went in to the bathroom and found a song on my ipod.  I didn’t actually know I had the song, but I had heard it before.  Needless to say, the song spoke to my soul and began to help transform my thoughts.  I wrote some of the lyrics on post it notes and stuck them to the mirror (life affirmations).  I felt much better after that.

Listening to that song, I did experience a slight epiphany.

I fell down
…and I tumbled.
But I did not crumble!

“I did not crumble.”  I think back on several times in my life when I did crumble.  I gave up on living because of my fear to just “be.”  But I realize I don’t want to do that right now.  I don’t want to crumble.  I am stronger than that and I think I am at a place in my life where I actually realize that, without needing substantiation from another person.

Still, the doubt creeps back in.  The “what ifs” and fears of the unknown still wield weapons in my mind, demanding action in battle.  I have to find a way to be okay with whatever happens, no matter what happens.  Is that unreasonable?

When I say, “I Love You.”


“I love you” comes so easy for some…for others?  Not so much.  For me?  It can.

Last night, one of my amazing friends asked me, “What does it mean when you say that?” after I said I love you to him.  Be open to what I am saying.  This particular friendship/relationship is quite complicated, multifaceted and certainly not cookie cutter.  It has morphed and seen many different roles and grown exponentially.

This is where the conversation was interrupted.  I never got to answer.  Instead, I sat and began to contemplate the meaning behind my words.

Why do I say I love you?  Why did I just say it to him and what did it really mean?

I have said it to him for probably 22 years.  I thought back around when I would have first said it to him.  Well, my reasons for saying it last night were certainly different than my reasons for saying it 22 years ago.  Or even 2 years ago.  2 months ago. I mean, if you think about it, in any given moment, love can explode.  So, what did it mean in that moment?  What did it mean to me?  What did it mean to him?  What does it mean when I say it to anyone?

VIDEO: Brilliant version of a beautiful song…

Sometimes I have an instant connection with someone and feel an immediate sense of love towards them and my, “I love you” is a promise to care for them and love them in that very moment.  Sometimes, my, “I love you” is a deep and spiritual prayer with or for someone.  Sometimes, people just need to hear the words, “I love you” to renew their spirits.  Sometimes my, “I love you” is just a silent presence.

When I first said it to each of my children, it meant, “my heart is yours and yours is mine forever and ever, Amen.”  (Yes, I typed that just like Randy Travis would have!)  This kind of ILY requires commitment.  It is not just a feeling, it is a commitment.  It is the rare and beautiful love that our souls all long for.  It is the kind of love you have for a spouse, parent, child, best friend.  Trust is also intertwined through the complexities of this love.

When I am holding the hand of an individual (even a stranger) in tears, whose life has overwhelmed them into submission, and whose soul is yearning for the light of hope…my ILY is the love of God shining through me and offering a part of my soul in that moment.  A deep and immediate impact.  Like using a small flame to light a candle bringing a small glimmer of hope and love.  The world needs more of this kind of love!

Then I have an ILY that says, “I really care about you; I’ve connected with you at some point and I respect and love that moment.”  I say this to a lot of people in my life.  In fact, just this week, I began exchanging ILYs with a female coworker.  She and I had a heart to heart conversation about something very difficult she is facing.  She opened her heart and her life’s truths to me and I was present with and for her.  The result, “I love you” on Friday afternoon as we are leaving for the weekend.  A connection was made.  I have mad respect for people who are able to trust their truth and I am humbled that they would trust me enough to share it with me and let me into their hearts and truths.  There is always Gratitude lingering in this love.

Then there is me.  Love is who I am.  I can remember contemplating life at around age 11.  I was wondering why we were here…what we were supposed to do with life…what was our purpose for surviving?  Those types of questions.  At that young age, I drew my conclusions to the end and came up with: LOVE.  It was the only thing that made sense to me.  We are here for love, because of love, and to love.  That passion to love has only grown within me.  I even have it tattooed on my wrist.  Because it is who I am.  I truly believe Love was the gift God gave me to share.  So, you best believe that if I am telling you that “I” love you, it is really God saying that He loves you.  It is His light and love shining through me.

That being said, I should probably answer his question…

 

Where will I lay my head tonight?


A year in review…I certainly haven’t been blogging this year.  In fact, when I go back and think about all of the “life” I was living this year, it blows my mind.  When I think about all of the events that tried to break me this year, it boggles my mind.  But even more boggling is the fact that 2014, which I have dubbed the worst year of my life, was also the most amazing year!  I have been humbled beyond belief; have learned SO MUCH about myself; have renewed my faith and hope in life.  I have found my inner love again.

I spent a bigger part of the year without a job and homeless.  My son even lived with his father for several months to finish out the school year.  In the meantime, I stayed with a treasure trove of family and friends.  At the hardest single point in my life, God sent me family and friends who opened their doors and hearts to me.  I was able to stay with family members that I had not spent time with in…decades?  I built stronger relationships with them than I could ever have done otherwise.  Friends too…Family is not always blood.  I tend to build my own family…some blood, and some divine.  This year, my family grew exponentially!

As for a job…I was without any form of income for a few months before unemployment kicked in.  I looked and looked for jobs…in a few states, even.  At the time, I just knew God was punishing me.  In hindsight, I realize He was setting the stage for an even bigger lesson.  When my household went from two incomes to one, I learned to do without.  I thought I was big and bad because I was sacrificing my manicures and restaurant meals for my son and I.  For our future.

Pish posh.  I realize how conceited and horrible that was. Because this year…this year I truly learned what sacrifice and going without really means.  I spent a good portion of the year wondering where I would get food for the next day, or where I would lay my head that night, or the next night, or the next.  I finally got on food stamps and Medicaid…very hard for me to do.  I am always the one trying to help people. It was very humbling to be the one asking for help.  I felt degraded and demoralized.  But humbled.   It was with the Medicaid that I was forced to see a new doctor…one who was able to properly diagnose me with Type II Diabetes.  I had spent the prior year so tired all of the time and without energy.  I finally received an answer why, and decided to try and get healthier.

So, in the midst of all of the drama, I began to exercise.  Realize…I had gained back all 80 of the pounds I had lost a few years ago.  I had to start all over again.  Chair exercises and lack of food saw me drop the first 20 pounds.  Throughout the year, I was able to lose a total of 68 pounds!

UsI had an angel, a friend from years past, call me about a job she had heard about.  I was living in Pennsylvania at the time, looking for work in Maryland, and my friend was in Florida (where I used to live).  The job was for a former boss, a dynamo woman whose passion for helping others is incendiary.  I got the job and we decided to move from Maryland (where we lived for the past 10 years) to Florida…”back home.”  The job itself is amazing, a great opportunity, and a chance to help the senior citizens of our local area.  It is an amazing blessing.

This year, we also lost all of our material possessions.  Everything we owned was in storage.  Without a job, and trying to find a way for us, I was not able to pay the storage bill and we lost everything we owned save what was in our van.  Like my mother when I was five, we moved to Florida to start over…with only what we had in our vehicle.  My mother, my lifelong hero, had left her shoes to me.

My son and I stayed with a dear friend from high school and her husband until we could get a place of our own.  We were super blessed to find the cute little townhouse that we live in.

Throughout the year, there were many other CRAZY events (you probably wouldn’t believe me) and each of those events and/or losses created a bond with someone that I will forever cherish.  Again, my family grew and I have found my love in the hearts of those around me.

That is where the new year finds us. We have a roof over our heads, a job, safety, food, health, and happiness.  We still don’t have a couch or TV in the living room and I am still sleeping on an air mattress, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Humbled…


humble-heartHumbled seems to be the word of the year.  In every way, humbled.

I must humble myself to write this now, after taking so long away.  And this entire year has been…well, horrifying and amazing.  No other way to describe it.

But I won’t make this a summary.  I am just humbled to God for his care, guidance and love.  I praise and thank him for his answered prayers; and for the pure love and joy lifting my soul…a sensation only God can provide.  In a year full of uncertainty, hardship, and mental chaos, God did provide.  He provided for me, and for Ashton.  He provided for us in so many ways…even when I had nothing to give back but my heart.

My soul is on fire for the Spirit.  I know I am not worthy, but I also know that God is working through me and for me and for those I love.  It is an amazing place to be…particularly when your world has been turned upside down over and over.  I am so grateful for all of the opportunities this year to come to God and surrender.  Surrender is humbling, but also can be mind blowing.  It is amazing the plans God has for us compared to our own attempts of imagining and dreaming.  Make no mistake: You must be open to the blessings and God’s guidance.  But when you are, it is powerful and life changing…no words to describe.

This is one of those moments of thankfulness.  A privileged moment of insight and clarity.

I have been having troubles with Ashton.  He has hit puberty and turned into a monster almost overnight.  He is making a hobby out of testing boundaries and joyfully expressing defiance.  I literally found myself on my knees two weeks ago.  On my knees to God, praying for some sort of help.  Some sort of guidance.  I am so ill equipped for dealing with a 12 year old son hitting puberty.  I don’t even know what is normal…I prayed fiercely for an answer.

Then in less than two weeks, my prayers are answered in multiple ways by multiple people from across the United States.  Now, I don’t mean that Ashton is fixed, and the problem is gone.  That is not what God is all about.  God is about helping us get through the difficult times in life.  He has sent some Angels to interfere and guide.  Some of the people have been part of my life forever.  Some are brand new popping into our lives like magic…out of thin air.  Some are helping and guiding me.  Some are helping and guiding Ashton.  It is like we are all of a sudden surrounded by God’s Angels.  I know there is no magic potion that will help Ashton, but I do know that God is helping.  If God is helping, I know Ashton is going to be okay, and so will I.  I know our Great Father will provide for us, both directly and indirectly through others.  God’s presence strengthens me in the present and helps me vision tomorrow with peace.

For this, I am completely humbled, amazed, and in awe.

A Counselor’s Prayer


This prayer (I believe was written by Lea Ann; found at http://leaannsgarden.blogspot.com/2011/01/counselors-prayer.html) is AMAZING!  As a person on the journey to becoming a Pastoral Counselor, with dreams of working with “aging out” foster care youth, I can see myself praying this daily. 

We are so fortunate that God IS.

Oh God, remind me why I’m doing this.

Why me? What do I know about anything?

They sit across from me, broken dolls whose dull eyes beg me to offer hope that they no longer believe exists. Hope is a four-letter word that belongs to someone else. They’ve given up because they are out of options. They can see nothing in the future but more pain.

And I’m IT? I’m all that stands between desperation and hope? Sometimes, life and death? What were you thinking, Lord?

Who am I to tell a young rape victim that God loves her?

Who am I to advise a wronged wife to stay with the man who tore her heart out?

Who am I to offer understanding in situations I have no ability to understand?

How can I make a woman believe in a loving Heavenly Father when all she knows is fatherly abuse?

How do I gather the scraps of a shattered life and put them together again?

How do I convince a woman consumed by rage that it is safe to leave that anger with You? She’s mad at You too.

How do I pretend to believe that this round of sobriety will be different for the lifetime drug addict? The last eight times didn’t work, but this one will? Because now he faces ME? I’m not sure I believe that myself.

I feel so inadequate. So unworthy. Who am I to be trusted with this great responsibility? Who am I to meddle deep inside the private recesses of a human heart, to hold it in my hands, twist it, turn it, hurt it so that it can finally struggle free from its prison.

It’s scary, Lord. Sometimes, right in the middle of a session, I don’t want to do this anymore. Why am I doing this?

But now I’m remembering something.

I’m doing this because You asked me to. You promised that you would do it through me if I would just stay out of the way.

And now that I think about it, You have every time.

You put a smile on the lips of that rape victim.

The young couple is holding hands again.

The ones who knew only hate are experiencing love for the first time. It’s hard for them. They don’t know what to do with it, but You’re showing them a little at a time.

And as I watch, I know it isn’t me at all. It never was.

You always seem to enjoy choosing as your tools the least likely people: the frightened Gideon, the obstinate Jonah, the renegade Moses. And look at that ragtag band of disciples Jesus chose. What an unlikely group to be entrusted with Your plan of salvation for the entire world! Frankly, I would have chosen some better candidates, if I’d been given the opportunity.

So I guess I’m in good company, huh? Is that what You’re telling me? My inadequacy fits the profile?

Is this what you meant by “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness”?

I’m glad to know that, because if I wasn’t sure You were doing this through me, I would quit. The burden is too great. The price of failure too high.

But You’re right. I have seen You work. I’ve sat there and watched Your Spirit open a closed heart, purify a perverted soul, cleanse a dirty conscience, heal a damaged spirit. And I just sit there. You’re doing all the work.

If You called me, You will enable me. I’m just a warm body for Your Spirit to flow through. Healing is not my job, it’s Yours.

I panic when I forget that. Help me never to forget again.

When Your Friend’s Child Dies


The death of a child is ALWAYS traumatic.  No parent ever dreams of the day when they will have to bury their own child.  Our culture deems that we as children will eventually have to plan the funerals for our parents.  Never, do we expect to purchase a miniature casket.

What happens when you friend loses a child?  Being there for them, emotionally, can be so very difficult.  You don’t know what to say or how to act.  Do you mention the child, or do you avoid the issue?

A dear friend of mine lost her son and began the J.O.S.H. Foundation (Joining Others Seeking Healing) to be able to help families with the horrible tragic loss of a child. One of the projects completed by the J.O.S.H. Foundation was an Angel of Hope Memorial Garden in Eldersburg, MD.  The memorial garden is a place where parents and family members can go to grieve.  The actual Angel of Hope was born from the book The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans (who does a great deal of philanthropic work) and is one of over 100 Angel of Hope memorial gardens in the US dedicated to children.

When talking to my friend, years after the tragic event, one of the things she said to me, that has really stuck through the years, is that she so very much appreciates when her friends send a card to her on the anniversary of her son’s death. No matter how many years go by, she relives the crisis on that day…just knowing that her friends and family members are thinking of her gives her a great deal of comfort.

However, not everyone would appreciate the reminder each year. One thing we know for sure is that all people are different. Below is a presentation of some very basic do’s and don’ts for how you CAN help.

Making Myself Pray


It is not that I won’t…or that I don’t want to.  But my brain is always in so many other places.  The only successful way I have been able to pray is in sporatic little spurt bursts throughout my day, literally as the moment hits.

IMG_20130605_210510When someone asks me to pray for them, or when they are stuggling and I offer prayer, I have made it a habit to stop and pray right then for them.  (Because I used to forget altogether!)  And there is nothing worse then saying that you will pray for someone, and then not taking a moment to connect your heart with theirs and offer the energy and love only God can provide.

I have been struggling to try and strengthen my prayer life.  I have always admired people who could sit in silence and contemplation.  I am simply not that person…but I want a piece of that inaction!

I think I have found a solution!

My son gave me a journal with our family’s favorite verse, Jeremiah 29:11 on it.  I already have a journal and wanted to find a unique and special way to use this one.  Then one day, God whispered an idea…use it as a prayer book.  Instead of just making a list of people or causes to pray for, write out my prayers.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declared the Lord.  “Plans to prosper you…plans to give you hope and a future.” 
~Jeremiah 29:11

Each night, I sit and take a few deep contemplative breaths to calm my body and soul.  And I begin praying.  I write my prayers in the journal and am very specific.  I call by name my brothers and sisters and ask God to walk with them, heal them, or soften their hearts…whatever His will to be done.  The simple act of writing keeps my focus on His grace.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
~James 5:16

My youngest son made me a bookmark for Mother’s Day.  I have decided to use this special artistic creation to keep track of what day I am on in my prayer journal.  Each night when I open the journal, I pray for my oldest son.  When I remove the bookmark, I pray for my youngest son.  What blessings they both are in my life.

TIMG_20130605_210519he bookmark says:

My Mom is better than your Mom because she lets me have so much fun my head almost explodes.  My Mom is so nice when we go to Shoppers she lets me buy all the cookies they have.  She’s so cool she can bust out a rap anywhere anytime.  My Mom can produce a TV show faster than you can say onomatopoeia. My Mom’s so nice she bakes cakes every day for charity.  When my Mom walks outside the sun starts to shine and the birds start to chirp.  My Mom’s so smart she knows everything in the world.

Do you have an empty journal book sitting at home?  An old spiral notebook?  Make it a habit to spend time each day with God…I am sure there are people in your life who need your prayers.  ❤

Raw Faith


This week I watched a really heartfelt documentary called Raw Faith.  Marilyn (read below) made some amazing statements that I think describe the kind of woman I am and want to be.  She is very insightful, and has learned to turn the struggles of her life into love and help for others.

raw faithRaw Faith is an intimate and revealing documentary that follows two years in the private life of Marilyn Sewell, an outspoken and socially progressive Unitarian minister who has re-energized her Portland community.
While serving a community that relies on her for wisdom and advice (on both personal and ethical issues), Marilyn struggles quietly with decisions about her own future. As she seeks to reconcile the commitments of her profession with a longing for intimacy and love, childhood memories of mental illness and alcoholism come back to the surface – and must be dealt with before she can move forward.

As Marilyn’s life unfolds in front of the camera (in real time), she shares her journey with remarkable candor, humor and increasing wisdom, ultimately leading her to an unexpected revelation of faith and love in all of its guises.

Some of the quotes from Marilyn Sewell, former Unitarian Minister:

I’m not there to fix him; I’m not there to help him in any way.  I’m not a doctor or social worker.  I’m there to be with – to provide an opening for him to be precisely who he is and to be accepted for precisely who he is.  That’s very powerful

The most powerful thing we can bring to anyone in any situation is our full presence.

Sometimes when people come in with very terrible, sad stories, and they do, I sometimes find myself smiling.  Sometimes people will be taken aback and they’ll say “Well I just said something that seems to me pretty sad, so why are you smiling?” And sometimes I’ve had to say, “Because I find you so beautiful right now.  Because I know we all suffer and that we all are going to go through hard times.  And right now you’re going through your very hard time but all of us do that and you’re doing that so honestly and so beautifully and so truthfully. So when I see truth and honesty the way I see in your face and in your tears, it really makes me happy.

Check her out for yourself

What is the happiest age?


Tonight was the first night of my Human Development class (I am working for a MS in Pastoral Counseling at Loyola University Maryland) and we had some interesting conversation.

wb051432Our professor had us break up into groups to answer some questions.  The first of these questions was, “Which age do you think is the ‘best’ and why?”  She said she was purposefully ambiguous with this particular question, as we technically have an emotional age, a physical age, a birth age, etc.

One of my team members began the conversation saying she thought the mid-20s was the best, because people are still enjoying their youth, but are really beginning to find themselves.  Another stated that he had heard the 30s through the 40s were the least happy age.  We discussed how that could be because it is a large transition into “real” adulthood.

To me, looking back over my own life span, I felt like all of the ages were good.  All stages in my life had been met with struggle and with triumph…with tears and with laughter.

I figured if she was going to be ambiguous with her question, I was going to be ambiguous with my answer.  The “best” age, in my opinion, was NOW.  After all, I am smarter now than I have ever been, and I have a future to look forward to.

If we live in our past, thinking any of those times were the best or the worst, perhaps we are living with regrets, or living with the mindset that we are failing.  If we live in our dreams of the future (i.e. when I finally finish this degree, then  I will be happy, or when I finally win the lottery then I will be happy), then me miss so much of our lives.

Philosophically speaking, the past and the future do not exist.  Only the present does.  The past is the past and that is all it can ever be.  The future is not much more than a figment of our own imaginations, as there is no guarantee of a future for any of us.

Living in the present, in the NOW, is the greatest gift we can achieve, and it is the only way to find true happiness, no matter what circumstance envelops us in the now.  It is the greatest and happiest age, so enjoy it!