Seek the beautiful

Photo Credit: “Grumpy cat”, © 2013 WXRob, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

I’m so tired of ugly words and mean people. Really ugly words. And really mean people. And I’m using vague and trite-sounding words because I can’t write the string of profanities that would flow from my mouth and melt my keyboard.

I’m not kidding. That ugly. That @#*$!!! is mean.

Here’s reality: hard things come into our lives.
Here’s hope: these hard things don’t have to define you.

I’ve seen it over and over… from my work in hospice and in hospitals, in churches, in schools, in non-profits, and in corporations. Some people define themselves by the worst days of their lives. And others use those experiences to sharpen their goals and trudge on, trying again. It is so easy to be negative and complain. It’s hard to try again when you’ve failed… (Especially with the nay-sayers commenting, “Well you can try, but you know, it’s really not going to work.”)

That’s what I call “concretized thinking.” A mindset that is so determined that nothing will change, and the end result is inescapable. All possible alternatives are dismissed. Admitting you are struggling is a sign that you either “aren’t really trying” or “are a whiner.” Serious questions are ignored.

Enough!

Most of what we bitch about is small potatoes. It’s inconsequential. It is not life-threatening. I confess I get caught up in this… and that I have to reboot now and then… like I did this evening.

Tonight I focused on a piece of music, with its haunting melody and lush harmonies… I listened to it with my headphones on and soaked in the beauty. I invite you to do the same!

There is tension in our world. There are unanswered questions. But… there is a way through the discord, the dissonance, the unresolvable. There is a way to breathe, dream, persevere and join with others on the same path.

And there is… at the very end… peace.

When Nature Grieves With You

I walked past the grand ornamental cherry and thought, “It looks like it’s weeping flowers…” Since I had just left a family grieving over the death of their matriarch, it seemed appropriate.

Sometimes Nature does the best job of explaining our feelings and fears, so I’ll shut up now…

Tired and Mossy

Just in front of my parking space yesterday was this mossy trunk of a stately oak tree. The grass wasn’t sprouting yet. The branches were bare, and last year’s leaves blew around on the ground beneath her. No sign of spring anywhere…

I had a moment of familiarity. The cold, dark, and windy days we’re having, one after the other, are getting to me. I don’t mind the cold so much. It’s that grey and gloomy sky that seems to be stuck behind a blanket of clouds forever. I’m feeling tired and mossy. It’s true.

Ok, Ok. That’s a bit melodramatic. But that’s March in the MidAtlantic. The weather flip-flops between cold and grey, and has just enough peeks of sunshine to remind us that winter will, eventually, go away. But what seems to predominate are the gloomy, rainy, sleety days. It’s… tiresome.

I drove around, a little grumpy, a lot discouraged. I had received news lately (for myself and people I care about) which have not exactly been something to celebrate. Then there’s the general muck-and-mudslinging of our political mess here in the US. It was all getting to me.

At just the right moment, God seemed to weigh in, just to remind me that I was not traveling alone. I spotted these beauties later in the day while waiting at a stoplight. (It’s a little off-kilter, but I only had one shot before the light turned green!)

IMG_3250

Just a bit of color. A patchy blue sky. A reminder that, yes, I can get through this day/season/struggle. And you can, too.

Yes, you will go out with celebration,
    and you will be brought back in peace.
Even the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you;
    all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Isaiah 55:12 Common English Bible

 

The 63rd Day

It’s the 63rd Day of Christmas. I counted.

I’ve changed vestments from Advent to Ordinary time to Lent.

I’ve had the flu, traveled to a conference, and worked too many hours, and have been so tired that One More Chore wasn’t gonna happen. The Christmas tree stayed up.

Then February came. It was time to watch The Olympics as any dedicated couch potato would do, and lead the Ash Wednesday service. And a family member had minor surgery.

But that was not enough! I procrastinated on tax preparation (that’s almost done) and ignored the vacuuming until the dust bunnies picketed me. I have several sewing projects piled high. To keep my mind sharp, I am reading three books at once. My ability to find things to do except for that one task I MUST do is legendary.

How do I know this? It’s simply that, finally, on the 63rd Day of Christmas, we took down the tree. I think that to celebrate my birthday in June, we’ll put the boxes away.

I just wanted to let you that besides making procrastination an art form, I’m a real human being who loves Jesus and hates certain chores.

As you were.

It’s not my story to tell…

hush! from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 Pixel Addict, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

I have learned a difficult lesson in  my work as a chaplain. It is one borne out of walking with others who are hurting or have hurt others… and there are times I would love to share the lessons learned, or the take-aways for me, personally.

But, the problem is, it’s not MY story to tell!

This isn’t because of HIPAA or “privacy” laws. This isn’t because the stories are boring (there are some incredible stories of healing and mercy!) It isn’t because I don’t have permission (there are many who urge me to share what they have learned.)

It is because it is, simply, gossip.

Not in the magazine trade, nasty rumors, oh-no-she-dih-unt! kind of talk. But it is the uncensored and oversharing of someone else’s business.

This week at my hospice, there were a number of patient deaths… some people whom I have followed for many months. By Thursday afternoon, my heart was tired and broken. So much loss. So much sadness. So much unknown.

As time goes by, I will have larger lessons from the collected experiences. But for now… it’s not my story to tell.

You say Goodbye… I say Hello


Almost three years ago, I walked into this office. Friday afternoon, I put the last paperclip, pen, and stapler into office relocation bins. I was a little teary, and it surprised me.

I scolded myself. “Really. This is no big deal.” And yet, it is.

The office movers arrive on Saturday, and on Monday morning, I’ll walk into a new building and new office suite. Everything will be different, from where we find coffee to what our building security access cards look like.

I’m mentally prepared for the chaos of an inter-office move. (I’m planning on chaos, anyway. It means that anything less than that will be encouraging.) I know I won’t have a desk or even a shared workstation to call my own and will be “homeless.” It’s a bit disconcerting. I am not looking forward to it. (Yes – there will be places I can sit down with my laptop… but it’s not the same.) My expectation is that it will take a lot of patience and adjusting to find this “new normal.”

I’ve thought a lot about our expectations in life, generally speaking. Sometimes they are motivating. Sometimes they are devastating to our morale. And sometimes, things go far better than we could dream! With my hospice patients and families, we often reflect on “the new normal” and the “chaos” of enrolling someone in hospice. It takes a while to get your sea legs again!

I’ve spent many hours helping people manage their expectations for their family member’s illnesses. Over and over, I will say, “we just don’t know how long…” And to the extent I can, I try to help folks find appreciation in the moments they have now on the road of loss and change…

Yep. A life lesson. Hits pretty close right now…

Wherever I travel next, I want to pack light and walk gently… and enjoy the gifts of today. And I’ll pay attention to the memories and feelings that they evoke.

Frederick Buechner said, “Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention.”

Yes. Yes indeed. These teary moments have great meaning.