Phone Calls With Grandma

Today I served chalice at a funeral for a woman whom I’d not known in this Earthly life. A third chalice bearer was needed, so I took the assignment.  I am so glad I did, because in addition to hearing stories from the deceased’s  grandson about how much “Grand-Margaret” loved family, the beach, God, and life in general I was reminded about how blessed my brother and I are to still have a living grandparent.

Our paternal grandmother is still very much alive. As a matter of fact, I spoke with her on the phone two evenings ago. She told me how much she appreciates my habit of sending photos  { I send old school paper photos- not digital, as Gram won’t learn the Internet} and that she looks at the photos of her far away family every day.

Grandma is approaching her 88th birthday and can no longer drive.  Her balance isn’t good , and she’s finally getting the hearing aides she needs soon.  yet her mind remains sharp, and she and I shared family news, discussed politics { actually fun because we agree on pretty much everything politically}  church  {she loved the photo I sent of me robed to serve at the altar during Mass} and dogs  { in my last hand-written note I’d reported to her about the new puppy whom Best Dude and I added to our household}

Grandma and I did not always enjoy the comfortable relationship we share now. For many reasons, she and I had a lot of conflict during my growing-up years. As a matter of fact it wasn’t until I moved away from where I grew up that I really began to appreciate Grandma for who she is and how she’s shaped who I am becoming.   But as I matured in faith and life, I realized that Grandma has always loved me as she loves each of her fifteen grandchildren . She is far from perfect; but she is one of the strongest , most giving , smartest women I know.

 

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Words of Jesus in Mark Chapter 4 and one-year post op

It has been { almost} one year since I had surgery to correct a pressed nerve root in my neck.

Since I do not believe in coincidences I feel that yesterday’s Gospel lesson from Mark speaks to my experience with the ACDF surgery last summer.

At the end of the portion of Mark’s Gospel that was read yesterday at Mass Jesus says ” Peace! Be still. “

Y’ all know how hard it is for me to ” be still”.  Yet last summer’s surgery was a ” storm” of sorts from which I emerged a quieter, more contemplative person. You see, so that my internal and external surgical wounds had time to heal { the surgeon literally slit my throat in order to expose the offending disk that he needed to remove so that the nerve root could be freed} I had to restrict my movement.

This . Was . NOT . EASY.  I am naturally a hyper person, much more of a “do-er “than a “be-er” .  Yet medical necessity demanded that I be still and slow down  in order to make a full recovery.

This meant that in addition to restricted work– my leisure activities had to be put on hold.  Restriction meant that I was now allowed to swim. { the doctor wanted to make sure I did not get the external wound infected. Not only do I live in Florida and this was summertime, but I LOVE to swim.  Looking at the vast beauty of the Gulf of Mexico only made me wish I could be in that beautiful, refreshing water. But I needed to heal— and healing takes time.

But the good news is: I am fully recovered . The use of my right arm and hand is back to 100 percent and I have no more nerve pain. X-rays showed that the bone graft that was inserted into the disk space has fused as it was intended to do.

While I hope and pray I’ll never need another spinal surgery, I know that this experience taught me valuable lessons.

….. It is ok to just be still.  Since the surgery, I’ve become much more contemplative and have learned to treasure stillness.

….. I appreciate the wonderous creation that my own human form is and always has been. There is nothing quite like waking up totally helpless in a hospital recovery room to remind one of one’s mortality. And for the first three months post-surgery I was pretty helpless. I’ve so much gratitude for my Best Dude: he balanced working, taking care of me and prepping for our move and never lost his cool.

I am grateful for those who sent get-well cards that cheered me up as I recuperated. Food that people sent to our house during that week of recovery sustained both Best Dude and me.  The prayers of two Episcopal parish families wrapped me in prayer and love.

Ohana Gelato 5

One year later my scar has faded into near-invisibility. The unaware eye cannot see the fine line on my neck.  Free from debilitating nerve pain from the trapped nerve root and bone spurs. I am able to return to swimming, power walking  {with some sprints thrown in} and SWIMMING. The metal screws and plate in my neck are only noticeable when rain is in the forecast– I am a much better weather-indicator than some of the radar used by our local media.

Aloha  in the Hawaiian language means affection, peace, compassion, and mercy.  In hindsight, my experience with neurosurgery allowed me to experience aloha. I’ve spent a lot of time in these past 12 months learning how to truly live aloha. The kindness, compassion and mercy shown to me has helped me live into the aloha that is our Baptismal Covenant.

Feast of James Weldon Johnson

2018

 

A Beatles’ Song as A Prayer

I am a HUGE fan of The Beatles’ music.

Blame my mom, she was an original Beatlemaniac– and was one of the ” screamers when they appeared on American TV for the first time in 1963.

The song _The Long And Winding Road_ keeps playing itself over and over again in my head. No matter what I do– what I listen to– my mind keeps playing this song over and over again. While it is one of my favorite songs from the Fab Four , my favorite  Beatles’ song is _Let It Be_.

So why is _The Long And Winding Road haunting me?  Honestly, I have no clue. All I know is that these words have been haunting me since the Sunday when the story of God’s call to the child Samuel was read and preached upon.

I hear this song as part of my own ” call story” .

Take a look at the lyrics

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD ~ The Beatles

Baby don’t leave me waiting here
Lead me to your door oh, yeah.
The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to you door
The wild and windy night
That the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears
Crying for the day
Why leave me standing here
Let me know the way
Many times I’ve been alone
And many times I’ve cried
Any way you’ll never know
The many ways I’ve tried
But still baby they lead me back
To the long winding road
You left me standing here
Such long, long, long, long, time ago
Don’t leave me waiting here
(Don’t leave me waiting here)
Lead me to your door
But still they lead me back
To the long winding road
You left me standing here
A long long time ago
So, don’t leave me waiting here
Lead me, lead me to your door
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Songwriters: JOHN LENNON,PAUL MCCARTNEY
© EMI Music Publishing,Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
For non-commercial use only.
Data From: LyricFinde lyrics:

I feel like this song illustrates my own discernment process— that no matter how many times I try to get ” lost” on many ” long and winding roads” , that God always pulls me back— leads me by the nose, back to God’s Plan for me. No matter how much I argue with God— and try to run away– God finds me and leads me back.

It is a messy dance of sorts– with me trying hard to break away from God’s call for my life.

This song is important to me. And, other than the words I have used in an attempt to articulate this importance. I am clueless.

These words are especially poignant:

……..The wild and windy night
That the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears
Crying for the day
Why leave me standing here
Let me know the way…

How many times have I prayed these very words to God?

Let me know Your Way, God”

Why are  You leaving me standing here clueless, God? 

But then I remember:

……..The long and winding road

That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to you door…..

God is there. God, through Jesus, knows what it is like to be a human 

Nothing is new to God. God made a covanent with God’s people long ago, and I am an heir to that promise. 

But like Samuel, I finally have to say to God : Here I am. 

I am scared. But, God will be with me.

Amen.

 

 

 

End the Stigma

My name is Sarah , and I suffer from chronic depression. It is in remission right now– and has been for years. I am one of the fortunate ones who has lived with this condition for over three decades.

The credit for my survival does not belong to me. God graced me with two of the most loving, tolerant, supportive parents, a spouse who takes his ” for better or worse” vows seriously, and an amazing cloud of witnesses in m faith community.

It is time to #EndTheStigma surrounding mental illness. If it took two celebrities’ suicides to make people stand up and take notice of mental illness  than some good for humanity can be gleaned from their deaths. My heart goes out to the people who actually knew Kate Spade and Anthony Boudain as well as those of us who admire their work.

Mental illness, including depression, is real. If left unchecked these illnesses are as deadly as cancer.

I could have been another sad statistic,  but God has plans for me. It is my hope and prayer that my story of struggling with a depressive illness will inspire others to take action to end the stigma and educate others on suicide prevention.

Many of those including myself, who suffer from depressive disorders ” look fine”. Many of us are active in our communities and seek to serve others. Sometimes it is really hard for us to get our bodies out of bed and brush our teeth.

Contrary to some popular belief we who have depressive disorders are not ” lazy” . As a matter of fact, many of us are classic examples of an overachiever.

In high school I was an athlete and  a member of various clubs and organizations. My schedule was busy seven days a week. During the summers I worked a seasonal job to earn spending money and experience.  To an outsider my life looked like the quintessential ”  happy blonde teenager”.  yet the mask hid a lot of pain.

It is a miracle that I can only attribute to God that I made it out of high school alive.

I’, for one, depend on some strong { although not addictive} medications to function as a normal-ish person every day. Due to good medical coverage, I am able to stay on these life-giving and life-saving medications. The fact that so many people who need similar medications cannot afford them is not lost on me, and for them my heart breaks.  So many lives are lost or ruined because of a lack of financial resources to get psycho-active medications to needy people.

Many of us have been battling this invisible illness for years. For me it started in early adolescence and got steadily worse.  It was not until an excellent psychiatrist prescribed the drug Seroquel to me that the depression started to lift.

It is by the grace of God, and the timelessness of my parents , spouse and others who love me, that I am alive and thriving right now. Depression and related illnesses are real , and people can die from them. But the good news is: these conditions are easily treatable with the right dosages and combinations of medicine.

We work to make cancer-fighting drugs available to people who need them and that is the responsible thing to do. Yet we totally ignore the needs of people who need help regulating brain chemistry. Because depression and related disorders are ” invisible”, they are refused legitimacy in many parts of American society.

This is NOT right. People are dying and/or rotting away in correctional facilities because society refuses to see mental illness as a legitimate epidemic. Depression , and related illnesses are real , and people can die from them. But the good news is: they are treatable. We need to lobby our state and federal lawmakers to pass laws that make it easier for needy people to get the medications they need.

End The Stigma.

Amen.

Hearing God’s Call, and staying authentic to ourselves.

Today my rector preached on the Old Testament lesson from 1 Samuel. This was Chapter three, verses 1-10, about Samuel  hearing God literally calling to him while he slept in Eli’s house.

This story, as I read it aloud during Mass, struck a powerful chord in my heart. I cannot help but notice that the boy heard God’s call more than once, yet kept thinking that the call was from Eli, his priest/mentor.

Anyway, my rector posed some questions for us to ponder :

 

onesamqs

As I continue my journey into middle-age I see that God is finally showing me the woman that God wants me to become. I am surely not the person I was five years ago and am grateful that I’ve grown beyond the immature brat I was 20 years ago. My young-adult self is nothing like my middle-aged self.  Looking back, if I were someone else who met 21-year-old Sarah, I am pretty sure that I would not have liked her very much.

She matured in faith and life slower than her peers.

As I matured in faith and life, I know I could not have gotten far without the love of a strong foundation. Although I made many mistakes in my early and mid adulthood, I know these mistakes are part of what makes me the woman I am today.  Because of my mistakes, I have compassion for those whose life choices landed them in trouble  Thank God I never did anything to get myself in legal trouble, but my bad choices could have had tragic consequences.

I am becoming someone whose life story can be used to enlighten younger women. As I age I’ve become more of the sort of woman who Younger Sarah needed in her life: someone who is sure of who God created her to be. As I age, I am slowly moving from someone who needs to be mentored to someone who mentors.

I am also someone who in unapologetically herself and grateful to other  women in my life who show me that it is ok to be my true self. I know I am not perfect, and I don’t expect perfection from myself nor others. All I do every day is try to live my life according to Christ’s teachings, even if this means conflict with the power-brokers in national, state and local affairs.

I stick to my personal beliefs and am not afraid to respectfully  discuss why I believe as I do.

Daily I work to stay authentic to myself. As a progressive oftentimes my view on society are in direct contrast to the opinions of my peers. Through active listening to God, I’ve learned to be and stay true to my nature

The second part of the two-part question is harder. Hearing God in the din of voices that besiege us daily is hard.  That is why I have learned to , as St Benedict of Nursia says ” listen with the ears of the heart. “ I cultivate a practice of taking time out of each day to just be with God.  Most of the time this involves taking my dog for a fast-paced early walk around our urban neighborhood. For me, the practice of spending time in Nature allows me to open my ” heart’s ear” and listen hard for God.

Amen.