With all the chaos . . .

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. . . with all the bickering and jabbing back and forth–the polarization due to politics, persuasions, and firmly held positions–let me be one to choose joy, to choose peace and love. Let it begin right here with me.

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Displaced–Blessing or Curse

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In Henri Nouwen’s book called Seeds of Hope, he writes that “displacements threaten us and give us feelings of being lost or left alone.” He goes on to say the following:
“Displacement is not primarily something to do or to accomplish, but something to recognize. In and through this recognition a conversion can take place, a conversion from involuntary displacement leading to resentment, bitterness, resignation, and apathy, to voluntary displacement that can become an expression of discipleship [. . .] To follow Jesus, therefore, means first and foremost to discover in our daily lives God’s unique vocation for us [. . .] our concern for a career constantly tends to make us deaf to our vocation [. . .] God calls everyone who is listening” (144-148).
And I am listening.

It is perhaps normal to wrap purpose up in accomplishment, to wrap acceptance in a profession up in calling, but a person’s worth and calling ought to be separate from all the doings, otherwise when the doings are done, there is nothing left in the identity we have so carefully created for ourselves. Is God in the midst of all that process? Is not at least part of working and the creating of identity led by more than just human inclination and desire? Of course—mixed in with His will, my will, the will of others, this crazy combination of spiritual and carnal. And unraveling all those threads, well . . . who could ever?

But the truth is that when you think you know, at least in part, who you are and what role you currently play in the world, you want to be the one to decide when and how that role should be redefined. There have been many times in my life when that decision was taken out of my hands. I was younger, and I grieved, but I adapted. I found a new path forward. A new open door. Why this latest displacement hurts so much, I am not sure, except that because I am much older maybe it feels like there is no other door to walk through now. Maybe it feels that a forced retirement underscores that I am past usefulness more so than a voluntary exit from a job would have felt, even just one or two years later.

It has been a painful few months, having lost my job. The grieving and reorienting have provided rather a topsy-turvy emotional ride. Regarding Nouwen’s “displacement leading to resentment, bitterness, resignation, and apathy,” well, I am somewhere between bitterness and resignation, I think. My desire is to skip apathy and move right into seeing this as freedom—a freedom to zero in on vocation, stripped of career obligations. Can my involuntary displacement become voluntary as it pertains to my following Christ? I hope so, but I am not quite there yet. That will perhaps be the determinant of whether displacement is a blessing or a curse.

 

Seeing with New Eyes

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I had cataract surgery done a week and a half ago. I chickened out last year–something about a knife near the eyes bit! But I was getting desperate, so I did not read any contraindications and just went for it. I had not been able to drive at night for over 2 years, and even daily activities were becoming a strain. I probably should have asked more questions, though, because rather than a piece of cake, this “routine” surgery was more like liver and onions–more uncomfortable than I thought it would be.

I am very chemically sensitive, so having gotten through the procedure with fairly minor and endurable hiccups, the worst part became the reaction to the steroid drops which are needed for speedy healing. This is a five-week process, and I have quite some time to go, but I hope the worst is over.

That was the bad and the ugly. The good part is that somebody turned on the lights! Whites are whiter and colors are brighter, not to mention that everything has distinct edges and not fuzzy, ever-changing ones. The green in the traffic light is . . . well, green green! It is almost like a different color. It is not preferred by me to undergo any surgery, but given the positive change in my sight, I think it was worth it!

My eyes are blue blue again. Haven’t been like this since forever! You don’t think about it because the discoloration and hardening happens slowly over time.  Even my own photographic work is brighter and more colorful. And I have discovered I am a much better photographer than I thought. 🙂

We don’t become aware of the hardening process that alters so much of what we see because it happens bit by bit, year by year. And only when it cannot be ignored any longer do we even recognize it is something to be dealt with. I am thinking that is kind of like what happens with our hearts. If betrayals and loss, disappointments and disillusionment build up, then over time the hardening becomes something to radically deal with. It interferes with our ability to prosper and see life and mission clearly. But it starts small, and it builds layer upon layer. I am not sure how to prevent that from destroying my joy, but my desire is that I would become aware of the hurts that bind and settle down into my spirit.

May I hold lightly to pain and hold tightly to renewal is my prayer.

I Was Once a Thief

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I was once a thief, deliberate, conniving, and unrepentant.

Sort of.

I got twenty-five cents for a weekly allowance, and it was the good old days when that kind of coin really meant something. Well, . . . not really. It didn’t buy a lot even then. And hence the devilish temptation.

Between the one-room school and home was the general store where everything from gum to gum boots smelled like the owner’s cigars. There was cold soda pop in the cooler and a variety of gum and sweets under glass. Nothing was as good as an Orange Crush or Hires Root Beer after a grueling day of study under my teacher Aunt Luella in elementary school. But my twenty-five cents never lasted long.

Every evening, Daddy had this habit of emptying out the change in his pockets and placing the coins on a little ledge that ran along the bathroom wall. Those shiny silver quarters called to me something fierce. To be honest, I also heard the call of the tarnished ones just as clearly; and one day, I anesthetized the prickling of my delicate conscience with the anticipation of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit and a pop.

Having crossed the dark line, the second time was easier, and the third easier still. I got to the point that I did not even wait to see the money on the ledge. I would rifle through Dad’s pockets in the closet.

My larceny progressed day by day and week by week from one coin to two or three, and I stored them on a convenient little shelf inside the metal box spring that supported my mattress. I had found in the trash can this handy little cardboard box, which had a drawer that slid in and out—the perfect size for prepubescent contraband. As it happens, it was also the perfect size to house new condoms, but I did not know that at the time!

I was cautious not to let my candy spending sprees attract too much attention, typically only spending a quarter at a time; and if Mama ever asked where I got the money for that treat, I would just tell her I had not spent my allowance yet.

Sadly, my mom was much better at math than I was, and eventually my pernicious ways were found out. There was also the thing about my face turning red any time I tried to lie, which was a real deterrent to the life of crime I was bent on. When confronted, all my dark deeds came tumbling out in a sobbing, wet confession.

I fully expected a spanking and a repayment plan that would last into high school, but a fifty cent fine, a prayer, and a hug was all that was required to set things right. It was rather a relief to be caught since the cold, hard cash chaffed my sensitive conscience and never quite gave the satisfaction promised.

As it turned out, no sweet was as sweet as a pure conscience and the soft forgiveness of my parents and my Lord.

Daily Prompt: Uneven

I visited Virginia City, NV, a few years ago. The old part of town looked like it came out of a Hollywood western, complete with rustic building facades, saloons, and wooden sidewalks. Strolling along, you had to be careful where you planted your feet because probably like bygone days the  planked sidewalks were uneven. Sometimes where one board met another, there was a lip that could send the unwary sprawling.

Now in my town that would be an occasion to sue. But in days gone by, the assumption was that you watched where you walked and took charge of your own life. Though efforts were made to safeguard the community, it was assumed that life happened, so walker beware.

It seems that in this day, we want everyone to be aware for us and to be held accountable for any mishap–whether it be a physical situation or a misspoken word. Life is uneven–sometimes a result of our own choices and sometimes others’. To take responsibility for our actions and own the resulting consequences is a skillset that needs cultivating.

So yes, I am taking that Facebook post down right away!

Daily Prompt: Interior–The Eagle Version

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(screenshot from live feed)

I have been watching the live feed from Florida of bald eagles and their eggs. One has hatched and is fed raw fish from a very conscientious mama (or perhaps daddy—hard to tell). The other egg’s hatching looks imminent. Mama sits on her nest, rearranging the twigs and grasses, protecting the hatchling and the one yet to come. The nest does not look particularly soft or comfortable, but obviously fits the bill for this little family. What makes this nest safe is not the materials of which it is made, but the presence of formidable parent-raptors who not only shelter the young but stand ready to fend off any foe.

The home my husband and I made for our kids is not very fancy. It is not filled with rich furnishings or decked out in ostentatious accessories. Granted, it is a bit more than twigs and grasses perched high in a tree, like my eagle friends, but it is warm, and hopefully welcoming in its simplicity—and with no more eggs to hatch!

I have visited immaculate homes with rich furnishings, but sometimes the décor does in no way compensate for the pain and dissatisfaction present in its inhabitants. I would prefer to invest in simplicity and a happy hearth for my home to one of cold perfection.

The same goes for an interior life, I suppose. I want my interior design to be straightforward and honest, not cluttered with the thoughts and arguments of someone on the run from themselves and truth, not decked out with the lies people tell themselves to keep guilt at bay. Not cold and aloof, fearing exposure, but open, honest, and welcoming.

As is my home, so I want my heart to be—hospitable to life. Simple, clean, and suited for the task.

Now back to my eagle live cam. It is not a great movie because the plot doesn’t move quickly, but the characters are awesome!