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Grace, she is my Mercy

28 Sep

**I wrote this piece a while back. And now, amidst the global natural disasters we are under, I am feeling as if this piece is a bit too selfish. But I share it anyway, because the sentiments were (and are), legitimate. The Medical Board of CA called today because they are reviewing a doctor who treated Cole, they are concerned his care was unethical…

I’ve been using the phrase “I need grace and mercy,” this past year more than ever! It is not that I didn’t have use or previous need of the extension of that which grace bestows, but I am recognizing the consistent failings of my humanity and the longing therein for compassion’s salve. Honestly, I have my “shit together.” That just means I am of sound mind and physical ability and utilize these tools as I carry on in life. Beyond that, I am damaged goods bouncing along this road of life and hoping to not hurt others as result of my own struggles. Of course grace is a divine assistance and not really a human trait, but it is the foundation of mercy; compassion or forgiveness shown to someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

The above statements aren’t necessarily illuminating. They aren’t meant to be. To me they are just facts I am sharing. Really what I want to focus on in this post is the reality of sorrows imposition upon the soul; and the tangible need for grace from above and mercy here below. How I see it (visually) is much like bowling with a child, when the bumpers are up on the sides so the ball can safely bounce back and forth down the lane in order to accomplish the intended goal of knocking down some pins. I see the extension of grace as the bumpers, and the hurt person the ball aggressively moving from side to side until the bumpers have absorbed enough friction to calm it down, and set it straight. Of course the knocked pins are the victory, the accomplishment of the goal through much aid, protection and mercy. Funny I should use a bowling analogy…not really a game I play, ever. Perhaps its a subliminal homage to my grams–now she was a bowler!

Here’s the thing, if you don’t know or fathom rather, the need for compassion’s touch–bless you and my sincere prayer is you remain in the good favor of the almighty. But if you do, if you are someone who has suffered a sorrow that is debilitating and you have to find somehow, someway to keep on living, then you understand the profound need for compassion from others whether in small or large doses.

The reason for this is simple, it really does take a great deal of energy to usurp the pain of loss. To daily strive to allow joy to be present, and to even be an active participant in life’s activities such as grabbing a cup o’ joe (coffee), can consume a days worth of effort. This doesn’t leave much energy left for superficiality, self centered choices, inconsiderate behaviors, and intolerable acts. And because those, too, exist within the daily walk of humanity the energy left at the end of the day is most often only enough for “a little bit more.” This my friends is where the gift of mercy is most appreciated…

It is here, at this point, at the exhaustion from living-in-pain point, where you will find the newly, unimproved, Rivka. The Rivka who gives an answer with a sharp tongue (ok, that’s always been my strong point!). The Rivka who hasn’t much to talk about (new found trait). The Rivka who doesn’t want to go to social events (ever). The Rivka who uses the F-word to get a point across or when stubbing a toe (learned in the hospital alongside my paralyzed son). The Rivka who doesn’t call (because she’s out of words). The Rivka who falls short on birthday celebrations (birthdays are overrated, are they not?). The Rivka who has no patience for people’s judgement (of myself or others). The Rivka who doesn’t get excited when things go wrong (I live daily in the “wrong” of my son’s death). The Rivka who wants to annihilate inconsiderate drivers (move them off the road). The Rivka who might not seem burdened by heartbreak (but is). The Rivka who is struggling just to connect to this world (but thankfully does). And, it is at this point you will find the Rivka who is desperately in need of compassion or forgiveness when it is (justifiably) within one’s power to punish or harm her.

Knowing this about myself allows me to don a cloak of empathy most of the time, which has just about shut out my ability to cast judgement (still in me are ill thoughts toward those that callously hurt others, and cars that don’t let me merge onto the freeway). In practical terms, I recognize I am overusing the grace of G-d and the mercy of humans on an ongoing basis. And as such, am using some of my depleted energy bank to ensure I am not stingy in considering whom else might be traveling down life’s lane with the bumpers up.

And if I’m real here in this post, I can confess I hope this writing will challenge each of us to consider further the grumpy person in line at a store and the fact that their story might be wearing them down. Or the aloof individual who doesn’t reciprocate a friendly smile, who might just be making it under the weight of loss. Of course none of this encouragement is new, there are scriptures and proverbs that guide in this wisdom. But in our humanity we forget and so a reminder is not such a bad idea.

 

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The Disney Way

29 Mar

This morning I took some time to cut my hair.  Yes, I do cut and color my own hair.  And when I’m too tired to invest in the effort it takes to transform my brown into black and cover the albino intruders, I pluck  the most prominent of the alien class to buy a little time before hitting the bottle (the dye bottle that is).  Well this morning I had to invest in me a bit, as my hair was so long it had lost all opportunity for style.  My husband and daughter went off for a coffee adventure (down to their local favorite spot) and I proceeded to machete my locks.  For my Sunday ambiance and mood, I put Pandora Radio on to the Sister Rosetta Tharpe station–gospel music at its finest!  As I was chop, chop, chopping, a song came on that was new to my ear.  I have since lost the tune, but the chorus went something like this: “…anything you want, ask Jesus and he’ll give it to you.”  I think it was Mahlia Jackson.  Anyway, tonight as I write this, I honestly don’t remember the exact words, I just remember my response to the notion of them.  My response, this morning while listening was, “I want a happy ending.”  And that thought was followed by a deep sigh.  A sigh because my request is unfounded.

I want a happy ending so badly.  But I want “my” happy ending.  Not having our son (my daughter’s brother) in our little nuclear unit has robbed me (us) of our expected output.  Someone just the other day asked me a simple question, “are you happy?”  Unfortunately I let the truth of my puzzlement slip off of my tongue before I could wrangle the best substitute for the job.  I said, “happiness…I don’t even know what that looks like any more.”  No explanation point needed, it is just a stated fact.  This notion really struck me a few days ago, while I was conversing with our Creator in my think tank of prayer–my car.  As I was asking for help and strength for the day awaiting me, I realized I was also simultaneously complaining about the day awaiting me.  Complaining about my dissatisfaction with an obscure something.  Then the spiritual lightbulb within went on–how do I even know what it is that satisfies me?  The question is a very raw one because it cuts to my core.  When facing the question honestly, I find I have no answer because my soul satisfaction has been tied to my happy ending notion.  Without that in view, I’m still living in the obfuscated survival mode.  Now can you imagine your child asking for a chocolate ice-cream cone, you fulfilling their request, and them (in-between licks) rattling off laments of an ungratified nature?  Well that was me in the car.  I was the child with the proverbial cone and the light bulb that shone illuminated my condition.

Now I have to say, just because I have had this new awareness provided for me, doesn’t mean I am “arrived” at a presence of integrating its message.  I think this will take time for me to apply and/or learn.  After all, I daily face the fact that my fairytale is more Grimm than Disney and this truth bears with it an insurmountable amount of pain.  Yet somehow I get a sense that even just the small step of awareness will help inch me ever closer to healing in this area, and with healing can come an openness (perhaps) to…whatever it is that is now different than I expected it should be.  Which is truly the crux of the matter.  My “should be” is being cramped by my “is.”  And I need to watch-it for that vantage point will disallow for satisfaction to reside, not comfortability, but satisfaction.  Without satisfaction, the soul will be nomadic–ever searching, ever lost in the desert.  The Bent 3 (myself included) are trying.  We are doing our best to navigate our loss, but gosh it is so darned painful and everywhere we turn the unhappy ending of our story is revealed.  But we are faith filled human beings, so we simultaneously realize our unhappy ending isn’t the end all and be all of the story, there is still more yet to write.  Though I would be lying if I pretended this chapter had our seal of approval, it doesn’t.  But at least now I know how to maneuver in my prayer life.  I will stop asking for the chocolate ice cream as I swallow another bite.  I will seek to recognize that my fairy tale ending–or my expectations in life really–aren’t the only link to my happiness.  Even if in this moment they truly are.  That is the best I can do for now.

I have come across many people who, much like myself, have had their expectations in life thwarted.  Some of them have carried on with grace and purpose.  Some have allowed the dissatisfaction of their condition to sour their temperament.  I can say that I do see the warning in the latter…”there but for the grace of God go I.”  Seeing the world through my sorrowful lens of dissatisfied results is not good measure for purposeful intent.  I am thinking willingness just might be a good place to start.  A small step to be sure, though when one is carrying the heavy weight of sorrow upon them, even a tiny fissure can appear to be a monumental chasm.

“Lord please give me patience for others whose own pain might be cause for a surly remark.  May others be courteous with me as I process my own dissatisfied results.  Amen.”

 

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The Empty Room

 

 

Living with “No”

20 Sep

It wasn’t too long ago that my husband and I were living with, “Yes.”  And with, Yes, came some fun opportunities.  Hollywood parties, cavorting with celebrities.  Travel possibilities.  In fact, Yes is quite fun to be around.  She is very pleasing on the eyes.  Her scent is fresh throughout the day.  Yes is never tired, she is never boring.  She is a grand adventure!  The morning was exciting to wake up to, while she made our life her home.  But then slowly, one packed suitcase at a time, she began her move away from our world.  Oh she was kind about her departure.  Never once did she utter an unkind word.  She left no abrasive lesions upon us, and even her scent lingered for a while–long after her goodbye was said.  I miss her as our house guest.  Her presence brought sunshine when the sky provided none.  She, was a friend I like to have.  “Yes” is good company.

…now we are living with “No.”

No, is not so bad.  He, too, is not unkind.  Nor is he selfish.  But No, is blase.  He bears no scent.  He shines no light.  Being with him provides no adventure.  And travel does not seem to be to his liking.  And while he is a part of our life, our chores seem more abundant.  The spring in our step not so springy.  The gray of the day permeates, and sleep does not bring sufficient rest.  Though I would prefer to exchange his presence for his predecessor, it seems the good Lord has it in His will for us to entertain the present house guest a while longer (another aspect to No is the end of his stay is occluded, thus leaving us in the dark as to when he departs).

I honestly wouldn’t mind his living with us so much, but while having him here I have picked up certain habits that I’m not too fond of.  For instance, while living with Yes, I was motivated to care for myself and invest in activities that provoked excitement.  Waking up to No every day, I am struggling to even remember what those things were that used to motivate me.  Funny thing is, No doesn’t take up too much space but his stature hovers over much of our life.  So much so that I find myself pulling in ear marks of Yes, such as in my clothing, to help offset the drudgery of No.  For instance, I have resurrected my 1970’s floral print pants and am wearing them in circumstances of monotony (such as to the Long Beach VA).  Vintage Floral Pants

I have also taken to wearing a dress while walking the dogs.  Who needs exercise clothing when one can sweat in style!  I admit, the Nike’s are not the best accessory to my Leon Max creations, nor my Brian Bent’s for that matter.  But I am finding a glimmer of joy within the sheer absurdity of how I look as I ambulate, perspire, and shine while ‘Mutt and Jeff’ tag along on leash. 🙂

Fashion by Brian Bent

A Brian Bent original

I even thought I would fool my freeloading boarder by deciding to grow out my hair.  That’s right, my hair grows whether No wants it to or not.  However,  yesterday as I was readying myself to leave the house my daughter shyly asked, “Do you like your hair like that?”  To which I answered, “NO.”  With a sigh of relief she said, “Oh good.”  ‘Oh good’ was all she gave me…obviously the influence of Yes had worn off of even her.

So here I am, living with No.  He is a tough guy to be around.  And to help offset the heaviness of his presence, I am learning how to use new tools.  You know, the ones in the toolbox that are there but one hopes to not have to use.  One such tool is the “art of redirecting.”  That is right, I am redirecting my thoughts to the time of Yes, when I am faced with another No answer.  Another such tool is the “reminder wrench.”  The reminder wrench is used when thoughts of abandonment try to ease their way into my soul.  I take the wrench and use it to remember the word of encouragement from the Holy Word that says, “I shall never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut 31:6).  And, from the 55th chapter of the book of Isaiah:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”

The ‘reminder wrench’…a good tool!  I know there are other tools still in the box, untouched.  It could be that I will have to peruse the contents and learn, yet another, instrument of peace, motivation, excitement, and elation before the year is through.  But for now, the ‘redirector’ and the ‘reminder wrench’ are doing the trick.  I have even borrowed a necessary item from my neighbor…the tire pump.  Yep, the tire pump is a good tool to have on hand for when No takes a nap.  Oh the places to go with just a few pumps of air.  More on that next time…

Raleigh bicycle

My Raleigh and Me

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