Holding My Hand

God lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another. When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it.
C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity

I was raised a Christian, and in describing myself, I think first and foremost to be a child of God.  It is who I am, the essence of my very being.  Any blog posts on my faith are not meant to offend or exclude anyone.  Like all my posts, they are a reflection of me, and this is who I am.  I am not ashamed to call myself Christian, because although some who call themselves Christian give us a bad rep, and some set incredibly high expectations, I am not sheepish in writing that I am a constant work in process.  I fall from grace (many times a day) make mistakes both small and large, and because I do all these things I am not a hypocrite for calling myself Christian, I am human.

I never asked, “Is there a God?”  as a child because I was told early on.  I attended a Christian kindergarten, elementary school, middle school and high school.  Same school.  Bible was a subject just like history or math, and we had chapel every Wednesday.  I was eight years old when I gave my life to Christ.  Before then, I was worried I didn’t do it right.  “Give my heart to Jesus” as my teachers would say.  So before an outstanding performance of Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego (rave reviews poured from Mom and Dad), I sat in the car in full costume, looked to the sky and prayed.  This is it God, I give you my heart.  I opened up my hands to receive salvation.  Little did I know that yes, salvation was mine, but giving my heart to God needs to be repeated as necessary.  Little did I know period, I was eight years old.  At nine, I met with my pastor to be interviewed.  He wanted to make sure I understood the significance of my next step.  That year I was baptized on the same day as my dad. 

Since then, I have not followed the routine sometimes associated with being a Christian.  Going to church at least once a week, praying every day, committing time to devotional study, etc.  Also my mind is not always focused on how to better serve God, but how to get pretty things, where I want to go, romance and falling in love and food.  If I get truly brave, I might write a blog on food later.  I praise God and pray for forgiveness, yes, but the major theme of my prayers has been a request for guidance.  I pray His will be done, that it is made clear to me.  But, He knows that deep in my heart, I really do like my own ideas.  I know my dreams are influenced greatly by the world, and well, might not pan out in joy and success for me anyway, but it’s difficult letting them go.  Giving my heart back.

When I feel close to God through prayer and learning I feel like myself.  The Holy Spirit gives me…me.  Lately, I feel lost.  I’ve lost myself in my job and my professional and social goals.  I also haven’t been to church on a regular basis in three years.  How can someone have a close relationship with someone they stop learning about? 

Three years ago, I did have a church family.  It was the church I knew growing up, but my family and I didn’t attend regularly until I started singing in college.  I was that girl.  Special music girl who attended early Bible study and sang gospel.  It was a small church. 

After my move, I knew I needed to find a church.  Coming from my teeny country church to attending large churches, I had a bit of a culture shock.  Really nothing against the really large churches, because they reach many in many ways, but I could not find fellowship.  One youth Bible study group never asked me my name.  I couldn’t find a smaller group in another church because I got lost on “campus.”  When my grandmother died last year, I held it together pretty well until we were at the actual cemetery.  It hit me that I was putting her body to rest in my past.  So I not only cried, I wept.  I turned around and there was my pastor and his wife.  I fell into his arms and sobbed, and he held me tight.  He stayed with my family during the afternoon and uplifted our spirits, and we laughed together.  He was the one who gave my father a Bible, who baptized us, who helped me remember that my ministry was in my music.  He says to not call him “Reverend.”  We preface his name with “Brother.”  At the churches I visited after my move, I even had a hard time tithing.  Usually the hard time for me would not be having cash on me, and then feeling guilty, hoping nobody was staring at me.  During the recent visits,  feeling that I had not given back to the church withered as I passed a Starbucks on my way in and a gift shop on my way out.  We cheered when my pastor was able to lease a new used car, so he could return to making home visits.  And that comparison stuck in my mind.

I do like the idea of a larger church, because I’ll be more likely to find fellowship with those my own age, the music tends to be better during the service which inspires and uplifts me, and there are more ways to find lessons you need and some you didn’t know you needed.  I’m just lost.  Figuratively and literally.  I had a hard time parking, finding where the services were taking place, and even finding my way out again. 

So instead of praying for guidance in my career, in my finances, in my love life, in my travels, in my community service, I must pray for guidance back to Him.  Therein lies fulfillment and direction.  I will find a church, I will find the time, but He needs to hold my hand.  And I need to let Him take it.

A special thanks to my mother who always reminds me where to turn.

2012 Another Pilgrimage Ahead

“We will open the book.  Its pages are blank.  We are going to put words on them ourselves.  The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” 
~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – when we can brush off the old, and embrace the new.  Every day offers this opportunity, but the feeling of renewed hope and determination to reach our goals and experience our dreams is exemplified in a full 365 days, more time to do more – the New Year.

Do you have New Year’s resolutions?  I have read over and over, from famous writers, philosophers and my friends that making resolutions is, well, for lack of a better word…nincompoopery.  Resolutions set you up to fail and lower your self-esteem.  They are lost in a few weeks.  New Year’s resolutions are ridiculous based on the idea that we should strive to accomplish our goals as part of each day, not in the spirit of confetti and turning the page on a calendar year.

Well, I refuse to be placed in that category of the foolish making resolutions!  I resolve to not make resolutions!  Instead, I’m simply going to write a list of things I would like to do or accomplish next year.

The most important item on my list of “Things to Do That Are Not Called ‘Resolutions'” is to be grateful!  Each day brings its own opportunity to do something utterly fantastic.  Life is filled with so much opportunity, it’s true, that it is too easy to forget the hill I’m sitting on and dream about the other side, you know, the one with greener grass.  Metaphorically, I need to run my fingers through the grass on my hill and praise God for what I have and what I can give others.

I also must be grateful for the opportunity to dream about new adventures, and most importantly, the opportunity to take them.  This is basic.  Breathe in my lungs and days I am given.  Sure, wanderlust can be a curse, but it is also a gift.  The thirst to learn new things and meet new people will, in the long run, enrich my life if I grasp each chance.  I cannot unwittingly and selfishly let them go by.

I think 2012 will be the best year yet.  I have my list of things I want to do and see, but if I am not grateful for the big and small, they are only lost resolutions, never complete.  For me and for you, Reader, the road ahead may be filled with disappointment and frustration, loss and pain, but how we get back up to grab the next opportunity is what matters, praising God for the lessons learned and the next chance to apply their teachings.

I love life for many reasons.  I love it most for the sheer potential in it.

If I Was a Billionnaire

Days of grant research and writing grant proposals (with at least a month and a half of it ahead of me), makes me think about money.  What would I do with a million (heck, I’m dreaming, I’ll go bigger) a BILLION dollars?  Most of you might think, “Quit my job!”  I’d actually use it to enhance what I can do at JDRF, because first, I’d buy myself out writing grants.  Don’t take it the wrong way, I love writing up projects and why they are imporant and crafting budgets and strategy, but, uh, if I had money to give, I wouldn’t have do it.  So, yay! 

I would TRAVEL, oh my yes!  I would visit my friends all over the world and really immerse myself in different cultures.  Then I’d blog about it, so you, my reader, wouldn’t have to read blogs about my dreaming and thought processes.  Nice change, right?

I want to go back to school.  I want my MBA, and I want to enroll in an intensive one year program.  I know a lot of people go back to school to get the bigger bucks, and I’ll already  have big bucks, but I am an academic at heart.  Books + sense of accomplishment = me happy.  I would leave my staff position for education, then come back and try to find a job again.  I would have the luxury of not working while I wait for a position to open up.  I would volunteer of course.  No seriously, I would. 

I’d have to work, because helping people helps a person feel good about themselves!  So along with being able to keep regular hair appointments, I’d be feeling good about myself inside and out! 

I could attend a gala instead of working one.  This would be a moment for me.  I would give a giant Fund A Cure gift,  which goes directly to research.  I would also get to….wait for it…sit down.     Actually being seated for the program would be a fantasy within a fantasy.  I can just see me walking in and hearing, “Oh good you’re here, can you…”  Volunteers and staff, you  know what I mean. 

I’d buy a house with a yard so I could have a puppy.  I’d then train the puppy to attack on command.  Did I just lose the cute vote with that last sentence?

Omigosh!  I would be able to do a lot!  I would give to missions!  I would send kids to camp, help people meet their fundraising expectations by donating towards individual fundraising goals, I could pay for events and resources, I could further medical research, and the list goes on!  It would be awesome, and I would have nice hair and a puppy. 

Now, money DOES NOT buy happiness.  No, not at all.  So, I write my grant proposals to those who are able to do these incredible things and let them know about wonderful ways to give back.  Even though it can be draining, this makes me feel good.  Makes me feel good even though my roots are showing and the cat hates me. 

 

Role Reversal

The week after a few tests to examine her heart, Mom sat me down at lunch at Whole Foods to tell me that they “found something.”  Those words should never be uttered.  Something was found.  Don’t know what it is, but it is something and it was bad enough to be found.  That phrase never means something good.  They found something in my heart – it’s a pot of gold next a genie to grant three wishes!  Rainbow Brite was in there, too.  She sends her love.

So, Mom went in for tests.  I could tell she was nervous, because underneath her tough posterior, she lets a little worry out under her eyes.  You have to be watching her every second, because it comes and goes very quickly.  She often looks down or to the side to avoid making eye contact after her moment of worry.

So, back to the heart hospital.  After Grandma and Dad, we joke that they should name a wing for our family, used exclusively for our family.  I know everything in the vending machines, where all the rooms are, where the chapel is, where the bathrooms are.  I have the smell and colors memorized.  For a hospital, it’s cozy.  I hate it.  It means they found something.

Both Mom and Dad were shaky about this test.  Mom cracked jokes and we talked about the dogs before she went in.  After she went in, Dad grew quiet and contemplative.  I knew this was a bad place for Dad to be, and it was my job to keep him out.  About ten years ago, after my first seizure, Dad stood at the bottom of my hospital bed, rubbing my feet, telling me everything was fine.  The seizure was caused by epilepsy, but at the time it could have been anything from just a seizure to a disease to dictate my life to a brain tumor to end it.  But Dad was smiling and fine and that made me fine, too.  He has an inexplicable ability to calm people.  I think it comes from his rock hard faith in Jesus Christ, his 44 years in law enforcement and his 65 years on the planet and going through the bad stuff.

Dad counted every minute Mom was away.  I kept explaining every extra minute.  Going over how if it was a clot it was gone now, if it was an electrical problem they were fixing it and how the time she was away was spent in the care of the best and she was FINE.  I believed it.  I believed it not because I had to because Dad was nervous, but because God wouldn’t do this to me again, and if he did, we would get through it only by His hand, and I knew this, and wasn’t worried because I am His child and my father’s daughter.

Mom has great arteries, we were told when she came out.  Just past the age when both her parents died, she is healthy.  I praise God for her arteries.  Mom is happy and relaxed, so is Dad, and even though her pain and the other tests are still a mystery, we now have proof, undeniable proof, that her heart is fine, and we are still strong.

Flood of Aggravation

One of those, you know? 

It seems like the car, the house and my own forgetfulness take turns in giving me crappy days.  Some people scream obscenities, I blog and write emails about it.

Last month it was the car, another $200 in repairs and upkeep.  This beautiful July – the house.  It was a boring Sunday afternoon, the kind I like.  I was watching Costner’s Dances With Wolves, because yes, I had never seen it (you may commence gasping at this thought…okay, you done?).  I threw some bedding in the wash.  That’s when all hell (and by hell I mean tons of water) broke loose. 

The downstairs toilet starting talking in gurgling noises.  Sydney and I went to investigate.  By the time we got there, we heard the washing machine draining in the next room and then all that sudsy water came gushing up through the toilet.  It at first made a obnoxious tinkling noise as it hit the tile, then it sounded like Niagara Falls.  Water everywhere.  Having no heavy duty shop n’ vac, but rather a small Bissell wet/dry vac, I went to work.  Every swipe of the vacuum was followed by a trip to dump it out.  This took 45 minutes.  I had at least three inches of water in the bathroom, in the laundry room and in parts of the kitchen and hallway.  Just when the vacuum stopped making waves on my floor and I could see an end in sight, I heard the noise and remembered – large load, second rinse cycle.  Before I could even run the few steps back to the washing machine it did it again, and worse. 

Sydney sat in the corner of the kitchen on a dry patch staring in astonishment.  Dublin came in to see the commotion and started meowing about the state of his bathroom.  Then I started crying about the state of his bathroom, because the water hit the litter box this time.  Clean litter that Dublin had recently scooped out of his litter box in his fanaticism over cover up was now floating on top of another 3 to 4 inches of sudsy water in the laundry room.   I had to let it sink in, then went back to work.

Over an hour and a half later, only streaks of wet were visible on the floor and the laundry room couldn’t be cleaner if I had taken gallons of water and All laundry detergent and poured it over the floor and sucked it up. 

My day doesn’t end there!  After a quick rest, I hopped on the treadmill.  I felt something on my ankle and looked down to see water spurting up from the front of the belt!  Where was it coming from?!?  I had no water left in my tennis shoes!  Was this a flashback due to post-laundry flood stress disorder?  I looked behind me and saw that the leak had made a long streak down the belt of the treadmill and there was a puddle on the floor near the back of the treadmill.  Then I noticed this water had a pungent smell, not clean and sudsy at all!

Sydney rarely has accidents unless something frays her nerves.  She was the one with post-laundry flood stress disorder.  How did a female dog no taller than my knee successfully relieve herself on the back of a moving treadmill?  She must have lied on her back and let loose like a fountain figurine.  I’ve seen her do it.   She put on such a display at PetSmart when a German Shepherd gave her the evil eye. 

It was now the middle of the night and I was sweaty from cleanup with dry hands from all the cleaning solution.  Then yesterday I locked myself out of the office.

In case you wondering, the exact cause of the flood is yet unknown.  Professionals are working around the clock, in cooperation with homeowners and the HOA.  It doesn’t look good.  I have faith God will provide me a rainbow to this flood in the form of stress-free plumbing.

The Furkids

People can go on and on talking about their pets until they have kids, then they talk about their kids until the kids get booted out of the nest and the new pets come in and they go back to talking about nothing but what the dog said the other day.

I’ve seen this happen first hand.  Mom was “Mom” to Keeto Dan, her bishon until I came along.  Then it was all about me.   The tale was that Keeto didn’t like kids.  No, Keeto didn’t like me.  She only cared about my well being, I am sure, because Mom did.  Other than making sure I wasn’t kidnapped for Mom’s sake, she kept her distance, giving me dirty looks.  Sure, I was just a baby, but I remember her cold stares.  Those dark, beady eyes of contempt.  Makes sense.  I took her place on Mom’s lap.

We always had family pets when I was growing up, and my parents doted over all the favorites.  Cindy Chicken, Liz (my dog, the Vizsla), Betsy Wetsy Dog, Sarah Jane Watchcat (she could imitate Mom’s voice perfectly), Martha the Cat (she flew like a flying squirrel across rooms to latch onto you – that grabbed attention),  Rosita, and Pookie (Dad’s Choodle).   Pookie survived Parvo, rat poisoning as a puppy and broken ribs.  So, it was no surprise, that she was the last pet I grew up with to say adieu.   All of them were talked about much, but nothing to the degree of when I left the roost.

I was 23 when Pookie, gray and tired from cancer, left us.  My parents took some time to enjoy the empty house and the freedom to travel, but they couldn’t go long without adopting more furkids.   I found PJ (then named Chloe) while volunteering with the city’s Animal Welfare Program.  I hadn’t seen a dog look more like Benji.  She was so quiet and kind.  I adopted her for my parents, and my mom gave her to Dad for Valentine’s Day, then named her Plain Jane.  She took no time at all ripping the house apart, digesting as much as she could in as little time as possible.  Every phone call started with, “You’re not going to believe what  YOUR dog did today!!”  For being such a demure “plain” dog, she was making a statement about being left alone.  PJ this and PJ that.

I truly thought my parents had their hands full with Peej, as I call her.  I think she’s on collar #4,592 as we speak, but they decided no dog should be without a pack.  So here comes the baby, Osa.  Osa is an Aussie/Husky mix, and looks more like some furry alien hybrid than dog.  As a puppy, though, she looked like a cotton ball with legs, a baby polar bear, and because she growls in syllables, they named her “Bear”.  Osa.

The calls turned from what was destroyed in canine rampage to what the baby said in a matter of a few weeks.  I was right there, in the pre-kid furkid obsession with Sydney, Osa’s sister.  Sydney is an Aussie/Blue Healer mix but she and Osa share the same build and knack for conversation.  Osa says “I love you” and Sydney says “Shut up” so you can tell that Osa lives with a kinder (and now more subdued) older sister and Sydney lives with a big brother cat.

How much my parents and I discuss the pets compared to other topics (work, retirement, plans for the future, politics, investments, friends and family of the human sort) doesn’t surprise me.  Any pet owner will tell you that furkids demand 24-hour time and investment, responsibility and care.  Furkids also give you protection, love and they don’t talk back.  Oh wait, ours do.

Sydney's first day home
Sydney's first day home

 

Sydney (March 09)
Sydney (March 09)

 

The Fence

For about three days straight now, Sydney has stood at the door with no need of going outside other than to get out there.  She knows that by sitting by the door, staring at me, and cocking her head just ever so slightly to the left, she will get to go outside.  This is her signal.  Finally back on the yellow brick road to being potty trained, she is communicating with me.

Unfortunately, the pup has learned that this signal means outside period.  Not just for potty.  So what does Sydney do in our teeny tiny front yard?  She runs to the fence to look out.  Nothing really changes.  The neighbors are rarely playing in the streets, other dogs are snuggled in their warm homes, content to play and sleep inside.  As I see her run to the fence to look out, I realize that she is more like me than I thought.  I’m constantly running to my fence just to try to look outside.

I have been working in the same job and I have lived in the same home for over three years.  Nothing has changed for me.  Thoughts of traveling, going back to school, carving the life I would most enjoy have gone in and out of my head in the past and now they’re stuck.

I, with everyone else, battled wanderlust as a teenager, but I also had wonderlust after entering college.  This curiosity propelled me to study abroad for a semester, a move that was hard, sometimes lonely, freezingly cold and incredible.  After four months I wanted home again.   Content in my warm comfy state, I finished school and started work.  Now, at 24, the wanderlust is back.  I feel time slipping away.

My fence is constructed out of past commitments, ties to my family and friends, financial restraints, the actual fence (we need to sell the home),  and a fear of loneliness caused by venturing out on my own again.

I know I must find out what lies on the other side.  I have to open that fence for myself, grab Sydney, and we’ll walk through.