“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord,
and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
Augustine of Hippo
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
“A sense of the divine presence and indwelling bears the soul towards heaven
as upon the wings of eagles.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Obviously I am tired.
Not in a working-out sort of tired.
Not in the end of a really long day or week sort of tired.
Not in the sleep deprivation sort of tired.
I’m just weary.
And I am very tired.
And I am overwhelmed.
For such is the season of my life
And such is the life of a person who is caring for aging parents…
where one of the two is in the process of dying from cancer.
The daily commuting to and fro is hard.
The coordinating of the care, the medical issues, the groceries, the house…
that is all hard.
The lack of time for one’s own world and home is hard…
Who has one?
What are those?
Yet it is to the waiting and watching for the inevitable…
that is the hardest.
It is also the saddest.
For ever since mother died 30 years ago, it’s been pretty much, for good or bad,
just me and dad.
I took over the roll of parenting him when both mother and my grandmother died just
I had just turned 26 at the time.
And despite his remarrying when he was almost 70, it’s really just been me and him.
Watching the body slowly failing and falling apart…
The moans and groans of pain…
The halting morphine induced thoughts and speech…
The sounds, sights, smells…
Especially when I’ve already done the same thing 30 years prior.
Add to that the now spouse…the one who suffers with the ever increasing dementia…
the one who has nary a clue as to who any of us are…
it makes things either really really comical or really really sad…
…and my money is on the comical.
Oh but I don’t want to waste our time here today bemoaning my life.
You really don’t want to hear about it anyway.
No one really likes a complainer…
Yet maybe we ought to try telling that to all those nutters out there who are currently
spending their time shouting, marching, demonstrating and protesting…
I bet they’re tired…
tired of fussing…
just as much as the rest of us are tired of hearing
and seeing it all…
but I digress….
I can’t even find respite in my sleep…
for in my sleep are the dreams of a mind that is over burdened.
In last night’s dream there was this scene of my mother’s funeral where my husband
decided to wear a Hawaiian shirt rather than a suit, rendering me mortified.
The reality is that my mom’s funeral was over 30 years ago and my husband doesn’t own
nor would he ever wear a Hawaiian shirt.
Or how about the other night when my husband had to shake me awake in order to get me to stop
“screaming” in my sleep…
all because I was dreaming that I had walked into the house that use to be our house years ago
and there were strange people, squatters, trying to take over the house…
I was screaming at them to get out.
A disconcerting moment at 3 AM when one’s spouse is sound asleep.
The reality was that I had flipped through the television and caught a bit of that alligator
Swamp People show…there had been a devastating flood in southern Louisiana last
year and one of the regulars on the show had to leave his home because it had flooded.
The episode showed him coming back to the house after the flood waters had receded…
leaving behind a house full of huge bullfrogs and a giant snapping turtle.
Or how about the other night when I was dreaming that I was trying to take my son,
who in the dream was a toddler but in real life is almost 30,
in order to seek safety because the planet was under attack by evil aliens…
space aliens, not the illegal variety…
and we were racing in a car, desperately trying to find safety as we were having to hit,
running over, the evil invaders in order to get away….
The reality was that I had flipped through, once again, the channels catching a brief
snippet of the movie Fury on the History Channel—
it was right when the Sherman tank, commandeered by Brad Pitt’s character,
went rolling over the heads and bodies of Germans in their fox holes, naturally crushing them…
I think that’s when I flipped it as I wasn’t up to the horrors of war that evening…
only to have them come flooding back oddly in a dream…sigh….
So not even in sleep is there a safe haven these days.
no matter how bad things may be right now…
No matter how sad,
I know I do not go this alone…
Despite often feeling very much alone.
I can’t make dad better, I can’t even make him feel better right now.
As this is now all pretty much out of my hands…
Yet I know that neither Dad nor I are alone in this.
Despite the naysayers cries, those non-believers who scoff
at the purported “fairytale” which is to be found at the center of all of this…
There is a Hand moving much deeper in all of this…
For this particular moment in time is but fleeting…
despite the seemingly never ending and endless melancholy
merry go round we now ride…
For there are blessings, there is Grace…
and there is the Divine…
the very hand of God…
“Rejoice in the Lord,’ said St Paul (Phil. 3 : 1).
And he was right to say, ‘in the Lord’.
For if our joy is not in the Lord, not only do we not rejoice,
but in all probability we never shall. Job, as he described the life of men,
found it full of every kind of affliction (cf. Job 7 : 1-21),
and so also did St Basil the Great.
St Gregory of Nyssa said that birds and other animals rejoice because
of their lack of awareness, while man, being endowed with intelligence,
is never happy because of his grief.
For, he says, we have not been found worthy even to have knowledge of the blessings
we have lost. For this reason nature teaches us rather to grieve,
since life is full of pain and effort, like a state of exile dominated by sin.
But if a person is constantly mindful of God, he will rejoice: as the psalmist says,
‘I remembered God, and I rejoiced’ (Ps. 77 : 3. LXX).
For when the intellect is gladdened by the remembrance of God,
then it forgets the afflictions of this world, places its hope in Him,
and is no longer troubled or anxious.
Freedom from anxiety makes it rejoice and give thanks;
and the grateful offering of thanks augments the gift of grace it has received.
And as the blessings increase, so does the thankfulness,
and so does the pure prayer offered with tears of joy.”
St. Peter of Damascus
Even if I know I shall never change the masses, never transform anything permanent, all I ask is that the good things also have their place, their refuge.
God will bestow on you the good and eternal rewards which are laid up for those who keep His commandments.
St. Columba (Columcille)
There are those moments in life in which time seems to stand still…
In a good way…
The outside world is far removed as it is unconsciously, yet blissfully, forgotten…
Events and circumstances that, just a minute prior spun heavily around your head,
are now oddly light years away…
You feel yourself drifting lightly away to elsewhere…
Somewhere else that is much like that place between sleeping and waking…
that time and place where all is still, quiet, peaceful and good.
It is to a place where there are…
No pulling of this way and that
No places to be, no people to see, no fires to put out…
No looming deadlines, tests, procedures, appointments…
No screaming headlines of the bad, the sad, the scary…
For your bad, sad and scary are momentarily and mercifully put on hold.
It’s not that you pretend it’s not all there.
Not that you’ve turned a blind eye…
Not that you are foolishly disregarding the obvious and apparent…
It’s not that you have turned callous, empty or too consumed to notice…
Or…. maybe it is because you have been consumed, overwhelmed and nearly beaten down…
Because you have nearly reached your breaking point…
the point of the almost and alarmingly place of no return…
You have been spared for just the slightest and briefest of moments.
It’s as if your brain has been clicked off, and rather than churning out a litany of thoughts, frets, worries…you are still, quiet…and actually dare it be said, content.
It is a place and time of quiet reflection spent with or without company…
It is a place that is elsewhere, that is other…and for right now, all you know is that other…is good.
It is a taste, a small minuscule taste dancing across a tastebud, momentary yet distinctly detected…a taste of the very Divine…
A moment frozen in time when you have fallen into the arms of Love itself.
And yet you don’t even comprehend nor realize that’s what it actually is…
For it is so delicious, so intoxicating, so welcomed yet equally foreign and so very alien that you just can’t put your finger on what it is or from whence it came…
For all you know, with any sort of certainty, is that you’ve been granted what feels to be a momentary reprieve, a respite, a miracle of a mystical embrace….
all of which has you yearning for more….with the knowledge that you had been transported to a moment of the Holy and for that one tiny moment, everything is all good….
A shot of yours truly in one of those happy good places, munching on a handful of dried cranberries, sitting on a giant rock, in the middle of quiet mountain stream, thankful that for a brief moment in time, life is indeed… all good.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Ode to the backyard rabbit. . .
You have no idea just how much you truly mean to me. . .
Not that you know me or that I know you—
Yet we know of one another’s existence.
You are out there and I’m back here, usually up, looking outward at you, down there.
And I know you know, just as you know I know.
For you see, I need to know that you and your world remains, as always, the same.
I need to know that when I have fought through another day, another journey, another time of attending to duties I would prefer would disappear, I know you are out there, doing what it is that you do day in and day out.
When I turn on the television, only to see a world that I no longer recognize, I know you are the same, as in, you never changed.
When I see a country I no longer understand, I can thankfully understand you.
When I grow weary of the pettiness, the arrogance, the self-centeredness of man, I can look out at you, unencumbered, offering no pretense, no bravado. . . just being yourself. . .
and I can exhale–simply enjoying watching you, simply being you. . .
And as I ramble on about the small joys received in the simple act of sitting back and basking in the solitude of watching a wild rabbit, or two, going about its life–eating, running, jumping. . .appearing simply happy to be alive, I am struck by the very words I have used to offer up to a little rabbit—that in much the same vein, the words may be offered up as a simple prayer to God—
That He knows, before I know, just how much He means to me. . .
despite my inability to grasp or readily recognize that need.
That I can actually rest in the knowledge that He is who He is and has been since the beginning of time–That He is not merely the Creator of all that was, and all that is, and all that will be. . .
but that He is also a Father. . .my Father. . .
who indeed does understand.
That He mourns just as I do when I look out over this world of ours.
As thankfully, He remains steadfast, always the same—
never transformed or moulded by mortals who are constantly changing and transforming our own world to fit our own selfish desires, perverse pleasures, and arrogant agendas.
He offers me the gift of Creation—as I find in that Creation a small creature, that offers me a glimpse of everlasting peace. . .
And whereas the rabbit and I merely recognize one another’s existence, I can rest in the fact that The God of all of Creation, does indeed know, and knows most personally, me. . .and that single thought alone is what allows me the ability to exhale at the end of each long and hard fought day. . .
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
― John Lubbock, The Use Of Life
When I was in college, I worked at a girls summer camp in Black Mt, North Carolina.
There are many posts yet to be written, with some already published, regarding those summers long ago.
The camp counselors were afforded one full day off and one half day off each week.
I would find myself conflicted each time my off day rolled around.
Maybe it’s the built in work ethic I’ve been graced with or maybe my ego was too loud and proud, but whatever the reason, I would always have to force myself to take the time off.
Years later when I was a teacher, I often found myself in a similar situation. Whereas schools don’t afford their teachers time off other than scheduled holidays, I would work even if I was deathly sick–loathing to have to take a sick day. Good teachers you know, never take sick days.
They work through the pain.
And that in turn may actually equate to good teachers actually being stupid. . .but that’s another conversation for another day. . .
But like my principal always said (I had 9 in 31 years so I don’t remember which one)
“a sick teacher is better on any given day than a well substitute.”
I’ve learned over the years that a little time off, a little time for rest, a little time for reflection, a little R & R is often just what the doctor ordered. . .
When I started this little blog 2 and a half years ago, my work ethic carried over from the classroom. I transitioned into retirement from teaching with the help of the blog. I’ve posted something everyday since the inception of this little blog of mine.
In my early days of zealous posting, it was upwards to 3 posts a day.
Luckily for all of us I have mellowed.
I’ve posted sick, tired and even during major events such as my son’s wedding.
As I’m constantly thinking, observing and composing a new post throughout each and every day it’s usually God who has the last word. My original intentions usually take 180 degree turn once His hand is involved. . .
Yet as of late, my life with Dad and Gloria is taking its toll.
I’m finding myself very weary of body, mind and heart.
Each of their respective healths are declining.
Dad has been horrendously sick for the past week.
The doctor keeps throwing out the notion of colon cancer.
Which it very well may be—but I like to think not.
I’ll be taking him next week, despite the initial decision we wouldn’t go, to the gastroenterologist.
He’s sick, looking pale, losing weight and can’t eat a thing but a little bland rice, toast, and applesauce. . .
Gloria has developed Parkinson’s and the dementia is taking a toll—yet she’s fighting it and us with every breath of gusto she retains—she is like a little whirling dervish.
I love the community I have developed here.
You are my dear friends and my life-line
Some of us text, chat and e-mail–sharing our own personal ups and downs.
I don’t know what I’d do without knowing I had your prayers and support–especially on those hard days of driving and doing.
I think I may take a day or two off.
Not stop writing—for Heavens sake no—this is my catharsis. . .
But I’m thinking I may rest over the weekend.
It’s Brenton and Abby’s first year anniversary this weekend and we told them
we’d do something special for them.
So I think I will just kind of “rest” over the weekend
Rest my thoughts, mind and body.
Seek some small diversion to help clear my head and heart.
But as I say that, I probably won’t listen to my own advice and will press on like the good teacher I am 😉
At any rate, we’ll be chatting soon. . .
my love and hugs friends. . . .
“For he hears the lambs innocent call.
And he hears the ewes tender reply.
He is watchful while they are in peace.
For they know when their Shepherd is nigh.”
We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.
Chasing dreams or chasing demons
In the darkened night of silence we slumber
Are we cautious sleeping with one eye open
Or do we rest free of worry and dread
Who is charged with the midnight watch
Who stands ready to sound the warning
Danger bays at the gate
While Trouble lurks in the shadows
Wickedness waits ready to strike
Will the Watchman see the signs
When fatigue deadens the senses
Precarious security wraps up the weary
As the winds rustle through the tress
The enemy circles the camp
Remember the Master stands ready to return
Will the enemy route his arrival
Be mindful you who slumber
Be cautious of demons masquerading as dreams
Where is thy peace
How may we rest
Listen all you who have ears to hear. . .
Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.
“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”
You may have noticed from a previous post or two how much I love nature….trees in particular….so massive and majestic. I feel embraced by their sheer stature. Living in the South as I do, I’m not a fan of our ubiquitous pine trees–tall sticks with needles–and they seem to exude heat which only compounds the heavy air we breath 4 to 5 months of the year. It is however our gracious oaks that speak to my soul.
I suppose I should one day write a post about trees. How I really love the western birch and Aspen trees with their silvery smooth bark and their leaves flickering in the wind like little muffled chimes— there are the beautiful northern firs that signal that I am “home” in the mountains I dearly love. And yet there is just something about the southern oaks—be it white oak, black oak, red oak or water oak… Stately and yet lazily offering delightful shade and respite from sun or rain.
They, the trees, have always provided us humans so very much–everything from shelter to food. And sadly we have taken them for granted just as we have with most of our natural world…but today is not the day to bemoan our poor stewardship of our natural world but rather a day of thankful reflection–as this is Sunday—a day of rest, a day of worship, a day of thanks and a day of reflection.
As blessed St. Basil reminds us, today, as well as any day, is the day that we should plant in order to reap. And yet we must be mindful of what it is that we plant. We have a lovely colloquial expression here in the South—you get a whole lot more with honey than you do vinegar…..Meaning a kindness usually generates a returned kindness…like for like…and so on…..
So on this beautiful Fall day of reflection, contemplation, rest and joy–consider what it is that you plant–if you are not pleased with the harvest you may need to check your “seed”