In Three Months’ Time

It is amazing to me what can happen in three months’ time.

Which is how long it’s been since we lost our beloved dog, Baxter.

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And still how my heart grieves!

Slowly, over the three months since his unexpected departure, all the things around the house that were his (and there was literally something in every room…EVERY room!), have been packed up, put away, tucked out of sight for now.  To look around here, you would not know this house has known a dog’s love, a dog’s wet, muddy paws, a dog’s endless loss of fur.

Which makes me sad.

When will we be ready for another dog?

That’s the question on my mind today.  Especially because I was just on a field trip with my son’s middle school class (hence this late afternoon blog post) and spent the better part of the day with a teacher who had been incredibly supportive when Baxter died.  At that time,  I sent an email to all his teachers letting them know what my son would never be able to put into words–that he was grieving the loss of his first dog.  While all the teachers were supportive and kind in their replies, this teacher was especially touched–moved to tears even–by the story of Baxter.  And so today she was eager and excited to hear what we’d done “since then.”

And it was a bit awkward because I wanted to say, “It’s hardly been that long!”

But to some people, when it comes to losing a dog,  three months is three too many.

But it doesn’t help answer the question…what is the “proper” amount of time for me?

People seem to really want to know.

(Nobody wants to know more than I).

All I could tell her was, “The time will be right when my heart is ready to let the new dog be who it’s meant to be, instead of wishing it to be another Baxter.”

For some people, that is almost right away.

For me, it is…not yet.

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At the same time, I believe that the healing won’t be complete until a new dog is ours.

Somewhere in the depths of my heart, I know this.

In a way, that belief was confirmed for me this past weekend when we had the unexpected joy of having my husband’s uncle and aunt drop in on us with none other than their own beloved pup!  Such a treat!  Never have the kids been so excited to have a dog back in the house!  We got out the water bowl and all the toys (and I noted how quickly we found them all.  They are still at arm’s length, it seems.)

Of course, as soon as they left, it was hard not to run right out and pick the first dog that caught our eye.

But, no.

Still my heart is not ready. (It certainly doesn’t seem to mind taking a look on the internet for available dogs, though!)

From a practical standpoint it makes sense that we wait to introduce a new dog until we know our travels will be few and far between.  But, with summer rapidly approaching,  and a few trips planned, that is one reason why right now is not such a good time for a new pup.   Still…

When?  my heart screams.  Because I want desperately to pet a furry head, to step over a furry lump on the kitchen floor, to walk again with leash in hand.

So…when?

I knew  I’d heard some words of comfort in a poem that my good friend and spiritual advisor shared with me right after Baxter passed away.  So, when I got home from the field trip today, I searched for the words and was able to find them without difficulty.   (Thank you, internet!)

“[There are] days when you have your heart back,

You are able to function well

Until in the middle of work or encounter,

Suddenly with no warning,

You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.

All you can depend on now is that

Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.

More than you, it knows its way

And will find the right time

To pull and pull the rope of grief

Until that coiled hill of tears

Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance

With the invisible form of your departed;

And when the work of grief is done,

The wound of loss will heal And you will have learned

To wean your eyes

From that gap in the air

And be able to enter the hearth

In your soul where your loved one

Has awaited your return all the time.”

-An excerpt from For Grief by John O’Donohue

I don’t know how else to say it.

The answer to “the right time” is somewhere in these words.

All I know for sure, is this…

For me?

Three months’ time  is not enough.

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What Surrender Looks Like: Lessons From a Vole

As I sat in my basement office one day struggling to string words together for the church presentation I needed to make in only a few days’ time, I became distracted by a vole.

Do you know voles?  I tend to think of them as the ugly cousin of the field mouse.  Or, more positively, the better looking cousin of the mole.  I found a picture of one to post here for you, but to be honest, the ones we’d see in our back yard weren’t as cute as this one.

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Anyway,  the vole had fallen down into the window well of our basement office window.

The window next to the desk holding the computer where I sat trying to create my presentation, thank you very much.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw it fall into the window well.  I got up to glance at it and see if it was OK (to be honest, this was not an unusual occurrence).  I saw that the vole was fine, and I made a mental note to go outside and rescue it once my presentation was more complete.   But, to my surprise, the vole began clawing his way up the window screen trying to get to safety.

Yeah.

It was creepy and distracting all at the same time.

 Well, I thought as I tried to ignore him, because, after all –PRESENTATION!– maybe I won’t even have to save him.  But no.  He got to the top of the screen and could not scale the expanse between himself and the grass where he needed to be.

So, fall again, he did.

(Total sidebar here, but I can’t help but think of Yoda with the way I just strung those words together…can you?)

Anyhoo, my point is, this climbing and falling went on not two or three more times, but probably half a dozen or more.  And the whole time I sat there, further distracted, each time hoping he would save himself, so that I could continue with my creative process.  Finally, defeated,  the vole stopped trying.

And I thought, Great!  Now I will finally be able to GET SOMETHING DONE in the peace and quiet.

But, I couldn’t. stop. thinking. about. that. stinkin’. vole.

So, in a huff and with a sense of complete disgust, I went upstairs, grabbed a bug net, and went out to the window well and rescued the vole.  I  released it out into a part of the yard where I thought he would be much more happy–near the wood pile.  (And since he didn’t reappear in the window well, minutes later, I can only assume he was happier there.)

By the time I got all done with that whole exercise, what little sliver of a creative process that I’d had up to that point,  was now completely lost.

I sat there staring at the blinking cursor on my computer screen and had nothing to say.

As the cursor blinked away at me,  my thoughts became jumbled with the laundry list of things I needed to get done in addition to my presentation.  And I began sweating at the thought of it all.  Come on!  Come on! THINK!  I’d shout internally.  Give me the words, God!  I’d scream inside.

But my thoughts would always go back to the vole.

WHY CAN’T I STOP THINKING ABOUT THAT VOLE?!?!!? 

And then, though I’d barely realized that I’d asked a question, an answer formed in my heart with  these words, It wasn’t until he stopped trying to save himself, that you rescued him.

Hmmm.

Maybe the reason I couldn’t stop thinking about that vole, was because that experience was a lesson meant for me about trying to force the creative process, especially when I’m trying to force it for God.

Lesson learned.

I realized then and there that I can think (part of the creative process) about what I want to say while I’m doing just about anything else.  And I can write down notes (also part of the creative process) as the thoughts come to me.  And I can sit down and write more when the time is less forced (creative process again!).

And you know what?

It all worked out.

My presentation got done with time to spare.  The house and kids didn’t suffer (too much, anyway) as a result of my neglecting ALL OTHER THINGS for the sake of the presentation.

I can’t tell you how often, still, I think of that vole.  But, I definitely think of it anytime I feel that creative process being forced in me (which is often).  And it’s that vole that make me think of ways I might be able to surrender myself a little more to the circumstances of my life and trust that all will still be well in the end.

Yep.  That vole sure knew a thing or two.

Because, three years later, it hasn’t failed me yet.

On Being Supermom

And then what? is a question I like to keep in mind, especially when it comes to striving for perfection.

I’ve found that asking myself that question usually helps me get to the root of what I’m trying to accomplish.

For instance, sometimes I imagine that day after day I will wake up, the house will be in order, the kids will be well-behaved, obedient, and sparkling clean from head to toe.  Our whole family will be loving and patient with our words to each other and we will exhibit nothing but absolute kindness and love.

 Ha!  You may think.  Impossible!  (And please.  Like I don’t know this?)  But, still, I like to imagine it.  Day after day me being a picture-perfect Supermom.  An Uberwife. My life as the picture of perfection.  Everything I do, I do perfectly, and with a happy heart, and without complaint.  (And then I would “pin” my life all over Pinterest for others to see!)  There they would see what I already know…that I am the quintessential wife of Proverbs 31, whose

” children rise up and bless her;  Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:  “Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.”  (Proverbs 31: 28,29)

Uh-huh.  Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?  Isn’t that what I really think a Supermom is?  One whose children and husband (and though the verse doesn’t say it, other moms) “praise” her?  Wouldn’t it be nice to be THAT mom?  Even if only for a day?

But when I let my imagination go there, that’s when I find it most critical to ask myself:

And then what?

 Because that’s when I realize what my answer is, (though I’m a bit ashamed to admit it):

And then I wouldn’t need God.

 You know, it’s a real downer when you  realize that the very Being you claim to adore is also the one you’re trying to erase from your life.

But it all falls back into its proper place again when I realize that attaining the “perfect” life for myself would accomplish just that–the elimination of God.

Then, I simply ask myself again:

And then what? 

And then I see the monumental tasks before me.  And the pressure of it all.  And the weakness of my abilities to carry out any of it.

And I fall to my knees.

And I thank God for His being Him,

and for His making me me.

The Tree of Me

In St. Catherine of Sienna’s Dialogues, I’ve read that she pictures the spiritual life as a large tree.

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She says that the trunk of the tree is love.  The core of the tree (the middle part that gives the tree its life) is patience.  The roots of the tree are self-knowledge.  The branches are discernment.

And I’ve wondered, if I were to paint it, what does the “tree” of my spiritual life look like?  A tall and shadow-casting oak?  A shimmering, quaking Aspen?  A shade-filled, drooping willow?

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I imagine the branches of my discernment twisting and turning –sometimes with purpose, sometimes by accident, sometimes only through careful pruning– towards the Light.  I think about the bark of my tree…some of  it the torn and ragged bark of the river birch, in other areas  smooth and glossy like the white bark of the paper birch, and still other parts filled with the deep grooves of heartbreak that we can only know from daring to love in the first place.

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I think, too, about the roots.  No doubt, in quieter, darker times, my roots have grown deep and long, but after the pain of a transplant, inevitably it is with rapid adaptation that my roots skim the  shallow surface and grow wide, too broken and raw from being “uprooted” to dare to “go deep” again for a while.

And with that thought I’m reminded of another element.  One that is not in St. Catherine’s mediation, but that is an active part of my own.   It was a thought my in-laws shared with me once after a very inspiring sermon at their church.  The sermon was about the building of the artificial biosphere and how, in it, researchers were able to emulate and recreate nearly every single situation from the natural earth…with one exception.

There was a problem with the trees.

They kept falling over.

Do you know why?

As the sermon went, it was because they couldn’t properly generate enough wind  to strengthen the trees.

Close your eyes and think about that for a while.

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And as the trees all around us begin to bloom and grow,  keep in mind that much like our own spiritual journeys, the trees would never be as tall, never as strong, and (arguably) never as beautiful …if it weren’t for the wind.

My Perfect Life at 40

I’d hate to jinx things, but it looks like I’m finally growing up a bit.

I know.

And to think it only took me 40 years.

(I’m sure my mom must be very proud.)

But, as I look back at the three months since I’ve turned 40, and the changes I’ve made in my life, it seems like a logical conclusion.  I mean, I’m getting my diet and exercise under control.  I’m more organized.  I’m staying on top of the housework.  I’m making good choices with the time I have each day.   And even though things like having a daughter with a raging stomach virus slow me down for a bit, I find I’m calmer than usual in the midst of the storm.  I understand there are many things beyond my control, and I’ve learned better how to just roll with it.

In fact, prior to last week’s bout of stomach flu, I would have thought last week was going to be one of the busiest weeks of my Spring.  I’d committed to helping with several things at my children’s school (on top of the “normal” things I volunteer for), and I’d made promises to myself to stay on top of eating right and exercising,  in the midst of all of it.  When all was said and done, even the exercise had to fall by the wayside.  But I kept my eating relatively under control so that this morning, when I did my weekly weigh in, I was still pleasantly surprised.

It seems my One Word idea for this year (SIMPLIFY) combined with my Lenten promise to “give up” my excuses, seems to have moved me forward a bit.  Forward in terms of getting things done.  Forward in terms of letting go of the desire to want everything to be “perfect” and then “stay put”.  Forward in terms of trusting that when things go wrong, a solution will be made known to me for where to go from there.

In SIMPLE terms:  discipline, detachment, and trust have allowed me to move forward.  It’s easy to see now that somewhere in the endless loads of laundry, the nonstop homework paper trail and the miles of errands and activities, I’d lost hope that I would ever feel at peace with the rhythm of life.

The best image I can think of to describe what I’ve come to understand isn’t Biblical.  In fact, it’s not even “grown up.”  But it is SIMPLE.  It’s a scene from the movie Finding Nemo.   The scene where Marlin, the clown fish (who’s anything but funny), wakes up after an intense, worrisome, anxiety-ridden journey to find the EAC (East Australian Current) which he knows will lead him to his lost son.  After many mishaps and near misses, he falls unconscious to a jelly fish sting.  So used to searching for the EAC, he wakes up and quickly realizes that in his unconsciousness he’s lost valuable time to get there.  So he begins to panic and quickly asks the very laid-back surfer dude sea turtle, Crush, to point him to the EAC.

And what Crush says next, is how I’ve felt about the “perfect” life I’ve been searching for this whole time.  Most of my life I’ve searched and worried and worn myself out trying to control and think my way into a better way of living.  But, it wasn’t until I got moving (discipline) and let go of my need to control every little thing (detachment)  and believed that Someone bigger than me had the answers (trust), that I was finally able to see what Marlin saw once Crush helped him “open his eyes:”

“You’re looking for the EAC?”  asks Crush, as he laughs his surfer laugh, “You’re riding it, dude!”

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And though my realization was more of a slow unveiling, than a clear-cut statement, Crush’s words ring true all the same.

Because what is the perfect life after all?  Is it not a life full of hills and valleys?  An epic journey fraught with harrowing moments of indecision and bad choices?  But is it not also sprinkled with moments of ridiculous ecstasy like the birth of a child, or at least the birth of a great idea?

That sure sounds like a “perfect” life to me.  In fact, I find it every bit as obvious from this perspective as I did Crush’s answer to Marlin in the movie.  Suddenly, it seems so silly of me to ask, because God’s answer is so obvious:

“You’re looking for a perfect life?  You’re living it.”

Yep.

And to think it only took me 40 years to figure it out.

Down and Out

I just wanted to let you know, I’ll be taking a break from blogging this week.  My daughter is down and out with Rotavirus.  So I’m busy with my fair share of dumping buckets and doing laundry and such.

She’s better today, but still needs to rest.

And she likes me to be right there with her when she does.

And I may not be too smart in a 1000 different ways, but I’m smart enough to know that sitting with her is my most important job right now.

So, thank you all for waiting until I can get back you next week.  In the mean time, you can always check out my friend Anne’s blog here.

And until then, stay healthy!

Overcommitted

With sincere apologies, I am sorry to be so late in typing today’s post.

This has been one of those weeks where no matter how much I get done, there’s still more to do.  You know what I’m talking about?

I have overcommitted myself with volunteer work.  And blogging promises to myself.  And exercise promises.  And lunches with friends.  And planning new events.  And chores.  And running here and there.  And motherhood.  And wifedom.  And such.

It’s been exhausting.

But I don’t want to complain because it’s also been wonderful, all at the same time.  For instance, I am working on some posts for next week already, and have successfully left Monday’s calendar slots BLANK to make sure you all don’t get ignored.

Or lost in the hustle and bustle of it all.

Or forgotten.

After all,  I know I said on Wednesday that I’d show you around here on the new blog design, but now the thrill of it is gone for me.  This is home.  I think you can find your own way just fine.  Feel free to sit back, click on things that interest you, and if you’re looking for a challenge, try to hunt out my typos and mistakes…it probably won’t take long for you to strike gold.

Speaking of gold, let me share with you a treasure I found this week.

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It is one of those books that has changed my life.  You know what I mean?  It has in it the kind of words that veered me slightly from the course I was on, back to the course of my destiny.  It asks many great and wonderful questions.  It bravely shares many challenging and deeply thought-provoking sentiments.  It took me to the wilderness  (from which I’d just returned), and it framed it for me in a new light.

I think my favorite thought of all from it was this:  “At the core of me is God.”

Think on that for the weekend.

Or for the rest of your life.

Whichever.

You let me know what you decide.

Until Monday…

Lisa

My (not so obvious) Easter Miracle

The candy is mostly gone and the world assumes Easter is over. Not exactly. The momentum that may appear to have been stuffed in a tomb is, instead, loose in the world. The Season of Easter provides 50 days in which to get used to the concept that the stone has been pushed away. The momentum is sufficiently ample to hold all our sorrows and enable us to risk the abundance of joy. -Helen Barron

I loved this little thought Helen Barron shared in her Easter newsletter from Candlepress. I think of all the momentum I had going into Lent and the changes I wanted to make. What a long haul those 40 days seemed once I got into the middle of them and how many times didn’t I want to just “go back” to the way things were?

But now, Easter is here, and I can see (when I take the time to reflect) that I have been changed. Not in the ways I’d hoped or planned, perhaps, but I’ve changed all the same. In “giving up” my excuses, I have noticed changes in the following areas:

  • Diet and exercise: I have not had a Diet Coke  in almost two months, and I now exercise a minimum of 4 days a week (but usually 6). This has not amounted in the 20 lb. weight loss I’d dreamed of that all the infomercials promise, but I have lost 5 lbs. and I continue to eat better each day.
  • Writing: I think the calendar on the  right is proof enough that I have been able to blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for almost a month!
  • Household chores: I’ve always had a set schedule for chores since the time I was very young. What’s happened over the course of the past 13 years that I’ve stayed home, however, is that I’ve found my motivation for staying on a schedule to fall into the category of the most mundane. I mean a girl can only clean out toilets every Tuesday and Friday for so long before she really starts to doubt that maybe there’s something more.   But over the course of this past Lent, I’ve told myself it doesn’t matter if they’re dirty or not, I’ll do it anyway to save myself having to do it  when they’re really dirty.  And while I haven’t been perfect about it, I’ve certainly been more routine in the last 40 days than I have for quite some time. Which brings me to my final realization…
  • Being less than perfect: This is an odd one for me to realize, because I would have never said I was perfect before. Or probably even a “perfectionist.” But as I peeled back through the layers of why I’d failed at keeping routines down before (like diet and exercise, writing, and chores) I came to realize that I would stray from the plan at the slightest sign of it not being perfect. In other words, I’d think that if I didn’t exercise right away in the morning, I might as well not exercise at all that day. And if I missed one day, then I might as well miss two because “the week’s been shot,” etc. The same goes for writing. If I couldn’t put out something that felt “complete” I  didn’t want to post it. And, of course, the chores… why wash dishes right away this morning, when they’ll be dirty ones again by lunchtime?  But that’s what I’ve learned: life isn’t perfect.

But, of course, life isn’t meant to be perfect.

It’s meant to be lived.

Sure, we should make plans and try to keep some balance in our lives by striving for our best work.

But we’re almost always going to fail.

In fact, I’ve come to believe we’re meant to.

Because, as C.S. Lewis once said, “All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, ‘You must do this. I can’t.’ ”

And seeing it in this light, from the most ordinary of “duties” has, for me, brought God from “out there” to “in here.” I’ve long understood, of course, that God would care about whether or not I broke a commandment, but would he care if I broke a promise to myself?

One month later, five pounds lighter, a calendar full of regular blog posts, and the house a bit cleaner, I have to admit I’ve changed.

Or rather, Some Thing has changed me.

In ways I never thought possible.

My “perfect” stone has been “pushed away,” and opened a space for an abundance of joy in the most ordinary of ways.

It may not sound like much…but it’s my Easter miracle.

 

P.S.  Check in with me Friday, and I’ll show you around the new place here at The Mystic Mom!  Also, I apologize if you received this post in an incomplete mess yesterday.  I was “housecleaning” here on the blog and accidentally published this before it was properly “cooked.”  Oops.  Good thing I’ve gotten OK with being less than perfect! 🙂

Easter: New Life, and a New Look

I am in the process of changing my blog template and background for the coming year.  I had hoped to have it properly unveiled today, the Monday after Easter, but I was busy enjoying sacred time with family.  I hope to have it ready, with a new blog post, on Wednesday.

I hope you had a blessed Easter Sunday, and that as we move forward in the Easter season you will continue to know New Life within and witness New Life all around you!

Peace and kindness,

Lisa