Friday, September 25, 2009
I know, as well as a mere human can, what God's purpose is for me today. I know for certain, that in the days before I loved God above all else, my life had little meaning...it was empty. I did not know who I was. I did not understand the reason for my suffering. I did not know how to live by any other means than by the moment.
I share this poem, written from that time long ago, a time before the light of God rose up in me and gave me my form--that of a child of God. I pray that the form my spirit has taken today honors Him.
Reading back on this, I am struck by the darkness that seemed to permeate my thoughts and how the imagery so aptly captured the emptiness of a woman lost without the Lord God, Our Father.
Do not be empty. God has a wonderful plan to fill you up with infinite love, purpose and hope.
"I am the Great Abyss,
huge and wide--encompassing all--
yet owning nothing.
I labor. I struggle.
My breath puffs out in expediency
as I fight to control each atom,
every nucleus in my atmosphere.
(My attempt to draw them toward
what I have, thus far, perceived to
be my center.)
The unification of these elements
will allow my true form to materialize.
I stall, like a baby one tires to expel,
contemplating what my form will be
if my attempt is successful.
Encompassing all as I do,
I am aware of the multitudes of
decapitated forms that exist--
one's composed of arms and legs
engaged in a meaningless entanglement.
Is there no conversation?
I am now true to form.
A Great Abyss, headless as the rest--
yet owning nothing."
Introduction to WALKERS:
How we hate change! How we struggle against change, even if it would save our own life. Like many, there have been times when I have refused to make change...although it undoubtedly would have made me a healthier, happier woman.
What keeps us so stuck in our comfort zone? Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear we might actually succeed? Change...it is our spiritual evolution...it is our journey...our path to growth. We must change or perish!
Sometimes we get so stuck in the fear of change that we are paralyzed. This can happen with changes we know we need to make...such as quitting smoking. But, this also happens to the changes we want to make to reach our goals and dreams.
Combat your fear of change through prayer. Then take little, baby steps toward that change every day until you get there. Taking little steps each day toward your goal will eventually deliver you at the door of the greater goal you wanted to reach. Trust the journey. Take the little steps. Start now. It's your time...and time is limited.
I share a poem I wrote at one point when I was stuck. Frozen. Perhaps you will relate. Perhaps you will decide "to do" instead of "not to".
"This time has done nothing-
only served a master whom prolongs.
A delicate tightrope I walk,
to be so consistently undecided.
The wrong to my right,
the right to my left.
Or, has the right been wronged and left?
I can not decide.
My spotters have pulled the rope taut.
Tension rising in my arches
surely threatens the continuance of my balance.
What thoughts could they process?
Surely my existence is in jeopardy!
I survey what waits to my left and my right.
Each has a risk, identifiable.
Which is right?
I can not decide.
I will stay on my rope.
To spite them, I will stay.
Even should their constant pulling
cause the rope to dissipate,
I will stay and vanish with it.
They push me...
I have chosen...
(C) 2009. Aston. COMMENTS APPRECIATED AND WELCOMED.
Friday, September 11, 2009
I awoke that morning in September with just the corner of comfort in my hand. I had slept the entire night, which shocked me. I couldn’t remember the last time I had slept without a big waking hole piercing my slumber.
I did know that the gates to sleeplessness had been unlocked that previous summer—June 13th to be exact—and ironically approaching high noon. That was the day the hatchet dropped, forever severing the thorny family ties that had wound themselves around my soul, obliterating any light or inkling of my existence for decades. Like a mouse cornered by cats, I was left breathless and panicked after every interaction with what remained of my immediate family. And while I always escaped, I fled with crushing anxiety in my chest and a million tiny fish thrashing in my stomach.
I knew God was there. I knew he loved me. But I couldn’t quiet my thoughts long enough to hear any “word” he might have for me. None the less, I prayed constantly, desperate for truth, clarity, peace…and sleep. Over and over, I’d try to restrain my runaway emotions and silence the swirling conversations in my head, repeating as my mantra, “Be still and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10)
Still, I’d awake nightly in a sweat, heart pounding and mid-sentence…reliving the same verbal exchanges. I was consumed. I was exhausted. My brain was like a blender stuck on puree as I recalled, rewound and reviewed every conversation, feeling the pain each time anew. Their words trapped me in vortex of circular discourse that I had to fight my way out of with sheer will and occasionally a stiff drink. And, after too many countless nights, I acknowledged that their words were winning—well, actually her words were winning.
The sad fact was, that the sister I wanted and deserved did not exist…could not exist. There was only another broken child who was lashing out in her own pain. She was another damaged soul, but one who somehow still needed the protection of her father and the comfort of his steady funds…even though she was nearly fifty.
But now, three months had passed. I was headed back to the island for the first time since “the end.” The difference being I would, for the first time in my life, not be staying with them.
Children bounced up and down in backseats. Dogs poked their heads out of open windows, their tongues out--drooling. All the while, hoards of people buzzed about. Some hurried from their cars to the main offices of the Steamship Authority only to returned with steaming cups of coffee and waxed paper bags stuffed with donuts. The wharf was alive with people, undulating like a hive of multi-colored pinheads.
Why? Why did I care? I sat with that for a moment and then looked up. “Because they are my family. These are the people who are supposed to love me…and they don’t. I’ve tried to make them love me. Maybe it’s habit. I’ve always just wanted their approval.”
At that moment, hearing my own words, I finally got the “why” of it. So simple really, but for some reason it took all these years to see. Even today, I don’t know where that clarity came from…perhaps it was God bestowing a kernel of divine wisdom. Finally, I was at the heart of it.
The evening ended. I went upstairs, checked in on the baby and tucked her back in before doing the same. I laid there in the dark with that undeniable “truth” seeping into my heart. Why did I care?
There was only one reason. They were my family and I was supposed to care. It was not because I admired them…or really even liked them. They were not people who I’d publically want to be associated with…or people I would have chosen as friends. They did not fill me with love. They did not lift me up. And, I certainly was not better off having known them—and neither were my daughters. They were my blood family and that blood was poison.
That night when I prayed, I asked God to keep me bathed in his love and light. I asked God to help me live a life that would make him proud. And I fell asleep knowing that if I my actions reflected my values on a daily basis, and more importantly reflected the values God set forth for me, no man’s judgment mattered.
I resolved that the only opinion that mattered was God’s. And then I slept—uninterrupted—until the autumn sun peeked around the edges of my bedroom shades.
By ten that morning, I was in the ferry parking lot waiting for the boat to round the shoreline and sound its horn to announce its arrival in the harbor. As it did, travelers who’d been milling about quickly gathered their belongings and scurried back to their cars.
I pulled my seat back into upright position, took a sip of my water and put the keys into the ignition. Others did the same. We were ready. I took a deep breath and sighed happily. It was good to be going.
As I waited, I noticed two young girls making their way up along my row. They were noticeably sisters, one a few inches taller than the other, both with long blonde hair whipped by the wind. They were not aware of their appearance, not unkempt, but not meticulously coiffed like the older teenagers. Perhaps they were twelve and thirteen, just below the age that most fall victim to the agony wrought from obsessing over their personal appearance.
Each of the girls wore a pair of plain, untailored shorts, flip-flops and a baggy t-shirt. Their gait, their height, their coloring…it struck me how similar they appeared to my sister and me so many years ago. How many summers had the two of us hurried up between the rows of cars, heading back to our own and readying to board that ferry?
As they drew nearer, I became mesmerized by the younger one, most likely because she reminded me so much of my younger self. The closer she came, the more I became absorbed in every detail of her until my gaze settled on the design displayed on the front of her dark green t-shirt.
I squinted, struggling to make out the image. Ah, they were words. As they approached the car in front of me, the three silk-screened words popped into focus.
“Sticks & Stones”
As we are all painfully aware, we cannot choose our biological family. However, we can choose the family we want to belong in our lifetime and into eternity. And when we make that choice, when we actively decide and purposefully build a family of our choosing, our life becomes so full, so meaningful, so grounded that the strongest army cannot penetrate its protective walls.
Today, I have more “sisters” than any one woman could ever dream of having. They have given me more love, acceptance, care and guidance than any blood sister ever did.
Back when I lived in the land of sleeplessness, I could not hear my Father voice. So he sent me a message I could see.
Today, I carry no anger...no resentment. I have peace, and when I do need an extra dose of encouragement, I seek another "word"...
Isaiah 43:18-19 (TNIV)
Monday, August 17, 2009
Snow had spilled over the tops of my second-hand boots. I could feel it melting and repacking itself into ice balls around my ankles while tiny ice crystals began to form between the weaving of my cotton socks. I shook, not from the cold but from the sobbing...the grief...the trauma.
In utter fear and frustration I stomped my foot into the snow and threw my arms open wide...screaming his name again with a child's anguish. Frantically, I looked in all directions, turning in circles, my neck twisting left to right to see if there was a glimpse of him...hoping that he had heard me. I prayed that I would see him dart across the field toward me...gleefully embroidering a new pattern into the flaky coverlet of snow. There was nothing but complete silence. I sobbed. It was over. There was nothing left to do. I was spent, emptied...and terrified of the grief I could feel seeping into the holes in my heart as the spirit of hopelessness reached out to embrace me.
A cold, soft wind rose and and blew my long, damp hair back from my neck. I shivered, tucking my chin deeper into the puffy collar of the parka. My hat was gone...one more thing vanished into the night...lost somewhere between my house and the neighbors...hastily snatched by the gnarled, frozen fingers of some random branch. My ears where numb. I could feel the headache at the top of my head trickling down over my temples and rooting in my neck.
Warm, golden lights glowed in the windows of the neighboring houses oblivious to the drama playing out in the field before them. The moon was unmoved, bored with this play to which it had become the only witness. To add insult to injury, it cast shadows of gray across the seamless skin of the snow...mine an undefined, hideous blob in the middle of it all--the only blotch on the otherwise picture-perfect snow scene from a Currier & Ives postcard.
Not one element of the night seemed disturbed by my wailing...my frantic, fear-driven search behind every house, down every street...from the edge of the woods to the fast cars and lights of Rt. 161.
I dropped to my knees, head bent, chin on chest--arms hanging limply at my sides. My red, chapped cheeks burned as salty tears flowed in little rivers down the landscape of my face.
And then I prayed...
Please help me find my dog. Please. I'll do anything you want. I can't live without him. He's all I have. Please don't let him get hit by a car...I'll never sin again. Just give me this one thing and I'll never ask for anything again. Please.
I'll be good.
I lifted my face to God. I searched the heaven's, seeking his face in the ebony sky above me that undulated with a million little lights. I wiped my plastic, puffy sleeve across my eyes, my nose...and stood up. "Please." I added.
I took my first steps back toward home, muttering "Please" as I went, shaking my head in affirmation to God that I would keep my promise and be the perfect, sinless girl who would never ask for anything again.
Looking back lovingly on my much younger self, I chuckle and shake my head. At 10, I had no idea what temptations were to come as I became a teenager...or how many times I would have to ask for forgiveness for wrong decisions made as a woman...a wife, mother, friend, daughter. And, I would never have begun to imagine how many times would I need to use that desperate prayer that first I said in an open, snow-frosted field.
That night long ago, God answered the prayer of a heart-broken 10-year old girl. But this is not about God answering in the way we feel we need. This is about the promises we make. And it should come as no surprise that I did not keep the promise I made to God that day...nor do I believe God expected me too. But I believe God does expect us to try.
God understands our human emotions, our pain, our grief and fear. I know in my heart that He was watching me that night...although no one else could conjure a sideways glance. He is always with us...always knowing...always caring about each of our pains...large and small. God feels our pain as we do...not a way that is acknowledged by the collective world, but in the way it touches us and dwells in our souls, hearts and minds.
This "Slice of Grace" is not about whether God answered my prayer but about the promises we make to God. As children we think as children and as human adults we are all driven to desparate prayers...I've had my share and then some. But, in the everyday prayers we need to be mindful and faithful and true. For it is in these little promises we make to God every day that we can hold ourselves up to our highest standards...those set by God before us.
I know God will not punish us for ignoring our promises, the guilt and self-disgrace we feel is punishment enough.
This is my prayer everyday:
"Dear Lord, God, Father,
Thank you for loving me. Thank you for being my constant companion, for watching over me and caring for me and all those I love. I pray that you will help make me a better person, that I will be more loving and caring today then I was yesterday. That I will thank you for each big and little thing that comes my way. Lord, remind me often that I am your child. Remind me each moment of the life you want me to live...and then give me the strength to live it.
Lord, bless all those who are suffering...calm the children who are fearful...comfort those in grief. And Father, Thank You...Thank You for each and everything I have and for each moment I have to touch another life in a way that would reflect your love.
And Lord...help me to keep my promise to love you above all others and all things and to walk in the way of your Son, Jesus Christ. Just help me...to be better.