Suffering


dsc_05151.jpgI’m a terrible sufferer. I hesitate to use the word, as my experiences with suffering are few, and not long lasting. Still, being ill with a particularly virulent flu virus at the moment opens me to feelings I’d rather not have; lazy, unproductive, frustrated, angry, bored, sorry for myself…to name a few. I’m OK admitting these things. They are truly true. But my suffering is minor, the flu, nothing more.

I can’t imagine how those with chronic pain find the capacity to carry on, day after day, with no relief. There are those who seem to bear the lion’s share of pain and suffering, not just one thing, but many things one after the other. I don’t understand. I feel powerless to help them. And I am ashamed to say seeing their suffering makes me afraid. I think about the end of my life. If I am so impacted by the minor pain that I’ve experienced so far, what will I do should more come to me?

Medical assistance in dying appears to offer a way out of the suffering. I watched a documentary once, a beautiful story about someone taking leave of their illness. After attending to their affairs, and doing what they could to carry on as long as they could, they lovingly attended to their goodbye’s. In a poignant ceremony of gratitude, surrounded by their beloveds, they left this earth for the hereafter. It appeared very peaceful, meaningful, and dignified.

Suggesting this option is heresy for some, hope for others. For some there is a deeply held value in soldiering on through illness, to suffer silently and with great inner strength. I recall as a young child my parents spoke about folk who were dying. They talked about their testimony. They found in the way these gentle people handled their illness, hospitalization, and treatments, a reflection of God’s love and grace. I’m not so sure.

I have been witness to the sorrow of a dying friend of great faith who implored us to help him, who when he lost the capacity to do everything, and being deeply afraid of ever being left alone, asked us to take turns sitting by his bedside through the days and nights until the end. I can’t imagine God’s love shining more brightly in my dying friend than it did when he was healthy, and whole. I can’t imagine how his slow and lingering decline testified more greatly to his life of faith. Perhaps it did to some. Not to me.

It is said, “Most certainly I tell you, when you were young, you dressed yourself, and walked where you wanted to. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you, and carry you where you don’t want to go.” I’m not a scholar, but I have to wonder about the carry you where you don’t want to go part. Yes, it could be literal, but might it also be metaphorical?

There may come a day when I sit in a doctor’s office and hear something I would prefer not to hear. I wonder about suffering again in that context, and if when I am old (or any day now really) and I am dressed in the burden of suffering and it carries me where I do not want to go, will I also be given the grace to accept it as part of my journey that will have its own gifts of mercy and moments of transcendence. I believe I believe that.

Today my throat is too sore to swallow, so I try not to. My fever has broken. The sun just came out for a few minutes, and the feeders are busy with an abundance of birds. The dog naps on the couch, and in the time it took to write this I become unaware of anything other than my fingers on the keys, my thoughts on the page. The flu becomes less. These words become more. That is a grace.

Thanks for joining me in considering these things. I recently read an article by Anne Lamott. She says: the first and truest thing is that all truth is a paradox. Life is both a precious, unfathomably beautiful gift, and it’s impossible here, on the incarnational side of things. And here it is again. Paradox. Is suffering a vehicle, a way, or a curse, a great burden? Both. And.

I can’t help thinking of the cloud of witnesses who have gone before me, some of them through deep suffering over their lifetime; my ancestors, friends, all regular folk. Many of them, of great faith. Thinking on them I am reminded of how it is possible to make a life, like a pie, out of the ingredients you have on hand…and then share it bite by bite by bite…right to the bottom of the dish. The taste is not always sweet, but mostly. And the fragrance of the pie while it’s baking, well there’s nothing quite like it. I’ll have to think more on what that means.

 

 

 

 

 

A snapshot of my life


dsc_0907To be honest, sometimes nature speaks, and I hear things. I’ve been aware of this since around 2006, but I think it may have been happening to me when I was a little kid. Only I didn’t understand what or who was speaking. 

In 2006 I began to walk with my dog with the intention of paying prayerful attention to what God might have for me, what he wanted me to see. I asked. And I believe God began speaking to me through the eyes of my heart. I became aware of the divine presence of God in all of my surroundings. I learned the whole earth is the fulness of his glory. I went seeking. I found God’s supernatural presence and life feeding thoughts in things like a roadside rose bush, and two seagulls chasing one another, heart shaped poplar leaves, and even in a tarp covering an old boat. And then I went home and wrote those thoughts down. This was the beginning of my writing life (two ancient blogs, here and here), and how I eventually came to poetry. 

This morning I was overcome by the weight of loneliness. Sipping my morning coffee, I looked out over the wood and wondered about how who I am aligns with these particular feelings at this particular time. I thought about what feeds me, why I do what I do, why I am hurt so easily, and the depth of joy that fills me in the creative process when I am realizing a vision for the sake of something or someone. As solitary as I am, creative partnerships invigorate me. I recognize how meaning must accompany my actions, and how the mundane responsibilities of my life are almost always my greatest challenges. I realize the tension of opposites in pretty much all of my life.

I began to cry as I thought of some relational challenges in my recent years, and I said out loud, I am so lonely. The next thought that came was, are you a victim in this? But I dismissed it and felt the depleting feelings.

Then an eagle flew over the treetops toward me and straight over the house, and the wisdom words “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” downloaded into my mind/heart. Did I feel caught up by that? You bet, I did. A teeny bit of pressure in my chest/heart/gut lifted straight away. I thought on those words a little more, how God is for me, he loves me and will come to me, and also how I have a responsibility for my own life and choices. Then I texted a couple of friends, and made a couple of asks that might help this introvert stand against self-isolating behaviour. 

Nothing has changed yet, but it might. It always does. 

Peace, out,

Lesley-Anne

#beautyhunter

p.s. This, just now, via email:

DAILY MEDITATION | JANUARY 14, 2020
God Longs to Bring Me Home
For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.
Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.
Henri J. M. Nouwen
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
ISAIAH 41:10 (NIV)

See, I am doing a new thing!


Eowyn+in+battle

I’m not really one for resolutions, but I do find the New Year and Spring and also September to be times when I have renewed energy and this sense of potential buzzing around me like small but pretty flies. Not a lovely image I know, it reminds me somewhat of Charlie Brown’s friend ‘Pig Pen’… so perhaps I should say potential like the small illuminated motes you see floating in sunbeams? Truth is there is a buzzing of ideas and the correlation to something alive and with wings a more apt description. What I mean is, my mind is alive with ideas germinating and taking root, ideas that come in the night and again at first light and keep poking at me during the day. I have such energy. I want to involve myself in initiatives that are fresh and alive and I’m entirely OK with charging ahead into many different things at the same time.

Someone asks me if I am somewhat manic (a rather charged word choice, don’t you think?) I take slight offense, of course. My husband agrees I am certainly not manic, and suggests I might pace myself, but when I ask him how to do that, he doesn’t know. Busted, I say! He gets me and I get him because this is how we do things, and there will be a time where we crash, but not yet!

I’m focusing on a new way of looking at it and choosing to call it ZEAL! A new facebook friend used this word to describe me recently, and I’m latching onto it. He said I had Uber-Zeal! Then he shared the provocative illustration below. Double wow! Sure, I’ve heard of zealous, of being a zealot (that, I’m pretty certain I’m not) but the root word, ZEAL, appears to mean something entirely different than what I thought. On fire… for God. And that description can include many many things and look entirely different to many people.

Uber Zeal

A google search of the meaning of the word ZEAL opened up further definition;

zeal
zēl/
noun
noun: zeal
1. great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective.
“his zeal for privatization”

synonyms: passion, ardor, love, fervor, fire, avidity, devotion, enthusiasm, eagerness, keenness, appetite, relish, gusto, vigor, energy, intensity; fanaticism

Each one of the synonyms and their life application attract me, compel me, inspire me, somewhat drive me (apart from the last one which I will choose to remember only as a warning, or maybe just as a baseline for balance.) Or maybe being a fanatic for good God things is a good God thing in itself? As always, everything is open to interpretation!
What I’m really saying, as I carry on this dialogue with myself about who I am, and a perceived hope-filled conversation with you about who you are, is this;
Take time to know yourself deeply. I’ve heard and am beginning to see how knowing yourself leads to a deeper knowledge of God. (I struggled with this at first… not so much anymore) So with that in mind, keep on getting to know yourself, what makes you tick, what makes you white hot mad or joy-filled and spilling, what makes you energized and focused and gives your life value. The work of self-knowledge is never wasted. Choose to hear the positive descriptions of who you are rather than the negative. One person’s manic is another person’s zeal. Apply what you learn to your decisions, to your life.
I’m still trying, at my age, to learn what it means to truly live with integrity… my life lining up with my core values. It’s not easy, but it’s so important. My core values center around this:  I believe in a God is up to something GOOD in this world and we ALL have a part to play. I believe in a bigger story and all its many character roles including mine ~ this wee Irish gal who has some off centre ideas and just might attempt to do some crazy stuff because she has a small dose of faith and a strong feeling that everything is connected and everything does matter and how we spend ourselves makes a difference. Yes, I do believe I hear zeal in me!
Some people choose a word each New Year as a focus. I’ve never done that. I’m not saying I’m going to either. But if I were to do it, it just might be… you guessed it, ZEAL.
And if I were to choose one verse, it might be this verse, one that arrived in my inbox just after Christmas and I read it again in awe (I’ve read it before… it always takes me by surprise because of the intimacy and strength of it… the POTENTIAL, of what God can do);
16 This is what the Lord says—
    he who made a way through the sea,
    a path through the mighty waters,
18 “Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:16,18,19 NIV
Happy, happy New Year, my dear reader friends.
Here’s to another new year, new ways of doing good things, renewed perspective and understanding of who we are and what God can and will do because we are his and precisely who we were made to be!
May we be aware and encouraged and energized by the knowledge that God IS doing a mighty NEW THING in us this year! Can you see it?
Lesley-Anne, SDG
p.s. my apologies for the formatting but I just can’t seem to make it work this time around. xo

Remember me…


Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day (Photo credit: Lauren Cathy Turner)

386. Remembering… the human ability to call to mind that which lingers and which has meaning

387. Remembrance Day… November 11, the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour… silent thoughtful remembrance of sacrifice of others for my good

388. The Remembrance… The Lord’s Supper… Eucharist… I am taking and breaking and eating and finding good and grace-filled and filled with meaning, because of Jesus sacrifice for me, his body broken for me, his blood poured out for me

389. Memory… the capacity to experience over and over again…

390. remembering to be grateful

391. remembering sacrifice

392. remembering love

393. the silence and sensibility for all this and more

394. leaves surrendering to chill, lack of sun and production of green, the swansong of colours, the final fall to earth and death

395. the things placed upon our hearts as they spill over with thanks

396. beauty

397.  words that last long after we do

398. husband reaching

399. whistle of a son

400. the goodness of all things, the goodness of Papa God

So I receive, remember, respond with thankfulness for all things,

Soli Deo Gloria,

Lesley-Anne

Surprise Communion

Adding extra to ordinary…


india kerala boat people

india kerala boat people (Photo credit: FriskoDude)

Part of me longs for extraordinary… while the other part feels rather comfortable with things just the way they are. But the first part, the one I often censor or squelch or call names, it’s the part that is most alive when I watch movies and read books and listen to people talk. It’s the part of me that holds it’s breath, that makes my heart beat just a little stronger than comfort ever will. That deep part of me has a voice that whispers over and over and over until I have to pay attention. I believe God may be calling my name.

What I’m trying to hear and trying to understand is this… that I need, or my heart might need, a jump start… an experience that would be like strapping on those ER cardiac paddles and yelling ‘CLEAR’ and holding my breath and feeling that whomp in my chest, as something big and electric and jarring and different and nothing near ordinary changes something in me. And how that change will effect my writing… as a witness,  writing about things that really matter… all this and more…

I’m a pretty ordinary gal. I’m not much of an adventurer, I’m an artist. I’m not very flexible, resilient, crowd saavy, travel saavy, or extraordinarily brave. At least, I don’t think I am. I speak one language well. So, I’m good with ordinary most days.

And maybe it’s because of my recent birthday, maybe it’s because I just promised my husband that I’m going to live to 100 and I want to make the very most of the next 50 years that I’m thinking I’ve got to bust out and figure it out and get out there in a new way that might change the trajectory of my life… or not. You know what I mean. Talk is… well, just talk.

Last night was girls night out. We went to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel… yep, a sweet movie with more than a hint of introspection/perspective on counting our days, measuring our choices, and experiencing a life of joy to the end. Made me wonder if I could be doing things a little differently, a little more focused/purposeful/passionate than I have been so far. I mean, my life in Canada is so… privileged, so…vanilla, so… expected. And it’s not that I can’t do good things at home, can’t impact the world/my world from here, but still it’s awfully safe and sane and sanitized… can you relate? Still I’m not convinced… still not certain if this is real, or my imagination.

When I got home last night I spent a couple of hours online investigating India…and today I’m thinking some more about it… and I’m wondering what will come of all this? What is this all about?

India - Kids - 092

India – Kids – 092 (Photo credit: mckaysavage)

God, what are you trying to tell me?

God, I’m opening my ears, my eyes… to what is

India… far far away, crowded, hot, humid, beautiful architecture and people, deep poverty, intensely spiritual, rich in culture and history,

india calcutta bookstore

overwhelming humanity… India.

and I’m paying attention, God,

Lesley-Anne

Poetry Friday039


New Utility Poles

Image by misternaxal via Flickr

Grace is hosting tonight at Open Mic night at dVerse Poet’s Pub dVerse… come on over, share your words, read what others are creating…

If you look closely you can see where we’ve been

Lines…

windbreaks, hedgerows and telegraph poles
white, free falling water down mountains breast
sedimentary layers thrusting out of cold earth
fingers tracing ultimatums in dusty ground
runoff lost to gravity, air and quiet desperation.

lines…

furrows pulled into earth’s womb by plows
blue-green tributaries beneath translucent skin
edges, property lines, borders, divisions
our attempts to limit nature’s abandon
yellow edged pavement promising escape
concentric circles you will not cross.

lines…

on a page, over, over, cursive, circuitous
thoughts I read and write and memorize and say
homeless men waiting for shelter from the urban storm
florescent buoys, and all definitions of safety
fences topped with barbed-wire. Topics
held prisoner by decades of married life.

lines…

love, traced onto flesh by a lingering tongue
incisions cut into virgin land, primeval forest
scar tissue on our hearts
history, life and death, and passings
time, trails, tracks and animal prints in snow.

fine lines…

the part in a baby’s hair
what I see around your eyes
when you smile.

Lesley-Anne Evans, March 2011