There is a time

A time for everything

There is a time for everything. It even says so in the bible. At a recent prayer service, a friend of mine used the passage from Ecclesiastes 3 (NRSV)

Everything Has Its Time

3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

This is a beautiful passage and probably one that is worthy of 14 different blogs, but the one that struck me at the time was “a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together.” For me it also connected to “a time to break down, and a time to build up.”

In my life, it was always a time for gathering stones and building big giant stone walls, fortresses even, around my heart, around my inner-most feelings and around my dreams. If I didn’t let anyone in, then I couldn’t get hurt. Or so I believed. But when no one is allowed in, the fortress becomes very cold and lonely.

There have been times in my life where it was really important to build up the fortress. There were people whom I thought I could let in – like a brother, and husbands – but once inside were there to damage and destroy from within. And so I became scared. I gathered more and more rocks, and built my fortress more and more secure. And buried myself further and further inside.

But slowly I have learned that while there was a time for gathering stones and a time for building up my fortress, there is also a time to break down and throw away stones. There is a time to open up and let others in. There is a time to share the sorrows and the scary times, but also to share the joys and the celebrations because you can only really share both the tears and the joys if you let others in.

Through all of the stone gathering and building, the cornerstone that has been my strength and my constant has been my faith in God.

timeIt was that faith that led me to an amazing church family, an incredible set of friends, and a strength in myself that has helped me to tear down my walls and begin to celebrate me.

There is a time for everything in your life. What time is it for you now?

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Pluck

In response to: Daily Prompt: Pluck

do what

 

Pluck. Mart. Mallet. Shake. Ring Touch.

These words had little or no real meaning to me in connection with each other up until this past year. But I now have a whole new understanding and appreciation for each of these words individually as well as collectively, because this year I began learning how to ring handbells. I just got home from a 4-day long bell festival.

It was hard.

It was exhausting.

It was overwhelming.

 

It was awesome.

Music, dance, and creativity have always been a part of my life. Whether performing or coaching, I have always had a need for musical creativity in my life. Last year, I realized that I was missing that musical outlet. It had been quite a few years since I had that type of musical outlet, so I was searching for something. I don’t sing, (which is best for everyone). But a good friend of mine performs with an amazing community handbell choir and we have a handbell choir at my church. So I was inspired to give it a try.

Handbell ringing has been a lot of fun. I have enjoyed learning how to play a new instrument, trying to work out the rhythms, learning the notes and the various techniques, as well as getting to know the people in our handbell choir. I wasn’t really sure I could handle festival, (actually I was pretty sure I couldn’t handle it, I have only been playing for nine months), but the other members of our choir assured me that I should give it a try. And I’m so glad I did.

For four days at festival, I learned to pluck, mart, mallet, shake, ring touch and so much more. I learned how to do one technique with one bell in one hand, and a different technique with another bell in the other hand. I learned to read music in 7/8 time, cut time, common time, 3/4 time and how to switch back and forth between them, all within the same piece of music. I learned how to follow different directors (although I do prefer my own director best). I watched individuals, small groups, large choirs, and a massed ringing of 400 people make beautiful music ringing handbells.

I learned that it didn’t matter if I can sight read perfectly (I can’t) or if I turn the page four measures too early (yup, I did that) or if I can’t master a piece in 3 hours and 45 minutes (nope, can’t do that) but that when we all play together and do our best, we make some incredible music.

Beyond the music, I learned more about the people I went to festival with. I learned about their life journeys, both past and present. They shared a little more with me about the challenges they have faced and continue to face, as well as those things that bring them great joy. I also learned that the journey of life is so much more fun when you have people to travel it with you.

I tend to be a perfectionist in all that I do. And I’m kind of hard on myself (ok, really hard on myself). But another thing that handbell ringing has taught me is that while it’s important for me to learn how to play my part well, handbell ringing is a team sport. My notes don’t sound as good in isolation as it does when they is played along with everyone else’s notes, and that when we play all together, we can make some beautiful and touching music.

Most importantly over the four days of festival, I shared time and space with some really great people. People I can laugh with about the flamingos, commiserate with about the long treks across campus – walking backwards down a hill, and giggle with about middle school humor and innuendo. People who have walked the incredible journeys of their lives, and have shared at least a part of that journey with me. People I call my friends.

Ringing handbells is hard work, but it’s so much fun. Being a perfectionist, I struggle with the fact that I am learning a new instrument and there are a lot of things I don’t know how to do … yet. But at the end of the day, it isn’t about perfection, but rather it’s about putting forth my best effort and having people there for me when I mess up to help me to find my way, both in the music, and in life.It’s about being blessed enough to have people in my life who are willing to offer that help. It’s about opening myself up to accept that help. And it’s about walking this journey of life with some cool people and maybe even making making joyful music along the way!

Guardian Angel

My body throbbed. My pulse was racing. The bruises on the back on my legs and arms were pounding. Even though he was in the other room, I could still feel his grip tightening around my arms, pulling me back as I strained to get away. The tears finally stopped. I think I was literally dried up. But the fear and the anxiety were real. I reached up, sliding my fingers between the slats on his crib. I peered up over his mattress, he was still sound asleep, none the wiser that I was even in his room. I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t have anywhere to go. I just had to make it through the night. We both just had to make it through the night safe. Then I could figure something out. I could find a place to keep us safe. I could call my parents if I had to. I just had to make it through the night.

I lay on the floor because the bed was too far away, I considered moving the bed, or the crib, or the baby. But I didn’t want to wake anyone. And I wasn’t sure I had the energy to move anything anyway. I reached over and grabbed a quilt and pillow from the baby’s bed, never losing sight of the crib, or the door. I heard a creaking floorboard in the kitchen. I held my breath.

What if he decided to come into the baby’s room?

What if he came looking for me?

But he didn’t. He walked right by. I heard the slamming and locking of our bedroom door, and shortly after that the locking of the bathroom door as well. there were two doors on the bathroom, one from the master bedroom and one from the hallway. He locked both doors so I couldn’t get in. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t leaving the baby, not even if I had to go to the bathroom.

I lay back down on the floor exhausted. It was uncomfortable, but at least then I knew that if he came into the baby’s room, he would have to go through me to get to the baby. I settled my head on the pillow as best I could. I pulled the quilt around myself made sure the baby was sleeping soundly. Then I tried to settle in for the night, or at least a few hours.

As I looked up at the door, I suddenly knew I was safe I felt a wave of peace and protection wash over me, for as I looked at the door, I saw an angel standing guard. She was enormous. She shimmered in a golden translucent hue. Her wings reached right through the ceiling and she stood at guard with her sword of protection. She nodded to me, as if saying, “I’ve got this. You are in the arms of Jesus. Rest now.” So I closed my eyes.

 

I don’t really know how long I slept, but I remember hearing Matthew stir in his crib. He looked pleasantly surprised to find me sleeping on the floor next to his crib.

“Mama,” he giggled.

“Shhh my precious.” I whispered. “Daddy’s still sleeping.” I didn’t know for sure, but I sure hoped and prayed he was still asleep. I put my fingers up through the slats of the crib again and Matthew held on tight. He seemed to know I just needed to lay there for a minute. He laid his head down popped his thumb back into his mouth and played with my fingers.

Morning had come. We were both still alive. My body ached all over. Between the tension and worry of last night’s events, and the bruising and aching all over my body, I was worn out. I glanced at the door. The angel was gone, as was my peace. But I knew she had been there and helped us all to sleep. “Thank you, God.” I whispered.

We were safe. But I knew that safety was fleeting. I had to come up with a plan, and quickly. How had I gotten myself into this mess?

 

 

 

Graduation

Graduation yesterday was so amazing. After 7 years and a really rough last year it was amazing to have a day of celebration. It was amazing to have my family and friends there to support me. It was amazing to close that chapter of my life and look forward to what lies ahead.

That is a lot of what graduation ceremonies are all about. They are a conclusion on one chapter of your life, and an introduction to the next chapter. At the graduation ceremony we had several speakers, all who did an excellent job in their own right. As someone who speaks at a graduation ceremony for my middle school students every year, I know how challenging it is to say something that is relevant and meaningful. I always hope that with several speakers, each person there can take something from one of the speeches.

It was kind of ironic then, how after graduation yesterday a few of my friends commented to me on something they found moving about from the ceremony and each comment was from a different speaker. So, I guess the speakers did their job.

One of the constant threads of each of the speeches was how we did not make it to graduation alone. Each one of us had help. Each one of us had challenges. Each one of us had life to deal with. And each one of us persevered and graduated.

So to each graduate there yesterday and all those graduating during this graduation season, congratulations for persevering.

Perseverance is definitely something that I learned throughout the process of completing my Ph.D. I can now understand how so many people do the course work and not complete the dissertation. It is commonly called ABD – All But Dissertation.

The coursework was hard, especially going back after many years of not doing course work and having classes three nights a week, having a full time job, and raising two incredible boys, mainly on my own. But the writing of the dissertation, whoa, that’s hard work. And it requires a great deal of perseverance.

It’s about setting goals, prioritizing what gets done when, and making time for research, reading, writing and revising over and over again. I’ve heard of something called post-dissertation depression. I can understand it, don’t think I will be faced with that, but it is interesting think about what I will do differently now. My job won’t change. Many aspects of my life won’t change. But I have changed. So how do I use this chapter that I’m closing of my life, to help me write the introduction to the next part of my life.

chapter

My dad

phd planIn looking at this cartoon about Ph.D. plan vs. Ph.D. reality, I can probably label each one of those bumps along the road. One might be when I started my new job. One might be my divorce. Another one might be for the medical challenges I faced. But that last one, that big one toward the end, I know exactly what that one is. That one is from last fall, when my dad got sick.

Just before school started I took the day off to go with my parents to see my dad’s orthopedic surgeon. He was supposed to have shoulder replacement surgery, but when they did the MRI, they found something suspicious. The appointment was to determine if he could have surgery or if he had cancer.

He had cancer.

The roller coaster began. It was doctors’ appointments, biopsies, and tests, tests and more tests. I sat with my dad as he staunchly told the nurse he had a DNR. I waited for him as he struggled to breath walking down the hallway, but too proud and stubborn to accept a ride in a wheelchair. I smiled and joked with him trying to help him keep his dignity as I undressed him because he couldn’t do it himself. I listened to what the doctor said. I asked questions. I tried to help my parents understand. i tried to comprehend the incomprehensible.

Then one Friday morning when I was at work, my mom called. Dad had fallen down in the bathroom and they were rushing him to the hospital. I left work. Raced home. Packed a bag. And went to him. I stayed with him in the hospital. They were trying to determine the primary source of the cancer. They were trying to determine how to treat it. They were trying to determine if they could treat it.

They couldn’t.

The next month was crazy. He went from the hospital to a nursing home where we struggled as a family to decide the best course of action, or inaction.

All the while, I brought my laptop and worked on my dissertation. I spent hours at night at the hospital or the nursing home sitting with my dad and typing away. He knew that I was close to finishing my dissertation and he was so proud of me. He had done all of his course work for his Ph.D. but never did the dissertation. I was the first in my family to finish.

At first I worked hard because I thought I could finish it while he was still alive and he could see me graduate. But then I knew he wasn’t going to make it until the spring and I was doubly determined to finish it for him.

Writing was kind of a companion for me late at night. I like to think that while the beeping of the machines he was on kept me company, the clicking of the keys while I typed kept him company. He knew I was there.

At the end of October, just about two months after we found out he had cancer, we brought him home to say good-bye. As he was so fond of saying in the last weeks of his life, he wanted to die surrounded by his loving family, and he did.

I was there with him. We had all been there with him at the end. His loving wife. All six of his children and their spouses. All thirteen of his grandchildren and their significant others, and both of his great grandsons.

But his reach went far beyond his family.

He was a coach. He coached baseball and basketball right up until the month before he got sick. He coached hundreds of kids over the 40+ years he coached. But he didn’t just influence the kids he coached; he changed everyone he came in contact with. Opposing coaches and opposing teams came to his wake to tell us how he impacted their lives through the strength of his character. His entire baseball team, in their uniforms came to the funeral to stand proud for him.

Everyone was special and important to him. He always took the time to talk to anyone he met. As a kid, it drove me crazy that he talked to anyone and everyone, but now it makes me proud to realize the impact he had on people’s lives because he took the time to talk to them. I try to be more like him each day.

I miss him everyday. We all do. I will miss him even more tomorrow, when I walk across the stage and get hooded as the first doctor in my family and he isn’t there to hold me in his arms and tell me he’s proud of me. But he will be there with me in spirit. He will be there in the tears I cry, the shouts of joy, and the sense of pride and accomplishment.

I love you dad. This moment is dedicated to you.

7 years

 

Seven years, seems like a long time, and like the blink of the eye all at the same time. Think back for a moment on where you were in your life seven years ago. Think of all of the changes that have happened over the past seven years ago. For me, the past seven years represent the time it has taken me to complete my PhD in education program.

The ups and downs of the past seven years have been amazing. Career changes, personal life changes, medical issues, academic challenges, even the changes in my committee have been ever present and ever challenging. But they have also helped me grow as a person, in every aspect of my life.

The past 7 years has not been a smooth or easy road, but one that I am glad I have taken. As I begin to prepare for graduation this Saturday, I think back to everything that has happened, realizing that while none of it went the way I had envisioned it, I wouldn’t change a moment of it.

phd plan

Faith

Faith! For my daily devotional today I read Mark chapter 5. Each of the stories in today’s readings are about faith.

The possessed man knew that Jesus could heal him. Even the evil spirits in the possessed man knew the power Jesus had. The evil spirits knew that Jesus could banish them and order them out of the man. The possessed man believed in Jesus’s healing power, and was healed.

The woman suffering from hemorrhaging for 12 years knew that simply touching Jesus’s robe could heal her. “She was thinking to herself, ‘If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well.'” (Mark 5:28). There were many people pushing and shoving and touching Jesus, but because of her faith, she was healed when she touched his robe. When she touched him, Jesus knew his power had been used to heal her. She believed, and it happened. Faith.

Jesus arrives at the home of his friends whose child had just died. Everyone was grieving, but Jesus told her to get up, and she did. Faith.

faith

Faith. Trusting. Knowing. Believing.

Are we willing to take that leap of faith that God is asking us to take?

Do we have enough faith in our lives?

 

Rest for my weary soul

Each morning I read a daily reading bible called The Message remix 2.0 Pause A Daily Reading Bible by Eugene Person. This morning in my devotional I began reading Joshua 19-21. This part of Joshua is about which tribe gets which piece of land. It’s boring. As I started I sighed and asked God to show me why this was important for me to read.

Writing my journal reflection after one part of the reading struck me: “And God fave them rest on all side, as he had solemnly vowed to their ancestors.” (Joshua 21:44). I started thinking about how the Israelites were given rest after years of slavery, after years of wandering in the wilderness, after years of battling for their land. They were given land. They were given a home. They were given rest.

Then I thought about my new home. I’ve often compared it to my own promised land. A place God led me to. No more fear. No more ridicule. No more abuse. Just rest. A place of my own. A place where I have safety and security. A place I have rest.

Thank you God for fulfilling your promise to me and giving me a home where I can find rest. Rest for my weary soul.

Gratitude

I can’t believe it. I feel so grateful for everything that is in my life. It is only recently that I can even realize the many blessings in my life compared to where I was. I currently have the most amazing supports in my life. I have some amazing local supports of friends who will hold me and love me through everything. I also have friends from throughout different stages of my life who love and support me from a distance.

For much of my life I didn’t feel like I deserved friends like the ones I have now. I didn’t think I should have people who loved me. It’s hard to imagine but I feel like for the first time in my life I am letting myself bloom, letting myself be happy.

I look at what I have in my life now and I know that I couldn’t have had this just a few short years ago. My ex-husband held me back. He didn’t want me to have friends. He was controlling. He was overshadowing. And I let it happen. I thought that was love. I thought that was what I deserved.

When he got mad, I also thought I deserved that.

When he lost his temper, I thought it was my fault.

When he blamed me, I blamed me too.

But there was an angel in my life who helped me to see a light. A brighter future. And a promise of something better. And for that I will be forever grateful.

Since then, I have realized that there is an amazing world out there that I am part of. That I deserve to be part of. That I make better by being part of it.

I always thought I was pretty accelerated at things. I was a good student. I excelled in my studies and I have always been pretty forward moving and goal orientated in my career. But when it comes to life, I guess I am a late bloomer.

I feel like a butterfly who has finally gotten out of my cocoon and out of the dark shadows of my past. I feel like I can finally spread my wings and fly. I feel like I deserve this happiness that I am now feeling.

gratitude

I am so grateful for the blessings in my life.

Each morning I wake up with a smile on my face for the amazing gifts I have in my life. That you to all those people who saw I was worthy before I did and who have helped me to embrace my new found sense of self.

Peace ~ Hope ~ Joy ~ Love

 

Over the past 4 weeks of advent, my church has been focusing on these 4 words: Peace, Hope, Joy and Love.

As I think about Peace, I try to find peace in my life in where I am right now. Peace about not being in a relationship right now. Peace about being alone. Peace about the amazing people I have in my life.  Peace and appreciation for what I have and who I am right now.

Hope is more about the future. About the hope that I won’t always be alone. It is about hope for what is yet to come. If I have faith that I am in the right place right now then I hope that being in the right place, both physically and spiritually, will lead to blessings yet to come.

Joy is about celebrating the small things. Celebrating the blessing of friends and family and appreciating all of the little things in life. Celebrating my boys and watching them grow. Celebrating time together with family and friends. Sharing a simple cup of tea, or dinner out. Or simply sharing text messages from friends near and far. Celebrating the many joys I have in my life.

Love, well that is harder for me. Being divorced twice this is an area I feel fairly incompetent in. Something I struggle with constantly. I have numerous friends whom I love and adore, just can’t seem to make the whole relationship thing work.

I am trying to find an inner peace, which will give me hope for the future and a joy about love I have yet to experience.

My wish for you (and me) this holiday season and in the upcoming new year: Peace ~ Hope ~ Joy ~ Love ~ blessings for all.